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Proving Ground

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 13, 2016

Sunday. October 23, 2016

All Pictures

One day Mark and I were lazing around the house watching old videos of Community Channel on Youtube (because someone hadn’t uploaded any new videos in weeks), when we saw a Facebook post of a friend in town. “Enjoying all this festival food at Miyoshi Park,” said the caption under a photo of our friend biting into some meat on a stick.

“There’s a festival in town? Why didn’t anyone tell us about it?”

In about 10 minutes we were showered and dressed and heading out the door. From our apartment it’s a 15-minute drive to Miyoshi Park. At the park entrance there was a long line of cars waiting to be ushered into a parking space.

We parked our car and headed to the community center in the middle of Miyoshi Park. We hadn’t even stepped out of the crosswalk linking the parking lot and the walkway to the main building when we were approached by someone with brochures.

 

Mark managed to sneak away from the solicitation leaving me on my own to turn down whatever was being offered. I put up my hands and started waving them to say, “No, thanks.” Then another lady spoke up.

Words in Japanese Mazda test track and back to Japanese again.”

Surprised, I asked in Japanese, “Right now?”

“Schedule,” the lady told me, pointing to a list of times. Speaking in Japanese, she said, “The bus leaves from here.”

How much?” In Japanese I usually use one or two-word sentences.

It’s free,” she replied with a smile. Then she pointed to the path to the community center and said something. But I couldn’t understand anything more than “Go over there…”

I smiled and thanked the lady for the information. Then I ran to catch up with Mark.

“What do you think this festival is all about?” Mark asked me. Nearing the community center, I could see many flags. There was some sort of caricature of a sea captain on them, which is odd because Miyoshi is a land-locked town. There was some Hiragana writing which said “Miyoshi,” the name of our town, some Katakana which said, “Festival,” and some Kanji which probably explained the purpose of the festival. But my ability to read Kanji is very limited.

Behind the community center was an unpaved lot. There were many emergency workers in the center of the lot. There was a tent of soldiers showing off their Hummers and rescue equipment. There was a tent filled with smoke demonstrating how hard it is to see in a house that is on fire. firefighters were standing at the entrance of the tent beckoning to passersby to go through. This was clearly some sort of safety festival… perhaps.

There was a truck with a room set up inside it. The room had only 3 walls, so that festival goers could witness the spectacle. One family was asked to go in and sit around the table to a pretend dinner. As they talked and pretended to eat, someone flipped a switch to start the simulated earthquake. The family had to show what they would do in an earthquake.

Nearby there was a crane manned by the coast guard attached to a stretcher. The crane lifted the stretcher off the ground simulating a helicopter rescue. There was a little boy strapped into the stretcher with a big grin on his face. He was having the time of his life. There was a long line of other little boys and girls waiting for their turn to be “rescued”.

There were cops barefooted and walking on a tarp laid out on the ground. There were several lines of kids. The police officers where showing them how to get away from someone holding on to them.

Then, seemingly out of place, were a bunch of Mazdas. Most of the police cars, Hummers, and firetrucks had kids climbing in them and their parents taking photos. “Can we get into a Mazda?” we jokingly wondered.

A man walked towards us and asked us something in Japanese. All I could understand was, “What time?” “Testing track?” I asked the man.

“Hai. So desu.”

“14:00,” I told him.

He handed both Mark and me tickets that said 14:00 on them. Then he said some other stuff, but all I understood was, “Go over there.” But, this time I knew exactly what he meant. We would “go over there” near where we parked by 14:00.

There were people selling homemade crafts on the parameter of the unpaved lot. We walked over to them looking at stuff no one wanted to buy. It was hard to pay any attention to the craft tents because opposite them, in the middle of the lot were the rescue workers. Alarms were going off, kids were laughing, and demonstrations were given. The crafts tents just could not compete with all that. They should have asked to be placed next to a room of old ladies knitting.

We ran into my Japanese teacher. It’s been sometime since I took lessons, but we still hangout every once in a while. She greeted me very cheerfully. She was with a group of friends and couldn’t talk long. She pushed a pair of tickets in my hand.

“What’s this?”

“Tea ceremony tickets. It’s held inside the main building on the second floor.”

“Thanks.”

“Enjoy,” she said as she and her friends headed to the Hummers.

Mark took the tickets and inspected them. They cost about 350 Yen each. “She just gives you tickets?” he asked.

“She’s always giving me stuff. It’s like I have 100 birthdays.”

