Robert & I decided to rent a car one weekend in April. The purpose was to get out of the city and see some areas the train doesn’t go to and for me to practice driving on the left side of the road before my sisters arrived. We picked up our car Friday night and had to park it in a pay lot even though we have a parking spot associated with our townhouse (we don’t have a contract for the parking space so we can’t park there, even though no one else uses it either- seems rather silly to me). We requested an English GPS, but they didn’t have any available, so we had the Japanese version instead. It was actually very useful (once you figured out all the buttons), because as long as you know how to use a map, you can still figure out how to get somewhere and where you are.
On Saturday we drove along the coast past Kuratsu to a little town called Yobuko. We first stopped at their little farmers market to look around, and then further up a dirt road (it was under construction), we happened upon the town which was buzzing with activity. It was an incredibly charming old fishing town on a cute little harbor, so we just had to stop and check it out. In the parking lot a couple of older women were passing out maps of the city (rolled up on a pretty scroll) and they pointed out where we needed to go. This town is known for their squid and the little buggers were hanging everywhere or spinning or being cooked or dried. We ended up on the street behind the main road which was lined with little stalls of people selling all kinds of squid products, seafood, produce, gifts, pottery, clothes, etc. We watched sea urchin being opened, picked out of the shell and boiled in it’s shell. I’m not sure if this was a special event or if every Saturday is like this, but it was fun. We eventually came upon the city shrine and stepped up for the view and the cherry trees, and walked through the town one more time before deciding to leave.
We took our time heading back and made several stops to view the beaches and coastline and check out the interesting rock formations caused by the wind and waves. Some of the rocks along the cliffs reminded me of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland…the pentagonal shaped basalt rocks which were created by volcanic activity. The rocks here just happened to be sideways rather than up and down. After visiting the National Park, and the Nijomatsubara Beach, our last few stops were in Itoshima to view the ‘couple rocks’ shrine and get a bite to eat at one of the restaurants.
The most interesting thing that occurred while we were at the restaurant was watching two women touting over their three dogs. It was if they were in their own little world, and no one else was there. All the dogs were dressed up in ridiculous outfits (one could barely move around normally). I personally think this falls under ‘cruelty to animals’. Anyway, they kept propping them up in different chairs and taking pictures of them with different poses and backgrounds. The eventually sat the dogs on cushions in their own chairs at the table and put ‘biscuits’ on their plates. The poor boy dog (in a blue jean outfit), jumped down and tried several times to “mark his territory” only to be frustrated that it wasn’t working. Shortly after that, we unfortunately got the opportunity to watch him get his ‘diaper’ changed. While all of this was mildly amusing, I hope I never have to witness it again.
On Sunday we headed up into the mountains to a farmer’s market that one of the teacher’s showed me a few weeks earlier when Robert was in Brussels. This time, however, I was able to load up on veggies since now I had someone to help me eat the large quantities they sell. We left there with lots of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, and chives. The roads up there were much more narrow and curvy than the day before and I’m sure Robert got a few gray hairs from my driving, but afterward, I felt pretty confident about driving around Kyushu by myself. He eventually had enough of my driving and took over the wheel when the road narrowed to just one lane (shared by both directions). On the way back we managed to find Shiraito Falls and take a short hike in that area. I’ve never seen so many hydrangea bushes in one place, I’m sure it is simply gorgeous in June/July when they are blooming.
We ran a few errands before eventually dropping the car off. It was really fun to do this and I’m glad we did it. I still prefer train travel (it’s less stressful, and we both can enjoy the views), but cars truly are necessary to get to those places where the trains do not go.