The Tohoku region north-east of Tokyo may not at the top of the visitor list, but it should be. Spectacular scenery, coastal and mountain landscapes, large cities as well as very small villages, numerous places to walk and with many small and large festivals to enjoy.
Re-invigorating the tourism sector is important element of the ongoing and seemingly never ending social and economic recovery for most places affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
With this in mind and a JR Pass in hand I spent a couple of nights in the industrial port town of Kamaishi, in fact re-visiting having been here just 15 months ago. Here is a taste of what I got up to. Detailed posts will follow and be linked here as well.
- the focus of visiting Kamaishi was to meet up with Nodoka who recounted her lived experience of the earthquake and tsunami at Kamaishi Higashi Junior High School in Unosumai – the “Kamaishi Miracle”. See my post about this meetup here.
- exploring the bays and beaches of Otsuchi with Yoko from the Takakin Inn
I am in Japan again. Usually on one day I take some time to do ‘work’ around the management of disasters. This time I caught up with someone who I saw present at the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai in March 2015.
First hand accounts of Disaster Resilience education at work sure beats reading news clippings. Today my friends was one of those days.
See this account on my Awareness to Action blog at https://bushfireresilience.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/first-hand-account-of-disaster-resilience-education-at-work/
‘Laundry needs to be done again’ I didn’t want to think about it.
After running around aimlessly for 6 hours in Tokyo on the great laundry hunt, and suffering the indignity of being offered a seat on the train, I wasn’t looking forward to this.
But laundry nirvana can be found in Morioka. A quick question at the hotel desk, a mapped marked up, and off I go. Found at the first attempt. Within 1 hour I am back, clothes washed and dried.
Another day goes by too quickly in Morioka. So I purposefully headed out to the Aeron Standard Diner and Bar for a local beer and maybe a conversation or two with the local patrons.
Maybe I need to lower my expectations a bit about the likelihood of striking up a chat. I am so glad I took my book to read – just as a fall back, of course. Got 50 pages read which says a lot about conversations. Enjoyed the two Baeren Classics though! Aeron is a small place with a nice vibe, good selection of food, and friendly staff.
Next evening after another big day, this time I am intent on reading another 75 pages without interruption from those pesky conversationalists. Two more Baeren Classics, this time at the little Baeren pub in the basement of JR Morioka Station. Nice. Only got 64 pages read though.
Baeren is a micro-brewery in Morioka specialising in German style beer. Baeren was recommended by Meg, a Morioka blogger, so I thought I would give it a try. Goes well with books.
And so here I was on the Chuo Line Rapid rumbling to Shinjuku, heading to the coin-operated laundry as directed by my Information Service friends back at Tokyo – back pack stuffed with dirty clothes.
I know the last hour had been hectic, and I might have looked a bit sweaty and tense, and I do have a nice head of grey hair, and I look like the age that I am (58).
But did the young man really have to offer me his seat? It’s all very good being polite. It hurt.
Tokyo is a big place and I assumed it would be pretty easy to find a coin-operated laundry, pop the dirty washing in, sit around for an hour, and be back out touristing before you know it.
Here’s hour the next hours panned out.
- went to the Visitor Centre literally outside the JR Metropolitan Marunouchi Hotel where we were staying. Very helpful, looked up Mr Google and gave me a map with 2 laundries nearby.
- Went off in search of them. Failed to find either but found other shops in their place. Lesson 1 – don’t rely on Mr Google.
- went to Shinjuku Information Centre, where the Tokyo folks suggested to go as a fall back. Mr Google was sourced again, another map, and a laundry name – only 500 metres away.
- went off in search of it. Even after seeking advice at the Koban box, ‘not around here – we know all the shops’
- rang Veronica in desperation. Veronica got advice from the Marunouchi Hotel folks. Great, got a map sent to me on my phone.
- Went off in search again, map in hand (phone). Fail. Again. Another Koban Box chat, and this time further directions to a place in Tsukiji. ‘Definitely there’.
- another 2 kilometres, a few laps of the blocks marked on the map. Bingo, found it! Not as marked on the map though.
I am a big fan of filling nearly every daylight hour with action when I am travelling. Spending nearly 6 hours doing the laundry is not my idea of a good day spent overseas.
No need to go further up the valley deeper into the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, strolling the Mitake Gorge riverside walking path caps off a great day that included the Mitake Tozan Ralway and the Musashi Shrine.
Starting just below Mitake station, the 4 km path follows the Tama-gawa downstream offering stunning natural river views, constant high flows rushing across rock shelves and around giant boulders. The moving water provides the soundscape. How can we be so close to the conurbation of Tokyo?
While the Guide books describe easy access to the Ozawa Sake Brewery, Mitake Art Museum, Gyokudo Art Museum, and Kushi-Kanzashi Museum, my suggrestion is the hidden gem of Cafe Aun for a relax and refreshment while poring over the exquisite ceramic works of Ryujiro Oyabu.
The day spent around Mitake is a great recharge. Have a go yourself.
More information about the Mitake Gorge and other local sites can be found at Ome City Tourist Information.