Monday, December 22, 2014

tsuwano and a rail pass

I bought a rail pass this past Friday - the famed Seishun 18 Kippu.
It was definitely a compulsive decision. I found out about the opportunity for a really good deal on Friday morning and had the rail pass in my hands by four o'clock -
I live for things like this.
And I'm pretty sure I skipped home from the travel agency.

I didn't have any big trips planned - I still don't.
The pass expires on the 10th of January, and that doesn't give me a ton of time to plan.
BUT I have unlimited local train access, and a country full of new and exciting places just waiting to be discovered. I don't really haveeee to plan if I don't want to.
So I don't plan on planning anything at all.
I have a map of the Chugoku region of Japan, and I plan to head off in whatever direction suits my fancy for the day.

On Saturday, it was a little village called Tsuwano.
The locals call it "Small Kyoto", and after living in Kyoto myself, I was instantly intrigued.
So Will and I started off early Saturday morning from Iwakuni Station, and headed south in the rain.

I love taking the train. There's something about the vibration of the tracks beneath you as you rush through the mountainside and the novelty of pulling into new stations.
I love waiting for the train to pick you up at the tracks, and the thrill of navigating a maze of railways.   This trip was no exception. There was a lovely conversation with a sweet toothless man, hours of time gazing out the window...watching the ocean and mountains speed past, and smiles passed between myself and shameless little Japanese boy. There was good music, and when we pulled into Yamaguchi station to switch rails, there was an old-fashioned steam train waiting to take us west into Tsuwano.
It had tall velvet seats on the inside and wooden window sills, and it even whistled.
Day. Made.
It was 1:00 pm when we reached Tsuwano, and Will was in desperate need of some food. So we went off in search of the nearest restaurant, and found a bowl of the yummiest udon I've come across for less than $4. I wonder, sometimes, what I'll do when I get back to the states and I can't duck into a little shop down the street for a steaming bowl of noodles. There are few things on this good earth that are as satisfying as a steaming bowl of udon or ramen on an cold day.
It will be a sad moment, indeed.

Once full, we set off to explore the streets of Tsuwano...
We found an old paper factory and a small bakery with local sweets. There were little canals along each road full to the brim with Koi fish, Samurai houses that wreaked with old age, and a 100 year old Catholic Church.
And towards the end of our day - at an Inari Shrine at the top of a mountain - the sun finally came out, and we just sat and took in the valley for a good 15 minutes.
It was beautiful.

And, at 7:00, as we caught a taxi home and laughed hysterically, I was so thankful for that spontaneous Seishun 18 Kippu.
Thankful for the adventure it already afforded me, and the endless possibilities ahead of me.
I have four days left, after all.
And tomorrow, I head north -
to Okayama and Kurashiki.

Until then,

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