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Archive for January, 2016

Illumination

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 31, 2016

Thursday, December 24 – Friday, December 25, 2015

All Pictures

Forest of Lights

No Big Trips this Winter

This year we checked the bank accounts and decided to save some money. Instead of taking a big trip, like we did last year, we will take a smaller non-over night trip. But, that wouldn’t happen until after New Year’s day.

Look at this awesomeness

For Christmas eve, we spent most of the day talking about money and how much longer we wanted to stay in Japan. We agreed to stay for maybe one more year. Then we will find another country to explore. We like Japan, but it’s hard to move around here.

In Korea, everything was at most a 4 hour bus or train ride away. In Japan, a 4 hour drive is refreshingly short. We haven’t been to Hokkaido, not because we don’t want to go. We just aren’t willing to put in the effort to getting there.

Mark is a light bender.

On Christmas eve night we drove to Shobara, the next town over, to view their Winter Illumination. It was very pretty. I took pictures hoping that my camera was capturing the beauty I saw first hand.

It’s the traditional Pegasus pulling the winter pumpkin carriage!

Mark and I don’t exchange gifts for Christmas. There is no real reason for it. Around November I would ask him what he wants and he’d say he doesn’t really want anything. Then he’d ask me what I want and I would say that I don’t really want anything either. Then we would take a trip somewhere. I guess travel could be considered our Christmas gifts to each other.

The saddest Christmas tree in the whole world.

The next day we went out for Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The place had a ‘greasy-spoon tackiness about it. The waitress was a bit rude.

In Japan, when you enter a restaurant, shop, or any type of business, the people there go out of their way to show you how much they appreciate your just showing up. When I first got to Japan, I found this disturbing. I would be walking down the aisle of some grocery store looking for olive oil or the like, and an employee would say, “Welcome!” or “Thanks for coming!” At first, I didn’t know how to react to this. Was I suppose to say something in return? Should I have brought a little gift?

So we walked into the Chinese restaurant, and no one welcomed us. The waitress shrugged at us to say, “Sit wherever. I don’t care.” There was one other group of diners, but they were just about to leave. We sat in the booth behind them.

What can we order to make that waitress like us?

We ordered our food and the waitress seemed overly unimpressed by our selections. “Does she know something we don’t about these dishes?” I asked Mark. He thought the waitress was slightly rude, for this being Japan, but he was not bothered by it.

When we got our food, I noticed that it did not come with rice. So, I ordered a big plate of rice for Mark and me. The waitress looked at me and in Japanese said, “You know that’s 350 yen, right?” Did she think we couldn’t afford it? That’s like 3 bucks! “It’s okay. It’s Christmas!” I replied. She was still unimpressed.

The food, however was pretty good. During our meal two more groups of diners came in and sat in the booths near us. Across from us, there was a family of 3 adults and 2 kids. They looked through the menu and were now ready to order.

They press the button to call the waitress, but no one came. We heard loud arguing in Mandarin coming from the kitchen. “I think someone had a date for tonight, but was called in to work,” Mark whispered to me. “The most romantic night of the year…” I said as if I were the cook, “Finally, Yoshihiro asks me out to see the Winter Illuminations in Shobara, and I get called into work to cook for losers who can’t get dates!”

Meanwhile the dad at the next booth was feverishly pushing the call button with one hand, waving the other one in the air, and shouting “excuse me” as politely as he could. We saw two waitresses look in his direction and walk away. We were dying with laughter. This never happens in Japan!

When a waitress finally came over, she seemed very bothered by the existence of this, now very hungry family. Mark and I started doing what we thought was their dialogue.

Me as the waitress – Whadda ya want!?

Mark as the dad – Um, some chili shrimp, dumplings, kim chi rice, tofu stir fry, pork bone soup, and 2 cold noodle salads… if… if it’s not too much trouble…

Me as the waitress – Any of you bitches want rice with that!?

Mark as the mom – Oh, no. That would be way too much trouble. We couldn’t ask that of you. No, we’ll just eat rice when we get back home.

Me as the waitress – Good choice.

Mark as the dad – But, you can still charge us for the rice.

Me as the waitress – already did…

Entertaining!

After dinner we walked around the little strip mall. There was a store that sold toys, geriatric equipment, and two motor bikes. The other store was a video rental.

There are many video rental places in Japan. I’ve always wondered how much business they did. In the US video rental stores are a thing of the past, killed by Netflix and torrents.

