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Ozu to Matsuyama July 7, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Shikoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Ozu to Matsuyama” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-cI

Ozu is a short ride from the coast of Shikoku.  From route 56, I would recommend heading up route 24 in Ozu to reach the coast.  It is a very nice flowing road that generally follows the river.  Upon reaching the coast, I had two options; head west to a peninsula that runs along the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean, or head east towards Matsuyama.  I had a full day ahead of me, so I decided to head west.  Going west along route 378 and then route 197 will take you into the city of Ikata and then the port town of Misaki.  Route 197 is a “Melody Line” that winds its way along the peninsula, cutting through the mountains.  There are a couple of highway stations that offer very nice views of the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  Other than that, there is nothing very special about this road.  Looking at the coast, there is an interesting road that winds its way around the mountains instead of cutting through them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to enjoy this.  The main thing to see is a major wind farm.  It is very hard to miss all the large windmills that generate a lot of power for the region.  It does offer a couple of photo opportunities if you are interested.  Once you reach the town of Misaki, you will realize how little there is to do.  It is a fishing town that is used mainly to ferry people from Shikoku to Kyushu.  On clear days, you can easily see Kyushu.  If you have the time, you can also venture a little further to the tip of the peninsula, which has a large lighthouse.  I didn’t bother to go, but I doubt it is very interesting.

Upon returning, I would highly recommend the drive up the coast.  To do this, you head the same way you started.  You will see many small towns dotting the coast as you drive towards Matsuyama.  There are various places to stop, let the children out, and play in a playground.  However, it isn’t until you get to Futami, that there is anything to do.  Futami has a famous beach where people from Matsuyama can enjoy as a daytrip.  It is a very small beach artificial beach, but it is still beautiful.  Unfortunately, it is lined with tetrapods to protect the sand from being washed out.  This beach has a lot of things to see and do.  The first thing you will notice is a large structure located in the middle of the beach.  There is also a wedding arch that is usually standing.  They try to promote beach weddings in Japan.  Unfortunately, when I arrived, the wind knocked down the arch leaving a small mess.  The buildings at the beach offer the usual souvenirs, but they also offer a couple works of art.  The first is the Moai, mini replica statues of the Moai men from Easter Island.  It is a very small piece of art that is easily missed.  Most people tend to look out towards the beach and the Inland Sea, rather than the buildings.  The other main piece of art is a replica of Stonehenge.  This is located on the roof of the building, and very few people head up there.  It is a very strange piece of art, but worth a quick look.  The main thing to do is to just relax and enjoy the beach as much as you can.  Bring a lunch, or wait in line for some of the barbequed food and your afternoon will be set.


Hakodate and Chitose January 27, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Hakodate and Chitose” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-6C

This is Part III of a multi-part series chronicling my motorcycle adventure from Tokyo to Sapporo and back again.

Background: In 2007, I had finally gotten my Japanese driver’s license and a motorcycle.  I had been an avid motorcycle rider in Canada before I came to Japan, so after 2 years of no riding, I finally bought a motorcycle and decided to go on a big adventure.  I went from Tokyo to Sapporo by motorcycle and ferry.  It was an adventure to say the least.

Leg 3 (Hakodate to Chitose)

Hakodate is a medium sized city that is well known in Japan.  It know as having the best night view in Japan.  There is a small mountain in the city, where at night, you can see the entire peninsula lit up by the city lights.  I wish I spent a few days exploring the area, but my final destination of the night was Chitose.  I quickly found my bearings and got out of the city.  I took an unexpected detour to look at some of the countryside which was beautiful.  I was prepared for a nice quick ride into Chitose where I would spend the night, but my luck had completely run out.  About a few hours into the ride, I was starting to get miserable.  It was cold and the rain kept was coming on and off.  I was wet, cold, and trying to make it to my final destination.  To make matters worse, I went 15 km in the wrong direction at one point and this is where things went for worse to horribly bad. I had some engine troubles.  I had some bad oil in my engine and my oil light was turning on and off.  I had oil, but something was seriously wrong.  I flagged down a construction vehicle and got some help.  He offered to go and get some oil for me.  He was very nice, but I wished he took me with him to get some oil because I had to wait in a cold light rain until he returned.  After waiting for 30 minutes, he returned.  He brought some oil for me and pointed me in the right direction for the expressway.  I didn’t have time to find my way on the low roads, and wanted to get to Chitose ASAP.  The next 4 hours was HELL.  I had to stop about 6 or 7 times as my oil light kept coming on.  If I stopped, the light would eventually turn off.  To make matters worse, the light rain turned into regular rain and I was cold and drenched.  The temperature was close to 14C and on a bike, at around 80kph, it felt like 7C.  I think I almost became hypothermic.  I couldn’t stop shaking, and I wasn’t thinking straight.  To say the least, it was very dangerous and not very smart, but when you are miserable and cold, you don’t really think.

