Sunday, July 02, 2006

Omi-Jima Island and Akiyoshi-dai

Hello All,

Today has been a very busy day. It seems like this morning was a very long time ago. The day started off at 5:45, because I decided that I would go back to sleep for a bit when the alarm went off at 5:30. I got up so early because I had wanted to see Omi-Jima Island for sunrise, but when I got up and it was raining, I decided to wait a while before I left the hotel. I got up and planned the day all out so that the same thing wouldn’t happen as yesterday and checked out of the hotel by 6:20 and headed over to the bus station. I had planned to walk the 30 min to the bridge to the island, but I found out that there was a train that would go almost the entire way for only 160 yen, so I decided it was worth it because the train was going to leave around 6:30.


When I got off the bus I headed the short distance to the dock on the mainland where the sightseeing boats left, but found that the first tour didn’t leave till 8:40 so I decide that I would look around the dock and the island to see what I could find. I felt like Darwin exploring the Galapagos Islands because I found so many new bugs that I had never seen, and some of them were about as big as iguanas. On the dock, when I was looking around, I saw something out of the corner of my eye which at first I thought was a cockroach. It was out of sight but I soon found that the entire dock and anything near the water had tons of these ugly little bugs. The most unusual thing to me is that they were out in the middle of the day. I then headed over to the Island, and on the way I found some kind of bird. I am not sure if it was a hawk or an eagle, but they were all around too; at one point I stood in one place and counted 14 on the ground and on the roofs of the surrounding buildings. After I crossed over to Omi-Jima, I found some spiders that I admit scared even me just a little bit. They were almost as big as tarantulas, and very brightly colored. I walked a little bit further and saw what I thought was a crab, but it got away before I could get a good look. I started around the rock pile it had run into, and found some more, but I knew they were not crabs because there were no claws and it didn’t even look like they had a shell. I was just another really big bug; one was bigger than a tarantula.


After I had walked for almost 45 minutes, and realized I was not going to get to the rocks I had wanted to see, I started trying to find a bus. I found a bus stop and after staring at the timetable for a while, I realized that the bus would be coming by for the only time that morning in just a little bit. The bus pulled up, and the bus driver, trying to be helpful tried to find out where was going. I had the hardest time explaining to him that I just wanted to ride the bus and look around. Finally he gave up on trying to understand and continued his route. At the next and final stop of the route, a school girl that spoke some English got on and we went through the same thing again for about another 10 minutes, but she was finally able to understand and explain it to the diver. On the way back to the mainland (it was already 8:50), I explained that I wanted to go on the boat, but later I wanted to go to back to the Island and I asked if there was a different route that went to the other part of the island. She explained to the bus driver and he smiled and nodded, and he changed his route little to take me back to the dock, and when we got there, he made a list for me of all the time that the bus for the other would stop at the dock. I am very thankful for their help even thought I never actually took that bus.


I walked over to the dock the dock and bought a ticket for the next tour. While I was waiting for the boat to leave one of the workers gave me a paper of information about the tour in English. I understood a few of the points but I have no clue about others. Just click on the small picture to the right to view it better view at bottom of page). The time came and I went to get on the boat. I soon learned that I was the only one on that tour, so for about $20 I got a 1.5 hr private tour of the island. We soon made our way on the tour, and I began to realize how silly it would have been to try to walk around the island on foot. After about five minutes, the first rock island came into view. It was so beautiful; the sad thing was all the trash that covered the main island. It looked like Omi-Jima Island had been a dumping ground at one time because there was trash on many of the beachs. From the boat I could also see many fisherman, each one had his onwn little spot on the rock. There were also many waterfalls all around the Omi-Jima from the recent rain that it was a very beautiful sight, especially the few moments when the sun poked through the clouds. I was about halfway through the tour taking pictures of all the small island when the most exciting thing happened. About halfway between the boat and the main island I saw a fin poke out of the water for just a moment. A few seconds later I saw another, and this time I saw a spurt of water from a blowhole. I knew then what it was I was looking at. There were two wild dolphins in close to the island. I was so excited I could barely contain myself, but there was nobody else in the passenger area so there wasn’t even anybody to tell. After a little while of staring in awe I decided I should try to take some pictures but it was already too late; they were too far away. After that, I didn’t even care about the beautiful scenes, all I wanted to see was more dolphins. I decided I would run up to the driver, even if I wasn’t supposed to, and ask him to get closer since I was the only one in the boat. It turned out that my plans didn’t really matter, because those few glimpses were all I got. I did see some nests on the tops of some of the rocks, and that was the only other sign of wildlife while I was on the tour.


We slowly headed back to the dock, and I hurried back to the train station. While I was on the train the day before, I noticed at one of the stops that a sign in the station said bus to Akiyoshi-dai. I knew that I recognized the name, and after checking some of the notes I had made during the week, that it was the caves that I had wanted to visit. I thought that it would be too far out of the way, but it turned out I couldn’t get a very straight route to Omi-Jima Island, and I had to go right past the cave. I hoped that I had enough time to see the caves and still make it to Yamaguchi City before the last bus left. I decided that was too close to just pass it by, so I got off in Mine. I talked to the conductor, and he said that I had to wait about half an hour, so I tried to find a place to eat lunch, but after wandering around this little town for about ten minutes, it gave up and just got some snacks at a supermarket. I ate while I waited for the bus and then made the 45 minute trip to Akiyoshi-dai. I quickly made the short walk from the station to the cave entrance gate and paid the $12 fee to get in.



