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Japan Trip Day 8: Into the Caves

A slow start to the morning, with only 4 hours of sleep. I barely have enough time to brush my teeth, find that I had forgot important documents like my passport in the common room (nothing important seemed missing), and stagger into the elevator down and run for the tram. I make it with less than a minute of margin. It seems Pasmo does not work for payment, however cash is flat fare anyway so isn't a major inconvenience.

Into the Caves

I'm not entierly sure what magicarps have to with baseball, nor do I think you should hit them with baseballs.

Figure 1 - I'm not entierly sure what magicarps have to with baseball, nor do I think you should hit them with baseballs.

Riding the shinkansen is a fairly uninteresting experience, and I got there with plenty of time to spare. Eating is accepted on shinkansen trains, so I proceed to consume my konbini breakfast there. In Yamaguchi, I change to a local train, which surprisingly has no electronic information display, and no announcements in English. It's also a diesel train, so it sounds like an old bus, and is about as smooth as one. I though I was back onto the beaten path, but maybe not?

I get on the bus in Yamaguchi. Just like last time I was on a bus, it first does its rounds through the city and the suburbs before climbing the roads up the mountains. Unlike last time, this bus is pretty well filled. Not by foreigners, but filled none the less. And this bus is covered by my JR pass, so that's a nice change.

When I rech Akiyoshido, I am once again greeted by a theme park-like atmosphere, with food stores, ice cream vendors and various stores selling useless knick-knacks line the several hundred meter road from the bus stop to the entrance. I got almost 5 hours to kill here (yep, that's how infrequent the buses are,) so I guess this is where I'll seek out lunch too. When I went (Mid-august 2017) the entry fee for an adult was ¥1200, but only ¥700 if you showed your foreign passport.

I've heard that the cave is really cold. But really, at the time I was there, most trains are colder than that. The cave was T-shirt temperature, most local trains aren't.

Most of the information plaques around the cave also have an English version of the text, and I was handed a pamphlet in English. How much tht really adds is up for debate however.

Cave entrance

Figure 2 - Cave entrance

:: Cave entrance 1454

These weird looking pools presumably formed ffrom erosion by water dripping there

Figure 3 - These weird looking pools presumably formed ffrom erosion by water dripping there

At the end of the cave, up towards the surface, the walls are covered with illustrations supposed to cover civilization and the earth for the past 300 million years during which these caves were formed.

As I make my return through the cave, the crowd has greatly increased. If you want buses back to choose from, the morning is probably the wrong time to go. If you don't like crowds, the around lunch is probably the worst time to go. I exit the cave with 3 hours left to kill. I can't help but feel that they're trying to attract more foreign tourists, but the only language I heard in that cave that wasn't Japanese, was Chinese.

:: Entrance/exit 1463

Cave mouth from the inside

Figure 4 - Cave mouth from the inside

A bigger problem for me is what to do afterwards. With 3 hours left, there is only so much you can do before you're just killing time. At this point I was starting to wish I had gone somewhere else. I mean, the cave was great and all, but just sitting waiting is no fun. I'm also starting to pay for the limited amount of sleep I got. I am already looking forward to crashing in bed at the hostel. But not yet, there's more places to go.

The evil bus schedule that confused me while planning.

Figure 5 - The evil bus schedule that confused me while planning.

To the End! Of the Island

The bus is arriving late at Yamaguchi station, the change is becoming tighter and tighter. And I need to use the restroom urgently. Such are some of the joys of traveling. Only another half hour... As I get on the train in Yamaguchi, I notice that the station name sign is written horizontally in the traditional way, right to left.

Way back in Akiyoshido, in the bus waiting hall, I sat near a family seeming confused by their travel notes. We got on the same bus from there, but they scrambled off at an earlier stop. They just stepped onto the same train and sat down right next to me across the corridor. Then they noticed me and hilarity ensued. The only thing that would make it more absurd, is if they get onto the same shinkansen train as me.

As I'm waiting for the shinkansen train, I notice that the platform tracks are not weld-joint. I'm sure they had a reason, but it almost looks like targeted penny pinching, to not maintain a higher track standard than needed.

