Category: Shikoku

While in Kōchi, I came across some manga (comic art) on the street, outside a school.  I originally posted them here, and while the meaning may in some cases be self-evident, the cultural differences can sometimes affect the interpretation:

In revisiting this post, I have, after some requests, translated the relevant text which should facilitate a better literal and cultural interpretation.  As my knowledge of Kanji is somewhat limited, I enlisted the aid of a japanese friend to assist.

The basic premise for this series of photos centres around an annual manga high school competition.  Each year, a different theme is chosen, and a winner is selected from the competing schools.  Let’s start with a basic overview by using one of the pictures as an example:

Below each photo, I have included the theme as a caption.  And now, on with the translation:

– 1992 –

Manga Contest

"The Most Important Day"

TV Audio:  “Today the last nuclear weapon in the world has been destroyed – no more nukes!”
The picture on the wall is of her son, who died in the war.

– 1993 –

Manga Contest


Vending Machine – ” Family Alpha”
Image on Side of Vending Machine – “Add hot water, ready in three minutes”
Vending Machine Audio – “Thank you very much”
Concept – Instant Family for a boy without one.

– 1994 –

Manga Contest

New Style Countryside

Sign – “Robot Farm”, “Do Not Enter”
Concept – More Farmers Needed

– 1995 – 

Manga Contest

New Media

Tombstone – Someones family cemetery (name written on top)
Girl’s Caption – “I wanna come and visit you grandmother”
Grandmother – “Oh, you cane come, but when you’re much older”
Concept – She’s calling her grandmother beyond the grave
Cultural Reference – White Kimono and white triangle cloth on her forehead means she has passed.

– 1996 –

Manga Contest


Concept – The kanji and face are morphed in this picture, with his expression mirroring the meaning of the kanji – in this case “to frown on, to be grim-faced, to look sullen”.

– 1997 –

Manga Contest

Carry Something

Upper Square – The dog cathers are saying “A stray dog!  Catch it!”
The dog expresses – “Uh oh!” and quickly brings out a ballon of the owner and blows it up
Dog Catchers – “Oh well, I guess he had an owner after-all”.

– 1998 –  

Manga Contest


Concept – A teacher uses a manual to try and nurture/teach a student (the plant) to grow a certain way, rather than letting it grow naturally.

– 1999 – 

Manga Contest

Power of Seniors

Caption – “Ah, you’re not ripe yet”
Concept – Pickled plums versus fresh plums (umeboshi) – takes a long time to get tasty
Cultural – Blue in Japanese (and Chineses) is also interpreted as green – i.e., immature.

– 2000 –

Manga Contest

17 Years Old

Caption – “Live Longer” – I hope you live longer, or keep on living
Concept – At 17, a dog is near the end of his life whereas for a person, they’re just starting it.

– 2001 –

Manga Contest


Mother – “Let’s stop this tradition”, while crying.
Father – “Ahhh… we have to do it”
Cub – “Papa!”, not really knowing what’s happening.
Concept – Time to grow up.  You need to let your child go, so that they can become stronger.

– 2002 –

Manga Contest

Real Intentions

Captions Left to Right
– “You can count on us, allow us to take responsibility” to retiring politicians,
– “Ah, I actually wanted to continue on”
– “Why do you get to stay, you don’t even have a moustache” – a moustache is a sign of a respected, mature member of society.

– 2003 –

Manga Contest

One of a Kind

Poster – Miss Art Contest
Comment Bubble(s) – “Everyone has good aspects”, “Yes, Yes, I agree”, “It’s natural that you cannot choose just one”
Concept – Judges can’t decide, since all are one of a kind.

– 2004 –

Manga Contest

Bushido - Samurai Way

Sign – Japan Carway (way rhymes – ‘do’, bushido)
Banner (left) – “Be careful speeding, go slow”
Banner (right) – “Safety is most important”.  The yellow/green chevron indicates a “beginner” driver in Japan.
Road Sign – Speed limit is 24

– 2005 –

Manga Contest


At work – While talking with your boss, the smile is fake, forced, a show of respect
Taking a walk – Tired of working, sees a both with his mother with a genuine smile
Thinking to himself – ‘What does it mean to smile?’

