With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Archive for the ‘Kumamoto 県’ Category

The Christmas Visitor

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 19, 2012

December 22, 2011 – January 2, 2012

All Pictures

playing cards at home

Our agenda for today: 1. Go to an ATM, 2. Get a Burger, 3. Take a shower.

Tom made plans to come to Japan for Festivus/ Christmas since February 2011. Last year, Mark stayed at Tom’s place a couple of times, while getting his visa for Japan at the Japanese embassy in Seoul. They also spent last Christmas together because Mark was having some huge visa issues. I think they even had a huge Festivus party where Mark aired all his grievances against the Japanese immigration policies.

We met Tom a few years ago when we lived in Seoul and did some traveling and free biking with him. Tom still lives in Seoul, but I don’t know if he still uses the free bikes there.

So Mark and I, who are on a tight budget have been saving our pennies,.. one yen coins, for the occasion. But, when we asked Tom what sites he wanted to see while in Japan, he said he just wanted to chill out and hang with us.

We said, “Really, there’s nothing at all you want to see?”

Tom – “Well, okay, just Hiroshima and something in your town.”

So Mark and I thought that since Tom just wanted to hang out, what we would do is to take Tom to all the restaurants in town Mark and I always wanted to go, but didn’t because we are saving money. I had about four restaurants in mind, plus some we had already been to.

Playing big titris at Park Place

For the “something in our town” we took him to see Mount Aso. There is really nothing to see in Oita except for Park Place, the biggest mall this side of Kyushu. And yes, we did take him to see Park Place.  There we ran into some of my students. I introduced them as, “my husband and a friend from Korea.” My students looked quite confused.

Students – Pointing to Tom “husband” pointing to Mark “韓国人”

Me – “No.” Pointing to Mark “husband” pointing to Tom “friend from Korea”.

They gave me funny looks, but smiled and walked away after the standard “nice-to-meet-chu’s.”

You’d think it would be warmer near a live volcano…

So rather than writing more about places I’ve already been to and blogged about before, some more than once, I will just write about the two unique events from this vacation.

Look at all his winnings!

Event #1: Tom Plays Pachinko.

Tom wanted to celebrate finally having money in Japan. Before he left Korea, Mark and I told him that getting non-Japanese bank cards and credit cards to work in Japan is very hard. But, he was running late when going to the airport in Korea and thought that he would just get some money at an ATM at Fukuoka airport.

That did not work. He called his card company and they tried to help him, but the ATM he needed was not at the airport. He didn’t have any yen and could not even pay for a subway ride to the train station. He was stuck at the airport.

Tom in Hell

Frustrated, he called me to tell me that he would just take another flight back to Seoul. That was when some lady, who overheard him talking to his card company earlier, handed him a 10,000 yen note (equivalent to a hundred dollars). When Tom asked the lady for her address so that he could repay her later, she told him to, “just go to Oita, and later, do something nice for someone else.”

For his next few days Tom had been calling his card company trying to figure this whole thing out. In the mean while, Mark and I paid for all his stuff. We weren’t sure if Tom would ever get any money in Japan. But, we didn’t care if he did. Tom had been so hospitable to Mark when they were in Korea earlier in the year.

Then one day someone from the card company asked if Tom had tried the 7-11 ATM. We went out to try it, and it worked. Well, first Tom tried it and it didn’t work. Then he called the card company again and they thought about it and figured that Tom might have asked for more cash than the daily limit. After that it worked.

The moral of this story is, if you go to Japan call your bank and ask what ATM’s you can use, then bring a bunch of cash.

“I’m tired from all this winning.”

So, the day that Tom finally had his own cash, he wanted to go to a pachinko parlor. So we went.

Everyone put 1,000 yen (~10 bucks) into their machine. Once it spat out a bunch of shiny balls into our baskets we started to play. Mark was the first one to lose all his money balls. He was out within 10 minutes of playing. I hovered the drain for about 30 minutes, then I was out.

Then I looked at Tom. He had 2 baskets filled with shiny gold balls.

Me – “Oh my god Tom, are you winning?”

Tom – “I guess.”

Me – “How are you doing this?”

Tom – “I don’t know. That lady told me to hold this nob like so and tap this button like this. Balls just keep fallin’ out.”

Me – “Wow. I lost all my balls.”

Tom – “Feel free to play with my balls. They’re very shiny!”

Mark and I continued to play, grabbing hand-fulls of Tom’s balls. We tried to copy what Tom was doing, but it didn’t work for us.

“I won some dessert and novelty coins!”

When Tom finally got tired of playing, or actually, when Tom started to lose, we stopped. We looked around for someone to help us turn in the balls. An employee ran over to us and poured his balls into a machine. It printed out a receipt.

The lady pointed to another woman behind a counter. He gave the receipt to her. She handed Tom a red bean cake and a small case with some weird coins. Tom was delighted with his prizes. We were happy for him.

We headed towards the exit with thoughts of dinner. Our friend just won some strange coins from a pachinko parlor. Who would believe that?

Then a guy in uniform ran after us. We turned to look at him, wondering what was going on. I mentioned wanting to use the bathroom as we were walking out and thought that he was showing us where the facilities were.

He took us through the casino and out a different door. There was no bathroom out that door, but he pointed to a little window. It looked like a teller’s window for a very shy clerk.

Is this another ATM?

All you could see was a pair of women’s hands. The uniform guy gestured for Tom to put his coin case through the window. The coins were taken and cold hard cash replaced it. Tom got 5,000 yen. He won actual money!

We all agreed that money was better than strange coins.

in front of Miyajima’s Torii

Event #2: Itsukushima Shrine – OMG are we in a line?

We went to the Itsukushima Shrine on New Year’s day. The shrine is on an island called Miyajima near the city of Hiroshima. It has an iconic gate where tourist gather to take photos. It is also a place where many religious Japanese go on New Year’s day to pray and ask god, or whoever for favors.

in the crowd

It was beautiful and crowded; so very crowded. We were just walking along one of the streets as the crowd of people gradually got thicker. We stood there for about 15 minutes slowly making our way forward when we realized that we were in a line for something. We had no idea what it was, but if this many people wanted to see it, it must be good.

It ended up being the Itsukushima shrine itself. After this Mark and I and Tom split up. Tom wanted to take photos of things and Mark and I wanted to get some omiyage, or souvenirs, for our co-workers.

It was nice, but because of the crowd we felt a bit intimidated. The Japanese are generally known for their politeness, but crowds are always the exception. We spend a lot of time hiding out in a nice, but highly overpriced well heated coffee shop. It was nice, almost empty, but the prices were steep.

I recommend going on a non-religious holiday.

To Tom!

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.)
  • 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.)

Beppu Hell Onsen
(Beppu Jigoku)
(別府地獄)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°18’57.2″N 131°28’10.8″E

From Oita City –

  • Head north on route 10.
  • Turn left on route 500. (The turn is just before the Las Vagas pachinko parlor.)
  • Keep on 500,
  • then turn right at the light after the intersection with route 218. You should see lot of steam rising from the ground.
  • Park anywhere that’s reasonable.
  • Six of the Hell osens are within walking distance of each other.
  • There are two others that are about a 5 minute drive from the directions given above.

