Kurashiki – Kochi

Kurashiki 9 November 2023

From Brisbane after two flights via Singapore to Kansai Airport and three train rides we’re in Kurashiki.

Kurashiki, not far from Okayama City has a preserved canal area that dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867) when the city served as an important rice distribution center. It’s a beautiful atmospheric place with former rice warehouses, now cafes and shops surrounding the canal.

Boat ride on Kurashiki River
People of Kurashiki
Yakitori at Kurashiki Takadaya, an old Japanese restaurant full of character
Former rice warehouses on a rainy morning

Matsuyama 10 & 11 November 2023

The train, painted with Japanese comic superhero Anpanman characters, from Kurashiki to Matsuyama takes 3 hours using the spectacular 13 km long Great Seto Bridge across the Inland Sea between Honshu and Shikoku Island. Built over 10 years in the 1970s the bridge carries vehicles and trains on two levels, replacing the ferry service to Shikoku.

We spent two nights here with a visit to Uchiko on the second day.

Colorful and delicious lunch
Anpanman train to Matsuyama
Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) with prawns and pork, self cooked at the table
Matsuyama Castle, one of the most complex and interesting castles in the country, was constructed between 1602 and 1628 on a steep hill in the center of Matsuyama. It’s takes about an hour for the 3.5 km circuit walk
Matsuyama parkrun is small and super friendly, 4 times around below the Castle
A couple of Matsuyama First Timers!
Second breakfast – Beef Sukiyaki Pot
Matsuyama’s tram, “ting-ting densha” because of the ‘ting-ting’ sound it makes when the button to get off the trolley is pushed, has been operating since 1895

Uchiko 11 November 2023

A short train ride from Matsuyama (pop 510,000), the biggest city on Shikoku, and we were in the village of Uchiko (pop 15,000). With its Historic District Preservation Zone and no visible power lines it’s like we moved back a few centuries in time.

We had arranged a Ishidatami Satoyama Guided Tour through Michiko Miyoshi of the Uchiko Tourism Association. With our cheerful guide Nami we visited the old mountain village of Ishidatami, ancient covered bridges and waterwheels then enjoyed a delicious hand made soba noodle lunch. It was a great day.

Tamaru Bridge was once also used as a storage place for food and as a meeting area protected from rain and snow. It is maintained by the local villagers
Tamaru Bridge timber floor using naturally curved timber planks fitted together
Ishidatami, a small village in the mountains about 15 km north of Uchiko, 20 minutes on a narrow winding road climbing 300 meters
Traditionally houses were constructed with yellow mud walls
Ishidatami’s weeping cherry blossom tree, carefully protected, is 350 years old
Ishidatami’s villagers are farmers and it’s hard work for them
Rice terraces – the bamboo poles are used to make a frame to dry the rice – a perfect example of what Japanese call satoyama, rural landscape that has been formed and maintained through long-term human interaction
Small shrines form part of a local pilgrimage
Taiko-bashi bridge across the pond leads to …
… Yuge Jinja Shinto Shrine, built during the Muromachi period (1336-1573)
Shiitake mushroom field on the hillside behind the Shrine
Patience is required, the mushrooms take 2 years to grow on oak logs which last about 5 years before needing replacement
Buckwheat is made into soba noodles by hand rolling and cutting
The small family restaurant grows its own buckwheat in the field opposite and is only open on weekends
Our guide Nami had cold soba noodles
We went for hot soba and tempura
There was once over 30 watermills grinding wheat and rice along the Fumoto River
Another covered wooden bridge with grass growing on the bark roof
Uchiko Historic District Preservation Zone from the latter half of 19th century has no overhead power lines

Kochi 12 November 2023

We took a bus from Matsuyama to Kochi (pop 330,000) on the southern side of Shikoku, about 3 hours.

Kochi’s famous Sunday Farmers Market with over 400 stalls is 300 years old and runs 1.3 km along the street up to the Castle
Hirome Market, “Kochi’s kitchen”, with 65 food stalls was packed on a Sunday evening
We had the handmade Succulent Shrimp Dumplings
Constructed at the beginning of the 17th century, Kochi’s castle is the only one in Japan where the original castle tower remains intact