27/11/2012

Day 2: Sendai and Yamadera

View of Yamadera temple located on the side of a mountain
Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Continues from Day 2: Sendai and Yamadera

With a trip to the ocean yesterday it seems fitting that today we were off to the mountains!

To Yamadera!

Yamadera means Mountain Temple and is another appropriately named place as it is home to a temple complex built into the side of a mountain. The temple is over 1000 years old and has as many steps connecting the buildings and leading up the mountain..

However, first up was breakfast!

Luckily one of the best things about Comfort Inn is that they have complimentary breakfasts!

And it was actually pretty good!


Some of the things I remember them having include cornflakes, coco pops, orange juice, pastries including bread, fruit, sausages, scrambled eggs, yogurt, soup and rice balls.

I had the coco pops, scrambled eggs, and about three Ume Rice balls (Ume is picked plum). Kate really wanted to try a particular soup made with octopus balls, but she didn't get to it before she was full unfortunately!

The fruit was frozen for some reason- I'm not sure if this is a Japanese thing or if it was just an accident though. Kate tried the three different rice balls and concluded that the salmon one was the best.

One thing I should mention after our first night Comfort Inn is that the default pillows are extremely flat. I didn't really mind but this bothered Kate and she wanted to get an extra one. I was actually too shy to go and ask them about it so I ended up writing a note "まくら一つお願いします" that she took down. It worked!

Anyway- after breakfast we headed to the station. There were a lot of people walking in the opposite direction away from the station. A lot of them where high school students so we figured there must've been a school nearby.

We got a rapid train from Sendai to Yamadera Station and the trip was a nice 60 minute ride though the country side and mountains.

It was quite a nice sunny day with a few clouds but no rain so it was nice change from yesterday.
Photo over the side of the mountain with a temple building on the edge of a cliff 
Or so we thought.

Once we got off the train we realized that is was actually very very windy! I don't want to downplay the windiness, but since it was nothing compared to another place we went to later- I kind of feel I have to. Honestly though extremely windy- just not mindbogglingly windy.

After consulting one of the big maps near the station it looked like there were three sets of stairs leading to the first level at Yamadera. We thought we'd take the western most one so we turned left and walked along until we got to a bridge further down the river which we then crossed.

Photo taken from Yamadera temple of town belowWe couldn't find the western stairs however! We ended up walking all the way back to the middle ones!

Oh well.

Once we did start climbing the mountain the wind completely stopped, which was a relief. This was probably due to the mountain and the trees blocking it somehow.

Kate wanted to try the tama-kon which are balls of konjak root cooked in soy sauce and served on a stick.  Apparently they're supposed to give you stamina to make it to the top and they are also allegedly Kilojoule free - both of those facts can't be true!

I don't doubt they're low in energy though soy sauce would add a bit so they won't be kJ free- strickly speaking!

Kate liked it enough to finish the whole stick. I tried some but wasn't really sold on the texture.

One thing that we found amazing was the amount of elderly people climbing up the mountain - walking sticks and all. It's something I couldn't really imagine seeing in Australia.
My coin in the cliff face at yamadera
My coin is the cool one at the front.

About half way up we encountered a cliff absolutely full of 1 yen coins. Some of them were very precariously balanced or wedged into the cliff face.

Since one yen coins are such a popular denomination to leave at temples I wondered if it causes any problems for the Japanese Mint with all those coins going out of circulation. 

I doubted if the temples ever collected them up to take to the bank as to make 1000 yen (~$12) you would need er... 1000 of them. That's a lot of coin for $12. 

I wondered what the temples actually ended up doing with them all and if it was a problem as I added my coin to the cliff.

About nine elevenths of the way up there was a level path leading to a good viewing platform. Halfway along that path there was a young man sketching the view- but he covered it up when I tried to sneak a peak!

We took many photos of the area from the viewing platform. 
Looking along path at Yamadera
Looking back towards the mountain and temple
View of town and train station from Yamadera
View of the town and train station

Photograph over side of mountains with caves at yamadera
View over the side of the mountain and caves at the top left



Close up photo of caves at yamadera with grave stones within
It looks like there's grave stones in the caves
I zoomed in on the town as well
Zoomed in photograph of town at yamadera
More zoom!











































On the way back down we saw what looked to be some kind of lichen growing out of the rocks- except it was squirming!
Turned out it was some kind of weird bug and the lady selling temple goods said they did it to stay warm!

Sadly I neglected to get a photo.

After making our way back down it was lunch time and we managed to find a nice place selling Tenpura Soba. We put our umbrellas in the bucket at the door and went in.

The restaurant had table service and we had a nice view of the river from where we were sitting. The food was delicious and I got some some vegetables in the form of pumpkin, eggplant, chilli (skipped) and a green leaf thing among other veggies. There was also one or two prawns! Soba! And Miso Soup!

Delicious!!

Luckily we got in just before the rush and we were also the first to leave.

We were shocked to discover that Kate's umbrella had been thieved! Stolen! Robbed! A muddy stick! ? (泥棒)

Someone walking past must've pinched it as no one else had left the restaurant. This happened to Kate on our last trip in Kanazawa. Is it common in Japan to swipe umbrellas? Or are these bucket umbrellas understood to be communal? There was no sign attached to the bucket saying anything like that.

