May 3rd, 2012

drinking bird

Japan April 2012

I was in Japan again the second half of April. Just a couple of days in Tokyo, and then I headed down to Shikoku. I had a glimpse of the latter 4 years ago, but had only visited the northern part, so this time I wanted to see the south of the island as well.

The first day it was cold, with pouring rain and wind. It was spent doing duty errands: ATM, JR station to reserve seats for my trip, and then refuge at the Times Square shopping area. Found a great sushi restaurant on the 13th floor, Tsukuji Tama Zushi. It's part of a chain, very friendly and I found the sushi excellent. It is quite popular.

The next day I took the train at Shinjuku to Kamakura in the hope of attending the yabusame competition [horseback archery]. The train got progressively more crowded, and when we got to Kamakura, all these people got off with me and we marched towards Hachiman Shrine, where the competition takes place. Of course, I knew it would be well attended. The bad part was that up arrival, we found an even bigger crowd was already there.

People trying to circulate...

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I managed to make my way to the track. There were already a number of people firmly encamped there.

Too late!

I realized that a group of the chosen few had tickets which gave them access to seats near the track.

The privileged are over on the right. You can glimpse a still blooming sakura above.

Another sakura, with half its blooms floating on the pond...

At least I saw an archer, who was obligingly posing for photos.

He is in the requisite regalia.

You have to know when to admit defeat. It was almost noon, and more people kept arriving, though now a certain number were giving up and trying to head to the exit. I did the same, and decided to go eat lunch at a pleasant looking soba place I had noticed on the way in. I got there just in time! Minutes after my arrival, the place was packed, with a line waiting.  I enjoyed my zaru soba, got back on the train to Shinjuku, and just spent the afternoon shopping. at Takashimaya, Uniqlo, Tokyu Hands, etc., etc.

The next day was Shinkansen to Kobe, where I boarded a bus for Tokushima. I had opted for the bus as it goes over the long bridge to Shikoku and I was hoping for beautiful views of the Inland Sea. Alas, low clouds and drizzle, visibility nil. I had been to Tokushima before, so it didn't matter too much. Just stayed overnight and headed south to Kochi.

I was much luckier there as the clouds lifted and I had a bright sunny day. Kochi is quite an agreable city. I headed to the castle, which is, naturally on a hill with a fair number of steps leading to it.

It is a fairly imposing castle. One interesting item is that it is the only castle in Japan where the lord's apartments have been preserved.

More to come soon!

drinking bird

More about Kochi

Of course the nice weather helped, but I quite liked Kochi. Here are some more pictures of the castle and some of the city.

roof detail

a curious bird adorning another roof

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clipped cypresses and a distant view of the mountains over the wall

last cherry blossoms, Kochi

visitors at the top of Kochi castle

irises near the gate

hanamizuki [pink dogwood] in town, Kochi

a "pocket park" , near a famous old bridge.

This is katsuo tataki, or lightly seared bonito, a delicious specialty of the Kochi area. Worth the trip!

I will post some more about Shikoku in a day or two.