9. Escape to the City

8 Apr

Another Bloody Temple: fine detailed woodwork on display in Kōchi

Not long after leaving Shishikui yesterday I had passed unceremoniously out of Tokushima prefecture and into Kōchi, the largest of Shikoku island’s four prefectures (the name Shikoku literally means “four areas”).  Today I set my sights on reaching the namesake capital city of Kōchi prefecture, eagerly looking forward to the comforts of a big city after a few days out in the sticks.

It was an easy journey after the previous few days’ marathon distances.  I continued to follow the trusty Route 55 along the coast from Aki until the urban sprawl of Kōchi loomed ahead, punctuated by luscious green hills, at which point I headed inland for a looping route to take in three more temples.  Sakura (cherry blossom) season was still in force, with many trees in the temples still doggedly holding onto their pink flowers.

The weather was once again fine and dry – I had been remarkably lucky – although the incredibly strong, blustery wind had returned, rolling straight off the green hills and always appearing to work against me whichever direction I was travelling in.  At times it was so powerful it felt as if it was bringing me to a standstill despite all my pedalling, so I was pleased to finally hit the built-up streets of the city away from the exposed, windswept spaces.

Kōchi was a welcome sight.  I had booked up a fairly cheap three-star Best Western hotel near the station which had seen better decades but was nevertheless a comfortable base to hole up in for a couple of days.  One of the staff on reception spoke English, so check-in was a grimace-free affair.  I retired to my room to follow the cleansing cycling ritual of unpacking my stuff, soaking in bath and then doing laundry, hitting the streets a bit later to check out my new temporary home.

It felt great to be in and amongst people under the age of sixty once again.  Kōchi was a typical Japanese city based on a grid pattern, and was clean, organised and calm.  A bit too calm, in fact: it felt as if the design of the city was too big for its residents, with its quiet streets and roads, but in fairness this was probably a result of me comparing it with jam-packed Tokyo.

A covered arcade seems to be a feature of cities in this neck of the woods, and Kōchi was no exception.  I headed there to browse the shops, restaurants and nightlife, stopping to watch a busker singing traditional Japanese folk songs before retiring for a curry.

Number 6 on the spice-o-meter despatched with ease.

35 miles

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