If you read my very first post, you would know that the road to the closest city where I could do grocery shopping (an hour away) had been blocked off and closed due to a landslide that occurred before my arrival in Totsukawa. Before we left on our mini vacation to Osaka, my JTE from the Junior High School informed me that the road to Shingu had opened the week before. My initial thoughts: YES!!! I can finally do grocery shopping at a store that isn’t more than an hour away!!!
When we came back from our travels, we planned on venturing to Shingu the next day for some grocery shopping and basic exploring. With it being my first time driving down there, I was in awe. The scenery was absolutely amazing- beautiful mountains, a clean, blue river where everyone was either fishing or having a BBQ, and small, but quaint and lovely villages along the base of the mountains which we were able to see from the road. As much as I dreaded the weekends driving up north through the windy, twisty, and crazy cramped roads, I don’t regret it as it has given me so much practice and the drive to Shingu was thus a breeze.
Our first stop was to the AEON mall. (Oddly enough, it’s actually pronounced 「イオン」(“ii-ohn”) so I have no idea why there is an “A” and an “E” thrown in the name but whatevs.) This is now one of the stores where we do our weekly grocery shopping and buy other home necessity goods. In addition to that, this AEON in particular also had a Daiso (¥100 store) (pretty much dollar store), an arcade, and restaurants on the second level, and a McDonalds, a takoyaki stand, a bike store, and a cafe on the first level where the grocery store is. There were also more clothes boutiques and even a book store. This place has a good bit of everything!
We figured we could do grocery shopping before we headed back home, so we decided to explore around the port city and find some new and exciting things to see! So we got onto the road and just drove. How we explore is we follow signs for one of the popular tourist destinations and just go towards that direction. I saw a sign for some sort of island, so we headed there.
We arrived in a small parking lot with a statue of a little girl holding what looked like a snake or an eel? Next to the statue was a little entrance booth that led to the tourist spot. The sweet old lady that ran the booth gave us an informational flier about this particular island, called “Ukishima no mori,” also known as a “floating island.” After noticing I spoke a little bit of Japanese, she explained to me in easy Japanese of how the island came to be. In short, years of storms pretty much pushed the island to what it is now: a small island full of many rare ferns and greenery floating on a pond in the center of the city. She pointed to a picture hung on the wall of a black-and-white photo of the island, many years ago, with wildlife on it. Of course now, no deer live on the island. But we did see turtles and koi swimming around in the pond!
She encouraged us to enter and explore this island via walking along the erected walkways that circled around and through the island. It was pretty interesting to see the abundance of plants that enveloped the area. For each different species of plant, you could see a sign indicating what kind it was… of course it was purely in Japanese, so although I was able to read it, I had no idea what it meant.
We then went to see the ocean. You could clearly see the ocean’s horizon from the road. At first sight, we pulled over to a small break area where other cars were and got out to take in the view of the beach. It was sooooo nice!!!
Wanting to get closer to the ocean itself, we descended down the staircase that brought us to train tracks that followed the coastline. Crossing that, we walked through a trail that cut through trees to a wall. This was a tsunami wall, a huge, slightly curved cement wall that looked like it would stretch for miles. A final ledge of stairs brought us to the shore, covered with many rocks and pebbles. We could see boats and ships along the waves. We could hear the waves crashing against the shore here and there. We could see a man and his father casting their lines from the shore into the waves, probably trying to catch dinner. It wasn’t as beach-like as you would imagine a typical one to be- but in some ways, I would definitely prefer this kind of beach rather than your stereotypical sandy white beach.
For a while, we just looked at the horizon and the surrounding area. We played cat and mouse with the waves, each round changing from either a gentle push to ones that looked like they would tower over us and crash against the rocks. Trevor felt like he could have stayed there forever. I couldn’t blame him- it was so calm and peaceful. Whereas the mountains in Totsukawa have this spiritual air from the surrounding and natural environment, the ocean brings about this sort of relaxing aura from the sounds of the ocean and from the cool wind you can feel.
Shingu has definitely been our go-to city lately, especially for getting food and other goods. As many of the other teachers noted, it is much easier to get to Shingu than somewhere up north! I’m so happy that the road is finally back open, and to know that the ocean is only an hour away is great for any small getaways.