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Archive for September, 2016

Lambada Every Other Song

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 25, 2016

Wednesday August 31, 2016

All Pictures

It’s a long way down.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 (The very last day of summer vacation)

As a kid, the last day of summer vacation was the most boring day of the year. Sometimes my family would take a trip for the summer months and I would be excited to get back to school and tell my friends all about my adventures and hear about theirs.

If my family did not take a summer trip, it would mean that I did nothing all summer. I hung out with my neighborhood friends, biking around, and getting myself into childhood mischief. Every day we would watch a movie at one friend’s house, play video games at another’s, and maybe play board games at some other friend’s house. Some days we would pretend to be cool and try to do tricks on our bikes and skateboards. I usually ended up with scrapes, bruises, and torn clothes if I was lucky and a broken bike if I was not.

By the last day of summer, I would have exhausted everything of entertainment value I or my neighborhood friends could come up with and therefore I would stay at home. I would drag myself from room to room complaining about how bored I was to any parent who would listen.

By the last day of summer, my parents would have bought me all my new back-to-school supplies I needed or wanted. I would have notebooks with matching textbook covers, scented erasers, markers of every color, pencils, pens, rulers, and a compass I would never use. Most of which would be lost within the first month of school.

So happy to go back to school.

My new uniforms would be crisply pressed and hanging orderly in my closet. My brand new school bag would be packed and everything was ready for the first day back to school. Even though I would have never ever admitted it when I was a kid, on the last day of summer, I was dying to go back to school.

Not thinking about going back to work

As an adult, a teacher no less, not so much. I could take two summers. Maybe it’s because as a teacher, I spend very little of my day talking with my friends at work. Maybe it’s the lack of back to school shopping. I don’t buy fancy notebooks or back-to-school clothes anymore. (I still have scented erasers though.)

Mark and I woke up early on the very last day of our summer vacation. We weren’t going to sit around the house being bored. We were going to a Brazilian themed amusement park.

If you close one eye and squint the other, it almost looks like Disneyland.

Parking at Brazilian Wushuzan Highland was free. I thought that was very unusual for a theme park. It’s also very unusual for Japan. In this country, there is very little free parking.

We parked the car and walked to the ticket counter. There was a line of 3 people and there were 2 people selling tickets. “Are we early?” I looked at the opening hours. The place opened at 9:00. It was now 10:00.

This one is definitely closed today.

Mark and I had coupons which made our tickets a little over $20 each. The lady at the counter pulled out a map and a black marker. She said, “Today. Closed.” Then she proceeded to cross out all the roller coasters but the Turbo Drop. “What’s left?” I asked. She smiled and pointed to the Ferris wheel, the tea-cup ride, the pool, and a few other rides. “One o’clock bingo,” she said handing us a couple of bingo cards. “Enjoy!” she said as she waved goodbye.

We’ve been climbing these stairs for 2 hours now!

As soon as we got inside the park Mark headed to the Turbo Drop. “They might close it too, if I wait too long!” We climbed a set of stairs with no visible end in sight. We got to what we thought would have been the top only to find another set of stairs, and then another.

Mark is the only guy on the ride.

Mark rode on the Turbo Drop a few times. There was no line for any ride, so people could just go on a ride again and again and again. We did a few smaller rides and then we got on the Farris wheel.

The guy did warn us that it would be very windy at the top of the wheel. But we got on anyway so we could see the whole park. Once at the top we started to feel frighten. It was very windy. But, although everything in the park looked rusty and old, the Farris wheel held up.

That’s basically it.

From the wheel we could see the whole park. It was not very big and there weren’t many people walking around. There were about 5 people in the pool. Then we saw that the Sky Bike ride had just opened. That’s where we went next.

Mark and his new Brazilian BFF.

Throughout the park “Brazilian” music played on loud speakers. Every other song was the Lambada, or a Lambada remake. Also on rotation were, “The Macarena”, a generic carnival song, Simon & Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa”, and a random Shakira song. I think there were about 9 different songs, 3 of which were versions of “The Lambada”.

Mark’s all buckled in.

There was no line so, we just walked up the Sky Bike and got on. We fastened our flimsy seatbelts and peddled our way through the ride. We stopped several times to take photos. Marked posed for me this way and that way.

“Mark!” I yelled, “Your seatbelt is unbuckled.”

“Oh, how did that happen? It just came undone. I didn’t even notice.”

