Japan Day 50: Osaka

I got up on time and went to breakfast early, and now I remember why I don’t go to breakfast early. I had to fight the upstream spawning salary-man parade to try to get to the area that has the coffee shops I usually frequent for morning sets. I think I also saw some vacant streets so the parade must be limited to certain transportation corridors.

After that I tortured the tourist information bureau again. I saw a small note about a museum dedicated to Miyamoto Junzo who designed the toys for Glico caramels. I went 40 minutes to the Miyamoto Junzo Toy Museum and it was OK.

The museum is on the third floor of an odd building with no clear directions on how to get to the third floor. The toys they had from Glico were in a couple of small display cases and they were as disappointing as they were when I got them as a kid. There were also his collection of toys from his travels and it wasn’t an awful museum. Just a little expensive at ¥500. I guess one of the proprietor’s fathers also designed the break-off box-cutter and they have a crafts area in another room.

They also suggested I go to the Glico Museum and The Institute of Amusement Industry Studies at the Osaka University of Commerce. They had all sorts of card games and games of chance as well as Japanese chess. Or so I gather because after I walking for forty minutes I a room that was being packed up. Turns out they’re moving the display onto the campus and it wasn’t open this week or next.

So now it’s about noon and I think it’s a couple of hours to the Glico Museum, so I pressed on. There’s a train, a walk, a bus, and another walk.

As I get closer, I see a big Glico sign.

As I get even closer I notice a lot of construction and confusing signs that tell me to go in two different directions.

I ended up asking at the guard gate and they sent me to a building where I was told you had to call a day in advance for the tour. By this time I was pretty hangry and unhappy with this and I didn’t actually tell the guy off but he didn’t seem to want to let me tour tomorrow. But I have an 11AM appointment to make the tour.

I went back to Umeda and went to get some green tea and I felt much better.

I figured this wasn’t my best day so I ‘d just go get another burger at Shake Shack. Not as good as the one before, but good enough.

On the way back I stopped for a beer and I actually got a window seat! I ordered three beers and the keg blew on one so they gave me what was left and I had to pick another beer.

I have a “Member’s Card” for this place and they changed it to a smartphone app instead of a physical card. So when I signed up in the app they gave me another free small beer. I was about to have one final beer, figuring six 240ml beers is about three pints, but they blew the keg on the one I was going to have. I figured this was a sign and went back to my room.

That’s about it for the day. I’m going to make another attempt to go to the Glico Museum, and an attempt to see the Waterworks Memorial Museum. Last time I tried to see the Waterworks Museum I got there and there was a big sign that said it was closed for the year. I’m not sure what that meant but it looks open now. We’ll see.

Japan Day 49: Osaka

I thought it was going to be rainy today, but weather.com was wrong again. Well, first breakfast. I went to Pronto and ordered the wrong thing but I saw the guy that my sister and I used to always see who sat in the corner with his breakfast reading a book. We figured he worked in the area and it was comforting to see him years after we first saw him.

I wondered what I should do with the day. I was planning on just riding the Hankyu train around but somehow I decided Uji might be a good idea. Hankyu sent me to the subway and the subway told me that not only were things open today, but because it’s the emperor’s ascension that many of the public museums were open. Instead of buying a ticket to Uji, I bought an unlimited subway pass which was only ¥600 because it’s a holiday.

My first stop was the zoo and I got there before all the kids showed up. I mean, a day off and the zoo is free? Where else should you take the kids. I enjoyed myself more than I probably should’ve. After that I was going to take the subway to the old Den-den town where all the electronics were, but I noticed that it was much quicker to walk. I didn’t find all that much interesting there until I got to the north end, and that was all anime stuff. On the way I did end up on Shinsekai (a slightly seedy area) like I always seem to.

