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Day 11

I took a walk from the hostel to Tennōji and met some unexpected sights. Not necessarily beautiful in the common sense.

There's not much to say of Tennōji itself except that it's a big park with some attractions in it, but curiously they seem to be quite racistic there against dogs and for cats.

I thought of joining the Ōsaka pub crawl, so I went to the meeting spot. On the way, I had some more interesting views.

The pub crawl itself had stunning 70 announced parttakers. It was just too big and after one beer and some chatter with the mostly American peers, and before even being asked to pay, I realized I just don't want to do it and I left.

I'm actually glad I'll have some rest before I depart for the Kumano kodō pilgrimage tomorrow in the morning.

By the way, I found out I was completely wrong planning that pilgrimage, at least its start. It starts in the town Tanabe but the station Tanabe is in Ōsaka and there is no station Tanabe in Tanabe but instead, in Tanabe is the station Kii-Tanabe. Confusing? Well, I'm glad I found out before taking a subway to Tanabe in Ōsaka and wondering where the pilgrim's path begins. :-)

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Day 10: Punk in Ōsaka

I got up very late and I got out from the hostel even later. I walked the city and then navigated to Fandango, the place for live rock, metal and punk music. I like rock. I like metal. Not so much punk. But when it's honest, authentic and skillful music, I can enjoy pretty much any genre.

There were four bands tonight, 30 minutes each. First band was crazy freak out punk in its grizzliest form. They were angry, loud and abrassive. Not much of my cup of tea but still a great performance.

Band number 2 was even purer punk. They were brighter, not so angry but a bit better musicians and much more pleasant to listen to.

Band number 3 was the blast. They got me freaking out, jumping and headbanging like hell. These guys had the authenticity and a good deal of self-irony that the others were missing.

Band number 4 was something completely different. The frontman was an obvious clone of Jimi Hendrix. They were playing Fender relics and it all felt like the last century. They were very good musicians. My father would have loved them. I found myself sitting on the chair though, when they played.

All in all, this was an amazing evening.

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Day 9: Hello Ōsaka

The sound of a roommate woke me up in the Green Guest House in Kagoshima and I thought maybe I could sleep some more, but just to be sure, I turned on the phone to check the clock... and it was 11:30! Wow, I slept for 10 hours. Well, on the other hand, I probably needed it.

Fortunately, the staff were quite laid back about checkout time. I said goodbye, had a most delicious lunch in Yoshinoya, which I later found out to be a chain diner, and made my way to the railway station.

My legs hurt badly from the trek and my whole body was screaming for some thorough stretching. The train station was as clean as you would expect in Japan and there was almost nobody on the platform since it was over half an hour to the departure. I used the chance and did some overdue yoga.

One of the items in my to do list is Kōbe beaf. It's supposed to be to normal beef what sex is to porn. But since I'm not much of a fan of beef anyway and Kōbe was so far, I decided instead to try Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, also a famous thing to eat.

A quick glance at the map of Hiroshima pointed out okonomiyaki mura, a theme park dedicated to okonomiyaki. :-) I made my way there and before I even found an entrance, an older robust guy started convincing me he makes the best okonomiyaki in Hiroshima. I thought I'd like to compare a few places before I make a choice but then I thought, well, let the man catch a fish.

He brought me to his corner on the third floor, I chose my noodle kind and topping, and he starting conjuring his magic. It was a most interesting show to watch him make my food. It was also most interesting to hear him talk. He used to study law in Tōkyō and then he made a career as a boxer. He had photos and relics of that everywhere.

I then boarded another shinkansen to Ōsaka, got accommodated, walked the city a bit and I'm pondering now what to do tomorrow...

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Day 8: Yakushima Trek Finish

The first rays of pale daylight freed me from having to lie in the freezing cold, but I had had far from enough sleep. I tried not to wake my fellows up, packed my things and set off as quickly as possible to warm up.

In the evening, Tsuyoshi told me that the way from the hut to Nagata, which I planned to take, was one of the longest to take and gave me a bewildering amount of time estimates: Normally it takes 6 to 8 hours, some say even 10, he can make it in 2 when he runs and he assumes I make in in 3 to 5.

After four hours of not walking but mostly crawling, I found myself to be half way through. I have never walked a path so difficult for so long. The girl at the tourist information center must have been crazy to tell me I'll make it from Shin Takatsuya koya to Nagata in 9 hours including breaks (that was the original plan).

I arrived at 13:45, 7.5 hours after departure with scratched shins and calves, after uncounted falls and stumbles and short breaks to avoid complete exhaustion.

