With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Camp Bad Luck

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 19, 2014

August 4-7 & August 25 – September 2, 2014

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.   Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Gonokawa Canoe Park Sakugi
(江の川カヌー公園さくぎ)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°50’21.4″N 132°43’20.0″E

Address:

116 Sakugichokoyodo
Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture 728-0131
Japan

Phone:

  • +81 824-55-7050

Websites:

Cost:

  • Autocamping
    • ¥1,000 per site (This is a flat rate. It doesn’t matter how many people are staying in the tent.)
    • Comes with an electrical outlet with 2 sockets.
  • Regular Camping
    • ¥500 per site (This is a flat rate. It doesn’t matter how many people are staying in the tent.)
    • No electrical outlets.
    • This area tends to flood in the rainy season.
  • Showers
    • ¥100 with no time limit

Hours:

  • Reception is open 8:30 to 18:00
  • Showers available 8:30 to 18:00
  • Check in\out 15:00/14:00

Notes:

  • There are coin washing machines, but I don’t know how much they cost.
  • There is an overpriced restaurant and a small shop to buy a few things.
  • There are cabins available, but I don’t know how much they cost.

Map:


Our tarp badly assembled

Camping Trip #1: Schedule Camping – August 4 to 6.

The link above will play the Law & Order sound effect. I put it there because that is how traumatic this trip and the next one was. But before I go into my story I just need to clarify one thing.

The Gonokawa Canoe Park in Sakugi is a great place to go camping, swimming, and canoeing. (I guess; I never tried the canoeing.) I would recommend this place without hesitation. It’s just that I personally never want to go back. Mark and I just had too many bad things happen to us there. I almost died! But other than that, it’s great!

It’s just us!

Monday August 4

Before we booked the campsite we checked the weather report. It said there would be rain on Monday, but nothing but sunshine the rest of the week. We packed up all our stuff and headed to the campsite on Monday.

We were not surprised to see no one else there. Like I said, it was to rain on Monday. The guy who showed us to our spot told me that the place would get very crowded on Tuesday. We were placed in the lot farthest from the bathrooms because all the other lots were reserved for the next day.

Although it hadn’t started to rain when we first arrived, it looked like it would soon. So, Mark and I quickly put up our tent. We got it up in time to have it shelter us from the rain. We had a barbeque and just as we were done, the rain stopped.

It wasn’t quite hot enough to go swimming, but it also wasn’t quite cold enough to not go swimming. So, we went swimming. There was a path that went up towards the mountain. The water flowed down this path with several pools or steps along the way. The path ended at the campsite and emptied into the river.

This placed seemed so perfect. All we needed now was for it to be hot and sunny the next day so we could follow the path as far as it went of the mountain. As for that day, it was getting dark and we were getting cold. We headed back to camp, put on dry clothes, and slept during the rainy night dreaming of clear skies that would never come.

As dry as it gets

Tuesday August 5

The next day everything was damp. The whole night it was either raining or drizzling. I hoped that the sun would come out and dry everything out. I looked up at the sky. There was not an inch of sky to be seen, just a huge blanket of fluffy cloud covering everything.

By noon the rain and drizzling stopped. Even though there was still no sun, I put everything out to dry. There was a strong breeze blowing that would dry our stuff. I clamped, clipped, and weighed everything down in the wind. After a few hours, everything was dry. I took in all the stuff in time to save them when it started to rain again.

Bacon and Asparagus

We also took down our tarp and put it back up correctly. This made all the difference. We stayed drier through lunch and dinner. We sat under the tarp all afternoon enjoying the time despite the rain, but wanting the rain to stop so we could go explore the water trail.

But we were okay with another rainy day. We still had hopes for sunshine that Wednesday. As we ate dinner it started to rain harder, but we did not notice. The tarp kept us nicely dry and the picnic blanket is waterproof on the bottom. So we did not notice the flooding around us, until one of us had to use the bathroom.

“No big deal,” we thought. We just put everything in waterproof containers or on the table under the tarp. Then we went into the tent. It was a bit early to go to bed, but it was getting cold outside.

In the tent the flooding was even more noticeable. The tent itself was dry, but we could feel the water under the tent. It felt like we were walking on a waterbed. This still did not bother us. We got into bed and tried to sleep.

Then, I felt it. It was a drip on my head, then another. I looked up. Mark felt it too. “Are we leaking?” I asked Mark.

“No, the water is coming down so hard, it makes the fly touch the tent.”

Inside a tent on a rainy day, you will have condensation on the underside of your fly. If the tent is put up correctly and your tent and fly are not touching, the water will roll down the fly and fall outside the tent. If your fly and your tent are touching, it will start to rain inside your tent. That is what happened to us.

This was a big deal. I hate being cold and wet while I sleep. I can take one or the other, but not both. Then Mark came up with a genius plan. “Let’s just go home, sleep in our bed, and come back tomorrow when everything has dried out.” You see, we still thought that the sun would come out the next day.

The drive back home was almost impossible. We could not see very far ahead of us. I think it started to rain harder and harder. A semi passed us going the opposite direction and nearly washed us out to sea in it’s wake. But, we did get home safely. We dried off and went to bed.

It was drier than we expected inside the tent.

Wednesday August 6: Take the Weather with You

Mark and I woke up early the next morning. We lay in bed listening to the heavy down pour outside. Six o’clock turned to seven o’clock then eight and nine, still the rain didn’t let up. Around ten that morning we decided to just go to the campsite, get our things, and cancel our last camping night.

When we went outside we saw that the drains on the sides of the streets were flooded. Here in Japan the drains are deep, wide ditches of death. If you drive too close to one and fall in, well… that would be the end of your car. Honestly, I don’t know why no one covers them up with a grate or something.

We got to the campsite to find the swimming area completely flooded. The cheaper camping spots, the ones with no electricity, were underwater. If we had been camping there all our stuff would have been washed away. We had no problems getting a full refund for the remainder of our stay.

We packed up our camping gear and dried them out at home. This was easy to do, because once our tent went down, it stopped raining. The next day the sun shone lovingly on the dry earth. It was perfect camping weather. I cursed the sun all that day.

The trees by the river side are completely under water.

Instead of going straight home we stopped at a sushi place for lunch. On our way there, we thought we’d have a look at our own river that is not too far from our home. This is where I exercise every morning. Well, you can’t see where I walk because that path is underwater. There are also trees and a little island that you also cannot see.

Sushi makes everything better.

One of Mark’s coworkers told him about a farmer who chased after his pregnant cow as she floated down this river for miles. The cow fell into the river and got washed away. The farmer and a couple of firefighters worked for hours trying to get the cow back on land. The cow and calf are fine now.

Should the clouds be this close to land?

Camping Trip #2: Schedule Camping – August 25 to 28.

Another Monday, a few weeks later, we tried it again. Despite the rain, the campsite seem really nice and we still had not explored that water trail up the mountain. We knew that it would rain on Monday, the day we were to begin our stay, but by Tuesday there would be clear skies and sunshine.

We stopped off at Yumeland Funo for some locally grown vegetables and carrot ice cream. Yumeland is known for its unusual flavors of ice cream. So far I’ve tried: asparagus, tomato, carrot, and almond. Carrot and almond are the only flavors I would try again.

We did manage to get to the campsite and set up the tent and tarp just before the rain started. It wasn’t heavy rain this time. In fact there were enough pauses in the showers that we were able to use the bathroom throughout the day without getting wet. After the last rain camping experience, this was downright pleasant!

Butterfly dancing near Mark’s foot

Sunshine and a Butterfly

The next day around 14:00 the rain stopped and the sun came out. I hung everything that was wet out to dry. Once everything was dry Mark and I relaxed under the tarp. Along came a butterfly and it flew around our camp; a good omen. It seemed like it was going to be a great camping trip.

After dinner I wanted to get something cold to drink from the nearest vending machines. so, Mark and I took the path along the road towards the main building of the camp. This was a paved road where cars drive, not a trail. There was a spot on the road between two street lights where we could see out to where we were going, but not down where we were stepping.

I was wearing flip-flops and I felt two simultaneous pricks on my foot. At first I thought I had stepped on something, but the wound was not on the bottom of my foot. It was on the top. I turned on my flashlight to see a snake slithering away. I told Mark that I might have been bitten by a snake.

At first he thought I was joking. I shone the flashlight on the snake as it slithered away. “Are you sure it bit you?” Then I aimed the light on my foot. Sure enough, there were two puncture wounds on my foot. “It was either a snake or a really short vampire…”

I turned around to continue to the vending machine. “Where are you going?” Mark asked. “Go to the car!” He ran to the campsite. I was surprised at how much pain I was not in. It felt like I was bitten, but that was all. I don’t know what I expected being poisoned by a snake would feel like, but I felt fine. No foaming at the mouth, no fever, no seizures. Or maybe that’s for rabies.

Mark was in the Boy Scouts as a kid so I asked him what he knew about snakes. “Did that snake look venomous?” “I have no idea,” he said, “I learned about snakes in Michigan, not about Japanese snakes.” “Well then, what did you learn about treating a snake bite?” I was expecting advice like, “suck out the venom,” “pour hot water on the wound,” or “drink this magic potion.”

But instead Mark said, “They taught us to get the person to the hospital as soon as possible.” So, that’s what we did. Mark drove as fast as he could on the road. We ran a couple red lights after stopping to make sure nothing was coming. I sat in the car wondering what would happen to me. Was I going to die? Was I going to lose my leg? I wasn’t in any serious pain, so I figured that maybe I’d be okay.

We got the the emergency room and I walked in while Mark parked the car. There were two nurses talking behind the admittance counter. “Snake bite!” I said. “Hebi!” The nurses looked at each other in amazement. “Hebi?” they said. Now, my Japanese isn’t that great. I know the word for “snake” and the word for “shrimp”. One is “hebi” the other is “ebi”. Because of their slow reactions I began to worry that I had just walked into this emergency room and announced that I was bitten by a shrimp.

The nurses slowly made their way around to where I was standing. They had collected about 3 doctors on their walk towards me. Now my foot was beginning to hurt. I could see the horror on the doctor’s faces and they muttered things to themselves in Japanese. “Oh shit, this is serious,” I began to think.

I could no longer stand up. My legs started to give out as a doctor poked at my foot. As I was going down I felt some hands guiding me and I landed in a wheelchair. Right on cue, Mark came in. Suddenly it became an emergency and I was being wheeled to a back room at top speed. I almost expected to hear someone yell, “stat!”

We got to some other area of the emergency room. There was another patient laying in a bed with several IVs in his arm. As they pulled the curtains to give him privacy, I wondered which one of us was in the worse situation.

Before anything else happen a nurse came it to start me on an IV drip. I guessed that every patient got one. She asked, miming, if I was left or right-handed. I’m right-handed, so she put the needle in my left arm. Well, actually it went into the back of my left hand. Fun, right?

