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Proving Ground

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 13, 2016

Sunday. October 23, 2016

All Pictures

One day Mark and I were lazing around the house watching old videos of Community Channel on Youtube (because someone hadn’t uploaded any new videos in weeks), when we saw a Facebook post of a friend in town. “Enjoying all this festival food at Miyoshi Park,” said the caption under a photo of our friend biting into some meat on a stick.

“There’s a festival in town? Why didn’t anyone tell us about it?”

In about 10 minutes we were showered and dressed and heading out the door. From our apartment it’s a 15-minute drive to Miyoshi Park. At the park entrance there was a long line of cars waiting to be ushered into a parking space.

We parked our car and headed to the community center in the middle of Miyoshi Park. We hadn’t even stepped out of the crosswalk linking the parking lot and the walkway to the main building when we were approached by someone with brochures.

 

Mark managed to sneak away from the solicitation leaving me on my own to turn down whatever was being offered. I put up my hands and started waving them to say, “No, thanks.” Then another lady spoke up.

Words in Japanese Mazda test track and back to Japanese again.”

Surprised, I asked in Japanese, “Right now?”

“Schedule,” the lady told me, pointing to a list of times. Speaking in Japanese, she said, “The bus leaves from here.”

How much?” In Japanese I usually use one or two-word sentences.

It’s free,” she replied with a smile. Then she pointed to the path to the community center and said something. But I couldn’t understand anything more than “Go over there…”

I smiled and thanked the lady for the information. Then I ran to catch up with Mark.

“What do you think this festival is all about?” Mark asked me. Nearing the community center, I could see many flags. There was some sort of caricature of a sea captain on them, which is odd because Miyoshi is a land-locked town. There was some Hiragana writing which said “Miyoshi,” the name of our town, some Katakana which said, “Festival,” and some Kanji which probably explained the purpose of the festival. But my ability to read Kanji is very limited.

Behind the community center was an unpaved lot. There were many emergency workers in the center of the lot. There was a tent of soldiers showing off their Hummers and rescue equipment. There was a tent filled with smoke demonstrating how hard it is to see in a house that is on fire. firefighters were standing at the entrance of the tent beckoning to passersby to go through. This was clearly some sort of safety festival… perhaps.

There was a truck with a room set up inside it. The room had only 3 walls, so that festival goers could witness the spectacle. One family was asked to go in and sit around the table to a pretend dinner. As they talked and pretended to eat, someone flipped a switch to start the simulated earthquake. The family had to show what they would do in an earthquake.

Nearby there was a crane manned by the coast guard attached to a stretcher. The crane lifted the stretcher off the ground simulating a helicopter rescue. There was a little boy strapped into the stretcher with a big grin on his face. He was having the time of his life. There was a long line of other little boys and girls waiting for their turn to be “rescued”.

There were cops barefooted and walking on a tarp laid out on the ground. There were several lines of kids. The police officers where showing them how to get away from someone holding on to them.

Then, seemingly out of place, were a bunch of Mazdas. Most of the police cars, Hummers, and firetrucks had kids climbing in them and their parents taking photos. “Can we get into a Mazda?” we jokingly wondered.

A man walked towards us and asked us something in Japanese. All I could understand was, “What time?” “Testing track?” I asked the man.

“Hai. So desu.”

“14:00,” I told him.

He handed both Mark and me tickets that said 14:00 on them. Then he said some other stuff, but all I understood was, “Go over there.” But, this time I knew exactly what he meant. We would “go over there” near where we parked by 14:00.

There were people selling homemade crafts on the parameter of the unpaved lot. We walked over to them looking at stuff no one wanted to buy. It was hard to pay any attention to the craft tents because opposite them, in the middle of the lot were the rescue workers. Alarms were going off, kids were laughing, and demonstrations were given. The crafts tents just could not compete with all that. They should have asked to be placed next to a room of old ladies knitting.

We ran into my Japanese teacher. It’s been sometime since I took lessons, but we still hangout every once in a while. She greeted me very cheerfully. She was with a group of friends and couldn’t talk long. She pushed a pair of tickets in my hand.

“What’s this?”

“Tea ceremony tickets. It’s held inside the main building on the second floor.”

“Thanks.”

“Enjoy,” she said as she and her friends headed to the Hummers.

Mark took the tickets and inspected them. They cost about 350 Yen each. “She just gives you tickets?” he asked.

“She’s always giving me stuff. It’s like I have 100 birthdays.”

We looked at the time. It was 13:30. “The tea ceremony booth closes at 16:00. We better do this before we do the Mazda thing,” Mark said. Half an hour seemed like a good amount of time to do an informal tea ceremony at a festival and make it to the bus in time for 14:00.

We walked to the main building by way of passing the food stalls on the side of the building. We were not hungry; we were just looking. Then from out of one of the stalls popped a man who grabbed Mark by the arm.

“Hello my friend!”

Mark was caught off guard. People in Japan don’t just walk up to Mark and start speaking in English, so I figured that the man knew Mark. But, Mark seemed to be side stepping any formal introductions.

“He doesn’t remember who this man is,” I thought. “How is camping?” the man asked Mark. “Oh yes. Camping is fun,” Mark replied.

“This is yakisoba. You try.”

Mark felt bad enough about not remembering who the man was or where they met that he bought the yakisoba. Mark sat down at a bench ready to dive into his food. “He must be a teacher at one of my schools from last year or the year before that. But, if he’s a teacher, why is he peddling yakisoba?”

“Less talking and more eating,” I demanded. I wanted to get to the tea ceremony before we left.

A few minutes later we made it to the main building. There was more festival going on in there. Though, the theme inside was not safety like it was outside. The theme inside was commerce.

“Well, now I have no idea what this festival is about,” I said as I scratched my head. There were many booths set up in a grid inside the auditorium. On the parameter, people sold baked goods and treats. All of the interior booths had someone showing off some products for sale. It felt like walking into 1,000 infomercials.

We walked past a man hawking ShamWows and turned at a booth selling green smoothies that looked like swamp water. We walked by two competing cell phone companies that were trying to attract new customers by giving out those awful hard candies that only old people like.

I guess if you made the mistake of trying a sample of swamp water smoothies you would gladly take the offer of free candy. After clearly showing your lack of good judgement, you would be preyed upon by the cell phone people and end up going home with a phone plan you didn’t need or want.

We ran up the stairs and looked at the time. It was 13:45. Mark whispered to me, “You think they could do a 10 minute quick ceremony for us?” “No,” I looked at Mark appalled. “Tea ceremony is about the exact opposite of that. Everything is done slowly.”

We thought back to the last tea ceremony we did. A bunch of ALTs from Miyoshi were invited to a lovely house to be served tea by a tea ceremony tea master. It took at least an hour.

“Well,” Mark reasoned, “This is a festival. This can’t be meant to last for hours. We’ll stay for as long as we can.” Then he whispered, “We’ll stay for 8 minutes then slip out like we would from church.”

I handed our tickets to a lady in a fancy kimono. She bowed and showed us to a padded bench. I was grateful to not have to sit on my heels, a position I can only hold for a few seconds.

We were given beautiful sweets that, as usual, tasted too sweet. Then we were served thick green tea from tea cups that looked like small bowls. As we drank we watched a man teach his student how to serve tea. She was practicing opening the lid of the tea container over and over again.

I sipped my tea and watched the lesson. I leaned over to Mark, “She’ll never get around to making tea at this rate.” “Less talking, more drinking,” Mark responded. I looked at Mark’s bowl. It was empty.

“Did you drink all of this in one gulp?”

“I don’t mess around!”

I sipped at my tea as fast as I could. It was still very hot. Mark looked at the time and fidgeted impatiently. Another kimonoed lady came by with a tray to take our cups. I quickly finished my drink and placed my cup on the tray next to Mark’s.

Then we sat there awkwardly wanting to go, but not sure how to do that without being completely rude. After a few minutes a family was ushered to the bench next to ours. As the ladies fussed over them getting them sweets and tea, there was a perfect moment when both the student and the teacher were looking down and the two ladies had their backs to us. We seized the moment and quietly slipped away like ghosts.

We ran down the path to the bus. We were the last people to get on, but we were in time. The bus sat there for about 5 minutes before firing up the engine and setting off for the Mazda Proving Grounds.

Shortly after moving to Miyoshi we found out that there was a test track in town where Mazda puts their cars through their paces. Whenever I drive past the Mazda gate, I try to peek in. There are guards at all the gates with very high walls and it’s fenced all around. Until this day, I was not entirely sure how big the Mazda Proving Ground was.

At the front of the bus a lady in a suit gave the passengers information about the testing facilities. It was all in Japanese, so I couldn’t understand most of it. Then a man sitting in the row in front of mine turned around and asked in English if I understood what she said. “She said she can’t paint a picture… I think,” I answered the man. That didn’t really make any sense to me.

He smiled and corrected me. “She said you can’t take photos during the tour. But, when they stop the bus you can take photos if you like.”

“Oh.”

“If you want, I can translate for you when you don’t know what she says.”

“Yes, please,” I told him. Then throughout the tour he would turn around and whisper the important and interesting facts the lady told everyone.

We drove over many of the test tracks. There were roads that simulated various real world driving conditions. There were roads with potholes, roads with bumps, roads made of dirt. They had roads made with cement and ones made with tar.

We made a turn and everyone wooed and awed. “The bus driver doesn’t turn here. This is an American turn. The road tilts so the bus driver can go straight. The road turns the bus,” Our new friend told us. I learned quickly that Japanese roads lacked this feature. Exiting from a Japanese freeway requires sudden deceleration to avoid everything in the car pitching to one side. The road does not bank enough to give a driver time to slow down without sickening amounts of inertia. It’s a rather disturbing experience for the uninitiated.

We drove on several types of American-styled paved roads. When the bus drove over the segmented cement road, everyone laughed at the clicking clacking sound the bus made. Then we tried a French road along with a German one.

Then we drove on a Belgian road. The guide said that unlike the American, French, and German roads that were made here in Japan using the same methods as in those countries, the Belgian roads were made in Belgium. In fact there were actually Belgian roads that honest-to-god Belgians drove on. Mazda ripped it up piece by piece, numbering each section as they went. Then shipped it to Japan and reassembled it at the testing facility. It was very expensive.

The Belgians roads were not smooth at all. Honestly, I could feel no discernible difference between the German, French, and American black top roads. (The America cement road clearly caused the clicking-clacking sound.) The Belgium road felt like a bad massage. It was a terrible road.

We drove passed a track with a very steep bank. A car would have to go very fast on a turn to stay on that track. Then the lady announced that the bus driver wanted to try it out… with this bus. I was wary.

I didn’t know this bus driver. I didn’t know how skilled of a driver he was. I buckled my seat belt and hoped he knew what he was doing. The driver accelerated the bus in the furthest left lane. It was a big bus filled with lots of people so it took some time to build up speed. This did not instill my confidence in the plan.

