Thursday, 7 August 2014

Larger than I expected

Date: Thursday 7th August 2014

Weather: Around the Noto Peninsular it was actually kind of cold. It rained a little but it generally stayed dry. The biggest problem was that the sky was covered in cloud; this resulted in the subjects of all of my photos having a horrible white background. Once in Kanazawa it got humid; very humid indeed.

MP3 track of the day: The Red Warrior – The Last Samurai

Due to going to bed at 8:30pm last night, I did not need an alarm to wake me up at 6:00am. The air-conditioning had been on all night and so I awoke to a very cool room. As soon as I awoke I got on with my blog and, two hours later, day one had been written. Once completed I moved onto the more mundane jobs which included getting a shower, brushing my teeth and packing my stuff. I left the Ryokan around 9:30am. A traditional Japanese custom is to wave all visitors off as they depart however, I had a lot of 'sorting out' to do in my car and so I told the manager of the hostel that a 'goodbye' wouldn't be necessary. He didn't take any notice of me and waited, out-of-sight, for me to leave so that I wouldn't feel obliged to rush. Once ready I left the Ryokan and saw the manager, hiding around the corner, as he bowed in my direction.

I was quite sad to leave my Ryokan as I had enjoyed my short stay there. As I drove along the narrow street, which my Ryokan is located on, I saw a few temples and a park nearby. It was then that I started to wonder if I had made a mistake; maybe Takaoka deserved more of my attention. Shortly after that I turned right onto one of Takaoka's main streets. It was here that I was greeted by a sea of boarded up shop front's and run-down areas. It seems as though I made the right choice after all.

Before heading to the Noto Peninsular I stopped, once again, at McDonalds for breakfast. In my defence, finding a decent western breakfast in Japan is extremely difficult. The Japanese treat breakfast like any other meal; they usually eat rice, miso soup and fish. I cannot eat rice so early in the morning therefore, while on holiday, I usually visit a McDonalds, or 'Mr Donuts', for something smaller and sweeter. Once I had consumed a 'hot cake breakfast' I went on my merry way. The time was 10am.

It wasn't long before I found myself heading north up towards the Noto Peninsular. Today I had decided to take the '248' – which circled the peninsular – only leaving the road where it didn't go right to the edges of the peninsular. For the first twenty or thirty minutes the area I found myself in was quite built up. I therefore didn't stop and pressed on, searching for the small fishing villages my guidebook had promised me.

The Noto peninsular is split between two Japanese prefectures. Toyama prefecture covers about 15% of the land whereas Ishikawa prefecture covers the rest. Due to starting within Toyama prefecture I drove through that part first and I have to say, it didn't seem very welcoming. I can't really describe it; the small fishing villages were positioned along the coast, the sea was very pretty and there was lots of vegetation. This area had everything I required and yet, it felt as though the area was wanting me to pass through it as quickly as possible without stopping (it probably wanted me to go back to Toyama prefecture's main cities and spend loads of money). When I did see a sight worth snapping there didn't seem to be anywhere to park and, once parking was found, any decent sight had been concealed. I did force a 'photo stop' upon the area, but only one.

Soon I found myself leaving Toyama prefecture and heading to the main part of the Noto peninsular. I drove through many small fishing villages, each village separated from one another by a host rice paddies, steep hills and lots of trees. Yesterday I put all of my concentration into driving, to make sure that I arrived at my destination in the best possible time. Today I enjoyed pressing the accelerator pedal a little less, and the frequent photo stops were a welcome relief for my legs.

My plan for the day was to travel up the eastern-side of the peninsular and back down on the western-side. I didn't have any serious aims or objectives apart from to photograph some terraced rice paddies on the peninsula’s eastern coast and to get to Kanazawa (my next stop) around 6pm. The eastern-side of the peninsular was a lot flatter than the western-side. This resulted in the villages and towns being 'deeper' in construction, rather than wider. The villages were very similar to the villages I had seen on Sado-ga-shima, and the terrain matched the Shimokita peninsular. In fact the only thing of any real difference was that most villages had a small harbour located extremely close to their houses. The exit of said harbour was through a tunnel, above which was the road which I travelled along. Once through the tunnel the harbour met the sea. Another major difference was that the Noto peninsular had some rather large urban areas. It would appear that a lot of raw material is shipped to this small area of land; whether it was because the peninsula’s shape made for a perfect harbour, or that the water was very deep here I did not know however, these urban cities came with a large amount of cars, many sets of traffic lights and small one-lane roads resulting in a slight dislike for these areas.

I was having a great time photographing this, that and the other, without a care in the world … until about midday when I realised that, in two hours, I hadn't really covered any distance at all. As I looked at the map I realised that this peninsular was a lot larger than I had first thought and, if I wanted to see it all before 6pm, I had to cut down on my 'photo stops' and do some solid travelling. I therefore drove for about two hours stopping only once. After 2 hours I found myself at the most northern tip of the peninsular.

