So today the base sent us on a free little tour of the local area here in Japan. I really had no idea what to expect but it was actually really awesome and informative. It was so informative that I am going to split it up into two blogs!
We started with a short briefing. During the briefing we were told about a lot of the common courtesies of the area. We were told about not tipping wait staff. The one thing that was discussed was an Onsen. A Japanese Onsen is a hot bath. It seems weird at first. Why in the world would you go to a public place to get undressed in front of strangers to take a bath? I can do this privately at home! After they described it, it made more sense. The way I interpreted it was more like what we would call a sauna or spa in America. It is meant to just be a relaxing and soothing soak in hot water. Prior to entering an Onsen you wash yourself off (you take your own soap and towels). The one thing that kind of surprised me was the briefer said before going always ask if they allow tattoos. The reason for this is because the Japanese often associate tattoos with members who have been in jail or in the mafia. Tattoos are not considered a popular fashion trend like they are in other parts of the world.
The next place we went was to the Misawa International Center. I am a little uncertain about this particular stop. We honestly did not cover anything there that we did not already know. One thing that we did go over was that the center offers a lot of classes. A few that I am particularly interested in are the language classes and cooking classes. I would LOVE to cook some Yakisoba and Beef and Noodle Bowls.
After the center we went to the Misawa Train Station to learn about purchasing tickets. The reason this is important is because one of the places people want to often visit from where we are located is Tokyo. I asked the question about other options (outside of the train) and was very surprised at the answer. To drive on your own from where we are located is over 8 hours and about $250 in tolls (that’s excluding gas). A plane ticket can range anywhere from $300-600. The “bullet train” known as the Shinkansen, goes about 200 MPH and will get you to Tokyo in under 3 hours. A round trip ticket, per person, on the Shinkansen is around $300. We do not have direct access to the Shinkansen from Misawa but we can take the train from Misawa to Hachinoe and get on the Shinkansen from there. The cheaper option is the “midnight” bus. This is a nighttime bus ride that takes about 12 hours but only cost $50. One thing that hit me while at the train station is the whole country uses a 24 hour clock.
The last place we stopped at in Misawa was the Veedol. To me this was a cross between a flea market, a farmers market, and an indoor strip mall. We had lunch here and bought some DELICIOUS pastries. Again, the sweets in Japan are very different from America. They are not as sweet. Many times the “foundation” of the sweets remind me of a shortbread or butter cookie. Very simple but not super sweet.
For lunch we ordered a value deal of Yakisoba and fried chicken and it was very delicious!
At this point we left Misawa and headed to Hachinohe to the temple and fish market. I’m going to end this particular post here. Keep an eye out for part II more tomorrow!