jump to navigation

Regions of Japan – Nagoya to Hokkaido June 7, 2011

Posted by Dru in Chubu, Hokkaido, Japan, Kanto, Tohoku, Tokyo, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Regions of Japan – Nagoya to Hokkaido” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-EX

 

Japan is a small country that happens to be very long.  From end to end, Japan is well over 1000km long.  It is larger than Germany in terms of land mass and has a very diverse ecosystem.  You have the cold snowy north and the sub-tropical south.  It is a common misconception that Japan is a small country.  I would also argue that many people feel that any country that is outside of their own region is small, especially for Americans and Canadians.  It is important to know that Japan, while small overall, is actually very long which helps create the illusion that it is small.

Japan is divided into 8 main regions with a few sub-regions.  In the north is Hokkaido.  I have written a lot about Sapporo and the various festivals there.  It is a winter wonderland and also a great summer getaway.  In the winter, people head up there for skiing and to enjoy the delicious seafood.  In the summer, the seafood is still around but people go to escape the heat and humidity of the south.  Compared to other regions in Japan, Hokkaido is a relatively stable and sparsely populated region.  It isn’t the “wild west” but it isn’t like Tokyo either.  Getting from point A to point B in Hokkaido can be very difficult due to the sheer distances between cities and towns and the lack of trains can make it a difficult task.  Renting a car is definitely recommended if you want to see the local areas such as Shiretoko but it isn’t a necessity.  The bus network between cities is pretty good and you can get from Sapporo to most cities in Hokkaido by bus.  Planes are not so popular and trains are good for the major cities.  Unfortunately the trains can take a long time to get from place to place but keeping on the main belt from Asahikawa to Sapporo, then down to Hakodate via either Chitose or Niseko is relatively easy.  Be prepared for long travel times and you will have a good time.

Tohoku is the northern section of Honshu, the main island of Japan.  The main island forms an ‘L’ shape and Tohoku is at the top of the ‘L’.  It is a region that is very similar to Hokkaido yet also very temperate in nature.  The most common starting point is Sendai.  Including Sendai, all points north are considered Tohoku.  Points below Sendai are generally Tohoku as well but places such as part of Fukushima can be considered part of the Kanto plains.  Honshu itself is a very mountainous area with mountains bisecting the entire island into the Pacific and Sea of Japan side.  This creates a very distinct feel in each city depending on which coast you are on.  On the Pacific, the winters can be cold but there isn’t a lot of snow.  The Sea of Japan side which includes Akita and Yamagata receive a lot of snow in the winter.  In the summer, this area is more pleasant but the southern regions can be pretty hot and humid.  It is literally a transition between Hokkaido and the temperate south.  There are many local delicacies such as the Aomori apples and the beef tongue of Sendai.  It isn’t a popular place for tourists as there aren’t many things to see and do compared to other regions.  Hokkaido is well known for seafood and snow, but Tohoku doesn’t have a major drawing point for tourists.

Kanto is the centre of Japan.  It is a small section of Japan that includes Tokyo and located at the bend of the ‘L’ of Honshu.  It is where almost everyone goes when they visit Japan and it is a pretty small area.  The entire Kanto region can be considered as Greater Tokyo as many people do commute from the edges of Kanto to get into Tokyo.  Some would argue that there are major cities and industries as well such as Yokohama but the shear size of Tokyo makes Yokohama feel like a twin city similar to the twin cities in Minnesota.  Of course this is not the same however the idea that both cities can be considered the same city, rather twin cities, is true.  There isn’t really much to say or add to this region as most people know about the Kanto region already.  It is the heart of Japan.  Most companies and most people live in this area.  There are not a lot of historical places to visit anymore but places such as Nikko, Kamakura, and Hakone are excellent places with their own unique feel.

