Today, Saturday, September 10, is exactly 4 weeks since we got on the plane and left America. We are headed to a beach called Shirahama this morning. It is a resort town located on the south coast of Wakayama Prefecture, about 2 hours and 30 minutes away from Minoh. This is going to be a feet to the fire, 2.5 hour drive down the coast for John! We are going with four other families in a caravan of four cars. Avalon is going to ride in her friend Haruna’s car. Before leaving our meeting place we carefully exchanged Google Map information, contact numbers, filled up the gas tanks and put our caravan in order. We are second in the caravan line up. John figures it’s going to be okay as long as we are following other cars.
Once we take off we’re headed through the city, which is going to be the hardest part of this long drive. Suddenly, in order to get on the highway on ramp we have to careen across 4 lanes of traffic as quickly as possible! John is yelling, “Be quiet everyone!” and we’re trying to get across traffic and figure out what lane our lead car is going in. We made it. But we’re not long on the highway when a big blue tarp is floating around in our lane. Art runs over it. We swerve around it and only run over it a little bit. But Mariah, driving behind us, gets the tarp stuck on her front end.
A few minutes later we have a telephone chain going and Mariah wants to pull off to the side of this very busy highway to get the tarp off her front end. So the four cars all pull over in the left hand emergency lane and pull that blue thing off. Our friend Bill comes back to our car to tell us that now we are headed to the Kinki Expressway and we have to cross all the lanes to get in the far right lane. Now the challenge is to get back on the road with the cars driving past at full speed. Art, our lead car is pulling away. Oh no! He’s leaving without Bill! Bill is running back to the car! Trucks are blaring their horns! We pull away and now we’re stuck in a triangle between an intersection of highways. We somehow all get out of the left hand emergency lane and back at full speed in the far right lane. That was too crazy!
When we are about an hour into the drive we pass Kansai International Airport. During some of the drive John is trying to get our boys in the back seat to put their electronics down and look at the scenery. Halyard tries to do this a few times. But he’s multi-tasking so it’s difficult. Halyard is simultaneously talking via face time to his friend Gigi who lives in Panama City, Panama (!) and playing the game Monster Hunter on his 3DS and having a gaming conversation with Kaiyo and trying to look at scenery. Kaiyo is listening to music on his phone and looking out the window. Avalon is calling me on the phone from two cars behind us and asking me, how much longer is this drive? Like I know!
Japan has lots of toll roads so it’s expensive to drive anywhere of significance. I guess that’s like driving across Florida, but we don’t have a ton of tolls in California so we’re not used to it. We stopped at 5 toll booths in the round trip. Our total tolls were 8580 yen! Add in gas and parking and it was about $120 USD to drive to the beach today.
Shirahama is a beautiful beach with white sand. In fact the name Shirahama means white beach. In the late 80s city officials were worried about development causing too much beach erosion and so they had more sand brought over from Perth, Australia. The water here is warm and there isn’t much in the way of waves. The kids and John all played chicken in the water and swam around. We stayed there for nearly 6 hours. It was worth the drive.
For our JG friends, here is a photo of Japanese lifeguards…! And I found another awesome manhole cover in a parking lot at Shirahama.
On the way home we stopped at a very large and well known fish market called Tore Tore Ichiba. It has a gigantic parking lot so you know this place is very popular. We ended up buying Japanese salmon and the fish man explicitly told us this was not sushi grade salmon so don’t use it for sushi!
And now… thoughts from Avalon:
Hi! And yes, Haruna and I, went to the beach, it was sooooo fun, it felt like America!!!! We got to play in a park, we also did chicken fights, and we also had a yummy yummy yummy yummy lunch. Anyway, so we played in the water for most of the time, but also we did get out of the water, to go and play in a park really near by. The park had a really cool octopus play structure thing. Also there was an area that was called a ” beach play,’’ to me it makes no sense. But it might make sense to you! So we played,” Lava Monster.’’ And then Haruna disappeared! I was really confused. When I came back to where we set up I saw Haruna in the water!! I was so relieved.
It was a long day in the hot sun. Halyard fell asleep in a beach chair! Avalon and Kaiyo fell asleep in the car. Halyard passed out in the car too. We got home without incident at 9:30pm (21:30)!