Blogging about my second published article the other day prompted me to dig up my first article, a travel piece on Shikoku. Travel writing takes time, but I’m glad circumstances made me sit down to write it. It’s the most concise recollection of my first (and only!) road trip, and, despite it being nearly six years after our visit, the memories are still clear as day. I’m posting it here in three parts with minor edits as I’m very proud of it and have never actually blogged about Shikoku (apart from sharing pictures) before.
Often considered remote and lacking in attractions, Shikoku is seldom on the list of places to visit for travellers to Japan. The least populated and smallest of the country’s four main islands, Shikoku is most famous for the pilgrimage trail of its 88 sacred temples, but there’s much more to the island than that…
Day 1, 28th December 2008: Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture
Tokushima Prefecture – this is where our road trip began! Starting here from the northeast of Shikoku and moving clockwise through its four prefectures, over the next 6 days we will follow the same route that pilgrims have taken for the past 1000 years.
Our first stop was the famous Naruto Whirlpools. Caused by the difference in water level in the Naruto Strait during the tides, these titanic whirlpools can extend more than 20m in diameter. We ventured along a 450m walkway beneath the Naruto-Ohashi Bridge for a birds’-eye-view just 45m above the raging currents. Equally roaring cold winds accompanied the view, but we were still unable to get a good picture of the whirlpools. Perhaps we should have taken one of the tourist boats, which would have placed us directly above the maelstrom!
What the whirlpools should have looked like (Picture credit: source)
Day 2, 29th December 2008: Iya Valley, Tokushima Prefecture
Today’s highlights were the famous vine bridges in Iya Valley. The most popular bridge is the Iya-no-Kazura-bashi, which is reconstructed every three years. More picturesque though were the Oku Iya Kazura-bashi, a charming set of vine bridges 30km east.
Iya Valley is one of Japan’s three “Hidden Regions” and it certainly looked the part. The narrow, winding mountain roads that snaked through it were the furthest any of us had ever been from civilisation, and the few shops and eateries that hugged the valley’s remote paths were shut due to the upcoming new year. Even the ticket counter at the Oku Iya Kazura-bashi was closed!
At night, we homestayed with the Ueda family who make various sweets and snacks from their home. Their house was in a quiet, remote location, and none of us had homestayed while travelling before. Call us paranoid, but we couldn’t help but wonder if we would survive the night…
[to be continued…]