A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Watery Adventures in Shikoku

Recently this blog has slipped further than it's ever slipped before, and I'm now several months behind on my updates. Unfortunately whenever I get behind it's always because a lot of stuff has been happening which makes catching up even harder, fortunately it'll be the winter break at the school soon so I should have some free time to slave over the keyboard then.

Anyway, as winter begins to dig it's frosty claws into our bones let's travel back to a simpler time! It's almost the end of July and we've decided to make a return trip to Shikoku in the two week gap between mine and Haru's birthdays. The idea is to head down to the a popular white water spot on the river to do some rafting, and to try out a bit of canyoning at the same time. We're both bringing a single friend along to wallow in the smug glow of our recently married bliss as well, so Andrew and Yoko are joining us.

The place we're headed to, which takes the best part of a days driving, is a middle of nowhere spot called Oboke. Which only seems notable for having a connection to the creator of Anpanman, a popular bean-bread-headed cartoon character, who we saw on the side of a train in Oboke station.

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The rafting place we're booked in with is mostly run by New Zealanders and we're staying in a very basic guest house run by one of their guides. We stop by the rafting centre to check in and some of the guides offer to drive ahead of us to guide us to the guest house. If we hadn't already known that they were Newzealanders we'd probably have figured it out when they made a detour to buy beers from a vending machine for the drive home (in case you didn't know Japan is a zero tolerance on drink driving country). Despite a fair bit of tutting and surprise in our car we arrive intact, without a police record and settle in for the night. Basically we've got a big tatami room for the four of us, a kitchen and a charcoal grill outside that we're sharing with two other Japanese guests.

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One BBQ dinner and a reasonable nights sleep later we're ready to slip into our wet suits and... well, get wet.

We're doing a half day of canyoning first, which is a new thing for all of us. Even as we ride the mini-bus up the hill to the start point Haru and Yoko don't really know what they've signed up for, and if you, gentle reader, don't know either let me explain. Canyoning is basically an assault course style descent along a mountain stream.

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We begin with a bracing shower in the stream and a couple of team photos (so the bodies can be identified later) then it's straight into it with a slide over the lip of a scarily high waterfall. Take a deep breath, tuck in your elbows and bombs away!

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We then proceed via a series of climbs, dives and zip lines to work our way down the mountain side.

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I've since found out that in the summer there's a canyoning course pretty much on my doorstep in Takashima, which I'll try out next year. However, this was a great introduction to the sport and we had great fun, next up is a spot of lunch at the base and an afternoon of white water rafting on the Oboke river.

Rafting wasn't so new to me, but it's one of those sports that really changes depending on where you are and who you're with. In this case our seasoned river guide, Gordy, with a taste for the fun side of reckless really added a lot to the experience. The river was a mix of rapids and quiet stretches, and on those stretches Gordy had several tricks and games to ensure that everybody got booted, dropped or hurled out of the raft several times. This really kept us on our toes, and one stretch where we just glided downstream in our life jackets, without the raft, was really enjoyable.

Unfortunately, we didn't get such nice pictures as we did canyoning so we didn't buy the disk - meaning that all you're going to get is this place holder photo of a raft. (That is until we go back again, we all agreed that a full day rafting on the more intense Koboke river would be a great trip too!)

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The second evening we retired to a more comfortable spa hotel to relax after the action packed events of the day, which meant much needed hot baths and beds.

Our third and final day begins with a spot of yokai hunting, just behind the hotel there's a yokai trail winding off into the hills scattered with some very tattered carvings of various beasties and things that go bump in the night. The most famous of these is Konaki-jiji (Crying Uncle) whose story seems to have originated from this area.

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Konaki-jiji is another classic yokai who has enjoyed a recent popularity boost as he's strongly featured in the manga 'Ge-ge-ge no Kitaro'. The story is that stray travelers would hear a crying like a child, and if they looked for the child and didn't quickly escape the area then Konaki-jiji (who was really the source of the crying) would jump on their backs and make them carry him around. The biggest problem is that Konaki-jiji can make his body get heavier and heavier until it's like stone and collapses the poor person beneath him.

The apparent explanation for this is that in some areas rotting matter would create a natural gas, one side effect of breathing this gas would have been a ringing in the ears (crying) and a feeling of heaviness in the limbs dragging them down like having a heavy little rider on their back.

I'll post a full set of Oboke yokai photos on my haikyo and yokai blog eventually, for now here's just a quick taster.

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We still had one last point to visit before the long drive back home.

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For that authentic Indiana Jones experience, I really wanted to visit a wood and vine bridge built over a rocky river gorge not far from Oboke.

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The original bridge was built long ago, and, despite the fact that the modern version has concealed steel cable to keep visitors safe, it's still pretty scary being about to look down (and through) the gaps between the supports at your feet and see the river and the rocks waiting below.

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There's still a lot I want to see and do around Shikoku, and the islet spotted inland sea that separates it from the main island. This is my second trip down that way, and it won't be my last, that's for sure. In fact I was back again in November to check out a couple of the smaller islands down near Hiroshima - a trip that included a poison gas factory, free range fugu, the cutest rodent infestation I've ever seen, praiseworthy breasts and the cow equivalent of Auschwitz... as I said I've been busy!

Posted by DKJM74 20:32 Comments (0)

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