We went into the video store. It was like walking into the nineties. They mostly rented VHS tapes. All the movies by the window like, Kindergarten Cop, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the old Star Wars movies were faded. There were some whose covers were almost white, bleached by the sun.

We walked around the store, which had two employees. They seemed to be both busy and not really doing anything at the same time. “How are they making any money? This must be a front for some illegal operation,” Mark said. “It must be,” I replied. “We should probably go and let them get on with their real business; it’s Christmas after all.”

The employees watched us go as they thanked us for coming and looking around their store even if we didn’t rent anything. “At least someone was glad to see us.”

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.

Bihoku Hillside Park
(Government Operated Bihoku Kyuryu Park)
(国営備北丘陵公園)
(Kokueibihokukyūryōkōen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°50’23.6″N 132°59’48.5″E

Address:

  • Park:
    • 〒727-0021
      広島県庄原市三日市町4-10
  • Autocamping:
    • 〒727-0022
      広島県庄原市上原町1300番地

Phone:

  • Park: 0824-72-7000
  • Auto camping: 0824-72-8800

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Bring ID to prove age
  • Children under 5 enter for free
  • Parking:
    • Scooters ¥100
    • Regular cars ¥310
    • Large cars ¥1,030
    • Free with Year Passport for scooters and regular cars.

  • They have bikes of various sizes, but the electric bikes only come in 26 inch.
  • You can bring your own bike instead of renting one of theirs, but you must keep to the bike path.

Hours:

  • Admission stops 1 hour before closing.
  • Closed on Mondays (If Monday is a holiday it will be open, but closed on Tuesday).
  • Closed Dec 31 – Jan 1

Notes:

  • I think this park takes up half the area of the city of Shobara.
  • There are many classes that kids can sign up for, from making soba noodles to pottery and woodworking.
    • The cost for classes range from ¥100~500.
  • There are many restaurants and cafes in the park, but you can also bring your own food. You can also bring your grill and have a BBQ in one of theBBQ areas.
  • There is a camping area for day camping and overnight camping.
    • You must make reservations to use the campsite area.
    • There is a coin operated shower.
    • They have a coin laundromat in the auto camping area.

Map:

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

Mark Goes Fishing

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 24, 2016

Wednesday, August 5 – Friday, August 14, 2015 

All Pictures

Majestic!

The Next Beach

We spent the day at Kute Beach. It was part a beach day, part a reconnaissance mission. It’s sometimes hard to find information about Japanese campsites online, so we had to look around the area in person for some camping spots for later.

Kute Beach is okay, nothing special. It’s a fine beach that’s free with free parking. Most of the people who go to this beach live nearby and walk to it.

our future camping neighbors

After swimming we drove along the coast until we saw some tents at a park. We got out the car and asked the campers there about the campsite. They spoke no English but we were able to communicate with my limited Japanese. They told us that camping there was completely free and year round. We thanked them for the information and told them that we would return in a few days.

It’s dead Mark!

Before we drove back home we went to a roadside rest stop for some ramen. After dinner, our car wouldn’t start. We had no idea what to do.

We don’t belong to any roadside assistance clubs like AAA or JAF. We left the hood of the car open hoping that someone would come by and offer to give us a jump-start. No one did.

After about 20 minutes I went inside one of the shops at the rest stop. I asked an employee for advice. I told a lady that my car “sleeps and can’t wake up.” She seemed to understand what I was saying. Then I asked her if she had “jumper cables”. I couldn’t think of a way to describe jumper cables with my limited vocabulary. So I mimed connecting to cars, then turning one on so that the other will start. “Oh, I see,” she exclaimed in Japanese.

She went in a back room to explain everything to her manager. He came out and told me something in rapid-fire Japanese, before heading out the door. The lady looked at me, “Everything will be fine. Just wait a moment.” She motioned me to sit by a window.

Ten minutes later the manager came back. “Which car is yours?” “The white Wagon R from Okayama.” Mark and I led him to our car. He took out his cables and jump started our car. We were very grateful. We thanked and bowed to the manager.

Instead of driving home, we went to the nearest Auto Bacs. We keep a stash of cash with us when we go on trips. It’s called the “car fund”. We put aside about $400 each month to pay for any car related surprises. We took that money out and bought a new car battery and jumper cables at Auto Bacs.

