Weather: Sunny and very, very hot though, towards the mountains at least, there was a lot of cloud cover.
MP3 track of the day: Fly - Monkey Majic
It was around 2am when I gave up with the pillow that my bed came with. It was as flat, and as hard, as a piece of cardboard. I got up and discovered that there was a nice plumply one in one of my room's wardrobes. That was better.
I got out of bed at 6am and proceeded to get ready. Due to having no hotel breakfast, I had bought a selection of pastries from the local convenience store the night before. True, they were a little hard however … they did the trick. My car was parked a little way from my hotel therefore, I drove it back to the hotel to pick up my luggage. I finally set off at around 8am however, my first sight for the day was only fifteen minutes away.
Dogo Onsen is the oldest onsen in Japan. It was a beautiful old wooden building and, a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be. Early bathers were going in and out however, I was just content on taking photos of it. I then proceeded around the area of Dogo in a clockwise direction, taking in the local shopping arcade. Luckily for me, a souvenir stall had opened early and yes, they sold postcards. I bought a pack before moving on to check out a couple of other, much newer Onsen and a pretty little shrine. The whole area was completed in around forty minutes.
I was thirty minutes out of Matsuyama when I turned off the main road heading to Takamatsu. I stopped suddenly and opened my guidebook. Yes, I had forgotten a site very close to Dogo. You see, Dogo had a shrine and the site that I missed was a temple (shrine, temple … what's the real difference?) therefore, I thought that I'd seen it. I debated on whether to turn around and go back … this mistake would cost me an hour … I decided to turn around as my guidebook had given the temple a good write up.
Ishite temple was a complete let down. Sure it was unique for having a long tunnel drilled into the mountainside however, it was really, really dark. I couldn't see many of the jizo statues that were in there. Outside of the tunnels were a few statues that I hadn't seen in other temples before however, it was nothing major. I left the site fifteen minutes after entering feeling totally conned.
An hour and twenty minutes later I passed the point I had turned around at. The time was around 11am and I was heading to my first, and only, national park of the holiday. Ishizuchi Quasi National park houses Shikoku's largest mountain – Ishizuchi-san (1982m). There was a cable car, followed by a rope-way, which would take you close to the summit of Ishizuchi-san however, I didn't really have the time and, as I approached the mountains, the cloud density increased. I followed the signs to the car cable station, which took me on a road around a lovely lake and went through a beautiful gorge. From now on, every time I think of gorge's and steep valleys, I shall think of Shikoku as the inner part of the island is full of them.
I went along the winding path stopped every few miles to take another photo of the beautiful gorge which lay before me. It was a stunning drive and the dense clouds above me only added to the atmosphere.
It was 1pm by the time I hit the main road back to Takamatsu. The traffic was going at a snails pace – which was good at one point as there was a police speed check – and it soon dawned on me that, I might not have time to see my final attraction for today. Within Takamatsu is a lovely park called Ritsurin-koen. I wanted to go today as it was a fair walk out of Takamatsu's city centre. My guidebook said that 'opening times vary however, it should be open until 5pm'. I wanted at least an hour to look around the park therefore, I had over 140 kilometres to do in three hours. Where I could, I put my foot down.
In a moment of pure genius, I said goodbye to the '11' – which was the main road to Takamatsu however, it also went past every rabbit hutch (and they all had their own set of traffic lights) along the way – and turned onto the '372'. This led onto the '32' and I'd used this road before. I therefore knew that it was dual carriage way and that progress should be better. I drove along at full speed and suddenly the kilometres came tumbling down.
I made it to the park at around 4:15pm only to be greeted by a man who said that, today, the park was open until 7pm. I was slightly annoyed with the need to rush – I skipped lunch – however, I was ever so glad that I would have as much time as I wished to see the park. Another good thing was that, due to being late, a lot of people had gone and the sun was going down making it a lot cooler. I applied sun cream and ventured forth.
Ritsurin-koen is over 750,000 square meters and took over a hundred years to complete. At the entrance gate I was given a walking guide which split the garden into two circuits; the old part of the garden and the new part. The lady advised me to follow the 'red route' through the old garden first and, if time, do the blue route. I thanked her before walking to the start of the red route.
Now, I don't normally like following specific routes however, this route encompassed the whole garden really well. The old garden was cover with beautiful bonzai, maple and many other kinds of trees. It's main feature was a small lake with a tea house next to it. Using the Japanese technique of 'borrowing scenery', the whole garden backed onto a beautiful mountain range. From one of the purpose built viewing hills, the whole garden was just wonderful. The way the lake flowed around small wooded islands was a joy to behold. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that, once I'd completed the 'blue route', I went around the 'red route' for a second time however, this time, without using my camera.
I had spent two hours in the park and I was famished. I filled my car ready for the 'big push' home in two days time and went to a family restaurant where I ordered the 'onion tower'- two hamburgers with a tower of onion rings on top. I also ordered a side consisting of a soup and a salad plus unlimited soft drinks. Once I'd consumed that I waddled out of the restaurant and back into my car. It was only a short drive to my hotel – the same one I'd used after the festival four nights ago (only four nights ago!).
You know when you've got that feeling that you may have gone too cheap … well I was having it now. Still it was too late. I took everything to my tiny room and repacked my suitcase so that it carried all of my presents along with all of my clothes. I turned on the useless air-conditioner and tried to relax.
So tomorrow I am going to try and take a boat to one of the smaller islands near to Takamatsu – Nao shima; very famous. I want it to be a short day as I want to get to sleep at around 6pm so that I can get up early on Saturday and start the big trek home. You travel so much quicker at night in Japan!