With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Weekday Beaching

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 28, 2016

Saturday, July 9th – Sunday July 10th & Wednesday, July 27th – Sunday, July 31st, 2016

All Pictures

There’s almost no one here.

Weekdays Are the Best

The summer has started once again and Mark and I still don’t have an air conditioner in our apartment. Every year we think about buying one and every year we decide not to. We travel or go camping during the summer, so it’s not worth it.

Mark and his decapitated fish

I like going to the beach to swim or read a book on shore. I enjoy camping and being outdoors while still being very comfortable. Mark likes going to the beach to do some spare fishing. He tries to catch about 2 or 3 fish each day.

No one to play volleyball with

The beach was amazingly quite the first weekend we went there this year. The summer had just begun, yet our tent was the only one in the free camping area. Everyone else was in the auto-camping section which costs about 3,500 Yen per night.

Mark and I wondered where everyone was. This is a very popular beach. “Why wasn’t anyone here?” We didn’t want company; we just wondered where the crowds were.

We went back to Iwami Kaihin Park a few weeks later on a Wednesday. Still, not many people were at the beach. There were more campers around us, but not too much. It was calm and relaxing.

All this for just Mark and me?

Friday

On Friday evening tents started going up all around us. Our once lonely area was filled with other campers. Next to us was a group of college kids. They brought with them several kegs of beer.

They partied the night away. They talked very loudly, but since they didn’t play any music it wasn’t too bad. I could have slept through their loud talking, but not their laughing. There were a couple of women in their group that cackled. It was a loud irksome laugh that is especially annoying when you don’t know what the joke is.

Throughout the night I would fall asleep only to be yanked awake by this maniacal laughter. It was very disturbing.

Saturday

The next day, around the same time the kids showed up the day before, a group of Americans were looking for a spot. They wedge themselves between us and the college kids. They talked quite loudly too. But I was glad they showed up, since they intimidated the young Japanese college kids.

Saturday night the college kids were quiet and went to bed very early. I laid in my tent listening to the Americans talk about non-sense and fell asleep. Then in the middle of the night I heard, “You’re ruining my life! I wish I could smack you!”

The Americans were drunk and one couple from their party was having a huge drunken fight. I could hear someone hitting the ground and then, “Should we help him up?”

“No. Let him sleep there if he wants to hit me.”

The night continued with this couple yelling at each other back and forth. Each listing the illogical reasons why the other is the cause of their unhappiness. I wanted to yell, “Get a divorce and go to bed,” but I thought it would be best not to get anything started with drunk strangers.

The next morning Mark and I packed up our stuff and went home vowing to only return during the work week.

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Iwami Kaihin Park
(島根県立石見海浜公園)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°57’04.7″N 132°07’05.1″E

Address:

〒697-0003 島根県浜田市国分町

Shimane-ken, Hamada-shi, Koku-buncho 1644-1

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • Entrance fee – (There was a fee we had to pay. I don’t remember now it if was an entrance fee or just a parking fee. I think it was about 1,000 – 1,500 Yen for both Mark and me or for the car.)
  • If you enter the park before 8:30 or after 17:30 there is not to collect your money and therefore entrance in free.
    • If you are camping, make  sure to get in by 18:30 your first night so you can register.
  • Coin shower – 200 yen

Activities:  Register at the beach (Hours 9:00 to 17:00)

  • Banana Boat – 1,000 Yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • 10 minutes
  • Jet Ski – 2,500 Yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • passengers only
    • 10 minutes
  • Wake Board – 3,500
    • must be 12 or older
    • 20 minutes
  • Snorkeling with Guide – 4,500 yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • 90 minutes
    • 10:00 – 16:30
  • Scrambler – 1,00 Yen per person
    • must be 6 or older
    • 4 people max
    • 10 minutes
  • Life-Saving Junior Program – 1,000 Yen
    • elementary and junior high school students
    • 60 minutes
    • 5 people

Auto Camping: Open year round and all holidays

  • Over night camping
    • Bring your own tent – 3,830 Yen
    • 3 pm to 2 pm the next day
    • Renting a permanent tent – 6,440 Yen
    • electricity – 510 Yen
  • Day Camping
    • Bring your own tent – 1,910 Yen
    • 10:00 to 14:00
    • must have revelations at least a day in advanced
    • Renting a permanent tent – 3,110 Yen
    • electricity – 250 Yen
  • Over Night Cabin
    • 16:00 to 10:00 the next day
    • Small  (2 – 3 people) – 3,280 yen
    • Medium (4 – 5 people) – 3,860 yen
    • Large (6 – 7 people) – 5,920 yen
    • electricity – 510 Yen
    • bring your own bedding, pots, dishes, etc
  • Day Cabin
    • 11:00 to 15:00
    • must have revelations at least a day in advanced
    • Small (2 – 3 people) – 250 yen
    • Medium-sized (4 – 5 people) – 310 yen
    • Large (6 – 7 people) – 500 yen
    • electricity – 250 Yen
    • bring your own bedding, pots, dishes, etc

Non-Auto/ Free Camping:

  • Here’s a map of the free camping.
    • Free as in it costs 0 Yen.
  • All you need to do is register on the day you get there.
    • When you register you can pick up free trash bags for your burnables, plastic, and food trash.
  • You cannot reserve a camping spot.
  • Make  sure to get in by 18:30 your first night so you can register.

Hours:

  • The office closes at 18:30, but the park itself never closes.

Notes:

  • Facilities – Restrooms, showers, cabins, auto-camping, free camping, communal kitchen, beach.
  • There are lots of paid showers throughout the park.
    • They are generally 2 minutes for 200 Yen.
    • The showers by the auto-camping, the showers are 5 minutes for 200 Yen. These showers are cleaner and generally better.
  • There is an aquarium nearby.
    • adult 1540 yen
    • 9:00-17:00 Closed Tuesdays
    • free parking
  • Beach map

Map:

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

Wish Granting Shrines

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 21, 2016

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

All Pictures

Spring is for traveling

As long as it’s special.

The weather was getting nice and Mark and I wanted to go somewhere and take nice photos of Japan. We sat in our living room reading through websites with lists like “Top 10 Must Sees in Hiroshima”. I clicked on one site after another reading through non-sense and getting more and more annoyed by the moment.

Me – Isn’t there one non-shrine related thing left for us to do here?

Mark – Nope.

Me – How many shrines and temples does one country need?

I started a little soliloquy about how much more fun Japan would be for us if they had as many themed parks as they did temples, when Mark cut me off.

Mark – Why not just see a few shrines?

Me – Only if by going to the shrine I get to confront Buddha about all the temples he has.

Mark – I think you’re confusing two different religions.

Me – Am I?

Torri = Shrine = Shintoism = no Buddha

Then Mark picked up his computer and showed it to me. “I think this is what you’re asking for.” He was smiling behind his laptop. I looked at the photo at the top of someone’s blog. “Mark, that’s just a round rock.”

“No. Not just a round rock,” he said taking back his computer. “It’s the roundest rock and it has magical wish granting powers.” “What on earth would I wish for?” I asked scrolling through the website I was previously looking at on my own laptop. “Better tourist attractions for us to visit,” he replied.

What am I supposed to wish on?

On Sunday morning we got into the car and Mark typed the destination into the Garmin. “Wish city here we come,” I exclaimed. “First,” Mark said waving his index finger in the air, “we must make a stop at another wish granting shrine.” “Two wish granting shrines in one day!” I was amazed.