Chubu is a very complex region.  There are several sub-regions to Chubu due to its geography.  It is a region that is bound by Mt. Fuji, bordering the north-western area of Kanto and extending west to Kyoto.  It is also one of the most “visited” regions in Japan yet most people never stop to enjoy the region.  I am also a victim of just passing through the region more times than not.  Most people will go up to Mt. Fuji or pass through on their way to Kyoto.  The few people who do go to the Chubu region will usually head off to Niigata and Nagano or do a little business in Nagoya.  Due to the geography of the area is further subdivided into 3 regions.  The lesser known is the Koshinetsu region that encompasses Nagano, Niigata, and Yamanashi.  This area is well known for its snow and excellent onsen however the use of the name Koshinetsu is not popular.  They are more commonly known by their own respective prefectures.  The Hokuriku region is an area on the Sea of Japan side that is bordered by Niigata and Kyoto.  It is considered a northern path to reach Kansai but it is often overlooked by people.  It is still a somewhat remote area that is easily accessible by plane.  Trains do travel to the region but the new Hokuriku Shinkansen isn’t expected to be finished for a long time.  The main sections allowing access from Tokyo to the heart of Hokuriku will be complete in 2014 but the final section to Osaka has yet to be finalized.  As it stands, this area is often overlooked due to its remoteness.  The Tokai region is the most famous region as it is the main route for the Tokaido Shinkansen that links Tokyo to Osaka.  Shizuoka is one of the biggest prefectures in Japan yet very few people will visit it.  The most famous area is Nagoya where you can enjoy many delicacies.  Nagoya is not a particularly interesting for those visiting other cities but it is famous for its castle, local deep fried delicacies, chicken wings, and Toyota.  Toyota has their main factories located just outside Nagoya with a large museum as well.  Nagoya is also one of the most popular cities for people wishing to see races at the nearby Suzuka Circuit, but the circuit is located in Kansai, not Chubu.

Note:  Due to the amount of information available, this is only part 1 of 2.  Part 2 will be posted next week.

Regions of Japan Information:

Wikipedia:
Japan:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_of_Japan
Hokkaido:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokkaid%C5%8D_Prefecture
Tohoku:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C5%8Dhoku_region
Kanto:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kant%C5%8D_region
Chubu:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C5%ABbu_region
Hokuriku:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokuriku_region
Koshinetsu:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dshin%27etsu_region
Tokai:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C5%8Dkai_region

Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1001.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Advertisements

Otaru Redux (2010) December 7, 2010

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Otaru Redux (2010)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-wH

In my last post, I talked about returning to Sapporo for the third time in my life. Being a third time in Sapporo, I decided to head over to Otaru for the second time. This time, I was going to visit Otaru in the late summer rather than mid winter. As I mentioned, the entire island of Hokkaido has two main faces, summer and winter. Winter is a true winter wonderland. There is snow all over the place, and everything is quiet and peaceful, thanks to the falling snow. It helped, of course, that on my last winter visit, it was snowing most of the time as well. This time, I visited in the late summer and I had a small mission. Thankfully, I wasn’t let down by Otaru, even on this second trip.

For those of you who have seen my previous post on Otaru, I visited during the Snow Gleaming Festival. It was a very beautiful and romantic time in the city. This time it felt completely different. It wasn’t the same romantic town that I remembered, but at the same time, I wasn’t expecting it to be that way. When I got off the train, everything looked exactly the same, sans snow. The train station hasn’t changed, and the streets are the same. One of the better things to note was that I arrived in the late morning with the sun shining, and there were no problems walking around due to the snow. There were no ice sculptures, or snow sculptures for that matter. Everything was very clean and the sky was beautiful.  It was also quite easy to get around.  There was no snow on the ground so I didn’t have to worry about slipping and falling onto the ground.

The first place I went to was the old disused railway which has been converted into a park. When I visited here in the winter, it was the focal point for sculpted snowbanks with hundreds, even thousands, of small candles. It took at least an hour to walk through and enjoy all of the sculptures and interact with everything. At that time, the snow was compacted and the snowbanks were up to 1 metre deep. Where the snowbanks once were, there are now railway tracks. When it was covered in snow, it was hard to tell that the area was anything but a small alley that was converted for the snow festival. The park itself was pretty empty as most people headed to two places, the Otaru Canal and the shopping street. Most people skip this path which makes it an even better way to access the main shopping street as it isn’t very busy.  It’s also a little fun to walk along the tracks, ala “Stand By Me” style. They even have train themed benches at one end of the park.