By Bus –

  • Take bus #2, #5, #9, #41, or #43 from JR Beppu Station to the Umijigoku-mae stop

Address:

There are 8 Hell Onsens. Seven of which, are within a walking distance from each other. The other two are a bus or car ride away. Please ask at the ticket counter for bus information.

  1. Oniishibozu Jigoku (鬼石坊主地獄)
  2. UmiJigoku (海地獄)
    • 別府地獄めぐり
      日本
      〒874-0000 大分県別府市大字鉄輪559−1
      0977-66-1577
  3.  Yama Jigoku (山地獄)
  4. KamadoJigoku (かまど地獄)(Cooking Pot Hell)
    • かまど地獄
      日本
      〒874-0045 大分県別府市御幸5
      0977-66-0178
  5. Oniyama Jigoku (鬼山地獄)
  6. Shiraike Jigoku (白池地獄)
  7. Tatsumaki Jigoku (龍巻地獄)
  8. ChinoikeJigoku (血の池地獄) (BloodOnsen)
    • 別府 血の池地獄
      野田778 Beppu, Oita Prefecture 874-0016, Japan

Phone:

  • 0977-66-1577

Website (Blood Onsen)

Download:

Cost:

  • 400YEN each or
  • 2,000YEN for all 8

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 17:00
  • Go to Tatsumaki-Jigoku (the onsen with the geyser last if you’re running out of time because this one stays open later so that visitor can see the geyser blow at the end of the day.)

Notes:

  • It might not be worth a trip all the way to Beppu just to see this. But if you are in Oita prefecture, why not?
  • You cannot get into any of the hell onsen. There are a couple that you can put your feet into, but no full body soaking.

Kitahama Termas Onsen
(北浜温泉/テルマス)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°17’09.5″N 131°30’18.5″E

By Car –

  • Drive to Beppu at way of route 10 which is also route 52 through downtown Beppu.
  • It’s along route 10/52 and across the street from a pachinko parlor; what isn’t in Japan? The nearby landmarks near would be Beppu Central Hostipal and a short swimmable section of beach.

By Public Transportation –

  • Go to Beppu Station.
  • Exit through the east end of the station.
  • Head east until you reach route 10.
  • Then go north on route 10 until you pass Beppu Central Hospital.
  • Cross the street and look out for the osen.

Address:

11-1, Kyo Beppu

or

別府市京町11-1

Phone:

  • 0977-24-4126

Websites:

Cost:

  • Adult – 500JPY
  • Kids – 250JPY
  • You can bring your own towel, razor, or what have you, or you can rent them.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and soap are free.
  • Parking is free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00
  • Admittance ends at 21:00

Notes:

  • This is a co-ed onsen, so you must wear a swimsuit when you go outdoors. You can go naked in the gender segregated areas.
  • Every now and then they change the gender of the locker rooms. So don’t head off to change in one direction that was the lady’s area the last time you came.
  • You will need to have a 100 yen coin to put your shoes in a small locker in the main lobby. Everyone must have their own locker and you will get your coin back when you retrieve your shoes.
  • Give your shoe locker key to the front desk clerk and he or she will give you a corresponding key to the lockers in the gender segregated area. Put your stuff in that locker.
  • Take a shower. Put on your swim suit and head outdoors.
  • There is also a sauna and a bucket of freezing cold water that you can torture yourself with.

 Mount Aso 
(阿蘇山)
(Asosan)
Komezuka
(米塚)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 32°53’12.7″N 131°05’03.0″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Then get on Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose).
  • There are 2 Route 57’s. If you get on the wrong one it doesn’t matter. They both basically* go the same place. One is just more windy than the other.
  • *Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose) will end somewhere in Onomachi Tanaka. When this happens just head north on route 26 to route 57 (Higo Highway).
  • Once you’ve left Oita Prefecture and you’ve passed the windy mountain area look out for route 111. Take a left onto route 111.
  • For Aso Mountain take route 111 all the way to the toll road, where 111 ends. You can then take the cable car up for 1,000YEN round trip/ person or drive up the toll road for 560YEN/ car.
  • For Komezuka turn right onto route 298. You should see Komezuka in 1 kilometer.

Website:

Cost:

  • Cable Car Ride – 600Yen one way, 1,000Yen round trip
  • To drive up to the top – 560YEN per car

Hours:

  • The toll road and cable car to Mount Aso are open 9:30 to 16:30 when the weather permits.
Videos:
about volcanoes:

Notes:

  • Don’t go in the winter to avoid the chances of you going all the way out there only to find that it’s closed due to snow.
  • It is recommended that people with asthma, bronchitis, or heart disease should not go to the top of Mount Aso.

Hiroshima
(広島市)
by bus

How to get there:

The bus stop for this bus is across the street from the Tokiwa near Oita Station, in front of the Forus.

Website:

Cost:

  • Oita to Hiroshima – 5,700YEN or
  • 4,750YEN with a group discount

Hours:

  • Bus leaves Oita at 10:09 and gets to Hiroshima at 16:12

Notes:

  • There is a bathroom on the bus.
  • The ticket for this bus ride includes a boat ride from Kyushu to Honshu. But you can buy tickets for the boat alone.

K’s House

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°23’33.0″N 132°28’25.7″E

The nearest Station is Hiroshima Station.

Address:

1-8-9, Matoba-cho,
Minami-ku, Hiroshima city,
Japan 732-0824

Phone:

  • +(81)-82-568-7244

Website:

e-mail: hiroshima@kshouse.jp

Cost:

  • Depends on the room, but Dorm rooms are 2,500YEN/ night.

Hours:

  • the doors are lock after a certain hour. I don’t remember what time.

Notes:

  • No free parking, but there is paid parking nearby. Ask about the cheaper weekend parking areas.

Hiroshima Peace Park
(広島平和記念公園)

How to get there:

  • 34°23’34.1″N 132°27’08.1″E
  • Take the tram #2, 3, 6 or 7 to Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome-Mae)
  • This will put you right in front of the dome.
  • From there you can cross the bridge and head south to see the park, the museums, and other monuments.

Address:

  • Memorial Hall

1-6 Nakajima-cho,
Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
(in the Peace Memorial Park)

広島市中区中島町1番6号(広島平和記念公園内)

  • Peace Museum

Peace Memorial Museum
1-2 Nakajimama-cho,
Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
730-0811, Japan

Peace Memorial Museum
広島平和記念資料館 啓発担当
住所:広島市中区中島町1-2

Website

Cost:

  • Most are free.
  • The Peace Museum cost 50Yen to enter.

Hours:

  • The park is always open.
  • The museum and hall’s times are 8:30 – 17:00.
Videos:

Itsukushima Shrine
(厳島神社)
(Itsukushimajinsha)

How to get there:

  • 34°17’45.2″N 132°19’11.7″E

There are 2 main non-driving methods to get to the shrine.

1. Take the train to Miyajimaguchi Station then hop on a 10 minute ferry to  Miyajima (170Yen). You can just walk to the shrine from there.

  • This is the cheapest option, but not the quickest.
  • For crowed days, like New Year’s day, this is not a very good option. The crowd is huge and everyone is pushing their way on to the boat.
2. Take the boat from Peace Park. It costs 1,900Yen on way. But, don’t toss your ticket when you get to the island. When you show your old ticket you will get a discount for your return trip (1,500Yen).
  • Link for Schedule
  • The more expensive option, but it’s really easy.
  • No crowd. The boat can only fit a few people.
  • But, because the boat is small, tickets do get sold out.