Eventually we got up to a speed fast enough that the driver could switch to a middle lane and then the most right lane with the almost vertical bank. We were flying around the corner. It was disconcerting looking out the windows and seeing sky on one side and black top on the other, all while still being in a big ungainly bus that would normally never go over 80 kph.

I did want to try out this test track and this steep bank in particular. I just wanted to do it in a sports car, something small or sleek. A cool muscle car maybe? Not a bus.

The bus stopped at another curve. We were all let out to inspect the steep bank ourselves. Many people tried to cross the road. Once you passed the second lane, the crossing became exponentially difficult. Once on the other side, people had to hold onto the guard rails to stay up there.

Everyone took as many photos as they could before getting back on the bus. We were then taken to more tracks that simulated various driving conditions. We drove past the crash testing area and a parking lot for new cars waiting to be tested. There were either no prototype cars for us to see or they were kept in doors in the aerodynamics lab building.

The proving ground was a lot bigger than I thought it was. The whole tour took roughly two hours from pick up to drop off. There were more roads, lots, lakes, and buildings than I thought were behind any of those gates.

5,000 Candles in the Wind

I still have no idea what the overall theme of the festival was, but I enjoyed it.

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 Mazda Proving Ground
(マツダ三次試験場)
(Matsuda Miyoshi Shikenjō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°47’49.4″N 132°51’56.0″E

Address:

  • 551 Higashisakeyamachi, Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture 728-0023

Phone:

Websites:

 

Notes:

  • Unless you get a job here or you’re on a tour, there is no entering the facilities.

Map:

 

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

Looking for Mt. Ozuchi

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 6, 2016

Saturday, October 8th, 10th, and 22nd, 2016

All Pictures

Having so much fun “hiking” up Mt. Sanbe and Mt. Misen, I decided to try some real hiking. I would go up the little mountain that the Koriyama Castle Ruins sits on and the baby mountain that is Mt. Ozuchi. Mark was out of town so this would also be a solo hiking trip. While doing research on the trails and just hiking in general, I found out that hiking rule number one is NEVER HIKE ALONE.

But… These weren’t big hikes. I would totally stick to the trail. And I would bring my cell phone with me (a thing I am famous for not doing). Plus I would let someone know where I was going, when I was going to be there, and when I got back. Okay, I forgot to do that last thing. No one knew what I was doing , when I was doing it, or that I got back okay.

I’ll just pick up an English guide. No English guide? Well, I’ll just look at the pictures.

I got to the parking lot of the Koriyama Castle Ruins. I found a post with some guide books inside. I picked up several booklets looking for one in English. Finding none I put all the booklets back and walked to the entrance.

What are you trying to say?

At the entrance to the trail I found a “Do Not” sign under the torii. I can’t read Kanji and I had no idea what the sign said. I stood in front of the torii thinking about what the sign was trying to tell me.

I could tell, from the last line, that the sign was put here by the city of Akitakata. One of the Kanji in the second line could also be found on stop-signs. But that kanji could also mean, “don’t” or “stand”. So the sign could mean, “Don’t Enter”, “Don’t Litter”, “Don’t Leave the Trail”, or “Don’t Enter without Standing and Admiring this Awesome Torri first”.

I figured that if they didn’t want me to enter, they would have put a chain gate across the path. They would have also not had free hiking guides. If the sign was about littering, there would have been a picture of a silhouetted person next to a train can. So, maybe it said something about not leaving the trail.

I looked around for other hikers to see if the sign turned any of them away. My car was the only one in the parking lot. There were only 6 or so parking spaces. I was all alone. I turned back to get a guide booklet. Even though I couldn’t read it, the guide had lots of photos of things to see along the trail. That would at least help me know where I was.

It is kind of spooky being the only person on a hiking trail. I knew I was hiking alone, as in I brought no one with me, but I didn’t think that I would be alone on the trail, just me and the bears. I passed a cemetery which only added to the creepiness.

This must be were all the forest folk hang out.

Twenty minutes into the hike and I found some moss-covered ruins. This moss gave the area a carpeted look. It was so beautiful. I walked around taking photos without having to wait for other hikers to move out of my shot. I took this as a sign of more picturesque things to come.

Suddenly hiking alone didn’t seem like such a potentially bad idea.

I continued along the trail to head up the mountain and bumped into these two signs. I’m not sure what the second one is all about. “Snakes in this forest love teddy bears. Wild boars love ladybugs. Monkeys have clean faces. And, deer love green tea.” That sign made no sense to me on any level.

The first sign, however, was very clear. “Watch out for pit vipers.” I have been bitten by a pit viper once already. It was not in anyway fun. It was very painful and I lost my vision. For about two months I could not read or ride in a car without wanting to throw up.

I started to wonder what I would do if I got bitten by another mamushi, the type of pit viper from the sign. I’ve had several people tell me that one cannot survive a second pit viper bite. I don’t know how true that is. But then I saw this…

Another pretty thing in the forest, pushed thoughts of snake bites aside. I would just watch my steps, keeping an eye out for snakes and other wild life. I headed up the trail hoping for more great photos.

I should have just stopped near the mamushi sign. There was nothing of interest further on the trail. I spent 30 minutes climbing up to the top. The ruins of the castle on the peak were a rock here and a rock there. Plus there was no summit view. There was no clearing at the top to look out from.

I’m sure this is important somehow.

I did manage to find 2 snakes. One was very tiny. I thought it was a worm at first. It was kind of cute. The next one, I found when I was about to go off the trail to see if I could get a view of the city. I was about to step over a pile of leaves when something moved from under those leaves. Out popped a full-grown mamushi.

“Nope, nope. Nope, nope, nope!”

I headed back down the mountain watching every step with heighten vigilance. I was the only person on this mountain. There was no relying on kind hikers to find me or by snake bitten body.

This seems simple enough

Next I drove to the base of Ozuchiyama. I parked my car at, what I think is, an abandoned campsite and followed the trail. The hike to the top of Mt. Kori and back took about an hour total; it was around 11:00 in the morning when I started this new hike.

Something about this trail made me think that not too many people hike up this mountain. But as long as there was a clear  trail I would climb over fallen trees and keep going further. After 30 minutes of hiking I got to the first reference point, the Takamagahara shrine.

As I came out of the forest, to start my climb to the yellow torii on the hill, I found a startle buck. I looked at him and he looked at me. I thought, “One of us should be running away from the other. I hope it’s not up to me; I’m tired.” After a few seconds of this stare down, I pulled out my camera. The deer was a little camera-shy and ran away before I could take his photo.

Many times on a hiking trail, I would come across hikers with bells tied to their bags. I found these people to be very annoying. The bells can be heard even when the hikers are far away. When hiking with a person like this 15 minutes away it can disrupt a quiet peaceful hike for hours.

But at this moment, I understood what the bells are for and I wish I had one. If I were hiking with someone I would be talking with that person. Our voices would alert us to nearby wild life who would keep away. But, hiking alone, I was too quiet.

I tried to make noise. I started talking to myself, but that felt too weird. Without thinking about it, I went from shouting to whispering within a few sentences. I started to clap. I would clap every now and then on the trail for the rest of the day.

After the shrine I followed the sign back to the trail of Mt. Ozuchi. The trail was literally a long mound of dirt that had trail markers and pink ribbons to show the way. I walked for about 20 minutes on the mound trail when I found the next reference point, the turn near a water shed.

You can’t really see what type of water shed it is. There is just a sign for the trail pointing left, a bend in the mound of dirt I was following, and a tiny sign on the ground with the Kanji for water on it.

I kept on keeping on. This time, I had to walk next to the mound instead of on it. There were trees growing on the mound, but there was a somewhat clear path next to it.

Well, there was, until there wasn’t.

There was no easily seen trail anymore. I only knew I was still on the path when I found markers, like the one in the photo above or a tree with a pink ribbon around it. When I had gone about 5 minutes without seeing a marker I looked around for one. I felt like I was just walking aimlessly in the woods. It was too easy for me to leave the trail  and not realize it at this point. I headed back to my car. I would come back when I found a better trail to the top of this mountain.

That night I found a new trail. There was a blogging hiker who made a drawing of the trail. From the drawing I learned that not only was there another way up the mountain, but I could drive to the hill-top shrine. It was a 3-day weekend, so I spent Sunday resting up and tried the hike again on Monday.

That Monday, I parked my car near where the smaller car on the drawing is placed and tried once again to get to the summit.

The trail was fine for walking. Most of it was black top that had been reclaimed by the forest. Everything was going well until I came to a fork in the road. “Which way should I go?” The drawn map didn’t mention anything about trail options. It looked like there was only one path to the top.

I picked the way that looked less jungly. I happily walked up the mountain contented that I had made the right decision. Then it happened again; another fork. I chose one at random then made an arrow in the ground with my foot to mark where I had come from. I continued my hike until the trail just ended into untamed forest.

I turned around and walked back looking for the dirt arrow on the ground. Then I went on the other path. It too didn’t go anywhere. I found my arrow again and went back down to the first fork then up the other path.

This time the way looked promising. The trail even opened up a bit like it was expecting lots of hikers to come this way. It zigged and zagged like one would expect a mountain trail to. I  looked at my watch; I had been hiking for about 2 hours and at least one hour on this specific trail. Surely, I was near the top.

I came to another disheartening fork. I had to choose which way to go. I looked at both my options. Then I saw something familiar. “Damn it! Is that my dirt arrow?”

@&$#!!!

I was defeated for the day. I did not want to keep going in circles. I would try again, but I would take Mark with me. That way, if I died lost in the forest, I wouldn’t die alone.

So that the day wouldn’t be a total loss, I when back to the Takamagahara shrine and ate my lunch. As I sat there eating what was supposed to be my celebratory apple, I noticed that I could see the tower at the top of the mountain I could not find.

Twelve days later on a foggy Saturday Mark and I set out for the summit of this stupid frustrating mountain. We drove to the bottom of the hill the shrine sits on and climb to the top. It was a 5 minute hike and at the top, Mark took out his apple and was about to bite into it.

“Stop! What are you doing?”

“I’m eating my celebratory apple.”

“But you haven’t done anything.”

“We’re here, right?”

I turn around and pointed to the tower on the top of Mt. Ozuchi. “That’s where we’re going.”

Mark was not happy.

I took Mark to where I had lost the trail the first time. I also brought with me a picture by picture view of the trail posted online by some Japanese blogging hikers.

With two people looking out for trail markers we easily stayed on the trail. The pictures help a great deal because there are times when the trail doesn’t look like a trail at all.

There is a section where the trail is right next to a fence giving hikers very little space to move. I would have thought that I lost the trail, but according to the Japanese hiking bloggers that’s the way to go.

There were a couple times when the thought of turning around danced in my head. But that started about 1.5 hours into the hike. I also knew that there was another way to get from the summit back to our car. So, overall, pressing forward was the better alternative to turning back.