I entered the gate and was surprised at how cool it was even thought I was still outside. The water that was running down the hill soon came into view, and at first I thought it was just part of the landscaping at the park. As I walked further though, I couldn’t figure out how they had so much water flowing so fast if it was manmade, so I decided they must have diverted the water from a river or something. I finally got up to the mouth of the cav

e, and realized that all this water was coming from inside the cave. I was an underground river and the as I walked into the first cavern, I could believe the sheer size of the cavern. The first room was enormous, and very wet (the mist was so think I couldn’t even see the other side of the room . I was almost like it was raining inside because of all the water that driving from the ceiling. I instantly knew that I had made the right choice in coming, but I still knew that I had to hurry or I wouldn’t make it back home at a decent time.


The entire cave, from the entrance to the last room was amazing. There were so many different types of feature all in one cave it almost looked like a movie set or something. I was now disappointed because I had very few pictures left on my card. The entire time I was walking through the cave, I was trying to decide which ones I had to delete so I could take new ones. I can’t easily describe most of the cave so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

This is a picture of the river inside the cave.

Some of the rocks had some interesting lighting

me in front of Hyakumai-zara (The Hundred Plates Limestone Pools)

Chimachida (The Thousand Rice Fields)

Senjo-ziki (The Big Hall)

Samidare-goten (The Rain Place)

After the nice cool break in the cave, it was time to head back to the bus stop. I stopped at a few little shops before hurrying back (I almost hit by a car I was rushing so fast), before I missed the next bus. While I was waiting I met a couple from Thailand with a little child. He was here for a year on business, and spoke perfect Japanese and English, and she was just visiting him and spoke only English and Thai. We had a very nice conversation and they gave me some good traveling advise on the bus ride to Yamaguchi. After the man had helped me get a ticket for the next bus, the lady showed me a foot hot spring she had found in an alley/walkway near the bus stop. This was much more my style because you only had to take off your shoes, and it was free. The water was about 150o, but after getting used to it, it was quite relaxing. There were a few older ladies there when I got there, and soon some more came, one of which spoke English quite well. After being the interpreter for all the questions everyone had, I soon started talking to just her. She said she had recently been to New York for a few days and had a fun time. She was very polite and said she had enjoyed her trip very much. She then told me, in the politest old lady way, “I knew Japan was beautiful, but I never realized how beautiful it was till I went to the United States.” I didn’t really know how to respond especially since she was not trying to be rude at all. Soon the bus attendant that had given me the ticket came and told me (the lady had to translate), that I had to leave or I would miss the bus. She waited outside the office for the next five minutes to make sure that I got on the right bus.

As I studied my timetables on the bus, I soon realized that I would miss the 7:30 bus from Hiroshima by about 15 minutes (I could have guessed that from my luck without looking at the timetable), and have to wait till the last one at 11:30. I had been trying to avoid this since yesterday had been such a long day, but it was too late now. I decided I would stop in Tokuyama (the place I had accidently gotten on a train the day before), and see if I could catch a train that would get me back to Higashihiroshima before 1 am. I knew I could catch the next bus to Hiroshima on a different route in 30 minutes if there was not a train. I went into the office and found the Shinkansen would get me there just after 9:00, so I said to myself “sure, it is a short distance so it is worth paying the little bit extra,” until the price flashed 4,600 (about $43) for the ticket to go about 50 miles. This was way too much for my budget, so I had to ask for the local ticket instead which was more than a little embarrassing but was only 2100 yen. I took the long train ride and made it into the Saijo station by 10:15. All I had to do was get back to my room, easy, right? I hoped that there would still be a bus running, and when I walked outside and say the bus I thought, “finally, my transportation luck has change.” But no; I found out from the bus driver that yes, the bus route I needed was done for the day. I tried to call both Dr. Yamamoto and Yamamichi to see how to tell the taxi driver how to get to the dorm, but I couldn’t get a hold of either of them. I went over to the taxi and told him the name of the place I was staying, and he zoomed off. Again I thought I had gotten lucky, but was wrong again. He wanted to make sure that the meter was running before he stopped and asked for directions again. I tried to explain it my saying “Hiroshima University,” but we sat there for about 5 minutes (with the meter going), before I finally said “by YouMeTown.” He seemed to understand, and I knew I could give directions from there. Long before we got there, I stated recognized where I was and started kicking myself because I could have just walked for about 30 minutes, and the meter was already at 1000 yen. I finally got him to front of the dorm complex and just said stop here about 10 times (the meter seemed to be going fast and faster). It turned out to cost about 1800 yen, by the time he stopped, almost the same as it had cost for the last fifty miles. But I guess it was a lesson learned, “make sure the taxi driver speaks at least some English and understands where to go BEFORE I get in.” Oh well. I had a great weekend and if I had it to do over again, I would change very little.


Till next time,

Josh


I had a hard time reading the other paper so I used some special software to make it more readable. If in firefox, click on the picture to make it large and readable. If in Internet Explorer click on the bottom right corner to enlarge the picture.

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