Wakayama Photo Journal: Cycling the Coast

This blog is mostly photos from our week of cycling around the coast of Japan’s Wakayama district. It was (and still is) typhoon season in the Central Pacific, so we got to see some wild weather. We camped every night, and rode every day. These are the highlights.

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cycling wakayama, japan

Just south of Osaka is a train station called Kishi. Here, the Japanese have decided to make a cat-themed railway station.

cycling wakayama, japan

And the exterior isn’t the only thing that’s cat-themed. They’ve gone a little bit off the rails (sorry) and actually inaugurated a real cat as the official station master. The black, white and orange furball that everyone is taking photos of is ‘Nitama’, station master at Kishi Station. She succeeded the original stationmaster ‘Tama’ in 2015. Tama is now buried in a nearby Shinto cat shrine.

cycling wakayama, japan

Here’s our photo of Nitama. She was chosen to be stationmaster from a long list of candidates, and had to successfully graduate from cat stationmaster training school. The school ensured that she’d get along with humans, and be comfortable wearing the stationmasters hat.

cycling wakayama, japan

The original Tama in full regalia.

cycling wakayama, japan

My personal favourite part of this poster is the sentence at the bottom: ‘Technical electron beam object.’

There are plenty of articles elaborating about Nitama the stationmaster cat. Here’s a good one.

cycling wakayama, japan

Moving on from cats, we found this spider. The spider was the self-proclaimed station master of the two metal poles it hung between. During our brief interview, the spider was confident that very few people would disagree with its status.

cycling wakayama, japan

It actually took a couple of days to reach the nice part of the coast; the cycle before that was mostly towns and ugly industrial suburbs.

cycling wakayama, japan

This is a point where the sea flows in two different directions. The waves slam against each other in the centre.

cycling wakayama, japan

A sign here proclaimed this area as ‘The mysterious landscape formed by magma.’ It’s called the Hashigui-iwa Rock, and the jumble of rocks in front were caused by a Tsunami throwing them there. I’m not entirely sure what’s so mysterious about it.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

Japan and its glorious food! Here we have handmade udon with meatballs and condiments. “You’re lucky,” the woman told us when we went to pay, “We have now run out of handmade noodles.” The people lining up outside would be disappointed.

cycling wakayama, japan

Sashimi and tempura.

cycling wakayama, japan

The hawks we fell in love with in this post are all over Japan’s coast. We now see them almost every day.

cycling wakayama, japan

This island supposedly resembled a fish. Look! An eye-hole!

cycling wakayama, japan

Dali’s younger years.

cycling wakayama, japan

This guy (or girl, probably) sat on the window outside a convenience store and watched us eat. Probably trying to work out how to eat us.

cycling wakayama, japan

The most beautiful part of the Wakayama region was the Kumano Kodo area. This was just one of the many small fishing towns we cycled through.

cycling wakayama, japan

We stopped at the end of a mossy pedestrian tunnel, and these fearless pigeons waddled over to us.

cycling wakayama, japan

A huge crane fly that could barely hold its own weight on those ridiculously small wings.

cycling wakayama, japan

We stopped at a local bike/surfing shop to buy some heavy duty chain oil (for all the rain). The owner gave us this bag of caramels for the journey.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

This is the Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine. It was similar to Kyoto’s famous ‘red gate’ shrine, but without thirty-thousand tourists forming a sea of sweaty horror. Three gods are enshrined here, and people come to pray and offer gratitude to them. The 46th emperor of Japan proclaimed this as, “The most sacred shrine in Japan.” Hardly anybody was around.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

The fact that this rock looked a little bit like a lion wasn’t lost on the locals. I took this photo over the road from a signposted lookout.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

This was probably one of our weirdest campsites. The heavy rocks were needed to keep the pegs in place in the sand. I took this photo by standing on top of an anti-tsunami wall. Tsunami warnings were everywhere in this region, so we were half-paranoid the whole time. “If an earthquake lasts more that one minute, get to higher ground,” said a multitude of signs in multiple languages. I can imagine staring at my watch calmly during an earthquake and thinking, “46 seconds? Nothing to worry about,” before returning to sleep.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

As you may have noticed in the last photo, the Kumano Kodo area contains a variety of world heritage pilgrimage routes. This steep mossy incline was just one of many entrances. Much more info about the walks can be found here.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

These three dudes all started sharing a crab lunch on the road. We would regularly have to swerve or slow down to avoid crabs as the ran over the roads. They seem to like tunnels a lot.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

This orange fungus was up a mountain we climbed. It made Caroline giggle a lot.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

This sign pointed to a completely overgrown trail that led down to a lighthouse. You would need a machete and some strong determination to follow it now.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

A little town we reached contained a beautiful shrine covered in moss set between enormous trees.

cycling wakayama, japan

Me for scale.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

Detail of a rock wall at the mossy shrine.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

This was a tunnel at the top of a particularly long mountain climb. It signified the end of the climb, and a wonderfully long downhill cruise to the first town in many hours. We felt a great sense of accomplishment after this particular tunnel.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

Caroline has switched from crocheting dumpling kittys to coasters. Here is her first set.

cycling wakayama, japan

The manhole covers still change depending on the area. Here we can see the King of Shrimp summoning his minions Fantasia-stlye.

cycling wakayama, japan

We’re still taking public baths. This one had the best possible kind of waiting area.

cycling wakayama, japan

cycling wakayama, japan

Our camera is not so good at night shots, but here is the tent with the Autumn moon. We were right in the middle of Tsukimi, the ‘moon viewing festival’, which gives people a good excuse to have fireworks and eat mochi.

After our time cycling in Wakayama, we took a ferry from Toba to Irago. We cycled for three days, but the typhoons became to much for us to bear. I’m typing this from our first hotel in one month, and I have to say: it is wonderful. Shower? Check. Bed? Check. Privacy? Check. Not having to set up a soggy tent in some random park? Check.

Bliss.

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Just an ordinary train

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