– 2006 –

Manga Contest


Concept – The development of man, from Hunter -> Gatherer -> Samurai (Nobleman) -> Warrior -> Businessman -> Otaku (Geek)

– 2007 –

Manga Contest

Generation Change

Concept – Times change, but the people don’t.
On TV – A Japanese Samurai Drama – a popular soap opera that’s been running for 20+ years

– 2008 – 

Manga Contest


Husband – “Delicious!”
Wife – making a homemade boxed lunch out of store bought pre-made lunches (bento box).
Concept – Who cooks anymore?

– end –

One of the reasons I arranged my schedule as it is was to ensure I was in town during the Sunday Market.  So this morning I headed out into the throngs of people and looked for two things – great photos, and lunch.  I managed both.

Break Time

Arriving I Tokushima, I checked into the hotel and went out for dinner.  Along the way, I took in the city at night, the only time I was apt to see it.

A dinner of shashimi moriwase, kaki, and edamame.  Tomorrow, I’m off to Mt. Koya via Wakayama on the early morning ferry.

Kōchi and Godaisan

A few kilometres from town is Godaisan, which happens to include a lookout over the city from a few hundred metres up, Chikurin-ji, Temple 31 of the 88 along the pilgramage, and the Kōchi Prefectural Makino Botanical Gardens.  I decided to spend the afternoon wandering around this area, and took the bus up.

The lookout point had a restaurant and shop, of course, but from the 3F level you had good views out over the city.


Apparently this is a popular spot for getting engaged.

Leaving a lock is supposed to symbolize the relationship lasting forever.  So…. who gets the key?  😉  And, what exactly does a combination lock signify?

Wandering through the temple grounds, I took in the five storey pagoda and Jizō.

The Botanical Gardens ended up chewing up a lot of memory card space.  A lot to see and take in, both inside and outside.  Cherry Blossoms were not yet in season, so most of these are of flowers.

I headed into town on the last bus, and decided to grab some dinner before heading back to the hotel.  Time to pack…

Kōchi Art Blocks

I wasn’t really sure where to place this one, so I am putting it in a separate blog entry.  While on my way to the Friday Market area as indicated on the tourist map, I walked by a school – and whether these are related or not I can’t say for sure.  But the first couple sparked my interest sufficiently that I decided to capture the entire set.  Perhaps those of you with Japanese skills can help me translate the captions for the rest of us.  But even without the translation, you should still find them interesting.

Presented in chronological order:


Kōchi is a city in the southern part of Shikoku, in a prefecture of the same name.  Looking at the rail system, a trip from Matsuyama to Kōchi via Uwajima might have been a better plan, but I wanted to be in Kōchi on the weekend when the bus service would be running more frequently and I could catch the Sunday Market.

I decided to grab an early morning train from Takamatsu so I could maximize my stay in Kōchi.  Ideally I wanted three days here, but to make my connection to Mt. Koya I would need a stopover in Tokoshima on Sunday.  Arriving around 10:30am, I dropped my luggage off at the hotel and headed out for some sightseeing.

Under the railway through town


First stop was the castle, Kōchi-jō, originally built in the 17th century and mostly intact – only one of about a dozen in all of Japan.  Looking at the map, I decided to take a detour on the way and head towards the location of the Friday market to see if anything was still going on.  Mostly a fresh produce market, there were a variety of items available for purchase – mostly food in one form or another.  What struck me was the women staffing the various stalls – they seemed almost from another time, like they’d been doing this for as long as the market had every been open.

From the market to the castle there were two shrines and a temple on the map – so I figured I might just as well take them in too.  Nothing too much of note different than other shrines and temples around Japan.

In case you’re wondering what the difference is, Temples are associated with Buddhism and tend to be larger and more elaborate, while shrines are associated with Shinto, a religion native to Japan that has more to do with day to day life than the afterlife.

A few blocks away I entered a park on the northwest side of the castle and wandered around for a bit.  A few photos of flowers, but nothing specific of interest.  Making my way towards the back entrance of Kōchi-jō, I could here a lot of yelling, some shrikes, and the distinct sound of two wooden staffs coming together.  Just outside the park area there appeared to be a five storey building with a lot of activity inside.  I can’t read the sign, but if I had to guess I’d say it was a martial arts training centre, and the activity I had heard was a group of women doing naginata.  Perhaps someone with Japanese skills can translate the signage for me to confirm.  That said, as a sport in grade or high school this sounds a heck of a lot better for you than wasting time playing dodgeball….

