Dispatches from the back of the sock drawer of life

Tag: Onomichi

Geek #1: Onomichi and points south

Friday 24th

Looong day. Took off from Dubai at 03:20 (08:20 Tokyo time). Landed in Osaka at 17:20, hour taxi ride to the station, then trains for Onomichi. Got to hotel at 21:45, so travelled for 13 hours or so!

Straight to the bar for a couple of drinks (had food on the train) then a good nights sleep…

Saturday 25th

The word ‘splinter’ doesn’t seem to exist here

With weather looking dodgy later in the day, and still feeling knackered after the show, decided to drop the cycling plan and stay in Onomichi to stroll along their temple walk. Fresh start, around 10 deg C, but soon had a sweat going since the temples are scattered up and down the hillside above the town.


Wonderful views, with a surprisingly large number of temples to see – the town was largely unscathed during WWII, and the route leads you past houses and buildings that haven’t changed in a very long time indeed. The ‘Japan snapshot’ image has 3 archetypes of Japan – schoolgirls in pinafores, overhead wires, and the ubiquitous vending machines.

Took the ropeway up on to Mount Senkoji for great views and ice cream. Sakura (cherry blossom) is just starting to come out, this site will look beautiful in a weeks time. Slightly concerned by the cat pictures on the café menu – ingredients? Here’s the panorama video:

Then made it to Tranquillo for lunch – this was the awesome pizza place we found last year. Deep fried whole shrimp on a pizza – heads and all – yum!

Local bus down through the islands, along the Shimanami Kaido highway that would have been my route (see blog entry from last year). Final suspension bridge very impressive indeed.

Then train to Yawatahama via Matsuyama. Near disaster – didn’t realize there were 2 trains in the same platform at my connection point, nearly went back the way I had come. Got the connection with a minute to spare.

So I had a few hours to kill in Yawatahama before my midnight ferry. What a jumping joint it was – not! But did find a great bowl of ramen in a little restaurant. However the sanitaryfacilities were interesting – the further south I go, the more squat toilets I’m encountering. This one was very practical – if you look on the top of the cistern, you’ll see that there is a sink – so once you flush, the incoming (clean) refill water can be used to wash your hands!

Got to the ferry port – deserted. Couple of hours still, not sure if I’ll be traveling alone… Nope, 30 or so fellow passengers, including truck drivers taking their vehicles to Beppu. Glad I booked first class, cabin to myself – not that I slept much with the vibration. They clearly miss summer, as the temperature of the inside of the cabins seemed to be approaching that of the surface of the sun.


Return Of The Geeks – Rabbits, roads and a ryokan

Friday 19th

Future train 500

Future train 500

Early start – taxi at 4.50am to station, local train to Tokyo for shinkansen to Onomichi. The train on the opposite platform reinforced our image of just how cool Japan can be.

But this reminded me of the quote from William Gibson: “The future’s already here, it’s just unevenly distributed”. Japan is an incredible illustration of this – they have amazing trains and advanced buildings. And yet… They still think fax machines are a good way to do business.

Beer and Bunny

Beer and Bunny

Dropped most of our luggage in a station locker, then local train to Tadano-Umi where we caught a ferry to Okunoshima – ‘Rabbit Island’. A YouTube search reveals clips of people being mobbed by crowds of bunnies (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02glpjk), but as it was 35degC when we arrived, most of the locals were lounging in the shade.

Interestingly the other thing the island is known for was as a poison gas production facility during the Second World War. Hmm. Theories vary as to where the rabbits came from – some say they are the descendants of test subjects released after the facility closed down.


Non-linear iced coffee

Non-linear iced coffee

After exploring the island we boarded the last ferry over to Omishima Island. Checked into our traditional ryokan (Japanese Inn) and headed out for some iced coffees – great glasses!


Dinner was… interesting. A full traditional Japanese meal, the menu description was:
“Hors d’oeuvre, Karaage, Vinegared dish, Sashimi(sliced raw fish), Grilled fish, Boiled Fish, Nanbanzuke, Rice, Soup, Fruits

Funamori Sashimi

Funamori Sashimi

First course uses the higher grade food and sashimi will be served with “funamori” style in which sashimi is placed in miniature wooden ship.”

The cooked dishes were OK (although we both passed on the ‘turban shell’ basically a large sea snail). Sashimi of incredibly fresh red snapper proved to be not to our liking – the texture (dense yet ‘crunchy’) didn’t really hit the spot. Spectacular presentation though!

Saturday 20th

Next morning breakfast went down well – though still feels odd to be having grilled salmon, fish and miso soup first thing. The karaoke kit was most impressive.

Our intrepid explorers

Our intrepid explorers

So now to the main event of our weekend. For some unknown reason, I thought it might be a good idea to cycle 40 km along a highway called the Shimanami Kaido. It runs across multiple suspension bridges between the inland sea islands, and each bridge has a separated pedestrian and cycle way complete with sloped access roads. Then looping along island roads next to the shore in between each one.

We got started around 9am, and ended at 1pm – as we got on the ferry back to Onomichi the large thermometer was showing 37degC… Not sure how I survived it but was specatacular scenery – needless to say James was way out ahead most of the time. You will see from the video below just how nice it was to hit the downhill section after each bridge.


Stayed at the Green Hills Hotel in Onomichi right on the harbour. Great views over to the neighbouring islands, and the shower was much welcome after our exertions.

Tranquillo Pizza

Tranquillo Pizza

Dinner was unexpected – a Google search turned up rave reviews about a pizza place called Tranquillo. Turns out the Japanese chef spent some years training in Italy, and was turning out authentic Italian pizza using a wood fired oven. James’ opinion? “Best pizza I’ve ever had”.

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