My main goal of the trip was to visit a famous glass maker, Kitaichi, or literally “North One”. It is located near the end of the shopping street close to the music box shop. As you walk down the main tourist shopping street, you first come to a bunch of shops selling various Hokkaido foods. Freshly grilled scallops are popular, and so are other various foods such as corn and potatoes. It depends on the season as well, but the smells and aromas are intoxicating. Once you pass these shops, you start to reach the souvenir shops and then Kitaichi’s area. They have three or four shops. A foreign brand shop, the main shop, a discount shop, and a crystal shop. Being a famous glass brand, and the fact that all items are hand made, things are priced accordingly. Don’t expect to enter and find really cheap products. If you are looking for something nice, this is a great place to go. Comparing it to western glass products, Kitaichi is very good. They have a very western feel, and yet they have Japanese style. Once you finish with Kitaichi, it’s a good idea to head to the music shop. Many people love this shop for the fact that you can enjoy buying a personal music box that will play everything from classical music to modern pop music.

Being summer, there wasn’t any real theme in the town. On the way to the main canal, there is a small access canal between the shopping street and the main canal. Along this canal, they placed various glass wind chimes along the way. It was a beautiful and peaceful experience to see. It’s easily skipped over by most people, but if you take the time to just enjoy it, it can be wonderful. The sounds of the wind chimes ringing and the hustle and bustle of people moving by can be very calming.  I also took a little time out to look at a small corner across from the main canal. There is an interesting set of shops where you can enjoy some good food at tourist prices. The good thing about the corner is that it has a Chinese theme to it, which makes for interesting photography.

On this visit to Otaru, I had to visit the main Otaru Canal. It was a beautiful hot sunny day, but not humid so it was enjoyable. The summers of Hokkaido are a wonderful change from the typically hot and humid summers of Tokyo. It was extremely busy as all of the tourists pushed their way to get the best vantage point for photos. The canal was as beautiful as ever and looked crystal clean with various tour boats plying the waters. In the winter, there are candles set up across the canal, as it’s too cold to take tours up and down the canal. In the summer, there are various artists willing to do a sketch of you and your family if you are willing to wait for it. They are, by all means, willing to do one of you, as long as you pay for it.  I wouldn’t say they are exceptionally good, but they aren’t terribly bad either, from some of the pictures I had seen.  If you feel adventurous, in the summer, you can also take a rickshaw ride around the town for a fee.  Most of the rickshaws leave around the canal area as the station is too busy with cars.

From here, I headed to my final destination, another visit to the Otaru Soku No. 1. It is one of my favourite places in Japan. It’s a little expensive, but the beer and food are great. I loved going the first time, and I had to go a second time. Needless to say, I spent several hours just relaxing, eating, and drinking. It’s not something that everyone would want to do, but after visiting Sapporo two times already, and Otaru once, there wasn’t too much left to see, at least I didn’t think so. I needed to have a good relaxing vacation, and this was one of the best ways to do it. It was mid afternoon when I entered and it was close to 5pm when I left. It wasn’t busy at all and service was really fast. The quality of the food was excellent. It hadn’t changed, aside from the seasonal specials. My favourite dish has to be the “Mozzarella and French Bread Bridge Roast”. It is a French Bread arranged into a bridge with slices of mozzarella places within the bread and toasted. It is wonderful to eat. As for beer, that’s really up to whatever you like to drink. I’d avoid the Hokkaido wine though.

A day in Otaru is more than enough, and the town probably changes even more at night. Unlike other small towns in Japan, Otaru actually changes like most of the big towns. I heard it gets even more romantic. It’s a town that I love to visit, but to be honest I probably won’t be going back anytime soon. If I do go to Sapporo, unless a friend of mine requests to go there, I won’t make any effort to go. I’d rather try to go to some of the other areas in Sapporo that I’m only starting to discover.

This is an update to my original post about Otaru in 2009.  To read more about Otaru, please head over to the original post on Otaru.

