Yesterday’s foot bath (photo)

On our way out of the hotel this morning I took this photo, so you can see exactly what my brother and I were sitting with our feet in yesterday. As you can see they provide the towels too. A great form of relaxation after a day's walking!

Small croissant breakfast

As part of the reduced-food course we had booked at the ryokan in Kotohira, we were only expecting something like a single croissant and coffee for breakfast this morning. Instead we were presented with this - a tray including some orange segments, a salad, juice and two warm croissants. Butter and jam were also provided of course. Lovely!

I don't have anything but good things to say about this ryokan. We'd definitely love to go back at some point, and also take the opportunity of having more free time in which to climb the 1,368 steps up to Kompira shrine.

My brother didn't want to leave the breakfast table without leaving behind a present, and in his inimitable style this was an origami chicken made from his napkin. I'm sure the waiter appreciated it and had a laugh (assuming he could figure out what it was).

You call this a reduced-food dinner?!

After enjoying our earlier pre-dinner udon, we returned to the hotel for our "reduced-food" dinner course. We were certainly not expecting what we ended up with! The five courses we were given were:

- Appetisers (including jellyfish - in the tiny flower-shaped bowl on the right)
- Sashimi (including sea urchin, raw prawn, turban shell [栄螺/サザエ], flounder, scallops, yellowtail, sea bream)
- Beef and Matsutake mushroom (cooked ourselves over a flame)
- Miso soup
- Swiss roll and kiwi fruit

We were completely stuffed after this. All we could do was have a quick rest, and then go for a long soak in the ryokan's onsen. This was so clean and the indoor and outdoor baths were an absolutely perfect temperature (my guess 41 degrees).

Yamashita’s famously tasty udon in Kotohira, Shikoku

The part of the Japanese road trip with my brother I was most looking forward to was the two-day drive through Shikoku, well known for its udon. I love udon and for the last couple of years - I think since watching the Japanese film 'Udon' - I've wanted to visit Shikoku and eat Sanuki udon.

We'd booked to stay in the well-known (and expensive) Kotohira Kadan, a top-class ryokan, and one of the ways of reducing the price (as you pay per person, not per room), and at the same time experiencing some of the local udon, was to take a "reduced-food" course. In addition to this reduced dinner at the ryokan, we were also each given a ticket (photo two) which could be exchanged for a bowl of udon at one of a couple of the local udon restaurants.

We went for 山下うどん (Yamashita Udon), which was about a ten-minute drive from the ryokan. And it was fantastic. The udon were quite chewy and obviously home-made (in a good way). Unlike our lunch earlier they aren't going for completely-smooth seemingly Sanuki-style udon, but instead the taste was much more preferable to me; I do like firm noodles!

The first photo shows my choice of the きつね (named for the sweetened fried tofu served on top of the udon) ready to eat once the sauce was poured on. The third photo shows the bottles of cold and hot sauce the staff brought to our table, along with the stub of fresh ginger they provided for us to grate for ourselves. Finally the last photo shows my brother's (meat topping) udon. Yum!

After finishing, I had enjoyed my udon so much that I ordered another きつね. It should be pointed out that these bowls of udon were considered their 'small' size (they also had 'large'), and cost just 350 yen each (about £2.30). Amazingly cheap and so very delicious!

Sitting overlooking Kotohira and Mt. Sanuki-Fuji

Feet in a hot foot bath. So very relaxing!