The people at Auto Bacs were very nice. We showed up about 10 minutes before closing time. But, they still greeted us like we weren’t making them stay late. They put in the new battery and cleaned our windshield and windows. They waved goodbye to us as we pulled out of their parking lot.

That will do!

A few days later

We came back a few days later. We put up our tent next to the guys who gave us the camping information at Tagi Beach. They were two men who were there the whole time. Sometimes other men would join them camping, other times a group of 5 or 6 boys would join them. There were women who would come by and they would cook for the ladies. But the women never spent the night like the men or boys did. We just referred to them as “the boys”.

After we said hello to “the boys” and set up our tent, we drove up the coast for a better beach. Tagi Beach had free camping, but the beach itself was no good at all for swimming.

It wasn’t long before we found a lovely and lonely spot. We parked our car nearby and got in the water. It was a lazy swimming day.

Mark went off snorkeling and floated around very contentedly. After about an hour of this I felt something. It was like a cross between a bite and an electric shock. But it was so faint, I almost thought I had imagined it. Then I felt another one. This time it was worse.

Damn you sea creatures!

I put on my snorkel mask and put my head under water. Jellyfish! Jellyfish everywhere! Now they were all coming after me. I got out of the water and sat on the shore.

It was a hot day. Too hot to sit on the beach out of the water. So, I went back in. The jellyfish attacked again. I got out of the water. I called Mark. “Lets get lunch!”

sea-snails

“The Boys” Give Cooking Advice

We got up one morning to find a new beach for the day’s swimming. As we were leaving we passed “the boys” and gave them the usually “Ohiyogoziemasu” and small talk. They were grilling something that smelt really good.

“Oh, did you go shopping already?” I was just teasing. “The boys” were great fishermen and were basically living off stuff they caught. The only thing they seemed to buy was beer, coke, and whiskey.

“No, we got that from the sea. Try some!” Mark was hesitant, but I really wanted to try it. One of “the boys” handed me a shelled sea-snail. “It’s delicious!” I was shocked. It smelt good, but I didn’t think it would actually taste good too.

“I grilled it, then fried it in butter.” Then he handed one to Mark. Mark liked it too.

We decided that Mark and I would gather some sea snails and try to cook them. We went to the rest stop to use their free internet. We looked at some YouTube videos on how to cook fresh sea-snail.

Well, we tried it that evening. But it didn’t taste like what the boys made. Ours tasted like sea poison.

Poseidon

“The Boys” get Mark into Spear Fishing

Another day as we were heading off to another beach, we stop by “the boys” camp for our “Ohayo” and small talk. In the course of the conversation, (“The boys” speak no English.) they recommended that Mark get a spear to catch fish. They noticed that he had been having no luck with his fishing pole.

They told us where we could buy a spear, how much it cost, and even gave Mark a short lesson in using one with one of their’s. They advised getting the bamboo one, because it floats. But we didn’t understand that part of the conversation until Mark lost a metal spear.

The Bounty

So, for the next couple of days we stayed at Tagi Beach. Mark spent the whole time spear fishing. He caught many fish, but they weren’t big enough to make a decent meal. He said, “All the bigger fish are too smart and fast for me to catch. All I can get are the slow dumb ones.”

We ate slow dumb fish more as side dishes to accompany the chicken and pork we brought to grill. We did not try sea snails again.

It’s going to rain all day.

A Day Indoors

One night it rained a lot. In the morning it was still raining, so instead of heading out to another beach, we went to a mall. First we had breakfast at a Joyfull. The plan was to stay indoors until the rain stopped. We got gas, found some internet, and checked the forecast. It would stop raining around three in the afternoon.

We spent the next morning laying our things out to dry before we went out swimming. We were still having a great time.

Happy Camper’s Cove

The Day “the Boys” got Weird

We mostly only talked to “the boys” in the mornings. In the evenings they were usually entertaining guests or fishing. For the most part, other than our morning “ohiyo’s” and small talk, they pretty much kept to themselves. So it was a little odd when one of them came over to us while Mark and I where talking on the beach.

We had not seen this particular guy before. He was about the same age as the two main guys who stayed at the camp the whole time. I think he was about 45 or 50ish. He claimed to speak more English than the others, but it was hard to tell; he was kind of drunk.

He asked us where we were from. “We’re from America.” “America!? I like America!” We asked why he liked America and he told us that he liked “FreedOOOMMM!”

“Someone’s been buying into the propaganda.” But, that’s not what he meant. We would soon find out when the conversation took a bizarre turn.

