Awajishima to Soni HIghlands 淡路島、曽爾高原
We follow R.11 towards Tokushima to take the bridge to Awajishima. At Tsuda no Matsubara michi no eki we stop for lunch. This is a pleasant location, next to a shrine and a short walk to the beach. The michi no eki is nothing special and the facilities primitive. The beach is a good spot for a picnic with a view out over the Setonaikai.
After lunch, we fill up with fuel as petrol is significantly cheaper in Tokushima-ken than Kagawa-ken. Don’t ask me why.
Onaruto Bridge and Uzushio michi no eki
Across Onaruto Bridge to Awaji, where we stop, on the off chance, at michi no eki Uzushio. Here they really know their onions. Everything is onions. There is an early Christmas tree decorated with onions and onion ice cream on sale.
Onions apart, it is an interesting michi no eki. It is possible to walk out on the bridge superstructure, under the highway, to see the famous whirlpools and marvel at the strength of the current. The place is very busy, on a fine Saturday afternoon, with security organizing the parking, but we were glad we made the effort to stop.
From Uzushio, we take prefectural road 25 and then 31. We had not planned to stay on Awajishima, but it is getting late and we need a bath, so we check two michi no eki at the northern end of the island. Awaji michi no eki is right under the bridge and is very busy. The toilets are large but basic and a long way from the parking, so we decide on Higashiura Terminal Park michi no eki. The facilities here are just as poor and smaller but nearer the parking area.
Matsuho no Sato Onsen 松帆の郷温泉
We take a bath at Matsuho no Sato. This is a large onsen and very popular with families on a Saturday night. Despite the number of people, the bath does not seem offensively crowded. From the outside bath there is a fine view of Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and Kobe city illuminated against the darkness across the water. The facilities were very good; I could scratch my back with the shower.
It was here that I saw a man, strolling through the baths, completely naked apart from a pair of sunglasses.
＊Matsuho no Sato ; 700 yen /adult
Over the bridge to Kansai
A quiet night, but the morning finds michi no eki Higashiura Terminal Park busy with cyclists preparing for the days ride. Awajishima is popular with cyclist from Kobe and Osaka as a relatively tranquil place to ride.
We pull into the prefectural park nearby to take a look, but as it does not open for another half hour and we are not that interested anyway so we head over Akashi Kaikyo Bridge to Kobe. The bridge is busy with Sunday traffic heading onto the island but sparse going into the city. As we approach Kobe proper, the traffic increases a lot even early on a Sunday morning. Nevertheless, the drive is smooth and soon we are at the end of the highway, beyond Nara.
We had been thinking that bikers’ numbers were dropping but that does not seem to be the case in Kansai. We encounter numerous distinct groups of bikers. There are the Harley Davidson types, the road bike types and a group that seems to be distinctly “Osaka”, riding vintage 80’s style bikes, Kawasaki Z 400 and Hondas with Beet accessories. There is even a group of bosozoku weaving in and out of the lanes of traffic.
When we pull into Hari TRS michi no eki, the number of bikes, row upon row is astonishing. Kushitani, a maker of motorcycle racing leathers, even has its own café at this michi no eki. The bikers are not all middle-aged, something that has become noticeable in the last decade, though that is the demographic of the Harley crowd. We were struck by the extreme youth of a section of the fraternity but, that is not the right word as a significant number were female.
From Hari TRS, we head for Soni Highlands. This area is famous for Susuki (pampas grass) used as a traditional roofing material, providing the thatch for the houses of ordinary people. The Soni Highlands are also thronged with people and the 600-yen car parks overflowing. It is a large, open area with steep hills to climb. The well-trodden paths weaving up and down the hills through the tall grass. For us, there are too many people and it is far too hot to attempt anything strenuous even though well into November. We content ourselves with a wander along the lower and less popular paths.
Enjoying our lunch and the view, after, luckily, finding an unoccupied bench. Two young men take up residence on the adjacent one and begin to prepare a couple of drones. Interested, we watch the assembly and setting up, which involves a lot of computer work. Eventually, one of the drones readies for take-off with a great whirring. So much whirring that one of the drone rotors whirrs right off and disappears into the mass of pampas grass. The young man notes that he will carry a spare rotor in future. We leave him with his embarrassment.
From Soni Highlands we drive through the mountains past Ise Jingu and arrive at Ise Shima michi no eki. As if to vindicate our change of perception, three bikers are just leaving, two of them young girls.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.