I like group tours. They are a great way to see a lot of places in a short period of time. Everything is preplanned by travel experts all one needs to do is show up on time and have fun. If one has the luxury of being able to travel during the work-week all the better. Those tours are usually booked by older people (retirees) and they're always punctual, rarely complain and eager to have fun.
First stop on our tour - Matsuyama Castle.
You can get all the facts and historical data on Matsuyama Castle on the internet at sites like this Matsuyama Castle
I'll tell you what those sites don't. All Japanese castles kind of look the same. Some people think if you've visited on you've visited them all. I say "not true". They're all different and worth visiting.
However, they're all built on top of hills and are designed to be hard to access and hard to walk around. When your enemy shows up on your door step, you don't want to make it easy for him to conquer you. Well, the enemy is long gone and now it's us tourist at the door step and it's still not easy to get around.
Just to give one an idea of how big the stones are in this hand built castle, Emi is standing in the doorway.
To get back down to the parking area we cheated and used this ropeway.
Next up we visited Dogo Onsen. Again, all the facts and figures can be found on the internet Dogo Onsen. After we checked into the Dogo Grand Hotel (where we spent the first night) we went for a walk around town.
This building is a public bath house.
Nearby is a charming covered shopping street.
And, this is what it's all about! This is Dogo Onsen! Currently it's being massively renovated in is surrounded with scaffolding and covered with this artistically printed tent.
The front entrance of Dogo Onsen is not covered and the bath house is still open for business. After some more walking around we returned to the hotel and enjoyed their hot spring bath, had a wonderful diner, and then had a nice sound sleep in our beautiful cozy room.
Next day: Visit to Garyusanso. Internet info Here!
The highlight of our visit was this tea house overlooking a river.
Our special local guide showed us pictures of the tea house illuminated by a full moon - very beautiful.
He also pointed out the unique style of ceiling in the tea house.
A tree growing out of a stone wall.
Most of the nearby historical buildings were converted to charming little Inns; unfortunately business for them has been bad because of the big F'ing "C" virus.
Moving on... our next stop was Ehime's Sotodomari Ishigaki-no-sato
Historic stone-walled village by the sea
You don't need any money here because there's no place to spend it. What you do need are good walking shoes and maybe a walking stick too!
This little village is very picturesque nd all the walkways are on extremally steep hills. Good luck if you have bad knees.
Following the trail back down the hill one is greeted by a Shinto Shrine, presumably a place to say a prayer and give thanks to the Gods for allowing your safe return to sea level.
Moving on... time to head out to sea in a glass bottom boat!
We're on the Kochi coast of Shikoku and what better way to see the beautiful Tatsukushi Marine Park than by boat?
Tatsukushi Tour Boats
It was refreshing out here. Lots of coral and fish, clear water and magnificent rock formations. The best!
Time to return to port and get back on our tour bus.
The last shot of part one: The view from our hotel window.
We stayed the night at the Ashizuri Misaki Sunnyside Hotel
It's an older hotel, a little run down, our room was meh, but, the service and food was fantastic! I really enjoyed this place. I can't remember the last time I had such outstanding service (being in Japan that's quite an accomplishment). The waiters and cooks did a 5-star job. The food (local seafood) was remarkable, much better than the tour advertised.