Friday, March 7, 2014

Weekend Warrior: A Travel-holic's Life in rural Japan

Some may be wondering how I spend my weekends in a town of 3,000 people in the foothills of rural Japan. The short answer is: I don’t. Nearly every weekend I commute by car, bus, train, or plane to cities all over Japan.

If I am staying within Shimane prefecture, I usually drive my car out somewhere on Saturday or Sunday. Getting anywhere takes a minimum of 40 minutes to the nearest place that can be called a city (Oda), an hour to most other places (Hamada, Gotsu), and the farthest areas of interest from my town are about 2 hours away (Masuda, Izumo, Matsue). Typically I can get by with just a day trip, but sometimes I will stay overnight. Since I know so many people within the prefecture, I can usually find someone’s house to stay at, so I don’t have to drop money on a hotel. So far in Shimane, I have been to Ohnan, Oda, Gotsu, Hamada, Masuda, Izumo, and Matsue.

If I am traveling outside of the prefecture, but staying in Japan, things get more complicated. On Friday I finish work at 4:00 pm, then I board a 5:00 pm bus, and arrive at Hiroshima station two hours later. From there I can go anywhere in Japan by bullet train. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes to Osaka or Fukuoka, and about four hours to Tokyo. So far I have traveled to these cities outside Shimane:
Hiroshima (x8), Osaka (x3), Tokyo (x3), Kyoto (x2), Fukuoka (x2), Shimonoseki, Nagasaki, Onomichi, and Nagoya.

If I am traveling abroad (not Japan), then things become even more interesting. The closest airport to my house is Izumo Airport, but since it is not an international airport, and has very few flights, it really doesn’t serve my interest. Hiroshima Airport is the second closest, but flying in or out of that airport is cost prohibitive. Usually I fly out of Kansai Airport in Osaka. This means I have to take a two hour bus to Hiroshima station, then a one hour and twenty minute bullet train to Osaka, then a one hour local train to the airport. A total commute of just under five hours. By plane, I have gone to Taipei, Taiwan, and soon I will visit Seoul, Korea.

So goes the life of an urbanite and travelholic in rural Japan.

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