Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Last From Japan

Well friends, on Tuesday next I'll finally do the leaving I've been preparing for.  Seeing people for last meetings has kept me busiest.  JET Goodbye party, last conversation class meeting, conversation class BBQ, ESS (English Speaking Society) Goodbye party, Goodbye Ceremony for high school, Goodbye ceremony for Junior High School, last coffee dates, dinners, sleepovers, last trips and drinks together, last class, day of school... lots and lots of lasts.

I usually don't do things gradually... I usually pack for any trip the night before.  I like to focus on one main thing and get it done.  Moving to another country can't really be done that way, and I'm proud of myself for the work I've done getting all of my belongings organized and cleaned up in preparation for moving.  I did my clothes one day, Knox's another day, and I did a couple sessions of cleaning out toys.  I did a big day of cleaning last weekend.

The Big One is tonight.  I have no other plans tonight but to finish getting rid of things, cleaning, and packing.  I have to be done because tomorrow night is my apartment check where an officer from my school, my supervisor, someone in charge of the building from the Board of Education, and a person from the flooring shop will come to inspect my apartment.  There is nothing to worry about... except that I went, in my supervisor's eyes, from a good and responsible ALT to a devil-foreigner in the blink of an eye one afternoon last week.  This is no big deal aside from the stress she will inflict upon me when she inevitably finds a dust bunny or perishable food item that will offend and horrify the new ALT coming in.  Of course, I don't think the new ALT will give a crap, but my supervisor is a controlling person who loves to rustle up drama whenever possible, and the worst part is that she has no idea.  I just have to get through tomorrow evening.

I heard that there was trouble between her and the previous ALT, but I just went about my business with her and it went very well the whole year until just last week.  She went from being sugar-sweet to me to insulting me and talking about me in Japanese and a derisive tone right in front of my face.  It was Jekyll and Hyde.  My fellow teachers have assured me that I'm not alone in having trouble getting along with her, and the principal urged me to enjoy my last days in Japan despite her behavior.  

So anyway, once my apartment check is over tomorrow night, I think I will be home free on apartment matters.  I have to take my car to the shop and cancel my cell phone on Monday.  Besides that I just have a few more last coffee dates before I head out on on Tuesday.

I've been really excited, but today I'm a little stressed cause I have so much to do.  Mostly, now, I am concerned about properly thanking the kind people who have been my friends and co-workers for the past year.  I have a lot of 'thank you' notes to write.

Knox doesn't want to go to school anymore... I think because he wants to stay home with me and have me all to himself.  We are counting down the days at school.  Two more days of school for both of us!!  I don't know how or why, but he is not upset about leaving Japan, and he just wants to get on with it and get to America already.  He keeps talking about his dog (Nana's dog) Rocky, and his cats (my 2 cats at Grandma Jo's house and the cat at Pop pop's house).  He is excited.  :-)

We are all looking forward to the imminent changes and feeling optimistic.  The next time I write, it probably won't be from Japan!!!

From Japan,


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Leaving Japan is Freaking Me Out

Writing therapy time!!!

Automatic reaction to all of this talk about my time in Japan coming to a close:  Don't pack anything.  Stop cleaning apartment and desk.  Mope.  Go shopping.  Get teary often.  Hoard everything that says "Made In Japan" and has funny English on it.

I'm vacillating between the denial and depression phases, it seems.  

I'm not sure why I feel this way, honestly.  This happens to me a lot, where my head is confident in a choice or accepting of a situation, but my body won't surrender the way my mind can.  So I think, "Yes, this is for the best, and everything will be fine," but at the same time my heart is breaking and salt water is escaping my face.

