Diary: Tohoku Sandai Matsuri | 05.08-09.08

Goal: Visit the 3 great festivals in the Tohoku region – Kanto (Akita), Nebuta (Aomori), Tanabata (Sendai) additionally checking out the two great lakes Tazawa and Towada.

04.Aug

22:25 Start at Hachimachicho – nightbus

My feet are actually still hurting from Mt Fuji and Nikko but I got some blister plaster, let’s see how things will go

05.Aug

07:30: Arrived at tazawako station

I can feel that I am in the countryside already, there is nothing going on here besides the every now and then Sound of a broom brushing at the streets

08:05: Taking a bus to Tamagawa Onsen and will stop at Tazawakahon

There is a 1 way boat tour to the Tatsuko statue at 9 available. Cost 750, round-trip would be 1200. The alternative would be the next bus which comes at 10:57

Arrived at the lake Tazawa. Hands down beautiful lake, unbelievable clear water and surrounded by mountains, fish swam at the shore – just wonderful.

However there is not much to do here, so it’s a very good trip if you have a car or enough time to wait for the next bus / boat

Instead of taking the same trip back I was planning to walk from the Tatsuko statue to the next train station (Yatsu station) which would have taken me 2h, but now i realize this is not a good idea because it’s only asphalt street and well admittingly my feet hurt.

Luckily 2 sweet ladies let me ride with them until Kakunodate!

Samurai houses are impressive and I learned a lot such as there are 2 different entrances in a house and the waiting room’s Tatami mats are all lined up so the border of the mats form parallel lines  signifying hierarchal structure for the guests.

15:00 I am tired my feet hurt I want to sleep 10h straight

I Took the bus from kakunodate which comes about every hour to omagari and from here getting on a train to akita to get the lowest fare price

Arrived in Akita there is still 2 h left until the festival starts. So I decided to go to the nearest park and accidentally discovered the Kubota castle which offers a museum including an observation deck for 100 yen.

You can get a good overview here and the wind blows calmly through the deck.

21:00: Damn that Kanto festival was the most amazing festival so far in my whole Japan experience. Its so cool to see them kids participate in balancing the lanterns or just drumming away. The latter get too less recognition though.

23:30 Took the last train from Akita to Noshiro and arrived at my hotel

My feet are killing me and I have no clue how to walk anymore, hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

06.Aug

8:30 lets start the day

Blisters are going better now, the breakfast was very welcomed.

10:00 Taking the bus from noshiro to tsurugata

the aging population is very visible here in the countryside

Seems like only every some hours a train goes from tsurugata to odate, they don’t even have a ticket machine. I have to declare from where I started when I arrive in Odate to pay my fare

11:30 Heading from Odate to Hirosaki station

13:00 Sitting in the hirosaki garden feels like nothing is around you except for the thousands of insects and ducks making their noises. It’s easy to indulge yourself and forget the time. The Hirosaki castle which is said to be the oldest original castle is not as impressive as expected. One impressive thing though is, that they moved the whole (!) castle from the wall around 20m to the center because they had to repair the wall. The city Hirosaki looks so weird. It’s kinda old but also has some high buildings disturbing the landscape and a lot of unused land.

16:20 Aomori reminds me of Dresden and Hamburg. It is big enough to have some more modernish and new things but not too big that it might be too crowded and anonymous. I really like sunsets and watery places which Aomori perfectly delivered.

24:00 In the GRANDHILL hotel in Misawa -I am sitting in their bathtub trying to cure my body. So tired but need to eat the cup noodles to get my calories straight.

07.Aug

09:05: catching the train from Misawa to Hachinohe and from there on to Yakeyama to start my hike along the Oirase George. Breakfast was corn and tuna from yesterday, but i got a good portion of lunch at Yakeyama.

The hike along the oirase george to the Lake Towada was very enjoyable and very well made but a little overkill. I did it in 4h with breaks but I think one should really just take a part of it, preferable getting there by car and just enjoy it instead like me rushing madly through that path (however i do enjoy fast paced walking).

17:00 The lake is beautiful and the water invites to just jump in… so I actually did. I just realized though that my blister flattened down meaning it probably opened up and I hope I don’t get an infection. On the other hand through my bathing I made some friends with English teachers who were originally from Trinidad.

OK now to the hostel… it is probably the most weirdest one in the world

The owner is not here and won’t answer calls. From the looks of it it seemed to be an old mansion before and now used as hostel. A lot of beds are empty, some doors have some extra gutter and in general it looks really creepy. But the bed is clean we get a lot for free like using bikes, and it’s all trust based meaning food is provided and if we take some we just pay as described – we are only bound by our moral. I think there are around 7 more people here.

I made friends with a very scary looking Taiwanese guy. He offered me some yakitori and I wanted to get him a beer but because I lacked coins… and my honest ass didn’t want to pay too less I had to go to the next vending machine to get change. Now that I arrived home again the Taiwanese guy said he has beer already and I shouldn’t worry… anyway we sat and drank and talked a lot. Since he can’t speak English we really did manage to communicate both in broken Japanese bits which was honestly the best conversation i had so far in Japanese – no pressure about grammar or vocabulary just trying to convey your message.

08.Aug

07:00 wake up, instant noodles and flakes and 2 toasts with strawberry jam as breakfast. Catching the bus to Aomori at 8:20.

11:10 im in aomori and my next bus to sendai leaves at 14:40…what to do?

The Wa Rasse museum is okeyish you can see the lantern strucures of former Nebuta festivals from up close. The information provided is a little bit disappointing but I guess it’s still worth it’s money.

Of again in a bus to Sendai, it does well to just sit and sleep once in a while.

In retrospective I already regret to not stay for longer in Sendai since it’s the biggest city in the Tohoku area. Can’t be helped I guess.

19:30 ararived at Sendai. First stop – the AER building which offers a free city view at the 31.st  floor. To be honest i was really underestimating the title of “biggest tanabata festival in Japan” – now i know why it is called like that. The whole shopping street, probably at least 1km in length, has those streamers hanging around. This really invites for a nice romantic stroll, eating out and having fun resulting in a small economy boost for the city i guess. By the way Sendai is famous for Gyutan – beeftongue – which originiated from here. So i went and tried. At first i lost my way to what seems to be an Izakaya bar and found a cozy family restaurant in the end. Perfect atmosphere.

23:15 departure from Sendai back home to Shinjuku station.

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