Last time we're making that mistake. We'll be taking our umbellas with us in the future. Luckily it was not raining at least. (Beats us as to why someone nicked it). 

We had a brief wait at the train station and caught the next train back to Sendai. About half way back we stopped in the middle of nowhere and there was an announcement over the speakers in Japanese. From what I could understand he said that he was very sorry but there was a truck on the tracks and we'd be delayed until it could be moved.

Once we got going again 10 minutes later he said he would try and get us to Sendai on time but he couldn't go too fast as it would be dangerous on the curved bits. At every station he apologised and gave an update as to how far behind schedule we were.

Somehow we made it back to Sendai right on time! It wasn't like we were in any hurry though.

Photograph of Sendai from AER building with sun shining through clouds
View from AER building
After stopping in at the hotel we went back out to explore more of Sendai that we missed yesterday!

We made our way to the AER building (tallest in Tohoku) by heading north from our hotel until we got to road that went under the train tracks. There were actually two levels you could cross at, ground level and a higher level/bridge (with the tracks above both). We went for the higher level.

Wrong decision!

What started out as a kind footpath turned into just a narrow lane shoulder on a bridge- I think we were in a bike lane that that stopped across the bridge. We had to walk along the shoulder until we could escape into the AER building complex.

Photograph of Sendai from AER building with sun shining through clouds
The sun shining through the clouds was really pretty.
After a bit of searching we found the elevator and made our way to the top.

The views were amazing!

There were two different ends of the building you could look out from and we were the only ones there at the time.

There were signs on both sides indicating that there was some soft of astronomical show that began after sunset. I think it said it involved lasers!


There were pictures of the different constellations visible at different times of the year. The ones I knew were all upside down!

I wanted to come back after dark to see what would happen. I wondered if they'd point out the constellations with lasers or perhaps project fake ones up into the sky. Unfortunately we didn't get a change to return.

From the AER building we could see a number of the sites of Sendai including a theme park (Bennyland) and the Giant  Kannon of Sendai. (Sendai Daikannon).

This statue is bigger than the statue of liberty and at 100 meters tall is the 6th tallest statue in the world.

It was built in the 1980's by a business man trying to get out of paying taxes. I'm not sure if he was successful.

The Daikannon is seen as a bit of an embarrassment by the people of Sendai so you won't find much information about it in tourist guides.

It's also a bit out from the city center and hard to access using public transport which is why we didn't visit. if you do visit you're able to get an elevator to the top where you can look out.

Photograph of Sendai from AER building with Sendai Daikannon in the distance
You can see the Daikannon in the distance

Photograph of Sendai Dai Kannon (Great Kannon of Sendai) from AER building
Zoomed in.
















On the way down we realized that the AER building  was the same building that we went in last night to look at the UNIQLO shop.

We also found out that there was a Pokemon Center on the third floor!

We had a look and found lots of pokemon goods, including pikachuu shaped cookies and heaps of phone straps.

After this we had a failed attempt at karaoke at Big Echo. We only wanted to try it for half an hour but we didn't realise you had to order a drink as well. Also we forgot to ask for a non smoking room so we had to go back change that too once we went in to smoking one and it stunk. I don't want to remember too much about it except to say that Big Echo/Dam Club doesn't' have enough songs and they're hard to look up.

We spent some time looking at a Bookshop after the failed karaoke and had a look at the CD's. They were so cheap! I don't know if the artists I liked were unpopular in japan but the CD's were selling for 500 yen or less! We also spent some time looking in LOFT.

One thing worth mentioning about the area around Sendai station is that the west side has an an elevated walkway connecting all the buildings. Once you're up there it's quite convenient since you don't have to wait for the traffic lights.

Baskin Robbins Halloween flavoured ice cream with chocolate cake
mmmmmmmm halloween related foodstuff
Since we had a big lunch we were not feeling too hungry for dinner and ended up just having ice cream!

We went to a Baskin Robbins and it was a lot nicer than the ones in Australia. The decor,  customer service and the actual ice cream were all superior.

I got a delicious Halloween themed cup that had chocolate cake in it!

Among other things!

I choose banana and strawberry and strawberry cheese cake as the ice cream (you got two scoops). It was delicious.


I think Kate had a simple waffle cone with a scoop of "Nuts For You" flavored ice cream .

It was the first of many ice creams for Kate on the trip though!

One cool thing I noticed was that if you bought a ice cream cake is you got 30 minutes worth of dry ice in order to keep it cold on the trip home. To buy extra time with more dry ice it was only a few yen extra. While we were there someone actually came in and ordered an ice cream cake! They must be popular.

After gorging ourselves myself on ice cream we returned to the station and booked tickets for tomorrow's trip to Aomori. I generally just showed them the rail pass and said where we wanted to go and when. I tried to speak in full sentences but usually just blurted out the facts in my nervousness.

Once we had our tickets we returned the hotel and packed up our suitcases ready for tomorrow!

Continue reading Day 3: Aomori and Hirosaki

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