Saturday, October 28, 2006

So There I was barrelling through downtown Hachinohe

Just got done with (get this) our Misawa Indoc this past after being here for a month we were given tours of the base, surrounding town, etc...HA HA HA...that's really helpful...since we'd already stumbled our way through finding just about everything they showed us (and more)...

The most interesting part was Friday, it was day trip to the largest nearby city: Hachinohe (pronounced HA-CHIN-O-HEY) hachi is Japanese for eight, so the city's name means 8 windows (I think)...I didn't go on the tour bus so I didn't the "benefit" of the vast knowledge of the tour guide because a) riding on buses makes me nauseas if done for a long time and b) I wanted the benefit of driving there myself so I could get my bearings locally and figure out how to drive there myself...Before I tell you why THAT turned out to be a farce, I would like to discuss what I consider to be a generally standard rule for tours: the guides should know more than the guests. Christina (who was on the bus) informs me that her and friend Allen spent most the bus ride correcting the tour guide, both on information and pronunciation.

As for WHY my plan to learn how to go to Hachinohe disintegrated from the start: its this...instead of taking the direct route the bus drivers took THE MOST screwball goat-path way to Hachinohe. I lost track after the 12th turn and resigned myself to simply having to tail the buses.

First stop was the Fish Market: which was pretty cool, we got some salted salmon and that made for a very tasty dinner last night. We didn't spend much time there, but one thing that was new to me...that the crabs at the market are alive...kept on ice that just makes them sluggish...

Next we went to the Train Station (the Bullet Train stops at Hachinohe...Misawa is too backwater to warrant a stop) and the most sacred Shinto shrine in the Aomori Prefecture...(which was pretty cool)...Of course, topping the list of things the tour guides told us at the shrine was the cost of the Shrine's souvenirs...hey even monks gotta earn a few yen here and there...But we learned how to make a prayer offering at the shrine and how to ritually cleanse ourselves before entering, so that was pretty neat.

Finally we made our way to the big mall in big H....this required driving through downtown and that turned out to be the most entertaining part of the day (for me at least)...completely lost, not a clue as to where I was, roaring through the crowded downtown of a Japanese city trying to stay glued to the bumper of a military green USAF school bus. Let me tell you one thing, there ain't nothing quite like barrelling through red lights in a foreign city (if the bus ran the light, I ran the light, and the driver seemingly was not detered by whatever color the light happened to be when we approached). I just knew that if I lost the bus I was hosed. (Japanese traffic lights are pretty long, not as long as Korean lights, but long enough that if you stop there is a good chance you won't catch up with whoever is in front of you again for a while).

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