We looked at the time. It was 13:30. “The tea ceremony booth closes at 16:00. We better do this before we do the Mazda thing,” Mark said. Half an hour seemed like a good amount of time to do an informal tea ceremony at a festival and make it to the bus in time for 14:00.

We walked to the main building by way of passing the food stalls on the side of the building. We were not hungry; we were just looking. Then from out of one of the stalls popped a man who grabbed Mark by the arm.

“Hello my friend!”

Mark was caught off guard. People in Japan don’t just walk up to Mark and start speaking in English, so I figured that the man knew Mark. But, Mark seemed to be side stepping any formal introductions.

“He doesn’t remember who this man is,” I thought. “How is camping?” the man asked Mark. “Oh yes. Camping is fun,” Mark replied.

“This is yakisoba. You try.”

Mark felt bad enough about not remembering who the man was or where they met that he bought the yakisoba. Mark sat down at a bench ready to dive into his food. “He must be a teacher at one of my schools from last year or the year before that. But, if he’s a teacher, why is he peddling yakisoba?”

“Less talking and more eating,” I demanded. I wanted to get to the tea ceremony before we left.

A few minutes later we made it to the main building. There was more festival going on in there. Though, the theme inside was not safety like it was outside. The theme inside was commerce.

“Well, now I have no idea what this festival is about,” I said as I scratched my head. There were many booths set up in a grid inside the auditorium. On the parameter, people sold baked goods and treats. All of the interior booths had someone showing off some products for sale. It felt like walking into 1,000 infomercials.

We walked past a man hawking ShamWows and turned at a booth selling green smoothies that looked like swamp water. We walked by two competing cell phone companies that were trying to attract new customers by giving out those awful hard candies that only old people like.

I guess if you made the mistake of trying a sample of swamp water smoothies you would gladly take the offer of free candy. After clearly showing your lack of good judgement, you would be preyed upon by the cell phone people and end up going home with a phone plan you didn’t need or want.

We ran up the stairs and looked at the time. It was 13:45. Mark whispered to me, “You think they could do a 10 minute quick ceremony for us?” “No,” I looked at Mark appalled. “Tea ceremony is about the exact opposite of that. Everything is done slowly.”

We thought back to the last tea ceremony we did. A bunch of ALTs from Miyoshi were invited to a lovely house to be served tea by a tea ceremony tea master. It took at least an hour.

“Well,” Mark reasoned, “This is a festival. This can’t be meant to last for hours. We’ll stay for as long as we can.” Then he whispered, “We’ll stay for 8 minutes then slip out like we would from church.”

I handed our tickets to a lady in a fancy kimono. She bowed and showed us to a padded bench. I was grateful to not have to sit on my heels, a position I can only hold for a few seconds.

We were given beautiful sweets that, as usual, tasted too sweet. Then we were served thick green tea from tea cups that looked like small bowls. As we drank we watched a man teach his student how to serve tea. She was practicing opening the lid of the tea container over and over again.

I sipped my tea and watched the lesson. I leaned over to Mark, “She’ll never get around to making tea at this rate.” “Less talking, more drinking,” Mark responded. I looked at Mark’s bowl. It was empty.

“Did you drink all of this in one gulp?”

“I don’t mess around!”

I sipped at my tea as fast as I could. It was still very hot. Mark looked at the time and fidgeted impatiently. Another kimonoed lady came by with a tray to take our cups. I quickly finished my drink and placed my cup on the tray next to Mark’s.

Then we sat there awkwardly wanting to go, but not sure how to do that without being completely rude. After a few minutes a family was ushered to the bench next to ours. As the ladies fussed over them getting them sweets and tea, there was a perfect moment when both the student and the teacher were looking down and the two ladies had their backs to us. We seized the moment and quietly slipped away like ghosts.

We ran down the path to the bus. We were the last people to get on, but we were in time. The bus sat there for about 5 minutes before firing up the engine and setting off for the Mazda Proving Grounds.

Shortly after moving to Miyoshi we found out that there was a test track in town where Mazda puts their cars through their paces. Whenever I drive past the Mazda gate, I try to peek in. There are guards at all the gates with very high walls and it’s fenced all around. Until this day, I was not entirely sure how big the Mazda Proving Ground was.

At the front of the bus a lady in a suit gave the passengers information about the testing facilities. It was all in Japanese, so I couldn’t understand most of it. Then a man sitting in the row in front of mine turned around and asked in English if I understood what she said. “She said she can’t paint a picture… I think,” I answered the man. That didn’t really make any sense to me.

