March 28th, 2007


15 Days: At The End Of The Earth

So, today, I set out to find the Oga Aquarium. This time, I prepared -- as it was, it feels like a complete miracle that I found it, a much bigger miracle than any of the train transfers I've had to do before, because there were buses and such involved, too. And Japanese buses still scare me. Plus, it's all the way at the end of the Earth (or the end of Oga Peninsula, anyway, which for Japan is the same thing).

Breakfast was at Lottoria. I have to say, breakfast sausage in Japan is, uh, weird. (But I love their チャイラテ -- chai latte -- that you can get with every meal. So much so that I tried the chicken sandwich on the way back as a mid-afternoon snack).

I love the name of the station with all the I's in it. Kamiiijima or some such. Given that it's only broken up by a j, it looks even wackier in the right font.

So, took the train again out to Oga (but stopped at Hadachi station this time). From there, after brief confusion when I tried to ask for directions, found the bus stop, and settled in for a long, long wait (turns out I misread the sign. I thought I'd be stuck for an hour and a half, but it was actually about ten minutes). From there, rode the bus across the peninsula to the aquarium.

The aquarium itself is pretty cool -- not spectacular, but a nice mid-sized one. They had a polar bear, even, although the poor bastard looked kind of unhappy (the seals and penguins seemed slightly more content). Even better was the shoreline, which was one of those rocky shorelines I really like. And, somehow, the weather was just perfect, sunny and cool. I walked out on the rocks, touched the ocean (water was cold), tasted the salt (it was salty), and took in the view. All in all, I'm glad I made the effort, even if the trip out and back was pretty long (a couple hours each way). On the bright side, I saw a lot of "rural" Japan, and also caught the train in one of those tiny, completely insignificant train stations with just one track, no attendant, or anything. I guess I must be some sort of geek for thinking that's neat, but how many non-Japanese have ever done that?

Minor bus confusion on the way back, but the bus driver straightened me out. Also got confused on the way out getting off the train (okay, now I know what ワンマン means, although I still don't quite know what it actually means), but they kicked me off the train properly. That was a bit embarrasing, though. Oy, it's not like I didn't already get a fair bit on attention as it was. Nobody stares at me, though -- I think with the sunglasses, they can't tell if I'm looking or not, so they just glance and play it safe.

It's kinda lonely wandering out here by yourself, though. There's no one to talk to (I've met all of two people total who have even tried to speak any English -- and one of them wasn't even Japanese at the Akita International Association). And, well, I do feel pretty out of place, always on the edge of being lost -- navigating takes constant conscious effort. But, stick me on a train, and I always feel better. I guess I like trains. They're very calming. Not that I've been particularly un-calm at any point, I guess.

Anyway, I ramble. Tonight, going to look for Hinaiya, tomorrow Kakunodate, possibly other places on the way to Sendai.

[see photos on flickr]

15 Days: Also, There Was Hinai

You know, dryers really suck in Japan. Just sayin'.

So, as instructed, I set out in search of Hinaya tonight. And, well, I found it (had to ask for help, as until I got there, I never did figure out the kanji for 比内 -- although the computer here knows. Silly computer, showing me up like that). Of course, I also found out that it's actually four restaurants in one, and Hinaiya itself is apparently not the place I needed to go, since it was just me. And that was the big crowded table for large groups of people place.

So, my choices were Hatahataya, Kamakuraya, and Wasabiya, all of which were apparently really the same, and all of which were (as best I could understand) "sister" restaurants. So, I went to Wasabiya, since that seemed to be the hot place to be. Zing.

Anyway, I ordered the hinai dori kiritanpo as instructed. I'm not quite sure what I ate, exactly, but it's apparently the signature dish of Akita, and it was pretty good. Had, like, uh, chicken in it, and vegetables, and some noodles, and some broth of some sort, and, uh... Hush puppies? Cornbread? Weird tofu? What was that stuff? It wasn't bad, though.

And there it is.

Tomorrow, Kakunodate and on to Sendai.
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15 Days: Further Ruminations

You know, like I mentioned before, I think with the sunglasses (especially at night) no one dares stare at me, even in Akita (except some of the kids, but then the parents look kinda nervous). I think it's because (1) it makes me a doubly-intimidating gaijin (cuz, you know, already semi-gojira-sized), and (2) they can't tell if I'm looking back, so nobody does more than glance quickly and look away.

I guess I look like a loony rock star or something. I'd much rather look at least slightly approachable, but しょうがない。

I think it really freaks out people when I bow at them, though. I don't think any of these older サラリーマン were expecting that.