He asked us if we were from Colorado. He really wanted to visit Colorado. “Do you like skiing?” “No, not ski.” He seemed very confused as to why the topic of skiing was brought up.

“Then why do you want to go to Colorado?” “Freedoooooommmmmm!” Then he started to smoke an imaginary joint. “Do you know magic mushroooooooms?”

Mark and I just looked at each other. “It’s magic season.” Then he name some town where there are plenty of magic mushrooms growing in the forest. In a combination of English and Japanese he told us where to go to get them and how to prepare them. But, it took a while for him to give us all this unsolicited information. He kept slurring his words and starting over.

“So you like smoking, drinking, and magic mushrooms?” Mark confirmed.

“I don’t drink!” He seemed offended. “But I love cocaaaaaaine. Do you have cocaaaaine?”

“No.”

“I looooooove cocaaaaaine!” Then he rolled over on his side and just stopped moving. He made no sounds. He just lay there with a big silly grin on his face dreaming about his beloved cocaine. I thought that this would be a good time to back away and leave him there.

I started to get up. “If I had cocaaaaine I would share it you. OOHHHHH!” He started moaning loudly. Some other guys, none we had seen before, came to get Mr. Cocaaaine. They picked him up off the ground and dragged him to their tent.

That night, there were screams all night long coming from “the boys'” tent along with some randomly shouted, “Fuck you’s,” “Fuck me’s,” “Fuck baby’s,” and other various things to fuck. They sang songs, or rather shouted songs. But, most of the night was spend screaming; it wasn’t the “I’m being chased by an ax-murderer” type of screams. It was more like the “I’m at a fabulous rock concert and I’m stoned out of my mind” type of screaming.

“The Boys'” tents, days before the Weird Night

The next morning, “the boys” were nowhere to be seen. Mark and I were looking up at the sky, which was threatening to rain again, and wondering if we should just pack up and go home. Then we saw some official-looking people. They didn’t have uniforms, but they did have badges.

They asked if they could talk to us. It seemed ominous. They spoke no English, so I took out my pocket dictionary. It seemed like the conversation we were about to have would be the type where one would want as little misunderstanding as possible.

“Did you hear any noise last night?”

We both nodded our heads. We pointed to the other camp. “Drunk maybe,” I said. “Normally quiet, but last night party I think.” They asked us where they were.

“I don’t know. I speak only a little Japanese. They don’t speak English. They went to the store maybe. Their car is not here.” The officials seemed satisfied with that. They walked over to “the boys” camp and left a letter on their camping table.

“Mark, I don’t know what is going to happen next, but I think we should be far, far from here when it happens.” So we packed up our stuff and headed back home.

Japan has strict drug laws. You can get in trouble by just being friends with someone who has drugs, especially if you’re a foreigner. The officials never asked us our names or where we lived. I didn’t want to give them an opportunity to come back and do so. At that moment, all they knew was that some people were very loud. If they found drugs in their tent or something, I didn’t want to be dragged into that.

I heard that Japanese prison is no fun.

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Kute Beach
(久手海水浴場)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°13’39.9″N 132°29’59.9″E

Address:

〒694-0053, 島根県大田市鳥井町鳥越新田

Phone:

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • There is a free outdoor shower for rinsing off, a bathroom, and changing rooms.

Tagi Beach
(田儀海水浴場)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°16’24.6″N 132°35’06.8″E

Address:

〒699-0904 島根県出雲市多伎町口田儀

Phone:

  • 0853-86-3111

Websites:

Cost:

  • Camping – free
  • Showers
    • July 18 – August 23
    • 9:00 – 19:00
    • 3 minutes
    • 200 yen
  • There is free, but limited parking.

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • This beach is more for fishing than for swimming. But, people still try to swim here. Personally, I think there are so many nicer beaches nearby that are great for swimming that you shouldn’t come here unless you wanted free camping or to go fishing.
  • Grilling is not allowed here, though people seem to do it all the time.
  • Kirara is a nearby rest area with restaurants and an information desk. The nice beaches are near Kirara.

Map:

Posted in Izumo 市, Japan, Shimane 県, Ōda 市 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

A Day at Hamada Beach

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 17, 2016

Thursday, July 30, 2015

All Pictures

Me in my swimming hat

Year 2 with no Air Conditioning

It was that time of year again, when the sun, in all its glory, reminded us that our little apartment has no air conditioning. We still refused to buy an a/c unit. One would cost about $2,000. Instead we took one-fourth of that money and headed to the beach several times this summer.