“It’s a good thing I saw that.” I said. Then I looked at the belt. Did it really matter if it was buckled or not? The belt was not tight around Mark’s or my waists. If one of us fell, we would probably fall through the belts. With this new insight, the very tame Sky Bike felt like a scary potential death trap.

This won’t be a huge let down.

After the Sky Bike we headed for the Cavern Quest. We passed the Turbo Drop again on our way down. There was one solitary tourist on the ride. Mark wanted to join, but the ride had already started up.

Cavern Quest is not part of the Brazilian Wushuzan Highland theme park. We had to get our hands stamped and leave the park. We walked to the Cavern Quest and paid 400 yen to enter.

Oh No!!

Cavern Quest is a maze. You walk through it looking for hidden doors and passage ways. You are supposed to get your ticket stamped at 3 check points in the maze, but the stamp machines did not work.

Mark and I found 2 of our check points. Then we found a hidden passage and came to a room with 3 men. They were standing around touching the walls. They were stuck and couldn’t figure out how to get to the next room.

What if I just yank on this?

There was a door that opened just a little bit. I could peek into the next room, but that was all. The men could not figure out how to open the door the rest of the way, so they turned back. Mark tried pulling on things like some strings that were hanging from the ceiling. All that did was cause a window to fall out.

“How do we know if we’re not understanding the puzzle, or if the puzzle is just broken?” he asked.

“This dump? The puzzle is probably broken.” I huffed.

I took another try at the door. I assumed that this was the door we needed to use. I pulled it open as far as it would go. Then I pulled harder. It moved a little more. I wedged myself in the door and pushed with all my strength. It opened all the way.

Once in the room, the door started to slowly close behind me. “Mark, quickly!” Mark ran in and the door shut behind him. “Those guys turned back too soon!” We found our last non-working stamp machine and shortly after that, the last door.

We left the Cavern Quest. “If it cost any more than 400 yen, it would have been a total rip-off!” I said. “That’s true for this whole thing,” Mark replied. “It only cost about $20. That’s about the right price for me to enjoy this broken park.”

Disappointment on a plate

We headed back into the park for lunch. The posters advertised Brazilian food, but on the menu there were items like, “American Dog”, “French Fries”, “Chicken Nanban”, and other Japanese festival foods. There were somethings that looked like fat empanadas. We bought some of those.

They were not empanadas. The dough was all wrong and there was broccoli inside. I’ve never been to Brazil so I can’t say for certain, but I don’t think broccoli is very Brazilian. The food was not good. It was greasy and cold like it had been made somewhere else, then brought here and reheated an hour before we bought our food.

As we ate there were some Brazilians dancing on a stage as entertainment. They danced like they were being forced to and most people ignored them. They danced to the same 8 songs that played over and over again throughout the park.

They dropped the “O” for savings.

After lunch it was time for bingo. The Brazilians stopped dancing and called out numbers in Japanese. As soon as someone called, “Bingo” they were ushered to the stage to get a little trinket prize. There weren’t very many people playing bingo, so they kept calling numbers until everyone had won.

After bingo, Mark and I went to the pool. Oh, yes! This Brazilian theme park is part water park. We swam for a few hours and went down the various water slides a couple hundred times. When we were completely exhausted we rinsed off and headed home.

Tea Cups are not my friends.

Overall the park was “not bad”. With the coupon the tickets were 2,300 yen. The pool was great. The rest of the park was okay. The food was horrible. (If I were to do it again, I would probably eat at one of the overpriced restaurants right outside the park.) I wouldn’t recommend going to Okayama just for this park, but if you’re not too far away… why not?

It was a great last day of summer.

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.)

Brazilian Park Washuzan Highland
(ブラジリアンパーク 鷲羽山ハイランド)
(Burajirianpāku Washūzan hailando)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°26’46.2″N 133°47’52.5″E

Address:

  • 〒711-0926 Okayama Prefecture, Kurashiki, Shimotsuifukiage, 303−1
  • 岡山県倉敷市下津井吹上303-1

Phone:

  • 086-473-5111

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 19:00

Notes:

  • This theme park is very old and run down. With a coupon, it costs a little over $20 to get in. Don’t expect too much.
  • The best part is, by far, the pool area.

Map:

 

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Kurashiki 市, Okayama 県 | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Apple

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 18, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

All Pictures

Miyoshi Wine Country

When I lived in the US and I wanted a fruit, I would just go to the supermarket and buy that fruit. For example, if I wanted apples I would just drive over to Publix and buy a bag of apples. There would be about 8-10 apples in a bag and it would cost me about $3-4.

