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Sakaiminato (Gegege no Kitaro) August 10, 2010

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Sakaiminato (Gegegeno Kitaro)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-sf

Sakaiminato is a very small city located on the border of Shimane and Tottori.  While technically located on the Tottori side of the border, it’s very close to Matsue, the biggest city in Shimane.  It is also close to Yonago, which has an airport making it easy to access this small city from Tokyo and Nagoya.  The best option is to visit from Matsue as it’s just a short drive, or train ride to visit this cool small town.

The city is famous for only two things. For most foreign people, it will be the seafood.  Like most Japanese towns, this one is no exception.  The crab is the most famous, but other seafood such as mackerel and squid are also somewhat famous.  Due to the location and size of this city, it would be very difficult to find information in English, let alone Japanese on what food is good here.  In fact, most of the Japanese guides never mention food, but rather mention the most famous activity in Sakaiminato.  Unfortunately, I only spent a couple hours in Sakaiminato, so I can’t really comment on the taste of the food.  I can say that the city feels more like a town than an actual city.  The streets aren’t busy and most people enjoy the quiet streets.  It can be easy to get lost in the area, so be aware of your surroundings.

The most famous thing to do is to walk down Kitaro Street.  It’s the last stop on the Sakai Line which starts in Yonago and ends at Sakaiminato.  As with the rest of Tottori and Shimane, I highly recommend renting a car to get around as the trains run sparsely.  Kitaro Street is very easy to find from Sakaiminato Station.  Once you exit the station, just look around and you’ll see statues of various strange creatures.  Once you head this way, you will be fine.  The street is fairly short and shouldn’t take more than an hour or so to venture down it.  Taking pictures can be tough as there are hundreds of small sculptures located up and down the street.  One of the most surprising things to see is the fact that the entire street is full of images related to the manga.  Everything from street signs to washroom signs has a Kitaro theme to it.  All of the shops sell the various Kitaro souvenirs, including a few snacks.  However, the biggest draw for souvenirs has to be the cell phone straps.  These are extremely popular with Japanese people, especially manga themed ones.

If you aren’t into shopping, located roughly in the middle is a small shrine dedicated to the creatures of this manga.  While this is not a true shrine in the sense that the gods are “real”, many people still enjoy the theme of the shrine.  You can write your dreams and wishes on small wooden blocks that are cut into the shapes of some of the characters.  There is even a large eyeball floating in a bowl of water that can be turned.  If that isn’t your thing, you can also relax inside a very small park which was created to look like Kitaro’s home.  All of the major characters are inside and you can see their relation to Kitaro himself.  If you have never read Kitaro, or you aren’t interested in it at all, this place may not be interesting for you.  If you are curious about Japan’s obsession with its characters and “idolization” of their cultural treasures, this place is great.  If anything, the city is a nice and quiet place to visit if you walk just outside the main tourist street.

Sakaiminato Information:

Sakaiminato (Official Site, English):  http://www.sakaiminato.net/foreign/en/index.html
Sakaiminato (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakaiminato,_Tottori
Sakaiminato (Wikitravel):  http://wikitravel.org/en/Sakai_Minato

Kitaro Street (Sakaiminato Official Site, English):  http://www.sakaiminato.net/foreign/en/mizuki.html
GeGeGe no Kitaro (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GeGeGe_no_Kitaro

Mt. Daisen August 3, 2010

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

Mt. Daisen is a large mountain standing 1729m tall.  It is located in western Tottori close to the city of Yonago.  To put it into perspective, it is north of Okayama and Okayama is located between Hiroshima and Osaka.  The mountain is the highest in the entire region and often related to Mt. Fuji itself.  It can be an elusive mountain to see as the clouds themselves can roll in.   This is especially true in the rainy season.

