Adam and I went on a road trip to Wakayama, Mie, and a little of Aichi and Shizuoka.
On the first night we stealth camped at a rest area. The next morning we packed up and went to a town called Owase in southern Mie. There is a place in Owase that serves all-you-can-eat buffet lunches. The chefs are local ladies who pool their resources to give you a taste of the local cuisine. If you're in the area, the food is tasty, the price is reasonable, the cooks are friendly, and there's a bath house next door should you want to bathe.
On the second night we headed down to Shionomisaki, the southernmost point in Honshu. One goal was to watch the sun set over the ocean, but it was slightly cloudy so we didn't get the money photographs. Still a nice sunset. Adam reserved a room at Misaki Lodge. The hotel and hostel served a giant dinner with lots of fish. I like fish, and Wakayama and Mie are famous for it, so I was happy.
Wakayama is home to a ridiculous number of shrines. In the south, where we were, are the Kumano shrines. There's a hiking trail and pilgrimage route that we didn't do, seeing as we aren't practicing Shintoism, and anyway it's December so who would want to walk through the mountains for days on end when it might rain and it's cold even without the rain, and in lieu of that we just drove to some of the larger shrines to see what they look like. One of them, the Kumano Nachi Taisha, is up in the mountains near a large waterfall. Hats off to whoever decided to build that shrine there.
The religious site of Oyunohara houses a giant torii. It's said to be the largest torii in the world, but you know how these things are. Everyone wants to have the largest Buddha, or the largest standing Buddha, or the largest wooden Buddha, or the largest torii. Maybe it's not the largest in the world, but then again, I've never seen a bigger one. Anyway, it's fucking huge. They were setting up for some major event presumably scheduled for early January. We don't like the major events, at least not when traveling by car. Better to get there a few days in advance before the roads get clogged up.
Ise Grand Shrine is a top religious site in Japan. It's a nice place, though I didn't feel anything especially mystical when visiting. There's a large forested area with paths through it and wooden shrine buildings. Some of the places are closed unless you "donate" a bunch of money. Other places are closed unless you're a priest or in the royal family. Most of the complex is open for your viewing pleasure. We walked around and enjoyed the scenery. This site is similar to Meiji Jingu in Tokyo, except it's much larger and the buildings are newer. Apparently they tear down the temple buildings and reconstruct them every twenty years. I don't know why.
On the way back, I dropped off Adam at a stop on the shinkansen so he could return to Tokyo early. Then I drove to the Izu Peninsula, slept at a rest area, went to a bath house, and drove the Izu Skyline and Hakone Skyline, and continued on back to Tokyo.
Good company, food, sites, weather, and roads. A nice start to winter vacation.
Happy New Year's!