I know I’m late to the game, but not being a big drinker I tend not to notice these trends, and although I have seen these kind of beer places around I never thought there was anything special to it. For the last three years (I think) beer companies have started running temporary beer gardens at central locations across Japan. The first I saw was a Asahi Beer place in Ginza, but here’s a Kirin one I walked past in Sendai last weekend. Their thing is that they serve super chilled beer, -2 degrees celsius to be exact, and they are hugely popular this summer, usually with lines of people waiting to get inside and cool down. I have never tried it, but some of these days I will, just to be able to say I did! I wonder if Ebisu Beer has one of these bars as well? The head on that beer makes it look more like ice-cream I think!
Having left Tokyo we traveled north on the Tohoku Expressway, that had opened for general traffic a few days before. It was a slightly bumpier road than usual and the speed limit was set to 80km an hour, which was wise considering the fact that there were almost no lights turned on to direct us. We drove for as long as safely possible but just before dawn we pulled into the Adatara SA (SA stands for Service Area and is one of many kinds of places to stop, eat, refuel or use various restroom facilities) in Fukushima Prefecture. After about an hour of not very successful sleep we managed to fill the tank up before taking off again.
Traffic was very light, consisting of an even mix of military vehicles, private cars and truck carrying supplies north, one of them shown here, apparently on it’s way from Kyoto.
It’s still very early in the morning, the sun has just risen over the horizon and a little bit before the Nihonmatsu Junction we overtake a convoy of green military vehicles, three jeeps and several trucks from the army’s 11th Brigade, based in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
The countryside is hilly, with pine and evergreens mixed with still bare wintery trees reminding us it’s still technically winter. We pass a few houses and isolated farms and none show any real signs of damage from the earthquake, a testament to the strict Japanese building codes and excellent engineering.
The few gasoline stands we pass have been full of cars waiting in line, and the further we get from Tokyo the longer the line gets. No one wants to get stuck without gasoline without knowing when the next transport is coming. Gasoline shortage ended in Tokyo just a few days earlier, but there are still serious shortages here in the north east. Passing a convoy of gasoline tankers from Idemitsu really cheered us up and we waved to each driver as we passed by. I doubt they saw us but it felt to good to see these behemoths on the way north to deliver their vital fuel. It might look like the tanker is parked, but with shutter speeds at up to 1/8000th of a second even the wheels will be frozen by the camera.
While taking a quick rest break at the Zao PA (Parking Area, like a mini SA) I found this map showing us just how close we were to the Fukushima Daichi Power Plant. Not very as it turned out.
It wasn’t long until we reached Minamisendai, the southern suburbs of Sendai which is the largest city in the north east with well over a million people. On the news I had seen reports of the local train lines all being unable to operate and we passed this train depot fully stocked, waiting for the lines to be repaired and opened. The service train bears a text identifying is as belonging to the department of transportation, Sendai City.
Thankfully, we could see no signs of damage, despite reports as we drove through Minamisendai still on the Tohoku Expressway.
Soon however, as we passed Sendai we saw the first signs of destruction. Fields strewn with debris and damaged but still structurally intact residential buildings. Earlier we had passed a couple of slightly damaged factories but nothing that couldn’t be fixed in a day or two.
But we were still on the highway, heading for Higashimatsushima City, still a quite a long way to go. The way the highway is constructed you don’t see that much out of the road as you pass the city, and so we were unaware of the destruction near Sendai Airport even as we passed it.
(to be continued)