Things do not quite work that way here in Japan. When I want apples, I first have to look at a calendar. “Is it still apple season?” If it is apple season, at the supermarket there is a choice of getting a bag of 5-6 good apples for about $5-6 or getting a pack of 2 very good apples for $5-6. Or, I could go crazy and buy one really good apple for about $4.

The really good apples are really good. But, they’re still just apples. They don’t cure cancer or anything. They are more delicious than the good apples, just not $3 more delicious. I prefer to buy more of the lower quality, but still good, apples.

Juicy Apples!

The other day I went to the supermarket looking for a bag of apples. There were none. All that was for sale was the individually wrapped single apples for 395 yen (about $4). “Oh no,” I whined, “Is apple season over?” I stood in the produce area contemplating buying an overpriced apple. Just the previous week I had bought a bag of apples without a care in the world. Had I known that apple season was coming to an end, I would have bought 2 bags the week before.

“Apple season isn’t over,” Mark said. “Are you sure?” I asked. I have no idea when apple season is. In the US apples are always on sale in every grocery store year round. “I saw a poster for a fruit farm right here in Miyoshi,” Mark explained. “Apples are in season right now.”

“They grow apples here in Miyoshi?” I was shocked. Our little town had almost nothing interesting in it. “Yes,” Mark assured me. “You can go visit and pick apples when they are in season.” So the next Sunday we went to the Hirata Farms to pick apples.

He’s the apple of my eye.

Hirata Farms, also known as Miyoshi Fruit Forest, has many types of fruit to pick. When we went we had a choice of apples, grapes, or peaches. There are two types of tickets one can get. One is the eat-here option, the other is the take-home option.

If you buy the eat-here ticket, you can pick as many of a fruit as you want, but you have to eat them all in the orchard. The take-home option allows you to take home the fruits you pick, but you are limited in the number of fruits. You have to buy a booklet with many coupons and turn in a certain number of coupon for each fruit you pick.

These grapes are a little shy.

The lady at the counter showed me the coupon book. You get a book of coupons with your ticket, but you can also get a supplemental book of coupon should to end up picking too many fruits. She tried to explain how the coupons matched up with the fruit. It was something crazy like, to pick an apple you need to turn in one blue coupon and 2 red coupons, or 5 yellow coupons. A peach would cost 3 pink coupons and 1 yellow coupon, or 5 green coupons, or ¾ of a blue coupon and your first born son’s hand in marriage.

None of the prices for any of the fruit we could pick ourselves compared to the prices of fruit bought at the store. This was not like a You-Pick back in Florida. There were no deals to be had here. This was fruit Disneyland but, instead of riding Space Mountain, you picked apples.

I felt like a wicked witch picking apples.

We selected the tickets for the eat-here option. The math was straightforward and without the potential need to buy additional coupons. Luckily it was around lunch time and we hadn’t eaten yet.

“We should get tickets for apples,” Mark said, “because I think I can eat more apples than grapes.”

“Really?” I answered suspiciously. “Personally, I can eat 2 maybe 3 apples in one day, max. But I’ve never stopped at 3 grapes in one sitting.”

Mark gave me some serious stink-eye for my comment then paid for 2 apple tickets.

We walked over to the apple orchard and carefully picked some apples. I tried to get the reddest apples I could find. The best looking ones were the ones just out of reach. I stood on my toes and stretched my arms out for the high-up ones.

After walking among the trees and finding 2 apples each, we sat down. We were given each a knife and a bucket for the peels. We cut off the skin of our apples and ate them. They tasted like the really good, individually wrapped apples from the store. They were big, crunchy, and juicy. Apple juice ran down our arms as we peeled and ate our fruit.

Let the apple gorging begin!

We ate 2 apples each. Then Mark picked an apple from the tree we were sitting next to. I found another apple a few trees down. My eating slowed down quite a bit on my third apple. Mark finished his fourth apple as I started on my third.

6 Apples!

They apples were delicious. But, 3 apples is really my daily limit. I forced down the last quarter of my third apple as Mark peeled his sixth, and final apple. We were like human pies—filled with apples.

We walked around the farm looking at all the other fruit. There were some animals in pens, but the farm is mainly for fruit. We thought about getting a pizza. (This place is supposed to have good pizza.) But, we couldn’t eat anything after all those apples.

Now fall is about to begin bringing with it persimmons. The stores will stop selling bags of apples and start offering bags of persimmons. I love persimmons so much! I can hardly wait.