At that point I started getting hungry and I was looking at all of the restaurants but the only thing I could think of is getting some pasta. I saw a bunch of restaurants but nowhere that had appetizing pasta. There was a sign pointing me towards the subway station with the National Museum of Art, Osaka, and I headed that way. Two miles of walking through the underground and I finally found the train station. The only place I saw was Italian Tomato right by the train station but the seats looked uncomfortable so I got on the subway.

Soon after I got off the subway I saw the Rhiga Hotel, and a Sapporo Beer restaurant with a daily pasta special! I didn’t get the special but I did get the bolognese.

After that I went to the National Museum of Art, Osaka, where I spent quite a lot of time on the exhibit. There was a movie made about Flora Mayo for the Vienna Bienniale in 2018, who was a sculptor and former partner of artist Alberto Giacometti. It’s 30 minutes long and is a double-movie presented on two sides of a screen. I watched both sides and it was quite touching. Watch both if you can.

After that I went to the Osaka Science Museum next door, which was full of kids (as it should be) and also full of great science exhibits. It’s smaller than my local science museum OMSI, but I think it was better.

After that it was just a walk back to the hotel. I still had my pass, though, and I went out looking for beer again. I went to Yellow Ape Craft, not too far away, and they had a great selection of Japanese beers, many of them made by people I know! The guy running the shop was being kind of a dick to the kid working for him and much nicer to the girl working for him, but I drank a bunch of beer. I didn’t really like the beers from Kyoto and Nara and also wasn’t completely impressed by the Ale from Shiga Kogen, but I did enjoy the beers from Shonan. But I know that guy. I’d probably have to say that anyway.

Oh, and I also got pasta there for dinner as well. Try the Osaka Fried Chicken if you go. It’s great.

And that’s about it. I had some Halloween dessert from FamilyMart.

And I found the Tora-san movies on Netflix. And now I’m up “late” again. I love me some Tora-san movies.

Japan Day 48: Osaka

I did not sleep well last night. I think it was because I had a bunch of lengthy updates to do and I must’ve kept thinking about them instead of just sleeping. Basically it’s click a few buttons, then wait. Click a few more and wait again. But whatever. I knew I could put it off but it must’ve been bothering my subconscious. I got up at the same time and kept going with the updates and that work me up.

I also knew I wasn’t planning on doing much because it was supposed to start raining today. I figured I’d go to Umeda Loft to see if they had any iPhone 11 Pro cases but they only had four(!) different ones there. And I knew they’d open late, but I forgot the slackers didn’t open until 11AM! After striking out I quickly left because I know my sister will want to come back and so I’ll have more chances to check out Loft.

I did have a nice and slightly expensive breakfast instead of the usual Morning Set.

Since I struck out at Loft I also tried the Hankyu Department store, the Hanshin department store, and Tokyu Hands. Tokyu Hands also put me very close to the Daimaru dining floors so I started looking for a particular restaurant that served gratin. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it so I went off to try something else. I did find another omurice store in Lucua that looked interesting and there was a line. As a good Asian I got in the line and I wasn’t disappointed. The ketchup rice wasn’t wrapped in egg, but just topped with fluffy soufflé-like egg. It was great. And the set I got came with a thick pancake for dessert and that was good too.

After that I decided to go back to the room, watch some more Netflix (I’m on vacation after all) and even take a short nap. I went out for dinner and it was raining, but I knew a way to get almost to where I wanted to go (Katsukura in Chayamachi) without going outside. I only really had to cross the street and an outdoor escalator to get to the restaurant. It was worth it.

And that’s pretty much it for today. I may go to Nagoya on Wednesday if the weather improves, but I expect tomorrow will be more of the same “nothing” as today. I might actually get a day pass on the Hankyu train lines and just ride it around a bit. I can’t think of anything else to do, really, so why not?

Japan Day 47: Osaka

I didn’t have much planned for Osaka except maybe sitting in my room and looking out my window. Unfortunately I didn’t get one of “those” rooms this time and looking out the window would mean looking out onto an enclosed courtyard with an astroturf roof a few floors down, into the rooms across the way. That’s OK, I’ll find something to do.

