First stop on today’s journey was to Kazura Bashi (a vine bridge) not far from where we spent the night. We’d read in Lonely Planet that it was a tourist trap, and they were right. There was a giant souvenir shop/car park that had recently been built. It was an enormous concrete building. And disgusting. Luckily for us, across the road there was a much cheaper car parking option (which was even cheaper since it relied on honesty, as no one was working there to collect money). We walked down to check out the bridge. Since they wanted ¥500 to walk across it (but it was free to just look at it), we did just that. Walked around the area and took some photos. It looked like fun to cross, but we were going to (what we believed to be) a better one afterwards, so we saved our cash for that. It was funny though watching the people cautiously crossing the bridge, holding on tightly to the side ropes.
Just by the bridge was Biwa Waterfall, 50m, with water that pleasantly cool to dip feet into. But, it too had been modified with concrete (though, luckily out of frame). We walked around in the river under the bridge, enjoying the cool/clear waters.
When we tried to leave Nishi Iya, we had to wait for road works. Because the roads are so narrow, they have to stop all traffic to be able to do work. While we were waiting, we started to chat to an older man from Ehime. He gave us a few suggestions for things to see/do in Shikoku, and also decided to do what we were doing, visiting a house that had been renovated by some foreigners a few decades ago. The house (Chiiori Trust) is a bed/breakfast on weekends and a sort of living museum at other times. Except on Wednesdays, which was today. Wednesday is their weekly holiday. We didn’t know (and didn’t know that today was Wednesday) until we arrived to find the manager looking quite shocked/confused to see us. Eventually he agreed to let us have a quick look at the outside of the thatched house (though, he was a little embarrassed about all the laundry/bedding that was out in the sun to dry). We didn’t stay long, but could only imagine how nice it would be to spend a little time here, like a weekend.
Slightly disappointed that we couldn’t see it properly (at least it was only a short detour), but what we saw was better than nothing. From here we had one more quick detour to small lookout for a small mountainous village (that we heard becomes inundated with photographers during winter…). I have no idea why, it looked super dull/average (and even more so in my photo…).
The Lonely Planet recommended that we visit Oku Iya Kazura Bashi instead of the one that we went to this morning. Since the first one was on the way, we went to both. With the Oku Iya vine bridge, you had to pay to be able to see it (unlike the one in Nishi Iya). So, we paid our ¥500 and made our way down the thousands of steps to where the first bridge was. The main bridge. The man bridge! Design wise, it wasn’t very different to the one that we saw this morning. The main difference was the location. It was natural/peaceful. It was beautiful.
There was a 5-10cm gap between each 10cm rung in the bridge, and through these gaps you could see down to the rocks/river below. But, you could also see the steel cables (for obvious safety reasons), but it just slightly took away from the authentic feeling of the bridge. Still, I was amused watching the people slowly walking across, holding the hand rails for dear life. It didn’t bother me for some reason, I was more worried that one of my thongs might fall into the river below.
I didn’t want to spend too much time here (even though it was beautiful and peaceful) because it was getting late and the weather was getting worse and I really, really wanted to climb Tsurugi San. We’d travelled only a few kilometres before we hit another set of road works, this time we had to wait 45 minutes. It was going to be 3PM before we could re-start our journey, far too late to start the climb. I was really disappointed to not be able to climb, but regardless of the time, it was also quite cloudy here now. Sad face.
Defeated, we kept driving along the (mostly) single lane road, around countless blind corners with nothing more than convex mirrors to help us avoid collisions with on-coming traffic. The chairlift for Mount Tsurugi started at about 1500m, so we had a long descent. It kept reminding us of Alishan in Taiwan, the steep valleys, the twisty roads, the small tea plantations, the scars on the mountains from landslides. Looking over the edge of the (low) barriers on the road was slightly terrifying; it was a long, long way down.
Even though I was in a slow old van (full of our possessions that would shift about any time I turned a corner aggressively), I was enjoying the drive. Much more than the people in sporty cars that were behind me (though, I did pull over to let them pass when it was safe/convenient).
The closest michi-no-eki was in an onsen town called Kamiyama. A small town with a smaller supermarket with large prices. I’d decided I wanted hamburgers for dinner, so hamburgers is what we were going to have, even though it cost a (small) fortune. At least they were tasty. Also, I didn’t have a can opener for the tin of pineapple I’d bought. A hammer and some pliers were all that I needed to rip the can open enough to get to the delicious insides. I didn’t even cut myself in the process. Double win!
But, we couldn’t quite eat our dinner in peace. First came an art teacher that thought we were artists (because I was a foreigner in this small town). He (and his three students) told us about their art installation (that we plan to visit tomorrow). Sounds interesting. Next visitor was an elderly lady (who I guess was a cleaner/caretaker of the michi-no-eki) briging gifts. She gave us a small bag of a local lime-like fruit called tsudachi and some dorayaki for desert. Risa was so excited about the tsudachi that she went back and got us some more. Hopefully Risa sends some of them to her parents, as I don’t know what we’re going to do with a few kilograms of tiny, bitter limes.
I’d been a pig with dinner, eating far too much, and now I struggle through my food-induced coma. We’ve finished all the Dexter episodes that I have, so not really sure what to do with our evenings now…