Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adventures in travel: Miyagi-ken!


Sorry for the delay between posts. I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to go about writing it. So I decided to just screw it, and write. And post pictures, too.

Like pictures of this.

So for those that don’t know every little thing about my life (I can’t imagine why), my boyfriend and I are currently doing the long-distance relationship-thing. While I’m here in Hokkaido, he’s living in Miyagi prefecture. More specifically, Kesennuma city. So far, things haven’t been horrible, mostly due to the fact we’re still in the same country and in the same time zone. After some initial whiny-ness, I’ve determined that things aren’t “that bad”, and have attempted to be a positive-thinker. And one positive thing was that now I have an excuse to go to Miyagi-ken, a part of Japan I’ve always wanted to visit but never had a reason or chance.

So last month I booked a flight from Chitose airport to Sendai, and began an adventure.

I didn’t know much about Kesennuma before I went. I just knew that it was one of the places hit the hardest by the tsunami last year. Most of the information I found online was pre-March 11, and most of the shops and restaurants were no longer there.  This included a direct train-line from Sendai. I ended up needing to take the shinkansen and transfer to a local train. Instead of a 2 hour train ride, it ended up taking 4 hours and 30 minutes. Next time, I’m just going to take the bus. 

Still, I got an awesome view of the country side. Rural Japan is awfully pretty. If only it hadn’t been so dark, I would have taken pictures. 

One of the stations had this cool looking dragon, though.

Once arriving in Kesennuma, my feelings changed pretty quickly. My boyfriend sent me pictures of the area before, but I wasn’t really prepared for the vast amount of destruction before me. I’m told that Kesennuma used to be a pretty active harbor-town.  Now about 2/3rds of it is gone. I spent the trip feeling conflicted. On one hand, I missed my boyfriend terribly and was extremely happy to be with him, and on the other hand…

Kesennuma's mascot has seen better days

I guess I always felt a bit of a disconnection to what happened on March 11th. I would watch the news and see the images, but in Hokkaido, nothing was different. Everything was exactly the same as it had been on March 10th. It felt like Tohoku was a different country, far away. I knew no one who lived there at the time, had no connection to it. And now, after finally seeing everything first hand, and realizing, Holy shit, people actually still live here!, it was very overwhelming. I felt very out-of-place, probably the most I’ve ever felt since I’ve come to Japan. 

Super cool statues made out of stuff found on the beach.
And yet, there was a certain beauty that still remained. Kesennuma is surrounded by mountains and lush forests. Along with the coast, I think that if I was here two years ago, I would find Kesennuma to be a gorgeous city.

Temporary buildings for shops destroyed in the tsunami.
The people of Kesennuma were also awesome. I met many of my boyfriend’s co-workers, as well as shop and restaurant owners, most of who were born and raised around this area. I got the impression that a lot of them had done their mourning, and were now just trying to pick themselves up, rebuild and get on with their lives. 

Also, there’s a lot of food Kesennuma. Apparently their big thing in shark fin. I had shark fin soup and shark fin steamed bun, both tasty. My boyfriend works for a crab company, so naturally I ate a lot of that. 

Tasty crab dishes

During my final day there, we went to Sendai. We didn’t have time to do a lot, but we naturally had to get Sendai’s specialty cuisine, ox-tongue.

We also got some ox-tail soup, something I’ve never had before.  It was pretty good.


We visited Sendai castle (or what’s left of it. It was destroyed during WW2) and shrine. 

Castle remains

Pretty view of the city

Date Masamune, looking fierce

Date Masamune, looking like an onigiri

We also found some ox-tongue cider. Being adventurous, we had to try it. It was horrible. We learned a valuable lesson about trying new things.

Horribleness, bottled

I arrived home late Sunday night, absolutely exhausted. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back soon, but for now, it’s the end of July. Which only means one thing:

Beer Gardens. Oh yes.

Until next time, Miyagi-ken! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Yosakoi Soran!

Well, hey there.

I've been busy.

And it's been glorious.
And maybe creepy.

Two weeks ago was Sapporo's annual Yosakoi Soran festival. Depending on who you ask, Yosakoi was 'invented' in Kochi back in the 1950's. It's a modern take on traditional Japanese dance, and is incredibly energetic and colorful. Apparently some students from the Hokkaido college in Sapporo saw this style of dance, thought it was bad-ass, formed a team in Hokkaido and preformed for the rest of the people on Hokkaido, who agreed on the bad-assness of it all.

Since then, Sapporo has held the Yosakoi Soran festival, one of the biggest Yosakoi festivals in Japan. Throughout the week, teams from all over Japan come and compete against each other, dancing all over Sapporo. On the last day, the finals are held and broadcast on TV. 

It's a fun week of music, dancing, and just...the colors, duke.

The colors.
 Anyway, pictures!

 Last week was also equally as adventurous, but for different reasons. Hopefully I'll be able to write about it within the week. Until then!


Monday, May 28, 2012

誕生日!I'm old.

So oooooold.

On the 22nd, I turned 27. I'll admit I'm not very good at "getting older". When I turned 25, I had a little internal crisis when I realized that I had accomplished nothing I thought I would by the time I turn 25(which was basically everything). Since then, I have slowly come to realized the fact that life goes on after 25.

Ever so slowly.

Thus, this weekend, I lived it up like I was still 25, and invited some of my buddies out to celebrate the awesomeness that is me.

 Mission complete.

Here's to another year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Golden Week recap

The past few weeks have been extremely busy, hence why there the lack of posts. Sorry about that.

First and foremost, my aunt and cousin came to Japan during Golden Week. For those that aren't aware, "Golden Week" is a week in Japan where a bunch of national holidays are around the same time. Golden Week is a popular time to travel, so travel we did!

The first leg of our journey began in Kyoto, and Kyoto was prepared for me.
How did they know?

We visited Kinkakuji, Kiyomizu temple and Nijoujo Castle. 

Personally, I wasn't very satisfied, as there's a lot to see in Kyoto and it's all very spread out, making it impossible to see in just one day. There wasn't enough time to see my favorite shrine, Fushimi Inari shrine. Next time. I'll be back, Kyoto.

Next on the list was Nara.
 I've always wondered about the deer in Nara. Do they forage for themselves, or do they depend on the deer crackers people feed them? They always act for hungry, so I don't know if they're able to feed themselves or if they even remember how. If all the people in the world were suddenly wiped out, what would happen to those deer?

These are the kind of thoughts that keep me up at night.

After that, we went to one of my favorite cities, Osaka.
 Osaka is just fun. Last time I went, I was horribly lost and disorientated. This time I had a better grip on things, and could navigate the city fairly well. I only got us lost a couple of times. And we didn't die. Perfect.
 We also went to an Orix Buffalos game. I love baseball and frequently go to the Fighters games in Hokkaido. I'll have to make a post later about how awesome baseball games are in Japan. That being said, I felt kinda bad for the Buffalos. Not many people came to the game, and the opposing team's fans actually outnumbered the Buffalos' fans. Poor Buffalos. If you were cool, like the Fighters, you wouldn't have this problem.
 We also went to the Kaiyuukan, a huge aquarium. It's the second biggest in Japan, and home to a whale shark, among other things. If you ever want to go to the Kaiyuukan, I recommend you not go on Golden Week. I definitely saw more people than fish on that day.

Finally, we went to Tokyo. We went to the Imperial gardens, Asakusa, and of course saw the Sky Tree, the second tallest building in the world. It also officially opens on my birthday, so it clearly is Japan's present to me. Thanks, Japan. I appreciate it.

 For the record, I really do not care for Tokyo, and after only two days there, I was pretty eager to get back to Hokkaido. I guess, to me, Tokyo represents everything I dislike about Japan. It's just a big clusterfuck of a city, full of unfriendly people and huge crowds. That's just my impression, anyway. I lived there for several months during college, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth. It's a fun city to visit every now and again, but I would never want to live there.

I made it back home on the 6th of May, safe and sound. I had a blast, but I was exhausted by the end of it. The following weekend I attended my friend's wedding. My boyfriend also came back to visit, which was awesome. Hopefully next month I'll be able to visit him in Miyagi.

I'll have another post full of drawings up, soon. <3