Thursday, August 27, 2009

Noto, please

When we heard we were being placed in Ishikawa-ken, they didn't didn't tell us where in the prefecture we'd actually be. We feared the Noto. The Noto Peninsula is not for the weak. It's rugged, an earthquake destroyed most of what little train infrastructure they had, it gets a hell of a lot more rain than places like Vancouver or Seattle, and the high schools there mostly focus on fishing. We were relieved when we got Kanazawa, but still knew we wanted to visit the Noto. Kris and Dean both live up north and were staying with us for the weekend so we decided to use up the rest of my cultural furlough heading back up with them.

First we took an accidental trip to Toyama. Did you know that the train to Wakura Onsen splits and half the cars go to a completely different prefecture? We sure didn't!

Eventually we got to Wakura Onsen.
We were going to take a bus to the Noto-jima Aquarium but a kind cab driver gave us an offer we couldn't pass up so we got in. He started pulling over and asking us if we wanted to take pictures of various things and my heart started to sink thinking he was trying to run up the fair. Once the meter reached the price we had discussed, though, he simply shut it off. He got us a discount at the aquarium and told us how to catch the bus back, too. Only in Japan.

The Noto reminds me a lot of the Olympic Peninsula. It's what western Washington would look like if it rained twice as much so that the greenery looked impenetrable and they didn't do so much logging and they put vending machines up every thirty feet.

From Wakura Onsen we took a train to Anamizu. We ate at CoCo's, a faux-American diner. Kris had the taco salad. It had hard boiled eggs in it.

We had to stand on a dark road and wait for a bus to the Noto airport, which was where Kris's car was parked. We've become so used to Japanese punctuality that we started to panic when the bus was four minutes late.

We got the car and made our way to Wajima for their big festival, the Wajima Taisai. The point of the festival seemed to be to give groups of people so heavily intoxicated they can barely stand twenty foot tall lanterns to carry around. Sometimes they would inexplicably spin them as fast as they could, inevitably injuring half the people trying to carry the heavy thing.

The other point of the festival is to try to get other people as drunk as possible. Poor, innocent Greg was handed a huge water bottle shaped jug and somehow assumed that it would actually contain water. In Japan if your blood alcohol is anything above zero you can't drive, so this gulp was the first time Greg has officially been drunk by the standards of the law. The guy who gave Greg the bottle told us he's been to America three times. Each time was to go to the Grand Canyon.

I've been concerned at my job about trying to get kids to speak English because the majority of them seem to be painfully shy. At the festival, however, we were insanely popular. Apparently the best way to get kids to speak English is to get them incredibly drunk. I must have had about fifteen "America, high five!" conversations with intoxicated 15 year-olds.

Eventually we turned in for the night. If I am to continue with the Noto as Olympic Peninsula metaphor, Kris lives in Forks. Actually, Forks is more densely populated. He's the only Westerner within a 30 minute drive. The next day he took us to Yanagida's official restaurant/pirated movie rental house/library/internet cafe/used car lot where the owner kindly obliged all of our vegan/vegetarian requests. Our four course feast cost us all of six bucks. Kris is going to be ridiculously rich by the end of all this. He has a three bedroom house to himself and he only pays a hundred dollars a month for it.

The Noto is gorgeous, but it was nice to get back to Kanazawa where you can actually half understand the old men sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Andrea! It sounds as if Noto does have some benefits. All in all though Kanazawa is definitely the better place to be.