Maddening Matsuyama

Getting out of Miyajima and going to our next destination proved to be quite the hassle. Since it was the Obon holiday season, a huge travel time in Japan, Jeff and I got up early and got to the dock at about 8 a.m. to buy tickets. But, of course the ticket office and information office were both closed. We spent a while communicating with the agents at another ticket office, and found that tickets were going to be about $160 to get to Matsuyama. Considering the journey takes just two ferries, we felt a little ripped off. Complicating matters was that we didn’t have that much cash, and though I have a credit card for emergencies, few places take credit in Japan. So, I walked across the island searching for an ATM, and found only the post office, which opens at 9 a.m., coincidentally the same time as the first ferry left the island, so I walked back to the ticket office, hoping it’d be open. At about 9 a.m., the ticket office still hadn’t opened, so I went to the information center to ask why the first ferry was scheduled to leave before the office opened. The girls there were very confused, called a few people, and informed me that the ticket office was open already. Of course, having sat outside the office for an hour already, I told them sharply that it was not open, and then left. At about 9:30 a.m. a man showed up on his bike and opened the ticket office, but told us the first ferry left at 10 a.m.. When we asked if they accepted VISA, he said “NO, NO, NO” and then sort of laughed like we were idiots, so I walked back across the island, got money, and came back. By this time, two very polite and helpful ladies were working in the ticket office while Mr. Lazybones sat in the back. We got our expensive tickets, got on the ferry and grumped for a few hours.

Once in Matsuyama, we went to the information counter to find out about transportation methods into the city. Sadly, the desk was closed for a break, so we parked ourselves and waited. About ten minutes later, the man came back, and told us that we’d missed the only direct bus going to our destination, which left right when he had been on break. Jeff sort of imploded at that moment, since the next bus was in an hour. But, we took a few buses and subways and finally made it, all before lunch. We grabbed some cheap Japanese curry, stowed our bags in some lockers, and went out sightseeing until our hostel opened.

The main (only) thing to do in Matsuyama is see the castle and take mineral baths. We opted for the castle, which was actually really neat.

The castle is in the middle of the city, on a tall hill, so we rode a tram to the top, where there were views of the whole city. The castle was originally built in 1603, and wasn’t so much a residential castle as one for defense. We toured the interior, where there were exhibits of samurai armor, weapons and art objects from the castle, as well as a history of the castle.

It was blazing hot, but for the ride down we skipped the tram and took the ski lift, because it just looked too silly. As it turned out, it was much more comfortable than the tram anyway!

We grabbed our bags and headed to the hostel, which we had a hard time finding. By the time we were settled, we had very little cash, as the hostel was cash-only and cleaned out what we had after buying our ferry tickets. Of course, there were no international ATMs to be found, so we spent a while looking for a restaurant that accepted VISA, while Jeff declared that he really disliked Matsuyama.

The other big thing to do in Matsuyama is visit the famous public baths there, but having no money, we opted for the free hostel showers instead. We weren’t too bummed either, because when something like that gets famous, it seems the service inevitably goes down, and other travelers confirmed our suspicions.

The hostel may have been my least favorite hostel, including Chinese hostels. Of course, the hostel shower just had to be absolutely ghastly, even after a day spent sweating in the 100 degree heat. It was actually worse than my crazy water heater in Beijing, and may have been the worst shower I’ve ever taken. For starters, the shower water worked like a park bathroom sink — every time you pushed the button, the water lasted for 20 seconds. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that the water never got hot. Oh well, I got clean in the end, and the cold water was refreshing. I went to sleep at about 11 p.m., as did the other two girls in my room. However, a fourth girl came in at about midnight, and rustled around with her bags and went in and out of the room until about 1:30 a.m. Then, the same girl’s phone alarm went off at 5:10 a.m., and she continued snoozing it and letting it go off every ten minutes until at least 6:30 a.m., when I left the room. I guess she is NOT familiar with hostel etiquette or the dangers of provoking strangers who may or may not have weapons under their pillows.

At any rate, Jeff and blew out of town, fully ready for a slightly better travel day elsewhere. Perhaps somewhere with ATMS…