Leisure and enlightenment in Tazawako

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June 9th 2008
Published: June 9th 2008
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The Naniwa hotel was a comfy nights rest, and the hosts as helpful as ever, despite their limited english and yesterdays misunderstanding! I am certainly glad I speak some lingo - several people I have met have had no or limited ability, and even in the major cities like Tokyo, have struggled to get their needs met or point across. A bit of charades always comes in handy, but anything slightly complicated can get mixed up, even if you do speak Japanese!!

A gorgeous, clear warm mornning dawned, and I decided after my early waking habit to get the earlier train just before 9am. The Akita shinkansen, originating and terminating at Akita (Tokyo bound/ from) means the trip to Tazawako and nearby Kakunodate is quick and painless, but reservations are a must. Being a monday morning, the difference in commuters was striking....................very few occupied seats, many business folk working in the provincial towns, and one American girl I met who teaches English in Akita but was changing to Tokyo. From her suggestions and praises of Lk Tazawa, I knew exactly where I was headed in my 4 hr stopover in Tazawako town.

That being taking the bus to Tazawako-han,
dorothy, dorothy...dorothy, dorothy...dorothy, dorothy...

pedal boats for the leisure seekers that just LOVE different modes of transport!
on the shores of this pristine lake, the 2nd clearest in Japan (the 1st is in Hokkaido, Lk Moshi?).
If it weren't for the tacky pedal boats with hello kitty or pink dinosaur faces, I could say I was somewhere such as Lk Hayes or Lk taupo. Yet it turned out to be a stunner of an early summer day that you could not help feeling like sunbathing or...............swimming! Yes, how on earth can pauline go without a swim at least once on holiday. It would not be a summer holiday by a beautiful lake/ waterway without an obligatory swim, ein fact it would be rude not! Even if the locals forbid you do partake until at least July or August. You see, Lk Tazawako is a little tsumetai (cool) but very deep, 440m approx at its deepest point, and the deepest in Japan. Despite this dialogue, I emphasised I was a kiwi, and that having grown up in or by water of varying temperatures that the 'cold' (it really was not that bad!) would not put me off, especially as the mercury got to 28C today! You see my point!!

So as for leisure, I caught the bus from Tazawako station 7km to the stopping point of Tazawako-han, surrounded by souvenir shops and cheap, nasty soba restaurants in usual japanese resort style. There are some hotels here scattered around the 20km perimeter of the lake, and one camping ground I saw, but they are pricey and unless you get here with plenty time on your hands, the connections by bus outiside 5 or 6pm are poor. So I was lucky that this bus met the shinkansen timetable quite well.

With now about 2.5 hrs to spare, I made a B line for the Gozano ishi jinja, about- 5km from the bus stop along the lakeside and on some parts of road - the cars only travel at 40 to 50kph, and are VERY courteous at giving any cyclist (hire bikes are available) or pedestrian on a tour of leisure or enlightenment or both! En route there are heart herb gardens, a cafe or two, a few poet and statues of significance to Akitas feudal past, and of course lovely lush green and turquoise (lake) scenery.

After visiting the temple and hearing some eerie high pitched chanting and soft string instrument sounds as I approaced, I came
Gozano ishi jinja (shrine)Gozano ishi jinja (shrine)Gozano ishi jinja (shrine)

a pleasant flat walk from town, I have no understanding of its purpose whatsoever except that it gave me some enlightenment...that I must go to the nearest foreshore and bathe!
across a group of nuns. We exchanged japanese conversation for a while, and so it turned out they had friends in Auckland, and did I know them................the world is small, but not that so??! Their dog, I will call them Lassie, was extremely photogenic, so I just had to indulge in a photo. After I started making my way back towards the town bus stop, all the while stopping for photos of inflatable cowboy scarecrows and various other kodak moments, they passed me in their little daihatsu..............obviously nuns are allowed to drive..(!).......and offered me a lift. But being so close to that magic bathing spot where I could very possibly have done a nudey as NO ONE was around, I declined. And no it wasn't a nude dip.................the sight of my caucasian body would really freak the locals out, not mention offend them!

So I got enlightenment and leisure in one go. When I swam I got a few stares and 'sugois!' from some local ladies doing crafts under the trees that I didn't see, and two who decided to walk by. It is forbidden, you see, until at least next month. Bugger that, it was 28C for gods

could not contain my excitement at a cool lake on a hot summers day, I decided the clothed option was better choice..
sake! Also, a young man huddled over his mobile phone and IPOD, then deicided it wasn't exciting at all the watch the gaijin drown herself in Lk Tazawako and left. So I virtually had it all to myself. Pure joy in such simplicity!

I got back to Tazawako station after and connected with the shinkansen in plenty time, not before collecting my belongings from the very handy albeit SMALL (do not bring a 60 pack to japan) coin lockers, not before a visit to a close supermarket that sold everything. There are also souvenir shops and a few boutique restaurants. The tourist office folk based in the train station were helpful with maps of the Tazawako area, and there is no hassles with trains as long as you book in advance, i.e. more than 5-10mins before it leaves, with a rail pass.

With a few chops and changes via Morioka, and Hachinohe, I have managed to now cross the straits and am in Hokkaido, stopping off here in Hakodate. The Seikan tunnel is a neat experience - this spans 58.3km from northern Iwate ken to southern Hakodate province, runs 140m below sea level and a further 100m below

happy as a pig in mud, the evidence!
the sea bed. So your ears get a bit congested if you are prone to it like me! The fastest crossing is in 24 mins, the slowest in 27 mins, and the train seats give a blow by blow account of exactly where in underground tunnel space you are down to the minute....now that is very japanese!! It is dark and noisy, and there is no big bang upon reaching Hokkaido. But the whole trip is peppered with more rolling fields, vast plains, hills close by and steep farther away, workers toiling in the paddies, and numerous plastic hot houses testament to the indoor growing methods of this cooler northern area of Japan.

Arriving at hakodate at 720pm was refreshing...cooler than Akita (I would hazard a guess at 12C), and after some navigation and asking of locals, I found the smokey yet satisfactory Aqau garden hotel hakodate. Success tyhis time with internet reservations through Rakuten travel, and although pricey as Hakodate can be, I'm just happy to have a comfy bed to get some proper sleep!

But not before a quick whip into the CONBENIENCE STOORU for supplies for tomorrows long haul to Wakkanai, and then the lively harbour for some night photography and a glimpse of Mt hakodate which like almost all japanese peaks has a cable car reached by bus...................this place is renound for its early fishy markets and mist, so to see a reasonably clear night with a crescent moon and the lights of the cable car restaurant 7 km away was a bonus!

So onwards to the top from tomorrow, via Sapporo. I wonder if again I will see some local hillbilly folk, that enlighten themselves not with a jinja visit like at Tazawako, but with Asahi Drys at 9am on the train??? I tell you, it just gets more and more interesting this place!!!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


head to headhead to head
head to head

you go first, no you, no yOU! etc
lunching with nunslunching with nuns
lunching with nuns

Gozano ishi jinja, a relic of Akitas feudal lordship past..
seikan tunnelseikan tunnel
seikan tunnel

blow by blow account of depth, time, and location
approaches to Hakodateapproaches to Hakodate
approaches to Hakodate

the train follows the coast past fishing villages, concrete breakwaters and modest vege plots
hakodate harbour by nighthakodate harbour by night
hakodate harbour by night

the distant lights of Mt hakodate (top right), the ship 'Maru' (middl) and the outer harbour...and no mist!

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