We kept on the path looking out for a faded sign pointing the way to Buddha rock, a monolith in the forest erected for some reason. When we found the sign it ambiguously pointed to a clearing off the trail. The sign looked like it had been there for a long time. Who knows if it was even still pointing to its intended direction? But we knew we were on the right trail and that the path to Buddha Rock was somewhere to the left.

We went left and couldn’t find a thing. There was no path. Mark thought he saw a monolith and ran down to check it out, but it was just some other huge rock.

I walked around until I found a tree with a pink ribbon. “Hey Mark, I found something!” The pink ribbon led to another pink ribbon and another that led to a rope. I held on to the rope and climbed down the step path.

From Buddha Rock it looks like you are in the middle of thick forest. There is no evidence of any hiking trails or civilization near by. If you stand still and are absolutely quiet, you can hear nothing but the faint forest noises. It’s very creepy.

“Do you think there are any Totoros around, Mark?”

“No. I think they only live in forests in Miyazaki Prefecture.”

It’s that fog that turns people inside-out

Once back on the trail, the tower was only 10 minutes away. We found it and walked past it. The trail picks up on the other side of the tower. We started to walk along the black top road near the tower, when I noticed the bloggers in the photos were not on a paved road. We went back to the tower and walked along its fence to get back on the trail.

We found Kuguriiwa, Passable Stones. Supposedly, even though the gap is very tiny, a full-grown human should be able to fit in the passage. My 5’9″ frame could not. But, the hiking bloggers could.

Then Mark tried his hand at Nariiwa, Sounding Stone. Nariiwa is the stone caught in a gap. It is said that if you can move it and get the stone to make a noise in so doing, you will have happiness. Mark tried with no luck. But, Mark seemed pretty happy just trying.

The top of Kuguriiwa was the highest point on our hike, so we sat down and ate our celebratory apples. Then is started to rain, so we got down and looked for the other trail down the mountain.

This is where it would have helped if I could read Japanese. There is a written explanation on how to find the other trail down Mt. Ozuchi given by the hiking bloggers, but no pictures. There was a sign, but we could not find that particular sign.

Mark was so convinced that the black top road we almost took earlier was the way down, I just followed him. I didn’t think it was right, but he was so sure, I second guessed myself. Besides, walking on black top is so much easier than walking on the obstacle filled path.  That’s when we found the Bear.

On our walk down the mountain we spotted a blue truck. Then we found a man working in a machine moving giant mounds of dirt around. We were going to just walk pass him with a simple, “Kanichiwa!” But, he seemed so surprised to see us.

He stopped us and asked us where we had come from. “Ozuchiyama,” I told him. He still acted like we had just materialized right before his eyes. I pointed down the road we were on and asked, “Takamagahara?” I wanted to know for sure if this road would take us to the shrine near where we parked our car.

He had never heard of it. I showed him my map and then the pictures of the blogging hikers. He kept shaking his head. “Oh well,” I thought. I told Mark that we should just keep heading down the mountain and hope for the best. Surely, this road would lead to our car eventually.

The man would not let us go though. He got out of his dirt-mover and started his blue truck. He called for us to join him inside. We didn’t want to bother him or waste his time. A part of us wanted to tell him, “It’s okay. We’ll figure it out.” But, it was cold and rainy and we were very tired from all that hiking.

He drove us down the mountain partway. Then we stopped and changed vehicles. We drove the rest of the way in a black kei-car. The drive down the mountain was long and arduous. I don’t think Mark and I would have made it off the mountain by nightfall if we had kept walking.

The road dumped us out at some random place in town that I did not recognize. We hit a main road that looked sort of familiar. Then we passed a turn that I thought was the way we took to drive to the shrine, but I was not sure.

The man took us to a lady’s house. She had an i-Pad and looked up this shrine we told the man about. She had never heard of it either. Sure enough, there was a shrine called Takamagahara up in the mountain. “Well, I’ll be!” the man said in Japanese. He spent another 10 minutes looking for a road to get us to our car.

“He is a kind man,” the lady told me. “He is,” I agreed. “Do you know his name?” She asked me.

“No. I don’t know.”

She told me his name and she added “Kumoyama”. She switched to English. “Nickname… Mountain Bear.” She smiled and put her hands up curling her fingers imitating a bear. She laughed, “Nice Bear.”

After driving around some more, we came to a place I recognized. I gave the Mountain Bear directions and he took us to our car. Mark and I were very lucky to find this Bear on the mountain.

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.)

Koriyama Castle Ruins
(吉田郡山城跡)
(Yoshida Kōriyama Jōato)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°40’24.9″N 132°42’34.3″E

Address:

  • 〒731-0501 広島県安芸高田市吉田町吉田郡山

Phone:

  • 0826-42-0070

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00
  • Closed Monday

Notes:

  • There are free guide maps available in the little hut. (Picture to the right.) The information is all in Japanese, but it comes with pictures of stuff to look out for.

Takamagahara
(高天原)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°38’31.6″N 132°46’07.2″E

Address:

  • 〒739-1102, Kodacho Kamiobara, Akitakata, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-1102

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hours

Notes:

  • Gods are said to descend from heaven to this place.

Ozuchiyama
(大土山)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates:
    • Campsite parking 34°38’31.9″N 132°45’41.0″E
    • Parking near the Shrine 34°38’31.6″N 132°46’07.2″E

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24 Hours
  • Can, but shouldn’t hiking here at night.

Notes:

  • I rate this hiking 3 out of 10. I don’t recommend this hiking.

Map:

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

Miyajima

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 30, 2016

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

All Pictures

Mark and I had so much fun hiking up Mt. Sanbe (with the help of a chair lift) that we did it again a few days later. Wouldn’t you know it? There are a few other mountains in Hiroshima prefecture with a ropeway or ski lift ride close to the top. Mt. Misen is one of them.

Mt. Misen is on Miyajima, that island that people think about when they think about Hiroshima. Well, people who aren’t from Hiroshima. When a Hiroshiman thinks about Hiroshima, they think of the Carp. (Did I ever mention how much I hate baseball?)

Mark and I have been to Miyajima once before. We went there on a New Year’s Day when our friend Tom visited us. New Year’s Day is not a day for sightseeing near shrines or temples, especially if one is not Buddhist or Shinto.

We spent the whole day being forced into one line after another. The crowds were so massive and so determined on its path. There was no way to go against the tide once we were sucked in. We just had to follow the crowd until everyone disbursed.

Not much of a crowd because someone scares many of them away.

This day, there was still a crowd, but a manageable one. It was too small to kidnap anyone. You could still flow with the crowd if that’s what you’re into, but there was freedom to move independently.

It looks like it came from Miyajima.

We ate before buying our tickets to the island. “Last time we ate at some restaurant I didn’t like and we paid way too much for our meals,” Mark complained. So we ate at a diner in the building with the souvenir shop.

Once on the island we were scandalized by the exorbitant meal prices. We joked, “Plain soba noodles for 1,600 yen and it only comes with one jumbo prawn! Is that prawn battered in gold?” We did waste our money on some overpriced maple leaf shaped, cheese flavored fish cakes. How could we not? We were on Miyajima. They were delicious, by the way.

As a side note, if you are ever on Miyajima and you don’t want an unreasonably priced meal, move away from the main street. Get away from all the tourists and move more inland. Even going closer to the 5-Story Pagoda, you’ll find 800 yen ramen, which is about how much ramen would cost in most ramen shops.

The first thing we saw was the giant rice paddle. It’s the biggest rice paddle in the world, which is easy to believe. Asia for one, is the only part of the world that uses a special utensil for serving rice. So, you’re not going to find too many rice paddles, big or small in places like Europe or Africa. Second, I’ve been all over Asia and I have never seen a bigger rice paddle. So that proves it.

Should I go for a goofy smile or a nice smile? Damn it!

We walked on over to the 5-Story Pagoda. It was a fine pagoda. We took lots of photos and thought about going inside the temple next to it. Toyokuni Shrine was filled with pious looking Buddhists. Because of me being a camera wielding tourist, I didn’t think I should enter and disturb their worship. Mark and I only looked at the numerous tatami mats and moved on.

We walked up the hill to wait for the free shuttle to the Miyajima Ropeway. As we got there a shuttle was just leaving. There was a 20 minute wait for the next one. Since the walk was only 15 minutes, we walked.

The path led through Momijidani Park and across Red Bridge. It was a beautiful walk. It must be especially scenic during spring and autumn.

When we got to the Momijidani Ropeway Station, Mark moaned about the price for 2 round trip tickets. “Mt. Sanbe only costs $12 for two people. This is almost $40!”

“Well, this is a lot bigger than Sanbe,” I tried to explain. We paid for two tickets since neither of us wanted to do a 2 hour hike.

Once in the ropeway car, we both realized that the ropeway ticket was worth every yen. The ride took about 15 minutes with a short stop in the middle to change gondolas. “There is no way we would have made it up this mountain without this ropeway car,” I said. “Look,” I pointed out the window. “That’s where I would have given up and turned back around.”

From the Shishiiwa Ropeway Station near the top of Mt. Misen we took in a quick look from the Shishiiwa Observation point. “Very nice,” Mark said, “But where’s the magic stuff I was promised?”

I handed Mark the brochures I had collected. It had a list of all the power spots on Mt. Misen and what to do there. All the spots required a hike further up the mountain. “Why can’t Buddhists have magical rocks and stuff at sea level?” I asked Mark. “I think the lack of oxygen up in the mountains is what makes the magic,” he answered. That seemed about right.

We climbed down from the Shishiiwa Observation point and passed the ropeway station again. We found a sign pointing to the second floor of the ropeway station for “Fire of Oath”. “Let’s make an oath!” Mark shouted.

“I don’t know,” I said hesitantly. “I married you and all, but a Fire Oath seems quite serious. I don’t know if I’m ready for that level of commitment.”

There was an unlit lantern sitting on a long column. Across from it was a stand for cameras and smart phones. I put my camera on the stand and set the timer. Then Mark and I stood by the lantern and posed. The photo was taken but something felt off.

“Where’s the flame?” Mark asked looking around.

“What?”

“We are trying to take a fire oath, but where is the fire?” Mark looked around the column and found the buttons. “Oh, here it is,” he said answering his own question. “We both have to press these buttons.” We did and the lantern was lit. We took another photo and made a fir oath, whatever that means…

Some Jizos are just too cool for school.

We hiked up the mountain to find a flame that has been burning for 1,200 years. We found a sign to put us in the right direction and set off. After a few minutes of walking we got to a spot where the real hikers meet the ropeway passengers.

They all looked so tired and sweaty. We over heard a conversation between a mother and daughter. “No. No. You go on. I think I’m done hiking for the day,” the mom said.

“Are you sure, mom?”

“Yes. I’ll just sit here and wait for you to get back. Maybe by then my shirt will be dry.”