Website:

Cost:

  • 350Yen to enter the temple

Hours:

  • It’s a temple, so I don’t think there is an official closing time, but monks do need to sleep…

Downloads:

Notes:

  • There are tons of temples on the island. Most of them up hills. Some up the mountain. There is even one, Sankido, that warships ogres.
  • You can take a cable car to the top of the mountain for some great views (1,800Yen round trip).
  • There are lots of deer just freely roaming the island. There are signs that say that they love to eat souvenirs and passports. That’s sounds implausible, but you never know.

Map

Posted in Aso 市, Beppu 市, Hatsukaichi 市, Hiroshima 県, Hiroshima 市, Honshū, Japan, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Miyajima 町, Oita 県, Oita 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ultimate

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 21, 2011

October 1-2, 2011

All Pictures

My team in green and our opponents in black

Frisbee at the beach sounds like fun.

First, let me tell you how I got into this mess, because at the start of this particular weekend, I felt tricked. I got an invitation on Facebook. I didn’t read all the details, but what I got from it were the words “beach”, “frisbee”, and “barbecue”. That sounded like fun! The actual event was months away and the exact details hadn’t been completely worked out, but I RSVPed “attenting” anyway. Then I didn’t give it a second thought.

Getting the rules of the tournament

About a month before the event I got an email from someone asking my shirt size, date of birth, and other questions that may or not have included how heart-attack prone I was at the moment. I didn’t think much about it. I don’t even remember responding. Someone actually called me on the phone and left several messages to ask those questions a few times before I got around to responding.

So tired… and it’s only noon on the first day.

It sounds like you think it’s a real sport

Then I got an invite to practice frisbee one weekend. I didn’t have time, but I thought it was cute that people would get together to practice throwing around a frisbee, like it was a real sport… They had 3 or 4 practices, but I was always too busy to go.

Then the weekend of the frisbee thing, Mark told be that we would be leaving at 4:30am.

Me – “What!? 4:30 in the morning!? …on a Saturday?! Why?”

Mark – “Well the tournament is at a beach in Komamoto Prefecture.”

Me – “Wait, what!? Tournament? I thought we were just going to toss around a frisbee on a beach and then have a barbecue.”

Mark – “Yea. That ‘tossing around a frisbee’ is called Ultimate Frisbee.”

Me – “It sounds like you think it’s a real sport.”

Mark – “It is a real sport. It’s Ultimate Frisbee.”

Me – “???”

I had deadly aim though!

I learned quickly that ultimate is a real sport. Oh my god, the horrible things they made me do! … like running, jumping, catching, and throwing. …for 2 days! I was exhausted by the end of the first day. One girl on my team disappeared after lunch refusing to play any more.

The girl who went missing is not in this photo.

The first day it was just the amateurs. They split up all the teams and put everyone on new teams with people we had never met before. By coincidence I was on a team with a JET I met the week before in Amakusa. We managed to win one game and I scored one point. Both happened after the girl left us one player short. I didn’t hate her for leaving, but I did wish I had the chance to disappear first.

grilling in the dark

The barbecue that night was amazing and we earned it! We stayed in a cabin by the beach. Many JET’s stayed up to talk with other JET’s from around Kyushu, but those of us from Oita city went to bed early. I for one, was tired. We had just the right amount of people. Our cabin could not hold one more person. All our floor space was taken.

Even with our cabin filled to capacity, we did not finish grilling all the meat we were given. We actually opened another pack of meat and ate that for breakfast. (And, because Mark and I brought a cooler filled with ice bags, we took home the last 2 packs of meat and one of vegetables. Someone else took home the other extra pack of vegetables. They gave us a whole lot of food!)

I don’t need no afro wig!

The Disco-saurus Wrex

The next day we played with the teams we came with. These teams were a lot bigger, but now we would play with college teams. We expected to be slaughtered, so we put on crazy costumes and tried to have fun. But we had no strategy. We didn’t think we needed it; we never thought we would win any games.

How can we best punish the winners?

Our reward is to play more games?

But we did. We, unfortunately, won all our morning games. I say unfortunately, because by winning all our first games, we placed into the highest bracket for the afternoon games. We were up against the young, talented, college aged, ultimate frisbee scholarship-receiving teams.

Go Green!

This is where our winning streak ended. But it was not at all shameful. When we lost, we lost by one or two points. Below is a video of one of those points.

In the end, I had tons of fun. I would do it again next year.

Actually, no I wouldn’t.

everyone needs a shoulder rub

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.TakecashandcallyourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)

1st Annual All-Kyushu Mixed
Ultimate Beach Tournament

(Ichi Kyu Bee)
(第一回全九州ビーチ アルテメツト大会)

Website:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • 1500YEN
    • Price includes 2 days of games,
    • field rental,
    • insurance,
    • and a FREE T-shirt

Hours:

  • 2 full days of exhausting fun

Notes:

If you plan to do this next year you will need:

  • to be in good shape
  • thick socks
  • a hat
  • sunscreen
  • lots of water

Otachimisaki Park
(御立岬マリンハウス)
(Otachinomisaki Marin House)

How to get there:

  • 32°21’44.5″N 130°29’25.1″E

Address:

御立岬公園 Otachimisaki Park, Ashikita

Japan, 〒869-5305 熊本県葦北郡芦北町大字田浦町145

Phone:

  • 0966-87-2390 for a Cabin

Website:

Cost:

Notes:

  • There are many things to do in this park, like go-cart driving, golf, fishing, …
  • There are restaurants open during the summer, but not other seasons.
    • Bring your own food and water if you do this next year (if it is at this park).

Map:

Posted in Ashikita 町, Japan, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Hangin’ with Hittites

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 20, 2011

September 23-25, 2011

All Pictures

S’more group photo

It’s not really camping, but we’ll take it.

Mark found out about a trip some of our friends from Hita were planning. “They’re going camping on that island we went to,” he told me. “I’ll just ask if we could tag along…”

We went to the Islands of Amakusa (天草) during golden week. That was where we ended up camping in some lady’s backyard.

The Hita people, or Hittites as I like to call them, said we could join them. We didn’t have all the information about what was going on that weekend. We knew that they were going to rent a cabin, but we didn’t know how big it was going to be. We brought our tent and camping gear just in case everyone couldn’t fit.

plenty room for everyone!

We got there before the Hittites and we were given the key. There was more than enough space and bedding for all. The cabin had a flat rate price and with all the people that showed up, I think we paid about 2,000YEN per person per night.

When our friends arrived we went swimming, or rather they went swimming. I thought it was too cold to swim, so I along with those who didn’t want to swim just chatted in the cabin. There was a waterfall at the campsite where Mark and some other jumped off of for some cheap thrills.

I prefer my good old terra firma.

newly wed toast

That night we had a big barbecue complete with smores for dessert. During our dinner, someone made campfire cooked broccoli and we all went crazy for it. Many of us hadn’t eaten broccoli since coming to Japan. Mark and I don’t eat broccoli much because they are imported vegetables and tend to be quite expensive. I missed broccoli.

ramen for all

Beach hopping

The next day we drove around from one beach to another looking for the ideal spot. The first beach was too rocky, didn’t have interesting underwater life, and had a big old jellyfish on patrol. The next beach didn’t have enough sand. We finally found a great beach and decided to make cheese ramen with egg and kim chee there for lunch.

