Search Results for: fire festival

Tejikara Fire Festival

I only heard about the Tejikara Fire Festival just a few days before it was held. I couldn’t find much information on it, and didn’t really know what to expect. It seemed to be one of those small local festivals that get passed over by the big inner city events. The mystery and the festival had to be explored. In short, I had minimal directions, and minimal info, and a camera. Here is my experience.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

When: Annually, on the second Saturday of April.

Time: Officially: 6.30pm to 9.10pm. Actually: Get there a lot earlier to enjoy the festival foods and atmosphere, and to find a good viewing point in the shrine. When I got there just after 6pm, things seemed to already be in full swing.

Where: Tejikara, Gifu. See Google Maps.

Transport: Take the Meitetsu train from Gifu (city) station bound for Inuyama, for about 8mins, ¥230 (Hypedia.com, 2016), then follow the crowd. Be sure to get two tickets, as there is only one ticket machine at Tejikara station, and the line up for it at 9pm will be crazy. Also, for your return be sure to get on the platform closest to the shrine for your return to Gifu city.

Links: Gifu CVB, Japan Travel, Japan Travel Advice, and more.

History: Apparently, it’s been a small local festival running for about 300 years, and seems to have a little or unknown origin.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

What: I’m still unclear as to what goes on. There are lots of fire fighters, and some fire trucks around the shrine. There’s lots of guys dressed in regular shinto festival outfits, sometimes topless. There are small shrines carried on the shoulders of groups of men from particular districts around the shrine. Each portable shrine has a different display. They stop at certain intervals in their approach to the shrine and set off firecrackers. I know from my Taiwan experiences that firecrackers supposedly scare off ghosts, so this might be related. There are loud bells being struck with hammers making a racket. The portable shrines are taken into the shrine for some sort of event, that I couldn’t see. You really need to get there early and stake out a spot.

Then when it’s dark large overhead lanterns are lit with fireworks running up guide ropes. Some of these fail, and it seems to be a challenge that the crowd cheer and applaud for. There are firework canons lit to create a vertical cascade of sparks, and some sort of story or performance of a traditional nature performed at the Shrine. I really need to go back, meet a local there and learn more. Usually, I’m on top of this sort of event, but I could not find a local to ask because I wasn’t in a position to this time. I’ll probably go back next year.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Photos & licensing: These photos will be available at my agent Henry Westheim, and at my PhotoShelter portfolio.

Advice: Festival food is a little expensive, but the whole point is for it to be a social event, and have food that you normally can’t have. Take a fist full of change, and enjoy a range of snacks like curried french fries, fairy floss, toffee apples, deep fried chicken, mixed fruit drinks, and more.

A food stall at Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

A food stall at Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Toyohashi Fire Festival

My first trip to this event, and it was awesome… except we had to pay to get in, even though it wasn’t a rock concert. Still an awesome display of burning gun powder. Thanks to the Nagoya International Hiking Club for taking me there. See the YouTube videos for more. Pictures available at Asia Photo Connection and my PhotoShelter accounts.


Fire Festival – Images by Andrew Blyth

#POTW Photo of the Week: Summer fireworks

Each and every summer, all over Japan, there are fireworks festivals. Each town or city has their publicly funded display, and tens or hundreds of thousands or more people flock to see them. The fireworks are held in the early evening, and Japanese people say the explosions somehow helps them feel cooler, and less hot from the day. I quite get the relationship, except to explain it away as the cooling evening and getting out of the house helps them cool down. Anyway, here’s the first photo of the week in a long time.

POTW: 23 July 2012, Summer Festivals

Photo of the Week, Japanese Festival (‘matsuri’)

It’s that time of year when many cities, towns, villages, communities have their festivals, usually before the official Summer Holidays (in Japanese, ‘Obon’), before everyone returns to their grandparent’s homes to visit the family clan, or are held during this time. The festivals typically feature portable shrines, floats, traditional dances, and has the gangster and gangster wannabes manning the food stalls on the side. Often the festivals are held at night when it is cooler, but still due to the residual heat and humidity some still dehydrate and suffer heatstroke. Add to that, the beer consumption is often high, but not binged. It’s also a time when young boys and girls are out scouting for ‘summer love’. Many people, of all ages, wear the summer version of the kimono called the yukata, or festival participant equivalent, the happi. For me, hearing the festival cymbals and drum practice in the weeks leading up to the town festivals is a sign that summer has come. See festival related photos on my PhotoShelter portfolio, Asia Photo Connection, by Henry Westheim agent’s website, and my YouTube videos:

A young woman beating the drum on her town’s portable shrine.

Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5 Review (or rather a rant)

The Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5

There are a number of reviews for this cheap mini digital video camera on the internet, and a Google search can help you find them (CNet has this technical review). This, however, this is a much more qualitative review. I have not been paid by Sony, and I do not depend on any electronics manufacturer to supply me with products to review, and therefore indirectly promote. I have bought this device, and have used it for a while now. What I have noticed in a recent Google search is that some basic problems of my Bloggie seems to be inherent in the current models (see other CNet reviews). Below, is my qualitative review.

The Sony Bloggie is very small, compact and I like the burgundy colour (though Sony, a Japanese-language company, claim it’s violet). It fits a Sony Memory Stick or standard SD card, making it in part ways compatible with some of your other electronic devices. It comes with a single Sony shape battery, that does not last very long and there’s no external charger, nor will the battery fit any other manufacturers devices. The Bloggie does not take standard AAA or AA batteries so you are locked in. It can do a few recordings before it needs recharging. I have been in a situation where I though it was charged enough, only needing to recharge it off of my laptop battery right at time of need. The added problem was that it would not function whilst it was charging. Even though it is intended for blogs and an internet social life, hence the name, it cannot be used for live streaming like on Google+ Hangouts or UStream. The primary assumption by Sony Engineers must have been a standard point of view that you would record, then upload, and not do both simultaneously. The supplied software, PMB does not upload high quality video to YouTube, see this early video of mine as an example, Nagashima Town Festival. Instead, you need to use the YouTube uploader to provide HD quality video to your adoring fans, see Sumo Bitch Slap. Aviation buffs will be disappointed with the rolling shutter problem, as shown in this video of a Curtis Kittyhawk taxiing. You will also notice that it can be a bit slow to focus, and the auto focus system can focus on not the thing you want it too, and you have no control of that. It does have a face-recognition auto-focus system, so most of the time you’ll get what you want. In this video of the Nagoya Domatsuri (Nagoya Dance Festival), you will also see it’s dynamic range (control of dark and light areas) isn’t bad, nor it’s automatic exposure settings. You have no control over the exposure, that is, there is no manual settings, but the auto-functions does a good enough job, however, I do not professionally produce videos anyway.

Now, as promised, the rant, but I promise to keep it unemotional. The problems I have encountered are when you want to play back the videos. On the camera the video appears smooth, on the Sony PMB software on your computer, the video appears smooth, when uploaded onto YouTube (using either PMB or the YouTube uploader), the video appears smooth. However, when viewing on your computer with QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or any of the Linux players the mpg visuals will jump and pause, whilst the sound will just carry on; it will be a frustrating watch. If you record family videos, party videos, or anything that you will keep private and share with friends, you cannot just send the file. You need to convert it to another format that will replay the video smoothly on your friends computers. I have used Any Video Converter in the past, but I had spent an entire day trying to find the right settings to convert the Bloggie mpg-4 file. Eventually I gave up and then tried Acala Video Studio. These two video converters are available on Cnet Downloads for free. I eventually found that the Bloggies mpg-4 file could be successfully converted to wmv format that will play smoothly, and so you can share private videos with your friends. In the year I’ve had this camera firmware and software updates have become available, and I was unaware of them until I experienced the frustration of getting a smoothly playing video file. I have not tested the camera with the updates, but will get to updating this review when appropriate.

The other problem with the PMB software for playback and uploading, is that once it has automatically installed onto your computer direct from the camera (nice and convenient), it cannot do that again, even if you have a new computer. Not to worry, just open the MP Root folder and then upload to your online account directly or onto your hard-drive. Files the Bloggie produces are quite large when the best quality settings are chosen (and I recommend you do this), so I also advise you to have an external hard drive to keep your videos on.

