Day the first
Date: Apr 19th, 2008 7:47:47 pm - Subscribe
Mood: alive for now
(been awhile hasn’t it)
I’ve decided to stop giving excuses for my absences as they are neither interesting or validating, and will instead jump straight to the fun stuff ie. My recent trip to the Tohoku (Northeastern) area of Japan.
The itinerary David and I made together, him being my solitary partner in this venture, started out haphazard and became rather nonexistent rather quickly. It all started when David approached me towards the end of our obscenely long Spring Break with the proposal that we make one last jaunt into an unexplored area of Japan before classes started up again. And, seeing as how we were both contemplating our financial situations with something less than confidence, we settled on a road trip/backpacking approach to the whole thing. We purchased a seasonal JR ‘norihoudai’ ticket which basically meant that we could ride any JR line anywhere for one set price up front for 5 days. A train buffet.
So carrying our one backpack each to Shinjuku Station on Tuesday the 1st of April at godforsaken early in the morning, we began our expedition. According to our yotei (schedule), constructed the night before from travel guides at the international library about an hour before it closed, we would travel from Shinjuku to Sendai our first day. Then Sendai to Matsushima the second day, Matsushima to Niigata to Saitama to Fukushima that night and the following morning. The third day we planned to spend in Fukushima and then return to Sendai to stay at a youth hostel for one night. The next day would be spent in at Inawashino and the mountain (Bandaisan) attraction there. From there via various trains and night trains we would spend the last day exploring Hakone.
But that was not the real story…
I don’t expect anyone to actually read and/or remember this schedule. I merely listed it as a criterion for the complete unwashed mess our actual plans became.
We boarded a train from Shinjuku, and after about 8 transfers (the ticket only allows the use of local lines so we couldn’t use any direct bullet trains or expresses) and half a days travel, we were deposited at a little nowhere town called Fujita; so close to the name of a beloved childhood anime character that I had no choice but to giggle like a nerd with David. This town was miniscule and there were only two train tracks running by it, one for going north and the other south. We inquired as to why our train would not continue north to Sendai, and the informative station attendant told us that no more trains were going there today. The why of which we couldn’t figure out. But, seeing as how it was a road trip, we merely hitched up our bags and explored the little town until the next train arrived to take us back down to Fukushima.
Within Fujita’s boundaries we encountered an adorable shrine, a proportionately incorrect community center, and a group of Junior High School youths who, after a brief exchange, told us we “Nihongo (Japanese) very much” .
Holy crap Ive had a lot of warm liquids today. Its not even noon yet. I think coffee and I need to start seeing other people. Tea is trying to revive the third wheel from degradation, which is unfortunately the cause of today’s mutual consumption frenzy.
So after arriving back at Fukushima, we decided to take a train west into the center of Northern Japan to Inawashino. Around nightfall our train stopped at another little nowhere town amidst mountains about half way to our destination. This time the cause of our arrested progress was evident, and the snow storm outside our window was a dead giveaway.
A note on the weather: At this point Tokyo was entering Spring, the cherry blossoms were blooming, and warm days were sprouting up everywhere. Traveling north during this time would probably be considered a retarded move by any native since by going north we were basically chasing winter and there were no cherry blossoms. Needless to say, Im happy I decided against packing skirts.
So due to the snow storm the entire train load of people were charter bussed courtesy of JR to Aizu-Wakamatsu, an almost equidistant to Inawashino location. At this point David and I were exhausted from travel and after consulting my guide decided to find somewhere to eat, quickly followed by the collapse at our chosen youth hostel. Our first objective was accomplished at a little mom and pop ramen place where I had the best curry ramen of my life and where David tried in vain to call the hotels on our list. Full of a thermodynamic quantity we hoped would be equivalent to the task, we set out in search of our cheap youth hostel. In the dark. In the hail. Without umbrellas.
After traversing main streets and back alleys in the relatively small town, and being still unable to locate the hostel for over an hour, we decided to cave and stay at a hotel. Luckily the hotel stay came with a free visit to the neighboring hot springs that we took advantage of immediately after sign in.
And so ended our first day of travel; concurrently with the death of our initial itinerary. From Tuesday on we made our plans on the fly. Every morning we were unsure as to where we would be sleeping that night or where we would be going next, but that’s what road trips are all about right?
I think Ill take this day by day so for the next update prepare for honor-bound mountain suicides, incredible vistas from the top of Tsuruga-Jo (Aizu-Wakamatsu’s castle), and the arrival at our destination of failure, Sendai.
Until then Ja!
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anonymous - April 19th, 2008