Shikoku Japan 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Walking From Seiyo City To Ozu City
Last night, we asked the owner of the old guesthouse where we staying, if she could please make our futon beds double thickness by adding one more futon.
She suggested making our beds three futons thick, and we gladly accepted.
I slept well last night on my thick bed.
My stomach was not doing so well with all the seafood that we’ve been eating daily, and I vowed to myself to avoid any fish dishes at breakfast.
Luckily, there were none.
Breakfast was steamed rice, pickles, miso soup, tofu with fresh ginger, scallions and soy sauce, Hojicha tea and farm eggs.
We dressed for the sun and started walking north from Seiyo city towards Ozu city.
Most of the day, the road paralleled the main road, which was busy with cars and full of “Broken Dreams.”
What I refer to as “Broken Dreams,” are small businesses that used to be someone’s dream at some point, but are now sitting empty with broken windows, vacant and abandoned like ghosts of meaningless dreams.
But whenever we left the main road, we passed by lovely villages with nice kitchen gardens, lovely roofs and old style wooden homes.
We took shelter from the heat in a small cafe where the owner brewed each cup of coffee individually, in a glass beaker.
He also had a breakfast set including a delicious “big toast” for 100 yen, about one dollar.
He told us that even though he was already old, he was studying English a few times per week.
Besides one climb up a steep incline in the road, the walk was fairly easy.
When we did have to rejoin the busy Route 56, there were a few minor spots where we had to walk with no sidewalks.
There was also a long tunnel that had no sidewalks, but we managed well.
We took a few breaks today in shaded rest areas and had a light lunch in another cafe, just to get out of the heat.
Ozu city is very picturesque.
There is a wide River and a few canals, a well preserved old town and a beautiful Castle situated on an island in the river.
The city was established during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
A section of the old town with nostalgic alleys and old-fashioned houses, looks just as it did in the days of the Edo Period and the Meiji Period (1868-1912).
We enjoyed strolling around the old houses with their quiet and elegant atmosphere.
The architecture from the Edo and the Meiji Period combines the use of wood and bamboo elements, tile roofs and adobe straw walls, along with rice paper instead of glass.
Many old merchant houses and Samurai residences remain in the district, although they are not open to the public.
The recently reconstructed Ozu Castle which was burnt in a fire, towers high on top of a hill in the river, right at the city center.
The picturesque Hijikawa River flows through the heart of Ozu City.
Beside being used by kayakers, the river is said to be one of the best destinations in Japan to see Cormorant Fishing (Ukai) during the summer.
Ukai is a traditional fishing method which uses trained cormorant birds to catch river fish such as Sweetfish (Ayu).
This type of fishing has been around for over 1300 years.
At a shop in the old district, we saw this Sweetfish as it is sold, on a bamboo stick and roasted in a fire pit.
Ukai Cormorant Fishing is practiced by master fishermen working from long wooden boats.
Each fisherman leads about a dozen cormorants on leashes who swim alongside the boat and dive under the water to catch fish by swallowing them whole.
The fish are kept in a special pouch in the cormorant’s throat and are later retrieved by the fishermen.
To prevent the birds from swallowing the fish, a snare is placed around the lower part of the neck of the bird.
Since most fishing occurs at night, each boat has a large fire hanging from its bow to provide light for the boatmen to steer the boat, and for the birds to see the fish. These boats were moored along the river shore as we walked to the historic town center.
Our guesthouse for the night is a small place that is run by a young couple with their sweet young daughter.
They have two ponds with very large Koi gold fish and lovely Tatami mat rooms.
We showered and soaked in their small Ofuru bath and did our laundry.
When we checked in, I asked if it would be possible to have an all vegetarian dinner.
I said that my stomach was upset, and that I did not want to eat fish.
The young woman served us a delicious dinner of roasted mushrooms and vegetables, steamed rice with pickles, miso soup, Yaki Soba noodles and a little cut fruit.
Both Jules and I loved our simple vegetarian meal and talked about how we might ask for vegetarian meals, without upsetting the hosts of our upcoming stays….
In this region, Jakoten fish cakes, which are made of fish paste which is first fried and then baked, are considered a delicacy and people buy them as souvenirs to take home.
Along the walk today, we came upon a shop that specialized in Jakoten.
We photographed the chef from the window as he was preparing the fish paste for the deep fryer.
Even though all the seafood we’ve been eating has been super fresh, my stomach is indeed upset.
The Ryokans and guesthouses are places in which travelers normally get to taste the local specialties of the region, and often the dinners have a dozen dishes and are very elaborate.
The problem is that we are staying in such guesthouses every single night, and the food is just too rich for me.
I yearn for a simple meal like a fruit salad with berries….
Day 38 (June 15th 2016)
Our Location On The Earth:
Overnight at Tokiwa Ryokan in Ozu City
Active walking 5:30 hours
Active day 8 hours
Walking grand total: 805 km