The below video of the Toyohashi Fire Festival demonstrates that the Bloggie can deal with difficult lighting situations, but also shows the slow autofocus. The sound quality seems reasonable, but there is no external microphone jack to improve things anyway. Would I buy this again? I’d probably shop around a bit more and see if there is something better (and cheaper), whilst still not discounting this.

photo of the week 19 Sept 2011

For a few weeks now I’ve been doing a “Photo of the week” on my Twitter feed. I’m choosing the nice photos of something relevant now or soon, or just personal favourites that need a gentle nudge into the spot light. However, I have got concerned that I might repeat a couple of photos accidentally, perhaps to the annoyance of followers who are eager to see what’s coming out of the land of the rising sun, so this begins my ad hoc cataloguing attempt. Seriously, there are people who do look forward to seeing what’s new from me. I’m not surprised, I do look forward to my daily Dilbert and Sinfest comics.

This Photo Of The Week (POTW) is being promoted now, six months in advance, so that editors can organise their material and choose my photo for it. As you can see, it’s a stunner. And as you can see, it’s a public event and children were there. Here is my blog entry about the Tagata Fertility Festival, held annually in March in Nagoya, Japan.

 

Here is a list of previous POTW.

Toyohashi Fire Festival: http://t.co/P0azYYA

Mt Fuji and Japan Airlines in the same photo: http://t.co/qsAF8Ye

Cute Cosplay girls: http://t.co/4vzhenF

5 Times to avoid travel in Japan

Sadly, this is the last time we will publish a travel related article for free on our own blog. However, we have not given up, and we will not quit. We have lots, lots, LOTS more to write about, photograph, and share. All our new travel articles will be published on our Patreon page.

I’ve had models come from overseas and want to work with me, and I’ve had to give them warnings and advice on moving about in Japan. Generally, there’s a few key pieces of information that all travellers must have. You simply cannot just turn up and expect everything to work; in this otherwise well managed, smoothly functioning country.


 

Japanese get very few holidays and little chances of having time off. They are expected to work like slaves through out the year and their lives. For instance, even though legally maternity and paternity leave is generous, generally men can get only really the day of their child’s birth off (and may be a couple more days). That means, there’s just a few opportunities in the year to do things like head back to their home towns. Many Japanese were raised in a different city to where they currently work. Consequently the transport system gets very, very, clogged at the start and end of the holiday periods. Major companies used to coordinate their holidays to be held at the same time, so that it was easy for staff to know if another company is contactable on particular days or not. This led to Friday afternoon jams on public transport like the bullet train, airports, and highways. A two hour trip could become an eight hour ordeal. At the end of the break the so called “U-turn” rush is just as bad. Companies kept this schedule for decades, but only recently have they started to relent to pressure to stagger their holidays, or offer “flexible” holiday periods for their employees. Flexible in quotation, as their is still heavy restrictions on when they can start and end their breaks.

The major holidays

1. The Golden Week Break

This is a collection of holidays including Children’s Day that were bunched together because having a scattering of days off was too disruptive for companies. The GW holiday usually starts from the last few of days of April and ends at around the 5th of May. The exact dates vary from year to year, and depends on when the weekend is.



The bullet train is known by the locals as the “shinkansen”

2. The New Year Break

The New Year holiday replaces the family focused Chinese or Lunar New Year (CNY) that was celebrated until this post-war period began, and is now largely forgotten from Japanese culture. For European cultures, Christmas is the big family time of year, but CNY was that for Mandarin influenced cultures. Today in Japan, they have completely adopted the Gregorian Calendar, and so the European New Year is celebrated instead. The break normally starts at around the 27th December (depending on when the weekend is), and lasts until about the first weekend of the new year. Usually, you would have to avoid travelling on that first Sunday.

3. The Mid-summer festival break

This is also called Obon in Japan. In Mandarin influenced cultures, this is a mid-summer feast to celebrate the end of harvest. In post-agrarian Japan, it seems this is largely forgotten, and is known as a holiday to celebrate the ancestors. It used to be held according to the lunar calendar, but since Westernisation in the late 1800’s, the holiday was fixed to the Gregorian rather than the lunar Calendar, but is still a floating holiday. It generally runs from around the 11th to 16th August each year (depending on the companies). It’s not an official holiday, and so government offices are still open, and many services still operate on normal schedules.

On any given day

4. In the mornings

The subways can be crazy-crowded, especially in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. The times to avoid generally vary by station, by section, and especially by line. Generally avoid the main lines that connect to central nodes, especially between 7.30am to about 8.10am. If you take the train during this rush period, you won’t be standing only shoulder-to-shoulder (yes, let your imagination run wild). If you have a backpack, it’s best to wear it on your front when inside the train.

