Friday, December 28, 2012

Journey to Izumo: Izumoshi Station

 Izumoshi station is the last stop on the Sunrise Izumo, a 12-hour overnight train ride from Tokyo. Though the train had been making stops throughout the night, when we awoke around 7:00 a.m., our cabin was still crowded with people. Slowly, however, with each stop they became less and less, until we arrived at Izumo, and we were the only ones left. Being the last people to depart the train left us feeling strangely out of place. Like we overslept our real exit and we were now getting off in some no-man's land.

Sure enough though, the Izumoshi Station sign greeted up upon descent.

This marked the end of the only night I ever spent on a train in Japan. Usually I'd be at in a hotel, or a friend's house, or ever bar-hopping all night. Standing on the train station platform made me realize how unbelievable hungry I was. After sleeping on a floor for 12 hours, I decided to celebrate with my favorite Pancake drink from a vending machine. 

God how I love the pancake drink. It literally tastes like  pancake in a can. Imagine a milk tea, but with a slight buttery-maple-syrupy flavor to it. 

Yeah man

I am not fucking kidding

This was my very first time in what I am going to call, "deep Inaka." Inaka is the Japanese work for: rural, countryside, sticks, boonies, BFE. It has a slight derogatory connotation to it, but it can be used affectionately. Americans may confuse this term, however, with our own perception of the rural countryside. Mind you, Japan is a very crowded country, so any town with a population under 2 million is considered Inaka. There is no Pawnee-Texas-population-202-type town in Japan. Basically, a place can be crowded, and still be inaka. Also, one last misconception. Just because a place is inaka, doesn't mean it is without modern technology. Get rid of those rural-China-ox-cart-farming images. You won't see anything like that in Japan's inaka. Rather, imagine something like a sprawling suburb, with no McDonalds and no Starbucks. Welcome to inaka.

Now, "deep" inaka is my term for a place which is really really inaka, but also really far from any major city. People joke that the town of Chiba is inaka, but Chiba is only a 45-minute train ride from Tokyo. Izumo is 12 hours. The closest city is probably Matsue, but there are not many world-famous destinations on Japan's northwest coast. Hiroshima, Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo are all along the southeast coast. 

The street right outside Izumoshi station

Landscaping around the station

Despite being "deep inaka," Izumoshi station is pretty big, and even has a little shopping center. I enjoyed a nice meal of  Oyako Don at the soba restaurant there. We were the only customers, and the waitress was an old women who was probably also the shop owner. 

Oyako Don, rice, tea, pickles

The thing I really like about inaka is that people kind of expect you to speak Japanese. Maybe they figure that you've made it this far, so you probably know enough to get by. Usually they are right. The fact that I speak Japanese is kind of taken for granted in inaka. Feels great. 
Don't judge. You'd look the same if you had slept on a train floor for 12 hours.

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