Michinoku Coastal Trail
There is one more thing I would like to mention to you. It is about the Michinoku (Northern Japan) Coastal Trail, which opened officially this year. The 600-mile trail runs through the regions devastated by tsunami in 2011. When Mrs. Nakazato (a tsunami survivor) related to me about it, I thought that the municipal governments and tourism associations must have worked hard to make this massive project possible. Northern Japan including my home prefecture Akita have been suffering from depopulation. It is sad to see that once prosperous shopping streets are now lined with permanently closed stores. We even have words "shutter town" for this. Trekking is a boom right now in Japan. If the trend is used well, tourism may bring back the economy in these regions.
Mrs. Nakazato and her friend, Mr. Watanabe, took me to a part of the trail. Walking with them, I wished to journey through the entire trail. Rather than backpacking and trying to save money, I would find affordable accommodations and enjoy local foods. It will be my personal pilgrimage to discover something that have been always there, but I have never noticed. I feel the experience may open a new chapter in my life.
More about the Michinoku Coastal Trail: www.michinokutrail.com
Handmade Gift Exchanges
My home country is well-known for the custom of gift exchanges. Getting something meaningful and useful for my family and friends in Japan is always a headache for me. This year, my souvenirs were handmade items made by my American friends. In addition, we reciprocated seasonal or local foods.
Mrs. Nakazato and Mrs. Tamura (in the photos) are survivors of the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Eight years have passed, and millions of volunteers, who stormed into the region after the disaster, have already moved onto something else. Our occasional visits to the region indicate to the local that they have not been forgotten. Their appreciation reminds me how important it is to keep in touch. They will welcome me openheartedly even if I have no gift.
My Family and Little about Food We Ate
I generally do not post private matters, but some of you have met my sister and her daughter. I've told many of you about my mother and step-father. As you see in these photos, they are doing well. Before my departure, my sister suggested that I spend most of my time with mother, as she was getting older and tired easily. That was what I did. Well, she fed me so well and so much it was like a torture. Both my step-father and I would say, "That's enough," but she kept serving us.
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