Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Akita … not as much to see as I thought

1st August 2012 (white rabbits, white rabbits, whie rabbits)

MP3 track of the day: Hot in the citytonight - Billy Idol

Weather: Hooot!


Before I go on, I would like to make a promise, in front of all my fellow readers, that if broken you have my permission to shoot me. I will never, ever EVER again complain if it is cold. Today the temperature has been around 35 degrees and even though there is a sea breeze, it has just been wafting hot air into my face. A lot of today has been moving between one air conditioned building to another; which brings me onto another important point. Air-conditioning; whoever invented such a device should be knighted or something … how did we ever cope without it!


I woke up within my lovely air-conditioned hotel room at around 10am. I lazily got ready for the day, which didn't see me leave the building until around 11am. As I approached the main exit the sky looked a little cloudy and so, I hoped, that today might be cooler than yesterday.

Nope. As the doors opened a wall of heat hit me; I darted across the road and into some shade. I moved my way through the city of Akita via shade; I knew that it wasn't as humid as South East Asia, or as hot as Fiji, but after spending four months within SEA, I'd got used to the heat. Now it felt as though I was back to square one, and I couldn't cope.

I stopped off at the post office before continuing towards town. Once in the heart of town I found the Atorion building, which my guidebook stated had a twelve floor viewing platform. I went in, glad to get out of the sun, and proceeded up the escalator bound for my destination. As I traveled further upwards weird bits of modern art, which hug to the walls, were presented to me. When I had reached the sixth floor my trip came to an abrupt end, due to the next escalator having a bar across it with a no entry sign. I went back down, out of the building and towards the train station.

It was getting close to midday and it was time for brunch. I went into Veda-France where I got a few sandwiches, a cake and a lovely (but rather expensive) mango smoothy. As I sat there I realised that I'd only eaten Italian and French food so far; I promised myself that Japanese food would be on the menu for tonight.

I left the air-conditioned train station and entered the sauna of Akita's streets. I headed for Senshu-Koen, Akita's city park, which used to house a castle. I arrived in half an hour, hot and sticky. Trees covered the park, making shade easy to find. After purchasing another bottle of water I ventured further into said park and up a set of steep stars until I reached the old 'inner circle' of the castle. Stood in front of me was a huge wooden gate – though it didn't look that old - which I stepped through to find two temples and a statue (all under the cover of the huge trees that soared above them). After a few photographs I climbed yet more stairs and found a newly built guard tower, designed to date from 1604. Dripping with sweat I paid the 100 yen entrance fee, briefly viewed the exhibits, and went straight up to the viewing platform.

The platform was on the 4th floor and it rose high above the tree line. It was a sheltered square area with a few vacant seats and an opening on each of it's four sides. The wind blew through the area making it very cool indeed. I sat down for quite a while and dried out; I then ventured onto the viewing platform, to take a few photos, before leaving.

I walked around the rest of the park finding a few other shrines. I left at around 1:30pm and headed towards the Kanto Festival Center; a good fifteen minute walk away. I arrived, dripping with sweat, to be greeted by an air-conditioned reception. It was 100 yen to enter, which I gladly paid not caring what was inside. The Kanto festival will be happening here in two days time (and I'll miss it; a little bad planning on my part). It will consist of many men balancing huge bamboo poles – laden with paper lanterns – either on their head, hip or the palm of their hand as they move through the city at night. I watched a video about it and I have to say that I was a little envious of missing it. Still, last night when I went out to find something to eat, I did hear some people practicing and so I may catch a glimpse (plus I saw them do this 'balancing act' at the Morioka festival).

The Kanto Festival Center wasn't very large; it had two small exhibition rooms upstairs – with all the writing in Japanese – and one big display room downstairs. The display room was split into two sections; the first had a big TV where you could watch moments of past Kanto festivals (plus there was a float). The second part had some of the bamboo poles with lanterns. Members of the public were encouraged to have a go however, knowing how good my balancing skills are, I declined. I did however see some young children giving it a go (and seeing how good they were, they must have done it before).

I left the center and headed to Akita's final attraction; the Aka-renga kyodo-kan. Once again, wanting to get out of the sun I paid the entrance fee and went to have a look around. This western red-and-white-brick building, built in 1912, was to act as Akita bank's headquarters. The rooms were well preserved and the high ceilings made the rooms cool. However, being so hot, I wasn't in the mood for a museum and so I walked around the exhibits quickly and was soon out of the exit.

As my hotel was only three buildings away I went to my room to put down my bag, have a cold shower and a rest. I went through my photos for the day and read a bit more on what to do here. I have another full day and I'm at a bit of a loss; this is the biggest city on the north-western coast of Japan and yet, I can't seem to find anything of any real interest. It's too hot to walk around without a purpose, so I may look in a few of the shopping centers tomorrow.

I finally left my hotel around 6pm. The sun was setting and temperature had, thankfully, fallen to a more reasonable level. I made my way, once more, to the train station. Once there I fulfilled my promise of having something Japanese to eat and I went into one of the only Japanese restaurants located around the train station. I ordered 'curry and rice', which also came with a big bowl of udon noodles. I sat down and began to eat this mammoth meal.

I don't know how the Japanese do it but all diners seemed to have a similar size meal to me and yet, they ate theirs – rather noisily I have to add – within fifteen minutes. I wasn't clock watching, but as the table in front me had at least three different occupants by the time I'd finished, I reckon it must have taken me thirty to forty minutes to eat my meal. I left, feeling rather full, and amazing that the meal I'd just eaten had cost around £4.

As night time had fallen I had a quick look around the city – to see if I could see anyone practicing for the Kanto festival – before heading back to my hotel. I moved quickly through the deserted streets (and yes they were deserted ... and yes this is the biggest city on the north-western coast … and yes it was only 8pm) and, with my hotel in sight, I heard the unmistakable sound of a Japanese drum. I followed the sound to find a group of Japanese people, outside a hotel, practicing balancing one of these bamboo poles. I watched for a short while before returning to my room.

For the rest of the evening I turned on the TV and watched some of the Olympics. I watched the Judo (I have no idea how that works) and the table tennis quarter-final (Japan lost … sob). I turned the TV off at around 11pm and went to sleep wondering what I was going to do tomorrow.

Toodle Pip!

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