To Takamishu (140 km by train)
After the wonderful Shimanami Kaido, we were even more keen to avoid cycling on heavily trafficked roads, which ruled out riding across Shikoku or attempting to cycle to any of the 88 temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Instead, we opted to take the train to Takamatsu, with a view to cycling on the island of Shodoshima. This, of course, meant spending a couple of hours at Imabari Station dismantling and packing up our bikes. We did a better job than last time fitting them into the Rinko bags, but still had to lug the bags and panniers into an elevator and onto the platform. Misunderstanding the instructions from the ticket collector, we were waiting at the wrong end of the platform and had to rush to the other end to get onto the right carriage after the conductor had blown the whistle to leave. While we jumped on with our bicycles and some panniers, the conductor loaded the other panniers on further down the train. After we departed, Lois went looking for the panniers and met the conductor bringing them to us. Paul was in the process of battling to get the bikes parked behind the back seats as instructed, but the conductor indicated he would put them in the corridor, much to our surprise. Obviously, on his train that was OK!
We spent a day in Takamatsu visiting what remains of the 16th C Takamatsu Castle and the Ritsurin-Kōen gardens. We chatted with our Victoria family on FaceTime while we were beside the castle’s surviving seawater moat, the site of an annual swimming race in honour of an age-old chivalrous tradition. The city’s light rail system took us to within 500 m of the Ritsurin-Kōen gardens, designed in the mid-1600’s as a strolling garden for the regional feudal lord. Said to be the among the most beautiful in all of Japan, the exquisite gardens feature lakes, bridges, islands, landscaped hills, tea rooms and pavilions, set amongst 1400 carefully trimmed black pine trees. We took tea in the Higurashi-tei which dates from 1898, sitting on tatami mats. (The 17th C Kikugetsu-tei tea house was closed). At the water source, two men were cleaning algae from the stones, in order maintain the pristine looking stream.
Returning to the hotel to reassemble our bikes, we then went for an early dinner at Ofukuro, a washofu (local eating house). Like a tapas bar, a number of prepared dishes were on the counter. We chose egg and tofu, deep-fried snapper, eggplant, and spinach, followed by rice and egg miso soup. Later, we relaxed (separately) in the hotel’s onsen and rotemburo (open-air bath) and (very hot) saunas.