Friday, June 02, 2006


I just got back from a trip with my interpreter up to the North of Japan, first to Misawa Air Base, and then across to the other side of the island to Aomori Prefecture. We were doing some coordination with local hospitals to accept foreign patients, and it was a very productive trip.

That part of Japan is beautiful, and our trip across the central mountains to Aomori was a really nice ride. We drove past old-style houses with thatched roofs that were several feet thick. It took us up the side of one mountain, and down into a valley that looked more like Colorado or Switzerland than Japan. There's still snow up there at that level. While Misawa was partly cloudy, the western side of the country was overcast with low hanging clouds that just wouldn't break. We got to the airport yesterday morning at about 7, and were advised to get on the first flight back to Tokyo, because the airplane had remained there overnight. As we could barely see the tail of the plane when looking out the window, it's probable that later inbound flights were delayed.

We stayed in Goshogawara, a smallish city south of Aomori. The business hotel we stayed in was nice, but had really small rooms. My room was about 8 feet by 10, with a small bathroom attached. It was comfortable, though.

At one point, we were driving around and saw a sign for the Statue of Liberty. That seemed strange, since we were in Japan, and we decided to check it out. Sure enough, at a small recreation area with athletic fields and a nice gym, was the Statue of Liberty. Apparently, that particular part of Japan is at the same latitude of the real one in New York. So, to commemorate that fact, they built an exact (except for the size) replica.

Also while up there, we stopped at one of those observation decks / tourist centers. We stopped for lunch, and while there took a trip up to get a look around. It was a nice view, and even though a bit overcast, the visibility was not too bad. The region is also known for its apples, including one variety that grows to the size of a canteloupe. Amazing...I bought 2 "normal" size apples which I ate over the next couple of days. Keeping them in my room at the hotel was like having an apple scented room freshener. Very nice.

Overall, it was a good trip from a professional and enjoyable standpoint. I had a chance to see a really interesting part of Japan...hopefully we'll have a chance to go up there and spend some more time. There are some interesting festivals later in the summer where they parade huge pictures of scary looking dudes who are lighted from behind.

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