Utsunomiya Travel Blog› entry 5 of 8 › view all entries
We only planned to stay maybe 2 days in Utsunomiya with Marco, who was teaching Japan there. At that time he had just moved in with his girlfriend Mieko, who we hadn't met yet. We were going to see him mostly - we didn't really think there was anything to do there.
4 days later we were in love the Mieko and the slowed pace of Utsunomiya, and grudingly made our way altogether to Himeji.
If you ask Marco, he says "Utse" is a rural city, but it's still more built up and crowded than San Francisco, imo. Looking around though you can see that it's not the sophisitcated urban center of even a city like Hiroshima. The kids dress a little more.
Speaking of yakuza, according to Marco, Utsunomiya is a bit of a recruitment center for yakuza. There are more poor kids, and even one of Marco's students was the son of a yakuza boss, a kid with a real problem with authority. We got to see yakuza in a what seemed to us to be an odd situation: hanami. While we were in Tokyo the cherry blossoms had just arrived and were about to go into full bloom, so in Utsunomiya, north and at a higher altitude, they were just starting to bud on the branches. Nevertheless, hanami had started, so we and the whole rest of the city went to the park and enjoyed the food stands and lanterns. We put out our blankets (what a market for tarps, let me tell you) and noticed downhill that there were a bunch of guys in black suits and punky hairdos putting up a Costco-sized awning while a bunch of ladies with kids brought out enormous coolers of food, all while a few fat older guys in leather track suits and sunglasses stood around and talked. Apparently yakuza love sakura, too.
During our stay in Utsunomiya, we did a lot of low-key, relaxing ordinary things, which was AWESOME after the chaos of Tokyo, where you feel like you're always in someone's way. We ate alot of gyoza, which Utsunomiya thinks it's famous for. We met Marco's favorite izakaya owners. We went to the mall. One of the days we took the bus out to Machiko, where Mieko and a whole bunch of pottery comes from. It's tiny - just farms and pottery shops, and to get there all you see are green farmlands and tiny houses. It was wonderful.