May 6, 2017
I'm a strong believer that one of the best ways to travel is to do so without much of a plan, and with as little familiarity with a place as possible; that way you're not tied to the pressure of any schedule and you have complete freedom to discover and feel the atmosphere and charm of a place in real time without any concrete expectations.
My recent trip to Gogoshima happened without a map and with no plan in mind. There was of course a map at the ferry port laying out various points of interest around the island when I arrived, but I opted to ignore it, and aimlessly just turned right. I wanted my experience of the island to be as raw and as real as possible.
As I edged away from the port area I was greeted with a hearty "KONICHIWA" by an elderly lady as she made her exit from a small, independent convenience store (the kind that is decorated with rusting old Coca Cola signs). After greeting me the old lady disappeared into the old residential streets behind the store while singing to herself; something about the encounter told me that my visit to the island was going to be something special.
Gogoshima's proudest and most imposing sight is a mountain named Iyo Kofuji ( 'Little Fuji') by island locals. I couldn't offer the two hours needed to climb it, but I did want to create some time to appreciate it, so I set off on a path surrounded by greenery in the direction of its' base. The path took me through orange groves and various spots of abandoned farm land, before eventually placing me at the start of the forest covered pathway that led to the mountain's summit. The temptation to follow that path almost won me over, but knowing that I'd gain a better experience of the island with wanders around its streets and along its beaches, I resisted.
Back on the island's main road I passed by a couple of boys who were probably of Junior High School age carrying fishing rods. They too greeted me with a hearty " Konichiwa" in the same way that the old lady outside the convenience store had done earlier.
Five minutes later, I came to a deserted beach. Deciding to make it my lunch spot, I entered it via its small five step rocky stair case and laid down my bag and camera by a rock near the top of the beach. The temperature was about 25 degrees celsius with the sun beaming down hard. With it still being the first week of May the sea temperature wasn't yet warm enough for swimming, but it was perfect for some obligatory toe dipping.
I strolled back and forth along the shore line a few times before returning to the rock where I'd laid down my stuff a short time earlier, and after making a makeshift mat from a plastic bag leaned back, switched on some music and ate lunch. A little bit later I pulled out my book; after reading through just one chapter, I decided to close it in favor of just lying back on the soft and appreciating the sound of the ocean and the feeling of the sun on my face. It wasn't long before I drifted off into a short power nap.
I could easily have stayed that way for the remainder of the afternoon, but I still wanted to explore more things on the island, so I switched on some music again and headed back on to the main road and back towards port. En route I came across an old stone built stair case. I knew from the little bit of pre-trip research that I'd done that the island was home to a number of view points with amazing views of the Seto inland sea; thinking it might be one of them I climbed the staircase, and soon realised that it led to the entrance of a small bamboo forest. Although heavily overgrown, a sloped, rocky path was still visible; I followed it as far as I could before the over grow made it impossible to carry on any further.
My final track of exploration took me through one of the islands winding, small villages lined with a combination of random patches of farm land, old wooden houses and aging, abandoned buildings. With every turn I could feel how the villages tiny streets and alleyways embraced the spirit and the atmosphere of the island. The simple, but majestic signs of everyday island life were everywhere: from the sounds of people's TV's, laughter and chatter beaming out through house windows to fishing and farming equipment tidily placed and stacked up outside people's homes; I felt like I was really being given a glimpse into everyday life on Gogoshima, and that together with everything else I'd experienced and discovered on the island that day made my aimless approach to my visit better than worthwhile.
Getting there: Gogoshima is served by two ports, Tomari and Yura - both of which can be accessed by ferry from Takahama port, which is located 20 minutes outside of Matsuyama city on the Iyotestu train line.
Adults: ¥260 (one way)
Children: ¥160 (one way)
Note: tickets for Gogoshima are sold on ship; the ticket office at Takahama port is for tickets to Nakajima and other nearby islands.
I always start the journey without a plan. :) I like your post.
That beach looks really nice. Always nice to find places like this. The joys of travelling without a plan, I guess. I'd never heard of Gogoshima so it was interesting to read your post.