47 Shimokita: Amongst the strangers in squid town

Time to try to get back on track with this blog.  Only 52 more posts to go.  Will be done by Christmas, which Christmas I am not sure though.

Right, where was I, the last night on the Shimokita peninsula, in a packed guesthouse in squidtown about to enjoy a squid feast organised for me by the wonderful wizard from the dragon shrine.



I went down to dinner hoping to find a friend.  The dining room was full of working men, all sitting on thin cushions in front of low dining room tables. As a bumbling foreigner, and as a lone tourist in Tomari arriving on a rusty, old basket-bike I felt a little nervous and ridiculous, like a shy baboon invited to a board meeting.

Guided to a crowded table, for an hour I knelt in uncomfortable silence, speaking only twice, the first in muttering an embarrassed thank you to the pale-faced, buxom waitress when she brought my specially arranged extra-large serving of squid slivers, the second a short, tense exchange of words to negotiate the positioning of the soy sauce dispenser with the stressed-out man opposite me.

The man’s manner concerned me.  In silence he necked 3 beers before ordering a tin can cocktail.  His dark face was creased up; he looked in pain. I could not decide if he was craving company or silence.  When the baseball came on TV, he started speaking, and as if a tap handle had been turned a stream of words came gushing out.  Like me he was also an outsider, he had just driven without a break for 12 hours coming north from Kanagawa.

The two pie-eyed blokes next to me, sharing a black bottle of a sweet-potato based spirit, were salaried employees of Tohoku Electric.  The chirpiest of the two, a greytop from the Tsugaru peninsula, confessed to being a fan of Yomiuri Giants, Tokyo’s main team.  His excuse for supporting a team 400 miles away was that Tohoku had no major league team when he was a boy. Now Tohoku has the best team in the country, the Rakuten Eagles who were crowned champions last weekend.

The other diners disappeared long before our table ran out of gas.  The jolly waitress, whose cheery manner blew like a fresh breeze during dinner, told us about the other guests.  The biggest group who woofed their dinner down in 20 minutes work at the Higashidori nuclear plant; the serious group sitting across from us were inspectors investigating the land around the Higashidori nuclear plant, they are examining how much the earth has moved in 2,000 years.  If they find evidence of major earthquakes, it will dash the hopes of a nuclear restart on the peninsula.  The waitress hopes the plant can be reopened and guesthouse business will keep booming.

According to the latest news, the inspectors ruled the fault is still active.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

46 Shimokita: A coffee break

On a green hilltop overlooking Mutsu Bay and the Pacific Ocean, a yellow and brown flag was waving marked with the katakana characters for coffee.  The flag doesn`t wave everyday, only when the owner is in the mood.  Her regulars phone in advance to check which way the wind is blowing.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

45 Shimokita: Cape Rocky End

After dropping the kids at school, the wizard drove me to the north-east edge of the Shimokita peninsula, Shiriyazaki (Cape Rocky End) which lurches out into the Pacific. We sat on a grassy bank beneath the lighhouse eating a packed breakfast of sour plum riceballs. The perilous Cape is famous for its wild kandachime (Horses Standing Cold); we saw a few in a field on the way out – all were standing warm.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

44 Shimokita: Meeting the wonderful wizard

The moment I finished putting my tent up, the priest called me back offering to let me sleep at the shrine.  Even though it was dark and the basket-bike had no lights, I immediately accepted.  When else would I get a chance to chat with a wizard and sleep in a dragons` den?

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

43 Shimokita: Big beasts in the Big Gap

The torpedo-like tuna fish are the star attraction in the sprawling port of Oma (Big Gap), at the northern tip of the axe-shaped Shimokita peninsula.  Oma and tuna go together like Devon and cream teas; visitors insist on having some.  A University student in the next tent to me, having cycled all the way up from Sendai broke her student budget in a restaurant at the cape, spending 3,000 yen on a bowl of raw tuna on rice.  As a reward, a local man treated her to a serving of throat and heart.

Continue reading

Posted in Tohoku travels, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

42 Shimokita: The long, winding road to Buddha

My breakfast was handed to me off the back off a truck: 3 scallops freshly reeled in from Mutsu Bay.  In the early morning sunshine I had gate-crashed the scallop harvest; a row of flatbed trucks were overflowing with scallop all grown on lines dangled in the ocean.  Bits of blue rope were still threaded through the valves I was given.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

41 Shimokita: Holy help

Breakfast, brunch and lunch was at a michi no eki, road station.  Road stations reflect their surroundings, usually being staffed by locals and selling local produce. Both locals and visitors use the road stations, a sign they are doing something right. 

Yokohama`s Michi no Eki had many memorable flavours.  At the entrance, the tables were piled up with rapeseed and garlic products – including Magic Black, a chocolate scented with black garlic.  Ice cream flavours include sea cucumber, hiba tree, rapeseed, scallop and funori (glue plant).  

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments