Shikoku: The Bittersweet Road

Highway 55 has been our constant nemesis since leaving Tokushima, 3 days ago. It has us hugging shoulders as successive trucks and cars speed past at alarming speeds.

Today, however, the highway’s gas-powered energy begins to sputter. There are no more large communities between Hiwasa, our starting point, and Cape Muroto, the isolated point three days further down the road. Highway 55 was starting to resemble Route 66, the iconic passage crossing the American southwest from Chicago to Los Angeles. Just like that American byway, time now appears to have bypassed Highway 55. 

Along our path, lined with dense forests and steep mountain slopes, are the rusting carcasses of dream palaces. It starts with the deserted pachinko parlour at the edge of Hiwasa (pachinko being the uniquely Japanese take on the slot machine). As we continue our walk, the woods compete with the ruins of what might have been a restaurant or a hotel. Occasionally small industrial operations reveal themselves along this lonely stretch, apparently surviving well in their isolation. Like the mill producing intricately-jointed wood beams for a new home.

There are happy finds for the tired pilgrim. Appearing like a mirage in the forest is Odorio café, an exotic stop for a latte and cool jazz. Later in the day, we drop our heavy packs at a welcoming rest stop with its vast array of vending machines offering every imaginable beverage and hot ramen as well.

The day’s 21-kilometre walk is near complete before the highway opens onto the Pacific once more. We soon arrive at our ryokan for the night, Uchizuma-sō, clinging to the rocky cliffs of the shoreline. On approach, it looks like a well-worn place sharing the same bittersweet qualities of today’s roadside architecture. But our tatami room opens onto a spectacular view over the arc of a small sandy beach. We watch as young surfers wait for one last wave and the sun sets over the still waters. The surfers quietly vanish. And we head downstairs in our robes and slippers for fine meal of vegetable tempura, grilled fish and sashimi.

 

Temple 23: Yakuōji

Temple 23: Yakuōji

PA061476

PA061478

PA061479

PA061481

PA061484

PA061487

PA061500

PA061505

PA061508

PA061510

PA061520

PA061523

PA061524

PA061526

PA061529

PA061533

PA061540

PA061545

PA061549

PA061551

PA061553

PA061555

PA061557

PA061562

PA061563

PA061567-HDR

PA061576

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s