He smiled and corrected me. “She said you can’t take photos during the tour. But, when they stop the bus you can take photos if you like.”

“Oh.”

“If you want, I can translate for you when you don’t know what she says.”

“Yes, please,” I told him. Then throughout the tour he would turn around and whisper the important and interesting facts the lady told everyone.

We drove over many of the test tracks. There were roads that simulated various real world driving conditions. There were roads with potholes, roads with bumps, roads made of dirt. They had roads made with cement and ones made with tar.

We made a turn and everyone wooed and awed. “The bus driver doesn’t turn here. This is an American turn. The road tilts so the bus driver can go straight. The road turns the bus,” Our new friend told us. I learned quickly that Japanese roads lacked this feature. Exiting from a Japanese freeway requires sudden deceleration to avoid everything in the car pitching to one side. The road does not bank enough to give a driver time to slow down without sickening amounts of inertia. It’s a rather disturbing experience for the uninitiated.

We drove on several types of American-styled paved roads. When the bus drove over the segmented cement road, everyone laughed at the clicking clacking sound the bus made. Then we tried a French road along with a German one.

Then we drove on a Belgian road. The guide said that unlike the American, French, and German roads that were made here in Japan using the same methods as in those countries, the Belgian roads were made in Belgium. In fact there were actually Belgian roads that honest-to-god Belgians drove on. Mazda ripped it up piece by piece, numbering each section as they went. Then shipped it to Japan and reassembled it at the testing facility. It was very expensive.

The Belgians roads were not smooth at all. Honestly, I could feel no discernible difference between the German, French, and American black top roads. (The America cement road clearly caused the clicking-clacking sound.) The Belgium road felt like a bad massage. It was a terrible road.

We drove passed a track with a very steep bank. A car would have to go very fast on a turn to stay on that track. Then the lady announced that the bus driver wanted to try it out… with this bus. I was wary.

I didn’t know this bus driver. I didn’t know how skilled of a driver he was. I buckled my seat belt and hoped he knew what he was doing. The driver accelerated the bus in the furthest left lane. It was a big bus filled with lots of people so it took some time to build up speed. This did not instill my confidence in the plan.

Eventually we got up to a speed fast enough that the driver could switch to a middle lane and then the most right lane with the almost vertical bank. We were flying around the corner. It was disconcerting looking out the windows and seeing sky on one side and black top on the other, all while still being in a big ungainly bus that would normally never go over 80 kph.

I did want to try out this test track and this steep bank in particular. I just wanted to do it in a sports car, something small or sleek. A cool muscle car maybe? Not a bus.

The bus stopped at another curve. We were all let out to inspect the steep bank ourselves. Many people tried to cross the road. Once you passed the second lane, the crossing became exponentially difficult. Once on the other side, people had to hold onto the guard rails to stay up there.

Everyone took as many photos as they could before getting back on the bus. We were then taken to more tracks that simulated various driving conditions. We drove past the crash testing area and a parking lot for new cars waiting to be tested. There were either no prototype cars for us to see or they were kept in doors in the aerodynamics lab building.

The proving ground was a lot bigger than I thought it was. The whole tour took roughly two hours from pick up to drop off. There were more roads, lots, lakes, and buildings than I thought were behind any of those gates.

5,000 Candles in the Wind

I still have no idea what the overall theme of the festival was, but I enjoyed it.

All Pictures


Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Miyoshi Mazda Proving Ground
(マツダ三次試験場)
(Matsuda Miyoshi Shikenjō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°47’49.4″N 132°51’56.0″E

Address:

  • 551 Higashisakeyamachi, Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture 728-0023

Phone:

Websites:

 

Notes:

  • Unless you get a job here or you’re on a tour, there is no entering the facilities.

Map:

 

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Posted in Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Apple

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 18, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

All Pictures

Miyoshi Wine Country

When I lived in the US and I wanted a fruit, I would just go to the supermarket and buy that fruit. For example, if I wanted apples I would just drive over to Publix and buy a bag of apples. There would be about 8-10 apples in a bag and it would cost me about $3-4.

Things do not quite work that way here in Japan. When I want apples, I first have to look at a calendar. “Is it still apple season?” If it is apple season, at the supermarket there is a choice of getting a bag of 5-6 good apples for about $5-6 or getting a pack of 2 very good apples for $5-6. Or, I could go crazy and buy one really good apple for about $4.

