So... From Akita to Sendai.
Took my time getting going this morning, since with the weather and all, figured that Kakunodate and Tazawako wouldn't be that awesome. And I didn't really want to walk that much (ended up walking a lot more than I'd planned on today, in what I'd planned to be an "off" day, but more on that below). Did breakfast at Lotteria (and may well again, if I run past the one next to the station here in Sendai tomorrow morning after it opens -- want to be moving before 7AM, though, but we'll see how that goes. I'm tempted to try McDonalds breakfast here, though, since I haven't done that yet).
Anyway, got to the station in Akita, got down to the platform, only to realize that all of the shinkansen cars had reserved seating. パニック! All was not lost, though, because managed to communicate enough with the non-English-speaking station employee to figure out what I needed to do -- get a reserved seat, obviously, although this was the first time I had to go through the actual mechanics, since I'd always flown non-reserved up to this point. So, ran back down, got on the train, all good.
Anyway, made it to Kakunodate, which was all historical and shit. Which I suppose was okay, if I'd really been looking for historical shit, but what I really wanted to do was go hiking. Unfortunately, the feet said no, the weather was in fact a lot like ass (although the fog coming off the hills on the way up looked pretty cool), and so I just checked out the houses. Which were fairly cool looking, admittedly. Then I wandered back to the station, retrieved my backpack from the locker and caught the next train to Sendai. I'd already decided to skip Tazawako, with the weather and all, and it being brown mud season and stuff, but the snow on the mountains going up almost changed my mind. But, between the area around the station looking brown and muddy, and the fact that I'd already gotten a ticket to Sendai, I decided to stay put.
For the rest of the trip on that side of Japan, the mountains looked like a winter wonderland, with snow and fog and stuff. And then, as soon as we crossed the spine at Morioka, the sun came out, and it was just sunny and nice the rest of the way. So, I changed my plans (which had been originally to go straight to my hotel and rest up), dumped my pack in a locker, and jumped a train to Matsushima for sunset. And, oh, man, was it beautiful. Score!
It was kind of funny finding the train, though. I was a bit confused at first, so I asked the station employee which train I wanted (in Japanese), and he told me which one (in English -- I'd spent so much time in Akita where nobody spoke any English that I was actually surprised). Although I actually asked for the wrong one, but by then I had my bearings, checked the Lonely Planet guide, corrected, and got on the right train without incident.
Anyway, lots of pictures of Matsushima, which kicked ass. Also dipped my hand in the ocean (which was warmer than off Oga), and tasted the salt (which tasted just about as salty). If the weather holds, plans are to go back to Matsushima and see it at dawn(-ish), maybe take in the Aquarium (yay! Aquariums!), but I'll probably skip the temple. And then, back to Tokyo as my JR Pass give out its last breath.
Which reminds me that I need to scare up hotel reservations.
Speaking of which (okay, not really), Sendai is pretty cool. It's almost like they decided that since the stereotype was that all of the roads in Japan were tight narrow little things, they'd make theirs really, really wide, so wide that each sidewalk is wider than the widest road in Tokyo (apparently they did this after WWII, when apparently the city was essentially leveled). It's actually quite something to see after Tokyo and all the rest -- I mean, they're really wide. I'll have to remember to take pictures tomorrow morning.
[see photos on flickr]