Sunday, September 11, 2011

Typhoons and Traveling

Let me start out by saying how much I have experienced with Mother Nature during the past year. I started my Japanese journey in the hottest summer ever recorded, followed by a bitterly cold (but typical) winter, then came the most powerful known earthquake to hit Japan (and then there were the tsunamis and radiation), and just last week Japan had another encounter with Mother Nature with Typhoon 12, the largest typhoon to hit Japan in the last 25 plus years (26 inches of rain in one day in some areas). I have come to respect Mother Nature a lot more, because Typhoon 12 which struck hundreds of miles south of me, earlier in the week was on a direct course for my prefecture. Needless to say, I’m thankful that I live in a landlocked prefecture now more than ever.

But, on with the travel story!

I’ve recently come up with the idea that I will try and travel to as many prefectures that Japan has to offer (47). However, due to the earthquake, if I make it to 40 of those prefectures I will be quite pleased. So, for the next 10.5 months, I will make my way through Japan. Am I excited? Yes. Am I excited to be spending more money than I should be (oh graduate school)? No, but I figure this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. So, my goal to 40 prefectures is up and running. I’m taking into account the prefectures I’ve visited in 5th, 8th, and while in college, so I’ve knocked off about 10 or 15 prefectures already.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk and I was thinking of my weekend plans. So, I got out my Japan guide and realized that Ishikawa Prefecture is right above me. It was settled. On Friday (mid typhoon rains and strong winds), I started my 4 hour train ride, first west into the typhoon and then north-east. I settled into my Ryokan (Japanese style hotel/hostel) and woke up bright and early Saturday hoping to beat some of the rain that was forecasted for the day. My first stop was the famed Kenrokuen Garden. It is designated as Cultural Property and a National Site of Special Scenic Beauty, plus it is consider one of the three “Great Gardens” in Japan. It was first built in 1676 and did some moving and design changes through the years until 1874, when it was first open to the public. It has the oldest fountain in Japan and the fountain actually works by natural pressure. It was gorgeous, even if I spent most of the time under my umbrella. The leaves were just starting to turn reddish-orange, and I would love to go back in a few weeks when they are all autumn colors.

After the garden, I walked across the street to the ruins of Kanazawa Castle. It has been rebuilt and looks nice, but I opted not to go inside from the recommendations I read online.

From the Castle, I went to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s deisgned to be like a “museum open to the city like a park”, which is cool until they tack on admission fees for all sorts of exhibitions. I opted not to do the major exhibition because only about 1/3 of it was open on the day I went. Instead I wandered into a local artists room, where these two ladies try to give me free admission when I asked them what it was about (I finally managed to give them my $5 coin).

After the museum, I ate a quick bite to eat and I was off to Myoryuji Temple (aka Ninja Temple). It has nothing to do with ninjas, but when it was built, houses were only allowed to have two stories (and even now, they never build three storey houses). So from the outside it looks like it has two stories, but in reality, it has 7 stories that fit into a normal two-storey house. I wish I could’ve taken pictures, but that wasn’t allowed. After the ninja temple, I walked around and visited the open market where loads of fresh seafood (we are 20 miles from the ocean) were being sold. After a quick peak at the market I took a bus back to the main station where I met a lovely professor who teaches animal science, who spoke great English. He was visiting the area to escape the typhoon (I thought it was odd that only him and his buddies went, not his wife or daughters…).

I headed to the mall which was right next to the station and looked at the movie schedule and decided Transformers 3 sounded like a great way to end my Saturday night. I saw the movie, walked 3 minutes to my hotel, and enjoyed a nice beer and Catcher in the Rye. Tough life.

Sunday morning was spent at Starbucks and then catching a train to Fukui City (of Fukui Prefecture). They have a famous landmark called Tojinbo. It is a massive collection of rock formations on the coast. It was a great sight and it made me miss the Oregon Coast dearly! It took about 1.5 hours from Fukui City to get there, and then another 1.5 back, so at that point I was ready to start my journey back home.

It was a great trip and I was able to wipe off two prefectures from my list. Once I figure out how many I actually visited during my previous trips to Japan, I’ll post a list of what I have left.

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