Aoshima

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Japanland’s cities are great fun to explore, but there’s only so many skyscrapers and karaoke bars I can see before feeling the need to get the hell out of the big smoke. So I packed my kimono and caught the bus over to the beach village of Aoshima, on the eastern coast of Kyushu. And I’m glad I did, because this place is wonderful.

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I was hoping to spend a few days on the sand doing nothing, but I’ve been smashed by the Weather Gods for the past month and so wasn’t surprised when it started bucketing down. I’m staying in a traditional house with paper walls and I thought the fuckin’ thing was going to get washed away. I figured I could either hang around and wait to drown with the handsome Asians I’m sharing my room with, or grab a feminine hygiene product umbrella and head out into the Big Wet. So that’s what I did.

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Despite the atrocious weather, Aoshima truly won me over. It’s not far outside of Miyazaki, a city of 500,000 people, but offers the old school Japanese experience I’ve been looking for. There’s a cluster of ornamental houses with funny roofs and pushbikes by the front doors, a fishing harbour and beach that has probably looked more inviting at other times. I just walked around, listening to the sounds of birds and neighbours chatting, while the rain continued to fall. It has an atmosphere and feeling to it that I’ve not experienced anywhere else, and I love the place.

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There’s a hill at the south of the town with a Buddhist shrine at the top, so I climbed up there. Of course, I didn’t take the proper path, I took one that had been closed due to storm damage. I had to clamber over fallen trees and past mudslides, but the view from the top made it all worthwhile. Through the drizzle I could see epic mountains, temples and other mysterious sites. Being in Aoshima is like being on another planet – it’s great!

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