Kure to Etajima

(49 KMs)

Thursday 2nd November

Kure - Etajima

The warships of Kure

Despite the signs requesting guests to not make noise after midnight, the hostel was quiet and we slept reasonably well,  As always, I had added an extra futon but Simon slept on one and he found this one particularly firm.

There were a couple of girls using the kitchen when we went to make breakfast so we adjourned to the living room.  We packed the bikes and were about to leave when the owner appeared and wanted to take our photo.  She confirmed that the main road route Simon had planned was the best one to take to the Yamato Museum (Kure’s Maritime Museum).  It included a 2km tunnel which had a completely separated cycle/pedestrian path and was also relatively soundproof so it was an unexpectedly pleasant cycle into the city. 

We parked our bikes opposite a real submarine which we planned to visit later. Our Museum ticket included a special exhibition on Imperial Japanese Navy and Aircraft Carriers.  Fortunately there was audio in English and we learnt how the Imperial Japanese Navy focused on building aircraft carriers and the role they played in naval operations and the battles of the Pacific War.  There was also information on the structure of aircraft carriers though I quickly reached saturation point on aircraft carrier blueprints. 

The main Museum exhibits focused on the history of Kure as a naval port city that built the battleship Yamato which was the largest battleship of its time and was displayed as a one-tenth scale model.  It seems that the Yamato achieved little during its career and was sacrificed towards the end of World War II on a kamikaze mission and there were notes left behind by the crew who embarked on the suicide mission.  There was also displays on life in Kure during the war and the role Kure residents played following the bombing of Hiroshima. Kure continues to be a major ship building city and also hosts a US army garrison which we passed on our way out of the city.

Keen for the opportunity to explore a real life submarine, we visited the Whale of Iron Museum.  We skimmed through the displays on minesweeping and the history of submarines.  Finally we entered the Akishio submarine and made our way through its narrow passageways past the crew’s eating and sleeping areas then the slightly more spacious area for the officers and captain.  There was a security guard in the control room and he encouraged us to look through the periscope and for Simon to sit in the helmsman’s chair and indicated the best way to take the photo.  Another happy snap of Simon in the driver’s seat. 

Back on the bikes, we headed to Art Museum street (Bijutsukan-Dori) that was selected as one of Japan’s best 100 streets in 1987.  The tree-lined street included 17 sculptures along its length, a variety of manhole covers and the leaves on the trees were just starting to change colour.  We were thinking about an early lunch and spotted Cafe the Bricks, which we thought looked a likely spot.  As we were parking our bikes, a lady approached us and said that she was a Ikebana teacher and recommended the cafe as a good place to eat, and that it was famous for serving food that is good for the soul.  She beckoned me to come with her to see the ikabana display that she had completed for the cafe the day before.  She introduced me to the Master of the cafe and recommended that we try the one plate lunch for vegetable lovers with natural yeast bread, salad, small side dish, soup and sausage etc.  I requested the lunch for two and she corrected my Japanese pronunciation and had me repeat it so I was correct.  She then congratulated me on my excellent Japanese.

The Master gave me a copy of a newsletter that featured his daughter and some of her work that was on display in the cafe based on “Yabu”. These are unique to the Kure region and appear at the Autumn Festival held at shrine from late September to early November wearing flashy yellow, red and treen costumes and demon masks.  The only one on display cost $60 which was a little pricy for a miniature model.  However, lunch was delicious and definitely food for our souls.

We made our way out of Kure along the docks and past the American garrison up to the red Ondo bridge.  The coastal road took us past oyster farms and fishing hamlets till we reached the Hayase Bridge that looked onto the rooftops of Ondocho Hayase. We soon found a spot for afternoon tea and tried a Japanese-style lemon parfait that included mousse, icecream and crushed biscuits.  We also had a cup of tea and our bakery treats so we well fuelled for our last 15 kilometres to Uminos Spa and Resort, located right on the beach. 

I checked us in using my limitedJapanese as the desk agent spoke no English and we laughed a lot at my bad attempts and his efforts on google translate.  He came down to show us where to leave the bikes.  We headed almost immediately to the baths which looked out over the sea and the setting sun.  I spent a while in the bath and the sauna and was most relaxed by the time we went down for dinner.  We had ordered the seafood and wagyu steak BBQ which we had to cook ourselves.  Simon did an admirable job on the BBQ and we enjoyed the scallops, prawns, fish, squid and different veggies.  I got to eat both of the oysters as Simon doesn’t like them,  We needed help extracting the meat from what appeared to be a sea snail and decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  The wagyu beef was lovely and tender - though pretty fatty.  We retired to our room for tea and chocolate and listened to the sound of the sea.