Tori texted me back in July about going to Mutsu with some of her Japanese friends and Kimberly on the weekend of August 17th. They had already gone once, but that was when I was in Texas and couldn’t go. I had never been to that part of the prefecture and wanted to see what it was all about, so I said yes!
When Friday, August 17th came around, both Tori and Kimberly were sick! I wondered if we were going to call off the trip, but we did not. It was still on!
I rushed home after work and threw my stuff in a bag, grabbed my futon pad and pillow, and went down to Tori’s car. We needed to get food before the long drive, so we went to Cocoichiban-ya for some Japanese curry. There we met Mari and Ryota, who were our travel companions (but in a separate car). I had met Mari at a function before, but I hadn’t met her boyfriend Ryota. They are such a fun couple!
After our early dinner, we got on the road. We stopped at Namioka’s Apple Hill rest/shopping area along the way to get some souvenirs and ice cream. It was dark by the time we drove through Aomori City.
We drove like the wind and encountered a snag when the town we were driving through had some roads blocked for a summer evening festival. That was a bit of a hassle, but we eventually got around it.
I can’t recall what time we got in to the little town of Kawauchi, but it was pretty late. Maybe around 10pm. Tori’s friend Kyle (not her husband Kyle, another Kyle who is also awesome) lives there and we stayed at his little cedar house by the beach. Literally, by the beach. It was about a 1-minute walk to the beach from his front door.
Since Tori was sick, Kyle had made some food-for-the-soul miso soup. I also partook of this soup and it was excellent! I love miso soup. I was about ready to go to bed when they roused me from my position curled up on the floor of Kyle’s room. What for? To see the glowing sparkly phosphorescent plankton.
Turns out that when you go in the water at night, even just your feet, and move your feet or hands around, these little dots will start to glow. Kyle explained that they were plankton and the glow is some sort of defense mechanism. It was like seeing little fireflies in the water.
After that, we went back to the house and I unfolded my futon pad to go to sleep in the living room. I was out like a light in no time at all. I didn’t even hear everyone else playing XBox Kinect games right next to me. They played these games well into the night… I am such a good sleeper.
I woke up the next morning pretty darn early. It was 5-something. I ate a breakfast-snack and went to go put on my running gear. It was pretty blazing hot and sunny already, so I needed my sunglasses big time. I was sweating just from walking around. I explored Kawauchi and the seaside for over an hour before heading back.
It seemed like everyone was asleep, so I took a shower, put my pajamas on, and went back to sleep myself. I later learned that Tori had been awake. Ooops!
Tori’s phone alarm went off at 9am, so that was the call for everyone to rise. We were waiting on some other JETs to arrive and they were supposed to us around 9am, but… that didn’t happen. So we just hung around the house for a while and waited for them to arrive before starting the day’s activities.
When everyone was ready to leave, we decided to go first to the store so we could pick up some drinks for the beach. But from there, we drove all the way to Cape Shiriyazaki to see the wild horses. Yes, you read that right. Wild horses.
They stand outside all year long, even in Aomori winter. They are called Kandachime (かんだちめ： 寒立馬). The three kanji literally mean “winter+standing+horse”. They are stocky and furry and have big bellies. I think technically they would be classified as ponies because of their small stature. So cute! Just look at them! You can just go right up to them and pet them!
And of course, the cape itself was a beautiful sight.
After some time with the horses, we drove back towards Kyle’s house to grab some things. And then we drove on towards the cove. It was a bit of a drive and a hike to get there, but… WELL WORTH IT.
Turns out that this cove was supposed to be part of a natural water park/public swimming area. The walkways and concrete were poured and everything. But the project ran out of money and it was left alone. The area is in a state of disrepair, but not so run-down that you can’t get to the fun part.
When we first got there, we had to park and leave our cars. The area that we parked in reminded me of the documentary, The Cove (about dolphin fishing and protesters in Japan). A little morbid thought, but I couldn’t help it.
From there we walked on the concrete walkway which was poured along the water’s edge. Some parts were a little treacherous, but that was the fun part.
Finally, we got to the place. There was a huge concrete block/platform that was absolutely perfect for diving off of. There were a lot of barnacles and sea urchins, but the water was super deep. We couldn’t swim that far down because the water was super salty and the pressure on my head/ears underwater was so intense.
Oh, and because of the salt content in the water, I felt super buoyant! You could swim so fast! I borrowed some goggles (I had forgotten mine) and swam around with Kyle. Kyle used to be a swimmer in high school and middle school! It was so fun to be around another like-minded swimmer again! And not to mention swimming… It was amazing to swim out in the open and in the sun. It felt like freedom.
The last thing we did there was explore around the bend, which revealed another glorious view. I felt like I was in Thailand or something. I thought to myself, “This is Japan?” Pretty surreal.
(I took this of Tori while she was up there taking the group picture.)
The sun was going down when we started back. The view, of course, was incredible. We drove near the shoreline for a lot of the way back to Kyle’s house.
People wanted to go out to Mutsu City to see the Tanabu festival, so they showered and got ready. I was tired and just wanted to stay home and relax, so I chose to do so. I ran to the supermarket to grab some food for dinner (I was in the mood for real vegetables and fruits) and ate while reading the second Hunger Games.
I was kind of falling asleep when everyone else returned, but then ended up with some miso soup that Kyle made which woke me up again. We all hung out for a while, then decided that we would watch a a movie: 28 Days Later. Despite the fact that Kimberly is deathly afraid of zombies and zombie movies, she ended up liking it! I hadn’t seen it in a while, but I remembered that it was more of a thriller/sci-fi movie anyhow. I fell asleep toward the end of it just because it was so late at night.
I woke up way too early for the time that I went to bed, so I was feeling a little meh. I ended up reading more of The Hunger Games because I wanted to finish as much as I could that weekend. Kyle woke up and saw me awake too. He asked if I wanted to go on a walk and I said of course!
So we walked around his little town for about an hour and I got a lovely flip-flop tan. The sun was already beating down so much! When we returned, people were awake!
Our host had places to be that day and we had planned to go to the Tofugaura beach in Noheji, so we were all gone by noon. It was on our way back home to Hirosaki, so it made a perfect stopover! Dave and Mina joined us as well, driving in their own car.
This beach was amazing. It had lots of concrete thing-a-ma-bobs (technical term) out in the ocean so that no waves got to the beach. It was all nice and calm. The sun was shining and the water was pretty warm! I was really intimidated by the massive growth of seaweed growing on the bottom as I swam farther out… but I braved it. I am really afraid of seaweed, so I was proud of myself for swimming onward.
The reason why I wanted to swim so far out was that there was a platform out there that you could stand on and jump off of. Tori’s camera happened to be waterproof, so she got some awesome photos. These are her photos.
It was so awesome being in the water!
We left the beach around 4:30pm, I believe. Tori, Kimberly, and I showered in the faucets outside because we were too cheap to pay 500 yen for a shower. :3 Tori supplied us with soaps and everything, so I got plenty clean.
We were driving along the coast as the sun was setting, so it was especially beautiful.
We got back to Hirosaki around 6:30pm and turned right around to go to Mike’s goodbye party. Who could say no to tacos?
And thus ended our awesome weekend!
A big thank you to Tori and her underwater camera for the majority of these photos!