With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Archive for the ‘Ehime 県’ Category

Dogo Onsen

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 16, 2015

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

All Pictures

We must have passed over thousands of these things to get to Shikoku.

But I have to work on the 7th

Winter is coming. This means that Mark will have about 2 weeks off from work. He wanted to go to Vietnam or Taiwan, but I talked him out of it. There are still many things in Japan we have yet to see. It would be cheaper to stay in Japan than to travel abroad.

So I made all these elaborate winter plans to travel to Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, and some other cities you may have heard of. All this city hopping would end with a day in Matsuyama, soaking in one of Japan’s oldest onsens on the 7th of January. After I showed Mark the schedule, he informed me that he had to work on the 7th. So I had to end the trip without a visit to Matsuyama.

“Are you guys in line?”

I was really sad. This onsen was an easy 3 or 4 hour drive away. There were two 3 day weekends in November. I suggested we went then, but retracted the idea. Holidays mean crowds. “Well,” Mark interjected, “I have to take a day off of work to go to Hiroshima and pick up our new registration cards. Can we do it then?”

We sure could!

Mark knows what time it is.

So we woke up freakishly early on a Tuesday and got to the government building in Hiroshima just as it opened. Mark was 3rd in line and got his and my new registration cards in 20 minutes. This is the least amount of time I have ever spend in a government building while actually getting something done.

I do have other shirts; I swear!

Mark handed my new and old cards. When I looked at the photos on the cards I noticed that in both pictures I wore the same green t-shirt. What a coincidence I thought.

“I don’t even wear that shirt very often.”

“Like today?” Mark asked.

I looked down at my chest. I was wear the green shirt. “Apparently, this is my interact-with-the-Japanese-government shirt.”

We took our new ID cards and headed to Costco for lunch. Then we set off for Shikoku.

Good information can be hard to find in Japan.

If we were rich

If we were rich, we would have taken the car ferry from the Port of Hiroshima to Matsuyama Kanko Port. We would have taken the 11:20 boat and reached Matsuyama at 14:00. We would have taken naps, played cards, and eaten instant noodles all while traveling. The cost for the tickets for 2 passengers, was about twice that for the toll for the many bridges it takes to get to Shikoku from Honshu. But no matter how hard I searched the website, I could not find the fare for bringing our car on the ferry.

I have learned to never do anything in Japan without knowing how much it will cost in advance. Whatever I think it should cost as a reasonable non-millionaire, will be a shamefully low underestimation of what the price will actually be. Sometimes there are deals to be had, but relying on this will leave you poor, frustrated, or stranded when you quickly run out of money.

I know the bridge toll would cost about 4,000 yen each way to get to Shikoku from Hiroshima prefecture, so we budgeted for that. The ferry might have been slightly more expensive, but I could not tell for sure before hand. I prefer not having financial surprises.

Reading the complicated onsen instructions.

This is not my first rodeo

I’ve been to many onsens in Japan before. They are all quite similar and usually go like this.

  1. Put your shoes in a locker or cupboard. If you have to pay for the locker, the money is usually refunded when you leave.
  2. Pay to enter theonsen.
    • This is where you can rent or buy a towel as well as purchasing any soap or shampoo you may need.
    • Some onsens let you use their shampoo and body wash for free.
    • When the soap and shampoo is not free they can be quite overpriced. I always bring my own just in case.
    • You can always bring your own shower supplies and towel.
  3. Go to the locker room for your gender.
  4. Put your stuff in a locker.
    • Keep the key with you for the rest of your stay.
    • You can take the key into the shower area and into the onsen.
  5. Take off all your clothes.
  6. Take a shower.
  7. Get into the onsen.
  8. Make sure your hair is up in a bun or ponytail. Your hair should not be submerged in the onsen water.
  9. If there is a unisex area, put on a swimsuit before you go there.
  10. When you’re done, take another shower. Dry off a little before going back to the locker room. You should not be dripping wet in the locker room.
  11. Get dressed. There is usually a hair dryer you can use. Take your stuff out of the locker.
  12. Give back whatever locker keys you still have.
  13. Put your shoes on by the door.

