Sunday, August 31, 2008

Shikoku Day 4: Kochi Castle

Along the way to Kochi, we had to switch trains. Watching our next train pull up to the platform, we were amused to see that it was entirely decked out in Anpanman cartoons.

Anpanman is a very old and much loved cartoon character here. He's kind of like the Mickey Mouse of Japan. Anpan is bread filled with bean jam. So Anpanman's head is a bun. Cute, huh?

The creator of Anpan Man came from a town near Kochi. It's now famous for its Anpanman Museum.

So we enjoyed our ride to Kochi on the Anpanman Express, yippee! No complimentary anpan, though. Bummer.

Upon arrival, we got set up in a business hotel for 6,000 yen a night and set out to see Kochi Castle.

Along the way, we ran into a bunch of roosters. They were roaming around the grounds of a shrine next to the road. Some of them were caged, but many others were just out loose. I have no idea what was stopping them from wandering out into traffic.

This area is kind of known for roosters, actually, though I don't know what the significance of this little shrine is. In Nankoku city near Kochi, there is the Onagadori Center, which houses a rare long-tailed rooster whose tail is 33 feet long. This kind of rooster has been bred in the area for hundreds of years and is considered a national treasure.

We didn't see any of these birds on our trip, unfortunately. Maybe next time.

Continuing on, we came to Kochi Castle.

The castle is 400 years old. Inside there was a miniature model set of the castle grounds, which was neat. Otherwise the main attraction was the view of the city from the top.

I always think the rooftops on these castles look cool.

After this, we decided to try to make an excursion to a well-known beautiful beach for the rest of the afternoon. Joe managed to read the bus schedule, which was entirely in kanji, and we got on a bus that appeared to be going to the beach. However, half-way there, the bus stopped and the driver ordered us and one other occupant off the bus. The other guy was retarded (literally). He seemed as confused as us. There was a lot of jabbering in Japanese and then the driver apologized and seemed to indicate that we should follow the other guy. So... we did. We figured he knew more than us. We had no idea where we were. The whole situation seems so absurd to me now. Gail and Joe on an adventure in Japan, following a retarded guy who knows where!

The guy walked to another nearby bus stop and we got on another bus with him. Joe read the kanji on the side of the bus and it appeared to be heading where we wanted to go. Well, at one point the retarded dude hopped up and scurried off the bus. We hadn't been paying attention (well... Joe hadn't. I was clueless anyway), and so Joe made a split second decision to jump up and follow him off.

Bad idea. We hadn't reached the beach yet. We weren't sure where we were. A clerk at a nearby convenience store informed us the beach was several kilometers away. And then (of course!) it suddenly started to rain. We got soaked.

We had to find another bus stop that would actually take us back to the vicinity of our hotel. Luckily, Joe could read enough kanji and speak enough to a pedestrian that we were able to figure out where to go, but we were worried (and quite wet) for a while.

We were just happy to make it back downtown. With our daylight effectively shot, we went back to the local tourism desk to arrange a whale watching trip for the next day, grabbed some dinner and called it a night.

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