 



An office worker at a subway station probably wondering how to get home after an after-hours get together.

 

5. Late at night

Two things to be mindful of. The last subway train can run from around 11.40pm to maybe 12.20am. This means, if you miss it, expect an expensive taxi ride home. Check hyperdia.com for train times. The other thing is if there’s a special event or festival. Subway stations are not designed for big event crowds. So when a fireworks display, a baseball game ends, or even a town festival ends, crowds will generally descend on the closest (often only) nearby train station all at once. Don’t plan on any taxis being available, or even a way to drive anywhere between the event and the train station. Crowds can be so thick that even traffic wardens can keep cars at traffic lights waiting for over half an hour or longer, if the roads were allowed to be open at all.



Some festivals can attract crowds of anywhere between 100,000 for a small local festival, to many hundreds of thousands.

 

Bonus: Kyoto on any given afternoon

Kyoto residents are proud of their city’s heritage. So beautiful is it, that a captain in WWII in the US military who was tasked to choose bomb sites said that the city has such a cultural and architectural heritage that it should be spared from all bombing. Today, hoards of tourists descend on the city on a daily basis. Many Japanese and Chinese tour groups have their own buses, but North American and European travellers tend to find their own way about town. Consequently, when all the tourist places close at 4.30 or 5pm, suddenly, there are hoards of tourists all trying to cram onto buses or take taxis simultaneously. Consequently, the roads and buses are clogged with lots of very tired travellers and locals.



A Kyoto City bus in the afternoon just before tourist sites close for the day.

Okunoshima, aka Rabbit Island

Okunoshima is one of those very special experiences, and it will amaze your friends when you tell them about it. It is one of those places that is rare and unique, and having been there you can truly call yourself a traveller, not a tourist, but a Traveller.

In short, people go to Okunoshima for the rabbit experience. It must be the cutest and most heart warming experiences you can have in Japan. Like every coin has a second side, like for every yin there is a yang, the island also has a dark side; it was where the Japanese military made its’ illegal chemical weapons.

A rabbit on Okunoshima, aka Rabbit Island, in Hiroshima Prefecture Japan.

A rabbit on Okunoshima, aka Rabbit Island, in Hiroshima Prefecture Japan.

Getting there and breakfast

From start to finish the whole trip is like an adventure for my ten year old daughter and I. I didn’t tell her what to expect, I just said, “Let’s go on an adventure”, she replied, “Ok”, and so it began. Travelling from my home in Nagoya, it’s a two hour bullet train ride to Fukuyama, then a change to a local version of the bullet train to Mihara, then a change to a real local train for Tadanoumi. By this time it was dark, and we could only see the occasional lights. At Tadanoumi station we were kindly met by the AirBnB host, even though it was about 10pm at night. We could smell hints of the sea. I was dog tired and looking forward to collapsing in a bed. A habit of mine when nearly arriving at my hotel or AirBnB is to always keep my eyes peeled for restaurants, convenience stores, transport hubs, and other essentials. I spotted a Seven Eleven and felt relief. We dumped off our bags at the house, and walked back the five minutes to the Seven Eleven. Along the way, in the silence of the town and the mist of the seaside darkness we saw a fox bound out of the bushes ahead and leap across the nearby railway tracks, and he seemed to evaporate into the darkness. We picked up some drinks and breakfast, and headed home in the still, quiet night.

The accommodation

The bed was a typical Japanese futon in an old style house. It was thin and laid out direct onto tatami, and with a very thin pillow. Towels were like they were from the ¥100 Shop ($1 Shop), small, very thin, and I needed two to dry. Because this was mid August it was also mid-summer in Japan, so it’s really humid and oppressively muggy-hot at 8am in the morning. Showering in the morning means you don’t actually get dry; you go from shower-wet to sweaty-wet unless you stand in front of the dehumidifying-air conditioner.



The view of the sea and nearby islands seen from the Tadanoumi high street.

