We don’t like hiking.
That’s a thing we both say a lot.
Mostly because we’re both from outdoorsy states where people regularly open conversations with questions like “Where have you been hiking lately?” Luckily, after that brief hiccup the conversation can usually transition to which microbrews you’ve tried lately (which Colorado & Montana also excel at).
This is all to say that despite the fact that we don’t like hiking, we consistently pick out places to go where hiking is essentially the only activity.
So there’s that.
But in Shishi — the tiny, crumbly, barely populated island off Shikoku — it was magical.
We slowly opened all the sliding doors of the house, letting the morning in and watching a family of island cats eating the food our neighbor left out. The seaweed hanging wet last night on the clothesline had dried into brittle sea-stained glass.
Grabbing the little map of the island that we got from our welcoming committee at the Kuzu Kuzu cafe (open about 3 hours a day, or whenever visitors are expected), we headed off and up the winding little path from our house. It’s a tiny island, so we pretty much figured as long as we were going up, we were headed in the right direction.
Soon we arrived at the first stop on the petite map — an overgrown old temple a little bit up the mountain. It was a bit of a shock after the elaborate, carefully manicured temples of Kyoto and Tokyo. The steps were uneven, steep, and somewhat overtaken by the aggressive plantlife.
We continued upward through bamboo groves as the steps got steeper and the views better. A little bench appeared just as we (ok, just I) started to break a sweat. The main island, Shikoku, and all the little baby islands were starting to come into view.
Heading back up the trail, we soon came to a fork in the road. We consulted our tiny map, were deeply confused, and proceeded to choose the wrong direction. This wouldn’t have been too embarrassing except that there was an electrical repair guy calmly electrically repairing things and he definitely laughed at our obvious backtrack. That’s ok. It’s probably one of the least embarrassing things we did in Japan (we once wore the wrong slippers in the entryway of a house, and this was shocking/mortifying for our lovely host Takeko, who you’ll read about soon).
Back on the right track we headed down more windy steps towards the 1200 year old tree that the tiny island is most famous for. Its giantness proved difficult to photograph, so we’ll include some photos with a person for scale and just let you bask in the glory. That’s what we did.
Full of Grandmother Willow vibes, we climbed back up the hill and towards the top of the island. We were treated to fantastic views of all the surrounding islands that are basically what iPhone panoramas were invented for. Observe:
Last on our little map was a small drawing of a goat, so we knew we were in for a treat. After climbing down through a particularly abandoned part of the nearly abandoned island, we saw the little goat family climbing on overgrown fishing equipment and bleating their hearts out.
Just when I thought my heart would explode with Shishi cuteness, errh, kawaii(?), the owner of Kuzu Kuzu walked past. Upon realizing that we were planning on eating packaged ramen for dinner, she promptly promised us something decent to eat. Shortly after returning to our house, a little knock on the door meant the delivery of much-appreciated sushi. A lovely end to a weirdly magical day on Shishi.