Otaru Information:

Otaru (Japan Guide): http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6700.html
Otaru (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Otaru
Otaru (JNTO): http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/r…ido/otaru.html
Otaru (Sapporo City Tourism Site): http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/e…ces/otaru.html
Otaru (City Website – Japanese): http://www.city.otaru.hokkaido.jp/so…/otaru-map.htm

Kitaichi (English): http://www.otaru-glass.com/english/a…_08/index.html
Kitaichi (Japanese): http://www.otaru-glass.com/japanese/index.html

Otaru Beer (English): http://www.otarubeer.com/main/compon…mid,1/lang,en/
Otaru Beer (Japanese): http://www.otarubeer.com/main/compon…mid,1/lang,ja/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Sapporo Redux (2010) November 30, 2010

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Sapporo Redux (2010)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-wd

In a previous post, I mentioned that I went to the Japan Rally in September of 2010.  It was a great trip and I had a chance to visit a few new places in and around Sapporo.  Sapporo is one of my favourite cities in Japan.  In Sapporo, each season is extremely different.  In the winter, you have the snow festival where you can see huge snow sculptures along the main park, Odori Park, and ice sculptures in Susukino.  When you visit in the summer, Odori Park becomes one large beer garden where you can sit outside and enjoy several beers on a nice hot summer’s day.  You can also head out to Furano as a day trip and enjoy the beautiful fields of lavender.  On this trip, I obviously focused more on the Rally itself, but thankfully, there were a few things I wanted to try that I didn’t have a chance to do before.

The only new place that I visited was the Hitsujigaoka. Literally translated into “hill of sheep”, it’s a nice little getaway that is located next to Sapporo Dome.  To access the site, you have to take the Toho subway line to the final stop (Fukuzumi), followed by a short bus ride.  You also have to pay the entrance fee to access the main park area.  Walking is possible, but it’s very far from the station itself and not recommended.  The public access area is located at the top of the hill and there is only a small area for people to roam freely.  Unfortunately, when I visited, there were no sheep.  This could be due to the foot and mouth disease that afflicted the southern island of Kyushu earlier in the year, so they decided to protect the sheep from infection.  It could also be due to the season, but I’m not entirely sure as to why.  At the hill itself, there are only a few buildings of interest, and it only takes a few minutes to enjoy them.  One of the more spectacular buildings is the Hitsujigaoka Wedding Palace.  It’s a tall building that’s pure white inside and out and many weddings are held there.  If you are thinking that you’ll see a traditional Japanese wedding, you’ll be disappointed as the weddings here are almost always done in a western style.  I didn’t get a chance to go inside, but I did see a wedding and did get a chance to see the building itself.  Another building that is of interest is the Austrian House.  It’s an Austrian styled building that houses a souvenir shop and a small snack shop.  Inside, you can also get your palm read among other touristy things.  The last main building is the Sapporo Snow Festival Museum.  It’s a small building where they feature posters, photos, and miniature models of past snow sculptures.  There are also videos on how they run the snow festival every year.  Unfortunately, the video is in Japanese, and on a very old TV.

The main claim to fame for Hitsujigaoka is the statue of William S. Clark.  William S. Clark was an American Professor who moved to Japan for 8 months in 1886-1887.  His main goal was to set up and establish the Sapporo Agricultural College, now Hokkaido University.  He had a huge influence on Hokkaido and helped with its colonization.  His influence on this island was tremendous and he’s famous throughout Japan.  He even helped introduce Christianity to this area of Japan by creating an ethics class that utilized the Bible when the Bible was outlawed.  When he left Japan, he gave three parting words to the first class of Hokkaido University, “Boys, be ambitious”!  There are several variations added on this, but these three main words are what stuck.  Throughout Japan, many schools use this motto to help motivate their students, and it’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t know what you meant if you said “boys be ambitious”.  At Hitsujigaoka, the statue of William S. Clark is prominently displayed with him pointing to the distance, probably to Hokkaido University, and the famous motto written under him.  It’s common for people to run up and just point in the same direction as William S. Clark’s statue for fun.  If you walk around a little more, you’ll also see another small monument that is dedicated to the Nippon Ham Fighters.  I believe it commemorates the move of the Nippon Ham Fighters from Tokyo to Hokkaido in 2004.  It’s a small, often overlooked monument that is probably not interesting to most foreign tourists.

