Monthly Archives: October 2011

To Anan and back

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A short trip to see Nathalie’s town and get stuck in a typhoon.

Again, long over due. This little adventure happened back in mid July. Better late than never! With all these typhoons we’re getting right now, I can’t help but be remind of this trip. The trip was planned to be me traveling to Osaka and then to Tokushima and finally Anan on Saturday and return on Tuesday since I was able to get an extra day off after the holiday.

I started out on an early Thunderbird (that’s the super train in these parts) and made a quick changeover in Osaka to a bus. While I was waiting in line to buy a ticket, a nice fatherly man started making random chitchat with me using surprisingly good English. After I got my ticket I took a minute to gather my stuff together and he caught up with me to make the conversation more official. As it turns out, he was a JTE (that’s Japanese Teacher of English) for many years at a highschool way up in the mountains a few hours from Osaka. He was traveling alone and made it very clear that he prefers it that way.

Being curious I asked why and he said that he had never found a companion that didn’t make traveling irritating. His wife especially drove him mad and even his best friend was too much trouble. He said he prefers the alone time because it makes it much easier to interact with foreigners he runs into along the way. I absolutely understood this because being such a person, I prefer not to be suddenly surrounded by tourists interested in practicing their English for extended periods of time. It’s much nicer one on one and not so confusing.

He was super nice. Asked if I wanted to get a cup of coffee but unfortunately I don’t drink coffee and said I just needed to eat a fast lunch instead. He then offered to show me to the nearest food area so I could grab something before getting on my bus. I already new the area really well from my last Osaka trip but it was kind nonetheless. We parted but as I was sitting in the little cafe eating my sandwich, who should round the corner but my little friend eager as a beaver to squeeze in some more English before I left. He had some interesting philosophies on the differences between western foreigners thought processes and those native to Japan. I wanted to agree that my folks, Americans, were not living sustainable or at all in tune with our natural environment on a daily basis… but certain things kept coming into my head about whaling, personal freedoms, and the unfortunate downside to constantly following the “wa” system (see my older post) that I decided it best if I kept my mouth shut. Smile and nod. It’s the “wa” system in action. Maybe he would’ve benefited by my counter-idea, who knows.

Finally I made my way to the bus and was given the only seat with an empty seat next to eat. Praise Jesus or whoever. It was perfect because my bum is a little more than typical Japanese standard… just a little heh. I probably saw the most scenery of Shikoku on that bus ride out of my whole trip. The mountain formations were really interesting. I should have snapped some photos but I only had my phone cam and it’s not the best with motion. I’ll try to paint you a mental image: you know those huge paintings in Chinese restaurants and buffets? The ones with the little fishing boat gliding on the water with huge odd looking mountains all around that look impossible they’re so slender? Those are what I saw. Take a mountain, shave away the outside until it’s almost a cylinder from top to bottom.

After meeting up with Nathalie and getting my rental bike, we dropped my stuff at her place and headed for dinner. Dinner was a 5k bike ride away at the nearest super kaitenzushi. We were so bushed by the time we got there. Red faced and frothing at the mouth. This was summer in Japan mind you with the humidity that comes just before a big typhoon. We stuffed ourselves and before it got too dark and buggy we headed back for conbini ice cream and lots of sleep.

The next day, Nat’s friend took us around for a little sightseeing in Tokushima City, the closest big city to Anan. She had a car. It was lovely. First was food. Real udon, my first time.

The strange statue outside the noodle shop.

Some mountain top viewing of the city.

The next day was by train and foot, back to the city for some wandering before the storm hit too hard. There was Awa Odori stuff everywhere.

 

Delicious foodstuffs.

Nat being herself at the train station. We got off too early. Boo.

But the waiting presented a photo-op of some Totoro graffiti.

And the morning after was my giant bowl of oatmeal and banana courtesy of Nat.

Then the ridiculousness began. The typhoon hit on Tuesday, the day I was to head home. I had work on Wednesday morning and an important party for a JTE I didn’t want to miss in the evening. We tried to find out what was what with the trains and it seemed things were fine so we bundled up, wrapped my stuff in plastic, and headed out on the bikes… through a typhoon. Eventually we were just walking the bikes because the wind was so hard it would’ve toppled us and the rain stung our faces too badly. We then returned the bike in town and walked to the station. The bike man looked super surprised to see us.

I went in, got my ticket and hopped on the next train to Tokushima.

Once there, I ran to the bus terminal and asked about a ticket to Osaka. No tickets, no buses. What about later? I asked. Nope. And tomorrow? Don’t know yet, maybe yes maybe no. Depends on the storm. Crap.

I made some frantic texts and calls to Nat and my supervisors. There was more talking involved than I think was necessary with my company but eventually they got the concept that there was no way I was going to be able to leave Shikoku until the following day if I was lucky. And Nat’s wonderful friend with a car was so wonderful and picked me up from the station after only a few hours waiting. I was concerned about getting a hotel room because of all the other travelers stranded there. One girl sitting next to me with her mom was calling all the local hotels to find a room that wasn’t ridiculously expensive for the night. I think she found a place at the Toyoko Inn just as I was leaving. I looked back at her as I got up to leave and she gave me a slow nod to say she would be okay. Yay for not needing words sometimes.

The next day there was some seriously anxious waiting involved at the train station while they got things up and running again. It was a nice little trip, excitement and anxiety. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Shikoku another time. After all was said and done, I made it home to Nanao by 10pm and Nicole picked my exhausted self up. I was done with traveling for a while after that… oh wait… one week later was the Tokyo trip. What was I thinking?!

With love – M

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Matsuri of FIRE

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Experiencing the Fire and Violence Festival in Suzu

So many pictures to go through >.<! Right now I’m really loathing writing this… but maybe talking about it will help me push through it. I’ve been getting so much better about not putting things off as long as I can remember those things. My little notebook has become more and more of a diary written in shorthand and to-do lists. Since I don’t have internet at any of my schools, it comes down to organizing my life in that little book and writing up blog posts during free periods.

Okay, time warp. Back to July something or other day, 2011. The Fire and Violence Festival oooooo exciting. I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. I assumed the obvious. What I got was, well… the obvious.

Friday was FIRE and lots of it. From the photos you can see what I mean. We thought the starter bonfire was cool. Then they started to light the big boys. There were at least 6 of those huge pine polls with tinder wrapped around them, ready to bust into flames.

A dude would take another long pole, bamboo most likely, wrap a rag around it and then dumped it in a can of something before setting it alight. He’d then very precariously reach out with up to touch the fire to the pine poll.

Off in the distance, across the little harbor at the center of town, we saw a long row of twinkling lanterns.

Oh and here’s us minus me before we got to the ‘stage’ area. There were some fireworks already going off. Sorry about the blur.

Then they came to us. These huge portable shrine things with kids playing music on top and town folks carrying them underneath. It was pretty crazy. The music was all the same song, I assume, but none of the shrines where playing together so it became this strange cacophony of sound as more and more shrines poured into the area. We didn’t even stay to see the last shrine. It was getting really late and we were tired and still had to drive the 2 hours back to Nanao.

Saturday was the Violence night. Nicole and I decided we crash in the car (not crash the car!) following the events of the evening. Liquor was the name of the game that night. Not just for spectators either. Everyone was drunk in some fashion. There were a lot less kids that night though, don’t worry.

Oh and the vendors! Of course there were vendors. It wouldn’t be a festival without them. A couple were particularly awesome. I got a sweet Gundam pin for my boyfriend and some delicious stuff on a stick. I kept going back to this one chicken on a stick place that was fantastic. I heart salt. And there was a beef man. His stuff was amazing.

Anyway, there we were – watching these men carry this wooden shrine down the streets of this compact little town in the middle of nowhere. All of sudden they would stop and throw that sommamabitch down and jump all over it yelling and screaming. They’d rock it over, back and forth, a preistly looking character would say some prayers and then the men would turn it back over, pick it up, and continue on their way to the next spot. Sorry for the lack of pictures but there was no way I was taking my nice camera. I took my phone (actually has a pretty nice camera function) but it was dark so I took video instead. Unfortunately… it’s in .3g2 format and I can’t figure out how to get it out.

Then they made it to the river er, large creek. On the bridge, they threw it off into the water and then quickly followed. Pounding and picking up and throwing against the high walls ensued. These guys must have been in some crazy rage to do all of this. I imagine there were lots of swore parts in the days to follow. I was lucky, however, and remained unharmed, mostly dry, and even found a piece of wood that had broken off of the shrine.

To the fire! They picked it up and continued the throwing and praying ritual until they reached a little waterfall/creek area. There was already a huge pine poll, like the night before, blazing next to the water. The shrine gets thrown in first, then the men and then the violence continues but this time with fire. By the time they hauled it out, we were bushed. So we said our thanks and made our long trek back to the car to sleep off our ridiculous night. We awoke to 5 eagles screaming at each other on a wire over top of the car and a cute little Japanese woman picking up leftover trash from the festival yelling back at the eagles. Nicole and I just looked at each other and laughed.

Oh! and then a random Cruella d’Ville car in Shika-machi. Weird.

 

With love – M