Wandered around outside my hotel a bit tonight -- probably more than I should have, given my feet and all. Niigata may look like Tokyo from the train, but from the ground, it's obviously not. There's more room, for one, and it just feels, well... More laid back. Of course, that may just be because it's Sunday night (I guess I was fairly oblivious to Tokyo's weekly rhythm -- probably would have felt it a lot stronger if I'd been there more than a week or so).
Also, seems like there's a Lawson every block or so outside. Only saw a handful in Tokyo (although Circle K dominated Matsumoto -- haven't seen any before or since that I can recall).
Outside my window is the shininess I would have expected from Tokyo -- big neon signs lighting up my room (that all shut off as the night went on, though. I've noticed that they don't tend to light up their buildings all night, not even the Landmark Tower kept all its lights on) and it's a bit on the noisy side (of course, I am right next to the train station).
Best Engrish of the trip so far -- my hotel has a "smorking area."
Took the train up to Akita from Niigata -- originally though I'd end up taking several trains to get here, but Hyperdia picked out an express train for me that made the entire run, which took maybe four hours. Took my own sweet time getting going in Niigata, since I knew that train only ran at 8AM and noon (or so -- also later), and I caught the noon train.
I like riding the trains, I think that may be my favorite thing about Japan.
Had some really nice views of the ocean on the way, and the weather really cooperated (just inland it got pretty cloudy and nasty-looking, but along the shore it was sunny almost the whole way). I've always been fond of rocky shorelines, and some of the shore along Niigata is really spectacular (better, even, than I'd hoped). Most of the ride was more or less along the coast, although a couple stretches wandered significantly inland (those bits weren't as interesting).
I kinda like those giant piles of, er, giant jacks they use to build breakwaters out here. Some of them are pretty cool looking.
I don't know why, but for some reason, all the trees along the coast in Akita seem to lean north. I guess the wind goes that way, but it's still kind of odd.
I'm starting to think that power lines are Japan's number two cash crop (after rice, of course), judging by all the power lines that seem to grow from the paddies.
"Dinner rolls" with margarine filling aren't as nasty as you'd think. Next time, though, I'll pass.
So, need to find dinner, will probably crash early so I can either hit Oga or Kakunodate in the morning, depending on how the weather looks.
This was another one of those hotels in a building with several floors of restaurants and shopping, but I was readier this time, so found the office with minimal fuss (it was only on the second floor, this time, although the rooms start on the eighth floor). Downtown Akita here (I guess you could call this downtown, dunno if it has an actual proper one) is fairly nice, and certainly less, er, ostentatious than the area around the station in Niigata. Shinier in a nice way, not shinier in an excessive-neon way.
Found me some nikudon (at the chain Dusty was talking about, er... I forget the name, but I recognize it. Been looking for it for days, actually, but this time I actually found one). Didn't like it quite as much as the stuff in Shinjuku station, but still pretty good. Shouldn't have gotten the large, though. Oy.
I know it can't possibly be true, but I really feel like my Japanese is getting worse as time goes on here. I barely survived ordering today, and the last couple of check-ins have been a bit rocky as they threw me extra stuff I wasn't expecting and completely didn't understand (well, at first, anyway). Unfortunately for me, I found out early on that I could pretty much get away without ever saying anything at all, and since then, I've barely uttered a word. In a way, being able to read a bit of kanji has hurt, because I have had zero trouble figuring out the train schedules and such, so that I've never have to ask for directions, ever. I'm getting almost no practice with my Japanese at all.
A few more days of this and I'm afraid my language facilities will waste away completely. :(
So, tomorrow, Kakunodate. I think. Maybe Oga instead.