Today just felt like a huge waste of time. Not because I didn’t have the intention of doing nothing, but because I failed to plan the logistics of what I wanted to do. So instead of spending the whole day doing, I spent most of the day waiting and sitting. I started out well- I set my alarm for 7:30, to make it to the lobby in time for the free breakfast, which ended at 8:30. For the first time in ages, I did ‘t want to leave my bed. Not because I was deadly tired, but because it was actually really comfortable. Again, another surprise from SUPER HOTEL. I got ready and went downstairs to “healthy breakfast,” which was a serve-yourself buffet of salad, rice, soup, breads, and lots of little side dishes. The staff had somehow also made the drink vending machine free during breakfast hours, so you could get drinks without having to insert any money! I grabbed a segmented tray and selected a few things, then tried my luck with the drink vending machine. You first select (from a scale of 1-5) how much sugar, cream, and coffee you want in your drink, and then you select your beverage of choice in either hot or cold. Then the machine dispensed a paper cup into a little window, and you could watch it pour in the different ingredients. I first tried a Blendy coffee, and then a milk tea (it was fun to do, and free, so I was addicted.) The coffee was a little bitter, and the tea a bit too sweet, but when I mixed them together, it was perfect! My breakfast included miso soup, salad, apple chunks that tasted salty, some okra with bonito flakes, tamagoyaki, and fish. Then I wanted to play with the drink machine one more time, and made an iced coffee which turned out perfect. What a pro.
I went back up to my room and packed up all my stuff, then checked out of the hotel, ready to walk back to JR Takamatsu station. I had to get the train at 10am, to make it to Naruto by 1pm. At Naruto, I wanted to see the famous whirlpools, which can be up to 20 meters in diameter, and they run on a tide schedule, obviously. The best time to see them today was at 1:30pm. I did a quick check online to see how I would get to the whirlpools from the station, but they were so much further away than I had expected. I thought I might be able to walk to them, but they were 10 minutes away by car, which meant over 2 hours of walking. But there were busses that ran from the station to the whirlpools, so I thought that I’d just get a bus. The walk to the station was really quick, and mostly undercover. Takamatsu has a lot of arcade shopping, which would’ve been very fun to explore, if I had time. I’d really like to come back to Takamatsu one day, to see it properly, not just from the inside of a hotel. It’s a beautiful place by the sea, and as I walked along the streets, I admired the rows and rows of cherry blossoms in full bloom. At the station, I had a little bit of time to spare before my train, so I bought some local treats, including a special dorayaki filled with sweet potato, and a kind of mochi thing filled with anko. Then I waited for the train on the platform.
When the train arrived, I almost laughed. It was the most ridiculous looking thing I had ever seen. It was literally just one carriage, and it looked puny and really funny. Also, waiting on the platform with me were about 3-carriages worth of people. So finding a seat was tricky, but there were some sneaky fold out seats by the door, and I claimed one of those. The train ride lasted about an hour and a half, and then I got off at a place in the middle of nowhere to transfer to the Naruto line. I went to the only other platform to wait for the train, then realised that the wait time was over an hour. I was a bit shocked, but then looking at the timetable, I wasn’t surprised. The trains to and from this station only ran once per hour, and some hours didn’t have any trains at all. I couldn’t even explore the area because there was literally NOTHING there. Just a tiny old-looking station and a few houses. That was it. So I spent the next hour just waiting for the train to arrive. I did go to the toilet once, which was an experience in itself. The toilet was at the station, and because it was a tiny middle-of-nowhere place, I didn’t expect much. But this was really something. It was a squat toilet, which was fine, but instead of being a functioning, proper toilet, it was literally a porcelain bowl over a hole in the ground. And that hole was filled with exactly what you’d expect. Yeah. Nice. But I really needed to go, and there was nowhere else, so I had to use it. I was scared that my phone would fall into the hole or something. I was actually surprised that, for a hole in the ground, it didn’t actually smell.
Ok, enough toilet talk. There was also a few vending machines at the station, one of which was well stocked with Australian athlete endorsed vitamin water. I didn’t know that they sold the bottled sweat of Ian Thorpe here, but apparently it’s popular enough for vending machines.
The little train finally came, and it took about 20 minutes to reach Naruto. I had been quite excited to visit this town, but by the time I got there I was kind of fed up already. In addition, the town was small and old and kind of empty. And, like the tiny station I had just come from, its transport options were very limited. It was already 1pm, and the bus to the whirlpools would only take 10 minutes. Unfortunately, there were only 2 busses every three hours, and the next one wasn’t until 2:45. Which meant I would miss the whirlpools completely. I asked a taxi driver how much it would cost for him to take me there, and then walked back to the bust stop and asked these two old Japanese ladies if they’d like to split the fare with me. I had asked them earlier if they were going to the whirlpools too, so I knew they were headed the same way as me. After some discussion, we agreed to take a cab together. We chatted away whilst the driver took us over bridges and around the curve of the ocean. The two ladies were really nice, and we were getting on like the best of friends.
