This is a continuation of my last post, about my weekend tour of Odate. Though the second day was shorter than the first, many notable things happened. From visiting the Odate City Museum to Railbiking in the cold, I’m going to cover it all.
Host Family Farewell
We were promptly woken up at 6:00 am by numerous alarms and our host dad. As we scrambled to get ready to depart, our host mom was cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I walked out into the dinning room last and was presented with a traditional Japanese breakfast.
At first glance, it may not seem like much, but the meal filled me up pretty quickly – and our host mom continued to add more food onto the table: oranges, yogurt, coffee, tea, and milk. She even started roasting sweet potatoes (which were grown by them of course)!
We ended up wrapping the potatoes to go, as our guides arrived to pick us up; prompting another scramble about the rooms, this time gathering our belongings. I felt sad, but so grateful, to have gotten to stay with such a delightful family. Our host dad asked us to visit again, and we took a ton of group photos. We hopped on the bus and waved goodbye.
I settled down for a nap, as we drove around for another hour picking up other participants from their host families. Our first stop afterwards was the Odate City Museum.
Odate City Museum
The three story building that now houses the city museum, was originally a school. Instead of bulldozing it, or abandoning it, the city refurbished it and turned into a museum – which I thought was awesome. We started our tour on the 3rd floor and worked our way down. The 3rd floor was dedicated to the wooden crafts of Odate and recently found archaeological findings in Odate. We saw more magewappas, as well as new wooden figurines and centerpieces – the archaeological findings were still being processed, so their identity and functions are still unknown.
The second floor was dedicated to science. Housed here were interactive exhibits and displays that kept us entertained for quite some time. From the cosmos to insects, the exhibits covered a wide variety of science-related subjects.
The first floor was about Odate’s history. Here we saw the beginnings of Odate as a city, native animals that have sadly gone extinct, and the step by step process of magewappa making. Other artifacts were held here, like vases and tools found during excavation projects. There was even a small display about Christianity in early Japan, which tied in with what I had just learned, in my Religion in Japan class! What a coincidence.
All too soon it was time to depart. There had been some worry over whether or not the weather would permit the stop at the railbikes – but thankfully it did not rain and so we headed our next destination.
The Odate-Kosaka Railbike track utilizes the decommissioned Kosaka railway. Using specially designed bikes, people can follow the track for about 2 km and then, have their bikes manually turned around by staff, to head back. I was a bit nervous, as this was a new experience for me – but my excitement won over as we approached the bikes. There were a varied of bike car set ups: 2-Person (2-person pedal), 4-Person (p-person pedal), 2-Person (1 person pedal), and 3-Person (2-person pedal).
Funnily enough, I ended up in the 2-Person, 1-Personal Pedal car. My partner and I switched places on the way back to home base. This allowed me to take pictures of Odate’s beautiful fall foliage and gave me a great view of the Nagaki River, which we passed over a suspended section of the track. At certain points, we could see photographers waving at us and asking us to wave or smile.
We all met back up at the starting line and headed for the bus. As we headed back to Yokina Kasan for our final activity, souvenir photos were handed out, as well as souvenir tickets. This was another fun first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The last, and final, stop of our tour was Yokina Kasan’s. This time we were going to make soba – literally. We were provided with a special flour mixture and water, given instruction, and then had at it. The soba we made was a special soba, made of specific ingredients found in Odate. It apparently has a special protein in it that is only found in Odate’s soba. Regretfully, I cannot remember the name.
Let me tell you: making soba noodles is not easy. It takes time, patience, and the right amount of pressure. Thankfully, our senseis were there to guide us and tell us where to improve. We were given two options when it came time to cut the dough: we could do it traditionally, using a kiri (きり), which is a knife especially made for cutting soba; or we could use the more modern manual slicer. I ended up using the manual slicer, which portions out the perfect thickness for the noodles, unlike the kiri – which requires its user to be precise.
Once all our noodles were cut, we clean up our areas and set up for lunch. Lunch was, of course, the soba we’d just made – served both hot and cold. Random conversations could be heard, as we all as dug into our meals. Afterwards, we headed to the adjoining store to purchase soft serve ice cream. A closing ceremony was held, and we boarded the bus for the last time to head back to AIU.
This trip was amazing, informative, and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would love to visit Odate again. A big thank you to RCOS, who sets up these amazing activities throughout the semester, and a big thank you to our awesome tour guides – who went above and beyond, to make this trip enjoyable. And finally, a big thank you to Odate City for having us!
Until next time.