Soma-San Backpacking in Japan – Part 8: Sweltering heat in the San’in region

After visiting Himeji and Shikoku, Soma continued his trip and was headed towards Tottori. Thanks to the new friends he met during his trip and the destinations he went to, sweltering heat and more and more new adventures awaited him. But first, let’s see how he spent the night in Fukuchiyama ….

Kakehashi: You spent the night under the bridge. How did you sleep and wake up?

Soma: Unfortunately, I woke up to the fact that it was raining heavily, and my tent was leaking thus I gathered everything quickly and ran under the bridge from the riverbank. I put my bag on my back, and I picked up my tent as it was by its top and carried it like that. This was a mistake because I opened a box of chocolate biscuits for dinner the previous night, and I did not put it back into its container thus during the 50 meters run, the leftover got spilt and everything got covered with chocolate due to the rain leaking into my tent. While I was listening to Schubert’s Ave Marie performed by Pavarotti (this was matching my mood at that time), I was wiping my tent clean by using one of my pair of socks under the bridge while it was still raining heavily. It was an experience…


Kakehashi: Your next destination was Tottori. Because you met many more new people while hitchhiking, you had many more new adventures too. Please, tell us more about these!

Soma: It was early evening, and I walked to the main road, and I started hitchhiking. After a few minutes Hajime-san and his wife stopped for me and offered a ride. She/he spoke English very well, so we had a very interesting and good conversation. She/he said that she/he is working as a bamboo-artist. I thought she/he meant shakuhachi (bamboo flute), but she/he did not mean that. At the beginning, she/he started drilling bamboos and installing lights inside them to illuminate them,  as a hobby. With the increasing demand, it became her/his full-time job. Nowadays, she/he has many employees and business is doing well. They are really nice, and it is worth checking them out at:


They told me that they were going to a small festival and invited me to join them. There was a “picnic in May” type of event in the parking lot of a shopping center, where I got introduced to their friends, invited me to have a meal and drink with them, while they played BINGO and the children were playing too. One of their friends made some Soba pasta (it is a type of pasta made of buckwheat)  for Emperor Akihito (since then he stepped down from the thrown) a few years ago which is a great honor.

By the end of the festival, we became so good friends that they offered me to be driven to Tottori that evening. As a side note let me state that they came here from Fukuchiyama only for the festival, which is like 50 kms round trip, but because of me, they drove an additional 200 kms so they can take me to Tottori….


On the way, we stopped in a tiny, small village called Yumura. This place is famous for its thermal water which is 98 Celsius hot and people cook on the streets in designated areas. The weather was nice, and the sky was clear around 9-10 p.m., there was not even one cloud on the sky. At this was happening in the middle of Japan, between the mountains. Under such ideal circumstances, we cooked our eggs and hot dogs by putting them into small fabrics bags and hanging them into the steaming creek.  Local people cook everything in these creeks, let it be potato or canned food, and many more.


I thought it could not get any better, but Hajime-san told me that a friend of his is a manager at a local famous bathing hotel, and if I like the idea, we could stop by and take a bath. I did not have to be offered twice. A private hotel, with a private onsen, free. This – after the Gojo experience – was a real onsen (the other one was more like a communal bath). We headed to Tottori freshly bathed and with full tummy, where we arrived at midnight. They even gave me a small gift too, which will get a meaning later.

I am in good friendship with Hajime-san and his wife ever since. They are kind, nice, and cool people who helped me gain lots of magnificent memories. I am very  grateful to them for it!

Yumura-onsen, the small holes, where you can hang your food to cook , Asanoya-ryokan traditional hotel), and Hajime-san, his girlfriend, and one of his colleague


Kakehashi: If I know it right, your first night was very eventful and exciting.

Soma: Well, yes you are right. It was. I was dropped off at the parking lot of the sand dunes (a local attraction). I would have been too conspicuous if I stayed there, therefore I set up my tent 100 meters away from the parking lot, in a hidden corner which had hard asphalt covering. I went to sleep, but after like 5 minutes I heard some weird noises from the nearby bushes. I started yelling “Get away from here and leave me alone” in all the languages of the world, and then went back to sleep. After a short while I heard the noises again, so I sat up and peeked through the screen. Approximately 10 pairs of eyes looked at me. I did not know what kind of animal they were; I only knew that my pulse was 200. I grabbed my umbrella in one hand, my knife in the other hand, and I was waiting if they will attack or not. I yelled once more, at this time only in Hungarian, pretty lengthy and cursive. They could have been fox, bear, wolf, racoon, or  boar, but I was not ready to fight any of them. After they took away, I collected my belongings and ran up to the parking lot and I spent the night rather there than ….

Tottori sand dunes, walking on the famous beach of Izumo, The two face of Bentenjima (day & sunset



Kakehashi: How did you get from Tottori to Izumo?