The really good apples are really good. But, they’re still just apples. They don’t cure cancer or anything. They are more delicious than the good apples, just not $3 more delicious. I prefer to buy more of the lower quality, but still good, apples.

Juicy Apples!

The other day I went to the supermarket looking for a bag of apples. There were none. All that was for sale was the individually wrapped single apples for 395 yen (about $4). “Oh no,” I whined, “Is apple season over?” I stood in the produce area contemplating buying an overpriced apple. Just the previous week I had bought a bag of apples without a care in the world. Had I known that apple season was coming to an end, I would have bought 2 bags the week before.

“Apple season isn’t over,” Mark said. “Are you sure?” I asked. I have no idea when apple season is. In the US apples are always on sale in every grocery store year round. “I saw a poster for a fruit farm right here in Miyoshi,” Mark explained. “Apples are in season right now.”

“They grow apples here in Miyoshi?” I was shocked. Our little town had almost nothing interesting in it. “Yes,” Mark assured me. “You can go visit and pick apples when they are in season.” So the next Sunday we went to the Hirata Farms to pick apples.

He’s the apple of my eye.

Hirata Farms, also known as Miyoshi Fruit Forest, has many types of fruit to pick. When we went we had a choice of apples, grapes, or peaches. There are two types of tickets one can get. One is the eat-here option, the other is the take-home option.

If you buy the eat-here ticket, you can pick as many of a fruit as you want, but you have to eat them all in the orchard. The take-home option allows you to take home the fruits you pick, but you are limited in the number of fruits. You have to buy a booklet with many coupons and turn in a certain number of coupon for each fruit you pick.

These grapes are a little shy.

The lady at the counter showed me the coupon book. You get a book of coupons with your ticket, but you can also get a supplemental book of coupon should to end up picking too many fruits. She tried to explain how the coupons matched up with the fruit. It was something crazy like, to pick an apple you need to turn in one blue coupon and 2 red coupons, or 5 yellow coupons. A peach would cost 3 pink coupons and 1 yellow coupon, or 5 green coupons, or ¾ of a blue coupon and your first born son’s hand in marriage.

None of the prices for any of the fruit we could pick ourselves compared to the prices of fruit bought at the store. This was not like a You-Pick back in Florida. There were no deals to be had here. This was fruit Disneyland but, instead of riding Space Mountain, you picked apples.

I felt like a wicked witch picking apples.

We selected the tickets for the eat-here option. The math was straightforward and without the potential need to buy additional coupons. Luckily it was around lunch time and we hadn’t eaten yet.

“We should get tickets for apples,” Mark said, “because I think I can eat more apples than grapes.”

“Really?” I answered suspiciously. “Personally, I can eat 2 maybe 3 apples in one day, max. But I’ve never stopped at 3 grapes in one sitting.”

Mark gave me some serious stink-eye for my comment then paid for 2 apple tickets.

We walked over to the apple orchard and carefully picked some apples. I tried to get the reddest apples I could find. The best looking ones were the ones just out of reach. I stood on my toes and stretched my arms out for the high-up ones.

After walking among the trees and finding 2 apples each, we sat down. We were given each a knife and a bucket for the peels. We cut off the skin of our apples and ate them. They tasted like the really good, individually wrapped apples from the store. They were big, crunchy, and juicy. Apple juice ran down our arms as we peeled and ate our fruit.

Let the apple gorging begin!

We ate 2 apples each. Then Mark picked an apple from the tree we were sitting next to. I found another apple a few trees down. My eating slowed down quite a bit on my third apple. Mark finished his fourth apple as I started on my third.

6 Apples!

They apples were delicious. But, 3 apples is really my daily limit. I forced down the last quarter of my third apple as Mark peeled his sixth, and final apple. We were like human pies—filled with apples.

We walked around the farm looking at all the other fruit. There were some animals in pens, but the farm is mainly for fruit. We thought about getting a pizza. (This place is supposed to have good pizza.) But, we couldn’t eat anything after all those apples.

Now fall is about to begin bringing with it persimmons. The stores will stop selling bags of apples and start offering bags of persimmons. I love persimmons so much! I can hardly wait.

All Pictures


Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Hirata Farms
(平田観光農園)
(Hirata kankōnōen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°41’06.0″N 132°54’46.4″E

Address:

  • 1740-3 Ueda-machi, Miyoshi 728-0624 ,Hiroshima Prefecture
  • 〒728-0624 Hiroshima Prefecture, Miyoshi, 上田町1740-3

Phone:

  • 0824-69-2346

Websites:

 

Cost:

  • There is very little information in English.
  • All you can eat (varies with each fruit):
    • 700 Yen per person — Apples
    • You have to eat the apples there.
  • All you can pick:
    • Requires an advanced degree in Applied Mathematics and evolves a coupon book.

