It’s always nice to wake up somewhere with a view, and we couldn’t complain about this one.
Once we’d admired the view enough, we were on our bikes again and headed to the local station to catch a connection of local and fast trains to Yawatahama port. In a matter of hours, we passed through Ehime prefecture, on the north-west corner of Shikoku; not doing the island any justice. We would’ve liked to have stopped at one of the 88 temples that make up the Buddhist pilgrimage around the island, but when you have 15kg of bike bits in a bag, ‘stopping off’ at places isn’t as easy at it sounds.
We arrived at the port town of Yawatahama and bought a ferry ticket to Beppu. Buying ferry tickets in Japan is pretty easy. You often can’t buy them in advance, but the ticket booth for the ferry opens an hour before the ferry leaves, and tickets are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. We paid an extra ¥1000 for our bikes, making the ticket ¥5000 each, not bad for a two-hour and 130km crossing! Whilst waiting for our ferry, we came across a very colourful fish market with everything from shells to scary looking eels. We decided against eating any of the fish there, and tried Yawatahama champon instead, a noodle soup with lots of vegetables in it. Yummy, but not anything on Nagasaki champon! Then we cycled on to the ferry, secured our bikes and went to wave Shikoku farewell. We watched the Sadamisaki Peninsular go by, as we headed west; Kyushu-bound. When we went inside, we noticed that everyone else had gone to sleep! On Japanese ferries there is usually a floor that has no chairs, so is perfect for laying out and having a doze, something that Japanese people have a special talent for. ‘Cat-napping’, falling to sleep anywhere be it an office chair, on a train or in a café. I think in Japan there is such trust between people that they feel relaxed enough to fall asleep and don’t have to worry about their stuff going missing, and it’s perfectly socially acceptable! Well maybe not if you do this…
Soon enough the city of Beppu came into view and we were astonished by what we saw. Great pillars of white smoke were rising from the city, making it look like it was on fire in about fifteen different places! As we came a little closer, we could see that it was steam rising, not smoke and we knew it must be coming from the abundant hot spring resorts. Wow, where had we come to? Kyushu; the land of volcanoes, hot springs and sub-tropical islands.