With 3 umbrellas in my hand, I waved goodbye to the green bullet train leaving Sendai station this morning. My brother and his wife were abandoning me to spend 3 nights in Kyoto.
I will miss them. We shared a lot of things over the last 10 days, not only meron-pan but also experiences: sushi and sake on the first night in tiny drinking dens around Nishi-Ogi station; the big sky and the big sea on the over-night boat to Hokkaido; the creepy kyakya of the crows around the yellow, bubbling pools of sulphur at Io Mountain; the sudden, stunning sunset in the wilderness at Lake Kussharo; a curry breakfast in an empty dining room at the huge concrete “Pyongyang hotel” in Kawayu Onsen; the “spooky” sea mist at the lonely edge of the Erimo peninsula; papercups of beer in the drizzle at the Kleenex Stadium, and in still broken Ishinomaki yesterday, the Masked Rider, orange-coloured hoya (sea squirt) and bluefin tuna sushi – “the best food of the trip,” according to my brother.
Now I have no-one to trade lame jokes with; no-one to pester for the latest cricket score, and no-one to debate the virtues of rat-eating with. And I have still got three umbrellas to dispose of.
After saying goodbye this morning, I wandered for a while, lost and confused without my little group. A few hours ago I retreated to a familiar bolthole, paying 1,200-yen for 5 hours of instant comforts in a cyber cafe, a timeless tomb where the lights never dim, the air-con never stops and the staff never smile.
It is a sanctuary from the real world, full of guilty pleasures and cheap happiness – 10,000 yen gets 72 hours of all-you-can-read manga, all-you-can-eat ice cream and all-you-drink vending machines. I have just about enough money to stay here for 3 months. Perhaps I could do a virtual trip around Tohoku instead of a real one.
Tomorrow I plan to travel to Yonezawa, an old castle town in Yamagata. Firstly though, I have to get rid of those bloody umbrellas.