“What a shame,” I thought. “The best parts of this mountain are past the spot where the mom gave up. They should have taken the ropeway…”

About 10 minutes after leaving the mom behind we got to Reika-do and its eternal flame that was used to light the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima Peace Park. Supposedly, water boiled with the eternal flame cures all diseases. I looked for someone selling boiled water.

There was an old man selling green tea. There was no indication that the tea was made with magic water. I thought about buying the tea anyway and just saying it was made with magic water. I don’t really believe in the water’s healing properties, I just love a good tale. But, when I walked over to him, I saw that the tea was all sold out.

There was a sign that stated that this was the last opportunity near the summit to buy water. “Does water bought from a vending machine next to the temple of the eternal flame cure anything?” I asked Mark.

“Umm… Thirst?”

At the time, I was suffering from thirst. So I bought a bottle and guess what… Cured!

We went back on the trail to the summit and passed our next magic spot. Sankido is a temple where people worship a type of demon called a Tengu. Well, sometimes he’s called a demon and other times he is referred to as “a long-nosed goblin”. He is said to keep the mountain safe. Some claim that he is the one making noises like that of wooden clappers at night near the summit which frightens overnight hikers. He keeps the mountain safe, not necessarily the humans on the mountain.

At Sankido, the only place in Japan where people openly worship a demon, you can pray to the Mt. Misen demon-goblin. He’ll help you with success in business and happiness in family matters. I don’t know if he does this by making clapping noises.

Next we passed Kannondo and Monjudo where, according to our brochure, people pray for, “safe delivery and success in school”. I don’t know what “safe delivery” means here. I can hardly expect to see a pregnant woman hiking up here to pray for a safe delivery. But I also can’t imagine anyone feeling overly concern about an Amazon.com package and running up Mt. Misen to cover all bases. Either way, Mark and I asked for “safe delivery” so, hopefully we’ll have a year where everything arrives in the mail on-time and in pristine condition.

We stopped for photos at Kanamn Iwa or Ebb & Flow rock. It’s a rock with water in it. The level of this water changes with the tide. We looked at the water wondering if we should touch it. “It doesn’t exactly look clean,” I said adding, “What if this is that demon-goblin’s drinking water. He’ll probably get mad if we stick our hand in it.” We left the water unmolested.

We took a long time getting to the summit from that point. Mark took photo after photo and then took some more photos. “Didn’t you already take a photo of that rock?” I asked snarkily.

“Yes, but not from this angle.” He seemed completely unaware of my impatience. He took a million more photos of that rock then moved on to the adjacent rock.

“This is the sort of thing that would piss off a mountain goblin!” I told Mark.

“What’s that?” He hadn’t heard me. He stopped taking photos and looked up at me.

“Oh, good. You’re done. Let’s go to the top.”

“I got another apple for hiking.” – Mark

At the top was a rest area. There were 3 tiers. The first level had bathrooms. The second level had tatami seating, shade, and a view. This would have been a great place to take a nap, but we were not that tired; a benefit of taking the ropeway up. The top level had pretty much the same view as the second, only slightly higher up and with the full glare of the sun. We sat at the second level until we couldn’t stand the view any more.

From there we headed down, but by a path different from the one we came up. We passed a rock shaped like a boat and another rock that gives scabies to some and cures scabies in others.

We stopped at Mizukake-Jizo to pour water on some Jizo statues. They are supposed to give you children when you do this. Where the statues get these kids to give you, I’m not sure.

We stood in front of the statues not knowing what to do. “Were we supposed to bring our own water?” Mark asked. I looked at my water bottle; it was almost empty.

Then a couple showed up. They looked like they would know what to do so we stepped out of their way. The lady reached to the side and picked up a ladle. Then she scooped up some water from a ditch to the right. She poured water on the Jizo statues and said some words in Japanese. Her partner did the same.

Once they were gone we copied them. Mark took a photo of me pouring water. “Would you like me to take a photo of the two of you?” I was startled to hear English even though Miyajima is overrun with tourists. “Yes, please.” I handed the man my camera. I poured more water on the statue as Mark stood by trying to look helpful.

The man and his accompanying lady friend gave us a few pointers on photo taking before heading down the trail to descend Mt. Misen. “Real hikers, you think?” I ask Mark.

“They seem too dry. Maybe they took the gondola up and will hike down.”

“That sounds easier that hiking both up and down, but still…”

Mark ended my sentence for me, “too much needless walking.”

We had one more rock to see. This one was shaped like a whale. “The first guy that saw a whale when looking at this rock had more imagination that I have,” I told Mark. “To me, it just looks like a rock.”

The last thing on our list to see was Miyama Jinja. It was described as, “a shrine in the sky”. This sounded awesome. I was even willing to let Mark take as many photos as he liked without uttering a single complaint or wise-ass comment. But when we got there, the shrine was under repair.

From there we made our way back up to the eternal fire then down to the ropeway station. As we were climbing down we heard an announcement. We couldn’t make out what was being said until we got a lot closer to the ropeway station.

Apparently, the wind was expected to pick up so they would be closing the ropeway station 20 minutes earlier than usual. This new development did not affect us at all. The new closing time was a good hour away and by that time we would be in our car driving 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.)

Miyajima
(宮島)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°16’49.0″N 132°18’40.6″E

Address:

  • Miyajimacho Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0588

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:


Giant Rice Paddle
(杓子)
(Shakushi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°17’56.6″N 132°19’18.5″E

Address:

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Notes:

  • 7.7 meters long
  • 2.7 meters wide
  • 2.5 tons

5 Story Pagoda
(五重塔)
(Gojunoto)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°17’50.0″N 132°19’14.7″E

Address:

  • 〒739-0588 Hiroshima-ken, Hatsukaichi-shi, Miyajimachō

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Miyajima Ropeway
(宮島ロープウエー)
(Miyajima Rōpu Way)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°17’35.8″N 132°19’36.3″E

Address:

  • 〒739-0588 広島県廿日市市宮島町紅葉谷公園
  • (Send questions to:) Momijidani Park, Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima-ken 739-0522

Phone:

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • ¥1,800 round trip
  • ¥1,000 one way

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00
  • Hours vary from season to season and with the weather.
  • Check the times before buying your ticket.

Notes:

Things to see on Mt. Misen:

  • Fire of Oath
    • This up stairs of the Shishiiwa Station (the ropeway station on Mt. Misen).
    • The start the flame, two people must push the buttons on either sides of the pillar.
  • Eternal Fire
    • This fire has been burning for 1,200 years.
    • Water boiled on this fire is said to cure all diseases.
  • Sankido
    • People worship a demon here.
  • Kaiseniwa
    • If you’re a bad person, this rock will give you scabies. If you’re a good person, this rock will cure your scabies.
  • Mizukake-jizo
    • You will have children if you pray while pouring water on the Jizo statues.

Map:

Posted in Hatsukaichi 市, Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan, Miyajima 町 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Travel List Thursday: Miyajima

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 27, 2016

Download PDF Version

Posted in Hatsukaichi 市, Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan, Miyajima 町 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Ponyo Town

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 16, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mark planned this trip, or at least he tried. Some small towns in Japan, even though they would love to boost international tourism in their town, don’t put much effort into placing their town’s information online.

We actually wanted to visit downtown Fukuyama, but there was no evidence on the internet that there would be sufficient sightseeing to justify driving the two hours to get there. But, in a subsection of Fukuyama there is the town of Tomonoura. There were some inklings that fun could be had in this town, but still there were no decent maps online.

The only way to really put a day trip together was to go there, find their tourist information center, and hope for the best. Onomichi was just a freak town with a great tour guide online; we will probably never come across something like that again.

What we knew before the trip

Tomonoura is the town where Hayao Miyazaki, Mr. Studio Ghibli, stayed for two months back in 2005. From this town he got inspiration for the setting for the film Ponyo. Some buildings, streets, and other areas in town gave Miyazaki ideas for the setting of his film.

“We could do a Ponyo tour!” we thought. But, since we could not find any decent maps of the area that pointed out or explained the town’s tourist spots, we didn’t know for sure how much the town had to offer. We guessed that it would take roughly two hours to see everything in and around the town. Since that’s not enough for a whole day of entertainment, we made reservations for a themed restaurant in Hiroshima for later that night.

We also didn’t leave home until 11:00 am that morning. We got to Tomonoura at 12:30 that afternoon. Parking was easy to find. There is a lot right at the Tomonoura Tourism Center.

Is this the best map they have?

We walked in and started looking through their free maps and guides. “They’re really not into the English here,” I complained as I tried to find an easy-to-read Japanese map. “I found some stuff in French,” Mark replied trying to stay positive.

By the entrance, there was a sign for a “Voice Tour” and English was one of the languages available. “Let’s just get one of the audio tour things. This town clearly hates English maps.”

Mark walked up to the counter and asked for one of the audio tour devices. They looked somewhat like a walkie-talkie, but with an earpiece. The man at the counter lit up.

“Oh yes! You have English map?” He seemed to be doing 10 things at once. He was putting something away and ringing up a customer’s purchase while he was talking to us.

“No, we don’t have an English map,” I responded a little annoyed. I had only been looking for one everywhere online for the last month or so. Then I came here to still find no English maps. “Where the hell did this guy think I would find the illusive ‘English Map of Tomonoura,’” I thought.

“Okay,” he smiled. He finished with the customer and ran into a little back office rifling through several papers. We could hear lots of movement coming from the small office. Then he popped back out. “What kind of tour, you want?”

We stood there frozen by the odd question. We looked at each other, then turned to him. “A Ponyo Tour?”

“Oh, yes. Ponyo Tour,” he said to himself, like this was the usual answer. He ran back into the office and resumed moving papers around. When he came back out again, he held in his hand several papers and a few magazines. I felt like we had just answered a riddle correctly and was about to be rewarded with all the English maps this guy had.

“Ponyo tour, Ponyo tour,” the man kept saying to himself. Very sacredly, like he was handing over his holy maps, he showered us with Ponyo related information as he gave us one paper or magazine at a time. He opened one magazine to the map inside and started drawing lines and circles everywhere.

Information poured out of him like water over Niagara. “This is where Sosuke and Ponyo meet first time”, “This is something something”, “You must see blah blah blah.” He went on and on. He didn’t write any of the information down, just lines and circles. We were to remember what he said. But, it was way too much to take in.

He went through each piece of paper and fired information and recommendations at us. We stood there dazed. It had been months that we were looking for a tourist guide for this town and here, in the span of 5 minutes, we got all of it.

When he was done, he had handed over all the papers. Then he left us to show another customer where something was. We looked at the papers now in our hands not knowing where to go first. I looked through the maps. They were just maps; they don’t have much information. “We should get the audio guide,” I told Mark.

When the man came back he took one of the maps back. He pulled out his marker and added more lines and circles. “Oh, I forget to tell you to see blah blah and important thing with very long Japanese name.” He had finished with the Ponyo attractions and was telling us about temples, shrines, and folklore.

