A bus transported us from Morioka to Koiwai Farm, of which I have sadly few pictures because I think I was just enjoying the sights too well to think of my camera.
But it is a beautiful place with rolling hills, pastures, woods, and Mt Iwate keeping (on this again chilly and windy day) a brooding, silent watch.
Koiwai is an operational farm, but in addition to the usual farm fun like pony and cart rides, there’s also archery (Kari hit the balloon at the bull’s-eye with her first arrow, winning us a free postcard!—or maybe the postcard was just a nice gift), a playground, a bouncy castle, bumper boats, and inflatable bubbles in which one can climb either to walk on water or be rolled down a hill. Some of this seemed to be age restricted or at least socially acceptable only up until a certain age. I gladly would have removed my shoes and climbed through the mountain of loose wool, but it didn’t seem as if I would be a welcome guest. I made Kari come play on the playground with me after most of the kids had headed home though—and yes, there were swings.
When Kari translated the announcement of a demonstration in a few minutes and shared with me that she’d never seen a sheep be sheared, I made her sit down on one of the benches. Everyone should see a sheep sheared at least once in her life (we may need to know the basics if the apocalypse comes in our lifetimes). The setting for my WIP being rural, it was a demonstration that benefited me too, though I’d seen it done before. If done right, a sheep shearing is pretty impressive and pretty quick. This particular sheep had never been sheared before. He was fairly well behaved, especially considering that it was his first time beneath the razor.
We were also treated to a sheep dog demonstration. The sheep dog was a Border collie. Apparently they are the favored breed because they don’t bark much. Now you know.
There was a museum of the farm’s history and informational dioramas about farming but the jargon is highly advanced Japanese, so we gleaned what we could.
We enjoyed the various products of the farm: warm milk, ice cream, cheesecake (honestly the best cheesecake I have ever tasted)—dairy. We wandered about with our treats in the spotty sunshine.
That evening we spent wandering Morioka in the twilight. We stopped first in a store that, were it nearby, would be a serious problem for me. It not only had cute clothes but good sales and Disney music playing continuously. (There seemed to be Disney music with and without lyrics in all kinds of places I wouldn’t expect to find it in America—stores, restaurants. They were quite welcome melodies—not only because they tend to be good melodies but also because they were familiar in a land where I had less than a kindergartener’s vocabulary.) Armored with a new sweatshirt against the cold, Kari took me to see the rock-splitting cherry tree (shiwarizakura if Wikipedia is to be trusted) for which I’d seen a sign the night before. It’s an almost 400-year old cherry tree doing exactly as it’s name suggests.
It’s being helped along by the government—or whomever maintains the tree. It reminded me of the old Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. I could have gotten nearer the cherry tree, though. Probably should have done. It was technically fenced, but if there was a sign to stay off the grass, I didn’t see it, and I might have been able to babble in English and claim ignorance of the rules.
After that, we stumbled through the city, discovering temples and shrines.
We found an azalea-lined path called Poet’s Alley that cut between a hotel and a river and went exploring. We came out at the other end disoriented and spent a while trying to find the main street again, but it is a fairly lovely city in which to be lost, and had it been warmer, it might have been fairly pleasant to be lost. I made the most of it and don’t regret our detour down Poet’s Alley.
By the time we did find the main road, we’d decided to go into the first of the restaurants that we came across. This turned out to be a bar-like restaurant that advertised skewers of meat, which had smelled amazing when we’d first passed. We ordered drinks (a delicious crème de cassis-based cocktail with oolong tea for me), skewers, crunchy lotus root a bit like potato chips but so much better, and avocado smothered with mozzarella cheese and peppered with diced tomatoes—a bit of an hors d’oeuvres feast.
All photographs are mine. Click to see them larger. All maps are made using Google Maps.