Famous writer and poet Miyazawa Kenji was born in Hanamaki, just north of Kitakami. Hanamaki is full of public art that references his works, including this mural of his best-known story, "Night Train to the Stars". The mural is painted in invisible UV-reflective paint, and illuminated by blacklight at night. So what appears to be an ordinary retaining wall by day transforms into a glowing image of trains and planets after dark.
Every week, I ride my bike to the other side of town a few times. The route runs under the shinkansen tracks, then turns to run parallel to them for a while. Often, a train will come along while I'm riding, preceded by its magnificent roar. It's a race I never win, but for those few seconds that we run along together, it's pretty cool to feel like its companion.
Bullet trains are at the same time common and exotic. Tens of them pass through Kitakami, and thus right by our house, daily. We see many of them while walking the dogs or just looking out the window. They're as much a part of daily life as the commuter and freight trains, prefectural and city buses, and other road traffic. On the other hand ¡½ hello! They're bullet trains! They set the air abuzz as they approach at hundreds of kilometers per hour, and are audible before they're visible. They roar overhead on elevated track, filling the space beneath with sound. They're sleek, beautiful, and they nearly blow you over as they pass through a station without stopping.
The shinkansen will always win the race against the girl on the mountain bike. Frankly, I'm just happy to be there, sharing space with these gorgeous machines.