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Archive for January, 2015

Steak

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 30, 2015

Thursday, December 25, 2014

All Pictures

Road Trip!

On the Road Again

This was our first big road trip, since… what is it? …2012? 2012!

I had been planning this trip for months. I had a day-to-day schedule of what we would do, see, where we would sleep, and how much everything should cost. I even wrote down what time we should wake up each morning and how long we should stay at any given tourist attraction.

I’ve changed my traveling ways. I’ve gone from a haphazard tourist that goes places knowing nothing about everything, to researching everything thoroughly and playing tour guide to Mark.

There are still a few things that stand in my way, research-wise. A lot of the information online and in guide books are grossly incorrect or non-existent. Also, estimations of travel time due to traffic are way off.

The drive time from Miyoshi to Kobe was estimated by both my Garmin and Google maps to be about 6 hours with traffic when not taking any toll roads. That was not even close. It’s more like 8 or 9 hours. And, we left at 7:00 in the morning and avoid traffic until we got to Kobe city.

I was hoping for a world made entirely out of steak.

Adventures in Steak Land

Kobe beef is very expensive. I’m talking 60~80 bucks for a steak-centric meal here. But, this is one of the finest beefs in the world. So, Mark did some research and found the cheapest of the most expensive steakhouses; Steak Land.

Generally, Steak Land has the more affordable Kobe beef steaks. It’s still a lot of money to drop for one meal. So, we were going to go there for lunch. The lunch menu is about $10 less than the dinner menu. But, damn that Kobe traffic!

Once we were officially in Kobe’s city limits, the Garmin said we were 30 minutes from the hostel. It kept saying that for about 2 hours. Then when we got to the coordinates, there was no hostel to be seen. The hostel is in an area filled with one-way roads so we could not easily drive around looking for something that looked hostel-like.

Mark parked the car on the side of the road, illegally. But, he put on the emergency blinkers, like everyone else around here does, so it was totally cool. I took out my tablet and used the GPS on it to find the hostel on foot. It took me to the back of an apartment building. “That cannot be it.”

I kept walking, looking for someone to ask for help. I was hoping to find a shop but there was none on the little back alley I was on. So I walked away from the spot where the hostel was supposed to be and tried to get on a main road. Just when I found the main road, I saw the hostel’s teeny tiny completely missable sign.

Needless to say, we did not make it to Steak Land in time for the lunch special.

one Kobe steak and one steak from Kobe

Can you taste the difference?

We had been looking forward to this meal, and hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We decided to go anyway, even if we did have to pay for the more expensive dinner.

We paid for one Kobe steak and one regular steak. This was not only easier on our wallets, but it gave us an opportunity to compare the two steaks.

Keep in mind that the regular “roasted” steak was from a cow grown, bought, and cooked in Kobe. I preferred the regular steak. Mind you that they were both very good. They were the best and second best steaks I have ever had by far. They were both “like buttah” but I just like the non-Kobe steak a bit more.

We had to wait about 15 minutes for a couple with a selfie stick to take their standard 1,001 photos.

This Lights of Kobe Harbor

We spent the rest of the evening walking around Kobe harbor looking at attractions and taking photos. I used the GPS on my tablet to get us from one thing of interest to another. But then it’s battery died, so we found a map and navigated the old fashioned way.

Kobe wears the night well.

We had a great time, until we were ready to go back to the hostel. I was counting on my tablet to give us directions, but that was not an option now.

Me – “Mark, do you remember how to get back to the hostel?”

Mark – “Sure, just go to that one train station. Walk down the main road, and turn at the Lawson. It’s a straight 8 minute or so walk from there.”

Me – “Seriously!? You’re standing on a street in Japan and your point of reference is a convenience store?”

Mark – “Now, I see where I went wrong…”

Elvis was no help with directions.

We walked around for an hour looking for that one particular Lawson that was an 8-minute walk from our hostel. We found it eventually, but during our search I wondered what would happen to us if we really could never find this hostel again. We would not be able to find our car, because we only knew it’s location in reference to the hostel.

Luckily, it never came to that.

