Off the beaten path in Japan

Monument to a rock concert on Sakurajima

Ioujima (硫黄島)

Higashi Onsen on IoujimaI had forgotten what it was like to be able to see a satellite pass across the blackness, to see stars as they were intended to be seen – white penetrating flickers of light, the only disturbances in a sea of darkness. I don’t even have to try to find an observation point – even the light from the neighboring street lamp isn’t enough to compensate for the overwhelming nothingness… read more

Cape Sata (佐多岬)

Cape SataThe cape itself means absolutely nothing to me, a short footnote in the adventure novel. It’s beautiful, and it’s worth seeing, but don’t let it become your goal. Your goal lies all around the area. Watching the high school boys taking time from their Sunday holiday to practice for this year’s Dragon Boat Race. Catching a little girl in a pink-spotted dress tug on the jeans of her exhausted mother, squealing with delight… read more

Walking the length of Japan:

Nakanoshima (中之島)

Tokara horsesI’m hardly in the midst of the Ginza district of Tokyo. And yet, I cannot escape the pulls of 21st century interconnectivity. No matter how remote an island Nakanoshima is, if it’s accessible, it’s wired. Even now, my hand is gently moving across the tatami mat in a private room of the Oki Ryokan, accompanied by the gentle hum of the heater and the hushed Japanese conversations next door… buoyed by the hydraulics of the construction equipment ensuring a secure place for future ships to dock…. read more

Irori Sanzoku (いろり山賊)

Irori SanzokuIrori Sanzoku is an open air restaurant tucked away in the mountains of Yamaguchi Prefecture, a fair distance from Iwakuni. The chefs can boast the very best yakitori (chicken on a stick) in all of Japan. I actually tried to walk there from the Kintai Bridge, thinking it was only a kilometer or two. Actual distance? 11.77 kilometers… read more

Ninoshima (似島)

Japanese islandAki-no-Kofuji, sometimes referred to as Hiroshima’s Mt. Fuji (Aki is the old name for Hiroshima), looms over the bay like a giant onigiri was somehow dropped onto one of the neighboring islands. The mountain is located on Ninoshima, one of the smaller islands just south of Hiroshima Port… read more

Shimanami Kaido (しまなみ海道)

Biking in JapanThe Shimanami bridges run between Honshu and Shikoku, covering 80 kilometers of trails across several islands. Both the starting and ending point of your journey are rich in culture; begin with the ramen of Onomichi, end with a soak in the Dogo Onsen of Matsuyama… read more

Sake Matsuri (酒まつり)

Sake Matsuri, in Saijo, Higashi-HiroshimaThe Sake Festival kicks off in the small community of Saijo, home of the University of Hiroshima and… well, nothing else. This suburban setting, while usually vacant, finds itself flooded with 100,000+ foreigners and Japanese alike. A mere five minute walk from Saijo Station, pedestrians could enjoy the crowded streets, filled with promiscuous Japanese girls and assorted salted meats on a stick… read more

Shikoku Pilgrimage (八十八ヶ所巡り)

ohenroThe 88-temple pilgrimage is rarely undertaken by foreigners, but I chose to do it after reading up and looking for an alternative Golden Week vacation. This journey to Buddhist temples across the island of Shikoku will take you across mountains, rice patties, and even through the middle of major cities to strengthen your soul. I had only seven days, so decided to go ikkoku mairi (一国まいり): one prefecture at a time… read more

Kaimondake (開聞岳)

Kaimon-dake, KyushuOften called Satsuma Fuji, or the Mt. Fuji of the Satsuma region, Kaimondake is the largest peak in southern Kyushu, and as such, gives you great views of Kinko Bay, Tanegashima, Yakushima, and the deep blue sea. The ascent will take you about two hours with a steady pace… read more

Umbrella Burning Festival (そがどんの傘焼き)

Soga Don no KasayakiOf all the festivals involving fire in Japan, this by far is the most unusual. Celebrate the anniversary of two brothers going to avenge the death of their father, using umbrellas in place of torches. Kagoshima residents gather along the riverbank to bear witness as a large stack of paper umbrellas is burned to the ground, accompanied by dancing, shouting, history lessons, and demonstrations of strength…. read more

Tanegashima (種子島)

TanegashimaTanegashima, just a short ferry ride from Kagoshima city, is rich in culture and history, but the major appeal for tourists by far would have to be its waves. Surfing the clear waters overlooking the sandy beaches. During the summer, I guarantee you can not go outside without at least catching a glimpse of a surfer on his way to catch the hide tide… read more

Yakushima (屋久島)

Shrine on YakushimaYakushima is one of the major islands off the southern coast of Japan. Just like Tanegashima, it’s less than two hours from Kagoshima Port by ferry. And it’s unique as any other island out here. Where Tanegashima is sandy and tropical, Yakushima is very much a wilderness, with rocky shores and trees thousands of years old… read more

Samurai Parade on Miyajima

Shrine on MiyajimaIt was a beautiful day for a parade, and a great chance for me to participate. Although I must admit, as the ferry neared the shores of the great island, that the entire “samurai perception” is one stereotype foreigners have a hard time overcoming about Japan, and I was determined to enjoy this parade just for the fun of it. No more, no less. Let things fall as they might… read more


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