With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Archive for September, 2014

Biking Around Tombs

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 26, 2014

November 16, 2013

All Pictures

 

Let’s get some exercise! 

We live in Okayama, or at least we did at the time of this trip. The best things to do when you live in Okayama is to go to Kobe, Osaka, or fly to Korea. There is not that much to do in Okayama.

Okayama is where most of the non-descript factories of Japan are. There are about 8 factories right outside our apartment, but other than noise, I have no idea what they produce.

pyramids

We saw online that there was a bike trail we could take that was not too far from our town. Even though Mark hates exercise, we went and had fun. Well, fun is too strong a word. We… passed some time.

Let see a pagoda!

The bikes were a bit overpriced. They were old and not very well taken care of. There is nothing here that cannot be seen in other more exciting places in Japan. If you are nearby and have nothing better to do, this is great. I would not come all the way to Okayama to see this though.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

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

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

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

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

Kibi Plain
(吉備郡)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°40’22.1″N 133°44’18.0″E

Websites:

Cost:

  • There are two places to rent bikes. near Soja station or near Bizen-Ichinomiya station.
    • It’s 1,000 yen for one day, if you rent the bike from one place and return it to the other rental place.
    • 200 yen an hour with a minimum charge of 400 yen if you return the bike to the place where you got it.

Hours:

  • 9:00 ~ 18:00

Notes:

  • This is a self guided bike tour.
  • The rental place is called:
    • Uedo Rent-a-cycle (ウエドレンタサイクル) near Bizen-Ichinomiya station
    • Araki Rent-a-Cycle (荒木レンタサイクル) near Soja station
  • The bike route is about 17 kilometer long.
  • You’ll be given a free map when you rent the bike.

Map:

Advertisements

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

Rope Bridge

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 19, 2014

September 21-23, 2012

All Pictures

Waiting for our turn to pose in front of the waterfall

Back in Japan with Friends

When I got back to Japan, Mark had a new job further up north. We were living on the island of Honshu on a region called Chugoku in a city called Okayama. We would stay there for 7 months and then move again. But, at the time of this trip we were far away from all our friends who live in Oita.

I don’t remember who picked this camping spot. Mark and I were excited for this trip to see our South African friends again. The trip itself was quiet and uneventful. This is the type of trip that makes life great, but blog posts boring. Since I know there are way more exciting post to come, as a person who is writing about these events that happen in the distant past, I don’t mind a few boring posts.

Don’t look down.

Hitchhiking in Japan

We did meet another camper. He was an English speaker from… oh lets say, England. He was hitchhiking across Japan. He traveled light. He had with him a few changes of clothes, a few meals, and some cash.

In the evening on our second day at the camp, the caretaker came to us and asked if another camper could camp near our site. We were a bit confused. No one ever makes that type of request. It would be like getting a knock on your hotel door and having the manager of the hotel asking if it was okay for him to rent out the room next to yours.

grilling up some fresh sand

We told him it was okay and waited to see what would happen next. A tent went up beside our tents and a few hours later a guy showed up. He was alone, not Japanese, and he seemed friendly.

His name was Jack or John or Chris. I don’t remember now. He was spending 3 months in Japan and hitchhiking through the country. “Hitchhiking!?” I asked him, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be chopped up into tiny bits and end up in someone’s freezer?” “No,” he said, “that particular thought has never crossed my mind.”

“Do you stand on the side of the road with a sign saying, ‘Tokyo or Bust’?”

“Sometimes. But mostly I just go in a general direction, like north. Once in a while I have a specific destination, like coming here.” I don’t remember what it was in this area he came to see, but he only spent one night. He was gone the next day before most of us woke up.

making dinner

“How do you get people to stop for you?” This seemed like the biggest hurdle in Japan.  How does a non-Japanese hitchhiker, hitchhike?

“Well, I dress nicely. It’s easier when I’m clean-shaven. It helps that I speak enough Japanese to explain where I’m going, what I do for a living, and that I can keep a conversation going. Also, I heard somewhere that carrying a guitar helps, though I don’t have one. Women driving alone usually don’t stop to pick me up. It’s mostly groups of younger men like college students. Sometimes solo drivers who are going a very long distance will pick up a hitchhiker for company.”