Very Nice

One beach we visited was the nicest beach, in Japan, that I have ever seen! It’s called Hamada beach. The sand is soft; not the rocky foot-knives type sand normally at Japanese beaches. You can actually walk bare footed there.

The day we went the beach was not crowded at all. There was even a section of the beach that we had all to ourselves. The sea was calm there. It was very peaceful and quiet.

The “Crowded” Area

Beach Wear

The first day at the beach I actually wore a swim suit, but with a hat. Most women in Japan are almost fully dressed at the beach. They don’t want to tan. At first it looks silly, but then when you think about it, it makes sense.

Sunscreen only does so much. And, although I don’t mind getting a tan, I don’t like when my skin peels. When I wear a hat while swimming, my face does not peel even when I forget to reapply sunscreen. That’s great!

No more sun-burns for me.

I’ve even started to swim with a long sleeve t-shirt when I know I will spend many days at the beach.

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Iwami Kaihin Park
(島根県立石見海浜公園)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°57’04.7″N 132°07’05.1″E

Address:

〒697-0003 島根県浜田市国分町

Shimane-ken, Hamada-shi, Koku-buncho 1644-1

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • Entrance fee – (There was a fee we had to pay. I don’t remember now it if was an entrance fee or just a parking fee. I think it was about 1,000 – 1,500 Yen for both Mark and me or for the car.)
  • If you enter the park before 8:30 or after 17:30 there is not to collect your money and therefore entrance in free.
    • If you are camping, make  sure to get in by 18:30 your first night so you can register.
  • Coin shower – 200 yen

Activities:  Register at the beach (Hours 9:00 to 17:00)

  • Banana Boat – 1,000 Yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • 10 minutes
  • Jet Ski – 2,500 Yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • passengers only
    • 10 minutes
  • Wake Board – 3,500
    • must be 12 or older
    • 20 minutes
  • Snorkeling with Guide – 4,500 yen
    • must be 6 or older
    • 90 minutes
    • 10:00 – 16:30
  • Scrambler – 1,00 Yen per person
    • must be 6 or older
    • 4 people max
    • 10 minutes
  • Life-Saving Junior Program – 1,000 Yen
    • elementary and junior high school students
    • 60 minutes
    • 5 people

Auto Camping: Open year round and all holidays

  • Over night camping
    • Bring your own tent – 3,830 Yen
    • 3 pm to 2 pm the next day
    • Renting a permanent tent – 6,440 Yen
    • electricity – 510 Yen
  • Day Camping
    • Bring your own tent – 1,910 Yen
    • 10:00 to 14:00
    • must have revelations at least a day in advanced
    • Renting a permanent tent – 3,110 Yen
    • electricity – 250 Yen
  • Over Night Cabin
    • 16:00 to 10:00 the next day
    • Small  (2 – 3 people) – 3,280 yen
    • Medium (4 – 5 people) – 3,860 yen
    • Large (6 – 7 people) – 5,920 yen
    • electricity – 510 Yen
    • bring your own bedding, pots, dishes, etc
  • Day Cabin
    • 11:00 to 15:00
    • must have revelations at least a day in advanced
    • Small (2 – 3 people) – 250 yen
    • Medium-sized (4 – 5 people) – 310 yen
    • Large (6 – 7 people) – 500 yen
    • electricity – 250 Yen
    • bring your own bedding, pots, dishes, etc

Non-Auto/ Free Camping:

  • Here’s a map of the free camping.
    • Free as in it costs 0 Yen.
  • All you need to do is register on the day you get there.
    • When you register you can pick up free trash bags for your burnables, plastic, and food trash.
  • You cannot reserve a camping spot.
  • Make  sure to get in by 18:30 your first night so you can register.

Hours:

  • The office closes at 18:30, but the park itself never closes.