Back at Fukuzumi Station, there is a short walk to reach Sapporo Dome.  Sapporo Dome is a very interesting area. While you may not need to go to watch a game, you can definitely go and enjoy the park behind the dome.  As you approach the dome from the station, you’ll see a very futuristic looking building.  There is a large observation platform that is easily viewable from the street.  You can enjoy a tour of the dome itself with a chance to actually walk on the baseball field, but I’m not too sure if that is possible.  Of course, both of these tours are paid services.  If you don’t want to spend money, walking past the front and approaching the park in the back is great.  It’s an amazing sight to see the football pitch sitting outside with the potential for it to be brought in for football games.  You can watch videos of this happening on their own website.  Even if you aren’t too interested in the football pitch, or the technology, the entire park has several modern art sculptures.  I couldn’t grasp the meaning of each sculpture, but it was a nice place to spend an hour or so.  You could also just lie on the grass and enjoy the nice weather, if you are lucky.

I may or may not have mentioned this in the past, but the food in Hokkaido is amazing.  If you enjoy eating, Hokkaido has everything you need to be stuffed.  Going to the Sapporo Beer Garden, you can enjoy Ghengis Khan, a type of barbecue, or a seafood buffet.  You can also head to Ramen Alley and get a nice bowl of corn butter, or seafood ramen.  Delicious is an understatement.  Recently, Soup Curry has become popular.  There are several shops located throughout Sapporo and all of them are delicious.  Keeping things traditional, you can still get seafood doburi all over the city, and being Hokkaido, chocolate, corn, and milk products are extremely popular.  When visiting Hokkaido, it’s a must to eat as much as you can.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much more for me to see in Sapporo, so I may not return for some time.  I have been there almost every year for the last 3 years and each time has been different.  The weather and season plays a huge part in how things look and feel.  The people are all the same, very relaxed. When visiting Sapporo, it’s best to just enjoy things and take it slow.  You’ll never know what you’ll discover just around the next corner.

This is an update on what is happening in Sapporo.  To read more about Sapporo, please continue to the original post on Sapporo.

Sapporo Information:

Hitsujigaoka (Japanese): http://www.hitsujigaoka.jp/amusements/fighters.html
Hitsujigaoka (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitsuji…servation_hill
William S. Clark (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Clark

Sapporo Dome (English): http://www.sapporo-dome.co.jp/foreign/index-en.html
Sapporo Dome (Japanese): http://www.sapporo-dome.co.jp/index.html

Sapporo (Japan Guide): http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2163.html
Sapporo (Wikitravel): http://wikitravel.org/en/Sapporo
Sapporo (Official City Website): http://www.city.sapporo.jp/city/english/

Hokkaido (Official Tourism Website): http://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

2010 Japan Rally October 5, 2010

Posted by Dru in Sports.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2010 Japan Rally” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-vz

September 2010 marked my third trip up to Hokkaido and my first ever trip to a World Rally Championship (WRC) race. It was the first time in two years that the championship held an event in Japan, and as with tradition, the race was held in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island. I had no idea on what to expect and just went for the fun and the chance to be up close to some of the drivers and co-drivers. I was extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed the event. The event itself is staged over 4 days (Thursday to Sunday) with Thursday being a ceremonial start and super special, and Sunday being only half a day. As with most race events in Japan, there were the plethora of die hard fans in the area, but there were also a few of the casual fans as well.