Our first stop would be at Yaegaki Shrine. Many singles go to this shrine to look for help in finding love. Mark and I have been married for sometime now, so we’ve both already been pretty lucky in love. But, we could always ask for more.

Looking for Love

At Yaegaki, down a path behind the main shrine is a pond. It’s called Mirror Pond and it has oracle-like powers. It cannot tell you who you should marry or even who you should ask out on a date. All it can do is give you a vague idea of how long your wait for love will be.

A single person should buy a special paper from the shrine in front and take the paper to the pond. Get a coin and place it on the paper. I think most people use a 100 Yen coin. Then float the paper, with the coin on it, in the water. The longer the paper floats before sinking, the longer your wait for love will be.

Exactly how long of a wait, I don’t know. There was no mathematical formula given, like for every minute afloat you’ll have a year of waiting. Some papers sank quickly, others sank after awhile.

There goes all your hopes.

Then there were some papers that would not sink. Once the paper got damp enough, the coin just fell through. The paper on its own will float for a very long time. The weight of the coin is what drags it down to the bottom of the pond. If the coin breaks through, the paper will not sink.

Climb those steps for a wish.

Next, we drove to Tamtsukuriyu Shrine. Here we could wish for anything, not just things related to love. I paid for a small wish charm and was given an instruction booklet. Of course, it was in Japanese, but it did have lots of pictures. There was also a lady who got there right before Mark and I did, so I just followed her lead.

Clean enough to make wishes

It was a bit of a process. There were about 6 steps to it. Mark and I would look at our booklet and then at what the lady was doing. She went from the washing area, to the shrine, then to the round rock and back to the shrine. Mark and I followed her as closely as we could while still being completely respectful.

“I get my power from my roundness.”

In the end we took home a little charm, but I’m not sure what I am supposed to do with it. Do I continue to wish on it? Would it be wrong for me to make a bracelet with it?

I should have wished for 5 more wishes!

The street the Tamatsukuriyu Shrine is on, is a wonderfully charming street. It’s a street of beauty. I don’t mean that the street is beautiful, though it is. I mean, the water that flows down the middle of this street is believed to have magical beautifying properties. Along the street there are unmanned stands where you can buy spray bottles of the water to take home. Just squirt it on your face to look years younger. If you want to spend more money, you can buy expensive skin care products made from the water.

The whole street is lined with things that give you luck, like the many expensive luck beads you buy in the shops, or beauty, like Seiganji Temple with the Oshiroi Jizo that heals skin and makes one prettier. There are also many onsens, cafes, restaurants, and shops that give the place a very “treat-y0-self” feel.

Smiling while his feet cook

For people like Mark and me, people on a budget, there are many free foot onsens. Unfortunately, the water is 2 degree short of boiling. Maybe it would be more fun in the winter.

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Matsue
(松江市)
(Matsue-shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°27’49.9″N 133°03’51.1″E

Address:

〒690-0846 Shimane Prefecture, Matsue, 末次町86

Phone:

Websites:

Downloads:

Videos:


Yaegaki Shrine
(八重垣神社)
(Yaegaki Jinja)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates

Address:

  • 〒690-0035 島根県松江市佐草町227
  • 227 Sakusacho, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture 690-0035

Phone:

  • tel 0852-21-1148
  • fax 0852-22-9156

Websites:

Cost:

  • 200 Yen, but no one will collect it.
  • 100 Yen – Special Fortune paper
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Videos:

Notes:

  • Take the Special Fortune paper to the Mirror pond. Put a coin on it and set it afloat in the water. The time it takes to sink is related to the time it will take for you to find your true love.

Tamatsukuriyu Shrine
(玉作湯神社)
(Tamatsukuriyu Jinja)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°24’49.4″N 133°00’42.2″E

Address:

  • 522 Tamayucho Tamatsukuri, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture 699-0201
  • 玉作湯神社 松江市玉湯町玉造522 〒699-0201

Phone:

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • 24 hours

Videos:

Notes:

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Matsue 市, Shimane 県 | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Toko Toko & Adventure

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 24, 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

All Pictures

What have I gotten myself into?

One day Mark and I wanted an adventure. Well, actually I wanted the adventure. Then I demanded that Mark find me one… and it had to be within a 3 hour drive of our house.

I also specified that I wanted, “a good time that did not involve any temples, shrines, or hiking up any mountains or hills!” I was asking for a lot. Of all the tourist attractions in Japan, 90% are shrine, temple, or mountain related. Of the remaining 10%, we’ve already seen 94% of the ones within a day’s drive of where we live.

(Keep in mind that I have a tendency to just make up statistics and have no scientific evidence to back up any of this stuff up.)

Mark scoured the internet for something for us to see. He read through many blogs and websites with incomplete information until he found a few spots. Then he promised me three things, of which only 2 he would deliver.

  1. I would see a glowing cave.
  2. I could pretend to be Indiana Jones, minus the bone-crushing boulders.
  3. I could eat gold-flaked ice cream.

I was excited! We woke up early the next Wednesday, packed some sandwiches and Costco cookies, and headed south. Mark drove for 2 hours and he parked at a train station.

“Mark, you took me to a train station?”

“Yes.”

“We drove for 2 hours… to take a train?”

“Exactly!”

I wondered if the task I threw at Mark was too much for him. “The poor man has cracked under the strain,” I thought as I walked toward the ticket machine inside the station. “No, no, not there,” Mark called to me. “Over there! That train station.” He pointed up the road adjacent to the station.

Mark ran up to a ticket counter in the first train station and bought tickets for the Toko Toko Train. He handed me my ticket and we walked up a small hill.

“I thought you said this was a train station,” I grumbled as we both stood in front of what was clearly a tram. “It calls itself a train,” he replied, “and this where you get on. So, I assumed that it was a train station. You can’t blame me if a tram believes itself to be a train.”

He was right. He could not be blamed. Besides, the train was kind of cute. If it thought of itself as a train, who am I to say otherwise?

“Where does this ‘train’ go?”

“Remember that onsen we found on the way here when we missed our turn?”

“Yes.”

“There.”

“Where else does it go?”

“That’s it. It’s only the 2 stops. Here and there.”

I looked at the time-table for the “train”. It ran 3 times a day.

“There are 3 ‘trains’ per day and only 1 stop besides this one!?”

“That’s correct.”

“What’s the point of this ‘train’?”

“The journey.”

A picture of a poster

Mark turned around and pointed to the photos plastered on the wall of the tram stop. “Not only are we going to see glowing tunnel art, but we’ll also get to see where wasabi grows. The whole ride will take about 40 minutes.”

The number of people waiting with us started to grow. We noticed that many of them had extra jackets and sweaters with them. I leaned towards Mark and asked, “Should we get our jackets from the car?”

“Probably.”

By the time we got back with warmer clothes, the people waiting had been let on the “train”, though the tram was hardly full. We sat there enduring the 10-minute wait until the exact departure time. Every few minutes we stuck our heads out the non-windows to look into the tunnel. It was dark and we could not see very far into it.

Once we started up we entered the tunnel. We drove for about 15 minutes in the dark looking at plain concrete tunnel walls. It was cold and very unspectacular.

“Are you enjoying this Mark?”

“No. But give it time.”

Then the walls started to glow. I tried to get a photo of it, but all I got were blurs. The low lights made it impossible to get a picture at the whopping 5 mph we were going.

