Monday, May 30, 2011

A Beautiful Drive in Akita

After admitting camping defeat, we decided we could at least take the scenic route for the drive back home (along Rt. 341 in Akita prefecture, and then driving over Mt. Hachimantai back to the Hachinohe toll road). Wow, are we glad we did! It was absolutely beautiful. I think these pictures will speak for themselves...

After passing through lakes with insane bright blue water, calm enough to slice through with a knife, we headed up into the foggy mountain side. We passed through tons of cooky little tunnels which took us up to the still snow-packed summit (where there was no view to speak of thanks to the clouds).

Definitely a drive worth taking! (Although be ready to replace your break pads after going over the mountain; that road is no joke!)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another (sort of) Failed Camping Trip

Why, rain, WHY do you get us every time?! (see our Yagen camping experience last summer)

Corey and I and some friends of ours decided that camping sounded good for this 4-day weekend. Lake Tazawa in Akita prefecture (3.5ish hours south of Misawa) was our destination this time around. Tazawako is Japan's deepest lake at 423 meters and has a campsite situated right on the shore. It's beautiful, but a little pricey (8700 yen, or ~$107 for 6 people and 3 tents for 2 nights) and is laid out a bit inconveniently. And, as we discovered, has at least one giant hornet flying around its grounds. Ew. Other than that, it's a nice location (I'd imagine especially in the summer when it's warm enough to be cavorting on the lake all day).

The plan was to stay for 2 nights. After a full week of sunny weather, we arrived optimistically to beautiful, warm, blue skies at around 1pm and got to setting up camp. After all the work was done and we headed down to the lake shore to start the fun and relaxation, dark threatening storm clouds rolled in and stole the sun away. Luckily the rain did manage to hold out for the evening. A few of the guys spent a very brief amount of time kayaking on the lake, us photo buffs spent time taking lots of pictures, we got in a good game of Bohnanza (have you played Bohnanza? If not, you're missing out on loads of bean-y fun!), we had a good meal, and roasted marshmallows around a strange, makeshift campfire (this place provided an odd cement U-shaped apparatus at each site to build a small fire inside of, but many campgrounds in Japan don't let you have fires at all, or regulate them to one communal fire pit somewhere in the campground. It's kind of a bummer.). So all in all, we had a decent (if slightly chilly) half-day of camping.

The rain began shortly after a rather large earthquake rattled everyone awake during the night (fyi, being woken up to a loud, strong earthquake while lying in a tent directly on the ground is a little disconcerting). We woke to complete and utter sog (as in, the state of deep, saturated sogginess). It was quickly decided that the outlook for another 24 hours of camping in these conditions was poor, so we schlepped our muddy, water-logged tents, chairs, coolers, canopies, etc back into our cars and high-tailed it back to Misawa. The drive back was something special, but I think I'll save that for another post...

Maybe someday we'll make it through an entire camping trip.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Perfect Day in Misawa

In contrast to my last post, this one is inspired by the most beautiful weather I've seen all year. Yesterday was GORGEOUS! I even got a little sunburn on my face while we were out and about taking in the sun.

After going out for Indian food (yum!) with friends who just got back from a looong deployment (yay!), we spent a few hours at Swan Park (yippee!). We played bocci ball and frisbee, climbed the tower, explored the park taking pictures, enjoyed the remaining blossoms, and took in some much needed vitamin D.

On the way home we stopped at the Cake House for some ice cream. Some delicious, wonderful ice cream. This place is very dangerous now that I know the deliciousness within.

Crossing my fingers that this nice weather stays around so we can have more great days like this!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Very Rainy Trip to the Lake

Today Chessa and I took a little day trip out to Lake Towada. In the morning when we made the decision to go, the sky was blue and the sun was shining. Twenty minutes after our departure, the complete opposite was the case. It rained harder today than I've seen in a very long time. We decided to keep going and hope the weather was better at the lake. That sort-of worked out for us. It was still pretty rainy, but we found little windows of dryness and were able to get out of the car and walk around a bit. We had lunch in a cute restaurant overlooking the lake and then took the girls out on a swan paddle boat for a rainy ride.

On the drive back we stopped at a few places in Oirase Gorge to look at waterfalls. So pretty! This is always one of the most beautiful places in Northern Japan, and it makes me love living here so much.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sakura Matsuri 2011

It's that time of year again: cherry blossom season! YAY! The trees have been coming into bloom over the past week, so there's lots of prettiness to look at around these parts.

We once again went out to the sakura matsuri (cherry blossom festival) in Hirosaki to view the blooms. We got to hang out at the park for 2 or 3 hours in the morning before rain came and herded us back to our cars in the afternoon. There was just enough time to take it in.

Corey got to enjoy a ton of his beloved festival food (including the obligatory tentacle on a stick, giant blocks of unknown gelatinous substance served with spicy mustard sauce, apple ice cream, yakisoba, meat sticks, and pineapple quarters), and I got to go hog wild with my camera. Something for everyone!

This year we went with our friend and her two adorable daughters. In Japan, the land that worships all things KAWAII (cute!!), these little picture-perfect blond cherubs attract quite a lot of attention. Dress them up in festival kimonos and it's all over- they had a following before even getting inside the castle park.

Yay for Spring! It's hard to believe we only have one more sakura-viewing season left in Japan. That seems insane. We just got here!!