Soma: The following day I walked to the dunes, which reminded me to the Tatuin. It was created from the stream deposit of the River Sendai and the sand of the Japan Sea and is constantly changing due to the wind. It was terribly hot, and stupid me; I was bare foot because I did not want my shoes get sandy. (I did not have any unhurt piece of skin on my sole). I must mention that Japanese people are very patient. They are capable and willing to work for 12 hours in 40 Celsius degrees wearing a shirt and a jacket if that is the rule. But the moment when they get into a situation like that by accident, they vocalize their thoughts, yet in a funny, amusing way. For example, an onsen is 50-60 Celsius for them. While for us (Hungarians or foreigners), it is like 35 Celsius.  When they are sitting and soaking themselves in this hot water, in every second they yell „Atsui!” = very hot. Walking in the hot sand of the dunes, like the locals, every tourist yelled an “Atsui” in every 30 seconds. It is like a local tradition. If I do not say it continuously, nobody would know and believe me that I am burning under the sun. Such is life.


Because I was tired, I did not leave until the day after (most likely because of the long day and limited  time to sleep). Even with 3 rides I only got halfway from Tottori, so I spent the following night in the parking lot by the main road, of the village called Yasugi. By this time, I was so tired mentally that I spent the following two nights here. I did not do anything, except sat, relaxed, and watched TV. To simply put it, I did not have the moral strength to get up, start walking, putting my backpack on my back and move on. The second night, a truck driver saw me being alone and bored, so offered a can of beer to me. In exchange for that I offered a konbinis natto (fermented bean which is either loved or hated). After spending two nights here, young girls offered me a ride and dropped me of by the train station of Izumo.


Kakehashi: Why was Izumo an important destination for you?

Soma: Izumo is one of the most ancient and most important Shinto sacred center, together with Ise. So, it was obvious for me, that I wanted to visit it. I started walking in the sweltering heat from the train station. It was really “Atsui”. I stopped to take a rest and the chill for a bit at a hypermarket. It is worth to mention that Japanese people set the air conditioner in every building to 16 Celsius, so you burn to death while outside, and freeze to death inside. But at that moment, it felt great, and it was the cheapest place during my entire travel, so I bought plenty of food for the coming days. While I was sitting there, a man started a conversation with me. He was interested in “my story”, and he said that while I am there, if I need anything just let him know.

I got on the road again and got lost twice on my way (I only had access to the internet and the map application while in the range of the free Wi-Fi of the stores). So, I spent the night in the parking lot of a konbini. This was the time when I overcame my fear of being seen or caught sleeping in my tent. Most likely the first night in Tottori had a deep impression on me….


The next day I got lost again (congrats to myself!), so after reaching the sea, I walked on the shore, and I admired the Bentejima torii with the sun setting down in the back, which was built on a single rock mass.

The next morning it was extremely „Atsui”, by 8 o’clock my state of matter became liquid, and literally I flowed out of my tent. While I was eating my breakfast, I saw student having PE (physical education) class. Teachers my age were teaching volleyball. In exchange for the complimentary morning entertainment, I gave them a bag of energy candy which they accepted with honor. Like Kamakura, I took a refreshing wake-up bath in the water. It is interesting that the water of the Japan Sea is lukewarm or even warm, compared to the Setonaikai or the Pacific Ocean.



Kakehashi: What kind of impressions did Izumo Taisha have on you?

Soma: It was very beautiful, and with the enormous rice bass-mat it is one of a kind. It was built by using a unique style (taisha-zukuri), and according to the ancient chronicles (Kojiki) It was the tallest building of Japan.

Izumo Taisha was given to Okuninushi God by Amaterasu Goddess (the ancestor off all Japanese emperors) out of gratitude for Japan. Izumo is the empire of the Gods, and the land of mythologies. Somehow, compared to Ise, it seemed to be much smaller, with fewer buildings, therefore it did not make such a great impression. During my trip when asked, both Japanese and foreign nationals agreed with me. But still, I think it worth that I visited.

The two special feature of Izumo taisha, the zukkuri style and the huge rope


I knew that I would have to walk a very long way as the entrance to the highway which would take me to Hiroshima was 20-30 kms away from here. It was sooooo “atsuiiiii” again, that I stopped at the same shopping center where I took a rest on my way here and ran into the same guy. I spent that night in the city, in the parking lot of a konbini. The next morning, I woke up in my polyester tent and my state of matter was gel.  It was like 40 Celsius, I did not have too much energy to walk. But somehow I still managed to get to the entrance of the highway. But by the time I got there, I did not feel like hitchhiking, so I spent the night next to the highway.

Maybe the most gorgeous sunset until my trip, with Izumo in the background


I could feel it in my bones that I have been in Japan almost for a month already. I heard it on the news that this was the hottest and driest week in Japan during that summer. I was travelling alone, my bag was heavy, I could not get enough sleep. I was always on the move like the nomads, so I was wearing off mentally. I had to force myself every day to get up and move. And I still had a full month ahead of me …..


In the next part, I will report from Hiroshima, and while travelling there I had a very touching experience, another amok hitchhiking, and a surrealistic night. 


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