If you have read my previous blog posts, I have been to both F1 and Moto GP races in Japan. WRC is a very different type of event. Whereas F1 and Moto GP consist of 3 days, the first day is for the die hard fans only, and for those looking to do some shopping. The second day is for the big fans to enjoy qualifying and of course, do more shopping. The Sunday is the day that all the action happens. For the WRC, everyday is an event. Racing started on Thursday with two special stages inside Sapporo Dome. Sapporo Dome is a large futuristic looking dome that is home to the Sapporo Consolade FC and the Nippon Ham Fighters (Baseball). The inside was set to the baseball configuration. When the time comes to convert to a football field, the football field is actually rolled into the stadium, rotated, and the seats adjusted to fit. For the WRC, they just removed the baseball field, opened the bay doors, and did most of the racing inside, with just a little outside. They held two stages within the dome itself on each day, for a total of 8 stages. On the other days, aside from Sunday, they also held service at the service park. Think of it as a pit lane for the cars, but with much more time.

To go any further without explaining WRC would be pointless. WRC, in its standard form, consists of 3 days of racing. Each day is split up into several stages. Each stage is a run on closed roads where the drivers are allowed to go as fast as possible. Once they finish the stage, they have to drive themselves to the next stage. At certain points of the day, they return to the service park, which is effectively a temporary garage. The cars drive in and the clock ticks down. They are given an allotted amount of time to fix the cars so that they are ready for the next set of stages. By the end of Sunday, they are quickly serviced and scrutineered. This is a basic rally. When I went to the rally, I went for two days. Rather than actually going to the rally itself on the first day in Hokkaido, I went to a small park that overlooks Sapporo Dome. I did get a chance to tour the outside of Sapporo Dome and enjoy the sights. If you do go to Sapporo for the rally, you don’t technically need a ticket to see the drivers, nor do you need a ticket watch the actual race. If you want to guarantee that you can see the drivers and the race from a good seat, you will have to pay for tickets.

The service park is where most people will want to go. While the Sapporo Dome stages are great, the majority of the fans will be at the service park waiting patiently for the drivers to enter. Depending on who is there, and at what time, you will have a good chance to get an autograph from your favourite driver. When I arrived on Sunday morning, I was surprised to see a car at the service park. It was Kimi Raikkonen. He unfortunately spun his car after misunderstanding a pace note read to him by his co-driver and beached it on the side. He couldn’t continue on his own, so he had to retire. When I arrived, he was still giving a small debrief to the crew and the crew had just started preparations to pack the car up and bring it back to Europe. For the die hard fans, they could just sit and watch him for hours as he relaxed and had a drink. It’s interesting to watch them relax as they really do look like a normal person. In fact, he reminded me of me when I was doing a track day in Vancouver several years ago.

The WRC, as I said, is very different to other motorsports. It’s a family sport, rather than an elitist sport. All of the drivers and co-drivers are friends, of course to different levels, and they are all very close to each other. In MotoGP, things are similar as the MotoGP riders are the father figures to the lower classes. In WRC, due to the small numbers of drivers and co-drivers, it’s easier for them to talk to each other, and it’s possible for them to bond. This is one of the main reasons the press says Kimi Raikkonen is happier in WRC and probably won’t be going back to F1 unless the money is truly that good. At the end of the rally, all of the drivers must drive through the ceremonial start/finish gate. Without doing so, they technically don’t finish the rally and would be listed as a DNF. For fans, this is a great opportunity to get up close. In F1, you are lucky to be close enough to see their faces as you are generally located across the track when they do the podium ceremony. In MotoGP, due to the crowds, they have to keep you 10 metres away, and the riders are a couple meters up on a platform. In WRC, you are no more than 5 metres away, at level, and the drivers can come really close to you. I was literally only 1 metre away from the drivers after the podium ceremony.

My most memorable experience is the fact that Petter Solberg finished second. He is one of the most recognizable faces in the WRC, at least to fans, and one of the most personable ones too. During the podium ceremony, he was the first to run at the crowd and throw some champagne on them. The other drivers and co-drivers soon followed suit and my side of the podium was getting into the champagne fight as well. I got a good amount of champagne dumped on me by Julien Ingrassia, the co-driver to Sebastien Ogier, the winner of the 2010 Rally Japan. After champagne is dumped on you, or sprayed if you are a driver, it’s not a great feeling. It is fun to do, but you feel very sticky afterwards. Thankfully, I didn’t get the full brunt of a shower as there wasn’t enough champagne to spray everyone. However, I did smell of champagne for the rest of the day. Afterwards, I hung out at the service park for about an hour. I quickly headed over to the Petter Solberg World Rally Team (PSWRT). Within minutes, Petter Solberg arrived and started signing autographs. I stayed my place and sure enough, he headed over. I was busy taking pictures, but my girlfriend was lucky enough to push her way forward to the fence. Needless to say, we got our program signed and it was a very happy moment for us. I came within feet of what I consider a great rally driver, and one of my motor sport heroes. I quickly got out of the mob as I felt I had enough and wanted to let others get a chance to get an autograph as well. I’d swear that Petter stayed for 20 minutes trying to sign as many things as possible. If you are a true fan, you’d be camped out in front of their tents waiting for them to arrive. If you do that, you’ll more than likely get an autograph or two.

In general, the WRC is an experience that I’ll always remember. It’s not for everyone, but if you do enjoy rally racing, you MUST go. If you are just an average race fan, it may not be so interesting, but it’s worth the trip. While the Rally Japan will not be the same as going to the French Rally, or anywhere else, it’s still something to see and do.

Rally Information:

WRC:  http://www.wrc.com

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Driving in Japan (2010) [Part I] September 21, 2010

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Driving in Japan (2010) [Part I]” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-tq

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I have had many trips in and around Japan, along with many road trips.  I have been taking road trips almost every year now on either a motorcycle or in a car.  In 2007, I took a trip to Hokkaido by motorcycle.  It was my first road trip, and a terrible one at that.  I was alone, cold and wet.  For my second trip, I rented a car for just a day and drove up to Nikko.  The route brought back a few memories of my trip to Sapporo, but with all the comforts of a car.  It was a pretty easy trip, but it taught me the pain of driving in the city, and trying to return to the city on a Sunday night.  One word can sum up that experience, traffic.  Last year, I had my epic adventure, and the last one on my bike.  I took a trip by ferry and rode my bike around Shikoku for two weeks.  It was a wonderful holiday that restored my faith in driving and riding in Japan.  It helped a lot that I went with a friend from Osaka.  Recently, June 2010, I embarked on my big road adventure of the year.  I headed to the San’in region, along with Hiroshima.  What follows is a recounting of what happened as we conquered the roads that lay ahead of us.

As many of you know by now, I have written about my adventures in San’in already.  I have talked about Tottori and Shimane.  My journey started with a flight from Tokyo to Tottori.  I left in the early morning and had time to spend an entire day in Tottori city.  I visited the Tottori Sand Dunes and that was pretty much it.  The actual adventure didn’t start until the next day.  We got up early again as we had a long day of driving ahead of us.  Thankfully, we had two drivers, one being myself, and the other being my friend from Osaka.  We rented a Mazda Axela, which is a Mazda 3 in North America.  It was a little big for what we needed, but we were expecting a total of 4 people in the car, but one person bailed as she booked the wrong tickets for the trip.  The car itself was big for what we needed.  We could have gotten a compact car instead of this one, but the added size made the trip very comfortable.  When we got the car we spent a few minutes fiddling with the GPS navigation system before we took off.  The GPS was easy for us to understand, but it would take at least 2 more days before it was easy to use.  If you ever rent a car in Japan, be sure to learn a little Japanese, or have a good understanding on how to guess the menu system.  It was difficult to use, but we all had various degrees of Japanese knowledge which helped us a lot.

Our first leg of day 1 was a trip along the coast.  We started with a short drive on the mainland to avoid the traffic and made good time.  We reached our junction, ignoring our GPS all the time.  We had our own route planned and the GPS was guiding us to the “best” route but not the most scenic.  Thankfully, we had enough knowledge of the road to navigate smoothly and soon enough we were pros at navigating.  When we hit the coast, we took our sweet time and stopped at a couple beaches. We got our feet wet and took many pictures.  It was a perfect start to the day.  Driving up and down the coast on the Sea of  Japan is amazing. I have heard from many motorcycle riders that the coast is amazing, and I would have to agree.  I would love to just rent a car, or even bring a bicycle to the area and just enjoy the trip.  I was told by a friend that taking the train is also spectacular, but I tend to get a little antsy on trains after a few hours.  At least with a train, I could drink alcohol and not worry about getting into too much trouble.

