ARRIVAL IN MINAMI
After spending the morning of Wednesday, November 25 to organise the details, in Tokushima, departure in the afternoon for Minami. I take a small regional train of two cars that are filled a little bit more at each stop. All the schoolchildren in the room take the same line. After a while I ask myself if the limit for the number of passengers allowed in the train is not reached, but no it continues to climb. People laughs, discusses. At each climb on the train, I get a stunned look. At the Anan station (a village a little bigger than the others) the train finally gets half empty. A little calm!
It started to rain from the beginning of my ride. Rain and rain cover the sad landscapes. And my mind too. I look (or rather try to look through the steam) the landscape scrolling, telling myself that it is, I’m finally in the countryside, the towns looks pretty, that the concrete leaves room for wooden constructions, that this little trip in a country train is quite country-like, but I have the morale in the socks. I feel lonely and wondering what I’m doing here.
Minami finally appears and I leave the train in a pouring rain. No information anywhere, no plan. There is an information center but the light inside it is closed. Lucky me. I do not know where my inn is. I decide to go ahead hoping for help at the first supermarket place, but nothing! I end up falling on two people in a kind of workshop to whom I ask in a quavering Japanese if they can help me to tell me where my hostel is. Very friendly, they struggle to explain to me how to reach the address. These few gestures of kindness lift my spirits and after having thanked them warmly, I start on my way, exhilarated, under the falling rain. The little I see from Minami in the light of the street lamps is very nice. Small fishing village, Minami is located at the edge of the sea and is surrounded by small hills. I will go explore it in more detail tomorrow!
The hostel is fairly easy to find. I am greeted with friendliness by an old couple, who worried a little not to see me arrive. It is a small traditional inn. I must be the only client. The room all tatami and sliding doors is very friendly. Common traditional toilets and showers. The man offers to drive me to the konbini corner (which is quite a walk) to go buy my evening meal! On the way I see the pagoda of a temple which is Yakuô-ji temple, number 23 of the pilgrimage of the 88 temples of Shikoku. Guaranteed visit tomorrow! The old gentleman is very smiling and a little joker, it’s a pleasure! Back to the hostel where I dine in my room and first time in the traditional Japanese common showers. We wash first to then go bask in a hot bath. But it’s freezing in the room and the bath water is not hot anymore. Too bad, I’m happy with a quick shower. I really hope it will be a better weather tomorrow!
A STROLL ACROSS HIWASA
Thursday, November 26, early waking to visit the city. Minami is actually the meeting of two villages: Hiwasa and Yuki. I am in the Hiwasa part.
It’s nice, almost hot. All the opposite of last night! I discover the village. Traditional houses, small alleys, fishing boats, arms of sea across the village, Hiwasa breathes the tranquility and the maritime atmosphere. I go to the mini information center to retrieve the city map. Drawn by hand, it is very beautiful and offers a lot of information and anecdotes.
I had planned to tour the city in the morning and then go for a walk to Mugi in the afternoon (a village located 3-4km further on the coast and home to the Museum of Seashells), but Hiwasa is actually full of things to see. So I walk all day in the city and surrounding areas. The people all look very nice, I have many “Ohayo gozaimasu” (hello in the morning) or “Konnichiwa”.
In the morning, I go to see the Yakuô-ji Temple. It dates from 726 and is reputed to be a “yakuyoke no tera” : A visit to the temple helps to ward off bad luck in years of bad luck (for men: 42 years and for women : 33 Years). Located a little higher, it slightly overhangs the city. Ascend a hundred steps, pass through several shrines and arrive at the temple pagoda. Massive, mainly red in color, the structure is very beautiful. From the esplanade of the temple, one can see Hiwasa below. The place is quiet, there are not many people. Going down, I come across several people reciting sutra in front of a shrine.
I then head for Hiwasa Castle, dating from the end of the 16th century. Located on top of one of the surrounding hills, the castle overlooks Hiwasa. Pass along the small port and climb on a small road in the forest to reach it. Upstairs there is no one, it’s absolutely calm. Until a musical chime fires and plays a pretty loud music that means it’s noon. From the outside the castle appears vintage but once inside it is the disappointment: There is nothing of the period pieces and the interior has been transformed into a point of observation. At least the view is very beautiful.
Sounds of Hiwasa – Castle chime (beware the sound is loud) :
I leave the castle to continue on a small hiking trail snaking in the forest along the cliffs. The ballad is nice but the weather is covered. After a good hour of hiking, I stop for lunch. Sandwich, onigiri, cakes filled with chocolate and strawberry. Right in front of me is the sea as far as the eye can see. Two eagles are doing acrobatics in the air.
I go back to where I came from, until I find a shortcut that saves me almost 30 minutes of walking! Passing again at the level of the small port, I see a small eagle on a lamppost.
Heading to the Caretta Museum, home to an impressive number of Turtles. Hiwasa and its beach of Ohama are also famous for being a place of egg laying. I cross Hiwasa again, wandering through the narrow streets. As I look on the map to find my way, a gentleman on a bike asks me if he can help me. I tell him that everything is fine, that I’m walking in the city. But he hardly speaks English and does not seem to understand my Japanese. There follows a dialogue of the deaf, where he ends up giving me his business card. The gentleman is a voluntary guide to discover the city. I try to make him understand that I am not lost, that I walk quietly and that I go to see the museum Caretta but he insists to accompany me. It irritates me a bit, especially since the gentleman smells a little alcohol. I wonder what I’m getting into. On the way to the museum, he shows me various huts including a very old and with beautiful stained glass windows. The young woman holding the place invites me to go inside. In English, she explains that the place is a kind of activity center and that the structure of the house is protected and can not be destroyed.
Drive through Ohama Beach to the Caretta Museum. I tell myself that the gentleman will leave me at the museum but no. He pays me my ticket and makes the visit with me! It’s very nice of him but it makes me a little uncomfortable. Especially since we do not understand each other, the discussion is very limited. The Caretta Museum houses different types of turtles from the youngest to the oldest. This is the first time I see so many turtles and so close. They are very beautiful and the oldest are really impressive. By cons, zero explanations in English.
After the visit, the gentleman insists to take me back to the hostel! Nice guy but slightly too sticky for my taste. I set some details at the hostel and then as the sun shows again its rays I go back to visit the coast. I go back to Ohama Beach, and then venture down to a big rock in the sea about forty minutes walk. It houses the small sanctuary Ebisudo Jinja dedicated to the harmony in couples and a cave half submerged.The sun goes down, the light is beautiful. The descent to the cave is done using very steep stairs. The place is impressive. The roar of the waves crashing against the rocks a few meters from me gives me chills.
I go back to the inn in the dark night, happy with my busy day. Hiwasa is really a beautiful place.
Sounds of Hiwasa – Traditional song coming out of a house in the evening (the sound is not very loud) :
Sounds of Hiwasa – College students training at baseball in the evening:
Tomorrow, departure for the Iya Valley in the center of Shikoku. Good bye the sea, hello mountain!