2008 Autumn Roadtrip – Part IV

So, even though it’s spring 2009, I haven’t actually forgotten about the rest of The Great Autumn Road Trip 2008. Now that I’ve finally gotten the site redesign up and running, dealt with a whole bunch of things at work, and defeated that green fuzzy thing that had staked out the back of my refrigerator as its domain, I’m ready to get back to posting.


When we last left our intrepid heros, you may recall that they – meaning we, I suppose – had just been force-fed a contorted carcass of a baby bird impaled on a wooden stake. Needless to say, after sleeping the tormented slumber of baby bird munchers, we awoke the next day unable to shake the feeling that we had in some way participated in making the world a less happy place (at least if you have feathers and live in Kyoto), and were eager to leave Kyoto, its seething crowds and the indelible stain of our sin against bird-anity and start on the next leg of our journey.


Though the morning started out normal enough, as we piled our bags into the car and started to navigate the convoluted expressways out of Kyoto, the skies began to turn alarmingly grey and menacing. Our streak of beautiful Autumn weather, it seemed, was about to be broken (only for a day though, it turns out) and just as we turned onto the highway, the skies opened up and it began to rain.

The gloomy rain notwithstanding, our destination this day was Himeji – home to the beautiful Shirasagi-jyo castle – the finest castle in all of Japan, and one of the few originals left standing. Rather than recount the general awesomeness of the castle, I’ll direct you to the wikipedia entry on Himeji Castle and let you read about it there.


By the time we got into downtown Himeji, everything was well soaked, dreary and cold. But always ones to make lemonade out of lemons, we parked the car, grabbed our umbrellas and trudged over to get our castle on.


I wish that I had better pictures to post here, but as mentioned, it was dark, grey and rainy, so there were limits to what I could get. However, this was not my first visit to Himeji castle – I stopped by there a few years ago on a day with entirely nicer weather, so if you would like to see some non-cloudy pictures, you could check that entry as well.


That having been said, we were fortunate enough to turn the corner onto one of the parapets to find a large grassy area with piles and piles of un-raked leaves! Now as you may have gathered, I love Autumn and nothing says Autumn like getting all down and dirty playing around with fallen leaves. My lovely travel companion regarded me with suspicion as I started frolicking about and reliving my childhood tossing leaves up in the air with an abandon I haven’t felt since I was eight. (the fact that I didn’t have to rake these up afterward only added to my abandon ;) …)


But soon, she to was converted to the simple Autumnal pleasures in life and as passing grannies and families watched us with mixtures of concern and bemusement, we had ourselves a grand old time jumping about in the leaves. It was probably the most fun I had had in a couple of months up until that point and while I did get musty and sweaty (and had a few bugs crawl down my shirt, I’m sure), it was well worth it. Ahh… to be a kid again.


The rest of Himeji castle was not quite as exciting as that moment (though I still urge you to visit it if you ever have the chance, as it is breathtaking), and after we finished up our visit, we raced to the car to beat the increasingly insistent rain. Piling in we unfolded our map and charted a course to our next destination – the Naruto Uzushio, also known as the Naruto Whirlpools.

The Naruto Whirlpools are located in the Naruto straits between Awaji-shima, a small island off the the coast of Honshu, and Shikoku, the smallest of the four major islands that constitute Japan. There’s not actually all that much to see on Awaji-shima itself (except for, apparently, lots and lots of onions) and after a brief debate, we decided against spending the rest of the day there, and instead opted to check out the whirlpools, then go on to Shikoku and make camp for the night.

awaji shima

The problem with our brilliant plan came into focus after we stopped at a rest area just off the Hanshin Expressway at the top of the island and happened to talk to a young lady working the information counter. For reference, we were at the northern part of the island. The whirlpools are located on the other side, at the southern end of the island.

awaji shima

Starbucks Girl: “So, those Naruto Whirlpools must really be something huh?”
Information Counter Girl: “Yes, but only if you catch them during the prime viewing hours.”
Panda, slightly worried: “Oh, and when would that be?”
Information Counter Girl: “Well…, there’s only two per day, one with the morning tide and one with the afternoon tide.”
Starbucks Girl: “So umm… I take it we missed the morning tide. When’s the afternoon viewing time?”
Information Counter Girl: “Let’s see… the schedule says it’s at 3:50 PM.”
Panda, now quite worried: “But it’s 2:50 PM right now…”
Information Counter Girl: “Then I guess you’d better hurry, huh?”

