Places To Go
Things to See and Do In and Around Iwakuni
Things to do On Base
- SAKURA THEATER: Free movies shown M-W, 7 PM; Fri., 7 and 9 PM; Sat.,
4, 7 and 10 PM; and Sun., 3 and 7 PM. Closed Thursdays. Ph# 253-5291
- MAIN GYM and POOL: You can't miss this place. Has everything you
could ever need, such as weightlifting, swimming, aerobics, basketball,
racquetball, volleyball, indoor soccer, water aerobics, a spa, gymnastics,
ballet, martial arts, as well as equipment check-out and the Fast Break
Juice Bar! Open M-F 4:30 AM to 11 PM; Sat., Sun. and holidays, 8 AM to
10 PM. Ph# 253-6578
- ARTS & CRAFTS CENTER: Located in the Main Gym (near ITT). They offer Tuesday Craft Night at 7pm, where you can learn a variety of handicrafts, from woodburning to washi-paper crafts for $5/class,. They are now offering sewing classes for $12.50, and I have taken quilting classes there, as well. They also offer youth crafts and toddler crafts. There's a bunch more, too, including open crafting time, and you can purchase supplies here, too! Japanese Flower Arrangement (Ikebana) is offered, at the Station Library, as well. Ph# 253-6621
- STATION LIBRARY: The Library has started several children's programs, recently, including a Storytime for pre-schoolers, at 10am on Fridays. They also have computers (no internet access, but loads of reference CD-ROMs), a huge selection of reference books, some music CD's, and a nice children's section. Open M-Th, 10am-10pm; Fri, 10am-8pm; Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun. and Holidays, Noon-8pm. Ph# 253-3078
- TORII PINES GOLF COURSE: Open (seasonal hours, subject to change) M-F, 8 AM to 6:30 PM; Sat., Sun. and holidays,
7 AM to 6:30 PM. Driving Range is open evenings, 7:00 to 11 PM. They offer
group lessons to station residents 10 years old and older (free to active
duty E1-E5). You can also get private lessons by reservation. Seems like
there's always a
tournament coming up, too! This is a 9 hole course, with
a par of 68. Ph# 253-3402
- BOWLING ALLEY, etc.: As of June 20th, there are now TWO bowling alleys (again).
There is the larger, older southside bowling alley, and the brand new, smaller,
Northside Fitness and Bowling Center (open to all single and unaccompanied servicemembers), where you'll also find the Single Marine
Program Northside Lounge. Free bowling all day, every day, for single and unaccompanied servicemembers! Talk about your "new Corps"!!! How good can it get? Hours: M-Th, 4:30am to 10pm; Fri, 4:30am to midnight; Sat 10am to midnight; Sun and Holidays, 10am to 10pm. Phone: 253-4656 or 253-3585.
The southside bowling alley has 14 lanes, rental shoes and loaner
balls, a snack bar, pro shop and bumpers to put in the gutters for kids. They offer 50 cent bowling/free rental shoes to M.C. Perry students on weekday afternoons. They also have Moonlight Bowling, Family Appreciation Days, leagues and more!
Southside: Ph# 253-3495
- SKEET and TRAP RANGE: Open Sat. and Sun., 11 AM to 4 PM. Offers skeet
and trap for $10; instruction is available. They also now offer a Young Shooter's Shotgun Safety and Use Course, for $10. The newly remodeled Boar's Head Lounge is a great little getaway spot (Just like having lunch at the hunting lodge in the woods... well, almost!). This is also where the
archery range will be located, when they finally get it up and running!
Ph# 253-3822 or 3038.
- AUTO HOBBY SHOP: The relatively new Northside location is located around the block from the Northside 7-Day store. For a small fee, you can use the 8 work bays ($2), 2 hydraulic lifts ($5) and 2 pits ($3) to work on your vehicle. Or use their equipment to wash and detail your car :-) The hobby shop has the tools, and they will help the mechanically-challenged. This is a do-it-yourself facility, though... they can't do the work for you, but will help you help yourself. They even have one-on-one classes available for free! Hours: M-Th, 1pm-8pm; Fri, 1pm-9pm; Sat, 9am-8pm; Sun and Holidays, 9am-5pm. Ph# 253-4094
- WOOD HOBBY SHOP: Hubby has used this; in fact he used it a lot to work on our fence! It is open after normal working
hours, due to the fact that it is actually the Facilities Maintainence shop. They are now offering beginners classes on tool use, as well as project classes (just ask)! Every Sat. is Parent and Child Day (shop fee is 1/2 price for a child accompanied by a parent). Every Wed. is Active Duty Night (show your active duty ID card to get your 2nd hour FREE!