A hike up the hill to Kōchi-jō was next.  It was nice to see an actual castle with some original structure left to it, rather than a partial or complete reconstruction (please, stop it with the concrete).  The view from the top out of the city really helped confirm that we were literally surrounded by hills and mountains.

It was getting rather cold outside, and so I decided it was time to head out.  For those that don’t know, Kōchi is the hometown of renowned historical figure Sakamoto Ryoma, and the subject of a recent NHK JDrama (Japanese Drama) series I had been watching.  I wandered by his place of birth, and then headed to the museum around the corner.

Kōchi is a pleasant city to wander around in, with a nice vibe – big enough, yet with a small town kind of feel to it.  I met someone from Vancouver who was travelling around Japan as well, and from our discussion it sounded like he was thinking of staying in Kōchi to look for a job teaching english – he was that impressed with the city.

After the museum and checking in at the hotel, I headed out for dinner.  The speciality in Kōchi is katsuo tataki (lightly seared bonito fish).  I found a spot and for a change had fish – the special, plus some saba (mackeral) sashimi.

On my way back to the hotel, I took some photos of the locals doing their thing – cooking up sweets, cycling home, playing music, or drawing/painting.

While Takamatsu was well laid out for tourists, it held little in the way of sights, and the castle, Takamatsu-jō, was now a park.  It was also under construction, and so I decided to skip it and head to Kotohira instead.

Kotohira is a small village, and its main street near the train station is somewhat devoid of vehicles most of the time.  The reason most people visit here is to go to the Shintō Shrine, Kompira-san, which is dedicated to mariners.

On the way to the shrine, I stopped off at the local sake museum, Kinryō-no-Sato, for a tour.  The museum itself was quite large, and the video at the end showed the entire sake making progress.  Unfortunately they did not appear to be providing tastings that day.

Aside from the shrine, the other reason I wanted to come to Kotohira was to visit the Kanamaru-za, Japan’s oldest kabuki playhouse.  Built in 1835, when not in use you can tour the entire facility.  They were cleaning the facility when I arrived.

My next stop was Kompira-san itself, positioned on a hilltop 1368 steps to the top.  Snapping photos along the way, my only goal was to keep pace with an elderly couple also making the climb up.

Arriving at the top, and not satisfied with the exertion, I decided to wlak the additional 500 steps up to the Inner Shrine (Oku-sha), which it seemed to me was harder to do than the first climb.  Arriving at Oku-sha, I was able to see the village below surrounded by rolling hills nearby.

Having made it this far, I decided to invest in a fortune which I will need help deciphering later.  On the way back down I stopped in at the main shrine and wandered around.  Things were closing, so I made my way back down from here and ran into an overly affectionate feline who, unlike many other cats, appeared more domestic than wild.

Back to the train station, and a return trip to Takamatsu.  The area around the train station was lit up at night, so I grabbed a few photos and then headed back to the hotel.

With the earthquake in Tohoku affecting my first two planned activities (Sake no jin, Niigata, and Anime Festival, Tokyo), I had had to rework my plans.  Today, I found out that the annual spring festivals (matsuri) in Takayama and Furukawa had also been cancelled, which I had not been anticipating.

While certainly understandable, it means I will now need to re-plan the last half of my trip here.  Time to do some more research…

Setting out from the hotel, I grabbed the local tram service to the JR station and headed out.  Takamatsu is about 2.5 hours from Matsuyama by train, so I grabbed some take-out lunch at the station.

Arriving at the JR Takamatsu station, I got my bearings and decided to walk to the hotel and drop of my luggage there.  It was early afternoon and rather than waste the rest of the day I immediately headed out to one of the two sites in town I was interested in, the Ritsurin-kōen, which apparently dates from the mid-1600’s and took more than a century to complete.

The garden was quite impressive – one of the best I’ve visited in Japan in all my trips, and I wandered my way through the park for two and a half hours before heading to Kikugetsu-tei, the largest tea house in the park for some matcha and sweet.

With the sun setting and the park closing, I headed back to the hotel and out to grab some dinner.  The speciality in Takamatsu is Udon, so I figured I should try that the first night.  Wandering around the entertainment district I finally located one of the recommended places.  About to wander inside,  a girls sports team of some type exited the restaurant and seemed startled by my (gaijin) presence.  I guess they don’t get many gaijin in Takamatsu.  They paused for a bit and we exchanged greetings and the typical “where are you from” type questions before their coach came out of the restaurant (presumably after paying the bill) and they wandered off with sayonara’s.

