Sunday, October 6, 2013


I've processed some photos from the Tohoku region (the northeast of Japan).  In a country with an aging population, the demographics are especially striking in the Tohoku.  I imagine this is true of more rural places in general: most of the people I encounter on the streets are one or two generations older.  There are teenage students, too, but very few people my age.  How strange!

> Photos from Tohoku

Kakunodate is an old town in the Akita prefecture with a well-preserved "samurai district", where former samurai residences are maintained and open to the public.  It's one of several towns in Japan known as "little Kyoto"--physical fragments of history that have survived the trials of time and the bombings of WWII.

From Kakunodate, there's a local train that runs northwards through rural Akita.  One track, one car per train; by my estimate there are no more than four trains on the tracks at any given time.  Most stations consist of little more than a shed, surrounded by trees and mountains and the occasional river.  I imagine the sights are splendid when the leaves turn color later in the fall.  Meanwhile, I encountered another bear!  He's a local station chief:

Traveling alone is care-free and simple.  There's no better way to see new sights and ruminate.  When I recall extended trips taken with friends, though, the emotional register of the memories differ.  Of course, choosing the right companion is critical; but even a simple meal is more enjoyable when shared.  I think of the famous Christopher McCandless quote from Into the Wild: "happiness only real when shared", which I believe was stated in the context of the line from Dr. Zhivago: "unshared happiness is not happiness".