Well this is part 1 I suppose of a probably two part blog.
There is a downside to having a good night’s rest; in combination with excitement, it makes sleep on a bus near impossible. Even though I had a very comfortable seat right behind first class, I tossed and turned all night to no avail and, come morning, was wide awake with about an hour of constantly interrupted sleep. Didn’t seem to affect me too much. I suppose that excitement was still working (and seemed to continue working until I got to my hotel that evening).
I thought I was going to be able to take a local train from Morioka station to Tazawa station, but it turns out that those trains don’t run quite as often as the free online app suggested. The first local train was a 2pm. For only twice as much I could take the shinkansen. My hands were tied, albeit loosely; I wasn’t exactly averse to my first shinkansen ride. Unfortunately, this was not one of the fast ones. It was just really nice inside with fold out tables, magazines, etc. Angry birds made short work of the two hour wait until the first shinkansen left. After that, I never stopped taking pictures, walking, and generally being in awe. The ride out was astonishingly beautiful. I rode through the morning mist still flowing through the fields and watched sheet metal sheds and country homes fade into site and disappear behind my window frame. It is everything you would imagine a of a country town. A drowsy morning filled with farmers preparing for work, streams of irrigation checker-boarding fields, and perfect rows of crops which only served to further the similarity to a checker board. It was a Friday, but I could help but think of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash. I had just come off the equivalent of an all nighter and was watching a small town wake up for the day. Don’t worry, I wasn’t “wishin Lord that I was stoned,” rather, I found it wonderful to see something so universally peaceful and nostalgic.
The mountains were equally beautiful. Deep reds and vibrant orange with yellow poka dots streaked with green and low fog made me think that Grandma Williams should paint this. I did them the best justice I could with my pictures but I fear I fell woefully short. But I am rambling now, I haven’t even got to the first train station yet and we are already half a page in.
I had already picked my path, so I hit the ground running. Well, not literally, that would have killed me. I certainly got right to it though. I followed a rocky, wide, and crystal clear river all the way to the town next to the lake. I had that and the hills on one side, and on the other all the fields, sheds, and houses. The sun shown right over the fields, filtering through the weeds that lined them before getting to me; I had a lot of fun with my camera.
I reached the town to see their quite sluggish morning. Tokyo would be in rush hour by that time (around 9:30 AM), but this place was far from bustling. Farmers plugged along at their crops, there were almost no shops to speak of, and two women watching over a child playing in their front yard smiled at me as I passed. I’m sure they were half wondering if I was lost (that is a look I get quite often), but I was just watching them. The more I see kids here the more I’ve decided that kids are pretty much the same everywhere. They certainly all have the tendency to stare unabashedly at something new and exciting.
I had forgotten the name of my hotel, which I thought might be a problem but, about the time I was going to ask Stormy to retrieve it for me, I stumbled upon it. It looked exactly like it did in the pictures on their website; a ski lodge like house nestled into a hill looking out across field to the mountains surrounding. I have decided that I am very lucky or naturally but unconsciously good at not getting too lost. I’d like to think the latter is true, but that is probably just wishful thinking. I’ll settle for luck.
With food and lodging found, it was off to the lake. I still hadn’t seen it which seemed a bit surprising since I knew I was no more than a few hundred yards from it. As soon as I topped the hill I could see why. Tazawa Lake is a caldera lake, sitting in an extinct volcano. You walk over the lip of the old caldera and look down into a lake of fire that has been replaced with placid water and turning trees. So began the journey.