Hachinohe is the closest large city to Misawa with about 250,000 residents. It's about a 45 minute drive southeast of Misawa and is located right on the coast. It's also the closest place from Misawa to catch the Shinkansen, or bullet train, to Tokyo.
The first stop on our tour was the local fish market. Hachinohe is one of the busiest commercial fishing ports in Japan so the fish market has basically everything you could imagine, and lots of things you probably don't want to imagine!
The next stop on the tour was the train station to learn how to buy tickets to get around the local area. There are local train lines that take you around Aomori prefecture, and also the bullet train to get around the rest of the main island of Japan (know as Honshu). You can even take a train to the northern island of Hokkaido to go to Sapporo which goes under one of the longest and deepest tunnels in the world.
It helps to learn some Kanji to find your way on the map! The Kanji for Misawa is 三沢.
Next stop was a Shinto Shrine. This shrine was originally build in 1222 and one of the original buildings is still there. The rest of it has been been periodically rebuilt since, like many things in Japan, they had burned down before! The shrine was surrounded by huge 150 ft tall Japanese cedar trees with one that was over 700 years old.
Shintoism and Buddhism actually coexist well in Japan and many people practice both (but many practice nothing at all, or do it just for the tradition). Shintoism is the native religion of Japan and is more an animist type religion where there are gods for things like mountains, rivers, forests, air, and most central to Shinto, ancestors. Most families will practice Buddhist funerals, but shinto births and weddings, and go to different shrines or temples based on the holiday. Most people also keep a small Shinto shrine in their house!
I start working Monday so I won't get to go traveling around for a little while. Soon I will get out into Misawa to explore and will post some pics of that! Also next Wednesday I get my vehicle and my apartment so that should be pretty exciting!