Traveling Off the Beaten Path

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Ookii Islands

Sunrise on the Islands

The island culture in Japan is amazing. One of my best weekend trips I ever took was to the group of islands called the Ookii islands that are north of Shimane prefecture in the Sea of Japan. It wasn’t full of 4-star resorts with day spas, but it had it’s own special appeal.

It all started with the 3 of us on an early morning bus ride from Matsue that led to an early morning slow boat ride. They did have a hydrofoil for twice the price, but we were budget travelers, so we opted for the much cheaper, much slower, seasickness-inducing experience. This allowed us a small packed area to rest in, and wait to arrive.

Once we did dock, we walked off the boat and were greeted by boiled shellfish of some kind. They weren’t sea scallops, but were some kind of snail looking thing, that turned out to be pretty good. It was such a strange experience to be greeted by free food served by people in festival garb (happi). There wasn’t a festival going on though. For all we could tell, it was a normal weekend.

Since there was essentially no public transit on the island, we had to rent a car. And because we hadn’t done much prior research we ended up randomly driving around the island. We eventually found a good hike that took us to the top of a mountain where we could see the whole island, absolutely amazing.

What startled me though was the abundance of freakishly large insects. It seems like evolution in Japan has favored larger rather than smaller for whatever reason. There was a huge red spider (that I still haven’t learned the name of), a large ant thing the size of a small sausage and plenty of Japanese beetles. Luckily, we didn’t meet any Japanese wasps which are positively huge as well.

Sunset and Sunrise

Dougo island, the island that we were on, is famous for a couple of things. It’s best natural monument though seems to be ‘candle rock’ a rock formation that looks like a candle, and when the sun goes down it matches up with the formation to make it look like there is a giant candle in the sea. It turned out to be a little over-hyped, it was a nice beach sunset though.

We then set about BBQing in the dark. Who would have guessed that it is best to BBQ with the sun up? We burnt a few pieces of choice seafood we had picked up at the local supermarket, but it was mostly okay.

In the morning, we woke up at the crack of dawn for the sunrise, which turned out to be a lot more beautiful than the sunset. I managed to get a few good pictures on the rocks near the ocean. It was such a peaceful way to start the day.

Off the Beaten Path

There are a lot of big main tourist spots you should check out while you are in Japan like Miyajima, Tokyo, and Kyoto. But, there are plenty of small, out-of-the-way places that are a lot of fun as well. It always amazes me how deserted some of these places are. For example, we were the only ones at the campsite we stayed at and it was the middle of summer.

It was also an incredibly bonding experience to go exploring with a small group of friends. I still think this is one of my best experiences in Japan for that reason. Traveling by yourself has its merits but it can be a lot of fun to explore these hidden corners together.

The island culture is also really fun. They might not have hula dancers or luaus, but everyone on the island is incredibly friendly and helpful. At one moment we had gotten lost and stopped by a house to ask for directions. The man not only explained where to go, but then hopped in his car and showed us where to go. Really friendly, nice people and good seafood, too.

Go Off the Beaten Path

Have you ever been off the beaten path in Japan? What was a cool ‘secret’ place that you went to? Let us know in the comments below.

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