 

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 ask whatATMs 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.)

Kobe
(神戸市)

How to get there:

You can get here by plane or train. If you live in Oita on Kyushu you can take an overnight boat from Beppu city.

Websites:

Cost:

  • Kobe Beef $35 ~ $200
    • To get a better deal, try having Kobe steak for lunch instead of dinner.

Videos:

Notes:

  • There is free wi-fi throughout the city of Kobe. You can sign up for free week long wi-fi at any tourist information centers, or use the free 3-hour long wi-fi.

Meriken Park
(メリケンパーク)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°40’55.4″N 135°11’19.0″E

Address:

Hatobacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • the park itself is always available

Notes:

  • The name of the park comes from the word “American,” which was commonly translated as “Meriken” during the Meiji era.
  • Things to see in or near this park:
    • Steakland Kobe (神戸のステーキランド)
      • 34°41’34.9″N 135°11’31.5″E
      • Go for lunch
      • There are many Steakland Kobe restaurants in Kobe.
    • Hanshin Earthquake Memorial Park (神戸港震災メモリアルパーク)
      • 34°41’01.3″N 135°11’24.4″E
    • Kobe Maritime Museum
      • 34°40’58.0″N 135°11’18.0″E
      • ¥600
      • 10:00 – 17:00 Tue – Sun (Closed December 29 to January 3)
    • Kobe Port Tower (神戸ポートタワー)(KōbePōtoTawā)
      • 34°40’57.5″N 135°11’12.1″E
      • ¥600
      • 9:00 – 20:00
    • Kobe Anpanman Museum (神戸アンパンマンこどもミュージアム&モール)
      • 34°40’45.5″N 135°11’04.7″E
      • ¥1,500 for everyone over 1 year old
      • 10:00 – 18:00
      • for toddlers
    • Love’s Post Box (愛の郵便ポスト)
      • 34°40’47.0″N 135°11’06.2″E (or nearby)
      • a hallowed spot for romance
      • It’ right in front of the Anpanman Museum
      • The stationary store, near the mail box, where you can buy postcards and stamps, closes at 19:00.
    • Statue of Elvis (エルヴィス・プレスリー像)
      • 34°40’42.9″N 135°10’56.2″E
      • This was paid for by Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi along with many other Elvis fans.
      • Was originally placed in Harajuku, Tokyo in 1987.
    • Kobe Harborland (神戸ハーバーランド)

Steakland Kobe
(神戸のステーキランド)
(Kōbe no sutēkirando)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°41’34.9″N 135°11’31.5″E

Address:

1-8-2 Kitanagasadori, Chuo-ku | Miyasako Bldg. 1-2F, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 650-0012, Japan

〒650-0012神戸市中央区北長狭通1丁目9番17号 三宮興業ビル6階

Phone:

  • +81 78-332-1653

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 11:00 – 22:00

Notes:

  • It’s cheaper to eat here for lunch than dinner.
  • There are 3 locations for this restaurant.

Sannomiya R2 Hostel
(神戸三宮R2ホステル)
(Kōbe Sannomiya R2 hosuteru)

How to get there:

Address:

2-4-6 Kumoi-dori Chuoku-ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 691-0096, Japan

Phone:

  • +81-80-4496-3034

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

Hours:

  • reception 9:00-22:00
  • Check in 15:00 – 22:00
  • Check out 10:00

Notes:

  • No kids under 7
  • If you book your stay through HostelWorld, make sure to bring your conformation paper and proof that you have paid 10% of the charge already.

Map:

 

Posted in Honshū, Hyōgo 県, Japan, Kobe 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Shobara Cave

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 23, 2015

Saturday, November 15, 2014

All Pictures

Ready to go in a cave

The Cave

I’ve known about this cave for a while, but I could not find exactly where it was. I had gps coordinates for the cave, but my Garmin said that it could not calculate the directions needed to get us there.

A friend came over to our apartment one day and I asked her about the cave. She got on google and showed me where it was. From google.maps I found Shobara’s tourist website and general directions to the cave.