He also explained that sometimes the ride would last an hour or two, sometimes a whole day. A few times he was invited to someone’s home for dinner, but mostly he asks to be dropped off in a town or a city where he can spend the night.

After he left, Freda and I commented about how nice he seemed. We hoped that his trip went well and that he stayed un-murdered.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

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

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

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

Kazurabashi Camp Village
(かずら橋キャンプ村)
(Kazurabashi kyampu-mura)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°52’47.0″N 133°50’27.3″E

Address:

〒778-0102
徳島県三好市西祖谷山村閑定

Phone:

  • 090-1571-5258

Websites:

Cost:

  • bungalows – ¥5,200
  • Bring your own tent –  ¥1,000/ per tent
  • There is also a general park admission:
    • adult – ¥200
    • kids – ¥100

Hours:

  • The campsite is close in the winter.

Notes:

  • There is a coin shower, but I don’t remember how much it costs.
  • There is a scary rope bridge near by. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you get on the bridge and feel how shaky it is.
    • Don’t wear shoes that slip off your feet easily.

Map:

Posted in Japan, Miyoshi 郡, Shikoku | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Accidental Trip to Hawaii

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 12, 2014

August 31 – September 2, 2013
(In crossing the International date line I lost a day.)

All Pictures

My Mom having Fun on Stilts

First World Problems

I was sitting in the living room at my mom’s house. We were talking about how much she is enjoying her retirement. My mom worked as a comptroller for a non-profit organization. My mom speaks both English and Spanish fluently so throughout her life she has been asked to do some translations.

My mom was born in Belize, an English-speaking country. (In fact, when my mom was born she was a British citizen.) But as a teenager, my mom joined the Adventist church and wanted to go to an Adventist college to study. The closest one to Belize was in Costa Rica. So at 18 my mother, who spoke no Spanish up to that point, moved to Costa Rica for school.

My mother told me that her first semester was tough, but she quickly picked up the new language. By the time she graduated, she spoke Spanish fairly well. Then she married a Panamanian and moved to Colón and eventually Panama City. After several years of living in Panama, her Spanish improved even more.

She moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands after living in Jamaica and Grand Cayman. She worked mostly in accounting and used her Spanish-speaking skills whenever needed. At first she just translated for visitors in church. Then she started to translate the sermons from Spanish into English while on the pulpit. Then she was asked to translate meetings at work at first from Spanish into English, then from English into Spanish.

By the time she moved to Miami, she was well-known for her translating skills. She can translate, rehearsed, as the person is a translating for is speaking. But as head comptroller she didn’t have time to do as much translating as she does now. These days she is retired and is the go-to Spanish-English/ English-Spanish translator. Every time I call her she is in the Bahamas, Cayman, Venezuela, Australia, or somewhere else translating meetings or seminars, either from a booth or on stage.

She was telling me all about the upcoming translating assignments she had for the next few months. For a retired person, my mom is quite busy. Then she said the most first-world-problems thing I have ever heard. “I travel a lot and I’ve accumulated all these frequent flyer miles. But, I never get to use them because every time I fly someone else pays for my flight!”

That sucks!

Being the dutiful daughter that I am, I offered to help. “You can use them on me, mom. I promise to not let anyone pay for my ticket.” …And then she said, “Okay.”

I went online to look for a flight back to Japan. I chose a flight and was ready to get the ticket. My mom came by and asked if she had enough miles to get me all the way to Japan. “Mom, you have more than enough miles. You could even send me first class if you wanted to.” …And then she said, “Okay.”

me – “Okay, what?”

mom – “Get a first class ticket. Why not? I’m never going to use the miles.”

So that’s what I did. I got first class tickets from Columbus, Ohio to Fukuoka, Japan. Since this ticket was bought with mileage points I could not get a direct flight. But I didn’t care. It was free and in first class.

I had to choose between a Columbus, LAX, Seattle, Fukuoka or a Columbus, LAX, Honolulu, Fukuoka route. I chose Honolulu. Even though I would not be leaving the airport, I thought that Honolulu just sounded like a better place to wait for a flight from.

That’s me; first class all the way!