That's how I feel right now.  I chose to end my time in Japan, and I stand by that choice.  I could stay here if I wanted to.  I could get a job or make it happen one way or another.  But the ties that bind are still drawing me to America.  I want to be with my family.  And I want to build a family, and I want my son to know his cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  I know that I will be happy to be in my mom's house and to see Rocky, that great big affectionate German Shepherd of hers.  I love my spacious apartment in Japan, but it is quite moldy, and I never felt at home in a home that I always knew I would leave.  I have become comfortable in Japan and I can get things done when I need to, but it will be nice to be able to help myself in more complicated situations and understand stuff going on around me, e.g., I will be able to read and understand vocabulary for people over 10.  

On the other hand, it kinda makes life more simple not to understand what is going on around you.  I've learned a unique kind of acceptance that definitely took a lot of energy to achieve.  At first, in my first 6 months here mostly, resistance took a lot out of me.  I had to learn day by day to let go.  It was a hard earned state of being, but worth it.  Now when I can't figure out a more obscure use of the ATM I know how to ask for help and I'm happy to accept it.

I'm anticipating how it will feel to drive on the other side of the road, and I hope I still have hair after 2 or 3 days of getting used to it.  I really should think about all of this anticipated stress.  I know that I can choose a different perspective and make things a lot easier on myself, and starting with this post, that's how I plan to deal.

My official JET program goodbye party is this Saturday.  I know.  Whoa.

My goodbye BBQ for my English conversation circle is on Sunday, but we will still have a few more meetings after that.

And in the next few weeks I'll have to give goodbye speeches to large audiences in Japanese.  

And no matter what I do, I don't feel that I can ever repay the wonderful people of Japan for their kindnesses to me.  All the invitations and dinners, all the gifts given to Knox in grocery store aisles and at birthday parties, their willingness not only to give me directions but to walk me to where I want to go, refusing payment for services over tiny mistakes, and many other acts that made this foreigner's life in Japan happier and easier.  

Ok.  I feel better.  But I still have a lot to do.

From Japan,



Monday, June 17, 2013

Honshu-Shikoku Bike Trip and Hiroshima

And I thought I had taken my last trip in Japan!!  Turns out I was way wrong, and I'm probably STILL not done!!

Kane, Tania, Nichole, Billy, Patrick, Tiffany, Josh

On June 14th I left school and headed straight to Beppu to pick up my friends Josh and Kane and drive to Kitsuki, where I left my car and rode in Nichole's van to Hiroshima.  There were six of us in the car including Patrick and Billy.  We joined our 7th at the Hana Hostel in Horoshima.  Kane's wife, Tania, checked into the hostel for us since she had to go to Osaka earlier that day for a visa.  I always forget what an international group I travel in.  

Tania is from Mexico City and is married to Kane who is from Canada along with Patrick.  Billy is Asian but he is from New Zealand.  Josh is from upstate NY and Nichole and I are from Florida, USA.  We all got together this weekend to cycle from Onomichi City on the island of Honshu over the 7- bridges to Imabari on the island of Shikoku.  

Can you see me on the left?
We rented bicycles in Onomichi (Honshu, Japan) and set out in the pouring rain.  At first I was in denial that we were going through with this cycling trip in the rain, but once we were wet it was no big deal, and for me some wonderful dormant memories were drawn out; I remember riding my bike in the rain many afternoons as a kid in Florida.  The course from Onomichi to Imabari (Shikoku, Japan) is 70 km (43.5 miles), plus a little extra for losing our way and an extra 5k getting from the end of the course to our hotel.  It was a pretty long trip for me considering that I am not a regular cyclist.  I have to admit I needed some pretty intense encouragement.  I got really down about being a handicap for my team.  But everyone was great and uplifting and we got there together in really good spirits.  

I thought to myself what a great group of people I was with, every one of them wonderful team players.  I mean it.  Nichole, Josh, Kane, Patrick, and Billy could've finished the course in almost half the time without me, but each one of them was so encouraging and without a trace of impatience about me or Tania being less practiced.  They waited for us and circled back and never made us feel like we were weighing them down.  I couldn't have asked for a nicer group of friends to share this experience with.

