Day 7 - The Japan Sea coast and return drive to Yokohama

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Today’s return drive was all about the weather!  We decided to head east along the coast road of the Japan Sea before turning south and joining the route we had used previously from Yokohama. For the first hour or so we were driving through industrial and suburban Japan, which is surprisingly ugly!  Yes, the old-style farmhouses on the neat farmlands were charming, but modern Japanese housing was not.  Perhaps the constant rain increased our sense of gloom in this grey landscape? Eventually we got to see the sea in a few brief moments when the rain stopped, so I do not have too many photos at all for this day of our adventure.

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As soon as we spotted a lay-by, we pulled over just in case there was a ‘view’.  You can see below that the road hugs the cliff face and we spent quite some time driving through tunnels.  At this stop, we just managed to take some photos before the rain oured down again.

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Here is the reason for the lay-by; a statue which is supposed to protect drivers on this perilous journey.

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And here is my Rothko-inspired photo:

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We pulled over further along the road (because we could!), but stayed in the car.  This was the entrance to the Oyashirazu Geopark, which is probably a great coastal walk on a sunny day.  The building of this highway had clearly been a challenge, and travel beforehand was quite dangerous. 

Our next stop was suitably grim, but look closely and you can see the mountains in the far distance.

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Lunch today was a true pitstop at a service station, frequently by truckers and travellers alike. Having selected and paid for our food using a vending machine, the cook then russled up a hot plate of noodles or rice which went down very well.  There should have been a view from this service station, but we could not find anything of interest and the howling gale threw us back into the car. This was not one of the best moments on the trip!  We had another stop later and again it poured and poured with rain; shame as the view there looked like it might be of interest. In contrast to the first service station, this one was a huge complex with shops and an entertainment building. So we did what we did most days on this trip, and had an ice-cream; mine was pumpkin flavoured and very nice indeed!

Because of all the rain, the true landscape to enjoy today was the sky.  The clouds were stunning, especially as the sun was setting.  And, I saw the best full rainbow I have ever seen!  I was driving so could not take any photos, so pulled over and used my camera phone for this photo below.  This photo does not show the rainbow in its full glory, but serves as a reminder for me of the experience.

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As we had taken rather longer on this diversion than expected, we sped back on the expressway to return the car just two minutes before the 8 pm deadline!  We didn’t want to have to get up the next day to return the car before 10 am, so accepted that we would have to pay a bit extra for not filling up the petrol tank, but balanced this against not having to pay for overnight parking. However, the carhire guy insisted we go find a garage to fill up the tank.  The system for getting petrol out of the pumps was different from that at previous petrol stations, so after looking helpless for a few minutes, a guy came out and showed us which buttons to press. I think that getting petrol turned out to be the most challenging part of driving in Japan, but thankfully someone always came to our rescue. 


Finally everything was done and we were safely back home in Yokohama, ready for some yakatori and beers after a drive which started at 9 am and finished at 8 pm. Like many of the bars in the Motomachi district, we found ourselves in a small bar with a friendly atmosphere, and probably room for no more than 20 persons. A group of young boisterous people came in, some in strange costumes (it was the evening before Halloween). We used Google Translate to ask what was the occasion, and it turned out to be this young lady’s birthday. She took a shine to Lawrence so he bought her a bottle of beer, and one for himself to toast her, but the waiter gave both bottles to the girl instead!  Anyway, it was good to be able to return the hospitality of the guys we’d met in Ainokura, and made the perfect end to an otherwise rather trying day.

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© Helen Gray 2019