May 2 - Matsumoto, Sendai, Ishinomaki
As the day before we got up at 8:30 a.m. Check-out time was at 10:00 but we could leave our luggage at the hotel.
Then it was time for sightseeing: Our first destination was the "Matsumoto Castle" (from 10:30 to 11:45). We walked to the Castle and with our arrival it started raining:-( But our main interest today was the inside part of the Castle, so it was "ok" somehow.
The Castle wasn't that pretentious as the one's in Osaka and Nagoya but it still had its own charm.
There was also something special about that Castle: the 3rd floor (=hidden floor): The Castle seemed like it had 5 stories from the outside but was actually 6 stories high inside. This floor was the safest area as it couldn't been seen from the outside; it was a secret to the Castle's enemies. Therefore warriors stayed there during wartime.
After visiting the Castle we went to the "Former Kaichi Primary School" (12:00 to 13:00).
|Former Kaichi Primary School|
|a textbook for samurai's children|
A large variety of carvings were found in this building. They were one of the school's features.The following one (decorating a door) was the oldest one in existence:
After all that theoretical stuff it was time for lunch and because we were still on our noodle trip we went - surprisingly - to a noodle restaurant (13:30 - 14:10)
|for me Udon noodles with sticky potatoes as usual|
Then we picked up our suitcases, bought our tickets and took the train to Nagano (15:26-16:41).
The view from the train was really nice and after taking a nap I enjoyed the landscape.
In Nagano Naomi helped me to buy my JR (=Japanese Railway) Pass.
Public transportation in Japan
Using Public transportation system in Japan is really expensive. For foreigners there is a kind of bonus: During your stay you can buy a special pass (I bought a special east pass, valid for east Japan) once. I paid 10000 YEN (approximately 100 EUR). Once issued I could choose 3 flexible days within a timespan of 10 days - beginning from the day I purchased that pass- and could use almost every public transportation system (Shinkansen, the high speed train, included). I decided to buy that pass in Nagano (in Matsumoto they didn't have such an JY office to buy the pass) and use it on May 2nd and May 11th (my travel day to the airport). Even though I only used the pass twice I saved 100 EUR in total (compared with buying tickets without using that pass).
Luckily Naomi was with me because the woman at the JR office didn't speak English very well.
Before the departure of our Shinkansen we still had some time left and so we went to a cafeteria. Naomi presented me with a cake and tea (an early birthday present as she said:-)
|my premature birthday cake|
and at 17:50 we took the Shinkansen to Omiya. We had a good talk on the train and when we arrived at Omiya Naomi was so kind to take me to the right track before I took another Shinkansen to Sendai and before she went back to Tokyo (so there was no chance for me at all to get lost:-) ).
At 19:26 my Shinkansen left for Sendai and I was able to experience the "Golden Week" in person.
The Golden Week
The golden week in Japan (from May 3rd to May 6th) is a time, when everybody is on vacation (public holiday). For some people the golden week already started on Saturday April 28th, but some still had to work on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (April 29th to May 2nd). The start of the golden week (the evening of May 2nd) means that whole Japan is moving. People who live in a city travel to the countryside and vice versa. One of my Japanese friends told me that the government once tried to postphone the days off for some companies so that people have days off one after another. But the companies didn't agree. May 3rd to May 6th is free for everybody! It also means that public transportation systems are sold out, prices rising, traffic jams occur everywhere and lots of accidents are happening.
My train from Omiya to Sendai (city to countryside) was one of the really crowded ones. We were standing packed like sardines, it was hot and stuffy and a baby was crying all the time. I tried to read in my book but got dizzy after a while. Luckily I only had to stand for about 1 hour, the remaining 30 minutes I found a seat. When I arrived at 20:59 at Sendai Station I was really tired and exhausted.
Yuki picked me up from the Station, I had dinner over there and we told each other what had happened since she was back at work again.
From 22:45 to 00:15 Yuki drove "home" and it was a little bit scary at that time because we passed "tsunami area" and talked about "ghosts".
When we arrived at Yuki's parents house her parents were already in bed and after a short briefing Yuki and I went to bed too at 1:15).