Friday, October 2, 2015

A Marvelous yet Extremely Exhausting Journey to the Mystical Ruins of Akita Castle (Marvelous)

A map! How will I ever use it?
Truthfully, when I saw the options for the scavenger hunt, I immediately chose the Akita castle ruins, probably due to my fascination for regality more than anything. However, I ran into a problem, perhaps one the worst problems that I could have in this instance: lack of time. Despite it being Silver Week in Japan, I found that I could only visit the ruins on the way back from my trip to Aomori, and said trip combined with the fact that the group I was with had traveled until late the previous night and woke up with a mere hour of sleep made for quite the interesting day. The trips were splendid and it felt like we were in a slice-of-life movie…that is, until we were all completely exhausted and wanted to crash in our makeshift beds at school…and the fact that we needed to drive about three hours to get back to Akita City solely for the purpose of me exploring the castle ruins made us groan in ‘agony’.

Only half of us actually made it to the ruins that day and what we saw on the inside was… surprising to say the least, not to mention how we managed to find the place…

Gate of the Rising Sun?
For starters, it was far more difficult to guide my driver than I expected, whether the difficulty came from my lack of direction and sense of awareness, the fact that I was running on maybe two hours of sleep within the past two days, or the fact that we were in Japan, I don’t know. If I’m being honest; it was probably a mixture of all three factors, and because of said factors, I’m not quite sure if I was aware of the roads we were taking or where the ruins are in relation to anything else. Regardless, we were able to arrive the ruins at about half past five in the evening, but not without getting lost because of the gps’ lack of knowledge and not without the ‘conscription’ of a rather fit おばあさん.

With a few struggles and wrong turns, we were able to finally reach our (my) desired location; the ruins of Akita Castle. Like I mentioned beforehand, what I saw when we arrived gave me a slight surprise.

Rugby practice!
There was an organized group of middle-school children practicing rugby, in the field right in front of the ruins! The ruins are considered a national historic site, but when I think about it, I’m glad that the space outside of it is being used in a meaningful way. And the outside of the ruins wasn’t the only location to be repurposed, the inside was as well…into a dog park and a nature park, complete with a shrine. 


The more I saw, the more I was astonished, until I began to fight the drowsy and irritated haze in my mind and began to think. While the ruins obviously hold historical significance, why should they simply sit there for people to look at in awe or boredom, when they can actually be of use other than gaining a sense of history? I realized that in true Japanese style, the traditional location underwent a transformation and was now being juxtaposed with modernity, and I was able to experience the mixture first-hand. The more I think about it, the more I consider that experience to be the most significant thing about the journey to the ruins, even more than the lovely entrance, even more than the traces of dignity and regality in the air, and especially more than the journey itself.

What a lovely ruin!

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