6/16/2010

Japan 2010: Days 5 and 6

Yikes, I'm falling behind. I'd like to mention that I began this post sitting on my bench on the second floor of Yamasa. Also, this isn't very proofread, so read at your own risk.

So ... Day 5 was spent with my friend Tahhy. We were scheduled to meet in Anjo at nine o'clock, so I boarded the 8:55 train out of Okazaki. (I cut it a bit close, though.) When I entered the crowded train, I something surprising happened.

"Jon!"

A female voice rang out behind me. I turned around only see an acquaintance that I met through my blog years ago, Miki-san. She ran a food cart (屋台) near Okazaki Station, to which Yamamoto and I often biked in order to visit her and my schoolmate Shika and to eat some authentic Taiwanese food.

The ride together was short but it was great to be able to catch up with her for a few minutes. Miki's awesome and I'm glad that happened.

After saying goodbye to her and exiting the train, I met up with Tahhy at Anjo Station and we set off in his car. Tahhy, you see, was kind enough to give me a ride to visit Ise Jingu. The ride was about an hour and a half through the mountains. Due to the rainy season having started, it was cloudy and raining a bit on and off, but it did nothing but add to the atmosphere. The kayoukyoku (歌謡曲) helped too.

Kayoukyoku is, see, essentially '80 Japanese pop music. Tahhy and I are kayoukyoku buddies and we listened to it the whole way there. Kahoru Kohiruimaki, Kyouko Koizumi, Hiromi Iwasaki, Yoko Nagayama—yeah, baby. Mountain roads, small towns, cool weather, light rain, kayoukyoku, and good company. Now there's a slice of happiness if there ever was one.

Unfortunately, I used up almost all of my primary battery on unnecessary videos on the way up there. (My backup got me through the day all right, though I had to take it a bit easy on the photo-taking.)

We arrived in Ise City at a part of town called Okage-Yokochou, which I'll let the Mie Tourism Guide describe:

Okage Yokocho is the village built by a time-honored confection company “Akafuku” for full of appreciation ("okage") toward Ise Jingu with trading continuing for more than 300 years in Oharai-machi street in front of the Ise Jingu (Naiku). On this site, typical structures of Ise area are constructed and reproduced, and you can experience all at once the flavor of local old shops, regional specialties, history, customs, and people.


I've been there before but it was great going through those walkways again. This time, I was able to experience a bit more, including a kami shibai, a play acted out with drawings shown in sequence, narrated and acted by one person. This guy was awesome and I'm now convinced that kami shibai must be one of the greatest methods of storytelling ever developed, along with rakugo, of course.

Tahhy and I then headed over to the actual Ise Jingu. I now call upon the help of the Mei Tourism Guide!

Ise jingu is the supreme shrine where Amaterasu Omikami, the ancestral goddess of the Imperial Family and the overall patron goddess of Japan, is worshipped 2000 years ago. It is a complex of two main shrines, Naiku and Geku, and 123 shrines. From ages past people come from all over Japan to worship at the shrine. The tradition of transferring the god to a new shrine next to in a ceremony "Shikinen Sengu" held once every 20 years has continued for 1,300 years.


It's a beautiful walk through huge torii (gates) down a forest path, more or less, to the actual shrine in the back.

After visiting here, we returned to Okage-yokocho, ate "hayashi rice" at a restaurant, and then walked over the large bridge there into the residential neighborhood behind Okage-yokocho and got to see a slice of life out in the country. Got some great views of the nearby mountain there. There was mist floating across it, giving it this mysterious look.

After all of this, we returned to the car and drive around a while looking for the ocean. We didn't have much luck on that front, but we did end up talking a drive deep in the mountains, which was amazingly beautiful, and then we just decided to head back to Okazaki.

On the way back to my hotel (during which I was asleep for most of the time), we stopped at the Aeon mall in Okazaki to grab a bite to eat. What I've heard about Aeon is true: it's grown. It was amazing to me how much they added to the place. After eating tempura and walking around the mall for a while, we returned to my hotel.

Spending the day was Tahhy was great fun. Thanks for taking the time out to see me! And thanks for bringing back my Meiji Mura umbrella. (すいませんでした。)

Day 6 was largely spent recuperating from the adventures of Days 1 through 5, getting some alone time, and peeking around Okazaki. My only goal for the day was stopping by Yamasa to surprise my old sensei. But Okazaki seems to have wanted a bit more for me.

