November 2007


August 26th 2007

We woke up around 8am and headed to Morioka station where we picked up some maps that the Tourist Information Center had of Kakunodate and took the train to our destination. We arrived nearly an hour later and started our walk around the old samurai town.

From the station if you head down the hill towards the actual city the collection of samurai era houses are on your right. Ryan and I mistakenly walked the long way around but we got to see a great view of the countryside that we would have otherwise not seen. There is a specific street that has the majority of the old buildings that the samurai used to live in. It was walking through a hole in time. The smells and the sites make you think of a time when everyone walked in their wooden sandals (geta) carrying packages of rice on their backs, with a sword at their belt.

You are able to walk around the outside of most of the houses and some you can go inside as well. There was one of the houses that had been converted into a museum of different armors and tools used back in the feudal era which you have to pay a small sum, but it is definitely worth it. We walked inside the Ishiguro House, which is said to be the oldest and the home of the highest class samurai family. On the English sign outside of the residence it says that a direct descendant of the samurai family gives the tour of the house, which is very large and certainly impressive. We spent around 3 or 4 hours walking through the town before we headed back to Morioka for the last leg of our journey.

We took the shinkansen from Morioka back to Ueno and made our way to take the Tsukuba Express to meet Lower in current place of residence. We arrived around 6pm, transferred our things to his apartment and then headed back into town to attend the Tsukuba Matsuri.

For the festival they had closed some of the main streets from traffic and had extremely elaborate floats running through the streets. It was exactly how you would picture a Japanese festival with people lifting a large wooden shrine on their shoulders, taiko drums playing loudly and people singing and chanting old songs. It was an amazing experience. We spent the night watching the festivities and walking through the small shops selling festival food (yakitori, takoyaki, some even selling hot dogs) and trinkets. It was a great time and if you ever get the chance to attend a summer matsuri, I highly recommend it!!

We settled in for the last night of our trip in Lower’s apartment readying ending Ryan’s last full day of Japan and my last day before travelling to Hirakata to attend university. In my next post I will tell you how to use the JR East Pass, and the shinkansen, because we found out in the latter half of our travels in Tohoku that at first we were doing it totally wrong, so until then!

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August 25, 2007

We decided to relax this day on our trip, as our journey in Northern Japan was coming to a close soon. We woke up and put our bags by the front desk and just went for a walk around Hakodate. We had breakfast, ate some ice cream but didn’t do anything too exiting. Around noon we headed to the station to go back to Tohoku, and got on our train to Aomori.

We arrived at Aomori around 5pm and went to the tourist information center to see if they could reserve us a place to stay at Kakunodate, however they told us that something was going on in Kakunodate that night and all the hotels and ryokans were booked so we decided to go back to Morioka for another night at the Kumagai Ryokan.

Taking the shinkansen back to Morioka we arrived at Kumagai Ryokan without a problem, and since we didn’t try reimen the last time we were there, we ventured out to find a restaurant that served it. As I described before, reimen is cold noodles with kimchi, and to be honest it did not fit my fancy. I guess I just prefer hot noodles, I’m not exactly sure. I do recommend that you try reimen if you get the chance just to have the experience but don’t get your hopes up too high, and who knows it might fit your tastes!!

We spent the rest of the night, before heading to bed, walking around Morioka at night to places we had not already visited. We found a Mister Donut and had some coffee and donuts there, then enjoyed the sights of Morioka at night. As I said this was our rest day, unfortunately things did not go as planned, we were hoping to explore Kakunodate and stay there for the night, but at least we were not sleeping at a train station or some other place not as comfortable as Kumagai Ryokan.

Next time I will talk about the last full day of our trip, going to Kakunodate and finally to Tsukuba in Ibaraki-ken. Until then!!