Japan by Motorcycle

Day 23

August 21, 1999

Green, Green and more Green

Kochi, Tokushima and Hyogo Prefectures

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    I finally got to experience nojuku -- sleeping in the open, in the rough.  Probably various conversations with other bikers about their nojuku experiences caused me to subconsciously set myself up for a nojuku.  But I hadn't planned to sleep out in the rain!  Actually I slept well enough but I was awakened by mosquitoes around 5:00AM.  So I packed up my tarp and sleeping pad and dragged my sorry ass back on the bike and continued on after only 4 hours of sleep.
    Within an hour I had entered the Kochi city limits.  What was that before my eyes?  A 24 hour capsule hotel and sauna!  I gladly paid the 1000 ($9) entrance fee for the use of the baths and group rest area.  The facilities were superb for the price.  They had the taller stools that are easier to sit on when washing up, as well as free disposable razors and tooth brushes.  Nice.  And they even had cleaning women walking through the men's bathing area.  (It's always fun to wonder if they're really trying to sneak a peek at the gaijin from behind their impassive demeanor.)  After getting clean and warm from soaking in the bath, I made my way to the rest area.  It turned out that the "capsule hotel" contained no capsules at all and just contained a group rest area lined with rows of recliners.  The place was more crowded than I would have thought -- this was inaka (the boonies) after all.  I chose a recliner and grabbed another hour of rest.
    I was back on my bike by 8:00 and found my way to Kochi Castle shortly thereafter. Kochi Castle Kochi CastleI hiked up close enough to get a picture of the main structure.  I saw just two other people -- a dog walker and a jogger -- out and about.
    Well my time was up and it was time for me to work my way out of Shikoku -- I was due home the next day.  It started raining again so I had to pull out my rain gear which was still damp from the previous night.  I cut across the Muroto Peninsula in Kochi Prefecture on Route 493.  Although this was a kokudo -- national road -- it was another one of those roads that wind through mountains often with the road only wide enough for one car.  It wasn't heavily trafficked and became a pleasant ride when the rain let up.
    The road wove through mountains and, for a while, alongside a river whose color was a pretty pale emerald green.  Tokushima ViewI could see that some of the rock strata sticking out in places were green as well.  Even the ocean on both sides of Shikoku were a nice green.  That, in addition to the green covered mountains, green fields and lush green foliage all around me, really made it clear in my mind that "Shikoku" and "green" go hand in hand.  In fact, some of the houses even had green roof tiles -- I hadn't seen this anywhere else in Japan!
    I continued on through Shikoku and left it behind at Naruto where I took the bridge across to Awajishima, an island between Shikoku and Honshu.  I imagine that I'm one of the few first-time tourists to Shikoku who managed to visit not one of the 88 temples on the famous pilgrimage.  It's not an easy feat.
    Although the expressway continues through Awajishima, I got off immediately after crossing the bridge in order to avoid paying Japan's exorbitant highway fees.  The exit led me down a 180 degree circle on to an empty two lane road.  I (illegally) passed a car going painfully slow around 40km/hr in front me.  I picked up a little speed and then I saw it -- a radar trap.  Doh!  I clamped on the brakes but it was too late.  A cop ran in the middle of the road and flagged me down.  There was another car pulled over who had been caught shortly before.  It was clear that this was a screw-the-out-of-towners kind of operation.  If only I hadn't passed that car...
    I was ushered into their van while they did the paperwork.  There were probably about five officers total.  As in department stores and everywhere else in Japan, this operation was clearly overstaffed.  They probably had a radar-reader, speeder flagger, violation writer and, of course, a supervisor.  The cop was nice enough and seemed happy to have a chance to use what little English he knew.  He was one of those guys who would insist in speaking to me in English despite the fact that I was speaking to him in Japanese.  Give him an A for effort.  I should have taken a picture of them but as one usually feels in that situation, I was just looking forward to getting away.  Still, I can't complain.  Only one ticket after 30,000 km on that bike (and near 7,000 km on that trip) -- not bad at all considering I was probably over the speed limit for most of those kilometers.
    The road through Awajishima was very crowded and not a particularly enjoyable ride.  (Ironically the place where I got the speeding ticket was practically the only place where there was enough open road to violate the speed limit.  Sneaky Bastards!)  I had been considering taking a ferry to Wakayama but I wasn't sure there was one and I missed the embarkation point noted on my map.  So I missed the opportunity to set foot in Wakayama and continued on and -- finally -- arrived at the northern tip of the island.  
    From the tip of Awajishima, I could see the newly built Akashi-Kaikyo -- the world's longest suspension bridge with a length of 3.9 km and main span length of 2.0 km.  Because it was more expensive to cross the bridge and because, by doing so, I couldn't take pictures of it, I elected to take the ferry.  It turned out to be a good choice because the ferry traveled right underneath the bridge and I got a nice view that I otherwise couldn't have.  The trip across to Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture took about 20 minutes or so.  It was close to sunset so I set out in search of a vantage in point to take a bridge-in-the-sunset kind of picture.  I found a good spot up towards Kobe but the weather wasn't cooperating and I didn't get anything worth displaying.  While I was there I tried calling my new friend Hiro, a motorcyclist I had met on day 8 of my trip, and left a message.

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

    I hadn't given him much warning so I thought it unlikely that I'd be able to reach him but a short time later he returned my call.  He kindly came out to meet me on his moped and I followed him back into Akashi.  He took me to his mother's okonomiyaki shop -- called Okonomiyaki-kan -- where I was treated to a great meal and beer too.  I had half been planning to ride all night to get back to Tokyo by the next day, my promised day of return, but Hiro kindly offered to put me up for the night.  I was happy to accept given the poor sleep I had had the previous night.

Okonomiyaki with Hiro and his mom

    After that I followed him to his home where I met his father and two cute sisters.  His dad was quite friendly and soon showed me a real samurai sword he had and let me hold it.  It had some real heft to it.  If I understood him correctly, it had been made in order to donate to a temple and, though a "real" sword, hadn't been used.  Despite his friendly demeanor, I half wondered if bringing out the sword was a veiled warning to stay away from his daughters!
    Hiro gathered his things and we went to a local sento -- a public bathhouse -- where we got cleaned up.  He wouldn't even let me pay for my own bath -- he was just too hospitable!  The bathhouse was very local and probably little changed for many, many years.  They were using scrap wood to feed a wood heater for heating the water.  The old lady minding the place was situated such that she could look into both the men and women's changing rooms.  I tell you, dirty minded old women (are there any?) really have it made in Japan.  They can freely get jobs tending to men's bathrooms and bathing facilities.
    Hiro's home was quite full with his family so they put me up for the night in the tatami room over his mom's okonomiyaki shop.  He even came over to spend the night with me.  The thought crossed my mind that he might be gay but I put it aside and figured I'd worry about that later if need be (and, indeed, I needn't have worried).  We talked and joked around a bit before laying down.  I fell asleep in short order -- the short night, long day and beer made sure of that.

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Just The Stats

Day 23



Place Weather
Start: 50860 5:00 near Kochi, Kochi Pref. Cloudy/Warm
Finish: 51160 18:00 Akashi, Hyogo Pref. Rainy
Totals: 300km 13 hrs


Gas: 1,600 Food: 1,450
Highway/Ferry: 2,100 Lodging:
Speeding Ticket: 15,000  

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Created: Feb 22, 2001
Last Updated: Oct 3, 2001

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