Part way, the tram stopped. We were let out to take pictures and walk around. I inspected the walls. Someone had painted tiny rocks with paint that glowed in black light. Then they glued those stones to big sheets of black paper and hung the sheets to the sides of the tunnel. Then black light was shone on the sheets.

I’ve always said, “If your town has no tourist attractions, just make one!” This is just what they did. And, it worked. This place is quite popular. There weren’t many people on the tram the day we went, but we went on a day where spring was just starting to appear. In the summer, this place is… well, packed is probably not the right word. There are still only 3 round-trip rides a day, but I’m sure the trams are longer… maybe.

On our ride we saw bats in the tunnels and wasabi in the fields. We almost saw cherry blossoms, but we were about a week too early to see the trees in full bloom. It was a peaceful ride until the tram started blasting out music to serve as a soundtrack for the view.

The tram operators/ tour guides are all senior citizens. They wear orange jackets over dark-colored clothes. They seemed like a bunch of friends doing this tram thing for the fun of it. I don’t know if they are volunteers, but if they get paid, it can’t be much. They enjoyed being asked questions by the tourists and giving out information. They have a sweet gig. Though, I question their taste in music.

When we got to the end of the ride, many of the tourists got off and headed into the woods.

“Do you want to walk on the hiking path for a little?” Mark was clearly trying to provoke me.

“Is it a hike up a hill or mountain?”

“Most likely.”

“Is there an escalator or ski lift?”

“No.”

“Well, there’s your answer.”

We boarded the tram for the 40 minute ride back to our car. We enjoyed the peaceful journey, but not the terrible music, and vigorously waved to anyone in town who waved at the tram.

Pedestrians love to wave at people in trains (or “trains”) and I have never figured out why. I feel bad for them when no one on the train waves back, so I take up waving duties. Since there were very few tourists on the ride back and those who were, were tired from hiking, Mark and I had to step up our waving.

Justified & Ancient

Next we headed for the lost city of Mu.

Do you remember that very old cartoon that played on Nickelodeon in its early days? It was called The Mysterious Cities of Gold. One of the characters was a boy named Tao. The other kids found him on their journey and he joined them to make the trio that the show revolved around. Well, that character, Tao, was from the ancient and lost civilization of Mu.

Pakal and his “rocket”

It’s called The Mikawa Mu Valley, but it was really a mish-mash of the stuff on Ancient Aliens. (We really don’t know much about Mu. Many experts think Mu, like Atlantis, is just a myth.) The Mikawa Mu Valley combines artifacts from Incan, Mayan, Aztec, and Egyptian culture to make a huge treasure hunt.

It’s a big puzzle you walk around in. You have to look for clues that lead to more clues that lead to more clues… If you’re luck it will lead to an answer to the last question and a prize will be sent to you in the mail.

There were several kids in the caves, but they all had adults with them. I don’t think a child could do this his or her own. But, there was a lot more information in Japanese than in English. So, it’s hard to me to say how hard it would be for a Japanese speaking child.

You are given a booklet with instructions and a flashlight-pen. Don’t get any ideas about following the people you see in the labyrinth and copying their clues. Not everyone is looking for the same clues.

There are several courses that can be done at the same time by different groups. We did the one that came with a brown booklet. Mark and I had to follow the instructions of the characters called Muny and Muko, and only Muny and Muko. The other characters gave instructions for the course with booklets of different colors.

Other than the booklet course, there are many other courses that can be done. We saw clues that were clearly not for any of the booklets. But I have no information on them.

Just walking around in the cave was amazing. The owners went all out in planning and constructing this… I’m not sure what to call it. Walk-in puzzle? The adventure music at the start of the course enhances the atmosphere. Once inside, it’s cold and dark. There are ponds and water falls with ancient temples and artifacts down windy corridors.

If I lived near Mu, I would be here every weekend until I did all the courses.

There was a family with a brown booklet, like ours. We kept bumping into them, so we took it as a sign that we were on the right track. But then we saw them staring at a clue, that was clearly wrong. From that point, we should have diverged in our quests, but then they were right behind us again.

“Are they just copying what we’re doing?”

“Yup!”

“Crap. Now we have to redo everything!”

We thought that if two sets of people came up with the same answer, the chances the answer was the correct one would be higher. But, if they were just copying us, we could have done something wrong along the way. We redid everything and ended up on a whole new other path of clues.

When we had finished and posted our answer, the guy who runs the place was closing up. We wanted to enjoy some gold flake ice cream to celebrate our victory, but he had already shut down the ice cream machine.

To make things worse, we are still waiting for our prize to be mailed to us…

On our way to the car, we saw a sign for a big water wheel.

“Do you want to see the big water wheel?”

“You know I do, Mark! I love water wheels.”

We got into our car and drove to the water wheel. As promised, it was very big. We stood at the small house attached to the wheel. “I wonder what this wheel powers,” I said looking around for Mark.

“Mark! Where are you going?”

“There is a Buddha at the top of these steps.” He pointed at a map.

“I don’t want to see a Buddha at the top of steps. It looks like a lot of steps…”

But Mark couldn’t hear me. He was half way up the steps and he had my camera.

He was gone for 20 minutes. When he came back he was breathing heavily. “I thought the Buddha was at the top of those steps, but there was only a small cave.”

“I had to climb a second set to stairs to get to the Buddha. And, he wasn’t even that big… There was stuff higher up, but I got tired.”

I sighed. “People who make temples are always tricking folks into climbing more steps, then more steps, then just a little more. It’s a Buddhist fitness scam!”

“I’m hungry. Any sandwiches left?”

“Nope. Just cookies.”

“Let’s stop at a ramen shop when we pass one,” Mark mumbled through a cookie-filled mouth.

Before we could get to a ramen shop, we passed a vending machine oasis. We had never really tried ramen at a vending machine oasis before, so we stopped.

We tried a bowl of ramen and one of odon. The ramen was good, but the odon was only so-so. We sat at the wobbly plastic table on wonky plastic chairs eating our food and sipping our drinks as we watched cars race by.

We thought about getting ice cream too. But something about the ad above put us off to the idea.


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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Toko Toko Train
(とことこトレイン)

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 0827-72-2002

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

Cost Toko Toko

  • Free parking across the street from the train station.

Hours:

Hours Toko Toko

  • In the summer, when Japanese schools are on break, this train runs every day.
  • All other seasons, it generally runs only on the weekends. Check the website below for the exact dates.
  • Schedule

 

Notes:

  • It is cold in the tunnel. So, if you go in spring or fall, bring a sweater.
  • You don’t have to take a round trip. You can just get a one-way ticket and catch a bus from the Souzukyo Onsen. (Unless, of course, you drove there. Then you will have to get a round-trip ticket to get back to your car.)

Mikawa Mu Valley
(
美川ムーバレー)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°11’20.9″N 131°59’41.3″E

Address:

〒740-0505 Yamaguchi Prefecture, Iwakuni, 美川町根笠1564−1

564-1 Mikawamachi Nekasa, Iwakuni 740-0505, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Phone:

  • 0827-77-0111

Websites:

 

Cost:

Cost Mu

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 5:00
  • last admission is at 4:30

 

Notes:

  • It is cold in the cave. So bring a sweater.
  • Of course, they sell Inca Cola at the restaurant across the street.

Map:

 

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

Making umeshu (japanese plum wine)

Posted by mracine on June 12, 2016

My wife asked me to blog about this experience.  I hope you enjoy it.