As I approached the peninsula's most northern tip, signs directed me to a sort of 'look-out'. Not sure what the place actually was I decided to have a look, only to find a small car park, a shop and an attraction which consisted of a viewing platform with a collection of old looking Japanese houses below, built within the small space between the sea and the rock face. There was a gate, and a list of prices for all sorts of things. I decided to stick to the car park, take a few 'cheeky photos' before pressing on and stopping once more to photograph the peninsula's most northern village. Once done I got back in my car, extremely conscious that time was ticking by and I had only seen half of the peninsular.

At around 3pm it started to rain. The rain was not that heavy at all and so I braved it to take photos of some terraced rice fields which I had read about within my guidebook. Throughout my stay in Japan, and China, I had wanted to over-look terraced rice paddies and, though I was indeed over-looking terraced rice paddies, they weren't very big and it did feel a little fake. It mattered not; I raced around the area taking photos of the rice paddies from different angles before getting back into my car and heading towards Kanazawa. The time was 3:15pm and I still had over 100km to go!

At first the road was very kind to me. There was little traffic and, when I did meet a slow car, it either turned off or there was plenty of room to over-take it. Once I got further south, the rural parts of the peninsular gave way to the more urban parts and things got a little more tricky. An annoying aspect of the Japanese road user is that, when they turn either left or right it, for some reason, takes them forever. This means that when a car in front of you finally disappears, it takes them so long that a car usually pulls out in the distance and takes it's place. The final straw came when a car in front of me had reduced it's speed to 25km per hour so that the driver could play with his sat nav; a short sharp horn blast soon sorted that out!

For the last hour the road widened and speeds increased. I was now back within the heavy urban area where cities collided with one-another. Of course this meant that I got lost on more than one occasion and, once in Kanazawa itself, things started to get really tricky. My hostel is close to the western-side of the train station however; I found myself on the eastern-side. It was 6pm and so traffic was heavy and it took me forever to navigate my way to a road which crossed the railway line and put me on the western-side of town. With that finally achieved, the traffic died down (I think the western-side is more residential, whereas the eastern-side has all of the shops and hotels) and I started driving down impossibly narrow streets trying to find my hostel. Once again my 'patients-o-meter' was running dry and so I stopped to ask a lady for directions. Once at my hostel an old, cheery, man greeted me and showed me where to park. It then took quite a while for me to decide between the things I would need for a two night stay, and things I could leave in the car knowing that it would probably get very hot tomorrow. As I viewed each item I possessed a curious hair dresser – from the shop across the street – watched me. I smiled at him and, once finally ready, I went inside my hostel.

The building can only be described in two words; new and small. The hostel was actually a small, modern looking 'family house' with a very white interior. It had been converted into a hostel and, with so many bodies, it was actually very hot. I met the owners – both of whom were charming – and I went through all of the necessaries (which included payment; I've never liked that bit). Once in my room I found it to be unbearably humid though, I was assured by the owner that the air-conditioning would be turned on soon, and kept on throughout the night. I put all my stuff away and got out a fresh set of clothes whilst sweat was dripping down my face. I had a shower before leaving my hostel in-search of food.

Being almost 8pm I wanted to find something quick to eat. I went to the obvious location for food – the train station – but was flabbergasted to find a lot of the retail units closed. Once out on the western-side of the station I found an Aeon shopping area. All Aeon shopping areas have a food court and so I headed towards this large, 6th storey building in front of me as happy as a sand boy.

Okay so apparently not all Aeon shopping areas have a food court. The lady on the information stand did inform me that there was a 'fast food rice bowl' place within the station. A little bemused I listened to her instructions and tried to follow them however, I still could not find anything which resembled a food outlet. Finally I headed out of the train stations western exit and down, what I thought was, the main road. It wasn't long before said main road was starting to look less and less like a main road and so I turned around however, not before stopping at a convenience store for a drink.

By now I was fed up, hot and sweaty. I decided that I would find a convenience store close to my hostel and get a bento (a Japanese boxed lunch). As I passed through the station for a third time I finally found the rice bowl restaurant ... and so I went in.

The time was now 8:15pm. I finished my rice bowl, thanked the members of staff, and walked back to my hostel. For the evening I sat within the common room and chatted to an array of friendly French and Japanese people as I uploaded the photos, which I had taken today, onto the internet. I also checked my emails and worked on my blog (the only two people who didn't look like they wanted to talk were both native English speakers … how ironic is that). I finally gave up on my blog – halfway through – around 10pm and went up to my dorm … which was indeed very cool.

So the day turned out to be quite busy due to the sheer size of the Noto peninsula. In hindsight I wished that I had booked a night on the peninsula itself as that would have meant that I could have taken my time; never mind. Tomorrow I will get up when I am ready and not before; I will then hit the streets of Kanazawa. It is going to be hot and humid however, it will be nice to have a day out of the car.

Toodle Pip!

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