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.)

Hirata Farms
(平田観光農園)
(Hirata kankōnōen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°41’06.0″N 132°54’46.4″E

Address:

  • 1740-3 Ueda-machi, Miyoshi 728-0624 ,Hiroshima Prefecture
  • 〒728-0624 Hiroshima Prefecture, Miyoshi, 上田町1740-3

Phone:

  • 0824-69-2346

Websites:

 

Cost:

  • There is very little information in English.
  • All you can eat (varies with each fruit):
    • 700 Yen per person — Apples
    • You have to eat the apples there.
  • All you can pick:
    • Requires an advanced degree in Applied Mathematics and evolves a coupon book.

Hours:

  • Closed: Thrusday, Friday
  • March – November      9:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • December – February  9:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Some of the restaurants close at 15:30.

Notes:

Yearly Blooming Schedule

Map:

 

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

Just Throw Yourself Off

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 11, 2016

August 24 – 26, 2016

All Pictures

Hope this leads to somewhere good.

Let’s Gorge

Summer was coming to an end. Mark and I had a little over a week between us and the first day back to work. Since we had spent most of the summer at Hamada Beach, we decided to try something new. We went to a gorge.

The Sandankyo Gorge area is a long labyrinth of ponds, streams, and waterfalls. None of which, it seems, you can swim in. There is one long trail that goes through the whole thing, but many offshoots that lead to hidden water falls, springs, and smaller gorges.

This part looks promising.

On our first day at Sandankyo, Mark and I headed along a trail after setting up our tent at the Ecology Campsite. There was a 20-minute drive between the campsite and this particular trail.

After parking the car, we stood at the start of the trail. We had the choice of going left or right. There were signs on both sides, but there was no English writing. We chose to go right because that side had more signs. That could either mean there were more things to see on the right, or there were more things to watch out for.

The hike itself was not too bad. There was a lot of uphill parts but they were spaced out between many non-uphill stretches. The weather was really nice too. Being the last week of summer vacation, the air was cool and breezy.

The thing that made this trail miserable was the bugs. These weren’t the type of insects content with flying swirls above your head out of view. These creatures wanted to get into facial cavities. Within the first five minutes on the trail, two flies had kamikazeed themselves into my eyes and one tried to take refuge up my nostril.

I waved my hands in front of my face like a lunatic to blow the friends of the fallen away. When the area around my face was clear I put my hands down. Within seconds, more winged bugs approached me. I picked up the biggest leaves I could find and fashioned myself a fan. My face stayed bug free as long as I kept fanning.

Finally, a sign I can understand!

Twenty minutes into the hike we came to a sign. The writing, in Japanese, was faded, but it had a picture of what would be at the end of the trail. “We’re almost there!” Mark shouted and ran up the path. I stopped fanning myself to shout back, “This better be worth it,” as I swallowed 2 bugs.

Ten minutes later we came to a pool area in the stream. There were two boats docked and tied up. There was a sign with the schedule time of 10:00 – 15:30. It was almost 17:00. We were too late. There was another sign completely in English that assured us that boat rides would be available every day from 10:00 – 15:30 between July and late August.

Should we just go by ourselves?

I sat on the bench near the boat feeling disappointed. There was a paper fan on the stand nearby and it made its way into my hands. It was far more effective at keeping bugs away from me than the leaves I had picked. I contemplated taking it for my walk back to the car, but decided not to when I thought about the poor boat guy with bugs flying around his face.

Back at the campsite we showered and had dinner. We planned out our next day and I made sure to bring a hand fan with me.

Thursday August 25, 2016

The next day we had breakfast and drove back to the trail. We wanted to get to the boat by 10:00. The hand fan made my hike so much easier. Mark didn’t have a fan. He tried swatting flies away with his baseball cap.

When we reached the boat, there was no one there. There was no boat guy fanning himself as he waited for hikers. There was no line of hikers waiting to be let on the boat. It was 10:15. It was not too early. Since both of the boats we saw previously were still there, we knew we had not missed the first boat ride.

Disappointed we headed back. This time, Mark took the paper fan. Annoyed by all the pointless hiking, Mark angrily fanned the bugs away from his face as he headed back down the trail. I followed with a steady stream of complaints.

When we got back to the start of the trail we found a guy in uniform. We asked him about the boat. “Saturday and Sunday only,” he said in Japanese. Then he pointed to a sign. Sure enough, the sign said something about Saturday and Sunday, but that’s all I could read.

