Weather: Sunny and very, very hot though, a least there was a bit of cloud cover.
MP3 track of the day: Story - Monkey Majic
Though my breakfast did indeed look well presented, there didn't seem to be a lot there. Plus, I'd also received an omelet due to having no choice. I there and then decided that I preferred a buffet style breakfast set-up to a fixed menu. Once I'd finished everything I could eat, I departed the restaurant, grabbed my bags and handed in my room key. As I approached my car I noticed a rather brightly coloured caterpillar trying to climb up one of my tires with little success. As I left the car park I gingerly rolled out of my parking space as to not kill said caterpillar.
My first stop for the day was a little town called Ozu. In fact my guidebook had highly recommended two small towns – this one and Uchiko – and Ozu I came to. I arrived at almost 9am and yet, the sun was beating down. I parked close to the town's pretty little castle and photographed it to death before walking along the river bank to get to the western part of the town. Here I photographed two old buildings and went down a small street with 'white-washed' walls. With the flowers out it was very pretty indeed although, the street was a little small.
With Ozu done in forty minutes I pressed onto Uchiko. My guidebook told me that the 'sightseeing' part of town was close to the town hall however, what I didn't know at the time, was that there were two town halls as said town is spread along a large valley. I spent the first twenty minutes driving down streets which I thought were 'okay' however, the map in my guidebook did not correlate to what I was seeing and I couldn't understand why my guidebook had given it such a good write up. It wasn't until I stopped in the town hall that I discovered that I was in the wrong park of town. I drove twenty minutes or so to the other town hall and found a car park. Uchiko had become rich through the production of wax. Many of the grand buildings I was witnessing looked out of place in such a small town (reminded me of Omaru, New Zealand). I toured the streets ending up in a refurbished Kabuki theatre. It was very interesting indeed; made totally out of wood, I went under the stage to see how the revolving floor worked.
Once I'd looked around the theatre I proceeded back to my car. Before getting there I drank a whole bottle of juice and photographed a temple plus a reclining Buddha. The car was red hot and my t-shirt was soaked through. I therefore turned the engine on and put the air-conditioning onto maximum as I changed my t-shirt. I left Uchiko at around midday, heading for Matsuyama. On the way I had two old gentlemen flag me down to tell me about my rear-right tire. I hope this isn't going to happen as frequently for the rest of my trip.
One hour later I arrived within the city of Matsuyama. I was starting to get hungry which, on this holiday, was very unlike me. I wondered if it had to do with the amount of breakfast I consumed this morning … or the heat? I found my, very posh, hotel and put my bags inside before parking my car. On reception was a lovely lady who couldn't go enough to help me. With her pigeon English she helped me sort out a route to Matsuyama castle – the attraction for the day – and where to look for something to eat. She also made me a member of the 'APA' – the hotel chain I am staying with – which allows me to check-out one hour later for free amongst other things. Once I had finished talking to her, I read my guidebook and formed a plan of action for the day.
I cannot begin to describe just how hot it is. I had only walked a couple of paces from my hotel and I was sweating like a pig. The thought of climbing up the mountain to Matsuyama castle was a frightful one and I quickly decided that I would use the rope way no matter the cost. Firstly however, there was a garden at the base of the mountain opposite my hotel. It's name was Ninomaru Shiseki Teien and even though I only spent 20 or so minutes in it, I was delighted with my decision to pay the £1.50 entrance fee. It was a style of garden which I had never seen before. It was a square which had been carved up into gravel – or stone – rectangles. Some of these rectangles had been flooded and it was all rather bizarre and yet, at the same time, I loved it and it is certainly an idea I shall keep for my own garden. The best thing was that you could go up a small path and look down on the whole garden … It looked really cool.
Once I'd seen the garden, I walked all the way around the base of the mountain to the rope-way station. It cost £2.00 each way plus £4.00 to go into the castle. Being absolutely fed up with the ridiculous heat my patience was non-existent and so I opted for the full 'round-trip' ticket … forgetting that I was planning on walking down the mountain as the mountain path finished a lot closer to my hotel than the rope way does.
Once at the top I only had to climb ten or so steps before I made it into the castle. It's a lot similar to a lot of other castles spread all over Japan however, the view was spectacular. I was also glad to see that, just like Himeji castle, a lot of thought had done into it's defences with dead-ends, murder holes and optical illusions. The castle wasn't as big as Hemiji castle however, it was larger than Osaka castle. Due to the lack of exhibits inside, it took me around thirty minutes to see all of the castle, before I left and ate an ice cream.
With my second t-shirt of the day soaked through, I decided to head back to my hotel to freshen up. Before doing so I stopped at a tourist shop and was pleased as punch that I managed to get presents for everyone who needed a present. It wasn't until I had reached the base of the mountain that I remembered that I had forgotten to buying postcards. So what? I hear you cry. Finding postcards in Japan is very, very difficult … and they had some! I saw them and thought to myself, “I need to get some of those” however, I must have forgotten again before I went to the cashier. It was too late now; I was close to my hotel and I certainly wasn't going to walk back up.
After a shower and another change of clothes, I hit the town again with only two things on my mind. Postcards and somewhere for dinner. Matsuyama had been a very kind city to me so far – and I've enjoyed it a lot; the park around the base of the castle is quite lovely – however that kindness disappeared when I couldn't find a decent restaurant and both of the book stores I went to hadn't even heard of postcards … let alone have any. I went to McDonalds for tea and had their biggest burger (with pineapple … yum), a snazzy drink and an ice cream. Once again I felt that this lot probably wouldn't keep me full all night and so I went into a convenience store to pick up snacks for tonight and cakes for breakfast tomorrow as this hotel doesn't have a breakfast meal option.
Speaking of 'breakfasts at hotels'. You may have noticed that I have been having a lot of my breakfasts at my hotels. I haven't really done this before because I always felt that they were a little too expensive. Now that I have tried it I have to say that, I think, my mind has been changed. Sure, a hotel breakfast can cost around £7 here in Japan (I can buy a breakfast for £2.50 at a store) however, you usually get a buffet where you can eat as much as you want and the food is good. Fresh fruit, salad and fish has – I believe – kept me going and feeling much more energetic than my usual 'McDonald’s rubbish breakfast'. The only annoying thing is that, most hotel breakfasts start at 6:30am and, if you want to beat the traffic, 6:30am is when you ideally want to leave. I now have no more hotel breakfasts; my last hotel comes with breakfast however, I think that I'll be leaving before it is served.
Tomorrow I am back off to Takamatsu.