Location: Awaji-shima, Japan
Link: No link
Description: Between two of the four main islands of Japan, the moderately-sized island of Awaji-shima is traversed by the highway link between Kobe and Shikoku. It was on a solo trip through the country last year, just a few days after quitting my day job for an unknown future, that I decided to visit the very remote Shikoku via Awaji-shima. After a full day of sightseeing in Kobe, I departed for the island by bus. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants traveler, and up until this point I always managed to get by fine without making hotel reservations in advance...
I arrived on the island in the evening, and as I went for my cellphone to start calling around for a place to stay, I realized that it was out of battery power. No problem; I walked to a nearby grocery store to find a charging station, such as is common in Japan. Except, none of the stations matched my out-model phone, a rental.
Still optimistic, I found my way to Softbank, my service carrier, hoping to simply use their electrical outlet. Instead, the young women who worked there (and were, incidentally, right about to close up shop), took up my cause and called every single hotel, inn, bed and breakfast and hostel on the island without uncovering a single vacancy.
Since I had long missed the last bus off of the island, I thought I was either going to sleep on the beach, or shell out hundreds of dollars for a cab back to the metropolis of Kobe. I was stunned and grateful when one of the staff who had been helping me called her grandmother, who had a big house inland, and offered to drive me to stay there overnight. I took her up on the offer, and after a 30 minute car ride was treated to ripe peaches and tea in an old style tatami room, before the kind grandmother and granddaughter left me to sleep.
In the morning, I discovered a beautiful white sand beach at the foot of Mount Mikuma. I hiked the mountain through dense and deafeningly cacophonous forest, to the ruins of Sumoto Castle. Next to the castle was a shaved ice stand and concession hut, and I enjoyed a strawberry ice with the view and my book.
I visited many places on that trip to Japan, both rural and urban, but I'll never forget that Softbank sales associate, her grandmother, the peaches, that noisy mountain and crumbling castle, and the strawberry shaved ice.