Hours:

  • Closed: Thrusday, Friday
  • March – November      9:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • December – February  9:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Some of the restaurants close at 15:30.

Notes:

Yearly Blooming Schedule

Map:

 

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Rice Drumming

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 10, 2016

Sunday, June 7, 2015

All Pictures

Mark and Mark

There aren’t too many foreigners in Miyoshi, but apparently half of them are named “Mark”. The guy in the photo next to Mark, is Mark’s friend, Mark. He is also from Michigan, not too far from where Mark grew up. They have similar hobbies, opinions, and likes and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish which one is being talked about.

The Cult of Mark evolves dressing up and standing in mud.

So how did they end up like that?

Well, Mark was talking to some lady at work; not a co-worker, just some old lady who likes to show up and practice her English, I guess. (And we’re talking about my Mark.) She told him that the town of Mirasaka, which is a sub-division of Miyoshi, was having a rice planting festival.

Mark has planted rice before. Almost every foreigner in Japan has. It’s marketed as being part of the “Japanese experience”. If you’re lucky, no one will try to charge you for it.

Usually you get suckered in by a farming family who will “let you have a great time planting rice all afternoon” in their field. Sometimes they do give you lunch, but not always. It’s back-breaking labor and not worth a free lunch in the slightest!

I mean, seriously, what part about this looks like fun?

I’ve never done rice planting myself, not because of any cleverness on my part, but because of shoes. I can’t find decent shoes to fit me in this country, so I’m sure as hell not ruining any of my nice shoes for a day of “fun rice planting”.

Nobody likes this crap! Nobody!

Mark did some rice planting when he worked at a pre-school in Oita. His school thought it would be fun for the little kids to plant rice. They just got really muddy and cried a lot. Those rice farmers prey on the young and naive as well as foreigners.

Drumming for Rice

The old lady’s English was not that great. So Mark thought the conversation went something like this:

Lady – We’re having a rice planting festival. We don’t have many people but we need more planters and drummers.

Mark – Drummers?

Lady – Yes, drummers. Some people beat drums while other people plant rice. Are you interested?

Mark – As long as I don’t have to actually plant any rice and I get to stay clean… why not?

Lady – And bring as many of your friends as you can! No females though.

Some of these rows are crooked!

Mark sent the call out. Mostly people were interested, but there were many festivals going on in Miyoshi at the time. All of our friends were busy doing other festivals, except for Mark, the other Mark. (Okay, honestly, they heard the words “rice planting” and wanted nothing to do with this festival. Some even questioned if they should continue being friends with Mark.)

So Mark got back to the lady. She seemed disappointed that only 2 foreigners would be doing the rice planting this year. She told Mark that both he and Mark would have to come to rice planting practices every Sunday for the next 5 Sundays.

Mark – “Wait… What!?”

Yes. They had practices! Mark and Mark ended up going to only one. When he got back from the one and only practice, Mark fully understood what was going on.

“We’ll just stand here” – The Marks

Mark – The drummers did the practicing. They had been practicing for months now and it’s pretty much too late to     become a drummer.

Me – So, you’re going to have to plant rice?

Mark – No, that’s only for women. Men drum. Women plant rice.

Me – So what do you do?

Everyone was quite surprised to see the Marks at the practice. There was no shortage of people as the old lady said. They had a number of participants they were very comfortable with. In fact, there was a bit of a discussion with the festival people and the old lady to figure out what the Marks could actually do during the festival. All the jobs were already taken.

During the discussion the Marks thought, “Hey, great! We’ll just leave you to do your thing. We just wanted to help because we thought you needed people, but since you don’t… I mean, we don’t really want to be here!” But the old lady would have none of that. They had promised, so they were committed.

Good job boys!

Eventually it was decided that they would hand the women the rice to plant and wash any fallen drum sticks. These were basically token jobs. All the women had plenty of extra planting rice with them and the men clean their own sticks when they dropped them. But they didn’t do any of the hard work and stayed relatively clean.

Knee deep in mud

The whole thing lasted about an hour. There was a lot of festival food. When the vendors found out the my husband was one of the Marks, they refused to let me pay for anything. In fact, they gave me more free snacks and treats for the guys.

