Arriving during the day made for finding a ryokan easy since the tourist information office at the main train station was open. We stepped off a bus right across from the ryokan and made our way inside. Our room in the ryokan was gorgeous! It was beautifully decorated with real, light colored wood. We had an 8-mat tatami room with a large genkan entryway and even our own bathroom with shower and tub. Plus there was a little area running along the windows for storage of our luggage, etc. The lady who showed us to our room even offered to make tea and said she'd be back later to set out our futon bedding. We weren't used to such "luxury". It was such a nice room that we relaxed for a few hours before heading out for dinner.
We enjoyed walking around the town aimlessly searching for a place to eat. We ended up in the night district and saw many women going to work. We also saw a limping kitty crossing the road. We hoped he'd be alright. After a long search, we decided to go back to a Ramen restaurant we'd seen at the beginning of our search. Unfortunately, the small restaurant with character had closed, so we went just across the street to a restaurant with seemingly less character. The miso ramen was tasty but very different from the miso ramen we were used to eating in Tokyo. We almost go lucky enough to find corn soup in a vending machine, but it was all sold out. We stopped at every other vending machine all the way back to the ryokan, but didn't find any. Tara understood that it was past corn soup season, but it was still a shame that the one vending machine had gotten her hopes up.
Back at the ryokan, it was again time for a "family time" shower and bath together. This time Seth didn't even attempt to enter the bath (aka kettle). Tara, on the other hand, loved it. This ryokan had a very shallow bath that was exactly the right length for Tara's legs. Ahhhhh..... In the morning, we delayed long enough to be the very last guests to leave the ryokan. Seth took picture after picture of the room and decided that we'd build a room just like this if we ever have a house where we can make a Japanese room.
We headed towards the castle and noticed one interesting fact about Hirosaki - the number of "konbini" (convenience stores) per block was vastly disappointing after coming from Tokyo. Finally, Tara stopped into what ended up being a tire store to ask four young guys where a konbini was. We could hear hardy laughter from them as we left. Imagine - someone thinking that a tire repair store could be a konbini!!
The castle grounds were pretty and we settled into a bench just across the moat. We ate our breakfast and imagined how nice the cherry tree lined moat would look in a couple of weeks when the trees were in bloom. The park was being used by many joggers and families out for a walk. It was a nice atmosphere. After breakfast, we wandered closer to the castle and crossed a very cute red curved bridge. As we were walking, we saw a painter painting a landscape with a large mountain in the background. Since the day was so hazy, Seth commented that the painter had a vivid imagination. However, we were surprised as we rounded a corner and there in front of us was a huge snow-capped peak seemingly floating in mid-air. It was a very neat view. We sat on a bench and enjoyed the view until it seemed like time to go. Our plan was to head South towards Hiroshima.
We exited the park and visited the tourist information to find out about train times. Tourist information was not helpful, but we did see a nice exhibition on Hirosaki containing photos and some parade floats. As we sat outside the tourist information office deciding what to do, we decided to first go to lunch at the "bikkuri donkey" restaurant we'd seen while walking to the castle. Since Bikkuri Donkey was in the opposite direction of the ryokan, Tara decided that if we could walk to the Bikkuri Donkey restaurant, we could also walk to the five storied pagoda.
The Hamburger-steak Bikkuri Donkey restaurant was yummy. Tara finally found her favorite corn cream soup. The five storied pagoda was also a good stop.
At the five storied pagoda, we were the only visitors until large Japanese group appeared. We had settled into a bench and were busy talking when all of a sudden a large BOOM started us. Someone had just rung the BIG BELL. We'd seen big bells before. One in Kyoto immediately sprung to mind. But, these other big bells had been cordoned off - you couldn't just go up to the big bell and ring it. Well, not here, a man had just rung the bell and it kept reverberating for a long time. Even after the sound went away, we could still fell the air vibrating from the bell. Kool. A while later, a group of two women and a man drove up and the women rang the bell together while the man took a photo. Seth decided that he was going to ring the bell. But, we waited until everyone else had left. Just as we were going up to ring the bell, a man with two kids arrived. They rang the bell! Finally, it was Seth's turn.
He swung the large tree trunk back and forth a few times and then let it connect with the bell. BOOM. We had a great time standing next to and inside of the bell as it was ringing. We also put our hands on the bell and felt the circular movement of the vibrations. Neat! Tara was not to be left out - she rang the bell also. We were really glad we stopped by the five storied pagoda before heading out of town.
We were planning to go South towards Hiroshima and in the end it made
the most sense to take a local train to Akita and then a Shinkansen to
Tokyo. Our friends Tod and Kristen again offered us futons in their library
and we not only got a good night's sleep, but we uploaded all the digital
Doraemon pictures and took our Ixus APS camera into Canon to be repaired
after taking too many Doraemon photos!!
|Ease of Journey||6||From Aomori to Hirosaki and then to Akita|
|Accommodation||8||We stayed in a ryokan with a beautiful Japanese room! All the real wood made it exceptionally pretty.|
Leave Hirosaki at 4:12pm and arrive Akita at 6:16pm
Walk a short distant to a waiting Shinkansen that left at 6:25pm and arrived Tokyo at 10:32pm