Drivin' 

Hachimantai is a mountain and national park that straddles the border between Iwate and Akita. It's also the scene of the "Aspite Line", a very scenic drive that crosses the mountain near its summit. Even in May, there was plenty of snow near the top.



On the Iwate side, there are alleged to be some spectacular views. All we saw was fog, though.



And here's the view when we finally got our oscillation overthruster working.



(Photos by Robert Davis. Hi, Dad!)

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God of the Sea 

This carved figure of the God of the Sea is perched in the rafters of a small pavilion over a picnic table at the Goishi Coast. I'm not sure I could eat my lunch with him lookin' at me.



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Itsy Bitsy Spider 

I found this tiny little spider hiding in a downspout at Chusonji



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Fukusenji Lions 

Buddhist temples are usually guarded by lions. This one, at the bottom of the hill, guards the main gate to Fukusenji.



This one a female, I think stands guard near the top of the hill, outside the main temple hall.



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Firefighters' Parade 

At Jinku Matsuri, the traditional festival dances shared time with a procession of a different sort.



According to our local friends, this part of the festival was a callback to the firefighters of old. The men are carrying standards of the sort fire companies use to identify themselves. Back when firefighters responded to calls on foot, an advance team from each company would carry the company's standard to the fire. The first company to stake its standard at the site claimed the lead on fighting the fire; the later companies would take direction from the first company.
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Dancing the Bad Luck Away 

Earlier this month, we attended Jinku Matsuri in Esashi, a small town south of Kitakami. Jinku Matsuri is a festival featuring dances performed by people from Esashi who are celebrating their 25th or 42nd birthdays. 25 and 42 are traditionally yakudoshi years for men, but both men and women performed in the dance groups or in their accompanying music groups.

Prior to the featured dances, local children danced in a parade that passed through the main festival ground.



The 25-year-olds made a big impression with their wicked hairstyles, and later with their original music and dance. The amount of energy they created in the festival ground was amazing.



The excitement was amplified by the 42-year-olds' entry. Seriously the 25-year-olds' musicians played with a lot of drive, but when the 42-year-olds took over the parade song, they did so with a huge BOOM! of drums and more complex movements. It was wild.



They also provided a flash of style during their original dance.


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Chicks at the Beach 



What, you were expecting a cheesecake shot?

My new pal is the mascot for Kamome no Tamago,a treat from the Iwate coast town of Ofunato. Kamome no tamago literally means "seagull egg." The treats are little egg-shaped cakes filled with yellow bean jam and coated with white chocolate. They're quite delicious.
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Suwa-jinja 

We've blogged about the numerous small shrines scattered throughout Kitakami City, but we haven't talked about the big one. Suwa-jinja, located in the heart of Kitakami, is approximately 1200 years old according to some sources. It was undergoing major renovation throughout much of 2007, until work was completed around late November.



The structure off to the left is a small water station. These are commonly found outside shrines. They are places where visitors can wash their hands before approaching the shrine itself.
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The Guardian 

Stone lion standing guard outside a hilltop shrine in Rikuzentakata, a town on the Iwate coast.


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On the Rocks 

Having visitors is the perfect prod to do all the things you've wanted to do, but haven't. Like going to the Iwate coast — it's so close, and yet we'd never been. So on a beautiful Tuesday morning, we prepared for a day trip to the coast, stopping at Hige-oyaji's place for breakfast. We told him our plans; he got really excited and animatedly told us to go to the Goishi Kaigan to see Kaminari-iwa, "Thunder Rock." Kaminari-iwa is a longish outcropping of rock running parallel to a cliff. Ocean water charges through the gap between them, creating a huge "BOOM!" as it does, hence the name. Because he's awesome, Hige-oyaji hooked us up with an outfit running small speedboat cruises around the sights in that area, including through the Kaminari-iwa gap.

From the shore, Kaminari-iwa looks very cool, and the movement of the water through the gap is mesmerizing.



You get way more of the "thunder rock" effect from land than on the ocean.

The turnaround part of the boat trip took us through Anatoshiiso, a rock formation rather resembling a giant, rocky set of brass knuckles. On the initial approach, it was not at all clear to us that our speedboat was going to fit through that middle hole.



It did, thanks to the careful maneuvering of the boat pilot.
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