Tucked deep in western Tokushima, the city of Miyoshi is located near the centre of Shikoku island. Although this beautiful region can be difficult to get to (especially without a car), if you go your efforts will be well-rewarded with stunning natural beauty and a rich heritage. I was lucky to participate in a tour organised by the Miyoshi City Tourism Association to explore the area.
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As an Assistant Language Teacher, you have a set work schedule from Monday to Friday. So how curious that you are summoned to your schools on a weekend day. Stranger still that instead of being empty as you might expect if there are no lessons, your school is buzzing with students and local people. You may hear music as you get closer to the building. And your eyes are drawn to brightly coloured displays, posters and your nose to the smell of doughnuts…
It`s (one of the) most wonderful times of the year! Each year, schools and universities in Japan put on a culture festival (known as 文化祭, bunkasai in Japanese). These often stretch across one or two days and are open to the local community. Students and teachers work hard to create art works, performances, activites and games. It`s nice to see the school community come together as they devote hours preparing for the event. The students teamwork and pride in their schools and individuals home rooms (forms) is also impressive. Bunkasai is a uniquely Japanese experience that every ALT should experience during their time in Japan.
Famous for the beef, there is much more to the lively city of Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture. In January I spent the long weekend there. While sampling the beef was sadly too far out of my price range, there was still a lot to do and see. I stayed in Nada-Ku ward.
Megijima in Kagawa prefecture is a small island famous for the Momotaro legend of the oni or ogres, in which a plucky young boy visits an island full of ogres to fight with them. There are two villages on the island, which has a population of less than two hundred people. The vibe is relaxed and traditional. The ferry from Takamatsu port to Megijima island is every two hours, but the journey itself is only twenty minutes. The main attraction is the part (the island is part of the Setouchi festival) and the ogre caves. Megijima is a short and cheap ferry ride from Takamatsu port, so is worth seeing if you enjoy stunning views, beaches and are interested in traditional Japanese stories.
Matsusyama, the capital city of Ehime Prefecture, is the biggest city on Shikoku island. The city’s name means “pine mountain” (cute!) and it is famous for Dogo Onsen, mikan (citrus fruit similar to oranges and tangerines) and a castle. There is a direct bus from Tokushima city station to Matsuyama city, which takes just over three hours per way. I stayed in the Dogo area, near the famous Onsen I spend a long weekend there exploring and here are some of my highlights.
If you were to Google my current prefecture, Tokushima, chances are that one of the first things that pops us as a tourist attraction is “Awa Odori”. Awa Odori is an ancient dance festival that attracts thousand of visitors to Tokushima especially for it it. You can see images of the dance everywhere – even on Tokushima’s postboxes (below!). In August each year there is a huge dance festival in Tokushima… except this year because there was a typhoon(!). Normally, the new ALTs in my prefecture take part in the August festival as part of our orientation. As I sadly missed it this year, I was excited to take part in a special Autumn performance later in November instead. This was part of the World Awa Odori Summit in Tokushima, where many professional dance groups also would perform.
In between working full time, packing up my old life and moving to a new country, I think I managed to get a respectable amount of reading done. Here`s the list including any comments that sprang to mind.
If you Googled things to see in Tokushima, Iya Valley would probably be one of the top result. This remote area is in the western part of the prefecture and is characterised by foliage, steep mountains and vine bridge (yes really, wines peopel cross made out of twisted plant vines). The area would be difficult to get to without a car, but luckily a kind colleague offered to drive myself and a friend there for a day trip. However it is possible to get there by bus and train – please the link at the bottom for more information. We went during the tail end of November, which was a lovely time to visit as the leaves were changing colours.
Most, if not all of us, have a pair of blue jeans which are a staple in our wardrobe. Did you ever wonder where that distinctive inky hue came from? Indigo in an ancient dye made from a plant known as “sukumo” in Japanese. Tokushima prefecture in Shikoku has a unique museum about the history and craft of indigo fabric dyeing.
I’m coming up to my second month living in Tokushima, Japan. Tokushima is on the island of Shikoku and has lots of rivers. I’d been on a river boat of a very different kind when I first arrived – more of a quick tour of the city sights. At the end of September I went white water rafting on the Yoshino river with other JETs in Tokushima and some from Hiroshima prefecture. I`d never done this sort of thing before and was scared but also excited to try something new. AJET organised everything so I just needed to turn up in a swimming costume and suncream.