The town

Tadanoumi, as it turns out, is a seaside town. The name, I was told by my daughter, simply means, “It’s just the sea”, a very “duh” name made into an address; and it must raise a smirk for non-locals to hear. Seeing any town by daylight after arriving in the night is a surreal experience. Especially when discovering that the sea is right there. The ferry ticket office is is just off the high street (off the main road) right in front of the wharf where the ferry lands. It’s easy to find, just follow other people who are wearing hats, sunglasses, and backpacks, or else use Google Maps (link provided below). You may be lucky enough to stay at an AirBnB that provides a portable wifi for your use, otherwise double check your route and with Google Street View before you set off. FYI, now there are various small companies in Japan that can lease out portable wifi hubs if you would rather hold onto one for all your travels.

 



The ferry arriving at Tadanoumi.

Getting to Okunoshima

Ferry tickets are ¥310 for adults and ¥160 for children, but you will buy them as return for ¥620 and ¥320 respectively. There are two types of ferries, one that takes only 100 people, and the main one that takes about 300 people and cars, bicycles, and light trucks. It costs ¥120 per bicycle, and up to large motorbikes and cars which are ¥500. Prices are current as of the 18th August 2017. The ferry time table is included in the Getting There section later. The ferry ride takes about 10 to 12 minutes, barely enough time to enjoy sitting, and barely enough time to cool down in the air conditioning on your return.



I didn’t know it at the time, but I took my first photo of Okunoshima here. It’s the closest one in this image, with Japan’s tallest power lines.

Moments after getting off the ferry my ten year old daughter was startled, “Oh! Look! A rabbit!”. “What?! No way! It’s an island. There can’t be any rabbits here!”, I coolly replied. “Yes there is! Look! Another one! That boy’s patting it! And another! Wow! Oh!”. And it continued. This is the definition of “shock and awe”.

 

The Island

The Rabbits

First point to note is that they do not sell any rabbit food on the island. I’m not sure why, but my guesses are that in so doing, it doesn’t lead to overfeeding and overpopulation of the rabbits. This might be especially important as the number of tourists are not constant throughout the year. You can purchase a small bag of pellets at the ferry ticket office, or ask your AirBnB host for advice on how to get some cabbage. If you’re lucky, your AirBnB host might leave a bag of cabbage in the fridge for you, so please thank them very much if they do. Second point is, they are wild animals, not pets. That means there are rules for your safety, and for theirs. That means, don’t pick them up, and especially, don’t feed them by the side of the road. It’s dangerous for the rabbits if they become accustomed to expecting food right next to where buses and cars pass through. They also ask people not to abandon their pet rabbits on the island, which will have repercussions for the former pet who is not accustomed to life in the wild.



This photo was taken within 50 meters of the ferry.

 

Literally, within the first moments of stepping of the ferry and setting foot on land you will see rabbits. Nobody knows how many there are, but probably a thousand or so that can be seen from the main thoroughfares. The island is small, and takes only a couple of hours to walk around. In this couple of hours you will stop a lot, and spend time with bunnies. There are so many that you can tire yourself out. At the start everyone says “Oh! How cute!” and are eagerly and sincerely trying to get close to the bunnies, and have a real authentic interaction with them. However, close to midday I saw hot, tired, weak, lethargic people simply dropping bits of cabbage to rabbits before stumbling on.

 



A view of the old power plant through a tunnel.

 

Just off the ferry, you will be confronted with a choice of either going left or right. Most people go left towards the camp-ground, hotel, the swimming beach, and the main museums. However, I recommend going right to where it’s a bit quieter, and you can have a less distracting experience with the bunnies. Head towards the creepy looking old power generation building that seem to deter most Japanese people, so you can have more bunnies to yourself. I don’t recommend circumnavigating the island, as it can be a too long-a-walk; you will be worn out and won’t enjoy the experience any more. So, meet and feed the bunnies at the old power station, then head back towards the hotel.

 



People feeding and enjoying time with some rabbits near the power plant.


Feeding rabbits is one of the most unique experiences in your life. Interestingly, sometimes when they hop away they pee. It’s not squirted or dribbled, but by the hopping movement, it’s left like a trail frozen in the air for a moment before it falls to the ground. Also, watch out for where you put your hands, they can pee on them too! Another badge of honour that can be earned at bunny island.



A rabbit at Okunoshima.

A rabbit at Okunoshima.

Pro-tip: When photographing rabbits, don’t point your camera down at them from your eye level. Instead, put your camera down on the ground and photograph from their eye level.