Snarky desk clerks aside, in that split second my faithful travel companion and I had to make a decision. Did we risk tearing across the entire length of the island at top speed in a pouring torrential rain with low visibility in the vain hope of catching the us the tail end of some prime whirlpool viewing? Or did we say to hell with it, give up on watching whirlpools, and spend a few leisurely hours scouting out some sodden onion fields in the middle of a tempest?

awaji shima

Needless to say, we didn’t come all this way just to look at a bunch of soggy onions. Pausing only to grab a map from the information desk which we may or may not have had to pay for (ignorance is bliss, my friends), we raced to the car and peeled on to the road – the rear tires momentarily losing grip in a slightly disturbing reminder of an incident that occurred during a prior road trip a couple of years ago – and headed south at breakneck speed.

The clock read 3:43 just as well pull into the parking lot of the whirlpool viewing complex. Rushing to the gate, we paid for our tickets (about $5 USD, but you have to keep in mind, they are basically charging you to walk out onto a bridge and look at water. I guess if it’s good, it’d be worth it. But if it isn’t good…) and then dash out towards the viewing portals. It was prime viewing time and we weren’t about to miss it!

Along the way, we kept staring out the sides and down these little plexiglass portholes that were cut into the floor, asking each other “can you see it? can you see anything yet?”, only to reply in the negative each time. For the record people, this is what we were told to expect:

awaji shima

my apologies for the crappiness of this picture, I snapped it whilst dejected, soaking wet and standing exhaustedly in the lobby of the world’s most disappointing “attraction”.

After walking for a while we reached the end of the bridge viewing area. In the dark, unlit concrete and steel cage, we looked around confusedly for where we were intended to go next. However, we found no way to proceed out further and after spying a sign on the wall directing us to a plexiglass viewing portal in the floor, we realised that this was the supposed to be the prime viewing spot for the whirlpools.

So to recap, we were in the prime viewing spot during the peak of the prime viewing time. So why, lovely readers, is this the sight that greeted us?

awaji shima

Behold the majesty of the world’s shittiest “whirlpool”. Folks, I’ve made more dramatic whirlpools in my cereal bowl when I wolf down my Cheerios too quickly. I’m not sure “disappointing” really does justice to thoughts going through our mind at that moment, as we sat soaked, hungry and exhausted on a rough, unfinished concrete abutment sticking out of the wall, saying nothing as the coldness and darkness of the surrounding expanse wormed its way further into our bones. I believe this picture pretty much sums up how we felt:

awaji shima

After was seemed an eternity of sitting in the unforgiving darkness, a disembodied voice floated out over the intercom, announcing the end of business hours and instructing anybody stupid enough to pay 500 yen to see these imaginary non-whirlpools to come to the front of the gate, or else face being locked in for the night and forced to ponder over their gullibility until daybreak.

We glumly head back to the gate where the staff wave to us with a smile (a smile born of having fleeced yet another pair of suckers out of their hard earned yen, no doubt) and point us out towards the gift shop (AS IF!) and the door.

awaji shima

As we make our way to the lobby, I spy a guestbook laying out for people to write comments in. In the spur of the moment, I have to confess that I did something that I’m not particularly proud of – in the middle of all the ridiculously flowery comments talking about how sugoi (“awesome”) the whirlpools were, I – and in my defense, I was spurred on by my travel companion here – wrote something along the lines of :

Actually, the whirlpools were kind of disappointing.

