bones which were at boiling point since I left the Australian winter. Beach Camping...that's what they said; we clambered down a hundred steps and I soon realised the reality was different....the campers were there with their cameras but not silly enough to get into the water as I did to almost get dragged out to sea by the giant waves that pounded the incredibly jagged rocks. I really tried though, and after watching the movement of the waves I just sat on the waterline and held onto a rock while about one wave in every ten crashed over me and tried it's best to drag me away into the Pacific. The most common word I heard on that beach was "kicken". . danger, as the tourists and their cameras got drenched by the unpredictable waves! I just got me togs full of rocks and was finding them for days after!
After climbing back up to the campsite I was so hot I had to go and sit under a tap and then it was time to cook the BBQ at 4 pm - it was early because my hosts had to be sure that everything was cleaned and stowed away before dark. Scores of cars were arriving and all the latest camping gadgets were being unfolded and assembled, people who slept on the floor all year were now connecting up bits of aluminium to make beds. They spent hours setting up tables, chairs and some other complicated and expensive equipment that I'd never even know what to do with. I slept on the grass under a tree, it was nice and cool! I was really intrigued by the white camping gloves; everyone in each family wore them and they must have thought I looked silly without mine!
The wife (of my hosts) never even got to go down and look at the beach but drove off to sit in the, crowded and commercial hot springs a couple of times. Next morning, Saturday, we made tracks back home to the other side of the island a day before the end of the official holiday week and it seems everyone was of the same mind to get home one day early in order to avoid the traffic and clean up the gear (restore order) and relax before going back to work on Monday. Being clean is the national obsession and still I was dismayed at the amount of garbage on the beaches; particularly the discarded fishing nets and such stuff that tangles and strangles seabirds, dolphins & fish.
Cartoonist Michael Leunig could write volumes on this place! We went to a zoo and theme park and in spite of all the exotic birds and animals....even lions, tigers, zebras, monkeys etc., sweating away in their tiny cages, most of the visitors were only interested in rushing through to the other side where they could ride on plastic replicas of those animals!
The most renowned scenic place in all of Shikoku... a beach, near Kochi on the Pacific coast... and there I was, running forward from the car park until I suddenly realised I was the only one with a beach towel, (not to mention my snorkel, fins and water-wings), and like a torturer
relishing his job my host told me "It is not allowed to swim....just take photo". EVERYONE was trekking down to the water-line, fully clothed and dripping perspiration, laden with cameras and the obligatory bumbag in order to stand there sweating in their trendy hats and back-packs and shoes and socks with their backs to the beautiful scenery and what was for me the most desirable and inaccessible thing in the whole world, COOL WATER, saying the Japanese equivalent of cheese. Nearby I saw an indoor beach with a fake wave produced by a hidden machine and people were happy to spend their money to sit on the fake sand in there and not get 'soiled' by the real thing.
Like everything and every place in Japan; 'doing' is not the important thing: buying the t-shirt to SAY you'd done it and taking the photo/video to PROVE you'd done it is more important even though the t-shirt is usually printed in nonsensical English words or phrases such as on the favourite shirt of a woman I know who, after years of English lessons at school thought it very cool that her t-shirt read "Poor Spitted Muck"!!!
I was surprised at the lack of foreigners too and that explains why there is so little available in English at those incredible castles and temples so I guess I'm very lucky to have my own interpreter! Maybe it's the plumbing that has kept people away; the last thing I would have need for is a computerised toilet. Unlike other visitors I was not curious enough to explore that beast but for how long can you go on being lucky enough to avoid hitting at least one of those dozen buttons as you carefully sit down? Touch one and you are liable to awaken the caressing hand of the sleeping toilet 'Akuma' (devil) or invoke his hot breath or a stream of warm spit on yer bum!!
I doubt there are any leisure activities to attract tourists from other parts of the world and the Japanese idea of leisure is another 'theme park' or McDonalds or their own version of Disneyland or there is the 'Fan Factory' or the 'Noodle Factory' where you can pay your Yens to put on an apron and a funny hat and sit on the floor in a room full of Japanese, (usually adults, believe it or not), lovingly mixing flour and water to the unrelenting instructions of the owner/teacher while your friends film every heart-tugging, emotional moment on video for you to take away and treasure for the rest of your life. You also receive a scroll to hand down to your grandchildren to prove you'd DONE IT - you PERSONALLY had made the noodles!!
It would seem that news of the outside world is unimportant, I could find little or no news on TV and when I asked my hosts they could not understand why I should want to know what's going on somewhere else. Strange and contradictory, I thought, particularly in Hiroshima where the locals are constantly