 

Swimming

My AirBnB host said that the beach at Tadanoumi is great, as it’s clean, nice, and not crowded, but the beach at Okunoshima is dirty and crowded. My verdict is that the beach at the island is nice, a bit ouchy to walk on barefoot with the gravelly sand, and there’s some rocks under the surface of the water. There’s also some tidal current there, but not too strong. Just the same, there were very young children playing there, and a lifeguard who a few times per hour jumped on his board to rescue a blow up toy that was attempting to escape the roped off area. I’m someone who always has to feel productive, so this was an amazing experience in itself. I put my phone down, had no book, no laptop, only my thoughts. It was the most intellectually clarifying times I have experienced in many years. Warning, there’s very little shade here, and so you must have a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen. If you don’t like beaches, the hotel has a pool nearby.


The beach at Okunoshima

The museums & ruins

The island today is a national park managed by the government. There are two main museums, one is the military related ones, and the other is the conservation one. There’s a lot of ruins on the island. The island was first settled by the army in 1902 during the Russo-Japanese War. They installed batteries (land-based naval canons), and a power station. Later, in 1927-1929 the Japanese army built facilities and began to create and store chemical weapons on Okunoshima. The 1925 Geneva Convention explicitly states that the use of chemical weapons was banned, but did not include the development, production, and storage of them. The Japanese army kept the development, production, and storage of them such a secret that the island was kept off many maps that were made. The island was chosen because it was considered far enough away from Tokyo to make the toxic chemicals like mustard gas. Ironically, the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant was the deadly one, and it was magnitudes closer to Tokyo. Within a year of the end of the Pacific war (ending in 1945), the remaining chemicals were destroyed at the orders of the US occupiers, so too the equipment, and so forth. The US military used some of the facilities to store munitions especially during the Korean War (1950-1953) before Japan was returned to self-rule in 1956. The ruins you will find there include observation lookouts, battery facilities, power house ruins, old bomb shelters, and so forth.



This image above is of the main storage place of the chemicals, which supposedly still has toxic traces today.

How did the rabbits get there?

There are a few theories about how the rabbits got to the island. It is said that the rabbits were taken to the island so that they could test the chemical weapons. At the end of the war, the remaining rabbits were supposedly set free rather than being destroyed. However, no one is sure if any of that is true. Other theories suggest that the rabbits were introduced or reintroduced in the 1960’s. There appears to be one species of rabbit, with limited number of variations, which suggests a small number seeded the island, certainly at some point in the last 100 years. A Japanese tv programme suggested it was a fisherman in the 1960’s who seeded the island with six (three breeding pairs), just to establish a local tourist industry. Considering the tourist industry there now, this final theory is the most likely.

 

The Shinto Shrine

There is a Shinto Shrine on the island, there is an information plaque, but nothing about it in English. This is strange as everything else is bilingual, but this. At the moment I don’t know anything about the history, the current status, or even the purpose of it. I hope to update this section eventually. Sadly, this monolingualism of Japanese temples and shrines is common, even though some monks and priests are bilingual speakers themselves.



A Japanese tour group a the island Shinto Shrine.

Getting there

Okunoshima is not accessible by land transport, but only by ferry from Tadanoumi. The ferry does a few runs before 9am, and then frequency of services drops dramatically through the day, and picks up again in the late afternoon. There are two ferries, a small one, and a larger one that can take cars and upto about 300 passengers a time. For use on Google Maps and other electronic search functions, you might need to use both “English” and Japanese variants of the name, or else just copy and paste from this post. Okunoshima is written as oo ku no ji ma  おお く の じ ま which is converted to 大久野島 by the Input Method Editor on the iPhone. However, my Windows 10 IME struggled and failed to produce the correct Chinese characters.



Boarding the ferry to depart Okunoshima. Women in Japan commonly use umbrellas and parasols for portable shade.

The best way to get to the island is to plan your trip via the town Tadanoumi 忠海. The island is in Hiroshima Prefecture, and to get to Tadanoumi by bullet (aka Shinkansen in Japanese) and local trains it’s about:

  • Three and a half hours south from my home base Nagoya
  • Two hours south from Osaka, and
  • One and a half hours north from Hiroshima

On Google Maps Okunoshima is here: https://goo.gl/maps/xNNVHZEfzVF2.

Ferry ticket office and wharf is here: https://goo.gl/maps/iedNLQYRsNE2. Zoom in on the map to see the precise location of the wharf and ticket office.