I kept things very easy on the bike, but didn’t arrive into Chitose until after 9pm.  I went to the very first hotel I could find, Hotel Nikko.  It is a very expensive hotel in Japan but I didn’t know it at the time.  The front desk guy gave me a very nice discount on a regular room rate, and I was lucky that they had a room.  They only had 5 rooms left for that night.  I spent the night researching for a bike shop so I could get my bike checked out while drying my clothes.  It was here that I decided to cancel all of my ambitious plans to tour across Hokkaido and stay in Sapporo instead.  I didn’t even want to ride at all.

The next morning, I was extremely emotionally stressed.  It was still raining a little.  I decided to try a bike shop that I found the night before right away so I could get things checked out.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  It said it opened at noon, and it was early, so I went to get coffee and return when they opened.  At noon, the shop was still closed and there was no one around.  I tried to call the number, but no answer.  I ended up searching for another bike shop.  The second shop was really nice.  They were preparing for some kind of race, and they were really busy.  The owner looked at my bike, started it up, and said it was probably bad oil.  He said he could change the oil and take a quick look, but I should have it completely checked out, just in case.  I thought it would be “okay” to wait until I returned home.  It would take a while before he could really check on it, so I ended up going to an outlet mall for some shopping.

Chitose itself is a very nice suburban city.  It’s located roughly an hour or so outside of Sapporo.  There are all the basic amenities that one needs.  It’s not a great place, and there is nothing special in the city.  The only special thing is an outlet mall that caters to those living in Sapporo.  Japanese people LOVE outlet malls, so there are dozens of them across Japan.  While the city is nice, it’s definitely not a place to stay.  You can visit the outlet mall if you’d like, but it’s no different than any other outlet mall in Japan.


Mutsu and Oma January 20, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tohoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Mutsu and Oma” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-6A

This is Part II of a multi-part series chronicling my motorcycle adventure from Tokyo to Sapporo and back again.

Background:  In 2007, I had finally gotten my Japanese driver’s license and a motorcycle.  I had been an avid motorcycle rider in Canada before I came to Japan, so after 2 years of no riding, I finally bought a motorcycle and decided to go on a big adventure.  I went from Tokyo to Sapporo by motorcycle and ferry.  It was an adventure to say the least.

Leg 2 (Mutsu to Hakodate)

On day two, I woke up early and left for Hokkaido.  Mutsu was everything I expected, a simple pit stop.  There are several routes I could have taken to reach a small fishing village called Oma.  I decided to take the main road to be safe as I had to catch my ferry.  I stopped at many places along the way and enjoyed this part of my trip a lot.  It is the best memories I had.  I found a small shrine just outside the city centre.  It was built on the side of a hill and very close to the sea.  I then took brief stops at various villages along the way for pictures.  There was so many things to see and so many interesting and natural things that I took a long time to reach my destination.  The villages were technically part of the “city” but they looked independent of each other.  There was a nice park and lookout along the way as well.  The park looked well maintained, but I was curious as to why it was even there.  The lookout allowed me to see some interesting mini islands.  They look like rocks sticking out of the sea.  If you travel to Matsushima, it’s very similar.  The only difference is that there were no holes under the island, but there were lots of tetrapods around.

Once I got into Oma, I got lost looking for the peninsula.  Trying to understand road signs in Japan is a nightmare.  If you ever drive in Japan, you’ll hate them; even Japanese people hate the signs.  The peninsula was nice, but very out of the way.  It is the northern most point on Japan’s main island, and a mini tourist attraction.  The people seemed friendly, but the wind made it cold.  There is a very interesting statue of fists fighting tuna.  It’s a symbol of the town, which makes it’s living by catching bluefin tuna.  There were a few shops there, but I decided that after taking a few pictures I wanted to head straight to the ferry wharf. Only one question… where was it?  The story of this adventure has to be me being lost almost every day that I rode my motorcycle.  Once I found it, I relaxed for about an hour and talked to another rider.  At the time, I got to practice my really bad Japanese.  He was an older guy from the Kansai (Osaka) area and riding an old BMW.  Even his bike was older than me.  I had a few pictures taken at the wharf and then boarded the ferry.

The ferry was a strange design for me.  In Vancouver, the ferry is relatively simple to understand.  Follow the lanes to your parking space.  This ferry was different.  It was a medium sized ferry with a special area for motorcycles.  Unlike Vancouver, they actually had tie downs for my bike.  Once secured, I rushed up to the passenger area.  If you have ever taken a ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, I’d consider that luxurious.  This ferry wasn’t good at all.  There were vending machines selling old looking things and a small kiosk selling your average ferry souvenirs.  There is only one place to rest, and that’s the tatami room.  It’s a large open room where you can put your things and lie down.  While it sounds nice, it’s far from it.  The room isn’t that warm and you are given a terrible pillow.  It’s basically a black foam block.  You do have the ability to watch TV, but unfortunately, reception is horrible.  All you can really do is relax and hope the seas are calm.  The ferry ride was short, but I got a little sick on the way.  My destination for this ferry ride was Hakodate.


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