No one spoke English and neither Mark nor I knew the Japanese words for this situation. I had many bug bites all along my legs and the nurse asked me about them. “Mushi” I told her. “Bugs.” I focused on the bug bites. They grew increasingly itchy. In fact the more nervous and scared I got the itchier those bug bites were. The pain in my foot felt like nothing compared to those bug bites.

A doctor came in and asked a couple questions in Japanese, but we could not answer him. He stood there repeating his questions in Japanese at various speeds and with different gestures, but I was too freaked out to communicate with him.

An older doctor walked in the room. He pulled up a chair near my foot and stuck it with a needle then he looked at me. He said nothing. I looked at him looking at me. After a while he opened a package that had a scalpel inside. “Jesus Christ, Mark, what is he going to do with that!?” I tried to get him to stop. “Let’s talk about this first!” But the doctor paid me no mind. I pulled back my foot, but he held on to it with a very strong grip.

“Look at me,” Mark said. He held my face in place so I could not look at the doctor. “What is he doing!?” I thought that maybe he was cutting out a huge chunk of  my foot to get the poison out. I had no idea what was going on. My view of my foot was blocked by a sheet or towel and it was numb so I could not see or feel anything. “I don’t know what he’s doing, but he is a doctor and he is doing what needs to be done,” Mark reassured me.

I felt nothing from the bite on my foot, but my toes were really itchy. My legs were itchy. My arms, head, face… everything was itchy. I pleaded with the doctor to give me my foot back so I could scratch my toes. I scratched at my arms and legs like a crazy person.

My foot shortly after getting to the ICU

The doctor put a simple bandage on my foot and left. The other doctor stood there ready to ask his questions again. This time he tried to speak in English.

“Hospital…” He said this word a couple times and mumbled for about 2 minutes. “Another…” Again there was a couple minutes of mumbling. “I think they want to take you to another hospital, Josie,” Mark said solemnly. Is it that bad? I cannot be treated here… I have to go to a special snake bite hospital!?

“Will I lose the leg?” I asked the doctor. He looked at me and smiled. “Yes,” he said confidently. “Yes!”

“Will I die?”

Not skipping a beat or noticing the fear in my voice, he showered me with yeses. I looked at Mark. “He says I’m going to die!”

“I don’t think this guy even understood what you asked him. Even the most stupid doctor would not smile and tell a patient she is going to die. I think that his smile means you’ll be okay.”

The nurse waved at me to get my attention. I think she realized that whatever the younger doctor was doing was freaking me out, so she wanted me to ignore him. She held up a bag filled with little bottles and a giant syringe. I let out a gasp imagining the size of the needle that would go to the syringe. The nurse waved her hands as if to say, “No. No needle.” Then she pointed to the IV tubes to show that the syringe would go in there.

4 extra ports for all sorts of drugs!

Then she put her syringe cocktail together. Every time I looked at the younger doctor, she waved at me to look at her. She held up the syringe with everything mixed inside it and said something in Japanese. She spoke slowly, clearly, and repeated herself 3 times. “Hebi no blah blah blah desu.” It was something for the snake poison. It went into one of the many ports along the IV line.

Then the nurse pulled out a picture book. She opened to a page and pointed to a drawing. There was a gender neutral humanoid with welts all over it’s body scratching itself. The caption said, “My body is itchy.” “Hai, so desu!” I replied.

The nurse turned around and picked up an IV bag from her cart. She showed it to me and put it back. Then opened her book again and gave it to me pointing to a phrase. “Anti-itch.” She hung the bag from my IV pole and attached it to an IV port. I felt better instantly. No more itching.

Then she showed me another IV bag. This one had English written on the bag itself. She showed me the English writing. It said “antibiotic”. I nodded, “okay” and she hung that one to the IV pole and attached to the IV port like she did with the other bag. She also added another bag of steroids to the pole and port. That IV stand had a lot hanging from it.

I wanted to relax, but I was worried about this “another hospital” that might happen. I was physically shaking. The nurse asked if I was cold. I was not. I was just scared and I didn’t know what would happen next.

Then another nurse came in. I had met her before. She lived in Seattle and spoke English very close to perfectly. I was so happy to see her.

“How are you?” I asked her. She laughed and said she was fine and working the night shift tonight. “How are you, Josie?”

“Oh fine,” I said. “Well, not so fine. I got bitten by a snake…”

She did some translating and cleared up all the miscommunications.

1. I would not be going to another hospital. I would be going to another floor in this hospital, the ICU.

2. I would not lose my leg, though I would lose function of it for a few days… or weeks.

3. I would die, but not because of this. Unless, of course, I were a Highlander or a vampire. (My grandmother was from Scotland, so I might be a Highlander afterall.)

On the bright side, you get to lay in bed all day for a couple weeks!

Double Vision

The Seattle nurse helped Mark fill out the paperwork to get me checked into the hospital and help take me up the the ICU. Was I so sick I had to go to the ICU? Apparently, yes. I spent a whole week there. Every morning I had blood tests and my urine was closely monitored. I was kept on IV drips the whole time and I went through many bags of antibiotics each day.

From my symptoms and other tests that they did, the doctors knew that I was bitten by a mamushi, a type of Japanese pit viper. There was antivenom for the snake bite. The doctor did not give this to me. He said that the side-effects of the antivenom were, “undesirable.” He did not elaborate on this. Instead I was treated with continuous IV drips and made to pee a lot. This was to flush out the toxins. The medical staff was concerned for my liver, but mostly for my kidneys. My urine was checked often for blood.

I don’t know the difference between the last two on the list. Though, I always picked the first because it was spelled correctly.

My first hours in the ICU my foot was swollen and I was asked each hour about a list of symptoms. They would ask if I had double vision. After responding no, I would get a, “Are you sure? Try. Don’t you see two of things?” This was done in Japanese of course, but I could tell, they were expecting this symptom and they wanted me to get on with it.

About 4 hours after being bitten, my vision did indeed become doubled. I felt like those drunk cartoon characters, except shaking my head did not bring back my regular sight. For the next few weeks my right eye was lazy and just could not keep up with my other eye. I looked cross-eyed. Even now, as I write this 3 weeks after the bite, my eyes still do not work as they did and I get headaches when I read for too long.

The leg pain started right after I got to the ICU. After a few hours, my swollen foot became a swollen leg. I was given drugs for that, but the pain continued. I was told that I could not get any more drugs until six the next morning. After that I was given drugs twice a day for the next 2 weeks, and that kept me pretty pain-free. I found that as long as I didn’t move my leg, it did not hurt.

This meant that I was stuck in bed. The nurses put a potty in my room so I would not have to walk all the way down the hall to do my business. But, even using the potty next to my bed was too much work for me. I had to keep my leg vertical. Sitting up with my left leg dangling down would cause more pain that I could bare. So, it was bed pans for me.

At first this was so hard to do. I could get in position, pull down my own shorts, and hoist my butt up so someone could slide the bedpan under me. The nurse or Mark would then put a towel over me to give me some ounce of privacy. But then I would just lay there for minutes trying to start.

Sometimes the nurse left the room and that made it a bit easier. But peeing in bed was hard. As a kid, I was a bedwetter. When I was young, I wanted more than almost anything to not pee the bed. As an adult, peeing in bed, even while using a bedpan, felt like I was going against nature, god, democracy, and all that was decent. Several times Mark had to turn on the faucet in the room to get me going. I did not like it one bit!

triple drip action

Soon after my vision went, the nausea kicked in. I felt sick all over. My muscles were sore. I was tired. My leg hurt. I started to keep my eyes closed. That first night in the ICU, Mark spent the whole night in an uncomfortable chair next to my bed. He helped me when I needed to use the bathroom and tried to keep me comfortable, reassured. and entertained.

The next morning they brought me food. I didn’t even look at it; not that I would have seen it if I did. My vision was very bad and I was still very nauseous. Just smelling the food, made me feel sicker. I asked for the food to be taken away. Mark stayed until I fell asleep again, then he went back to the campsite to pack up our stuff.

a little water weight

He came back in time for lunch. By then my thigh was also swollen, stiff, and I could not move it without horrible pain. Keeping still was the best thing, along with keeping my eyes shut. Mark tried to feed me some of the lunch I was given, but I really had no interest in it. I just wanted sleep and drugs… sweet, sweet drugs.

That afternoon I was officially told that I would have to stay in the ICU for at least a week. Before this news there was hope that the poison wasn’t affecting me too badly and I would be sent home after 24 hours. But the blood work showed that I was getting worse, not better. This meant that my leg would get even bigger, my vision would get a lot worse, and it would be about a week, before I could pee without a small audience. (The peeing thing bugged me the most.)

I never noticed how delicious hospital food was…

By the evening on the first day of my stay my nausea had stopped. I was so hungry. I hadn’t eaten all day. I was lucky that on the day I had my biggest appetite, the hospital served its finest meal. It was the best dish I had ever been served in a hospital. Of course that doesn’t really mean much.

I remember my first ever hospital meal. I was 8 years old and stayed four days in the hospital for a concussion. I was a little daredevil and my best trick on a merry-go-round went horribly wrong at school. I didn’t eat my first day and a half because I kept throwing up. But once I stopped, my doctor wanted me to eat something.

She told me that I could eat or not eat anything on the tray I wanted and it didn’t matter what order I went in. “I could have dessert first!?” I asked her. I could. I dived into the dessert which was a corn bread. It was dry and had a sticky sugary film on top. I hated it. How does anyone mess up dessert?

I tried the meat. It was liver and I had never had liver before. My mother grew up in a very poor family, so as an adult she refused to make dishes she thought of as non-delicious things only really poor people would have to eat. It tasted like filth that needed salt. But it was slightly better than the vegetables which were canned string beans.

I chose not to eat anything else while I was in the hospital. The doctor did tell me that I didn’t have to eat anything if I didn’t want to. Of course she was just talking about the first meal, but I took it as a rule for life in general. I had an IV line and my mom brought me fruit, sandwiches, and juice boxes. Plus, I didn’t tell anyone then, but my roommates parents snuck in McDonald’s for her every night and they always brought me fries, McNuggets, and a strawberry shake.

Standard Breakfast

Breakfast was always miso soup, rice, some vegetable, and a juice box of milk. I was asked if I wanted bread instead of rice. I chose rice.

The last time I was in the hospital in Japan I made the mistake of picking bread. Every morning I got a steamed slice of white bread in saran wrap. If I didn’t open the bread right away because I was in the bathroom or asleep when they placed the tray at my bed, the bread would be too soggy to eat.

There was a toaster many of the patients used to toast their soggy bread. But that required being mobile enough to walk to the common area on your own while holding your bread. I just could not pull that off, so after a few days I asked to switch to rice.

My meal

The meals come with a little slip of paper with information. On top is the date and my name. On the side is what ward I’m staying in and how many calories the meal has. It was always around 6~700 kcal per meal. Then it listed to stuff on the tray and this list always started with rice.

The food isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. It’s adequate. But, it only takes a few days to become totally sick of it. I had cravings for spicy food, cheese, and whole fruits. You would get fruit in the hospital, but it was like a segment of an orange or a wedge of an apple.

