Thursday, 6 November 2008

Walking to Northern Museums

I would say I set off bright and early on Saturday morning, but the sun was nowhere near rising when I set off, so it was instead dark and early when I left home on Saturday morning. My local train wouldn't be running for at least another hour, so instead I had to walk to the larger station a little further away. By 6am I was attempting to go back to sleep, but on a shinkansen train instead of my futon at home. At just after 9 am I changed trains at Hachinohe, the northern end of the Tohoku Shinkansen line, and met my professor. We boarded an express train and then a taxi and, arrived at the doors of museum number one for the weekend shortly after it opened. We spent the morning looking around the museum - with me taking plenty of photographs of the exhibits and panels (much to the amusement and confusion of the other visitors). After lunch I had the opportunity to speak with one of the museum's managers about their English language services (the musem is located right next to an American base).

After the interview my professor and I set off. Despite being warned the distance was too long, and despite the fact that we were carrying our bags for the weekend, the beautiful weather beckoned and we set off on foot. The short stroll turned out to be further than we thought - and after an hour and a half of walking along the shoulder of a highway, we finally arrived at museum numbers two and three - with about 45 mintues before closing! We dashed around the two small museums and chatted with staff before the director of one of the museums offered to drive us back into town to our hotel so we didn't have to call a taxi. Dinner at a sushi restaurant and a couple of drinks at an empty Irish pub and we were back at the hotel and I was asleep before 9pm!

The next morning we caught a train again, although not quite so early. After having lugged our bags around all day the previous day I suggested we head first to the hotel so that we could drop of our bags. By 10:30 we were on a bus to an outlying major archeological site with an impressive visitor's centre and a small museum with information in 6 languages! As we were looking around a reconstructed prehistoric pit-dwelling, however, the skies opened up and thunder rumbled. I was worried about getting my camera wet but my professor was petrified of getting hit by lightening and went scrambling back in the dwelling every time he heard a rumble. We decided to give up and have lunch, and were rewarded by sun, blue skies, and the occasional shower in the afternoon. After heading back to town by bus we hit two more museums - one on forests and the other on wooden fishing boats. Both were a ways away from the station and each other - more walking! I was quite happy to have enough time to soak my feet before we headed out for dinner, at a funky Japanese bar decorated with movie posters from the 50s.

Day three dawned a little later - we had only to walk 20 minutes to museum #7 for the weekend. From there we dropped our bags at the station and headed to the prefectural museum for a whirlwind visit. We had just enough time to pick up the obligatory gifts and a late boxed lunch before jumping back on an express train and then transferring to the shinkansen bound for Tokyo. We were both so exhausted that we slept most of the way back, but it was an awesome weekend. Good fun, and also rather productive as I'm planning to use at least two of the museums we visited as case studies for my thesis. I also enjoyed getting to know my professor better (not my advisor, but the other prof in museum studies at my university). But I was very glad to get home on Monday night and collapse into my own futon, and even happier to be able to spend all day Tuesday at home, venturing no further than the grocery store!


  1. From what you've described I am guessing you were up around Misawa and Aomori City? I went to the new art museum in Aomori last winter as well as the Shuji Terayama one a while back. Any others you think are worth checking out for my next trip up there in a couple months?

  2. The Terayama museum was interesting. I didn't know who he was before I went so I missed a lot, but they had some fun exhibition techniques.

    I enjoyed the Aviation & Science Museum in Misawa, but mostly because it is an interesting case study... It would be a really fun place to go with a kid or with a kid-at-heart. Fun hands-on stuff. I also liked both the prefectural museum and the Ship Museum in Aomori. The best part of the ship museum was the view from the observation deck, but seeing the ship used in Atsuhime was kinda cool too. If you have nice weather then Sannai Maruyama could be a neat day trip, but it isn't worth it if you don't want to spend the time tramping around outside.

  3. Hey thank you! I will keep some of these in mind for next time!