I put in the new coordinates and the Garmin once again refused to help. But this time Mark and I knew to head to Tojo. Once there we found some ambiguous signs and asked a couple people for directions. We also found a few other tourist who were looking for the same place. If you don’t know where this place is, it’s a little difficult to find.

Hot udon because we’re heading out into the cold.

We parked our car and stopped at a little restaurant before starting our 2 hour hike. We ordered curry udon and consulted the many maps that were given to us when we asked for directions.

It might look like just an ordinary pillar of stone to you, but it’s actually a demon tower!

The maps are not for not getting lost. There is only one path to follow. The maps tell you what you pass along the way. Most of the items on the map seemed like stuff made up by Shobara’s board of tourist to attract more people. I have to say, I quite enjoyed it. The walk was so much more better for all the demon rocks and stories about demon rocks.

Japanese Sphinx?

I’ve noticed a trend in our little neighboring town to the north. They are obsessed with Egypt. We saw the mountain that the board of tourism wants us to believe is actually a pyramid. Now, in the cave we saw a natural sphinx. I wonder it they have mummies anywhere…

Mark stole that scarf from me. I just finished knitting it too!

The path is a lovely place to go for a walk, especially in fall. It would be a great place to take a date, since neither Shobara or my town, Miyoshi, have a movie theater. Yes, you read that correctly. There are no movie theaters in my town or the next town over.

It’s madness!

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 ask whatATMs 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.)

Taishaku Gorge
(帝釈峡)
(Taishakukyō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°52’08.5″N 133°12’10.8″E

Address:

Taisyakukyo Tojo-cho Shobara City , Zip code 729-5244

Phone:

  • +81-(0)8477-2-0525

Websites:

Cost:

  • Parking – 400 JYN per car
  • Hakuundo cave – 250 JYN/adult
  • Bike rental – 500 JYN

Hours:

  • Hakuundo Cave – 9:00~ 17:00
  • The rest of the trail is always available.

Notes:

  • Things you can see here:
    • Hakuun-do Cave (白雲洞) – a 200-meter-long limestone cave
    • On-bashi Bridge –  a 90-meter-long
  • You can rent bikes here.
  • Near the parking lot there is a restaurant.
  • There is also a coffee shop near the start of the trail.

Map:

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

Dogo Onsen

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 16, 2015

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

All Pictures

We must have passed over thousands of these things to get to Shikoku.

But I have to work on the 7th

Winter is coming. This means that Mark will have about 2 weeks off from work. He wanted to go to Vietnam or Taiwan, but I talked him out of it. There are still many things in Japan we have yet to see. It would be cheaper to stay in Japan than to travel abroad.

So I made all these elaborate winter plans to travel to Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, and some other cities you may have heard of. All this city hopping would end with a day in Matsuyama, soaking in one of Japan’s oldest onsens on the 7th of January. After I showed Mark the schedule, he informed me that he had to work on the 7th. So I had to end the trip without a visit to Matsuyama.

“Are you guys in line?”

I was really sad. This onsen was an easy 3 or 4 hour drive away. There were two 3 day weekends in November. I suggested we went then, but retracted the idea. Holidays mean crowds. “Well,” Mark interjected, “I have to take a day off of work to go to Hiroshima and pick up our new registration cards. Can we do it then?”

We sure could!

Mark knows what time it is.

So we woke up freakishly early on a Tuesday and got to the government building in Hiroshima just as it opened. Mark was 3rd in line and got his and my new registration cards in 20 minutes. This is the least amount of time I have ever spend in a government building while actually getting something done.

I do have other shirts; I swear!

Mark handed my new and old cards. When I looked at the photos on the cards I noticed that in both pictures I wore the same green t-shirt. What a coincidence I thought.

“I don’t even wear that shirt very often.”

“Like today?” Mark asked.

I looked down at my chest. I was wear the green shirt. “Apparently, this is my interact-with-the-Japanese-government shirt.”

We took our new ID cards and headed to Costco for lunch. Then we set off for Shikoku.

Good information can be hard to find in Japan.

