Day 1
Aug 11, 02
Kashiwara - Tokushima - Kainan (southern Tokushima) - Tokushima
Distance: 210 km
Weather: Cloudy

see the map

During the summer of 2002, Ewa needed a break from Japan and went to Canada for a week leaving me in Kashiwara with our 2 cats - Jappinski and Aizumi. After a few days of sitting at home by myself I decided to cycle south to Wakayama and then across the strait to Shikoku island where we spent the first 2 years in Japan. It was August and the time of a big festival in Tokushima city called Awaodori taking place during the 4 days of Japanese Obon holiday between Aug. 12th and 15th. It is considered to be 1 of the 3 biggest festivals in Japan and it always attracts thousands of people from all over the country. It was the first Awaodori since we moved from Tokushima to Osaka and this time I was going there as a visitor and not as one of the participants as it happened in previous years.

I left Kashiwara around 2 o'clock at night on August 11th and after crossing the Yamato river near our home I entered Fujidera city. It was a middle of the night and at first the major roads that were usually crowded with cars during the day were pleasantly empty. From Fujidera I followed an overhead highway just below it on a road that to my surprise wasn't very empty for that time of the night. I wanted to reach R26 that connects Osaka and Wakayama cities. It wasn't my favourite place to cycle, but I had no choice. There was no time. I wanted to be in Wakayama as early as possible in order to catch the ferry and have a few hours of daylight left to cycle down the coast to southern Tokushima prefecture and visit the beaches where we had spent so much time between 1999 and 2001. We kind of missed the sea and the amazing, still at that time, wild seacoast of southern Tokushima. The ferries from Wakayama left almost every 2 hours, but it also took 2 hours to get there.

After reaching R26 near Osaka bay, I continued south towards Wakayama. The road was overcrowded with cars and trucks and if I ever find myself in that area again, I will definitely try to avoid it. The only plus it had was 2 and sometimes 3 lanes that made cycling a little safer than on a 1 lane road.

I reached Wakayama in the early morning, but the ferry terminal turned out to be on the southern side of the city and when I got there, the ferry had just left and the next one was at 1 pm. There used to be more ferry companies connecting Kansai with Shikoku. Unfortunately, after the Naruto bridge was completed a few years back, the ferry services between Osaka and Shikoku as well as Izumisano and Shikoku were stopped. The only company still working between Shikoku and Kii peninsula was Nankai ferry that connected Wakayama with Tokushima. Anyway, the ferry left Wakayama port exactly at 1. It was August 11th, the day before Awaodori festival and the boat was crowded with people. I remember thinking of the first day in Japan when we arrived in the country and took the same ferry to Tokushima. That time, a typhoon had just passed through the region and our ferry was almost entirely empty. Except for us there was another person on board. Now, it was impossible to find a spot on the "sleeping" floor (carpeted area) to lie down. It was a hot day and I was a little tired after 60 km of cycling. The only place I found was on the cold floor (Japanese ferries are air-conditioned and sometimes it gets really cold inside). Luckily, a girl from a little shop gave me a newspaper to lie on. Shortly before 4 pm, I was back on my bike cycling south through Tokushima city in the scorching, afternoon heat. It was unbearable. Those hot summer afternoons on Shikoku - I'd already forgotten what the really hot weather was like since moving to the mountains in Saitama. It was hot, traffic was huge and the city wasn't ending. I chose R55, the main road that runs south from Naruto, through Tokushima city and south to Muroto cape on the southern tip of Shikoku. The route runs at a slight distance from the coast in Tokushima and joins the sea in Annan city, just south of Tokushima city. I met couple of other crazy cyclists going towards Tokushima likely for the festival.

Annan is the last city or even the last bigger town on the way south and this is where the major traffic ends. From there on, the traffic is much, much smaller except for the summer weekends. Places to the south of Annan are very small towns or just fishing villages. It is also in this area where the beaches begin. The coast between Annan and Tokushima is mostly covered in concrete, but the land developers haven't got passed Annan yet and the coast here remains untouched. This is where we spent many weekends before moving to Honshu island. The first great beach is just south of Annan. It's marked with a line of tiny rock islands that stretch from one end of the beach to the other about 50 metres off the coast. It is usually empty.

The next interesting place to swim, snorkel or dive is the beach or small spots on the rocks near the beach in Yuki town. The beach itself is uninteresting as it's usually crowded with people, but the nearby rocks offer nice, secluded spots with great places for snorkeling or diving. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop in any of those places because it was getting dark and I wanted to reach Kainan town that day.

After Yuki town, this part of Shikoku island all the way to Muroto cape is a place in Japan that we can imagine the country years ago. The development here is minimal and the sleepy, fishing villages or the mountain villages towards the centre of an island have remained unchanged for years. This is the real backcountry of Japan.

Somewhere between Yuki town and Hiwasa climbing began. It was dark already and I was exhausted. In Hiwasa, the road became flat again, but climbing continued passed the town. It finally ended somewhere near Mugi town, but it was a while until I got to Kainan, my destination where I collapsed on a bench by the road. I had cycled 60 kilometres from Osaka to Wakayama and about 75 from Tokushima to Kainan. Behind me was one of many beaches in this area where we spent the weekends in previous years. The beach itself as the one in Yuki isn't anything special, but the southern part is a great diving or snorkeling place. Beneath the water surface are long flat rocks that are home to many different kinds of fish, some species of coral and other sea animals. The ocean here is full of colourful, tropical fish found only in Okinawa and southern Japan. Also, somewhere in this area was the place where we found a giant sea turtle shell a year before. The ocean had washed it on the rocky shore where we found it during the low tide. We wanted to take it home, but after a closer inspection we agreed that there was no point because the body of the dead turtle was only semi-decomposed and it was just to big.