“Can we get one Voice Tour, please?” I interrupted. “Oh, yes!” He gave us the form to fill out and took our payment and deposit. The whole time he talked non-stop about things to do in town. “The blah blah museum is loved by many, many tourists.” We also paid 1,000 Yen for our parking and got a ticket for proof of payment.

We stood there for five extra minutes getting more information from the tourism center guy. “When will he stop? It would have been fantastic if all this coming from him was written and online,” I thought. This man was a wealth of information. But, since we could not remember it all, it was wasted on us. We needed time to write it down, but he spoke too quickly.

We were saved by another tourist asking for information. We headed to our car to sort through the papers alone. Mark also wanted to switch out his earbuds for the earpiece that came with the audio guide. That way we could both listen to it.

It had been raining all day, sometimes very hard. At that moment the rain had stopped and we were discussing whether to take our raincoats, our umbrellas, or both. I guess we took too long.

“Okay, still here?” a voice came from behind me. It was the tourism center guy. He held his marker in his hand and asked for one of the papers back. “It’s happening again,” I wanted to scream.

He actually didn’t want one of the maps back. He wanted us to hand back the parking ticket. “I forget. Parking 500 yen off for Voice Tour,” he smiled. He gave me a 500 yen coin and wrote the rebate on the parking ticket. “Thank you,” I said, feeling bad for being annoyed moments before.

Then he pointed towards the road. “No rain now. You should see blah blah, something something, very long name, and random temple soon. But first go this way for Fukuzenji Temple. It will rain again soon. Hurry!”

Mark and I grabbed our stuff and headed down the road. “Wait Mark, weren’t we going to eat something at the information center’s restaurant?” “No,” Mark led me across the street. “He’s letting us go right now. We should go before he remembers more things to tell us. It’s information overload.”

“Where are we going, Mark?”

“To the only place I can remember. The last thing he told us about, Fuuuu something Temple. It’s this way.” We walked down the street just as a parade was passing by.

I recalled the tourist center guy saying something about a festival. “It’s a funny time,” I think he said. It was a very small parade. Not many people on the street paid them much attention. Traffic was not even stopped for them. Cars slowed down a little to maneuver around them. “What a strange parade,” I said.

Along the sidewalk, Mark typed in the number for our first stop and we both listened to the voice as we walked. The speaker was a lady with a Japanese accent. She spoke very slowly. “This is how I talk during listening tests for my students,” I complained. It was too slow for me. I let Mark listen to the whole thing and asked him for the highlights.

We found “Fuuuu something Temple” with no problem. Throughout the city there are many maps posted on small waist-high pillars. We just followed them to Fukuzenji. We took off our shoes, went in, and paid the entrance fee.

The view was spectacular. “If I could, I would buy this place and turn it into my house. I would love to drink my morning coffee to this view,” I whispered to Mark.

We moved around the temple and looked at the many things on display. There was a man in a blue jacket oohing and aahing over a spying apparatus. He knew the thing was fantastic, but he had no idea how to use it. First he looked at the thing the wrong way. Then he walked around it, talking to the device.

Finally Mr. Blue Jacket found the right spot to look through it. “This is amazing,” he shouted in Japanese. He giggled like a little school boy and called his friends over to join in on his discovery. “Damn it,” I thought. “I was going to be next!”

I waited, not so patiently, for all his friends to look through the mechanism and listened as they waxed poetically, in Japanese, about the little pagoda across the water. They really seemed to like this thing and I badly wanted my turn with it.

Eventually, the friends all cleared out and stood off to the side, no doubt reminiscing about their newly shared experience. I stepped up to the mini-telescope and saw the pagoda on the adjacent island. It looked like it came with an Instagram filter already on it. I called Mark over for him to enjoy it and be inspired to verse.

Mark came over and looked through the lens as I took his photo. “I don’t see anything,” he said, unimpressed.

“How?” I asked him in disbelief. I had just used the thing. I knew it worked just fine. How could he not see the splendor that was the little pagoda? “You mean you don’t see that pagoda right there?” I looked out to point to the pagoda. Then I saw that Mr. Blue Jacket was standing right in front of the viewer, blocking Mark’s enjoyment. We waited for a few minutes hoping he would soon move. But, he was fiddling with his camera and would be occupied for hours. “What an ass,” I huffed.

Maria in disguise

Mark, not knowing the wonder that was the viewer, lost interest and moved to Buddhist statues. Among them was a statue of the Virgin Mary made to look like the mother goddess Bodhisattva Kannon. During the Edo period people would come here to secretly worship in the forbidden religion, Christianity.

Next we visited some random shrine while looking for Enpukuji Temple. This was where Ponyo and Sosuke first met. We never actually got to the temple. We walked out along a stone path in the sea to get photos of the city and found the lighthouse. We headed to the lighthouse next, forgetting all about Enpukuji.

On the way to the lighthouse we passed Sumiyohi Shrine. According to the Voice tour, there are heavy stones placed around this shrine. They were used to tell fortunes long, long ago. The audio guide gave a confusing account of people predicting the stones’ weight before lifting it. The comparison of what the stones weighed and how much they thought the stones would weigh meant something about a person’s future.

We wondered our way through the little town, down old timey Japanese streets until we came to the Old Joyato Lighthouse. Lighthouse, seems too heavy of a word for this thing. When I think of a lighthouse I think of a… well, house; something that a person can enter. This was more like a light… post.

There were people walking around the base of the lighthouse. Among them were an old couple. They each had cameras bigger than their arms. The lady was the first to attempt to climb down from the lighthouse’s base.

She first looked down to gauge where her chair was. It was a brown padded folding chair that was placed right against the wall of the lighthouse’s base and mere inches from the edge of the walkway. She turned around and hung her right foot off the base of the lighthouse trying to find the chair by gently kicking the air. She found the chair by giving it a little nudge closer to the edge.

Seeing that this woman was about to kick her chair off the walkway and into the water 5 feet below, then shortly follow it, Mark ran to her and grabbed her arm. He held on to the chair so it would not move any further. He helped her off the chair and onto solid ground, not noticing her husband right behind her.

He had no idea why Mark felt the need to help his wife. As Mark and the lady were talking, the husband turned around and did the same kicking procedure to find the chair as his wife did. He kicked the chair even closer to the edge as he slammed his foot down on the chair with half his weight. This caused the chair to teeter, a little closer to the edge, then a little further. The man noticed none of this.

He was making a lot of noise and soon caught Mark’s attention. “Oh be careful,” Mark warned. “You’re so close to falling into the water.” But, the man spoke no English and had no sense of the danger he was in. He didn’t even stop for a moment to think what to do about his wobbling chair. He wiggled his right foot to make room for his left foot on the chair. Luckily this wobbled the chair away from the edge. Mark ignored the wife, who was still thanking him, and ran over to the man. By the time Mark got to him, he was safely on the ground.

“Are you okay,” Mark asked in Japanese.

“Yes, of course,” the man snorted like Mark was treating him like a baby. He was an old man, but he didn’t need Mark’s help. Mark pointed to the chair and wobbled it to show the man what the concern was. “I’m okay!” the man muttered and he, his wife, and their cameras with telescopic lenses waddled down the street.

It started to really rain again. Mark and I found a restaurant that was restored with a little help from, none other than, Mr. Hayao Miyazaki. We were so happy to be walking in Miyazaki’s footsteps throughout this town and with the little courtyard in the restaurant that we barely took notice that the food on the menu didn’t look that delicious.

The food was expensive, but we ordered two of the least costly dishes. When we got our food, there was a tea pot on each of our trays. “Where are our tea cups?” I asked Mark.

Mark called over the lady who took our order and tried to ask her about the lost tea cups. But as she came closer she said in Japanese, “Oh, there is no spoon. Just a moment.” She ran to the back and came out with one wooden spoon and placed it on Mark’s tray.

“Thanks, but how?” Mark asked. The woman seemed amused by Mark’s lack of knowledge and simply poured the “tea” into Mark’s rice bowl. Then took the wooden spoon and swirled the contents of the bowl around. Then she mimed picking up chopsticks and putting the raw fish from another bowl into the rice. “How odd,” I thought as the woman left.

Mark tried his newly formed soup. “It tastes like wet rice,” he announced as he poured more “tea” into his rice bowl. “If it tastes like wet rice, why are you adding more ‘tea’,” I asked. Mark tossed in a few other things from his tray into the rice bowl. “I’m not willing to give up on this dish just yet. With the right combination, my wet rice might not be so bad.”

Mark sampled the liquid from his tea pot by itself. It had a slight bouillon flavor. Mark never found the combination to make his wet rice better. I ate mine without the tea. The lady never remembered to give me a wooden spoon and I wasn’t interested in wet rice enough to ask for one. We did not enjoy our meal.

“That way to Whisper Bridge!”

Next we looked for Whisper Bridge.

A long time ago there were some Korean entertainers in town. I think they were acrobats. Everyone in town loved their performances; one young lady in particular. She would go to every show. She had a favorite. He was quite handsome.

It wasn’t long before he noticed her too. They would talk every night after the show. Soon they fell in love. They tried to keep it a secret. Love between a Japanese and a Korean was strictly forbidden. They started to meet under the cover of darkness at night after the shows. But, eventually they were found out.

They were told to stop. They said they would, but they were lying. They tried harder to keep their meetings secret. They failed.

The whole town got together to hold the two stubborn youngsters accountable. Their four hands were tied together. Their four feet were tied together. “You want to be together. Fine! Be together forever,” the town’s people said. The couple, bounded to each other by hands and feet, were thrown off a bridge. They drowned.

That bridge, from which the town’s people with no appreciation for a good love story, so callously tossed a perfectly decent young couple, no longer exists. The bridge fell down a few times and was rebuilt a few times. But eventually, after the town grew and waterways were moved to more convenient spots, everyone decided that the town just didn’t need a bridge.

But by then, this town did appreciate a good love story. This one in particular. They wanted to keep the bridge even if they no longer needed it. So they built a non-needed bridge so small most people wouldn’t even know it was there. It was so tiny, you would have to be looking for it, to see it. This was my favorite part of this whole trip!

We came to a shop decorated with dragons. Tomonoura doesn’t have special food, like Onomichi had their subtly fishy ramen. But they do have special moonshine. It’s a type of herbal sake. Mark has convinced himself that this booze is the liquid Ponyo’s father is playing with at the start of the movie. He claims this is what gives the Japanese Poseidon his power.

Mark bought the smallest bottle the store had for sale. He could not try it there, since he needed to drive home. Japan has a zero tolerance for alcohol and driving.

Next we headed to Sosuke’s house, or rather the house that inspired the look of the house in Ponyo. (Let’s be honest, it looks nothing like the house in the movie.) We headed down a cute stone-paved back street to look for the house.

We found the house, feigned excitement. and tried to remember what the house in the movie looked like. The next day we watched Ponyo again and could not see how the one house inspired the other.

