justin․searls․co

Ever go to a place and think, "I should tell other people about this place?" or, "I should save this location so I can find it later." Well, I do. So I started logging the spots I visit. Below you'll find a global map of the pins I've dropped so far, as well as a feed of all my latest spots.

(Hint: because the global map contains a lot of closely-clustered pins, you may need to zoom in significantly to select individual spots. Try going full screen!)


Ohmicho Fish Market (近江町市場)

I first visited Kanazawa's incredible fish market last year, including this silly video about my hunt for a fresh fish bowl (kaisen-don):

Well I came back today with the intention of getting there early enough to visit the shop I'd originally intended to go to. Last year it was sold out by the time I got there (noon?) and when I told the chef the story this morning he congratulated me on coming back for a "revenge dish".

So here it is, a crab rice bowl (kani-don):

Would recommend! 🦀

Tottori Sand Dunes

So basically there's a large natural sand dune in the least populated prefecture of Japan, Tottori.

As someone who grew up enjoying Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes, I agreed to visit them after the lady seated next to me at the SoftBank SeaHawks baseball game suggested I go visit after Matsue.

Well, I did!

Here's to two more weeks of sand in my shoes I can never quite clean out.

Lake Shinji Sunset Spot

Aaron insisted that while I was in Matsue, I visit its renowned sunset spot in a park along the eastern shore of Lake Shinji.

I'm not a huge sunrise/sunset person, but what else was I going to be doing at 7:12pm on a Thursday? So I walked down and checked it out:

It was very pretty. If you're a fan of the life-giving fusion power generator that is Sol, you'd probably dig this view.

Matsue Castle

The first overnight stop on my tour of the north side of Honshu was Matsue. As its castle is among a handful of original castles to survive in Japan (similar to my adopted hometown of Hikone), I felt obligated to drop in and scope out the joint.

And I'm glad I did! Seriously, this is one of the most beautiful and well-maintained castles I've visited in Japan. Really glad I came.

Zamami Island

So Aaron and I spent a couple days touring Okinawa after RubyKaigi 2024 wrapped. In particular, we were both eager to escape the urban environments of Naha on the main island, so we hopped on the fastest ferry out of town, the Queen Zamami (whose reservation website evokes some real Angelfire nostalgia).

Once you get there, you probably want to rent a bike or an electronic scooter (referred to as kickboards here) to get around the island, because the island's a bit too large to comfortably walk around—especially on a warm day in direct sunlight. To the east and west are beautiful beaches—though we both preferred the tranquil blue waters of Furuzami beach. On every corner of the island, there sits an observation deck (希望台) atop the nearest mountain, and they offer some truly breathtaking views.

Speaking of, here are some of those views:

I also cut a quick one-minute video of the island, for your audiovisual enjoyment:

Anyway, if you're ever on Okinawa's main island, you really should save a day to ferry out and back to Zamami. Definitely worth seeing. 🏝️

Hotel Collective

Overall, I'm not sure that Naha is my cup of tea, but if you're going to visit Okinawa, Hotel Collective is a pretty phenomenal hotel compared to the surrounding options.

Kawakyu Tonkatsu

We had a brief stop in Kagoshima, so we took full advantage to get ourselves some Kurobuta (黒豚) pork. The pork is like "black angus" in that despite having "black" in the name, it is still the just-barely-cooked-enough-to-be-safe pink color we know and love.

Antonio

This place had a ludicrous happy hour deal, essentially boiling down to $2 whisky highballs and lemon sours, sub-$2 for five grilled homemade gyoza, and just a wee bit over $2 for a draft beer.

Naturally they were as good as any gyoza I've had in my life.

Here is my Tabelog check-in

Kumamoto Castle

I’ve done a lot of castles in Japan, but after the 2016 earthquake, I really had no idea what to expect from Kumamoto-jo. The degree to which the restoration project has seemingly made the castle more accessible to the general public is really impressive.

You can tell something is up when you walk the massive sky bridge from the castle town to the structure itself. When you enter the castle, the amount of modern infrastructure present—from steel beams supporting the stonework to drywall and air conditioning—is a little overwhelming. All-in-all, it’s a really cool 2-3 hour diversion, but prepare for a lot of walking!

Somuri

Yoshoku is often mistaken for simply meaning "Western food" in Japan, but it's really it's own genre, with its own distinct vibe and standard menu. Walking into a great yoshoku place feels like entering an alternate Western history, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, this place has a great ハンバーグ(hamburger steak), which is not to be confused with a ハンバーガー(hamburger sandwich).

See my Tabelog check-in here.

Hyotan Onsen

We went here after braving Beppu’s seven hells, and it was a good way to wash off all the kitsch. The baths are straightforward but well-designed, particularly the 打たせ waterfall baths on the men’s side (with narrow streams falling 20 feet or so for extra pressure)

The Seven Hells of Beppu

This place is kitschy and tourist-trappy and possibly worth a visit anyway—at least if you’re already in Beppu. It’s a 30 minute bus ride from the city center, but its over-the-top hot springs are pretty amazing.

But once I’d looked at them I was pretty much ready to go.

Uwajima Ferry

Taking ferries in Japan is an entertaining diversion, especially as an American who didn’t grow up around islands. We really enjoyed this three hour excursion as we traveled from one onsen town in Shikoku (Matsuyama) to another one in Kyushu (Beppu).

Also fun was the random Suzume film propwork created to promote the port’s appearance as the main character traveled to Ehime.

Dogo onsen

Famed as the oldest onsen (hot springs) bath in Japan, it’s relatively tiny and cramped by today’s standards, but it was cool to check it off the bucket list. The little onsen town that’s grown up around this main building were definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away”, as this onsen was apparently among their artistic inspirations.

If you go, I'd recommend staying where we did, at Dogokan (道後館) hotel.