If we were rich

If we were rich, we would have taken the car ferry from the Port of Hiroshima to Matsuyama Kanko Port. We would have taken the 11:20 boat and reached Matsuyama at 14:00. We would have taken naps, played cards, and eaten instant noodles all while traveling. The cost for the tickets for 2 passengers, was about twice that for the toll for the many bridges it takes to get to Shikoku from Honshu. But no matter how hard I searched the website, I could not find the fare for bringing our car on the ferry.

I have learned to never do anything in Japan without knowing how much it will cost in advance. Whatever I think it should cost as a reasonable non-millionaire, will be a shamefully low underestimation of what the price will actually be. Sometimes there are deals to be had, but relying on this will leave you poor, frustrated, or stranded when you quickly run out of money.

I know the bridge toll would cost about 4,000 yen each way to get to Shikoku from Hiroshima prefecture, so we budgeted for that. The ferry might have been slightly more expensive, but I could not tell for sure before hand. I prefer not having financial surprises.

Reading the complicated onsen instructions.

This is not my first rodeo

I’ve been to many onsens in Japan before. They are all quite similar and usually go like this.

  1. Put your shoes in a locker or cupboard. If you have to pay for the locker, the money is usually refunded when you leave.
  2. Pay to enter theonsen.
    • This is where you can rent or buy a towel as well as purchasing any soap or shampoo you may need.
    • Some onsens let you use their shampoo and body wash for free.
    • When the soap and shampoo is not free they can be quite overpriced. I always bring my own just in case.
    • You can always bring your own shower supplies and towel.
  3. Go to the locker room for your gender.
  4. Put your stuff in a locker.
    • Keep the key with you for the rest of your stay.
    • You can take the key into the shower area and into the onsen.
  5. Take off all your clothes.
  6. Take a shower.
  7. Get into the onsen.
  8. Make sure your hair is up in a bun or ponytail. Your hair should not be submerged in the onsen water.
  9. If there is a unisex area, put on a swimsuit before you go there.
  10. When you’re done, take another shower. Dry off a little before going back to the locker room. You should not be dripping wet in the locker room.
  11. Get dressed. There is usually a hair dryer you can use. Take your stuff out of the locker.
  12. Give back whatever locker keys you still have.
  13. Put your shoes on by the door.

Laminated instructions

My guess is that this onsen has a lot of non-Japanese visitors who have never been to an onsen before, because there were instructions in English everywhere. I was even handed a little booklet at the information center with step by step instructions.

This onsen was a bit different. There were times when I was a bit confused as to what to do.

Let’s go in!

First we put our shoes in lockers. Then we bought our tickets and headed in. We got the Tama-no-Yu 2F (red) tickets, which was the 1,250 yen. It let us use all the pools and came with a tour of the royal family’s bath.

We followed the red line on the floor to our area. But first I needed to use the bathroom. I went to the first bathroom I found, which was on the first floor. When I came out I was surprised to see an attendant waiting for me. I had used the wrong bathroom. With my ticket I was to use the bathroom on the second floor only.

The 2nd floor lounge

Mark and I were taken to the “Lounging Room” on the second floor. There a lady explain in Japanese what we were to do. At this onsen, we put our stuff in the baskets on the mats and only put our valuables in the locker. This locker does not come with a refund when you give back the key.

There are 3 different robes. Each robe pattern corresponds to the type of ticket the wearer purchased. The cheapest ticket, the Kami-no-Yu 1F comes with no robe. That ticket only gives access to things on the first floor.

My red ticket robe and belt

Next we took our robes and towels and headed to the showers. Mark went his way and I, mine. I was escorted to a locker room and was left to myself. I disrobed and put everything in the locker. I entered the shower and got clean.

There was a small bath in the shower, so I hopped in. Soon I was the only person there. I looked around the one hundred year old onsen and anticipated what amazing onsen I would sit in next. When I got too hot I got out.

I went back to the locker, put the robe on, took my stuff out, and headed to the lounge area. (I read in the booklet that you are allowed to wear your underwear under the robe.) I wanted to look at the booklet again to see where the amazing onsens were.

As I put my stuff down and picked up the booklet, and lady brought me tea. I wasn’t ready for tea yet. I was actually on my way to go to the next onsen. I left the tea to get cold.

