The end to the weekend meant the end to my time in Gunma. While I am looking forward to seeing Japan, I will really miss spending time with Chas and his friends. The prospect of going into Tokyo, the most reasonable first destination in terms of distance and importance, alone intimidated me. Thus, I decided to go to Oarai, a quiet beach town Chas recommended, and Mito, a city with a beautiful set of gardens, first.
Oarai, while beautiful, was a little dead – something to be expected for off-season. If I had given up after finding the sand beach closed, I would have missed finding a beautiful shrine and gate on the water. It may be simple, but you have to admit a gateway to the ocean is poetic. Naturally, such deep thoughts made me hungry for dinner. I found a restaurant but I wasn’t sure what its sign said. Fortunately, two kind Japanese graduate students from Tokyo walked by and stopped me from eating there, a Chinese restaurant it turned out, because they ‘wanted to save my stomach.’ Sachi, Yoko, and I then found (after a long search – many places are closed on Mondays) a seafood restaurant. At “Fish Paradise,” we enjoyed seafood ranging from octopus to squid along with traditional Japanese egg pudding and sake. I enjoyed hearing about their research (both are engineers) and they seemed to enjoy my company as well.
Mito the next day wasn’t as eventful since I didn’t meet any more nice (and cute) Japanese women. However, the Kairakuen, a large public garden, was impressive. I especially enjoyed walking through the Kobuntei, a residence and meeting place visited by everyone from commoners to samurai to even the emperor. The cold, soaking rain did put a damper on the day though – I was a bit grouchy after my clothes and shoes got soaked on the walk back to the train station. What a small price to pay for such a nice visit!