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The Trip to Takeda Jō (Part I): A Photo Blog

As I wrote more I realized that I had way too much to say about even just the trip to Takeda Jō, so I’m going to divide it up in two or three parts. It was just too long for anyone to want to read about the entire trip in one sitting.

While I was in Japan, there was a commercial for Google Mobile that kept playing over and over and over (as they always do…I thought American ads got repetitive, but they’ve got nuttin’ on Japanese TV! (and now it can serve as a preview to part two of my post)). It was about three friends (one of whom is black! Progress!) going out on adventures together, and searching for fun places to explore. In the end, they wind up at Takeda Jō.

This commercial probably provided more tourism to Takeda Jō than any other ad campaign, and it definitely influenced us! We knew that before I went home, we wanted to at least get outside of Hirakata/Osaka for a day (we did go to Kyoto a couple times, but that’s awfully close too, and mostly to areas I had been before).  It was definitely worth it, and maybe my favorite day of my whole three months in Japan.

 

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Aaand we’re off!

 

Luckily Yuuki’s old apartment was literally on top of a car rental place, so that’s where we went to get our cute little car for the day. I had never been in a box car like that, and let me tell you, it felt…like a box. But a pretty big box.

 

D'aww, where's the cutest box in the world? Dere it is!

D’aww, where’s the cutest box in the world? Dere it is!

 

The day before we left Yuuki told me he was nervous because he had only driven alone three times before, and never for as long of a trip as we were going on. That made me a little nervous too, but in the end his driving skills were pretty good. He was just a little too fast for me sometimes. I swear, sometimes I would say “be careful, there could be people around that corner!” and he’d speed up…I guess to beat them to the corner?

 

Yuuki lets his inner NASCAR driver free.

Yuuki lets his inner NASCAR driver free.

 

Other than that though, for having so little experience he did really well driving through huge cities like Osaka and Himeji. He didn’t even freak out when we turned the wrong way onto a one way street. Just sort of sighed and backed up, even though we were being honked at. What a pro.

Anyway, it had been cold in Hirakata-shi, but no snow. Yuuki was so excited when we started seeing the first little trails of it.

 

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Yuuki soaks up the snow at an obligatory stop at a Family Mart on the way.

 

Being from Wisconsin, I wasn’t too excited at first. Though it was peppering down on us, it melted right away and the only place you could see it hanging about was on top of the mountains.

 

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You call this snow?! Back in my day…

 

By the time we got to that Family Mart and beyond though, it was beginning to stick, and it felt oddly refreshing, as if the world was being cleansed.

 

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Maybe I was projecting though, who knows.

 

We stopped at a McDonald’s in random town, and I steeled myself for stares. People still stared at me in Hirakata, despite the city being well-known for its college for studying foreign languages, with a large population of study abroad students every semester. So naturally I was expecting this town, which couldn’t possibly have all that many foreign visitors, to stare at me like I was in a zoo. However, I was three-fourths relieved, one-fourth disappointed, that that wasn’t the case in the slightest. The people who waited on me didn’t even bat an eye speaking Japanese to me, and turned away and talked to each other as soon as the order was done. No sideways glances or whispers as soon as I looked away. That in itself surprised me how shocking it was. I didn’t realize how was used to people either giggling and staring, ignoring me and directing their questions to Yuuki, or looking very hesitant and apprehensive. If you want to understand what I mean, watch this video.

 

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I didn’t get a photo of the McDonald’s, but here, instead have a picture of an adorable cafe I took later on during our drive that doesn’t really fit anywhere, but is too cute not to include.

 

I’ve ordered takoyaki at a shop before in what Yuuki assured me was perfect Japanese, and the server still, despite Yuuki standing a couple feet behind me and not ordering anything, asked him if I wanted chopsticks.

So I was surprised to find such disinterest and acceptance in a place with such a small population. It went against my expectations and it was a nice change.

Anyway, after eating, we continued on our journey.

 

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I don’t know if being on the opposite side of the road will ever feel natural to me.