I went to the travel bureau and brainstormed there. Couldn’t think of anything, though, so I got an unlimited subway pass (they’re cheaper on Sundays) and went south towards China, I mean, towards Shinsaibashi. Of course I ended up at the center of all evil (ha) and wanted to ask a question. They told me to stand in a line outside. Turns out the answer was yes, and I had to come back in an hour to stand in another line. The guy at the front of the line kinda looked like Carl Lewis and was really nice.

I wandered for a bit and somehow ended up in front of a stand-up beer bar that wasn’t open for a few more hours and I started feeling hungry. I decided to have ANOTHER hamburger, this time at Mos Burger. I saw a Japanese Uber Eats guy and I rushed to get his photo. I didn’t need to, it turns out. That Mos Burger had EIGHT different Uber Eats people show up in the time I was eating lunch.

Well I stood in the line again with a log of Chinese people. For some reason, both times I was sandwiched between this man and woman who wanted to talk really loudly straight through me. Oh well. At least the weather wasn’t awful.

After my line standing experience (where someone I know may have purchased an iPhone 11 Pro) I decided I might want to go see the world’s biggest Muji. I went last year to the world’s biggest Muji in Tokyo, but they were closing that down. Now the world’s largest is in South Osaka, in this Aeon Mall. The mall itself is huge and the Muji was pretty cool. I didn’t take any pictures inside, though.

It was about three when I was back on the subway, so I decided to stop at the bar. I got off south of it to walk north. Usually I don’t think it’s as crowded from Namba to Dotonbori, but yeesh.

And everyone was taking pictures in front of the Glico guy.

Here’s the first one I had. I think I tried most of the beers they had. I got smart and switched to very small pours at some point.

I knew I had enough and I went back to the station to have dinner at Yodobashi Camera’s restaurant floor. I had omurice instead of a hamburger, but then I went ahead and got a hamburger on top of the omurice.

Then I went downstairs and tried to buy a cool case for an iPhone 11 Pro. Turns out it’s too new and there really aren’t that many cases available yet. Oh well, I’ll try other places tomorrow.

Japan Day 46: Osaka

Not many pictures today.

It was still sprinkling when I got up today and I figured out I could take a train directly to Osaka station from Wakayama. There was an option that was a little quicker and cut 15 minutes off of a hour-and-22-minute trip, but it cost twice as much, I think. There were other pluses like assigned seats, but I thought I’d chance it.

I stopped for a morning set and that got me on the train only five minutes early. I had to cram into a seat next to a guy who was reading a paper. The seats are pretty small, so it was a bit of a mess. But what am I going to do, not eat breakfast again?

The train was interesting. At some point it met up with the airport train and hooked the two four-car trains together to make an eight-car train. But it did go all the way to Osaka station.

I got to the hotel and dropped off my bags and immediately started looking for a place to print out some documents. I’ve been waiting to get to immigrations so I can try to get my Japanese Trusted Traveler card which will allow me to go through an automatic gate and not wait in such a long line to get in and out of Japan. The first printer I tried was the really crowded 7 Eleven in Osaka station and I wasn’t having any luck. I blamed the machine and went to look for a different convenience store. There’s a FamilyMart not too far away and that let me print everything out. That’s when I realized it was Saturday and I couldn’t just go to the immigration office. I’d have to go to the airport. I got back on the same train I was on before, but in the opposite direction. At least it was only a 70 minute trip. I also got to be on the train when they unhooked the cars.

I got to the small office that took care of applications for the automatic gate. The guy told me that I’d have to print out my employment information because I’d included it in my application. He also told me I’d need to get a different ID photo because my spare US passport photo was too big for for the form.

