Extraordinary Road Trip Japan
Road Trip around Japan, from Top to Bottom
Grass was growing under my feet, and it seemed as if decades had past since my last Road Trip adventure " Australia to Germany "
Hitch hiking with a friend around Europe and sleeping at trains stations, and on park benchs only took the edge off my lust for adventure. After reading " The Third Eye " by Lobsang Rampa. I wanted to see Tibet and the capital Lhasa, but chasing Yeti by myself was not an option. Travel on The Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia on the other hand, was a good alternative.
Plus, it was about time I went home to visit my family in Australia, and train travel to Vladivostok on the east coast of Russia would get me closer in the general direction. From there I could catch a freighter to Australia. Having sailed from Perth in Western Australia to India on a container ship a few years prior, this seemed like a good idea. After a couple of weeks I had gathered heaps of info about Russia and travel plans for train ride from Moscow and flights to Melbourne from Vladivostok. This was going to be exciting, until I received a letter from Japan. A Japanese company offered me a job as a fitter & turner and wanted me to start ASAP. This was good and bad news. Train travel would take 2 weeks, not including getting to Moscow. Not fast enough for my new Japanese boss.
So it was Tokyo by plane. A Boeing 707. I packed my bags and got the cheapest airfare I could find. Sabena airlines, very bad choice but it was cheap. People would say that SABENA stood for "Such A Bad Experience Never Again" First thing I did when I arrived. I went to the Japanese copy of the Eiffel Tower. Back then, it was 2nd tallest in the world. After having my photo taken with the rest of the tourists, I went to train station and caught the famous bullet train to Nagoya, where I was going to work and earn some money to get to Australia. And do an adventure tour of Japan.
At this point I would like to mention that most of my photo's I made in Japan are Black & White, so I hope you don't mind if I use some of them in these pages. Some color images are from post cards I collected, and will I credit them accordingly.
Preparation of Station Wagon
We had no need to buy a vehicle because we used the company car. Although it would have been great to have our old 4x4 for this trip.
The owner of the company had no problem with that, after we told how much free advertizing he was getting with the car full of company details. We added some extra signage as well. The roof rack was boxed in, and then we wrote, " Traveling around Japan " on all four sides. Together with a Japanese and German flag. On the bonnet we put the word PEACE and a big Peace Sign.
We had a fantastic reaction from everyone that saw the car. People would always stop and look and try to say hello. Especially the younger generation loved it. More about that later. We also installed an oil filled compass to the front of
dashboard, making it easier to see if we were heading in the right direction. We needed it because we could not find any English maps of Japan that showed the roads we wanted to take. Besides, road signs are only in English in the LARGE city's like Tokyo and Osaka etc. But the Japaneses maps were very good, and we soon learned how to read the sign and telly them up to our map. We just made up names for the funny little symbols like, house with 5 chimneys, man with one leg holding pizza and so on.
That's all as far as preparation was concerned. We filled the wagon with Mosquito netting, sleeping bags, cooking gear, including a Jaffle iron and clothes. And we were ready to rock and roll. Because these pages are about my Adventure, I have not included photo's of Fantastic Castle's which are all over Japan. Including the one in Nagoya where I lived, or any other so called Tourist attractions. These you can find on the web, so I hope you don't mind my private collection of images.
Map of our route through Japan.
Nagoya to the Island of Pearls - Mikimoto Island
Nagoya is sort of in the middle of Japan, and we traveled West along the coast as the first half of our journey.
The main roads are very good in Japan but we had no intention of driving freeways / highways all the time. The best sites are of the beaten track where you don't see tourists. However, Japan is very heavily industrialized and populated along the coasts. The inner parts of Japan have rugged and large mountain-es area's with dirt roads connecting some villages. So the first few days would be sightseeing along the coast with other tourists. Our first stop was Mikimoto Pearl Island. Approximately 220 Km's away. This was fascinating to see how cultured pearls were harvested by divers ( Ama ) who are traditionally all women. They all dive without scuba gear but with fins and masks, and totally free dive to gather their bounty. This practice dates back more than 2000 years when they collected food such as seaweed, shellfish and lobsters.
Here on the island you can also watch how the nuclei are made into expensive jewelry. By the way, most people believe that the Japanese ( Mikimoto ) invented cultured pearls, but this is not so. It was a British Biologist William Saville-Kent living in Australia. Two Japanese fellows took the concept to Japan and patented his method. One of the chaps then married Mikimoto's daughter, and that's how it all started.