The second night I made Mark get me “stuff to eat!” He came back with eclairs, potato chips, and chocolate cookies. “No. I didn’t ask for a snack. I wanted something to eat.” I sent him back out into the night to get me spaghetti. I ate it lustfully. I ate until I felt stuffed and handed the rest to Mark.

“You sent me out twice to get you food and you barely touched it?”

I looked at the bowl of convenience store pasta. He was right, I hadn’t eaten much. But it felt like I ate so much more. I must have been really sick.

View out of my window

You’ve peaked

On Friday, my 3rd morning in the ICU, the doctor announced that I had “passed the peak of venom” in my blood. For here on out, my symptoms would decrease and over the next few months I would go back to normal. He also told me that there would no longer be any daily blood tests.

I sat in anticipation of him telling me I could go home, but that did not happen. I was to have at least one more blood test on Monday morning. If the result was favorable I could go home Tuesday afternoon. I wanted to protest and demand that I be sent home immediately, but even I had to admit that since I could not even use the bathroom by myself, I was better off in the hospital.

Mark spent hours in the ICU too.

By Sunday I wanted out. I had spent the last 5 days in a room in the ICU. I never even left this room to pee. What was worse was that I could not even see out the window of my room. I wanted to go somewhere else, even if it were just another part of the hospital.

Mark asked one of the nurses for a wheelchair. I eagerly, but slowly, maneuvered my way out of the bed and into the chair. My left leg that had been kept in a horizontal position was now bent at the knee. It took only a minute for so for the pain to start. “Mark, I need to get out of this chair” Back in bed my leg was straight again and in about 15 minutes the pain had subsided. I was stuck in my ICU room.

Later the doctor told me that if I wanted to I could stay in the ICU even longer and wait for my leg to get better. Since I could not move around so easily, he thought it would be a good idea for me to just stay for a few extra days, maybe even a week. “No, that’s not happening!”

strange drawing on the calendar in my room

Monday morning I tried hanging my bad leg off the side of the bed to build up a tolerance. I kept doing this every few hours. I would let it dangle until it started to hurt. But that seemed to be doing me no good and by noon I abandoned that plan.

My next goal was to use the portable potty in my room. I reached out for it and dragged it close to the bed. Then I scooted myself to the edge of the bed leaving my left leg on the bed. I had to not only keep my left leg in position, but also not get my IV line caught on anything. I pushed off the bed and got my butt on the potty. I was in a good enough position, but my pants were still up.

By Tuesday morning, with my IV taken out I had mastered solo peeing. It felt great! One of the nurses noticing my improvement asked if I wanted to take a shower. “Go to the shower!?” I had only bed baths with hot wet towels up to that point. “I would love a shower.”

She got a wheelchair and took me to the shower. She had placed a plastic chair in the shower stall so I could sit. The water was already on and steaming up the place. She helped me out of my clothes and placed me in the shower. I sat down and put my left foot up on a shower shelf where shampoo or soap would be kept. The nurse handed me soap and shampoo then she turned around. I sat there trying to remember when I had enjoyed a shower this much before.

After the shower the nurse helped me to balance on one foot as I got dressed. She then took me back to my room. And asked if I would like to go for a walk in about an hour. “What is today, my birthday!?”

Another nurse came to get me. I got into her wheelchair and she whisked me away. We were not really going that fast, but it felt like we were with my wonky eyes. My eyes could not focus in things fast enough as we moved through the hospital. My right eye worked a little better than my left eye, but it was still not functioning as it should. I was beginning to get nauseous, but I said nothing. I didn’t want to be taken back to the room just yet.

According to the doctor, it would take a month or two before my vision went back to normal. It would also take a while for me to be able to walk without pain or my foot swelling. (Two months after the bite, my right foot still gets swollen when I walk. The pain is almost gone though.)

Tuesday afternoon I was released. My blood work showed that I was improving enough to go home. Mark came to the hospital after work to get me. There were still forms to fill out and other things to do before I could officially leave. The leaving process seemed to drag on and on. Once in the car I felt free!

Donuts make everything better!

I sat at home for several weeks, because that is all I could do. My Japanese teacher came by to see me a few times and she brought gifts. But, for the most part, I was stuck at home. I tried doing housework, but standing for too long would make my leg swell and it would hurt. Around October was when I felt good enough to walk and stand enough to do things like make dinner or do the dishes. Until then, Mark had to do everything.

Nobody wants the green folder with the syringe clip art on it.

About a week after I left the hospital I had to go back for a check up. They did some blood work and I got to talk with the doctor. He said I was doing fine and my symptoms would all go away in a few months. This would be my last snakebite related hospital visit.

*****

This section of this entry was written about two months after the snake bite. My eyes are back to normal. I can walk for about an hour before my foot starts to hurt, but any amount of walking will still cause the foot to swell. But now the swelling is slight and not painful. My foot still hurts if you poke it where the snake bit me, but I think that will go away with time.

All Pictures

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Japan, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Things to do in Miyoshi

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 12, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture)
(三次市)
(Miyoshi Shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’11.2″N 132°51’21.9″E

Address:

2-8-1 Tokaichi-naka
Miyoshi city, Hiroshima prefecture 728-8501

Phone:

  • 0824-62-6111

Websites:

Cost:

  • This town is one of the few towns in Japan that has more than enough free parking everywhere.

Hours:

  • This is a small town. I know it calls itself a city, but it’s not. Nothing opens before 9:00 and everything is closed by 21:00. The exception being convenience stores which are always open.

Notes:

  • There are many Miyoshi cities in Japan. This one is in Hiroshima prefecture.
  • This town is mostly known for its wine (and lack of Starbucks).

Cormorant Fishing
(鵜飼)
(ukai)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’35.2″N 132°51’13.6″E

Phone:

  • (0824) 63-9268

Websites:

Downloads:

e-mail: miyo-344@bz01.plala.or.jp

Cost:

  • Weekdays
    • Adult 2,500 JPY
    • Kids 1,250 JPY
  • Weekends
    • Adult 2,800 JPY
    • Kids 1,400 JPY

Hours:

  • June 1st – August 31st each year
  • The event lasts one hour
  • Launch is at 19:45
    • Please arrive by 19:15

Notes:

  • Mark and I did not try this. We only watched from the shore. We are still contemplating whether or not we really want to eat fish from a bird’s throat.
  • You eat the fish that the birds catch.
  • This is just one of 13 places in Japan where you can see ukai.

The Jimmy Carter Civic Center
(ジミー・カーターシビックセンター)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°42’01.8″N 133°05’21.3″E

Address:

940 Oaza Hongo Kounu-cho Miyoshi-shi Hiroshima 729-4101

Phone:

  • 0847-67-3535

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Tue – Sat 9:00 – 18:00
  • Closed:
    • Mondays
    • Dec 29 – Jan 3

playing with a Carter bobblehead

Fun Factor: 2 out of 10

Good points:

  • It’s free.
  • It has air conditioning.
  • It’s near a campsite.

Bad points:

  • It’s nowhere near downtown.

Notes:

  • There is a campsite nearby.
  • Almost everything in the area is named after Jimmy Carter, from the Jimmy Carter Baseball field to the Jimmy Carter Street.
  • It feels like a shrine to Jimmy Carter.

Yumeland Funo
(ゆめランド布野)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°51’20.8″N 132°47’49.5″E

Websites:

Hours:

  • April to September
    9:00am to 7:30pm
  • October to March
    10:00am to 6:30pm

local market

Fun Factor: 5 out of 10

Good points:

  • It’s not too far from downtown. It’s about a 30 minute drive.
  • There are sometimes festivals and celebrations here.
  • There is plenty of free parking.

Bad points:

  • It is bsically just a really nice rest stop.

Notes:

  • There is a restaurant with a ¥1,000 all you can eat buffet. They specialize in locally grown fresh vegetables.
    • 11:00 ~ 14:30
    • You get 1 hour to eat and drink all you can.
  • There is a farmer’s market type shop where you can buy inexpensive locally grown vegetables and fruit.
  • This place is also famous for its ice cream. Along with the regular flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and green tea, you can get unusual flavors like asparagus, tomato, and carrot.

Hiroshima Miyoshi Winery
(広島三次ワイナリー)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°46’40.2″N 132°51’59.8″E

Address:

㈱広島三次ワイナリー
広島県三次市東酒屋町445-3

445-3 Higashisakeyamachi
Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture 728-0023, Japan

Phone:

  • 0824-64-0200

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

  • Free to enter and sample wine
  • Wine cost from about ¥1,000 a bottle to very expensive wine.

Hours:

  • 9:30 ~ 18:00

Mark has to drink from the kids’ barrel, because he is driving.

Fun Factor: 3 out of 10

Good points:

  • If you like free wine, this is great. (There was an old guy who was just drinking as much wine as he could before staggering out the door.)
  • If you’re like me and only like certain wines, this is good too, because there are 8 wines to be sampled before you purchase.

Bad points:

  • It really is just a wine shop.
  • They don’t sell cheese!

Notes:

  • Japan has a zero tolerance for drinking and driving. Bring a designated driver or take the bus.
  • There was one barrel of grape juice for kids and designated drivers to sample.
  • There is a “factory tour” that you can take. It takes a whole 2 minutes and you really see nothing.

Fujita Foods
(フジタフーズ)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°46’29.4″N 132°53’21.9″E

Address:

Japan 〒729-6213 広島県三次市

Phone:

  • +81 824-66-1082

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

Shark Menu

Hours:

  • 8:30 ~ 20:00

wani burger

Fun Factor: 7 out of 10 if you like eating weird things, 3 out of 10 if you don’t

Good points:

  • It’s not expensive.
  • The food is good.

Bad points:

  • There is only shark on the menu. So if you’re not down for eating shark, this is not the place for you.

Notes:

  • They also serve shark desserts like shark pudding.

Sea of Fog
(霧の海)
(Kiri no umi)
from Takataniyama
(高谷山)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°47’47.9″N 132°49’23.9″E

Address:

〒728-0025 Awayamachi, Miyoshi-shi, Hiroshima

Phone:

  • 0824-64-0066

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • Spring or Fall
  • Between sunrise and 9:00

The famous Sea of Fog

Fun Factor: 7 out of 10

Good points:

  • It’s a great view.
  • Doesn’t take too long.
  • Looks great in person, but fantastic in photos.

Bad points:

  • It can get a little chilly. (I’m a weather wimp.)

Notes:

  • You can bring your breakfast or snacks with you so you can eat while you enjoy the scenery.

Miyoshi Fudoki Park and History Folklore Museum
(広島県立歴史民俗資料館)
(Miyoshi Fudoki no Oka Park)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°45’48.5″N 132°53’50.0″E

Address:

〒729-6216 広島県三次市小田幸町122

Phone:

  • 0824-66-2881

Websites:

Cost:

  • The park is free
  • parking is free
  • The museum
    • adults 200 yen
    • students 150 yen
    • special exhibits have additional fees

Hours:

  • 9:00 ~ 17:00
  • The Museum is closed on Mondays, but the park is still open

Play with an ancient toy

Fun Factor: 5 out of 10

Good points:

  • It’s not too expensive
  • you can dress up. But they only have two sets of clothes; one for a man and one for a woman.
  • The park is very big.