Today I am making umeshu also known as Japanese Plum wine.  The English name for this fruity alcoholic drink is a misnomer for several reasons.  First, it’s not wine.  It’s technically a cordial or liqueur.  Second, the fruit, ume, which is used to make umeshu isn’t a plum.  It comes from that same family as plumbs and apricots, but has its own distinctive taste.  I can only assume the reasons for misnaming the drink are the same reasons why bison and Native Americans were called Buffalo and Indians.  Some idiot called them that and everyone went with it.  The Japanese went a little on the nose with naming the drink umeshu. They just used the fruit name and put the word alcohol at the end. Their creativity always astounds me.

To make umeshu, you need just 3 ingredients.  Obviously, you need ume.  However, deciding the ripeness of the fruit impacts the final flavor.  For most traditional umeshu, you would use greenish unripe ume.  This provides a bite to the final flavor by adding tartness and acidity. If you decide to use a riper ume which looks yellowish red, you end up with a sweeter taste but lose some of its distinct flavor.

 The next ingredient is rock sugar.  You want to use rock sugar over regular sugar because ….  Well, maybe it effects how the sugar gets distributed over the ume?  Or maybe it’s easier to measure?  Or maybe the directions told me to do it this way and who am I to question traditional Japanese customs?  BTW, if you want your Umeshu to taste sweeter all you need to do is add more sugar.  I know, right?  I blew your frinken mind.

The last ingredient is alcohol.  The Japanese use shochu, but I am using soju.  “What’s the difference?” you might ask.  Oh, you didn’t!?  Well, I’m going to tell you anyways.  Soju is by far Korea’s favorite alcoholic beverage and has been for a long time.  Shochu became popular in Japan around 2003.  Soju is mass produced and relatively cheap.  Shochu has more brands and varied flavors, but usually cost more.  Also, shochu usually has a higher alcohol percentage.

In America, you might have had shochu even if what you drank was called soju.  This is because soju isn’t considered a hard liquor and you don’t need a hard liquor license to sell it.  The Japanese, coming to the party late, lowered their shochu to 25% or less alcohol and slapped soju on the label to get around regulations.  Pride and craftsmanship means little to the all mighty dollar.

To be honest shochu and soju have similar tastes to me.  Soju is slightly sweeter and has a more consistent taste.   This is because the alcohol is distilled several times and the flavors are added afterwards.   On the other hand, Shochu is usually distilled once and the mild flavors aren’t as filtered.  Overall they both taste like a weak vodka.  Vodka is also an alternative ingredient if you can’t get your hands on soju or sochu.

When making umeshu, you just need a white liquor somewhere between 20-40% alcohol.  I had a 5 liter bottle from my trip to Korea, so I used that.  Usually when making umeshu in Japan, you would use a neutral flavored shochu.  Because the ume fruit is the main flavoring, buying expensive alcohol isn’t necessary.  Unless you’re the kind of person who insist on using “grey goose” with their Sunny-D flavor screw drivers.

IMG_20160609_173635

Here is a picture of everything I need to make umeshu and a container to store it in.

  • 2 liters of ume
  • 1 liter of rock sugar
  • 5 liters of soju
  • 5 liter container

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  How am I going to fit everything in a 5 liter container?  Well, I can’t.   Doing the math, you probably figured out that I need to drink 3 liters of soju.  Hey, I never said making umeshu was going to be easy.

The container gave me directions.  However, trying to read Japanese in an intoxicated state makes it difficult… Plus, I can’t read Japanese. Luckily, the pictures are easy enough.

IMG_20160609_173706

I heard putting the ume in a container of water for a few hours takes away some of the fruit’s bitterness.  So I let the fruit soak while I sobered up a bit.  After a few hours, I washed and rinsed the fruit a few times.

IMG_20160609_201147

The next step is to remove the stems.  Yes. Yes.  The directions that came with the container says remove the stems first and then rinse them.  However, I feel superior to a glass jar and I do what I want.

Removing the stems was very easy.  Just stick in something sharp and it pops right off.  While removing the stems, I was on the lookout for bruised or rotten fruit.  I found only one.

IMG_20160609_201459 IMG_20160609_201539 IMG_20160609_203036

After giving the fruit another rinse…  Never defy the glass container directions!  You need to dry all the fruit.  So wipe them all dry with a clean paper towel.

IMG_20160609_204301

The next step… or maybe this was the first step (oh, glass container I failed you!)?  I needed to clean the glass container.   I suppose this was the first step to give time for the container to dry.  Anyways, I just used paper towel and soju to sanitize the container.   Good enough, right!?

IMG_20160609_205812

Next was putting everything in the container.  First some ume fruit.

IMG_20160609_205912

Then some rock sugar.

IMG_20160609_210000

Then more fruit and more sugar.  The container should mostly full but not all the way to the top.

IMG_20160609_210354

The last step was to add in the alcohol.  I was sure to leave some space on top.  From what I’m told, the juices expand a bit. So how does the contents in an enclosed container increase?  Well, it can’t.  What I think happens is that osmosis causes the liquid from the ume to exit the fruit.  The ume fruit doesn’t float at the start of this process but sometimes does so in the end.  So one can conclude the increase of juice is caused by the displacement of liquid from inside the fruit to the outside.  Science!  Hell, yeah!

Or… maybe the sugar changes increases the density of the alcohol and that causes the fruit to float.  Then the answer to this riddle is “magic.”

IMG_20160609_210712

After all this work, the only thing to do now is wait.  I placed the bottle in a cool dark location.  It takes about 6 months for fruit to steep and impart it flavors into the alcohol.   I will need to shake the bottle a few times ever couple of weeks, because the sugar will settle to the bottom.  I’ve heard that Umeshu tastes best 1 or 2 years in.  But I will be amazed if I’ll last the 6 months.

If you’re curious what the unripe ume taste like, see if you can tell from Josie’s reaction.

IMG_20160609_203137 IMG_20160609_210955

I’m going to hazard a guess, and say this is the reason why so much sugar is needed.

As for saving money, you’ll save close to half.  700 yen for the container.  1200 yen for the ume. 300 yen for the rock sugar.  800 yen for the soju.  So a total about 3000 yen for a 5 liters.  I think cheap plum wine cost somewhere between 700-1,500 yen liter.  If you make it again using the same container, you’ll save even more.

Posted in Japan | Leave a Comment »

Choco Fries

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 21, 2016

Thursday, January 28, 2016

All Pictures

Sweet Potatoes

McDonald’s in Japan occasionally has special promotions where they sell food oddities. Once they sold really expensive burgers with top quality ingredients. (Well, top quality for everything but the meat.)

This time, Mark and I headed to McDonald’s for their Choco Fries, French fries covered in brown and white chocolate sauce.

There’s still time to turn back!

We were given plain fries and a packet of Double Choco Sauce. Mark poured the sauces over the fries and we tried it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. I think it would have been good if I were used to French fries being a sweet dish. I’m sure that if I tried the Choco Fries a couple more time, I would start to like it. But since I have enough sugar filled things in my diet, I’ll stay away from this one in the future.

Fries with ketchup have more than enough sugar for me.

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.)

McDonald’s
(マクドナルド)

How to get there:

Address:

Everywhere!

Websites:

Cost:

  • McDonald’s is a little more pricy in Japan, but so is everything else.

Hours:

  • Most are open 24/7.

