The first day of the week is started with me packing up my hotel room and moving to the apartment. The apartment is a 15 minutes walk from my hotel. This time, I choosed a different route, one that doesn't require me to haul the 25kg bag up a stairway and down another. Once I got to the new apartment, I went in to see the estate agent at Leo Palace which is just at the first floor of the new block. She passed me the keys as well as some information on setting up the internet.
I went up to the 7th floor and managed to locate the unit quite easily. There are only 5 other people staying on the same floor as me and mine is a corner unit. The unique aspect of this apartment is that it is the most technologically-advanced and I may be one of the first to move into it. There are security camera at the entrance which allow me to monitor visitors looking for me. Thereafter, I will grant them access into the block. Secondly, the key design is unique. It is a key tag, one that looks like a normal ID dog tag but it is used for opening doors. And here I go, I slot in the key and open up the chambers of secret.
Viola!!! Here are the scenes that greeted me. A sneak peek into my new apartment.
The view of my room when I enter.
The view of my room from my balcony.
The bathing facilities
I will not show the toilet as it is just plain and simple. And finally a table for me to put my laptop, work related stuff and still have place to study. This is what I essentially want. I got put off by the hotel room because they are awfully small for me to do anything except to sleep in it.
A view of the train station and bus station from my room which is just a 5 minutes walk away. It is the building in the middle. This is the scene which I will be looking at every morning first thing first when I wake up and while I'm having my morning breakfast.
Thereafter the rest of the day is spent visiting my friends and checking out what do they have in their kitchen. The afternoon is running round the city and gathering all the kitchen necessarities. Unfortunately, it started raining in the afternoon so I have to just stay over at my friends' place for a few hours. In the evening, snow flakes started fizzling down the sky. I guess the rain must have plunge the city temperature greatly. Just yesterday, the sun was up and it was 16 degrees celsius. And a day after in the evening, it started snowing. Here are all the stuff I have bought.
I got back home and started preparing my first meal. Guess I prepared too much. It is the meal which I always wanted consisting of just miso soup, mixed vegetables and rice. This will be my typical dinner if I were to get down preparing. "Soup + Vegetables + Rice" or "Noodles + Toppings"
The next day morning breakfast also see the standard breakfast meal which I will never grow tired of. I need bread and milk for breakfast. So they are below. And some cereals to add a dash of sweetness for the day.
The place where I will be taking bus will be different. The bus stop shown below is just a 30 seconds walk away. Previously, I need to walk 5 minutes to the bus station from the hotel.
With accumulated snowing on Sunday and Monday, the path leading to the bus stop on Tuesday is covered with patches of snow. I guess this will be the final grasp winter will be having and it will relinquish its cold and give way to spring. This also reminded me the time when I was in Belfast, we were surprised when it started snowing in mid-March. It snowed twice actually and thereafter the temperature warmed and gave way to lovely spring.
With a fellow friend coming back from Singapore, we had a more exquisite dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant. Actually I was the one that suggested this place as I am particularly drawn to the fried dishes on display.
I ordered the largest set meal that is available and it cost around 2000 yen.
This is no entry for the last few days as I am quite occupied with work. And finally it is Friday. My friends brought me along to a typical Italian restaurant, Saizeriya. I heard when some of the seniors were in Japan, they visited another branch of this restaurant regularly. They were particularly drawn to the minibar which offers free flow of drinks.
I went for their seafood spaghetti and shared 2 pizzas with those in the same table.
The plan for saturday is to visit a traditional village that is an hour ride from the city of Aizu Wakamatsu. I left my apartment at 7am and met up with the rest. Took an hour bus from Koriyama bus station which cost 1800 yen for the return trip. We alighted at the Aizu Wakamatsu train station. The station is shown below. Just next to it is the statue of the famous White Tigers squad of the 19th century.
After some inquiry by our local guide, we took the train to Yunokamionsen Station. It is a small 2 carriage train.
The design of the train interiors are unique. The chairs can be shifted in either direction depending on the moving direction of the train.
The journey is scheduled to take 40 minutes in all. With the inital journey passing through the local farmlands with the majestic japanese mountains as the backdrop.