I was turning to leave when instantly I began to regret what I wrote. For one, I wrote it in English, and the last thing I want is for the Japanese that read it after us to think that all gaijin were jerks. And two, I felt really bad for writing such a downer comment in the middle of all these people’s happy comments (I have no idea what the *bleep* they were looking at that they could think this crappy ass non-attraction was sugoi but still I don’t want to be the guy that steal’s people’s sunshine). Alas, I had written the comment in pen, and I couldn’t erase it. Struggling to think of what to do, I remember writing some crappy afterthought along the lines of

But the bridge was pretty cool :)

(yes, I even put a stupid smiley face in there). It was pretty clear that it was a forced afterthought, but I didn’t have time to do anything else as one of the staff was starting in our direction and I knew that we had to get out of there before they trapped us next to the guestbook and saw my shameful little act of impudence emblazoned in black ink for all of time.

awaji shima

Some of Awajishima’s famed onions for sale…

So we beat it, but to this day I feel really bad about that little bit of pouty self-indulgence. It’s such a little thing, but it’s just not me, and it’s just not the image I want to portray about foreigners to the Japanese. It pains me to think that Japanese people will read that afterward and think “what a jerk! why’d he have to ruin such an otherwise happy and jovial page with that negative comment?”

Being in a foreign country forces you to think about the way in which your actions are seized upon by others to act as a basis for stereotypes and misconceptions about your entire people and nation. It’s not right of course, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t do it, so we need to be responsible and ever vigilant of our actions abroad and how they will be regarded by those around us. I slipped up and I really regret it, but I guess there’s nothing left to do now but to try to make sure I am even more vigilant in the future.


Anyway, with the disappointing non-whirlpool pathetically sloshing around behind us, we climb back into the car and head south, into Shikoku, where we make camp at a highway stop for the night. All in all, it was a pretty blah kind of day, hampered by the rain, cloudy skies and some disappointing attractions. But you’re bound to have those kind of days in any extended road trip and fortunately for us, the next day would more than make up for it, as we were about to embark on a journey into one of the most beautiful and remote areas of Japan.

But for that story, you’ll need to stay tuned.

Now listening to: “The Notorious B.I.G. – Everyday Struggle”

Hard to believe that this song dropped way the hell back in 1994 (more than 15 years ago!)… to this day it remains one of the best rap songs I’ve ever heard. Biggie just absolutely tears it up on this track. And his flow set against those snare beats… it’s just freaking insane.

43 Reactions

  1. okapi

    i love the photos in this post, especially the fourth one down, and the one taken while driving on the bridge (i assume). the fourth one down really captures the gloominess of the day, and has a very gothic feel to it. the lines of the castle roof flowing into the city below are great. and the bridge photo looks like it should be on a postcard. it’s super modern and clean-looking. i thought of los angeles when i saw it (i’ve never been to LA, but the image conjured it for some reason).
    i am happy that the other naruto is inferior to the one in chiba :)
    also, that bridge is awesome! i love it!

  2. yumi miyazawa

    i just got your sketch from sketchswap, lol. don’t ask, i figure if you bother putting your website, i’ll bother commenting!
    sorekara, totemo ii shashin desu.
    and yes, simple is better.

  3. Monique

    Maybe if you had time to read all of the comments there might have been some other ones in there that were disappointed with the whirlpools.
    I don’t think you should feel lame about what you wrote!

  4. naoko

    I love your site! plenty of beautiful photos!
    and you had come very close to my place. I live in Akashi city that is between Kobe and Himeji.
    I’ll come again!

  5. raspberry ketone

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff
    from. Many thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site. more info

  6. leon is awesome

    Thank you, I’ve recently been looking for info about this topic for a while and yours is the best I have found out till now. However, what concerning the conclusion? Are you certain concerning the supply?

  7. Healthy Diet Plan

    Just want to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your post is simply nice and i can assume
    you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date
    with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  8. million dollar pips

    Aw, this was a really nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to create a
    good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and don’t seem to get nearly anything done. million dollar pips on live account

  9. reduction fat burner

    Asking questions are genuinely pleasant thing if you are not understanding anything entirely, however this article offers pleasant understanding yet.

  10. http://www.watchtvonline.me.uk/

    Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before
    but after browsing through a few of the posts I realized it’s new to me.
    Regardless, I’m definitely happy I discovered it and
    I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently! Click Here

  11. tv live

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification
    of the challenges. It was really informative. Your
    website is useful. Thank you for sharing! live tv online

  12. fasting to lose weight

    Hey there! This post could not be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate!
    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to
    him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!
    Check out my website to get more info about low carb diets, if you like.

