The next morning we were at the train station bright and early. We had a very long train ride between us and the ferry we would need to catch, so we had plenty of time to chat and catch up. Jen is the kind of friend I might go weeks without talking to, but whenever we are together we click back into our old routine. We finally arrived in the port city of Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture. Since it was lunch time, Jen suggested we stop at one of Kagawa’s famous Sanuki Udon restaurants. Before that, though, we had to make a brief stop at a kind of nearby Gap store because I had completely forgotten to pack a jacket or sweater of any kind and I thought the boat was going to be chilly.
I found something on sale and we headed off to lunch. Lunch was delicious, even though Jen and I had been a bit over-ambitious when we ordered medium sized servings instead of small. I should have taken a picture, but the place was so crowded and we were so hungry that it would have been very difficult.
Now armed with an extra layer of insulation (from the lunch as well as the Gap), we boarded the ferry to Naoshima. The ferry was decorated with the iconic polka dots of one of the artists whose work is featured on Naoshima, Yayoi Kusama.
I recently saw an exhibit of hers at the art museum in her hometown of Matsumoto, Nagano. My eyes have trouble with sharply contrasting patterns (like black and white stripes, or the really thin stripes/ checkered pattern on my students’ uniforms), so I was not a huge fan, but she does have some interesting pieces.
For example, her pumpkins on Naoshima have become rather iconic and they are the most popular place to take selfies on the island.
Jen wanted to rent bikes, so we did. We rented two mamacharis (read: Japanese street bikes from hell) for our island adventure. Mamacharis have no gears and for some ungodly reason the handle bars are basically up at your shoulders. After riding mine for ten seconds I started to understand why people on the mamacharis in front of me always seem to have trouble riding in a straight line. I also started to understand why my students ride so slowly on them. It’s impossible to be fast and keep your balance on those things.
The benefit of the bikes was that my ranting and creative cursing about the bikes (I hope) provided endless entertainment for Jen, who seemed to have significantly less trouble than I did. I would like to chalk that up to the fact that I ride a mountain bike every day, whereas she is more used to road bikes. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what I’m going to say.
We did not go inside any of the museums on the island (because money, but also because I was pretty sure I smelled like I had been rolling around in the grass due to how much I was sweating. The sweater I had gotten sat forgotten in the bike’s basket as I sweated more than I thought physically possible) but we did have fun biking around the tiny place and taking pictures of the area.
We eventually called it a day and headed back to the port. After a brief moment of panic when Jen couldn’t find her phone (we found it in the basket of the bikes we had returned a few minutes prior), we ran into one of Jen’s friends we had seen earlier. The three of us grabbed a snack and boarded the ferry back.
When we got back to Takamatsu, we parted ways with Jen’s friend. Now two of us again, we went to Tully’s for coffee and a place to relax until it was time to get on the train. I really missed just hanging out with Jen and having coffee. Considering she used to live about 10 minutes apart, it has been strange being separated by a 5-ish hour journey these past four years. And it is going to be stranger still to be a 12-hour drive away once we leave Japan.
Eventually it was time to get on the train. I think we were both regretting eating those macaroons earlier, because we both ended up slouching in our seats, begging the train to stop moving. The journey was made worse by the fact that we had to make a transfer in Matsuyama. The first train we were on was probably the newest in the fleet. There were outlets EVERYWHERE. I charged my phone by plugging it into my seat’s armrest! Even out by the bathrooms there were outlets and little ledges on the windows so people who couldn’t get a seat could still charge their phones.
And then we transferred to what was probably the oldest train still running in Japan, perhaps the world. The thing still had smoking and non-smoking signs on the cars. By the time we reached Yawatahama, near where Jen lives, we were both pretty groggy. Still, doing Naoshima as a daytrip from Ehime is no easy feat, so I am impressed we even made it. It was a little expensive, but worth it as our potential last trip in Japan together.