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Singaporean guy travels 2,300km from Okinawa to Ibaraki (Part 4)

Singaporean guy travels 2,300km from Okinawa to Ibaraki (Part 4)

It’s #WanderfulWednesday once again! We are now at Part 4 of my insane scooter journey across Japan, as I sojourn into the Kanto region from Southern Kyushu on my trusted Super Cub. Make sure to start off at Part 1 if you’re only just joining us!

 

 

It seemed like only yesterday when I was staring at the slowly disappearing silhouette of Okinawa, bidding it a fond farewell as I stood on the upper deck of the ferry that was to take me to Kagoshima. I had zoomed past the halfway point of my journey without realizing it, crossing over Kyushu and Chugoku and finding myself in Kansai (関西). I almost couldn’t believe just how far a distance I’ve covered, on nothing but a small, underpowered, yet robust and reliable machine.

 

Settling for silver

The trip to Kyoto from Kobe was relatively uneventful. I rode past Osaka’s bustling cityscape without stopping and eventually arrived at the northeastern corner of downtown Kyoto (京都), where I spent the night sheltered from the rain in a cheap backpacker’s hostel.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

I started off the next day bright and early to visit one of Kyoto’s famed attractions located nearby. Often overshadowed by its more glittery sibling the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺 Kinkakuji), the Higashiyama Jisho-ji (東山慈照寺), more commonly known as the Silver Pavilion (銀閣寺 Ginkakuji), was initially planned to be a place of rest and solitude for the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利 義政). After his death, it was converted into a Zen Buddhist temple. Its main building is an amalgamation of several architectural principles stacked atop one another, located on the corner of a meticulously maintained sand garden.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Several pathways stretch all throughout the moss-lined garden, leading to calming sceneries of flowers, ponds, and greenery.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Also in the area is The Philosopher's Path (哲学の道 Tetsugaku no michi), a stretch of pedestrian road alongside a river where several cherry blossom trees stand, ready to display their beautiful pink colours in spring. Rumour has it that it was named so because Nishida Kitaro (西田幾多郎), a distinguished philosopher and Kyoto University professor, paced along this very path for his dose of meditation. During this rainy season, however, the walkway is instead adorned with colourful hydrangeas.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

It was time to move on, but I was not about to depart from Kyoto without sampling one of its local delicacies. Minori is a small but cosy soba restaurant in the Ginkakuji area that offers kamo nanban soba (鴨南蛮そば), buckwheat noodles with leek and duck meat.

 

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺)
Address: 2 Ginkakuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8402
Nearest station: Demachiyanagi Station (出町柳駅)
Nearest bus station: Ginkakuji-michi (銀閣寺道)
Opening hours: 8:30–17:00 (March–November), 9:00–16:30 (December–February)
Admission fee: ¥500 (Adults), ¥300 (Children)
Tel: +81 75-771-5725

 

The Philosopher's Path (哲学の道)
Address: Tetsugaku No Michi, Ginkakujichō, Sakyō-ku, Kyoto 606-8402
Nearest station: Demachiyanagi Station (出町柳駅)
Nearest bus station: Ginkakuji-michi (銀閣寺道)
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission fee: Free

 

Minori (實徳)
Address: 57-5 Kitashirakawa Kubotacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8266
Nearest station: Demachiyanagi Station (出町柳駅)
Opening hours: 12:00–14:00; 18:00–21:30 (Monday, Wednesday–Saturday), 12:00–15:00 (Sunday) (Closed on Tuesdays)
Tel: +81 75-722-3735

 

Breathtaking Biwa

My belly satisfied, I saddled up and rolled out. I took a shortcut through the mountainous and forested Shigagoe Roadway and emerged on the other side into Otsu City (大津市 Otsu-shi), Shiga Prefecture (滋賀県 Shiga-ken).

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Shiga is, of course, well known for being the site of Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa (琵琶湖 Biwako). The rain had let up a little bit, so I took a moment to refuel and admire the view. As I began tracing a clockwise path around the west bank, I was flanked by a splendorous combination of Lake Biwa to my right and the Hira mountain range (比良山地 Hira-sanchi) to my left.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Several places of interest dotted around the lake, like Omi Shrine (近江神宮 Ōmi Jingū) and Hikone Castle (彦根城 Hikone-jō), but I was headed for a relatively unknown yet particularly significant landmark.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Shirahige Shrine (白鬚神社 Shirahige Jinja) is, indeed, hardly a blip in most people’s travel maps, but it stands out within the region for having its torii gate positioned out in the lake itself. The sky had opened up in tremendous downpour by the time I reached the shrine, but that did little to dampen my spirits as I stood before it to pay my respects.

 

I pressed on, eventually circling around the northern edge of the lake and entering Nagahama City (長浜市) on the east bank. Lake Biwa slowly faded away in my wake as I cut through the Ibuki Mountains (伊吹山地 Ibuki-sanchi) via Sekigahara (関ヶ原), the site of the eponymous battle which took place in 1600 and decided the fate of the country in the Warring States Period.

