A continent of crazy condensed into an archipelago.
Quirky Japan: The Page of Awesome
There are two types of travelers in Japan: Stephen Kings and Ira Levins. Stephen King travelers are like Stephen King books, they do popular things and the things they do are reliably entertaining. Ira Levin travelers on the other hand do less popular things but visit places so awesome, so crazy, so out there that they blow the average Lonely Planet authors' minds. This is a page of the Ira Levins、 the ones seeking out the peculiarities of Japan and Japanese culture.
- Wonder Castle, Yokote - An aluminum castle filled with optical illusions, namahage power slides, and ball pits. Home to the infamous "Little-Big Room," "Side-ways Room," and the "OMG! We Are Falling from The Sky Room."
- Magnet Mountain Kuromata, Oyu, Kazuno - Hard to find and harder to detect any signs of magnetism. Legend says that the mountain (technically a hill) is magnetic and is actually a pyramid covered with a thick layer of soil and trees. Go here to say you sort of walked on a pyramid. There has also been rumors of dungeons carved into the mountain with relief carvings that resemble Mayan ruins. (this was however said by a middle aged man with thinning hair, many missing teeth, a lazy eye, and a bad smoking/compulsive lying habit.
- Oyu Jomon Rock Circles, Oyu, Kazuno - Ruins of the ancient people of Japan. The Mountain Dew vending machine here does not work.
- Ogata Fuji, Ōgata Village - The lowest mountain in Japan. It reigns high above the surrounding vicinity at a majestic zero meters above sea level.
- Sandcraft in Mitane, Hachiryu, Mitane - This event takes place during the later half of July on a Saturday and Sunday. There are intricate sand sculptures, melon eating contests, and a BATHING SUIT CONTEST.
Quirky Everywhere Else in Japan
A quick note... do you like castles? If you do here is a website with A LOT of good info on Castles all over the country. Some are quirkier than others. See http://www.japanese-castle-explorer.com.
- Tomb of Jesus, Shingo Village, Aomori - To find out the full story, visit this little park in Central Aomori. Walk the Jesus Meditation trail, and check ou the museum. Here are some spoilers: Jesus didn't die on the cross, his Japanese brother took his place!
- Marron Motoki the Dog Station Master - Okunakayama-kougen Station - If you're lucky he'll be on duty. A diminutive terrier with a huge heart. He has seasonal costumes and loves to mark the grass right outside the station door on the platform. Recent development: Marron-ekichou has died from respiratory failure. Rest in peace sweet prince, as the bard so knowingly wrote: "So wise so young, they say do never live long"
- Kaga ninjitsu no sato, Kaga Town- This village is dedicated to all things ninja. Make sure to come on a nice sunny day and get a map at the entrance. Here you can try your hand at the complete ninja training regimen. Throw ninja stars, crawl through secret tunnels, walk on water, climb walls, ride zip lines, and much more. You can also tour the ninja house where the locals will show you all of the various trick compartments, doors, and so forth that these masters of awesome used to out-awesome their not-quite-so-awesome foes.
- Teddy Bear Eco Village, Tatayama, Gifu - It is a good thing that this museum is only open till 5pm because the cute/creepiness of this place would turn all creepy in the moonlight. The mission of this museum is to educate people about teddy bears and nature through teddy bear dioramas. Some bears are cute/creepy, a few are just creepy. Make sure to check out the Aroma room with its daily new scents and the weird bear art work throughout the museum. There is also a gift shop next door where one can purchase teddy bear chopsticks.
- The World Antique Gallery Kinokuni-kan, Tatayama, Gifu - My only regret in Japan is not visiting this place. Apparently, this is kind of your typical antique museum with old junk from around the world. There is one exception: uranium glass. Uranium glass is glass made with a small portion of uranium so it will glow under black lights. Uranium glass is probably no less deadly than those radiation onsens throughout Japan, though I recommend limiting the exposure to vital and reproductive organs.
- Nawa Insect Museum, Gifu City- Large collection of Beetles, butterflies, and other arthropods. Take the quiz on the 2nd floor. Quiz available in English
- Gifu Giant Buddha, Gifu City- at 17 meters tall this is one of the larger Buddhas in Japan. This one, however is unique in its construction. Centered around a single ginkgo tree it was then latticed with bamboo and covered in clay. The Clay was then covered with paper prayers delivered by foot from all over the country. It was then Covered in Gold leaf and lacquer. It took 38 years to complete.
- Firefly Squid Museum, Namerikawa City, Toyama - This is a museum that almost exclusively highlights Watasenia scintillans, the firefly squid. Marvel at the many exhibits and dioramas which educate and delight patrons on the "10 wonders" of this tiny cephalopod. The best time to visit is between April and May as this is when one can purchase a ticket to watch these shallow sea denizens from a fishing boat at 3:00 am. Why would you want to do this? Well, if you haven't guessed by now, they glow like fireflies! Visit the tent next to the museum to eat these majestic creatures in a mustard sauce. Reservations for the boat ride go on sale in March and sell out quickly.
- Obama City- This city, coincidentally bearing the same name as the current US president, has done everything they can to associate themselves with President Obama. The streets are lined with flags and posters, there are a few statues, and plenty of Obama related omiyage to be had. The Obama Support Group meets at the central hotel. It's still unclear where this is a 12-step or a political group.
- Mikuni- A small fishing town with a major surfer vibe. Camping on the beautiful beach is no problem here. And be sure to catch the awesome curry and good company at Cafe Sama Sama. The overly-famous Tojimbo cliffs and not so famous fields of lavender also make this a great stopover when in Fukui.
- Kanazawa City- A big city with a big heart. This town has it all.. for those of you who like the big city check out the main road, something older perhaps? Try the Samurai district, Quaint? The canals along the residential streets, Historic? The castle and Kenroku-en (one of the top the gardens in Japan,) Strange? Eat gold on ice cream, drink it in sake, or just eat it by itself, wash up with gold soap. Marvel at the strange uses of our favorite metal.
- There is supposedly an awesome double whammy in this prefecture. Both Pirate AND Towel Museums.