Akita

 

DSC01712rI asked this lady’s permission to take her photograph. It was during a ‘formal’ evening on the Diamond Princess when a number of Japanese ladies dressed in the national dress of Japan.

Our next port of call was Akita, which would be the last for Maureen & I, because we would leave the ship in Yokohama.

DSC01714r Wind farms as we entered Akita harbour area, I suppose to supply the dock area with power.
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DSC01719rThe local people seemed pleased to see us – I was quite surprised as we normally see more people farewelling than greeting us.

DSC01725rThe inevitable manga showed up. He gets around.

I had arranged for a walker guide in Akita, and he was waiting for us in the terminal. His name is Toru, and as soon as he met us we were ushered quickly to the bus, which would take us to the local railway station. He told us that the city had placed a special train at Diamond Princess’ disposal and the first one hundred passengers would travel free. That word ‘free’ always gets my attention!

DSC01755rWhile we waited on the train we were entertained by a display of Japanese kanto lantern skills. Akita is well known for its rice, from which they make award winning Sake, and over the years this has grown in to a celebration of rice.

DSC01733rThe kanto (or pole lantern) comes in different sizes with the largest measuring 12 meters, and weighing 50 kilograms (about 100 lbs) and carrying as many as 46 paper lanterns, which are lit by real candles at night. To the sound of drums & flutes onlookers chant “dokkoisho, dokkoisho”, (a loose translation is ‘heavy ho, heave ho’), when each kanto is hoisted up by a single performer who balances the kanto on end using various techniques. The performers change every few minutes and gradually add extensions to the pole until the kanto is at its maximum height.
The above shows lanterns, which represents the rice grains on a stalk of the main plant. The individual holding the pole shows his skill and ability to control the kanto from balancing it in his hand to placing the end of the pole on his chin and letting go of the pole. As he balanced the pole we were surrounded by drum beats.
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DSC01734rOne handed

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DSC01746rcWhen the wind blows  . . . but he managed to save it.

DSC01738rcIf he’d been a ‘chinless wonder’, (a British thing), he couldn’t have managed this feat.
In August Akita has a lantern festival and teams compete, and in the evening march through the town.

lgPicture of the night scene taken from the internet.

DSC01726rAs we stepped on to the train we were greeted by Geishas – the more experienced Geisha is called geiko and the student or apprentice is called maiko – for those who are wondering, sex doesn’t come in to being a real geisha. They are entertainers, and the geisha is often skilled in classical music, dance, conversation etc and the word Geisha in English means ‘performing artist’.

In the old days the geiko was called okiya by the maiko, which means that the geiko would supply the food and clothes for the maiko, so once the maiko became a geisha she would repay her okiya for her training, clothes & food etc. I don’t think this ‘bonded’ system works today. Perhaps I’ll ask questions at the end . . . .

DSC01745rMaureen and the welcome party, they joined us on the train to the city centre.

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DSC01748rAs the train pulled out of the station we were farewelled by a group of well dressed males. Not sure if they were from the town council, rail company or port authority.

DSC01757rOn arrival in the main city station we were greeted by a couple of longhaired old friends on the platform.

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As well as inside the main building.

Akita-InuAkita inu (Akita dog),

The Japanese Akita inu used to be a hunting dog to find and fight bears, deer etc. The dogs came from the northern part of Japan and the surrounding areas of Akita, hence its name.

Hachikō was the most famous of these dogs, and he lived from 1923 to 1935.

In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the Tokyo Imperial University, took Hachikō as a pet and brought him to live in Shibuya, Tokyo. Ueno would commute daily to work, and Hachikō would leave the house to greet him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued the daily routine until May 21, 1925, when Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, while he was giving a lecture, and died without ever returning to the train station in which Hachikō waited.
Each day, for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō awaited Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station.
During his lifetime, the dog was held up in Japanese culture as an example of loyalty and fidelity. (The above information is thanks to Wikipedia).

DSC01766rSo of course you can buy a stuffed Akita dog at the railway station . . .

DSC01768rOnce again, every where was spotless and graffiti free. I took the above from the escalator as we went down to street level.

DSC01769rToru, our guide, steered us towards an area similar to a public square, where we saw smaller kanto close up.

DSC01770rMaureen was given the smallest one that we could find, and it was still heavier than it looked, and awkward to handle. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the photograph of Maureen balancing the kanto on her chin.

DSC01775rWe walked up the hill to the old ‘castle’s’ front gate. We saw inside the castle guard house, and the surrounding area. Main gate shown below.

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DSC01786rWe walked up further from the gate to the Kubata Castle at the top.

Toru wanted to show us the views of the town, from the highest point, which was very good, even though is was a little overcast. On leaving the castle area we came across . . .

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something different, red torii gates leading to Hachiman Shinto Shrine, Akita.

The day was drawing to a close and we had to cut short our visit to the castle hill and make our way to the meeting place for the coach to take us back to the ship. The train was only one way. As we got closer to the meeting place it started to rain and quite a few other passengers had the same idea and the queue was quite long.

When the bus arrived I didn’t think that we would all get on, but once all the normal seats were filled the driver dropped down aisle seats. I’m glad we didn’t have an accident because I don’t have any idea how we would have all escaped.

DSC01790rI was on one of the centre aisle seats, and the head in front (black hair) is Toru our guide. At least the centre passengers were first off when we reached the ship.

 

 

 

 

Author: 1944april

Traveled a great deal - about 70 countries - first foreign country I suppose was Wales, which was only 80 miles away from where I was born. Visited each Continent, except Antarctica, and I doubt that it is on my bucket list - too cold. I love Asian food, Australian wine & British beer & trying to entertain by writing.

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