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Japan 2004 Travelogue: Part 5
Now we are in Matsushima, a small town renowned for the many tiny islands off of its coast, scattered across the sea. Overall we were disappointed by Matsushima; the harbor was crowded with mostly ugly boats, the beautiful ocean views were spoiled by things from motorboats to various fishing-related activities to what appeared to be an oil tanker offshore, and the town was small, dirty and without redeeming features. Not recommended.



To see more of the islands, we took a cruise; it was, however, a night cruise, which was a strategic error. We thought we'd have lovely sunset and twilight views of the islands; instead our ship turned on huge green spotlights on both sides, and attracted enormous flocks of greenly illuminated seagulls. In addition, most of the boat was glassed in, and the small outside space on the boat (the top deck being closed, for no discernable reason) was usually crowded with smokers. Be careful in your choice of cruises!


The next morning we went on a walking path along several islands near the shore, which was relatively nice.



Heading out of town, we saw this "Orgel Museum", which had me scratching my head for a while. Turns out "orgel" is a German word, related to the English word "organ". The Japanese use it to refer to music boxes and jingly bell music in general, which they love and which you hear everywhere you go in Japan. The next photo is on the shinkansen, en route to Lake Towada.


Lake Towada was also not a high point of the trip; we started worry that the whole idea of going north of Tokyo was going to turn out to be foolish (but it was not). It was a mostly featureless lake bordered by two things: trees and resort onsen (hotels with hot-tub facilities, more or less). Its two redeeming features were the little island with a shrine on top, and the pink dinosaur pedal boats that, when viewed straight on, looked amusingly like something else entirely.



We took a JR bus (covered by our Japan Rail passes!) from Lake Towada to Aomori, on the northern end of Honshu. On the way, we stopped off for a day hike partway along. The views were prettier than these photos would suggest, but it was also fairly high elevation, and it was hard work getting to the top where we turned back! In the photo with Keewi in it, you can just barely see the cable-car station where we started our hike; it is on the top of the hill in the distance.



And this last photo is the only shot we took in Aomori, at the hotel where we stayed. Aomori was a nice enough town — we found a restaurant near our hotel with a staggering variety of imported beers and a yummy menu of bar-style foods including kimchi — but there wasn't much to photograph.

Part 6: Hakodate

These images copyright © 2004 Ben Haller. All rights reserved.