The ferry time table that was current as of the 18th August 2017.

The ferry time table that was current as of the 18th August 2017.

 

Accommodation

I didn’t stay on the island, instead I found an AirBnb at the closest town called Tadanoumi; more on that below. There is a hotel on the island, but it doesn’t look like it needs to compete for customers. The exterior looks like it was designed by a bored bureaucrat with a migraine on a late Friday afternoon in the 1930’s. Almost all hotel lobbies in Japan greet you with near-ice cool, welcoming, relieving, air conditioning; which helps humanise you before going to the reception. Even though I was hot, perhaps suffering from a little heat stroke, the lobby did not have air conditioning, instead it was stuffy and more muggy than the inside; it was actually cooler to sit outside in the shade. I didn’t see the rooms, but I suspect they are not quite three star.



The hotel on Okunoshima, which also has the café, restaurant, and gift shop. This is where you’ll probably have your lunch.

The AirBnB place I stayed in was a very old Japanese style house that was modestly spruced up for travelling guests. I honestly didn’t feel comfortable there, as it was a real Japanese-like living experience. The towels were thin, and very small, which is apparently normal for Japanese. The house overlooked a busy road and didn’t have curtains on the windows. I think you get the picture. To my horror, I realised that the host can even rate the guests, even though they are the ones who are in it for the business! Luckily I was nice, and clean. The host was super nice, super friendly, and super helpful. I got a good rating as an AirBnB guest.



Surprisingly, you can camp on the island. You can rent gear that includes what looks like a four person tent, fly, hammock, camp table and chairs. Yes, I did say “hammock”! There are campfire hearths for cooking, and a shower block too. Of course, there’s bunnies all about the place when you wake up. So, what can you do for food?


Eating

There are four ways to eat on the island. Only one of them is vegetarian or vegan friendly.

  1. The hotel restaurant
  2. The hotel café
  3. The beach side stall
  4. BYO

The hotel restaurant menu features octopus. Lots of octopus dishes. I do not eat seafood, and so I couldn’t find anything on the menu that I could eat (except for items in the drink and dessert menus).

The hotel café offers a lot of octopus dishes too, but also plain, cheap, Japanese cafeteria style bland curry with rice, which probably had bits of pork in it.

The beach side stall offered various meat-on-a-stick choices, and yakisoba, a pork and noodle food.


Yakisoba, which is pork and noodles. This seems to have been heated in a packet before serving. This food is also a popular festival food.

Of course you can bring your own food, but you cannot give it to the rabbits. There are lots of drink vending machines in Japan, and so you can find such things on the ferry, and at the main buildings on the island. The Seven Eleven near the Tadanoumi wharf has standard food and drink options, so you might want to bring your own snacks and lunch from Mihara city.

Transport

There are a few options to get about on the island. Ninety percent of people just walk. Some people hire bicycles from the hotel, but please don’t. The rental bicycles have really noisy squeaky brakes. However, the good part is the rabbits, like Pavlov’s Dogs, have learnt to associate squeaky brakes with food, and so they’ll come hopping. Very, very few people take cars, but hotel guests take the bus for the one minute ride between the ferry wharf and the hotel.



The shuttle bus that does the run between the wharf and the hotel takes about one minute.



Rental bicycles from the hotel. Children’s bikes are blue with blue love-hearts; good for both genders.

 

Dining at Tadanoumi

It turns out that there are just three choices in Tadanoumi. First is whatever you can find in the Seven Eleven. The second and third are the okonomiyaki restaurants. Luckily, the one we went to was great. We were tired, and it was amazing to watch how he made it right before our eyes. Okonomiyaki is normally made with batter, and a mix of basic veggies and a meat. This is Hiroshima style, and so it’s different. I won’t spoil it for you, but let you experience it for yourself. It was awesome!

The okonomiyaki restaurant in Tadanoumi.

The okonomiyaki restaurant Eshima in Tadanoumi.

The restaurant called Eshima was a little difficult to find. Since it’s one of two options in the town, the older lady at the petrol station knew exactly where it was and what I was talking about. The map shows three, but I was told there’s only two; feel free to explore. Here’s a map to help you get there. The guy running it is really nice and friendly. I hope you enjoy it. Google Maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/Fax6xgdwXVF2

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