The islands of Shodoshima and Shikoku, in the Inland Seto Sea, are rarely visited by tourists.   This is one reason we liked to go.  Yet for centuries they have been known as the worlds oldest tourists trail.                                   
For over a thousand years pilgrims (henro) have been walking from temple to temple, 88 in all, in the footsteps of a great Buddha who is said to have found enlightenment in this lifetime.

Today many of the henro set out in more modern transport, yet some still walk 30 to 60 days.  On a bicycle it is said can be done in 2 weeks to a month. We are running out of time to do the entire bicycle pilgrimage (Steve has already done the Buddha's nostril) but we plan a route across Shikoku aimed at visiting some of the significant ones.

The islands are also known for their delicious and varied sea food such as sushi,  sashimi and fish so fresh it is suggested you try to get the last bite before it stops moving.

Conger eel, sea bream and Saba-no sugata, a whole mackerel stuffed with rice and wrapped in a bamboo sheath. I am not into fish of any kind and especially the small fish served uncooked, salted or fried, famous here, called Gempei Yaki. 



Usually we eat yogurt and granola with tea cooked on our Jet Boil stove.   This AM we stop at a little local shop with it's 'noren' hanging down and flapping in the breeze. ('noren' is a slit curtain hung over entrances to eating establishments.) But this restaurant looks more like we are in someone's home.

 I ordered pancakes! Oh boy! But I watched in horror as she threw cabbage, eggs, and lots of bottles of black stuff, and pinches of fine shavings. Do you suppose this is the sea bream?Something is FISHY here!    It is definitely moving!

Steve insists it is just from the heat. I watch it wiggle and squirm.  I end up eating it and it is not too bad, sort of like a vegetable omelet with lots of soy sauce.


Later Steve discovers the Sunny Markets with a buffet fit for a king and priced by weight. I notice he does not dive into all the dead fish either. We always find something to eat, and even try new dishes when we go out to a restaurant which is usually one meal a day.




This one we came in at closing, got served their one and only dish....a great curry and rice....but before we left the owner cut us each a piece of 'speciality cake'. It was made with sugar from a plant like bamboo (at least that is what we think he tried to say) and offered it to us as a gift.


In two days we have biked across the little island of Shodohima and now on to Shikoku which is the larger of the two.  We will take the northern route from east to west.
Day 2   20km is a short day up over three hills from the Olive Garden paradise to the ferry terminal at Tonosho. We are an hour on the ferry coming in at the new Sunport Terminal of Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku.


 We need to get to the campground before dark. Why? We ask ourselves. This is what we came for.  Scrap the camp!  We decide it is time to try out a Minshuku, one of the types of traditional Japanese accommodations.

We head for the JR train station where there is always a tourist office (rarely speak English).  We end up at the Makiya Minshuku 5 min. later. The owner arrived on her bicycle and we were in.  It was located just around the corner from the station in a tiny alley.

Across the alley is a parking lot where one car at a time drives into what looks like some ones garage, then onto a turnstile and slowly screws down into a hole in the ground. Where they go is anyone's guess!

Our first Minshuku is perfect.  It has tatami mats, a bath down the hall, big fluffy futons, sogi screens (paper and wood) on the windows and best of all a 'yukata' or cotton robe to wear after the bath.

The owner even presents us with 'happy shoes' a hand made trinket of little shoes. Of course you must always take off our shoes at the front door and slip on mass produced plastic slippers or wooden ones for walking outdoors after the bath.


We could do without the starched sheets!


But best of all in Takamatsu is one of Japans top 'gardens', the Ritsurin, an Edo period garden.  We bike there in the late afternoon and roam the spectacular gardens arriving in time for a traditional Japanese wedding.

Dressed in a red Kimono, hair done up in a geisha do, the bride is stunning. The groom also dashing in what looks like our 'yukata', but never mind, we spend the day strolling slowly through sculptured pine trees across tiny arch bridges, and at sunset gaze across a still pond to the tea house of the Chrysanthemum Moon Pavilion.




Day 3   22km another short day but it is raining, again!  Later we learn it is not just a typical rain but TWO TYPHOONS headed our way.


June is rainy season but this is typhoon season and although they come quickly, they lash their fury and are gone just as fast.   It is a wet one so we don't waste time making our way on a relatively flat road to Kotohira.

I stop only long enough to ponder the little stone carved comical dragon perched on a bridge. It is a 'Doramu' a dragon guardian deity who calls for rain, slays ogres and takes children to dream land. I give the little guy a pat and off we go.

Then just as we reach Kotohira, we come up to Lawson's Dairy Store.


                                                                      SUDDENLY...My front wheel skids out on a wet slippery long metal grate.....Oops, slop, down I drop!

My right handlebar catches my wrist and I fall, wreathing in pain, sprawled out on the sidewalk,  like a fresh filet of mackerel!!!   I'm stuffed!!

And the land of sushi, as I lay squirming like a piece of fresh sashimi ........I can't believe my bleary rain drenched eyes! I gaze upward and there, there above me, gleaming like the asahi (morning sun) are the golden arches of ...................................

                                                                        McDONALDS! I've been saved! 

Well, scrap the camp again we now have the opportunity to try out our second type of accommodation, a Japanese Ryokan.

Steve finds a wonderful Ryokan near the  Beacon for Traveling Pilgrims,  The beacon was for guiding pilgrims to the temple from out at sea.

 The Ryokan is near the bottom of the steps to the Kotohira-gu shrine, once totally dedicated as Guardian of Mariners.

 It is perfect.  We find the Ryokans tops in accommodation. I have a maid making my tea at the little table in our big tatami mat room, a servant to make up the futon beds, full bath and shower in the room and fresh 'yukata' and towels daily.But most of all.....

........................ a real ONSEN across the hall.

I am pampered and coddled beyond my wildest dreams.

Do you suppose patting that little Doramu had anything to do with this?

 My wrist is in bad shape. Just call me GEMPEI YAKI!