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One World in One Lifetime

Archive for July, 2011

One of Japan’s Best 100 Sunsets

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 27, 2011

July 16 – 17, 2011

All Pictures

Of course I brought the wrong camera for sunset photos…

Finally!

I have blogged about Mark’s and my many attempts to see the sunset at Matama beach. This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful sunsets in Japan and we, up until this time, have always managed to miss it.

This time we showed up a good 4 hours before sunset. We ate at the restaurant on the beach, then sat in the water until the tide came in. When it was almost sunset we got out of the water and sat on the cement steps leading to the sea.

They didn’t notice me fall.

Right before the sunset I noticed that my shoes were a bit sandy. I wanted to rinse them off in the ocean water before I put them on. I stepped on the last step above the water, which was beginning to get flooded. There was a patch of slick moss under my foot and before I realized that I was falling, I was on the ground with one leg under me and the other awkwardly reaching out into the water.

I got up and I felt no pain initially. In a few seconds there were streams of blood running down my right leg. I rinsed it off with the salt water so I could see the wound. It was not too bad. I enjoyed the sunset as I bled.

Enjoying warm shallow water

Japanese Lesson for this situation

So, I’ve been living in Japan for almost a year now and that’s a total of almost 2 years of my life spent in Japan. But still I speak very little Japanese. Don’t feel bad Japan, I grew up with 2 Spanish-speaking parents and still have no idea what the heck Speedy Gonzales says. It’s not you, it’s me.

I basically learn just what is needed for me to survive. This is why I can order food in Korean, I can say, “Fill-her-up,” in Japanese, and say bad things about your mother in Spanish. But I can’t ask about the weather in any language other than English.

And for the record, my parents did not teach me to say bad things about your mother in Spanish. …And tu madre es una dama simpática.

I will put here, for future reference, for me or whoever else needs it, the vocabulary needed for this situation.

Rubbing alcohol 

  • 消毒用アルコール
  • (Shōdoku-yō arukōru)
Topical antibiotic cream (Like Neosporin in the US, or Fucidin in many countries)
  • 抗菌外用薬クリーム
  • (Kōkin gaiyō-yaku kurīmu)
  • Make sure to ask a pharmacist about this one. Not all topical antibiotic creams are for wounds, most in Japan are for rashes.
  • This one might be hard to find.
  • 絆創膏
  • Bansōkō

or in my case

  • 大きい 絆創膏 (Big band-aid)
  • Ōkii bansōkō
No need for sentences. That will just give me more things to forget.

Guards of Scotch

Typhooie!

Before we went to Matama beach we pitched our tent and Mark sprayed it down with Scotch Guard to make it more water proof. The last time we were camping, the tent leaked so this needed to be done. Before we left the apartment we saw that a typhoon was heading our way. The storm would hit Oita Monday night, so we didn’t cancel our trip. The Scotch Guard would help us if it started to rain a couple of days before the storm.

Just to get something straight before I continue. I do not recommend camping during a Typhoon, or even a tropical storm. A tent is not good shelter from anything other than mild rain. We checked the weather forecast before heading out and we knew that we were good for camping until Monday evening. By then we were safely back in our apartment by Monday night.

St. Croix

Mark –  “What’s the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?”

Me     – “Geography”

I grew up on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a kid I loved hurricanes. It usually meant that my parents would let me stay up late to see what was going on. The electricity would sometimes go out, and my mom would bring out her kerosene lantern.We would sit in the living room listening to the radio. I would curl up in a blanket on the sofa next to my mom or dad as the wind whistled outside. The reception on the radio would crackle as the fire in the lantern danced about. I loved the sound of the radio snow over the howling of the wind along with the smell of the burning kerosene. I would go to bed hoping that school would be cancelled the next day.

Usually, nothing more than a couple of trees or telephone polls would be knocked down. Most of the time, I and many other kids, would be in school the following morning making up tales of people blown away in the winds. The hurricanes, would either just miss us and only dump rain on us, get down graded to a tropical storm, or turn away from us completely. My first real hurricane was Hugo. Few people on the island were prepared for the disaster Hugo would bring.

The aftermath

You haven’t seen a real hurricane yet!

The morning of September 17, 1989 I was excited. It was a Sunday. Not only was my piano lessons for that day cancelled because of the hurricane, but so was school the next day. I hated piano lessons!

My family and I went to the crowded grocery store where everyone was buying the hurricane essentials, batteries, water, canned food… I, for one, was thrilled. The air was filled with hurricane anticipation as everyone, excited about the hurricane, talked about what they thought about the storm.

The afternoon we and all our neighbors prepared for the hurricane. I remember my parents arguing about some sand we had in the back yard. My parents were fixing up the house, so my father bought some sand with which to make cement. My father said that it wasn’t necessary to cover the sand with tarp. “Would you cover the whole beach with tarp?”

Mom – “No but the beach gets its sand from the ocean. If some sand gets blown away, more will wash up on shore the next day. I’m telling you, if you don’t cover the sand, it will be gone by tomorrow.”

My father covered the sand, but it and the tarp would be gone by the next day anyway.

My mother was the only one, who seemed uneasy. Everyone else was looking forward to a little excitement and a day off that Monday. This would be the biggest hurricane the island had seen in over 60 years, so schools and businesses had already announced that they would be closed on Monday.

My mom walked around like Cassandra warning people that this hurricane would not be any fun if it did hit St. Croix. She lived through hurricane Hattie when it hit her home town of Belize City, Belize. “We were excited, just like you are now.” My mom made my dad take extra precautions. They parked the cars closer to the house and away from the trees in the backyard. They took in anything that could be taken indoors.

The size of my island compared to hurricane Hugo

I didn’t know wind could do that!

The hurricane was supposed to hit late that night, so I was surprised, when at 6:00 pm I could see the bushes in the yard in front of ours laying down because of the wind. “Wow, I didn’t know wind could do that!” My mom dryly replied, “This hurricane hasn’t even started yet.”

I wanted to stay up, but my parents made me go to bed around 9:00 pm. I’m not sure how long I was asleep, but sometime that night my father woke me up. “Come, we have to go to the living room.” I was a little groggy, but I got up and followed him. He seemed worried and agitated. As we passed my bathroom, I stopped. “Can I used the bathroom first?”

I asked, only out of respect. I didn’t really think  he would say no. He hesitated, looking back down the hall where we had just come. He seemed to be thinking it over. “Make it quick.”

I didn’t understand what was going on. I was a kid and I was too sleepy to care. When we got to the living room my mom was sitting on the floor with her flash light. The electricity was out. I started to remember the hurricane. “Are we camping out in the living room?” This seemed like fun.

“No”, my dad said, “It’s… it’s… ”

“Just show her,” my mom interrupted.

My dad took my hand and a flash light and led me back down the hallway. My parents’ bedroom door was closed. “One quick look, then we have to go back to the living room.” I could not imagine what could be in their bedroom that would cause them to spend the night in the living room.

He opened the door. I could hear the wind outside screaming around the house, but everything looked normal. He closed the door. “What? I didn’t see anything.”

He opened the door again, but this time he turned on the flash light. I followed the spot of light with my eyes. It moved from the floor, onto the bed, then up the wall. There was a gap between where the wall ended and the roof began. The roof was moving up and down. “Wow! Do you think that could happen in my room?”

My room was across the hall from my parents’. “It is happening in your room. That’s why we woke you up.” I didn’t believe him. I was asleep in that room not more than 10 minutes ago. If my roof was dancing, I think I would have noticed. He open my bed room door to show me. Sure enough, the roof was bobbing up and down like a play thing of the wind.

I felt sick. I sat in the living feeling cold on the inside. The roof of my bed room was being pulled off the house as I slept. I was right under it and I didn’t even know. What if my parent slept as deeply as I did?

We tried to get some sleep. Just when I had calmed down I heard a crash. The chandelier on the living room ceiling came crashing down inches from my mom’s head. I began to think how lucky that was. If she have been hit, there would be no way of getting her to the hospital any time soon. After that I could not sleep.

I sat there rocking myself as my parents tried to sleep. My mom kept telling me that everything would be okay. From her tune of voice, I knew that she didn’t believe what she said. My stomach didn’t feel so well.

Sometime after that we heard a big woosh sound. My dad went to look at the rooms down the hall. I followed too. My parents let me. I guess they thought that my imagination was too active and I would be less afraid if I saw what was going on, then if I didn’t.

We looked into my parents’ bedroom. The roof was gone. The bed, clothes, and other things in the room were spinning around as if being stirred with a giant invisible spoon. “This can’t be good,” I said to myself.

We all went back to the living room to wait out the rest of the storm. No one tried to sleep now. I don’t know what was going on in my parents’ heads, but my mind was buzzing. “What is tomorrow going to be like? My parents will have to sleep in the living room until the roof over their room is fixed. Maybe we’ll have to get a new house.”