He recommended some other trail back where we had just come from. After an hour’s walk we would see something amazing. “Most beautiful in all Japan!” the uniformed man told us in English, emphasizing each word.

It was tempting. We looked up the trail we had walked twice before with no luck. “One hour,” I said. “We would probably miss a sign and take the wrong path,” Mark added. “It’s almost lunch time,” I stated. We walked back to our car.

We went back to the campsite for lunch. We grilled our meal then played a few rounds of a new board game Mark brought back from Korea.

Learning to fly

Around 3 o’clock we went to the main gate of our campsite and checked in for a zip line course. The cost of the zip line course is 3,500 yen per person. But, if you are staying at the campsite you get an 800 yen discount. The cost for staying at the campsite, if you bring your own tent, is 800 per night per tent during the weekday. So, for us it was like the zip line came with two nights of free camping.

The zip line was fun and horrible at the same time. I am afraid of heights. It seems like a sin against nature to just walk off a perfectly good platform that is not even on fire or anything. The instructor, “Dr. Koto”, took us through all the do’s and don’ts and showed us how to do a few tricks.

After each jump we were to get more and more daring. The first jump we were to hold on to the handle of the zip line with both hands and try not to get turned around once we reached the other end.

On the platform I wasn’t too high up. I could probably fall off and only end up with bruises. But the height increased drastically further down the line. I was to go first. I stood as close to the edge of the platform I could make myself go and tried not to look down. The instructor tugged on my belt to pull me closer to the edge.

My toes hung off the side of the platform. “This is safe, right?” I asked Dr. Koto. “Okay,” he replied. I paused wondering if he really understood what I asked him. I was about to ask one more time to make sure, when he and Mark started my count down. “3,” they shouted cheerfully. “2,” they both screamed in joy. “1,” they enthusiastically bellowed. “Go!” I looked at Dr. Koto and he mimed jumping off the platform. I leaned slightly over the side and pulled my legs up.

“AAAHHHhhhhhhhhh! I’m flying!”

I looked back at the platform. Mark and Dr. Koto were waving their hands and cheering me on. I turned back to the direction I was going. I was speeding to the landing ramp. I pulled my legs up in anticipation for landing. My legs hit the ramp and stopped. The rest of me kept going. For a split second I lay face down on the ramp with wood chips in my hair, clothes, and shoes. Then the pulley of my zip-line tapped the end of the line and yanked my back. I hung from the line helplessly watching my landing ramp get smaller. Then I stopped, in the middle of the zip-line and out of reach.

“Help!”

I dangled in the air, waiting for Mark to come get me. He had to get a long orange pole that could be hooked on my foot. He would pull me to the ramp so I could get off.

Mark coming in for a perfect landing.

Then Mark went next with Dr. Koto behind him. None of them had problems landing. Dr. Koto ran up the ramp and jumped to a stop like he had done this a million times already.

The next jump, I was supposed to hold on with just one hand. With my free hand I was to try to pick a leaf from the surrounding trees. I did not. I held on with both hands. My landing was only slightly better. I still landed flat on my face, but this time I did not bounce back. I unhooked myself and called for the others to zip over.

Of course, Mark managed to pick his leaf then executed a perfect landing. Dr. Koto had a bouquet of leaves and did a very showboaty landing.

The next jump I was to let go both hands and stick them out like needed them for flying. I did let go for a second. Then I held on again. Then I let go for 2 seconds. Then, feeling a little braver, I stuck my arms out all the way and screamed. The boys were cheering for me. As the landing ramp approached I stuck my legs out and came to a sudden halt.

“Hey, I didn’t fall!” I heard screams and whistles from across the zip line.

The other jumps involved spins and flips and other things I didn’t want to try. I focused on landing. Sometimes I landed correctly, other times I landed flat on my face.

The last jump was to be the Superman jump. Mark and Dr. Koto took off their belts and put them on backwards. Mark was to fly through the air on his belly, like Superman. He pulled off the stunt flawlessly and landed with a little jump.

When we were done we took a few photos and returned the equipment. I was happy to be back on the ground again.

Enjoy the wide path while you can.

We drove to another part of the trail and walked until we were tired. We passed a few hikers going in the opposite direction, but there was hardly anyone on the trail. The path can be very narrow at some spots and sometimes there is a shear drop on one side. Hikers should always watch their steps on these paths.