Bad points:

  • It’s a museum. So if you don’t like museums, just stick to the park.

Notes:

  • There are no vending machines anywhere near this place, so get some water before coming here.

Map:


It looks like there are lots of stuff to see and do here.

What do you want to do this weekend?

Mark and I now live in a small town. Sure Hiroshima, a big city, is not that far away. But who wants to drive for 1.5 to 2 hours depending on traffic, only to spend another 30 minutes hunting for a parking space, then spend about $30 on that parking space. Hiroshima is nice and all, but unless you know you can get free and easy to find parking where you’re going, I say take the train!

So Mark and I have really been putting a lot of effort to find things to do not too far from home. It’s tough because hardly anyone puts their stuff on any of the tourism websites. Then when they do, all the information is completely in Japanese or completely in English. This makes finding things really hard. I need the information to be in English so I can understand it. But I also need the corresponding information in Japanese, because all the signs are written in Japanese.

But, this is what Mark and I found in our new town so far.

Learning about Carter

The Jimmy Carter Civic Center

It’s pretty much a homage to Jimmy Carter. You can learn all about Carter’s hometown, his teenage years, what Carter did after his presidency. The man has done a lot. But, they don’t have too many visitors here. When Mark and I showed up we kind of startled the people who worked there.

There is a library upstair where kids go to get help with homework, study, or watch anime.

Ice Cream Flavor for sale today: Almond, Milk, Asparagus Strawberry, Green Tea , some type of citrus

Yumeland Funo

We heard about this spot from one of those picture tourist maps around town. The map highly recommended this place, claiming this was one of the best spots in Miyoshi. Sadly, the map is right, this is one of the best spots. Though, it is just a rest stop for drivers.

They do have festivals and activities here. Every time Mark and I go they seem to be cleaning up from something that happened the day before. We did manage to catch a motorcycle festival. There were more motorcycles in the parking lot than were on display. Mark and I viewed the bikes on display then walk through the parking lot where the owners, who also expected to see more bikes, were more than happy to show off their wheels.

trying a little bit of everything

Along with a small farmer’s market type shop, there is a 1,000 yen ($10) all you can eat buffet here. You get 1 hour to eat and drink as much as you can. It’s very popular with the old folks. They will always maneuver themselves between you and the coffee machine in your last few minutes at the buffet, so don’t count on getting that last glass of iced mocha.

The food is great. It’s mostly vegetables, but there is plenty of meat. There is not as much a variety of meat dishes as there is of vegetable dishes. Plus there is a salad table, many soups, and 3 types of rice. The dishes change with the season, but you can count of there always being lots of old people there.

Trying to get as little wine as possible. Do you guys have smaller cups?

The Winery

We visited the Miyoshi winery. There you can sample as much wine as you want. There were eight barrels of various wines to try and one barrel of grape juice. Normally, I would have been the designated driver since I don’t like alcohol. But, I’ve been sick lately and I cannot drive. Since Mark had to drive, I had to be the wine taster. I took one of the tiny plastic cups and drank as little wine as I could. I did find a very sweet wine that I liked. We bought a bottle that is still sitting in our kitchen waiting for an occasion to be opened.

Sharktastic!

The Shark Place

Mark found this place. He passes it on his way to work. His coworkers told him about this restaurant that advertises alligator meat, but actually sells shark meat. There is something with the local dialect that the word for alligator here also means shark, but this is not true for all of Japan. (Or something like that.) The menu is all shark versions of food; shark burgers, shark hot dogs, shark steamed rolls, shark soups, shark stir fries

Is there anything that cannot be sharkified?

The owner and the restaurant were featured on one of the many eating shows in Japan. While you enjoy your shark meal you can watch the show, over and over and over and over again.

We live somewhere under that fog

The Sea of Fog

When I heard about this attraction, which is also the town’s claim to fame, I was not impress. “Your biggest attraction is overly moist air?” But Mark and I woke up early one Saturday anyway and drove up a nearby mountain. There was an outlook which took you even higher, so you can look down at the city. And the photo above is of the view I had.

And this photo!

It was really nice!

Finally, random Japanese clothes long enough for me!

Historical Park

We visited a museum inside a big park. It was a nice park and a decent small museum. There isn’t a whole lot going on there. But, this particular day they had an incense exhibit that one could pay extra to see.

We felt that 700 yen was too much to pay for a museum that was mainly in Japanese, so we chose not to see the incense exhibit. We only paid the regular 200 yen entrance fee.

What’s going to happen here?

After looking around the museum I was very thirsty. We had walked through the park, before going into the museum. I was really looking for a vending machine when we found a waiting area set up for some type of ceremony.

Mark found a book with an anime story about some kids and incense and he sat down to read. I’m not one to pass up a good sit in a comfy chair with a beautiful view, so I sat down too. Whatever was going to happen, was not happening right now, so there was no harm in sitting for a few minutes.

sitting freestyle

After five minutes or so we got up to leave. As we were walking towards the exit a man approached us. “I’m sorry, but would you like to join us for an incense ceremony?” I thought he was asking if we wanted to watch. We said that we would love to join and took seats on some of the chairs circling the tatami mats.

After a few minutes we were ask to join the rest of the people on the mats. I started to protest explaining that I had no idea how to do whatever they were doing and that I could not even sit on my heals like they did. “Oh no,” the man assured me, “You can sit freestyle. And no one here has done this before. We will explain to you.”

smell and remember

We were given 4 cups with burning incense one at a time. We had to remember the first one, so we could compare it with the other three. Then we had to say which of the other three, if any, had the same smell as the first cup of incense.

Everyone moved with purposeful grace. No one was making any spontaneous movements. I tried to mimic the others as best as I could as I took each cup, sniffed at it, and passed it to the left. The man reassured me once again that I was okay doing things freestyle.

The lady sitting next to me offered to help explain things. She spoke some English and she also told me that I didn’t have to move like everyone else. She seemed to find my awkward movements cute. That is, until I held the incense cup.

“No, no, no! Hold the cup like this.” She mimed holding the cup. I tried to do what I thought she wanted me to, but clearly I was not doing it right. She reached over and moved the cup from my right hand to my left. I tried the hold again, but did not get it. The lady took my right hand and placed it over the cup and squeezed it down to make a small hole over the top to let a small amount of smoke out. But she squeezed too hard causing the palm of my hand to touch the burning ember of incense inside the cup.

I let out a little yelp and dropped the cup. I did manage to catch it before it fell to the mat, but the ember had gone out. The man rushed over and bowed, apologised, and did some ceremonial gestures to take the cup from me. He took it and relit the incense and handed it back to me. Now I felt like I had way too much responsibility.

Write with this?

When we were done we had to write down our guesses on a little folded strip of paper. First we had to take a piece of coal and rub it on a plate with some oil on it. This made gray ink that we could dip our little brushes in. I unfolded my paper and asked the lady next to me for help. I told her what I thought the answer was and she pointed to the kanji I needed to write on the paper. I copied it, folded the paper, and waited for someone to come take paper from me.

Everyone’s scores

I got all the guesses wrong; all of them. To be completely honest I thought they all smelled different and only pick one at random to be the one that matched the first incense.  Mark on the other hand got them all right. That guy really knows his incense.

All Pictures

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Japan, Kōnu 町, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

We have no A/C. We must find a beach!

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 5, 2014

Sunday, July 27 & Tuesday, July 29, 2014

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.   Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Kizuki Seaside Park
(きづき海浜公園)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°23’32.7″N 132°40’26.3″E

Address:

〒699-0751 島根県出雲市大社町杵築西

Phone:

  • 0853-53-3113

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free Park
  • Free Access
  • Hot Showers – ¥100/ 3 minute

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • The beach is not the best beach in the world. It could really do with a trash crew coming by once a week to pick up the flotsam and jetsam that gets washed up on shore.
  • But, it is free and has plenty of parking!

Izumo-taisha
(出雲大社)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°24’07.3″N 132°41’07.8″E

Address:

〒699-0701
島根県出雲市大社町杵築東195 出雲大社社務所内

195 Kitsukihigashi, Taisha-machi, Izumo-shi, Shimane-ken
699-0701

Phone:

  • +81 0853-53-3100

Websites:

e-mail:

  • sengu@izumooyashiro.or.jp

Cost:

  • Entrance – free
  • If you can get ¥45 worth of coins to stick in or on the straw rope (the rope in the photo above), you will have good luck.

Hours:

  • Always open

Notes:

  • This is a temple for the god of marriage.
  • When you pray at this temple, you should clap 4 times instead of the normal 2 times; 2 claps for you and 2 claps for your love or future love.
  • No one knows how old this temple is, but it’s pretty old.
    • Some think it’s the oldest shrine in Japan.
    • There is record of its existence way back in the early  700s.

Map:


It’s so hot, our flowers need to lay down for a spell.

So hot!

At our new apartment, we have neither heater nor air conditioning. We moved in back in late March so it never bothered us. When it started to get hot we went over to our local used goods shop and bought 2 fans. They both have been doing a stellar job until last week when it became too hot for just fans.

We had started taking naps in the middle of the day because the heat drains our energy. I wake up earlier and earlier in the morning to exercise before it gets too hot. When Mark waters the plants all I want to do is run in front of the hose. I shower 3 times a day, just to cool off.

Shade and beach!

On Sunday, we got in our car, cranked the a/c all the way up, and headed to nearest beach. It was about 1:45 minutes aways. That’s really too far for a day at the beach. But, having no a/c at home make sitting an air-conditioned car for almost 2 hours seem like pure bliss.

When we got to the beach we set up our tarp. When I say, “we,” I mean Mark. I set out our blankets and cooler and poured us both some icy water while Mark fought with the tarp poles and stakes. You should have heard the horrible words that came out of that normally calm man’s mouth when a gust of wind blew the whole thing over.

Grilling in the shade

Once the tarp was up, we ran into the water to cool off before firing up the grill. Once again, Mark did all the work and I poured more cold water. This felt a lot better than staying home.

We sat under our tarp and talked about our plans for the rest of the week. Mark had to work on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. I wanted to come back on the days he was not working. We had passed by a big temple on our way to the beach and I wanted to see that too.

Who tied that rope?

Temple for Lovers

The next day Mark went to Hiroshima for a company meetings. He mentioned to one of his fellow teachers that he was going to see Izumo-Taisha and she happened to also have plans to see it. She and a friend of hers were going to see it on Tuesday. They decided that we should all see it together.

Mark loves toriis!

The next day we meet under the main torii. As we waited for the ladies to show up I looked across the street to the first Starbucks I’d seen in months. I contemplated going over there to get a treat.