I found a “business center” where I printed things out quickly and then had to go look for the ID photo booth. The airport was a zoo today, by the way. I couldn’t find anyone to ask and I almost missed the booth because a guy was restocking the Coke machine right next to it and the door was obscuring the view of the machine. Then I had to find someone with a ruler to figure out how big of a photo to get because the damn booth had so many options.

When I got back to the office, the first guy was gone and there was another young guy there who had no idea what to do. He called his superior who was pretty cheerful about the whole thing. They looked me up on the computer and said my application wasn’t actually ready, but I gave him a copy of the email that said it was ready. They believed me! So lots of this and that and they didn’t want half of the forms I brought. They also didn’t want the photos at all, so that was a waste of effort and ¥800. They finally got it all sorted out and I made them take some of my forms because I sure didn’t need them. Then it was time to get on the same train for the third time today to go back to Osaka.

When I got my room at the Granvia I found out it was tiny and had a view of an industrial courtyard! Nothing like the room I had last year or the room I had in Okayama! I didn’t even know they had these rooms! Oh well, I suppose I can blame booking.com. I watched some rugby on TV and when I looked at the local map I notice there’s a Shake Shack here! I didn’t like the Shake Shack burger when I had it in Shinjuku, but I thought if anywhere was going to do it right it would be Osaka. Can’t trust those Tokyo people with food.

Sure enough, the burger was excellent.

I tried going to a couple of taprooms but none of the beers they had on tap excited me at all. Oh well.

I bet I’m going to spend a lot of time in this closet of a room because I’m in Osaka to wind down a bit. It was Saturday night and the place was jumping. I think there were six or seven live bands on the street, and I watched rugby at an outside bar for a bit. I think they completely redid the basement restaurants near the hotel, too. I sort of miss all the small towns I visited.

I guess that’s about it for the day.

Japan Day 45: Wakayama

I woke up late this morning and there up on the wall, the skeeters and the bedbugs were playing a game of ball.

Wait. No. I woke up at 6AM because I set my alarm. I had to set my alarm because my stupid Bose Sleepbuds (which are great when they work) were malfunctioning again. Usually the left ear is the one that acts up but this time the right ear was acting up. Sheesh. Fortunately, the onsen in Kamikatsu was pretty darn peaceful. The only weird thing is every time I saw the rapids outside my window I’d think I needed to turn it off or I’d be wasting water. I dunno. Maybe this trip is getting to me.

Anyway, I got up and got to the lobby in time for the ride they offered me to the bus stop but it turns out they needed to replace the tires on the hotel bus and the tire place was near the ferry terminal. I got down to the ferry terminal before the restaurant was open, so I had to get breakfast at FamilyMart again.

And I was an hour-and-a-half early for the ferry. It’s a Nankai ferry, and connects to the Nankai railway.

At the end of the people mover is the Nankai Railway station. I had to go down the stairs and wait for a bus. Google told me to get off a couple of stops early and of course as soon as I got out it started to rain hard. I ducked under an office and got my little umbrella out.

I was able to check in early to the Dormy Inn where they lent me a big umbrella. The tourist bureau told me I should check out the castle and it was drizzling and humid and hot. Basically some of my least favorite weather.

When I got to the castle it was a ferroconcrete reproduction that made me kind of sad.

But I did sweat my way up to the top of the tower and I saw a cake place. Since I hadn’t eaten anything since my pathetic excuse for a late breakfast, I went to get some cake.

And then I walked around to the other side of the castle to find the only original part – the Okaguchi gate. Well, I miscalculated and the gate was actually right next to the cake place and I went around to a re-created tiny gate. I had to walk all the way around again, but here it is. I’m still not all that impressed by Wakayama Castle.

I decided to go to a craft beer place for dinner. They make their own beer and that can be iffy. Even worse, they take orders on iPads, and so you can’t ask any questions unless you flag someone down. I got the large onion rings. I’d already eaten several by the time I took the picture since I was so hungry. That first beer was a Heiwa Craft fresh hop “pail” ale. It was the only half-decent beer I had.