So I was quite taken aback when I saw not one, but two scooters heading towards me. There was one person on the first, and three people on the second. There was nowhere for Mark or me to move to so we leaned hard to the mountain side flattening our bodies on some trees, letting the scooters balance their way on the cliff side. We watched them turn the bend, a little wobbly and wondered if they would make it to safety. “Surely there must be better places to go on a scooter ride.”

That night after dinner, we wanted to look at the stars. We had suspected that the two of us were the only people at the campsite. So, we moved around the site looking for an area with no light. There was none.

Stars don’t come out well with my camera.

We found a spot with the least amount of light and laid on our back staring up into the heavens. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Even with some light pollution, we could see more stars that either of us had seen in a long time.

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.)

Sandankyo
(三段峡)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°36’00.1″N 132°12’28.7″E

Address:

  • Hiroshima Prefecture 731-3813, Yamagata gun, Akiota cho, Yokogawa, Sandankyo

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free Entrance

Parking:

  • 400 Yen/ day at some spots
  • Free at others

Boat Rides:

  • 500 Yen Adults
  • 300 Yen Kids

Hours:

  • A lot of the boat rides are only open in the weekends and holidays between 10:00 – 15:00.
  • The area is never closed, but you should never go after sunset. There are many sudden cliffs.

Notes:

  • Be very careful when driving here in the winter.

Map:


Osorakan Ecology Campsite
(恐羅漢エコロジーキャンプ場)
(Osorakan Ecology Campu)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°36’03.6″N 132°08’33.8″E

Address:

  • Yokogou, Akiota, Yamagata District, Hiroshima Prefecture 731-3801
  • 〒731-3801 広島県山県郡安芸太田町横川

Phone:

  • 0826-28-7270

Websites:

 

Cost:

Prices vary from weekdays, weekends, and holidays

Hours:

  • Late April – Mid November
  • Check-in 14:00 to 19:00
  • Check out 13:00

 

Notes:

  • There are many things to do on the campgrounds.
  • You get a discount at the zip-line when you stay at the campsite.

Map:

 

Posted in Akiōta 町, Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Momofuku Ando Ramen

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 4, 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

All Pictures

Mark’s Ramen

Taking the Bus

Mark and I were lazing in our living room, drinking iced coffee and complaining about the hot summer. “We should go somewhere,” I said. “Where?” Mark asked. “We’ve seen everything worth seeing in Hiroshima.”

“Then let’s leave Hiroshima.”

“I don’t want to drive. Why don’t you drive this time?”

“Mark, I don’t want to drive! I drove you around for 3 years when you didn’t have a Japanese driver’s license.”

The argument continued for a few minutes and ended with us walking to the long distance bus station. We would go where the most reasonably price bus would take us. That way, no one would have to drive.

Driving is for suckers!

Our options were not plentiful. There was a bus to Hiroshima, one to Osaka, and a couple to places I have never heard of. “Looks like we’re going to Osaka,” Mark said. “What should we do there?”

We went home and looked online. Everything the internet recommended, we either weren’t interested in or we had already done. Except for one thing.

“The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum is open now. We could go see that!”

We’ve been to Osaka, 5 or 6 times and the Ramen Museum is always on our list of things to see. But every time we’re in the Osaka area, it happens to be closed. The place is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and during most of winter when I’m in the Osaka area. I was starting to get the feeling that when I have time off from work, my boss calls this Museum up and they lock their doors. But now that it was summer, it would have to stay open, we could go see it… on a non-Tuesday.

We would take the first bus to Osaka at 7:00 arriving at 11:33 in the morning. Then return on the last bus to Miyoshi leaving at 17:30. That would give us enough time to see the museum and do a little shopping.

Just a train ride away

The museum is not actually in Osaka, but in a suburb right outside of the city. I went online and wrote down directions from Osaka Station to the ramen museum. When we boarded the bus, we were told that we would be taken, not to Osaka Station, but to Shin-Osaka Station. I wasn’t too worried. “Surely there will be an easy and simple way to get from Shin-Osaka Station to the ramen museum too.

When the bus dropped us off at the bus station in Osaka there was a clearly visible sign leading to Shin-Osaka Station. It was just up-stairs and around a corner. Then we found one sign pointing the way for the subway and another showing how to get to the JR station. We chose the subway.

The sign led us to a group of ticket machines. We just needed to figure out how much money to put on a ticket. We looked up and the subway map where the cost of a ticket is written under the name of each destination. Most of the central city stops where in both Japanese and English. But the stops further away from downtown were just in Japanese.

I tried looking for the train line we needed, but could not find it. Mark asked a few commuters for help, but none of them had ever heard of “Ikeda Station” or the “Hankyu-Takarazuka Line”.