Island maps of Japan showing our route.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Must have when camping
I know you folks on the other side of the planet call this something else.
But us down here in OZ invented it, so its called a jaffle iron.
Very scary whirlpool & can be seen from Ferry
Traveling between Honshu and Shikoku on the ferry, I was very worried when I saw this huge Naruto whirlpool. Although I'm a very good swimmer, I don't think anyone would stand a chance in rough water like that.
These whirlpools are caused by tidal currents between Seto Island
Photo is from Postcard can not read who to CCand the Pacific Ocean passing over undersea ridges. The currents are the fastest in Japan, with a tidal speed of about 20 km/h (12 mph), and vortex up to 20 m (66 ft) in diameter. Many thanks to Squid smine27 who helped me translate the name on the back of postcard above.
Scary Ferry ride in whirlpool
Turn sound volume down. very noisy. But you well see how scary it gets looking overboard at these whirlpools.
Off the beaten track camping
About 40 % of our trip was done on dirt road in rugged terrain.
No Hotels or backpacker hostels where we went. It was great to see the small villages and traditional living standards of Japan. Most of the places we went to had not changed much in the last 100 years. Yes, they have power and TV, but no high rise building, no 4 lane highways and fast food outlets. People dressed in traditional clothes and worked in fields.
These images and way of life in Japan you will never see in Tokyo or other large industrial city's.
One afternoon when we made camp and were making lunch, a bush whacking animal slithered into our camp site. I did not include photo of the snake here, in case you get nightmares. You can see photo below in gallery with the rest of the photo's. Helmut quickly dispatched of it, Ninja style with a big stick. No idea if it was poisonous or not, so we did not put it in the frying pan. We were more cautious from then on when we went hiking. And that's what we did the following day, up Tsurugi Mountain which was 1955 meters, seemed like 5000 m. Photo also in gallery below.
It was amazing to come across older folk, 50's or older, doing the same hike. These people were really fit, I had to stop several times along the way to catch my breath.
When we finally got to the top, we had a beer to celebrate in a great little outdoor coffee shop.
My Road Trip Book on Ebay
My book is about an epic journey that began in Melbourne.
Traveling 4000 km's on dirt roads and tracks to the the RED CENTER ( Ayers Rock )
and on to Perth.
Then by freighter too Ceylon and India via Indonesia and Singapore, and on to India.
Then we traveled again by road through places such as Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Austria all the way to Germany and Holland.
You will find English the version as well as a German language copy of my book below. Both come with DVD
Nagasaki atomic bomb blast site
Nagasaki Peace Park is built on a low hill to the north of the hypocenter of the atomic bomb blast. It was created to represent the wish for world peace and a vow that such a tragic war would never be repeated. The park features the 9.7-meter-high Peace Statue symbolizing the Nagasaki citizens' wish for peace. The raised right hand points to the heavens to signify the threat of atomic weapons while the left arm is raised horizontally to represent the wish for peace.The figure's eyes are lightly closed in prayer for the souls of the atomic bomb victims.
Photo is from Postcard can not read who to CC
This is what Japan is all about. Ninja & Samurai's. I grew up watching Ose Koichi, and Fuyukichi Maki as Akikusa Shintari and side kick Tombei the Mist, fighting all bad ninja's and throwing star thingies and knives. Fantastic. I have included a short video of the TV series which is worth watching, plus a video of the Ninja house.
Ninja were spies in the old days. Going into enemy territory and getting information, sabotage, and sometimes assassination of enemies. Many feudal warlords (shogun) had ninja. The best of the best were called shinobe. There were many ninja schools set up in Japan to learn how to use weapons such as ninja sickles, polearms, grapnels, maces, fistloads and spikes, throwing knives called shuriken or makibishi (spiked caltrops) and Samuri swords.The most famous schools are Iga, Koga and Togakushi schools.
Togakushi Ninja Museum is all about ninja's. Life size ninja dolls in full ninja gear waiting to greet visitors at the entrance. Great photo's are on display of ninjutsu training and fighting. Plus scrolls, and weapons. Togakushi Folk Museum & Ninja House are on the same site.
The Ninja House is a very interesting building full of hidden doors ways, revolving walls, secrete hiding places, and hidden stairs under the floor. Its really great and you seem to be in a movie set of the 60's.