The journey continues deeper into the mountain ranges until much of the area is covered with snow. The mountains started to envelope the train with it passing through multiple tunnels.
And finally we arrived at Yunokamionsen Station. Yunokami is the name of the place. And onsen means natural hotspring bath. It is an extremely small station and it is made of wood. The first sight that greeted us when we entered the station is this unique heating pot. This is what keeps the whole station warm. We took a few photos of it until we find the smoke drifting out from it to be irritating.
This is the only station in the whole of Japan that is made of traditional wood. It has received an award for being one of the top 100 stations in Japan.
Thereafter, we have to take a local vehicle from the station to the traditional village. It involves driving through the undulating mountain road.
And we have reached our destination at last. The village is just next to a whole field of snow.
The traditional Japanese village as seen below.
Some of the shops are selling traditional Japanese snacks. We bought a couple of them and sample along the way.
At the end of the village, there is a shrine at the top of the mountain. I climbed up the mountain, with the top getting treacherous as it is ice covered. Getting up was easy but getting down is the difficult part as always.
For our lunch, we decided to go traditional also. So we stopped by a soba shop and stayed in for a meal.
This is how the interiors look like.
Thereafter we went back to Aizu Wakamatsu and decide to explore the main attraction of the town. This town is the only place that is mentioned in the whole of Fukushima prefecture, with the entire 5 pages devoted entirely to it. We took a tour bus to the various sights.
At the first stop is the residence of the chief retainer (Aizu Bukeyashiki) of the lord of this land. The role of the chief retainer is liken to a knight commander of the west. So it is quite luxurious in those days and extremely large which can housed up to hundreds of people. We went in the entrance to their residence.
There are mannequins which re-enact the entire household and their style of living. Every part of the residence is on display, ranging from the toilets, kitchens, to their weapon rooms and shrines.
At the centre of the residence is a statue of a Chinese monk who was invited to Japan in the 8th century. His name is Ganjin. It took him 5 attempts and 12 years to finally reached Japan. He spread the main Vinaya rules to Japan and was bestowed the honor of "Daiwajyo" from the Japanese government. Since then he has been called a symbol of friendship between China and Japan.
There were a few shrines to the east of the residence. One of it is devoted to the God of Study. Blessing and amulets can be found next to these shrines. It look like the one below:
Once we have finished the Chief Retainer's Residence, we went on to the next stop which is the White Tigers museum. It is the main attraction and highlight of this town.
No photos were allowed in the museum. But here is the story of the White Tigers Squad (Byakkotai):
At the top of this hill are the graves of 19 boys, members of the Byakkotai who committed suicide at this place in 1868. They were part of a larger group of forty boys between the ages of 15 and 17 who were ordered into battle against the Meiji government soldiers by the last of the Aizu clan daimyo, Katamori Matsudaira.
The boys, in their first battle, were defeated and 20 survivors retreated to Iimoriyama Hill. When they got there, exhausted and hungry, to their utter dismay they saw smoke and fires around Tsurugajo Castle below them in the distance. Fearing that the castle had been sacked by their enemies and that all was lost, they decided to commit ritual suicide by hara-kiri (slicing their stomachs open) according to the samurai code.
In fact, at that time, the castle was not on fire making the Byakkotai incident even more tragic. The castle surroundings were on fire instead. But eventually, the castle was surrendered a month later.
One boy, Sadakichi Iinuma, was rescured and had survived. He kept numb to the entirely incident until 50 years later. He was eventually buried close to his comrades when he passed away. All the tombstones in the cemetary are facing towards the castle. Below is the photo of the local guide detailing the story of the Byakkotai.
The view from the top of the Iimoriyama where the boys have seen the castle on fire.
Down the cemetary hill from the side is the Sazae-do. It is a 18th century hexagonal hall (pagoda) which contains the statues of Kannon (Guan Yin). It has a fabulous spiral staircase that allows you to walk up and down without retracing your steps.
And finally we are back to the Aizu train station. We noticed the chef is preparing noodles at one of the restaurant and decided to give it a try.
The restaurant is quite a mix of traditional and modern feel.
I ordered a 3-favoured dishes menu. 3 sobas prepared differently and presented for the variety.