 

Shirahige Shrine (白鬚神社)
Address: 215 Ukawa, Takashima, Shiga 520-1122
Nearest station: Omi-Takashima Station (近江高島駅)
Opening hours: 6:00–17:00
Admission fee: Free
Tel: +81 740-36-1555

 

Miso hungry

Night crept up on me as skyscrapers and urban sprawl engulfed me once more. I had finally arrived in Nagoya (名古屋) of Aichi Prefecture (愛知県 Aichi-ken) after three laborious hours on the road. The lengthy sprint had stirred up a cavernous appetite in me, so it was time to hunt for some food once more.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Nagoya is renowned for its castle and not much else, but it is actually also a gastronomical paradise with plenty of piquant and unique dishes native to its area. One of the best-known examples of these is miso-nikomi udon (味噌煮込みうどん), udon noodles simmered in miso broth. I was able to enjoy this simply delightful dish at Nikomitei (にこみ亭), a small hole-in-the-wall establishment located within the ritzy Sakae District.

 

I bedded down at an inexpensive business hotel that night so as to weather the rain, continuing my culinary escapade the next day.

 

Nana-chan is looking stylish as always. (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

I made for Nagoya Station (名古屋駅) to track down a restaurant recommended to me by a friend. Along the way, I paused to say hello to a well-known figure located nearby: the Nana-chan Mannequin. A popular meeting spot for commuters ever since her debut in 1973, she has been clad in all manner of outfits and costumes in collaboration with events, festivities and even sports teams and movies. She changes clothes every month, so if you ever find yourself in Nagoya Station, do take a quick detour to check out what she’s got on!

 

Hontouni Bikkurishita-worthy cuisine (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Following the theme of fermented soybean paste, I tucked into a scrumptious miso katsu pork cutlet meal at a restaurant called Yabaton (矢場とん), not to be mistaken with a certain famous Japanese Ginger on Instagram.

 

The sky was not letting up, but it was time to proceed. I hopped back onto my scooter and pushed ever on, cutting northeastwards to the city limits. Buildings began to thin out once more as I gradually slipped back out to the wild.

 

Nikomitei (にこみ亭)
Address: 4-12-21 Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0008
Nearest station: Sakae Station (栄駅) / Sakaemachi Station (栄町駅)
Opening hours: 17:00–02:00 (Closed on Sundays)
Tel: +81 52-251-8903

 

Nana-chan Mannequin (ナナちゃん)
Address: 1-2-1, Meieki, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 450-8505
Location: Meitetsu Department Store Men’s Building
Nearest station: Nagoya Station (名古屋駅)
Opening hours: 24 hours

 

Yabaton @ Meitetsu Nagoya (矢場とん)
Address: 9F Meitetsu Department Store, 1-2-1, Meieki, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 450-0002
Nearest station: Nagoya Station (名古屋駅)
Opening hours: 11:00–22:00
Tel: +81 52-563-7373

 

Take me home, mountain road

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

The nakasendo (中山道) was a route that cut through modern-day Shiga, Gifu (岐阜), Nagano (長野), Gunma (群馬), and Saitama (埼玉) prefectures, and was one of two roads that linked Edo (江戸)—Tokyo, as it was known back then—and Kyoto through the 17th–19th centuries.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Several rest-stops sprang up along its entire stretch to cater to the travellers plying the route, and though modern technological advancements have rendered them devoid of their original purpose through the years, many of them remain intact to this day as artful preservations of Japan’s simpler times.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

As I bypassed Tsumago-juku (妻籠宿) and Magome-juku (馬籠宿), the two most famous stations nestled within this historic roadway, I felt like I had travelled 400 years back in time. I imagined that a wandering samurai from that period must have looked upon the same scenery of wooden buildings, stone-lined roads and forested peaks as I was, the only difference being the manner of creature or mechanism which bore our saddles.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Grey clouds and intermittent rain kept me company as I continued on through the Nakasendo. By then I had entered Nagano Prefecture and was deep in the Kiso Valley (木曽路 Kisoji), a narrow ingress carved out by the Kiso River (木曽川 Kiso-gawa) on the west side of the central alps. No words could adequately describe the sense of awe I felt as I passed through such amazing scenery, and I struggled to do it justice with my phone camera amidst the dreary weather. Noting that the JR Chuo Line runs through this valley, I keenly await the day when I can ride a local train to take in all these sights once more at a more leisurely pace.

 

Tsumago-juku (妻籠宿)
Address: 2159-2 Tsumago, Minamikiso-cho, Nagiso, Kiso-gun, Nagano 399-5302
Nearest station: Tadachi Station (田立駅)
Opening hours: 24 hours
Tel: +81 26-457-3123

 

Magome-juku (馬籠宿)
Address: 4282 Magome, Nakatsugawa, Gifu 508-0502
Nearest station: Ochiaigawa Station (落合川駅)
Opening hours: 24 hours
Tel: +81 57-369-2336

 

The sojourn was just about nearing its end. I could scarcely believe just how far I had come, but also astounded at just how quickly time seemed to pass by. I lamented that my epic trip across the country was about to conclude, but I tried to remain optimistic, knowing that there were still a few more exciting places to discover laying ahead of me.

 

Thank you all for sticking around till this point! Stay tuned for the fifth and final part of my excellent Super Cub adventure.

 

Header image credit: Ananda Kang

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