Laminated instructions

My guess is that this onsen has a lot of non-Japanese visitors who have never been to an onsen before, because there were instructions in English everywhere. I was even handed a little booklet at the information center with step by step instructions.

This onsen was a bit different. There were times when I was a bit confused as to what to do.

Let’s go in!

First we put our shoes in lockers. Then we bought our tickets and headed in. We got the Tama-no-Yu 2F (red) tickets, which was the 1,250 yen. It let us use all the pools and came with a tour of the royal family’s bath.

We followed the red line on the floor to our area. But first I needed to use the bathroom. I went to the first bathroom I found, which was on the first floor. When I came out I was surprised to see an attendant waiting for me. I had used the wrong bathroom. With my ticket I was to use the bathroom on the second floor only.

The 2nd floor lounge

Mark and I were taken to the “Lounging Room” on the second floor. There a lady explain in Japanese what we were to do. At this onsen, we put our stuff in the baskets on the mats and only put our valuables in the locker. This locker does not come with a refund when you give back the key.

There are 3 different robes. Each robe pattern corresponds to the type of ticket the wearer purchased. The cheapest ticket, the Kami-no-Yu 1F comes with no robe. That ticket only gives access to things on the first floor.

My red ticket robe and belt

Next we took our robes and towels and headed to the showers. Mark went his way and I, mine. I was escorted to a locker room and was left to myself. I disrobed and put everything in the locker. I entered the shower and got clean.

There was a small bath in the shower, so I hopped in. Soon I was the only person there. I looked around the one hundred year old onsen and anticipated what amazing onsen I would sit in next. When I got too hot I got out.

I went back to the locker, put the robe on, took my stuff out, and headed to the lounge area. (I read in the booklet that you are allowed to wear your underwear under the robe.) I wanted to look at the booklet again to see where the amazing onsens were.

As I put my stuff down and picked up the booklet, and lady brought me tea. I wasn’t ready for tea yet. I was actually on my way to go to the next onsen. I left the tea to get cold.

I was told to go to the first floor for the next onsen. I went there and put my robe and underwear in the locker. I took another shower and stepped into the pool. It had about 10 people nakedly soaking in its water and 5 more washing at the showers. There were tiled pictures on the wall. When I got too hot I got out, rinsed off, dried, and walked back to the locker room. I put my robe and things back on and went back to the lounge.

I asked about the second onsen. In my mind I had only seen one. The lady told me that the first one was the one in the shower; the tiny one. I had seen all the onsens.

You have no idea what I have just seen!

I went back to sit by my basket and wait for Mark. I drank my cold tea as a group of men entered the lounge. A lady went over to them, like she had come over to Mark and me, and explained to them how this onsen worked.

They stood up and some put on their robes. I expected them to leave, but no. They pulled down their pants and took off their shirts. One man stood there shirtless and in thermal underwear trying to get the attention of an attendant to ask a question. She and Mr. Long-johns talked for a few minutes before he put on his robe and took off his long-johns.

I sipped at my now empty cup of cold tea trying to look like I saw nothing. “Why are grown men undressing in front of me!?”

cookies and tea

Eventually Mark came back. He drank his tea and ate his cookies and told me all about his adventures. He seemed not too impressed with this onsen. I had to admit that I too wished we were back in Beppu. The onsens there were not just cheaper but, way nicer. There were two onsens here, but they were the same temperature.

In Beppu, you get more variety. The onsens come with different water levels and temperature. You have indoor and outdoor onsens. Some even come with a sauna or a mud bath. Can I get some bubbles?

relax as you watch old men undress

The lounge was nice though. I sat next to a flat screen that played mellow music and showed flower petals being scattered. I could not fully relax in the room though. There was too much talking and undressing.

I heard you like kitsch…

Afterwards we walked around the little town. There were many shops selling overpriced non-sense. I thought about my mom. Her birthday is coming up and I need to get her something soon. But, not here…

All Pictures



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.







  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with 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.)

Dogo Onsen Honkan

in The Dogo Onsen

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°51’07.4″N 132°47’11.0″E
  • If you are leaving from Hiroshima, you can take a ferry.