Columbus to LAX

I left Ohio in the evening on Friday. I would spend the night in LA and fly to Hawaii early the next morning. My plan was to either sleep at the international terminal or find a cheap hotel. When I got to LAX I was very hungry. Online, the consensus was that the international terminal was a better place to eat, use the internet, and even to sleep, so I went there.

After eating way too much Chinese food, I found some wi-fi and started looking at hotel options. When evaluating the price of accommodations from an airport, one must factor in the cost of the taxi ride to and from the airport. Taxis charge extra when there is an airport involved and this can make the cost of one night’s stay much more expensive. In fact, it might even be cheaper to stay at an expensive hotel that offers a free airport shuttle than a cheap hotel where you have to pay for your own taxi.

There were many great hotels with free shuttles to choose from, but when I tried to make reservations online, I would get a message that the room I wanted was just taken. After an hour of this I looked at a clock. It was almost midnight and my flight was for 7:30 the next morning. I would have to be back at LAX by 5:30. I gave up on finding a hotel and went to a nice waiting area, found a sofa, and fell asleep.

Goodbye

Flying first class was nice. The food was great, the extra space was great. It was nice being one of the first on the plane. But what I really liked about first class was the little things. The flight attendants learn your name and calls you by your name, or nickname if you prefer, for the whole flight. They also make small talk with you. They take the time to explain the menu, “The salmon comes from Alaska and it is served in a white wine sauce…” Something like that. It was not like a servant\ boss relationship type of thing that I had imagined, but more like a friend who is having you over at his or her house.

I LOVED it. It didn’t make me feel rich; it made me feel like a person. It’s not like back in coach you’re treated like cattle. But there a huge difference between having someone say, “Here’s your coffee ma’am,” and, “Here’s your coffee, Josie. Have you been to Honolulu before? You mentioned earlier that you love goofy tourist sights; you should visit…”

The middle of the airport in Honolulu — Yup they put a garden in their airport, because… Hawaii!

Once in Honolulu

I landed in Honolulu and the first thing I did was to find the gate for my next flight. Once that was sorted out I headed to a restaurant to spend the rest of my US dollars and eat the last plate of buffalo wings I would have for a long time. I also bought an overpriced drink and give a heavy tip, — ’cause what am I going to do with a 20 dollar bill in Japan?

Just before it was time for my flight, I made my way to the gate and I heard my name being called. I got to the counter and the lady there asked me to see my ticket out of Japan. I didn’t have one. I explained to her that my husband works in Japan and once in the country I would apply for a dependent visa. She said that that might be okay for Japan, but for the airline, they cannot take me to Japan unless I have an outbound ticket.

She recommended buying a ticket and then cancelling it later. I thought that was a good idea. But I didn’t have time to buy the ticket and make the flight. “No worries,” she said, “tomorrow’s flight is practically empty. You can have the same seat on that flight. Just come back the same time tomorrow with the outbound ticket.”

Waiting for my hotel shuttle

The lady apologized over and over and explained that it was the airlines policy. She and her co-workers kept going on and on about how well I was taking not getting on the flight. I accepted her apology trying to not look so damn delighted that I was spending a day in Honolulu. I walked over the passenger pickup area and found an inexpensive hotel near the airport that also had a free shuttle.

I got to the hotel and asked about an atm. I needed cash. (Why did I give such a big tip!?) I could pay for hotel and even meals with my credit card, but if I wanted to explore I would need to take the bus and the bus takes only cash.

Kitty doesn’t care about gas prices.

I walked several blocks to a Safeway where I could buy some water and get cash back. It was an hour of walking there and another hour of walking back. That’s when I noticed that normal people in America do not walk anywhere. Walking is just for the crazies. Non-crazy people drive or take the bus or at the very least use a bicycle. After I got back from the store I vowed to never walk in America again.

at the beach!

The next day I got up early in the morning and caught the first bus to Waikiki Beach.  I walked along the beach and waded in the water. I could have visited Pearl Harbor if I planned everything right, but I decided not to take a chance. I relaxed at the beach a bit before going back to my hotel showering and making it in time for my flight to Japan.

The next flight was first class on Hawaiian Airlines to Fukuoka. It was another great flight. The only question is how am I ever going to fly coach again?