Accessing the mountain is relatively easy.  You can easily drive in from neighbouring Tottori, Yonago, Matsue, and Izumo.  Access from the south is not very easy as you would have to pass a large mountain range to get there.  When I visited Mt. Daisen, I approached from Tottori and exited towards Yonago.  The easiest method is to drive along the coast and access the mountain on the Yonago side.  If you decide to drive around the mountain, there is a road, Oyama Loop Road that is open in the summer that wraps around the mountain.  While you won’t directly drive around the top, you will be close to the top and the elevation changes will vary greatly.  Note that the road is very small with room for only 1-2 cars at the most.  There are no lines and the overgrowth is abundant.  It does make for a nice drive and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and the quiet stops.

Along the north side of Oyama Loop Road, you will pass through Obukijishinsui Park.  This is barely a park and more of a nature reserve.  A stop here is nice and there are various hiking trails that can only be accessed by car.  I would highly recommend renting a small car due to the conditions of the road.  Thankfully, the road itself was well maintained and the stop at the park was beautiful.  There are various points along the road in this park for you to stop, stretch, and see what’s around.  Unfortunately, things don’t change too much.  You will mainly see trees and bushes, and the view of the city or sea is almost non existent.  If you have time to spare, this is a very nice place to stop and see almost no one.  It’s wonderful for a picnic as well.

The main attraction of Mt. Daisen is Daisen-ji and Ogamiyama Shrine.  These are linked temples and shrines.  In the summer, there is a free parking lot that is a short 10 minute walk from the temple.  The temple itself is not spectacular, but worth a visit either way.  It’s more interesting to head up the mountain to Ogamiyama Shrine.  There is an old stone path leading from the back of Daisen-ji going to Ogamiyama Shrine.  In fact, if you decide to skip Daisen-ji, you can just walk straight up to Ogamiyama Shrine.  The shrine is a nice getaway, but the walk to the shrine is more unique.  When we were hiking up the trail, the clouds started to roll in providing an eerie feel to the trail.  At times, we were the only ones on the trail making it feel as if there were ghosts in the area.  I’m sure it is less interesting if it’s a nice sunny day.  If you venture off into one of the small hiking trails that run parallel to the main stone walkway, you will be taken to the river.  There is a nice small river with rock banks that provide an interesting place to rest.  There are several Inuksuk there, including my own.  I don’t know if they were made by locals, tourists, or other Canadians.  Unfortunately, the rocks aren’t good enough to make a human figure.

After a visit to the shrine and temple, you can head back into the small village.  There are only a handful of shops that are there, but there is a huge Mont-bell shop as well.  Mt. Daisen is popular for hikers and I’m sure you could complete the hike in a day or two.  Due to the time constraints, we didn’t bother to hike to the top, and also due to the weather, we didn’t think the view would be nice.  The village has a few gift shops and eateries for local food and traditional tourist food.  It appeared that Daisen soba was popular, and the tourist gifts centred on milk products and pear products.  We were still in Tottori, so pear products were very popular.  Milk produced at the base of Mt. Daisen is very popular.  You can find the milk in Tottori city itself, but it’s difficult to find outside of Tottori.  I was happy to find a small glass of milk and it tasted delicious.  It wasn’t the same as Japanese milk, but more westernized.  It was a nice refreshing treat after a tough drive and hike.  They also have a “kimo-kawaii panda” called Muki Panda which is a panda in a panda suit.  It’s tough to describe but it’s ugly and cute at the same time.  There is one shop that sells these goods and it’s somewhat popular for hikers.

Mt. Daisen can be tackled in less than a day.  The drive up the mountain may not be all that spectacular for most people, and the temple and shrine are standard fare.  I do recommend it if you are visiting the area as it’s a beautiful place to visit.  Very few people know of this mountain and the hiking must be wonderful.  I didn’t get a chance to try it, but I’m sure it would be a lot of fun.

Mt. Daisen Information:

Daisen (Possibly the official site, in Japanese): http://www.daisen.gr.jp/
Daisen (Resort Network, Japanese): http://www.daisen.net/
Daisen (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daisen_%28mountain%29
Daisen-ji (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daisen-ji
Ogami Jinja (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%8Cgamiyama_Jinja


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