Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fukuyama_Lucky Mountain

I am writing this on the ferry going over to Rebun Island, off of Wakkanai.

I was in Fukuyama because I couldn't get a room in Hiroshima. I don't know what was going on, but I couldn't find a room on any of the booking sites. I tried about six. Then I started seeing other people on the web who couldn't find a room. Fukuyama had rooms. It is a two-hour train ride to Hiroshima, so I figured I would handle it that way. The whole deal with going to Hiroshima was to see the museum. Also, Tracy Wannomae told me about a beautiful island I should spend some time on. Actually, I tried to book a room on that island before I left the States and was unable to. I am only thinking of that now. It probably wouldn't have mattered when I tried to get a room in Hiroshima, they were long gone. 

People are all of a sudden walking around and taking photos, so I had better go see what is up. I am still on the ferry.

Okay. Ishiri Island (I guess) is to the left, whatever "left" is in nautical terms. That means Rebun won't be long. Seb was nice enough to call my ryokan to make sure the shuttle is there to pick me up. This place is on the other side, other tip of the island from the port. I could not find a room at the port for a price I was willing to pay. I will be surprised if anyone speaks English on this island. Anyone I run into anyway. There were only two people in Fukuyama; about four in Naha. Yes, I know there are more, but I am not running into them. I was very concerned about getting to this ryokan, but Seb has handled it and I am pretty relaxed.

You can see that it is not the clearest of days.

I took the bus from my hotel to the train station that first night to do my research on getting to Hiroshima and also on getting back to the airport when I had to leave. This is a theme you may have noticed: getting to the transportation in plenty of time. There are very few "Plan B's" possible on this trip. Then I walked around looking for a place to eat. Something Fukuyama. It is a port city, pretty simple - seafood. I also asked the people at the front desk of the hotel what the characteristic Fukuyama dish is. Their answer, after much thought was the pancake with all kinds of whatnots inside of it. By now it was dark. I did a lot of walking, but didn't find any place that struck me or that I was willing to walk into. Why wouldn't I be willing to walk in? If it looked like it was going to cost me $50.00, I wasn't going in. That restaurant in Naha was not cheap.

Gotta stop and take photos. Rebun is close.
Picking up two days later at the ferry terminal, waiting for the ride back to Wakkanai:

After a lot of walking and getting close to despair on very dark and questionable street, I saw a small yellow beacon in the distance. I passed the open door from the other side of the street and looked in as I slowly walked by. It seemed sort of dingy and smoky, but radiated a sense of relaxation and homeyness. I kept walking, because by this time I was feeling that level of intimidation that sometimes drives me to the convenience stores; it is just easier. But hey, I was going to be in Fukuyama for too short a time and had walked too far to go that route. I turned around and walked in. Some of the following photos are what I found inside. I ended up going there every night I was in Fukuyama. There was nothing particularly Fukuyama-ish about the food. As one of my new friends put it, "Japanese with a Chinese flair." I did continue to look for other places, I just always end-up back with these guys.

Shots from the hotel restaurant, last morning in Naha. You'd have no idea what had taken place only the day before.

Shots from the plane, leaving Okinawa and coming over the mainland.

Waiting for the airport limo bus at Hiroshima Airport to go to Fukuyama Station, about an hour's drive.

A canal in Fukuyama.

It seemed to be a full moon that first night. The next night's moon looked full too, so I don't know.

Fukuyama Eki.

The beacon in the night.

One of the regulars. He is 77. When I got there he had drank three large bottles of Kirin beer. He finished another before I left and who knows how many afterwards? It is that kind of place.
One of the proprietors. 

Another regular. Very colorful guy. You don't have enough fingers to count how many beers he probably had.

The chef and partner.

Part of my dinner.

The other part. Very good.

The proprietors: father and son. The father is 88, the son 54.

The family in earlier days.

Some kids having fun outside Fukuyama Eki.


