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Saturday, April 2, 2016

2016 JAPAN SAKURA ADVENTURE: Day 6--Hiroshima to Shikoku Island

Hotel Century 21 Hiroshima is a decent hotel, but needs a makeover  It is in close walking distance from Hiroshima Station.  The cost should be around $100/night.  

Two negatives:
  • There is no in-room WiFi.  You need to work on the lobby floor.
  • First, the remote control is in Japanese.  I don't read Japanese.  At night, in bed, I thought I was changing the volume, and all of a sudden I got a graphic "adult" film.  So I immediately turned off the TV and went to sleep.  The next morning I turned on the TV, and the same show was still playing.  I wondered if I would be charged for 7 hours of this film.  I went down to report that I made a mistake.  The person at this desk smiled and wiped the possible charge off my bill
  • Breakfast was modest, but better than any free breakfast in the USA.  However, the Hampton Inn in Vacaville, where our golf group will again stay next month, has a pretty good assortment, including making your own waffle.
We then caught the bus to Shikoku Island.  This was a wonderfully relaxing day.  I'm sure I saw more cherry blossom trees today than the sum total of whatever else I viewed in the past.  Full mountains were filled, so were a bunch of river/stream banks and valleys.  For much of the trip, there were wows from the right, ohhhh from the left, and so on, for the Sakura today is at peak from Tokyo to Fukuoka.  The ride took a total of 4 hours.

The Seto Inland Sea has 600 islands, and we travelled along the  40-mile Shimanami Kaido, also known as the Nishiseto Expressway, first opened in 1999.  There is a series of bridges, the last and longest being the 2.5 mile Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world:

I found it touching that our guide, Yuko, when talking about those bridges, ended by saying the country is proud of the fine work done by their civil engineers.  

Also accompanying us is a wife-husband Panda travel escorts, Arlene and Gilbert, from Hawaii:

Our first stop was at the Oyamazumi Shrine, where the National Treasure Hall is located, kind of a Peace and War combo, for here are located a collection of samurai swords and battle armor.  These go back to before 1000AD.   I did not realize some of these swords had such long handles:

At the shrine:
  • See those white paper notes?  For a dollar, you can buy your fortune, and if you don't like what it says, you tie it on these trees and, perhaps, purchase another one.
  • That branch you see in middle above the group is part of a really old tree.

That is from this 2600 year old camphor tree:

There is a more senior 3000 year old tree on these grounds, which perhaps not coincidentally is the same age as Japan's oldest hot spring in Dogo, where we will be staying today.  We are talking a millennium before Jesus Christ.  Interesting that there are around 3000 onsens in Japan.
There is also an ocean exhibit here, and I can't read Japanese, but I think these are the male reproductive organs of various types of whales, longer than a yard:

Yoko then announced that our next stop, not listed in our itinerary, would be to a towel factory and museum.  We said, what?  She said, you'll love it!

Towel Museum Ichihiro was an unexpected pleasure.  Their theme:  The Joy and Surprise of Discovery.  There is a vast garden and most of the flowers are yellow:

That building doesn't look like much, but there are five stories and at least a hundred yards left to right.    They manufacture towels, the museum is surprising and the meal we had was Chinese, with French jazz and classical music:

However, in addition to the brown bowl above, I was served a special tray because I told them I was allergic to crustaceans:

It was like getting served Chinese cuisine in a posh, upscale French restaurant.  The museum was colorful and featured Moomin:

Who or what is/are Moomin?  No, nothing to do with Hello Kitty.  Moomin is Swedish with a Finnish illustrator and first came out in 1945.

Incidentally, the towels made and sold here are Imabari, perhaps the finest in the world, for hotels like Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons purchase their towels from this company.  I was given a hand towel, for in Japan the restrooms have no paper napkins, so you need to carry you own something.

I ended my visit with a cappuccino and another yellow view:

We ended the day by checking into Dogo Onsen Chaharu, where I took a walk.  Bumped into two from the Panda group, Gary and Amy:

Above, a typical hanami.  I should note that my Blue Bar Pigeon also showed up here in Matsuyama.

I then went to the hotel onsen and had a glass of sake at the outdoor area where the wind and 50-ish temperature balanced the hot soak.  I was almost alone, kind of symptomatic of the gridlock faced today in Kyoto, Tokyo and other parts of more popular Japan, while our tour was unhindered.

The group then was served an assortment of local specialties for dinner:

I found the dinner to be okay, but not any more.  The Ehime beef was more like American roundsteak. What surprised me most was that I had a beer with my meal, while none of the 27 others had any alcohol.

Tomorrow, on to Kochi.


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