I was told to go to the first floor for the next onsen. I went there and put my robe and underwear in the locker. I took another shower and stepped into the pool. It had about 10 people nakedly soaking in its water and 5 more washing at the showers. There were tiled pictures on the wall. When I got too hot I got out, rinsed off, dried, and walked back to the locker room. I put my robe and things back on and went back to the lounge.

I asked about the second onsen. In my mind I had only seen one. The lady told me that the first one was the one in the shower; the tiny one. I had seen all the onsens.

You have no idea what I have just seen!

I went back to sit by my basket and wait for Mark. I drank my cold tea as a group of men entered the lounge. A lady went over to them, like she had come over to Mark and me, and explained to them how this onsen worked.

They stood up and some put on their robes. I expected them to leave, but no. They pulled down their pants and took off their shirts. One man stood there shirtless and in thermal underwear trying to get the attention of an attendant to ask a question. She and Mr. Long-johns talked for a few minutes before he put on his robe and took off his long-johns.

I sipped at my now empty cup of cold tea trying to look like I saw nothing. “Why are grown men undressing in front of me!?”

cookies and tea

Eventually Mark came back. He drank his tea and ate his cookies and told me all about his adventures. He seemed not too impressed with this onsen. I had to admit that I too wished we were back in Beppu. The onsens there were not just cheaper but, way nicer. There were two onsens here, but they were the same temperature.

In Beppu, you get more variety. The onsens come with different water levels and temperature. You have indoor and outdoor onsens. Some even come with a sauna or a mud bath. Can I get some bubbles?

relax as you watch old men undress

The lounge was nice though. I sat next to a flat screen that played mellow music and showed flower petals being scattered. I could not fully relax in the room though. There was too much talking and undressing.

I heard you like kitsch…

Afterwards we walked around the little town. There were many shops selling overpriced non-sense. I thought about my mom. Her birthday is coming up and I need to get her something soon. But, not here…

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 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.)

Dogo Onsen Honkan
(道後温泉本館)

in The Dogo Onsen
(道後温泉)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°51’07.4″N 132°47’11.0″E
  • If you are leaving from Hiroshima, you can take a ferry.

Address:

5-6 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture 790-0842, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 89-921-5141

Websites:

Cost:

  • Level 1:
    • 410 yen, 6:00 to 23:00 (entrance until 22:30)
    •  60 minutes.
    • Kami no Yu bath (Bath of the Gods)
      • on the first floor
  • Level 2:
    • 840 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 21:00)
    • 60 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 1
      • rental yukata
      • tea and crackers
      • access to a public tatami room on the second floor for relaxation
  • Level 3:
    • 1250 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 21:00)
    • 60 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 2
      • access to Tama no Yu bath (Bath of the Spirits)
      • a rental towel
      • a tour of the Emperor’s bathing facilities
  • Level 4:
    • 1550 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 20:40)
    • 80 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 3
      • access to a private tatami room on the third floor for relaxation
      • Botchan Dango sweets are instead of crackers
  • Tour of the Emperor’s bathing facilities only:
    • 260 yen, 6:00 to 21:00 (entrance until 21:00)

Hours:

  • 6:00 ~ 22:00 or 23:00 depending on which level of onsen tour you get
  • Dogo Onsen Honkan is closed one day in December for end of the year cleaning.

Downloads:

Notes:

  • The most famous part of DogoOnsenistheDogoOnsenHonkan (道後温泉本館).
    • It’s a wooden bathhouse from the Meiji period.
    • It was used as inspiration for the movie Spirited Away.
    • This onsen is gender-separated.
  • There is a stone called Tama no ishi at Dogo Onsen which is said to be the footprint of Sukunahikona no Mikoto, a god who was healed by the onsen’s water.
  • As with most onsens in Japan, you can bring your own soap. shampoo, conditioner, and towel or you can rent them.
  • Be sure to stop by the information center to pick of free maps and get some advice for activities.