Where was I? The after the drive to the end of the island, I had an appointment to meet Tsugiko Taira, curator of the Haebaru Town Museum. It was a 10 AM appointment. Getting to Haebaru was a project to which I devoted several hours of research at the computer and at the Naha Bus Terminal. It was going to take only one bus, along with the monorail, but a long ride (17 stops/30 minutes) with calls being made in a language I don't understand, early in the day, probably with a lot of people. Daunting under the best of circumstances. On this day the rains finally came. I am prepared for rain. I brought an umbrella and heavy-duty pancho. While I was eating breakfast, the weather didn't look too bad out the window. It looked like I wouldn't even need the pancho. Oh boy! When I went downstairs...cats and dogs. I tried. I went out from under the awning for about three yards. I was soaked so bad I just turned around and went back into the lobby. It didn't look like things were going to change, so I determined to take a cab.
Okay, I had to stop. I think I had to go to sleep. I don't remember and I don't have access to what I wrote to get a bearing. 

It has been several days since I started this posting. Right now I am on the stern observation deck of the ferry to Rebun Island. It is cold and windy, but not so much so that I can't get a little work done. I am not going to adjust this to what I've already done when I get connectivity. Sorry. Also, it may be at least two days before any of it gets published. I don't know what kind of access I will have on Rebun. Even if I have it, dealing with the blog may not be what I want to do. On the other hand, once it gets dark, there may not be much else to do. 

Back to Haebaru. The Japanese like to consolidate villages into cities. A lot of other peoples do, too. It is a natural thing. Haebaru resisted. They refused. They are their own city within the city of Naha. Spunk. That explains a couple of things. For example, when I talked to the guy at the bus terminal about going to Hedo Misake, I told him that I also needed to check the buses to Haebaru. "Oh, Haebaru." Not much more than that, but there was a certain something about how he said it. The same when I said it to the cab driver. "Haebaru?" It could be my imagination, but I felt a little something. 

The whole cab thing was very out. It was pouring. Pouring. I gave him the address on a piece of paper. I had forgotten that they use telephone numbers here to figure out where they are going. So I had to run back up to the room to get the phone number. That wasn't easy to negotiate since he didn't speak a lick of English. Now he's driving towards Haebaru, on the phone with someone at the office who is looking up the phone number. Turns out the phone number is no good. They find an English (quasi) speaking guy, puts him on the phone to me. I can't tell him much. I turn on my rented pocket wi-fi, find a webpage with the info. Unfortunately, it was not the webpage linked to from this post. The webpage I found gave the address for the old location, which he took me too. The phone number it had, turned out to be the FAX number, which is why he came back on the line telling me it was no good. 

I got to Haebaru City Hall, called Tsugiko from there; she came and picked me up. I did have a colorful conversation with all of the staff in the City Hall front office (only one English speaker - quasi) because I thought I might just walk from there. They thought I was crazy. I was, because there was a deluge going on. Have I said that it was also about 78º F as this rain was coming down? I have posted only one photo of the water because I was taking through the cab window; it was too steamy for any clear shots. 

A jump.

Okinawa used to be a separate kingdom. They had their own rulers, their own god, their own trading relations with other nations. In other words, they have their own culture. Many of them still aren't totally comfortable with the whole Japanese thing. There is an (under)current here. Near the end of the war, the Japanese army stationed a lot of soldiers here. At Haeberu they dug a system of tunnels. Eventually, during the Allied invasion, they turned those tunnels into the field hospital, pressed the school boys into service and forced the school girls to nurse the wounded. The museum is mostly about that. I didn't expect to be taken with it, but I was. The museum has a reconstruction of the tunnels inside the building. Tsugiko offered me a tour of the actual ones. I declined. I didn't need that. They still dig up shoes, combs, artillery shells.

Later, Tsugiko took me to lunch at a local restaurant. I got the real Okinawan soba, which I had been told was different. It is different. It is also delicious. 

The Okinawans are not totally cool with the Japanese and they are definitely not cool with the Americans (military.)

Evidence of the deluge from the taxi window.

Tunnel exhibition.
Tunnel exhibition.

The hole in the kimono is where shrapnel went through. It missed the mother wearing it, but it the baby she was holding. The child died five days later. 

Stuff dug up around Haebaru Town.

House of the period.

Couldn't say. I need to read more of the brochure.  

Okinawan soba.

