MP3 track of the day: Cars – Gary Newman
Weather: Blue skies, beautiful white clouds but above all hot; very, very hot!
The day started in a similar way to yesterday. The only difference being that I sacrificed getting yesterdays blog posted and instead opted for an earlier start. Therefore, after I was washed and dressed, I headed out of the hostel and into my car. Today I was off to the Oshika Hanto Peninsular, which was north-east of Sendai and that meant driving near to Matsushima Bay. On the one hand this was a good thing; the day was bright and sunny therefore visiting a mountain, which overlooked the bay, became a must and luckily it was on the way to the peninsular. On the other hand I remembered the traffic and so while sat in my car, air-conditioner on full, I tried to find a route which avoided the towns of Shiogama and Matsushima and therefore avoid all of the traffic. As I looked at my map 'route 8' sounded perfect as it ran parallel with the '45', but further inland. All prepared my final act before setting off was to back out of my hostels tiny, and over-used car park. Luckily one of the hostel staff helped me and soon I was on my way.
According to my map, the '8' started right outside my hostel however it wasn't as easy to find as I'd hoped. The main problem being the lack of signs. It's a comfort to know that's it's not just the UK where signs disappear as soon as you are five miles from your destination. I saw one sign for the '8' and then they just, vanished. Giving up with the map I tossed into onto the back seat and concentrated on my cars compass (which I bought after my last holiday to Mutsu) making sure that I was always heading in a north-east direction. Eventually I got myself back on the '8' after traveling through rice fields, back gardens and a fish market. After stopping for breakfast and petrol the time was 10am.
It was taking a lot longer to get to today's destinations that I thought it would. The '8' had been a good choice but, eventually, I had to join the '45' and as soon as I did, grid lock. I turned off my engine and waited. As I thought about it, this 'stand still' traffic didn't make any sense as we were well north of Matsushima Bay. After twenty minutes the reason became clear and I too gazed upon the road collision that the police were trying to clean up as quickly as possible.
I eventually made it too where I had to leave the '45' and join a minor road towards the mountain which over-looked Matsushima Bay. Of course very few signs were present which resulted in me ending up traveling though a badly tsunami damaged area (nothing was standing; it was like a war zone with pieces of metal sticking out of the marshlands around me) before stopping on a small fishing key. I'm not sure who was more surprised; me seeing the water at an uncomfortable distance or the fishermen seeing a white guy driving a Japanese registered car. Either way I turned around sharpish and, before rejoining the main road, I asked a local traffic warden who pointed me in the right direction.
I drove past the car park for the mountain and carried on straight. I wanted to see where this road terminated and, five minutes later, I went through another small fishing community before parking up at a small beach with a handful of other tourists. The beach had a picturesque rock but little else to hold my attention. I therefore took a few photos before driving back to the mountain.
Once parked I put my hiking boots on, applied sun cream, sprayed myself with bug spray and drank half of a bottle of coke I purchased two minutes earlier. I was ready. I locked my car and set off up a small staircase. Already feeling the heat, I left almost everything I owned in the car and just took my camera.
Once up the steps the path went in land and into a wooded area. The shade provided was nullified by the intense humidity and so I quicken my pace to get out of this 'sweat box' as quickly as possible. Fortunately I know the kanji for mountain and so I was able to follow the signs through the jungle, past the bear cave (It was a cave which just so happened to be the perfect size for a bear; you can take it as read that I didn't dawdle at this point) and up the final set of steps. Once at the top I was sweating like a pig and my sun glasses had steamed up however, the view was worth it. In front of me were hundreds of islands dotted within the bay. The additional height allowed me to appreciate the true beauty of the area, which the boat could never have shown me. It then became apparent to me that, if you want to enjoy Matsushima bay for the natural wondered that it is; don't go to Matsushima Bay itself.
I didn't stay long at the top of the mountain. Sure there was a cooling breeze however the suns power was still stronger. I therefore took a bucket load of photos and then left, walking down the stairs, running past the 'bear cave' and through the humid woodland to reach my car in record time, though very hot and sweaty. Once in the car I finished my bottle of coke and put my face directly in front of one of the cars fans. Once I felt a little more human I planned the next leg of my journey to Oshika Hanto. Taking a ferry from the southern tip of this peninsular to an island called 'Kinkazan' was supposed to be the main activity for today however, due to traffic, the time was already midday and I had no idea how long it was going to take me to get there.
After stopping for lunch I made it to the top of the peninsular at around 2pm. I drove down the western coast of the peninsular enjoying the fact that, for the first time in Miyagi, I wasn't in a queue of traffic. Sure this area had been hit by the tsunami, therefore there were quite a few trucks and cement mixers, but even so we were moving. Also the winding road, the rocky coastline, the blue sea and the perfect blue sky allowed me to forget all about the huge six-wheeled monstrosity in front of me. This, and the mountain earlier, was what I had come to see; this was the best Miyagi had to offer.
It was getting close to 3pm and I still hadn't reached the southern tip. In my head I was calculating how long it took me to get here and when I would have to set off back to Sendai. Working it out meant that it didn't leave a lot of time and so, on reflection, maybe all of those photos stops hadn't been a good idea. It didn't matter; Ayukawa – the most southern town on the peninsular and where the ferry terminal was located – also had a whale museum, which sounded intriguing.
I have to keep reminding myself that my guidebook was written in 2010; i.e. pre-tsunami. I took the sweeping mountain road into Ayukawa and looked down upon the town. Everything from the coastline to 500 meters inland had been destroyed. From this height you could see the foundations of the buildings and you could take a guess on what used to be where due to the size of the foundations and their closeness to one-another. When I got into the town I saw the peer broken up and falling into the water. I never did see the museum and so I guessed that the items, on show, had been reclaimed by the sea. I therefore drove through Ayukawa a little sad that I couldn't take a ferry to the island of Kinkazan, but a little relieved as time was not on my side and it did cost a lot. I therefore drove up the other side of the peninsular where I saw Kinkazan island from the many 'photo stops' located on the peninsulars western coast.
The western coast road was just as beautiful, just as windy and just as perfect as the eastern coast road. The forests, which hung onto the rocky coastline like a frightened child hangs onto his mothers legs, were very beautiful and the trees reminded me of North America. All too soon the beauty of the peninsular withdrew and I was, once more, fighting my way through a single line of traffic trying to get back to Sendai.
Due to the collision being cleaned up the traffic was no way as bad as it was this morning and I made it back to the outskirts of Sendai by 6:30pm. Before entering the city I stopped at a shopping center where I ate some udon noodles and a donught for tea. Once back in the car I took my classical CD out of the CD player and swapped it for 'a wasted life' by the 'perfect blossom'. I was enjoying this CD so much that I missed my turning for the hostel and went all the way into Sendai's city center. Fortunately it didn't take me long to battle my way back out and I was soon back at my hostel having a drink and chatting to other hostel guests.
So this ends my trip to the Miyagi prefecture. Tomorrow I head south-west into the Fukashima Prefecture, which I am very glad about. Today has been great but the sheer amount of traffic, within this tiny prefecture, has almost caused me to go insane. This 'small town mouse' wants to return to a small town and, hopefully, that is exactly what my next stop – Aizu Wakamatsu – will turn out to be like.
So another long drive tomorrow. Let's hope the roads are clear.