Map:

Posted in Ehime 県, Japan, Matsuyama 市, Shikoku | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Tricked by a Sign

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 9, 2015

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All Pictures

What!? The first sign never mentioned anything about a hiking course.

Now you tell us!

Now that my foot is getting better and I am able to walk more, I refuse to stay at home on Saturdays with nice weather. This particular Saturday I wanted to check out the cave in Shobara, the next town over. It’s a small town that few tourists visit, so it’s hard to find information about anything there online.

All I had were two coordinate points where the cave might be. But there was no guarantee that there was a cave there or that it was open. But Mark and I set out for Shobara anyway. We would look for this cave, but if we found something else along the way we would see that instead.

We passed through Shobara desperately looking for some attractions. We got to the middle of town and found a sign that said, in English, “Japanese Pyramid”. “Oh let’s go there!” We stopped the car and stared up at the sign.

It was so ambiguous. There was nothing indicating what road to take to get to this pyramid or how far away it was. We got back into the car, disappointed, and headed towards the “cave coordinates”.

This is not a one-way road.

Then we came across a tiny blue sign. It said Japan’s pyramid in Japanese. This sign told us to go up some sketchy little dirt road with death cliffs and really narrow roads. We got all excited and followed the sign. (Later we found out that we could have gone straight and turned later on to avoid the super dangerous road with the death cliffs.)

Eventually we came across the sign in the photo at the top of this post. This sign informed us that there was a hiking course. By then, we had invested too much time and had gotten our hopes up too high to turn back. We were tricked into hiking.

This totally makes sense. No way we’re getting lost!

We parked the car in a spot that is marked with a P on the map above, but it didn’t look like anyone who like safety should park there. I actually put the car behind a sign next to the “parking lot”. That way, if someone were to hit my car, they would have to go through a sign first.

This is going to be amazing, right?

We followed the signs up the mountain hoping that they would take us to the pyramid. We could not read them, but we figured that there could not be so many attractions up a mountain in Shobara that we could follow the wrong ones by accent.

This was not amazing.

We reached a peak and there was nothing there but a big rock. “This can’t be it.”

We were so mad. It was a grueling 30-minute hike with my bad foot, and this was it. We didn’t even have a view of the city.

What is with this city and their ambiguous signs?

We went back to the last sign we saw. We thought we followed the red trail to the pyramid, but obviously we did not. “Maybe the red trail that goes up on the map, is this path here that goes down,” Mark suggested. I had my doubts. I let Mark go down the trail while I waited by the sign and read the book that I brought.

(Yes. That’s how much faith I had in Shobara’s cave entertaining me. I brought a book!)

This is a good sign

A few minutes later I heard Mark yelling for me to join him. “How do you know you’ve found the pyramid, Mark?” “Because the rocks here are bigger.” That seemed logically to me, so I went down the path.

I swear! If I get to the top and all I can see is more steps…

Passed the giant rock were some dodgy steps. Passed them were more, but safer-looking, steps.

This mountain seemed to have a never-ending supply of steps. Every time I thought we were close to the top, bam, more steps. After a while I lost hope that this step-cycle would end. This was when I realized how thankful I was that I never signed up for any hikes up Mt. Fuji this year and how sorry I was that I never signed up for any hikes up Mt. Fuji 10 years ago.

Finally!

Incase you were wondering, the mountain itself is the pyramid… (Lame I know.)

815 meters of steps

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.)

Japan’s Pyramid
(日本のピラミッド)
(Nihon no piramiddo)
on Mt. Ashitake
(葦嶽山)
(Ashitakeyama) 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°50’47.9″N 133°07’40.2″E
  • Park here: 34°50’31.2″N 133°07’15.4″E

Address:

〒727-0623 庄原市 本村町

Phone:

  • 0824-75-0173

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • always available (But there is no artificial lighting, so bring a flashlight if you plan to be there after sunset.)

