Posted by Heliocentrism on June 16, 2014
April 20-21, 2013
So it’s going to be like that?
This was the start of one of those summers in Japan. During the workweek I’d sit at my desk and dreamily stare out of the window. The sky would be so blue. The sun would shine happily. There would be just enough breeze to need a long-sleeve t-shirt in the evenings.
It would be too hard to concentrate on work the whole day, so I would focus and get everything done in the mornings and let my mind drift after lunch. I would message friends about camping on the weekends. I did hours of research to find interesting spots to camp. My friends and I planned at least 2 camping trips per month for the next 4 months!
Then Friday would come. After work Mark and I would set out to the grocery store for supplies for our trip. We would do our shopping blissfully unaware that our plans were being destroyed. We would find out when we took our items back to the car. “It’s raining!”
But it was never just rain. Typhoons, floods, fires, locus, rivers turned to blood! All starting at 6pm Friday evening and lasting until 8pm Sunday night when the winds would suddenly died down, flood waters would recede, locus would spontaneously die and disintegrate, and rivers would return to having crystal clear water again. Every Monday through Thursday started and ended beautifully. The only exceptions were the Wednesdays that were holidays; then it would rain all day.
This trip came about after many cancelled and postponed trips. We were to go camping up north, but it was supposed to rain. So we went down south to this campsite because it had cabins. Cabins or bungalows are sometimes cheaper than camping if you have enough people. With cabins you pay per cabin.
With campsite you pay per tent and per person. Cabins sometimes, but not always, come with amenities like hot showers, rice cookers, futons and blankets, and air conditioning. (These bungalows were very basic with futons and blankets. The showers and toilets were not in the bungalows, but in a communal area.)
We first checked in at the campsite and put our stuff into our bungalows. We had 2 for our group. Then we went to see about the gorge before it was supposed to rain. At first we walked down the little path, but it seemed like a sucker’s game. You went down a whole bunch of steps then walked for about 10 minutes, but you can’t get close to the waterfall. Then you have to climb back up those steps like a chump.
We chose to take a row-boat. There were 3 to a boat and only 2 oars. I figured that chances were good I would not have to row. My gamble paid off. There was only one rower and it was never me. Mark and Billy took turns rowing.
There were a few traffic jams. Everyone wanted to see the waterfalls so boats would slow down whenever they got to one. But no one really had control over their boat and everyone rammed someone. A few boats got too near a waterfall and got drenched. A couple handed me their camera to take their photo only to drift away with their camera still in my hands. After some maneuvering, we managed to get our boats close enough to hand the camera back. I was afraid that their expensive camera would end up in the river.
Can I interest you in some cold food?
We past this restaurant that served cold noodles. You pick up the noodles and dip them into your cup filled with soy sauce, seasonings, ginger, and chives. But before you can do that you have to catch your noodles with chopsticks. The noodles are sent sliding down a bamboo flume that passes your table.
Normally I don’t like cold noodles, but these were very good. I think I did a good job catching the noodles. I was still hungry, but I did better than I thought I would. A few months later, when I went back to Ohio, I made these noodles (minus the flume) for my family since it was a hot day.
You have to boil the noodles to cook them then drain off the hot water, rinse with cold water, and then put the noodles in ice-cold water. My brother, Malcolm, the lover of cold drinks, tasted the dish and said, “It’s really good, but it needs something…” “More ginger?” I suggested. I really like a lot of ginger in my sauce. “No,” he said. Then he got up from the table to microwave his noodles. “Now, this is good stuff!”
With the appetizer out of the way, we headed back to the camp to start grilling. We started around 6 that evening and kept going until about 10. We grilled meat, vegetables, and even fruit. It was a feast.
Once that was done we cleaned up and headed to one of the cabins. It was raining, but we didn’t care. We played Citadels for several hours because we’re nerds. I love this game, but I can never win. I fly under the radar until almost the end of the game. Then everyone comes after me leaving me poor and powerless. It’s a great game!
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.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- 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.)
- Head from Oita on route 57. Then around to the town of Bungotaketa take the 639 to route 8.
- 32°42’43.4″N 131°18’20.9″E
- Somen Nagashi (流しそうめん)
There is a restaurant near the gorge where you can try this cold noodle flowing activity. I’m not a huge fan of cold food, but on a hot day this stuff is delicious. (I like to put a lot of ginger in my dipping bowl.)
Don’t worry if you don’t catch much food. The noodles will land in a bowl at the end and will be served to you later.
- Other than the gorge there are temples galore to be seen.
- …and a cave
- Take route 50 south to until you see signs for the gorge.
- 32°42’06.6″N 131°18’01.6″E
- There is no charge to get to the gorge area. But there is no free parking. If I remember right, parking was a flat fee of about ￥500 for the day. (But I could be wrong. It could be more.)
- The shops and boat rental probably close about 18:00 in the summer.
Notes: You can rent a boat to paddle yourself down the gorge
- It takes about 30 minutes depending on your strength and stamina.
- It’s ￥2,000 per boat.
- It’s a maximum of 3 people per boat.
- 8:30~16:30 and 7:30~18:00 in the summer.
- You will have to wear a life jacket.
- You will probably stay dry during the boat ride, unless of course if you have expensive electronics with you. Then you will somehow get stuck under the waterfall and everything will be soaked!
You can also walk along the gorge via a walkway (free).
Sato Camp Village of Gokase
(Gokase no sato kyanpu-mura)
From the gorge take 218 heading west. The road the campsite in on has no name that I can find, but it’s near a waterfall called, “うのこの滝.” I highly recommend using a GPS navigator to help you find this place.
- 32°41’32.4″N 131°10’41.7″E
- 0982-82-1536 (Japanese)
- 1~4 person bungalow — ￥4,200 (if you have 4 people it will cost ￥1,050 per person)
- 6~8 person bungalow — ￥6,300
- 5-person-tent rental — ￥1,050
- You bring your own tent — ￥530/person
- Day camping — ￥300/person
- Check in – 15:00
- Check out – 10:00
- They do have things like grills and tongs to rent.
- The bungalow come with futons and blankets.
- There are showers and toilets, but they are not in the bungalows.