In February I was invited to visit Shikoku, a small island in the south that contains four prefectures. I haven’t explored much of Shikoku so I gladly went along. Because another friend was planning on tagging along, we played the trip very much by ear, something I’m honestly not used to.
Our first stop was Ehime Prefecture. We went there because Peach (a very cheap airline) had flights in the area. Ehime is famous for their mikans, one of my favorite fruits in Japan. It’s so well known that one of their mascots is Michan, a bear that looks like a mikan. Like most prefectural mascots, he was plastered everywhere.
Our first day in Ehime involved biking around and visiting Matsuyama Castle. I forgot how much I enjoyed riding a bike around places.
Next up was Dogo Onsen. The bathhouse in Spirited Away was based on it; it’s sort of funny that I have been visiting sites related to that movie accidentally. I’m not a big onsen person but I enjoyed my time there. I guess that says something for a hot springs that has been around for over 1000 years.
After a nice dip in the onsen and eating some of the delicacies, I had to head back early because I still had grad school stuff to do. One thing I have had to get used to is balancing traveling and homework, something that I will be doing until I leave the country. Our friend was still up in the air so rather than just waiting for him, we decided to go to Kochi for our last day and a half.
The next day was pretty mediocre, due to the unforgiving weather. We took a bus to Kochi because it was cheaper and more reliable than trains. Oddly enough, Shikoku isn’t very friendly towards trains and you are better off taking the local public transportation there. When we arrived to Kochi, it was downpouring. Getting to the hotel in itself was a trek. After dropping our stuff off, we checked out Kochi Castle. The rain had stopped a little by then and I was hoping it would last.
I was wrong though. After getting out of Kochi Castle, the downpour continued. By the time we got to dining area, I was completely soaked. This killed my mood a lot so we decided to kill time and grabbed some dinner. There are various restaurants but I highly recommend checking out the Hirome Ichiba, a market/dining area rolled up into one. It’s basically a giant food court with many food stalls and restaurants that also has markets selling all sorts of ingredients. When it comes to seating though, for most places you just have to grab what you ordered and try to find a place to sit. As a result, the atmosphere was cozy. The Kochi locals were very friendly and we ended up chatting with a few of them. My favorite dish in Kochi ended up be katsuo tataki. I could’ve eaten that all day.
Despite killing a lot of time, it was still pouring heavily. After stopping for a drink at a bar, I decided to call it quits (I was tired of being in soaked clothes for half a day) and head back while my friend continued his evening. I ended up blow-drying my clothes and finishing up more grad school homework until it was time to crash.
Our last day in Kochi was greeted by excellent weather. Even though it was February, it felt like spring. Because it was Sunday, we decided to check out the farmer’s market by the city. Every Sunday there is a huge farmer’s market that spans several blocks and contains at least a hundred stalls.
One thing I noticed was that these stalls were very family-oriented. Almost every one of them had a high school/junior high school student helping out their parents, which I thought was very cool. A couple of high school girls even stopped us and tried their best to pitch their wares to us in English. It was cute.
After visiting the farmer’s market, we had time to visit the Chikurin-ji Temple, one of the temples included in the 88 temple pilgrimage. It was a lovely temple, I had memories of Mt. Koya while I was walking around it.
By the temple was a great overview of the city as well.
Unfortunately we had to head back early because our plane was flying out of Ehime Prefecutre, a 2-hour bus ride away! We finally met our friend who had just arrived to Ehime when we returned. A very laid-back hostel owner, he shrugged off missing us and was planning on staying a few days later than us. He told us the very least he could do was drop us off at the airport. I was a little bummed out that he couldn’t come with because I could tell he was a cool guy just by the short conversation we had on the ride over there.
Although the time was short, I enjoyed Shikoku and wish I had more time to explore more stuff. Even with the crappy weather in the middle of it, it was a nice little mini trip. I need to see as much as I can of Japan before I leave!