We looked at the time. Mark thought that Hiroshima City was a 1.5 hour drive away. So, we had just enough time for a quick ferry ride to Sensui Island on the most bad-ass looking ferry ever.

This is not the look of enjoyment.

The island itself was meh. Everything there was closed or closing while we walked along the trail. We did make it to the gift shop in time to buy some salty ice cream. Salt is harvested on this island. In fact, the harvesting plant is one of the attractions. So, in the spirit of tourism, salty ice cream is the only flavor sold. (I’m not sure if that is true every day. But on the day Mark and I went, the choice was salty ice cream or no ice cream.)

It was awful. It tasted kind of bad on the first lick and went downhill from there. Mark and I shared one cone between the two of us. I ate until I could no longer stand it. Mark finished it. This is not the town for people who like delicious things.

We went back to the tourist information center to return the Voice Tour. We met our old friend again. He gave us back our deposit and asked us questions about our visit. “Did you see blah blah?”

“Oh yes. It was lovely.”

“How about something something?”

“That was my favorite part!”

We lied. We had no idea what he was talking about. We just felt so bad for not remembering most of the information he gave us. I thought it was better to just lie.

She’s a little girl with a round tummy.

Once of the road, our Garmin told us that we would not make it back to Hiroshima until 21:30. We would be too late for our reservations. So, we’ll do that another 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.)

Tomonoura
(鞆の浦)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°23’08.3″N 133°23’01.4″E

Address:

Tourist Information Center –

  • 416-1 Tomochotomo, Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture 720-0201
  • 広島県福山市鞆町鞆416

Phone:

Tomonoura Tourist Information Center

  • +81 84-982-3200

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

Parking at the Tomonoura Tourist Information Center

  • 1,000 yen / day
  • You get 500 yen off parking if you buy something at the Tomonoura Tourist Information Center.

Audio Guide:

  • 500 Yen Rental
  • 1,000 deposit
  • 500 yen off parking

Hours:

Tomonoura Tourist Information Center

  • 9:00 – 19:00

Notes:

  • Try some homeishu (保命酒). a local sake with herbs.
    • I think it tastes vile, but I hate alcohol.
    • Mark didn’t like the smell, but thought it wasn’t too bad.

Fukuzenji Temple
(対潮楼)
(Taichōrō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°22’59.2″N 133°23’00.0″E

Address:

  • 〒720-0201 広島県福山市鞆町鞆2

Phone:

  • (084)982-2705

Websites:

Cost:

  • 200 Yen

Hours:

  • 8:00 to 17:00 Everyday

Notes:

  • Inside this temple is a statue of the Virgin Mary in the disguise of the Buddhist Bodhisattva Kannon which was used in the Edo Period. Then Christianity was banned and had to practiced in secret.

Joyato Lighthouse
(常夜燈)
(Jōyatō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°22’56.7″N 133°22’50.9″E

Address:

  • Japan, 〒720-0201 Hiroshima-ken, Fukuyama-shi, Tomochōtomo, 広島県福山市鞆町鞆843-1

Phone:

  • +81 84-928-1043

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24 hours

Notes:

  • This a small lighthouse that is out in the open.
  • Apparently you can climb up on the little stand the lighthouse is sitting on.

Whisper Bridge
(ささやキー橋)
(Sasayaki-bashi)

How to get there:

Coordinates 34°23’07.5″N 133°22’48.2″E

Address:

  • 119 Tomochōushiroji
    Fukuyama-shi, Hiroshima-ken 720-02

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24 hours

Notes:

  • This is a very tiny bridge that is easy to not notice.
  • It’s really more of a speed bump than a bridge.
  • It’s part of a Japanese Romeo & Juliet. Here a Korean entertainer is the Romeo and a Japanese Tomonouran is the Juliet. The couple were tied together and pushed off a bridge.
    • They weren’t pushed off this bridge. This is a smaller replica. The original bridge fell down and is no longer needed.
    • The replica was made to keep the story going.

The Ponyo House 

How to get there:

Coordinates 34°23’00.1″N 133°22’38.7″E

Address:

  • 1413 Tomochōushiroji, Fukuyama-shi, Hiroshima-ken 720-0202

Websites:

Cost:

  • free to look at
  • I’m not sure if you can go in. It might be someone’s actual house.

Hours:

  • 24 hours

Notes:

  • It doesn’t look like Sosuke’s house. It is just an inspiration.
  • You can find it by walking towards Iouji Temple. It’s half way up the hill. (It’s not too strenuous a walk.)

Map:


Vlcsnap-48688Goddess of Mercy of Abuto/ Bandaiji Temple
(阿伏兎観音)
(Abutokan’non)

How to get there:

Coordinates 34°21’57.9″N 133°20’46.0″E

Address:

  • 1427 Numakuma-cho Notohara Abuto Fukuyama City , Zip code 720-0312
  • 〒720-0312 広島県福山市沼隈町大字能登原1427−1

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • 100 Yen

Hours:

  • 7:00 a.m.-17:00 p.m.

Notes:

  • The Goddess of Mercy of Abuto happens to be Ponyo’s mother.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.54.02Enfukuji Temple

How to get there:

Coordinates 34°22’54.4″N 133°23’00.5″E

Address:

  • Tomochotomo, Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture 720-0201, Japan

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24 Hours

Notes:

  • Near this temple is the spot that inspired the meeting place for Sosuke and Ponyo.

 

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Travel List Thursday: Tomonoura

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 13, 2016

Download PDF Version

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

Onomichi Walking Tour

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 9, 2016

Saturday, September 10th, 2016 

All Pictures

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

I planned this trip. I was lucky enough to find the most wonderful tourist guide online in pdf form. It highlighted things to see in Onomichi. It was written by a person who understood what would draw non-Buddhist, non-Shintoist tourists to temples and shrines.

When you read about shrines and temples in most tourism brochures, they explain that such and such temple is famous because Monk XYZ lived there hundreds of years ago. They will talk about this or that god that is enshrined in whatever shrine. Honestly, I don’t care.

It’s nice, but can it give me super powers?

This Onomichi tourist guide talked about what you can do or get at the shrines and temples in town. “Rotate the huge stone and make a wish. Your dreams will come true.” “Pat the boar statue on the nose for happiness.” “Wash your hands at the temple’s turtle faucet and ask for a long life.” Now the temples and shrines are interactive. There is something for me to do.

I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in wish granting deities. But, I love a good tourist trap. I love hokey and kitschy tourist sights. I’m the type of traveler who will go to Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone, stick a prayer in the Wailing Wall, or do whatever silly things tourists go to a place to do.

Shrines are boring! Temples are boring! But if there is a wish granting stone cow at some shrine, I’ll respectfully throw some coins in the coin box, clap and bow, and rub that stone cow’s nose. Because I find that sort of thing entertaining.

She’s been using my phone for hours.

First we saw the statue of Fukimo Hayashi. She’s a writer who used to live in Onomichi. She wrote for a TV show that was set in this town. I had never heard of her before and will rarely think of her from now on, but it was a famous statue that was easy to get to. So Mark and I posed in a few photos with it.

Next we walked down the shopping arcade looking for stone cats. There are 888 cats throughout the town of Onomichi. I think Mark and I found about 10 of them. Most of the stone cats were up in the hills where the majority of the temples and shrines were.

I read online that there was an Australian meat pie shop in the shopping district of Onomichi called The Flying Pieman. We walked up and down the street where google maps said it was, but found nothing. Mark popped into a shop nearby and asked about The Flying Pieman. “Oh, unfortunately there was a fire a few months ago.” “No meat pies for us then?”

We had breakfast at some random café instead. I had bacon and cheese pancakes and Mark had apple pancakes. It was a quaint shop that played hula music one minute and merengue the next.

Next we visited our first temple of the day, Kaifukuji Temple. There were three Robin Hood type thieves living in Onomichi during the Edo period. They would steal money from rich people and give it to the poor. Eventually they were caught and beheaded. Their heads were enshrined in Kaifukuji Temple. I don’t know what happened to the heads, but legend has it that above the neck illnesses can be cured at Kaifukuji.

For what it’s worth, since my visit to this temple, I’ve had zero brain tumors, tooth aches, or eye infections. Of course, I’ve never had any of those things, but now I can continue being free from any of those ailments.

Next we went to Kumano Shrine. There was not much information about this tiny shrine other than it is famous because a god lives there. We searched and searched for the shrine and could not find it. Well, actually we did find it, many times. We just didn’t know that we did. The picture of Kumano Shrine in the brochure is in fact not Kumano Shrine or maybe it’s from some angle we didn’t see. I held up my paper with the photo of the shrine and compared it to what I would later find out was Kumano Shrine. “That’s not it.” We had stood in a place where a god lived and didn’t notice.

Then we went to Soraiken Garden. This garden was so small, it only had one person working there. When we got there that person was not in the ticket booth. Mark was going to leave the entrance fee on the counter of the ticket booth but thought better of it. “I’ll just give the money to someone inside. There has to be someone working here.”

We walked around the small, but beautiful garden taking pictures. Then we found a caretaker. Mark handed her 200 yen. She took the money, smiled, and went to the ticket booth. She came back with our tickets and brochures just in time to wave goodbye to us as we left.

Jodoji Temple was next on our tour. There we had to find the huge round rock and rotate it for our wish to be granted. Mark tried it first. He placed his coins in the coin box, clapped and bowed to wake up the god, then wrapped his arms about the big rock. He grunted as he moved the big rock once around. Then he clapped again and bowed.

Then it was my turn. I tried to do the exact same thing, but the rock refused to move. I pushed and twisted the thing, but there was no movement. Then I asked Mark to move it for me, so I could get my wish.

None of these guys knew where the dirt mound was.

Right across the street was Kairyuji Temple. There we could improve our skills. The brochure didn’t exactly say what skills would be improved, but I think it was puppetry performance skills. I don’t ever do puppet shows, but I was game. All I had to do was touch a mound of dirt that contained the ancient books of Buddhism.

Mark and I search the whole temple grounds for this mound of dirt. Mark even walked to the very top of the mountain that the temple sits on. We never found it. Our puppetry skills are still terrible because of it.

I wanted to visit the Museum of the University of Onomichi City. But even though it’s only supposed to be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, there was no one there. It was unlocked when I walked in. I could hear people walking around inside. I took off my shoes and went into one of the rooms. There were paintings wrapped up, on the floor, and leaning on the walls. “Maybe they’re still setting up,” I thought to myself. I quietly backed out of the room, quickly put my shoes back on, and left. No one knew that I was ever there.

Look how happy Mark seems already.

Mark and I walked along the street closest to the water to look for the boar statue. Patting his nose brings happiness. We had no trouble finding him and got the deed done.

This is a tourist spot, for some reason.

Then we went to take a photo with the Crane and Phone Booth. Onomichi is a shipping town. They have a lot of cranes in their many ports. So I guess they made this special phone booth to commemorate this.

No more head pain for Mark.

