4-6/6/16. The weather has taken a slight turn for the worse over the last few days with a heavy band of raining passing late on Saturday into Sunday morning but we managed to avoid the worst of it by getting to our destination of Takehara early in the afternoon on Saturday and then taking a pill/rest day on Sunday before moving on to Onomichi today. We have been lucky up to now as the rainy season starts in late May and runs through to early July (pretty much our whole time here!l) and this was only the second band of rain we have had. Fingers crossed that our luck continues.
Saturday saw us retracing our route to Kure through the long tunnel with the noise deadening glass screen and continuing up the coast to the town of Takehara. We had opted to stay here because the next sizeable place, Mihara, was rather too close to Onomichi where we wanted a good look round. So we had two easy days rather than a longish day followed by a very short one. The rain started with a few spots but gradually increased so we were mighty glad to stop when we did.
We hadn’t read anything about Takehara but struck lucky – although their description of it as “Little Kyoto in Aki” (not sure what/where Aki is!) may be a little OTT. There is a nice area of old buildings and very narrow streets (not entirely car free but Japanese drivers are generally very considerate) close by the hotel which we had fun exploring on Sunday morning once the rain had (mostly) passed over and Christine’s pill was out of the way. Separate photos page here.
Stephen went for some relaxation in the large bathroom in the hotel before dinner on Sunday and had a slightly different experience. Past the reception desk (the separate one for the bathroom, not the hotel) was an area of easy chairs in which were sat 5-10 men, generally naked apart from a small towel strategically positioned, smoking and watching baseball on the TV or reading manga books. The changing (or rather disrobing) area was adjoined to this with the bathroom itself (which included a mighty hot sauna) through two glass doors to one side.
We had read that tattoos are generally not allowed in public bathrooms as they are normally a sign of a member of the “Yakuza”, the Japanese mafia. Well, two of the men had large ones – one covering a shoulder and an upper arm, and the other (a particularly shady looking character too!) with pretty much the “full works” between neck and knees. Stephen steered well clear of him!
With the rain having cleared and the sun trying to peek through, we set off along the coast on Monday morning for Onomichi. We had been a little concerned that the road might do a “Cornwall” on us and be full of hills but it was almost pan flat apart from one short (0.5 km or so) bump. As an added bonus there was a footpath most of the way, even away from the towns and villages, although it did get very narrow in places, particularly where there were railings on the road side and a wall on the other, which made things tricky with our wide loads.
We arrived in Onomichi about two hours before check in at the hotel (check in times are strictly adhered to in Japan, in our experience) so we left our bags and bikes there and went for a walk along the temples trail. There is an astonishing number of temples in Onomichi – about 25 mainly perched in hilly positions above the town along narrow lanes and steep stone stairways and a walk of about 4 km would take in most of them.
This could be made into a “pilgrimage very lite” compared to the 88 temple and 1,400 km job on Shikoku island on the other side of the Inner Sea. However, it seemed to us, that the atmosphere at these temples was much less devout than those on Shikoku and they were much more historical monuments. After about 10 or 12 we were “templed out” and headed down into the town for an ice cream! However, the walk along the lanes and up and down the steps did give a real sense of what an old Japanese town was like and was definitely worth the raised heart rate! Separate photo page here.
The hotel we are staying in is also a very old building (but down on the flat part of the town near the station) with extremely steep stairs (and we are on the second floor!) and outside loo and shower (thank goodness it is nice and warm!). It is also very small – two twin rooms and a “dorm” with four beds – and guests are invited to join the staff (of 3) for dinner at the princely sum of ¥500 (about £3.30) a head! We accepted the invitation and had a great time – not cordon bleu but very edible.
[By the way, a few days ago Statto Stephen passed a significant landmark when his bike went through 20,000 km. It is 7½ years old so it is not that many miles per year – but this bike only get used for touring as he does have several other bikes (4 to be precise) that get a lot of useage when he is at home!]