Trip Report – Round-the-world 2013 – The Centre of Japan

After having seen it on some random TV show, I have been wanting to visit the “centre of Japan” – 日本のへそ. Honestly, I think nobody really cares about this, and I did get a number of raised eyebrows when mentioning it, and a response varying from outright boredom to straight disdain. But I was resolute in going there, just because it’s a novel idea and it simply seemed like a neat place.

I also discovered that it’s a really green, pretty place with no tourists (or locals, for that matter). It looks like it was a place that was visited by a number of people back in the day, but it has lost its charm – which I am more than happy with, as I can explore these places without the fear of being trampled.

Arriving to the place, we found this nearly-abandoned single-track train station (where, nevertheless, the train does come – once in, more or less, a fortnight):

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And just in case you might think I wasn’t kidding about that fortnight…

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A promising sign, with no fear or modesty (despite being almost buried in runaway vegetation):

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For some reason, we wildly lucked out, and a train came!!!

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Before going to the centre of Japan, we went exploring. There was a quaint art gallery that was recommended to me that was, for some incomprehensible reason, situated in a slightly grotesque, reduced interpretation of the Pantheon.

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The paintings… well, “art” was just as modern and incomprehensible, but it used some computer components, so I was okay with it.

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Enough monkey business, though. Off to the centre of Japan I went!

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Yeah!!!!!!!!

Okay, maybe the excitement is a bit unwarranted. It was a concrete slab with some GPS coordinates on it. I’m not sure if I was expecting costumed jesters, tigers and peculiarly shaped inflatable balloons, but chalk me up neutrally impressed. But another thing on my list of things to do was checked off.

I suddenly recalled that there was an observatory nearby. I figured, whilst here, why not visit it?

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On the way, I found a man with a dog! He looked at me in amazement, certainly surprised to see a human, much less a foreigner, in this neck of the woods.

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The observatory cost 500 yen to enter, which I felt was a bit of a rip-off considering the minuscule amount of exhibits……………………………. until we were shown to the telescope. With massive pride, the guide informed us that it was in the top 20 in the world…… about 20 years ago, but that in no way diminished its awesomeness.

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I have a video of this separately, but the roof opening and the telescope repositioning was completely and truly just like in a movie that features an evil bald man with a cliché haircut (or lack thereof), a recycled evil grin, and a laser device that looks far too powerful for anyone to own it. It was, simply put, one of the coolest things I’ve seen in real life, in a while. Well worth the puny 500 yen admission.

On the way out, we came across more deserted pathways:

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Overall, an extremely awesome visit. Not only did I visit the centre of Japan, but I got to stare into the telescope at Venus, the moon, and, most awesomely, the Sun – seeing gases emanate from its surface. Absolutely cool.

I leave you with this awesome picture of a car belonging to a car team apparently called ASS ailants. For great win.

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