On our new friends’ recommendations, the next day from Hamatsu, we head to the little village of Nukumorinomori, which was based on the Miyazaki film “My Friend Totoro.” Unfortunately it was closed that day (our luck), but it was still fun to prance around and take some photos.
We then head to Laka Hamana, a brackish lake (which means saltwater although we first thought it was a poor Japanese translation. Silly us! Cool new word though.) There was supposed to be a big theme park there and lots of beach resorts. Alas, the theme park was closed too (it was a Thursday so we’re not really sure why), and the little towns around the lake seem to have seen better days. Maybe it was just the off-season, but many buildings were boarded up and there really wasn’t much beachfront to enjoy. There was, however, a nice bike path around the lake that we found, complete with some fierce headwinds hindering us until we hit the coast. The lake was spattered with all colours of wind surf sails and die-hard windsurfers racing along, as we discovered how much faster than us they were able to go, much to our chagrin.
Once we hit the coast just south of the lake, we enjoy some more nice bike roads -flat and right next to the beach- which we bike along until finding a nice spot for pictures and Pocari Sweats (yes, that is the name of the favourite sports drink here in Japan) by a tori gate in the water.
We continue on, and now it is approaching dusk. Not sure where to sleep exactly, we decide to hit to 7 eleven and check the map for a good spot. Excitingly enough, we then bump into some foreigners! Our first foreigners of the trip believe it or not….and guess where they are from? Calgary. Of course. Jonny and Lace (I hope they start a band one day with those names) were awesome and (much to my envy) had a camper van they were parking right next to the beach. We decide they definitely have the right idea and decide to camp along the beach too (after eating 7 eleven noodles for dinner), waking up to a beautiful sunrise the next morning. After saying goodbye to our new Canadian friends, we hit the bike path again, today with a tailwind! The first of the trip. We wonder if we should’ve biked south to north like most people seem to and think it probably would’ve been easier, but oh well! We head to Cape Irago on some nice roads along farm fields and through villages, and even see a cow giving birth on the side of the road. We didn’t stay longer than 10 minutes to watch, but it was a pretty interesting sight and made me feel that I am probably much more squeamish than I think I am.
We get to Cape Irago and it is windswept and gloomy, but we have been told to try the oysters and special shaved ice dish that is some of the best in the country, so we go to a restaurant and order the set lunch of salad, mussel soup, fried oyster and a giant fresh oyster. This was a surprise, as I’ve only tried oysters once in Halifax and they were tiny in comparison! If you’re into that kind of thing, I’m sure it was great, but I think that’ll be my last giant oyster experience, thank you! For dessert, we try the kakikori specialty which is essentially shaved ice with syrup on top. We try a mango yogurt one which is rather delicious but will be tough to choose over ice cream when future sweet cravings hit.
We then take the ferry across from Irago to Toba in Mie Prefecture and things start to go downhill. The onsen we try to go to ends up being insanely expensive (the equivalent of $40 or more when it’s usually around $4 or $5) and there is nowhere really to camp except a tiny park behind a visitor centre which is covered in cobwebs and spiders. We try not to lose heart because there is a keitan sushi place across the road from the park and we gorge ourselves there to keep from any depressing thoughts.
The next day is sunny and there are some nice smaller, rather flat roads through lots of rice fields and towns so we are making pretty good time when Christian gets a puncture. This time it is a shard of glass that went right through to his tube so we hang out in the hot sun and take the opportunity to dry out our tent which is soaked from the night before. Eventually, we get to Tsu which is even more depressing and built-up than Toba, but at least seems to have some coastline we can possibly camp on. We take for granted this will be possible, go to an onsen that is much like an amusement park (filled with arcade machines and insanely busy on a Saturday night) and then head to our favourite keitan sushi chain: Sushiro. It is 10pm by the time we start heading to the coast, but uh oh, there is actually no access to the beach. It is an industrial wasteland, made all the more gruesome by being late at night, misty and with no street lamps or people anywhere. We bike for over an hour looking for a suitable spot and we are both exhausted and getting pretty forlorn. We reach a new low with the camping spot we find which looks much nicer in the picture than it did in real life (the man in the background was doing laps of the park).
Fishermen start showing up around 5am and we get out of there pretty quick. We are still pretty exhausted and I reach another all-time low when I realize I have a bladder infection. Perfect. I just want my mom and this is the last thing I need. I feel like I can’t afford to be sick on this trip with all these other difficulties. Nonetheless, we persevere, Christian does his best to talk me off a ledge while waiting in the convenience store for 2.5 hours for the pharmacy across the road to open, and through the language difficulty and some pretty entertaining (if not awkward) back-and-forths with the pharmacist, I get some strange herbal powder that may or may not help. I drink a ton of water and decide on overcoming this one way or another. Luckily, the biking to Iga-Ueno (with the promise of ninja training village) was good that day, the ibuprofen kicked in and there was a lovely, quiet pass along Route 25 we travelled along a little river and up through the mountains that made everything OK again. Up next, the ninja village and a very cool little castle town!
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.