Sunday, February 13, 2011

Good Times in Japan

One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2011 is to spend more time getting to know the Tohoku Region. I've been living in Sendai for almost a year now, but I still haven't seen much beyond the Miyagi Prefecture. Tohoku, which means North East, refers to the northern part of Honshuu, the main island of Japan. It's not a very well-known area among tourists, but it has a lot to offer and like all of Japan is rich with history.

Tohoku (NE Japan)

In keeping up my resolution, I've taken a couple of day trips recently. I've got a limited budget, but fortunately Japan has amazing bus tours that you can take for very little money. I know the phrase "bus tour" will probably inspire images of a truck-load of old people and tourist traps, and there's some truth to that- but in Japan at least, they're also a great, inexpensive way to travel.

My first day trip last weekend was to Miyagi's Mt. Zao. I went with a large group of friends for a day of skiing and snowboarding. It was my first time snowboarding and luckily a member of our group was kind enough to give me a free lesson. If you ignore all the pain and potential for injury, it's fun- but I think I still prefer skiing. In Tohoku there are many mountains, so opportunities and equipment for snow sports abound. I got snow pants for about $10 at a recycle shop and our bus plus ski lift package was pretty reasonable.

Miyagi's Mt. Zao

That slope there? That's where I had to learn how to stand up...

This past Friday was a national holiday in Japan, so I was lucky enough to have a 3 day weekend. I did my best to make the most of it, and it was pretty spectacular. Thursday night I joined a nomikai- a Japanese drinking party, very common here. Many bars and restaurants cater to these parties by offering all you can drink or eat during a set period, called nomihodai and tabehodai respectively. It usually costs about $15-30 for about 2 hours of eating or drinking (or both). Afterward was nijikai (after party) at karaoke. If you have a big group, karaoke is a fairly cheap and fun way to spend a night out.

Next up was a baking party at a friend's house. Everyone brought their own ingredients and cooked together while drinking- incredibly, the awesomeness of the food was not effected by the alcohol consumption! I made scalloped potatoes.

Drunken Baking Party!! So very delicious :D
 And on Sunday, I went on my 2nd day trip this month to Yamagata Prefecture. There's a Mt. Zao in Yamagata as well, which is famous for its "Snow Monsters". Since that post will be pretty long and picture heavy, it'll posted separately just after this one.

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