In Kokura, I board a local train to Shimonoseki. Iis, by my standards, filled to near capacity. Whoever makes the announcements seem to be on some highly illegal drug, he's speaking really, really fast. The train crals as it approached the trough leading down to the tunnel, but quickly gains speed when entering it. It's a single track tunnel under the straight.

I get off at Shimonoseki and start walking. It didnt't look very far on a map.

This city prides itself on its fugu fishing. You'll see fugu statures and restaurants all over the place.

Figure 6 - This city prides itself on its fugu fishing. You'll see fugu statures and restaurants all over the place.

Stairs to a shrine on the way. There was a lot of stairs going random locations from this road.

Figure 7 - Stairs to a shrine on the way. There was a lot of stairs going random locations from this road.

Cat chillin' on the sidewalk.

Figure 8 - Cat chillin' on the sidewalk.

If you spend any time in Japan, you will notice how cluttered the sky is. Writes going everywhere.

Figure 9 - If you spend any time in Japan, you will notice how cluttered the sky is. Writes going everywhere.

I come across a sign pointing to a set of stairs, saying there's a park there. The stairs looked absurdly long, so I got curios.

Stairs which the sign for a park pointd towards. The continue outside of view.

Figure 10 - Stairs which the sign for a park pointd towards. The continue outside of view.

The view from the park was pretty good. Considering the amount of stairs I climed, I'd have expected so.

Figure 11 - The view from the park was pretty good. Considering the amount of stairs I climed, I'd have expected so.

After checking out the park for a little while, I head back down, and continue walking.

This London double-decker must be really lost.

Figure 12 - This London double-decker must be really lost.

I finally get to the Hinoyama ropeway. I see no other person on my way up. The entire place looks deserted. as I walk towards the main entrance, I see a woman in the parking lot feed a half-dozen cats, but otherwise there isn't much going on. I see a seemingly unmanned ticket gate. At first glance, the only thing suggesting they are even open, is a split-flap display showing a next departure time in 20 minutes. Suddenly I hear a voice. It is open, and I manage to buy a ticket. When departure time nears, I'm the only one going up. This place had 4 stars on google maps, you'd think it would more popular. On the plus side, they did turn on some party lights hung outside the ropeway car thing. On the way up, I see two people in the meeting car.

Up on the observation deck, I see maybe a half-dozen people, most of which probably got here by car. I am up here at the exact right time to ensure I miss my train. But I'm also here at the exact right time to gradually see the city light up in the night.

The view was pretty good.

Figure 13 - The view was pretty good.

On the way down, there's a family of 3 sharing the same car. After getting off the cable car, I start the slow back-tracking process of finding a bus stop where a bus to the station stop. As enjoyable as the walk was, the clock is almost 8pm, my feet have had it, and running on 4+1 hours of sleep, I'm rather tired, and the batteries in my phone and my pandora is running dangerously low.

My ride down the mountain.

Figure 14 - My ride down the mountain.

:: In Sweden, the button says "STOP". They are a bit more verbose here

Figure 15 - :: In Sweden, the button says "STOP". They are a bit more verbose here

There's a few things I wanted to do that I didn't have time to. One of those was to see the kanmon tunnel. It does in its very concept remind me of the underground walkways in the first pokemon games, that could lead you under entire cities. Another thing is the Kitakyūshū ~monorail~. Oh well, at least I wasn't bored. I'm seriously considering sleeping in tomorrow, checking out as late as possible, and just pass by one of my intended stops. Also, this train seems to have a resident spider climbing up and down its web. Considering how many mosquitoes I've smushed today, I welcome the little guy's contributions.

I mostly slept right through the shinkansen ride from Kokura to Hiroshima, taking special care not to miss my stop. Not only because annoying to go another stop back, but also that the next stop is an hour away. On top of that, when I get to Hiroshima, after a 20 minute wait, the tram is running late. Only by about 5 minutes, but tired me is irritable me.

I finally get to the hostel, check in, and get stuck in conversations way too late into the night.


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