Monday, October 09, 2006

Yagen Valley

Well, we ventured out once again into parts of Japan we didn't know existed. This trip was to the Shimokita peninsula to the Shimokitahanto National Park. We ended up camping in a location known as Yagen Valley. The location was very scenic with a river flowing next door to us cutting a gorge into the landscape. Amy and I both experienced our first onsen (natural hot springs) and will tell more of that in a future post.

The next day we drove to Mount Osare (literally Mount Dread), which is a quasi active volcano with a beautiful caldera lake (see 1st photo).
This location is one of the three most "holy" spots to the Japanese...the rough translation is the gateway to hell. A huge Buddhist temple covering several acres is on shore of this caldera lake. There are numerous shrines, statues, and monuments scattered on the landscape (photo 3). Also dotting the area are sulfer and steam vents (photo 2). Most of these have rock piles on them (a sort of monument to dead infants). These rock piles are everywhere. Every year the Japanese have some sort of holy ritual that takes place here that over 30,000 people attend. Blind women known as itako lead these rituals supposedly being able to communicate with the dead. We didn't see any dead, but the area was pretty neat. We'll have pictures of this up on our shutterfly site soon.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lake Towada Area

Our first overnight trip was in the beginning of September to Towada-Hachimantai National Park. We stayed at a pretty nice campground, not unlike those you would find in the states. Our main objective was to hike the Oraise Gorge (the bottom pic of the waterfall). This was about a 6 mile round trip hike that included numerous waterfalls.

The campground we stayed at was just outside a town called Yasumia, that just happened to be hosting a festival that weekend (middle picture). There were all kinds of food and beverage vendors that served anything from candy to grilled fish on a stick (scales, eyes, and all). Although our favorite was the very simple and plain grilled chicken, we did venture out and try some different noodles, soups, and items we're really not quite sure of what food group they belong to. All Japanese festivals have either an elaborate parade or fireworks (many times both). The parades consist of different floats being pushed/carried by as many as 50 people. They are always surrounded by dancers in traditional dress and followed by ice chests full of sake and various Japanese beers. The highlight of this parade was what I like to call the "lantern balancing guys." These fellas would take turns balancing a 70 foot bamboo shoot stacked with lit paper lanterns (quite impressive).

After a long day/night of hiking and festivaling we took a nice leisurely drive around Lake Towada (a volcanic lake and top picture). We'll put up all these pictures on our shutterfly website soon.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Cars

Our first automobile is a 1997 baby blue Surf (4-Runner in the US) with 61,000 km's (about 36,000 miles). This bad boy has power windows/locks, remote starter, 4-wd, 12-disk CD changer, airconditioning, sunroof, and GPS (although it's in Japanese).

The second of our auto's is what I refer to as the "monster truck." It's a 1995 Pajero Mini with 111,000 km's (66, 000 miles). It's fully equipped with power windows, cd/mp3 player (you have to hold it in at first, so it will start playing), and 4-wd for the snow driving. In this bad boy you are literally elbow to elbow with your fellow passenger. This soccer mom's dream will hold 4 full sized adults very uncomfortably.

Both cars run well (Japanese engineering at its finest). But for the life of us, we can't figure out what the tiny mirrors are for on the hood. A couple of theories are (1) they can see the shorter japanese people walking along the road, (2) you can check the polish on the chrome of your rims, or (3) to check the blindspot inbetween the front wheel and your front door before trying to make a lane change. And although we would love to bring these beauties back home with us, it might be hard to drive in the US with the steering wheels on the wrong side.

Labels: , , ,

The House

May we present to you the tuscan mustard house...our domicile for the next three years. This baby comes equipped with 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths (1 heated toilet seat), 1- car garage, and no lawn to mow. We have lots of closet space, kerosene heaters in every room, and electric air conditioners/heaters in the living room and all bedrooms. We'll put interior pictures up as soon as we get everything moved in.

Labels: , , ,