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Minakami Adventures

Posted by Shaun

Between visiting the high school and going to hang out at the city office before the presentation, Suzuki-san had mentioned to Matt and I that since the weather was good, maybe he should take us to Mt. Tanigawa, but there wasn't enough time, so maybe after the presentation...

After the presentation I reminded him of his promise, however vague it might have been, and he took us, along with Dyron, our resident director who came up for the presentation, on a drive up into the mountains.

We passed this snow panda on the way up the mountain.
The scenery was really beautiful. Since I come from a state with absolutely no mountains, I never get tired of looking at them. It's funny though, because Japanese people I've met can't imagine a place with no mountains and no ocean. When I say there's no mountains in Missouri, they tend to ask me "Is it hot? Is it near the ocean?" Nope, none of those things.

Suzuki-san drove us to the cable car station and when we went inside, he used his city hall tourism office privileges to lend us VIP passes that got us a free ride on the cable car.
Matt, enjoying the cable car

Me, taking a dorky picture of myself in the cable car, and rocking my bright yellow VIP pass.
 As a side note, something strange has happened to my contacts prescription, in that when I put them in my eyes I can't see properly, so for the rest of the time here I'll probably be a glasses-wearer. This is why you bring lots of vision options when you pack for a study abroad trip! Sometimes your prescription changes for no explainable reason. Either reading lots of kanji will destroy my eyesight or it took reading lots of kanji to make me realize my eyesight was getting worse.
The beautiful, beautiful snowy mountains
 At the top of the mountain, there's a ski lodge. Matt and Dyron, as a snowboarder and a skier respectively, got super excited and wouldn't stop talking about how great it was and how much they wanted to try boarding/skiing here. Suzuki-san revealed that the passes we were wearing would also get us onto the ski lift, so Matt was like "can we go now? Why don't we go right now?" I have a feeling if the gear rental place at the top of the mountain hadn't been closed, they would have gone skiing off into the distance and I never would have heard from them again.
The ski lift going up to the very top of the mountain.
Dyron, Suzuki-san, and Matt. I think that these three should go skiing here together for real when Dyron takes us back to Minakami as a program instead of just talking about it.
And the version with me in it.
 We literally came right from the presentation, and Dyron wasn't expecting it at all, so he kept talking about how strange it was to be on a mountain in his suit. It was strange for me too because I was wearing my dress pants and Sperry's, so not exactly snow gear. Come to think of it, Suzuki-san was in dress clothes too...
View from the ski lodge
VIP status got us treated to a cup of coffee in the ski lodge, as well as an awesome view. Then it was time to head back down the mountain because Suzuki-san had to take Matt and I home and then get back to work. On the way down, though, I caught sight of (but didn't get my camera out fast enough) a Nihon Kamoshika. Interesting critter. I really thought it was a wolf from the back. While I was in Minakami I managed to see all the weird critters: kamoshika, two monkeys, and (I'm pretty sure) a tanuki. In Tokyo, I'm amazed if I see a dog bigger than a Pomeranian.

On the way back from the top of Mt. Tanigawa, Suzuki-san showed us Doai Station. It was built in 1967 and it's still in operation, but it looks like the setting of a zombie movie. There are 486 steps down to the platform heading to Niigata, because the train goes under the mountains.

The station, looking ridiculous under the snow, and the corner of Matt's face.

Dyron starting to walk towards the platform

And whoooo, that's a lot of stairs. We did not climb down them, but supposedly there is a train platform down there.

Me, Matt, and Dyron pose in front of the abyss.

When you head back towards the exit you see this sign.
 The translation: "You must be tired from such hard work. (Stair count: 462) There's only 143 meters left, with two staircases for a total of 24 steps. Please hang in there. - JR Doai Station."
 Back up those 24 steps.
The very top stair, 486.

Platform 1 is the 486 stairs. Platform 2 is above ground and goes back to Minakami and eventually Ueno.

Here you can see the tunnel we walked through, leading under the earth.
It was a really fun afternoon. We all felt like we were in some kind of travel TV show. My face actually hurt from smiling and saying "awesome!" (sugoi!) over and over again.  I really hope I thanked Suzuki-san enough to let him know how much I appreciated it.

After that, I only had one day left in Minakami. I spent it working my last day at Yushinkan, and then Yuki was supposed to take me out to sushi, but due to various un-forseeable circumstances, we ended up missing last order at the sushi place and going to an all night family restaurant instead. That ended up being okay because we had a long conversation about anime, cosplay, and I finally found someone in Japan who can understand what I'm talking about when I say one of my favorite anime series is Cowboy Bebop. Thank goodness. It was a good time.

Here's the picture I took with my host family before we drove to the shinkansen station.

Yuki, me, host mom

Last picture in Minakami. Posing with the Hina-matsuri decorations at the station.
I'm sad to leave Minakami and I'm already having issues adjusting to Tokyo life, but hopefully everything will get better with time and patience. I'm so thankful for Suzuki-san and Yuki and my host mom and Fang Fang and Abe-san and everyone in Minakami who helped make the experience great for me.

The great news is, Dyron is arranging a trip for us all to come back to Minakami in April or May. Hopefully we'll get to go rafting, and see Minakami in the spring time. So it won't be too long until I'm back again.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Hey Shaun,

    I recommend May for rafting. The river sometimes is still low in April.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love your photos. What a beautiful area! Sounds like you had a fantastic Day! I hope you can go back.
    Aunt Jody

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