If you like beaches, but you’re not that into sand…

We played Marco Polo in the water for a few hours. Yes. I jumped in the water too. It was hot that day and, even though I hadn’t planned to go swimming on this trip and did not bring my swimsuit, I dived in.

Jen’s photo of the beach

The beach was really nice as you can tell from the pictures I stole from Jen.

Mark and I with our Hittite Friends

We then went to see one of the most beautiful sunsets in all of Japan. By now, if you read this blog often, you may have noticed that every city by the sea in this country  boast that it has “one of the most beautiful sunsets in Japan”. Well, it is the same sun…

The next day they went whale and dolphin watching. Mark and I headed back to Oita instead. I live in Florida when I’m in the US. We have whales and dolphins in our backyards there.

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.TakecashandcallyourbanktoaskwhatATMs 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.)

Todorokimantarou village campsite
(とどろき万太郎村バンガロー)
(Todoroki Mantarō-mura Bangarō)

How to get there:

  • 32°25’05.2″N 130°02’07.9″E

The directions are a little tricky.

  • You must get on road 24.
  • From road 24 you will turn into the campsite’s parking lot. But it is easy to miss it, so don’t drive too fast.

Address:

2971-1 Shimodakita
Amakusamachi

Phone:

  • 0969-42-3956 Bungalow
  • 0969-42-3424 Camping

Website:

Cost:

  • ¥ 16,000 Tent (permanent)
  • ¥ 1 2,000 per bungalow

Hours:

  • 7:30 – 22:00
  • May – September for tents
  • Bungalows available year round

Notes:

Map:

Posted in Amakusa 町, Japan, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

She’s a Tall Drink of Water

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 5, 2011

May 2, 2011

All Pictures

Afro-Samurai

Nice Castle

We saw Kumamoto castle, because that’s just want you do when you’re in this part of Kyushu. If this had been the first castle I had ever seen in Asia, I might have been more in awe. But I’ve seen hundreds of these things, and like temples, they stop being spectacular after a while.

Jibo Kannon Statue

What is with me and Hell?

What we really enjoyed this day was the giant Jibo statue. The statue is of a loving mother holding her child. I guess that people, especially women, come here when they want to get pregnant.

We walked up the many flights of stairs to get to the head of the tall lady. It was hot, but we were promised a grand view of the city. It was a good thing I brought some water with me, because climbing in that heat made me very thirsty.

The view was not grand. The city is not big, but even if it were, we would not have been able to see it. The windows in the lady’s head were so small. We had to take turns looking out of them. But that was ok, we didn’t really care about the view anyway. We came for what was in the basement.

We ran down to the basement. We knew that Hell awaited us.

He got what he deserved.

I have visited many hells in many cities. I went to Buddhist Hell in Thailand, along with many mini hells at various temples. There was one hell placed in the foot of a huge Buddha. I’ve also visited a small town in China that was made up to look like the Taoist Hell. It was fan-tas-TIC.

I see you’re making a stew.

The hell we visited on this day was underground. We were a lot cooler in hell than we were in the statue. There were animatronic beasts and demons torturing souls. I have no idea what they said, since it was all in Japanese, but the lighting or lack thereof, made it nice a spooky. This is definitely not a place for kids.

stepping back in time

Look what I dug up!

Our next stop was at the Yoshinogari Historical Park. If I ever go to Saga again, I will go back to this park, because we showed up very late in the day. The thing I really wanted to see, the active dig area, was closed by the time we arrived.

We rushed around for half an hour trying to see what we could, but there just wasn’t enough time. If we had known that we would not have been able to find our campsite, which was a few towns over from the park, we would have just found a cheap hotel nearby and gone again the next day.

But we didn’t. We searched for our campsite, then for any campsite, then when I was too tired to drive, we checked into a creepy love motel on the side of the road.

next time

Save the Bones

I already know what you’re thinking…

“She wasn’t impressed with Kumamoto Castle, but old bones and pottery, she likes?”

Well, I see castles everyday. There’s one downtown in Oita city. I’ve seen many castles in England, Korea, China, and Thailand. Well, in Thailand they are actually palaces, but really what’s the difference besides some glitter?

But I’ve haven’t seen many historical dig sites. In fact this one brought the number of dig sites I’ve seen to a whopping… 2. The other one was the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China.  This one had actual archaeologists working at the site looking for stuff. So yes, this was more interesting than the castle.

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.)

Kumamoto Castle
(熊本城)
(Kumamoto-jō)

How to get there:

  • 32°48’22.5″N 130°42’20.8″E

From Oyano –

  • Get back on route 266.
  • Turn left (east) on route 57.
  • Turn left (north) on route 3.
  • Follow the signs to the Kumamoto Castle parking lot.

Phone:

  • (096) 352-5900

Website:

e-mail: Kumamotojou@City.kumamoto.lg.jp

Cost:

  • Parking is 100YEN/hour
  • Adults 500YEN
  • Kids 200YEN
  • Parts of the castle cost more to see

Hours:

  • 8:30 – 18:00 most of the year
  • 8:30 – 17:00 from November to March
  • Closed December 29 – 31

Notes:


Jibo Kannon Statue
at Naritasan Temple
(久留米成田山)
(Kurume Naritayama)

How to get there:

  • 33°17’05.8″N 130°32’06.6″E

From Kumamoto Castle –

  • Get back on route 3 heading north.
  • Once you get to the town of Makitsumachi look out for road#86. Take a right (east) at the next light after road #86.
  • Follow the map below.

Address:

1386-22 Kamitsu-machi,
Kurume-shi, 830-0052 Fukuoka

Phone:

  • 0942-21-7500

Website:

Cost:

  • Free Parking
  • Adults – 500 Yen;
  • Junior High and High School students – 300 Yen;
  • Elementary School students and younger – 100 Yen

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Notes:

  • Make sure to go to the Hell section. You get there by going through the feet of the statue.

Yoshinogari Historical Park
(吉野ヶ里 遺跡)
(Yoshinogari iseki)

How to get there:

From the Jibo Statue –

  • Get back on route 3 heading north
  • Take a left (west) on route 209
  • Stay strain on route 264 which will turn into road 22
  • Turn left (southwest) on route 34
  • At the 6th light, turn right (north) on route 385
  • The park will be on your left

Phone:

  • 0952-55-9351

Website:

e-mail: himika@yoshinogari.jp

Cost:

  • Parking 300YEN flat rate
  • Adult 400YEN

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00
  • The dig site closes at 16:30

Map:

Posted in Fukuoka 県, Japan, Kanzaki 市, Kumamoto 県, Kurume 市, Kyūshū, Saga 県 | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Not According to Google Maps

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 3, 2011

May 1, 2011

All Pictures

A wet morning

Campsite to Campsite

When we finally got to the Kobayashi camp site it was raining and the sun had already set. We managed to find the campsite and a spot to set up our tent without finding the camp office to check in.