I ordered the curry udon with tempura and watched them make the noodles while eating dinner.  While it was good, I think I still prefer ramen.

Not far (90 minutes) from Matsuyama is Uwajima, and rather than wander around Matsuyama I decided to take a day trip there instead.  Uwajima was described as a “charming rural town, famous for it’s graphic sex museum and attached Shintō shrine (Taga-jinja).  There’s also a traditional bull fighting arena (where the bulls fight each other), but that only happens a few times a year and this wasn’t one of them.

Uwajima was smaller and less charming than I had anticipated, but perhaps that was due to the time of year – a lot of businesses seemed to be in off-season mode, and there weren’t any tourists to speak of.

From the train station I headed towards Warei-jinja, which happened to be on the way to Taga-jinja and took my time.

Taga-jinja was down the road, and was my next stop.  The shrine and surrounding grounds were dedicated to fertility, and the associated imagery that produces was erected everywhere.

The museum itself was a solid three floors of everything you can imagine and much you can’t.  It was also jam packed full of everything but tourists.  In the time I spent there (no pictures allowed, I’m afraid), the only other people touring the museum were a pair of college age japanese girls, reading everything and giggling a lot – I couldn’t read anything, so perhaps that’s why I covered the three floors in the time it took them to cover only one.

In any event, I decided to move on and take a stroll up to the castle, Uwajima-jō.  This one was an 80m climb and dates to 1666 – the area provided views of the town, but not a lot else was going on and I decided not to tour the castle itself.

With not a lot going on in town and it being late afternoon, I figured dinner in Matsuyama would be a better choice, so I hopped on the train and headed back to the hotel.  Nearby I located a yakitori/izakaya style restaurant and enjoyed a relatively inexpensive dinner.  I met a couple who were in town from Tokyo, but were originally of Matsuyama and spoke a bit of english so helped me pick out a few things of the menu I was having trouble deciphering.  I think they were there to visit friends/relatives and escape the ongoings in Tokyo.

Time to get back to the hotel and pack for tomorrows trip to Takamatsu.

Arriving in Matsuyama on Sunday by ferry, I arrived at the hotel late afternoon and decided to take it easy, catch up on some blogging and photo processing, and, of course, laundry.  The one meal of consequence on Sunday night was straight out of the guidebooks – Tori-sen, a restaurant specializing in free-range gourmet-chicken.  Finding the place was a chore, but perserverence and a bit of luck paid off.

Tori-sen serves chicken just about anyway you can think of – except maybe fully cooked.  I couldn’t read the menu, so went with their recommended setto – but made sure I got the sashimi as well.  Yes, raw chicken – which, when raised and handled properly is just fine.  I’m still alive, and out of all the variety I had, the tori sashimi and the gyoza were the best – in fact, I think the gyoza were the best I’ve ever head.

The next day, I decided to stick around town and start by seeing the castle, Matsuyama-Jō.  The book said their was a ropeway you could take, which turned out to be a gondola or a chair lift.  I opted to walk.

The castle was, well, a castle – worth seeing, and interesting enough to browse around inside.  The light rain, on again off again, not withstanding, of course.

Following the castle I decided to head straight towards the Dōgo Onsen.  Arriving via streetcar, I decided to wander through the Dōogo-kōen park first – the best time to visit the onsen was apparently around dinner time (when most of the japanese tourists would be getting dinner), so I had a couple of hours to walk around.

One of the many reasons people come to Shikoku is to do the 88 temple pilgrimage, and it just so happened one was within walking distance so I treked out to the 51st of them, Ishite-ji.

After taking in the temple, I proceeded to locate the Dōgo Onsen Honkan building, the main building of the onsen.  This is one of the most famous onsens in japan, and one where royalty visited, including the emperor.  I paid the fee which gave me access to all three baths, and proceeded to experience each one in turn – with some tea and cookies in between soaks.

Afterwards I headed back towards the tram, and was lucky enough to experience the Botchan Karakuri Clock (坊ちゃんからくり時計) near the station doing it’s thing.

Dinner was simple – grilled meat (yakiniku).  Then, off to bed.

It’s Sunday, and after four days in Hiroshima I’ve decided to head to Matsuyama, Shikoku, where I will spend the week.  I checked in to my new hotel last night situated near Nagarekawa-dori, which was lit up with neon signs, taxis as far as you can see, and equally entertaining nightlife.  After a day spent in Miyajima I was in the mood for some sake and seafood, and a quick search on the internet turned up a few prospects.  One such place, Tamariba Tamaya, apparently carried 180 different varieties of sake, all from Hiroshima Prefecture, and wasn’t very far from the hotel.  It was already just after nine PM, so I grabbed my camera, threw on a wide angle lens and took to the streets.

Crossing the street to head into the nightlife district I noticed a walkway over the street that I hadn’t seen before.  I recalled seeing some night photography of Hiroshima and realized that they had been shot off of that very walkway.   Taking advantage of the situation, I figured I might as well take a few shots myself.  With no tripod in hand, I rested the camera on the railing and this is what I ended up with.

On my way to the restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of taxis waiting in queue, whether it was to pick up passengers or drop off I’m not sure, but they weren’t moving very quickly.

The description of the restaurant’s location basically said to take a left towards off the main drag and look for a shabby, run down establishment sandwiched between the neon lights of hostess clubs.  It was hard to miss – yet, looking at the unlit signage I started to wonder whether it was even open.  The hours posted were 7pm to 5am, and pulling on the door revealed the bar area and confirmation that yes, they were open for business.

I decided to start with some nigori, which is cloudy – I couldn’t read the menus at all here, so took their guidance and ended up with a sweet nigori.  A daiginjo was to follow that, along with some mixed sashimi (moriwase) which seemed a safe bet.  Pulling out my iPhone, I started hunting for the next sake to taste and came across Hattan Hishiki, which is a sake rice variety from Hiroshima Prefecture.  While all the sakes at this izakaya were made in Hiroshima Prefecture, not all were made using the local rice.

I asked for a sake that used the local rice, and it had a very distinctive flavour to it, must different than the daiginjo (dry, strong) or nigori (sweet, milky texture), and enjoyed some breaded/fried fish (whole fish, about two inches long – like fish french fries) along with it.  I finished off with a shiboritate, a just-pressed, very young sake, along with some edamame (needed some vegetables and salt) before heading back to the hotel at a (somewhat) reasonable hour.

This morning I had one stop to make before heading out, and that was to a camera store I spotted on the street car a few blocks from the hotel.  I’ve been looking at second hand stuff since it’s hard to beat the quality and variety available here, and there are a couple of older lenses you just can’t find anymore.  The camera store ended up being a bust, but on the walk back to the hotel I ended up the benefactor of a coffee and biscuit.  I was walking down a crowed covered shopping street when someone in front of me dropped a stuffed keepsake, something the japanese tend to hang from phones, bags, or just about anything they have with them.  A few people walked by and I wasn’t sure what it was until I got a closer look, but decided to pick it up and catch up to the owner to return it.

The owner turned out to be an elderly woman, who was surprised when I interrupted her walking but was immediately overwhelmed with gratitude for my returning her precious keepsake.  It seemed to hold some significance to her, so much so that she insisted on buying me a coffee, practically forcing a 5 dollar coin into my hand and directing me into the coffee shop while bowing and repeatedly saying thank you (in japanese) as she walked away.

I was in a bit of a rush to get back to my hotel, grab my luggage, and get the streetcar to the ferry port, so ordered an espresso and tea biscuit (sesame seed and sweet potato) to go.  The japanese has always been known for their attention to detail and this includes packaging.  What I was expected was a take out paper cup for the espresso (which I would drink right there), and the tea biscuit was already in plastic wrap.  Instead, the espresso went into a paper bag, the tea biscuit went into another paper bag, and the two paper bags went into a plastic one, all “packaged” for take-out.  Very elegant, and very japanese – but probably not very good for the environment, and totally not what I intended.

Needless to say, upon returning to the hotel I had to take a picture before consuming the goods and rushing for the streetcar.  I managed to just catch the streetcar in time to arrive at the ferry port eight minutes before the ferry was due to leave.  I bought the ticket, and with under five minutes to spare practically bolted for the ferry.  I was helped along by a couple of officials who noticed me dragging my suitcase, and upon boarding the ship immediately started to disembark.

So ends this entry.  It’s Sunday afternoon now, and my next stop is Matsuyama where the first order of business will be do to laundry.  The weather today is very foggy, and with a two to three hour ferry ride there’s not much to see – a good time to catch up on some much needed writing.

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