Notes:

Map:

Posted in Japan | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Sand Day

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 14, 2016

Sunday January 3rd, 2016

All Pictures

Surfers taking advantage of global warming

First Trip of 2016

For our first trip in 2016, Mark and I headed for the beach. It was a lot warmer than we expected. No, we didn’t go swimming. But, many crazy surfers were in the water. It wasn’t warm enough to swim in a bikini, but you could walk around town in a t-shirt and light jacket.

The Berlin Wall doesn’t seem that hard to get through.

Our first stop was at the Sand Museum. This sounds like it would be a very boring place where one can learn about the history of sand; it’s not. The Sand Museum is a fun place where you can see sand sculptures of various themes. The last theme was The Brothers Grimm.

We got there just in time. The very next day, the sand sculptures were schedule to be torn down. The Museum will be closed for several months while they work on the next theme with a new set of sand artists. The Sand Museum will be opened again in the summer.

There is nothing keeping anyone in their chairs.

We could have simply walked from the museum to the sand dune. But, we exited the museum from the back, walked up a small hill, then paid to take a ski lift down. We’re adventurous.

I was a little worried when I saw that the ski lift had no safety bar. You could sneeze too hard and fall right off. No one had fallen off, that I know of, buy many people where holding on the chair for dear life. (Okay, it was just me and some old lady.)

No camel ride for Mark.

Mark wanted to ride a camel. That’s how he wanted to start the year off. This was going to be his year of animal riding.

We knew that the ride would cost about 1,300 yen (about $13). But we decided it wasn’t worth it when we saw that the rides lasted about 5 minutes. Plus, the camel guys shooed us away when we tried to take photos of the camels. I guess photos are for paying customers only. But, it’s a big beach and I have a zoom lens.

Walking up the Dune

It was a pleasant dune; not too hard of a climb up. It’s the smallest dune I’ve ever seen. At the top I took photos and wrote some postcards.

Mark ran down the dune, trying to slide part of the way. When we were on the bottom, we saw a group of people with flattened cardboard boxes trying to slide down. But, their technique was all off.

They tried to sit on the boards and do a scoot start. The friction was too high for that. They should have lain on their bellies on the board and pushed themselves down the dune. That would have been fun.

Sand everywhere!

After leaving the dune, but before getting into our car, we tried to do a complete de-sanding. We emptied out our pockets, took off our socks and shoes, and attempted to shake off every bit of sand from our persons. But still weeks later, we still find sand around the place.

Mark can’t walk anymore.

After the dunes I went to a Lawson to buy some stamps and mail my postcards. I wasn’t too sure how much the postcard postage should cost. This wasn’t my first time mailing a postcard and I thought it should cost about 70 to 80 yen.

I told the clerk that one was to go to Japan and the others to America. She handed me several 52 yen stamps. “Really? 52 yen for Hiroshima prefecture and 52 yen for America?” The clerk discussed this with a co-worker and they both admitted that it sounded strange, but that’s what their postage book said.

When I sent the next postcard from the next stop in our trip, I was told that domestic and international postage was 70 yen. Well, lesson learned for next time.

The postcard I sent to Japan was for one of my schools. A teacher asked me to send the students a post card written in English that would be placed in the hallway for the students to read. It did get to the school. Someone, I don’t know who, paid the additional 18 yen necessary for the card to make its journey.

Purse steeling ghost

Before heading home we went to the Mizuki Shigeru Road. This is the town where Shigeru Mizuki grew up. The road is based off of one of the comics he wrote called, “GeGeGe no Kitarō (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎).

I’ve never seen an English translation of the cartoon version of the comic. So, I’m not familiar with it more than knowing it exists. Mark and I went to see it mainly because it was there and it was a thing to be seen. But that’s why we see most stuff.

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

The Sand Museum
(砂の美術館)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°32’23.1″N 134°14’17.3″E

Address:

2083-17 Fukubecho Yuyama, Tottori, Tottori Prefecture 689-0105

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • 600 Yen for one adult

Hours:

  • 9:00 to 18:00 (entry until 17:30)
  • Closed between exhibitions (early January to mid April)

Notes:

  • There is free parking in front and behind the shops near the museum.
  • Behind the museum there is a building with an observation deck.
    • From there you can get a chair lift to the Sand Dune.
    • There is also more parking here.
    • 300 Yen adult one way
    • 200 Yen Adult round trip.

Tottori Sand Dunes
(鳥取砂丘)
(Tottori Sakyu)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°32’26.5″N 134°13’44.4″E

Address:

2164-661 Fukubecho Yuyama, Tottori, Tottori Prefecture 689-0105

Phone:

  • 0857-22-0581

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • There is 500 yen parking near the dune, but there is free parking near the Sand Museum.
  • You can ride a camel for 1,300 Yen, but it is a very very very short ride.

Mizuki Shigeru Road
 (水木しげる記念館) 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°32’41.2″N 133°13’23.6″E

Address:

Taishomachi, Sakaiminato City, Tottori

Phone:

  • 0859-47-0121 (Sakaiminato Infomation Office for Tourists)

Websites:

Cost:

  • It’s free to walk down the street.
  • Museum Adults 700 yen

Hours:

  • Shops along the street close shortly after sunset.
  • The museum is open 9 – 5 (closed Tuesdays)

Videos:

Books:

Notes:


Sending a Postcard from Japan

How to do it:

  • Buy some postcards from a souvenir shop.
  • Flip the card over to the non-picture side.
  • Write the receiver’s name and address on one side.
  • Write your short message on the other side. (Don’t cross the line in the middle of the card.)
  • Put a stamp on the card.
  • Drop the card in a mail box.

Websites:

Download:

Cost:

This is what the Japanese Post Office’s website says about picture post cards:

  • Domestic (Japan to Japan) – 52 Yen
  • International Surface (slow mail) – 60 Yen
  • International Airmail (fast mail) – 70 Yen

But in reality all picture post card postage are 70 yen.

Hours:

  • Post Office Hours
    • Small Post Offices: 9:30 – 16:30 (Closed Sundays, Saturdays, and holidays)
    • Big/ Main Post Offices: 9:30 – 18:00 (Closed Sundays and holidays)
  • You can buy stamps from some convenience stores like Lawson.
    • They even have a post box right in the store.
    • open 24 hours
    • Make sure you know how much the postage is beforehand. Many clerks have no idea how must is cost to mail a postcard.

Notes:

  • picture postcard (絵はがき) (e-hagaki)
    • Don’t mistake this for a New Year’s postcard, which can be quite expensive.
    • Also don’t mistake a picture post card for a regular post card with addresses and stamps on one side and a message on the other. Those cost less to mail.
    • It’s cheaper if you can get a variety pack of 10 or 12 cards with pictures of things all around the prefecture or city, rather than getting one postcard from every place you visit.
  • Stamp (郵便切手) (yūbin kitte)
  • post office (郵便局) (yūbinkyoku)
  • How much is it? (いくらですか) (Ikuradesu ka)
  • Do you have postcards? (絵はがき ありますか) (Ehagaki arimasu ka)
  • Where is the post office? (郵便局はどこですか) (Yūbinkyoku wa dokodesu ka)

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Sakaiminato 市, Tottori 県, Tottori 市 | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Kōhaku Uta Gassen

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 7, 2016

Thursday December 31st, 2015

All Pictures

Hot Pot!

 

A Quiet New Year’s Celebration

This year Mark and I chose to stay warm and ring in the New Year indoors. We invited the few friends we had that stayed in Japan over the winter break. Of those, only one showed up. The rest went to Hiroshima for a big city New Year’s party.

Pork, Mushrooms, Vegetables, Mochie, and whatever is already in the pot

We started with a hot-pot dinner. Hot pot is essentially a stew that is cooked and eaten at the same time. If you feel like eating mushrooms, add mushrooms to the pot and wait a few minutes. Meats are thinly sliced so they cook quickly. At the beginning of the meal you have one type of stew, but by the end the ingredients and flavor would have changed.

To make hot-pot, you start with a base of flavored liquid or broth. You can make a broth base from scratch or buy one. (They come the land – pork or beef, sea – fish, crab, or shrimp, or air – chicken varieties.)  Then add whatever you want. In Japan, there are entire sections of the grocery store that are dedicated to hot-pot. Just pick the stuff you like.

Melissa really got into the Surprise AKB48 reunion.

Around 7:30 pm we turned on Kohaku Uta Gassen. There were many Japanese pop stars and lot of enka singers. To be honest I don’t care for J-pop. When I lived in Korea I really got into K-pop. To me, it sounds like music, but in Korean. J-pop, on the other hand, sounds like… baby music.

I’m not a music critic and I don’t have the right vocabulary to describe how I feel about types of music. Plus, I’m not a big music listener. But, when I hear J-pop, I feel like I’m too old to enjoy it; if I were a 10-year-old, maybe I would like it…

One J-pop group singing an anime theme song

Around 9:00 Melissa went home. She wanted to be at a shrine near her apartment at midnight. Later she told me that a Japanese family adopted her for a few hours and showed her what to do at the shrine.

Mark and I continued watching the show. We drank Miyoshi wine, watched the count down, then went to bed.

Happy 2016!!

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Kōhaku Uta Gassen
(紅白歌合戦)
(Red and White Singing Contest)

How to Watch:

Websites:

Cost:

  • The cost of your TV license or internet fee

Hours:

  • 7:20 p.m. to 11:45 p.m on New Year’s Eve.

Videos:

Posted in Japan | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Illumination

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 31, 2016

Thursday, December 24 – Friday, December 25, 2015

All Pictures

Forest of Lights

No Big Trips this Winter

This year we checked the bank accounts and decided to save some money. Instead of taking a big trip, like we did last year, we will take a smaller non-over night trip. But, that wouldn’t happen until after New Year’s day.

Look at this awesomeness

For Christmas eve, we spent most of the day talking about money and how much longer we wanted to stay in Japan. We agreed to stay for maybe one more year. Then we will find another country to explore. We like Japan, but it’s hard to move around here.

In Korea, everything was at most a 4 hour bus or train ride away. In Japan, a 4 hour drive is refreshingly short. We haven’t been to Hokkaido, not because we don’t want to go. We just aren’t willing to put in the effort to getting there.

Mark is a light bender.

On Christmas eve night we drove to Shobara, the next town over, to view their Winter Illumination. It was very pretty. I took pictures hoping that my camera was capturing the beauty I saw first hand.

It’s the traditional Pegasus pulling the winter pumpkin carriage!

Mark and I don’t exchange gifts for Christmas. There is no real reason for it. Around November I would ask him what he wants and he’d say he doesn’t really want anything. Then he’d ask me what I want and I would say that I don’t really want anything either. Then we would take a trip somewhere. I guess travel could be considered our Christmas gifts to each other.

The saddest Christmas tree in the whole world.

The next day we went out for Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The place had a ‘greasy-spoon tackiness about it. The waitress was a bit rude.

In Japan, when you enter a restaurant, shop, or any type of business, the people there go out of their way to show you how much they appreciate your just showing up. When I first got to Japan, I found this disturbing. I would be walking down the aisle of some grocery store looking for olive oil or the like, and an employee would say, “Welcome!” or “Thanks for coming!” At first, I didn’t know how to react to this. Was I suppose to say something in return? Should I have brought a little gift?

So we walked into the Chinese restaurant, and no one welcomed us. The waitress shrugged at us to say, “Sit wherever. I don’t care.” There was one other group of diners, but they were just about to leave. We sat in the booth behind them.

What can we order to make that waitress like us?

We ordered our food and the waitress seemed overly unimpressed by our selections. “Does she know something we don’t about these dishes?” I asked Mark. He thought the waitress was slightly rude, for this being Japan, but he was not bothered by it.

When we got our food, I noticed that it did not come with rice. So, I ordered a big plate of rice for Mark and me. The waitress looked at me and in Japanese said, “You know that’s 350 yen, right?” Did she think we couldn’t afford it? That’s like 3 bucks! “It’s okay. It’s Christmas!” I replied. She was still unimpressed.

The food, however was pretty good. During our meal two more groups of diners came in and sat in the booths near us. Across from us, there was a family of 3 adults and 2 kids. They looked through the menu and were now ready to order.

They press the button to call the waitress, but no one came. We heard loud arguing in Mandarin coming from the kitchen. “I think someone had a date for tonight, but was called in to work,” Mark whispered to me. “The most romantic night of the year…” I said as if I were the cook, “Finally, Yoshihiro asks me out to see the Winter Illuminations in Shobara, and I get called into work to cook for losers who can’t get dates!”

Meanwhile the dad at the next booth was feverishly pushing the call button with one hand, waving the other one in the air, and shouting “excuse me” as politely as he could. We saw two waitresses look in his direction and walk away. We were dying with laughter. This never happens in Japan!

When a waitress finally came over, she seemed very bothered by the existence of this, now very hungry family. Mark and I started doing what we thought was their dialogue.

Me as the waitress – Whadda ya want!?

Mark as the dad – Um, some chili shrimp, dumplings, kim chi rice, tofu stir fry, pork bone soup, and 2 cold noodle salads… if… if it’s not too much trouble…

Me as the waitress – Any of you bitches want rice with that!?

Mark as the mom – Oh, no. That would be way too much trouble. We couldn’t ask that of you. No, we’ll just eat rice when we get back home.

Me as the waitress – Good choice.

Mark as the dad – But, you can still charge us for the rice.

Me as the waitress – already did…

Entertaining!

After dinner we walked around the little strip mall. There was a store that sold toys, geriatric equipment, and two motor bikes. The other store was a video rental.

There are many video rental places in Japan. I’ve always wondered how much business they did. In the US video rental stores are a thing of the past, killed by Netflix and torrents.

We went into the video store. It was like walking into the nineties. They mostly rented VHS tapes. All the movies by the window like, Kindergarten Cop, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the old Star Wars movies were faded. There were some whose covers were almost white, bleached by the sun.

We walked around the store, which had two employees. They seemed to be both busy and not really doing anything at the same time. “How are they making any money? This must be a front for some illegal operation,” Mark said. “It must be,” I replied. “We should probably go and let them get on with their real business; it’s Christmas after all.”

The employees watched us go as they thanked us for coming and looking around their store even if we didn’t rent anything. “At least someone was glad to see us.”

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.

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 theBBQ 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:

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

Mark Goes Fishing

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 24, 2016

Wednesday, August 5 – Friday, August 14, 2015 

All Pictures

Majestic!

The Next Beach

We spent the day at Kute Beach. It was part a beach day, part a reconnaissance mission. It’s sometimes hard to find information about Japanese campsites online, so we had to look around the area in person for some camping spots for later.