Woodworkers can use it M-F, 5:30pm-9:30pm and Sat., Sun. & Holidays, 9am-6pm Ph# 253-5320
- PHOTO HOBBY SHOP: Located behind the Auto Hobby Shop. Hours are M & F, 6-10pm; Sat & Sun, 10am-6pm. They do offer classes every Saturday... call for times. I never used this (!), so can't tell you much about it! Ph# 253-6510.
- MARINE LOUNGE: This is an adults only facility, open to all servicemembers and MCCS patrons 18 and over, though that seems to
be more to protect the adults from the children, than to protect the kids
from anything. It has a smoke and alcohol free environment, where adults
can enjoy pool, ping-pong, foosball, video games
and computer access, and even free popcorn! Open M-Th, 11 AM to 10 PM; Fri., 11 AM to midnight;
Sat., 10 AM to midnight; Sun. and holidays, 10 AM to 10 PM Ph# 253-5368.
- SINGLE MARINE PROGRAM: There is a very active Single Marine Program
here. It is open to single and unaccompanied servicemembers, which make
up about two-thirds of the active duty members stationed here. There have
been parties and trips, and Single Marine nights at the bowling alley, etc. I have heard complaints though that getting the chance to go on the trips offered is like winning the lottery! When you consider that there are usually 12-20 seats available, and then consider the number of elegible servicemembers who would be trying to get those seats... well, you get the idea! It IS an "award winning" program within the entire Corps though. Enjoy what programs you can, when you can!
Ph# 253-4656 or 3585.
Links to other sites on the Web
Official MCCS (was MWR) Page
Stuff to see in Iwakuni
Iwakuni Castle and Kintai Bridge
as shown on our combo tickets
- KIKKO PARK AREA: This park is in the center of a very historic area of town, between the Kintai Bridge and the ropeway, leading up to the Iwakuni Castle. One combination ticket will allow you to access all three. You can also enjoy the view, without actually crossing the bridge or entering the museum in the castle, and you can walk to the castle on top of Mt. Shiroyama by a paved path, rather than take the ropeway, if you're short on yen. But I think it's worth it to pay the small fee to do these things once, at least, while you're here.
Besides the museum in the castle, there are at least two other museums in the area, which I know of; one is an art museum, and the other is a historical museum. It's a lovely, restful area for a picnic or just a stroll or a bike ride! There are fountains and grassy areas, and several easy paths to explore. Nearby is Momijidani Park, where the walking trail up to the castle begins. This area also has several shrines and temples- we once sat in on a ceremony, and were made to feel very welcome!
Get Outta Town!!!
Fun Day Trips
The Akiyoshidai Area: First, to clear up some confusion you may have (I know I did)... The Akiyoshi Plateau and Cave, and the Akiyoshi-dai Plateau and the Akiyoshi-do Cave all refer to the same basic area, within Yamaguchi Prefecture. The cave is a designated Special Natural Monument, and the plateau is a Quasi-National Park. The cave was named by the Showa Emperor, on a visit in 1926, when he was still the Crown Prince. It is said to be the largest cave in Asia. The plateau area was formed during the Paleozoic era, as a coral reef in the ocean; it was carried to the "continent" by tectonic plate movement. The limestone has also been affected by igneous activity, which formed crystalline limestone about 70 million years ago! There are fossils in the rock, of coral life as well as later vertebrates such as the Japanese rhinoceros. There are also indigenous species currently living here, such as the Japanese Greater Horseshoe Bat, Japanese Great-tit (bird)and the Akiyoshi thistle (flower).
Akiyoshi Plateau: I really enjoyed this area, mostly because it's SO different from anything else I've seen in Japan. One thing I miss most about the USA is the variety... the Florida Everglades don't look anything like the Rocky Mountains, which don't look anything like the Great Plains, which look nothing like the Pacific Northwest, etc. But, most of what I've seen in Japan, looks pretty much the same. The karst plateau here is a refreshing change of pace! A little stark, it is full of it's own special beauty.