My first thought was food. I was in a village with the biggest beach in this super-touristic island. There *must* be some good restaurant of shokudó (canteen), I was convinced. Well, there was a kind of small store next to a gasoline station by the bus stop and they also had warm food but not at the moment. I asked the old woman who was working there if there was anywhere to get something to eat around. She called someplace and said no. :-)

Then that sweet granny took mercy on me and made me some onigiri (google it) with pickled seaweed. You can imagine just how good it tasted, given it was good, I was starved and it was fresh and warm.

My bus back to Miyanoura went either at 15:00 or at 17:00. It was my original plan to take a ferry at 16:00 from Miyanoura back to Kagoshima and maybe board a Shinkansen to Ósaka. But I was on the edge of my strength and decided to take it easy, go to the beach, take the later bus and spend a night on Yakushima to recover.

I asked around if there was a bus stop near the beach and a woman took care of me, found out that there really is a bus stop and then she drove me directly there(!), so I need not walk.

The beach was hot, the sun was burning, the ocean was cool, clean and beautiful. With almost no people around, this was a dream. There were also absolutely no facilities, nowhere to buy a beer or ice or even a shady spot.

I swam and then lay in the sun and then once more and then I had enough. I looked at the clock and it was a few minutes before the departure of the first bus.

I thought, good, let's go... and if I now have to look for accommodation on Yakushima, then why not Kagoshima? So I changed plan once again and took the ferry.

I talked to a white guy who took the same ferry as me and he showed me to the Green Guest House -- one of the two cheap hostels in the town. Don't ask me how this is possible in a major hub with a population of over half a million.

This guest house is 3 walking minutes from where the ferry arrived. I had a restaurant recommended, ate running sushi for under 700¥ and until now, we were singing songs by the Beatles and Dream Theater with an Indonesian chap and two of the staff.

I should go to sleep now.

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Day 7: Yakushima trek start

The trek went quite exactly as planned. The bus took me to Shiratani Unsyukyó in the morning. I was surprise to have to pay an entrance fee, but it was just 300¥ and I even got a post card, which I was desperately trying to obtain in the village.

I knew I had quite a few kilometers ahead of me, and I couldn't resist hasting a bit. The marvellous nature made me stop very often though. I have used up my phone memory with photos, so that speaks for everything I guess.

There really was a *lot* of water and it was tasting like heaven and crystal clean and it was cool unlike the hot ocean. All in all, the weather was just about perfect. Not one drop of ice, and the thick forest provided welcome shade.

I arrived at the Shin Takatsuya hut where I planned to stay overnight at 15:30. I was tired but the thought of spending the rest of the day in the hut was filling me with resentment.

The map revealed that there was another hut further my on way. There were also time estimates between checkpoints and it summed up to four hours. So it was likely doable before dusk (19:50).

I thought that if I ponder for too long, my chance will pass, so I just set off.

The first part of the trail led also to Mount Miyanoura, the highest point of the island, and unparred by any mountain of Kyúshú. This meant a nice confortable path with some severe ascent.

But from the point where I diverted away from the Mt. Miyanoura path, the real adventure began. The ascents and descents remained severe but the path was from here on formed by 20cm broad creeks surrounded by deep bush, sudden abysses and similar delicacies.

I climbed Mount Nagata and from there the hut was 700 meters far away. Those 700 meters took me an hour.

When I finally arrived, a great relieved flooded my spirit. It also showed up that it was great choice because 1) there only were two other people, a couple Kanako and Tsuyoshi, who happened to be experienced locals and very kind fellows, 2) this was the only hut in Yakushima where you were allowed to make fire, and they did, and 3) obviously it bought me four hours for the next day's trek.

We had a nice chat, I even bathed in a creek nearby, washed my clothes and dried them by the fire. We exchanged our local food and drink samples and made our way to our beds... when suddenly:

Kanako noticed there was a snake above us. It was a huge beast, at least 2 meters long. We tried to take a picture but it was too dark and we dared not approach enough. I was convinced it would not attack by itself but a bit of fear was in me, for sure.

It showed up though, that the snake was the least of my worries. I realized only there that I forgot to pack my reflection thermo-foil. And though this is Japan in summer and there was no air-conditioner, this was a night at the mountains. On cold, hard wood, with all my clothes (which means very few) on me, I froze through the night.

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Day 6: Hello Yakushima

Today was quite relaxed. I walked from one port to another in Kagoshima, took a jetfoil ferry onto Yakushima, got accommodated and prepared for my two-day trek that starts tomorrow.

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Day 5: the Ferry

Today was completely different. Very quiet. Very lonesome.

I got up forcefully at 5:45, rushed to the monorail, rode to Asahibashi and walked to where I hoped I would find a port.

Indeed the port was there and a huge ship loomed over it. At that time of the day, with so little sleep, my Japanese was good as gone. I wanted to ask about ticket counter and said ticket entrance instead (noriba instead of uriba). Yet they understood and showed me to a counter. I was scared by the lack of time and long queue, yet all was done in a matter of a few minutes.

I entered the ship and was overjoyed. All is like in the guide: vending machines, sleeping halls, shop and restaurant on the deck that are closed most of the time. Unlike expected is the none too bad air conditioning and no conversation at all. It must be me and my current emanation, but everyone is leaving me alone and I have been relishing on the ocean, the sun and the air. What beauty.

I've been up until past midnight watching stars alone outside. I did my first yoga since arrival in Japan. I'm starting to have enough of being on board but it was most definitely a great interlude.

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Day 4: Leaving the South

* Iriomote

Yesterday was absolutely packed with experiences. For the first time, I neglected updating this journal and practicing vocabulary.

The man at the hotel reception said that there was a tour to a mangrove and waterfalls. I would have to leave the hotel by nine and would get back to the entry point at 12:30. There would then be a bus line to Uehara, where the ferry back to Ishigaki sails from.

Since there were not many other options, and definitely none fitting the tight schedule, saying yes was a no-brainer.

After the OK-but-not-too-impressive breakfast in traditional Japanese (or even Okinawan) style, the innkeeper brought me to the mouth of the river Urauchigawa.

I paid 1800¥ for the tour and entered a boat for 60 people, with about 15 on board. They brought us up the river, pointing out some fascinating natural phenomena, like the knee-shaped roots of the mangrove trees or little fish that use them to hide from predators.

After half an hour, we arrived at a point where rocks began and from there on, we had two hours' time to see the two waterfalls and get back.

Apart from the colorful cute lizards and flowers of great beauty, one thing caught my attention. The artificial elements of the path, like stairs were either of plastic or concrete, all made to look like wood. Pretty perverted practice if you ask me.

There were also many streamlets and miniature waterfalls on the way. I drank from some and was delighted. Only the warmth of the water felt unusual albeit logical.

The bus brought me then to Uehara, where I had a curry because I kind of needed a break from traditional Japanese cuisine, which had certainly something to do with the experience from the hotel (not that it was bad in any way, just meh).

The curry lacked vegetables whatsoever and thus it was also undersatisfying of sorts. A cup of ice cream made of local milk (Ishigaki is famous for cattle) soothed my taste with bravado, though.

The ship on my way back to Ishigaki scared me a little, in the light of the previous voyage. However, with the sunburn shrugged off and sleep caught up, it was an enjoyable ride. I even was online the whole boat trip, which surprised me.

* Ishigaki

I had two hours time in the port town on Ishigaki. A schematic map revealed that there was a sacred site nearby. Mercifully to my purpose of killing time, the sacred site had its entrance on the fourth of its four sides that I explored. :-) On the way around it, I stumbled upon another sacred site ("another shrubbery!") combined with a park with playground (with no swing, bummer) and some graffiti.

The sacred site revealed very nice huge broad trees, even riping papayas, also butterflies and altars. I enjoyed the calm shade there until I had to head for the airport bus.

* Okinawa

The trip back was smooth, just my battery grinned at me with its 30% when we arrived. I had been thinking of charging for quite some time but didn't find an opportunity.

The first and foremost thing to do was check in to my AirBnB. My host sent me a code for a locked website with instructions to find the place. He was at work, so we couldn't meet.

I made it easily to where the instructions ended. Unfortunately, the info on which door exactly I should enter was so vague that I ended up asking around, which I fear may cause problems to my host, as AirBnB is in the grey zone of legality here.

Even though I asked, nobody knew, even as I was showing them the exact address. And also, I don't know whose fault it was but I haven't seen many house number tables anywhere.

I wrote my host and fortunately, he responded in a matter of minutes. It took some time and looking around and I was worried if my phone makes it but in the end, I managed. The moment of entering an apartment, not 100% sure if it is the right one, was quite adventurous though. Not necessarily in a good sense.

Next things on schedule were: 1) party! and 2) checking where the ferry to Kagoshima departs from, exactly. The whole English-speaking internet has been consistently silent on the latter, and some local tongues suggested there were as many as four ports in Naha city and the departure varied depending on day, ferry line and the current length of Emperor's nose hairs.

