Thursday, October 21, 2010

Osoresan: aka “Mount Fear”

main entrance
Osoresan is located in the Shimokita Peninsula of Aomori. According to myth, it marks the entrance to Hell. It is also known as the Japanese equivalent to Styx".
red bridge
When you first arrive, you can’t help but notice the smell of sulfur. Though it did bother me at first, after a while I couldn’t smell it anymore. There are certain sections where the water near the rocks will be bubbling or there will be a pile of steaming rocks.  Osoresan is considered a pilgrimage. Though the path is not very long, it takes you through purgatory, hell, blood hell, and finally heaven. When we first arrived, it was sunny out, by the time we were halfway through it started raining. We were soaked!
large statues outside the gate.
Along the rocky path, rocky path lined with pinwheels. you will find many statues, some covered with a kerchief  or bib, and maybe money or food in front of it. These statues represent babies that died. People clothe them to ease the pain of their loss. one of the many clothed statues. Also, there is a legend that a poor old man went to visit some statues but he didn’t have any money to offer. Instead, he took off his hat and scarf and clothed the statues. When he went home, there were gifts waiting for him. (Supposedly from the grateful spirits (statues) ).
 temple of some sort  When we got to this building it was absolutely pouring outside. There were some people inside and an old man kept inviting us in. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but there were clothes and shoes lining the edges and an alter with money and food. The old man went to the alter and picked up a bag of oranges and handed them to me. I was quite surprised. I asked him with what little Japanese I know if I was supposed to eat them and he said yes. I thanked him and was on my way. I still have the oranges and I’m terrified to eat them, actually. I know they were offered to some spirit. (Mind you, the section where this building was was “Blood Hell".) I know sometimes when people offer food to a spirit, they will eat it afterward.
Osoresan was really very interesting. It takes about 4 hours to get there from base. I apologize for not giving directions, but we went there from Cape Shiriyazaki, so I don’t have a direct route. I also  forgot to mention that they also have an onsen there. (Which probably also smells of sulfur) and there is a restaurant and small gift shop.
We left Osoresan soaked and cold from the rain. Will I ever return? Perhaps only the spirits know for sure.

Directions: Exit base out POL/Falcon Gate.
- Turn left at the first light.
- You can either continue east on this road until it merges into Hwy. 338,
or take a left at the second light at the Circle K. This will eventually intersect with Hwy. 338 at the top of Lake Ogawara
- Turn left onto Hwy. 338 and head north. You will drive through the nuclear plant at Rokkasho and along the rocky coastline of Higashidori.
- Continue on to Mutsu City
- In Mutsu, look for signs to Osorezan. This will be route 4. Once you start on route 4, the road climbs quite a bit before dropping down to Osorezan.
- There is ample parking. The entrance fee is 500 yen for adults, 200 yen for kids. It includes the temples and entire grounds.

Baskin Robbins

Cute pumpkins above the ice cream case.
Now, you are probably wondering why I am bothering  to blog about Baskin Robbins while there are hundreds of stores in the United States. Let me tell you, Baskin Robbins in Japan are simply awesome! I particularly wanted to blog about going today because of the very cute Halloween decorations. (I really love Halloween!)
Also, I’m talking about the Baskin Robbins at the Shimoda (Jusco) mall, not the one on base! When you enter, you are invited by bright fluorescent lights, the shrill childish voices of Japanese women shouting “Irrashaimase!” and pink. My God, so much pink! But it really is awesome and they have the best seasonal flavors!
pink Halloween tree
One other thing they have at this Baskin Robbins that they don’t on base is crepes! They are wonderful! You can even get a “crepe card” and get a free one after so many stamps!
pumpkin witch cute ghost!
Right now when you buy anything from BR, you can pick a scratch ticket. If you are lucky, you get a prize like a pen, bookmark etc. And they are really cute! So, next time you are going to the mall, make sure to stop by Baskin Robbins before you leave!

Halloween Festa

baton twirlers
I heard there was going to be a Halloween Festival at American Park on October 16th. We decided to go check it out. Though it was primarily for children, I still had a lot of fun! We went twice, once in the morning and once later in the afternoon. In the morning we noticed some birds perched on stumps. At first I thought they were statues, until they started  moving! They were really interesting to look at. Their legs were tied down so they couldn’t fly away. They had two owls and some hawks and other birds. a little girl looking at an owl named "Ben-chan" 
Supposedly, there was also a parade but I guess we missed it. There was also a costume contest which we only got to hear about the results by the time we came back. Yes, I came back dressed up. I love Halloween! I dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. We saw this lady sitting on a bench drinking beer. Her costume was so awesome, I had to have a picture with her!Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more!" There were very few food vendors around. After the contest, children lined up in front of stores on the street saying “Trick or Treat” and getting candy. Many of the costumes were witches, girl anime superheroes, or just regular clothes with a cape. The streets were a sea of black and orange. 
children lined up at the liquor store for candy

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mumin Cafe

outside Mumin Cafe
Mumin Cafe is located on White Pole Road right outside the Main Gate past American Park. Just remember, White Pole road is a one way street (toward base) from 6am-10pm every day.  I have walked by this cafe before always wanting to try it, but since I don’t go down White Pole Road that often, I didn’t  remember about it until today at the Halloween Festival. tables and chairs near the windowquaint nautical/musical display.
It is a decent sized cafe plenty of tables and chairs. They serve pasta dishes (including lasagna), pizza, and curry dishes. I had the spaghetti carbonara and it was delicious!  I recommend checking it out if you have a chance! spaghetti carbonara

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yasuragisoo Pottery.


