The backstory: Apparently, JAL changed the rules for their mileage rewards (unbeknownst to me).
They used to let you keep miles for 3 years before they start taking away mileage.
Well, even though I just travelled with them over the summer, they said I would lose 3000 something miles if I didn't use them by the end of October.
Satoshi, who doesn't always travel with JAL when he goes to Hawaii, was apparently going to lose 1000 something miles by the end of October too.
So, we decided if we could get flights with mileage, we would go to wherever our miles would take us...
After different combinations we got a flight from ITM (Osaka)-AOJ (Aomori) and SDJ (Sendai)-ITM (Osaka) for our flight coming back.
Last Thursday, our adventure began...
From Osaka (ITM) it is about an hour and a half flight to Aomori (AOJ).
It is another 30 minutes by bus to Aomori's JR Station.
The rain was coming down in a steady drizzle so we ducked into Wa-rasse (photo taken after the rain stopped) to check out the Nebuta Museum.
Nebuta means "float" and this festival runs for 4 days during August.
Each float is covered with washi (Japanese paper) and the size of each float is huge!
A staff member mentioned that if rain was forecast during the festival, they would cover the whole float with a clear plastic sheet to prevent the rain from ruining the float!
I shot a short video of the nebuta hayashi (the festival music) as it was being performed for a group of visiting pre-schoolers.
We had some time before our next train connection, so we went to check out the Gyosai Center to try their Nokke-don.
For 1080 yen, you can purchase 10 tickets. (There is also a 5 ticket version for 540 yen, but the guy selling the tickets said you wouldn't end up with an impressive looking nokke-don (good salesman, yeah?!)
1 ticket is taken for your rice and the remaining 9 can be used at various vendors within the market to purchase toppings for your rice with.
TIP: Walk around the whole market first to check out the toppings you are interested in. Some vendors give more for less tickets, some give less for more tickets...
Look at the size of this slice of chu-toro! (medium fatty tuna) I think this was 2 tickets...
We then caught the Aoimori train from Aomori to Noheji, then transferred to the JR line to Shimokita.
This took about 2 hours total.
From Shimokita, we then took a bus to Mount Osore (about 45 minutes).
The backstory: About 1200 years ago, En'nin, a Japanese Buddhist priest had a strange dream.
In the dream, a voice told him that he would find a sacred mountain that is a 30 days walk from Kyoto.
That he would carve a wooden figure of Jizo Boddhisattva and practice Buddhism there.
After many trials and hardships, he finally came upon a mountainous area which met all the conditions of his dream, this was Mount Osore (oh-so-ray).
At the central area, is Lake Usori, which is surrounded by 8 peaks, Mountains Kamafuse, Ozukushi, Kozukushi, Hokkoku, Byobu, Tsurugi, Jizo & Keito.
This landscape with the 8 peaks surrounding Mount Osore is said to represent the eight petals of a lotus flower, which is the symbol of Buddha's land.
There are 108 bubbling sulfur mud ponds, which corresponds with the 108 sins and the hells that are linked to them.
The white sand beach is also said to represent Paradise.
The compassion of Jizo is paralleled to motherly love, through which Jizo shares in the suffering of those in pain.
Jizo vows to suffer in order to alleviate the pain of those who are condemned to hell, to free those from the illusions of life and death, and lead virtuous people to even purer lands.
This sulfurous valley also teaches us that any place can be Paradise as long as Jizo is in your thoughts and heart.
It is believed that anyone who passes will go to Mount Osore.
For this reason, many people visit Mount Osore to be reunited with deceased loved ones, to pray for their peace.
Kisshokaku is the shukubo (pilgrim lodge) at Mount Osore and this was where we would spend the night.
There were so many rules, I had a hard time remembering all of them.
Dinner was shojin-ryori (vegetarian monk's meal) style.
There were 7 others staying at the lodge and before eating we were taught to recite the "Gokan no ge" (5 phrases before a meal).
1. Think about the meal in front of you, the people it took to make the meal. Thank them.
2. Reflect on your actions, are you worthy of the meal in front of you.
3. In order to have a pure heart, steer clear of the 3 greatest evils (greed, anger, ignorance)
4. Food is medicine, it feeds the body, achieves good health.
5. Enlightenment can be achieved by giving gratitude and receiving this meal.
"Itadakimasu" (I receive this food)
Apparently, no eggs, onion or meats/fish are used in this type of cooking.
At the end of the meal, we also gave thanks (gochisoosama).
Since there was no television or cell service there was a lot of time for reflection and just being quiet.
It was only the start of our adventure but it was a long day...I think we turned in before 21:00!
Aomori City, Aomori
Closed December 31, January 1 & August 9 & 10
Aomori City, Aomori
Closed Tuesdays, January 1 & 2
3-2 Usoriyama Tanabu