Sometime after that we heard the woosh sound again. It was the roof over my bedroom. We just sat there. We did not feel the need to look. I knew that all my things were gone.

Later the winds died down. My dad went outside the check on the cars. He wanted to walk down the street to see what happened to the neighborhood, but my mom wouldn’t let him.

“The hurricane is not over. This is just the eye.” She told us.

“What? You mean there’s more?” I asked.

“That was just the first half. Now the wind will come in the other direction. We should really move to the other side of the house, but…”

I had never heard of an “eye of a storm” before. I don’t think I was the only one, because later I heard stories of people going out during the eye thinking everything was over, only to be caught outdoors when the second part of the storm began. I don’t know how true any of those stories were. Maybe they thought the eye would last longer than it did and didn’t have enough time to get back indoors.

Hurricane Hugo

When the storm started again we sat in the living room. No one spoke a word. The winds roared outside mocking us. It moved like a monster trying to rip open our home to get at us.

I looked up at the roof on the other side of the room. “Mom, this roof is going to go.” My mom shone her flashlight where the roof and wall met. It looked normal. There wasn’t even a crack on the wall. “I think it will be fine.”

“No mom. This roof is going to go.” I insisted.

“You’re just scared. Everything will be fine.” she said.

I muttered to myself, “That roof is going to go!”

Half an hour later, as I was staring at the roof, it just lifted up. It broke apart in the air and disappeared into the dark windy night. It even took the lighting fixtures with it. I don’t remember the sound it made. I just sat there, looking at it go, blown away like paper. The blackness of the night came in my house and it brought rain. I was getting wet.

My parents grabbed me and took me to the middle room. They closed the door and we sat on the bed.

I felt really sick and I really needed to pee. Even though the bathroom was right across the hall, my mom would not let me leave the room. There was an orange tub that she used to bathe me in when I was a baby. She gave it to me and told me to take it to the closet and pee in it. I went to the closet and sat over the basin, but I could not pee. I was just really scared.

My mom did not want to be trapped in the house. She and my dad started to think of things they could do to ensure our survival.

“If this house catches on fire, something crashes down on this roof, or this roof goes, we’re trapped.” My mom said.

“If only we had a basement.” My dad put in.

Houses in the Caribbean don’t have basements. Under our houses, we have cisterns, where we keep the water from the rain that falls on the roof. We use this water to flush the toilets and for showering. I did hear of a family who, after losing their roof and most of their walls, spent this hurricane standing in their half empty cistern. They must have opened some sort of lever to keep the water flowing out the cistern so it would not fill up and drown them all.

“But, Mr. Ash, has a two-story house. We must go to Mr. Ash’s house.”

Mr. Ash was our next door neighbor. I had been over to his house countless times to play with his oldest daughter Kizzy. The family lived on the second floor and Mr. Ash worked on the first floor.

He made and improved houses for a living. He had his own business. He designed his house. The first floor of the Ash house was his office. It looked like a smaller version of a hardware store. There were tools, machines, and equipment on this floor of the Ash residence. Kizzy, her sister and brother, me, and all the other kids in the neighborhood were never allowed on the first floor. So of course, we were always trying to get in.

The family lived upstairs. There were steps that went from their front garden to the second floor, completely bypassing the ground floor. I don’t even think there was a way to go from the first to second floor without going outside.

The Hess Oil Refinery on the Island

I didn’t want to go. It wasn’t so much that I was afraid of walking out in the storm. The dangers of that only occurred to me years later. I didn’t want to see the living room without its roof again.

In the spare bed room, nothing had changed. It looked like it did before the hurricane. Its roof was still on. Its floor was still dry. Everything in the room was as it should have been. Outside the room was complete disorder. And the storm was just about halfway passed.

Later we would find out that the hurricane was moving very slowly. Although the winds were moving at 140 mph the storm itself was moving at about 3 or 4 mph. I remember my dad using his car to show me how fast 3 mph was. “I can run faster than this!”

My parents each held onto one of my forearms. I was given a hat and jacket and was told to cover my face and keep my head down. The wind was so strong, I remember, that it stung my face. It was very hard to walk because the winds made putting my foot on the ground almost impossible.

We got over to the Ashs’ house and their gate was latched but unlock, like it usually was. They had 2 big, mean looking dogs, Blackman and Whiteman, that guarded the house, but they were indoors for the storm. We opened the gate and closed it behind us. We got to their downstairs door and started yelling and banging on the door. My mom prayed that they would hear us. We stood out there for a minute or two wondering if we had made a huge mistake. When the door open, I fell in.

The National Guard was called into St. Croix.

I sat on the floor in complete shock. I could not stop shaking. I threw up and kept throwing up even though my stomach was empty. I saw Kizzy and her brother and sister. They looked scared too, but they were not in the state I was in. Mrs. Ash, kept bringing me water and asked if I needed anything, but I just wanted to be alone with my vomit bucket. I move to a corner where I fell asleep.

The next day I woke up on the floor. My bucket was gone and so were my parents. I sat there thinking, “I’m homeless. I don’t have a home anymore. Where am I going to sleep tonight?” Mrs. Ash told me that my parents went to do something for the house. She tried to feed me cereal, but I could not eat.

The upstairs of the Ashes’ house was heavily damaged. Parts of their roof had been damaged, but it did not come off like the roof of my house.They spent the next couple months living on the first floor until the upstairs was completely fixed.

When my parents got back they took me to see the house. “Is it safe? There is a lot of water; what about live wires?”

“There is no electricity on this island. No stop lights. Nothing is working.” My dad said.

We walked through the house. It did not look familiar. Everything was thrown about and wet. The only glimmer of hope for me was that, among all the soaked and bloated items floating around our house, was the piano. Well, it didn’t float.

My mom sat on its bench which sagged a bit and threatened to give out. She stood up and tapped a key. It groaned like a dying cat. “Oh no, not the piano. I wanted to have at least one child learn to play the piano well.” Days later when we loaded up a borrowed truck of our things to be taken to Anguilla, the dumpsite, I happily tossed part of that piano bench in. Did I mention that I hated that piano?

We went to the back yard. “There’s our roof! Can we just put it back on?” I asked.

My parents looked at the roof suspiciously. It was a completely intact roof, laying galvanize side down. All it was missing was the rest of its house. “That’s not our roof.” my mom said.

I looked at the thing. It was smaller than our house and it was the wrong shape. Besides, we didn’t lose our whole roof, just the bits in the front and the bits in the back. Many of our neighbors roofs were missing but none had a roof like that.

Mr. Ash came over, along with other neighbors and they butchered that roof. Parts of it went on our house, Mr. Ash’s house, and other neighbors’ houses to keep the rain out. There was a small tropical storm coming and it rained the entire next day.

The tropical storm was Gabrielle, formally hurricane Gabrielle, but by the time she got to us, she was weak and old and only delivered rain. She would have never even stayed in my mind, if my house had a roof. But when she came every Cruzan was listening to the weather forecast on his or her radio like it was the latest gossip.

Thankfully, our radios still worked. They were our only connection to the outside world. We had no electricity and the phones were down. The day after Hugo we stay glued to the radio as we tried to clean up what we could. I remember that the governor at the time, Alexander Farrelly who lived on St. Thomas, got on the air and told the world that the US Virgin Islands were all oaky.

Those of us on the island of St. Croix were shocked. Apparently, the island of St. Thomas was not hit as severely. But since we, on St. Croix, had no electricity or any means of contact to the outside world, the governor assumed that no news was good news. Later he would have to retract his statement and ask President Bush, not only for aid for St. Croix, but for soldiers to put the island under Marshal Law. There was wild looting, fighting, and all around chaos in the streets for days following Hugo.

My parents were a few of the lucky people who were able to collect their insurance money. Many insurance companies went bankrupt. It took people months, some years, to repair all the damage. Some of them had to pay for the repairs all on their own.

Within a year, our house was completely fixed. The new roof that was put on, not only had 3 new sunroofs, but was designed to withstand any hurricane. The roof had smaller eaves and was connected to the bottom of the house. The builder told us, “For this roof to go, the walls must go with it!” As far as I know the house is still there.

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 cashandcallyourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Matama Beach
(真玉海水浴場)
(Matama Kaisuiyokujō)

How to get there:

  • 33°37’20.9″N 131°28’23.3″E

From Oita by car –

  • Take route 10 North.
  • When you reach Hiji town, you can stay on route 10 or take route 213
    1. If you stay on route 10 at Hiji town, you will get on route 213 in Usa. Be careful because the turn is at an odd angle making it a little easy to miss. This is the shorter way.
    2. If you get on route 213 in Hiji, stay on route 213 until you pass the beach.
  • It doesn’t really look like a beach when you’re driving by. It is mostly a cemented area with lots of parking across the road from the “beach”.

