NIIGATA City was something of an anticlimax when we finally arrived... just another concrete sprawl, with billboards and family restaurants. The really cool scenery around here, it transpired, was up in the snow country we had just traversed, or north on the coastal route to (秋田) Akita. That's the way we were going to go today, and my Mum had already booked our tickets on the train. Not on the shinkansen this time, but some kind of limited express. There were snowy mountains on one side, yellow sand beach perfect for sun bathing on the other. I took photos through the dirty windows as we snaked along, the flash bouncing off the glass, past Koiwagawa (Small Boulder River) true to its name, a lot of boulders lying around in this area. Atsumi Onsen, and Kisakata. Across the muggy bay, Sado Island loomed. If only my Soka Gakkai boss Kobayashi-san could see this view, he would have a lot of stories to tell. Of how Nichiren was exiled to the island in the 13th Century, where to fought to survive amongst the frozen wastes. It didn't look that frozen today. ..