In writing my newsletter I gathered up all the photos I posted this month from our summer break trip in Tohoku. I thought I should just post the photo round up here, and I can give a little a bit of context for the images.
This trip was my first this far north. I had only every been to Sendai and Zao previously. The weather was a nice respite from the high thirties of summertime Kyoto. Aomori had highs of 22ºC, and was not humid at all. It felt kind of like Japanese Canada. Immediately I noticed the lack of shingles rooves on the buildings. Tin is so much better for a place that gets a lot of snow. The roads were also cracked from frost heaves. Of course, as we drove south the temperature steadily climbed. It was quite hot in Sendai. One other (minor) observation of Tohoku that you will see photographic evidence for: Dr Pepper appears in many vending machines! No need to go to an import store.
Anyways, I took over 1500 photos, but chose a small amount of representative images and posted them to some albums on Flickr.
We flew from Itami airport in Osaka to Aomori, and took an airport bus to Hirosaki city about an hour away. This small city is home to the northernmost castle in Japan. (In the spring, when we were in Tanegashima, we saw the southernmost samurai household in Japan, so now we have seen the extreme edges of samurai culture).
We rented a car and drove all over the western side of the prefecture, the old Hirosaki and Tsugaru domains. Tsugaru has the most unique regional dialect, that is pretty unintelligible to southern Japanese, as depicted in this video from Japanese television. We visited an apple orchard (Aomori is famous for apples), rice paddy art, the childhood home of Osamu Dazai, took a gondola to the top of a mountain, wandered around the art museum, and saw the amazing TALL and wide lantern floats this area is famous for.
- ⛰️🌾🍏 The mountains, fields, and apples of Aomori prefecture Link →
- 🏮👺🎋 Astounding 23m tall lantern-floats Link →
- 🎨🎫🐶 Aomori’s art and downtown Link →
- 🏮🍏📏 More lantern floats, this time wide Link →
The children’s author Miyazawa Kenji is from Iwate, and there is a sort of magical wonderland built to honour his characters. But first you have to see the absolute shrine to baseball legend Ohtani Shohei (and Kikuchi Yusei). The popularizer of the concept of bushido, Nitobe Inazo, is also from here. After spending some time checking out the local Hanamaki sights, and being force-fed wanko noodles, we then drove to the coast to see the effects of the 3/11 tsunami 12 years later. Finally, right before we got on the train to Sendai, we visited Hiraizumi, the political seat of the Fujiwara clan in the north.
- 🌲🍜☸️ Magical trees, competitive eating, and the centre of Tendai Buddhism in Northern Japan Link →
I remember the city of Kessenuma being on the news a lot after the Tohoku disaster. I did not know they had a Shark Museum. Later we stopped in Sendai for a couple of days to rest and recharge. I haven’t been to Sendai since the year 2000! We took a tourist bus to the top of the hill where Sendai Castle used to be, and currently stands a recently refurbished statue of famous samurai lord Date Masamune.
- 🦈⚔️🎊 The sharks and samurai of Miyagi Link →
After renting a new car at Sendai Station, we drove Fukushima top to bottom. The highlight of this was learning about the nuclear disaster in 2011.
- 🛣🏭🚧 Roadside scenes of Fukushima Link →
Tokyo and Yokohama
We left Fukushima by evening train. Three hours later we checked in at a hotel with a perfect view of Tokyo SkyTree. The next morning we visited a temple famous for purification and warding off evil. Then I left Tokyo for home (I needed to get back to work!), but the rest of my family spent a couple extra days doing some anime pilgrimages in Yokohama.
- 🗼🥮⛩️ Important buildings of Tokyo and Yokohama Link →
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