The coast between Annan and Muroto cape is a really interesting place to visit. Spending summer days on the beach isn't a Japanese thing and most of the beaches are empty. The ones that aren't wild are still less crowded than those in Europe.

Hiwasa town is a place where giant sea turtles lay their eggs on one of the beaches there. They come there every year in June. Unfortunately, the number of the turtles landing on the beach decreases every year. Yuki, Mugi, Kainan and Kaifu towns are famous for the beautiful rocky coastline and great beaches that attract people even from places like Osaka or Kobe cities. The town Shishikui located almost on the border with Kochi prefecture is known for different species of coral found in the local waters as well as different species of tropical fish. The water here is warmer than anywhere else in Tokushima and it is a diver's paradise. The access to the sea here isn't easy though. We tried to find a beach on the island just off the main coast connected to it by a bridge, but couldn't. There is a glass bottom boat here that operates in the summer.

After eating supper, I lay down on a bench by the beach under the stars and tried to fall asleep. It was windy though and later some people came with fireworks and drove me crazy. The wind was strong by the ocean, people were making a lot of noise and I couldn't even hide in the tent because all I had with me was a sleeping mat. After a while I decided to go back to Tokushima. I also didn't want to ride back through those mountains in the Shikoku summer heat. Without seeing the coast in the daylight, I got back on the bike and started moving slowly north, back towards Tokushima city. I promised myself that I wasn't going to push.

I took it easy. It took me a while to get to Hiwasa where I took the first break. The second major break was in Annan where I actually put the sleeping mat on the pavement and took a nap in front of some store. It was around 1 am already. 3 hours later I was riding through the streets of Tokushima city. There was some traffic on the streets. The preparations for the festival were underway. Found a bench in Tokushima park and went to sleep.

Day 2
Aug 12, '02
Around Tokushima & Tokushima - Wakayama (by ferry)
Distance: about 30 km around Tokushima
Weather: Sunny & hot

At 6 am a screaming voice coming from the park speakers woke me up. When I opened my eyes I saw old people all around me exercising to the music and instructions coming from the speakers. The music and a male-instructor's voice were blasting. I was surrounded by old people trying to bend forward, backwards, and sideways. It was like being in the Twilight Zone. The whole thing lasted for 15 or 20 min. and then it became quiet again and I was able to sleep for another 3 hours.

By 9 o'clock it was already very warm. More and more people were walking up and down the park alleys. Sleeping any longer was impossible. Got up, washed up, ate breakfast, and rode from Tokushima to Aizumi town 10 km north of the city. Aizumi is where we lived the first 2 years in Japan. After visiting a few people and a couple of familiar spots I rode back to Tokushima city to meet some more people there. At around 4 o'clock many of the city's streets were closed to traffic already and they were crowded with local people and tourists who came there for the festival. Many dancing teams had already come out. Some of them were walking to their spots where they were gonna dance later in the evening. Others were either practicing or just having fun dancing in the middle of the streets. I tried visiting one of our good friends in the city, but just couldn't get him and in the evening I went to Jazz Collector - the jazz bar run by a friendly guy named Ken-chan where we got drunk so many times in the past. Tokushima cty was partying and the party was going to last for 4 days. Later, around 11, I caught a ferry back to Wakayama and arrived there around 1 am. I rode through the deserted Wakayama streets to the center of the city where I found an empty bench in Wakayama castle park and went to sleep.

Before I left Kashiwara on August 11, I made myself hamburgers and sushi rolls that I took with me. The food lasted for 2 days, but on the 2nd day when I was eating breakfast in Tokushima, I developed some sort of an allergy to food. It seemed like it was caused by the nori (green, dried seaweed wrapped around makizushi). After taking a bite of anything the roof of my mouth would swell making swallowing almost impossible. I had no idea why and where it came from, but for some reason I knew that it was caused by the seaweed. For the entire day I couldn't eat anything other than very soft food and drink lots while eating. The next morning it was much better and it disappeared completely by the evening. A year later, when Ewa made sushi again it returned although not as strong as then. To this day, I still haven't figured out what it was exactly.

Day 3
Aug 13, '02
Wakayama - Kashiwara
Distance: 60 km
Weather: Sunny & hot

Couldn't sleep all night. It was freezing. All I had with me was a sleeping mat and the clothes I had on me (shorts and T-shirt) and on this side of the strait it was much cooler than on Shikoku island. I waited for the sun to rise and as soon as it was up I lied down in the sunlight and its warmth. I was able to get a few hours of sleep after the sunrise. When I got up and got ready it was already hot. I had a pleasant conversation with a girl outside of Family Mart - one of many convenience stores where I bought breakfast and left the city. The ride out of Wakayama in the heavy traffic was terrible. I decided to follow the coastline as far as I could. There was nothing really interesting on the way except for some fishing villages and scary looking men sitting in the shade.

I got to Misaki town where I had quick lunch and a swim in the sea. First I went to 7/11 to buy noodles. I thought I could eat inside, but was kicked out into 40+ Celsius temperature in the parking lot without any shade.

Across the street from the 7/11 was a beach where I had a nice, long swim in the refreshingly cool sea water. I rode further up the coast to Izumisano city where 3 km off the mainland the Kansai airport was built on a rectangular man-made island. There I was able to sit on the bench and observe the sun setting right behind the airport island with the silhouettes of the planes landing or taking off. From Izumisano, I rode in the darkness. I reached home in the evening where I could finally take a shower and rest. The cats were happy to see me after 3 days of being alone.

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