At the suggestion of the person delivering the onion rings, I got some chicken wings.

And at the suggestion of the person delivering the chicken wings, I got local beef. Once again under-seasoned and, well, meh. That’s the Agara IPA from the “Wakayama Brewry”. It wasn’t very good.

I decided to try the Nom-something IPA, the only other local IPA they had, and it was similarly not very good.

I got back to the Dormy Inn (the buses in Wakayama aren’t cheap) and did some more laundry. This is the last Dormy Inn I’m staying at this year, and so these are the last “free” washers I’m going to see. I had a surprisingly large amount of laundry to do. Didn’t I just do laundry a couple of days ago?

Oh well. Onto Osaka tomorrow.

Japan Day 44: Kamikatsu

Today was the only day of my trip that I was kind of worried about. Number two would probably have been that trip to Wakkanai with the flight and rental car, but this one was a visit to a brewery in the middle of nowhere with iffy transportation and a stay in an onsen that also was an unknown. I met the guys from Rise and Win brewing in Portland about three years ago and the old head brewer of Labrewatory makes it here several times a year. I’ve even been to Rise and Win’s taproom in Tokyo and so I thought why not?

But first, breakfast in a crowded room, but not too bad. The curry was a little bland and the potato salad wasn’t really to my liking, but it wasn’t bad. I paid extra for this because I knew I’d probably be drinking at lunch.

And the view from the counter seat at breakfast.

Here’s the first of three buses I needed to take.

I had to change buses at the Tokushima Red Cross Hospital, which was kind of a grim place to wait for a bus.

The bus came tearing in about seven minutes late. It was a brand new bus, and he made up some time on the trip. It was a ¥690 trip and that wasn’t a rip off. It was a long ride and there were only three people on the bus at “peak” time.

I made it in time to catch one of the four Kamikatsu buses of the day. They let me off right in front of the brewery!

The brewery was much smaller than I expected. The picture you usually see is of these big recycled windows from the outside. Kamikatsu is a “zero waste” town because they were losing so much population that they fell off the map and lost garbage service. So they have a recycling center where they divide up their garbage into 45 different categories and try to reuse as much as possible.

This is the whole store, and you can arrange to barbecue with a group of people if you call ahead.

The store is on the left and the original brewery is on the right.

Portland Kettleworks nine-barrel systems!

I had a sampler of the four beers they had on tap. While a couple took some getting used to (Charlie made another interesting beer here) they were all good, as I knew they would be.

And I ordered the pulled pork sandwich. It was tasty.

They gave me some roasted Kamikatsu shiitake mushrooms as a gift! Those were great, and I wish I could show you how large they were.

I took the bus to the onsen, and one of the five people working at the brewery came to give me a tour. They’ve relocated the brewing operation up the hill and have an 18 barrel Portland Kettleworks system.

I didn’t take any pictures, but it was a nice big building. It was bottling day and there were two people doing bottling by hand, one after the next. It took a while. I met the head brewer and he gave me some tastes of a couple of bottle-aged beers that had been in a cask. It needed a bit more work, but I don’t think they were quite done with their experimenting.

When I got back it was still early so I took a quick walk around the area. This is looking from the onsen to the camping area across the river. I think the camping area belongs to the onsen as well.

That’s the onsen in the middle of the picture.

A new pedestrian rope bridge they put up last year? Or was it this year?

It was a quick trip.

Oh, and here’s the awful view from my room. 🙂

So there’s maybe one other place to eat around here. There’s no included dinner and there’s no breakfast at all in the morning. Fortunately, there is a dining room and it is open for dinner. It wasn’t expensive and the fish was incredibly fresh. Whoever ran the tempura fryer was a master at it. (Buried under all that tempura is another shiitake.) 🙂

The noodles weren’t awesome, but I think that’s just because I don’t like hot soba.