Notes:

  • People thought that Mt. Ashitake might been the location for the tomb of the very first Emperor, Jimmu.
  • There is a theory that Mt. Ashitake is a 23,000 year-old pyramid because this 815m-high mountain is in a conical shape and because of the rock formation on the top of the adjacent peak.
  • Kikyuzan (Mount Kikyu) which is next to Mount Ashitake was the palace used for worshipping.
  • Supposedly, there are many of these really old pyramids throughout Japan.
  • This mountain is 815m high, if that means anything to you…

Map:

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

Sake

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 2, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2014

All Pictures

Walking down Sake street

I’ll drive home

Mark and I tried to organise a group to visit this festival. I don’t like alcohol, so I was not planning on drinking any sake. I would have been the designated driver for the group. But, getting our group together was like herding cats. Rather than spending half the day waiting for this one and that one, we just did a “we’ll meet you there” and didn’t worry too much about the group.

We never did see any of our friends there. They showed up long after we arrived. By then the place was so crowded, we didn’t bother looking for anyone. We had a great time anyway.

The entrance to Sake Square

Mark was thinking about getting a ticket to enter Sake Square. It cost 2,100 yen to enter and once inside all the sake was free. There was sake from all over Japan.

But I would not be allowed to enter unless I too paid 2,100 yen, even if I did not drink anything. Mark would have to go in alone. He peaked inside to see if it was worth it. He could see the vendors and the long lines of people wanting samples. “The lines are too damn long!”

Since there were plenty of other sake samples to be had, Mark chose to stay out of Sake square.

“I’ll avenge you, Josie! Take that snake wine.”

All along the street there were vendor selling food, meats on sticks, and alcohol. Mark made it his mission to buy any sample that was 100 Yen or less. There were also several free samples, but he didn’t seem to like many of those.

And over here is the vat of intoxication…

Many of the free samples came with a short tour of a sake distillery. Everything was in Japanese, but you could pretty much figure out what most things were. But, I don’t really think anyone really cared that much about how the sake was made; they just wanted some free booze.

Hello Kitty Apple on a Stick

I stuck to the non-alcoholic treats. There were plenty of those, but none were free. I tried apple on a stick for the first time. I’d had only heard of the treat from the hand-clap game. The first line of the poem goes, “Apple on a stick, makes me sick.” I wondered if it would in fact make me sick.

Too much sugar, not enough apple!

It kinda did.

He must have had an apple on a stick and is now in a sugar coma…

There were a lot of emergency workers standing by. Every so often you would hear whistling and see a group of EMTs rushing through the crowd with a gurney or a wheelchair to help some poor drunken soul. There were ambulances parked throughout the festival ready to take off for the hospital at a moment’s notice.

Most of the evacuated came from Sake Square. Several people staggered out of there and fell asleep near the exit. But, some had to be taken out with help from medical staff.

Fun for kids too!

I was surprised at how many kids were at the sake festival. But I guess, no one wants to be left at home on any festival day. There were plenty of things for kids to see and do. They, of course, were not allowed to drink any sake.

Lots of meat on giant sticks

The best thing about any Japanese festival, in my opinion, is the meat on the stick. If a festival can be rated on the size and taste of the stick meat, then this was the best festival I’ve ever been to.

Mark waving his deliciousness through the crowd

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 ask whatATMs 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.)

Higashihiroshima
(東広島)
(East Hiroshima)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°25’35.1″N 132°44’35.1″E

Websites:

Cost:

It costs about ¥800 and 1 hour to take the train in from Hiroshima city.

Notes:

  • This city has a long tradition of sake making.

Sake Festival
(酒まつり)
(Sake Matsuri)

How to get there:

Address:

12-3 Saijo-honmachi, Higashihiroshima-shi 739-0011

Phone:

  • +81-(0)82-420-0330

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • The second Saturday & Sunday (2 days) in October every year.

Notes:

  • The festival is near Saijo Station.
  • The festival itself is free, but to enter Sake Square, a special section with samples of sake from all over Japan, it cost 2,100 Yen.
    • You can get a discount if you buy your ticket in advanced.
    • You can buy this ticket at some convenience stores.
  • Kids and other minors are only allowed in Sake Square if they are with their parents.
  • Japan has a ZERO tolerance for drinking and driving. If you have had any alcohol to drink, you are not allowed to drive.

Map:

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

 
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