Tuesday 12th June
Toyohashi to Ise
Distance: 55.31 km
Total Distance: 22731.04 km
Yesterday, despite the typhoon forecast, it was a lovely sunny, windless day but we stayed at Aaron’s just to catch up on the blog and do some work on the trikes; fitting a second mirror, a new flag pole for me and changing the oil on the Rohloff hubs. Daz cooked with Aaron last night and we discovered gazpacho and how delicious it is.
Then Aaron demonstrated his camping rice dish – instead of boiling his rice it’s more like a paella or risotto preparation. Definitely a top tip for a camping stove. This morning we said farewell to Aaron and his landlord and set off for the ferry at Irago.
We stopped in Irago at a seafood cafe recommended by Aaron to enjoy huge meaty baked clams and fried clams with rice and miso soup. When we arrived we showed the restauranteur a picture of the meal Aaron had suggested. Later he came back asking to see it again so then we showed him a picture of Aaron, explaining our friend in Toyohashi had recommended his restaurant.
He recognised Aaron and was absolutely delighted and then gave us all sorts of extra nibbles. Then we missed our ferry by about 3 minutes – we thought they were waiting for us but by the time we’d bought our tickets they’d cast off.
Once on the other side it’s a little while before we find a park and by the time we pitch our tent it’s already dark but we’ve got a toilet block for water and a good wash.
Wednesday 13th June
Ise to Miya River Water Park
Distance: 23.64 km
Total Distance: 22754.68 km
Today we visit the Ise Jingu which consists of 125 jinja (Shinto Shrines) centred around Kotaijingu (Naiku) and Toyoukedaijingu (Geku). More than 1500 rituals are conducted here annually to pray for the prosperity of the Imperial family and happiness of the world. We went to Naiku tge most venerable sanctuary in Japan. The Shrine here is dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, the ancestral Shinto deity of the Imperial family. She was enshrined in Naiku about 2000 years ago and has been revered as a guardian of Japan. The main sanctuary contains the Holy Mirror enshrined in the palace surrounded by 4 rows of wooden fences.
Every 20 years a new divine Palace is constructed on a site adjacent to the main sanctuary. The sacred apparel, furnishings and divine treasures are also remade. Once completed the Holy Mirror is moved to the new sanctuary by the Jingu priests in a ceremony called Shikinen Sengu.
After our visit we soon succumb to the temptation of an early finish and we find a lovely park besides the river to set up camp.
Thursday 14th June
Miya River Water Park to Kii-Nagashima
Distance: 55.92 km
Total Distance: 22812.1 km
Today we’re heading for the coast at Owase but we don’t make it.
For most of the day we climb through woods and beautiful villages but our long awaited downhill to the coast never materialises so we decide to camp behind a Michi-no-eki .
Hopefully we’ll see the sea tomorrow.
Saturday 16th June
Kii-Nagashima to Asukacho Omata
Distance: 50.42 km
Total Distance: 22862.52 km
Thursday night the rains came and stayed for most of Friday. We were incredibly fortunate because we’d camped right next to a picnic shelter so during a break in the rain we moved all our kit under cover and remained there all Friday, giving our tent time to dry.
It was actually a great day off because we had easy access to toilets, WiFi and electricity. Today we continue towards Kumano. We are actually in the area of the Kumano Kodo the ancient pilgrimage trails linking the 3 grand shrines of Kumano: Hongu-taisha, Nachi-taisha and Hayatama-taisha.
This peninsula is mountainous and most of the day has been climbing but the scenery is fantastic. We had a great treat at lunchtime. We met a Japanese cyclist from Osaka, Kenji. He’s a retired policeman, 67 years old, and he’s spent the last 77 days circumnavigating Honshu (about 4700km). He stopped to say hello and then he insisted on taking us out to lunch – and a fantastic spread it was.
He’s also offered us a bed and shower at his home before we catch the ferry to Shikoku. What a wonderfully generous man. Thank you Kenji. In the afternoon we cycle through stunning scenery.
Our campsite tonight is another roadside rest area – loving wildcamping in Japan!
Sunday 17th June
Asukacho Omata to Nachi
Distance: 52.8 km
Total Distance: 22915.32 km
Today in Kumano we visit the Oni-no-Miharashidai lookout with panoramic views over the Kumano sea.
Then we follow the coast to The Shishiiwa, Lion Rock, a rock 25m high that looks like a lion roaring at the Kumano Sea.
And our final stop in Kumano is the Hana-no-Iwaya Shrine, possibly the oldest Shinto Shrine in Japan and the tomb of Izanami-no-Mikoto, known as the mother of Japanese deities.
The huge rock, 45 metres high, is an object of worship. A special rope, 170m long, is made and strung from the top of the rock, across the Shrine, over the road and down to the beach in a special Shinto rope placing ritual. Then prayer ornaments are hung from it. After Kumano we stop at the Kiho Town Sea Turtle Park where there are numerous pools occupied by endangered sea turtles. It’s an educational centre about the protection of this endangered species but sadly only in Japanese.
Apparently the sea turtles come to Kiho to lay their eggs. Then it’s on to Shingu and the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine. This is one of 3 grand shrines making up the sacred site, Kumano Sanzan. They were founded at different times and enshrine different gods. Since ancient times many people have made the pilgrimage to Kumano Sanzan from all over Japan. There are various pilgrimage routes connecting these sites and they’re known as the “Kumano Kodo”.
Our final stop is to see Mifune Island, an island in the middle of the Kumano River. Every year there’s the Mifune Matsuri Festival where 9 fast boats race around the island recalling the dashing Kumano Suigun Navy of old.
Monday 18th June
Nachi to Hikigawa
Distance: 75.76 km
Total Distance: 22991.08 km
Wowwee, last night we camped under the eves of a toilet block in a Michi-no-eki.
There was torrential rain throughout the night and although our tent was sheltered from the worst of it a large puddle formed under one side of the tent and there was some sort of suck back action until the entire ground sheet was soaking wet and this seeped into our tent so the bottom of our beds were wet too. There was no sign of the rain abating so we slowly packed away, drying our wet equipment under the rafters. We believe we felt our first earthquake this morning – at 0830hrs we felt the ground vibrate under us! (We later hear that it was a 5.3 magnitude quake centred in Osaka, totally disrupting the train systems and unfortunately killing 3 people!)
This morning we head to Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine. The main deity is Kumano -Fusumi-no-Okami who is the emanation of Senju Kannon (1000 armed Avalokiteshvara). There’s also Nachi-san Seiganto-ji Temple and the 3 storied Pagoda. But the highlight is Nachi waterfall which is the divine embodiment of Hiro-jinja Shrine and the most magnificent waterfall in Japan with a drop of 133m. It is awesome.
The rain continues but we get a bus back to Nachi and head off to find lunch. Lunch over and the skies are clear. Dilemma – it’s already 2.30pm but the forecast for the next week is rain…… and more rain. We decide we must make hay while the sunshines.
Actually it turns into a beautiful cycle ride along the Eda coast. There’s a line of rocks similar to the Needles off the Isle of Wight, the Hashigui-iwa Rock, at the southern most point in Kushimodo. There’s also beautiful beaches and coves and dramatic twisted rock shapes on the rocky shores, more evidence of volcanic activity I think.
A man we saw several kilometres back gardening, has driven after us to give us some cans of cold coffee – wow what a kind gesture !
The sun is just about to set (7.15pm) and the skies are mostly clear. It’s very pretty. There’s a Michi-no-eki looking out over the Pacific and numerous places to camp under cover. We’ve done 55km but after much deliberation we push on.
Another 20km, cycling along the dark coastal road until 9pm, another Michi-no-eki and we stop for the night. It’s actually been lovely cycling at night; barely any traffic, no wind and just enough moonlight to light our way.
Tuesday 19th June
Hikigawa to Kirime
Distance: 58.44 km
Total Distance: 23049.52 km
Last night the rains came again – yup it’s definitely the rainy season.
However when we set off this morning it’s just a very light drizzle.
We’re heading to Shirahama peninsula and the Saki-no-Yu onsen. It’s said to be the oldest onsen in Japan and only has open air baths (rotenburo) looking out over the Pacific. By the time we get there we’re soaked and the heated waters are heavenly, with the sound of the surf crashing against the rocks.
After our lovely relaxing bath I’d like nothing more than to relax for the rest of the day but with no obvious camping sites and more rain we decide we might as well push on. We cycle along Shirahama Beach and then out towards Tanabe before eventually finding ourselves cycling along the coast.
After about 2 hours the rain actually stops giving us a chance to dry out before camping for the night. There’s a complete lack of Michi-no-eki, parks and public toilets along this stretch of coast and finally we make do with a concrete path under a railway bridge.
It’s going to be a bit noisy but at least we have some shelter from tonight’s forecast downpour.