Ninja House - Here are a couple of video's that are very short, but straight to the point
This is what I watch when I was growing up in Australia
Best Ninja House I saw in Japan
Stuck in Typhoon Helen
We had been on small country road's in the mountains for a couple of days now. The scenery was breath taking. Unlike the big City's, the air was clean and fresh. We often crossed some rivers with lovely fresh and clean water coming down from mountains. These were the best spots to stop and camp. It was at one of these camping sites that the weather turn nasty. Very nasty. We were lucky to be able to listen to a AFN station at some places and found out that a Typhoon called Helen was heading inland not far from us.
We had picked a good spot to ride out the storm, but we had no idea that it was going to be the biggest storm to hit Japan that year.
The howling winds and rain nearly defies explanation. Rain would come at you horizontally with wind gusts that made it hard to stand or walk in. The sky was black as could be with debris flying through the air. All we could do was wait it out the car until it past by, and hope that none of the road got washed away or obstructed by landslides. Fallen trees we could handle. Sleep was impossible due to the intense roar of the winds, so we just waited and hoped nothing flying through the windscreen. In the morning all had cleared up and the sun was shining again. So we started a campfire to cook and dry out soaked clothes. We later found out that Nagoya had massive power outages, and that wind had reached over 180 kms an hour. Nearly 23 inches of rain had fallen in the Provence's Honshu and Hokkaido.
The car was undamaged, and we were OK. After a late breakfast we kept driving and hoped none of the wooden bridges or roads had been washed away.
Kasa Rock Formation
This is way up north and just before Saporro on west coast.
Kasaiwa name was given by people who passed by for shelter on rainy days in the old days.
Kasa means umbrella in English.
Iwanai has a heavy fishing industry, along with farming.
Photo is from Postcard can not read who to CC
The town is also well known in the region for its sushi restaurants. It has a great skiing area in winter. Although the ski slopes are rough. Better skiing is in nearby Kutchan, and the bay is visible from the slopes.
Heaps of photo'sClick thumbnail to view full-size
Just for old times, Russian video for Sabena Airlines
I don't remember it being as good as this. But its nice to see the good old days
Links for you for more info
Towns we visited and the direction we traveled
No need to read further, next pages are only shows the towns we pasted through
Nagoya was our starting point and the halfway mark as we would return after finishing the West part of Japan before going North East. Traveling South along the coast towards Osaka, the long way around. First Kuwana, Yokkaicgi, Kameyama, Iga, Tsu, Toba and to the Mikimoto Pearl Island where it all started. Bought some pearls and had a look around. Shima, Owase, Kumano, Shingu, and to the bottom of Cape Shiono.
Then North East along the coast to Tanabe, Gobo and finally Wakayama where we caught a ferry and crossed over too Tokushima. We headed North to Naruto, Kawashima, Mima, Tsurugi Mountain 1955 m, then North to Kagwa, Takamatsu, Mitoyo, Niihama, Matsuyama, Ozu and then we jumped on the ferry at Yawatahama and went to Otia and Beppu. We traveled south along the east coast to Mijasaki, and inland again to Kirishima, then North to Uki and then a side trip East to places unknown, only to come back and go island hopping again to and Shimabara and inland to Nagasaki, which was the site of 2nd atomic bomb dropped by USA in WW2.
Nagaski we went Saikai, Sasebo, Imari and over the Matsuura River to Karatsu, Itoshima, Fukuoka, Kitayushu and across the bridge to Sanyoonoda, Yamaguchi to Masuda on the North Coast. Following the coast to Matsue and on to Obama. We were heading home bound from Tduruga, Ogaki and back to starting point in Nagoya. But the trip was not over. Only half way.
Stage two of trip - No need to read further, next pages are only shows the towns we pasted through
Stage two started again from Nagoya and went North Eastish to Gero, Takayama and up in the mountains towards Matsumoto, Maebashi, and then to one of the best tourist sites, Nikko. From there we went to Aizuwakanatsu, Kitakata, and keeping left of Fukushima we went Yonezawa, Yamagata, Yuzawa, Morioka, and to the coast at Aomori.
Here we took the ferry to Hakodate, Lake Onuma, Shiribetsu River area, up north to Ishikari Bay, Otaru, and for the best Whiskey and beer to Sapporo. From this fantastic city we went to Asahikawa, Kitami, Abashiri, Mt Rausu and back again to
Abashiri,then we back towards home in Southeast direction to Kushiro river and Lake Shirarutoro, Kushiro along the coast to Toachi River, Erimo, Samani, Utoma,
A film I made while I was in Nagoya - The roads were not as conjested as today. Even the predestians were fewer.
I'm at end of film getting into BMW .