Making the way to Shikoku to do the 88 Temple Pilgrimage by Bike Friday Folding Bike and Suitcase Trailer.
Japan: First Impressions
Gordon: We arrived at Kansai airport around midday yesterday. This is one of several airports that service Ōsaka, but it is notable for being located on its own island in the sea. It is connected to the mainland by a five-kilometer causeway with a highway and a rail line, but no apparent pedestrian path.
The various staff at the airport were very helpful and without too much difficulty we were able to depart with a data plan for each of our phones, and train tickets for a station near our accommodation.
We are staying at a modest hotel in the suburbs south of Ōsaka. It is beside the sea, with views across the inland sea to Shikoku. The town is an irregular maze of streets, lanes, and paths, most of them narrow and limited to one-way traffic. The buildings are an eclectic mix of modern and traditional designs, with many attractive wooden homes. The town has a village feel and is easily negotiated on foot, although it would be easy to get lost without an electronic map. There are a lot of bicycles in use, and we saw a large staffed bike parking area near the train station.
I had my first experience with a Japanese toilet this evening. It is pleasant from the outset, as the seat is heated. Sitting down also activated a fan. For additional functionality, there is a control panel beside the toilet. This was a bit intimidating because the functions are labeled in Kanji. There was, however, one ikon of a rounded “W” with a fountain directed at it. Pushing this initiated a mechanical sound, followed by a warm bidet function. Fortunately, Ruth had already briefed me on the adjacent button with the red square symbol, so I was able to turn off the bidet function and avoid creating a plumbing disaster. After flushing, the tank of the toilet refilled from a faucet directed at a basin in the top of the tank with a hole allowing the water to flow into the tank. This was decorated with some plastic foliage to conceal the hole and leave the impression of a natural spring.
Ruth: Our travel day from our guest house near Kansai airport to Shikoku was seamless and surprisingly easy. Our host dropped us back at the Ozaki train station where we bought a combination train and ferry ticket to Tokushima. I spent the two-hour ferry ride talking to a lovely lady in a combination of Japanese, English, google translate and charades. It was really fun.
At the Port in Tokushima, we were met by David Morton, who is originally from Canada but has lived in Japan for almost 30 years. He is the author of the English guide book for the Shikoku pilgrimage and is a professor at Tokushima University. His area of research focuses on Western pilgrims on the Shikoku route. Who better to give us our first orientation to the pilgrimage!
Read more of their adventures of Ruth and Gord at: FootSteps Across Europe