When we got out of the taxi, we were at a port where you could get a ferry to see the whirlpools. I had wanted to see them from a viewing platform near Naruto park, but that was about an hour’s walk away from where we were. One of the ladies had given the directions to the driver, and we’d ended up somewhere I really didn’t want to go. But it would take to long to get back to the viewing spot I’d wanted to visit, so I had no choice but to purchase a 1500 yen ferry ticket and join the crowds onboard the Naruto Magical Tour, or whatever it was called.
The boat had two levels, but everyone was crowded onto the bottom level, because you had to pay an extra 1000 yen for the ‘first class’ treatment of the top level. The boat left the dock really quickly and headed towards the bridge, where the whirlpools ‘occurred.’ The water was so clear and clean, and such a beautiful aqua/turquoise colour. We reached the bridge, and the water was moving really quickly, going in all different directions. But the boat had no fear, and just went over the top of everything. Ok, so there’s strong directional current, I thought, but they don’t really look like whirlpools. But then , the water moved faster and faster, and they looked like swirls and whirlpools! Everyone was taking photos and pointing and yelling ‘sugoi!’ I couldn’t stop from smiling like an idiot, these whirlpools really were natural wonders. Although I still think that seeing them from the observation deck above the ocean would have been better, because you;d be able to see the spiral shape better.
The boat headed back to the dock, and everyone got off and flocked to the gift store. I went to check out the bus timetable, and found the next bus back to the station was 40 minutes later. I was initially going to explore around Naruto town a bit more, but by then I was sick of waiting around and just wanted to get away from the place. After the efficiency of Tokyo, this lack of transportation was bugging me. So I decided to go back to Naruto station and head to Tokushima, where I would be staying the night.
My two new taxi friends (who also went on the boat with me), got the bus back towards Naruto with me, but they stayed on when I got off at the station. I had expected to be in Naruto for much longer, but it was only 3, so I considered going all the way back to Kyoto instead of Tokushima. I had used my 18 kippu this morning, so if I went back to Kyoto today, I wouldn’t have to pay. At the station, I asked the attendant if it would be possible to complete the journey before midnight (when the 18 kippu finishes for the day) and she said it would be, but I’d only arrive at 11:30pm. I thought that would be ok, because then I’d have the whole day tomorrow to do stuff and plan for Kumano Kodo, instead of spending half a day travelling. But then I wondered what to do about my hotel reservation that night. They said there is a fee for no-show, but how would they track me? Would they be able to get me and/or my money? I couldn’t remember if I’d given them my credit card details. Then there was the problem of finding accommodation for the night in Kyoto. I was pretty sure I;d be able to find something if it was during the day, but arriving that late might be tricky. Also, I couldn’t contact Hostel Mundo and find out if they had any free space.
I was torn.
I wished that I hadn’t stamped my 18 kippu this morning, because then I could have used it tomorrow to get back to Kyoto by train (I hadn’t thought this was possible until today, when I saw that there was a JR train that ran through Takamatsu to Honshu.) I bought a hot matcha latte from a vending machine, and drank it whilst I mulled over my decision and waited for the train. Stupid Naruto transport. Only one thing every hour. Only one bus, or only one train. Not both. Sigh.
The train arrived and I still didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt the adrenaline of indecision pulsing through me. When I reached the station where I needed to decide, I still didn’t know. Stay on the train and go to Tokushima, or transfer and head back to Kyoto? Some business men could see me looking around and looking worried, and asked me if I needed help getting somewhere. I explained that I just didn’t know where I wanted to go, and they thought it was amusing. Then the train left, and I was still on it, so I guessed I was going to Tokushima. In retrospect, I guess it was the better option, because it wasn’t such a long journey, and I had a guaranteed place to sleep. Plus I’d never been there, so it probably deserved a visit.
When I got to the station, I spent a bit of time looking in the omiyage shops (and buying some dorayaki), then went in search of my hotel. It was actually really close by and easy to find. It was called Hotel Sunshine, and was pretty much just a standard hotel. I checked in and was given another ‘ladies pack’ here, which was in a pretty pink gift bag. How fancy. I dumped my stuff in my room (which smelt like hotel), then went down to the lobby to use the wifi and try to figure out the cheapest and best combination of transport options for the next few days.
Around 6:30, I went back outside and walked back to the station, where I did some shopping at the department stores and food shops. Tokushima is much more built up than I thought. It reminded me of a mini, less built up Tokyo. Like an outer suburb in Tokyo maybe? I certainly didn’t expect department stores, and my favourite store, Loft. I bought some things for dinner and went back to the hotel to use their lobby microwave. I ate in my room, watching the TV which featured a show about Japanese people eating ‘spicy’ curry and trying to eat the spiciest they could. All the contestants sucked! I had some vegetable dishes that I bought from a kind old man in the department store food level, as well as an onigiri, a hard-boiled egg, and a chicken and gobo salad. After that I ate a banana and two of the sweets that I’d bought today. One was a matcha flavoured dorayaki filled with tsuba-an, and the other was a sweet potato one. They were so good, but I forgot to take a photo of them not in the packets.