What We Did:
After our stay at the onsen we took a bus and train to Morioka, a city in Tohoku where Ryan used to live. We visited it last time we came to Japan together, but we only had a day there and I remember being charmed by the beautifully pristine city and its interesting little details. This time we spent a whole two days and tried to squeeze in as much as we could. We rented bikes for the two days and rode all over the place. It was bliss. The photos above are in front of morioka's famous cherry tree that has over time cloven the boulder it was growing by in two. If you look closely you can see the huge split in the rock, which is a famous image representative of Morioka. You see it on lots of maps. The tree itself is so big and old that it has wooden support stakes under the branches. I wish we could have come just a few weeks earlier when it was blooming in Sakura, but Ryan was in the thick of finals.
One of my favourite parts of the city is the old castle grounds area, where there is a park, some old gates, a shinto shrine, and a really old time feeling street. I love it because in the midst of the urban environment with the hustle and bustle of people, cars, traffic lights, and tons of modern buildings, you can pass through this big stone gate and suddenly on the other side it's like you've been transported into a different world where everything is smaller, more quiet, more detailed, and much more in harmony with the natural surroundings like trees, ferns, and moss. There is much less concrete and much more grass, wood, and stone.
At shinto shrines you can make prayers or wishes by either throwing a coin into the altar area, clapping, bowing, and ringing the bell attached to that huge thick rope, or you can buy one of these wooden placards and write what you need or want from the god of the shrine and hang it on this stand outside the building, where it hangs for a year. I was really excited to see a lot of Rilakkuma themed placards- my personal favourite Japanese cartoon character. Last time I was here my knees would buckle every time I saw his cute little face and I had to keep myself from buying everything with him on it.
What We Ate:
JaJa-Men! Ryan has been describing this dish to me for years and I finally got to try it. It's a special regional dish that Morioka is known for, and we went to this tiny little restaurant Ryan discovered years ago where they have a student discount: it was only about $4 for a whole bowl of noodles and a size of gyoza. It was incredible! They give you a big bowl of udon noodles with a pile of miso based sauce and slices of cucumber in the middle. You just mix in the sauce s much as you want and dig in, and to the side they have vinegar, soy sauce chili oil, wine sauce,ginger, garlic, and more miso to add in the mix up the flavour. I really really liked it and now I have to suffer the same fate as Ryan when I start craving it since it's only really available in that kind of quality in Tohoku.