Address:

〒872-1101 大分県西国東郡真玉町2144-12

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • always available

Notes:

  • There is a little restaurant at the beach that sells drinks, snacks, and meals.
  • When we went, the water was not deep enough to swim in. But I don’t know what it is like at high tide or at other times of the year

Nagasakihana Resort campsite
(長崎鼻リゾートキャンプ場)
(Nagasakibana Rizōto Kyanpu-ba)

How to get there:

  • 33°40’55.9″N 131°31’29.3″E

From Matama Beach –

  • Get on Route 213 heading east.
  • You will pass 4 tunnels.
  • After the 4th tunnel you will be in a little town. You will need to make a left onto a little road that is opposite to a pedestrian tunnel. The first time you go, it will be a little tricky, because you can’t really see the pedestrian tunnel when making the left. But if you reach a 5th tunnel, that is kind of long, turn around and you will be able to clearly see the pedestrian tunnel.
  • Take the road across the little one lane bridge and take the biggest road up the hill.
  • You will pass a rape field and a sunflower field.

Address:

4060 Mime, Bungotakada, Oita Prefecture 872-1207

Phone:

  • 0978-54-2237

Websites:

Cost:

  • 1,000YEN per tent   &
  • 300YEN per person
  • The second night they only charged us for the tent. I don’t know if they always do this, or they just liked us.

Hours:

  • Open year round
  • Reception hours are 9:00 to 17:00

Notes:

  • They also have cabins, some with AC.
  • There is a beach at the campsite.
  • There are free electric bikes you can borrow.
    • 1 person – 1 hour max
    • 2 people – 2 hours max

Map:

Posted in Bungo Takada 市, Japan, Kyūshū, Matama 町, Oita 県, St. Croix, United States, The, US Virgin Islands | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Yosh

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 14, 2011

July 11, 2011

All Pictures

nice day to learn how to drive

Starting Early

I started this process in April when I showed up at a JAF center to get my license translated. I knew that around July all the new JET’s from last year with cars would need to get Japanese driver’s licenses when their international driving permits expire. I wanted to avoid the rush. But things in Japan are never straight forward. It took months to get all my senseless paper work in order.

speed up here?

3 or more years

I first needed to drive through the practice course. To be allowed to do this I needed to find someone who has had a Japanese license for at least 3 years. That eliminated all my JET friends. The ones who have been here long enough, don’t drive.

I needed to find a co-worker to help me. I hate asking my co-workers for stuff like this. They work so hard and are always busy. They usually work 2 or more Saturdays a month, whereas I never work on weekends, so I felt really bad asking this favor. But I needed to get my license. I would have to ask someone to give up a precious Saturday to drive around with me.

So I asked my supervisor. We found one Saturday where we were both free. It was all the way at the end of May. He was a really busy man. I waited until the next time I was able to leave work early then drove over to Oita’s DMV to sign up for time in the practice car.

The DMV is no fun.

Proof of 3 Months

At the DMV I ran into, David. another JET trying to get his license. There was a snag in his paper work. His passport was not proof enough that he had been in the states for at least 3 months after getting his license. You see, the US passport control does not stamp the passport of exiting US citizens. He had to come back later when he had some better proof.

I tried to sign up for practice time, but I was told that I would probably fail if I practiced on my own. I was given the number of Mr. Yano. (I have since lost his number.) I was told to call him and he would teach me everything I needed to know and that he would take care of making the appointment.

Mr. Yano’s help was a bit expensive, but this would mean that I would not have to steal a Saturday from my supervisor. So, I called Mr. Yano and met him one Saturday morning. He didn’t speak English fluently, but he spoke well enough.

Mr. Yano and me

I’m really glad to meet you!

After spending 2 hours with Mr. Yano, I could see why most people fail this driving test. It’s really not a test about how well you drive; you never leave this course, so who knows what kind of bat-out-of-hell driver you are? They test how well you can remember and follow a bunch of silly instructions.

On the first 2 curves of the course, you are not allowed to use your brakes. Mr. Yano said, “It’s dangerous to use the brakes on a curve.” But it was quite safe to use your brakes on all other turns on the course. I also had to break 3 times before really slowing down the car. This is supposed to be a warning for the person behind me that I am stopping. I guess my car slowing down and the brake lights aren’t big enough clues.

I was told that hitting the curb on the S-turn part of the coarse  was an automatic fail. It is better to back up many times. I just had to make sure to do a 5-point yosh before going in reverse.

What’s a 5-point yosh? Well, let me first explain what a yosh is. It is hard for the proctor to see what you have noticed while you are taking your test. So they make you say this word, which shows that you have noticed something. The 5-point yosh is:

  • Point 1 – Look at the left side mirror and say, “Yosh”.
  • Point 2 – Look at the left side blind spot and say, “Yosh.”
  • Point 3 – Look at the rear view mirror and say, “Yosh.”
  • Point 4 – Look at the right side mirror and say, “Yosh.”
  • Point 5 – Look at the right side blind spot and say, “Yosh.”
Mr. Yano also pointed out that I might fail the test if I get my yoshes in the wrong order. When pulling into a lane I yoshed left then right. He said that I must yosh right then left. I also didn’t drive close enough to the curb in certain sections and not close enough to the middle of the road in others. I was taught, in the US to stay the hell away from either the curb or on coming traffic; not so on a Japanese driving test.
If I had not met Mr. Yano I would have failed the driving test and not even know why.

I’m going to yosh the hell out of this test!

Test Day

I showed up early and handed in all my documents. I used old credit card statements as proof that I was in the states for at least 3 months after getting my current Florida driver’s license. Luckily for me, Discover card keeps statement records for up to 7 years and will mail them to you for free once you request them.

First I had to have an interview. The interviewer was a very friendly man, who spoke  English well. He asked me questions about my driving test in the states. It was over before I realized that I was being evaluated. Everything went well and I moved onto the next step.

The written test was made up of 10 questions. They were easy, but I missed some questions because I over analysed them, thinking that they were put on the test to throw me off. I managed to pass with no points to spare.

The next step was my vision test. It was just lights and colors like the vision tests at most DMVs. I passed with no problems.

Then it was time for the driving test. The proctor spoke no English at all. I yoshed my way into the car and yoshed all the way through the course. Half way into the test I realized that I was not paying attention to my hand positions while turning.

Normally I turn hand-over-hand and sometimes I hold the wheel with my palm up for a better grip. These are a big no-no’s. I also notice many other mistakes that I had made, like not driving close enough to the curb.

When I was done, I yoshed myself out of the car. I stood there awkwardly as the proctor sat in the car for about 3 minutes feverishly writing on my evaluation sheet. He got out and, without saying a word, motioned me to follow him.

We got into an elevator and he began to ask me questions in Japanese. All I could say was, “Wa-ca-de-mas sen.” (I don’t understand.) We got out of the elevator and walked to waiting the area. He pointed to a chair and I took a seat.

waiting for my test results.

He disappeared into one of the offices and emerged behind the counter. He started talking to the ladies at the desk while still writing on my evaluation sheet. “Wa-ca-de-mas sen, Wa-ca-de-mas sen, Wa-ca-de-mas sen,” he said to the ladies while shaking his head. “No matter what I ask her, she says, ‘I don’t understand'”.

I felt tired. I was at the DMV since 12:30pm and it was now almost 5:00pm. It had been a long day and I would have to do this again. Near the counter was a bus schedule and I looked at it. My international driver’s license would expire soon, and I might have to take the bus here to re-take this test.

The guy who had interviewed me called me over. He was looking down at my evaluation sheet behind the counter as I walked over to him. “You know, sometimes miracles happen and one happened today. You passed!”

like I’m some sort of baby.

Young Driver

Since my license is new, even though I have been driving since I was 16, I have to put these stupid “new driver” magnets on my car; one in the front and one in the back. Usually, only 18-year-olds have these. This is to let everyone know how inexperienced I am. The only good thing about the magnets is that no one is allowed to drive close to me or cut me off on the road.

People still do, though. In fact the “new driver” magnets seem to bring out the jackass in most drivers. I get tailgated and cut off more now than ever.

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 callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Department of Motor Vehicle Licensing
(大分県運転免許センター)
(Ōita ken unten menkyo sentā)

How to get there:

  • 33°11’16.8″N 131°38’59.2″E
  • Head towards Park Place, which is near exit #14 on the Oita Express way.
  • Go south of Park place on the numberless road on the map below.
  • You will see a lot of parked cars.