It’s odd. I’m not a coffeeholic. I’ve never visited Starbuck that often when I lived in a town that had many of them. In fact, I think their drinks are over priced and I only patronize Starbucks when I’m with other people who are going to Starbucks. But living in a town without a Starbucks makes me long for a frappucino.

Purification

The shrine is for a god named, Okuninushi no Okami. He not only made all of Japan, but as a deity, he is in charge of couples and marriage. If you need help finding that someone special or keeping that someone special, apparently this is the place to go.

We walked around and took as many photos of stuff as we could in the heat. After about an hour of the temple we were tired and over heated. It was very pretty, but I really could have used a mister.

We left the shrine and walked down the main street of the little town we were in. We were on the hunt for ice cream. If you keep walking down towards the torii in town you will find a cafe that sells mango ice cream that you can eat indoors in air-conditioned splendor.

Boards of Wishes

After this we headed to the beach for barbecue and a dip in the water. It was a great day!

All Pictures

Posted in Izumo 市, Japan, Shimane 県 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Festival For No Reason

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 28, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.   Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture)
(三次市)
(Miyoshi Shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’11.2″N 132°51’21.9″E

Address:

2-8-1 Tokaichi-naka
Miyoshi city, Hiroshima prefecture 728-8501

Phone:

  • 0824-62-6111

Websites:

Cost:

  • This town is one of the few towns in Japan that has more than enough free parking everywhere.

Hours:

  • This is a small town. I know it calls itself a city, but it’s not. Nothing opens before 9:00 and everything is closed by 21:00. The exception being convenience stores which are always open.

Notes:

  • There are many Miyoshi cities in Japan. This one is in Hiroshima prefecture.
  • This town is mostly known for its wine (and lack of Starbucks).

Map:


Everyone is ready to dance!

So I’ve Started Taking Japanese Classes

Mark and I now live in a new city once again. This time, we live in a little sleepy town called Miyoshi that is behind god’s back and 2 hours by car from Hiroshima city. It’s a nice town with no malls, no Starbucks, and only one McDonald’s.

I get the feeling that the town either used to have more people or they are expecting a population boom. Everywhere you go in this town there are way more parking spaces than necessary. I’m not complaining; I think it’s great. That’s how it should be. It’s just odd. With places like Hiroshima city that seem to have one parking space for every 10 cars, it’s weird that this place seems to have 15 parking spaces for every car.

Out of step, but still having fun

When we first got to this town, someone at Mark’s work told him about an international potluck. We wanted to meet some people from our new town so I made some chili and we went. The chili was a hit and many people came up to me to talk about my chili.

We met some foreigners from Mark’s company and some others not working for his company. I was a little disappointed to find out that the people who weren’t co-workers of Mark did not actually live in my town, Miyoshi. Miyoshi is big, landwise. It used to be a bunch of small towns with almost no population and with Miyoshi in the center. A few years ago they did away with some of the surrounding towns and called the now bigger town Miyoshi. So now, anyone not in Miyoshi lives at least a one-hour drive from downtown Miyoshi.

Someone really enjoyed the new Planet of the Apes movie!

So, Mark and I are living in this new city and we didn’t have many friends yet. We also didn’t have internet yet. Getting the internet in Japan is a big almost insurmountable task. It can take months before someone comes by your house to install the cables or whatever they do. There is a lot of preamble to get through, like asking your landlord if it’s okay for you to have the internet and other stuff I don’t understand. Because we didn’t have internet at home our first few months, Mark and I went to the library almost daily to use their free wi-fi.

One day while checking emails I ran into a lady I met at the potluck. She said that she taught free Japanese lesson for some Mark’s coworkers and insisted that I join. “Why not?” I thought to myself. So Mark and I started going to weekly Japanese lessons.

The glow from a food vendor

One day the Potluck Lady thought that since I was a housewife, I shouldn’t just have lessons once a week, but twice. She insisted that I join another weekly free Japanese class closer to my home in addition to the lessons at the library. I tried to decline, but I could never come up with a good reason not to go. My Japanese is very bad and I really should be signing up for all the classes I could get. So, I thought I would try it out. “Why not?”

I was given another Japanese teacher and I liked her instantly. She is funny, witty, and she goes out of her way to make her lessons fun and interesting. It’s amazing when you think that the lessons are free!

In costume waiting for the bus downtown

My company wants me to get more people

So my teacher sends me an email Thursday morning. (My lessons or on Thursday afternoons.) She was inviting me out to lunch at the new restaurant of a British friend of hers. “Great,” I thought, “I love meeting new people.” She picked me and we drove out to the countryside of Miyoshi. The plan was to have lunch then go to class. Classes are held at the Miyoshi Board of Education building.

But we got to talking and time just slipped by. At first we were going to be half an hour late, then that deadline passed. Then we would be an hour late, but that deadline passed too. So, we gave up and just skipped class that day.

During the meal my teacher asked me, and the restaurant owner, if we would like to be in the festival that weekend. I’ve been to many local festivals in Japan with Mark and he always has the same complaint when we see a friend of our’s marching along with the Japanese in the parade. “Why didn’t anyone call me to join too?”

She explained that the company that owns the study-school she works for, needed more people to march. She was asked to recruit family, friends, neighbors, students… anyone. She talked about 10 of her kids to join and was now working on getting some adults involved. We wouldn’t have to pay anything. The company provides all the clothes, shoes, drums, and anything we would need. I told her that we would love to join and the next thing I knew Mark and I were in the back row of a practice march and beating drums.

Mark, the march leader, me

First let me explain how this works. In most Japanese festivals, companies want their presences to be seen so that everyone can know that they are part of the community. (It’s actually not just companies but clubs and schools too.) The workers love festivals and most people feel proud to be working at their company so it’s a win-win for both the company and the workers.

Every year the company does the same dance steps in the same outfit. Then, starting from a few weeks before the festival, everyone practices the moves for 30 minutes after work everyday. So, these guys have been practising for weeks and they were doing the dance or march steps they had done last year, and the year before that, and the year before that for however long they worked at the company.

Mark and I started practicing 2 days before the festival. We were terrible! We would start off on the wrong foot, spin at the wrong time, hit the wrong beat on our drums, and were generally out of sync with everyone else. There was an eight-year-old girl in front of me who was really showing me up!

Mark looking all festivally

We were so bad. The march leader tried to teach us the moves. First she showed us the beat we needed to play. “Great,” I said when I finally got it. I was really for the next part. She showed us the footwork. After a few minutes I got that too. Then she got the group in place to start practicing another round or marching. I had the beat and I had the footwork. I just need to put them together.

The leader blew her whistle for us to begin marching in sync. I got a few steps in and noticed my drumming was off. I corrected the drumming, but now my footwork was not right. Every time I got my drumming in sync with everyone else’s, my footwork be off and visa versa. I thought that this would never work. But the leader came over to me and told me to relax, just have fun, and not to worry if I messed up.

Mark and I came to practice the next day and we were a little better. In practice on Saturday, the day of the festival, we were a little better still. We never did get it right, but by the start of the festival we had figured out that the drumming was the most important part then came the spinning at the right time. Everything else could be faked and done halfway. The most important part was to look like we were happy and having a great time. This was a festival after all.

Will dance for food

Bento and Beer

Before the last practice on Saturday we were given lunch and the clothes we were to wear. Throughout the whole thing, we were liberally showered with free sodas, juices, and sports drinks. On Saturday beer was added to the offerings. The drinks were placed and huge bins with big blocks of ice.

The men, Mark included, drank all the beer they wanted. But, it was a really hot day and after a while everyone chose tea or sports drinks over the beer. No one got drunk or even tipsy.

“Let us do your hair,” they said…

Do you want to get her hair done?

My Japanese teacher turned to me as I finished my bento and asked if I wanted to get my hair done. “What would they do?” I asked. I didn’t really want anyone in my hair, but I was curious as to what would happen if I gave someone free range. “Oh, they would put it up, add more hair, and put flowers in… like that lady.” She pointed to a women with an entire garden on her head. It did look while festive.

Mark turned to me and said, “You should do it. It would look nice.” I looked at him a little annoyed, “My hair can’t do that!” I turned to my teacher and politely told her, “My hair really can’t do that. It won’t go up.” “It doesn’t have to go up,” she said, “they could just put some flowers in.” Mark sipped his tea and nodded. “Flowers,” he cooed, “that would look nice.”

“What the hell does Mark know about my hair?” I thought. But, as I looked around the lunch room I notice that 90% of the women there had crap loads of gigantic flowers in their hair. If I was going to do this festival thing, why not do it right. “Alright,” I said to my Japanese teacher, “But just the flowers. No putting my hair up.”

My garden

Of course that was just the agreement between my teacher and me. The lady doing everyone’s hair downstairs had her own ideas. I told her that my hair was hard to deal with and it would refuse to be put up. But, she was not one to back down from a fight.

I sat in the hair chair and she took out a tiny-toothed comb. I looked at her comb suspiciously. She began and I could feel her tugging around my head. She said something in Japanese. “What did she say?” I asked my teacher. “She said your hair is very… ummm… very,” “Powerful,” came a voice at the other end of the room. “Yes,” my teacher agreed, “powerful.”

But the hair lady did not give up. She put my hair up in several parts and pinned in some flowers. I didn’t like it, but everyone else did. In the end it didn’t really matter. No one knows what my hair is “supposed” to look like. They only cared that it had flowers in it like everyone else, so I just went with it. “Why not?”

As I was getting my hair done I asked the ladies in the room what the festival was celebrating. No one knew. I got answers like: “It’s just a festival,” “We like festivals,” and “Fun!” A festival for no reason… “Why not?”

Why is no one is watching us?

Is there anyone left to watch this parade?

In the end we marched our little hearts out. At first there were only a few people watching the parade. With hundreds of people in parade it looked liked our tiny town didn’t have anyone left to watch. But once we got downtown and on main street there were more people. Of course many of those people where the same ones from the front of the parade who reached the end and were now watching.

I’m trying to focus on my drumming career now.

Once we got to the end our group disbanded. We changed our clothes and watched the rest of the parade as we ate festival and rested. It was a long march on a very hot summer day. Mark and I had a great time. We even told my teacher to sign us up for next year’s festival.

All Pictures

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Japan, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Camping, Rabbits, and Poison Gas

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 21, 2014

Saturday, July 19-21, 2014

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.   Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Tatara campsite
(多々羅キャンプ場)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°15’28.2″N 133°03’08.5″E

Address:

愛媛県今治市上浦町井口7523

Ehime-ken, Imabari-shi, Kamiurachō Inokuchi, 7523

Phone:

  • Japanese only 0897-87-3855

Websites:

Cost:

  • ¥1,000 tent plus:
    • ¥300 per Adult
    • ¥150 per child
  • ¥6,000 for cabin (4-5 people)

Hours:

  • Check in 15:00
  • Check out 12:00

Notes:

  • Hot Shower – ¥200 for 5 minutes
  • Kitchen areas
  • You can rent BBQ equipment
  • There is a Circle K within a 3 minute walk of the campsite.
  • There areafewOnsens within walking distance, more within biking distance, and even more within the distance of a short drive.
    • The silver dome onsen (しまなみドーム/Shimanami dome) is a 10 minute walk from the campsite.
    • Bring your own towel, soap, shampoo, and conditioner or buy them at the onsen.
    • There is also a gym at this onsen.