Wednesday 20th June
Kirime to Arida
Distance: 50.88 km
Total Distance: 23100.4 km
Our sheltered position turned out not to be so sheltered after all and we awoke to find ourselves sitting in another puddle. We packed up our wet gear and sat under our railway bridge watching the rain fall and the river rise. Eventually we decided doing nothing wasn’t the most constructive way to spend our time so we cycled out from under our bridge. Initially it wasn’t too bad but it was just a temporary reprieve. In one town the river had flooded the Highway and cycling through the water, occasionally a foot deep, with bow waves created by the overtaking cars, was pretty nerve wracking.
We stopped for some snacks and the restaurant owner took pity on our wet, bedraggled appearance and gave us free food and coffee. As a big thank you he’s allowed to sit on Daz’s trike – a rare opportunity indeed!
By late afternoon, after 4 hours and 40km, the novelty of cycling in the rain had completely worn off. We were drenched and starting to feel the chill. On the outskirts of Arida we looked for a hotel.
Without anything nearby showing on Booking.com we asked in a restaurant and they pointed us to a business hotel only 800m away. Result. Off we went only to discover it was fully booked. Desperate measures were required so we headed into the adjacent FamilyMart for WiFi and to book the nearest hotel on Booking.com. I thought I’d found something, not that close at 10.5 miles but the best available, but having booked it and plotted it, it was actually 24km away! We were just resuming a new search when the guy from the Business hotel appeared – we had abandoned our trikes outside his hotel so I guess it didn’t take much to work out where we were. He asks where we’re going and since we have no where to stay, we shrug our shoulders. He then offers us his apartment. We thought we were sharing his home but he takes us to a 2 bed apartment and gives us the keys. OMG – speechless and so relieved! I’m pretty sure we’d have been ‘man down’ if we’d had to go any further. We were both absolutely drenched and starting to suffer from the cold.
Thursday 21st June
Arida to Wakayama
Distance: 26.80 km
Total Distance: 23127.2 km
Last night we managed to turn our saviour’s apartment into some horrendous imitation of a Chinese Laundry and the smell from our sweaty and damp cycling gear was foul.
So with most of our kit dry we cycle into Wakayama. But I’m feeling a little under the weather and decide I want a break.
So I book into a hotel which, I have to say, is absolutely fabulous. There’s a huge bathroom, limitless free cake, coffee and coke, a fabulous European double bed ie no futon bed and a TV about 5ft wide.
We can watch UK TV series and recently released films. OMG it’s awesome. We start watching the Endeavour series (The Young Morse) and realise 1 night here ain’t going to be enough. Definitely a minimum of 2 nights required possibly a 3rd???! Lol.
Saturday 23rd June
Wakayama to Tokushima
Distance: 11.47 km
Total Distance: 23138.67 km
Today we must leave the most incredible hotel we’ve stayed in – well possibly ever. We’ve eaten our own body weight in free cake and just had time to relax and watch some TV – what a super treat. When I booked our 2nd night yesterday morning Daz had gone down to reception to fetch another tray full of free cake and check we could stay in the same room and was waylaid by the manager, Taku. Daz had already told him about our world cycle trip and how fabulous our break in his hotel was turning out, so fabulous in fact that we needed a 2nd night to take full advantage and Taku tells him we can stay a 2nd night for free. Well this morning Taku is trying to take payment from our credit card but the machine won’t accept any of our cards – and that’s 6 cards in total. Finally we realise the machine isn’t going to accept any of our cards but we only have 5000 yen (£33) about half what we owe for 1 night. We offer to go to an ATM but Taku says we’ve paid enough. Wow 2 nights in an incredible hotel for a quarter of the cost. Taku, thank you so much.
We head to the ferry and get the crossing to Tokushima. When we dock it’s in the middle of a torrential downpour.
Within minutes, even with our ponchos, we’re soaked. Time to find another hotel I think.
Sunday 24th June
Tokushima to Sambommatsu
Distance: 42.86 km
Total Distance: 23181.53 km
This morning we head off to Takamatsu. This is Shikoku island, famous for its 88 temples.
We see 2 of them today and after a long climb over the peninsula we have great views over the coastline.
There’s a free campsite in Sambommatsu, Toramaru Park, so that’s where we finish for the day.
Monday 25th June
Sambommatsu to Kori
Distance: 67.52 km
Total Distance: 23249.05 km
It’s another beautiful ride today over to Takamatsu, followed by a ferry ride to Una and then on to Kori.
We’re heading to Kamikayama and a workaway. Hopefully we’ll be there tomorrow but tonight we camp in a local park.