This day was rainy but, fortunately, it wasn't pouring. After eating my complimentary breakfast, I headed out on foot to, finally, explore the old stomping grounds. It was largely the same, of course, but there were various surprises, not the least of which was the new supermarket built right down the street from Yamasa. (I'd heard about it before but had forgotten all about it. The "Brains" business in the area is gone too.) I walked near Yamasa but not directly by it, lest I ruin my surprise entrance later in the afternoon, after classes were out. I just walked the streets for a while, looking at the familar sights and kind of gawking at the newer ones.

I stopped at a resale shop (that used to be a pool hall) on Highway 248, looked around, and picked up some cheap manga. Then, as I walked down the street, I saw an acquaintance, W-san, watering the plants in front of her house. I wasn't scheduled to see her until the next day, but I figured I'd just drop in to say hi.

At which point I noticed that she had stopped and was talking to a couple of foreign guys. So I crossed the street to say hi and meet the guys, who were new SILAC students who had just arrived in Okazaki. (SILAC is Yamasa's short-term program.) Both have actually lived in Japan before, so they aren't as lost as I was when I got here. We all got invited into the house and chatted with W-san, who offered us tea, for a while. The two guys were quite nice.

After a while, W-san had an appointment and had to leave, so the guys left. I was intending to as well, but W-san's husband appeared so I chatted with him (and his daughter, off and on) for a good couple of hours. Topics included globalization and humans' slow road to self-destruction. When I lived here before too, I'd have long conversations (half lectures, really) with him like this. Takes me back.

And then, finally, I stopped at Yamasa.

The interior of Yamasa II has changed a fair bit. Lots of chairs in the lobby now. The sensei's room is downstairs; the gakuseika, now called "customer service" (?!), is upstairs; and the library has moved across the building. Even the name of the place is slightly different. (YAMASA言語文化研究上じゃなくてYAMASA言語文化学院になった。ショック!) A lot of the sensei that I knew are gone too. Tsk. Overall, it's the same ol' Yamasa, though.

Anywho, the look of surprise on everyone's faces when I barged in was priceless. It was great being able to talk with them again. It's funny—it doesn't seem like they've changed at all. I guess it's only been a couple of years, though. (Meanwhile, I've been told no fewer than 3 times that I've put on weight, which indeed I have. One person emphasized how good I looked with it, I'll add.)

Everyone was amazed that my Japanese was "still so good" after living in Houston for so long. I don't think so ... but, you know, I feel that I've kind of gotten back into the groove of things on that front. I'll write more about that later, though.

I spent a bit of time wondering the empty Yamasa hallways and classrooms as well, remembering the old days and taking photos and videos out of the fourth-floor windows. I stood at one window for about 20 or 30 minutes, just looking out at the city. I like Okazaki. This place was great.

After promising to return the next day to visit the sensei and gakuseika folks that weren't there that day, I left Yamasa.

I had dinner at Wingtown, the nearby mall that was built while I was here, with a blog acquaintance who I finally met for the first time. We had a fun time chatting and eating and then we went a store there in which I ended up buying a bunch of used CDs—three Toshinobu Kubota CDs and one MISIA CD. Sweet haul.

And after all of that, my so-called "day of rest" ended.

7 comments

Anonymous said...

Hey dude, we are keeping up with you! Sounds like you are having a lot of fun. And there is no "rest" while on vacation. Live it up!
T and K

Jonathan said...

Thanks, guys! Glad you're keeping up. I just hope that I can keep up with my posts! See you soon.

ほへこ said...

先日はお会いできてうれしかったです。明日からお天気が悪そうですが、日本を楽しんで帰ってくださいね!

Jonathan said...

こちらこそ、お会いできてうれしかったですよ。楽しかったです。天気が悪くても日本を楽しんでみますね。

kinokage (木の陰) said...

Glad I've found your blog! I'm a beginner student and am just getting into the music. 私の今の一番好きな日本の歌手は中島美雪です. ジョナサンさんの「歌謡曲」の歌手の歌を調べて聞くのを楽しみにしていますよ。ところで、岡村孝子の「あなたの夢をあきらめないで」を聞いたことがありますか。とてもカッチーだと思いますけど。

bikenglish said...

日本での滞在、楽しめているようですね。
長い英文は、ちょっと根気がいるのでまだ全部読んでいません、またあとでゆっくり読もうと思います。

ところで、「木の陰」さんへ。細かい訂正ですが、「中島美雪」→「中島みゆき」(日本人の名前の表記はとてもムズカシイですね。)、「カッチー」は(catchy)「キャッチー」と書いた方がいいと思います。

Jonathan said...

コメントありがとうございました。『あなたの夢をあきらめないで』を知っていますよ。いい曲ですね。日本語をお互いにがんばりましょう!