I took a bath in the onsen and it had bubbles in the middle of it like a jacuzzi. I tried to sit in the middle and it kind of made me float away. It also shot water up my nose at one point.

Anyway, it was a rather relaxing and fun side-trip. The wireless is great, too, so I’ve been watching Netflix. 🙂

Japan Day 43: Tokushima

Well, I should probably plan some of this stuff better. But I did start out OK with another breakfast at the Comfort Hotel. Jeez was that computer network bad there.

I got to the station in plenty of time to catch my first train.

Somehow, though, it was late to the transfer point. The next train was there but I misread the ticket and thought it left an hour later, not a minute later, and I missed it. I was stuck in a podunk little town that had nothing really going on.

I did find the one museum in town that was closed on Wednesdays. It’s a tobacco museum. I’m not sure what that’s about BECAUSE IT WAS CLOSED. I met some Aussies who actually spent the night here and they told me this was pretty much it.

Well here’s the train I had to take instead. All two cars. The train I missed was two cars as well, but I had an assigned seat and it would’ve take one hour and not 1 ½ hours.

I finally made it to Tokushima. It’s pretty big. The towns go on for a long while up the valley.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get to where I’m going tomorrow, an onsen in the middle of nowhere. People have heard of it, but I have to take three buses and one of the transfers is cutting it close.

I went to the Awa Odori museum and paid ¥680 for a 40 minute show on the dance they do during the yearly festival. They also show how it evolved over the years and show you how to participate. I did not participate.

I knew I’d probably walk up the mountain. It started out with a bunch of stairs and so I thought it might be pretty easy. They told me it was a 30 minute walk. What they didn’t tell me was that it was a 30 minute walk straight up the mountain for 680m and it was pretty rough. It just looks like this most of the way. I think the 100m marker was right after the stairs ended.

The view from the top was pretty impressive.

After that it was back to the hotel to really make sure of where I was going. I talked to the one taxi company that serves the area and they told me to just give it a try and then call them if I need them. I also had to figure out why my IP Phone app wasn’t working. Skype worked, though, and I used that to call. It was kind of a big mess but fooling around with computers is what I do.

I asked where to go to dinner and I didn’t like their suggestions. I used google maps to find “craft beer” again. I know I’m going to a brewery tomorrow but I found another one to go to tonight. It was, well, it was OK. The food was tasty, though.

Local grilled chicken.

Fish and chips!

The brewpub was just on the other side of the river, and the river had three illuminated bridges.

That’s about it. I have to get on a bus at 9, transfer at 10, and hopefully transfer at 10:55. All to see a brewery and I’m not even sure the owner’s going to be there tomorrow. Well, I know they have pretty good beer so it’ll be interesting.

Japan Day 42: Kochi

This is what I get for using a coin-flipping app to figure out where to go to dinner. I can be indecisive, so it’s easier than fumbling for change and possibly losing a ¥100 yen coin down the sewer, and I don’t know which is heads or tails on that anyway. I had several “local” beers but they weren’t that big, so I should be OK, right?

I started the day at the Comfort Hotel Kochi’s breakfast buffet. It was pretty good.

My plan was to get on the morning bus to Katsurahama and do some quick sightseeing before going to the Sakamoto Ryoma memorial museum. It was pretty there, though there were construction crews digging out the public restroom on the beach. I guess the big waves from the typhoon filled the bathroom with sand!

I didn’t pay the ¥100 to “see what Ryoma” sees. Hell, he was a guy, not a statue, so it should say, “see what this statue sees.”

The views were great without climbing the stairs to the platform.

The museum was interesting as well, but no pictures to take.

 

I took the bus back into town and started looking for aka ushi, the local beef. I guess some places have it but they’re usually closed on Tuesday. There’s some dinner places with it, but they were closed because yesterday was a national holiday. I ended up having ramen, with a side of a small pork bowl and egg.

I was close to the castle again so I decided to go see that. It was a pretty nice castle and much larger than I expected for Kochi. 

