Start of my first full day in Onomichi. My hotel room overlooked the harbourside and the strait, with the local wildlife hanging about. Down below on the other side of the street was the small shrine I'd noticed the previous evening. I never did discover anything more about it -- it's not one of the important shrines or temples, just something the locals think is worth looking after, because... well, it's there, I suppose.
Well awake by six in the morning, I loaded up with water and headed out to find some breakfast and get myself pleasantly lost. Hot again, but nothing I wasn't expecting.
Police boxes. The Japanese prefer this concept of small police stations (kobans) scattered throughout the towns and cities, little offices with maybe half a dozen officers in situ rather than large centralised police stations as we have in the UK and elsewhere. Just to be odd, they then make them look... different. The one in the picture is part of an Onomichi civic building called "The Seashell" down near the railway station (the "Eki" part of "Ekimae").
This building is something Onomichi is proud of -- it's a theatre and exhibition space, and it's circular, very modern. Except, there was a teeny tiny problem when they planned it. You see, there was this ratty old shrine on a corner of the site that got in the way. So what did they do? This is Onomichi, so they cut a dent in their shiny new circular building for the shrine rather than demolish it or move it. The shrine was there before the new building, after all. An accomodation was made and everybody was happy. Onomichi.
As I mentioned before, the town has had a lot of writers and artists come by and immortalise it in various fashions. In response the town has commissioned some little statue groups and dotted them around, representing pieces of literature or artwork involving the town. Sadly I don't know the stories behind them -- the explanatory plaques are all in Japanese with no convenient English-language crib. Still nice.
After breakfast I made my way along the harbourside, taking more pictures as I went. There were more shrines, even smaller but still not abandoned by the locals. My eyes turned south, across the strait. I was finally going to get to travel on an Onomichi ferry.
I wandered down to the floating dock and waited for the ferry to approach and then drop its ramp with a clang. A few schoolkids on their bicycles (what they were doing going to school so early on a summer Sunday I never did find out) rode off and I stepped on. A hundred-yen coin changed hands and after a short wait for a couple more passengers and a small van to board, the ramp raised and we set off.
It's only a couple of hundred metres across from the mainland to the other side, five minutes at most, but it was a life achievement for me, to sail on the Pacific. An Onomichi ferry isn't exactly a blue-water craft but still, it was salt water under the keel. I didn't think much of the passenger accomodations though...
We sailed past the Pachinko parlour I had seen the night before, its garish neon switched off for the time being and then we docked. I headed off in carefree exploration mode, only to just avoid getting sideswiped by a little old lady dressed all in pink on a pink Honda step-through scooter and wearing a pink crash-helmet as she drove up onto the pavement and then back down again before disappearing up an alleyway, engine roaring. It was my first introduction to the Onomichi death-defying scooter driving technique. It would not be my last.
I wandered around what were obviously residential areas, loading up with bottles of Coke and other soft drinks from the omnipresent vending machines as necessary to keep myself from dehydrating and running out of sugar. I crossed a bridge over an inlet, noting it was low tide, and then I came across the Japanese version of Home Depot. It wasn't open yet so I paused just long enough to admire the Janglish signs then pressed on, heading east towards the road bridges. Sadly when I got there I couldn't find a pedestrian access route, so I headed back towards the ferry dock to go back to the mainland. From the ferry I could see the cablecar route that rose up to the top of a nearby hill, the start of the famed Onomichi "Path of Literature". The cablecar was going to be my next Onomichi adventure after a breather, a shower, fresh socks and lunch.