Ohkunoshima
(大久野島)
(Usagi Jima)
(ウサギ島)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34° 18′ 31″ N132° 59′ 35″ E

Address:

Okunoshima Visitor Center
Okunoshima, Tadanoumi-cho, Takehara City,
Hiroshima 729-2311

Phone:

  • (0846) 26-0100 (English maybe)

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • The Poison Gas has a ¥100 entry fee.
  • Ferry From Omishima (the island we camped on):
    • Adult round trip – ¥620
    • Kid round trip – ¥320

Hours:

  • The ferries to and from the island start around 7:00 and stop around 19:00.

Notes:

  • This island is part of Setonaikai National Park (瀬戸内海国立公園).
  • There is a hotel on the island.
  • There is also a campsite.
    • There is free assigned parking.
    • Check in 13:00 and check out 11:00
    • Cost: ¥1,030 per tent plus ¥410 per person. (You must bring your own tent.)
    • Showers cost ¥400. (I don’t know what kind of shower it is.)
    • There are vending machines on the island, but no stores. The hotel does have a restaurant though.

Map:


The Squares of Mark

The Fellowship of the Nerds

We were all packed and ready to go. I closed all the windows downstairs of our new apartment in Hiroshima prefecture and was about to turn off the computer. Mark asked me if he should bring the box of games. It’s a box containing games like Citadel and 7 Wonders among other nerdy delights.

“Of course,” I told Mark, “They will be expecting you too. In fact, they probably expect us to have a new game for us to play.” What kind of nerds would be if we showed up to a camping trip sans board games? “I do have a new game,” Mark said sheepishly, “I made it myself.” He started explaining his game. “I haven’t printed it out or laminating it,” he said, “Do we have time?”

I’m not going to say, “no” to a new game! So I gave Mark another hour to get his game made. I made myself a lemonade and watched China Uncensored and Crash Course while I waited. I had to turn up the volume to drown out Mark’s yelling at the laminator. (Yes, we own a laminator…)

“I place all my squares then I pick a swordsman, then I get a flag, then I choose a woodsman, then I get a star?”

Mark’s game turned out to be a bit complicated. We played one round in the basic non-capture the flag mode, but there were so many rules. Mark will work on his game some more, maybe even give the game an official name. We’ll try it out again on our next camping trip.

Tent or baggy sleeping bag?

Packing Light

Mark initiated this trip. He read an article about an island filled with feral rabbits. Since Mark likes petting and feeding animals, he had to see it. He planned the trip. …I mean he called up, Roland, a South African friend of ours and asked him to make reservations at a campsite. (Mark’s Japanese is not very good.)

Four of the other campers from our trip live on Kyushu. They woke up really early Saturday morning to catch a 4:00 am ferry from Beppu to Shikoku. Then they drove from the port to the campsite which took a few more hours. Mark and I had a 2.5 hour drive and we still managed to get there after they had set up their tents. They were waiting for us.

Four of them came in the South Africans’ k-car. So all of them had to pack very light; there isn’t much trunk space in most k-cars. Kane’s tent was very small and gave him just enough space for him to lay down. He plans to bike from Beppu to Kobe later on this year and this trip gave him an opportunity to test out his gear.

The view from a look-out near the campsite

We spent the rest of the day exploring the campsite. With this being a 3-day weekend and the area having lots of tourist attractions, the camp grounds was the most crowded I have ever seen a Japanese campsite. We walked around to see all the best spots that were taken by the time the Kyushuians got there. We still got a decent space, but people who showed up even later than we did had to set up their tents near the bathroom.

my meal: BLTs

A Meal From All

The South Africans and us used to cook our own meals then we would share the food potluck style. But this ended in lots of wasted food, double portions of meat, and mountains of dirty dishes, not to mention all the extra packing. So now when we go camping everyone gets assigned one meal.

I chose to make BLT for lunch since we would be gone for the day. I made the BLTs while everyone ate Freda’s “burritos sandwiches”. (In her determination to pack light, Freda forgot to bring the tortillas…) I put everyone’s BLT in zip-lock bags and handed them out before we leave that morning. We would find a nice place on the island infected with rabbits to have lunch.

the only a/c we’ll have all day

The boat ride was surprisingly cheap, for Japan. It only cost ¥310 per person one-way. We were so happy to find the seating area of the boat had air conditioning. I’m not sure what the people in their cars did. They stayed in their vehicles with the engines off and did not come up to the seated area. It must have been super hot.

Mark’s bag of bunny pellets made him quite popular.

Buy your own food

Mark read online that there would be rabbit food for sale on the island. There are boxes on the island for you to pay ¥100 and take a cup of rabbit pellets. Mark thought that the price was too expensive. So the day before we left Mark stopped by a pet store in our town and bought a 1kg bag of rabbit food for ¥300. (Even with everyone taking liberal amounts to feed the rabbits, the bag was still about 2/3rds full when we left.)

Once on the island we all took fists-full of pellets to lured rabbits out of hiding. In the area where more tourist were, the rabbits waited for us to walk over to them. In the area where less tourist were, the rabbits would hear us talking and come hopping out of the bushes like kids chasing the ice cream van.

Remember, eat the pellets not the hand.

They were just furry balls of cuteness and would eat right out of your hand. They did not, however, liked to be pet or picked up. If you held out a carrot for them to eat, one of them would eventually bite down on the carrot, snatch it out of your hand, and run off into the bush to not have to share the carrot with fellow bunnies.

For none carrot foods, they prefer to eat out the palm of a person’s hand. Any food dropped on the ground was no longer thought of as food. Sometimes we left food on the ground for a rabbit because we wanted to move on, only to have that rabbit disregard the food and hop along behind us in hopes of more pellets.

Who likes cahwots… Oh, who likes cahwots?

There are caretakers on the island who drive around and put on bowls of water for the rabbits. I don’t think they feed the rabbits though; they leave that to the tourists. There are plenty of tourists. Near the hotel where most of the tourist gathered around noon, I saw rabbits flat out refuse carrots and other treats, preferring to nap.

gas masks

How did you guys get here?

In 1929 the Secondary Tokyo Military Arsenal built a factory on Okunoshima to make poisonous gasses. There is a Poison Gas Museum on the island. The plaques on the walls say that the facilities were a secret. So much of a secret that most people, even in Japan, has no idea that Japan ever used poison gas on their enemies.

The museum states that little is known about how the gases were used in the war. They only know the effect the gasses had on the people hired to work in the factory. There were many type of poison gases made here and even though the workers used rubber uniforms to keep themselves safe, gas still linked through their suits. They had problems with their eyes and skin. Many got conjunctivitis, wet pleurisy, pneumonia, and bronchopneumonia.

masks

The museum was built by locals for, and in the memory of, the factory workers and other people harmed by the gas made on the island. It is also a reminder that “war is meaningless“. The government wanted to keep secret the fact that chemicals weapons were made and used by Japan, but the people of Hiroshima prefecture wanted everyone to know the truth so that they type of thing would never happen again.

As for the rabbits… Some think that they are the offspring of rabbits used to test the gas. Others think they were left on the island by visiting school kids. I could not find anything prove either theory. But, the whole thing was a big secret until 1984, so who knows? Personally, I think it is very unlikely that school kids would just leave a couple of bunnies here on the island.

the old poison gas factory

We  walked around the island feeding rabbits and looking at old relics of war. It was very hot and after a few hours in the sun walking became a chore. We timed our walk to end a few minutes before the next ferry came. We would head back to camp and go swimming.

The only thing these Doritos are good for

Catch a Fire

One the way back from rabbit island we stopped at a convenience store. We planned to swim and then head to an onsen before grilling tonight’s dinner, so I wanted some snacks. I found a pack of Doritos and just grabbed it. I forgot that Japan has no normally flavored Doritos. One should always inspect one’s potential Doritos, reading the label carefully and consult with a Japanese/English dictionary if needed. I picked up butter and soy sauce Doritos. It was awful.

When it was time to fire up the grill Mark noticed that there was no more fire starter left. I remembered reading somewhere that Doritos make good fire starters, so I handed Mark my degraded bag of chips. He said that it was better than nothing, but he would never actually buy Doritos to start fires in the future.

South African Cuisine

Boerewors

This was Roland’s meal. Freda prefaced the meal with a statement saying that the meat was not from South Africa, but from the Meat Guy, who is Australian. The Boerewors was labeled “untraditional”. She said that meant that the meat was thinner than usual. It didn’t matter to me; it was delicious!

The South Africans love to braa and Mark and I benefit from their braaing every time we camp with them. They bring a bag of South African species to cook their meats. They also marinate meats in South African sauces then grill them and serve them with potato salad. They know the way to my American heart; meat and potato salad!

packing up

The next morning the Kyushuians had to leave around 9:oo am so they could drive across Shikoku again and make it in time for their ferry. We promised that for the next camping trip Mark and I would drive down to where they are. They could just pick a spot and we would meet them there. We said our goodbyes and they were gone.

Kampsites and Kabins

On our way back we found a KOA campsite. It was closed, but it was definitely a KOA. It had Kabins and a lodge. It looked like it closed down within the past 6-12 months. I email KOA and asked about their Japanese campsite, but I was told that right now there are no KOAs in Japan.

That would have been nice…

All Pictures

Posted in Ehime 県, Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan, Shikoku, Takehara 市, Ōkunoshima, Ōmishima 町 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Everything is Up Hill

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 14, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.   Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Bihoku Hillside Park
(Government Operated Bihoku Kyuryu Park)
(国営備北丘陵公園)
(Kokueibihokukyūryōkōen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°50’23.6″N 132°59’48.5″E

Address:

  • Park:
    • 〒727-0021
      広島県庄原市三日市町4-10
  • Autocamping:
    • 〒727-0022
      広島県庄原市上原町1300番地

Phone:

  • Park: 0824-72-7000
  • Auto camping: 0824-72-8800

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Bring ID to prove age
  • Children under 5 enter for free
  • Parking:
    • Scooters ¥100
    • Regular cars ¥310
    • Large cars ¥1,030
    • Free with Year Passport for scooters and regular cars.

  • They have bikes of various sizes, but the electric bikes only come in 26 inch.
  • You can bring your own bike instead of renting one of theirs, but you must keep to the bike path.

Hours:

  • Admission stops 1 hour before closing.
  • Closed on Mondays (If Monday is a holiday it will be open, but closed on Tuesday).
  • Closed Dec 31 – Jan 1

Notes:

  • I think this park takes up half the area of the city of Shobara.
  • There are many classes that kids can sign up for, from making soba noodles to pottery and woodworking.
    • The cost for classes range from ¥100~500.
  • There are many restaurants and cafes in the park, but you can also bring your own food. You can also bring your grill and have a BBQ in one of the BBQ areas.
  • There is a camping area for day camping and overnight camping.
    • You must make reservations to use the campsite area.
    • There is a coin operated shower.
    • They have a coin laundromat in the auto camping area.