Kute Beach is okay, nothing special. It’s a fine beach that’s free with free parking. Most of the people who go to this beach live nearby and walk to it.

our future camping neighbors

After swimming we drove along the coast until we saw some tents at a park. We got out the car and asked the campers there about the campsite. They spoke no English but we were able to communicate with my limited Japanese. They told us that camping there was completely free and year round. We thanked them for the information and told them that we would return in a few days.

It’s dead Mark!

Before we drove back home we went to a roadside rest stop for some ramen. After dinner, our car wouldn’t start. We had no idea what to do.

We don’t belong to any roadside assistance clubs like AAA or JAF. We left the hood of the car open hoping that someone would come by and offer to give us a jump-start. No one did.

After about 20 minutes I went inside one of the shops at the rest stop. I asked an employee for advice. I told a lady that my car “sleeps and can’t wake up.” She seemed to understand what I was saying. Then I asked her if she had “jumper cables”. I couldn’t think of a way to describe jumper cables with my limited vocabulary. So I mimed connecting to cars, then turning one on so that the other will start. “Oh, I see,” she exclaimed in Japanese.

She went in a back room to explain everything to her manager. He came out and told me something in rapid-fire Japanese, before heading out the door. The lady looked at me, “Everything will be fine. Just wait a moment.” She motioned me to sit by a window.

Ten minutes later the manager came back. “Which car is yours?” “The white Wagon R from Okayama.” Mark and I led him to our car. He took out his cables and jump started our car. We were very grateful. We thanked and bowed to the manager.

Instead of driving home, we went to the nearest Auto Bacs. We keep a stash of cash with us when we go on trips. It’s called the “car fund”. We put aside about $400 each month to pay for any car related surprises. We took that money out and bought a new car battery and jumper cables at Auto Bacs.

The people at Auto Bacs were very nice. We showed up about 10 minutes before closing time. But, they still greeted us like we weren’t making them stay late. They put in the new battery and cleaned our windshield and windows. They waved goodbye to us as we pulled out of their parking lot.

That will do!

A few days later

We came back a few days later. We put up our tent next to the guys who gave us the camping information at Tagi Beach. They were two men who were there the whole time. Sometimes other men would join them camping, other times a group of 5 or 6 boys would join them. There were women who would come by and they would cook for the ladies. But the women never spent the night like the men or boys did. We just referred to them as “the boys”.

After we said hello to “the boys” and set up our tent, we drove up the coast for a better beach. Tagi Beach had free camping, but the beach itself was no good at all for swimming.

It wasn’t long before we found a lovely and lonely spot. We parked our car nearby and got in the water. It was a lazy swimming day.

Mark went off snorkeling and floated around very contentedly. After about an hour of this I felt something. It was like a cross between a bite and an electric shock. But it was so faint, I almost thought I had imagined it. Then I felt another one. This time it was worse.

Damn you sea creatures!

I put on my snorkel mask and put my head under water. Jellyfish! Jellyfish everywhere! Now they were all coming after me. I got out of the water and sat on the shore.

It was a hot day. Too hot to sit on the beach out of the water. So, I went back in. The jellyfish attacked again. I got out of the water. I called Mark. “Lets get lunch!”

sea-snails

“The Boys” Give Cooking Advice

We got up one morning to find a new beach for the day’s swimming. As we were leaving we passed “the boys” and gave them the usually “Ohiyogoziemasu” and small talk. They were grilling something that smelt really good.

“Oh, did you go shopping already?” I was just teasing. “The boys” were great fishermen and were basically living off stuff they caught. The only thing they seemed to buy was beer, coke, and whiskey.

“No, we got that from the sea. Try some!” Mark was hesitant, but I really wanted to try it. One of “the boys” handed me a shelled sea-snail. “It’s delicious!” I was shocked. It smelt good, but I didn’t think it would actually taste good too.

“I grilled it, then fried it in butter.” Then he handed one to Mark. Mark liked it too.

We decided that Mark and I would gather some sea snails and try to cook them. We went to the rest stop to use their free internet. We looked at some YouTube videos on how to cook fresh sea-snail.

Well, we tried it that evening. But it didn’t taste like what the boys made. Ours tasted like sea poison.

Poseidon

“The Boys” get Mark into Spear Fishing

Another day as we were heading off to another beach, we stop by “the boys” camp for our “Ohayo” and small talk. In the course of the conversation, (“The boys” speak no English.) they recommended that Mark get a spear to catch fish. They noticed that he had been having no luck with his fishing pole.

They told us where we could buy a spear, how much it cost, and even gave Mark a short lesson in using one with one of their’s. They advised getting the bamboo one, because it floats. But we didn’t understand that part of the conversation until Mark lost a metal spear.

The Bounty

So, for the next couple of days we stayed at Tagi Beach. Mark spent the whole time spear fishing. He caught many fish, but they weren’t big enough to make a decent meal. He said, “All the bigger fish are too smart and fast for me to catch. All I can get are the slow dumb ones.”

We ate slow dumb fish more as side dishes to accompany the chicken and pork we brought to grill. We did not try sea snails again.

It’s going to rain all day.

A Day Indoors

One night it rained a lot. In the morning it was still raining, so instead of heading out to another beach, we went to a mall. First we had breakfast at a Joyfull. The plan was to stay indoors until the rain stopped. We got gas, found some internet, and checked the forecast. It would stop raining around three in the afternoon.

We spent the next morning laying our things out to dry before we went out swimming. We were still having a great time.

Happy Camper’s Cove

The Day “the Boys” got Weird

We mostly only talked to “the boys” in the mornings. In the evenings they were usually entertaining guests or fishing. For the most part, other than our morning “ohiyo’s” and small talk, they pretty much kept to themselves. So it was a little odd when one of them came over to us while Mark and I where talking on the beach.

We had not seen this particular guy before. He was about the same age as the two main guys who stayed at the camp the whole time. I think he was about 45 or 50ish. He claimed to speak more English than the others, but it was hard to tell; he was kind of drunk.

He asked us where we were from. “We’re from America.” “America!? I like America!” We asked why he liked America and he told us that he liked “FreedOOOMMM!”

“Someone’s been buying into the propaganda.” But, that’s not what he meant. We would soon find out when the conversation took a bizarre turn.

He asked us if we were from Colorado. He really wanted to visit Colorado. “Do you like skiing?” “No, not ski.” He seemed very confused as to why the topic of skiing was brought up.

“Then why do you want to go to Colorado?” “Freedoooooommmmmm!” Then he started to smoke an imaginary joint. “Do you know magic mushroooooooms?”

Mark and I just looked at each other. “It’s magic season.” Then he name some town where there are plenty of magic mushrooms growing in the forest. In a combination of English and Japanese he told us where to go to get them and how to prepare them. But, it took a while for him to give us all this unsolicited information. He kept slurring his words and starting over.

“So you like smoking, drinking, and magic mushrooms?” Mark confirmed.

“I don’t drink!” He seemed offended. “But I love cocaaaaaaine. Do you have cocaaaaine?”

“No.”

“I looooooove cocaaaaaine!” Then he rolled over on his side and just stopped moving. He made no sounds. He just lay there with a big silly grin on his face dreaming about his beloved cocaine. I thought that this would be a good time to back away and leave him there.

I started to get up. “If I had cocaaaaine I would share it you. OOHHHHH!” He started moaning loudly. Some other guys, none we had seen before, came to get Mr. Cocaaaine. They picked him up off the ground and dragged him to their tent.

