It was a was a long long day. For breakfast V introduced us to the delights of Mr Donut. It has other food as well. I grew very attached to a small pastry, a bit like a sausage roll, but lighter and it came with its own inbuilt sauce. Of course I had a donut too and the coffee was as much as you could drink.
We bought our tickets and set off on the local train to Aomori. We had a bit of time to kill before our bus tour started, so we had a look at the waterfront renewal. The train station is either new or had a makeover to prepare it for the arrival of the Shinkansen which will begin running later this year. This will probably cut an hour from the trip from Tokyo or more, as there will be no change at Hachinohe and the Shink will be extra fast. Think of travelling from the centre of Sydney to the centre of Melbourne in four hours. Ah, I am getting angry at Australia again.
Our Japan Rail passes covered us for this hop on hop off service to Lake Towada. We left Aomori behind and the coach started climbing. We stopped at a place where there was a chairlift and quite a few people left the bus. Next stop was for tea, free, in the open air, served from a large pot by yourself using a ladle and the pot was surrounded by a large gutter of fresh water for cup washing and rinsing.
We climbed some more and stopped at resort type places along the way. We were quite high at one point, travelling through a pass between two mountains. Then, down into a gorge and the coach pretty well followed the path of the very pretty river, possibly called the Oirase Stream. We started to see some waterfalls and luckily we chose the right stop to get out to see the big ones and they were flowing well. We ate half our sandwiches V had prepared and then caught the next bus to the lake.
You can get off the bus as you reach the lake and cross to the village/resort (Towada?) on the other side, but we stayed on the bus which went around the lake. We wandered around, looking in some shops and finished off our lunch and had drinks. We went a bit into the bush and saw a temple and followed a path and came across a critter called tanuki. There was a group of Americans, probably from the army base walking the track too. Not sure if they were from the normal army base or the secret army base that everyone knows about. It is a racoon dog, one of the loudly proclaimed. It is an alternative name but V knew the correct name and it was the first time she had seen one in the wild. We made shushing motions to the group from the army base behind us, but without much effect. The tanuki took no notice of us and went about its business of finding food on the forest floor. We saw it again a bit later, near beware of bears signs.
We wandered back to near our departure point and had another drink. R wanted an iced coffee from the vending machine, but ended up with a can of hot coffee to drink instead. My feet were sore and I so wanted to paddle, so I did. The hard gravel and the cool water soothed my feet.
It was a quicker and uneventful trip back to Aomori. We found somewhere to eat called Gusto Skylark and again had very nice food. Although some sporting event had taken place that day and there were a lot of teenage boys there, they were fairly quiet and well behaved.
We were to meet a friend of Vs for a drink at a bar in Aomori at 8pm. We walked quite a long way and V did not know the exact location and nor could her friend direct her over the phone. Eventually V asked a couple of locals and after a bit of discussion, they worked out a direction for us to head. Our destination for drinks was a nice enough bar with booth seating, but very bright lighting, yuk. We met V's friend C, who is Irish born and married to a local woman and they have a couple of kids. He was thoroughly charming and could talk and with a very nice accent, as so many Irish can. He has residency in Japan and it was very interesting to hear of his experiences, extended family life on both his and his wife's side and about his kids. He adores our Kylie and we directed him to the newest? Wiggles dvd with the pink Wiggle, Kylie, in a cameo. He also is a big fan of Nick Cave and was quite chuffed to learn that we lived opposite where Nick lived once in Balaclava. I took a snap of the house when we returned home and sent it on to him. We also learnt a good bit about local western music, jazz, blues etc and jam sessions in tiny bars.
Damn, we have missed the early train home. Nothing to do but continue drinking. We caught a cab back to Aomori Station and the last local train back to Hirosaki. It was a very full day, but very enjoyable.
Remaking the Aomori waterfront.
As we travelled through the mountain pass, there was still some remaining snow. How come the cooling aircon is needed in the bus, but it was.
Crossing the Oirase? Stream.
There were professional photographers and an artist at the falls.
Another lovely drain cover.
A very hot Japanese daddy relaxing by the lake. The waist band of his jeans was below his bum. He and his family walked past us twice later. Nice. Pedal boats in the background.
My feet being soothed by cool water.
Tanuki or raccoon dog.
Look out for the bears. The tanuki was snuffling away somewhere in there.
The many menus at the Gusto restaurant.