After having slumbered for a bit, with the upcoming group of Japanese holidays known as “Golden Week” and its 4-day weekend, the explorer inside me had awakened once again. My last trip being a solo venture through the streets of Kyoto, this time I changed up the itinerary substantially and decided on a 150 km (93 mi, round-trip), 2-day biking trip to whirlpools of Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture. For a long time now, I have known that I am quite fortunate to be living on the island of Shikoku, for even within Japan, its geography and climate is completely unique. Unfortunately, up until now, I haven’t had the time or occasion to begin exploring the island I inhabit.
This trip I decided on would take me along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea for most of the way, and would end in Naruto, a coastal city which contains a link of the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Project, the Naruto Ohashi (Ohnaruto Bridge). In an effort to properly document this trip, my camera was never far from my hand, and the result was around 380 photos. I have done my best to thin them out… Even so, there are still quite a few. But if you see one you like in particular, you can see a high-resolution version if you click on it!!!!
So without further ado, here is my Biking Trip to Naruto!
With two days of perfect cycling weather ahead of me, I departed from my dormitory in Yashima at around 9:40 on Saturday morning.
My route was fairly straightforward, as I would be taking route 11 along the coast for most of the way, as you can see here, and near the end would be taking a single turn to take me to my final destination. The length of the first leg of the journey was approximately 65 km (40 mi), which would end up taking me about 4 hours total, including two decent breaks.
The route was unexpectedly tough, as the road was rarely level. But soon enough, I was in my groove, and since my bike had been recently tuned up, it felt fantastic!
With a continuous supply of beautiful scenery on both my left and my right, I continued onward, moving ever closer to my goal. Before I knew it, I saw the left turn that was pointing me to Naruto (route 42 on the map)!
Upon arrival, I was surprised to discover this unexpectedly quaint little town. It seems that most of the people that come to Naruto are merely passing through on the expressway, on the way to Kobe, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, etc. To me however, that leaves all the more to be desired! I dove into this little city with time to explore. I had booked lodging at what is called a Ryokan or Japanese-style Inn, but could not check-in until 4:00. So I went searching for food and what interesting people and places I could find.
After enjoying the sensation of being still while feeling the ocean breeze, an older Japanese man out for a walk approached me for a chat. He didn’t know much English, but these days my Japanese is enough for me to hold a pleasant and intriguing conversation. After a short while, I asked him if he knew of any places to eat lunch nearby. I hadn’t had much to eat other than bananas since around 10:00 am, and since it was nearly 2:00 pm, and since I had traversed nearly 70 km in the meantime, I was, needless to say… Famished! Fortunately, he was able to point me to a nearby restaurant across the street. Without much second thought, I went over and took a seat in this empty dining room, enjoying the sounds of the smooth jazz coming from the speakers.
After a satisfying meal, I went exploring around Naruto next to the coast (the southernmost loop on the map). Before rounding the peninsula, I could see the Naruto Ohashi in the distance, and while going south next to the ocean, I could see endless fields of crops being grown to my right, and miles of wave breaks to my left.
After having lunch and taking a loop around Naruto, it was just about time to check-in to my room at the ryokan (旅館). This one was called, “The Sanuki-ya ryokan!”
Upon my arrival, I was immediately greeted by name. I’m guessing that I was the only westerner who was biking in that day… Ryokans differ from hotels in a substantial way. They usually are small and family-run, focus on providing unparalleled hospitality and a uniquely personal experience. They also generally have a very small capacity; this one only had 6 rooms that I could see. After checking my passport I was escorted to my room and invited to relax.
It was a simple and small 8-tatami sized room, but I couldn’t have imagined a better place to relax after a long day on the road. After settling down, I made myself some tea from the tea box and hot water thermos waiting for me in my room.
Shortly after preparing my tea there was a soft knock on my door. It was the lady of the house. She had come to inform me that my bath was ready for me at any time. I thanked her and she left me alone again. I finished my tea slowly and then prepared to head to the bathroom. In this ryokan (and I suspect in many others), the toilet rooms and the bathroom are shared. The toilets were at the end of my short hall on the second floor and the bath was in the back on the first floor.
The bath was perfect. After washing myself in the adjacent showers, I slowly descended into the 40° C/104° F, rose and sandalwood scented bath water and began soaking my tired leg muscles. It didn’t take long before I was pruned and ready to retire to my room. On my way back upstairs I asked the husband for a beer, and a minute after returning to my room, the lady of the house had brought up a 75o ml Kirin and a glass and proceeded to open it and pour. Once she had left, I laid out a sleeping mat from the closet, laid down with my head propped and began to read while slowly sipping on my beer.
. . .
Before I realized it, two hours had passed and I was in a state of pure relaxation. Noticing that it was beginning to darken outside, I prepared to leave. As I was returning from my exploratory biking loop around Naruto earlier, I had noticed a Japanese-style castle perched atop the adjacent hill to the ryokan. At that time I had determined that I would go there to view today’s sunset.
After making it up to the top, using the lowest gear possible on my bike following the road, I found a pavilion overlooking Naruto and further to the south, Tokushima. After a short time, I noticed the shrine master leaving his small house for a smoke while having a beer. Curious about this shrine and the accompanying castle, I went to engage him in a conversation. Being an older resident of Shikoku, he had a strong dialect and virtually no knowledge of the English language. However, with a shared enjoyment of the view and the subsequent beer he offered me, we communicated just fine while watching the slowly darkening sky.
Soon enough, it was completely dark out, and I made my exit. I returned briefly to the ryokan to inquire about places to eat and was pointed towards the Naruto train station. It was only a 5 minute bike ride away and I found the place easily. Although there were many restaurants, finding a place to eat still proved much more difficult. Being a holiday weekend, the first 5 locations that I tried to enter turned me away after realizing that I was by myself. Finally, as I was making my way towards a grocery store to go buy food to take home with me, I noticed a small little yakiniku (grilled meat) shop down a small road. I poked my head in, and despite being relatively full, they ushered me inside and put me at a bar-like seat with my own personal grill and I began to order.
After a 100% delicious and satisfying meal, accompanied by a pleasant conversation with an older Japanese couple next to me (who kept insisting on sharing their sake), I returned back to my room. And waiting for me was the most welcome site…