That night, there were screams all night long coming from “the boys'” tent along with some randomly shouted, “Fuck you’s,” “Fuck me’s,” “Fuck baby’s,” and other various things to fuck. They sang songs, or rather shouted songs. But, most of the night was spend screaming; it wasn’t the “I’m being chased by an ax-murderer” type of screams. It was more like the “I’m at a fabulous rock concert and I’m stoned out of my mind” type of screaming.

“The Boys'” tents, days before the Weird Night

The next morning, “the boys” were nowhere to be seen. Mark and I were looking up at the sky, which was threatening to rain again, and wondering if we should just pack up and go home. Then we saw some official-looking people. They didn’t have uniforms, but they did have badges.

They asked if they could talk to us. It seemed ominous. They spoke no English, so I took out my pocket dictionary. It seemed like the conversation we were about to have would be the type where one would want as little misunderstanding as possible.

“Did you hear any noise last night?”

We both nodded our heads. We pointed to the other camp. “Drunk maybe,” I said. “Normally quiet, but last night party I think.” They asked us where they were.

“I don’t know. I speak only a little Japanese. They don’t speak English. They went to the store maybe. Their car is not here.” The officials seemed satisfied with that. They walked over to “the boys” camp and left a letter on their camping table.

“Mark, I don’t know what is going to happen next, but I think we should be far, far from here when it happens.” So we packed up our stuff and headed back home.

Japan has strict drug laws. You can get in trouble by just being friends with someone who has drugs, especially if you’re a foreigner. The officials never asked us our names or where we lived. I didn’t want to give them an opportunity to come back and do so. At that moment, all they knew was that some people were very loud. If they found drugs in their tent or something, I didn’t want to be dragged into that.

I heard that Japanese prison is no fun.

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Kute Beach
(久手海水浴場)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°13’39.9″N 132°29’59.9″E

Address:

〒694-0053, 島根県大田市鳥井町鳥越新田

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • There is a free outdoor shower for rinsing off, a bathroom, and changing rooms.

Tagi Beach
(田儀海水浴場)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°16’24.6″N 132°35’06.8″E

Address:

〒699-0904 島根県出雲市多伎町口田儀

Phone:

  • 0853-86-3111

Websites:

Cost:

  • Camping – free
  • Showers
    • July 18 – August 23
    • 9:00 – 19:00
    • 3 minutes
    • 200 yen
  • There is free, but limited parking.

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • This beach is more for fishing than for swimming. But, people still try to swim here. Personally, I think there are so many nicer beaches nearby that are great for swimming that you shouldn’t come here unless you wanted free camping or to go fishing.
  • Grilling is not allowed here, though people seem to do it all the time.
  • Kirara is a nearby rest area with restaurants and an information desk. The nice beaches are near Kirara.

Map:

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

A Day at Hamada Beach

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 17, 2016

Thursday, July 30, 2015

All Pictures

Me in my swimming hat

Year 2 with no Air Conditioning

It was that time of year again, when the sun, in all its glory, reminded us that our little apartment has no air conditioning. We still refused to buy an a/c unit. One would cost about $2,000. Instead we took one-fourth of that money and headed to the beach several times this summer.

Very Nice

One beach we visited was the nicest beach, in Japan, that I have ever seen! It’s called Hamada beach. The sand is soft; not the rocky foot-knives type sand normally at Japanese beaches. You can actually walk bare footed there.

The day we went the beach was not crowded at all. There was even a section of the beach that we had all to ourselves. The sea was calm there. It was very peaceful and quiet.

The “Crowded” Area

Beach Wear

The first day at the beach I actually wore a swim suit, but with a hat. Most women in Japan are almost fully dressed at the beach. They don’t want to tan. At first it looks silly, but then when you think about it, it makes sense.

Sunscreen only does so much. And, although I don’t mind getting a tan, I don’t like when my skin peels. When I wear a hat while swimming, my face does not peel even when I forget to reapply sunscreen. That’s great!

No more sun-burns for me.

I’ve even started to swim with a long sleeve t-shirt when I know I will spend many days at the beach.

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Iwami Kaihin Park
(島根県立石見海浜公園)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°57’04.7″N 132°07’05.1″E

Address:

〒697-0003 島根県浜田市国分町

Shimane-ken, Hamada-shi, Koku-buncho 1644-1

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • Entrance fee – (There was a fee we had to pay. I don’t remember now it if was an entrance fee or just a parking fee. I think it was about 1,000 – 1,500 Yen for both Mark and me or for the car.)
  • If you enter the park before 8:30 or after 17:30 there is not to collect your money and therefore entrance in free.
    • If you are camping, make  sure to get in by 18:30 your first night so you can register.
  • Coin shower – 200 yen

Activities:  Register at the beach (Hours 9:00 to 17:00)

  • Banana Boat – 1,000 Yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • 10 minutes
  • Jet Ski – 2,500 Yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • passengers only
    • 10 minutes
  • Wake Board – 3,500
    • must be 12 or older
    • 20 minutes
  • Snorkeling with Guide – 4,500 yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • 90 minutes
    • 10:00 – 16:30
  • Scrambler – 1,00 Yen per person
    • must be 6 or older
    • 4 people max
    • 10 minutes
  • Life-Saving Junior Program – 1,000 Yen
    • elementary and junior high school students
    • 60 minutes
    • 5 people

Auto Camping: Open year round and all holidays

  • Over night camping
    • Bring your own tent – 3,830 Yen
    • 3 pm to 2 pm the next day
    • Renting a permanent tent – 6,440 Yen
    • electricity – 510 Yen
  • Day Camping
    • Bring your own tent – 1,910 Yen
    • 10:00 to 14:00
    • must have revelations at least a day in advanced
    • Renting a permanent tent – 3,110 Yen
    • electricity – 250 Yen
  • Over Night Cabin
    • 16:00 to 10:00 the next day
    • Small  (2 – 3 people) – 3,280 yen
    • Medium (4 – 5 people) – 3,860 yen
    • Large (6 – 7 people) – 5,920 yen
    • electricity – 510 Yen
    • bring your own bedding, pots, dishes, etc
  • Day Cabin
    • 11:00 to 15:00
    • must have revelations at least a day in advanced
    • Small (2 – 3 people) – 250 yen
    • Medium-sized (4 – 5 people) – 310 yen
    • Large (6 – 7 people) – 500 yen
    • electricity – 250 Yen
    • bring your own bedding, pots, dishes, etc

Non-Auto/ Free Camping:

  • Here’s a map of the free camping.
    • Free as in it costs 0 Yen.
  • All you need to do is register on the day you get there.
    • When you register you can pick up free trash bags for your burnables, plastic, and food trash.
  • You cannot reserve a camping spot.
  • Make  sure to get in by 18:30 your first night so you can register.

Hours:

  • The office closes at 18:30, but the park itself never closes.

Notes:

  • Facilities – Restrooms, showers, cabins, auto-camping, free camping, communal kitchen, beach.
  • There are lots of paid showers throughout the park.
    • They are generally 2 minutes for 200 Yen.
    • The showers by the auto-camping, the showers are 5 minutes for 200 Yen. These showers are cleaner and generally better.
  • There is an aquarium nearby.
    • adult 1540 yen
    • 9:00-17:00 Closed Tuesdays
    • free parking
  • Beach map

Map:

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

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers

%d bloggers like this: