Friday, August 07, 2009

Cicloturismo in Giappone: da Izumo a Sakaiminato

The stop in Izumo signed the beginning of our biking tour in Japan. We left in the late morning, after the adventure of the missing key, heading East. The first stop was Matsue, where there is one of the most intact castles in Japan, built between 1607 and 1611. The ride to Matsue was quite pleasant: the air was cool thanks to a strong rain from the night before, and we biked along the northern side of the very big and pretty lake Shinji, on highway 431.
(My helmet is in the front of the picture.) The ride is only about 40 km, which was good for us to get to know and adjust our new bikes.

At the castle, we left our bikes and walked around. One of the advantages of biking in Japan is that people can be trusted. We left our bikes unlocked, and the backpacks on them while we toured the castle. The castle is very different from European Medieval castles.
Inside, everything is in solid wood.
The castle was never touched by war, so everything is very well preserved. Outside there is a beautiful, large garden.
And a few shrines. Here you can see the entrance to one of them.
We spent several hours in the castle, and then went back on 431, heading still northeast. We realized we were hungry, and started looking for food. Matt spotted a stand selling what we later learned was called 'takoyaki'. Takoyaki is a typical street food from Osaka, consisting of balls of eggy dough with a piece of octopus inside. Ours was prepared by this guy:

As you can see, he fills some hemispherical molds with batter.
When the batter starts congealing, he folds the dough and makes balls using just two metallic skewers. He was really fast!

Takoyaki is served with sauce and toppings, and is a delicious small meal.

After this break, we resumed biking on 431. The landscapes were really pretty, and somewhat eerie. Pictures hardly capture the atmosphere created by the fog, the dark green, and the few houses with blue mountains on the background:
We enjoyed this ride so much that we actually missed a turn we meant to take:
We biked past this bridge, onto a quiet peninsula. Luckily Matt realized that we should have crossed the bridge before it became too dark.

We stopped for the night in Sakaiminato, in a small hotel downtown, after looking for a place for a long time. Looking for a hotel always turned out to be harder than we thought, so we often spent about one hour at the end of a long bike ride just to find a place to stay. A big part of this was due to our difficulties in communicating with people. Everybody was very nice and tried to help in every possible way. However, it was frustrating not to be able to understand and say what we would have liked to say, so we really want to learn more Japanese for the next time we visit.

Because of this delay, we ended up looking for food in Sakaiminato late at night, and we ended up trying bar food in Japan for the first time! We enjoyed it very much, but unfortunately I didn't take pictures of it. The best thing was a huge pile of cabbage, covered by eggs, with bacon on a side: Matt dubbed it a 'deconstructed okonomiyaki', which is a savory pancake made with the same ingredients (to be described in later posts). Does any expert in Japanese bar food know what I'm talking about?

Here is the route for our first day of cycling:

The second day in a future post!

1 comment:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Thanks for the beautiful pictures!