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August: The Return of Souls

August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Route 7


Love of the backcountry:   December 6th, 2012, the day before the big 7.3 quake struck Tohoku.



Mikasayama and Shirasawa off route 7 lay on the outskirts of Hirosaki, surrounded by Inakadate and Owani.      These micro towns represent what is left of a bygone era.   The old lumber mills that provides jobs and resources for this whole community is still in operation.   Most folks in these towns would rather use wood and sheet metal for just about everything it seems.    Often times, the houses in these communities look the same: flimsy and dated, yet they hold up against snow storms, and freezing temps.    And, surprisingly quite cozy, warm, and comfortable once you are inside of one.




 I love these little sleepy towns that exist as a reminder of what used to be.    Fifty years ago, I'm sure these little towns were bustling with little school children and blue collar workers.    You know, I learned something, and for what's worth I learned what's here is perfect.   I mean, you wake up in the morning, shovel snow, and then off to work then back home to have dinner with the family.    People greet each other, like they still do today.    But never ask a Japanese if Japanese greet anymore, at least not in Yokohama.    You will only get cold stares in the morning if you greet.    Here in the backcountry people do greet each other, even strangers.    Same in some North American cities, too.   


The elderly out here look so much healthier, vibrant, and stress free than their urban counter-parts.    In Yokohama, the elderly look horribly unhappy and miserable, and absolutely fearful of everybody and everything and very untrustworthy.   


Here in the rural areas of the north, everybody knows each other and are bound by a sense of community  whereas in the urban areas the idea of community is merely another form of " neighborhood watch" where everybody stabs each other in the back.   There is no community based off of support, warmth, and conviviality like in the countryside..    



Old engines that use diesel fuel pull these metal trains filled with old people to destinations we city folks take for granted, like  convenience stores.    Snow fell unseasonably early, but a welcome edition because I love snow when I don't have to remove it.   


I love how water meanders down a river filled with rocks, leaves, and snow.      It just adds to the atmosphere.  Snow, water, steam and sulfur, and you know you are in an onsen town replete with hot mineral spas for soaking your frozen bones in, which explains why I'd rather walk to my destination than hailing a taxi.   


This is the real Japan.




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