 

As we entered into more rural areas, I began feeling strangely excited. I realized that most of my Japan-life was in cities, while most of my American-life was in the country. It felt strangely familiar, but with rice paddies instead of corn fields. This was a part of Japan I had never seen, nor particularly had the urge to see. Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, Kyoto…those had been my destinations of choice. Even when I went to Tottori-ken, and everyone said to me, “why would you go there? There’s nothing,” the truth was that Yonago felt a lot like Hirakata-shi. It was beautiful in its own right, of course, and I’m definitely glad I went to Tottori, but the part that I saw didn’t feel new to me, it felt recycled.

 

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But now that I was here, in places that no one recognized the name of, with mountains and rice and hidden shrines on either side, I felt strangely privileged to view this part of Japan. One thing I still love about Japan is its embrace of trains, and the ability to go almost anywhere without a car. But its not true for everywhere in Japan, so I was glad I got to see this part of Japan via a car that I otherwise, despite my many adventures in Japan, had never glimpsed. I hadn’t even realized I wanted to glimpse it.

Another strange moment came for me when I saw this sign:

 

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This sign is everywhere in Wisconsin, so seeing it for the first time in Japan, and backed by mountains nonetheless, was oddly jarring for me. It was also almost oddly prideful? As if I had a special understanding of what it means. Which is stupid, everyone knows what it means. I didn’t expect such a feeling, but for some reason it was there. Like I had an instant connection with the people living here, and I had roots in this sign. It was strange, and the feeling of familiarity followed with me for a little bit.

We stopped again, because I had a stomachache and I needed batteries for my camera.

 

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I was thinking about including this in another post about Japanese drinks, but…guess what, it tasted like 7 Up!

 

They didn’t have any stomach medicine for sale, so I had to make due with citrus soda. I don’t quite understand the Japanese way of thinking when it comes to medicine. Yuuki thinks my quickness to take Rolaids or Aspirin is strange, while I think his refusal to take them and choosing to suffer is silly, and all at the same time mothers seem to take their kids to the doctor at the slightest cough. Yuuki himself says he spent a good deal of his childhood in a hospital.

We pressed on and I tried to will my stomachache away. Unfortunately, we got confused by the GPS, and we missed a turn. Even more unfortunately, missing that turn meant that we would now have to go through two mountains out of our way, because there was no turn off.

 

Let's see what's behind mountain number one!

Let’s see what’s behind mountain number one!

 

And for some reason once we had turned around, the GPS directed us to go through mountainous, solitary roads, instead of the highway we had been on. This is what part of our road looked like on the GPS:

 

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The road in Minnesota my siblings and I used to call ‘The Wind-y Road’ for its ability to make our stomachs turn over ain’t got nothin’ on this.

 

The roads were super narrow, with a lot of sharp, blind turns, and I had to work at not imagining a car coming from the opposite way.

 

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Sometimes the bends made it look like we were going deep into a forest that was going up, up, up…

 

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…and sometimes it looked like we were about to fall off the edge of the earth.

 

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We saw a lot of beautiful nature, though the tension and the stomachache didn’t allow me to enjoy it as much as I would have liked (but hey, that’s what pictures are for, right?).

 

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It didn’t help my nerves any when we saw crazy old ladies walking on the side of the road.

 

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There were also a lot of little shrines off on the side of the road, but I wasn’t able to get a good picture of any. I was more mystified with these little torii that were attached at seemingly random parts of the (rather futile – it didn’t look like it could stop a three-year-old at full sprint, much less a car) gate following the edge of the mountains.

 

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I wasn’t sure if they were there marking the sites of tragic accidents, like we often do in America with flowers and crosses, or if they were there as a ward, trying to prevent future tragedies. If you do know, please tell me, because I’m still intrigued! Yuuki had no idea.

 

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After our long drive, we at last reached the town of Takeda. Thanks to our later-than-planned start and our mountainous detour, it was much later than we had planned.

This is where part I will end, and part II will begin. I hope you enjoyed this cruise through the Japanese countryside!