Address:

6687 Matsuoka, Oita City

Phone:

  • 097-536-2131 (ext: 702-245)

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • It depends on how many times you fail.
    • Most people fail several times.
  • 3,000YEN to translate your US license at any JAF.
  • 1,000YEN for the “Rules of the Road” book.
  • 8,000YEN to have Mr. Yano teach you how to past the test.
  • 4,000YEN to practice on the course.
  • 2,400YEN for the application fee. (Paid right before the written test.)
  • 1,650YEN to rent the car. (Paid right before you take the driving test.)
  • 2,100YEN for the registration fee. (Paid after you pass the driving test, if you pass.)

Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 12:30 – 14:00 excluding holidays

Notes:

  • This is for US citizens.
  • Australians and New Zealanders don’t have to take this test; those lucky bastards.
  • You are given one year to drive on an international driver’s license, after that you must get a Japanese license.

Steps to getting a Japanese Driver’s License:

Step 1.

Get your valid driver’s license Translated at JAF. You will need to bring:

  1. This PDF form filled out and signed.
  2. Your current American driver’s license.
  3. 3,000YEN.

You can buy a copy of the “Rules of the Road” book here, if you cannot find someone to lend it to you. You just need a quick read through this book. There is no need to really study it.

Step 2.

Practice: I was given Mr. Yano’s number by the guy at the DMV.

  1. Call Mr. Yano, or some equivalent. (8,000YEN)
  2. Book practice time on the driving course. (4,000YEN)
    • If you hire Mr. Yano or an equivalent, they will make the appointment for you.
  3. Pay close attention. Every little thing you do, no matter how mindless or insignificant you think it is, matters a great deal on the test.
  • Reading the instructions is no substitute for physically practicing the course.

Step 3.

Taking the test.

  1. Make a reservation at your local Department of Motor Vehicle.
    • You will need to make reservations for your first test.
    • If you fail, you will not need to make reservations for your second, third, or subsequent tests. Just show up.

On the day of the test bring the following:

  1. Your current American driver’s license.
  2. Translation of your current American driver’s license.
  3. Your Passport.
  4. Proof that you were in the US for at least 3 months after you got your current license.
    • You can use utility bills, college transcripts (if you just graduated), credit card statements, or whatever you think might be proof.
  5. Your Alien Registration Card also known as your “gaijin card”.
    (外 国 人 登 録 証 明 書)
    (Gaikokujin Toroku Shomeisho)
  6. Certificate of Registered Matters
    (登録原票記載事項証明書)
    (TorokuGenpyoKisaiJikoShomei Sho)

    • You get this at city hall
  7. Photo
    • There is a photo booth at the Oita City DMV
    • 700YEN
  8. At least 6,150YEN total
    • Application Fee – 2,400 YEN
    • Car Rental Fee – 1,650 YEN
    • Registration Fee – 2,100 YEN
  9. An Interpreter
    • Not needed at Oita City

Map:

Posted in Japan, Kyūshū, Oita 県, Oita 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

My Shiny Little Balls

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 8, 2011

June 26, 2011

All Pictures

No establishment in Japan has parking like a pachinko parlor.

Do you want to pachinko tomorrow?

If you’ve ever been to Japan, chances are that you’ve seen a pachinko parlor or two. They are everywhere, even in little boondock villages in the middle of swampy rice fields. They are always open and have plenty of parking. Many of them have little restaurants or cafes that serve food until late at night.

I have gone into many pachinko parlors, but have never stayed longer than the time needed to use the bathroom. The machines are noisy. The people are very zombie like. Everything is written in Japanese. And the whole thing is very overwhelming. So when my neighbor, Brandy, offered to go with us and show us what to do, Mark and I jumped at the chance.

I hope this ends well.

We got in and sat down at some open machines. We each put in 1,000YEN into our machines and little silver balls came out. We put those balls back into the machine with hopes of getting more silver balls. Sometimes more balls came out, but more often none did.

We ended up losing all our balls. Well, I kept one as a souvenir.  We spent one hour playing pachinko, but many people spend half their lives there. I know I used to work in a place like this.

This place is probably closed down by now.

Would you like a sandwich or some tea?

When I lived in London I needed money to pay for my flight to Japan. It was the summer and my contract in Japan started in November. So I found a job working in the “arcade” in the picture above.

It was a miracle that I got the job, because I showed up about an hour late for the interview. I somehow ended up at Victoria Station which was no where near where I needed to be. I managed to charm Wendy, the manager and was hired. (I honestly think she hired me because she liked my American accent.)

The odd thing was that I thought I would be working in a gaming arcade. You know, the kind where little kids come in and spend all their coins. What it actually was, was a casino with only slot machines.

My job was to give change, clean the machines regularly, serve coffee, tea, and sandwiches, call the hourly bingo, and basically chat up customers to make them want to stay and lose,… um, spend all their money.

“All my balls are gone!”

He asks for tea, but that’s not what he wants.

It was a pretty easy job and I liked most of the customers. One day a guy came in and asked for ” a cuppa”. Later I got to know him better and found him to be a fairly decent guy who wished to keep his anonymity. He asked to be referred to as “Ghosty” and he never wanted to talk about his life outside the arcade. But even on the first day I met him, I knew he was a bit strange.

me – “What?”

Ghosty – “a cuppa”

me – “Copper?”

Ghosty – “Ah-cup-ah”

I stared at this guy waiting for more of an explanation. He put on his best fake American accent. “I want a cup oFFFF.”

me – “A cup of what?”

Ghosty – “You know, a cuppa…”

me – “Oh, you mean tea!”

He lit up and nodded. “Yes, please.”

me – “Sure, I’ll get you some tea. Would you like milk and sugar?”

The people around me laughed. “You don’t put milk in tea dear, unless you’re Scottish. Oh Americans!” said a lady not looking away from her machine.

“I would like some milk and sugar,” Ghosty said.

So I got him some tea, with milk and sugar and handed it to him.

“What the hell’s this!?” he asked.

me – “Your tea, with milk and sugar, like you asked”

Ghosty – “But I didn’t want this!”

I stood there, completely confused. He asked for tea. I got him tea, just the way he asked for it. Then another one of the floor girls, as we were called, came by. She call me over. With her thick Polish accent she said, “Never give that man tea.”

me – “But he asked…”

“I know,” she cut me off. “He comes in everyday and asks for tea, but he doesn’t want tea. He wants coffee.”

“So why doesn’t he ask for coffee?” I asked.

“Who the hell knows! But give him coffee with 2 sugars and a little milk.” As she went back to the break room she shouted under her breath while waving her hands, “These people are driving me crazy!” She was joking… somewhat.

How could something so cute take all of my money and give me nothing in return?

But you speak English

Another day while I was on break at work, two of the floor girls came into the break room. “We need your help. You are a native English speaker; talk to this woman.” My co-workers were from Poland and Estonia. I got up and went onto the floor.

I walked over to the red headed lady they wanted me to talk to. “Could I get you anything?” I asked politely.

She replied with a bunch of rolled R’s and some cackles. What ever she was saying, she seemed to be in a good mood about it.

I walked away, turned to my friends, and told them that I couldn’t help. I had no idea what the lady was saying.

“But you speak English…”

“Yes. But that lady doesn’t. She is Scottish. Her accent is too thick for me to understand. But I guess I could try again.”

I walked over to the lady and said, “I’m sorry, could you speak a little more slowly. I’m having a hard time understanding your accent.”

It turned out she wanted an egg sandwich, but she didn’t say it like this, “I want an egg sandwich. What she said sounded more like this, “Ay won’t un eggy…” and then a word that didn’t come close to sounding like the word “sandwich”.

She then asked me how long I had lived in England. I told her that I had been in the country for over 2 years, but most of that time was spent in Manchester. I had a conversation with the Scottish lady in which I understood less than half of what she said and smiled and nodded through the rest.

Ironically enough, my grandmother’s family comes from Scotland. Her brother still lives there, but I’ve never talked to him, but I’m guessing I wouldn’t understand him any more than I understood the Egg Sandwich lady.

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 callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Any Pachinko Parlor
(パチンコ)

How to get there:

  • Go to Japan.
  • Look out your window.
  • If you don’t see a pachinko parlor you might have to go outdoors and walk in any directions for about a block or two.

Website:

Cost:

  • Usually a minimum of 500 or 1,000YEN to play.

Hours:

  • They NEVER close!

Notes:

  • They are everywhere.
  • They have tons of free parking.
  • Never use a machine that has someone’s stuff on or near it.
  • It is not gambling. That is illegal in Japan. Pachinko is “gambling” which is quite legal.
  • Never ask where you can exchange the balls you’ve won for cash. That would make it gambling, which is illegal in Japan. Instead just look for the nondescript place outside in the back where they exchange the balls for cash. This is how “gambling” works.