 The bridges were impressive and I am not overstating when I call the landscape paradisiacal.  I said to Tania that I cannot believe I've never read about Shikoku in National Geographic or travel magazines.  I had never heard of it in my life until I came to Japan, and that island is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  Islands everywhere, clouds sitting in the valleys, a solitary fisherman on a rock in the middle of a turquoise inlet, crystal clear ocean waters, swirling tides, lush green mountains.  The scenery was pretty remarkable.

We crossed the 7- bridges stopping a few times for konbini snacks, to eat from fruit trees, to patch up Tania, and to take pictures of snails, crabs, and landscape.  We stopped once for mikan soft cream.  Yum.  We were SOAKED.  It was nice at the end when the blue sky started to come through the cracks and we dried out, but my shoes and socks stayed miserably soggy.  At the end of the course we stopped to find a map to the hotel and we wound our way through the town passing onsen and restaurants, and for me a calico kitten, that we wanted to stop for.  But we had to get there and just BE FINISHED.  We did get there.  Our hotel had a nice little sento (public bath), so the boys and we girls went off to our baths and came back refreshed, but still totally exhausted.  We needed FOOD.  The guys all wore their yukata robes from the hotel and we girls pretty much wore our pajamas to an izakaya restaurant.  We had a great smattering of sushi, mushrooms, fried cheese, bacon-wrapped asparagus, gobo beef salad, potato salad, and beer.  We were clean and fed and ready to collapse motionless onto our futons.  After a stop at the konbini for ice cream we made it back to the hotel and relaxed in our giant tatami room.   

I was in pain.  It was so bad that I was taking the elevator up and down and we were only on the 2nd floor.  I'm still not sure what kind of pain I was experiencing.  It didn't feel like muscle pain.  It was a deep ache in my thighs and knees and it was bordering on unbearable.  I put on some muscle patches and took some aspirin-type medicine that made no difference.  I couldn't sleep until I dulled one area of pain -my knees- with 2 cold beers.  I awoke in the middle of the night from the pain.  I hobbled downstairs to ask for ice but no one was there.  It hurt so bad I just stayed in the lobby and slept on the couch.  Waking up some time later, I took the elevator up and tried to sleep.  Josh finally went to the lobby and bought 2 cold waters out of the machine so I could "ice" my legs and get some sleep.  The next day I stayed on a better version of aspirin and I made it through without too much more pain.

I couldn't do anymore cycling and neither could Tania, so we made plans to wait for the others in Hiroshima, but we had to ride our bikes to the rental location, about 5k.  We had a lot of fun singing songs and stopping for breakfast.  Nichole, Josh, Kane, Billy and Patrick got back on the course around 10:30am and Tania and I walked for about an hour to the bus that would take us to Hiroshima.  The bridge was so huge that the bus stop was in the middle.  The bridge has lanes for cars, motorbikes, walkers, and cyclists.  We curled up in a little patch of shade to shield ourselves from the blistering Japan sun, and finally boarded the bus and took a 2 hour nap to Hiroshima.  Sure beat cycling for 10 hours on beat up knees!!    

My newest addition to my Starbucks mug collection

Tania and I saw the building in this picture that has been preserved since August 6th of 1945 when the United States destroyed Hiroshima, Japan with the atomic bomb.  This building stood, along with a few others scattered over the area.  The 30 people inside this building at the time of the attack died instantly.  Many others that I learned about inside the museum weren't as lucky.  So many children made it home that day, but were burned so badly that they died that night.  The museum has tattered and bloody child-size uniforms laid out in cases.  A 3-year old boy who had been riding his tricycle outside died, and his father thought that he was so young and shouldn't be away from home, alone in a grave, so his father buried him in the back yard with his tricycle.  Several decades later his body was relocated to the family tomb, and the tricycle that had spent 30 years buried with him was there for me to see.  Many parents could never find their children after the bomb, so days later they collected bones from their children's schools and treated them as their own child's remains.  I read letters from a young man's journal.  He had a strong desire to live, but he was so frustrated to be sick and dying from radiation poisoning.  He blamed himself for being too tired to fight, and he died.  People of all ages walked through the streets with their skin falling off.  Approximately 70,000 people died in Hiroshima on that day alone and up to 130,000 more from burns, illness, and cancers.  And why, do you think?  Because the Japanese army was committing acts against humanity?  Because the United States needed to justify the money it had spent on the project?  Who really knows?

