|Between Kyushu and Shikoku in Japan|
I took a girl's trip to the littlest big island of Japan with my friend M. All of my friends in Japan are new, which is hard for me because I'm a person who needs deep relationships to feel comfortable. I can navigate through strangers and acquaintances well enough, but I would much rather be with people who have known me for 10 or 15 years. Luckily, I have a good number of people in my life who fit that description. I was happy to deepen the bond with my new friend.
We took a 3 hour ferry ride from Beppu city, just north of where I live in Oita city. The landscape in Japan is beautiful just about wherever you are. Watching the bay and the mountains recede from view as we talked, freezing from the wind... it was beautiful. We went inside - I was shivering - and I could taste salt water on my lips. Inside I found a unique Japanese sight: They had carpeted sections of floor separated by isles for people to relax in. You remove your shoes, of course, and then step into the carpeted area. We could still enjoy the views out of large windows. We talked, read Time magazine for a while (which I found really stimulating and I want to get a subscription, maybe), had some snacks, and then went outside to take some pictures as we neared the port.
|The Gas Station Guys and Tiffany in Shikoku Japan|
|Tiffany and M on the ferry|
We had a great time at the flower festival, although there were not many flowers. We tried to play in the mud, but alas, the mud pit was closing. We were given presents of food, met lots of nice people, got to know our high school dance team escorts a little better. There was a disturbing sight, though. They were giving bull rides to small children - which was not the disturbing sight. When they tied up the bull they would just string the rope through it's nose and hook it there like that. I don't know if the animal was disturbed by it, but it was a sickening sight for us. We got back on the train eventually and continued on to our intended destination: Uwajima.
M and I made reservations for green tourism. That basically means that people offer up their homes for travelers to stay. Often times these places are farms, and you can do farm experiences and such. The couple we were staying with lived way up in the mountains. While we were waiting for the man to pick us up at the train station, we had a great conversation with a little old lady dressed in yellow who had traveled all over the world. She was 84, and three years ago she took a trip to the south pole. She saw penguins. We took pictures together there in front of the train station and she gave us her address so we could send some to her. She was fun. And inspiring.
Our host showed up, T-san, and joined in the conversation and picture taking. Then we thought we were going to get in the car and go to the house, but instead he walked us across the street and showed us his cram school. (A cram school is a place where students do extra studying after school in various subjects so that they can get into college. Japanese kids study way too much.) He took pictures of us in front of the sign to the school. He said he was going to use the pictures for promotion of the school. Even in Japan - a little creepy. His school was one tight floor. Downstairs he had another floor that was ready to be opened as a gallery and study space. The room smelled strongly of wood from the display shelves. I love that smell.
|Tiffany in Shikoku, Japan|
This anecdote is already getting lengthy, but there is still so much to tell!!
|Me and M with the Crazy Lady|
Then we had a huge, traditional Japanese breakfast complete with miso soup, raw egg over rice, cucumbers, and salmon. The woman continued her crazy talk through out the morning, whenever T-san wasn't around. We were given two options for the day's activities, besides running off to do what we wanted. We didn't have any plans, so we declined the bamboo digging and went for the pottery making. Yakimono. やきもの。 Pottery. The dynamic duo drove us to the studio, slapped some clay down for us, and left. The man who's studio we were using showed up after a little while... Gosh, each of these people were such characters... this super skinny Japanese pottery dude was about 65, had few teeth, smoked incessantly, and wore jeans that would give diesels a run for their money. He was topped off by a bedazzled New York hat. I don't know much about pottery, but he seemed to be talented. We went over to his house later to use the bathroom and I couldn't believe that anyone actually lived there, it was so disheveled. I made a ring dish that I fancied looked like ocean waves wrapping up to become a bowl. That took me about 2 minutes. I also made something that started out as a large plate, then morphed from a zen rock garden into a southwestern courtyard, complete with adobe style holes in the walls and an entrance. I knew that the man wouldn't leave my work alone if I was making something useful, so everytime he tried to help me I shooed him away claiming that I was making "art." I just wanted to have fun. My pieces, which look like they were made by a five year old, reflect that.
The crazy lady showed up and started talkin' all her smack to the pottery guy! We couldn't believe it. But she did bring me an iced coffee beverage from the konbini. I'll remember her for that. Eventually we had to be a little rude and ask if she could leave her conversation to take us to the tuk tuk rental shop. Our time was very limited and we were just sitting there listening to her complain about her life and everyone in it to a perfect stranger. She continued her diarrhea of the mouth all the way to the place, where we practically jumped out of the moving vehicle to escape her.