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Archive for the ‘Shōbara 市’ Category

Illumination

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 31, 2016

Thursday, December 24 – Friday, December 25, 2015

All Pictures

Forest of Lights

No Big Trips this Winter

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

Look at this awesomeness

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

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

Mark is a light bender.

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

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

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

The saddest Christmas tree in the whole world.

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

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

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

What can we order to make that waitress like us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me as the waitress – Whadda ya want!?

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

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

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

Me as the waitress – Good choice.

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

Me as the waitress – already did…

Entertaining!

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

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

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

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

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

All Pictures


Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

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

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

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

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

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

How to get there:

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

Address:

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

Phone:

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

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

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

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

Hours:

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

Notes:

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

Map:

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

The Shobara Cave

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 23, 2015

Saturday, November 15, 2014

All Pictures

Ready to go in a cave

The Cave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese Sphinx?

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

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

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

It’s madness!

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

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

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

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

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

Taishaku Gorge
(帝釈峡)
(Taishakukyō)

How to get there:

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

Address:

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

Phone:

  • +81-(0)8477-2-0525

Websites:

Cost:

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

Hours:

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

Notes:

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

Map:

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

Tricked by a Sign

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 9, 2015

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All Pictures

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

Now you tell us!

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

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

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

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

This is not a one-way road.

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

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

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

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

This is going to be amazing, right?

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

This was not amazing.

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

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

What is with this city and their ambiguous signs?

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

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

This is a good sign

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

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

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

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

Finally!

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

815 meters of steps

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

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

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

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

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

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

How to get there:

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

Address:

〒727-0623 庄原市 本村町

Phone:

  • 0824-75-0173

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

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

Notes:

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

Map:

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

Everything is Up Hill

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 14, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

All Pictures

A suspension bridge

Of Mice and Men

The plan for this weekend was to have a fantastic Fourth of July camping event with people we’ve never met before. We were going to set up our tent on a beach several towns over and enjoy our Americaness. We would met campers and outdoor people. It would have been great. But it rained.

Or at least everyone thought it would have. The rain started on Thursday and the weather forecast for the rest of the week was bleak. On Friday the sky threaten to rain, but it never did. Okay, there was a good solid half hour of light drizzle, but it was not the stuff to stop a BBQ.

The camping plans were cancelled, but Mark and I decided to do something anyway. We looked online for things to do in our new prefecture. Every site told us to go to Hiroshima city.

We’ve already been to Hiroshima city. But, as far as the internet was concerned, the attractions there outshine everything else in the prefecture. Then I found Tripadvisor.com. It recommended going to something called the “Government Operated Bihoku Kyuryu Park”. I looked for information about it online and only found where it was. There was no other information. So we hopped in the car, punched in the coordinates, and drove there.

The Garmin could not see the park. It would give us directions past the park, then tell us to turn around. To the Garmin, the park was just a roadless void and it didn’t know what to do. We stopped for directions at a 7/Eleven and a lady put us on the right path.

Then I saw a sign for the park. It called the park “Bihoku Hillside Park”. It was a far sexier name for a park than  “Government Operated Bihoku Kyuryu Park”! That would also explain why I could not find any information online.

Mark’s new one-walled home

Yen Yen Yen

After paying the many entrance fees we drove for a while before we got to Parking Lot 1, the only lot opened at the time. This was a huge park and we were hoping it would be worth every yen we paid.

We walked into the main area and were taken aback by the vastness of the park and the almost complete lack of people. Two things that Japan is not known for are big areas and low population density. We looked around for things to do. Everything cost money.

Salad sandwiches!

We brought our own lunch so there was at least one thing we could do for free. The park had many picnic areas. We found a nice gazebo up a small hill and next to a waterfall. It was private and quiet. I loved it.

Mark not looking where he is biking

My legs fell all floppy

After lunch we went back down to the main area. There were 4 options for transportation around the park. One could walk, take the “train”, rent a bike, or use the free Carry-All. Walking is for chumps and the “train” is for suckers. We rented some bikes.

Shortly after getting on the bikes we realized that everything in this park is uphill from bike rental. I peddled in third gear, then second gear, then first gear. Then I got off the bike and walked. I had to lean on the bike to stay upright.

No peddling! Yeah!

When we reached something of interest we would get off the bikes (or just put down the bikes). There was gardens, groves, obstacles courses, bug houses, lakes, rest houses, cafes, and many more things. Many of the stuff were for kids, but there were still lots of things for nature lovers.

Hillside Slide

July: The Month of Bugs

Returning the bikes was the fun part. Once we reached the end of the park, it was a quick downhill ride back to the bike course starting point. After we put the bikes back we found a calendar which had the events that can be experienced each month.

“OOoooo May has a beautiful tulip gardens!”

“Look at the sunflowers in August!”

“We can make mochi in January.”

“There’s a light show in December! We must come back!”

“What’s July’s speciality?”

A lady in uniform past by us and heard the question. “Mushi desu!” she said with a smile.

“Bugs!?”

The Carry-All

…and no, it did not rain at all on Saturday.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

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

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

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

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

How to get there:

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

Address:

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

Phone:

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

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

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

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

Hours:

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

Notes:

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

Map:

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

 
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