This one is for all you artsy folk out there. ^_~  Unbeknownst to many Misawa locals, there is a place to do pottery right outside the base! You can literally see North Base towers from here! Anyway, for 500 yen you get 1kg of clay. (which is a lot). local artist I got 1/2 kg of clay and ended up making 2 cups. They have electric pottery wheels and wheels that you  need to spin with your hand. English speakers beware though, they don’t speak much English and if you decide to make something, you will have to go back several times. I just went back for the second time and I  have to wait until the end of November for it to be fired and to choose a glaze and have it refired. my two cups, waiting to be fired.

In the same “plaza” shall I say? There is a senior club where they play golf and an onsen.Senior club The onsen is the cheapest in Aomori. The going rate is 100 yen! Unbelivable!
You have to bring your own soap and other onsen materials though. There is a restaurant inside and many rooms with tatami mats that you can just go in, rest, read a book, hang out. FOR FREE! Its pretty neat! You can also rent a tatami room AND they have lodging. 
one of the many free tatami rooms

Directions to Yasuragisoo Pottery:

Go out the POL Gate and turn left at the first stoplight.
Follow the road to the 2nd stoplight. There is a Circle-K convenience store on the right at this intersection. Turn left here.
Turn left at the 2nd stoplight. You will be heading directly for the North Area towers.

Travel about 1km on this road and turn right. (sorry, the sign is in Japanese and I don’t know how to write it here. :(  )

Aomori Museum of Art: Ghibli Exhibit


I was lucky enough to find out that the Aomori Museum of Art was going to have an exhibit of many sketches by Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli from the school where I teach English. The secretary from the school gave me two tickets and I couldn’t wait to go. My friend came to visit us and I decided he should come to the exhibit too so I bought him another ticket.
Once we arrived, I found out that my ticket was only for the weekdays and I had come on a Sunday! I had to pay for my ticket after that. :(. One big downside was that we couldn’t take any pictures! I did take a few though, just not of the artwork. We ended up buying an art book at the gift shop which had all of the sketches in there. the cat from Kiki's Delivery Service on one of the elevatorsspirited away elevator My Neighbor Totoro Elevator
I apologize for not having directions. We went there from Seiryu-ji Temple and got lost from directions from a Buddhist monk, who’s English was really good. (Go Figure)
At first I though the exhibit was really small, and not worth the 1100 yen, but then discovered how big it was!  My feet hurt toward the end and it was really crowded! It was the second day of the exhibit and it will end sometime in January. I wanted to visit before it started snowing here! Me on Totoro's tummy
If you are a fan of Ghibli’s work, I recommend going. And if you have never heard of Ghibli, I suggest checking it out!


1. Go forward out the main gate, through the first traffic light.
2. Turn right at the second traffic light to Aomori/Towada.
3. Continue on this street until it becomes a Y-intersection. Turn right.
4. Go forward and cross White Pole Road (one way street going from left to right).
5. Once you pass the traffic light, you are now on Route 8. The blue road sign will read Noheji 33km.
6. Continue forward past Kamikitacho Station
7. Turn left at Highway 394. Circle K will be on your right. The blue road sign will read TOLL ROAD (Mi-chi-no-ku is in Japanese hiragana).
8. You are actually on Highway 173 (I know it’s confusing!). Go over the bridge past Maeda grocery store (red & white swan).
9. Very shortly, look for the blue road sign on your right that reads, Michinoku Toll Road. Turn right.
10. Continue going forward on Michinoku Toll Road, past Circle K and the Route 4 intersection. This is the last convenience store and public bathrooms for another 40km.
11. Continue forward. A blue road sign will note that you are on Highway 242: Aomori 40 km. It may feel longer because of the winding, two-lane road. After three tunnels, there will be a toll gate. Pay ¥830 per car and pass another two tunnels to Aomori City.
12. You are now on Route 123. Do NOT enter Aomori Expressway on your left (unless you are in a hurry to get to the city center faster and want to pay extra yen). Stay on this road until it comes to the Route 44 T-intersection.
13. Detail of sign at traffic light. Aomori City: turn left at the intersection. Asamushi City: turn right at the intersection.
14. Continue on Route 44 until you arrive at the Y-intersection (Shell gas station on the right). Aomori City: turn right on to Route 4. Big Buddha: continue forward on Route 44.
15. There will be another traffic light and Japanese blue road sign. Turn left on Route 4 for Aomori City (turn right for Asamushi City).
16. The road is two lanes and will widen to five lanes. Stay in the center and right lanes for Central Aomori. Get in the left lanes for Route 7 to Aomori Museum of Art, Hirosaki City, and Goshogowara City.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

25th Annual Beef and Garlic Festival

Ah, yes the age old pair. Beef and Garlic. Ingeniously, Takko Town created every man’s culinary fantasy and  has had a beef and garlic festival for the past 25 years. (I believe they are famous for both garlic and beef).
 Garlic Princess
We arrived greeted by “garlic scarecrows” and walked toward 229 Dome.229 Dome (ni ni kyu which sounds like beef and garlic in Japanese). If you buy tickets in advance for about 3,000 yen a piece you can get a package of beef and vegetables and grill your own there.  Unfortunately, every place that was selling the tickets in advance were sold out a week before the festival. Nevertheless, there was still a lot of food to eat and fun to be had.
There was also a “garlic spitting” competition. "Miss Beef and Garlic" giving it her best shot There were prizes for anyone who could reach 2m 29cm and for the three farthes spitters. We were lucky enough to have the newest World Champion Garlic spitter in our group!
 The top three contestants
I am so glad I was able to attend this festival, I have been looking forward to it since before I moved here! Everyone had a wonderful time and we left with stomachs full of beef, smiles on our faces and garlic on our breath.