5-6 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture 790-0842, Japan


  • +81 89-921-5141



  • Level 1:
    • 410 yen, 6:00 to 23:00 (entrance until 22:30)
    •  60 minutes.
    • Kami no Yu bath (Bath of the Gods)
      • on the first floor
  • Level 2:
    • 840 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 21:00)
    • 60 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 1
      • rental yukata
      • tea and crackers
      • access to a public tatami room on the second floor for relaxation
  • Level 3:
    • 1250 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 21:00)
    • 60 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 2
      • access to Tama no Yu bath (Bath of the Spirits)
      • a rental towel
      • a tour of the Emperor’s bathing facilities
  • Level 4:
    • 1550 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 20:40)
    • 80 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 3
      • access to a private tatami room on the third floor for relaxation
      • Botchan Dango sweets are instead of crackers
  • Tour of the Emperor’s bathing facilities only:
    • 260 yen, 6:00 to 21:00 (entrance until 21:00)


  • 6:00 ~ 22:00 or 23:00 depending on which level of onsen tour you get
  • Dogo Onsen Honkan is closed one day in December for end of the year cleaning.



  • The most famous part of DogoOnsenistheDogoOnsenHonkan (道後温泉本館).
    • It’s a wooden bathhouse from the Meiji period.
    • It was used as inspiration for the movie Spirited Away.
    • This onsen is gender-separated.
  • There is a stone called Tama no ishi at Dogo Onsen which is said to be the footprint of Sukunahikona no Mikoto, a god who was healed by the onsen’s water.
  • As with most onsens in Japan, you can bring your own soap. shampoo, conditioner, and towel or you can rent them.
  • Be sure to stop by the information center to pick of free maps and get some advice for activities.


Posted in Ehime 県, Japan, Matsuyama 市, Shikoku | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Camping, Rabbits, and Poison Gas

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 21, 2014

Saturday, July 19-21, 2014

All Pictures

The Squares of Mark

The Fellowship of the Nerds

We were all packed and ready to go. I closed all the windows downstairs of our new apartment in Hiroshima prefecture and was about to turn off the computer. Mark asked me if he should bring the box of games. It’s a box containing games like Citadel and 7 Wonders among other nerdy delights.

“Of course,” I told Mark, “They will be expecting you too. In fact, they probably expect us to have a new game for us to play.” What kind of nerds would be if we showed up to a camping trip sans board games? “I do have a new game,” Mark said sheepishly, “I made it myself.” He started explaining his game. “I haven’t printed it out or laminating it,” he said, “Do we have time?”

I’m not going to say, “no” to a new game! So I gave Mark another hour to get his game made. I made myself a lemonade and watched China Uncensored and Crash Course while I waited. I had to turn up the volume to drown out Mark’s yelling at the laminator. (Yes, we own a laminator…)

“I place all my squares then I pick a swordsman, then I get a flag, then I choose a woodsman, then I get a star?”

Mark’s game turned out to be a bit complicated. We played one round in the basic non-capture the flag mode, but there were so many rules. Mark will work on his game some more, maybe even give the game an official name. We’ll try it out again on our next camping trip.

Tent or baggy sleeping bag?

Packing Light

Mark initiated this trip. He read an article about an island filled with feral rabbits. Since Mark likes petting and feeding animals, he had to see it. He planned the trip. …I mean he called up, Roland, a South African friend of ours and asked him to make reservations at a campsite. (Mark’s Japanese is not very good.)

Four of the other campers from our trip live on Kyushu. They woke up really early Saturday morning to catch a 4:00 am ferry from Beppu to Shikoku. Then they drove from the port to the campsite which took a few more hours. Mark and I had a 2.5 hour drive and we still managed to get there after they had set up their tents. They were waiting for us.

Four of them came in the South Africans’ k-car. So all of them had to pack very light; there isn’t much trunk space in most k-cars. Kane’s tent was very small and gave him just enough space for him to lay down. He plans to bike from Beppu to Kobe later on this year and this trip gave him an opportunity to test out his gear.