Akiyoshi Cave: The cave here is one of the largest in the world! There's no bending while touring this one!!! The walkways are man-made; the lighting could be better, but it's adequate. There are 2 major entrances to the cave, we entered the "back way", and exited from the main entrance! The most amazing and beautiful part of the cave to me, was the main cave entrance area. It is the most beautiful sight I have seen while in Japan, and ranks up there with the most beautiful places I've seen in my whole life! Pictures, while beautiful, can't do it justice; they don't capture the sounds and smells and serene feel of the woods, moss, water flowing out of the cave and through the narrow canyon. I wanted to spend longer there, just soaking it all in, but we didn't have time... we'll have to go back :-)
Garasu No Sato (Glass House) Ticket
- "GLASS HOUSE": The Garasu No Sato, or as we Americans call it, the Glass House was established in 1984. Not only are there several seperate museums here, including a Glass Science museum and a bead museum, but there is also a studio for hands-on experience and a chance to watch glass products made by the experts. In addition there's a souvenir shop and a restaurant! Kids will enjoy the Fairy Garden, Glass Castle and "Little Land" (a playground for the younger tots). Makes for an interesting day :-)
View of Miyajima Torii, from Itsukushima Shrine
(as shown on our tickets to the shrine)
- MIYAJIMA ISLAND: On our second Veteran's Day in Japan, we went to Miyajima Island. You can take a bus to the train station, ride the train from Iwakuni to Miyajima-guchi, take the ferry across to the island, and enjoy most of the scenic spots on foot. We wanted to check out the beach that we had heard about, though, so we took our van. It cost Y4000+ to get the van and us on the ferry, round-trip (Y1600+ for the vehicle and driver, Y170 each for John & I and Y80 for Ashley, each way). This was more than we expected, but neccessary if you want to spend the day at the beach, or camp at the park there. The fare to ride the train is Y490, including the ferry fee.
The first thing you'll notice about this island is the deer! They're everywhere! They are not afraid of humans, and in fact can be quite aggressive if you have food. They, like goats, also eat paper... I lost my maps (twice) to these hungry critters! There are also MANY shops and restaurants; prices get lower as you get further from the ferry landing. We wandered through the streets (and the people and deer) toward the famous shrine & torii;
it was a very low tide when we got there, and our first sight of the torii was across a muddy tidal flat, filled with clam diggers (and the ever-present deer). It is an awesome sight, and because of the low tide, we were able to walk out to it, stand under it, touch it... up close and personal! We were interested to notice that the posts seem to be made out of huge whole tree trunks. From the Torii, we went up to the Five-Storied Buddhist Pagoda, which is also the brilliant orange-red color of the Shrine & Torii. It was especially picturesque with the autumn foliage all around. We had some lunch at a restaurant that looked good (it was), then back to sightseeing...
At this point we drove over to the beach. It was very odd to see this stretch of beach, ocean on one side, pine forest on the other, and deer wandering freely on the sand! Looks like a great beach, and there is a lovely park, with camping available, right there. From the beach, we drove back to the Itsukushima Shrine, originally built in 593!
This place is an intricate complex of corridors and shrines, built on stilts over the water. The main shrine looks out across the bay to the huge 16 meter Torii. The tide had started to come in by this time, so the base of the Torii was surrounded by water. It was easy to see why this is considered one of the three most scenic places in Japan!
There's still a LOT to see, which we missed this time, but we'll definetely be back. They say the best times to come are spring and fall (personally, I think fall is the best). We want to hike around some of the scenic trails. We did get the chance recently to take the ropeway to the top of Mt. Misen, where the monkeys are (didn't see any monkeys, though). I've heard they are even more aggressive than the deer, but I'd still like to see them. We also took the time to visit the Miyajima Public Aquarium. By American standards (i.e., compared to Sea World) it's pretty cheesy. The Osaka Aquarium was a LOT better! But, it was something different for a change and we did enjoy our visit. Be forewarned that there is little explained in English :-(
- TSUWANO: We've been to this little town three times now, twice on ITT tours and once on our own, and have enjoyed it tremendously every time. It's well worth the almost 3 hour ride! The first time, we went to see the Yabusame Horseback Archery Contest, which is
held on the second Sunday in April each year, as part of a Shinto Ceremony.
However, there are many other reasons to visit this town. In July, you can
see the Sagimai (Heron) Dance. The town is also filled with craft shops,
where you can see and buy washi paper items, pottery, food items made from
chestnuts, and more. There are several shrines in this town, including one
of the five largest Inari shrines in Japan.
We had a great lunch, in a
second story restaurant, overlooking the carp-filled river running through
the center of town. The carp, which can live 60 years or more, were originally
introduced into Tsuwano's streams and storm sewers in feudal times, to
provide a source of food in case of siege. Today, the carp are very
numerous, and are a part of the charm of the town. You can even buy carp
food, and feed them when they swim up to you at the rivers edge!
The horseback archery was very interesting to watch. The riders wore
traditional costumes, including what looks like chaps, made of deerskin.
