Japan by Motorcycle

Day 17

August 14, 1999


Camels in Japan?

Tottori and Shimane Prefectures

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    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.

Tottori Sand Dunes

Tottori Sand Dunes

Camel in the Dunes

Tottori Sand Dunes

    Past the dunes, the weather let up enough for me to take off my rain gear which was a relief.  Small Town Cos-PlayHaving 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.  Matsue CastleIt 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.

Matsue Castle

Matsue Castle

View from Matsue Castle

View from Matsue Castle

    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.  Izumo Shrine FortunesApparently 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 Izumo Shrineand 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.  Himonosaki LighthouseThe 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!

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Just The Stats

Day 17

Odometer

Time

Place Weather
Start: 49150 10:00 Hamasaka, Hyogo Pref. Hazy/Hot
Finish: 49380 19:30 Izumo, Tottori Pref. Cloudy
 
Totals: 230km 9.5 hrs

Expenses

Gas: 750 Food: 2,200
Highway Fees: Youth Hostel: 3,200
Attractions: 500  

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Created: Feb 22, 2001
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2001

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