Map:


A suspension bridge

Of Mice and Men

The plan for this weekend was to have a fantastic Fourth of July camping event with people we’ve never met before. We were going to set up our tent on a beach several towns over and enjoy our Americaness. We would met campers and outdoor people. It would have been great. But it rained.

Or at least everyone thought it would have. The rain started on Thursday and the weather forecast for the rest of the week was bleak. On Friday the sky threaten to rain, but it never did. Okay, there was a good solid half hour of light drizzle, but it was not the stuff to stop a BBQ.

The camping plans were cancelled, but Mark and I decided to do something anyway. We looked online for things to do in our new prefecture. Every site told us to go to Hiroshima city.

We’ve already been to Hiroshima city. But, as far as the internet was concerned, the attractions there outshine everything else in the prefecture. Then I found Tripadvisor.com. It recommended going to something called the “Government Operated Bihoku Kyuryu Park”. I looked for information about it online and only found where it was. There was no other information. So we hopped in the car, punched in the coordinates, and drove there.

The Garmin could not see the park. It would give us directions past the park, then tell us to turn around. To the Garmin, the park was just a roadless void and it didn’t know what to do. We stopped for directions at a 7/Eleven and a lady put us on the right path.

Then I saw a sign for the park. It called the park “Bihoku Hillside Park”. It was a far sexier name for a park than  “Government Operated Bihoku Kyuryu Park”! That would also explain why I could not find any information online.

Mark’s new one-walled home

Yen Yen Yen

After paying the many entrance fees we drove for a while before we got to Parking Lot 1, the only lot opened at the time. This was a huge park and we were hoping it would be worth every yen we paid.

We walked into the main area and were taken aback by the vastness of the park and the almost complete lack of people. Two things that Japan is not known for are big areas and low population density. We looked around for things to do. Everything cost money.

Salad sandwiches!

We brought our own lunch so there was at least one thing we could do for free. The park had many picnic areas. We found a nice gazebo up a small hill and next to a waterfall. It was private and quiet. I loved it.

Mark not looking where he is biking

My legs fell all floppy

After lunch we went back down to the main area. There were 4 options for transportation around the park. One could walk, take the “train”, rent a bike, or use the free Carry-All. Walking is for chumps and the “train” is for suckers. We rented some bikes.

Shortly after getting on the bikes we realized that everything in this park is uphill from bike rental. I peddled in third gear, then second gear, then first gear. Then I got off the bike and walked. I had to lean on the bike to stay upright.

No peddling! Yeah!

When we reached something of interest we would get off the bikes (or just put down the bikes). There was gardens, groves, obstacles courses, bug houses, lakes, rest houses, cafes, and many more things. Many of the stuff were for kids, but there were still lots of things for nature lovers.

Hillside Slide

July: The Month of Bugs

Returning the bikes was the fun part. Once we reached the end of the park, it was a quick downhill ride back to the bike course starting point. After we put the bikes back we found a calendar which had the events that can be experienced each month.

“OOoooo May has a beautiful tulip gardens!”

“Look at the sunflowers in August!”

“We can make mochi in January.”

“There’s a light show in December! We must come back!”

“What’s July’s speciality?”

A lady in uniform past by us and heard the question. “Mushi desu!” she said with a smile.

“Bugs!?”

The Carry-All

…and no, it did not rain at all on Saturday.

All Pictures

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan, Shōbara 市 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Moving To the Country

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 7, 2014

April 2014

Okayama Castle grounds

In early April this year, Mark’s company moved him from Okayama to Miyoshi. Okayama was a small city. There is nothing about Okayama that Mark and I will miss. We didn’t live here long enough to have any type of attachment to it.

It was a city and had all the things that most cities have. Those are the things that I will miss.

Our new town, Miyoshi is under all that fog

Miyoshi is a small town behind god’s back. There are few stores, only one hospital, and only two sushi restaurants. There is no Starbucks, but there is no traffic either.

I just need to dump this tissue…

Our recycling routine got a lot more complicated. In Okayama there were two bags, one for burnable things and one for non-burnable things. Here in Miyoshi there are 6 different recycling bags, plus strings for paper, and special drop off sites for things that cannot go into a bag. Then there is a horrible complicated schedule that involves knowing what number week of the month you are in.

Plastics and food trash are collected once and twice a week respectively. I pretty much have a handle on those. But our storage room is getting filled with cardboard boxes, paper, cans, glass and plastic bottles, and broken things because I keep forgetting to put things out on the 3rd Wednesday, 2nd Tuesday, or whatever. I’ve started taking the bottles to the grocery stores with the recycle bins rather than trying to remember when the collection days are.

Incense Ceremony

Miyoshi is still a nice little town, even if there isn’t much to do that’s not related to recycling.

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Okayama Castle

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 31, 2014

March 17, 2014

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Okayama Castle
(岡山城)
(Okayama-jō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34° 39′ 54.65″ N, 133° 56′ 9.79″ E

Address:

2-chome Marunouchi, Okayama-shi, Okayama

Phone:

  • +81 86-225-2096

Websites:

Cost:

  • 300 yen

Hours:

  • 9:00 ~ 17:30
  • last entry is at 17:00
  • close Dec 29 – 31

Notes:

  • Parking is not free

Map:


Wanna go for a walk?

Let’s Walk

This started out as a walk near the river by our apartment. It was a very nice day and before we knew it we were downtown. Since we were in the area we went to the castle to see what there was to see.

Walking and looking fabulous

It’s a really nice park. The gardeners were getting the place ready for spring. In a few weeks the place would be decked out with flowers and other plant life. There were many spots to relax in the shade or sun. There was also a picnic area where people can eat their bentos.

Nice!

There were also many runners and joggers. There is a trail that goes around the castle grounds. So, if you want to exercise in this beauty, you don’t have to pay the entrance fee. There is also a bathroom along the running trail.

Complimentary music whenever this guy is practising his trombone

All Pictures

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Okayama 県, Okayama 市 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Naked Men

Posted by mracine on October 24, 2014

February 16, 2014 

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Getty ImagesSaidaiji
(西大寺)
(Rhino Temple)

Naken Men’s Festival
(裸祭り)
(Hadaka Marsuri)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates

Address:

3-8-8 Saidaijinaka, Higashi-ku, Okayama, Okayama Prefecture 704-8116, Japan

Phone:

  • Kinryozan Saidaiji 086-942-2058

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 500 yen

Hours:

  • 3rd Saturday in February
  • regular hours – 9:00 ~ 16:00

Video:

Notes:

  • This festival is held during the coldest month of the year.

Map:


A temple full of naked men

Written by Mark

“Not, again” I thought as my body was being crushed on a wooden beam. My arms were pinned down to my sides. I forgot to keep my arms up; a rookie mistake. The sweat streamed down my face from the heat of all the bodies. The crowd surged again and pushed me helplessly in one direction and then another. There were screams coming from all around and people accidentally touching parts of my body which made me more than a little bit uncomfortable. This was the Naked Men’s festival and I was in the middle of it.

I got up that day preparing for what was to come ahead. I put on my coat, gloves, and hat, kissed my wife goodbye, and left my apartment. I lived only two train stops from Sadaiji station, where the event took place. However, I took the train in the opposite direction towards Okayama Station. The Naked Man Festival was totally new to me. I needed help from a group of pros.

I arrived at Okayama station. I pulled out my cell phone and call my friend, Justin. He was crazy enough to do the festival with me. We met at the south side of the Station. This is where we would board a bus that would take us to Naked Men. We were early and the buses weren’t there yet. There were a few other foreigners there, but not much more than usual. We went to the McDonald’s trying to build up stores of fat on our bodies. We’d need them to keep warm later.

Anything to be on TV.

When we finished eating, we went back to where the buses would be. There were several empty buses waiting to be loaded. A few groups of foreigners were walking around. I assumed that they were waiting for the go ahead to get on the bus.

As I looked around, I noticed two groups of people filming some of the foreigners there. And of course, those foreigners were hamming it up for the camera. Typical… Justin jokingly said that we should try to be on camera too. I took the joke seriously and we made our way in front of one of the cameras. I really hammed it up, too

Getting ready for the cold

Finally, the person leading the foreigner’s bus called for us to get on. We all climbed aboard. A camera crew also joined us on the bus. Apparently, they were going to film the whole trip. Our group leader did this event several times before. He told us the rules and what we should watch for. “Keep your arms up while you’re in the crowd. If they go down, you won’t be able to brace yourself when you fall and it’ll be hard to put them back up. Be careful of the steps. They are made of stones and they’ll hurt if you fall on them. Stay away from the pillars, they don’t flex as much as your bones. Make way for any people in dark clothes. They are emergency personnel and they’ll be getting hurt people away from the crowd.”

We’ll need to remember what warmth feels like.

Then the leader of our group got to the heart of the matter. “We will be going for the shingi, a magical stick of incense that can be traded for lots of cash. This is what you want. There are also other sticks thrown but can’t be traded in for money. However, they are extremely good luck and you should go after those as well. If you get a stick, don’t let it go, hide it (who knows where?), and make your way out the temple area.”

While we weren’t organized enough as a group to work together, the general consensus was to help and protect each other. “Oh,” the leader added, “if you see a Japanese person with yakuza like tattoos with a stick, let them keep it.”

The bus took us from Okayama bus station to Sadaiji bus station. While it clearly states in the rules that you shouldn’t drink before participating in the festival, this didn’t deter most from drinking on the bus. I confess, I took a few sips from a bottle as well.

Drumming for nudity

It was dark outside when we arrived. We all got off the bus and followed the leader from the bus station to the temple. It was about one fifth of a mile away and people greeted and cheered us on the way to the tents.

If you participate you don’t really get to enjoy the other parts of the festival. There were people performing for crowds and lots of festival foods. There were things to do and see but we were just herded straight to our tent.

Do I look okay?

At our designated tent, we paid our entrance and clothing fees. The clothing consisted of tabbies so thin that socks would have been better and a fundoshi, just a long strip of cloth; that’s it. We went into the tent to change. The tent was large and people claimed their area to change. In the center of the tent was an old man and woman. These two volunteers were the skilled helpers that help you get dressed properly.

better than wearing pants!

I took off my coat, hat, gloves, sweater, shirt, undershirt, pants, underwear, socks, and shoes. I put them in a bag provided and made my way into the line to have my fundoshi put on. I guess I‘ve been to enough onsens to not feel awkward being nude around others. Then again there was an old lady in the tent with a smile on her face like it was her birthday or something.

The old lady instructed me to hold one end of the cloth while she started wrapping it around my body. At that time, the camera crew joined us in the tent. Onsens be damned! It was a hell of an awkward situation. I was getting interviewed being mostly naked while and old lady played grab ass.