My friend from Osaka did the first leg of driving.  He handled the coast very well, which was pretty easy.  There weren’t too many turns and the signs were easy for us to read.  We had one tough section through a small town called Hawai.  The pronunciation is the same as Hawaii, and the town played with that name a lot.  Everywhere you went, you saw Hawaii signs and tourist attractions that were a little tongue in cheek with references to the beautiful island resort.  After the town, we switched drivers as my friend had bad experiences driving on small country side roads.  It was my first time to drive in a few months and over a year since I had last driven on the left side of the road.  It was a little shaky at first, but I got my road legs back very quickly.  Aside from getting used to the car, which happens with almost any new car I drive, things were easy.  We were quickly headed down the road that we chose, but we soon reached what looked like nothing more than an access road.  Being in the countryside of Tottori, some of the main highways between cities are more akin to an access road rather than a true road.  Unlike North American streets where designated highways must meet a certain criteria, in Japan, it just indicates the road.  Our first “moment” came as this access road was about 1.5 lanes wide and we came across a truck.  It was a big truck and a challenge.  I was facing the challenge of passing this oncoming truck with only a few centimetres on both sides of the car.  The truck driver was kind enough to stop on the side and let me do all the work, but considering his side had a wall, and mine a drop into a field, it wasn’t that bad.  Creeping slowly, I passed my first hurdle.  Little did I know, this would only be the beginning of our journey of the day.

The route we took to Daisen, our first real destination, was simple enough and only a few points of caution.  My map had a few warnings that the road we were about to embark upon was closed during the winter months due to the weather.  This didn’t worry me too much.  We had a nice car, supplies to keep us fed and hydrated, and lots of time.  By the time we reached the road, things changed very quickly.  The first challenge of a small countryside road was past, but we had another road that was also only 1.5 lanes wide.  Being the countryside, and having seen the last stretch of road, I thought that this would be a short stretch of narrow roads.  I was wrong.  We also had to contend with a few construction signs with which we had no idea what they meant.  After our trip, we reviewed photos of the signs, and the sign said that cars were not allowed in, but when we went, it had a sticker on top saying it was “cancelled”.  Essentially, we got lucky.  We ended up doing most of the trip up and around Daisen on the narrow style road.  I have had experience on these types of roads before in Canada.  In Victoria, there are a few nice places like this.  The road is narrow and the vegetation is abundant.  On this road, it was the same.  The overgrowth from the bushes and trees made it a challenge to drive.  Being a kinder driver, I took a little more time to get around, along with the fact that I was worried about oncoming traffic, whatever it may be.  We spent roughly an hour or so going up, down, and around the north side of the mountain in what was one of my toughest drives ever.  The road was immaculate, and the beauty of the forest was unrivalled.  If I had the chance to skip that area, I would probably say no.  It’s something that has to be seen and experienced.  Before long, we were at Daisen-ji and taking a long deserved break from the car.

Note:  This is part one of a two part series.  Please continue reading in Part II.
For further reading about the San’in region, please follow the links below:

Driving Information:

Chugoku Expressway (Wikipedia – English): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chugoku_Expressway

Chugoku Expressway (Wikipedia – Japanese): http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/中国自動車道

Izumo Orochi Loop (Wikipedia – Japanese): http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/奥出雲おろちループ

Drive Plaza (Information on Expressways in Japan including travel times – JAPANESE): http://www.driveplaza.com/

About Touring in Japan (English): http://www.e-wadachi.com/howto/map_e.html

How to Cycle Around Japan (This is for cycling, but it’s very useful for driving as well): http://www.e-wadachi.com/howto_e.html

Touring Mapple (Official – Japanese): http://touring.mapple.net/

Rental Car How To (Japan Guide) [Note: There are links to major car rental companies towards the bottom of the page]:http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2024.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。


%d bloggers like this: