Monday, May 24, 2010

Oh, Yama? (and Utunomiya)

Alright, have a good weekend, gotta catch a train.

Where you goin?



Yup, c'ya!

Perhaps this slightly altered version will make more sense.

Alright, have a good weekend, gotta catch a train.

Where you goin?


North Dakota!?!?

Yup, c'ya!

Ok, well in terms of time it only takes 2 1/2 hours to get to Oyama (in the Tochigi Prefecture), but in terms of prefectures (kind of like states) its Kanagawa > Tokyo > Saitama > Tochigi, so it feels quite far. The trains are just too amazing that it doesn't take very long to get there. That said, its pretty countryside (a lot more than Ebina), so that was quite interesting.

Anyways, since well... there's not much to do in Oyama, we went even further down the line to Utsunomiya, the largest city in Tochigi. By the way Oyama is the second largest... yea. So I guess that means there's less foreigners and I stick out even more but I didn't really feel it much.

Not too far from Utsunomiya station is really old building called Kyu-Shinohara-ke Jutaku (旧篠原家住宅). Which basically translates to "The former residence of the Shinohara family" if I'm reading it correctly. This place is back from the Meiji period (built 1895), so its over 100 years old.

Being quite dated, it was also very Japanese so I really enjoyed it. As much as I like having fun in Japan (izakaya, karaoke, parties, etc), I really enjoy all the traditional Japanese stuff as well. For instance when I studied abroad I tagged along with a bunch of friends to a club on New Years, and as much fun as that was, I was really looking forward to the Hatsumode tradition (the first visit to the shrine on the new year).

Anyways, supposedly the family that owned this property used to make soy sauce and other goods that they sold in that very building. It actually used to be a much larger estate with other buildings and such, but they were unfortunately destroyed by bombing back in WWII. This sadly seems to be a frequent occurrence with a lot of old sites I've visited over the years (especially with castles).

I find myself somewhat torn with this however. I'm of course saddened and extremely disappointed at the loss of all these historic buildings. It would have been so cool to see more of the originals. But at the same time I'm American, so I feel somewhat sorry and also not sorry? Basically in the back of my head it feels kind of like -

"Oh wow, there used to be more, what happened to it?"
"It was destroyed by fire bombing in the war"
"Oh... geeze, well uhh... unnngggggg"

I don't really run into any prejudice (except for that one old dude who talked to me for a couple hours 3 years ago about how much he hates the atom bomb). So its never really been an issue, but there are those awkward moments. Oh and by the way, all those clothes in the pictures where I guess previously made by that family, and they were having a vote to see which people like the most?

Well after that residence, we walked to this park where the old castle was. It was actually a pretty good distance from the station. I guess Tochigi is really setup more for cars, cause some of the main parts of town were a good 10-20 min walk from the station, not surrounded the station, which was interesting. Definitely gives you a little bit more of a countryside feeling.

Supposedly we were told that a festival was going on, but I guess we missed it or something? There were tents and booths setup all over the place, but all the chairs and tables were neatly folded and packed up. Either they just finished the night before, or were starting that very night.

Utsunomiya is famous for gyoza (pot stickers?) so we naturally had to have gyoza for dinner. We went to a rather famous place called Min Min, but there was another place next door I'd like to go to next time. Min Min was delicious, but this other place had several different varieties of gyoza which I'd love to try out.

And finally we ended the evening with some good ol karaoke in Oyama. The karaoke place we found is supposedly an older style of karaoke. We weren't sure about it, but thought it was at least worth a shot. Well we asked them what the 2 hours free special was they had going on. They said it was for members (300 yen to become a member). Then we asked if we had to stay for 3 hours in order to get 2 hours free... nope. If you become a member (300 yen) and buy 1 drink each (400 yen) you can have 2 free hours of karaoke........ wow. I guess thats the country side for you, yeesh.

Alright that's enough for now, I've got a variety of random things I've been running across and couldn't help but snap a shot of that I'm planning on posting later. Until then!


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