I extended my trip six days, in hopes of seeing some cherry blossoms (they were just getting ready to bloom as we left, here's hoping they're in their full glory when I return). I only wanted an extra day or two, I ended up getting six due to flight availability. Which is going to end up costing me a bit, in terms of lodging, the fee to change the flight (which isn't that bad, even including the extra seven bucks SFO gets for my connection, since it moved from Seattle, which other than the transfer fee itself is the only difference in price), and, well, unpaid time (which is actually the biggest cost of the bunch). But... しょうがない。 I think I'm already regretting it a bit... My enthusiasm for extending the trip has been waning as I wear out here.
So, I'll have to figure out what I'm going to do with my time. On the good side, that gives me an extra day of wandering on my JR pass, so I decided to book a night in Sendai and see Matsushima on my way back to Tokyo.
First thing I did was (more or less) get lost. Or at least, not go anywhere interesting. Hopped a train to Oga (to see the peninsula), only to find out that Oga (City? Town?) is really the boring end. Unfortunately, I just jumped the train completely unprepared (in fact, I didn't even bring my dictionary, which I should really be carrying, but haven't been). I'd vaguely figured that the aquarium would be in Oga proper (not so much), and without the dictionary or anything, I wasn't sure how to ask about it (turns out that you can get there from there, although it's not the best jumping off point. Also, I just hate asking for help -- I suppose I'll be a lousy tourist if I don't get over that, though. I guess I'm afraid of being that annoying tourist -- annoying gaijin? -- that people sometimes talk about). So, I walked down to the shore and back, and caught the next train to Akita City. It was a really gloomy (weather-wise), so what might have been a really nice view of the shore south of Oga (not exactly "mainland" from there, but something like that) was pretty much... Not so impressive. Which is too bad, but on the good side, I have a pretty good appreciation of what inaka really feels like, which is probably something I would never have found except by accident (although... I'm thinking of hopping the train out to Shimotsuma, and maybe shopping at the Jusco there).
Anyway, after that, I went back to the hotel and printed out the walking tour that Evan was nice enough to make up for me, and for the rest of the afternoon, I followed that. Ah, purpose!
So... The Akita City -- first item on the list was lunch at Lotteria (yet another Japanese fast food burger joint). It wasn't too bad, although I think First Kitchen is still my favorite (Japanese cheese fries remain terribly disappointing, though). I don't think I would have accidentally guessed it was a burger place (nor have any idea how it got its name), since the name is written entirely in kana and such. In fact, I walked by it several times without noticing it (it's right next to Hanamaru -- I remember the name, now -- where I got my nikudon last night).
After that, I walked up to Senshu Kouen, which was fairly nice and had a nice view of the surrounding city. Would have been nicer with cherry blossoms and nice weather, but it's a few weeks early for that, and there's the drunken revelers that would have overrun the place. :)
The best part of the day, hands down, was the Kanto Festival Center. The people there were very, very nice, and I got to balance a couple of those big festival poles (Evan knows what I'm talking about, but you'd have to see it. Very cool). There was this old guy who demonstrated all of the ways they balance them (in their hands, on their head, on their hip -- it was really impressive). Lots of fun, definitely the high point of Akita so far.
After that, I wandered over the Akita International Association offices. There were, uh, people there. They gave me more maps than I could shake a festival pole at, which was good. Not very oriented towards walk-in visitors, I guess (maybe it was my off-putting unnecessary and scary sunglasses), although the person who gave me maps and bus schedules and such to the aquarium was nice enough.
Anyway, at this point my feet were killing me, so I wandered back to the hotel. Found the red brick museum on the way back, but at this point, I didn't want to stand around any more. Mostly I was looking for Hinaiya, which I didn't find (I wasn't hungry yet, but I wanted to scout it out for that night or the next night). And then I got back to my hotel, got the heck off my feet, realized I was tired, and napped for a couple hours.
After I woke up, wandered out to Kobeya (another place Evan had recommended) for okonomiyaki (yum!), then back to my hotel to post this and crash by and by.
So, tomorrow, Oga for real (not sure what else, although I doubt that will take up the whole day -- maybe I'll walk around the shore a bit), and I've decided to spend the day after in Kakunodate on the way to Sendai by shinkansen.
[see photos on flickr]