Three more days

…of cycling, that is. They shouldn’t be particularly long days, either. This is good; both I and the bike are feeling the crazy pace. The weather has mostly cleared up for a change. During the first three days after I left Kyoto, the sun came out for an hour and a half, just as I was visiting the Tottori sand dunes, and evidently just for me, since on the horizon there were rainclouds on every side.

Back in second-year Japanese, we were placed in groups and each group had to talk to a Japanese tourist visiting LA. Since their English was about as good as our Japanese, these conversations ended up split roughly halfway between the two languages. In the course of ours, we asked her if she had visited the desert, sabaku. She said that indeed, she had visited it today and drank coffee. Confusion ensued until we understood that she thought we were talking about dessert and Starbucks. Then she said that she hadn’t visited the desert, but that Japan had its own small desert, in Tottori.

The sand dunes were located just outside the city of Tottori, written “bird-hunting.” The as-always bilingual road signs all pointed to Tottori Sand Dune. I decided this was just the usual Japanese ignorance of plurals. I arrived on the beach, went for a symbolic swim in the Sea of Japan — the sea was warm enough, but the air wasn’t. Then I walked along the beach. Then I saw a dune.

It had several tracks leading down, or up as it may be, and I went up, trying to step in the existing footprints. Finally I was on top, where I could see that there really was only one dune. Well, one and a half. Four, if you’re being really generous. Of these, the one I was standing on was the lowest and the least tracked. The highest had about ten tourists standing on top, with more tracking back and forth from a nearby parking lot. So this was the Great Japanese Desert.

I’ve seen bigger sand dunes, of course. These, though, are impressive in how they rise out of nothing. On one side there’s a forest of scraggly pines, on the other the city of Tottori. Besides the much whiter sand of the beach, there’s no sand anywhere else. Unfortunately, it was after five by the time I got to the museum, so I couldn’t find out how they’d formed.

There are other things I could say about the past few days, but I’m tired. Yesterday I panicked for a while because my left ankle was in pain, red and swollen, but I figured out eventually how to bike correctly without bothering it. I panicked again when it was still swollen and sensitive this morning, but I decided to go forward carefully and this seems to have worked, it’s better now.

Now I’m in Shimonoseki (Downstream Barrier) at the other end of Honshu. Tomorrow I cross over to Kyushu.


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