...Is the reason of consequence?  I think that is the most important question.  Being in this place and experiencing the museum naturally made me think about nuclear weapons and if they should be used at all.  Could any reason justify the use of nuclear weapons again?  Japan answers that question with a resounding, "No."  The United States answers, "Yes."       

A picture of Hiroshima after the bomb.  The area razed by wind and heat had been covered in closely set houses, businesses, and schools.

The Peace Park in Hiroshima has many statues devoted to peace and to those who died.  The museum recounts stories of the war and the political situation and shows pictures and models of the city before and after the bomb.  There are belongings encased:  Watches, student bags and uniforms, shoes, the singed locks a mother kept from her daughter that died...  I'm sensitive and after a while I stopped looking so closely so as not to get sick.  

The building that stood after the bomb
 I felt some sort of responsibility as an American to visit both Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  Now I have and I'm very glad I did both to gain a better understanding of what happened in those cities and to experience and learn to believe in the Japanese advocacy of peace.  I say "to believe in" because hearing about Japan's policies regarding nuclear war and being in the cities where it happened are different things.  Seeing the letters from people adds a dimension of sincerity that you don't get when you think Japan is peaceful because America forced peace on them.  America forced acquiescence; not peace.  To know there are monuments to peace and then to see them and read about how they came up (paid for by classmates of a dying girl or the families of WW2 victims) gives me a reason to believe that the Japanese people earnestly embrace and embody a world aimed at a peaceful existence. 

This monument is dedicated to the mobilized students who died.

 In America, talk of peace seems like just talk.  It's like Christmas in Japan.  In Japan, Santa is everywhere and Christmas lights hang from businesses... but it's not the same.  The spirit is missing.  That unified feeling of something deeper doesn't accompany the decorations.  In America when "peace" is discussed on the news or in politics, it feels like just words said because they sound good.  It's hard for the spirit of peace to thrive in the holding area for nuclear weapons.  

This flame burns day and night.  It will continue until there are no more nuclear weapons in the world.

The monument in this picture was my favorite for beauty.  A tranquil pond filled with lotus flowers surrounds the bell which has the continents etched into it with no country boundaries.  When you ring it, you pray for world peace.

I saw so many beautiful things and made wonderful memories with my friends on this trip.  I experienced so much in just one weekend.  


From Japan,

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Being Knox's Mommy

I have a lot to do.  You do too, no doubt.  I could be doing all day and all night and never be finished, probably.  I'm a mommy, so I have to make a lot of choices about which things will get done and which things will not get done.  If I'm cooking and I have some time before I need to add something or stir or whatnot, I might do a few dishes or prep clothes for after bath time... there is always one more little thing that could be straightened, cleaned, or organized.  But I've realized that doing all of those little things doesn't really make my life better, and they certainly don't improve my relationship with Knox or make him any happier.  But perfect prioritization is not easy at all.  I need to stop trying to get everything done and sit down with Knox more.

I have realized that I'm constantly talking about time.  Time for dinner, time for a bath, book time... what time is it?...  let me see if we have time...  I don't think we have time for that.  Poor Knox.  I am completely annoyed at myself for worrying about the damn time so much.  This is gonna make me sound crazy, but last night I was really pissed about it, so I threw my watch, my phone (I hate my phone also, even apart from the time aspect), and my alarm clock into a box.  I didn't want to see any of them all evening, and I seriously considered taking a hammer to all of them.   I contained myself and plugged my clock back in before I went to bed.  