The view from a look-out near the campsite

We spent the rest of the day exploring the campsite. With this being a 3-day weekend and the area having lots of tourist attractions, the camp grounds was the most crowded I have ever seen a Japanese campsite. We walked around to see all the best spots that were taken by the time the Kyushuians got there. We still got a decent space, but people who showed up even later than we did had to set up their tents near the bathroom.

my meal: BLTs

A Meal From All

The South Africans and us used to cook our own meals then we would share the food potluck style. But this ended in lots of wasted food, double portions of meat, and mountains of dirty dishes, not to mention all the extra packing. So now when we go camping everyone gets assigned one meal.

I chose to make BLT for lunch since we would be gone for the day. I made the BLTs while everyone ate Freda’s “burritos sandwiches”. (In her determination to pack light, Freda forgot to bring the tortillas…) I put everyone’s BLT in zip-lock bags and handed them out before we leave that morning. We would find a nice place on the island infected with rabbits to have lunch.

the only a/c we’ll have all day

The boat ride was surprisingly cheap, for Japan. It only cost ¥310 per person one-way. We were so happy to find the seating area of the boat had air conditioning. I’m not sure what the people in their cars did. They stayed in their vehicles with the engines off and did not come up to the seated area. It must have been super hot.

Mark’s bag of bunny pellets made him quite popular.

Buy your own food

Mark read online that there would be rabbit food for sale on the island. There are boxes on the island for you to pay ¥100 and take a cup of rabbit pellets. Mark thought that the price was too expensive. So the day before we left Mark stopped by a pet store in our town and bought a 1kg bag of rabbit food for ¥300. (Even with everyone taking liberal amounts to feed the rabbits, the bag was still about 2/3rds full when we left.)

Once on the island we all took fists-full of pellets to lured rabbits out of hiding. In the area where more tourist were, the rabbits waited for us to walk over to them. In the area where less tourist were, the rabbits would hear us talking and come hopping out of the bushes like kids chasing the ice cream van.

Remember, eat the pellets not the hand.

They were just furry balls of cuteness and would eat right out of your hand. They did not, however, liked to be pet or picked up. If you held out a carrot for them to eat, one of them would eventually bite down on the carrot, snatch it out of your hand, and run off into the bush to not have to share the carrot with fellow bunnies.

For none carrot foods, they prefer to eat out the palm of a person’s hand. Any food dropped on the ground was no longer thought of as food. Sometimes we left food on the ground for a rabbit because we wanted to move on, only to have that rabbit disregard the food and hop along behind us in hopes of more pellets.

Who likes cahwots… Oh, who likes cahwots?

There are caretakers on the island who drive around and put on bowls of water for the rabbits. I don’t think they feed the rabbits though; they leave that to the tourists. There are plenty of tourists. Near the hotel where most of the tourist gathered around noon, I saw rabbits flat out refuse carrots and other treats, preferring to nap.

gas masks

How did you guys get here?

In 1929 the Secondary Tokyo Military Arsenal built a factory on Okunoshima to make poisonous gasses. There is a Poison Gas Museum on the island. The plaques on the walls say that the facilities were a secret. So much of a secret that most people, even in Japan, has no idea that Japan ever used poison gas on their enemies.

The museum states that little is known about how the gases were used in the war. They only know the effect the gasses had on the people hired to work in the factory. There were many type of poison gases made here and even though the workers used rubber uniforms to keep themselves safe, gas still linked through their suits. They had problems with their eyes and skin. Many got conjunctivitis, wet pleurisy, pneumonia, and bronchopneumonia.


The museum was built by locals for, and in the memory of, the factory workers and other people harmed by the gas made on the island. It is also a reminder that “war is meaningless“. The government wanted to keep secret the fact that chemicals weapons were made and used by Japan, but the people of Hiroshima prefecture wanted everyone to know the truth so that they type of thing would never happen again.

