Hope you guys have been enjoying the Japan posts! So far we’ve been taking train to all our destinations, but on Sunday we did something a little different – where our host M rented a car and took us for a drive around the nearby areas which weren’t on the main train routes.
Just some side info: this post is named for one of my favourite shows to stumble upon – Japan Hour, a long-running documentary in Japanese that introduces far flung places to the internal Japanese tourist, spots where international tourists are unlikely to frequent.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
We first headed out towards Awaji Island, where we drove across Akashi-Kaikyo bridge. at 3.91km, it’s the longest suspension bridge in the world since 1998! It does kinda look like a white version of the red Golden Gate Bridge.
You can also view the bridge from the nearby Awaji Island Park, where you have information, food courts and viewing points all in one spot. Visitors to Awaji Island looking for a souvenir, this is probably where you want to head. It was a rather misty day when we were there though, so visibility was not great.
BIG WARNING: Driving across this bridge is INSANELY EXPENSIVE. According to wikipedia, they’re using the toll money to pay the 500 billion yen (that’s too many zeros for me to work out) bill that it cost to build the bridge, and while most sites and guidebooks will tell you that the toll costs roughly 2000 yen (that’s about S$32) one-way, they’ve apparently raised the prices in the last month or so and our toll cost a whopping 5,200 yen (S$80+) one-way. YES, IT COST US MORE THAN S$160 just to get across that damn bridge. All 3 of our jaws dropped collectively when we heard the cost of the toll!
Well, that wasn’t quite the excited ‘Sugoi!! Japan Hour Tone’ I was going for, but I’m probably never going to get over the cost of that toll, ever.
Driving in Japan is definitely an experience, and it was a pretty expensive one at that! Japan’s highways all have toll charges, and these charges are not cheap. We spent roughly 22,000 yen (that’s about S$350!) in total on the car rental, tolls and petrol in all for just one day’s of driving! Good thing we had 3 people to share the costs, but man that was EXPENSIVE.
We decided to head to our furthest destination first – going right through Awaji Island and crossing over into Kagawa (ANOTHER toll at the Ohnaruto bridge!) where we searched for Yamada, a well known restaurant in Takamatsu, Kagawa. If there’s one thing we were hearing about Kagawa, it’s that yummy udon seems to be the only reason people go there!
After some searching, we finally reached Yamada! Essentially by this point around 1pm, we had driven 3 hours to get to a lunch of udon. On hindsight… woah.
We weren’t actually sure how good the udon was going to be – M had googled for it and taken a chance. All fingers were crossed as we made our way in! Turns out the carpark we saw was bigger than we thought, and we saw some pretty fancy cars in the parking lot… if rich people are making their way there, it has to be good… right?
It’s an entire house compound in there with various wings. The server at the door talks over a mic to the other wings and finds you an available table somewhere in the compound.
We each ordered our own udon bowl – I had the tempura prawn udon. M had this yummy looking meat sauce udon while Y had a lavish set of cold udon. We also ordered Oden to share, which for Singaporeans is a little bit like Yong Tau Fu – it differs from place to place.
The udon was indeed good to eat – very springy and tasty enough to make you want to eat more, yet not overpowering that you got tired of eating it. Good soup base as well… yum! I only wish I had more prawn in my udon…
Since we made our way all the way there, we weren’t leaving without any souvenirs, so we each bought a couple of udon packets back. My mum cooked my 2 packs in the weekend I returned, and the noodle consistency was still as good.
We headed back to the Onaruto bridge to catch the high tide for the whirlpool action. We found our way to the hilly carpark quite easily and trekked a little way to the underside of Onaruto Bridge.
They’ve built a pedestrian pathway underneath half the bridge complete with glass floors and information panels, that puts you just 45m away from the water, the next closest way to actually seeing the whirlpools up close by boat.
We hurried over as we realized we were about half an hour late to the ‘peak’ high tide (when the tide is highest, the whirlpools are supposed to be the most spectacular.
It costs 600 yen to enter the bridge, and they gave us a special postcard and paper crane as a tourist gift for foreigners. It’s quite a long walk out to the middle of the bridge, and throughout you can see that the water here doesn’t flow like most rivers/seas do – it constantly curls and swirls which is what results in the whirlpools.
We still manage to see some whirling action despite being a bit late. The whirlpool action isn’t as violent or intense as one might imagine – boats can get up quite close to the whirlpools for a closer point of observation.
The walkway had some other entertainment after we got bored of trying to make out the little whirlpools:
Since we had paid a bomb to pass through Awaji Island, we decide to drive around there to find things. We tried locating the sake brewery but ended up in the countryside with a closed gate. After that we attempt to find the famous Awaji Island burger but end up in the harbour area with no restaurant in sight… argh! So much for our hope of Japan Hour-esque discovery of Awaji Island, everything just tends to close by 4-5pm so there’s nothing much in the late afternoon. No pix cause I mostly spent my time mooning out the window, but soon we were heading to Kobe for dinner…