Monday, July 12, 2010
Some weeks ago I visited the city of Omiya, in Saitama prefecture. Omiya is mostly noted for being a major Japan Rail transfer hub for the northern part of the Kanto Plain. It's also a major suburb of Tokyo, existing in the sort of limbo that envelops large cities on the periphery of even larger cities. There's plenty of things to see and do in Omiya, but as the northern reaches of Tokyo are some 20 minutes away by train, a whole world of other, more interesting things to see and do exists right over the horizon. However, I had seen plenty of Tokyo, and little of Omiya, so I was primed to jump right on in.
The major attraction in Omiya is Hikawa Shrine, which is one of the major Shinto Shrines in the Kanto Region. In fact, Omiya the city is named after the shrine, Omiya means large temple/palace. Plenty of people still come to admire the long entrance avenue and huge torii.
For me, there was another good reason to make it to Omiya. The Japan Rail Railroad Museum! I'm a well known transportation buff, and my love of Japan's railway system is legendary. How then could I not be attracted to a huge museum devoted to trains from the very first steam engines to the latest in Shinkansen technology?
I have an old link to Omiya as well. Back in 2005, when I first visited Japan, I transferred through Omiya Station a few times. I never got to leave the station, but the view of the vast array of tall buildings and shops outside the train windows intrigued me, and I thought it would be an interesting place to live. I also transferred through Nagoya Station a few times, and when the time came to request a placement with GEOS, I got the two places mixed up, and asked for Nagoya! I remember living in Nagoya, and wondering why I mis-remembered the view from the station. It wasn't till my first trip from Kanazawa to Tokyo that I got another chance to look out the window, and realize that I had meant Omiya....
We stayed late into the evening, with some time at a cheap izakaya chain, though we were all too tired from an early start and a long day of walking to really get into a night life sort of mood, though a round of cold beer and some excellent Japanese bar food really hit the spot!