Over the past week I have (instead of trying to slip little tasks into every spare moment) been sitting down to play with Knox instead.  I haven't noticed whatever impact it has had on my cleanliness or organization, but I can really tell the difference in Knox.  He is so much happier and more compliant when I've been playing with him, which makes everything easier.  In my reading, I often see it said that a child's world revolves around his parents.  He is happiest being with me and playing with me.  His ideas of what relationships should be like start with me.  His security in our relationship gives him security in every other relationship.  I really want to avoid taking our time together for granted.  I want to avoid spending my time doing a bunch of crap that doesn't matter instead of being with him.

 The time does fly.  He will start school next year!!  My little boy, away with someone else most of the day...  I don't know.  I have to think what I'm going to do about that.

I found this quote today:

“If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.  I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting.  I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.  I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.  I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.  I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.  I’d do more hugging and less tugging.“  - Diane Loomans

I want to be the best mommy in the world.

Behind Knox you can see his school, their garden, and the covered sand box.
 Last night I watched a little TV.  In 3 episodes I saw 3 kids, each of them 4 years old.  On So You Think You Can Dance, a little boy got on the stage and did a little freestyle.  He did very little, but he was adorable and put a smile on probably at least a million faces.  In the 2nd SYTYCD episode I watched, this amazing guy who also auditioned last year brought his daughter and girlfriend.  The 3 of them free styled together.  My hands were clasped at my heart and I had tears in my eyes, and when they cut to the judges and the audience, they were clearly all feeling just like I did as they watched the family dancing together.  Then, on the first Bachelorette of the season, one of the men brought his son to meet the bachelorette.  The little boy in a suit stole the attention by just standing there.  And after this night of 4-year-olds on TV I thought again how beautiful children are.  They light up the world.  Knox lights up my world.  And I want to really try to light up his world. 

From Japan,

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Me and the Florida Alligator

It didn't occur to me, until I came to Japan, that living in close proximity to alligators for most of one's life isn't exactly humdrum living.  I'm from Florida, where you can see an alligator if you want to on just about any day of the week.  Not at the zoo.  Not at a farm.  In the wild.  Your local pond, perhaps.  Probably the only people that share my nonchalant resignation toward neighboring man-eating reptiles are those living in Florida and Louisiana.  Over a million alligators live in Florida, another million-plus in Louisiana.  One of my guilty pleasures is watching Swamp People, a show about alligator hunting in Louisiana.  Eight other states have small populations.  I'm in my 33rd year and I had no idea until recently that alligators are only native to the USA and China, and that the American Alligator (of which there are millions) and Chinese Alligator (of which there are less than 100 in the wild) are the only two species living.  I'm comforted by that information.  I am not comforted by the fact that no one knows definitively how long they live.  There is one in a zoo in Serbia that is 76 years old.  Another in Latvia died at 75.  And being from Florida, I'm the lucky-girl resident of the only place in the world where alligators AND crocodiles share habitat.  Resignation.  Nonchalant resignation.

But that's just a survival mechanism.  I'm terrified of alligators, and from my terror springs my fascination.  Alligators are...  wait for it...  beautiful.  Maybe it's true that I would prefer their populations at a point slightly above "endangered," but they are awe-inspiring, supremely powerful creatures that inspire thoughts of the distant past; dinosaurs.  To look at one, I get the feeling that something isn't quite right, as though it shouldn't really have made it this far.  I think of this creature as dragging ancient history with it into the present, and that is really cool.  And scary.  Like I said, I have a fear of alligators tipping the scale past healthy.  Their brains are like, the size of a macadamia nut.  They give no cares in the world about you or your precious poodle.  They eat people.  They eat dogs.  They go for a swim in your pool, which is not cool.  I remember stories about children being dragged under the water never to be seen again.  And another story, which I find chuckle-worthy (my sense of humor has always been disturbing):  This criminal in Miami was running from the cops.  He hopped a fence and got gobbled by a gator.  Karma?

I'm scared now, but when I was a kid that big lizard laying in the sun over there meant nothin' to me.  My dad and I would go on Saturday walks around the neighborhood and would commonly see alligators sunning up the grassy knoll from the retention pond or relaxing dead-still in the first few feet of lake water.  

