Monday, March 02, 2009

Shimokita Peninsula

Over the Fourth of July weekend we had four days, so a group of our friends traveled to the Shimokita peninsula. This peninsula is the northern most point of Honshu island. It is in the shape of an axe head with Mutsu Bay to the east, Tsugaru Strait to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Most of us had been to the main highlights (Mt Osare and Yagen Valley), so we hit some of the other parts this time around. Our first stop was "Whale Island" on the southeast corner of the axe. I don't know if the Japanese actually call it this, but that's what we call it. We did some kayaking (as you can see we had to share due to lack of kayaks) and some snow monkey searching.
Me and the Buckalew's went in search of the monkeys, but we didn't stumble upon any. We did, however, find this little shrine in a fishing village. Our original plan was to camp right on the coast this night, but since it was raining we headed to greener pastures.

We tried to procure lodging at some cabins nearby, but we were given the all too familiar "X"...meaning "no cabins for you." But we did get a chance to see some snow monkeys...even if these were in a cage. Apparently these little boogers can be quite aggressive (we've heard stories of them attacking women and children).

We then drove a little inland and camped next to an onsen...which we used quite frequently this trip due to lack of showers. Of note, I nearly burned down the Neal's canopy, because I made the campfire too big. The next morning we headed toward what the Japanese call Hotokegaura.

This just means "rocks that look like Buddha." Although I saw no such rock, the formations were very unique. They were perfect for exploring, as you could walk and climb through them.

We were lucky enough to have the rain go away for awhile and actually enjoyed some sunshine.

To get down to the actual formations you had to climb down about a million steps, so most Japanese that come see them take tour boats and dock nearby.

After exploring this area for a couple of hours we were ready to move on and find our next campsite.

But before we left, we enjoyed a nice dip in some natural rock tubs. Don't let the picture fool you, the water was freezing. It did cool you off, though, after hiking in the heat all day.

Our campsite the next night was completely abandoned (as many campsites in Japan are until August), and it was probably a good thing. Since it was the Fourth, we had to fire off a bunch of fireworks. That's the beautiful thing about can buy fireworks year round! Lisa grilled us some pork chops and Scott and Alan gathered half the drift wood in the river for our bonfire.

The next morning we set out to climb this peak you see in the above picture. I don't know the name of it, because the sign is in Japanese (sorry, I still can't read it).

By now the big clouds had cleared, and we had a beautiful day to hike. At some points on the hike you actually had to climb up tree roots using them as ladders. As we were waiting at the bottom we played baseball with our walking sticks and rocks.

On our way to our next destination we had to stock up on a few essentials at everyone's favorite convenient store 7/10! 7/11 has nothing on these guys. And since it was just turning the Fourth of July in the States, we figured (or I figured) we had to buy some more fireworks...and guess what?! 7/10 carries do most convenient stores in northern Japan.

We traveled a little further down the road and had to make a detour. Apparently Scott had read somewhere that there was a Buddhist temple that brewed beer. After taking a couple of back roads and turning around a couple of times (did I mention there were three cars), we finally found it. Unfortunately, the temple/brewery was closed, but we were able to buy some bottles of Buddha's finest from a vending machine.

We then made it to the town of Oma, only 17 km's from Hokkaido. The lighthouse you see behind us is actually on Hokkaido Island. We read that there was a campground nearby, and after talking to some of the locals we realized it was right in the center of the town. So for dinner, we packed up all our food and fireworks and headed for the beach. We then got to celebrate the Fourth as it was happening in the States with more fireworks and another bonfire (we burned drift wood and a car chair we found washed up). We called the night a little short, because some of the girls got spooked by was an ambulance.

The next morning we went down the coast a ways to the town of Kazamaura. This town is famous for its onsens (hot baths/spas). I think in the end, we all ended up at different ones. You could just walk around the town and pick one out.

Our last stop on the trip was Cape Shiriya. This spot is famous for its "wild" horses and the white lighthouse. These things were so wild that they would let you go up to them and pet them. Amy still chickened out, so I got a picture of Scott and Lindsey taming the wild beast.