Today: Takahata to Aizu

I’m giving up on the going-in-order thing.  Better to record fresh thoughts.  Well, yesterday and today were the first days in which nothing went majorly wrong with me or my bike and which I didn’t spend half of fixing what went wrong on the previous day.  I slept last night in a “business hotel” in a sleepy place called 高畠 Takahata (it means “tall field,” which is a slightly odd concept.)  Really this is a small, cheap family-owned hotel (the little kid kept following me around, presumably because I’m a funny foreigner) and they gave me a good, big breakfast.  Incidentally, I have had to adapt to eating nattō, since it is a staple breakfast food here.  This is a sort of sticky, stringy glop made of fermented soybeans, and it’s quite off-putting at first, but if you mix it with enough rice and hold your nose it’s a pretty good source of protein.

In the morning I spent a little bit of time in 米沢 Yonezawa (Rice-Marsh.)  If I could upload pictures, I would show myself with a suitably stern bronze member of the Uesugi clan, who were apparently quite powerful there and whose family shrine occupies a large portion of the downtown.  There are giant sleighbell-type things there that you ring apparently to call the ancestors.

Now, the most useful word in Japanese is dame.  Its meaning hovers between useless, pointless, broken, even prohibited.  But if someone says that something is dame, there are no exceptions.  So when before today’s pass I pointed to a road on the map and was told that it is dame, I was really worried.  The alternative was a very long tunnel, and tunnels are scary, not only because there is nowhere to veer off to if someone is about to hit you, but also because the noise of every car is magnified and bounces around so much that it’s hard to even tell whether it’s coming from ahead or behind.  Moreover, the air is rather poor; I definitely don’t want to climb in a tunnel.  The road over the pass, though, was so dame that I couldn’t even find it, so I had no option.  The tunnel wasn’t that bad; it was essentially level and slightly down, and it must have saved me something like 500m vertical and 10km horizontal.  But still, I like the satisfaction of seeing over a pass.

So I got to the old feudal domain of 会津 Aizu (Meeting-Ford), which was made part of Fukushima prefecture during the Meiji restoration for their last-stand loyalty to the shogunate, but whose towns all prefixed Aizu to their names in retaliation.  Between losing the bikepath (this one had four signs — 3km, 2km, 1km, and 600m ahead — to a bathroom, but none in a number of places where it broke off only to reappear 50m away, or where it split into two paths one of which was a dead end), discovering that it was still under construction in a large portion despite signs happily pointing me to Aizu Wakamatsu, and taking forever to find the tiny village that contains this youth hostel (Aizuno YH) it got to be late despite the tunnel shortcut, and I barely got to see anything in the castle town of 会津若松 Aizu Wakamatsu (Aizu Young-Pine), once the heart of loyalty to the shogunate and home of the Byakkotai.  Oh well; it was a pleasant day nonetheless.

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2 Responses to “Today: Takahata to Aizu”

  1. My Says:

    Fedyun’, privet! Ochen’ rady, chto ty prorezalsa s podrobnymi rasskazami, vse ochen’ interesno, zhdem novykh soobwenij. Sami my tol’ko chto vernulis’ domoj iz Moskvy. Zhivy-zdorovy. Parket Yasha ne sdelal. Iz uvezennykh kholstov ni odin ne vernulsya domoj: devyat’ ostalis’ v galeree, ostal’nye podareny i prodany. Zato privezli tri stat’i v gazetakh i zhurnalakh. Interv’yu p oteleviziru videl tol’ko odin chelovek: Kolin shofer Aleksej. Celuem-obnimaem. Nikita peredaet, chto uzhe uspel ochen’ soskuchit’sya.

  2. Lauren Says:

    I’m so happy you are doing okay. Natto sounds kind of gross. Oh well you should keep trekking and writing! It’s good to hear from you. 🙂

    I hope you eat lots of good food.

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