秋田県 (AKITA PREFECTURE) is home to the Akita ken (dog breed), made famous by the Hachiko statue in Shibuya, Tokyo (and the Hollywood movie which is based on Hachiko's life). The other thing that seems to be famous in Akita is their local custom of balancing lantern bamboo poles on their foreheads. There were teenage boys balancing poles up to 40 feet long in the mall tonight, as we drank in the lobby of our hotel. We stayed on the 13th floor of the Toyoko Inn near Akita Station, in the center of town. Toyoko means "east side" in Japanese, and I was amused to realise that the Toyoko Inn is on the east side of Akita Station. Maybe that`s their gimmick... they only set up on the east side of the station, wherever they are in Japan! Maybe maybe. There was free Internet in the lobby da yo! Jidohanbaiki (vending machines) selling beer! Newspapers bearing grim headlines about the reactors in Fukushima. Which made me a trifle concerned, since we were due to head over that way tomorrow, right into the heart (or rather the edges of) the tsunami zone on the Pacific coast. ..