On the first full day in Shikoku, we decided to head off to the Shikoku Karst Formation up in the mountains between Ehime and Kochi prefectures. (Kochi is the prefecture that covers the whole bottom part of Shikoku.)
t's a lot of worn away rock.
tanuki! You never usually see them just walking around. It was my first one ever seeing one in the wild. (Is the side of the road "wild"?) This one is pretty small, so maybe it's still just a pup. Tanukis look kind of like raccoons in their markings, but they're more closely related to dogs. They're also known in Japanese folklore for shapeshifting and fooling humans, so my guess is that this one was on the way up to the rest area we had just left to take on human form and sell expensive souvenirs that will later turn into plain old leaves to unsuspecting tourists. Or something like that.
This sign is a joke based on the "Danger Animal Crossing" signs one sees on these types of mountain roads. One of the major figures in the Meiji Restoration (when Japan ended the rule of the Shogun and started to modernize its economy and government) was Sakamoto Ryoma. He was originally from Tosa (modern-day Kochi) and fled from there through the mountains to Ehime. (He had to flee because in those days people were not free to move from one part of Japan to the other without permission from the clan whose rule they lived under.) Because this road is crossing the trail that Ryoma used to flee Tosa, they have these signs warning you to be careful of "Samurai fleeing their clans who might run out into the road". I thought it was funny enough that I stopped the car and did a U-turn to go back and take a photo. Ironically, in doing so I ended up running over a fleeing samurai and his sword got stuck in our back fender. That was a costly repair. Have you ever run over a porcupine? Imagine that times ten.
We drove west out of the mountains through the most obscenely twisty and inefficient roads I've ever been on. The stupid GPS gave us the shortest route by distance, which was probably the longest by time. Our goal was to go to the end of the long, thin peninsula jutting out of the west side of Ehime. (Look at the map I posted in the last post, or any map of Shikoku. You can't miss it. It's really long.) We wasted so much time in the mountains though that by the time we got there it was already dark. I wanted to walk out to the lighthouse, but I was afraid of getting mauled by a wild boar, and there wouldn't have been much point with it being so dark, so I had to satisfy myself with shots from the parking lot at the end of the road.