 

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Part II    Part III

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10 thoughts on “The Trip to Takeda Jō (Part I): A Photo Blog

  1. Its so nice to see japan. I love what i know about japanese culture…which is not a great deal…but probably a lot more than some… but im still learning.

    • Thank you for commenting! I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures from the first part of our trip.

      Yeah, don’t worry, I’ve been there three/four times and I still learn something new all the time! That’s part of the fun. 🙂

  2. A lovely trip! I have never been to Tottori Pref. myself. The neighboring Shimane Pref. gets buzz for its famous Izumo Taisha shrines, but Tottori …? I am drawing a blank. I am glad you and bf enjoyed the excursion there, though!
    Re: car sickness. Is it a midwestern flatlander thing?! My Minnesotan wife is also super sensitive to driving. When we drove to a lake near Mt. Fuji, and when we drove to Vermont to see fall colors, we had to go through long stretches of winding roads. She was dying in both trips. A poor thing!

    • Tottori is famous for having Japan’s only desert and the GeGeGe no Kitaro creator/monuments to him. Unfortunately when I went it was March, and the dad of the friend I was visiting said it was too cold to go.

      This trip actually wasn’t Tottori though, it was in Hyōgo, I’m sorry if that was unclear! That comment was in regards to a roadtrip I took a couple years ago.

      Haha maybe – it didn’t used to bother me, but I read in cars all the time as a kid, even at night, and somehow it caught up with me and even reading a page sends my stomach spiraling!

      By the way Tama, do you have a blog? I’d be interested in reading about yours and your wife’s adventures!

      • Ah, sorry about that. I just re-read the post, and realized Takeda castle is in Hyogo. (I do remember the ubiquitous ad of Apple when I was in Japan last year, btw.)

        You are also right about Tottori as Mizuki Shigeru’s birthplace. Remember seeing a TV program about his hometown has been turned into a “Kitaro town” with a lot of statues of Kitaro characters/monsters lining up the town’s main drag. Too bad you weren’t able to make it last time. It would be fun if you are a fan of his comic. I just arrived in Jpn two days ago (still woozy with jetlag) and will be here for a few weeks, but I doubt my work would allow me to travel that far.

        I don’t blog. Don’t think our current life (with two kids) is quite “adventurous” enough to be entertaining. I do love to read about the experiences of other int’l couples and their LDRs (esp. b/w Jpn men and Amr women), though, as they often remind me of ours and make me want to wish them well.

        • It’s funny – I actually did see all the statues! But I don’t really know the manga, so I wasn’t able to appreciate it as much. I really wanted to see the desert. Where in Japan are you staying?

          Oh I’m not sure that’s true – two kids and an intercultural relationship must be interesting! I’m sure you still have adventures, maybe they’re just of a different sort. I know when I was growing up I always wished I had more of a cultural connection. It must be fun celebrating things like shichi-go-san with your kids! Plus it sounds like you have a lot of stories in your past too that would be interesting to read about.

          • My current Japan stay is for work, and will be staying in a few different cities, mostly in Tokyo area and Kyushu/Okinawa. Will also stop by to see my parents in Kanagawa for a few days. It is a beautiful time of the year (before the rainy season starts) in Japan, so I am enjoying it.

            I wish we could have done Omiya Mairi, Shichi-go-san, etc. for our kids, but with no shrines or even Buddhist temples to speak of around where we have been living in the US (both kids have passed seven already), we didn’t do any. We do put out small Hina dolls in March and Kabuto (Samurai headgear) figure, along with indoor Carp windsock in May, but I don’t think we can call them “cerebrating” the holidays. Oh well. Who knows, we might end up moving to Japan, as my wife and I have been talking about it recently. Then, we may need to think about preserving a cultural connection to the US (Halloween? Thanksgiving?)!

  3. Pingback: Takeda Jō (Part II): Japan’s Machu Picchu | An Inkling

  4. Pingback: Miss You, Jasper | An Inkling

  5. Pingback: The Drive Home (Takeda Jō Part III) | An Inkling

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