Saturday, August 13, 2005

Disappearing mountains

Greetings from Sendai-shi, Miyagi-ken, Japan!

I am a day late on my posts, since I am trying to be a good guest and not spend time on Leah's machine... but I fear if I don't post things at least within one day, the events of the following 24 hours will replace my memories... so here goes for yesterday...

So I departed Utsunomiya yesterday morning on the 7:07 Shinkansen heading to Sendai, set to arrive at around 8:48 where Leah would meet me and we would head out for the day.

Here's a shot of the sleak Shinkansen bound for Tokyo arriving at Utsunomiya station.

So after embarking and securing a seat on the top floor of the Yamabiko Max double-decker, I did a little reading, looked at the passing scenery and generally dozed as I flew out to Sendai. Everything North of Utsunomiya is what I would actually call "countryside"... except of course for the major centres such as Fukushima and Koriyama. One thing which did strike me is once more the total lack of planning in Japanese urban design. Fukushima is a great example. As the train was pulling in near the station, you could see a large industrial complex, chemical plant style, just off to the side of the tracks. Very close to said chemical complex is residential housing, shopping, office towers and the station... very odd to me. If anything were to occur at the plant, the results would be devastating... but anywho, back to the trip.

So I arrived in Sendai, met up with dear Leah and after securing my bag in a locker for the day, we headed out with plans to see Bandai Mountain in Fukushima prefecture. In order to get there, we had to take a local train to Fukushima. Upon arrival and grabbing a bite to eat, we decided to shorten our trip somewhat and take the Shinkansen to Koriyama. In Koriyama, we headed out for a quick tour around the station and ended up going to check out this building near the station which seemed to have some sort of observation deck on the top where you can see that huge ball.

We quickly found out that that was a good decision as we happened to stumble upon a World Record holding site. The planetarium located at the top of this building is the highest planetarium in the World! What luck!

Here is the view of the station from the planetarium.

So from Koriyama we then had a long train ride into the countryside\mountains of the West which was quite beautiful, though covered in mist. Due to the humidity and rain, we didn't get a real good look at Bandai mountain upon arriving at Inawashiro... but it's there I swear!!! If you looked just to the left of the naked statue and sign, and the wind was just right... you could see a triangular darkness rising from the mist ... lol

So we decided not to head to the Lake of 5 colours as originally planned since the view would be severely diminished by the mist... and decided to explore Inawashiro instead. Needless to say, heading out into such a small town was quite amusing\entertaining\adventurous for us and we certainly turned heads wherever we went. Our first destination ended up being the Post Office where Leah decided to buy stamps. After I corrected her question in Japanese (she asked for Magazines...) and pulling out the phrasebook for some extra help... we did manage to get some kitte!

We then kept walking towards the mountain and I got my first close look at actual rice... really cool how it grows. Here's a field near the road, and Bandai mountain appearing in the background.

We then stumbled upon a nice park and temple that we checked out before finding our way back to the station and heading back home having at least SEEN a section of Bandai mountain.

All in all a wonderful day, even though the scenery\mountains were playing hide and seek with us behind clouds and mist. We certainly had a nice adventure figuring out the various trains all by ourselves and had a well deserved beer at a local Irish pub here in Sendai. As with any trip a course, the company helps immensly and Leah has been an amazing travel companion.

I find Sendai to be rather similar to Utsunomiya, though about twice the size. The feel is the same, except in the bar district which is hopping at all hours of the night, a feature which Utsunomiya is sorely lacking...

So today we headed to see a temple in Hiraizumi... will write about it probably tomorrow morning before heading out to Matsushima and the beautiful Pacific ocean.

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