We couldn’t stay in Himeji forever, despite the great hospitality, and a couple weeks earlier (worried about making it all the way to Fukuoka in time), we had decided to ferry south to Shikoku, via Shodo Island, bike along the northern coast, and then take another ferry across to Kyushu (two of Japan’s smaller but still significant outlying islands apart from Honshu, the main one- take a look at our little route map for more info). A ferry was conveniently located in Himeji port, about 10 kms for Ai’s place and after our lovely send-off, we were on our way to Shodo Island!
The only thing we really knew about the island was that there were wild monkeys there and it was supposed to be very beautiful. As we got closer, the looming green mountains looked spectacular, but slightly worried about what sort of inclines we’d be hitting. We were arriving with about an hour to spare before sunset (we just love cutting it close without a place to stay it would seem!) and decided to hit the visitor info centre for some info. We thought we would probably just camp out on any ole beach, but the very friendly visitor info volunteer gave us a very funny look when we told him that was our plan, and guided us to several camping options on the island. After all this wild camping, paying for a campsite just seemed kind of ridiculous, but one of the campgrounds he mentioned had an onsen so we thought we’ check it out. Our friendly volunteer also asked us if we had brought food because there was apparently no food for at least 10km in the opposite direction of the campground. Poor planning. We had a Caloriemate (these weird little food supplement bars that look and taste exactly like shortbread), one Cliff Bar from Canada that I had been keeping for a special occasion and one pack of dehydrated daal (also from Canada). Oh, and some oatmeal. From Canada. All our stores from the bottom of the panniers.
So we shrugged our shoulders and set out for a bike ride the tour guy said would probably take us an hour. It took us 10 minutes! Not because we were really fast or anything, just because Mr. Tour Guide probably doesn’t bike much. The biking is beautiful – up and down lulling cliffside hills with the hue of sunset over the water, and we arrive to find the campground is closed. Eventually we find another campground right by the water and no one is around so we hope to just stealth camp and not pay and settle in for the night.
We survive the night without being attacked by any wild monkeys (we end up not seeing any at all on Shodo), and are both promptly woken to “ohaio gozaimasu!” Being called out over and over outside our tent by an old lady collecting money for camping. We have to pay 1200 yen (600 per person which seems exorbitant, but whatever. I’ll get over it) and are kicking ourselves for not waking up earlier and getting out of there before she woke up. We don’t have a plan for the day other than Shodo exploration and just decide to head from where we are at the north-eastern tip all the way southwest to the ferry port where we will leave for Shikoku. We make some oatmeal (we didn’t touch the lucky daal and still have it to bring to NZ), pack up and hope that we can get some more food soon (there are 7-Elevens on the other side so as long as we can make it there, we know we’ll be fine).
The roads on Shodo are relatively quiet and the weather is beautiful. We make it to the 7-Eleven faster again than we had expected, then check out the local sights: a couple rest stops selling island specialities and it seems olives are big on the island:
As is the apparent connection with some distant Greek heritage (haha. Their sister island is a small Greek island called Milos). People on Shodo love all things Greek, and we really realize this when we get to a michi no eki stop that is actually an olive tree orchard with replica of Greek replicas past and present -from a statue of Athena to a traditional Greek windmill- throughout.
I tried olive-flavoured ice cream (I was expecting something like the olive oil ice cream I had tried in Portland at Salt and Straw which is my absolutely hands-down favourite ice cream ever – and so of course was disappointed). We also tried some olive soda and olive cola which was rather delicious.
We ended up biking close to the port by afternoon and spent some time checking out Angel Walk, which I had seen pictures of on Pinterest and was really excited about. It was pretty stunning and our timing was great for sunset viewing, although the tide was a bit high to actually walk across it (the story goes if you walk across hand in hand with your beloved, great things will happen. I think we’re great already.)
We still didn’t know where we were going to camp again so couldn’t linger too long, and ended up checking out a spot on the beach that we figured would be fine, then hitting an onsen in the mall and having a rather depressing dinner at the grocery store of raw broccoli, milk, cold yam tempura and vegetable juice. It’s been really hard eating in Japan and even though we are eating fish and seafood here and there, I am overwhelmed at just how much meat there is in everything. So our diets have been seriously suffering, and we are very excited to get to NZ to hopefully have some healthier food options available.
The sleep on the beach isn’t great because there are people practising for a festival drumming for hours in the distance, and we’re right next to the boardwalk where people are walking and running into the wee hours, but the sunrise the next morning certainly makes up for it.
We pack up early, check out the town next to the ferry terminal and the world’s narrowest navigable strait (yes, it’s even in the Guinness World Record book):
and buy our tickets for Takamatsu on Shikoku for the 8:10 sailing. These island lovers love island hopping!
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.