Map: (Any where in Japan)

Posted in England, Japan, Kyūshū, London, Oita 県, Oita 市, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

River Opening

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 8, 2011

May 21-22, 2011

All Pictures

getting ready for a festival

Boat Battles

It was supposed to be an event on Facebook created by Mark for everyone to see some cormorant fishing in the town of Hita. But, further research showed that seeing the birds catching fish would cost us about 100-300 USD per person. This is way too much money to watch birds regurgitate fish. As luck would have it, the trip wouldn’t have to be called off.

There was, at the same place and time, a water opening festival. There would be watersports, fireworks, and festival food. We went. I drove, as usual. But by the time we got there, I didn’t feel like competing. Mark joined another team and I just watched on the bank while staying dry.

So, where are you from?

Some of our friends dressed up in costume. They cause quite a scene. They were interviewed on camera and might have even made the Hita evening news. It was a great event.

sink her!

I loved watching the people in their little boats try to sink each other. I also thought it was funny when, our friend Sylvain, realized how see-through his white costume could be once wet. Don’t worry nothing obscene happened, just his well hidden tattoos became not so hidden. He thought is was funny too.

I have no idea what I’m eating.

Festival Food

The festival food was great. After my friends changed into normal clothes, we walked around town sampling foods on sticks. Some of the vendors offered 2 for 1 deals if the buyer could best the sales person at rock-paper-scissors or as it is known here in Japan janken. We walked around for a good hour and a half eating and talking.

Rain can’t stop our fun!

One of the Hita JETs set out a spot for everyone to sit near the river, earlier that morning. With our territory staked out, we casually sat around and chatted until the fireworks began. The fireworks were great too, even though it rained. It lasted for 2 hours! We didn’t get too wet. After it was all done we headed off for karaoke.

It is not just a word.

This is one of the hardest entries for me to write. Before I continue, I just want to say that the offending person that I write about below is not any of the people in any of the photos in this blog entry, any entry previously, or any entries to come. I have never seen this guy before nor have I seen him since.

After the fireworks show we walked to a karaoke place that one of the JETs recommended. It was a long walk, about 20 minutes, mostly because people wandered off and we had to stop and wait for them to catch up. It was decided that we, or rather they, would go to a 7/11 to buy beer before going to the karaoke place.

We kept passing convenient stores which confused some of the walkers. But we were promised that the 7/11 up ahead was not only better, but closer to the destination. When we pass the 7/11 that was closest to the karaoke place someone in the back shouted out that this would be the one we would all go to. A white guy, I had never met until this day, was so happy that we had finally reached the place where he could buy beer he shouted out “Yea Nigger!”

I was so taken aback by hearing this word coming out of the mouth of a white man that I just stop, turned around, and looked at him. Mark, just as shocked as I was, did the same thing. He casually walk passed me and said by way of an excuse, “I’m white…” and sheepishly walked past me.

We were very spread out in our walk at this point, so I’m not sure who all heard this remark. But I know that both Mark and I, along with the guy’s Asian girlfriend or wife heard. A few minutes later, while standing outside the 7/11 I overheard him tell his lady friend, “I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

“Why? What did you say?” the woman asked.

“It’s just not a good word.” he replied.

When we got to the karaoke place, I wasn’t in the mood to sing. I really just wanted to go home and not be in the same room with the guy. I felt very uncomfortable around him. If I were back in Oita, I would have just left. But I was staying at a friend’s place and I couldn’t just leave without explaining why. I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s night, so I just sat there trying to make the best of it.

Then the guy got up to sing the first song. I don’t remember what song it was, but it had the word “nigger” in the chorus and he sang that chorus with gusto. I felt sick. I really didn’t want to be there.

Later on, Mark took this guy aside and told him that I was very upset with him. He sat next to me to apologize, but I didn’t buy it. Later I heard him telling Mark that he was not a racist. “I’m in an interracial relationship,” was his proof of his non-racist status.

I’m not a racist, I have a (enter minority ethnic group here) friend.

This is the lamest proof for not being a racist. Let me give you an example…

I hate alcohol. I especially hate beer. I might tolerate a cocktail, but I would not go so far as to say I like them. I do, however, like Long Island iced teas, as made by one of the bars in Itaewon, in Seoul, South Korea. But my liking this one drink, doesn’t affect my dislike of all other alcoholic drinks in general.

I am not a racist. My proof is that I do not act in a racist manor, nor do I say racist things, nor do I hang out with people who act like racists or say racist things. I do not know if the guy was a racist or just a idiot who says racist things, but if he had never used that word, I would not be questioning his racist status or writing this right now.

But I hear black people using that word.

The guy never brought up this point, but I would like to address it. For the record I feel uncomfortable hearing anyone use that word. It’s just stings more when a non-black person uses it. It’s hard to explain why, but here is the best analogy I can think of…

Let’s say, you, your mom, and I are talking. Your mom says something I don’t agree with so, I call her a “bitch”. You would probably be very mad at me. You ask me why I would think it was okay to use that word against your mom. I respond by saying, “Well, I heard your sister call your mom a bitch and thought that I could do it too.”

In both cases it is very rude. Neither your sister nor I should refer to your mom as a bitch. But it stings you more to hear me call your mom a bitch, then when your sister does it.

Self racism.

I have tried very hard to stay away from racism. Racism towards other people is not so difficult to avoid. It’s not hard to see all peoples as being human with the same needs, wants, and goals as your own. The kind of racism that is turned inward is a bit trickier. It is harder to avoid, because it is more difficult to identify.

I grew up in a very religious home. I was not really allowed to listen to secular music and for most of my childhood I didn’t care. But when I hit puberty, I wanted to act more like my friends who were allow to listen to any music they pleased.

So, I started to turn on the radio when my parents were away. I would listen to anything. I enjoyed all types of music. And once I was listening to non-christian music that I enjoyed, I wanted to talk about it to anyone who would listen. That was when I found out that I shouldn’t like country music, rock, or heavy metal, because I was black. I should prefer dance hall, roots, and reggae over rap and R & B, because I was West Indian.

But this made no sense to me, because I WAS black and I WAS West Indian and I DID enjoy some country music songs, some rock and heavy metal songs, and sometimes, I liked rap and R & B over reggae and dance hall. And I hated most roots music. Other than  Steel Pulse most roots singers were one hit wonders in my book.

Luckily I had friends who didn’t care what music we were obliged to like. They openly admired rock, pop, and whatever music bands were hot at the moment. So I followed their lead. Back then I enjoyed mostly 80’s cheese music and in college I loved glam rock.

But music was just one form of self racism. In college I loved to rollerblade through downtown D.C. One weekend, finding that all my usual rollerblading friends were gone for the weekend, I asked a friend and fellow basketball teammate to borrow some inline skates and join me.

Since learning to rollerblade, I had taken many college friends, including Makeeya, downtown and taught them to skate, just like my friend Andrew taught me, but without trying to cross the 395. Many of my friends who were new to inline-skating would say no at first, but I would talk them into it. So when she said “no” I started to explain how safe everything was, and that, since she would be learning, we would stay off the roads with cars on them, at least for the first hour.

Then she told me that she wasn’t saying no, because she thought it was unsafe, though she did think it was very unsafe. She was saying no, because she was black and black people don’t rollerblade. “That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard.” I told her. “How would that sound if a white person said that?” So I left her there and found someone else less self-oppressed to rollerblade  with.

totally normal

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 callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Hita
(日田市)

How to get there:

By Car from Oita –

  • Take either the Oita Expressway or Highway 210
The train station in this town is called Hita Station.

Website:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • There is a Sapporo Beer factory in this town.
  • There is a River Opening Festival on the first weekend after May 20th, every year.

Map:

Posted in Hita 市, Japan, Kyūshū, Oita 県 | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Walking Under the Sea

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 7, 2011

May 3, 2011

All Pictures

Lets go under the sea

Under the Sea

We got up early the next morning and set out from the tunnel. By the time we got to Kitakyushu it was breakfast time. We went to a park near the tunnel and made curry rice, a dish in Japan that bears very little resemblance to the curry dishes I grew up eating.

Once we had eaten we made our way to the island of Honshu, by way of a saunter under water. We got into the elevator which took us underground and walked with the small crowd of people that were there that day. There were a few runners, some commuters, but most were tourists like us who had to stop and take pictures every 2 minutes.

There is nothing to see down there; no windows or view. You just keep to the right and let the runners go by when they come along. It was a nice walk.

Yes. In Japan you drive on the left, but walk on the right. I guess it is done this way to have pedestrians face traffic when walking next to a road. I wonder what side we, in the US, walk?

a 5 yen tale

Once in Shimonoseki, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, we walked around a bit and took some pictures. This city doesn’t have many non-temple tourist attractions. They do have a mountain that could be climbed for a view of the city, but we were not in the climbing mood.