They rode along a straight course, which had three targets set up along one
side (the crowd was standing on the other side). They attempted to hit all
three targets, from the back of their galloping horse! There are supposedly
only 80 or so people in Japan still practicing this 1200 year old art.
On our second visit, we rode an ITT bus to Ogari Station, where we boarded the
Steam Locomotive, which took us on a scenic ride through the center of the prefecture and into Tsuwano! We used our free time to visit the Inari Shrine, and take the ropeway (this one is more like a ski lift!) to the top of the mountain to see the castle ruins, and the great view. We also had lunch in the same great restaurant, and took time to feed the carp in the river, again.
Next visit, we again saw the Yabusame exhibition, and then took a little time to explore a little of the city's Christian history. It was really a facinating story! There is a Catholic church in town, which is supposedly the only one in Japan (or the world?) with tatami mats on the floor (no pews). There is also a Chapel built to honor the Japanese Christian martyrs, which is an inspiring story. On May 3 of each year there is a procession through town, in honor of the martyrs, which draws thousands of faithful Catholics to the area.
- KOBE/OSAKA: We had a really good time on this trip (another through ITT), but let me say upfront... it was EXPENSIVE!
Next time we go, if there is a next time, we'll know to take PLENTY of yen (an entire payday's worth would probably not be too much!). The tour package included transportation (a 5-6 hour bus ride, each way), admission to the
(incredible set-up; we could have used more than the 3 hours allowed, to really see everything!), rooms at the
Hotel Pearl City Kobe
(double occupancy, twin beds, western-style), and breakfast buffet. Given the prices these things cost by themselves, the package was a great deal! But there was still plenty to spend money on... lunches and dinners on both days, transportation to sightseeing spots during free time, amusements and souvenirs, for instance.
The first day, we left Iwakuni at 6am, arriving at the Osaka Aquarium a little before noon. We were able to arrange to meet a couple I had known only through the Internet, and tour the aquarium together, which was fun! We were all impressed with the arrangement, which takes you on a circular tour of the Pacific Rim of Fire. As you walk along, you travel downward from the shores to the depths of the oceans. Included are a few land animals, such as squirrel monkeys and two-toed sloths! The center tank, which is the largest, includes such open ocean fish as huge whale sharks and manta rays. The Japan deeps were represented by GIANT spider crabs! My favorites, though, were the sea otters, penguins and Pacific whitesided dolphins, which were all very playful and active :-) There was a lot more to see in the vicinity of the aquarium, but after finding a belated lunch at the end of the tour, we didn't have any more time. The bus left for the hotel in Kobe at around 3pm; after check-in (and cleaning up and resting a little), we explored the area and had a delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant cafe called Tom's Garden. It did cost over Y5000, but it had great yakiniku and beef curry rice!
The second day, we used our breakfast buffet coupons, and enjoyed the hotel's fare. They offered both Japanese and western style breafast foods; most of what we tried was good. We had free time 'till 3pm, so we decided to take the monorail system, called the Portliner, into downtown Kobe and explore the city via the City Loop bus.
These trolley-style buses travel around to major sightseeing spots along a 13km loop; an all-day pass will allow you to get off and back on as often as you'd like. We got off in Harborland, because our Internet friends had told us there was a Sizzler's in that area. Sure enough, we found it in the Mosaic shopping and restaurant complex. Thank goodness for charge cards... the salad bar was Y1700/each, total for lunch- over Y8000!!! I really don't know how anyone can afford to live here. But it was highly enjoyable to eat familiar food, in a familiar atmosphere :-) There was also plenty of shopping in the area, though we needed to begin to make our way back to the hotel and board the bus for Iwakuni :-( It was a good trip; I wish we had had more time, and a LOT more money!!!
Links to other sites on the Web
Mountains, Valleys and Waterfalls Many beautiful places to visit, in and around Hiroshima Prefecture... includes several we are familiar with as well as many we never heard about. Great for day-hike enthusiasts!
Iwakuni White Snake HHH Hash House Harrier Group
Roughstuff's Guide Bicycle the back streets of Iwakuni :-)
KOA Kampgrounds in Japan Two Kampgrounds are near Iwakuni... grab your tent and go! You can even rent a camper on base, or stay in the cabins.
Kure City, near Hiroshima
Tour of Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park
New Sanno Hotel, Tokyo Are you eligible?
Michiyo's Sports Page 10/8/2000 Everything you could ever want to know about sports in Japan!
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Miyajima and Kintai GIF's on this page by Anthony Vashro; used with permission.