55mph - Roots. Vol.03
From Tokushima to Tosa
On the second evening of our 2,000 km journey on four bikes from Tokyo to Tosa in Kochi Prefecture and back, we were on the road from Tokushima and headed for Kochi City. The day’s route was a roughly 350 km ride from Kyoto down to Tosa and I thought things would be fine if we manage to get to our accommodation by nightfall. But after we crossed Awaji Island and entered Shikoku, our detour to see the udatsu-lined streets in the city of Mima in Tokushima Prefecture was more amazing than we had imagined and we ended up staying for much longer than planned.（ ▶Yamaha Journey - Roots. Vol.2）So with the sun falling, we still had close to 150 km to ride before reaching our hotel for the night. We went from expressway to expressway with the singular goal of getting to our destination, going from the Tokushima Expressway to the Kochi Expressway to cross the island, but by then the sun had already gone down and the temperature was falling quickly as well.
While I’ve personally been to Shikoku many times, it was actually my first time to visit Kochi Prefecture. That was largely why I didn’t have much sense of the distance we had to travel, but as we rode onward, I learned firsthand just how big Shikoku really is. Kochi Prefecture stretches out like the limbs of a bow to cover the southern part of the island and is the largest of the four prefectures on it. As we rode through the night for some two hours, I was thankful for the Tracer 9 GT’s standard heated grips and its cornering lights that illuminate the road ahead based on how far the bike is leaned over. We finally arrived at our lodgings for the night right by Tosa Bay.
Reconnecting with Roots in Nakamura
We woke up to fine weather again the next morning and from the window of my room, I could see the sea glittering as it reflected the rising sun. On this third day, we would ride about 100 km westward to Nakamura in the western part of Kochi Prefecture. This was the real destination of the trip. Roland ‘Rowly’ Kirishima had heard that one of his maternal ancestors was a samurai who once lived there, and wanting to visit the area was what sparked the idea for this trip. Now that Rowly and I are in our 50s, the calling within us to reconnect with our roots as well as “visit” the past lives Japanese people once led had grown stronger. Traveling to see and experience where Rowly’s roots lie was a large part of the thinking behind this tour to Shikoku.
The Shimanto River and Chinkabashi Bridges
We decided to ride upstream along the Shimanto River. This was something Reina and Tanya had asked to do on this trip to Kochi; they wanted to try crossing some of the region’s chinkabashi low-water bridges. These simple bridges are ready-made to be submerged should the river’s water level rise and they have no parapets, making it less likely for driftwood, earth, or sand to get caught on the bridge and cause it to collapse or otherwise block the flow of water. When bridge-building technology was less advanced, it was difficult to build a crossing that would not break should a river rise, so engineers instead opted to build a simple bridge at a lower height that was meant to be submerged. As technology advanced, these bridges were gradually replaced by strong modern bridges and have become rarer sights, but around 47 chinkabashi bridges like this remain along the Shimanto River and its tributaries as cultural landscape examples.
The road that went up along the Shimanto River was a beautiful winding road just as I had imagined. Small villages dot the riverside and we saw other chinkabashi bridges that people still use. I was sorely tempted to ride all the way to the headwaters of the 196 km river, but we unfortunately didn't have enough time for that. Instead, we crossed the 120 m Nagaoi chinkabashi bridge situated midstream, which was erected in 1960. Since it’s wide enough for cars to cross it at 2.8 m, I figured it would be quite easy to cross by motorcycle, but riding across a bridge without parapets certainly got the heart pumping. We took the photos we wanted on the bridge and turned around to ride back to Tosa.