As anyone reasonable would also have done, I dedicated my focus on partying first. After all, this was my last night in Naha, and also the last night in a city for a few coming days.

You may call it a coincidence, and honestly it couldn't have been anything else: there was an open stage session in the next block, two minutes on foot from my adventurous apartment.

They said it was "session" (actually "sesshun" if I were to transliterate) and at first, I didn't exactly know how it was supposed to work. When I came in the place, called Gang, there was nobody tending the bar, the audience consisted of three people plus me and on stage there was a band of drums, bass and two electric guitars. They were playing 60's bigbeat. I recognized some song by The Shadows.

They were packed with Marshall stacks, Fender guitars and played as precisely and authentically as you could expect from Japanese.

The solo guitarist seemed to be agitated about my appearance and was trying to ask me something and I just wanted to ask someone (but for God's sake not the musicians!) if someone can make me a beer.

So I just did the Japanese way of komarimashita (i.e. looked bewildered and then bowed and said sumimasen) and just sat and waited what would happen.

After a another song this guy announced a break and morphed into a bartender. He introduced himself as Maruyama and when  he learned that I also dabble into music, he invited me to play.

I was lent a guitar, a microphone, a bass player and a drummer. I rushed though the list of Fruit & Flower songs and started alphabetically by Allgemeine Sehnsucht and Alone. I am not totally sure how good it was because the vocal monitor was way too silent, and also for some reason, the drummer couldn't quite nail the rhythm for Alone until like 3/4 into the song. I actually wanted to cut it sooner and squished the interlude one chorus too early but then he caught up and I didn't want to end in the moment when we started to understand each other, so I played it full length after all.

I stopped after these two songs, convinced that if they want me to play on, they will ask. They asked if I was tired already, to which I countered that I wasn't but that the stage wasn't mine alone. They laughed and accepted.

In between I got reprimanded for not liking and playing blues. :-)

They (the Apache Gang Band) annexed the sage again. However, this was not my last word yet. :-) They started playing The House of the Rising Sun and I quickly looked up the lyrics and grabbed the mic. That was a lot of fun and a great conclusion to this pleasant evening.

You may call it a coincidence, and honestly, it couldn't have been anything else: one of the ports in Naha was like five walking minutes away from my place. I assumed it would have a 24/7 counter and it couldn't hurt to ask where the ferry departs from.

But as it often goes with assumptions, also this one differed from reality. The port was opening at 7. I started worrying because my ship should *depart* at seven. How was I supposed to get a goddamned ticket?

Researching the Internet cost me valuable hours that I would have liked to dedicate to sleep. And it looked like there actually wasn't any ferry on that day from Okinawa to Kagoshima whatsoever.

The only hint I found was on Google maps where the Kagoshima - Okinawa ferry line was marked as ending up in a specific spot.

I couldn't do much more than put all my cash on that one card. I set the alarm for 5:45 (which meant 2 hours of sleep) and before my consciousness was consumed by the void, it hovered over the massive drops of sweat on my naked uncovered body.

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Day 3

Today was hardest yet. I woke up at night trembling from cold. The air conditioner was blowing directly at me. I heard that in Korea, they believe that sleeping in a room with a fan can kill you. The Internet will tell you it's bullshit and probably it is. But I can also tell I could imagine dying from cold in that air-conditioned room tonight.

I tried to take more clothes and I think I must have woken up most of the rommates because I was shaking with amplitude of several centimeters and my clothes were in a wooden box. :-)

I soon realized that I have to leave the room and lay down in the lobby. It helped but to be honest, it was not the soundest sleep I've ever had.

In the morning, I flew to Ishigaki and then had to wait for over two hours for a ship to Iriomote. I underestimated the sun and got seriously sick. I bought a straw hat and used a sunblock but way too late.

Worst thing yet was the ship. The unescapable smell of burned fuel and the vibrations from the motor added the last dip to my state and I started to panick. I grabbed a plastic sack and rushed to the exit. I noticed that there, the air was much fresher and just collapsed on the board. To my surprise, nobody came to ask if I needed help, which I feared would happen. Fortunately, I didn't need it and I spent the last fifteen or so minutes in a merciful koma.

Since then, things really went upwards. I had a rest in the hotel room, then walked the island a bit and now I'm looking forward to the supper.


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Day 2



e Jet lag is killing me today. I saw Okinawa main island from Naha to the northern cape and back again but I kept falling asleep. Hope tomorrow will be better.


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