As for the rabbits… Some think that they are the offspring of rabbits used to test the gas. Others think they were left on the island by visiting school kids. I could not find anything prove either theory. But, the whole thing was a big secret until 1984, so who knows? Personally, I think it is very unlikely that school kids would just leave a couple of bunnies here on the island.

the old poison gas factory

We  walked around the island feeding rabbits and looking at old relics of war. It was very hot and after a few hours in the sun walking became a chore. We timed our walk to end a few minutes before the next ferry came. We would head back to camp and go swimming.

The only thing these Doritos are good for

Catch a Fire

One the way back from rabbit island we stopped at a convenience store. We planned to swim and then head to an onsen before grilling tonight’s dinner, so I wanted some snacks. I found a pack of Doritos and just grabbed it. I forgot that Japan has no normally flavored Doritos. One should always inspect one’s potential Doritos, reading the label carefully and consult with a Japanese/English dictionary if needed. I picked up butter and soy sauce Doritos. It was awful.

When it was time to fire up the grill Mark noticed that there was no more fire starter left. I remembered reading somewhere that Doritos make good fire starters, so I handed Mark my degraded bag of chips. He said that it was better than nothing, but he would never actually buy Doritos to start fires in the future.

South African Cuisine


This was Roland’s meal. Freda prefaced the meal with a statement saying that the meat was not from South Africa, but from the Meat Guy, who is Australian. The Boerewors was labeled “untraditional”. She said that meant that the meat was thinner than usual. It didn’t matter to me; it was delicious!

The South Africans love to braa and Mark and I benefit from their braaing every time we camp with them. They bring a bag of South African species to cook their meats. They also marinate meats in South African sauces then grill them and serve them with potato salad. They know the way to my American heart; meat and potato salad!

packing up

The next morning the Kyushuians had to leave around 9:oo am so they could drive across Shikoku again and make it in time for their ferry. We promised that for the next camping trip Mark and I would drive down to where they are. They could just pick a spot and we would meet them there. We said our goodbyes and they were gone.

Kampsites and Kabins

On our way back we found a KOA campsite. It was closed, but it was definitely a KOA. It had Kabins and a lodge. It looked like it closed down within the past 6-12 months. I email KOA and asked about their Japanese campsite, but I was told that right now there are no KOAs in Japan.

That would have been nice…

All Pictures



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.







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

Tatara campsite

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°15’28.2″N 133°03’08.5″E



Ehime-ken, Imabari-shi, Kamiurachō Inokuchi, 7523


  • Japanese only 0897-87-3855



  • ¥1,000 tent plus:
    • ¥300 per Adult
    • ¥150 per child
  • ¥6,000 for cabin (4-5 people)


  • Check in 15:00
  • Check out 12:00


  • Hot Shower – ¥200 for 5 minutes
  • Kitchen areas
  • You can rent BBQ equipment
  • There is a Circle K within a 3 minute walk of the campsite.
  • There areafewOnsens within walking distance, more within biking distance, and even more within the distance of a short drive.
    • The silver dome onsen (しまなみドーム/Shimanami dome) is a 10 minute walk from the campsite.
    • Bring your own towel, soap, shampoo, and conditioner or buy them at the onsen.
    • There is also a gym at this onsen.

(Usagi Jima)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34° 18′ 31″ N132° 59′ 35″ E


Okunoshima Visitor Center
Okunoshima, Tadanoumi-cho, Takehara City,
Hiroshima 729-2311


  • (0846) 26-0100 (English maybe)



  • Free
  • The Poison Gas has a ¥100 entry fee.
  • Ferry From Omishima (the island we camped on):
    • Adult round trip – ¥620
    • Kid round trip – ¥320


  • The ferries to and from the island start around 7:00 and stop around 19:00.


  • This island is part of Setonaikai National Park (瀬戸内海国立公園).
  • There is a hotel on the island.
  • There is also a campsite.
    • There is free assigned parking.
    • Check in 13:00 and check out 11:00
    • Cost: ¥1,030 per tent plus ¥410 per person. (You must bring your own tent.)
    • Showers cost ¥400. (I don’t know what kind of shower it is.)
    • There are vending machines on the island, but no stores. The hotel does have a restaurant though.


Posted in Ehime 県, Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan, Shikoku, Takehara 市, Ōkunoshima, Ōmishima 町 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: