Today’s October 22nd, the day of the Jidai Festival in Kyoto, one of Kyoto’s three biggest festivals, which commemorates the city being appointed the capital of Japan by Emperor Kanmu in the year 794, except the festival itself was only instituted in 1868, when Kyoto stopped being the capital during the Meiji Restoration (I guess, to help the people feel better about not being the capital?). Well, ordinarily that’d be the case anyway – this year it’s been postponed to the 26th, because instead, the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito was today. The new era name is Reiwa, which doesn’t really roll off the tongue in English or Japanese – according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, this should be translated into English as “beautiful harmony”, although in modern Japanese, the most common definition of the “rei” is not “harmony” but rather “order” or “command”.
Started with breakfast, which included mochi (a rice cake made from pounded whole rice grains – it’s the thing in the little bowl covered in green paste), apparently a local specialty; Ichinoseki is supposedly sometimes called “the hometown of mochi”… or possibly that’s just what the Ichinoseki tourism board is trying to promote. No curry this time – perhaps curry at breakfast is a Kanto thing. Though there was rice-with-things-in as well as the plain rice.
Considering the late night I’d had last night, I decided to take things easy today with a quick visit to a nearby location. Take the train, spend a few hours, then take the train back and have an early night. That, and Accuweather was predicting rain in the afternoon. Though with it already raining in the morning, I checked Accuweather again, and it now says rain all day, heavy rain in the afternoon.
But yeah, time to break out the umbrella again. I headed for the station, and hopped on the Ofunato Line – the same line that hosts the Pokémon With You train, though not today, sadly. Instead, I was on a cute little two-car diesel train. Unfortunately, I’d entered the station with my Suica, but realised pretty quickly after the train pulled out of the station that the train’s ticket machine was on, meaning there was no Suica available at my destination, so I should have bought at ticket with cash rather than using the Suica.
Well, it was a nice little trip through the countryside anyway. I took a few photos, but before too long, the windows started fogging up from all the rain and the people breathing, so photos stopped. Hopped off at Geibikei Station, a cute little single-platform station with a teeny tiny waiting room. Paid cash as I got off. There’s Pokémon images all over the platform.
After a short walk from the station, I arrived at my destination for today – the Geibikei boat ride. “Kei” means “gorge”, and “geibi” means “lion’s nose”, the name of a rock formation near the upstream end of the gorge. Boats poled in the traditional style take tourists from the town to the rock and back again, a trip of about ninety minutes. It’s apparently quite nice with autumn leaves, but I’d been unable to determine exactly when the leaves here change, so I decided to just come and hope. Let’s just say, an attempt was made. The gorge is regarded as one of Japan’s 100 Landscapes (Lake Chuzenji, the Nagatoro Gorge near Chichibu and Mount Takao are also on the list, from the places I’ve visited).
Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be getting the full trip today – according to a sign in the window of the ticket office, the river was running too high – so we also got a corresponding discount (there’s a nominal price listed on their website, but it’s adjusted on the day as conditions require). The boats are fairly broad and flat, and you sit on the floor (or rather, you sit on cushions that also function as lifejackets in an emergency). To keep the rain off, there was a plastic roof – unfortunately, it reduced my view across the boat to little more than my handspan at arm’s length (on the nearside, it was closer to my forearm’s length), and I wasn’t lucky enough to get a seat at the open front or back. The boat’s pilot stood on the back, and had to crouch down if she wanted to speak with us (also, I’m fairly sure she was the only female boat pilot employed by the company – not certain on that).
Women also came aboard with baskets selling drinks and snacks – I bought some dango covered with a paste made from mashed green soybeans called zunda (a local specialty; I think the mochi at breakfast might have been covered with the same stuff). You could also buy pellets to feed the ducks en route, though I elected not to. But, soon we were off.
It was quite a nice and relaxing voyage, even with the constant patter of rain on the roof, and the rather reduced view. As we headed upriver, the ducks all followed along behind, knowing they’d be getting fed. And here and there was a tree changing colours. At one point, there was a shrine on the shore which we could try throwing coins into the collection box – I threw twice, and landed too low both times.
Then we reached the point where we’d have to turn around… and there was an excavator just sitting in the middle of the river making sandcastles. Not sure what that was about the water level being too high. On the way back, our pilot sang us the traditional song of the Geibi boat pilots… but since it includes the line “Take the Ofunato Line, it’s not far from Ichinoseki”, I’m not entirely sure how traditional it is.
Well, it was a nice enough ride, and the weather made it kind of ethereal, which was nice. Only forty-give minutes long. Might have to come back again in clearer weather, though. After we’d disembarked, I poked through the nearby paper museum – paper being a specialty of the town of Geibikei, then headed for the nearby Geibi Resthouse for some lunch: Geibi Udon, cold udon noodles with a raw egg and various assorted sides. Tasty enough.
I went for a quick wander around town (among other things, I saw a line halfway up a wall in the middle of town with a label saying “Typhoon 6 high water mark, July 11th 2002”, which was… concerning), but soon headed back to the station – I needed to get the next train, or I’d have to spend another two hours wandering to fill the time to the one after. Had to ask the station attendant to cancel the active ticket on my Suica card when I arrived back at Ichinoseki, and as I did so, I somehow completely forgot how to phrase the request. Bought a bottle of fuji apple juice from the vending machine on the way out of the station. I’d also bought some sauce-mayo-flavoured “monja snacks” from the 7-11 in Geibikei for afternoon tea. Quite tasty, but not completely sure what they’re made of (or what they have to do with monja = kinda Tokyo-style okonimiyaki).
I was back in my hotel room by 2pm, fortunately not too damp. Plenty of time to get caught up on blogging… or just take a nap, which is what actually happened. I did get two blog posts written, though. No particular sign of the prophesied heavy rain in the afternoon.
Headed out at dinner time for some dinner. I decided to wander down the road away from the station to see what I could find, but there were just more izakayas and such (including one that seemed quite popular). Then I found one tiny place that I almost walked past because it seemed to be a B&B, but it turned out that B&B was its name, and it was a restaurant. Cute little place – three tables and a counter, except one of the tables was actually an old-style table-style arcade game (mahjong, specifically, though it was off). There was one other customer, and everyone was watching baseball on the TV. I decided to sit at the counter, and as I’d feared yesterday, the woman behind the counter tried to make conversation. I think I managed to convey information, but I’m sure I misunderstood everything she asked me.
I had oyako-don (chicken and egg on rice), which was most tasty. One weird thing, the other customer lit a cigarette almost right next to me, and I couldn’t smell a thing – but at the restaurant in Omiya the other night, the a customer three tables away started smoking, and all I could smell was cigarette smoke. Anyway, as I left, I noticed the cook came out to bring in the “open” sign – not sure if they were staying open just for me, or if they’d just decided it wasn’t worth bothering with staying open any more. Bought a bottle of blueberry-flavoured Irohas drink on the way home. Trust me, it’s blueberry.
Back to the hotel to wrap up the blogging and get to bed.
Today’s photo count: three hundred and sixty-six
Today’s pedometer count: 7264 steps – 5.3 kilometres – 7 flights of stairs. Pah, not even trying.
Today’s stamp count: Four – found two non-Pokémon-related stamps at Ichinoseki Station (one celebrating the proximity of Geibikei, one about “the hometown of mochi”, which I accidentally shifted while putting it down on the page), one badly under-inked one at the Geibikei boat terminal, and one rather nice one at the paper museum.
Thanks for being such an assiduous blogger, Joel. I can see and hear and taste your journeys and experiences and meals from your writings. Love the photos too. Keep on enjoying, warm wishes, Bettina