Saturday, October 28, 2017

Taking Advice

When it comes to traveling, I have some pretty clear ideas about what I want to do.  That said, when I decided to come to Shikoku and see Nagoro...

...which didn't happen, btw.  Plans to visit the #1 thing I really wanted to see on my vacation - the creepy "scarecrow" village where an artist decided to replace all the people who died or left with lifesize dolls - got wrecked by a bloody landslide.  Which sucks the big one, but what can you do?

As I was saying, when I decided to come here my teacher friend, Sensei (that's a new nickname, for those of you keeping track), told me that she was actually from Shikoku.  I told her what I was planning and asked if she had any advice.  She put me in touch with her friend in Tokushima and suggested that instead of making Awa Ikeda my base camp for getting to Nagoro that I stay in Oboke.

Tokushima wasn't originally on my itinerary.  Honestly Shikoku seemed pretty expensive to get around as I was pre-navigating on Google Maps, and it turns out, it is.  Any express train costs twice as much to ride, and the route to get to Matsuyama, where I'd hop back over to Honshu, was already long enough.  But I really loved the idea of getting a little extra sightseeing done and meeting her friend, which is just as well since I didn't actually make it to Nagoro.  Takamatsu, on the other hand, was, but I didn't do much of anything there, except get up WAY too early and get the bus.  I just didn't feel like it.  Tokushima, though - I arrived around 8 in the morning but wasn't meeting Ikuko until 5, so I was going to need something to do.
So I get into town around 8.  It's a ghost town...in Tokyo, even though things aren't open, there's a sense of life.  Not so much in Tokushima.  After chucking my bag in a locker and deciding Lotteria's breakfast was not a suitable replacement for McDonald's, I decided to do a little wandering.  The only other person who was out on the streets was the guy banging on the window of the pachinko parlor 10 minutes before it opened (like, really?  You couldn't wait politely a little longer to get your fix?)  I've been traveling with my pocket router, so I looked at my options and decided to start with the Awa Odori Kaikan, for the simple reason that it opened first. 
I've seen the Awa Odori before, back in August in Koenji, so it made sense to me to check out the museum and learn a little more.  After wandering around the nearby shrines and temples, I went on in.  Unfortunately, almost all of the signage was in Japanese, so mostly I just looked at the pictures, of which they had an impressive array.   If I was interested in being a museum curator, I'd want to learn from the Japanese, because they've made it into an art.  Although the museum was small, it was very well presented and even without being able to read the labels I started to get an understanding of the history of the dance.
At 11 they had a performance which demonstrated some of the history of the dance, and included an audience participation bit.  They chose four audience members as the "star dancers" and - big surprise - guess who was one of them (hence the flowers).  Perks (?) of being the token foreigner in the audience, I guess.  It was a little embarrassing, but I got a headband out of it as a prize, and if I was Five, I'd subtract that from the cost of the ticket and call it good.

Sensei sent me a link for the Awa Jurobe puppet museum (let your friends know that you went to a doll memorial and are planning to visit a scarecrow village and they start to draw some conclusions), which has performances at 11 and 2 - but in the end, it didn't happen.  Google maps failed me again, not being able to tell me how to get there, so I went back to the train station and asked at the information center.  They gave me instructions on how to get there by bus, but when I figured out that I wouldn't be able to do both that AND the Naruto whirlpools, I knew what I was going to decide.

For the record, I didn't make this decision under the influence of my otaku tendencies.  Not entirely, at any rate...although it IS pretty cool to be able to say I passed under the real Great Naruto Bridge.  More importantly, my current work for my painting class deals with water, and I thought it would be excellent research to this phenomenon in real life.  Naruto is the closest point on Shikoku to Honshu, and when the tides of the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean are changing, they create some pretty kickass whirlpools.  It's safe to take a boat and take an up close look at them, so that's what I did.  I regret nothing.

Actually, I should have gone up on the bridge afterwards, but I was kind of tired.  I'd had enough Naruto for one day.

I considered staying in Tokushima a little later the next day so that I could see the puppets, but I decided to head onward early again.  Sensei had suggested the Iya Valley to me for several reasons, but it's vine bridges looked pretty damn amazing, so I wanted to make sure I saw at least the first one, Kazurabashi.  I got my first hint that my plans were not going to work out when I tried to get the bus to Oboke, and the lady at the bus depot told me, "No."  The train was running though, so I grabbed a ticket and hopped on (and then had to pay more because it was one of those damn limited express trains), and made it to Oboke with almost no problems.  Where I found out - once again - that the buses weren't running.  I looked at some of the tourist stuff they had in the station, and then got pulled into a conversation between two older Japanese ladies and one younger one, wanting to know where I was going and if I wanted to share a taxi there and back?

Well, of course I did!  My share was 1,000 yen each way, and maybe I had a little buyer's remorse because I was still thinking I'd make it to Nagoro the next day, but it was honestly worth it.
I don't know if I can really do the bridge justice - I mean, if you are an adrenaline junkie, this is the bridge for you.  In the first photo, that's my foot (if you can't tell by my trademark 5 yen Converse shoes.  I have been blessed with feet that are both long and wide and I still got nervous that my feet were going to plunge between the slats.  That was what got me - I knew the bridge had been reinforced with steel cables, and it wasn't going to break, but those gaps...  About halfway across someone seemed to be shaking the bridge.  Maybe it was just a physics thing, where that's the least stable part of the bridge and you feel every footstep...I'm not sure, but it felt, at least, like someone was trying for the dickhead of the year award.  I was too busy watching my feet to try and figure out who, which I guess is a good thing, because I probably would've pitched their asses off the bridge.

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