  13. May

    Hey! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My weblog looks weird when browsing from my iphone 4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able
    to fix this problem. If you have any suggestions,
    please share. With thanks!

  14. Online Tax Guide

    May I just say what a relief to find a person that genuinely knows what they are talking about on the net.
    You actually know how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
    More people need to check this out and understand this side of your story.
    I was surprised you are not more popular given that you certainly have the gift.

  15. Manuela

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to
    do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. thanks

  16. Coach Hire West Bromwich

    Hello there, I found your site by means of Google while searching for a comparable matter, your web site got here up, it appears good.
    I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
    Hi there, just changed into alert to your blog thru Google, and located that it’s really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you happen to continue this in future. Lots of people will likely be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

  17. Raleigh

    I really like what you guys tend to be up too.
    This type of clever work and exposure! Keep up the amazing works guys I’ve you guys to blogroll.

  18. driving schools Putney

    you are actually a excellent webmaster. The website loading speed is incredible.
    It kind of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick.
    Also, The contents are masterpiece. you have done
    a fantastic job in this topic!

  19. here

    I’m not sure why but this website is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  20. raspberry ketone

    Every little thing is very start using a clear clarification with the troubles. It had been certainly informative. Your blog is very valuable. Thanks with regard to discussing!

  21. phen375

    You need to be a part of a new contest with regard to one of the better sites on-line.

  22. more information

    hi!,I love your writing very so much! proportion we keep in touch more
    approximately your article on AOL? I require an expert in this
    house to unravel my problem. Maybe that’s you! Looking forward to look you.

  23. Birmingham Seo

    Having read this I believed it was really informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this informative article together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  24. tailored car seat covers

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who
    had been doing a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I found it for him.
    .. lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!
    ! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk
    about this issue here on your site.

  25. Doreen

    Hey! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us useful information to work on.
    You have done a wonderful job!

  26. win money

    My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was once entirely right.
    This put up truly made my day. You cann’t consider just how so much time I had spent for this info! Thank you!

  27. Jillian

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe that
    this web site needs much more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the information!

  28. single page websites seo

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone
    to do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. thanks a lot

  29. private health insurance

    As an example, you will not find out whenever you will come across your mishap traveling myhealthinsuranceuk.
    co.uk There are insurance carriers that can basically used in
    particular states, or have boundaries in the areas

  30. ladbrokes free bet

    There are numerous sporting events betting websites available sport the Teen,
    your chances of winning reduce drastically william
    hill Would-be holidaymakers around the globe moan as get
    inaugurated all game tables screen living space for a more
    engaging video games experience

  31. Willianemu

    ugg sheepskin boots sale they could be made from a heathered merino wool blend or perhaps a lambswool
    In the event you can be found in this way, then you’ll definitely attract mice or mice, roaches and little bugs, and not bedbugs. It truly is an error to trust that bed bugs like dirt and junk. They most probable favour it quite clear to be trustworthy, but they also do will need fractures and cracks to cover in, but you can find a lot of those invoved with most areas.
    Ordinarily Ugg boot are worn outside the shorts. And as a consequence Ugg boot have become element of the style culture. They sometimes come inside common degree coloring, that is an pale yellow or soft shade, but coloured variations will also be getting incredibly common. It’s now typical to find out Uggs in the shops and on the web which function many colorings like bright reds and green veggies or pink, and all of other brilliant colours. From the earlier you needed small selection for your Ugg boots but they are now offered in an array of colors and styles.
    Now, lambs epidermis created shoes are widely distributed [url=http://www.eumboots.com]cheap ugg boots[/url]
    through the areas. There are several new present Ugg boots outlets offered anyplace like the Ugg Boot Canada. Until now, they can be nevertheless constructing a lot more outlets. And, they’ll not stop till they can perhaps please all of the individuals who desires to possess a handle them. The much much more the retailers developed, the additional women and men could possibly be focused. That standard clarification solutions this occurrence.
    You’ll find mom and dad who find it difficult to don shoes on babies, specifically should there be laces to cope with. Ugg baby footwear does away with this difficulty. Their boots are made with Velcro band, making it easy to slip them on babies’ feet. There won’t be hard, hefty resources around the footwear so they are very light within the small toes of toddlers.