Sendai, The City of Trees

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On my way home from the States, I had planned to stop over in Sendai for a couple days to see my friend Ayumi and break up my trip a little bit. I was really looking forward to seeing a new city!

So this was the plan: I would leave Austin on Thursday the 26th, arrive in Tokyo on Thursday, take a bus from Tokyo to Sendai (about 5.5 hours), and arrive at 10pm on Thursday night. I would spend Friday and Saturday in Sendai before bussing back to Hirosaki on Sunday morning. Before I left for Texas on July 11th, I bought both bus tickets and squared everything away. I was ready.

Anyone catch the huge glaring mistake in my plan?

Yeah, it was a pretty stupid one. I should have known better.

When you travel from Japan to the U.S., you are essentially “going back in time”. You arrive on the same day that you leave because the U.S. is behind Japan in time zones.

But when you go to Japan from the U.S., you lose a day traveling and arrive on the next day. So if I left Austin on Thursday, I would arrive on Friday in Japan.

I was still in Austin when the bus for Sendai left without me.

This meant that I was without a ride to Sendai on Friday night and that I had lost one of my days in Sendai. I was already  pretty stressed out at that point, so I kind of just threw my hands up in the air and decided to take the bullet train. Expensive, but it was the fastest way there. (And I don’t like buses anyways.)

Friday

As soon as I landed and got my luggage, I booked it to the JR ticket office, bought the train tickets. And zoomed off. Tokyo station was a madhouse as usual and I was sweaty and exhausted with my two bags (+backpack). But I got on the train.

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I arrived in Sendai a little before Ayumi got off work, so I hung around the station for a while until she was able to pick me up. I was so grateful that she had a car!

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She picked me up a bit after six and we went straight to one of her favorite restaurants, “Note”. It was a European-style café that emphasized its fresh, seasonable vegetable dishes. We ordered the available courses and were in for a treat. Grilled veggies, raw veggies, salad… A fresh treat! I tried raw eggplant with olive oil and truffle salt. Who knew raw eggplant could be so amazingly delicious? The different kinds of gourmet salts they had were amazing too.

We were in veggie heaven. Ayumi isn’t vegetarian, but she loves veggies and doesn’t eat meat that often.

After dinner, we ran to the grocery store so I could pick up some breakfast food for me. I was pretty exhausted at that point, but happy to have some foods for the morning.

While we were driving around, I realized why Sendai is called The City of Trees. There is green everywhere, even downtown. Trees trees trees trees. The city was pretty heavily hit by the earthquake/tsunami disaster, as there was still a lot of construction and the roads were bumpy/rattle-y from the ground having shifted. But it was still a very beautiful city at night.

When we got back to Ayumi’s cute little apartment, showered, and got ready for bed. I zonked off pretty quickly. But it was too hot to sleep well…

Saturday

I woke up several times during the night and woke up at some ungodly time like 4 or 5am. I tried to be quiet and eat some breakfast in the kitchen area and play some games on my cell phone until Ayumi woke up.

After she woke up, we got ready to go on an adventure! An adventure to see Masamune Date!

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Famous for his missing eye and for founding the city of Sendai, Masamune Date was a powerful daimyo around 1600. His equestrian statue overlooks the city.

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Quite a view.

This place is also where Sendai Castle used to be, before it was dismantled and destroyed over time. It was hot, so we did not walk the grounds. We also had other places to go/see, so this was a quick stop.

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After the city overlook, we drove back to the station so that I could go to a special grocery store called Kaldi, which has a lot of imported food goods. It took a while to get parking, but we eventually both got there. It was fun to look at all the different things! Ayumi and I bought a couple things before we headed out. I can always use more coconut milk for my curries!

Next on the agenda was the barbeque with Ayumi’s friends. When she was younger, Ayumi had gone on a sort of volunteer diplomatic mission to Malawi (a small country in Africa) that was sponsored by the Japanese government. It just so happened that a couple Malawians were in Sendai visiting some of Ayumi’s Japanese friends who had also gone to Malawi with her. They were actually staying in Japan for a couple months to learn agriculture and irrigation. It was really interesting to talk to them!

Anyways, we all had a barbeque in a park about 20-30 minutes outside of the city. There were a bunch of Japanese people, some of whom were either farmers or teachers at an agricultural high school. They brought tons of fresh, organic veggies to grill for me, so there was no shortage of things for a vegetarian to eat.

