It was -2 degrees outside (Celsius that is!  Negative two sounds much colder than twenty-eight) and we were driving between snow covered farms and little fishing towns that were seemingly deserted.  We were in Aomori prefecture, a completely different world than the crowded streets of Tokyo.  Here, the roads were wider, and the snow drifts rose three feet on either side.  Forests gave way to fields which gave way to more forests, until you reached the sea.  Small country shrines would appear now and then, almost hidden amongst the trees and the snow, and they seemed unkept and unvisited.  I liked the slower pace of life, the clean air, and the empty landscape.  It was a beautiful drive, a nice escape from city life.

We were driving through beautiful northern Japan, looking to find sea glass at shipwreck beach.  It was an enjoyable drive, and was perhaps the first enjoyable drive I have had since arriving in Japan.  In Tokyo, I am often gripping the steering wheel while trying not to hit things on the very narrow roads.  Here, the roads were wide, no cars were to be seen, and the roads opened up the world instead of trapping you. We had direcions to shipwreck beach, but the roads the directions led us to were unplowed, and since we had a small rental car, we decided not to risk getting stuck.  I wasn’t about to test out the Honda Fit in a few feet of snow in the middle of nowhere.  Eventually we found a parking lot near a wind farm that looked much more doable in terms of snow and ice.

The beach was a short walk, but we don’t think it was actually shipwreck beach.  I want to visit again during another season, as I have heard the shipwrecks are neat to see.  A bartender the night before told us the Japanese don’t like to visit shipwreck beach because it is eerie.  I am excited to go back and visit!  The car was nice and cozy, and from the car, it seemed like a great idea to go searching for sea glass in -2 degree weather.  Great idea indeed!  As we struggled across a field covered in snow, we began being pelted in the face with sea mist that was turning to ice. Having a hard time moving forward due to the strong wind, I momentarily rethought what a great idea we had had.  However, we continued on and when we finally made it to the water’s edge, the pain from the sea mist ice and wind was subdued as we discovered beautiful blues, whites, and greens scattered about.

It was breathtaking, and suddenly I was warm and my spirits were lifted.  Sea glass is formed by being tumbled, rounded, and shaped by the sea over many years.  It is beautiful and the pure joy that comes with finding a stunning piece in the sand is indescribable.  We walked up and down the beach until we couldn’t feel our hands or face.  We turned to walk back, and suddenly we heard a voice. There was a man standing right next to us!  I am still unsure how he creeped up on us so quietly.  I was startled, and kind of jumped when he started talking to us.  He asked us a question, so we showed him all of the sea glass we had collected.  This seemed to please him, as he smiled and laughed, and we had a brief conversation that included lots of smiling and laughing.  What we discussed James and I will never know, but it seemed to be a nice conversation.  Frozen, we began walking faster in anticipation of a warm car.  We scanned the landscape looking for where we had entered from the road, but it all looked the same.  I only panicked for a moment, as we were already freezing and not knowing where the car was could be potentially disastrous.  We consulted each other on where we each thought we had entered (which were surprisingly very different).  Thankfully, after only a few minutes of stumbling through icy puddles and frozen sea grass, we found the path leading to the road and our heated car.

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