Thousands of Miles from Home


Tottori, Palabras Uno

I find myself inside of a Japanese electronics store, which is always guaranteed to provide free internet to anyone willing to brave the terrible Muzak blaring from most electronics store speakers. This computer, amazingly enough, is playing some sort of Paul Oakenfold remix at a high enough level to overcome any less-desirable tunes. And so, with any more ado…

I left Tamano a little before 4 A.M. on a big rig truck bound for Tottori. My driver, Oyaji-san, picked me up in his beast ride and after a few goodbyes to my host mother we were on the open road. The sun rose quickly as we bore into the mountains of Japan, passing field after field of rice paddies scattered among the hills. With fog beginning to rise from the valley, out topic of discussion for the first part of the journey consisted of my detailed analysis of West Virginian Agriculture, where I had traveled in Japan, and if I had ever seen fireflies before. Oyaji, a 20 year veteran of truck driving, told me some of his countless stories of the road as he hauled lumber from Tamano to Nara, Osaka, Tottori, Shikoku, and Osaka.

At a junction in the road Oyaji turned east, directly into the rising sun. We traveled for a while in silence as I kept my eyes glued to the beautiful surroundings in northern Okayama. At another junction we turned north, and into the precarious mountains dividing Okayama and Tottori prefectures. Until my ride with Oyaji I assumed that all traveling in Japan was a very expensive business. Trains, buses, and ferries cost money, but even cars are taxed on the toll roads that crisscross the country. Amazingly, Oyaji avoided every toll road and made it to Tottori for free.

When we reached the top of the mountains dividing the two prefectures, I was told that these roads require chains in the wintertime. Oyaji drives all year round, rain or snow. As we peaked the top of the last mountain, I felt myself take a quick gasp of air. Lying before us, like a hidden secret, was a valley stretching for miles inside a corridor of mountains on either side. Oyaji just smiled, having taken the course a countless number of times, but I could tell that this sight was not something he could easily explain to others. You had to make the trip through the mountains in order to experience the beauty.

Descending the mountains, we were well inside Tottori in no time flat. Stopping at a Lawson, my heart skipped a beat when Etsuko, Janna’s host sister from Tsuyama, recognized me outside the convenient store. She had come from Kurashiki that day on a surfing school tip, and said I could come along if I didn’t have any plans. Of course having none, and never having surfed before, I took her number and promised to call later.

Still feeling slightly shocked, Oyaji took me on a small tour of the area by truck, and then we stopped at the lumber year to unload our cargo. I met one of Oyaji’s colleagues, a chronic chain smoker, who operated the forklift. I never thought I would describe the use of a forklift as a beautiful thing to witness, but this man had some serious talent. A full cargo of wooden beams was unloaded and neatly stacked in well under 5 minutes. After witnessing his seemingly effortless display of skill, Oyaji and I borrowed a company car so we could tour the Tottori area before Oyaji return to Tamano by big rig that evening.

Out first destination was the Tottori sand dunes, which I had viewed on my last trip with Masatoshi but never had the chance to actually walk on the massive desert-like beach. Oyaji and I climbed the dunes, which was a more difficult task than I originally expected, but from our higher vantage point we could see a good distance along the coast in both directions.

We ate ice cream, and then Oyaji dropped me off at a small beach along the coast where Etsuko and her friends were surfing that day. I soon realized that this was the same beach where the San-In Beach Party was to be held the following day. Etsuko and I talked, surfed, and laid in the sun until afternoon, when she left with her surfing school for a different area of Tottori. I stayed at the beach for a while, only to receive a mild sunburn (AKA burned to a crisp), but the sun felt so wonderful I didn’t mind at the time. I took a walk along some craggy rocks to a small inland cove overlooking the sea, and ate my lunch as the waves crashed against large boulders at my feet.

Feeling sleepy, I took a short nap in the shade before returning to the city and wandering around the town. Around 5, I called Oyaji’s friend Kamemoto-san, who was letting me stay at his house for the night. Kamemoto, or Kame for short, wanted to know all about West Virginia and my exchange this year. Back at the house, I met his two kids, a high school sophomore girl and junior high school senior boy, both in the Kendo club. Kame’s wife made a huge meal, which I had a difficult time eating because of the sheer amount of food. Mai, Kame’s daughter, was the most outgoing high school girl I have ever met. I helped her with some math and English homework in exchange for the dinner, and then sat around talking and drinking with Kame. Later that evening Kame’s brother came over and the three of us played Mahjong, where I held my own. Feeling quite sleepy after waking up at the 3 in the morning, I bid the family goodnight and quickly fell asleep on the tatami.

The next morning, I had to be out of the house by 7:30, and was yet again greeted with a massive breakfast. Kame gave me a ride to the station, and said if I ever wanted to stay with him again all I had to do was ask.

Not quite knowing what to do with myself at 7:30 in the morning, I bought a three dollar train ticket and rode it as far as possible into the mountains (getting off at a stop translated as “Flowerland”). I planned on going to an onsen sometime during the day, but have found that onsens feel much more soothing after some type of strenuous workout. I began to walk back into Tottori, starting from literally the middle of nowhere, with a perfect temperature and slightly overcast sky. After about two hours of travel, I came across a large mountain which appeared to be climbable. I walked up into a small forest, and came across a large famous boulder of some kind in the woods. From the top of the mountain I could easy see the plains of Tottori stretching out to the sea. I ate a small lunch on the top of the mountain, then descended by a different path which led me through an “experimental agricultural center” and back to ground level.

Wimping out of the remaining 10Km walk back to the station, I took a bus just as rain began to sprinkle. By the time I got to the station there was a complete downpour with, drum roll please, thunder! That makes it just about 11 months since I had last heard thunder, and my first time experiencing the sound in Japan. I guess I didn’t really miss it enough to ever think about its absence.

From the station I bought a train ticket to a famous onsen, but the rain was so hard the trains stopped for an “indeterminate amount of time.” Slightly disappointed, I decided to leave the famous onsen for another day and walked to an onsen near the station. This onsen was a little different than others I had been to before. Usually you pay a small fee (between $10-12), and get to use the onsen and a variety of shampoos, body washes, and other cleansing items. This onsen has a flat rate of about $3, and you paid for things you wanted such as shampoo and towels. The onsen water was HOT, and didn’t quite agree with my sunburn, but I “chilled” out in the cold part of the onsen and let my skin begin to heal.

And that just about brings me up to now. Let’s party!


  • Yes, being the avid biker I am, I have also found DeoDeo's to be very helpful for internet as well as charging your phone when going on long rides.

    Gotta love Electronic stores.

    By neil, at 5:03 AM  

  • I guess there will be no keeping you "down on the farm" now.

    By mom, at 11:11 AM  

  • Ben = Amazing

    By Lucy, at 9:25 PM  

  • The adventures of Huckleberry Finn ... although I don't remember him showering!
    Btw cool new profile picture.

    By Bibi Blogsberg, at 5:29 AM  

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