Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hachinohe Friday

Friday was an all day tour to Hachinohe with FTAC. Hachinohe is the next largest city to Misawa. Just and interesting little factoid that we learned on this trip. Hachi means 8 and Nohe means gate. There is also Ichinohe (one gate), Ninohe (two gate), Sannohe (three gate), Gonohe (5 gate) and so on. Four is a very unlucky number to the Japanese, kinda like 7 or  13 for us. You aren't going to see 4th floors or #4 apartments. It's because 4 is said "Shi" which also sounds like Death.

Our first stop is the Hachinohe Fish Market. This place is really famous - like people come from all over Japan to get fresh fish. This area is also know for it's squid. The more I think about it, the more I realize this is probably the right part of Japan for me - Fresh Squid! It look a lot of will power to keep from buying some - I didn't want it to go bad on an all day tour.
These are Octopus - terribly tasty when cooked inside these omelet thingys. So we just walked around between the rows of vendors. Some times they would have huge bowls of different looking things. You took the pair of chopsticks and put a little bit of it in your hand and then licked it off your hand. Then you wiped your hand with the wet washcloth that's right next to the bowl. Ok, so not the most sanitary - but oh the tasty things we tried. I think I ate snails at one point. Most of it looked like the salads that you find in the deli at the supermarket, so if you can't read the writing you wouldn't even be able to guess at the individual ingredients. Ian and I tried this seaweed that was so delicious it must have been made with crack. I ended up buying some because it's rare that I find a seaweed that I'm completely in love with. The tour guide said that some times if you are lucky they will have a like octopus or squid crawling around on the floor that you can pet and take pictures with, but we didn't see one. We did see the man with the shark.
He's like a cute little mascot. All the people were really nice. One lady started talking to me but I had to tell here I didn't speak very well, then she told me that I did, but I got embarrassed and said thank you and walked on. Ian also got a picture of a puffer fish that's really cool - it's in the album. P.S. They have a mugs made of dried squid that you pour your cold beer in and it slightly flavors the beer like squid...and then you eat the mug. We are so buying this when we come back!

After the Fish Market we went to the train station so that we could learn how to get tickets to get on the bullet train to get down to Tokyo. It seems petty easy, Ian and  I will have to try it some time when he actually has leave. Also at the train station was this huge float. They have a festival with floats that's very famous in Hachinohe. This float was a retired float and that guide said that it could be almost 300 years old. That it had just been converted to be driven, because in the olden days they were pulled by hand. It was really spectacular. We got to take pictures of it from and upper floor. But our favorite part were the snow monkeys stealing fish.
 Just a little tip about monkeys - don't show them your teeth or that you have food. They also like to attack women and children. Smart savage little buggers. Japanese floats are huge because they tell a story. I guess the story progresses from the front of the float to the back. I always wondered why the backs of the floats were as wonderful as the front. These dudes are on the back of the float and they don't look too happy.
 After the train station we went to Kushihiki Hachimangu Shrine.  I know, I'm writing about shrines again! But I learned something new this time. So you remember those little slips of paper that my friend and I tied on rope at the shrine in Misawa the day we went adventuring? I figured out what they are! Fortunes! This shrine is like the only shrine in all of Japan that has the fortunes written in English on the back. If the fortune is good you keep it with you, and if it's bad you tie it to the little ropes in hopes that it'll counter your bad luck. Ian got an excellent fortune. I got a good fortune but it was more like "things will work out in the future - hold on" type of fortune. I figured I should keep it. You never know right?
This shrine had some other interesting things. There are some super old sacred Japanese cedar trees. If you see a rope with some dangly paper thingies that means it's sacred. There were also some sacred rocks on cushions. This shrine is super packed during New Years Eve. Like hundreds of thousands of people - we are going to have to try it. You wait in line for like hours to be able to ring the bell and pray for the new year. But the nice thing is that there are vendors selling hot drinks and food and people are really nice about holding your place so you can get things. People also dress up in their nicest kimonos. Which is a sore subject. A new kimono is like $5,000 and that's like starting price. That's not the obi or the socks or any of that jazz. I was a little sad to hear that.

Perhaps the most awesome thing about the shrine was that they had a museum that houses two of Japans national treasures. It was said to us that there are like 14 or 17 national treasures in Japan (I got two different numbers and I haven't found a number on the internet so I'm not sure about this) and that these two are the only treasures in the north of Japan. One of them just came back from the smithsonian so we were lucky to see it. Are you curious what they are? hun hun?
Samurai armor! But not the one in this picture - we weren't allowed to take photos inside. Just photos of the not so special ones outside. They are so beautiful and in surprisingly good condition considering they are from like the 1200s. The really nice one had red lacing with gold chrysanthemum designs clouds. It's called Kiku Ichimonji, literally chrysanthemum and Chinese character one.  All the tying of cording. I need to start carrying a sketchbook...I can feel the inspiration. We also got a poster... Just saying - I liked it.

After all that culture crap we went to the mall. They had an indoor rollercoaster, ferris wheel, and ship thingy in the mall! I'm not joking. Plus the typical food court, grocery store, clothing stores, etc. I left Ian in the arcade and went off  exploring - I found the largest craft store I have yet to find. Oh the fabrics. The only thing is how do they measure it off the bolt? I can't say 1 yard can I? Is it a meter? I have to figure this out. And the yarn, and the threads, and the cute patterns that are oh so Japanese fashion and unreadable.
I should probably explain something about Japanese malls. They really don't have interior dividing walls like in the states. It's pretty much a huge open space. You can tell if you've entered into another store because the tiles and wall colors change a bit. It's kinda like each store has an atmosphere. It's really important that you don't walk from one store to another without paying for your merchandise. It sounds confusing but it's not difficult to remember unless you are like in a huge shopping daze. I got really lost trying to find the bus but luckily I made it in time. I really didn't want to be left in Hach with no way of getting home. We had a really exciting full day.
Here's the link to the album: Hachinohe Tour

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