Marugame to Takamatsu – Angels and Demons
Sometimes you camp; sometimes you stay in a hotel. And sometimes you exchange limited child care and dishwashing for enormous dinners with a lovely Japanese family and a great place to stay. That was our arrangement in the pleasant Japanese coastal town of Takamatsu. The ride to Takamatsu from Marugame was very short – 40 km (~25 miles), and several of those through a long tunnel, bypassing the hills in between. We had agreed to meet our Couchsurfing host Yoshi at the train station at 7, but since we arrived a little early we sat by the water and admired the sunset.
We didn’t know what to expect from the pick-up – would Yoshi be meeting us on foot? By car? would his car have enough room for the bikes? All questions were answered (and we were particularly delighted) when three cyclists pulled up: Yoshi and his two kids, Minori (age 6) and Yosha (age 4).
We made quite the peloton heading back to their house, with Yoshi in the lead, Minori confidently riding second, little Yosha wobbling a bit on his training wheels, and two Brompton riders beaming as we brought up the rear.
After introductions and dinner for the kids, Yoshi’s wife Aya asked us to hang out with Minori and Yosha upstairs for TV time. Yosha immediately climbed onto Dmitry’s lap. As his father says, Yosha is always looking for the best couch. He is a meta-couch-surfer.
After the kids went to bed (on their own, no prompting – super impressive) we settled down to our feast: a giant and delicious dinner.
Yoshi’s family are themselves well-traveled. They have been making their way around the world a few weeks at a time, primarily by train. Their last trip took them to Iran, and the next one includes Tajikistan. After they finish this round the world, Yoshi wants to travel from Alaska down to the southern tip of South America. Minori may only be 6, but I think she has been to more countries than I have – and she has cycle toured in Taiwan!
After dinner, Yoshi and Aya taught us how to make our own onigiri – it was surprisingly simple. First, heat a small tupperware of rice in the microwave. Second, palce a piece of cling wrap loosely into a bowl and add a little salt on top. Third, put the rice onto the cling wrap and, using a chopstick, make a hole for filling. Fourth, smoosh the filling into the hole – any filling will do: Dmitry made some kind of chicken/fish/wasabi creation and I used some delicious scallion salad. Finally, add a little more salt on top and then cover the rice in the cling wrap and use your hands to shape it into a triangle (as Aya says, “make a house”). Boom. Breakfast.
Are you getting tired of all the sweetness yet? Bring on the demons!
We spent the next day exploring two of the islands around Takamatsu: Naoshima, an island full of art museums and art pieces, and Megijima, an island full of demons (or at least, cute demon statues).
Naoshima was a wash – the island is usually great for cycling but it was pouring rain when we arrived (even though Dmitry’s forecast app swore there was a zero percent chance of rain that day). Instead of getting soaked, we sat down for lunch and local beers to wait out the rain, then headed over to Megijima instead.
Megijima piqued our interest because of its demon cave. Local legend has it that Momotaro, a boy born from a peach, battled a demon on this island – and there is a cave full of demon statues to commemorate the battle.
Unfortunately, we arrived with only one hour to explore before the last ferry departed for Takamatsu. Fortunately, we had our bikes! Unfortunately, the demon cave is at the highest point on the island… But up we went, and we made it in time to see some demons, but not enough time to enter the cave itself. We might have attempted it, but as we were climbing we passed so many people pointing to their watches – the bus driver, the cave-keeper, even the locals were worried we wouldn’t make our ferry.
So no cave, but we did enjoy the 360 degree views. From the top of the island we could see Shikoku, Honshu, and tons of tiny islands in between.
We would have enjoyed exploring Takamatsu and its surrounds either way, but staying with Yoshi’s family made it something special. We’re quickly becoming converts to this whole Couchsurfing thing.