Then we went to Tenneiji Temple. It’s hard finding temples in Onomichi. There are just so many temples and so few signs in English. There are maps placed throughout the city, but sometimes that means 5 minutes of step climbing only to find out that the temple you want is several sets of steps below you. It’s quite a work out!

At Tenneiji we found a wooden monk who would stop our pains. If you have a headache, rub his head. If your big toe on your right foot hurts, rub his big toe on his right foot. If your left big toe hurts, then you’re out of luck. His left foot is tucked under him, so essentially he doesn’t have a left foot.

Mark and I rubbed this little guy all over, after tossing coins in the coin box and bowing and clapping. We didn’t have any current pain, but we were hoping that it would work on future pains.

Next we went to Ushitora Shrine. There we cleansed ourselves at the turtle faucet and asked for long lives. Mark asked me as we were walking away from Ushitora, “Does this mean that now we will have long lives free of pain?” “Yes,” I replied. “That’s exactly what that means.”

We walked to Senkoji Ropeway. I wouldn’t recommend taking the ropeway if you’re claustrophobic. Even though the timetable clearly says that the gondola leaves at quarter after, half past, quarter to, and on the hour, it really only leaves once the gondola is jam-packed with people. Don’t get any ideas about taking photos from the gondola either. Even if you’re lucky enough to be by a window, you will not have the space to take any photos other than by sticking your hand out the window. That’s risky; don’t do it!

We wanted to ride the ropeway because it was there to be ridden. We had a 3 minute wait until the top of the hour when the thing was supposed to leave. That time came and went. We just stood there as more people were ushered into the gondola. Just when we thought that they couldn’t possibly put more people on, they put 2 more people on and let us go.

The ride to the top took at good 3 minutes. It took longer to get out the gondola once we reached the top than the ride itself. Since Mark and I were the first people on, we were the last people off. The whole thing would have been faster if we had walked.

Ice cream and corn flakes with a view

Once off the overcrowded gondola, we saw the view of Onomichi from the observatory. Then we went to the little restaurant in the observatory and had ice cream with corn flakes on the bottom. “Well,” I said as I dug into my cup, “most cereals are essentially dessert.”

We walked about Senkoji Park. We looked at “Romantic Place” and “Lover’s Sanctuary” before making our way down to Senkoji Temple byway of the “Literature Path”.

We tried to see the cuddling rocks, which would have given Mark and me a happy marriage. But, we had come too late. I’m not sure why, but the gate at the path to the rocks gets locked at 17:00. Maybe it’s to give the rocks private cuddling time.

At Senkoji Temple we pulled on the big rosary for one full rotation. Since we were a couple, Mark pulled it half the way and I pulled the rest. It turns all our desires into loud noises so that we could be happy. I think that after doing this we would no longer have any desires.

But we still needed at least one more desire. At the next temple, we would get a wish granted for patting a stone cow. We walked down the mountain Senkoji was on and then up a long set of steps to get to Misode Tenmangu Shrine.

There is a Japanese movie with a Freaky Friday theme. The two protagonists walk down these very same steps as they leave Misode Tenmangu. They both trip and tumble to the bottom. When they get up, they realize that they have switched bodies.

We climb to the top of yet another never-ending set of steps. Once again we dropped some coins, clapped, and bowed before patting the cow for a wish. I should have wished for an elevator, but I didn’t think of it then.

It’s 5:58pm.

After our tour we went back to the shopping arcade. Almost every shop was closed or closing. We were feeling down. We really wanted to try the famous Onomichi ramen. According to one article I read, “It’s just like regular ramen, but with a very subtle fishy taste.”

We found a Chinese restaurant. It was the only thing in the arcade that was open. We went in and ordered the Onomichi ramen set. It was really good. I highly recommend it. Would I have noticed that this ramen was different from other ramen around Japan? No. The fishy taste was too subtle.

A stamp and a stone cat

One thing I recommend to get before visiting Onomichi; a small sketch book. Each temple and shine had its own stamp. You can collect them if you have a book in which to stamp. A sketch book is great because it has thick pages so the ink won’t bleed through.

Onomichi: Where tourists go to wish

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.)

Onomichi
(尾道)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’32.8″N 133°12’17.7″E

Address:

Onomichi-City Office:

  • 15-1, Kubo 1-chome, Onomichi-shi, 722-8501

Phone:

  • 0848-25-7111

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Look out for the many stone cats in the city. There are 888 in total.

Map:


Shimanami Bicycle Rental
(しまなみ海道レンタサイクル)
(Shimanamikaidō rentasaikuru)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’09.5″N 133°11’28.8″E

Address:

  • Japan, 〒722-0037 広島県尾道市西御所町5-11
  • Japan, 〒722-0037 Hiroshima-ken, Onomichi-shi, Nishigoshochō, 5

Phone:

Websites:

Downloads:

e-mail: (to send the rental request forms)

  • koho@city.onomichi.hiroshima.jp

Cost:

There is a 1,000 yen deposit for all bikes.

  • Electric Bikes – 4 hours for 800 yen
  • Tandem bicycle  – 500 yen per day
  • Regular adult bike – 500 yen per day
  • Regular kid’s bike – 300 yen per day

Hours:

  • 7:00 to 18:00

Notes:

  • Don’t rent a bike if you’re spending the day in Onomichi. The bikes are best used to visit the other islands.

Kaifukuji
(海福寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’26.1″N 133°11’51.9″E

Address:

  • 14-1 Nishitsuchidōchō, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima-ken 722-0032, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 848-23-2914

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Open 24 Hours

Notes:

  • The is where you can be cured of any illness and affects anything above the head.

from tabisanpo.tea-nifty.com

Kumano Shrine
(熊野神社)
(Kumano Jinsha)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’41.2″N 133°12’14.1″E

Address:

  • 1 Chome-3-33 Kubo, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 722-0045, Japan

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Notes:

  • This place is really hard to find. So hard, in fact, that Mark and I didn’t realize we found it.

Soraiken Garden
(爽籟軒庭園)
(Sōraiken Teien)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’43.2″N 133°12’24.2″E

Address:

  • 2 Chome-6-6 Kubo, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 722-0045

Phone:

  • 0848-37-1234

Websites:

Cost:

  • 100 yen

Hours:

  • Open only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays
  • [April to October]  10:00 to 17:00
  • [November to March] 10:00 to 16:00

Notes:

  • This is a small garden.

Jodoji
(浄土寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’43.0″N 133°12’36.5″E

Address:

  • 20-28 Higashikubocho, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 722-0043

Phone:

  • +81 848-37-2361

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Notes:

  • Rotated the round stone and your wish will come true.

Kairyuiji
(海龍寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’43.6″N 133°12’42.7″E

Address:

  • 22-8 Higashikubochō, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima-ken 722-0043, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 848-37-6251

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Notes:

  • Touch the mound of dirt that contains the ancient books of Buddhism and you performance skills will improve.
  • Good luck finding that mound of dirt!

Museum of Onomichi City University
(尾道市立大学美術館)
(Onomichi-shi Ritsudaigaku Bijutsukan)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’41.5″N 133°12’32.6″E

Address:

  • 3-4-11 Kubo, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 722-0045, Japan
  • 広島県尾道市久保三丁目4-11

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Holidays
  • 10:00 – 18:00

Tenneiji
(天寧寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’35.1″N 133°12’02.5″E

Address:

  • 17-29 Higashitsuchidōchō, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima-ken 722-0033, Japan
  • 広島県尾道市東土堂町17-29

Phone:

  • +81 848-22-2078

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • open 24 hours

Notes:

  • Rubbing part of the body of the Binzuru statue will stop pain in the corresponding part of your body.
  • Tenneiji Temple is famous for its three-storied pagoda, Kaiunto.
    • Take the path next to the temple and go up the stairs.

Ushitora Shrine
(艮神社)
(Ushitora Jinja)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’38.6″N 133°12’02.4″E

Address:

  • 1 Chome-3-5 Nagae, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima-ken 722-0046, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 848-37-3320

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • The turtle faucet is always available.

Notes:

  • Wish for a long life here at the turtle shape faucet.
  • Ushitora Shrine is the oldest shrine in Onomichi-shi.

Senkoji Ropeway
(千光寺山ロープウェイ)
(Senkōjiyama Rōpuwei)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’38.4″N 133°12’05.4″E

Address:

  • 〒722-0046 広島県尾道市長江1丁目3-3

Phone:

  • +81 848-22-4900

Websites:

Cost:

  • (one way) adult 320 yen, 160 yen Children
  • (roundtrip) adult 500 yen, 250 yen Children

Hours:

Notes:

  • Don’t wait in a long line for this.
  • You will only be able to take photos from the gondola if you manage to get yourself near a window. They tend to pack lots of people inside.

Senkoji Park
(千光寺公園)

(Senkōji Kōen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’40.3″N 133°11’50.5″E

Address:

  • Japan, 〒722-0032 Hiroshima Prefecture, Onomichi, 西土堂町19−1

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Around 17:00 part of the park closes.

Notes:

  • You can take the Senkoji Ropeway to the top or walk.

Senkoji 
(千光寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’37.7″N 133°11’55.4″E

Address:

  • 15-1 Higashitsuchidocho, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 722-0033, Japan

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Part of the temple closes at 17:00. Like:
    • The huge rosary
    • The coddling rocks.

Notes:

  • Look for Senkoji Kannon Do Hall. If you rotate the big rosary there, your worldly desire will be transformed into a loud noise and then you can be happy.
  • Look for MeotoIwa, the cuddling rocks, for a happy marriage.

Misode Tenman-gu Shrine
(御袖天満宮)
(Misodetenmangū)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’48.2″N 133°12’07.8″E

Address:

  • 1 Chome-11-16 Nagae, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 722-0046, Japan

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Notes:

  • Pat the stone cow and your dreams will come true.

Map:

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

Travel List Thursday: Onomichi

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 6, 2016

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

Hiroshima Appreciation Day

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 2, 2016

Saturday September 3, 2016

All Pictures

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

We have been living in Hiroshima prefecture for two and a half years now. Mark and I visited Hiroshima a few times when we still lived in Kyushu. But, other than the A-bomb Museum and Peace Park, we haven’t seen any of the other tourist attractions in Hiroshima City.This particular Saturday, I had an appointment in Hiroshima. Since we were there, I thought, “Why not see some stuff?”

After my appointment, we drove to Costco for free parking. Parking at Costco is free as long as there are no baseball games at the nearby Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. (That is its real name in English.) When there is a game, Costco customers get 3 hours of free parking after scanning their receipt when paying for their parking. Baseball fans have to buy a parking pass to park at Costco or pay the ridiculous cost of $20 per 15-minutes of parking.

There was no baseball game that day, so we parked our car at Costco. Even though you’re not supposed to do that, Mark and I buy a lot of stuff from Costco. We buy all our electronics there, most of our fruit and meat, and almost all our cleaning products. They also have plenty of extra parking on non-baseball game days. So, I don’t feel too bad using Costco for free parking.