We listened to an old man telling stories to some people sitting around him. He was very expressive, but we had no idea what he said. When the tale was done, the listeners put some coins in a box. The box had writing on it that asked for 5YEN. We did listen to the man’s story, but we came in the middle of it, plus we didn’t understand a word. But for 5YEN, we couldn’t resist pretending like we were fluent enough in Japanese to feel obliged to pay.

Looks like fun. If only you got something other than clams when you’re done.

Clamming

We then headed to our very own prefecture of Oita. We wanted to camp near Matama beach and see the most beautiful sunset in Japan.

We had made the 2 hour drive up to Bungo Takada, the city in which Matama beach is in, to see this most spectacular sunset, several times before. Every time we did, something happened to prevent us from seeing the sunset. Once we left too late in the day. Twice it was too cloudy to see the horizon.

We stopped at the beach to have lunch; left over curry rice. We watched all the clam diggers, with their kids and buckets in hand, looking for the shelled creatures. They all wore wellingtons with their pants rolled up to their knees. Most of them seemed to be having fun despite the fact that many of the kids were crying.

We were then going to go to the nearby campsite, set up our tent, then come back to watch the sunset. But it started to rain. Our stuff had just dried out from the last rain. Since we were a 2 hour drive from home, we decided not to camp. We took a leisurely drive back. Actually we were stuck behind a bunch of bicyclists. There was some sort of charity bike-a-thon.

The roads were so narrow but the bikers rode as if they had complete faith in my driving. They were so certain that I was paying close attention to them, that they would over take one another without even a slight glance back to see if there were any cars around to run them over. I didn’t have as much faith in myself as they did, so we pulled over at a random Joyfull and waited the race out.

some Joyfull somewhere on Kyushu

Joyfull with 2 L’s

And no, that one is not a typo. The name of the restaurant is Joyfull. It is just the best decent but inexpensive dining establishment that comes with a juice and coffee bar in all of Japan. It’s really popular among teenagers, who have to get their money from a generous parent. I like it because it’s clean, has picture menus where I practice my katakana and hiragana reading, and it’s cheap but still has a variety of dishes. But the drink bar is the clincher!

My friend Makeeya trying out the drink bar during winter break

Do you want a drink? It comes with free refills…

Outside the US, the concept of free refills is unheard of. When it comes to soda, ice tea, and other non-real juices, ie “drinks”, the cost of the beverage is very tiny compared to the cost of the cup it comes in. So, in the US most restaurants will offer free re-fills on their non-juice drinks. The cost for your refill is so little that they would rather you gorge yourself on their drinks than run the risk of you not buying a drink at all.

drink bar ticket

That’s the ticket!

Joyfull is one of the very few restaurants I’ve come across out side the US that gives free refills. Even Japanese McDonald’s doesn’t do it. When you eat at Joyfull, you get a drink bar coupon, called a “ticket”, when you pay your bill. The next time you come and show your “ticket” you will only have to pay 65YEN for unlimited drinks and soup. When you pay the bill, you get another ticket and the cycle continues.

I have no idea what the full price of the drink bar is. On my first day of work in Oita a group of my students presented me with a welcome book. It had many romantic date activity recommendations, a map to several Joyfull’s in town, and 2 drink bar tickets. Another group later gave me a poster with the names and photos of the English teachers. These were the best welcome gifts I have ever received.

Many people, like me, go to Joyfull just for the drink bar. You can sample all their drinks, taking a sip of this and a sip of that. This is where I discovered that I like Calpis. I’ve tried out many flavors of coffee and a green tea moche which I thought was okay, but Mark hated. Once they had a pink hot chocolate drink. I think it was just hot strawberry Nesquik, but it was so good that for months afterward, Mark and I ate at several Joyfulls in hope of having it again. We never did.

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 yourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Kanmon Roadway Tunnel
(関門鉄道トンネル)
(Kanmon Tetsudō Tonneru)

How to get there:

  • 33°57’36.3″N 130°57’44.3″E

From Yoshinogari Historical Park –

  • Get back onto route 3 heading north
  • Then take route 261 heading north
  • Follow the road to the parking lot.

Downloads:

Cost: 

  • Free for pedestrians
  • For bikers and scooter driver there is a 20YEN charge. They use the honor system to collect the money in a box.
  • There are many parking lots. The one near the sea is free.

Hours:

  • always available

Notes:

  • This tunnel connects the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū.
  • The tunnel starts near Mekari Park.

Map:

Posted in Bungo Takada 市, Fukuoka 県, Honshū, Japan, Kitakyūshū 市, Kyūshū, Matama 町, Oita 県, Shimonoseki 市, Yamaguchi 県 | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

She’s a Tall Drink of Water

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 5, 2011

May 2, 2011

All Pictures

Afro-Samurai

Nice Castle

We saw Kumamoto castle, because that’s just want you do when you’re in this part of Kyushu. If this had been the first castle I had ever seen in Asia, I might have been more in awe. But I’ve seen hundreds of these things, and like temples, they stop being spectacular after a while.

Jibo Kannon Statue

What is with me and Hell?

What we really enjoyed this day was the giant Jibo statue. The statue is of a loving mother holding her child. I guess that people, especially women, come here when they want to get pregnant.

We walked up the many flights of stairs to get to the head of the tall lady. It was hot, but we were promised a grand view of the city. It was a good thing I brought some water with me, because climbing in that heat made me very thirsty.

The view was not grand. The city is not big, but even if it were, we would not have been able to see it. The windows in the lady’s head were so small. We had to take turns looking out of them. But that was ok, we didn’t really care about the view anyway. We came for what was in the basement.

We ran down to the basement. We knew that Hell awaited us.

He got what he deserved.

I have visited many hells in many cities. I went to Buddhist Hell in Thailand, along with many mini hells at various temples. There was one hell placed in the foot of a huge Buddha. I’ve also visited a small town in China that was made up to look like the Taoist Hell. It was fan-tas-TIC.

I see you’re making a stew.

The hell we visited on this day was underground. We were a lot cooler in hell than we were in the statue. There were animatronic beasts and demons torturing souls. I have no idea what they said, since it was all in Japanese, but the lighting or lack thereof, made it nice a spooky. This is definitely not a place for kids.

stepping back in time

Look what I dug up!

Our next stop was at the Yoshinogari Historical Park. If I ever go to Saga again, I will go back to this park, because we showed up very late in the day. The thing I really wanted to see, the active dig area, was closed by the time we arrived.

We rushed around for half an hour trying to see what we could, but there just wasn’t enough time. If we had known that we would not have been able to find our campsite, which was a few towns over from the park, we would have just found a cheap hotel nearby and gone again the next day.

But we didn’t. We searched for our campsite, then for any campsite, then when I was too tired to drive, we checked into a creepy love motel on the side of the road.

next time

Save the Bones

I already know what you’re thinking…

“She wasn’t impressed with Kumamoto Castle, but old bones and pottery, she likes?”

Well, I see castles everyday. There’s one downtown in Oita city. I’ve seen many castles in England, Korea, China, and Thailand. Well, in Thailand they are actually palaces, but really what’s the difference besides some glitter?

But I’ve haven’t seen many historical dig sites. In fact this one brought the number of dig sites I’ve seen to a whopping… 2. The other one was the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China.  This one had actual archaeologists working at the site looking for stuff. So yes, this was more interesting than the castle.

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 yourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Kumamoto Castle
(熊本城)
(Kumamoto-jō)

How to get there:

  • 32°48’22.5″N 130°42’20.8″E

From Oyano –

  • Get back on route 266.
  • Turn left (east) on route 57.
  • Turn left (north) on route 3.
  • Follow the signs to the Kumamoto Castle parking lot.

Phone:

  • (096) 352-5900

Website:

e-mail: Kumamotojou@City.kumamoto.lg.jp

Cost:

  • Parking is 100YEN/hour
  • Adults 500YEN
  • Kids 200YEN
  • Parts of the castle cost more to see

Hours:

  • 8:30 – 18:00 most of the year
  • 8:30 – 17:00 from November to March
  • Closed December 29 – 31

Notes:


Jibo Kannon Statue
at Naritasan Temple
(久留米成田山)
(Kurume Naritayama)

How to get there:

  • 33°17’05.8″N 130°32’06.6″E

From Kumamoto Castle –

  • Get back on route 3 heading north.
  • Once you get to the town of Makitsumachi look out for road#86. Take a right (east) at the next light after road #86.
  • Follow the map below.

Address:

1386-22 Kamitsu-machi,
Kurume-shi, 830-0052 Fukuoka

Phone:

  • 0942-21-7500

Website:

Cost:

  • Free Parking
  • Adults – 500 Yen;
  • Junior High and High School students – 300 Yen;
  • Elementary School students and younger – 100 Yen

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Notes:

  • Make sure to go to the Hell section. You get there by going through the feet of the statue.

Yoshinogari Historical Park
(吉野ヶ里 遺跡)
(Yoshinogari iseki)

How to get there:

From the Jibo Statue –

  • Get back on route 3 heading north
  • Take a left (west) on route 209
  • Stay strain on route 264 which will turn into road 22
  • Turn left (southwest) on route 34
  • At the 6th light, turn right (north) on route 385
  • The park will be on your left

Phone:

  • 0952-55-9351

Website:

e-mail: himika@yoshinogari.jp

Cost:

  • Parking 300YEN flat rate
  • Adult 400YEN

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00
  • The dig site closes at 16:30

Map:

Posted in Fukuoka 県, Japan, Kanzaki 市, Kumamoto 県, Kurume 市, Kyūshū, Saga 県 | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Not According to Google Maps

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 3, 2011

May 1, 2011

All Pictures

A wet morning

Campsite to Campsite

When we finally got to the Kobayashi camp site it was raining and the sun had already set. We managed to find the campsite and a spot to set up our tent without finding the camp office to check in.

We met a Japanese couple who spoke almost no English. They were the only other people at the camp. They showed us where everything was told us that the camp office was closed for the night. They recommended that we stop by the next morning to register and what not.

Those car mats would be complete soaked by morning.

Konsento doko desu-ka?

There was a kitchen area. It had sinks and lights. It was great for cooking, but not for eating since there were no chairs. There was a pavilion where we could sit to eat, but it had no lights.

We had electronics, like my phone, that needed to be charged. The last campsite had an outlet in the bathroom, but this one didn’t. We asked the couple, “Konsento doko desu-ka?” But they told us that there were no outlets.

the one and only outlet

But the place did have lights; they were just not turned on. Mark and I followed the string of lights to where they would be plugged in. At the end of the string of bulbs was a light switch and 2 electrical outlets. We flipped the switch, lighting up the whole camp. Then we plugged in our phone charger. The next day we got up early and plugged in our rice cooker to make rice for lunch later that day in another town.

We sat in the pavilion, eating our dinner in the light we had just turned on. The couple walk past us in the rain, looking a little confused. “How did they get light?”

 

This is what most tourists come to Kobayashi to see.

It’s not just a test! 

The next day we left the campsite. It was still raining. We saw some of the sites of Kobayashi through the down pour.

I have to be honest here. Yes, the town of Kobayashi was located very conveniently along the route we were taking. But the real reason I stopped in this town was for it’s name.

I am a Star Trek fan and I just wanted to say that I have been to a place called Kobayashi. Now if I could only find a place called Maru

tired already!

At least it’s not our own backyard.

After a day of sightseeing and step climbing we were ready to set up the tent and relax at a new campsite. I found one on the island of Oyano. I looked at a map on google and found the campsite.

From google maps, I got the website, address, phone number, and driving directions. I made reservations. I had a reservation number; all I had to do was show up.

We got to the campsite, a lady working there told us that we were in the wrong place. The campsite named on my paper with the reservation number was not here.

“Are you sure? Because google maps, says that this is here…”

The lady didn’t care what google maps was. She shock her head. “Not here”.

We wondered around the island, looking for our campsite. We stopped people walking on the road. Half of them pointed us to head further south, the other half had never heard of this campsite that someone had clearly mis-labled on google maps.

 

This is awkward…

We gave up hope of finding our campsite and just started to look for any campsite as we moved south. We saw a sign in Japanese that promised a campsite on the next island over. So we crossed the bridge.

We drove along the shore until we ran out of road. Then we saw another campsite sign. We got out the car and knocked on the door.

“Konichiwa. Campsite doko des ka?”

The lady beckoned me to follow her. She led me passed a bar in-the-making next to her house as she explained how much this campsite would be per night. She told me where the bathroom was and where to park my car.

She took me to a clearing behind her house. Mark and I stood there in disbelief. We had no chose but to stay.

We set up the tent and made tea for our dinner. As I sipped my tea, taking in the view I turned to Mark and said, “I can’t believe that we drove clear across Kyushu, to end up camping in someone’s backyard.”

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 banktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Suki Suspension Bridge
& Mamako Falls

(ままこ滝)
(Ma mako taki)

How to get there:

  • 32°04’14.4″N 131°05’04.7″E

From Udo Shrine –

  • Get back on route 220 heading north
  • Take a left (west) onto route 10.
  • Keep straight on route 268 which will turn into 221 soon before you have to turn.
  • When you get to the town of Kobayashi turn right (north) onto route 265.
  • Go past road 26.
  • When you get to Suki Post office on your left take a right (east) at that intersection then another right at the T-intersections.
  • Stay on that road and turn right right before the baseball field.

Phone:

  • City Hall 81-(0)984-23-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • 200YEN when open
  • 200Yen on the honor system when closed

Hours:


Inyoseki
(陰陽石)

How to get there:

  • 32°00’58.3″N 131°00’23.6″E
From the Campsite –
  • Get back on route 265 heading south.
  • Follow the signs that leads to the rock penis.

Address:

陰陽石茶屋
日本
〒886-0001 宮崎県小林市東方 3332-5

Phone:

  • 0984-27-3611

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available
Notes:
  • Legend says Inyoseki is where a dragon ascended and fell in love with a beautiful woman.
  • This is a natural rock shape.

777 Steps
in Higashikata Nature Park
(東片自然公園)
(Higashikatashizenkōen)

How to get there:

  • 32°30’18.1″N 130°39’06.6″E
  • Go on route 219 heading west
  • Turn right (east) onto route 3.
  • After you pass route 336 take the next left  (west) turn.
  • Then make a U-turn as soon as you can and go under the road for route 3.
  • Turn right at the end of the road on the left side there will be a bridge and a parking lot.

Address:

This is in the city of Yatsushiro, Komamoto. At  the intersection of Route 3 and Rinkosen

Phone: 

  • (0965) 33-4123

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always availible

Notes:

  • Bring lots of water!

Map:

Posted in Japan, Kobayashi 市, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Miyazaki 県, Yatsushiro 市, Ōyano 町 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Tombs, Towers, and Temples

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 2, 2011

April 30, 2011

All Pictures

inside the tomb looking out

This would make an excellent swimming pool!

The next day we had ramen for breakfast and headed out for a day filled with sightseeing. The first stop was at the Saitobaru Burial Mounds, not too far from our campsite.

The main mound is in the middle of a small pit. We walked around the mound and then climbed down in the mound where the bodies were kept. There was nothing spectacular about it, but that is how most mounds are. That’s why I prefer Almond Joy.

What I really wanted to do was to flood the main mound and make a great big pool. The mound in the middle would have made a great swim-up bar.

Heiwadai Gardens

They look so surprised to see us.

Next we went to a tower that was built where Emperor Jimmu‘s palace once was. This tower was to represent the divine right of the emperor. Since Emperor Jimmu was the first emperor of Japan who was the son of the sun goddess, I guess this tower was a big deal.

It was not, in my opinion, the highlight of this park. That honor goes to the Haniwa Garden. I was delighted by the little statues of soldiers and animals. The expressions of their faces entertained me to no end.

a shrine for couples

I’d like one marriage, please.

This stop was not part of the original plan, but we saw a picture of it. Since it was along our route we stopped to check it out.

It’s a really nice island, filled with couples ready to pray for marriage blessings. At the time of this trip, I already knew that Mark would be the guy I would marry, so I guess I too, was looking for a marriage blessing.

The ice cream shop near the island is great too. There were so many unusual flavors of ice cream that it took me about 5 minutes to pick one. I went with Mango, boring I know… Next time I will try Tomato.

Sweet Potato Ice cream

More Ice cream? 

I felt bad about choosing such a normal flavor of ice cream. When I finished the cone, I promised myself that next time, if such an opportunity where to present itself again, I would go with a flavor of ice cream that I could not find anywhere else.

Once we were at the next shrine there was another ice cream shop. There weren’t as many flavors as the last ice cream place, but I got the chance to try sweet potato ice cream. It tasted, just like a cold sweet potato. Not bad.

 

make it in the ring for good luck

Make a Wish, if you can.

At Udo Shrine you can make wishes. Just pay 100YEN for 5 stones and toss the stones into the ring. You must throw with your left hand if you are male, and right, if you are female. I would have tried it, but there was too many people pelting the ring.

It started to rain, which is an ominous sign to any camper.

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 banktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Saitobaru Burial Mounds
(西都原古墳群)
(Saitobarukofun)

How to get there:

  • 32°07’29.4″N 131°23’21.3″E

From the Camping Village Beach Takanabe –

  • Go straight from Takanabe station towards route 10.
  • Follow the directions to stay on route 24.
  • On route 24 you will see signs for the mounds.
  • Route 24 will turn, but you should stay straight onto route 318.

