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3-Day Model Trip Day2

East Chugoku Shikoku

3-Day Model Trip Day2 / East Chugoku Shikoku / Kotohira - Takamatsu - Sakaide - Seto-ohashi Bridge - Yo-shima Island - Okayama

The first place we are going today is Kotohiragu Shrine. Kotohiragu Shrine is halfway up Mt. Zozu - Mt "Elephant's Head" - so named because its shape looks like an elephant's head. When you have crossed Kanakura-gawa River, which runs through the town from east to west, you will be able to see the pathway that leads to Konpira Shrine. The long pathway with stone steps is lined with tightly packed souvenir shops and inns, and has the bustling feel of a typical Japanese tourist area.

Once you have climbed the 365th stone step, you will reach the gate at the entrance to the precincts of Kotohiragu Shrine. When we passed under this magnificent double gate, which was built in 1650, you will have seen five open-air stalls with large parasols. These are called "the five peasants", and have been the only merchants allowed to sell inside the shrine precincts since the middle ages. They sell a kind of candy called kamiyo-ame. If you go further into the shrine, you will be struck by a particularly splendid building. This is Asahino-yashiro, the main shrine building, which was built in 1837 and is a designated Important Cultural Property. It has a two-tiered roof made out of straw thatch in the Irimoya style(a hip and gable roof), and is full of beautiful sculptures of animals, birds and flowers.

Proceeding to the right of Asahino-yashiro, you will come to a steep flight of stone steps. Now, after counting 785 stone steps from the entrance to the pathway, we have arrived in front of the imposing main shrine. After climbing such a large number of steps, most people are dripping with sweat and gasping for breath. So let's cool down at the view spot on the right. From here, you can not only see all the way over the Sanuki plain, but on a clear day you are supposed to be able to see the Akashi Straits.

While we've been enjoying the wonderful view, I think our sweat has dried off, and we have come to the main shrine. This enshrines the guardian god of seafarers and all other travelers, and is also believed to bring good fortune in health and ward off evil. Two hundred or three hundred years ago, it was busy with people who used to visit from all over Japan. To the left of the main shrine is a hall containing votive tablets of horses that were brought from all over the country by people praying for success.

Now we are on the way back from Konpira, and we have come just off the pathway to Kanamaruza, the old large theater in Konpira. This is the oldest existing theater in Japan, having been built in 1835. It is a two-story building, constructed over an area of 919 square meters. The inside has been preserved in its original form, with a revolving stage measuring seven meters in diameter and audience seats separated by wooden frames. Performances here were revived a little over 10 years ago, and a kabuki play is put on here every spring.

After leaving Kanamaruza, we are heading towards Udon Gakko School. This is a school for a type of noodle called udon, which is a specialty of Kagawa, and in particular Kotohira. There are several udon schools where you can experience actually making udon. But here, you just cut up an already prepared noodle base, and boil. It sounds simple, but there is a trick to making them taste good. I ate some noodles that I had cut and boiled myself, and it all took between 40 and 50 Minutes. The special stock went well with the elastic feel of the noodles. Before I left, I received a graduation certificate, and I was really pleased.

Next, we're going to JR Kotohira Station to get on a Limited Express for Takamatsu. The highlight of this town is Ritsurin Park, which has been designated a national special scenic spot. The garden spreads along the foot of Mt. Shiun in the southwest of the city, and has an area of 752,000 square meters. The garden includes six ponds and 13 hills, and was started by the feudal lord there about 370 years ago. The garden is designed for visitors to walk around the pond in a circular tour, enjoying the views. There are so many things to see, including - "box pine" trees that have been shaped over a long time to look like boxes, "folding screen pines" that are lined up like a curtain, and various fantastically-shaped crags around the ponds. There are different kinds of beauty to enjoy in each of the four seasons, like the plum trees, cherry trees and azaleas that bloom in spring, water lilies and irises in summer, and golden brown leaves in autumn.

We have now come back to JR Takamatsu Station, and boarded an Rapid Train for Okayama. Soon we will cross Seto-ohashi Bridge, which links the islands of Shikoku and Honshu, the mainland. Seto-ohashi Bridge is 12.3 km long in total, and consists of six bridges - three suspension bridges, two cable-stayed bridges and one truss bridge. It is one of the world's few examples of a two-story bridge, with a road on the top floor and a railway on the lower floor. It takes about 17 minutes by train to go from Sakaide Station on the Shikoku side to Kojima Station on the Honshu side. But we want to go to an island in the middle, so we changed to a connecting bus at Sakaide Station. This is Yo-shima Island, the only one of the five islands connected by Seto-ohashi Bridge that cars can go onto. There are two car parks on Yo-shima Island, and our bus has stopped in the Number Two Car Park in Keihan Fisherman's Wharf. The area surrounding the facility has restaurants and souvenir shops, and is a beauty spot that is a great place to look at the bridge from. We can fully enjoy the beautiful silhouette of the cable-stayed bridge.

We have now finished crossing Seto-ohashi Bridge, boarded a JR Line once again, and arrived at Okayama Station. Okayama is the main city in the Sanyo region(Seto-Inland Sea Coast) of Western Japan, and has a cluster of tall buildings. In front of the Station is a bronze statue of the hero of "Momotaro - Peach Boy", an old legend that comes from this region. Momotaro is the main character of a children's story known by all Japanese. It is a unique story about a boy who is accompanied by dogs, monkeys and pheasants as he gets rid of devils. The story has been passed on even to the present generation of children. The main road in Okayama, which a streetcar runs along, has been called "Momotaro-odori" Avenue. The fairy tale hero and the modern city are strangely in harmony.