2. Ready to Go

1 Apr

A backstreet in Wakayama

After two weeks in the thrumming cosmopolitan centres of Tokyo and Osaka, Wakayama was a bit of a shock to the senses.  Although a pretty city with wide, clean, grid-patterned streets, blossoming parks and megaphones piping out jazz to its happy, laid-back residents, it was a bit too sedate for my liking, as was Tokushima, the equally pleasant east coast city of Shikoku to which I travelled by ferry today from Wakayama port.

As someone with the directional skills of a tone-deaf bat I had decided to adopt a high-tech solution to see me safely around the island of Shikoku.  My brick-like mobile phone also doubled up as a GPS, so using a special program I had downloaded the entire Google Maps of Shikoku onto it.  As I walked to the bus to take me from the port into town proper I gave it a test run, and thankfully it worked a treat, placing me slap-bang outside the ferry terminal.

I’d booked the dubiously-named “Station Hotel”, a minute’s walk from JR Tokushima train station, fully expecting a cheap but grotty dive smelling of dog and featuring stains of a questionable nature.  But I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was in fact a decent family-owned establishment with clean, airy rooms, free internet and a friendly squinting landlady with an English cheat-sheet she used to converse with me, holding it inches from her face whenever she needed a reminder of a phrase.

The plan was to start my pilgrimage by bike tomorrow.  That evening in my room I took my road bike (my third metallic long-distance travelling companion after my Nissan Bluebird in New Zealand and my Halfrauds mountain bike in Europe) out from the bag in which I had been carrying him around in bits for the last couple of days, and successfully put it back together (and with the handlebars the right way round, too), celebrating a rare practical triumph on my part by going out for an Indian curry on the 5th floor of the station building.  One of the best things about Japan is the food, which I absolutely adore, but with two weeks of every type of it under the sun behind me and another three weeks of noodles and rice ahead of me, I thought I’d take the opportunity to get a non-Japanese meal in while I could.

All my fears had subsided, and I turned in that night itching to start my journey.

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