We found the station help desk and asked an old man working there. He had no idea what we were talking about. I tried asking him, in Japanese, about the Momofuku Ando museum, but it only made him frustrated. He kept looking around as if he couldn’t believe the ridiculousness of the question we asked him.

me – “Momofuku Ando Museum wa doko des ka?”

old man – “ehhh…. ehhh…. ehhh….”

His co-worker started yelling things at him. Which flustered the poor man even more. The co-worker seemed to know what we were asking for, but he was busy doing something else at the time.

co-worker – “Calm down old man. They just want to go to the ramen museum. It’s at Ikeda Station.”

old man –  “ehhh…. ehhh…. ehhh….”

We waited for the co-worker to finish up what he was doing. He told us to go to Osaka Station using a JR train. He didn’t speak any English, so I was not sure what he said to do after that. But I figured that I could just read signs at Osaka Station to get on the next train.

We entered the JR station and followed the signs to the platform for Osaka station. I looked at my watch. We had wasted 35 minutes in Shin-Osaka Station so far. Once at the correct platform we were faced with a few options. There was one train on our right that said, “Kobe” and another one on our left that had the name of a place I had never heard of.

Neither train explicitly said that it stopped at Osaka Station. I knew, from making several mistakes in the past, that in Japan not all trains on a platform go to the same place. So we had to figure out whether one, both, or neither would take us to Osaka Station. We looked at the electronic timetable; it only had departure times and the trains’ last stations. We looked at the trains themselves; they only had the name of their last stop.

It was hot and the trains had air-conditioning. The train to Kobe called itself the “Kobe Express” and was shaped like a bullet train. We chose that one. To our surprise, it took us to Osaka Station.

Once at Osaka Station we took the escalator and looked for a sign for the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line. We found a sign for the Takarazuka Line, but it led back down to the platform we had just come from. We followed the sign anyway. “Maybe the train we need is on the same track, but further down.”

We walked up and down the track, but there was no indication that a train leaving from that platform would take us where we needed to go. After a couple laps up and down the platform I started to think. “Maybe the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line and the Takarazuka Line are not the same thing.”

We headed back upstairs to look for a station attendant. There aren’t any information booths inside the station so we had to wait for an attendant near the ticket gates. These guys usually have a long line of people holding malfunctioning travel cards with trouble getting in or out of the station.

We waited in line and when it was our turn we asked for the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line. “Outside. Another building,” the lady said. We thanked the lady and went outside.

We hadn’t notice that the train station was cool, but once we stepped outdoors the heat hit us. It was the type of hot weather that makes you feel instantly thirsty, tired, and confused. We still weren’t sure which of the other buildings we should go to, but the crowd we were in moved with confidence. We were too overheated to put up any resistance. We went with the tide of people trying to remember which building we had just come from in case we needed to retrace our steps.

We crossed a bridge that ended in a building called Hankyu. “That must be it!”

From that point on there were no more ambiguous signs. We easily found a ticket machine. We saw the price of our journey on a very helpful map. Once inside the new station, signs guided us right to our train’s platform. After we got to Ikeda Station there were plenty if signs that led us out the correct exit and right to the museum.

Momofuku Ando refuses to share with Mark.

Before we entered the building we took some photos with the statue of Momofuku Ando. “If I were a Pastafarian, this would be my shrine,” I thought as I snapped pictures of Mark and the noodle man. “Would Ando be like an angel or more like a Pastafarian saint?”

“Either way, he did the lord’s work,” Mark replied. “Through him, so many have been touched by His noodly appendages.” Then Mark bowed his head and clasped his hands, “Ramen.”

Now that’s a King Size!

It was all a dream.

We walked around and learned about Mr. Ando, and how and why he invented instant ramen. First off, Momofuku was not really his name. He was given the name Pek-Hok by his Taiwanese parents, Mr. and Mrs. Go. But when he moved to Osaka and became a Japanese citizen he wanted a Japanese name.

He kept the same spelling of his first name (百福), but took the Japanese pronunciation of it, Momofuku. Then he took the sir name, Ando, because it was a common Japanese family name.

Momofuku Ando’s noodlexperiments

Ando invented instant noodles because there was a shortage of food after World War II. I’m not sure how well his noodles helped. On one hand, his instant noodles cost six times the price of regular noodles. But, on the other hand, it was a lot easier to make. All one needed was boiling water. You didn’t need a fully functional kitchen to make yourself some of Ando’s noodles.

