Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mmmmmmmm. ^__^

(Mutsu Park Hotel, Mutsu)

I established what was up with the internet; for some reason, the ISP the Aomori Grand Hotel uses doesn’t like the file server on the Rooster Teeth site, and trying to connect to it disconnected me completely, each time. Whacky. I tested it after midnight, and again a bit before 6am, and each time the RT file server killed my joy.

Still no sleep. You’re tired of hearing about it, aren’t you? I’m tired of being tired. All these small things keep highlighting exactly how borked I am; difficulty walking straight, sloppy balance, not quite lifting my feet high enough to not trip on a regular basis. Me, I’m a shiftworker. Power on. Go, little energiser bunny, go.

Now, this one day took the most flailing about to put together. Nitty gritty details of how to get where for how much will be included, for anyone else on the internet who might be interested in the same route. It’ll save them doing all the mad prodding and hunting I did.

The first quest for the day; the 8:05am train from Aomori to Kanita. Not the most challenging quest I’ve gone on. I gave myself time to acquire some breakfast and supplies, and trundled onto the platform, along with hordes of school kids. Japanese schools don’t appear to issue their students with enormous bags, unlike the growing majority of Australian schools. As a result, they take up a lot less space on the trains. They’re still school kids though. They dance in the carriage and push each other around and sprawl all over the seats. Two stops later, and the lot of them streamed off the train, leaving it empty and not nearly as interesting. Must. Keep. Eyes. Open.

This is rural Japan. This is rice paddies on all available space, and large farm houses standing alone and apart from each other.

Kanita is a linear town, stretched out thin and taut between the train tracks and the shore. It’s a working town, a fishing town, and makes no attempt to be pretty. This is another face of Japan, one I hadn’t seen yet.

Kanita station is of the three platforms and a tin shed variety. I asked at the ticket office where the ferry to Wakinosawa was, and was given vague directions. Follow the road out of the station straight to the main road, and turn left. Easily done, but there was nothing remotely ferry-ish to be seen. I dived into the post office and asked again, and they elaborated that it was about a 15 minute walk to the ferry wharf. Yipe! The train had arrived at 8:50, and the ferry was due to leave at 9:20. Not a lot of leeway for getting lost. Not a lot of leeway for walking there. Go, little energiser bunny, go. And I go’ed. My shins hated me, but I can walk far and fast when I need to. I came to a bridge, and lo! There was a sign for a ferry wharf. Although the ferry is called “Kamoshina” and doesn’t go anywhere near Mutsu, “Mutsu Bay Wharf” could only be it. Arrows, now, they’re easy to follow.

Around the corner I was rewarded with a view of the ferry, across a huge parking lot with fishing nets stretched everywhere. Phew. Acting on a hunch, I didn’t head to the ferry, but the very information office-y looking building nearby. I’m getting good at this. The ticket office was in the front foyer. Tickets can’t be bought on the ferry itself. It was only 1120 yen, which surprised me. It only costs a dollar or so more than what I pay to get to and from work every day.

Another dash across the parking lot, and I was on. Yay! Time to relax and actually eat something. It’s a one hour trip across the bay in a straight line. A good day to be on the water; the sun in and out of clouds, a good brisk wind and not much swell to speak of. If, like certain other monkeys who are prone to seasickness, you stand up on the open deck for the whole hour, it is a good idea to bring a hat, or something that will keep your hair out of your face.

(Kanita, from the ferry.)

(The Floating World)

I should point out that the ferry is actually a car ferry, and if you’re not interested in seeing Hotogakura on the second ferry, it probably works out better if you hire a car from Aomori, take it across in the ferry and just drive from there. The buses on the Shimokita Peninsula aren’t that regular. There was only one passenger on the ferry who walked off, and that was me.


As I suspected/counted on, there was another information office-y looking building right on the docks. They did sell tickets for the ferry to Sai, although I had some difficulty understanding the directions for which wharf it would dock at. The woman ended up taking me over, as she was delivering the crew’s lunch to them anyway. This ferry is a sightseeing ferry, so cost 2640 yen for just under two hours.

Oh, you know, the world plays mindgames. I’ve been stressed about the things going on back home, wondering if I should leave early, knowing that even if I did, there’s exactly nothing I can do, which has started contributing to the whole insomnia thing, and generally, haven’t been so chipper the last week or so. But then, the world turns around with a smile and says, “hey, girl, have a coastline.”

I had to hide behind my sunglasses. Funny how beauty makes you cry.

(The ferry had no outside space, and all the windows were dirty, so the photos aren't the best. Still, they're enough to jostle my memory.)

The coastline between Wakinosawa and Sai is spectacular. Rugged and rocky and fascinating, there is no beach, just mountainside that dives into the sea. The forest is burnished with autumn, a faint rust amid all the golden green. The sea is a great clean blue. Hotogakura is a particular formation of rocks said to look like Buddha. Buddha, you know, he’s a bit like Jesus. You can see him in anything, if you look hard enough. Although he has more class than to show up in a cheese sandwich.

Sai came far too quickly. Yet another information office-y looking building, which had toilets, very important, and the staff at the ferry ticket counter provided me with a handy map detailing where I could catch the bus to Mutsu. I had heaps of time before the bus was due, but I like to find my x-marks-the-spot before chilling.

Sai isn’t big enough to get lost in. Let’s just say, I didn’t find what I was looking for. To be fair, I was looking for the wrong thing. I was looking for a terminal, some big obvious “I R BUSES” structure. The population of the peninsula, and the tourism flow through Sai, doesn’t merit such a structure. After asking at a travel tour office, and getting extra directions, I found the bus stop. That’s all it was. A bus stop. Not even a seat. Be aware.

(I'm not kidding. The red sign is it.)

I killed some time at a café with some orange juice and a purple cake thing. I didn’t know what purple cake things tasted like, so I figured I should find out. They don’t taste like anything other than cake, really.

The bus was just a local bus, taking a long winding route along the coast, through all the little fishing villages, to Mutsu. These villages aren’t pretty, they’re fascinating. Thinner even than Kanita, there are houses which have the sea wall as their back fence. Fishing boats busted and dented and well-used are tied up everywhere. Nothing feels permanent. Everything, from the docks to the drying racks to the shacks to the houses, feels temporary. Every single house I saw was weatherboard built. Maybe because it’s cheap. Maybe because they know the sea will knock down expensive and cheap housing regardless.

They don’t forget the sea. I saw a man in his back yard, squatting on the sea wall, staring out at the horizon. Another had stopped by the road, just staring. Fishermen stood on the docks.

It’s not a glamorous bus ride, and definitely worth doing.

Fell in love again.

About an hour in, I really regretted the orange juice.

Fortunately, the stop at Ohata station (did you know Ohata had a station? I didn’t, and I don’t think any trains actually use it) was a decent one, enough time for the bus driver and me to make use of the toilets. From there it was a short trip to Mutsu. The whole ride cost 2260 yen.

Mutsu is not a tourist city. It had its eyes closed when I got of the bus, and when I went out for a walk later, it was still asleep. There isn’t much appeal to be had in strolling around, and not much strolling to be had.

My hotel was across the road from the bus terminal, easy to find, and heeeey! Free internet, with the cable already provided in the room, which hasn’t played up at all yet. There’s no information office to be seen, so if you’re after info, it’d be best to get what you need at the office in Aomori.

Tomorrow…I rent a car. Eeeek!

(For any interested, the timetable for the Kanita-Wakinosawa ferry in Japanese. I'm not at home and so can't find the pamphlet and correct name for the ferry from Wakinosawa to Sai.)

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