Notes:

  • Facilities – Restrooms, showers, cabins, auto-camping, free camping, communal kitchen, beach.
  • There are lots of paid showers throughout the park.
    • They are generally 2 minutes for 200 Yen.
    • The showers by the auto-camping, the showers are 5 minutes for 200 Yen. These showers are cleaner and generally better.
  • There is an aquarium nearby.
    • adult 1540 yen
    • 9:00-17:00 Closed Tuesdays
    • free parking
  • Beach map

Map:

Posted in Hamada 市, Honshū, Japan, Shimane 県 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Rice Drumming

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 10, 2016

Sunday, June 7, 2015

All Pictures

Mark and Mark

There aren’t too many foreigners in Miyoshi, but apparently half of them are named “Mark”. The guy in the photo next to Mark, is Mark’s friend, Mark. He is also from Michigan, not too far from where Mark grew up. They have similar hobbies, opinions, and likes and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish which one is being talked about.

The Cult of Mark evolves dressing up and standing in mud.

So how did they end up like that?

Well, Mark was talking to some lady at work; not a co-worker, just some old lady who likes to show up and practice her English, I guess. (And we’re talking about my Mark.) She told him that the town of Mirasaka, which is a sub-division of Miyoshi, was having a rice planting festival.

Mark has planted rice before. Almost every foreigner in Japan has. It’s marketed as being part of the “Japanese experience”. If you’re lucky, no one will try to charge you for it.

Usually you get suckered in by a farming family who will “let you have a great time planting rice all afternoon” in their field. Sometimes they do give you lunch, but not always. It’s back-breaking labor and not worth a free lunch in the slightest!

I mean, seriously, what part about this looks like fun?

I’ve never done rice planting myself, not because of any cleverness on my part, but because of shoes. I can’t find decent shoes to fit me in this country, so I’m sure as hell not ruining any of my nice shoes for a day of “fun rice planting”.

Nobody likes this crap! Nobody!

Mark did some rice planting when he worked at a pre-school in Oita. His school thought it would be fun for the little kids to plant rice. They just got really muddy and cried a lot. Those rice farmers prey on the young and naive as well as foreigners.

Drumming for Rice

The old lady’s English was not that great. So Mark thought the conversation went something like this:

Lady – We’re having a rice planting festival. We don’t have many people but we need more planters and drummers.

Mark – Drummers?

Lady – Yes, drummers. Some people beat drums while other people plant rice. Are you interested?

Mark – As long as I don’t have to actually plant any rice and I get to stay clean… why not?

Lady – And bring as many of your friends as you can! No females though.

Some of these rows are crooked!

Mark sent the call out. Mostly people were interested, but there were many festivals going on in Miyoshi at the time. All of our friends were busy doing other festivals, except for Mark, the other Mark. (Okay, honestly, they heard the words “rice planting” and wanted nothing to do with this festival. Some even questioned if they should continue being friends with Mark.)

So Mark got back to the lady. She seemed disappointed that only 2 foreigners would be doing the rice planting this year. She told Mark that both he and Mark would have to come to rice planting practices every Sunday for the next 5 Sundays.

Mark – “Wait… What!?”

Yes. They had practices! Mark and Mark ended up going to only one. When he got back from the one and only practice, Mark fully understood what was going on.

“We’ll just stand here” – The Marks

Mark – The drummers did the practicing. They had been practicing for months now and it’s pretty much too late to     become a drummer.

Me – So, you’re going to have to plant rice?

Mark – No, that’s only for women. Men drum. Women plant rice.

Me – So what do you do?

Everyone was quite surprised to see the Marks at the practice. There was no shortage of people as the old lady said. They had a number of participants they were very comfortable with. In fact, there was a bit of a discussion with the festival people and the old lady to figure out what the Marks could actually do during the festival. All the jobs were already taken.

During the discussion the Marks thought, “Hey, great! We’ll just leave you to do your thing. We just wanted to help because we thought you needed people, but since you don’t… I mean, we don’t really want to be here!” But the old lady would have none of that. They had promised, so they were committed.

Good job boys!

Eventually it was decided that they would hand the women the rice to plant and wash any fallen drum sticks. These were basically token jobs. All the women had plenty of extra planting rice with them and the men clean their own sticks when they dropped them. But they didn’t do any of the hard work and stayed relatively clean.

Knee deep in mud

The whole thing lasted about an hour. There was a lot of festival food. When the vendors found out the my husband was one of the Marks, they refused to let me pay for anything. In fact, they gave me more free snacks and treats for the guys.

The boys had fun, but most importantly they learned a valuable lesson. “Stay away from anything that has anything to do with rice planting!”

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture)
(三次市)
(Miyoshi Shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’11.2″N 132°51’21.9″E

Address:

2-8-1 Tokaichi-naka
Miyoshi city, Hiroshima prefecture 728-8501

Phone:

  • 0824-62-6111

Websites:

Cost:

  • This town is one of the few towns in Japan that has more than enough free parking everywhere.

Hours:

  • This is a small town. I know it calls itself a city, but it’s not. Nothing opens before 9:00 and everything is closed by 21:00. The exception being convenience stores which are always open.

Notes:

  • There are many Miyoshi cities in Japan. This one is in Hiroshima prefecture.
  • This town is mostly known for its wine (and lack of Starbucks).

Map:

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Japan, Mirasaka 町, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Gates And a Bridge

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 3, 2016

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

All Pictures

I didn’t even bother to count them.

On the last day of our big camping trip we saw Motonosumi Inari Shrine. It’s a foxy little shrine with a great view of the sea. We took lots of photos here. But, no matter how many I took, I didn’t get one picture that look as nice as the one in the Yamaguchi tourism ads.

The Last Photo

But we could not stay long. Two of the group had to drive all the way back to Oita prefecture. We said our goodbyes to the best camping friends we had. We had been camping with Freda and Roland for the past 4 years. They would be leaving Japan the next July and heading back to South Africa.

Hopefully, we’ll see them again in their hometown one day.

A Fancy Bridge

Kintai bridge was only slightly out of our way, so Mark and I went to see it. We walked around the town a bit, but it was clear that the bridge was the main attraction of the town.

We bought a grilled squid, which was not as good as the grilled squid from TsunoshimaWe sat on some steps and ate our squid while looking at the bridge. Then we headed home.

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.
  • International ATMs 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 what ATMs 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.)

Senjojiki Plateau Campground
(千畳敷高原キャンプ場)
(Senjōjiki Kōgen Kyanpuba)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates: 34°24’51.2″N 131°05’26.6″E

Address:

Country Kitchen Yubinbango759-4402
Yamaguchi Prefecture Nagato Hioki in 1138-1

Phone:

  • 0837-37-3824

Websites:

Cost:

  •      1-5 people:  500 yen / night
  •   6-10 people:  800 yen / night
  • 11-30 people: 1,200 yen / night
  • 31-50 people: 1,800 yen / night
  • 51-70 people: 2,500 yen / night
  • 71 or more people:  3,000 yen / night
  • day camp is free

Hours: (Country Kitchen’s hour’s)

  • 11:00~17:00
  • Closed on Thursdays

Notes:

  • To check-in the camp ground, go to the coffee shop, Country Kitchen. It’s at the top of the hill.
  • Staying at the campsite gives you a discount at the coffee shop. But, I’m not sure what this discount is. I think it might be 100 yen off a waffle or something.
  • There are no showers at the campsite itself. 
    • There is an onsen nearby (Kiwado Hot Spring/ 黄波戸温泉).
    • Directions
    • Coordinates: 34°23’46.2″N 131°07’55.3″E
    • ¥ 400 – adults
    • Closed Mondays
      • 10:00 to 21:00 (May-August)
      • 10:00 to 20:00 (September to April)
    • A small towel comes with the entrance fee, but you might want to bring your own regular sized towel.
    • Phone: 0837-37-4320
  • During the holidays, all the toilet paper gets used up by day campers. You should bring some TP of your own for the evenings.

Motonosumi Inari Shrine
(元乃隅稲成神社)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°25’14.6″N 131°03’46.6″E

Address:

Japan, 〒759-4712 山口県長門市, 油谷津黄498

Yuyatsuou, Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Phone:

  • +81 837-23-1137

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Normal Temple hours

Notes:

  • There is free parking in an open lot across the street.
  • The coin box, where you would put your temple offerings, is on the top of entrance torii. If you can throw your coins into the box, your wish will be granted.

Kintai Bridge
(錦帯橋)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates

Address:

1-14-51 Imazumachi
Iwakuni city Yamaguchi, Japan 740-8585

Phone:

  • 0827-29-5116 (Iwakuni Tourism Promotion Division)

Websites:

Cost:

  • 300 JYN to cross the bridge
  • 200 JYN for nearby parking

Hours:

  • Always Open

Notes:

  • In August there are fireworks displays at night.
  • At night the bridge is illuminated.
  • There are many food vendors around the bridge in the afternoon and evenings.
  • You can also enjoy traditional cormorant fishing near the bridge, but have no information about that.

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Iwakuni 市, Japan, Nagato 市, Yamaguchi 県 | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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