Towards the end of May, Peter took a trip south to the neighboring prefecture of Niigata to visit a friend he knew previously from online. He stayed with his friend, Matt Nuzzo, for a couple of days, and got a few snapshots of what it looks like south of the Asahi mountain range.

This is Niitsu station, where Peter arrived by train to be picked up by Matt. Niigata City is the main city in Niigata, but Matt lives a bit into the countryside. Niitsu is the closest city with a major train station. Niitsu station is also a major transfer point, and was just recently rebuilt.

This is a view of the mountains near Matt's house. When Peter arrived, everything was pretty misty and stormy. Niigata gets even more rain than Shonai does.

Another view out across the acres and acres of rice paddies that surround Matt's apartment building. His apartment block and the local board of education seem to be isloated in the middle of nowhere.

That evening, we went for Indian curry. On the way back, we passed this crazy van with fins and an inexplicably protruding rear.

Matt's building is a bit old, and nearly abandoned. Above the entryway to his hall, a family of birds had set up a nest. They didn't seem to mind the approach of humans at all.

Here's a view of the same mountains when the sun is shining. The day Peter left, the morning was really gorgeous.

But the clouds started to move in. This area is all part of a flood plain. In July, heavy rains flooded most of this land and forced tens of thousands out of their homes. Niigata is unfortunately prone to frequent flooding.

At Niigata station, as with most large train stations in Japan, homeless people had constructed box houses for themselves. Some of them are pretty deluxe.