Right outside the Costco there are several red electric bikes. They are parked next to a sign advertising them for rent. “Why don’t we take one of these bikes?” Mark suggested. We looked at the instructions that were on the sign. To rent a bike, we needed a transportation card that we did not have.

One of the many Tourist Information Centers around Hiroshima Station

“Let’s go to Hiroshima Station and ask someone at an information desk there about this,” I said. We walked 20 minutes to Hiroshima Station and was directed to a Peacycle office nearby. We filled out some papers and paid 1,000 yen each. We both got a fully charged red electric bike and a map of the city.

Mark and his bird

Mark was in a cultured mood that day, so he took off for the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art. But first we stopped at a 7-Eleven to get a couple bottles of water for our day of biking. We parked next to some other bicycles, turned our bikes off, and locked the back wheels. We were told specifically to be careful where we parked the Peaceles. “Be careful of ‘No Bike Parking’ signs,” the Peacecle lady told us. “If other bikes are parked there, then maybe it’s okay. But try to find Peacele Parking.” Since there were three other bikes parked at the 7-Eleven and it was a quick stop, I wasn’t worried.

With our cold water bottles in our baskets, we headed up the steep hill to the art museum. It was very difficult. I got off my bike and pushed it up the hill. “So much for this electricity assisted bike!” Mark, on the other hand zipped up the hill and I could barely see him anymore.

Halfway up the hill, I looked at the handle of my bike to see how much power the battery had left. It was at 100 the last time I checked. The red-lit numbers weren’t there. “Wait a minute, this thing is not even turned on,” I exclaimed with relief. I turn the power one and set it to max.

I got back on the bike and peddled. There was a strong tug up the hill. “That’s why Mark was going so fast. He remembered to turn his bike back on after the 7-Eleven.” The ride up the hill was a lot easier. I still had to put some effort into paddling. But, it felt more like biking up a much less steep hill.

One of many Peacecle spots

Outside the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art we found the Peacecle parking our map promised us. I was afraid that I would not be able to distinguish my bike from the other red Peacecles, so I left my water bottle in the basket.

In the museum we bought tickets and tried to appreciate some art. Honestly, I think most of the art there was boring. There were a few things I liked; like a painting done with only thumb prints and one display of post cards. But, I personally, don’t have a deep love for art.

I have no idea what any of this means.

I like living near art museums. I like that there are people around me who love art. But for me personally, I just don’t get art in general and I find most of it to be boring.

On my first day back to work at one of my many, many schools, a coworker asked me about my summer vacation. I told her about my camping trips and asked about her holidays. She beamed with excitement, so much so that she forgot all her English.

She mumbled something about a tower as she ran back to her desk. I sat at my desk wondering what was going on while she searched her bag. Then she pulled out a brochure and handed it to me.

It said, “Hiroshima Orizuru Tower”. It was a new building near the A-bomb dome. Though, it calls itself a tower, it is only 13 floors tall. But, it offers a 360 degree view of Peace Park and downtown Hiroshima.

The A-bomb dome on the left and the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower on the right

In the “tower” there is a floor where you can use a touchless computer to make an origami crane. By waving your hands in the air in front of the screen, you can fold an origami paper somehow. There is also a gift shop on the first floor. I found a website that boasts that any Hiroshima related souvenir can be found there.

The Hiroshima Orizuru Tower had opened in July, but its grand opening wouldn’t be until September 23rd. I wanted to see this new building before its grand opening, but there was a huge problem.

The admittance fee was 1,700 yen. That’s roughly $17 US. In Japan I find that often vendors have an overly inflated view of the value of their product. This was such an example. Mark and I didn’t want to pay $17 to go to the top of an eight-story building to look at the same downtown Hiroshima that we’ve seen hundreds of times before. The gift shop sounded interesting, though.

We bike to the new building and was greeted by many “No Bicycle Parking” signs. We circled the building and found an underground bike parking lot, but it cost a flat rate of 500 yen per day. It cost 1,000 yen to rent a bike; we didn’t want a 50% parking fee. “What did the Peacele lady say about free parking?” I asked Mark.

Mark pulled out the Peacecle map. “She said that there were many Peacecle spots where we could park for free,” Mark muttered as he tried to figure out our current location on the map. Sure enough, there was a Peacecle spot across the street from the overpriced “tower”.

We parked our bikes and as newly formed pedestrians, we crossed the road back to the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower byway of the underground shopping mall. We walked through the restaurant area of the underground mall then up to the sidewalk in front of the new building.

The Hiroshima Orizuru Tower did look shiny and brand new. At the entrance stood four uniformed women handing out flyers for the “tower”. They were dressed like flight attendants. Mark and I each got a flyer and we walked in.

Inside, we were greeted by ten more attendants. Some of them were about to hand us each a flyer, but stopped when they saw that some other attendants had already gotten to us. “Why are they advertising this building to people who are already in the building?” I asked Mark. “Doesn’t it sound impressive to say, ‘One hundred percent of the people I gave a flyer too entered the building,’?”

“I have to admit, that’s some good statistics!” I said. “But, maybe a ticket for this ‘tower’ wouldn’t cost so much if they didn’t hire so many people to do such pointless jobs.” I looked around, not only where there about 10 attendants there, but there was also about 8 clerks too. There were all standing around waiting for someone to sell a ticket to. While we were there maybe 2 or 3 people bought tickets. There were other attendants waiting by the elevator and some by the roped off area. There were more attendants than tourists by far.

We walked into the gift shop wondering what Hiroshimic surprises awaited us. I picked up the first thing that caught my eye. It was a very small, very cute jar of strawberry jam. “This is adorable!” “It has a not-so-adorable price tag,” Mark griped. I looked at the price label; 1,200 yen. “Twelve bucks for what is essentially 4 servings of jam!?” I gasped. I carefully returned the tiny jar to its spot on the shelf.

I looked around the store. It was part gift shop part overpriced grocery store. You could buy things like silver pens that don’t say Hiroshima to highly overpriced jars of miso soup paste that also don’t say Hiroshima on them. There were expensive boxes of omiyage and Carp paraphernalia that did say Hiroshima, but most of the stuff in the shop could be bought at a grocery store for a lot less.

We walked out of the “tower” feeling poor. I looked at Mark and asked, “Who buys anything from in here?” “I don’t know. But if I had a friend who told me they went to Hiroshima then handed me a jar of miso soup paste, I’d think my friend was a weirdo.”

My very Japanese lunch (Hiroshima Orizuru Tower flyer for scale)

We went back down to the underground mall to look for a restaurant. We chose one that seemed very Japanese. I know, we’re in the middle of Japan. Even the Italian restaurants seem very Japanese.

Once filled up with tempura, sashimi, miso soup, and other Japanese side dishes, we got back on our bikes and headed to Hiroshima Castle. Just about every city and town in Japan has a castle. They all pretty much look alike.

Hiroshima is A-okay!

When you live in Hiroshima prefecture, everyone asks you the same two questions, “Have you been to a Carp game?” and “Have you see Hiroshima Castle?” When I say, “No,” to both, I get gasps. If they were southern bells they would swoon right in front of me. It’s just un-Hiroshimic to have, not only, never been to a Carp game, but also to have never visited Hiroshima Castle. I might as well say, “I don’t drink water and I think sleep is completely overrated.” That would make more sense to a Hiroshiman than someone who just did not like the Carp and didn’t care that much about Hiroshima Castle.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been drinking Hiroshima water for years, but honestly, Hiroshima Castle was the best castle I’ve ever seen in Japan. There are lots to do and see there. You have Hiroshima Castle itself, whose tickets are appropriately priced. There are the castle grounds; they’re huge. Then there is a shrine.

In front of the shrine is a little souvenir shop that sells specialty ice cream. I wanted to try the raw chocolate flavor and Mark wanted the sake soft serve. There was a long line for the ice cream, so Mark and I went to see what was going on at the shrine first.

There were two cars parked on what looked like freshly raked pebbles. Whenever I see cars where I really don’t expect a car to be I like to exclaim, “I could have just parked here!” But these cars were not illegally parked. I saw a Buddhist priest waving something on and around the cars. The cars were immaculately cleaned. They were either brand new or had been detailed. Their owners had brought them to the temple to be blessed.

After witnessing the cars being blessed, Mark and I saw that the ice cream line was gone. We bought our ice cream and sat on a bench on the grounds. We enjoyed our ice cream cones in front of what was the military headquarters a litter over half a century ago. That building, which is only a few rocks here and there now, is partly what made the American’s want to drop an atomic bomb on it during WWII.

Then we went to the castle. Pictures are not allowed inside. The only exception are the costume area and the lookout at the very top. At the lookout area we could see the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower. It didn’t look all that impressive.

Our tour of Hiroshima was over. We cycled back to Costco and returned the bikes. Then we went inside Costco and bought a barrel of body wash, a crate of mangoes, and half a year’s supply of toilet paper.

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.)

Hiroshima City Rental Cycle Peacecle
(広島市観光レンタサイクルぴーすくる)
(Hiroshima-shi Kankō Rentasaikuru pi ̄ su kuru)

How to get there:

  • There are many bike stations throughout Hiroshima City.

Phone:

  • 0120-116-819

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

Once you’ve rented a Peacecle, don’t pay to park it. In Hiroshima city parking, even for bikes, is usually not free. But there are many Peacecle spots throughout the city. When you pick up your bike, take a Peacecle map with you so you know where you can park the Peacecle for free.

Hours:

  • All bike must be returned by midnight.

Notes:

  • You might have to register at 1-day pass counter the first time you rent a bike.
  • These bikes are electric bikes.

Hiroshima MOCA
(広島市現代美術館)
(Hiroshima-shi Gendai Bijutsukan)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°22’57.1″N 132°28’20.1″E

Address:

  • 1-1 Hijiyamakoen, Minami Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 732-0815

Phone:

  • +81-82-264-1121

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

  • Adults: 370 (280) yen
  • College Students: 270 (210) yen
  • High School Students: 170 (130) yen
  • 65 and over: 170 (130) yen

Hours:

  • 10:00-17:00 (last admission 16:30)
  • Closed Mondays, year-end and New Year holidays

 

Notes:


Hiroshima Castle
(広島城)
(Hiroshima-jō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°24’05.4″N 132°27’34.7″E

Address:

  • 21-1 Motomachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 730-0011

Phone:

  • 082-221-7512

Websites:

 

Cost:

  • Free entry except to Castle Tower.
  • Admission fee to Castle Tower:
    • Adults 370 yen,
    • Senior citizens (aged 65 years and over)
    • High school student 180 yen

Hours:

  • Mar – Nov 9:00-18:00 Admission ends at 17:30
  • Dec – Feb 9:00 – 17:00 Admission ends at 16:30

Map:

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Hiroshima 市, Honshū, Japan | 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 »

 
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