Ichinoseki and Hiraizumi (Rest day!)

Distance: 0 miles

Total Distance: 1312 miles

Photo Album

IMG_4231

With a full rest day today, we slept in and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in our hotel room. We finally wandered outside mid-morning and went to the station for our first experience with the Japanese train system–with all this time on our bikes, and we hadn’t had a chance to try out the public transportation yet! After a bit of confusion with the tickets (not ours–the group of octogenarian women in front of us in line), we barely made it onto the next train to Hiraizumi but enjoyed the ride over. It felt nice to be moving without a lot of effort on our part!

Once in Hiraizumi, we walked across town to the temple complex of Chuson-ji, which is spread across a beautiful pine-covered hilltop at the northern end of town. As we were walking up the hill to reach the first temples, I realized that I had been here years before when I took a trip through Tohoku with a family from Hakodate. The previous trip had been in the early spring when snow was still falling, so it was difficult at first to recognize the area.

IMG_4145

One of the temple buildings at Chuson-ji

IMG_0913

A Jizo statue at Chuson-ji

IMG_4181

One of the many temples

After some delicious soft ice cream–Vicky ordered it herself in Japanese but accidentally asked for hitori (“one person”) instead of hitotsu (“one cone”)–we wandered back down the hill and back down across town to see the famous gardens at Motsu-ji temple. We enjoyed this quite a bit–the gardens are very large and the explanations of the various design elements are nicely done. By the time we finished we were both a little hungry and tired, so we headed back down the road towards the station area.

IMG_0918

A Buddha statue in the Motsu-ji gardens

As we were walking back, we saw a young boy walking ahead of us, clearly on his way home from school–he almost seemed to have been transported out of the the 1950’s with his school uniform, yellow cap, and leather backpack and lunch satchel. As he walked, his bus pass (which dangled on an elastic cord from his backpack), bounced in time with his footsteps and the song he was humming to himself.

Vicky began snapping pictures of him, which he immediately noticed. After a few looks backwards, he called out to a friend of his further down the road, who turned back and shouted back. Our little friend began running down the road and caught up to with his buddy; they huddled together and looked back at Vicky, giggling and shoving each other. As we caught up to them, they both jumped into the air as if surprised at our appearance.

IMG_4227

These two made sure Vicky could take a few pictures before running off

IMG_4231

These kids were playing hard to get while Vicky took pictures

“Mamma mia!” shouted one.

“Unbelievable!” cried the other.

And they ran off down the street, but not before pausing so that Vicky could snap a few more shots. I thought I might have misheard their words–I couldn’t think of anything more unlikely for two six-year-old Japanese students to say–but they repeated both phrases several times as they sped off down the road.

Back at the station, we found that we still had another hour until the next train, so we went into a small restaurant next door for a late lunch–what a fortunate choice! The menu at this place contained a few things I have never seen before, and we both enjoyed our food. Vicky had a nice bowl of noodles, while I had a set meal of hatto gozen (wheat dumplings) prepared in several different ways.

IMG_0921

My hatto gozen meal

Back in Ichinoseki we ran a couple of errands and got some food for dinner, and then relaxed for the rest of the evening in our room, planning out our route for the next few days and updating our blog. We were planning on getting through Tohoku (northern Honshu) in just a few more days, so we needed to rest up as much as possible!