On the way back I decided to go see Harimayabashi and it’s a tiny little bridge. There’s a sad story about a monk falling in love with a merchant’s daughter, which was forbidden, and they were both sent into exile.

I had a craving for something sweet, and I knew if I went back to the train station there was a spot where I could get a treat and a stamp in my Ryoma passport (whatever that’s worth). I bet this passport will be useless the next time I get back here.

So back to the coin flipping. I went by the place suggested by the hotel and I wasn’t sure about it, so I started wandering. I tried going to the aka ushi place but it was closed unless you had a reservation. I ended up at 5019 Premium Factory and had a burger. It was huge.

I finally noticed they had local beer in bottles and I had a couple.

Well more than a couple.

I didn’t take any more pictures after I realized I couldn’t tell what they were. The first one had sake kobo in it. The second one was an IPA. Both were a little sweet but nicely balanced by the hops. The third one I had was a Yuzu beer and I don’t remember that being too sweet.

I talked to the cook and the kid behind the counter for a while and a guy who works at the local TV station. I think my coin flipping app took me to the right place!

Japan Day 41: Kochi

Today was a travel day and I was expecting it to be worse than it was. It took three trains to get from Sabae to Fukuchiyama, and four trains to get from Kinosaki Onsen to Sakaiminato, so I figured the weird criss-crossing lines across Shikoku would be as bad. Nope. Just two trains.

But first, breakfast at the Candeo Hotel.

The quality was good and the view even better. The Dormy Inn had more interesting things last year, including Tai Meshi, but I really can’t complain.

So then it was off to the train station. I had exact change (¥160) because I broke down and had a Mickey D’s cheeseburger last night and that was ¥140.

The first train was the express bound for Okayama. Holy crap were the rails bad. The train swayed a lot.

I transfered at a place called Tadotsu and that was another hole-in-the-wall station. But not only did it have a 7 Eleven, but there was a bakery there. The second train was another Anpanman train! And it also hauled ass.

I waited until I got on the train to have my lunch. It’s like what I usually get at 7 Eleven but much better. The apple pastry was made with Fuji apples, which got a little mealy after baking. Now I remember people picking apple varieties for different recipes.

The train took us through a beautiful gorge with rafting trips. It was going too fast and I was on the wrong side to get any good pictures.

When I got to Kochi my stomach wasn’t doing so well. I dropped off my bags and found the tourist bureau and they went on about a Sakamoto Ryoma passport. I walked towards the castle and was almost there when I decided I should head back and check in and take it easy. My intestinal issues were making me feel pretty tired.

I finally left the hotel to get the passport and then later to get dinner. Here’s most of what I had. Under the onions is a huge slab of seared bonito. It’s a Kochi dish and it was excellent. The other dish is deep fried whole small fish. Those were good too.

I did finish up with some pastries at the hotel and a banana the fish place gave on the way out. I took it easy and it wasn’t a bad day. I hope I feel good enough to go exploring beyond the city tomorrow.

Japan Day 40: Matsuyama

Well, I didn’t plan this day very well. I knew I had to get on a ferry and I knew I’d probably also get on a train to get from Beppu across to Shikoku and then up to Matsuyama. It wouldn’t be that big a deal but I always have some trouble finding the Japanese ferry times online. Plus, it was the day after the big typhoon and the winds were causing high waves, prompting a warning. I figured I’d find out when I got to the ferry terminal.

I got a fairly early start and found a coffee shop called “Italian Tomato” and had pretty much the same breakfast that I did both days in Hakata. IT was fresh and it was tasty. The coffee, not so much.

The ferry was kind of odd but it’s a ferry. I found a seat rather than lie down on the tatami. The waves were pretty bad, and being on the deck was too windy. I felt like I was going to be blown away. But the ferry was stable, and plowed through the waves without much trouble.