Website

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • Always available
  • There is a shop nearby where you can buy souvenirs, lunch, and expensive groceries. It is open 9:00 – 17:00

Notes:

You can go inside the main mound.


Heiwadai Tower
(八紘一宇)
(Hakkō ichiu)

How to get there:

  • 31°56’51.1″N 131°24’57.6″E

From the Saitobaru Burial Mounds –

  • Go back to route 318 heading east
  • Route 318 turns into route 24
  • Take route 219 heading south
  • Take route 10 heading south
  • Turn right (west) at the 3rd light after the intersection with route 9.
  • At the end of the road, take a left (south) on route 44.
  • At the 2nd light turn right (west) on route 333. You will see the tower in the distance.
  • Park at First Parking.

Website:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

There are many things in the park. Be sure to check out Haniwa Garden.


Aoshima Shrine
(青島神社)
(Aoshima-jinja)

How to get there:

  • 31°48’15.8″N 131°28’32.1″E

From Heiwadai Tower –

  • Get back on route 10 heading south.
  • Stay straight on route 10 which will turn into route 220.
  • You will see it along the way to Udo Shrine.

Address:

2-13-1, Aoshima, Miyazaki
Miyazaki 889-2162

Phone:

  • 0985-65-1262

Website:

Downloads:

e-mail: shrine@theia.ocn.ne.jp

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • You can go anytime

Notes:

  • This is the place to go when you want to be married.
    • I don’t know if you go there when you are engaged, or when you are still looking.

Udo Shrine
(鵜戸神宮社務所)
(Udo-jingū)

How to get there:

  • 31°39’00.7″N 131°27’58.2″E

From Heiwadai Tower –

  • Get back on route 10 heading south.
  • Stay straight on route 10 which will turn into route 220.
  • Once you’re in the town of Udo turn left (east) on route 433
  • Follow the signs, or tourists to the shrine
  • It is about a 20 minute walk from the parking lot to the shrine.
  • There are two ways of walking to the shrine. One way, the old path, goes over a hill. The other way, the new path, goes through a tunnel.
  • They both have a lot of steps, but most people take the new path because the old path has many steps that are not in good condition.
  • Just follow the crowd if you want to take the new path.

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours: 

  • Apr – Sept 6:00 – 19:00
  • Oct – Mar 7:00 – 19:00

Notes:

This shrine is very beautiful.


Mamako Daki Campground
(まま子滝キャンプ場)
(Mamakotaki kyanpuba)

How to get there:

  • 32°04’21.1″N 131°05’22.3″E

From Udo Shrine –

  • Get back on route 220 heading north
  • Take a left (west) onto route 10.
  • Keep straight on route 268 which will turn into 221 soon before you have to turn.
  • When you get to the town of Kobayashi turn right (north) onto route 265.
  • Go past road 26.
  • When you get to Suki Post office on your left take a right (east) at that intersection then another right at the T-intersections.
  • Stay on that road, you will shortly reach the campsite which is near the baseball field.

Address:

宮崎県小林市須木大字下田976番地2

Phone:

  • 0984-48-2480

Website:

Cost:

  • Bungalow (8 person max) 4000YEN/per building
  • Permanent Tent (8 person max) 3000YEN/ tent
  • Bring your own tent 100YEN/ person

Hours:

  • Open May to September.
  • Check in before 18:00

Notes:

  • There are toilets
  • There were showers, though none were turned on at the time of our stay.
  • There is a kitchen area with running water and outlets

Map

Posted in Japan, Kobayashi 市, Kyūshū, Miyazaki 県, Miyazaki 市, Nichinan 市, Saito 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Free Camping

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 2, 2011

April 29, 2011

All Pictures

sorry

I’m Sorry

First let me apologize for not updating for, what was it, …a couple months? I have not been not traveling, and I have not been to busying at work. I have been editing this blog, though.

I am a bad typist, speller, and overall, I’m not good at physically writing things like blogs. I don’t know why, but when I type, my mind and fingers are not in sync. Sometimes my fingers with leave out words or entire phrases when I type. Then when I read it back right before I post, my eyes will see what was meant to be written and not the tons of typos and errors.

I also do this really weird thing where I consistently and unconsciously replace one word for another. I write “about” for “above” and visa versa. Or “became” for “because”. Most of the time I am not even aware that I did it until I reread my post weeks later.

I do my best editing after I have forgotten what I meant to write. So weeks or months after this is posted I will be better able to fix this entry.

And I’m still not sure if the word is “entry” or “entree”. It doesn’t help that I am American and I went to a British school. So now I don’t remember how to spell some words like an American. Is it “traveling” or “travelling”? I could look it up, when I’m not sure, but many times I don’t realize when I am spelling things the British way unless someone points it out to me.

But most of all, I am a bad speller. I just wish that we spelled English words phonetically or that I had a ghost writer…

Why not climb some stairway to up a mountain?

Golden Week

I planned this trip weeks and months in advanced. I wanted to have fun and not get lost, but the best laid schemes of mice and men

First off, it wasn’t entirely my fault. There were roads on our map, that no longer existed. There were highways mis-numbered by google. And campsites mis-labled on google.

That said, we did manage to get to Usuki without getting lost. It is right around the corner, after all. Once we left Usuki, we got lost.

No pot, no dishes, but we have plenty of spoons.

Where are the dishes?

We packed up everything early that morning. I put everything in an area of our apartment that we hardly ever use. All we had to do was put them in the car. We brought our table, chairs, tent, sleeping bags, washing basin filled with dishes, cooler, …

When we got to the campsite, we unpack and started to make dinner. That’s when I realized that we didn’t have the washing basin filled with dishes. We had no pots, no cups, nothing to eat off of.

Luckily there was a hardware store not too far from the campsite. It was a 3 minute drive away. The prices weren’t too bad, so we got a new wok-like frying pan/pot and paper plates and cups.

Because camping season had not officially started the camp site was technically closed. I asked a city official weeks before to recommend some other camping area that would be opened. He said that we could just camp there for free. There was no guarantee of amenities though. But, everything seemed to function normally.

The first night on the beach was great. The solar powered heated showers were fantastic. The trip started off pretty well.

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.)
  • 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.)

Usuki Stone Buddhas
(Usuki Magaibutsu)
(臼杵磨崖仏)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°05’26.0″N 131°45’45.5″E

by car –

  • Take Oita Expressway.
  • Get off at the Usuki (臼杵) exit #16.
  • At the light turn left (west) on route 502.
  • At the 4th light turn left (south) .
  • The entrance will be on your right.

The Oita Expressway is free from Oita Exit #12 south.

Address:

804-1 Fukata, Usuki-shi, Oita

Phone:

  • 0972-65-3300

Website:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Adults – 530YEN
  • Kids – 260YEN
  • Usuki Residences – Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • Sunrise to Sunset

Notes:

  • 59 of the statues were selected as the first National Treasures of Japan in Kyushu.
  • It’s not worth it to make a trip all the way to Usuki to see this, but if you’re in the neighborhood, go see it.

Camping Village Beach Takanabe
(高鍋海水浴場 キャンプ場)
(Takanabe Kaisuiyoku-ba Kyanpuba)

How to get there:

  • 32°07’05.2″N 131°32’00.8″E

From the Usuki Stone Buddas –

  • Get back onto the Oita Express way heading south.
  • Continue until the Express way ends and head south on route 36.
  • Route 36 will end at route 217. Go left on route 217.
  • When Route 217 ends turn left onto route 10 heading southwest.
  • Turn left (east) onto route 311 towards Takanabe Station.
  • When route 311 ends turn right (south) at Takanabe Station. You will have to go through a roundabout.
  • After 2 block turn left (east) over the train tracks.
  • Take the left most path to the beach.

Address:

〒 884-0004

宮崎県児湯郡高鍋町蚊口浦

Phone:

  • 0983-22-1311
  • 0983-22-5588 (City Hall)

Website

Cost:

  • To rent a tent – 1,200/night
  • To bring your own tent – 600/night
  • Free when the campsite is closed. (It’s okay to camp here when the site is closed. I called city hall and they said it’s ok.)
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • The campsite is open July 17 – August 31
  • You can stay here when the campsite at other times of the year if you have your own tent.

Notes:

  • There are toilets near the campsite.
  • There are showers close to the beach where the surfers hang out.
  • The showers are free and available even when the campsite is closed.
  • I think there is a kitchen, but it’s only available when the campsite is open.
  • No electrical outlets.
  • This is a surfing beach. It is not good for swimming.

*****UP DATE******

This campsite might be permanently closed.

Map:

Posted in Japan, Kyūshū, Miyazaki 県, Oita 県, Takanabe 町, Usuki 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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