Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Visit to Sendai and Morioka

I had to spend a couple days in Sendai for my work Visa, and I took the opportunity to visit my friends living in Morioka over the weekend.

Wednesday I flew to Sendai, it took a while because of connecting flights through Fukuoka, but I arrived and found my hostel with very little problems. In Sendai I stayed at Miyagi Guest House and it was fantastic. I had a great time and found it to be very friendly. I spent Thursday exploring Sendai and doing a little shopping. Then on Friday I decided to stay in the hostel main room and do some work from my laptop; the owner was really nice and made me lunch and a few people hung out all day.

During my first couple days in Japan I was very thankful that I knew Japanese. While the Japanese don't speak as much English as the Koreans do, I was still able to communicate with people without many problems. I spent a lot of time in the area of Sendai station. I was originally hoping to spend time with my friend J.B. Kido, he is a geophysics researcher at Touhoku University, unfortunately he was out to sea doing research related activities when I visited. I hope his research went well, I had to drink on my own while he was out. But I had a good time. I went to a neat little bar, Teddy's Bar just off of the main strip. It was a nice place, the owner spoke some English, but we talked mostly in Japanese. I was interested how Sendai was doing since the Tsunami, I was glad to hear that the tsunami didn't do physical damage to the city, but there has been substantial financial damage. Currently commerce is down and many businesses are struggling in Sendai at the moment. I found that this shock to the economy stretches as far as Morioka, where many people have families displaced by the tsunami.

Teddy's bar was a fantastic visit. I was happy to be drinking some great Japanese beer, but I also ordered a hamburger and was very surprised at how fantastic the burger was. While Japanese food is fantastic, it is a rare find when you find a Japanese restaurant serving good burgers. The burger at Teddy's is one of my favorite burgers I have had to date. I had a good time and will definitely return to have a beer and burger the next time I am in Sendai!

After a day of working on Friday I picked up my visa and headed to Morioka by bus. It was a nice ride, I got to sit back and enjoy the scenery, I also took a nap in anticipation of all the fun to come in the evening. I'm glad I did because I was up until around 5am. The main problem with my weekend in Morioka was that I forgot my camera on the bus, so I took very few pictures. But that is fine because I had a lot of fun and caught up with a lot of friends.

Friday night I met with Morita, Yuko, Regain, Kintaro, and a new friend Haruka. Then a little later into the evening a party came into the Bike Cafe for a few last drinks and I met some really nice guys! Unfortunately I don't remember all their names; I know I was calling one of them "Dan" and another guy "Peter". There as also a cool guy named "Yukku". It was Yakku's birthday, and they were having a great night. They were pretty cool guys and we went out again on Sunday for Korean food at the restaurant where Haruka works. Too bad I didn't have my camera because I would have loved to have more pictures from the korean restaurant, and the Japanese boys Dan, Peter, and Yuk.

One of my favorite things in Morioka was the visits to the public baths. Sure it wasn't an onsen, but it was a bath that has some minerals in the water. We went to the bath on Saturday - Monday, we would go into the hot bath, the jet bath, the sauna, and the cold-water bath. I really enjoyed the cold water bath after a long stint in the sauna or hot baths. I must say I felt very rejuvenated after the baths.

Monday was my final day in Morioka. Kenji came to pick me up at the Bike Cafe, and we hung out for a little bit before I headed out. King had come by to bring us something to drink. It was a Korean drink, but I forgot the name of the drink. It was soju, but it was white and creamy. Kenji lives about a 1 hour drive from the Bike Cafe so we drove from Morioka to his home. We had a nice long car ride and a chance to talk for a while. Kenji is trying to study English so we practiced English a bit, and we spoke in Japanese when things were too complex. 

It was fun going to his place because I got to do a mini homestay with Kenji, we had a few drinks before going to bed, then in the morning we had breakfast and watched TV. It was good to just relax and chat with a friend. In the morning he drove me to the Sendai Airport were we talked for a couple hours then as we neared the airport I got to  see all the damage done to Sendai. Because I arrived in the evening I didn't notice all the damage to the area, but in full daylight I saw that there was a lot of damage near the airport. I was thrown for a bit of a shock when I saw a boat in the middle of a farm. Near the airport there were many places that just had piles of debris, and farms were full of bags that must have been full of garbage moved around by the water.

I must say that I am still in awe as to all the damage done by the tsunami. I only saw a small glimpse of the damage caused, and I know that it has just ruined so much. So much property, but more importantly so many lives have been impacted by the event. The Japanese people are working through the tsunami, and I know my friends will be fine; but I still wonder if there is some way I can help. I think that something as simple as visiting Japan can help. After hearing about how local stores are hurting I think that visiting and paying business to local shops does a world of help. While in Japan I got a lot out of talking to people and just listening to their stories.

Despite the depressing overtone of the tsunami I had a lot of fun in Japan. It was a great visit. Some of my friends had a personal connection to the tsunami, but people are doing well. I'm already starting to think about when I will  have my next opportunity to go visit!