After jockeying for position in line with the other guests at the hotel and partaking in the Japanese style buffet breakfast, I packed my bags, jumped out into the real world, and started to head north on HWY 45. I was planning on an easy ride of about 45KM to the small city of Kesennuma.
Ha! So much for plans.
For starters, the road is pretty much up and down the whole way. There were really very few flat stretches. And, there were, as usual, lots of trucks. But anyway, I made it to my planned destination by noon.
It would have been an easy day if I would of stuck with the plan and picked a hotel or minshuku near Kesennuma station.
Kesennuma is a city of about 65,000 people, with plenty of shops and quite a few places to stay in the downtown area running from the main train station. There is a tourist information stand outside the train station and the lady attendant advised me that the place just out of town (on her map) would be a nicer place to stay.
The problem was I didn’t calibrate her map with my google map until about a 45 minutes later when I figured out that her map was way off on scale and I was lost.
It turned out I was trolling much farther out of town on back entrance of the Karakuwa peninsula. I was on the south or harbor side and made it to the end of the road before I realized that the place I was supposed to be was exactly on the opposite, or north side, of the peninsula.
I had two choices, either turn around and bike back almost all the way to Kesennuma and then head out on the correct route, or I could try to cross the peninsula overland on what looked to be small little roads crisscrossing the area. Since I hate backtracking, I struck out on the overland route.
In hindsight it was actually quite a fun little adventure. At the time though, it was a little worrisome as the route would switch from gravel path, to paved path, to paved road, and back to gravel path. I could see the route on Google Maps, but I could never be sure if the path would actually be passable or not.
I ended up climbing up, up, up, and up some more to I got to a point that seemed like on of the highest places on the peninsula. My effort was rewarded by some of the best ocean views I have seen in Japan, and by a large pheasant that flew out of some brush just in front of my front tire.
It took me about an hour to cross the peninsula and arrive at Kurakuwacho Baba. During the entire crossing, I was alone on the road and would have really enjoyed it more had I known for sure that I was heading in the right direction.
Eventually, I made it to Kurakuwacho Baba, which is just at the base of the peninsula. There is an impressive shrine, a Lawsons, a 7-ll, and local supermarket, and horumon and one other restaurant. There also happens to be a couple of minshuku nearby.
I was beat and decided to check in to one of the minshuku. It must be a minshuku thing, cause nobody was present at either place. At the second place, I asked the neighbor for help and she managed to find the proprietor sleeping in one of the side houses. “Oh sorry, all booked for tonight.” There was like nobody there, but she assured me that a group of construction workers were due to arrive in the evening.
OK, so back to the first place. Still nobody was to be found. By this time I was really really beat, and decided to take a nap on the steps leading up to the front door. After awhile the neighbor (I guess being a minshuku neighbor is never dull) came over to check on me. I told him I was tired needed a place to stay.
It turned out that this minshuku’s owners were planning to take a rest day. When they arrived they apologized profusely and then told me that they were closed. I then asked if I could just have a room for a night and assured them that I didn’t expect meals and wouldn’t be any trouble. The owner’s wife smiled, and said ok. But, she was sorry she couldn’t cook “French food.” Damn!
Two hours later, after a shower, a trip to the local supermarket for lunch and beers, I was sitting in their living room, eating fresh cooked corn, and talking with her about the tsunami, politics, and probably some other stuff that I couldn’t quite grasp.
As I mentioned before, there is a massive rebuilding going on in Tohoku. However, it seems that some of the locals feel that it’s not enough. This lady when on quite a bit about how the Tokyo Olympics was a waste of money, was only good for Tokyo and that after the Olympics, the facilities wouldn’t get used.
She also told me that she was very tired as their minshuku was quite busy as the construction workers packed the place almost every night. She asked me why I was traveling by myself, and I explained that I liked to have my own time to think.
She smiled and said she wished she could do that as well. We then talked about the approaching typhoon and how terrible nature could be at times.
Later I biked 3km down the road the a local sushi restaurant called Maru San. I had a great Ebi Fry Dinner Course and two cold beers for JPY 2,300. The proprietor, who happened to be the same age as me, told me that they get very few tourists these days, but the “workers” and locals are regular customers.
I couldn’t help think that since both minshuku that I visited seemed to have a regular stream of “workers” as guests, and the restaurant owner had a similar experience, that somehow the rebuilding efforts were also providing a variety of trickle down benefits to many parts of the local economy.
The next morning I made my contribution of JYP 4,300 (a bit steep considering I didn’t get a meal. But hey, the free corn and conversation was good.) I checked out of my minshuku and hit the road in the rain to head north on HWY 45.