Wednesday, September 30, 2015

JSP'12: Miyagi - Eighth Day

Hey ho we're almost on the final day of this Japan Study Program!

On the morning of eighth day, Arashi was on the tele again in the morning news hahahaha I swear I see them every single day day and night on this trip. That morning I think they were talking about Tokyo Tower getting lighted up in their official group colors - red, green, yellow, red, purple. Power of Arashi bruh

After a hearty breakfast on the daily buffet spread, we were loaded up to the busses on a roadtrip. It scenic journey through the countryside took about two hours including a short break.

Not the best photograph but look at that snowy mountain unf

Highways in Japan are often scattered with impressive rest areas that are almost like a large supermarket complete with a food court, specialty shops, souvenir stores, street food stores, multiple vending machines and such. Looking back, this was legit the smallest (though not any less charming) rest area that I've ever been to hahaha but still real nice, with fresh local fruits, vegetables, homemade snacks, and regional souvenirs. 

As we got closer to the area affected by tsunami, the scene gradually changed too.

I don't recall where that was, but it was also an area that was struck by the tsunami disaster and as you can see, it was pretty badly affected. Mind, these were taken a year after the disaster. The busses even slowed down to let us have a closer look. After that, we stopped by a restaurant for lunch.

Souvenirs were also sold at the restaurant. Zunda, a sweet paste made from mashed edamame soybeans, is one of the specialty food of Miyagi Prefecture. Many of the souvenirs found in this prefecture feature the popular zunda. Look at all the variations! I didn't get any though, they were beyond my student-life budget, going at RM30-RM40 each with the exchange rate back then.

Miyagi version of the famous Shiroi Koibito hahaha

Behind the restaurant there's a lake / pond that was sparkling brilliantly under the noon sun.

We hopped on the bus again for a short jouney to the port town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture. Back in March 2011, the tsunami actually went up as high as 15 metres in this town, it crushed and swept away a huge chunk of the town. Over 1000 people went missing. It was really really badly affected by the disaster.

This video recorded the destruction in Onagawa.

A year after, there I stood in the crisp, clear weather. 

This is the exact point where the tsunami came from.

The rubbles and flat lands in the above photographs used to be bustling with acitivity, packed with shops, restaurants, homes, now completely obliterated bearing only little hints of the many lives lost to nature. It was really difficult to imagine the horrors that took place just a year ago from where I stood, in this beautiful weather and clear sunlight. The town residence were just in their normal daily routine - doing the laundry, preparing meals, chatting with neighbours, watching the television, planning picnics for the upcoming sakura blooms - and it all got taken away from them so suddenly. That's incredibly heartbreaking. Ahh this is gloomy talk here. 

We also had time to sit down for a talk by one of the municipal employees, she spoke of her experiences on that fateful day, and more positively, how they look forward to rebuilding their lives and put smiles back into the residents of Onagawa. Apparently, in that one day of disaster, it created the volume of trash that is equivalent to a few decades load of trash. That's crazy, we literally drove past hills hills hills of rubbles and trash waiting to be properly disposed, and this a year since the disaster happened. Everything was so organized though. 

The contrast of shiny new machines against the barren lands.

After that rather solemn experience, we headed back to Sendai for dinner. Before coming to Japan, I made plans with a friend who lives in Sendai to meet up after dinner. Andy-san is a university educator, and he brought a student along too. They meet us in the hotel from which we walked over to a nearby restaurant and took to a room. 

He ordered so much good food for us! Double dinner!

From sushi to sashimi to grilled squid to grilled mochi and many side dishes. It was so good, that was the first time I had such amazingly-portioned sushi. The slice of raw fish was so generous it folded completely over the sushi rice, almost like a pouch to the rice. YUMS.

That was the first time I experienced an earthquake. 

As we were chatting and stuffing our faces, I felt this weird sensation that for a split second I thought I was getting dizzy. I stopped whatever I was doing and looked around for a moment, I could see that the Malaysian friends also noticed that something was off. It was then that we realized that the room is shaking a little and holymama it's an earthquake! Andy-san was just his usual self until he noticed we had strange looks on our faces hahahaha he promptly confirmed that it was indeed an earthquake and laughed it off. Apparently it was common enough and in this level, it isn't big enough to worry about it. So we just play it cool, continued dining and chatting hahahaha

He also taught us how to origami! 

Hasil kraftangan rakyat Malaysia.

After that we went back to the hotel to rest and before parting, he gave me some really really thoughtful souvenirs! Which I didn't take any nice photos of hahahaha but let me tell you that it involves Arashi so I was thrilled. Japanese hospitality at its best haha thank you so much Andy-san for the generous dinner treat and wonderful souvenirs. What a memorable day that was.