13.12.2019 - 13.12.2019
Got up early to catch the bus to the airport this morning. Was all sorted and packed, and had Lots of fun dragging my bag through the streets. They were really icy this morning which was Fun. Didn’t slip over though.
Made it to the bus (just missed the one before), and headed off. The bus ride was an hour long, and the bus was meant to leave at 8:30 (10:35am flight) so I was pretty comfortable. You can imagine my terror when we pulled up and the time was 10am. The departure side of the airport was much, much larger than the pokey departures I arrived in. So, by the time I got to check-in, check-in had closed. I had missed my flight.
$116 later, I had rebooked my flight for 11:55am. I was only out by 2 hours, too. It could be worse. I could have missed my flight home. I could have forgotten my bag (either of them) at the hostel and had to go back for it. There are worse things that could happen. It is so surreal, though, buying a ticket at the airport and going straight to the check-in gate and through security. So weird.
The airport was surprisingly large, still, so much so in fact that we took a bus to get to the plane. It’s so weird, everyone being deferential. The bus driver stood and kept bowing as we all got off. I can’t get used to it. Pretty empty flight, yet the row I was in had 3 of us in it, despite there being 4 half-rows across from us empty. I was in the window, so I couldn’t move. I guess they were too polite to move (although I’m sure we all would have liked the elbow room!).
An hour and a bit later we were in Sendai. I popped off the plane, grabbed my luggage, and caught the train just in time (it goes every half hour). 30 minutes later, I was in Sendai proper. I had a shrine and temple I wanted to see, to make up for my lazy time in Sapporo, so I popped my suitcase in a coin locker at the station and headed off. First stop: Osaki Hachimangu. This shrine was really just a delight. While the building itself wasn’t out of this world spectacular, the grounds around it and the huge gates were just awesome.
I was on a time crunch now though. It was 3pm, and the sun would set a little after 4. Rinno-ji Temple was 30m away on foot (22 by train, so I just walked), which would give me about 15m to sightsee before it got too dark, unless I got distracted. I got a little bit distracted, not going to lie. Along the way I kept coming across these fantastic buildings, which I wasn’t sure were temples or lived-in houses. This kept me from getting too close, so as you can see most of my photos are taken from just beyond the gate (which also lets me get a cool artsy framing). I kept taking photos further and further away though, as I realised how late in the evening it was getting. [Future Emma: with a further scour of google and my route, I’m 90% sure that they were all temples/shrines. However, since they all seemed closed & had cars in the driveway, I feel like I took a good level of caution.]
Rinno-ji Temple had a relatively unassuming street entrance. I actually almost missed it, but Google Maps is good to me. The only problem with visiting all these things - how many stairs they all have! This one wasn’t so bad, but I was still glad to make it up. Now, I had heard online that this temple had a Japanese garden you could see, so I was excited to have a look around. Oh boy, am I glad I decided to come here. It was beautiful. It was so tranquil and beautiful. There were so many paths through the garden, you could pick your route, and you saw something new every time you went through. It was huge, too. This was definitely a major highlight of my trip.
Headed back by the time it got dark. Went down the wrong road to get to the train station cause I thought I was smarter than Google Maps. Hint: was not. Asked the train conductor for a timetable when I finally got there.
“Sumimasen (excuse me), timetable?” I trace the TMO shape with my hands.
“Timetable?” He copies the box shape.
“Hai!” So I collect my timetable, walk away - not a word of English on it. What was I expecting? So I return...
“Gomenasai (sorry), wakarimasen (I don’t understand)...”
And he laughed, I apologised, he managed to communicate that the next train I want comes in ten minutes. It was a good time. I survived, got on the train, got my suitcase from the coin locker, and-- Well, I would have taken the train home, except the free wifi was super spotty, my phone kept crashing, I was tired and didn’t want to drag my suitcase for 20m, and I couldn’t find the right station for the life of me. Eventually asked the man on duty, and he explained I needed to go on the subway. Next issue: the sign for the subway points down the stairs, and then there are no further subway directions. Only exit signs.
It’s then, when I’m getting really frustrated & have finally decided to walk, that my fairy godmother sees me. She’s a lovely old Japanese woman who sees me getting frustrated, can speak some English, and reminds me of Yoda a bit. She walks me to the subway gate (she’s so slow it’s so sweet) and makes damn well sure (she talks to the man at the ticket gate) that I get on the right train. Bless her cottons, bless them forever!
Got to Hostel Kiko alright. They’re a really friendly bunch. Got a bit lost finding it, and seeing the literal light at the end of the alley was just such a relief honestly. The first lady who greeted me had actually been to high school in Auckland, so it was really nice having someone to speak English to for a bit. I paid for my room in cash, which is a detail which will be important later. Another of the staff physically showed me around the building, which is a level of interaction I haven’t had all trip. I’m pretty sure the staff also sleep in the building, so it’s pretty nice everyone being so friendly.
It’s not a super classy joint otherwise? The living spaces are nice, but the rooms have a lot to be desired. I almost feel like I’m going to shake my lower bunkmate every time I get in or out of bed (this was never an issue in Sapporo, when I was also on the top bunk. They were really nicely built). I also can’t lean backwards, there’s only plywood between the other top bunk and me, and it bends and makes noise if I lean on it. It’s somewhere to sleep though, for which I am grateful. Grabbed dinner and kipped down for the night.