On Friday the 5th, there was a nice cool breeze, and rainy skies. Because of this respite from the sun, we were better able to appreciate the Shinra-like qualities of the opening march. The sun came out again just before noon – mercifully, it wasn’t around long enough to roast us again.
The relay, a source of frustration the day before, was a lot of fun this day. We completed two whole runs in less than forty minutes, and finished ten minutes early. I got to run in the relay – I stood in for A---, the slow dresser from the previous day.
The relay format is ingenious. It’s structured so that everyone participates: Years One through Three run quarter laps around the track, then Years Four through Six run half laps (and they really book it). The entire school is divided into six teams, and I guess that means there are three teams representing each main team (Red and White). Every time it’s run, it’s anybody’s to win, and it stays thrilling right up to the very last lap. It’s a great event – it’s arguably the most exciting thing in the festival, and so it’s the last event on the program.
As luck would have it, I didn’t have any classes scheduled for the afternoon, so I used my time from the open lesson with the kinders to have the afternoon off and leave early to see some temples in Kagawa on the way up. I was going to catch a train at around half past twelve, so I had a few minutes to fold some clothes and pack, singing Quad City DJ’s to myself while grabbing my necessaries.
The train ride into Kagawa was gorgeous – the tracks go through lots of small villages and hidden valleys, and the mountain pass on the prefectural border is something else, with its periodic tunnels and glimpses of greenery and the Inland Sea. I’d been on this line before, but it was at night – I knew we were going through tunnels and sinking into valleys, but I had no idea it was all so pretty. Unfortunately, I was fighting with my camera batteries during this time and have no pictures of any of it.
Temple 87: It’s a long walk from Zoda Station on the JR line, but it’s near the terminus of the Nagao Line of the Kotoden Railway. I was travelling JR, so I had to take the walk. I arrived at the station at 1:52pm and left again at 3:56. I’d recommend budgeting at least that much time, and more if you’re not a fast walker.
Once I got a few blocks away from the station, I was really aching for a place to stash my duffel bag and umbrella. Luckily, I spotted a house that had a very narrow walled-off part of its “lawn” next to its garage – like absurdly narrow; you couldn’t stand two people abreast in it. There was no car in said garage, so when the coast was clear I tucked my things in on the other side of the wall and continued walking. There was nothing in the bag but clothing and toiletries – nothing I couldn’t replace, but I doubted the bag would even be noticed, unless the owners made a habit of peering in the nook beside their garage every afternoon.
I was working my way to the temple based on a photo I took of the locator map that was beside the station, and even with that I took a wrong turn and went on for some minutes before I realized what had happened. Luckily, this was in the early going, so it wasn’t cause for panic.
The temple was lovely – its attached cemetery was in the process of being reconstructed, so there was a lot of equipment and caution tape around. The temple office was being attended by a bona fide young monk – he stamped my book about as expertly as could possibly be imagined. Outside, there was a tour group of pilgrims – they go from temple to temple by bus – and what got me was that for this one shrine they stood off to the side of it in the shade and worshipped from there. That kind of pragmatism in a religious setting surprises me.
On the way back, I found my things right where I left them, and I got to the station with more than ten minutes to spare. The walk was flat, quiet and really gave me the chance to see the area. In the end, I can safely recommend accessing Temple 87 from Zoda Station – just be sure to budget some time.
Between 87 and 86 there’s a place and a station called Orange Town. Isn’t that the coolest thing? It’s like you’ve just stepped into a Pokémon game or something.
Temple 86: Getting off at Shido, you find yourself in a small port town, and there’s a large marina along the walk to the temple. I stashed my things under a row of trees between two parking lots at the marina.
The temple grounds are expansive and filled with trees, and with the setting sun it was hard to get many good pictures, but I managed a few. I got into the temple office just a few minutes before 5, and I’m sure I was the last stamp of the day. The person there had a neat mechanical counter that he thumbed after he stamped my book; I should have asked to see it.
Back at the station, I got my ticket stamped – no more “free” rides for me, I guess. =) But I did hop on a limited express to Takamatsu – thereby making it there non-stop instead of with eight stops. It was lightning fast and would have been worth the extra ¥320, but nobody was checking tickets, so I got away with this one. With such a supreme advantage in speed, no wonder the express surcharge to go all the way from capital-to-capital is ¥1150 – and that’s on top of the ¥1410 basic fare.
