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   Greetings again wonderful readers. Thanks for the continued support despite a less than stellar record of updating. It's all been very motivating, not just for my Japanese, but for other languages as well. I've actually been listening to some language learning podcasts for Italian, in Japanese of course. I've found that the process is, so far, progressing much faster then when I first picked up Japanese. I'll keep you all updated on things as they continue, but for now, let's put up some more pictures!
    In Japan, this past week was Golden Week, which I think is the biggest tourist season in Japan, likely due to its proximity to cherry blossom season. I've had the week off too, so I took a trip to somewhere I've wanted to go since I got to Japan: Aomori! What, you've never heard of it? It's at the northernmost tip of the main island of Honshu, and it's famous for tsugaru shamisen, apples, and one of the most beautiful sakura viewing spots in Japan, Hirosaki castle. On top of that, Golden Week falls directly on the cherry blossoms' full bloom in Aomori.

   I took a whole metric crap-ton of pictures, so I think I'll talk a bit about each day and sort the pictures by day in slideshow format. The first day, I arrived in Aomori and proceeded to check out as many of the sites in the main city as I could. After arriving by train, I went to the Nebuta museum across the street from the station. Oh, I forgot to mention the Nebuta festival, another thing Aomori is famous for, which is where the enormous paper floats depicting different traditional Japanese scenes are paraded around the city. The scale is nowhere near as impressive in the pictures, but they're BIG. Next, I went to the tourism building and took an elevator to the top floor where you can get a great view of the city and Mutsu Bay. If you look hard on a clear day, you can actually see the northern island of Japan, Hokkaido. Of course, it's not visible in any of the pictures. Maybe I should invest in a decent camera...
    Also in the building was a store of nothing but apple products. Actually, there are a couple throughout the city. There's apple bear, apple wine, apple cider, apple juice, apple pie, apple ice cream, apple chips, and even just apples. If you know me, you know that apples are an important part of my diet, and it was great eating fuji apples from the source. ^_^
    For lunch (a very late lunch), I tried miso curry milk ramen. I'll let you take that in for a second. Probably the weirdest combo I've ever heard of, but it turned out to be pretty good; not kitakata ramen good, but tasty nonetheless. I met my host after that, went to her apartment to drop of my stuff, and went to a different restaurant later that night which was a good hour walk from the place I stayed, wrapping up my first day.
    The next day was spent almost entirely in Hirosaki. I actually did some sakura viewing outside my host's apartment before leaving for Aomori, where I caught my first live shamisen performance! Pictures, but no video. After that, I went to Hirosaki to see the castle, park and cherry blossoms. Holy balls was it crowded! I didn't think that many people would be there, honestly, since I was the only person I knew going to Aomori. Regardless, I spent most of the day there taking pictures that are far less impressive than the real thing and enjoying the sights. Apparently, the castle is going to be moved, so I caught it for the last time in a while it will be there.
    There was a four person shamisen performance in Hirosaki station on the way back too, which was great for me, and I went to a small restaurant in Aomori after that. You had to almost crawl in through the door, but the food was delicious, the old lady working there was nice, helpful and energetic, and I got another shamisen show. This was the first of a few places I could enjoy only because I can speak and read Japanese. It pays to know the language when traveling in another country.
    My third full took me on a trip to Towada Lake. From Aomori, it was about a two and a half hour drive to the lake through the mountains of Aomori. The road we took is usually closed in the winter, but in the spring, the roads are cleared to allow cars to some of the more country areas of Aomori. The result is what looks like a huge trench of snow as the bus navigates the narrow curves of the mountain roads. Seriously, took a look at some of the pictures to see just how high the snow is on these mountains, even on the last day of April!
    After we came back down on the other side of the mountains, I departed the bus in the middle of a really long nature trail leading towards the lake. The full trail is about 14km, but after the amount of walking I did for the two days preceding it, I was already a bit burned, so I only ended up walking about 5km. Even so, there were about nine or ten waterfalls along this trail following a scenic river. There were only a few people along the trail too, which was a great feeling after the crowding in Hirosaki. Again, the pictures don't quite do it justice, but that's just the way it is.
    Towada Lake was nice, but the ferry didn't seem to be running, so I didn't get to take my boat ride when I finally reached the end of the trail. T_T I ended up just taking the bus back, getting some food and meeting my next host for the night.
    My last full day in Aomori was all for the wrap up. After three days of walking up and down Aomori, I was pretty exhausted, so I just checked out a bunch of sites that I hadn't had the chance to see before. First was the Giant Buddha statue and 清竜寺 (I think it's Seiryuuji, but I never checked it). It was another really nice temple in Aomori, kind of out of the way from the rest of the city. Luckily, it meant that there weren't many tourists there, either. You know the deal. It was really big, the pictures don't show the scale well, yadda yadda. Still, it was pretty impressive. It was much bigger than the Buddha that I saw in Nara with my family last year, and instead of wood, it's made of bronze. Also, I got a fortune from the temple, just for the lulz, and I actually managed to get 大吉 (big fortune), so Buddha must have smiled on me for being such a well-behaved gaijin at his temple. ^_^
    Afterwards, I visited the tourist building again and saw another shamisen performance, saw a forest museum (which was actually really boring, but at least it didn't cost any money), and finally went on one of the ships sitting in the bay, the Hakkodamaru. It's a memorial ship with about four stories that's been turned into a museum of the port in Aomori. It's basically all in Japanese, and I actually talked with one of the museum guides in the bridge who knew about Aizuwakamatsu and even named the Byakko-tai! The final museum I went to was a history museum of Aomori from the earliest signs of humans living there to present day.
    I also went out with my host from the previous night to try some Aomori sake and ginger miso oden at a restaurant before meeting my host for the next night who took me to a bar that his friend runs. It was a good time, and I even learned some Aomori dialect talking to them. It was mostly casual stuff like "butt" and "pervert" but that's usually more fun anyway.
    In any case, the last day was the end of my trip and consisted of merely traveling back to Aizuwakamatsu. I stopped in Sendai (and thought I was going to miss my bus since the station is so big, and I couldn't find the right bus stop), and they were actually having a Pokemon thing going on, as you can see in the final picture. I wish I could have check it out, but I was dying to get back to Aizu after the trip, so I gave it a pass this time.
    Well, that's basically all I've got this time, so thank you so much if you made it to the end of this post! It's a bit of a doozy (in comparison to other posts I've made), and I hope you enjoy the pictures. Please feel free to comment, like on Facebook, and let me know what you think, and I'll try to grant any wishes you may have for future posts, videos and content. Thanks again, and keep being super, you sexy devils. ^_-
 


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