After another terrible nights sleep I woke to a typical Japanese breakfast of grilled salmon, scrambled egg, rice, yoghurt, fruit and garlic bread rolls (I think these were added to cater for the western tourist, ie., moi). I was touched at the effort Taka had gone to make me feel at home. It was a rainy day but Taka was determined to show me some of the tourist spots of Ehime, Japan. Not that there were many tourists mind, maybe a few Chinese and Japanese but with dozens of temples, quaint country villages and so much else to see, I rarely saw them.
We headed to the small village of Uchiko which is still in keeping with traditional Japanese style from the Edo times. Unfortunately most of the shops were closed that day but many still displayed products outside alongside a coin jar for people to place their payment in.
This just shows the importance of honesty in Japanese culture. Around the village I saw how Japanese non-drip candles are made, how toys are carved out of wood and visited some traditional Japanese tea houses.
We took a visit it a shop called Moribun which specialised in cherry juice and soy sauce. Taka had a few words with the owner and within no time we were whisked down an alley and into the villages old movie theatre. It was incredible to have this secret look inside, a famous landmark only open twice a year to the public. The owner even put on a film for me to watch which showed the history of the theatre and some short Japanese movies, it was a truly special experience.
He then showed us the warehouse where he makes soy sauce which was incredibly interesting and the smell so strong. I had a taste of his cherry juice which looked more like orange juice but went down well – Oishii!! (delicious!). The owner of Moribun, a famous businessman in the area, was so kind in giving me a grand tour of his business and letting me see things others do not get a chance to.
Taka took me for lunch at a well-known soba noodle restaurant called Shimohagatei and as I requested, ordered for me. A huge beautiful banquet was placed in front of me and another in front of him. I had previous read it was considered rude for you to leave food on your plate in Japan but I frequently see locals do it so I didn’t feel too bad about leaving some of mine.
Full to the brim we headed to a famous Uchiko theatre to have a look around the historic building which if I’m honest, isn’t really something I am interested in. It was another two hour drive to Dōgo Onsen, a small hot springs in Matsuyama. It was certainly very beautiful but I felt a little touristy, especially as Taka took my photo every few minutes (he had later put them all on a stick for me to keep).
There are hot foot spas dotted across town for you to freely dip your feet into but as it was raining we only found one undercover. There was no time to go in Japan’s oldest hot springs, the famous Dōgo Onsen but I wasn’t overly fussed as I couldn’t keep my eyes open after another bad nights sleep.
That evening Taka and I picked up fresh sushimi and sweet tofu wrapped rice from the supermarket which we had fun looking around. We both agreed that the first thing we do when visiting a foreign country is to excitedly look around a local supermarket to see what different products there are. Like everything in Japan, supermarkets are so organised and convenient. Upon paying, you are given a bag to take to pack yourself on the designated packing tables away from the tills, reducing queuing time and the build up of people. Come evening, fresh fish is ridiculously cheap in supermarkets as standards are so high in Japan that items are rarely kept on sale the following day.
My plans were disrupted due to the bad weather and a cancellation of my second CouchSurfing host so I asked Taka if I could stay another night to recharge my batteries. After an incredible eight hours sleep Taka woke me to say we needed to hurry to get to breakfast, something I knew nothing about as I had asked him that we do nothing until later that day.
I’m glad I got up as Taka took me to Hotel Ichiyunomori Okudogo Onsen which had an all-you-can-eat Japanese brunch. It was like paradise and I managed to resist the western-style pizza and chips and instead, sample some weird and wonderful traditional foods with pumpkin pudding and almond jelly being my favourites. I couldn’t quite understand why we ate ourselves silly before getting into the hot springs but Taka said people don’t care about the size of their belly when getting naked in the bath and to be honest, I no longer care either.
A red entrance for the ladies and blue for the boys, I stripped down and made my way around six hot spring baths overlooking the autumn forest leaves with refreshing rain coming down on me. As heavenly as it was I only lasted a mere 15 minutes as it was so hot! Japanese love their baths hot, the same with their heating as I am constantly finding myself sweltering in public places, a rarity for me.
Taka cooked for me again that evening with a fish soup followed by egg and onion rice. There’s been a whole lot of raw onion consumed this week, a staple in most Japanese dishes. It lingers, believe me! After exchanging photos, the rest of the evening was spent in a slight panic at the realisation that transport to my next two destinations was fully booked due to the weekend.
Not only was I now homeless for the second time in a week but I had absolutely no way to get from A to B. As you will realise as I continue with my adventure is that my number one Japan travel tip goes against all I’ve ever said in the past and that you must BOOK IN ADVANCE. Japanese culture is super organised and unless you are too, you’ll struggle just like me.
Living life, loving CouchSurfing,