MP3 track of the day: cars – Gary Numan
Weather: Once again a whole mix however, for the majority of the day, the weather was overcast but dry.
I was now used to the early mornings and so getting up at 7am seemed normal. I did, however, make one slight alteration to the day; I went for my shower as soon as I got up. I was well within the '6am – 9am' window and yet the owner seemed okay for me to go in (okay so that blows my 'females only between 6am – 9am' theory out of the water). I then got dressed, finished yesterdays blog and went to Mr Donuts. This was where the similarity between yesterday and today ended.
Today I was going to drive around the outer edge of the peninsula stopping anywhere which took my fancy. I would drive in an anti-clockwise direction meeting up with the road I drove along yesterday; only then would I choose between the shorter inland route, or the longer mountain route. All started off well; I found the road I wanted with ease and headed in a north-bound direction. The road was pretty straight, until it hit the coastline. Before the coastline the terrain consisted of grassy fields, hedges, walls and small forests (it reminded me a lot of home). Once on the coastal road it became it's usual windy self with the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. Trees balanced a long these, almost vertical, mountainsides with buildings also defying the laws of gravity. All along the coastline the road would narrow and I would enter many small fishing communities; a thin line of homes, on each side of the road, were so close together they might as well have been terraces. All along this area there were many 'lay-bys', which I took full advantage off. I took many photos from the north side of the peninsular. Looking out to sea, I thought I could make out the southern edge of Hokkaido however, without a compass, I couldn't be too sure.
I meandered this way and that until I reached Oma. Before entering the town itself I saw many vehicles head north-east to a place called 'Oma point'. Thinking that this might be the 'most northern point of Honshu' I followed a tour bus to a car park where I then had to wait ten minutes for a parking space. Once out of the car I followed the tour groups north thinking “this better be worth it”. As I walked towards a sea wall, food stalls had been erected either side of the path and, it seemed, that they were doing an excellent trade. One stall, more than any other, caught me eye; it was a yellow gazebo with a gas fed BBQ and the days catch was hanging from washing lines for all to see. This tent seemed to specialise in squid, and I saw many Japanese tuck into the deep sea creature. I, on the other hand, passed quickly and ate some chocolate.
I crossed the road and found myself within a small pedestrianised area over-looking the sea. To my right was a small monument with a fish (apparently famous here though, at £20 a portion, I declined the offer to try it) and a fist coming out of the water. As all the writing was in Japanese I guessed that I had reached the most northern point of Honshu and took a few photographs of the surrounding area. Once this was done I had a quick look around a 'jam packed' souvenir store before heading back to the car. The time was 12:30pm and, though getting hungry, I still had many miles to cover before I would find a restaurant.
I was now heading south along the west coast. Once again I was stopping periodically to take photos of the coast, the small villages and the ever impressive mountains. I kept driving knowing that, sooner or later, I would hit the road which I drove down yesterday however first, I had to climb a big mountain to get there.
As I winded my way forever upwards I'd forgotten that this mountain range was home to a troop of native monkeys. This thought had gone to the back of my head as I was out of the 'monkey spotting season' (during the winter the monkeys come close to human settlements looking for food; now the snows have melted they retract back up the mountains) however as I turned a, what seemed to be, normal corner a group of monkeys (2 adults and 3 babies) were crossing the road. As this sighting occurred on a corner I couldn't stop; I found the quickest safest point to turn around and headed back up the mountain, my camera poised for action on the passenger seat, but alas just like the deer yesterday the monkeys hadn't 'hung around'. I turned around again and headed back down the mountain with one eye on the road and one eye looking out for monkeys.
Soon after I reached the point where I drove to yesterday. I decided, almost straight away, to take the mountain pass back to Mutsu instead of the inland road. Sure the inland road was about twenty minutes quicker; sure I was really hungry but if I wanted to see more monkeys I had to stick to the mountains. I therefore headed, once more, up into the clouds scanning the countryside as I went.
Not one! Not one monkey could be bothered to show it's face. After all that effort. This is why I like photographing buildings, trees, houses etc; they are always there. As soon as I descended the mountain my brain knew that there was no way I had any chance of seeing any more monkeys and so, without any choice from me, it moved onto thinking about the next most important thing; food. As if on queue my stomach started to ache, and I still had a twenty-five minute drive. At first I fancied something Japanese however, by the time I arrived on the outskirts of Mutsu, I could have eaten my car I was so hungry. I therefore dived into McDonald’s because a) it was the first restaurant I saw and b) it's always quick. I joined the queue only to find a family of four (who, in all honesty, shouldn't have been eating fatty foods) taking forever to order. The thought 'this is supposed to be fast food' had just ran though my head when they finished ordering. I pushed them out of the way and ordered. I sat at the first empty table I could find and devoured my meal in seconds.
I walked back to my car more gracefully than I had left it. My car's clock read 3:30pm and so I got out my map and made the decision that I would take 'route 6' out to the north-east part of the peninsular before calling it a day. I had been in the car – off and on – for six hours already today and I was starting to get fed up with it; however this was the last area to see. After this I would have pretty much seen all of the peninsular. I turned the keys in the ignition and off I went.
This road was different again to all the others. The land surrounding it was mainly flat and consisted of a few farm buildings. Trees had pretty much disappeared and the road was as straight as an arrow as I followed the peninsula’s northern coast east. As I travelled further, trees came back into view (plus a small wind farm, some horses, some cows and a power station thing). Then, as if by magic, the road just stopped. I'm not sure what happened but I remember driving a long a straight main road and then, all of a sudden, the road narrowed, a village appeared and out of nowhere and I then ended up in someone’s drive way. Putting it down to witchcraft I turned around and headed back to Mutsu, but not before taking a photo of the wind farm.
I was very glad to be back in Mutsu. Having spent all day in the car I was glad to leave it at the guest house and walk into town for dinner however, first of all, I went to the local department store, to go to the book store, because I wanted to get a photo book of the peninsular. As I was walking there I realised that I really wanted to get a souvenir of my trip; ideally a photo book but anything would do. I'm not sure why this 'souvenir urge' came over me; maybe because, in all honesty, I wasn't expecting a lot from this weekend away. Yep when I booked this trip it was to 'tick off another area from the list' job; I wasn't really expecting great things. I wasn't expecting monkeys, deer, mountains, beaches, alpine lakes, coastlines, a huge variety of landscapes and an Indian restaurant. This little peninsular, stuck at the top of Japan's main island is, I feel, a goldmine for a weekend away. I wouldn't go for any longer than two or three days, but this place makes an excellent 'two or three' day holiday … as long as you have a car. It's like watching a film no one has rated and coming away with the feeling of discovering a classic. This is why I was very disappointed to find that the book store had no photo books, or post cards, of the surrounding area. Bless them they did phone other places within Mutsu however they all told the same story. As a parting gift the book store assistant gave me a 'hand drawn' map of some places that might have what I was looking for but are not open now. I took the map, thanked the guy, and hoped that the places would be open tomorrow morning before I left. I then crossed the road for my final delicious, if a little expensive, Indian Curry.
So tomorrow I set off home. I hope to leave Mutsu around 9:00am, getting back to Miyako for 4pm. Even though there isn't anything left for me to do here I'm still quite sad to leave.
Hopefully I can get my souvenir tomorrow.