As I had stayed up late the previous
night with my new friends at the Hamasaka Youth Hostel, I got a late start
on this day. There had been some talk of going down to the nearby
beach and perhaps swimming in the ocean (the Sea of Japan) but the weather
nixed those plans. I decided it was best to push on. I had
some time constraints and still hadn't made it to Kyushu or Shikoku, two
of the four largest islands that make up Japan. Email addresses were
exchanged, I donned my rain gear and I gingerly placed my raw butt on my
motorcycle seat around 10:00AM.
Within an hour down the road, I found my way to the
Tottori Sand Dunes, a famous strip of coastline consisting of miles of
sand. For those that are familiar with Japanese classic movies,
Teshigahara's 1964 film Woman in the Dunes had been filmed
here. I don't know if they had camels back then but they have a few
now, imported for the purpose of giving tourists rides on the desert-like
terrain. I was walking around in my PVC plastic rain gear feeling
like I was wrapped in a zip-lock bag.
Had the weather been better and had I not seen a
similar coastline -- the Sleeping Bear dunes -- in my home state, I
probably would have been more impressed. Nevertheless, the unique
coastline was certainly worth a look. The guys parachuting off the
dunes must have been having a blast.
Past the dunes, the weather let up enough for me to
take off my rain gear which was a relief. Having
to pull it on and off was a chore and I sometimes had to play a guessing
game with the weather. I came across a small flea market of some
sort where there were some kids out doing cos-play (costume play), which
is dressing up for the fun of it. I guess it bears some similarities
to the gothic movement in the U.S. The kids were posing for a
picture so I snapped one of my own and started walking back towards my
bike when one of the kids (the guy in the maroon coat) ran after me.
I was shocked when he asked me what I thought I was
doing. It hadn't even occurred for me to ask them for permission to
take their picture since there are dozens of these kids in Tokyo happily
posing for their friends and tourists alike. And that's what I told
him. He didn't ask for the film back but he asked me to sign in, in
their guest book. Maybe he was afraid the photo would find its way
onto the Internet or something.
Somewhere around there I stopped for a lunch of crab
croquettes, at least that's what my journal says. I don't remember
the meal at all so probably it's not worth mentioning (but I did
anyway). Around mid-afternoon I made my way into Matsue in
Shimane Prefecture in order to see Matsue Castle.
The castle is notable in that the present structure dates back to
1611. It had somehow managed to escape the ravages of the Meiji
Restoration that had destroyed so many cultural treasures. It was
small but picturesque -- black like Matsumoto Castle. Inside was the
original wood construction and a series of steep staircases leading up to
the top which was now an observation platform. The town is in a
unique location between two large lakes and with the ocean just a few
kilometers away. I skipped the other notable attractions in town,
including the Lafcadio Hearn Museum and an old samurai residence.
Lafcadio Hearn, I learned, was a British writer who came to Japan in 1890
and spent the latter part of his life there including one year in Matsue.
Since it was, basically, on my way I
took the next 30 kilometers to Izumo which was famous for Izumo Taisha, a
big Shinto shrine. Apparently
this shrine is Japan's oldest, dating back over a 1000 years(!). Its
main distinguishing characteristic is the large woven rope over the shrine
entrance. If you could somehow get a five yen coin to stick in the
fibers it was considered good luck. It wasn't crowded at the time
but there were a few people trying to accomplish the feat. This
shrine is also dedicated to a god of love and
happiness. Too superstitious to pray to "false gods," I
nevertheless gave way to some reflection about my recent decision to
marry and hopes for the future.
Outside the temple was evidence of other travelers
hoping for fortune in love and other matters. There were scores of
less-than-desirable omikuji (fortunes) left behind on the trees --
more than I had seen at any other temple.
It was already five o'clock and, since it looked like
it may rain, I decided to seek out another youth hostel. My strategy
of camping in good weather and youth hostelling in bad had been working
well so far. The
YH right there in Izumo still had accommodations so I made my
reservation. I still had a little time before sunset so I decided to
take the 10 kilometer run out to see the Hinomisaki Lighthouse. The
weather prevented me from seeing a decent sunset but I still enjoyed the
rocky coastline and the area around the lighthouse. I remember the
water was a deep blue, almost black, and quite turbulent. I was glad
that I wasn't in it and took care to remain that way. The lighthouse
was indeed tall as was to be expected since the guidebook claimed that it
was Japan's tallest lighthouse. Although visitors can tour the
lighthouse itself, it was already closed by the time I got there.
I took the windy coastal road back into Izumo, stopping
at a convenience store before going to the youth hostel. As I was
eating my dinner, the "kids" running the place gathered
everybody into the common area. At first it wasn't clear to me what
they were planning on doing but then I saw they wanted to do a group
orientation of Izumo and its sites. So they handed out photocopied
tourist maps -- in Japanese, of course -- and talked for a few minutes
covering the sites.
There were around 15 to 20 guests that evening. I
was surprised to find the biker I had met two days before in the Miyama
YH. He said he wondered what had happened with me and my ailing
motorcycle. He said he was glad that I was able to continue my trip
after all and so was I. If I had been forced to abandon my travels
as I had feared, I'd have never had the experiences of the last 48 hours
-- experiences which had already enriched my life and soul though,
admittedly, not my road weary butt!