Go to Kakunodate, she said. You'll love it. Uh-huh. Sure. I just wish I kept my winter gear.
Last night over dinner (a most delicious treat of boiled meats and veggies dipped in raw egg – once more, why don't we eat this back home?! I'll tell you – because dipping things in raw egg sounds gross, but my lord is it good.) when I presented my well researched plus present – one of the few they didn't have – I was told that I should go to Kakunodate. I didn't know what was there, or why I was headed there, only that it was a place to check out.
I knew this because, after a night of hard karaoke (p-p-p-poker face) I had a scrap of paper with the word written on it.
When I woke up, and cleared my head, I set off to the train station, slammed the paper down, and said, “ticket please.” Then I boarded the train and proceeded to pass out.
I needed sleep. I needed more sleep than the three hour train ride could lend me. But I took what I could get (yes I took what I could get). However when I woke up I was less than pleased. I didn't know what direction I was headed in, nor where I was going, and while the forests out the windows were lovely to see, the snow covering the ground was a wee bit less delightful! Where was I being sent? Was this an attempt to kill me? It must have been! I didn't even have socks!
When the train stopped there was nothing out the window, just fields to the mountains. I was about to rage, rage, against the storm until I saw the other side of the station. Ahh – there was the town. Good then. Great.
Before going out I put on my thermals that I'd carried the last few weeks, without cause to wear. Oh there was cause today! With them on, I headed for the tourist office (this is why I love trains – you get off, and all the information is right there for you.) I grabbed a map, and was told the best way to make my way through the city. I had just under two hours.
As it turns out, Kakunodate was a samurai village. Samurai houses lined the main street, each with their own unique stamp to go into Jurassic Park (I was running out of blank space here). Some were free to wander and check out, but a couple from North Dakota pointed out one location and said I really must see it. Not knowing when it closed, I moved as fast as I could to get there. It was open for hours more. Inside a guide showed me around the house, pointing out the different rooms, the paper walls, the collection of items needed for the daily life, as well as some ore ornamental things. Also, there were cut outs of turtles in the walls, so when the flame behind them flickered shadows were cast upon the wall granting the illusion of a swimming animal.
Wandering the house, and experiencing the town, once more put me into ninja video games, and while I shouldn't have though it, it made me excited to play the games and think about how I'd experienced those locations in real life. It adds a new dimension to play.
Down by the river two kilometers of bare trees lined the pathways. During cherry blossom season (either long over, or not yet arrived here) the walkway becomes a national spot for people to visit. And I can only imagine how beautiful it must be. But now there was nothing. Just a path back to the station. And as I checked my clock I noticed I had only twenty minutes before the train left. Hightailing it back, I arrived just in time, got my seat, and then started back for Tokyo. All these out of reach day trips may seem a bit strange, but I've been sure to make good use of my rail pass. This trip was my last, though the pass would still be good for another two days.
The reason? My Japanese road trip would begin tomorrow. Where it would lead us? None could say. And if they guessed, they'd have only been wrong.
On a related note, I love train food – three or four dollars will buy you a pack of the tastiest Japanese food laid out before you, perfect for eating while on the move. Honestly, it's wonderful. And I love it so.
Ah, but wait – that wasn't all to be experienced on this day. No, the train ride home offered views of one of the best sunsets I'd seen in some time. the sky burst orange, power lines and trees silhouetted against the apocalyptic background. Though moving at three hundred kilometers an hour, I tried my best to take shots, unable to read my book for fear of missing one captivating moment of the experience.
It wasn't until finally the sun had gone down, and the sky turned black, that I could pick up my text and start to drift off as I rode the rails home, hundreds of kilometers away.