Have I mentioned Hugues so far? He’s a good friend of us, a Frenchy we met in Leeds. And now he lives in Osaka, so part of the idea to come to Japan was based on visiting Hugues. He managed to take one week off for us and we decided to use that time for a road trip to the nearby island of Shikoku. It’s one of the main 4 islands of Japan, so it’s actually pretty big, yet fairly mountainous and sparsely populated in the center.
Once you have obtained a driving license from the consulate, driving in Japan is not exactly difficult or anything, as everybody on the road seems to be overly cautious. The tricky bit is to understand how the toll system works and that you should not speed through a toll station even if the barrier is already open (yes, we did that once, language barrier…: “Go David, it says it’s free!”). Also what turned out to be quite hard is to stick to the official speed limits. It’s 100 km/h on the motorways or 80 or even 50 in case of the very frequent roadworks or accidents. Otherwise is 80 and 50 in residential areas. Given how densely populated Japan is, you rarely quit the residential areas and therefore you either pay a lot for the motorways or you drive at an average of less than 50. So wherever possible it’s advisable to take the reliable and fast train network instead.
The highlights along our route:
° Climbing Mount Tsurugi followed by an adventurous descent on a closed path with deep snow patches.
° The beautiful Guesthouse Momonga at Miyoshi with super friendly hosts and lovely guests.
° The surprisingly beautiful and livable city of Matsuyama. Splendid views from the city’s castle. Japan’s oldest Onsen (also featured in the anime “Spirited Away”).