Takamatsu: Beautiful! I think I could live here – there’s a really nice waterfront, and the downtown is very walkable. My camera batteries were crapping out again and I was reduced to a kind of Lomography (I couldn’t use my viewfinder), but even shooting blindly I think I caught a few interesting things.
There are all kinds of transportation connections – high-speed ferries were going in and out almost by the minute. The train station is really nice, too. Tokushima’s is in a good location, but it’s not nearly as new-looking once you get to the tracks.
At the station, I had two ¥100 burgers at Lotteria – their ¥100 burgers are slightly better than McDonald’s ¥100 burgers, but most McDonald’s have power outlets – sometimes at every seat! Lotteria’s were sparse and capped-over. I’ve gone into McDonald’s several times just to charge my batteries, so I definitely see power outlets as a way to attract customers.
I was getting on a Marine Liner here – I noticed that after the train pulled in, either the boarding passengers or a JR employee would go up and down the cars flipping the seats around. With just a push the seats and benches on many cars go from facing one way to facing the other way, which is an essential feature on these railways where they don’t turn the cars around for their return journeys.
So far, so good – my adherence to my itinerary was 100% so far. I felt that the real challenge would be coming back. I would have all day Saturday in Hiroshima, which would mean that I could sort of relax, but I’d have a lot of things to cram into that day, too.
Okayama: I had just under an hour here, so I got out onto the streets and took some night shots. There were lots of teenagers hanging out and playing music in the underground passages. I swapped my rechargeables for single-use batteries, and suddenly my camera problems had vanished – I had bought these 2650 mAh Duracell Ni-MH batteries thinking that they’d be an improvement over my fading Panasonic 2100s, but it hasn’t turned out to be the case. When these Duracells give up (and it looks like they are already doing that), I’ll go back to Panasonics.
I was a little bit later than I expected in getting to the local train that would continue the journey – as expected, there was a huge crowd on board, and I didn’t get a seat until just before Fukuyama, when another big crowd got on.
Mihara: I had to switch trains here (from one local to another) - when I first got out and looked at the clock I thought I would be missing my transfer! But it turns out I just misread the analogue clock in haste. And then I realized I’d left my umbrella on the first train. Damn. Well, umbrellas are cheap here – people are always using them, losing them, and just picking them up.
I sat down near the back of the car and smelled something – what was it? Did someone puke or is there some rotten food… and then I noticed that this is one of those local trains that has a toilet on board. Ah. I then moved to the other end of the car.
This was a looooong train ride; I was starting to feel half-dead and we were still a number of stations out. I couldn’t listen to music or podcasts, because my earphones let in too much noise. I made a memo to myself to buy better headphones after payday.
I may haha "bite the bullet" & go back to Okayama on Shinkansen cuz this is ridiculous. It really was. Back in Kansai, the rapid services between Himeji and Maibara are slick - but in this area there’s next-to-no rapid service. Anyone who wants to get anywhere quickly and comfortably is forced to use the $hinkan$€n. I don’t know if the ticket I was using is good for basic fares on Shinkansen, but the basic fare from Okayama to Hiroshima was ¥2940, and the surcharge ¥2410, for a potential charge of ¥5350. OUCH. It reduces a three-hour trip to forty minutes, but still.
Hiroshima: I arrived at Hiroshima at 11:35pm, and was greeted by a dark but lively plaza. I had some difficulty finding the cybercafé I wanted to go to, and when I got there it was full – not to mention that along the way I had the misfortune to walk past a gang of miscreants who tried to frighten me and then laughed about it. I’ll never forget their wicked expressions and hollers. After the first place, I had to carefully pick my way to the second place, and I very nearly didn’t find it as a lot of its complex was closed for the night and the cybercafé elevator was tucked away on the far side of the building – I only got there because one of the all-night-music-store employees helped me find it.
I got to sleep, but I had to fool myself into it – my trick was pretending I was in my aunt’s spare bedroom in Souris, and I was tired enough that I could convincingly delude myself into feeling that way, and so soon I was asleep.