Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day Trip to Nagato: Adult "themes," sacrificial rock altars, and getting naked once again....

Blogger's Note: This post has some adult... "themes" in it. But if you can get past the conservative American in you, you'll realize that the "themes" can be found on the side of a rural Japanese road in plain view. We just happened to stop and get a better view of the, ahem, "themes."

Motonosumi Inari Shrine
On a Monday in April, two vans full of American women made their way from Iwakuni, Japan, to the opposite side of the Yamaguchi prefecture, to an area about two to three hours away known as Nagato. I did not plan this trip (for once - so exciting!) and I was happy to go along as a mere participant. Many thanks go to my friend, Gwen, who planned the entire trip down to a 15-minute-interval timeline that we actually managed to stick to without rushing. For those of you interested in replicating the trip, here is what her schedule looked like:

Gwen and I have like minds: She decided to throw in a "surprise" stop and really kick the day trip off right with the Mara Kannon Shrine in Tawarayama (warning: this is the "adult theme" part):

Looks like your average roadside shrine... until you get a closer look, starting with the "welcome" sign:

And then walk up the hill to the shrine:

I like how they are all the same size... no pissing contests... LOL.
Don't ask... (but I'm still telling)
Yes... yes I did.

If you click on the photo above, you can get a summary of the story behind the shrine. Essentially, some poor guy ended up... "theme"-less and so now this place is a fertility shrine. I am not sure how that works, but let's just go with it. And fertility is relative: it can be taken literally, or you can wish for a successful business or plentiful crop. I went with the successful business. And this shrine is not to be confused with the Nagoya Fertility Festival I attended last year.

Once we had our fill of... "theme," it was time to jump back in the vans and head to one of CNN's Most Beautiful Places in Japan: Motonosumi Inari Shrine in Nagato.

My friend Carolyn... modeling the fact that the torii gates needed a coat of paint.
Proof I was there...

Look, Ma, no handrails...
I really want to go back to the shrine when I can get photographs at dusk. Maybe next time...

Next up: Omijima Boat Tour. For some reason this kind of reminded me of the submarine ride at Disneyland, but I think it was mostly the shape of the boat, but who knows? We never went under water, but if you leave the windows open while the boat is moving, you will get splashed. Luckily, it was a warm, sunny day!

Here are my photos of the "Sea Alps," weird orange tide, and what I jokingly call the sacrificial altar rock. Of course, I am sure these things are explained during the tour, but the tour is all in Japanese. It was kind of fun making up our own names and stories for everything, though...

"Hungry Rhinoceros Rock" (See... empty belly)

"Three-Car Garage Island"

"Guarded by Teeth Cave"

We got to go inside two or three of the caves. The natural lines on the rock were interesting.
I think these are petroglyphs...? Or a really brave grafitti artist was here.
We have no idea what was causing these sections of red tide around some of the beaches and caves. We surmised that it could be breeding plankton. 

"Keyhole Cliff"

Ah, yes, the "Sacrificial Rock Altar." There are ropes tied at the top of this rock... below is a slightly better view...
Doesn't it look like something out of the Clash of the Titans? The 1980's version, of course... Japan is the home of Godzilla, after all.
The boat tour was about an hour and half. We then headed off to see a second shrine (Shion Shrine) and a temple (Tokoji Temple), which are close together in Nagato. I don't have a lot of photos because by this point, I was ready for the most relaxing portion of our day: the onsen.

More proof I was there...

So, the only photo I have from the onsen is this:

It's the Hotel Youkikan's van. I highly recommend the onsen at this hotel. It is outside, and has a lot of pool options, one being the deepest pool I have yet to see. The water came up to my chest while I stood, so it was nice to get the whole body relaxed without having to sit. The waters were more on the hot side than warm, but once you got too hot, you could just sit along the edge.

Of course, I don't have photos of this because photos are not allowed: onsens are public baths and you must be naked to use them. If you're interested in learning more about onsens, you can check out this post. Again, if you can get past the conservative American in you, onsens are incredibly relaxing and I have come to the conclusion that you really can't be great friends with someone until you've sat naked in a pool of hot mineral water with them. However, with this philosophy, I think it may be tough for me to make new friends once I return to the States.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Just one word... IKEA: Spring Break 2015 Day 5

Blogger's Note: If you haven't already, start with the first Spring Break 2015 post. The remaining posts will be much more enjoyable if you understand the inside jokes explained earlier.
Here is the Itinerary for Day 5 (as it was left with the spouses remaining home):


IKEA Fukuoka and whatever random trouble we can get in to. ;)

So the main goal of our final day on the road was to arrive at home. But we weren't overly eager to get back, so we planned a detour in Fukuoka, at IKEA. Sure, there are IKEAs in the States, but since we have been cut off from most shopping establishments we have come to love in the States, a trip to IKEA is almost American, even though IKEA is actually Swedish (and founded by a 17-year-old in the 1940's... Wow). It ranks right up there with a trip to Costco for those of us stationed in Iwakuni. And we just happened to be visiting IKEA Fukuoka on it's third anniversary.

I don't have a lot of photos from IKEA. Because as you will come to understand from this Huffington Post article, there are a lot of emotional obstacles to overcome as you shop IKEA. So, here are the pictures I found on my phone:

I did not buy this item. I can't even remember what it was at this point.
 However, I did purchase the following:

We also managed to lose two children twice and whisper-shout "No! Put that down!" 17 times.

An item to note is that there is a Starbucks within walking distance of IKEA, where Cortney was finally able to find a city mug: Fukuoka.

 Mission accomplished! Time to go home....