Japan day 7
Japan day 7
As the sun was setting, I headed up to the most prominent Shinto Shrine in town, the Hachiman, located at the top of a fortress-type mound, with commanding views over the town. I selected a small verandah to put up just my inner tent. There was no room for the full tent, and anyway, the surface was concrete and wouldn’t take pegs. It felt like a perfect spot. Quiet and undisturbed.
Temperatures dropped to just above freezing, but I was warm enough. Distant barking of city dogs ‘chatting’ to each other broke the silence, as did delivery vehicles until, at 5.30 am, a car drove up the hill and parked just 50 metres away, its headlights blazing in my direction.
Instinctively, I knew I was the target. A figure got out of the car and came in my direction. A split second decision: do I pretend to be asleep or get out of the tent and meet my visitor? What would you do?
Well, I took the latter course of action, opened my tent flap, and as he approached I said as breezily as I could: “Konnichiwa!” (hello!). I expected to be shouted at and told to pack up and leave immediately…..but on the contrary, he returned my greeting giving a slight bow, and walked on by. There I was all prepared to defend my case, and the wind was taken from my sails.
A few minutes later, I heard the creaking of doors, and at 5.45 precisely, the huge shrine kettledrum was made to boom across the city. He left a few minutes later leaving the entire precinct of the shrine open to the public. And I had it all to myself to explore….
There seems to be a level of tolerance and acceptance in Japan that even we in the west don’t enjoy. And Japanese society seems to tick over quietly with very low levels of crime. At no time in the last week have I felt threatened by any situation, nor worried about the safety of my bike.
My route to Matsuyama was an absolute delight. Most of it followed the coast, on a beautifully smooth road, the hills leveled by tunnels (my longest to date over 2km in length)
and the sun was shining throughout. Occasionally, the odd shrine caught my attention
Although I was watching the time for catching the 14.15 ferry to Hiroshima, the going was so fast, I found time to have a relaxing picnic on one of the many jetties I passed.
My plan is to spend two nights in Hiroshima, hopefully in a hostel, and take time out to learn about the city’s tragic history through the eyes of the people most affected.