Halfway Point

Well, the trip is exactly half over. I’m still enjoying myself immensely, although sometime early last week I hit a wall in my ability to be adventurous and try unknown fish and squishy, pickled, unknown food products! In the last 7 days we’ve been in four towns, although we just arrived in the fourth this afternoon. We’re certainly seeing a lot of this part of Japan! We also made it into two more newspapers!

Early last week we arrived in Miyako, which is a tourist destination in the summertime and for which we kept hearing praises about its beauty. However, it was freezing and hard to explore since snow and ice was covering many of the trails. But we did do a boat ride where we got to view the jagged coastline from the water, and we also did a bit of hiking (although I had to wear practically all of the clothes I’d brought on this trip in an attempt to keep warm. I’ve also taken to wearing the white gloves that were provided to us during the hydro plant tour. I think they were more intended to keep our hands clean than warm, but they work for both purposes).

We enjoyed a traditional Japanese bbq where we got to cook our own fish at an indoor grill.

We had one of my favorite tours so far at the Toyota factory. We saw the manufacturing line, where everything from doors to paint to engines are added at different points in the process. We saw numerous robots driving around delivering parts to the assembly line. No pictures were allowed, so I don’t have any images to share from there, but it was fascinating. Also at Toyota they had a ‘snow mountain’ where they pile snow high in the winter, cover the pile with a highly insulated blanket, and through the use of melting snow and heat exchangers, they cool the building in the summer. Very simple yet innovative; I haven’t seen anything like it in the US.

Yesterday we visited many shrines in the Ichinoseki area. I learned a lot about Buddhism and also apparently procured a lot of luck. One gains luck for many things – balancing a rock on a pile of other rocks without the rock falling off, walking through a rope circle, throwing a rock through a hole in another larger rock, and on and on. You can’t ever have too much luck! We also did a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Fun!

A side note, but, the Japanese are a very punctual society. Someone told me that you’ll find yourself apologizing for being on time. This is because EVERYONE is so early that if you’re on time it seems like you’re late. It is crazy. The statement ‘hurry up and wait’ truly fits well here. I’m getting really good at being ahead of time for nearly everything. This drives me crazy, as I’d much rather be using every minute in some productive manner rather than sitting around, but I’m slowly learning that this is just the way of life here.

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