We met a Japanese couple who spoke almost no English. They were the only other people at the camp. They showed us where everything was told us that the camp office was closed for the night. They recommended that we stop by the next morning to register and what not.

Those car mats would be complete soaked by morning.

Konsento doko desu-ka?

There was a kitchen area. It had sinks and lights. It was great for cooking, but not for eating since there were no chairs. There was a pavilion where we could sit to eat, but it had no lights.

We had electronics, like my phone, that needed to be charged. The last campsite had an outlet in the bathroom, but this one didn’t. We asked the couple, “Konsento doko desu-ka?” But they told us that there were no outlets.

the one and only outlet

But the place did have lights; they were just not turned on. Mark and I followed the string of lights to where they would be plugged in. At the end of the string of bulbs was a light switch and 2 electrical outlets. We flipped the switch, lighting up the whole camp. Then we plugged in our phone charger. The next day we got up early and plugged in our rice cooker to make rice for lunch later that day in another town.

We sat in the pavilion, eating our dinner in the light we had just turned on. The couple walk past us in the rain, looking a little confused. “How did they get light?”

 

This is what most tourists come to Kobayashi to see.

It’s not just a test! 

The next day we left the campsite. It was still raining. We saw some of the sites of Kobayashi through the down pour.

I have to be honest here. Yes, the town of Kobayashi was located very conveniently along the route we were taking. But the real reason I stopped in this town was for it’s name.

I am a Star Trek fan and I just wanted to say that I have been to a place called Kobayashi. Now if I could only find a place called Maru

tired already!

At least it’s not our own backyard.

After a day of sightseeing and step climbing we were ready to set up the tent and relax at a new campsite. I found one on the island of Oyano. I looked at a map on google and found the campsite.

From google maps, I got the website, address, phone number, and driving directions. I made reservations. I had a reservation number; all I had to do was show up.

We got to the campsite, a lady working there told us that we were in the wrong place. The campsite named on my paper with the reservation number was not here.

“Are you sure? Because google maps, says that this is here…”

The lady didn’t care what google maps was. She shock her head. “Not here”.

We wondered around the island, looking for our campsite. We stopped people walking on the road. Half of them pointed us to head further south, the other half had never heard of this campsite that someone had clearly mis-labled on google maps.

 

This is awkward…

We gave up hope of finding our campsite and just started to look for any campsite as we moved south. We saw a sign in Japanese that promised a campsite on the next island over. So we crossed the bridge.

We drove along the shore until we ran out of road. Then we saw another campsite sign. We got out the car and knocked on the door.

“Konichiwa. Campsite doko des ka?”

The lady beckoned me to follow her. She led me passed a bar in-the-making next to her house as she explained how much this campsite would be per night. She told me where the bathroom was and where to park my car.

She took me to a clearing behind her house. Mark and I stood there in disbelief. We had no chose but to stay.

We set up the tent and made tea for our dinner. As I sipped my tea, taking in the view I turned to Mark and said, “I can’t believe that we drove clear across Kyushu, to end up camping in someone’s backyard.”

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 banktoaskwhatATMs 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.)

Suki Suspension Bridge
& Mamako Falls

(ままこ滝)
(Ma mako taki)

How to get there:

  • 32°04’14.4″N 131°05’04.7″E

From Udo Shrine –

  • Get back on route 220 heading north
  • Take a left (west) onto route 10.
  • Keep straight on route 268 which will turn into 221 soon before you have to turn.
  • When you get to the town of Kobayashi turn right (north) onto route 265.
  • Go past road 26.
  • When you get to Suki Post office on your left take a right (east) at that intersection then another right at the T-intersections.
  • Stay on that road and turn right right before the baseball field.

Phone:

  • City Hall 81-(0)984-23-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • 200YEN when open
  • 200Yen on the honor system when closed

Hours:


Inyoseki
(陰陽石)

How to get there:

  • 32°00’58.3″N 131°00’23.6″E
From the Campsite –
  • Get back on route 265 heading south.
  • Follow the signs that leads to the rock penis.

Address:

陰陽石茶屋
日本
〒886-0001 宮崎県小林市東方 3332-5

Phone:

  • 0984-27-3611

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available
Notes:
  • Legend says Inyoseki is where a dragon ascended and fell in love with a beautiful woman.
  • This is a natural rock shape.

777 Steps
in Higashikata Nature Park
(東片自然公園)
(Higashikatashizenkōen)

How to get there:

  • 32°30’18.1″N 130°39’06.6″E
  • Go on route 219 heading west
  • Turn right (east) onto route 3.
  • After you pass route 336 take the next left  (west) turn.
  • Then make a U-turn as soon as you can and go under the road for route 3.
  • Turn right at the end of the road on the left side there will be a bridge and a parking lot.

Address:

This is in the city of Yatsushiro, Komamoto. At  the intersection of Route 3 and Rinkosen

Phone: 

  • (0965) 33-4123

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always availible

Notes:

  • Bring lots of water!

Map:

Posted in Japan, Kobayashi 市, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Miyazaki 県, Yatsushiro 市, Ōyano 町 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bigger Than Godzilla

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 2, 2011

March 19-20, 2011

All Pictures

This is what a live volcano looks like.

Take 2

A few weekends ago Mark and I noticed that the weather was warmer. It wasn’t summery enough to go camping, but non-wintery enough not to have to worry about icy roads up mountains. So we thought, “Why don’t we visit all the places we tried to see, but couldn’t because of snow and ice on the roads.

Is that smoke from the volcano or our car?

First Stop: Mount Aso

This is a live, though not-so active, volcano. People can drive all the way to the top. My car almost didn’t make it. The hill, umm, volcano is very steep. There was a burning smell coming from the hood when we finally parked.

Normally you can see down into the volcano, but we went on a foggy day. We will have to go back again sometime on a clearer day; maybe when someone visits. When we do, I’ll park the car somewhere and take the cable car up. It’s better for my transmission.

This is what the bridge looks like when it’s not spouting water.

Next Stop: The Water Spouting Bridge

We then got back into the car and headed to Tsujun Bridge. We looked at it, walked around it, walked over it, all while wondering when the water was going to shoot out.

We stopped by one of the shops by the parking lot to ask about the water works. “No March. Water in April,” we were told.

Great… We’ll have to come back for this too.

Finally an attraction that is in complete working order!

Last, but not least: The Dream Bridge

How could I not see the bridge that is advertised as being bigger than Godzilla? It is indeed a big bridge. One whose only purpose is to attract tourist to a part of the prefecture with nothing much else to do.

But, what is that in bananas?

You pay your money and cross the bridge. Once on the other side the only thing to do, if you’re not hungry, is go back across the bridge again to get to your car. Yeah!

There was tomato flavored ice cream…

The side of the road foreigner trap

Watch out for the non-existent curb!

Now I must complain about the roads here. I consider myself to be pretty tolerant of other cultures and other ways of doing things, but this is one thing I really hate about rural Japan.

Complaint #1: Are you sure this is supposed to be a 2 lane road?

There are some “two lane” roads that are slightly bigger than my car. Keep in mind that I drive a tiny k-car that is dwarfed by most vehicles. Yet, these roads are not one-way streets, but have two lanes going in opposite directions. What makes this worse is complaint #2.

Complaint #2: uncovered drains and road moats.