Now, I preface this next part by saying I have a dad that has definitely concerned himself with my safety, forcing tomatoes down my throat and insisting that my car had new tires more often than necessary, but when I was a kid and we saw an alligator he would let me inch up on it.  Yes, sir.  I don't trust my kid memory to tell me how big they were or how far away I was when we had these little adventures, but I can tell you that when you inch up on an alligator, they open their mouths wide and show you all those pearly whites.  I vaguely remember my dad venturing closer one time, making the gator whip around and skidaddle into the pond.  (I think "skidaddle" is a fine way to describe the alligator walk.)  And I am not joking; those things can MOVE.  They look like big lazy lizards but I promise you they are fast when they wanna be.  

Several peculiar ideas come to mind about the Florida Alligator.  For instance, they are extremely powerful when chomping down, but most adults could hold an alligator jaw shut owing to their extremely weak muscles for opening the jaw; not that that is at all encouraging, because maybe they can't open their mouth but they can swing and fight and roll you around without teeth.  Also strange, they only chomp down upon contact with something in their mouth.  A man performing in an alligator show put his head in the alligators mouth, as he had done many times before, but on this particular day a drop of sweat fell from his head and landed in the alligators mouth, prompting the gator to chomp.  As far as I know the guy had a few stitches and was ok.  It just goes to show the peculiarities of the gator's make-up.

Statue at the University of Florida
I went to the University of Florida, otherwise known as the swamp or Gator Nation.  Inside the football stadium is painted This is... Gator Country.  And we ain't lyin' cause you can sit by any body of water on or around the campus and see an alligator.

  Once I was walking around the central lake on campus, known as Lake Alice.    I looked down and there was an alligator about 5 feet from me, and the thing itself was about 6 feet long.  I registered what my situation was and I froze for about 2 seconds, then I high-tailed it to the car.  In the end, nothing really happened, but it sure was scary.  Another time I went out on Lake Wauburg, which is a big lake where students and people from the community go to have day parties and use kayaks, canoes, and row boats.  One day I was out on the lake in a row boat.  I saw gators hanging out in the lake as they do, with only their eyes and their snout visible in the water.    

Then I started getting close enough to the shore that I was spotting alligators out there sunning.  Then there started to be more.  And more.  And I thought this is not cool.  Time to go in.

I know I've been in the water with alligators many times, but only once was I acutely aware of it.  I was tubing down the Rainbow River when there on the side I saw a fairly small alligator, probably 4 feet long.  It was camouflaged kinda like this... 

 I got up on top of my tube as much as I could and prayed that the disembarkment point would come soon, as opposed to the disembodiment part.  

How to escape a gator:
So, my Japanese friend, if you visit Florida or Louisiana and find yourself near the jaws of our biggest lizard, you might ask, What should I do?  I'm glad you asked.  First of all, run.  They can run pretty fast, but not for far and they can't change direction well, so if you can, take a turn at a tree or something.  Maybe the situation is more dire and a gator is attacking your canoe:  Alligators are territorial and seem to think canoes look like other alligators from below, so sometimes they attack.  If you can get a shot, hit it really hard in the nose with your oar.  This is also a really good tactic if your friend is being attacked.  Hit it hard with your oar (or a baseball bat or log) in the nose, ears, eyes; anywhere on the head really.  If you are already in the mouth, shove your hand in and pull on the flap in the lower part of the gator's mouth, or scratch out its eyes.  If you manage to escape, which many have escaped and many others have saved their friends and family, go to the hospital anyway no matter what, cause some people get away and then die of infection.  Don't go into water with alligators at sunrise, or sundown especially, cause that's when they eat.   

I'm moving back to Florida.  I'm moving back in with the gators, and I have to stay vigilant... the other day I asked someone about dangerous water creatures that I need to watch out for in Japanese waters and I mentioned alligators.  They just laughed at me, as apparently there are no dangerous creatures in Japanese waters.   

