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  • Glynn

Shikoku Recce

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

It was time to check out the island of Shikoku in a little more detail & with many more trips in mind.

The spine of Shikoku

It was early Spring and I fancied giving myself a treat! I skipped camping this time, to enjoy the luxuries of a hotel. The hotel in question was the Takanoko Hotel in Matsuyama. And from the photos below, you can see several of the reasons I chose this particular hostelry. Using I could book a comfortable single room for four nights, including breakfast for ¥31,680 ($230US). ¥7,920 per night and compared to the cabin I rented at the campsite on my last trip out (¥6,620 no breakfast), it was a bargain!

A smorgasbord of MC indulgence, just sitting around the hotel

Photo courtesy of the Takanoko Hotel

I left early on a Tuesday morning using the faster roads financed by the ETC system (Electronic Toll Collection) and the two bridges crossing Awaji Island. The idea was that I could make good time and enjoy a more relaxed arrival and take advantage of the accommodation - shower- bath - shower (a little ostentatious, I know). Now riding on the ETC from the Kobe area doesn’t come cheap! Travelling along the E28 and E32 and with two bridge crossings costs ¥6,760 ($50US) one way. So if you decide to ride to the island make it worth your while.

It would have been nice to ride along the ridge line of the mountains that act as the spine of Shikoku, but the snow was still falling in the hills and some roads/trails were closed, hence the reason for a quick bolt east/west, across the island to Matsuyama.

Since living in Japan, my approach to riding a motorcycle has changed. Not doing so much of the tour including an overnight, a short ride to a local attraction, park up and wander around in your steamy motorcycle gear. Maybe I am maturing!? YIKES! Or actually realising that the, modern day, macho marketing expects me to behave in a certain manner (clearly I have fallen for some of that in the past). But, here the transportation system works! So not to take advantage of such an easy to use and integrated way of moving from point A to B would be an opportunity missed. So my advice to anyone travelling by motorcycle in Japan, would be... when locating your camp site or hotel, make sure it’s near a train station, bus stop or a simple hiking path. And on those rainy days or when you just want to get the shorts on and a backpack, you have access to so many more locations you might not have thought about, when on two wheels.

So I did just that. On the Wednesday, I took the train into Matsuyama (a short 8 min walk from the hotel to the train station and then 18 minutes to Matsuyama City station. (¥250).

My orange carriage arrives. P.S. The colour represents Ehime's famous Mandarin Oranges

Matsuyama has a castle and of course what tourist would be mad not to visit it. Being March and that the country was still restricting travel from overseas (to a certain degree)

the grounds were fairly quiet, and it helped that I was early. Now I've been fortunate enough to visit Japanese castles before (Himeji/Osaka/Odawara etc.) so the architecture and general layout can be similar. But, taking advantage of being early, gives you the opportunity to notice things that you might have missed on the busier visits to previous castles, so in I went.

A fine castle... you must agree?

The prefecture of Ehime is famous for its Mandarin Oranges and many other citrus fruits. As you walk through the city and throughout Ehime, you will often find taps coming out of walls that just flow orange juice...perfect for any tourist gaining a thirst.

It just had to be done

Once I had downed my orange juice and descended from Mt. Katsuyama, it was time to seek out lunch and so I headed back into the city using the tram cars that rumble their way through Matsuyama’s streets.

In cities in Japan you will always be able to find good food and don't be shy of the food courts that exist in many of the department stores. You will discover a great variety of new dishes you wouldn't have dreamt about trying and in most food courts you will find many of the menus user friendly, with images, clear fonts and quite often English translations. So I decided to tuck into a plate of Nimono fish supported by a draft beer from the local brewery (one of the advantages when not having to ride the motorcycle).

So as not to over elongate this post. I’ll try to keep this tourist trail short which later led me to the famous Dogo Onsen, a small hot spring town on the outskirts of Matsuyama (which unfortunately was in the middle of some restoration). Which, apart from the onsen, was not that inspiring, so I returned to the hotel to enjoy my department store purchases. A good bottle of sake and a large bento!

Friday and another ride day! From the hotel I took Highway 40 north west towards Horie, skirting the north of Matsuyama to enjoy the bends and forests then along the coast road heading north along National Route 196 and the 301 to Cape Kajitori.

First stop was the Tori Gate at the Ozaki Shinto Shrine. Part of it is often submerged but if you can catch the tides you will be able to go down and visit its footings, which are planted firmly in the coastal rock.

I head further along the road which narrows into a single track up to the lighthouse and then take a short walk to the tip of the peninsula. You’ll find the views restricted by overgrown vegetation, as in many locations in Japan. The beauty of nature here means that nature is in charge (a good thing) and that trees restrict most viewpoints at elevation.... many, many trees! The views that you can enjoy in The Lake District or the Highlands of Scotland are not the vistas you should expect here.

Did you see anything move?...

The beauty comes from all this greenery. When you look at the many mountain ranges that track through Japan, the scenery will always calm you. And remember to stay on the tracks! If you venture off them, be aware that most of nature’s little surprises are lurking somewhere from within the vegetation. Some creatures of note are the famous Giant Hornets which nest underground, dozing Wild Boar with no ‘Do not Disturb!’ signs displayed. And some of the sneaky spiders and snakes that are best avoided. Just take care and use common sense.

Following the coast north I made a brief stop to take in the islands that sit in the Seto Inland Sea and the bridges that give you access between the main island of Honshu and Shikoku. There is a small camp site here that gives you great night time views along the coastline, but with limited facilities so bring everything you need with you.

Clear blue water that you will find at nearly all of Japans coastline and in its waterways.

Taking the 160 & 161, south through Hashihama, I rode to Imabari Castle. This time avoiding the tour and a quick photo op. Now I should have really visited the Towel Museum of Art, but I just couldn’t find the enthusiasm for that subject material (pun intended). Towel production, in Imabari, has been going on for 120 years and they say the soft water from this area contributes to the quality of the end product. Take a look at the Imabari Towel Japan web site. I can vouch for the quality, as I have owned one of their hand towels for many years.

photo courtesy of Imabari Towel Japan

Imabari Castle and a furry motorcycle

Taking a route inland along the winding 152 next to the Shigenobu River I arrived back at the hotel. A quick change of clothing and off to eat Tonkatsu at the Katsuretsutei Kume Kubota restaurant. Now if you do not know what Tonkatsu is, then you're in for a treat of crispy fried pork cutlets, using quality meat, served with rice and raw cabbage and supported by a tasty Worcester style sauce. With a beer... of course!

As I sat consuming a unusually large Tonkatsu and quaffing a large glass of beer I reflected on my four days in the west of Shikoku... I need to come back!


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