If you look at the picture above you will see what I call a “road moat”. It’s just an open ditch that runs along the side of the road waiting to swallow up any k-car that veers too much to the left. There is the smaller version, which is just an open drain. It’s not big enough for your whole car to fall in, but it will hold a tire or two while breaking an axle. What makes this worse is complaint #3.

Complaint #3: Can I get a street light?

It would be nice if there were some sort of light to help me see these little death holes along the side of the road. But on most streets that are not downtown, there are none.

Where are my tax yen going?

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 banktoaskwhatATMs 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.)

 Mount Aso 
(阿蘇山)
(Asosan)
Komezuka
(米塚)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 32°53’12.7″N 131°05’03.0″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Then get on Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose).
  • There are 2 Route 57’s. If you get on the wrong one it doesn’t matter. They both basically* go the same place. One is just more windy than the other.
  • *Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose) will end somewhere in Onomachi Tanaka. When this happens just head north on route 26 to route 57 (Higo Highway).
  • Once you’ve left Oita Prefecture and you’ve passed the windy mountain area look out for route 111. Take a left onto route 111.
  • For Aso Mountain take route 111 all the way to the toll road, where 111 ends. You can then take the cable car up for 1,000YEN round trip/ person or drive up the toll road for 560YEN/ car.
  • For Komezuka turn right onto route 298. You should see Komezuka in 1 kilometer.

Website:

Cost:

  • Cable Car Ride – 600Yen one way, 1,000Yen round trip
  • To drive up to the top – 560YEN per car

Hours:

  • The toll road and cable car to Mount Aso are open 9:30 to 16:30 when the weather permits.
Videos:
about volcanoes:

Notes:

  • Don’t go in the winter to avoid the chances of you going all the way out there only to find that it’s closed due to snow.
  • It is recommended that people with asthma, bronchitis, or heart disease should not go to the top of Mount Aso.

Tsūjun Bridge
(通潤橋)
(Tsūjun-kyo)

How to get there:

  • Coorinates 32°40’53.6″N 130°59’37.4″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Then get on Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose).
  • There are 2 Route 57′s. If you get on the wrong one it doesn’t matter. They both basically* go the same place. One is just more windy than the other.
  • *Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose) will end somewhere in Onomachi Tanaka. When this happens just head north on route 26 to route 57 (Higo Highway).
  • Once you’ve left Oita Prefecture and you’ve passed the windy mountain area look out for route 265 heading south.
  • ♦Stay on route 265 until you get to a town called Soyō (蘇陽町),
  • look out for route 218 and take it heading west.
  • Head south on the nameless road right after the light for route 445. If you miss it, just take the 180 heading east.

From Aso Mountain –

  • head back to route 111 where you came from,
  • get back on the 57 heading east, and
  • get on route 265 heading south.
  • Then follow the directions above from the “♦”.

Phone:

  • TEL 0967-72-1933
    • Call between 10:00 ~ 16:00

Website (translated by google)

Cost:

  • free and free parking

Hours:

  • The water only spouts for tourists in April and May on Sundays, Saturdays, and some holidays. Usually at noon, or noon and 14:00.
  • Check with the schedule on the website.
  • The rest of the year it spouts when the farmers need it to.

Notes:

There is a campsite not too far from the the bridge.


Kokonoe
(九重町)

How to get there:

By car –

  • Take route 210 or the Oita Expressway (toll road).

Websites:

Notes:

  • Be careful when driving in this town in winter.
  • Check the weather forecast before leaving your house.
  • If you do drive to Kokonoe when there is a lot of snow on the ground make sure to drive slowly, put chains on your tires, and watch out for crazy drivers who feel that they do not have to drive carefully in snow because they own SUV’s.

Kokonoe Yume Otsurihashi
 (九重“夢”大吊橋)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°10’25.9″N 131°13’36.4″E

By car –

  • Take route 210 toward Kokonow.
  • Then take either route 11 or route 40.
  • Look out for signs to the bridge.

Address:

1208 Tano Kokonoe Ōaza
Kusu-gun, Oita Prefecture

大分県玖珠郡九重町大字田野1208番地

Phone:

  • 0973-73-3800

Websites:

Download:

Cost:

  • Adult – 500YEN
  • Kids – 200YEN

Hours:

  • Jan – Jun 8:30 – 16:30
  • Jul – Oct 8:30 – 17:30
  • Nov – Dec 8:30 – 16:00
  • Close Dec 31.

Notes:

Parking is free.

Map:

Posted in Aso 市, Japan, Kokonoe 町, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Oita 県, Yamato 町, Yufu 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

All I hear is “Closed”.

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 13, 2011

February 11-12, 2011

All Pictures

Who is that!?

1008 Buddhas

Mark planned this trip. He made and printed out the directions and everything. There was a three-day weekend and I told Mark I wanted to, “do something” so he put this all together.

Our first stop was to see a thousand and eight Buddha statues. Mark wasn’t too sure he could find this place because there wasn’t much information about it online. He knew the town it was in, but that was about it.

“What’s going on here?” “These foreigners are lost.”

We walked into a grocery store. I found a lady walking around and stopped her.

“Sumemasen. Egio-ga wakademas-ka?” (Excuse me. Do you speak English?)

She responded by saying something like, “not even a little bit” in Japanese. But, I didn’t let a little thing like her not knowing any English at all stop me.

“Renjoji Temple, doko des-ka?” (Where is Rejoji Temple?)

Then she did something that almost all Japanese people do when they have to answer a hard question. She tilted her head to one side and sucked in air through her mouth. Mark took out the map and handed it to her.

As she looked through it another lady passed by. I don’t speak Japanese but I imagined the conversation went something like this.

Lady 1 – “Oh let’s see…”

Lady 2 – “Hey what’s going on? There’s a foreigner standing right there… and is that guy there Korean or something?”

Lady 1 – “They want to go to Rejoji Temple. Do you know where that is?”

Lady 2 – “Oh yes. Took the grandkids there 2 years ago. Had a great time!”

Lady 3 – “Hey what’s going on? Why are there so many foreigners in this store?

Lady 2 – “They’re lost.”

Lady 3 – “You don’t say. It’s kinda like that time when that other foreigner and his friends were in this very store. Remember Ethel?”

Lady 4 – “Oh yes. A fine day that was!”

and so on.

Eventually, with the help of a small crowd of old ladies, we were able to find the temple on our map written in Kanji. So remember, dear reader, when lost in Japan, go to a grocery store to ask for directions.

The smart one is the one in the middle.

Of course we would have still missed the turn to the 1008 Buddhas had it not been for the giant lady in the picture at the start of this post. The roads on the map are a little ambiguous. We thought the turn was further down the road and we weren’t even looking out for signs yet.

We saw a huge statue sticking out on the horizon. We were wondering if we should go look at it before or after seeing the Buddhas. Mark concluded that since the 1008 Buddhas might be hard to find, we should check out the lady first. Then we might find someone who could give us better directions to the Buddhas.

There was no one there to ask for directions, but in our search for the path up to the big lady, we found the temple with the many Buddhas. Hazzah!

No touching!

Stalec-might?

Our next stop was the Underwater Cave. It was not hard to find at all. The drive was a bit scary due to the windiness of the supposedly, 2-lane back roads with drops off sheer cliffs. Some drivers seem to take these roads as a challenge and refuse to drive at a sane speed. I try to pull over whenever I can to let these types of drivers by. I think they should die alone and definitely without me.

It’s cold and wet

The cave was okay; nothing like Hwanseon Cave in Samcheok, but still worth seeing. There were many kitschy things to pose with and take photos of outside the cave. It might even be a nice place to go camping or “cabin-ing” in the summer.

Japan’s Niagara

Every country has its Niagara.

I travel a lot… a whole lot. Everywhere I go the locals of whatever country I’m in will say, “Go to such-and-such Falls. It’s the Niagara of this country.” Then I would make my way there, usually by hiking up or climbing some horribly steep mountain to see the falls, only to be disappointed.

I think to myself, “Have any of these people ever actually seen Niagara? If they did they would stop comparing this little trickle of water to it.”

Below is the Niagara of the US and Canada; otherwise known as just Niagara Falls. Notice how small the 100-passenger boat looks in comparison. The falls in the picture above does not have enough water to float a dinghy, much less a 100-passenger vessel. …And the picture below is of only part of Niagara. There is more to the left out of the shot.

Niagara’s Niagara

So, lets all agree that Harajiri Falls is no Niagara. That said, it was still very nice. If I lived in Ogata I would come here for a picnic at least once a month.

There was a terrifying, but, hopefully safe, rope bridge to walk across. Nearby there was a lovely restaurant. The falls came with more that ample free parking, which I love. And I think it’s worth a trip here just to get some nice photos.

This was when our timing and good luck ran out…

“Put snow chains on your tires, now!”

Tie me up in chains

We left the county… I mean prefecture. We were going to see a volcano, a mound, and then maybe a bridge that spouts water. Now I must digress from my tale a bit to tell you about something we happened upon.

Three times on this trip we heard some weird sounding music. The first time it happen, we just thought that someone in the car ahead or behind us was play their music at full blast on very bad speakers. The second time it happen we knew exactly where the music was coming from. The third time, we recorded it.

We were driving over a musical road. If the road were to be thought of as a record, then my tires would be the needle and my car itself would be the cone-shaped part of a gramophone. Take a listen…

Alright, back to the story…

Mark and I went all the way up Aso mountain, or as far as we could drive for free. When we got to the toll road it was closed. We were an hour too late. It was 17:00 in the evening. Even though Oita city is about a 2.5 hour drive from where we were in Aso, I didn’t want to go home. I still had hopes of seeing the volcano the next day and it didn’t make sense to drive home to then drive back.

Unplanned overnight trips and sitting by wood burning stoves and now my favorite things.

I remembered that we passed a hostel on our way up the mountain. Mark and I decided that if the cheapest room cost 4,000YEN per person per night or less, we would stay.

We pulled into the hostel’s parking lot right in from a big hand written sign that said, “¥2,000 a night”. We thought nothing of it. Many motels have “bait and switch” prices to lurk customers in. When a traveler goes in and asks about the advertised price, he or she is told that those rooms are all taken, or that the sign is quoting a weekday price…

It’s just us.

Well, the sign was accurate. It really was 2,000YEN per person per night; no strings attached. The hostel is run by two sweet old ladies, who speak a little English. That night we were the only guests.

The ladies worried about how our trip would go. “Tomorrow many snow,” one told us. “You car have tire chain?” It didn’t. “Maybe bus better…”

They had the bus scheduled hung up in the lounge. We planned to take the bus up the mountain and then the “ropeway” to the crater if there was indeed “many snow” the next day. …which there was.

It’s like a snow cloud threw up everywhere!

At 9:50 we were standing at the bus stop to wait for the 9:55 bus. We waited in the cold. The wind whipped at our backs. Even though I had on my pajamas under my jeans and yesterday’s dirty socks over today’s clean ones, I felt grossly under-dressed.

There was an electronic sign hanging over the road. Many cars would drive up to it, then turn around and head back to town. Mark and I speculated on what the sign said. “Maybe the road is closed…” “Maybe there is a horrible accident up the road…” “Maybe our bus isn’t coming…”

We took a picture of the sign and walked back to the hostel. We showed the picture to one of the ladies. “Put chain on tire,” is what she read. At that moment our bus drove by, without us.

The next bus wouldn’t pass by for another hour. Mark and I decided to drive down to the bus station and catch the bus there. That way, we could wait indoors and maybe get a cup of hot coffee. Besides, if it started to snow harder, it would be better to not have to drive down the mountain later.

When it’s icy enough, you can just slide down Aso.

We walked into the bus station’s ticket office. There was a small line. I over heard a Korean couple asking about the bus to the top of Aso mountain. The Japanese ticket clerk didn’t speak English very well, but he managed to say that the bus was still running, but the cable car and the toll road were closed.

A German couple behind us in line asked if we could walk to the crater. Incredulously, I said, “But that’s a 3 kilometer walk; there’s no way it can be done in that snow!” The German lady seemed to like the challenge and responded, “I can do it.” Her husband nodded in agreement.

By then the resident English speaker of the bus station had stepped out. “No, you cannot. It is not allowed. The mountain is closed today because of the snow” Marked asked if it would be open tomorrow. “Maybe, but don’t count on it.”

We drove back to Oita with heavy hearts.

This looks a bit sketchy…

Wild Onsens

Back in our neck of the woods, we drove over to Beppu to look for some free outdoor onsens. They are referred to as “wild onsens” which make them sound even more appealing.

That’s not a good.

We knew of 3 and planned to test them all out by doing a little onsen hopping. But the first one had no water. The other two were completely closed off with a locked gate and a sign like the one in the picture above.

Last August a woman named, Hiromi Yokote from Kobe while alone near the Nabeyama-no-yu onsen was murdered. The Police are apparently still looking for suspects and/ or witnesses.

All the wild onsens that Mark and I know about in Beppu are closed. I’m not sure if it is because of the murder or the season.

Warming up

Our plan B was to go to any of the many private onsens in the area, but they were all full or separated by gender. So we ended up going to an onsen that we had both been to before.

All in all, it was a very good weekend!

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 banktoaskwhatATMs 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.)

Uchiyama Kannon
(内山観音) &

Yuchizan Renjoji Temple
(蓮城寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 32°57’22.8″N 131°35’01.1″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Be careful, in or near Inukai do not get on the Inukai By-Pass.
  • Instead go onto route 326.
  • Route 326 will then merge with route 502 heading west.
  • Take 502 heading west.
  •  When routes 326 and route 502 splits, stay with route 326.
  • When you see this sign, follow it to Uchiyama Kannon.
  • (If you pass the gas station you’ve missed it. But you can turn at the gas station. See the google map below.
    •  The Giant lady in the mountain should also be a clue that you’re near the temple.)
  • You will find 2 temples. One is right by the parking lot. The other is a 1 minute walk away.
  • The giant statues is a little walk up a trail by the second temple.

Address:

大分県豊後大野市三重町内山527

Phone:

  • 0974-22-2616 Mie-cho Tourist Association (Japanese)

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

Lots of free parking and a decent public bath, but you will have to bring your own soap.


