this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

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Friday, 11 September 2009

Day one. Seishun juhachi kippu travel. Shibata - Aomori, August 27

It was the day of the Shibata festival. I think it was about 5.40 as I was wandering down to the train station. In the morning. The slightly touched woman on the corner many roads down, opposite the house overtaken by weeds and Buddhas and statues of boys pissing and elephants screwing, was hosing the road and had to stop as I passed by. My, you're up early!

The carp float is special to the Shibata parade. It has a little brother I'll put up when I have time. As I went through the streets, some of the portable shrines (mikoshi) were being carried through town. People were gearing up for a good time. Though there was very little traffic, yet, the police were standing ready at the streets that would be the busiest later. They were closed to traffic.

I've not seen the local festival, so it was a shame to miss it. But onward and upwards. I left Shibata just after six, or a lot after six, I can't quite remember. And made it to Aomori at about 6 that night. The local trains are slow, but you also need to wait for connections quite often.

The first major stop after Shibata was Akita, though the train followed the coastline up past Murakami and Sakata, which was very beautiful. There was about an hour and a half to kill in Akita. The guide book I'm using is about 3 or 4 years out of date. The promised free view it wrote of was no longer available, and by the time I took myself to the art museum where I could see a huge local painting, apparently, it was time to head back.

About this time I also discovered an park overrun with cicadas and summer fecundity. I would have loved to have explored, but considering my front and back were wet through with perspiration, it was probably just as well I didn't have the time. I'm sure my fellow travellers thanked me. I got some pretty pictures of an area full of lotuses, anyway.

We had to stop at Ohdate station for a while, not long, maybe twenty minutes or so, though I had a much longer lay-over on the way home. Ohdate is famous for a dog whose master was a hunter.
The master got arrested because he didn't have his licence on him. His faithful dog ran home and tried to convince the hunter's wife of the terrible plight he was in (facing execution) but he failed. Then he went back to the hunter and was sent off to the wife again whereby he succeeded. Hurrah! But it was too late. The hunter was executed anyway. As The Old School has said, worst Lassie story ever. As for the two konbu looking things on sticks above (konbu is a form of seaweed), I don't know. The chicken cutouts are obviously just for a giggle. Ohdate had enough to make my 20 minutes there not the epitome of boredom. Furin hanging from the rafters, as well, which all jingle jangled as the trains came in.

Our train can be seen in the background. Furin hanging from the rafter

We arrived in Aomori about six, I think, maybe a little before, maybe five. The visitor's centre closes at either six-thirty or five-thirty and I made it there within the last half hour, so I will look up the details later. I was pleased that I did. I wanted to do a journey down to Lake Towada on the way home, and the buses and so on were a little complicated for a not very good Japanese speaker.

Aomori is a fine looking city, actually. I like its visitor's centre and large buildings and, like the cities in Hokkaido, it seems to be built on a grid, so it is easy to get around. I passed a small shrine on the way to the business hotel I was staying at, and the hats and bibs they wore were definitely different and more intricate than the ones I have seen in the rest of Japan. However, I went to Osorezan in Shimokita the following day where jizo galore are seen, and they all wore the traditional red bib, so maybe this particular style was peculiar to this shrine. The pin-wheel fans, as well. I don't know that I have seen them anywhere else, either, or definitely not in such profusion as at Osorezan.

The business hotel had been recommended in the guide book and was ¥5500, which was probably the most I spent for my accommodation on my trip. It was a nice hotel, though, with free Internet downstairs, library, soft drinks or coffee/tea. Also plenty of snacks (and beer) that you could purchase. I think breakfast was included in the price of my accommodation, but I had to leave the next morning before it was served.

I chose to go to a South East Asian themed restaurant for dinner, but mis-ordered. I got a selection of things, but didn't realise that it was for Japanese not used to South East Asian cuisine. Imagine suburban Australian Chinese restaurants, and you probably get the idea. So, I ordered two more beers, and a Vietnamese salad, and I was satisfied, though about 3000 yen poorer, which was quite dear for something unsatisfying. To be fair, though, the beers made up a third of that.

I also wandered through a shrine. It was close to eight, I guess. Dark. But the shrine was lit up, though deserted. Slippery red dragons with water spouts stranded on lotus adorned islands. The shrines and temples in Japan are like one big amusement park, sometimes. I love the fact that they are not desecrated, either. Same as the park. I wandered down there and scribbled a little bit in my notebook, and for the most part, all was safe and clean.

Aomori from the hotel

Next day I was gone before seven a.m., needing to catch a local train out to Shimokita in order to get the first, and one of the few, buses up to Osorezan, or Osore mountain, the gateway to hell, the other side, or even hell itself.

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr