We are a very democratic couple. I initiate all the plans, and Takashi executes them. It is rarely the other way around. So, I was astonished when he approached me last Friday and asked if I would like to go to Awaji Island (淡路島) and a few other places in Kansai this week instead of Kanagawa. I set my heart on Kanagawa, so it took him some time to persuade me. Besides, I was going to finish a book review post that weekend. Nevertheless, traveling itself was more appealing than writing about traveling! So, like always, the travel bug won.
Awaji Island is the biggest of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea, and it connects Honshu Island to Shikoku Island. It is the origin of Japan according to the nation’s creation myth called Kojiki and a popular weekend getaway for both Honshu and Shikoku residents. I visited Awaji Island three years ago and got acquainted with some handsome alpacas at Awaji Farm Park England Hill. Do you see the resemblance in our hair?
I was more excited to visit Awaji Island this time because Takashi promised to take me to the most beautiful parts. We woke up early the following Saturday, even though Awaji Island is not that far from where we live on the Honshu side of the island. The longest suspension bridge in the world (Akashi Kaikyo Bridge) connects Awaji Island to where we live.
I admit I had doubts that morning because I had initially wanted to write a blog post and then study. But as soon as we crossed the bridge and reached Awaji Island, I exclaimed, “Studies can wait, but life doesn’t!” So much for a serious student! Watching Kobe and Akashi from Awaji Island this time felt surreal because I usually spend most of my time walking back and forth on the other side of the bridge.
While driving along the seaside on the west of Awaji, we came across heaps of cute coffee shops and restaurants. People were lined up in front of them even before opening hours! Don’t get me wrong, I love drinking and eating while traveling, but I love solitude more. I told Takashi to drive farther to find a less crowded place. The joke is on me, though, because we ended up in two famous places later that day!
Keino Matsubara Beach
Our first stop was Keino Matsubara Beach in Minamiawaji. It is a 2.5-km long beach with a pine forest on one end and a beautiful white sand beach on the other. Since it was still March and the water was ice cold, there were few visitors. We walked along the shore and the pine forest while a gentle sea breeze caressed our cheeks. Do I even need to tell you how thrilled I was to have the beach to myself?
I might come across as a misanthrope, but I am not. I simply enjoy the company of few people, profound conversations, and prolonged silence. I can observe my surroundings and appreciate the beauty better in silence. Human-made noises distract me and stand between me and those precious moments. I thought about this precisely during my walk on the beach and didn’t want to leave. I easily get attached to beaches and deem them the last bastions where people can be alone with their thoughts.
Keino Matsubara Beach is a kind of beach that dispels rejection, disappointment, and failure. When I walked on it, my worries faded and were replaced with joy and serenity. Nothing mattered anymore, as if someone constantly played Astrud Gilberto’s Beach Samba album in my ears. I pictured myself smiling and running on the beach barefoot and then chuckled at my absurd imagination. Beware: this beach can play tricks on the human psyche!
Onion invasion at Uzu Hill Park
Do onions come to mind when you think of a noble vegetable that could symbolize an entire island? On Awaji Island, onions rule whether you like them or not! And what kind of people wouldn’t like onions anyway? Aren’t they the essential ingredient in almost all dishes in most countries? I personally cannot tell you any Turkish dish that doesn’t contain onions!
We originally wanted to see the famous Naruto whirlpools but decided to visit Uzu Hill Park instead. If onions had a heaven, this place would be it. Everywhere you look, you see onions so much that you can no longer see any other color! People love taking photos with cute onion wigs in front of a gigantic onion on the hill! Of course, I couldn’t resist wearing one of them! Well, Takashi had his picture taken, too, but he wouldn’t be happy if I posted the result!
Café hopping on the west coast
We drove around the island quite a lot and finally got tired. Some restaurants were closed already, so I had to eat my words and visit one of the “touristy” ones on the west coast. We went to two places and loved the view. After a long day’s drive, I was in the mood for a cold beer, and Takashi enjoyed his iced latte.
The second place was famous for its pancakes, and the sunset was gorgeous. There was a long queue of people, but I was getting hungry and didn’t care about solitude much. The pancakes were pricey but delicious, and so was the coffee. Even if they were yucky, it wouldn’t matter anyway because people pay for scenery rather than food quality in such places.
Honorable mention: the man with the chair
When traveling, I am like an ama (海女, “sea women”). The ama, a.k.a. women pearl divers, collect seafood and oysters. They sift through hundreds of pearl oysters to find the best quality pearl… and I visit dozens of places to find the highlight of my trip! Before going to the west coast, we stopped by Fukiage-hama. It was deserted—and you won’t be surprised to hear that if you have ever been to a beach in Japan.
One man was sitting in his folding chair and fishing. He existed there as if he were an extension of that beach and had no other worries. This view was the most peaceful thing I had seen on Awaji Island that day. Slowing down and just breathing without calculating your next step. What bliss! I am afraid you won’t be able to see the same thing, but who knows? You might find your own highlight when you visit Awaji Island next time!
I had thought about that man when watching the sunset, eating my pancakes, and returning home. Completely unaware of my thoughts, Takashi asked what my favorite place on Awaji Island was. He couldn’t believe the man with the chair was my favorite thing on Awaji Island. What can I say? I am a simple ninja with simple pleasures. I understand where he comes from, though. Imagine driving someone for many hours around an island only to hear that she enjoyed watching a man fishing!
Because I am also good at outwitting him and coming out smelling like a rose, I added, “You’d better get us two folding chairs so we can also chill on the beach!”
What kind of highlights do you focus on during your travels?
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