Inazumi Stalactite Grotto /
Underwater Cave Inazumi

(稲積水中鍾乳洞)
(Inadzumi Suichūshōnyūdō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinate 32°54’01.4″N 131°32’36.5″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south.
  • Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Be careful, in or near Inukai do not get on the Inukai By-Pass.
  • Instead go onto route 326.
  • Route 326 will then merge with route 502 heading west.
  • Take 502 heading west.
  • When routes 326 and route 502 splits, stay with route 502.
  • After you pass Bungo-Kiyokawa Station look out for route 45.
  • Take route 45 heading south.
  • You will see a sign for the cave on your right, eventually.

By bus/train –

(from wikipedia-Japanese) –

Address:

稲積水中鍾乳洞〒879-7263 大分県豊後大野市三重町大字中津留300番地

Phone:

  • 0974-26-2468

Website:

e-mail: Info@Inazumi.com

Cost:

  • 1,200YEN/ Adult

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Notes:


 Harajiri Falls
(原尻の滝)
(Harajiri no Taki)

How to get there:

  • 32°57’55.9″N 131°27’08.0″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south.
  • Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Be careful, in or near Inukai do not get on the Inukai By-Pass.
  • Instead go onto route 326.
  • Route 326 will then merge with route 502 heading west.
  • Take 502 heading west.
  • When routes 326 and route 502 splits, stay with route 502.
  • When you get to the town of Ogata look out for route 7.
  • Turn left on route 7.
  • The falls are about 200 meters down route 7.

By bus/train –

(from wikipedia-Japanese) –

Address:

大分県豊後大野市緒方町原尻936-1

Phone:

  • 0974-42-4140

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available, though the restaurant and shops nearby do close.

Notes:

Free Parking


Kumamoto Aso Youth Hostel
(阿蘇ユースホステル)
(Aso Yūsu Hosuteru)

How to get there:

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Then get on Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose).
  • There are 2 Route 57’s. If you get on the wrong one it doesn’t matter. They both basically* go the same place. One is just more windy than the other.
  • *Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose) will end somewhere in Onomachi Tanaka. When this happens just head north on route 26 to route 57 (Higo Highway).
  • Once you’ve left Oita Prefecture and you’ve passed the windy mountain area look out for route 111.
  • Take a left onto route 111.
  • The hostel will be on your left before the information center.

Address:

922-2 Kurokawa Aso-shi, Kumamoto 869-2225 Japan

Phone:

  • 096-34-0804

Website:

Cost:

  • 2,000YEN/ night

Notes:

  • This place is run by 2 little old lady who speak a little English. They are both very nice.
  • It does not have a restaurant, but there is a Joyfull (not Joyful,butJoyfull) not too far away on route 57.
    • Turn right from route 111 onto route 57. It’s next to a Family Mart.

 Mount Aso 
(阿蘇山)
(Asosan)
Komezuka
(米塚)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 32°53’12.7″N 131°05’03.0″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Then get on Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose).
  • There are 2 Route 57’s. If you get on the wrong one it doesn’t matter. They both basically* go the same place. One is just more windy than the other.
  • *Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose) will end somewhere in Onomachi Tanaka. When this happens just head north on route 26 to route 57 (Higo Highway).
  • Once you’ve left Oita Prefecture and you’ve passed the windy mountain area look out for route 111. Take a left onto route 111.
  • For Aso Mountain take route 111 all the way to the toll road, where 111 ends. You can then take the cable car up for 1,000YEN round trip/ person or drive up the toll road for 560YEN/ car.
  • For Komezuka turn right onto route 298. You should see Komezuka in 1 kilometer.

Website:

Cost:

  • Cable Car Ride – 600Yen one way, 1,000Yen round trip
  • To drive up to the top – 560YEN per car

Hours:

  • The toll road and cable car to Mount Aso are open 9:30 to 16:30 when the weather permits.
Videos:
about volcanoes:

Notes:

  • Don’t go in the winter to avoid the chances of you going all the way out there only to find that it’s closed due to snow.
  • It is recommended that people with asthma, bronchitis, or heart disease should not go to the top of Mount Aso.

Free Onsens in Beppu

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°18’41.1″N 131°26’34.8″E

Mostly you will get lost.

By Car from Oita –

  • Take route 10 heading north. When you see “Las Vagas” turn left on route 500.
  • Pass the Hells of Beppu and stay on route 500.
  • Be careful, because route 500 turns. If you find yourself in route 11, you weren’t paying attention.
  • Grave-side onsen – (If you anything bigger than a small kei-car forget about this one. Your car should also have very good breaks.)
    • Before you pass under the expressway, you will see a shrap turn on your left. You will look at it and think, there is no way in hell my car, or any car for that matter, can make it up that hill.
    • Go up that hill.
    • Follow it until you have to make a turn.
    • Turn right there and go under the expressway.
    • Drive as far as you can pass the hundreds of graves.
    • When you almost get to a round-about you will see a flat area on the left where you can park.
    • Park your car and walk up the hill.
    • Then follow the path to the onsen.
  • Nabeyama-no-yuandHebi-no-yu- (I only got as far as the gate)
    • After you pass under the expressway, route 500 will take a sharp turn right.
    • You will leave route 500 and go straight.
    • Keep going straight even though you will begin to think that you can’t possibly still be on a drivable road.
    • Honk your horn around corners if it makes you feel safer. Who knows, it might help.
    • This road leads you straight to the gate. Then you’re on your own.

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • When I went there all 3 of these were closed or had no water in them. It might be because of the season, the murder, or a combination of the two.
  • *Update: The police have apprehended a suspect in the murder of Hiromi Yokote.

 

Kitahama Termas Onsen
(北浜温泉/テルマス)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°17’09.5″N 131°30’18.5″E

By Car –

  • Drive to Beppu at way of route 10 which is also route 52 through downtown Beppu.
  • It’s along route 10/52 and across the street from a pachinko parlor; what isn’t in Japan? The nearby landmarks near would be Beppu Central Hostipal and a short swimmable section of beach.

By Public Transportation –

  • Go to Beppu Station.
  • Exit through the east end of the station.
  • Head east until you reach route 10.
  • Then go north on route 10 until you pass Beppu Central Hospital.
  • Cross the street and look out for the osen.

Address:

11-1, Kyo Beppu

or

別府市京町11-1

Phone:

  • 0977-24-4126

Websites:

Cost:

  • Adult – 500JPY
  • Kids – 250JPY
  • You can bring your own towel, razor, or what have you, or you can rent them.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and soap are free.
  • Parking is free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00
  • Admittance ends at 21:00

Notes:

  • This is a co-ed onsen, so you must wear a swimsuit when you go outdoors. You can go naked in the gender segregated areas.
  • Every now and then they change the gender of the locker rooms. So don’t head off to change in one direction that was the lady’s area the last time you came.
  • You will need to have a 100 yen coin to put your shoes in a small locker in the main lobby. Everyone must have their own locker and you will get your coin back when you retrieve your shoes.
  • Give your shoe locker key to the front desk clerk and he or she will give you a corresponding key to the lockers in the gender segregated area. Put your stuff in that locker.
  • Take a shower. Put on your swim suit and head outdoors.
  • There is also a sauna and a bucket of freezing cold water that you can torture yourself with.

Map:

Posted in Aso 市, Beppu 市, Bungo-ōno 市, Japan, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Mie 町, Ogata 町, Oita 県, Ōno 郡 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: