After the wonderful stay at the onsen, we made our way south to Geibikei. Geibikei is located on the outskirts of Ichinoseki city. It is a beautiful spot on a river where you take a boat ride to enjoy the scenery and listen to the history and songs of the area. We were a little early in the season to enjoy the fall foliage, but it was still very beautiful.
|A passing boat -- the man standing in the rear uses a long pole to steer and push the boat along the river.|
|Beautiful rock faces.|
|A small shrine tucked into a cave among the rock cliffs.|
|Beautiful blue sky.|
|Stopping half-way to get out and take some pictures.|
After a beautiful morning on the river, we headed back north to Hiraizumi, a city with a rich and long history. We visited the temple and shrines there; but unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures of the golden shrine which is spectacular! We saw many other old shrines and very old trees. The city is trying to become a World Heritage Site. Click here to go to the English home page and see some beautiful pictures.
|A beautiful bamboo grove.|
|When the wind blew, you could hear the leaves and the creaking of the bamboo.|
|An old stone monument.|
After Hiraizumi, we headed back to Ichinoseki to visit another beautiful river and Genbikei Gorge. It is another beautiful rock faced river with very bold and square rocks all along it shore.
|The rocks here were amazing, too.|
|A very popular tourist spot. On this day, there were lots of Chinese tourists here.|
|A beautiful plate of different kids of beef.|
|The grill off to the left and some sauces to dip your grilled meat into in the forefront.|
|Lettuce leaves and a sauce, you wrap your meat up in one of the leaves with a little bit of sauce.|
|Meat and vegetables grilling away.|
|Mom was quite the barbecuer!|
|Me at my desk in the teaher's room, waiting for the students to come get me for class.|
|Two girls arrived to escort us to class.|
|A 5th grade class.|
|They looked so studious here.|
|The homeroom teacher -- we team-teach the English classes together.|
|The 6th grade class with the homeroom teacher. They were nervous because they were giving a speech in English on this day!|
|The outside of the school and the ground where the children play during recess, with the gym in the back.|
The schools that I teach at are about 40 minutes north of Hanamaki. We decided to keep going north and visit Hachimantai in the afternoon. Hachimantai is a city, but it is also home to a beautiful national park. The area is full of nature and has many different onsen. In the winter, it is also an area for skiing and snowboarding, having several different ski areas. Again, we were too early for some spectacular fall colors, but it was still a nice drive and look around the mountain.
|All the way up the mountain are these tunnels that are built to protect the road from the snow during the winter months.|
|Some color near the foot of the mountain.|
|Another beautiful day with a blue sky.|
|This is one the many trails through out the park.|
|The large mountain in the background is Mt. Iwate -- the highest point in Iwate, about 6,686 feet.|
|More fall colors.|
|The beautiful blue sky and some fall colors.|
|Outisde the restaurant with Sachiko and the mascot.|
|Three types of onion okonomiyaki.|
|Gyoza -- fried dumplings.|
|What's in there? I can't wait to eat this!!|
|One side grilling, almost time to flip it. . .|
|It helps to hold your mouth just right when flipping.|
|Sachiko mixing up the fried-rice.|
|She also did a great job with the gyoza.|
All of the food was very delicious, and we were very full afterwards.
On Wednesday, the 20th, we went to my ikebana teacher's house for an ikebana lesson. I wanted mom to experience ikebana, and many of the ladies that I take classes with wanted to meet my mom. I taught mom the very basic form, the rising form, and she did a wonderful job.
|Working hard and making sure there is a balance to her work.|
|The finished work -- very good for a first time!|
|Some of the other student's works.|
|The table was prepared.|
|One of the student's made her DELICIOUS seki-han, which is beans and rice.|
|(from top-left clockwise) gobo salad, pork, bell peppers with almonds, and baby chrysanthemum leaves and ham|
|Blue cheese past with mushrooms -- very DELICIOUS!!|
|The ladies with mom.|
|They also bought a cake to celebrate the occasion.|
|My teacher, Hiroko, saying goodbye.|
The next morning, on Thrusday, the 21st, we went to the private English conversation school that I teach at to visit some of my classes. All of the students had a good time chatting with mom and learning all about her. (Sorry, I don't have any pictures from this point on. But it's probably better, because this post is long enough as is!)
After the classes, we were off to Tokyo. We took the shinkansen back to Tokyo and stayed the night.
On Friday morning, we took it easy and did a little sightseeing around Tokyo. And in the afternoon, we took a tour on the Hato Bus, a great way for a foreigner to see Tokyo. It was guided by an English speaking Japanese woman, and I even learned a few things about Tokyo and Japan that I hadn't known. That evening, we went to another okonomiyaki restaurant near the hotel and called it an early evening.
We got up early on Saturday, the 23rd, and headed to the airport. Mom had an 11 am flight, so we had to be there around 9 am. We got her all checked in, changed some money, and said our goodbyes.
It was a vacation of a lifetime for me, and I know it was the same for mom. I was glad that she could experience what I had only talked to her about before. I think she understands why I like Japan so much and have been living here for 12 years. I hope she will be able to come back and visit again someday.
But, I promise not to make it such a busy trip for her!