Morning: Visited the local miso merchant`s larder, an ornately-decorated kura (traditional storehouse built with thick, fireproof walls). A magical feeling sat on the tatami mat floor in the oldest kurazashiki in Tohoku, like hiding out in a cave in the middle of a city.
Built in the merchant`s district in 1891, 9 years after a destructive fire. Ornate enough room to marry in. High on the wall a recent photo of a wedding ceremony: the groom in traditional dress was the current miso merchant`s son.
Drank a paper cupful of hatahata-flavoured miso (J) in building next door with a layout like a Tudor tea room.
AFTERNOON: Excellent miso-topped pizza at Domanin (J) for lunch. Then an onsen in the stone bath next door.
A blind man walked in to the changing room, fumbled for the nearest locker, took his clothes off then turned and asked me: “Did you feel the earthquake while you were in the bath?”
“No, I didn`t.”
“It was a big one. The shinkansen has stopped.”
The blind man was right, a magnitude 3 earthquake had struck off the Iwate coast and I had not felt a thing.
LATE AFTERNOON: Borrowed bicycle from owner of my lodgings, a western-style bedroom on 2nd floor above an Italian restaurant and 3 noisy spaniels. Cycled over river and out into the hills, to a small village on the edge of a plain of silent rice fields, the scream of semi (cicadas) came down from cryptomeria-lined slopes.
On way into the village, I passed The Pink Venus Resort, a concrete love hotel with pink walls- 2,900yen for a 2 hour rest stop. Weeds reach up to its roof.
On first run through the one street village looked dead, boarded up and curtains drawn, not a soul in sight. On the return ride, spotted a man wearing work overalls in his garden, cigarette wedged in mouth while weeding. He came out to chat: “Looking for temples are you?”
After an operation on his back, he is looking forward to returning to his job at a high-tech plant. Missing the joy of work. He is the sole factory worker in a village of rice farmers.
Big debate about free trade and the likely decrease in rice prices if Japan joins the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Currently Japan`s rice is the most expensive in the world but prices have been decreasing. Allowing cheaper imports will force prices down even further. As a consumer, he wants rice as cheap as possible; but all the farmers in his village are against the TPP, joining nationwide protests against Japan`s involvement.