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It was so-so-so hot, so we all just sat in the shade, talked, and enjoyed the afternoon. Many of her friends spoke English very well, so we spoke in a mixture of English and Japanese. The Malawians also spoke amazing English! They were fun guys.

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Ayumi’s best friend brought her little boy, Haiji, so we played with him a bit too. And I borrowed his scooter. :)

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After the barbeque, Ayumi needed to drop some of the people off at the soccer stadium, so we drove over there first. Her car doesn’t have air conditioning, so… needless to say, it was very hot. But it was fine once we were moving.

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Ayumi and I went to her favorite building in Sendai next, the Sendai Mediatheque.

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It is a public building that is a blend between a library and an art gallery. The architecture was fascinating! And the elevator was awesome.

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There was a collection in one of the free galleries with prints of scenes from all over Japan, which I really loved. There was only one shot of Aomori, but oh well. The rest were just… amazing. I would have happily framed any number of prints from that collection and put it on my wall.

I wasn’t quite hungry for dinner yet, so we decided to go by another grocery store so I could check out some things and grab some snacks for the bus ride back to Hirosaki. I ended up finding sugar-free corn flakes, an import from Europe! Score! I bought two boxes.

We were going to go to one of Sendai’s vegetarian/organic restaurants, but… they seemed to all close at 7pm. What restaurant closes at 7pm on a Saturday night? I guess I know a few now that do. I was disappointed, but it was okay. I had already had a lot of opportunities to eat at vegetarian-friendly establishments while in Austin.

We decided then upon Big Boy, a “family restaurant” (aka diner) just because of their salad bar. I remember going to Big Boy in Tokyo quite often because it was a place where my meat-eating friends and I could all eat well. The salad bar was less than 8 bucks and all you can eat. It also included soup, curry, and rice. What a deal.

It was late when we finished and returned home. I happily showered and took all the sweat and grime from the day off of my body. We spent some time looking at the pictures Ayumi had taken that day. I also packed my suitcase and got things ready. I remember falling asleep on the couch at some point… Zzzz…

Sunday

I got up early, yet again. I had breakfast and Ayumi made some yummy mate tea.

We hung out together and watched a bit of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies that I was able to find online streaming somewhere. They were pretty interesting.

My bus was at 7:30am, so we left a little before 7am. I am glad I took the early bus because I had been awake for a couple hours anyways.

Traffic on an early Sunday morning was nonexistent (thank goodness), so we were there a little early. It was still pretty darn hot! The heat and humidity started early in Sendai, that is for darn sure.

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We said our farewells and I am hoping to see Ayumi at the Hirosaki Marathon in October! I had a lovely time with her and staying at her house was so fun! I am so very glad I decided to stop in Sendai, even though my trip was cut short one day due to my miscalculation.

On the bus to Hirosaki… I was too awake to sleep, so that is rather unfortunate. Instead I played on my iPhone, listened to music and stared out at the scenery. sendai

I don’t know if this was the fault of the bus or the driver, but that was one of the most uncomfortable bus rides I have ever experienced. The bus’ engine kept making these “firing” noises and lurching forward, almost like the driver was pumping the gas pedal every other minute. Even when we were going downhill.

Next time I am going to try to avoid that bus if I can.

I arrived home in Hirosaki with all my bags a little before noon and waited for Kimberly to come and help me. I had asked her if she would mind helping me roll one of my suitcases home, since my bags had gotten quite heavy. Lucky for me, she didn’t mind!

AND SHE DECORATED MY DOOR!!

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“The Happiest Door In Japan”

 

We got home and I promptly dumped my stuff into my spare room to deal with later. We then left my house to go to the movie theatre. Seemed like a good idea to get out of the hot apartment and into a cooler movie theatre. We went to see The Dark Knight Rises… which is much better the second time around.

And thus began my second year in Hirosaki, Aomori! One trip ends, another adventure begins…

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3 Responses to “Sendai, The City of Trees”

  1. LOVED this one too! How much fun you are having on your 2 years living abroad!!! These will be times you will always remember and it will bring back fond memories!

    Sheryl B. Abrams (cell) 651-253-3818 website: http://www.yogabysheryl.com email: yogabysheryl@comcast.net “The aim and culmination of yoga is the sight of the soul, but it has a lot of side effects which are health, happiness, peace and poise.” — B. K. S. Iyengar

  2. I just finished reading your newest blog. It was
    a great way to finish one year and start a new one.You
    really had a good time and a great welcome home. Here’s
    to a great second new year. Hope your students did well
    in the test. Love,Nana

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