Sushu's Travel Journal

July 9, 2009

Japan Day 4

Filed under: Asia — Tags: — admin @ 10:58 pm

So yesterday morning Jono borrowed some crutches from our local friendly byouin (They apparently made me a medical card. I’m In Their System!!), and we got a taxi to Hanamaki Station, and from there, onto the train the Kamaishi. It was a beautiful 2 hour ride with lots of bucolic fields, etc. (Jono has more pictures at http://www.evilbrainjono.net/blog/ ). Jono got this really happy genki that I haven’t really seen before. He really likes the 田舎, the simplicity of the countryside. I wonder if he gets the same way about rural Vermont or anything…

Anyway, we get to Kamaishi, and after some scouting, Jono finds Sano-san’s sake shop, and we go and hang out in his shop. He’s this lively old Japanese man born in 1931, so almost 80 years old. His English is remarkably good, and we chat about random things. When Jono asked about a bus to the Dai Kannon, Sano-san offered to drive us around. We were like, “But you’re running your sake shop!” And he was like, “Well, business hasn’t been good, so it’ll be fine without me.” (His son came to man the front desk)

So we went to a beach, and then had some onigiri nearby. When the hostess heard that it was our honeymoon, she brought out these special gyoza-shaped mochi cakes that had this really yummy walnut/brown sugar filling. Mmm!

The KamaIshi Dai-Kannon 大観音 was cooler than expected. It was built after WWII to “pacify” the seas — too many bombs and tsunami. The inside can be climbed up, and as info about the 7 lucky gods (七福神), as well as more models of Kannon. (I didn’t climb up, but the photos looked pretty cool. Nearby was a small building dedicated to fudomyoo, and a stupa that has one of the Buddha relics, apparently a gift from Sri Lanka.

While there, Sano-san pointed to a blur in the distance and told us about how the American navy bombed Kama Ishi from that island, and that on the day that Nagasaki was bombed, his house was, too. He was 14 at the time.

On the way back from the DaiKannon, we stopped at a small Zen temple with an expansive graveyard going up the slope of the hill. It was breathtaking. Most of them seemed to be family grave sites, and were sized for cremation boxes. It also made me really sad because Kama Ishi is a city in decline — It used to be a major industrial city, but the coal mines ran out, and so people have been leaving. Schools and school districts keep combining. Jono says much of the population is either over 50 or under 15. Even though the steel mill is still running, it is definitely a city on the decline. We passed by a dilapidated school that I thought was closed until Jono pointed out elementary schoolers cleaning the windows outside.

Kama Ishi is also a city with a lot of character — There’s the industrial aspect, of course. It’s also neatly wedged between two mountain ranges, so it’s about 3 miles long and 5 blocks wide. If you walk along some streets, you run smack into the ocean. On one end, it opens up to a fjord, and the city curves along the beach. No wonder Jono did a lot of hiking around here!

Sano-san drove us to the KamaIshi station, and we rode the train back to Hanamaki, where we met up with Peggy, an ex-JET who married a Japanese guy and stayed, teaching English in universities. We went out to a yakiniku/reimen place (焼き肉/冷麺), and both were very yummy. It was this special Morioka Reimen that is a local specialty. They’re chewy thick vermicelli noodles in a light broth, with some meat, egg, and a slice of watermelon. Then you put in kimchi and kimchi liquids to taste. It was really good! It made me wonder about Korean presence/influence in the Tohoku area.

Then today we had a relaxed morning of watching Venture Bros (got the season 3 disc). Then I packed up while Jono ran some errands (sending another postcard, returning crutches), and then we took a taxi to the eki and Shinked our way back. Now we’re sitting in the Mozilla Japan offices enjoying the internet like the dorks we are. ;)

All along the way, everyone had been so helpful with my sprained ankle! The station officers would always bring out their wheelchair on a moment’s notice, and then call ahead to the destination station to make sure there’s someone waiting there for us. The taxi driver drove around the block 3 times until he found the closest possible drop-off point, all without charging us for the extra driving around. Yay Japan!!

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