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Waikīkī Beach

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 21°16’34.5″N 157°49’38.1″W

Address:

Waikīkī Beach
Honolulu, HI 96815
USA

Websites:

Cost:

  • The beach is free
  • There are several foot washing stations that are free to use.
  • The hotels on the beach are quite expensive.
  • Parking might not be free.

Hours:

  • always available

Videos:

Notes:

  • NTT DoCoMo users from Japan can use their phones in Hawaii.

Map:

Posted in Hawaii, United States, The | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Buckeye State

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 5, 2014

August 3, – September 1, 2013

All Pictures

Love the legroom on JAL!

One way ticket back home

After finishing my 3 years of working at 2 high schools in Japan for the Jet Programme, the Japanese government bought me a flight back home. My mom moved from Miami to Columbus, so I headed to Ohio, the Buckeye state. (I’m not sure what a buckeye is. I think it’s a type of fruit that is poisonous to Wolverines…)

Malcolm and me

The first thing I noticed was how big everything was. The roads are wide even though there wasn’t much traffic. (My flight landed at 20:00 on a Saturday evening.) The median, well… there was a median! There are very few medians in Japan and when there is it’s either on a toll-pike or you get those dinky little poles that won’t give any protection from someone crossing over to the wrong side of the road.

My mom passed a bank on our way home. It had a huge lawn for no reason. It wasn’t a park. No one ever walks on the lawn or even by it. Someone just thought, “Hey, a lawn would be nice here,” and they put a lawn there. They have space like that. I wasn’t in Japan anymore.

Stilt walking

I didn’t travel much when I was in the US. I mostly spent time with my family and did lots of shopping. I dumped all the clothes I had for the past 3 years in Japan, and bought all new stuff, in my size! I bought sun block (it’s cheaper in the states), deodorant, my favorite lotions, medicine (there is no throat antiseptic spray or neosporin in Japan), and chocolate bars.

My nephew always finds a reason to take his shirt off.

We did take a trip to Kentucky to drop off an exchange student to college. She had been living with my family for the past year and got into an American college. This lend to an unexpected visit to the home of some friends of my sister-in-law. They asked if we wanted to ride on their ATVs for a bit. Well, why not!?

Late comers to dinner

My family ate dinner together while everyone talked about their day. I felt like I was in the Waltons. I made dinner for everyone one night. It was cold noodles with ginger and soy sauce for dipping. They seemed to like it. But, my brother liked it more after he microwaved his for a couple minutes. He likes his food hot and his drinks cold.

Saturday night jam session

My brother and his kids played music. I listen and wondered where all this talent came from. The last time I saw most of them they were snot-nose kids who asked a lot of questions and were alway hurting themselves roughhousing. Now they were grown men who drove me around until I got a new American driver’s license. They took me shopping and waited patiently while I tried things on.

I remember arguing with these kids about bedtime. Every night’s argument ended with a, “Okay one more story, but then you have to go to bed.” Now even the youngest one, my niece was a person I could talk to about books and other interesting topics and not just about why she should finish her broccoli and brush her teeth.

My niece proving to her brothers that she is just as strong as any of them.

Kids huh… One day they’re little brats, the next they are fine upstanding adults. Crazy!

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Slate Run Living Historical Farm

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 39°44’57.4″N 82°49’51.4″W

Address:

1375 State Route 674 N.
Canal Winchester, OH 43110

Phone:

  • InfoLine 614.508.8000
  • +1 614-833-1880

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • You can buy products made here like jams or heirloom seeds.

Hours:

  • April and May: Tue-Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 11am-4pm(Memorial Day, noon-6pm)
  • June to Aug: Tue-Thu 9am-4pm, Fri-Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 11am-6pm  (July 4, 9am-6pm)
  • Sept to Oct: Tue-Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 11am-4pm (Labor Day, noon-6pm)
  • Nov to March: Wed-Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 11am-4pm

 

  • The Farm is closed:
    • on Mondays
    • closed on Tuesdays from November to March
    • Thanksgiving Day,
    • Christmas Day
    • New Year’s Day

Map:

Posted in Columbus, Ohio, United States, The | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: