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Toko Toko & Adventure

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 24, 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

All Pictures

What have I gotten myself into?

One day Mark and I wanted an adventure. Well, actually I wanted the adventure. Then I demanded that Mark find me one… and it had to be within a 3 hour drive of our house.

I also specified that I wanted, “a good time that did not involve any temples, shrines, or hiking up any mountains or hills!” I was asking for a lot. Of all the tourist attractions in Japan, 90% are shrine, temple, or mountain related. Of the remaining 10%, we’ve already seen 94% of the ones within a day’s drive of where we live.

(Keep in mind that I have a tendency to just make up statistics and have no scientific evidence to back up any of this stuff up.)

Mark scoured the internet for something for us to see. He read through many blogs and websites with incomplete information until he found a few spots. Then he promised me three things, of which only 2 he would deliver.

  1. I would see a glowing cave.
  2. I could pretend to be Indiana Jones, minus the bone-crushing boulders.
  3. I could eat gold-flaked ice cream.

I was excited! We woke up early the next Wednesday, packed some sandwiches and Costco cookies, and headed south. Mark drove for 2 hours and he parked at a train station.

“Mark, you took me to a train station?”

“Yes.”

“We drove for 2 hours… to take a train?”

“Exactly!”

I wondered if the task I threw at Mark was too much for him. “The poor man has cracked under the strain,” I thought as I walked toward the ticket machine inside the station. “No, no, not there,” Mark called to me. “Over there! That train station.” He pointed up the road adjacent to the station.

Mark ran up to a ticket counter in the first train station and bought tickets for the Toko Toko Train. He handed me my ticket and we walked up a small hill.

“I thought you said this was a train station,” I grumbled as we both stood in front of what was clearly a tram. “It calls itself a train,” he replied, “and this where you get on. So, I assumed that it was a train station. You can’t blame me if a tram believes itself to be a train.”

He was right. He could not be blamed. Besides, the train was kind of cute. If it thought of itself as a train, who am I to say otherwise?

“Where does this ‘train’ go?”

“Remember that onsen we found on the way here when we missed our turn?”

“Yes.”

“There.”

“Where else does it go?”

“That’s it. It’s only the 2 stops. Here and there.”

I looked at the time-table for the “train”. It ran 3 times a day.

“There are 3 ‘trains’ per day and only 1 stop besides this one!?”

“That’s correct.”

“What’s the point of this ‘train’?”

“The journey.”

A picture of a poster

Mark turned around and pointed to the photos plastered on the wall of the tram stop. “Not only are we going to see glowing tunnel art, but we’ll also get to see where wasabi grows. The whole ride will take about 40 minutes.”

The number of people waiting with us started to grow. We noticed that many of them had extra jackets and sweaters with them. I leaned towards Mark and asked, “Should we get our jackets from the car?”

“Probably.”

By the time we got back with warmer clothes, the people waiting had been let on the “train”, though the tram was hardly full. We sat there enduring the 10-minute wait until the exact departure time. Every few minutes we stuck our heads out the non-windows to look into the tunnel. It was dark and we could not see very far into it.

Once we started up we entered the tunnel. We drove for about 15 minutes in the dark looking at plain concrete tunnel walls. It was cold and very unspectacular.

“Are you enjoying this Mark?”

“No. But give it time.”

Then the walls started to glow. I tried to get a photo of it, but all I got were blurs. The low lights made it impossible to get a picture at the whopping 5 mph we were going.

Part way, the tram stopped. We were let out to take pictures and walk around. I inspected the walls. Someone had painted tiny rocks with paint that glowed in black light. Then they glued those stones to big sheets of black paper and hung the sheets to the sides of the tunnel. Then black light was shone on the sheets.

I’ve always said, “If your town has no tourist attractions, just make one!” This is just what they did. And, it worked. This place is quite popular. There weren’t many people on the tram the day we went, but we went on a day where spring was just starting to appear. In the summer, this place is… well, packed is probably not the right word. There are still only 3 round-trip rides a day, but I’m sure the trams are longer… maybe.

On our ride we saw bats in the tunnels and wasabi in the fields. We almost saw cherry blossoms, but we were about a week too early to see the trees in full bloom. It was a peaceful ride until the tram started blasting out music to serve as a soundtrack for the view.

The tram operators/ tour guides are all senior citizens. They wear orange jackets over dark-colored clothes. They seemed like a bunch of friends doing this tram thing for the fun of it. I don’t know if they are volunteers, but if they get paid, it can’t be much. They enjoyed being asked questions by the tourists and giving out information. They have a sweet gig. Though, I question their taste in music.

When we got to the end of the ride, many of the tourists got off and headed into the woods.

“Do you want to walk on the hiking path for a little?” Mark was clearly trying to provoke me.

“Is it a hike up a hill or mountain?”

“Most likely.”

“Is there an escalator or ski lift?”

“No.”

“Well, there’s your answer.”

We boarded the tram for the 40 minute ride back to our car. We enjoyed the peaceful journey, but not the terrible music, and vigorously waved to anyone in town who waved at the tram.

Pedestrians love to wave at people in trains (or “trains”) and I have never figured out why. I feel bad for them when no one on the train waves back, so I take up waving duties. Since there were very few tourists on the ride back and those who were, were tired from hiking, Mark and I had to step up our waving.

Justified & Ancient

Next we headed for the lost city of Mu.

Do you remember that very old cartoon that played on Nickelodeon in its early days? It was called The Mysterious Cities of Gold. One of the characters was a boy named Tao. The other kids found him on their journey and he joined them to make the trio that the show revolved around. Well, that character, Tao, was from the ancient and lost civilization of Mu.

Pakal and his “rocket”

It’s called The Mikawa Mu Valley, but it was really a mish-mash of the stuff on Ancient Aliens. (We really don’t know much about Mu. Many experts think Mu, like Atlantis, is just a myth.) The Mikawa Mu Valley combines artifacts from Incan, Mayan, Aztec, and Egyptian culture to make a huge treasure hunt.

It’s a big puzzle you walk around in. You have to look for clues that lead to more clues that lead to more clues… If you’re luck it will lead to an answer to the last question and a prize will be sent to you in the mail.

There were several kids in the caves, but they all had adults with them. I don’t think a child could do this his or her own. But, there was a lot more information in Japanese than in English. So, it’s hard to me to say how hard it would be for a Japanese speaking child.

You are given a booklet with instructions and a flashlight-pen. Don’t get any ideas about following the people you see in the labyrinth and copying their clues. Not everyone is looking for the same clues.

There are several courses that can be done at the same time by different groups. We did the one that came with a brown booklet. Mark and I had to follow the instructions of the characters called Muny and Muko, and only Muny and Muko. The other characters gave instructions for the course with booklets of different colors.

Other than the booklet course, there are many other courses that can be done. We saw clues that were clearly not for any of the booklets. But I have no information on them.

Just walking around in the cave was amazing. The owners went all out in planning and constructing this… I’m not sure what to call it. Walk-in puzzle? The adventure music at the start of the course enhances the atmosphere. Once inside, it’s cold and dark. There are ponds and water falls with ancient temples and artifacts down windy corridors.

If I lived near Mu, I would be here every weekend until I did all the courses.

There was a family with a brown booklet, like ours. We kept bumping into them, so we took it as a sign that we were on the right track. But then we saw them staring at a clue, that was clearly wrong. From that point, we should have diverged in our quests, but then they were right behind us again.

“Are they just copying what we’re doing?”

“Yup!”

“Crap. Now we have to redo everything!”

We thought that if two sets of people came up with the same answer, the chances the answer was the correct one would be higher. But, if they were just copying us, we could have done something wrong along the way. We redid everything and ended up on a whole new other path of clues.

When we had finished and posted our answer, the guy who runs the place was closing up. We wanted to enjoy some gold flake ice cream to celebrate our victory, but he had already shut down the ice cream machine.

To make things worse, we are still waiting for our prize to be mailed to us…

On our way to the car, we saw a sign for a big water wheel.

“Do you want to see the big water wheel?”

“You know I do, Mark! I love water wheels.”

We got into our car and drove to the water wheel. As promised, it was very big. We stood at the small house attached to the wheel. “I wonder what this wheel powers,” I said looking around for Mark.

“Mark! Where are you going?”

“There is a Buddha at the top of these steps.” He pointed at a map.

“I don’t want to see a Buddha at the top of steps. It looks like a lot of steps…”

But Mark couldn’t hear me. He was half way up the steps and he had my camera.

He was gone for 20 minutes. When he came back he was breathing heavily. “I thought the Buddha was at the top of those steps, but there was only a small cave.”

“I had to climb a second set to stairs to get to the Buddha. And, he wasn’t even that big… There was stuff higher up, but I got tired.”

I sighed. “People who make temples are always tricking folks into climbing more steps, then more steps, then just a little more. It’s a Buddhist fitness scam!”

“I’m hungry. Any sandwiches left?”

“Nope. Just cookies.”

“Let’s stop at a ramen shop when we pass one,” Mark mumbled through a cookie-filled mouth.

Before we could get to a ramen shop, we passed a vending machine oasis. We had never really tried ramen at a vending machine oasis before, so we stopped.

We tried a bowl of ramen and one of odon. The ramen was good, but the odon was only so-so. We sat at the wobbly plastic table on wonky plastic chairs eating our food and sipping our drinks as we watched cars race by.

We thought about getting ice cream too. But something about the ad above put us off to the idea.


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.)

Toko Toko Train
(とことこトレイン)

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 0827-72-2002

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

Cost Toko Toko

  • Free parking across the street from the train station.

Hours:

Hours Toko Toko

  • In the summer, when Japanese schools are on break, this train runs every day.
  • All other seasons, it generally runs only on the weekends. Check the website below for the exact dates.
  • Schedule

 

Notes:

  • It is cold in the tunnel. So, if you go in spring or fall, bring a sweater.
  • You don’t have to take a round trip. You can just get a one-way ticket and catch a bus from the Souzukyo Onsen. (Unless, of course, you drove there. Then you will have to get a round-trip ticket to get back to your car.)

Mikawa Mu Valley
(
美川ムーバレー)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°11’20.9″N 131°59’41.3″E

Address:

〒740-0505 Yamaguchi Prefecture, Iwakuni, 美川町根笠1564−1

564-1 Mikawamachi Nekasa, Iwakuni 740-0505, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Phone:

  • 0827-77-0111

Websites:

 

Cost:

Cost Mu

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 5:00
  • last admission is at 4:30

 

Notes:

  • It is cold in the cave. So bring a sweater.
  • Of course, they sell Inca Cola at the restaurant across the street.

Map:

 

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

Gates And a Bridge

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 3, 2016

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

All Pictures

I didn’t even bother to count them.

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

The Last Photo

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

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

A Fancy Bridge

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

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

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

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

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

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

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

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

How to get there:

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

Address:

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

Phone:

  • 0837-37-3824

Websites:

Cost:

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

Hours: (Country Kitchen’s hour’s)

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

Notes:

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

Motonosumi Inari Shrine
(元乃隅稲成神社)

How to get there:

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

Address:

Japan, 〒759-4712 山口県長門市, 油谷津黄498

Yuyatsuou, Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Phone:

  • +81 837-23-1137

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Normal Temple hours

Notes:

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

Kintai Bridge
(錦帯橋)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates

Address:

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

Phone:

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

Websites:

Cost:

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

Hours:

  • Always Open

Notes:

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

Map:

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

Traffic

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 27, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

All Pictures

It’s too cold to sleep in anyways.

Mark and I woke up early in the morning. Normally we wake up with the sun, even on holidays. We try to sleep in, but we just can’t.

It wouldn’t have matter this day anyway. The couple in the tent next to our friends took it upon themselves to personally get all of us out of our tents to see the sunrise. The South Africans tried so very hard to ignore the couple, but in the end it was just less annoying to get out of their tent and take a few pictures.

This kept them entertained for hours!

After breakfast the boys discovered that food left on the table would be stolen by hawks. The birds would swoop down and grab cookies, meat, or crackers. So they spent most of the morning putting out treats and trying to get the perfect hawk photo.

Of course, once the early-bird couple saw what they were doing they put a stop to it. They were really bossy for people we didn’t know! Later that morning we nearly gave them a standing ovation when they started to, very slowly, pack up their stuff. I just hoped that they were in fact leaving and not moving closer to our tents to keep a better eye on us.

Just a normal day at church.

What we wanted to see was the Motonosumi Inari Shrine. Our friends, who planned this whole trip, somehow thought it was on this island. We drove around looking for the shrine while stopping to check out other stuff on the island too.

We came across a church that was a prop from a movie none of us had heard of. There was nothing inside… or rather, there was no inside.

Yes, I’m wearing a Mr. Sparkle t-shirt.

In our hunt for the shrine, we found free parking near a pizza shop. It was a hot day, so cold drinks and pizza seemed like the perfect things to keep us occupied while Roland figured out where the shrine was. While Mark and I waited for our pizzas, we tried some grilled squid which this island was famous for. It was really good.

The shrine was not on this island. But by the time we realized that, we were eating pizza and didn’t care. We could see the stuff that was on the island, and visit the shrine the next day. The pizzas were pretty good.

No elevator in that thing?

We walked to the lighthouse museum then climbed the stairs to the top of the lighthouse. Personally, I think there were way more people in the lighthouse than there should have been. It was a very tight squeeze. When I had gotten my fill of acrophobia and wanted to come down, I had to wait for a long procession of people coming up the stairs. This thing was clearly built for a small crew.

Who are the suckers, the people in the air-conditioned cars or people passing the cars by walking?

It was a nice day. We were taking things easy. Not even not seeing the shrine got us down. The next thing we had planned was to drive to the other side of the islands one bridge and watch the sunset. It would have been a fully relaxing end to a stress free day.

There is one problem that arises when you have an island that is popular with tourists in the height of tourist season with only one two-lane bridge leading on or off the island. TRAFFIC!! The traffic was so bad, people casually walking strolled right passed us. What should have been a  20 minute ride took us 2 hours. 2 HOURS!!

I wouldn’t say it was worth it.

We did manage to get a few photos of the sunset though. And you can see some of the poor saps still stuck in traffic on the bridge.

But on the bright side, when we got back to the campsite the early-bird couple was gone!

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.
    • Sometimes 7-Eleven atms work with foreign banks too, if you’re lucky.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

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

How to get there:

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

Address:

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

Phone:

  • 0837-37-3824

Websites:

Cost:

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

Hours: (Country Kitchen’s hour’s)

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

Notes:

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

Tsunoshima
(角島) 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°21’37.7″N 130°52’31.8″E

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • always avaible

Notes:

  • Traffic gets very heavy during holidays. There is only one bridge to the island.
  • My advice is to park near the bridge, and take a bus to the island. Later in the day, when traffic get really thick, it is literally quicker to walk from the Lighthouse back to your car.
  • From JR Kotti there is a bus to Tsunoshima (20 min).
  • If there is no traffic, I recommend not taking the bus.

Tsunoshima Bridge
(角島大橋)
(Tsunoshima Ohashi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°21’07.5″N 130°53’14.9″E

Address:

Kanda, Hohoku-cho, Shimonoseki-shi, Yamaguchi-ken

Phone:

  • 083−786−0234 (Hohoku-cho Tourist Association)

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • always available

Notes:

  • There is an area near the bridge where you can park for free and take lovely photos of the sunset and the bridge.

Church from the movie:

Miracle in Four Days
(四日間の奇跡)
(Yokkakan no Kiseki)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°21’12.0″N 130°50’57.7″E

Address:

山口県下関市豊北町大字角島1413-1

Phone:

  • 083-786-0477 (Tsunoshima Ohama Campsite)

Websites:

Cost:

  • It’s free to look at the church
  • I can’t find any information on the campsite.

Hours:

  • The church is always available.
  • I can’t find any information on the campsite.

Notes:

  • The church is not a real church. It’s just the shell of a church that was used in a movie.
  • It is near the Tsunishima Campgrounds.

Tsunoshima Lighthouse
(角島灯台)
(tsunoshima tōdai)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°21’09.0″N 130°50’27.5″E

Address:

〒759-5332 山口県下関市豊北町角島2343-2

Phone:

  • 083-231-1111

Websites:

 

Cost:

  • 200 JYN
  • 300 JYN for parking
    • There is free parking by the campsite. Theoretically, you could park and the campsite for free and walk to the lighthouse. But, you might not want to do this on a hot day.

Hours:

  • May – September: 9:30 – 16:30 (Last admittance 16:15)
  • October – April: 9:00 – 16:00 (Last admittance 16:45)

 

Notes:


Tsunoshimaterasu
(角島テラス)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°20’59.6″N 130°50’25.6″E

Address:

山口県 下関市 豊北町大字角島字田ノ尻2899-1

Phone:

  • +81-80-9869-9733

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Dishes are about ¥1,000~¥1,999
  • There is free parking across the street.

Hours:

  • 10:00~18:00

Map:

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

The Best Campsite

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 3, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

All Pictures

It rained all night.

Should I stay or should I go?

When we woke up this morning we had the choice of taking it easy and spending another night here or spending the day driving south to Yamaguchi and spending two nights there. When these options were presented, the ladies and I had just returned from using the bathroom. This bathroom had evidence that someone in the camp was very sick… We wanted to leave.

Breakfast for 6 on a rainy morning

The rain was supposed to stop around noon. We would take a chance and leave in the early afternoon. Even though that seemed like a long shot, it was worth it to pack up a dry tent instead of a wet one.

In the mean time we made breakfast, ate it, and did dishes. Then the plan was to go to the onsen to take showers and then take down the tents that would hopefully be dry by then. But then it stopped raining and the sun came out earlier than expected.

The new plan was to put as many things in the sun so that it could get dried out. Then someone decided to just take down their fly. And then someone decided to just flip over their tent. Then someone decided to just take down their poles. And the next thing I knew we spent an hour drying every thing out and taking down the tents and packing the cars.

So then we went to the onsen, showered, and left town.

Oh wow!

We drove for half a day and ended at this wonderful campsite. Roland had saved the best for last.

We were all glad we didn’t choose to stay 2 nights at that other campsite.

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.)

Tamagawa Campsite
(田万川キャンプ場)
(Tamagawa Kyanpujō)

near

Tamagawa Onsen
(田万川温泉憩いの湯 )
(Tamagawa Onsen’ikoinoyu)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’09.7″N 131°39’44.3″E

Address:

Campsite: 〒759-3112 山口県萩市江崎

Onsen:

1740-1 Shimotama
Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture 759-3112

Phone:

  • Campsite: 08387-2-1150
  • Onsen: 08387-2-0370

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Campsite:
    • 1,000 JYN/ Night / Tent
  • Onsen
    • ¥ 410 / adult
    • ¥ 200-100 / kids

Hours:

  • Campsite:
    • 8: 30 ~ 19: 00
  • Onsen:
    • Closed Mondays
    • 10: 00 ~21: 00 (last admittance 20: 30)

Notes:

  • To check-in at the campsite, go to the front desk of the onsen.
  • This campsite is near or part of Yutori Park Tamagawa.
  • There are no tents to rent.
  • There is also RV camping for ¥ 1,000 per day.
  • I’m not sure it there are showers on the camp grounds, but there is that onsen nearby.

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

How to get there:

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

Address:

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

Phone:

  • 0837-37-3824

Websites:

Cost:

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

Hours: (Country Kitchen’s hour’s)

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

Notes:

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

Map:

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

We Bring the Rain

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 26, 2015

Sunday May 3, 2015

All Pictures

We all know who caused the rain.

Rain

It seems like whenever we camp too near to Hiroshima Prefecture it rains. Sometimes it stops raining for a few hours, but then someone gets bitten by a snake. We don’t mean for any of this to happen. We really have no idea how to stop the rain from following us other than by not camping within a 30 mile radius of Hiroshima prefecture.

We all tried to make it a good day despite the rain.

More Rain

We first went to the Izumo-Taisha shrine in Shimane prefecture. Mark and I had been there before. It’s not that far from our apartment in Miyoshi.

We followed our friends as they took tons of photos. They really liked the shrine but, I think they would have enjoyed it a bit more if the rain would have just stopped.

It’s raining? Let’s go to Starbucks.

It’s Raining… Still

I mentioned that the Starbucks across the street was the nearest Starbucks to my home. “You live that close to this shrine?” someone asked.

“No. I live about 1.5 hours away.”

As we passed by the coffee shop we noticed that there was a cookie themed drink on special. We had to try it. We all sat upstairs, out of the rain, and enjoyed the view of the entrance to the shrine, while consuming a whole day’s worth of calories in the form of one coffee based drink.

“It’s just another 45 minutes of walking up this hill and we’ll be there!”

Rain Won’t Stop Us!

The rain had not stopped by the time we got to the area where the old silver mine was. I say “area” because there was no way to drive anywhere near it. We had to find a bus station, take an overly crowded bus to somewhere closer to the mine, then walk up hill for about 45 minutes.

There were bikes to rent, but not everyone in our group wanted to ride bikes in the rain. There were also taxi-bicycles to hire. But, there were none to be found when we were at the bottom of the hill. We found 3 of them at the top, but they were waiting for the people who had hired them. Our timing was all wrong.

The rain might have stopped, but it’s still drippy in here.

So we walked to the top with our own 2 feet, or rather 12 feet. The mine was good in that it wasn’t raining (though, most cave-like things tend to be dank and drippy), we all got a %50 off foreigner discount, and we were now headed down hill.

Just typical minors

I was really hoping to see some silver, or silver rock. You know, an example of what silver minors looked for when mining. But there was no such thing. There were only drawings of the horrible conditions that minors had to deal with when mining.

It stopped raining for a whole 20 minutes!

We headed towards the next campsite with the plan that if it were still raining, we would try to rent a cabin somewhere. Where? I don’t know. There were no cabins anywhere near this campsite that we knew of.

It didn’t matter anyway. When we got to the  Campsite, the rain had stopped. We raced to get our tents up. Because this campsite was so crowded, we chose not to stay more than one night. In our rush to set up camp, we unpacked only what we needed for one overnight stay.

Once all the tents where up, the rain started again. This meant that grilling dinner was out of the question. We got some food from the nearest konbini, and ate next to many of the camper’s drying clothes and camping gear under the shelter of one of the few pavilions at the campsite.

Then we stayed up until midnight in one of our tents playing nerd games where we had to find killers, wizards, and good men.

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.)

Izumo-taisha
(出雲大社)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°24’07.3″N 132°41’07.8″E

Address:

〒699-0701
島根県出雲市大社町杵築東195 出雲大社社務所内

195 Kitsukihigashi, Taisha-machi, Izumo-shi, Shimane-ken
699-0701

Phone:

  • +81 0853-53-3100

Websites:

Download:

e-mail:

  • sengu@izumooyashiro.or.jp

Cost:

  • Entrance – free
  • If you can get ¥45 worth of coins to stick in or on the straw rope (the rope in the photo above), you will have good luck.

Hours:

  • Always open

Notes:

  • This is a temple for the god of marriage.
  • When you pray at this temple, you should clap 4 times instead of the normal 2 times; 2 claps for you and 2 claps for your love or future love.
  • No one knows how old this temple is, but it’s pretty old.
    • Some think it’s the oldest shrine in Japan.
    • There is record of its existence way back in the early  700s.

Iwami silver mine
(石見銀山)
(Ishimi Ginzan)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°06’18.5″N 132°26’19.5″E
  • There is nowhere near the mine to park. You have to park your car near Oda Bus Center.
    • Take the bus to Omori-Daikansho-Ato bus stop. (250yen)
  • If you are going by train, you can get a bus at Oda-shi station to Omori-Daikansho-Ato bus stop.
  • Once at Omori-Daikansho-Ato bus stop, the mine is a mere 45 minute walk… up hill.
    • There is a bike rental place where you can rent regular and electric bikes.
    • There are also bike taxis, where you ride and pay someone else to do the pedaling.

Address:

〒694-0305 Shimane Prefecture, Oda, Omoricho, イ1597−3

Phone:

  • 0854-89-0183

Websites:

Cost:

  • 410 yen
  • 50% off with a foreign passport or ARC card.

Hours:

  • 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from December to February)

Notes:


Tamagawa Campsite
(田万川キャンプ場)
(Tamagawa Kyanpujō)

near

Tamagawa Onsen
(田万川温泉憩いの湯 )
(Tamagawa Onsen’ikoinoyu)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’09.7″N 131°39’44.3″E

Address:

Campsite: 〒759-3112 山口県萩市江崎

Onsen:

1740-1 Shimotama
Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture 759-3112

Phone:

  • Campsite: 08387-2-1150
  • Onsen: 08387-2-0370

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Campsite:
    • 1,000 JYN/ Night / Tent
  • Onsen
    • ¥ 410 / adult
    • ¥ 200-100 / kids

Hours:

  • Campsite:
    • 8: 30 ~ 19: 00
  • Onsen:
    • Closed Mondays
    • 10: 00 ~21: 00 (last admittance 20: 30)

Notes:

  • To check-in at the campsite, go to the front desk of the onsen.
  • This campsite is near or part of Yutori Park Tamagawa.
  • There are no tents to rent.
  • There is also RV camping for ¥ 1,000 per day.
  • I’m not sure it there are showers on the camp grounds, but there is that onsen nearby.

Map:

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

Walking Under the Sea

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 7, 2011

May 3, 2011

All Pictures

Lets go under the sea

Under the Sea

We got up early the next morning and set out from the tunnel. By the time we got to Kitakyushu it was breakfast time. We went to a park near the tunnel and made curry rice, a dish in Japan that bears very little resemblance to the curry dishes I grew up eating.

Once we had eaten we made our way to the island of Honshu, by way of a saunter under water. We got into the elevator which took us underground and walked with the small crowd of people that were there that day. There were a few runners, some commuters, but most were tourists like us who had to stop and take pictures every 2 minutes.

There is nothing to see down there; no windows or view. You just keep to the right and let the runners go by when they come along. It was a nice walk.

Yes. In Japan you drive on the left, but walk on the right. I guess it is done this way to have pedestrians face traffic when walking next to a road. I wonder what side we, in the US, walk?

a 5 yen tale

Once in Shimonoseki, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, we walked around a bit and took some pictures. This city doesn’t have many non-temple tourist attractions. They do have a mountain that could be climbed for a view of the city, but we were not in the climbing mood.

We listened to an old man telling stories to some people sitting around him. He was very expressive, but we had no idea what he said. When the tale was done, the listeners put some coins in a box. The box had writing on it that asked for 5YEN. We did listen to the man’s story, but we came in the middle of it, plus we didn’t understand a word. But for 5YEN, we couldn’t resist pretending like we were fluent enough in Japanese to feel obliged to pay.

Looks like fun. If only you got something other than clams when you’re done.

Clamming

We then headed to our very own prefecture of Oita. We wanted to camp near Matama beach and see the most beautiful sunset in Japan.

We had made the 2 hour drive up to Bungo Takada, the city in which Matama beach is in, to see this most spectacular sunset, several times before. Every time we did, something happened to prevent us from seeing the sunset. Once we left too late in the day. Twice it was too cloudy to see the horizon.

We stopped at the beach to have lunch; left over curry rice. We watched all the clam diggers, with their kids and buckets in hand, looking for the shelled creatures. They all wore wellingtons with their pants rolled up to their knees. Most of them seemed to be having fun despite the fact that many of the kids were crying.

We were then going to go to the nearby campsite, set up our tent, then come back to watch the sunset. But it started to rain. Our stuff had just dried out from the last rain. Since we were a 2 hour drive from home, we decided not to camp. We took a leisurely drive back. Actually we were stuck behind a bunch of bicyclists. There was some sort of charity bike-a-thon.

The roads were so narrow but the bikers rode as if they had complete faith in my driving. They were so certain that I was paying close attention to them, that they would over take one another without even a slight glance back to see if there were any cars around to run them over. I didn’t have as much faith in myself as they did, so we pulled over at a random Joyfull and waited the race out.

some Joyfull somewhere on Kyushu

Joyfull with 2 L’s

And no, that one is not a typo. The name of the restaurant is Joyfull. It is just the best decent but inexpensive dining establishment that comes with a juice and coffee bar in all of Japan. It’s really popular among teenagers, who have to get their money from a generous parent. I like it because it’s clean, has picture menus where I practice my katakana and hiragana reading, and it’s cheap but still has a variety of dishes. But the drink bar is the clincher!

My friend Makeeya trying out the drink bar during winter break

Do you want a drink? It comes with free refills…

Outside the US, the concept of free refills is unheard of. When it comes to soda, ice tea, and other non-real juices, ie “drinks”, the cost of the beverage is very tiny compared to the cost of the cup it comes in. So, in the US most restaurants will offer free re-fills on their non-juice drinks. The cost for your refill is so little that they would rather you gorge yourself on their drinks than run the risk of you not buying a drink at all.

drink bar ticket

That’s the ticket!

Joyfull is one of the very few restaurants I’ve come across out side the US that gives free refills. Even Japanese McDonald’s doesn’t do it. When you eat at Joyfull, you get a drink bar coupon, called a “ticket”, when you pay your bill. The next time you come and show your “ticket” you will only have to pay 65YEN for unlimited drinks and soup. When you pay the bill, you get another ticket and the cycle continues.

I have no idea what the full price of the drink bar is. On my first day of work in Oita a group of my students presented me with a welcome book. It had many romantic date activity recommendations, a map to several Joyfull’s in town, and 2 drink bar tickets. Another group later gave me a poster with the names and photos of the English teachers. These were the best welcome gifts I have ever received.

Many people, like me, go to Joyfull just for the drink bar. You can sample all their drinks, taking a sip of this and a sip of that. This is where I discovered that I like Calpis. I’ve tried out many flavors of coffee and a green tea moche which I thought was okay, but Mark hated. Once they had a pink hot chocolate drink. I think it was just hot strawberry Nesquik, but it was so good that for months afterward, Mark and I ate at several Joyfulls in hope of having it again. We never did.

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 yourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)
  • 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.)

Kanmon Roadway Tunnel
(関門鉄道トンネル)
(Kanmon Tetsudō Tonneru)

How to get there:

  • 33°57’36.3″N 130°57’44.3″E

From Yoshinogari Historical Park –

  • Get back onto route 3 heading north
  • Then take route 261 heading north
  • Follow the road to the parking lot.

Downloads:

Cost: 

  • Free for pedestrians
  • For bikers and scooter driver there is a 20YEN charge. They use the honor system to collect the money in a box.
  • There are many parking lots. The one near the sea is free.

Hours:

  • always available

Notes:

  • This tunnel connects the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū.
  • The tunnel starts near Mekari Park.

Map:

Posted in Bungo Takada 市, Fukuoka 県, Honshū, Japan, Kitakyūshū 市, Kyūshū, Matama 町, Oita 県, Shimonoseki 市, Yamaguchi 県 | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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