With the fundoshi wrapped around my body, the old man helped secured it in place by giving me an atomic wedgie. We were told to use the colored electrical tape to secure our tabbies from falling off our feet. I wrapped them around my leg, then decided to decorate my arms and hands with red, white, and blue tape. Got to represent America!

Ready to begin

So there we stood in the freezing tent while we waited for our turn in the festival. We were cold, so cold. I decided I needed more food to eat. McD’s didn’t cut it. Especially after having a few drinks.

I grabbed some money and snuck out of the tent. There were specially roped off areas that people weren’t allowed to cross. It’s to keep onlookers and participants separated. I ignored the rules, jumped the rope, and queued behind the first food line. It was a little awkward being mostly nude while everyone else around was not. I grabbed some hot udon and chugged it down.

I made my way back to the tent. It was about time to line up. The leader had us in columns of four. I was in one of the middle columns in the middle of the pack. We put our arms over each other’s necks and started to shout “Get the shingi!” over and over again.

A pool in the middle of winter?

Our group followed other groups into the temple area. They had the temple set up so participants made several loops around the area. The first stop was the cleansing pool.

It was about three to four feet deep and filled with freezing water. The water didn’t have ice in it or anything like that, but I would like to point out that I was wearing a coat and several layers of clothes when it was warmer in the day. Without hesitation we headed into the water. Each step splashed cold drops of water onto everyone. It didn’t help that people inside our group were using their hands to splash each other while we walked through the water.

marching around the temple

By the time we got out, I was totally soaked. We marched up to the temple where the shingi would be thrown. We continued around the temple to the shrine. I suppose we were to say our prayers or something to that effect, but I’m not sure. We continued our way over a tiny bridge where the gathering people could see us.

We went to where we had entered, and to my horror, we were making another lap around the temple. Next stop, cleansing pool. Again, I got soaked. At the end of that loop, we did another lap. The nice thing about the third trip to the cleansing pool was that by then I was too numb to feel much of anything.

“Oh god I’m so cold. How many times do I have to watch them circle the bloody temple!?”

After the third lap, we were allowed to place ourselves where we thought the shingi would be thrown. I went up the stone steps and found a place on the platform. The area was well lit from above.

I could see the window where the sticks would be thrown. I couldn’t get too close though. There were about a few thousand people blocking my way. Other people got behind me and pushed me a little forward. Then more people got behind them and pushed them forward as well. I was still feeling cold but the bodies surrounding me at least blocked the wind.

This seems safe.

We stood there on the platform. People crowded together, tightly packed like a tin of sardines. My arms got sore from keeping them up. It was getting warmer from all the body heat. I was starting to get my body temperature up when a head popped out a window from above.

I was really excited. This is it. A Buddhist priest looked at the pile of people from level above. He ducked his head back in and reached for something. He threw it down on us and…. I was wet again. The priest continued to throw ladles full of cold water for a while and then left us to enjoy our moistness.

This is crazy.

I was standing there tired, wet, and ready for this to be over. Then it happened. The crowd moved a little to the right, then a little to the left. Then it moved some to the front and some to the back. There were pushing and shoving. I guess everyone was trying to get the best spots possible but this was dangerous. We were on a platform with steps at the edges. The crowd moved even farther right, maybe two or three feet. Then three feet to the left. The crowd pushed forward and then back. So far back I had to put my foot on the top step. This was getting insane.

Over and over again, they were pushing. Each time, some people got knocked off the platform and fell onto the steps. Usually only a few. The people on the steps pushed and held the people above them. Then, the first great fall happened. I was in the middle of it. The push forward was strong and the response was even greater. I felt and heard the people behind me not getting the footing they needed to keep from falling. First a few people fell. But as the bodies lay on the stone steps, people in front of them lost their footing too. Like dominoes, people started to fall.

Without the resistance from the fallen people, the crowd from the front pushed twice as hard. I tripped over legs. I would have smashed my head and broken my shins if it weren’t for the kind people who I landed on. I tried my best to get off these poor men as fast as I could, but I too had people on top of me.

Safety workers to the rescue

I got up and made a stupid decision. I chose to stay. I moved in closer to one of the pillars. You know, the pillars I was told to stay away from. For the most part, the pillar acted as brace and shield from the moving crowd. Every once in a while the crowd would push just right and pin me to the pillar. Between the press of bodies and an unmovable pillar, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. That proved to be very uncomfortable.

Catch it!

I again, tried to move closer to the window where the shingi would be thrown. Again the window had a priest throwing water. It came as a blessing now. Steam would rise as soon as it hit the throng of people swaying below. Two more times I fell onto the steps. Luck stayed with me because I was never on the bottom of the pile.

The time was getting near. There were more priest by the window. They were about to throw something other than water. The crowd cheered and yelled and jostled for position. There was a fever running through the people.

I looked up at the window ready for the sticks to be thrown. I was ready. This was it this time. I could see the sticks in the hands of the priests. I could see the smoke from the incense stick known as the shingi. I could hear many voices in the crowd screaming “Get the shingi!” I was screaming with them as well. Then… Then, darkness. The lights were cut off. The sticks were thrown and the crowd moved in many directions at once.

Who will get it?

To be honest, I have no idea where the sticks were thrown. I don’t know how one gets out of the mass of people with any of the sticks in his hands. I couldn’t see what was going on. I could hear and see people pushing, shoving, and grabbing. What I couldn’t see, were any of the sticks. However, I could smell the shingi. It was everywhere.

The crowd didn’t sway as before. People knew where the shingi was and move towards it. The people with the shingi couldn’t push their way out. Thousands of people stood gridlocked on the platform. Then, strangely the crowd moved to the right. I’m not sure what happened but somehow the sticks must have been passed around.

People were frantically sniffing the air. “Did the shingi go to the right? Or did it go to the left?” It’s hard to tell. It was like this for four or five minutes. Then the crowd started to slowly disperse.

Clean up time

I wasn’t sure when or how the sticks got out, but like everyone else, I supposed that it did. I left the steps and started walking back to the tents. I was tired and a little disappointed that I didn’t even get a chance to touch one of the sticks. As I was leaving I saw a group of people gathered. I went to investigate.

To my surprise, eight or more men were grabbing onto a stick. I jumped into the group. I stuck my hand in and touched their hands. I gripped tighter, trying to get a hold on this stick. One or two people were ripped away and I got a hold of the stick. Twisting and turning, I got a better hold. I was so close.

I pulled and yanked. There were still many people surrounding us but only four guys and me had our hands on the stick. I pulled and pulled and pulled. Until, damn it. It slipped from my fingers and I fell.

I got up. The group of people who were fighting for the stick suddenly stopped. They all started walking away from the area, empty-handed and in different directions. “What just happened?” I wondered making my own way back to the tents.

Later, I think I figured it out. The last four were a group working together. When I fell, one of them pocketed (where?) it and they all walked away.

The shrine

I got to the changing tent. Not one stick was gotten by anyone from our group. The group leader was bouncing around happy because he at least got to hold the shingi. He went around letting people smell his hand which reeked of incense.

I took off my muddy loin cloth and got dressed. I was thankful to be in warm clothes again. I went back to the shrine looking for my wife. Most of the crowd was gone by then. When I found her, I asked her what she thought of the event where I stood outside in the freezing night mostly naked and wet. She complained to me how cold she was watching. We got into our car and went home.

All Pictures

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Okayama 県, Okayama 市 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mini Trips

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 17, 2014

November 3, 2013 – February 9, 2014 

All Pictures

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Gigantor
(鉄人28号)
in (Wakamatsu Park)
(若松公園)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’20.1″N 135°08’38.2″E

Address:

Wakamatsu Park
兵庫県神戸市長田区若松町6丁目3

6-3 Wakamatsucho, Nagata-ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 653-0038, Japan

Websites:

Cost:

The park itself is free. You might have to pay for parking. There is a mall nearby, but I’m not sure what the park situation is like there. Mark and I just parked on the side of the road and only stayed long enough to take a few photos.

Hours:

  • Always available.

Videos:

Notes:

  • He protects the city of Kobe. From what? I don’t know. Let’s say… cattle rustlers.
  • There is a mall nearby.

Z-Gandum
(Ζガンダム)
at (道の駅久米の)
(Michi no eki kume no sato)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°03’21.6″N 133°55’22.1″E

Address:

久米の里>
563-1 Miyao
Tsuyama, Okayama 709-4613

Phone:

  • 0868-57-7234

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • Always available

Time Aqua Garden
(おまちアクアガーデン)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°41’10.8″N 133°58’21.3″E

Address:

おまちアクアガーデン
岡山県岡山市中区雄町

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • 9:00 ~ 18:00

Notes:

  • You can refill your water bottle here for free.
  • There is also an area for kids to play in the water along with a foot bathe.

Ontokuji
(恩徳寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’54.8″N 133°57’44.1″E

Address:

613 Sawada Naka Ward, Okayama, 703-8234 Japan

Phone:

  • +81 86-272-4843

Website:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • regular temple hours

Notes:

  • This is a small temple in a small neighborhood.

Map:


He thinks I want to hurt Kobe’s economy.

Take a Little Trip

This entry is about the little trips we took either on the way to running errands, or just a long walk around our neighborhood. None of them would make a good trip on their own, but they make nice added detours.

That’s my foot!

Robot a PSA: Don’t Date Robots

We were heading up north to get some stuff from the Costco in Kobe. We left home really early in the morning so we would not get stuck in traffic. The plan worked beautifully; there were very few cars on the road. But, we ended up in Kobe a good 45 minutes before Costco opened. Rather than sit in the Costco parking lot we checked the GPS to find interesting things nearby.

That’s how we found Gigantor. Since it was so early in the morning there were plenty of probably-illegal parking spots on the side of the road. I wedged the car between two illegally parked trucks and checked my watch. I figured if we stayed less than 15 minutes we’d be okay. No one bothered us about our parking.

Hello human!

The next detour we came across on a map of the area. There was a picture of a robot on a map. So, we went to see it. It was in fact a big robot. He seemed friendly and loved having his photo taken.

Other than the robot, which is at a rest stop, there was nothing else to do in the area. There were restaurants at the rest stop, but they were all overpriced and didn’t seem like anything special.

 

What time is it? 11:20.

Around the Neighborhood

The rest are things we happened upon while walking near our apartment. This first one was some sort of oasis. There is a water-clock, a fountain where people fill up their jugs of water, a foot bath, and a water playground for kids.

I think it is supposed to promote keeping the water clean and safe to drink. This part of town has a lot of factories, so I guess people need to be reminded that clean water is a gift that should not be taken for granted.

prayers

The next is one of the many temples on the hill near our home. There is nothing special about this particular temple. It’s just a nice place to walk to and around and a great place to take some photos.

More clean water!

All Pictures

Posted in Honshū, Hyōgo 県, Japan, Kobe 市, Okayama 県, Okayama 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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