Posted by Heliocentrism on August 22, 2014
July 13-15, 2013
We had lots of fun on this trip. We did have a close call when a tree fell on the path to the cabins we used often. Luckily no one was on the path at that particular moment. We were also constantly being attacked by every mosquito this side of the Mississippi. We were expecting the weekend to be quiet, but for the first 20 hours of the trip there was an army of jr. high kids running around and screaming at every bug and bat they saw.
The person hit the hardest by the bugs was Mark. His blood is delicious to them. On this trip he lived with a thick coating of bug spray on his skin and they still bit him. Even I was bitten, and bugs hardly ever bother me.
But we did have fun!
Don’t bring too much stuff
We tried to bring everything we needed and packed light at the same time. The campsite was on an island and we had to haul all our stuff ourselves on our backs. We could not drive to the campsite, unload, and then park. But since it was on an island there was no going to a 7eleven to pick up an extra bottle of water or a toothbrush.
We decided to leave the tents at home and instead fill our backpacks with food and supplies. We got one cabin for the 5 of us. There was not an extra inch of cabin space left when we were all lying down. It was a good thing there wasn’t a 6th person.
To keep the weight of our luggage down we assigned meals, instead of having a free-for-all cook out. Usually everyone would make a dish for every meal. But this usually caused overeating, lots of leftovers, and a lot of dishes. This time we planned ahead who would make which meal. There were 5 meals and 5 campers, so we each prepared one meal.
I picked drunk chicken, a recipe I found on Pinterest. This involves seasoning a chicken, placing a half empty can of beer inside the chicken, and putting it on a grill. This is what I wanted to make even though in my 4 years of living in Japan I had never seen a whole chicken for sale at the grocery store, ever.
I was talking to someone about how I wanted to make this meal for my camping trip, but alas I could not. Then she mentioned seeing game hens at a store called A-Price. A-Price is a grocery store that caters more to restaurants than individuals, but regular non-restaurant owning people shop there too. A-Price is also notorious for having a particular item in stock one week and not the next. So, I ran down there and bought up 5 little hens.
But wait… I have whole chickens, but they are too small for any beer cans to be shoved inside. “You live in Japan,” Mark reminded me, “the land where someone always says, ‘This is too big. Can you make a smaller one?’ I’m sure you can find small beer cans to fit into your tiny chickens.
He was right. At the convenience store nearest to our apartment they sold tiny cans of Asahi beer. They looked like they were made for kids. I bought 5 of them. They weren’t that much cheaper than the regularly sized beer.
I was told that these were made for people to be able to drink and later drive home. Japan has a 0 alcohol level tolerance. If you drink even a little you cannot legally drive. But these were designed to be just enough beer for you to enjoy one and still have a 0 blood alcohol level in about 3 hours. (Maybe not 3 hours exactly, but some number of hours.) Take this information with a grain of salt. I don’t remember who told me this and I cannot find conformation of it online anywhere.
It took several hours of grilling to completely cook the birds. There was a bunch of schoolkids standing by making their forgettable dinner. They watched intently as we seasoned the chicken, added spices to the beer, placed the beer in the bird, wrapped the birds in foil, and placed them on the grill. I didn’t have to worry that the chicken would burn without anyone noticing. Those kids were fixated on the meat. They kept commenting about how delicious it smelled. If anything started to burn they would notice.
Not only did the chicken smell good, they tasted great too. And the boys loved the seasoned beer. I took the beer can out of my chicken and did not touch it, but the guys poured their spicy beer over their chicken like it was gravy.
Our days were spent swimming but the evening were meant for board games. We played a few rounds of Citadels and Zombies!!! on this trip. I always come close to winning, but I have only won once. It was Zombies!!!. I was so tired I wanted my character to die and be out of the game, so I kept taking risks. Apparently that is a good strategy, because I won and ended the game sooner than usual.
Grill Master Billy
Billy can grill. When we go camping with Billy we always hand him the tongs and step back. But when Freda and I looked into his bag in hopes of figuring out what he would make for his meal, we had our doubts about his cooking abilities. Left alone in the cabin with Billy’s grocery bag we just could not help ourselves. We had to look in. We found a can of mangos, a knife, and a bottle of ketchup.
“What do you think he’ll make with that?” we asked each other. We didn’t want to say anything to hurt his feelings, but we didn’t think we would enjoy his meal. “I know he’s single and sometimes single guys will eat odd combinations of things.” We even started thinking about a back-up plan. “I still have vegetables left over from my meal. Do you still have eggs and bread? We could do something with that…”
When it was Billy’s turn to make dinner we were all scared, but we didn’t say anything. He started by grilling some bread. “Yup, he’s lost his mind!” we thought. Then he took the bread off and put on some hotdogs.
“Wait, you had hot dogs!?” we asked him. “Yes,” he said not noticing our anxiety.
“Were they in your backpack this whole time?” We thought about the hot dogs sitting in the hot cabin for two days. They can’t possibly be good to eat now.
“No, I kept them in my cooler.”
“You have a cooler!? We didn’t see it in the cabin.” I thought back to the morning we first arrive. Mark and I had a cooler. The South Africans had a cooler and a Costco bag. Was that cooler actually Billy’s?
“I didn’t put it in the cabin. I didn’t want to carry up it the hill. I kept it under the table in the kitchen area.”
We looked on as he continued to grill. When the hot dogs where done, we put them on the bread and smothered the whole thing with ketchup. Then Billy started grilling vegetables… then beef… then pork… then fish. For dessert he opened the can of mangos. It was a very good meal! We started to sing the praises of Grill Master Billy.
We told him about looking into his grocery bag and how we thought the meal would end up. “Oh, if I had known that’s what you guys expected I would have done something like grill the mangos put ketchup on them and see if you would eat it.”
When it was time to leave we were packed and ready to go on time. We climbed aboard the boat. But instead of taking us back to the main island of Kyushu, the ferry took us around the island on a short tour.
This might be our last camping trip together ever. Billy would be going back to New Zealand in a few weeks. Mark and I would be leaving Oita and heading to some other town in Japan. We didn’t know where we would be going at the time. Only the South Africans were staying where they were.
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.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)
Otojima Survival Island
- Coordinates 32°28’06.2″N 131°40’08.8″E
- Bungalow – ￥3,500
- Tent – ￥1,500
- There are things for rent like blankets, dishes, and BBQ equipment
- Round Trip Ferry Ride
- ￥1,500 adults
- ￥1,000 kids
- Check in – 15:00
- Check out – 10:00
- You must have reservations ahead of time to stay here.
- You also need reservations for the ferry to the island.
- The ferry is run by an older couple and it runs only when needed.
- You must tell them when to come back to pick you up.
- You can park your car in the couple’s parking lot for free.
- Pack light. You will have to carry all your stuff up to the cabins if you are not using your tent.
- Bring lots of bug spray!