Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shikoku 5-day whirlwind tour

Phone pictures from our trip to Shikoku:

Climbing the chains at Ishizuchi-san (a rather large, famous mountain)

The view from up high...

Camping in a gravel parking lot near Ishizuchi-san...

good thing we had futon mattresses.

One of two kazura-bashi (vine bridge) at Oku Iya Kazura-bashi...

"Look Ma! No Hands!"

Running on empty on our way back down the mountain...

Sanuki udon at a roadside restaurant in the Iya area

Lunch Viking at Tokyuinn Hotel's Shangri La restaurant
(In Japan, buffet = "viking style")

Naruto whirlpools sign (the actual ones were much smaller when we went).
Apparently, the best time to see the big ones are during the spring tides in March/April.

At Ryozen-ji, Temple #1 of 88 on the Shikoku pilgrimage route

Cotton Field campground... once again pitching our tent on gravel.
Although this campground was right up the street from the wonderful Kamiyama Onsen.

We took the local highways for the entire trip since our car (courtesy of the school) doesn't have an ETC installed (highway electronic toll payment thingy - like Illinois' iPass except more complicated).

The Free (sort of) Route:
From Yamaguchi, we took route 262 to Hofu, then got onto route 2 towards Yanai. The expensive part was the ferry boat from Yanai to Matsuyama (really Mitsuhama port) (the cost depends on the length of your car and number of people - 13,000 to 18,000 Yen - although the return trip only costs 1000 yen ~$10), but we figured it was worth the cost because it saves us time and is much more relaxing and fun. From the port, we headed to the Matsuyama train/bus station to pick up maps and ask questions at the Tourist Information Center (TIC). Over the next few days, we essentially followed route 11, then route 192 east to Tokushima/Naruto, with a few side trips off on narrow, winding mountain-side roads. Then back again, although we found out the hard way that the correct ferry port to get back to Yanai is actually Mitsuhama port, not Matsuyama port.
No Shinkansen, No buses, No trains, No expensive expressways, one somewhat expensive ferry.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Random things...

Some things didn't really fit together in one cohesive post, so this is a catch-all post for all of those things... and I have decided to call it:

Random things I'm enjoying about Japan, Part 1

1. Funny (although helpful) toilet signs.

2. Tasty 100% juice (and 100% juice blends) drinks.

3. Bunches of onions hang-drying.

4. Yummy Tandoori chicken/curry dinners at Shiva Restaurant.

5. Fancy, colorful drinks at fancy, birthday dinner restaurants (La Francesca)

6. Happy, coffee-flavored soy milk in the morning... (LEFT - soy latte anyone?)

7. ...or regular flavor (RIGHT) with fresh fruit and yogurt in the best granola cereal ever.

8. Kids making letters of the alphabet (M!).

9. Playing tennis at Yamaguchi Refresh Park.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Mia planned a secret birthday weekend trip for us...and the surprise destination was Beppu plus a big Taiko festival!

Takegawara Onsen (public bath house) with sand 'bathing'!

how to take a sand bath:

1. remove clothes, put on yukata (robe)

2. lay on sand, let old ladies shovel it over you (except your face)

3. go back to the bath, remove yukata and wash off sand

4. soak in a relaxing hot spring bath

Famous for having the most hot springs, Beppu was true to it's reputation. We experienced sand onsen (public baths), sulfur and mud onsen, hotel rotemburo (open air bath) and a good ol' modern onsen with mixed gender outdoor baths (with swimsuits)! Plus, we visited the 8 hells of Beppu!
More pictures here...

Giant Beppu mascot sculpture

Dessert plate from our hotel dinner