In the 17th Century there lived a Daimyo with balls of steel, a guy so hard that when he came face to face with the smallpox as a juvenile he plucked his own eyeball out giving him the nickname of the “one-eyed dragon”. That Daimyo’s name was Date Masamune, and as he grew he became more dastardly and baleful, raping and pillaging local lands like any badass Daimyo should. Inevitably becoming a prominent power recognised by the great Tokugawa Ieyasu himself of whom gifted the local brute further land to prosper by and bestowed him Lord of the Domain. On this land a sleepy little fishing village was to be transformed into one of the most profitable powerhouses in the country, Sendai. Punching in at just over a million inhabitants Sendai is the prefectural capital and largest city in Miyagi prefecture and the whole of the Tōhoku region. Today the city continues to flourish, its centre receiving little damage from the March 2011 earthquake. Its downtown encompassing a number of shopping arcades and long boulevards aligned with a multitude of trees and green spaces giving the city the nickname of “The City of Trees”. It is also the home of ‘Gyūtan’, the local specialty of grilled cow tongue, the non-professional Sony Sendai F.C, and one of the largest Tanabata Matsuri Festivals in Japan to which every August see’s the city endowed with a series of multi-coloured decorations crafted by local shops, schools and community centres, each item intrinsically detailed and each with its own symbolic meaning. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be here for the Tanabata festival, I would arrive just in time to get stuck behind a big stinking dumpster truck, too which as well as offering everyone within its immediate vicinity an audacious pong it would also be very vocal about its presence by blasting out a sad almost broken rendition of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. They were somehow trying to sooth the suppression of bad odours by issuing anyone of whom had a birthday at that specific moment in time a ‘Happy Birthday’. An interesting tactic, but the target audience presumably limited unless of course everybody in the city of Sendai was born on the exact same day of which to best of my knowledge and researching capabilities just wasn’t the case.
It wouldn’t take me long to find myself a small mountain to contend with, Mt. Aoba being the base of Sendai’s very first castle constructed by bad balls Date Masamune himself back in 1601. A castle that throughout history has been destroyed continuously by earthquakes and fires, its eventual maiming and ultimate demise coming at the hands of an American carpet bombing session in 1945. Nothing remains of the castle today but the earth and stonework’s of the wall from where one can observe contrasting views across the city.
Scattered across Mt. Aoba you can also find various campuses belonging to the Tohoku University, a university that I must confess I just couldn’t imagine attending. Asking a student to battle a hangover with a mountain each and every day is quite simply begging for disaster. The only possible approach that I could conjure would be to remain drunk on a constant basis, but then that would come at the risk of vomiting upon ones shoes or upon a professor’s blouse, a very impractical situation yet thankfully due to the gift of being an imbecile one that I would never have to likely encounter.
With hunger taking a stranglehold upon my guts I raced back down the mountain, gormandized on a curry and then swiftly checked into my hostel for the night. The moment I walked into my dorm room I was struck by a sleepless night in the form of the fattest Japanese man I had ever seen, a guy so fat that I swear I could actually see him getting fatter in real time before my very eyes, he made a sumo wrestler look like a stick insect. There was no possible way that he was ever going to sleep politely. Just looking at him I knew that he was going to snore like a complete bastard, and with him just looking at me with a slight simper he knew that I knew that he was going to snore like a complete bastard. And do you know what? He did snore like a complete bastard, all night long the bastard. What made matters worse was that he was on the top bunk directly above me, so not only was I not sleeping due to the noise pollution of persistent snoring to the sound of someone potentially choking upon their own blubber, but I would also lay in fear of being destroyed outright, if the top bunk should fall, I would never be found. Every movement from above saw me hold my breath in anticipation of ultimate decimation. I consider myself to be a bit of dorm veteran now and have over the years mustered up a few ways of disabling what at times seems like the designated room snorer. The scrunching of a plastic bottle or rustling of a bag, a deep and heavy cough, a high pitched screech, the slamming of a door, a boisterous fart or a cheeky jab to the ribs. In this instance all my dirtiest tricks passed to no avail. The guy was an impenetrable fortress and would not be broken. I lay awake, seething through till dawn where I would without choice arise early.