Dream Stuff

Momofuku Ando was in San Francisco telling some American businessmen about his instant ramen. They were confused and didn’t know how to eat it. He explained to them that all they needed to do was put the ramen in a bowl and add hot water.

Looking around the office, the businessmen could find no bowls. So, they took out their coffee cups. They broke their ramen bricks in half and wedged the pieces in the cups. Then they added hot water and ate the noodles with forks.

“I should put the noodles in cups!” Ando thought.

But there was a problem. At the factory it took a long time to put the noodles in cups by hand. It took so long that they would lose money in the cup noodle venture. It had to be done by machine.

Once a machine to drop the noodles into cups was made, they faced another problem. The noodles would hit the cup with too much force. The cup would spill over and the noodles would fall out, clogging the machine.

One night Momofuku Ando had a nightmare where he was falling upside down. He woke up when he fell out of bed. He hit his head on the floor, because he fell head first. He sat on the floor next to his bed rubbing his head. “I’ve got it!”

Instead of letting the noodles fall into the cup, he turned everything on its head. The noodles were placed, upside down, on the conveyor belt and the cup was dropped on the noodles. Now the machine worked smoothly.

Time for our ramen talents to shine.

The Best Ramen

After learning about the history of Cup Noodle we moved on to making our own flavor of ramen. We bought a plain cup of noodles then decorated the packaging as we liked. We were sat at a table with colored markers and sheets of paper with template art we could follow.

Mark’s art was better than mine.

I struggled with this task. Before coming to the museum I had thought more about what I would put into my cup of ramen than what I would put on it. Nothing on the template called to me. I doodled some non-sense on my cup then stared at the menu of flavor options while Mark finished his master piece.

Can’t I have a little of everything?

We had to choose one sauce flavor, plain, chili tomato, sea food, or curry, and four of the 12 ingredients. Mark asked for a curry sauce with green onions, pork, and 2 portions of cheese. I picked a tomato chili base with shrimp, cheese, garlic, and kim chee.

The newest flavor that had just come out 2 days before

With our My Cup Noodles made, we went to the tasting area for lunch. There were several vending machines selling Cup Noodles and one selling drinks. I picked a flavor that had just been released and Mark chose a flavor from the Big Cup collection.

He’s been doing it wrong for years.

Mark ripped open the plastic wrapping from his noodles and almost threw it away. “Mark, what are you doing!?” “Throwing the trash away.” I looked at him, like he was a stranger. “Are you a ramen novice? Don’t you know you’re suppose to keep the little sticker tab from the bottom of the wrapping?” Mark looked at the crumpled plastic in his hand. “What sticker?”

On the bottom of every Cup Noodle brand of cup ramen, there is a plastic tab you pull to take off the plastic wrapping. I flipped over my unopened cup to show him. “You’re supposed to keep this,” I said pulling off the tab and sticking it to the edge of the table.

I got up to fill my cup with hot water. When I returned to the table I took the tab and placed it on my noodle cup. “It keeps the lid shut while you wait for the noodles to be ready.

So many flavors of Kit-Kat!

Before heading home, Mark and I did some shopping at the Kit-Kat store. Then Mark bought a bunch of stuff at the Pokemon store. Mark spent so much time choosing between this Pokemon hoodie or that Pokemon hoodie that we didn’t have time to eat some Osaka-style okanomiyaki before catching our bus back 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.)

The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
(インスタントラーメン)
(発明記念館)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°49’05.2″N 135°25’36.2″E
  • Go to Ikeda Station
  • Go through the south exit.
  • Turn left and follow the signs to the museum.
  • It’s a 5 minute walk.

Address:

8-25 Masumi-cho,
Ikeda-shi, Osaka
〒563-0041 Japan

Phone:

  • 072-751-0825

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Ramen class is 500YEN/Adult and 300YEN/Kid
  • You can assemble your own ramen from a list of ingredient for 300 Yen.

Hours:

  • Wed – Sun 9:30 – 16:00
  • Allow 90 mintues to view all the exhibits and another 90 minutes to make ramen.

Books:

  • The Ramen King and I
    • This book is 90% about the author’s self-inflected troubles in romance and only 10% about Momofuku Ando.

Notes:

  • In order to take part in the ramen making class, you must have a reservation.
  • For reservations – Call 072-751-0825 any time between 10:00 – 16:00 Wednesday through Sunday.

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Ikeda 市, Japan, Osaka 府 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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