I decided against waiting for the bus and took a taxi to the train station. I wanted to beat the rush. There was no rush, but I still got to the ferry early. Yahatahama station has nothing around it (no cafes, etc) but it did have a 7 Eleven. I bought a tonkatsu sandwich and bought a ticket for the train to JR Matsuyama station.

The train arrived and it was an Anpanman train! That thing went quite fast through the countryside. It was kind of fun.

I asked about places to see at the train station before I went to the hotel. I decided just to go to the free Botchan train museum and then just do laundry. I was going to have big trouble on the tram because they don’t take Suica in Matsuyama (the backwards bastards) and I didn’t have anything smaller than a ¥10,000 bill. The change machine only took ¥1000 bills or less. Fortunately there was an older woman who had change for me!

I checked into the hotel and walked to the museum through a long shopping arcade. The museum is in a Starbucks! It’s Japan’s first narrow-gauge railway going from Matsuyama to and turned into the city tram system.

It took a while to do my laundry. The dryers weren’t the best. I was late to get dinner and my first try was to get nabeyaki udon. I got lost when I got close and asked a woman in a shop where it was and she looked at me like I was going to rob her. I went to another shop where they were much more friendly and they told me that you can only get nabeyakiudon for lunch! So I walked all the way back to the hotel and then north to the dinner place I went last year to get taimeshi. This time I got the different style that comes with raw tai and egg.

After that it was back to the hotel to watch Japan eke out a win against Scotland in the Rugby World Cup game.

That’s about it.

Japan Day 39: Beppu

So today is a typhoon day and I’ve been fairly lucky to have missed the big ones in my travels. I’ve been away from the edge of the typhoon and this one looks like another bad one. Fukuoka was just windy (very windy) and there were some cancelled trains on the Kagoshima line. I heard the wind blew something across the tracks and delayed a bunch of trains.

Almost the same breakfast as yesterday.

I got to the station early to get my last reserved seats on my railpass. I’ll have to pay cash for everything from here on out. There was a long line, of course, but I’m not sure it’s because of people rescheduling their canceled trips. I think Hakata is always a shitshow in general.

Anyway, here’s my train. It went up to Kokura, and then went backwards to Oita. Or maybe it was going backwards to Kokura. I dunno. Either way, it was late!

I got to Beppu late, of course, and dropped off my bags at my hotel. It’s so-so. I went to the tourist bureau and of course they told me to check out the hells. Honestly, Jigokudani in Noboribetsu was a lot cooler. There’s only so many variants on geothermal springs you can see so some of them got gimmicky.

This next one had a bunch of hot springs and they showed you how smoke would interact with the superheated water and create steam.

And this is all I had for lunch. The pepper flakes just made me cough and didn’t really add to the flavor of the ice cream.

I think this next hell knew they were so boring that they took the water and made a crocodile farm.

There was a huge guy next to this one and I was lucky enough to see feeding time. Those guys can jump and the big guy was 20+ feet I bet.

The next boring hot spring had tropical fish.

I guess this is what piranhas look like.

I went to the trouble of taking a bus to the last two hot springs. This is “blood lake”. It’s much less impressive in person.

And as long as I was there I waited 45 minutes for the geyser to go off.

I got back to town and checked into my hotel but I decided to find some eyeglass cleaner for my brand new eyeglasses. The instructions say use the proper cleaning cloth and make sure you wet them first with the proper blah blah blah. I know I’ll do that for the first couple of months at the most.

Then I went looking for dinner. The hotel suggested two izakaya and two teishoku places and I went to a teishoku place. And overate because I hardly ate anything today.

That beer in the background is the only one I had.

Tomorrow I’m winging it because I don’t know if the ferry is running. If it is I take a ferry across to Yahatahama, and then have to get a ticket on the train to Matsuyama. Always an adventure on the Shikoku ferries. Lots of web sites in Japanese and I can hardly figure out what they’re talking about.

Some people don't believe my luck.

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