Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good Friends, Loud Music, and Dead Fish!

Three highlights of my trip to Shimokita with Dustin and Ris.

Saturday morning Dustin arrives in Aomori City after a long overnight ferry ride from Hokkaido. We meet up with him at the station. Ris has reserved a rental car for three days and I pull out some extra cash for the weekend. The rental guy picks us up at the station, we pay for the car, and we start to drive north. That is our pre-departure planning in its entirety for our three days of exploring Shimokita.

Our fearless Jeeves.

Well not really, but close enough. Ris and I pretty much left all the planning up to Dustin, a veteran of traveling in Japan. Our destinations of Osore-san and Oma were pretty clear but our route was pretty much anything goes.

We started north at about 9:30 am on Saturday and reached Osore-san by noon. Dustin gave me a short history on the region once we were there. "Osore" literally means "fear". Yep, we actually made plans to travel to Mt. Fear! I am not too clear on the history but it seems this area is a place that spirits come in order to cross to the afterlife according to the local Buddhists.

We made a few stops on the road north. Along one of the mountain roads we caught a small spring and shrine that are very common in Japan. Also, Dustin wanted to stop by a small train station to buy a "collector" ticket or something. Apparently the crazy guy has been to every train station in Hokkaido that sells these special tickets and now he is getting started on Honshu.

Drink the Urine of the Mountain and be free my children.


Osore-san is quite active it seems. After I relieved myself we
happened upon some active sulfur pools that really weren't that hot.

Have you seen my record?

Once you get past the temple area you are free to walk the grounds. I will tell you they got the name right when they decided to call the place Fear! It was actually quit eerie behind the temple area. There were these piles of rocks everywhere with little messages written on them and the occasional child's toy stuck between the cracks. The pinwheels were especially creepy.

Dustin informed me that the children's toys placed around the shrines were for children who had perished before their parents. They were stuck in some kind of Buddhist purgatory and apparently bored. The occasional crow didn't help the mood either.

The whole area was very beautiful though. The lake behind the sulfur grounds was a very deep blue with yellow shores, and the occasional Buddha statue made for a relaxing atmosphere.

After Osore-san we made our way to the most northern point of mainland Japan. Oma is famous throughout Japan for their high quality tuna. We arrived right at sunset when most of the shops were closing down but managed a few shots.

We asked a local where we could get some of this famous tuna. She gave us some simple instructions for a nice little restaurant downtown (and yes we got lost in a freakin' fishing village WITH a GPS unit in the car...) THIS TUNA WAS AMAZING! I have never eaten such fresh raw tuna before. This stuff just melted in your mouth. We decided to stay the night in Oma since it would be about a three hour drive back to Kuroishi. This would also give us the chance to possibly catch a glimpse of the morning fish market.

We missed the catch of the day tuna haul thanks to our incompetent hotel staff so we asked around about a demonstration of tuna carving. We were lucky enough to catch the last show of the year.

Come touch my tuna! It bring long life and happy time.

This tuna was HUGE! Fully gutted it weight in at 140 kilos which is about twice my weight. The coolest part was after the whole tuna was carved though. Our foreigner power granted us a couple of tickets to eat some of the freshly carved tuna. They would let you scrap the flesh right off the rib cage of this thing, dip it into some soy sauce and wasabi, and munch it right down. I love the idea of sanitation in this country.

After our tribal breakfast we headed south along the coast towards Hotokegaura. They say these rock formations resemble Buddhas...

We made it home to Kuroishi that night and took Dustin to one of our favorite ramen joints. God I missed ramen!

The last day of a three day weekend should always end in an onsen. About 30 km out of Kuroishi is a very famous mixed bath hot spring. They claim you can fit 1000 naked people in this thing at one time and they have a poster on the wall to prove it. It might help that 90% of them are wrinkled old people.

After a half hour of trying to relax in the bath with naked young women surrounding me and trying not to notice all the dirty old men ogling Risa, Dustin takes us back to the apartment. We say our goodbyes and he heads off to catch his ferry home. All around a perfect weekend.


smatt said...

The Shamalama strikes again! Free Willy!

TheSarah said...

At least you have this blog so that I can get updates seeing as how you have apparently forsaken your so-called "favorite little family in Washington".

Jonathan said...

Hey we had dinner with your folks the other night. I think I had a bit too much of the beer though.