Oh, sure.  But it wouldn't sound so absurd if you came from where I come from.

From Japan,

Monday, May 20, 2013

Yakushima, Japan 2013

Golden Week 2013

In Japan, Golden Week is a week in May where 3 national holidays occur so closely to each other that many people can take a 7-10 day vacation and only take 2 or 3 days off of work.  Yakushima is a small island off the coast of Japan's southern-most main island, Kyushu.  I live on Kyushu in Oita Prefecture.  Yakushima Island is part of Kagoshima Prefecture, south of Oita.  I took a train from Oita 5-hours south to Kagoshima, and then a speed boat 2-hours to Yakushima Island.  I spent 3 days and 4 nights taking in the sights of this beautiful, secluded place, to which most people travel to see the UNESCO World Heritage forest.  The most celebrated residents of the island are a special kind of cedar tree.  They have lived for thousands of years.  The conservative guess-timations say the oldest are approximately 2,000 years old, while legend says the oldest tree is 7,000 years old.  The landscape was so beautiful I wanted to move there.  The prominent rock face of the island is one of the most beautiful in the world I think, but doesn't get any publicity because of its location.  I'd say it rivals Diamond Head in Hawaii.   

This guy is "driving" his dog.  
Can you see the leash?
While on Yakushima Island I happened upon a very scary boar farm, got a tomato-like fruit that I've never seen before from a man on the side of the road... it looked like a yellow tomato and tasted like a cross between a tomato and a mango, hiked for miles and miles, made it to a peak, saw deer and monkeys in nature, had fresh guava juice from a tree farm, bathed naked in the ocean in a (co-ed!) onsen, perused little shops with cedar goods and pottery, climbed, saw beautiful trees, waterfalls, rivers, pools, and wildlife, and went twice to this little onsen with different etiquette than I am used to:  There were only 3 showers, so women sat along the edge of the onsen using bowls of water from the bath to bathe.  You have to be careful not to get soap in the bath!  This little old naked woman came over to me and was trying to explain that one of the showers had strong pressure and you were supposed to use that one for your hair.  A language barrier is one thing.  A language barrier while naked is another.  The volcanic water in this onsen was also hotter than I am accustomed to in Oita and Beppu; I could hardly stand it!

I most loved the lushness of Yakushima; so green and packed with flora everywhere you looked.  It was wonderful and I made so many good memories.  Enjoy the pictures!

Tiny Bento Beers

Look!  A Yaku-Josh.

The trails were rustic... had to climb ropes up at some points.

The trees are huge!!

I call this one, "Josh and tree."

The guest house sign:  It says the name which is "CHINRYUAN"
Flying fish served at my guest house.

Yakushika- Yakushima deer.

Huge cement jacks placed to break up tsunami waves.

A banyan tree, like in Saint Petersburg.

The tree is eating me!!

This is an outdoor public onsen, in the ocean.  Very rare.  Fresh, hot volcanic water fills the pools.  You must get naked and wash yourself before getting in.  This onsen is only accessible at low tide in the am and pm.
Use of tatoo are not possible in this institution. LOL!


Japan Top 100 Waterfalls

Japan Top 100 Bodies of Water

Found this secret beach at the end of an unmarked trail that started at the waterfall.

Monkeys in the road.

The only "toilet booth" I saw in the 4 hours it took to get to the peak

See the little guy?  These guys are around in the forest and you are supposed to look for them.  Also, these Yakushima forests are the inspiration for the movie "Princess Mononoke," a Japanese animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki- the same guy who made "Totoro."  Both very popular in Japan.  I recommend them.

Yakushima Island was the last place I HAD to go in Japan.  It was awesome.  And as luck would have it, I get to go to Hiroshima and Shikoku Island (again) before I leave Japan on July 30th.  I'll bike from Honshu to Shikoku for 70km over "the seven bridges."  It should be beautiful and a memorable late trip in my stay here.  Check back for those pictures! 

From Japan,