The concrete structure is a tomb. The Okinawans put all of the family (father's side) into one tomb. This was/is a big family. See the rain? That is light compared to what it was when I left the hotel.

Tsugiko Taira and yours truly.

I wasn't able to try them, I had made reservations at my favorite spot.

You are familiar with this restaurant by now.

This is an intense, aged (I think), creamy tofu. It has a flavor very reminiscent of cheese. I  gained points by eating it. The sauce is loaded with a strong alcohol.

This fish is gurukun. I was advised in an e-mail to try. It is part of Okinawa. Tasty.

Friday, May 24, 2013

There and back again.

Yes, it has been a few days since I posted, but I am sure no one thought that I died on the roads of Japan. I hope not anyway. Driving here is a bit of a trip. The whole left-side, right-side switch is harder than you might imagine. It is easy if there is someone in front of you; you just follow along. It is the turning that is the trickiest. But I managed. I was lucky with the weather too. The forecasted rain didn't happen until I was well on my way back and it wasn't particularly heavy. Now the next day was a different story. If it had rained on Wednesday like it rained on Thursday, I would have just parked the car somewhere and had lunch. 

Just to do the housekeeping on timing, I am typing (I guess "keyboarding" is the real term) this at 01:00 AM, Saturday. I have been in Fukuyama since 3:00 PM, Friday afternoon. I just got back from doing a walk around the Fukuyama JR Station. I am here because I couldn't get a room in Hiroshima. I wanted to go to Hiroshima for usual reasons and when I had to book a room here, I figured that I'd take the train in, since it is not that far. But after my walk-around tonight, I am not sure I will do that. Fukuyama is interesting enough on its own terms. I also don't have a lot of time here, so I'll see how it shakes out.

Now the photos. First, shots of a couple of differnt buffet items; the drive there; there; the drive back; a couple of dinner items. 

The auto. I am not as confident as I look.

All I had to be able to understand were the numbers and the arrows.
I did get the GPS in the auto. Very helpful, but not the piece of cake I would have liked it to be. The deal is that you can either have it speak in English, but must input in Japanese; or input in Japanese, having it speak the directions in English. Problematic, however you slice that loaf of bread. The woman issuing the auto to me was kind enough to set it up. She couldn't. She got so frustrated that she decided I needed a different car with a more cooperative GPS. I was cool with this. The problem was that in all the confusion getting shit together in the first car, I needed go get my camera out of my hand. Thinking that was the car I was getting, I put it down in one of the recesses. As you have guessed, I did not think of it when we switched cars. Off I drove.

It is only because I take a lot of pictures that I discovered my screw-up before I got too far along. I was thinking I should have the camera out to take shots through the window. Ha!, no camera. Turned around (turning around on the street I was on took about 10 minutes), rushed back, hoping they had not given the car to someone else. The interior of that car is black, the camera is black. It is possible a person could have driven a long way without noticing the camera. And if they had, they might have wanted to keep it. Fortunately, I had all the photos backed-up, but it is an expensive camera and I wouldn't want to be buying a new one over here, as I am sure it would be more expensive.

She had not given the car away; had not noticed the camera. It all turned out well. I lost about an hour, but I deem it a small price to have paid.

I had a choice of taking the Expressway for half the trip up, but chose the scenic route - two-lane highway the whole way; with construction. I took the express way back. The GPS was happier.

Almost there. The blue line is the Expressway; the machine marked my path in red, as though it disapproved.

The road leading into the parking lot.

The Okinawa Rail (Gallirallus okinawae), Yanbaru Kuina.

These rocks are very sharp.

This shot is here because there is a waterfall in it. I had been looking at it for a long time, but didn't realize it was there until I remember that I had brought along binoculars and should use them. 
Told you so.

Look closely at the top of the foremost hill and you'll see another sculpture of the Okinawan Rail.

You have to look very, very close and believe, but you can see an island out there,  even on this very overcast day.  Look right in the center above the water line. It is there. Believe me.

When you look down into the water, you can see the rocks below the surface ( fish too), why you would need to be warned not to dive is beyond me.

The facilities.

The road back. I should have had both hands on the steering wheel.

Part of dinner. This is pig, not a dessert.

Green papaya sautéed with fish.