The boys had fun, but most importantly they learned a valuable lesson. “Stay away from anything that has anything to do with rice planting!”

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture)
(三次市)
(Miyoshi Shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’11.2″N 132°51’21.9″E

Address:

2-8-1 Tokaichi-naka
Miyoshi city, Hiroshima prefecture 728-8501

Phone:

  • 0824-62-6111

Websites:

Cost:

  • This town is one of the few towns in Japan that has more than enough free parking everywhere.

Hours:

  • This is a small town. I know it calls itself a city, but it’s not. Nothing opens before 9:00 and everything is closed by 21:00. The exception being convenience stores which are always open.

Notes:

  • There are many Miyoshi cities in Japan. This one is in Hiroshima prefecture.
  • This town is mostly known for its wine (and lack of Starbucks).

Map:

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Japan, Mirasaka 町, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Blood Moon

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 26, 2014

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

All Pictures

The start of the eclipse

The 2nd Eclipse

This is the second lunar eclipse Mark and I have seen in Japan. I just never get tired of seeing lunar eclipses. Maybe it reminds me of the first lunar eclipse I saw when I was a kid.

I was about 6. I got to stay up very late that night. My family sat on our front porch with blankets wrapped around us. We stared up into the sky and my mom told us stories about her childhood. Eventually I fell asleep and was apparently magically transported to my bed because I woke up in my own bed the next day.

Miyoshi at night

I had just started walking again after being bitten by a snake and this was also an excuse to get out of the house without having to do anything too strenuous. You can practically drive up the mountain. There is a short hill to walk up, but it was within my abilities to do so.

I had packed our dinner for that evening along with some tea and a kettle to make more tea if we were cold or thirsty later that evening. We sat in the first floor of the lookout and ate as the moon slowly disappeared. When our meal was done we went upstairs for a better view.

“We’ve been here for hours!”

At the top there were photographers with huge cameras. They were there before we showed up and they looked like they had set up their stuff hours ago. They were hard-core amateur photographers.

We stood next to them to get good shots of the city and of the moon. Our cameras look so puny next to theirs. We took several photos, but we could see from their view screens that our pictures of the moon were crap in comparison to theirs.

My camera’s photo of the moon after google+’s auto enhancement

They had come prepared. They had alternate lenses, tripods, light measurement thingies, and the ability to stand there for hours and not say a single word. Because my photos of the moon weren’t coming out too well, I focus my attention on the photographers. They were about 4 of them to start with. They never spoke to one another and made no noise the whole time.

You guys should be friends.

Then one guy showed up late. We were hours into the eclipse and it would soon be red. He walked in with his flashlight on. He actually ruin a few of my photos when he waved his light around looking for a good spot. Then he had to assemble his complicated camera and mount it on his tripod.

This took him a while to do. I thought that he would end up missing the main attraction. He got everything set up just in time to take some photos of the blood moon.

I walked over to his camera to see the camera’s view of the moon. There was no view screen. I saw the new guy bend over towards his camera and it made a click then a whirl sound. “Is that the sound of film moving around in there!?” He had a film camera! How do you know if your pictures were taken well, when you have a film camera? Crazy!

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture)
(三次市)
(Miyoshi Shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’11.2″N 132°51’21.9″E

Address:

2-8-1 Tokaichi-naka
Miyoshi city, Hiroshima prefecture 728-8501

Phone:

  • 0824-62-6111

Websites:

Cost:

  • This town is one of the few towns in Japan that has more than enough free parking everywhere.

Hours:

  • This is a small town. I know it calls itself a city, but it’s not. Nothing opens before 9:00 and everything is closed by 21:00. The exception being convenience stores which are always open.

Notes:

  • There are many Miyoshi cities in Japan. This one is in Hiroshima prefecture.
  • This town is mostly known for its wine (and lack of Starbucks).

Takataniyama
(高谷山)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°47’47.9″N 132°49’23.9″E

Address:

〒728-0025 Awayamachi, Miyoshi-shi, Hiroshima

Phone:

  • 0824-64-0066

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Map:

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Honshū, Japan, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Camp Bad Luck

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 19, 2014

August 4-7 & August 25 – September 2, 2014

All Pictures

Our tarp badly assembled

Camping Trip #1: Schedule Camping – August 4 to 6.

The link above will play the Law & Order sound effect. I put it there because that is how traumatic this trip and the next one was. But before I go into my story I just need to clarify one thing.

The Gonokawa Canoe Park in Sakugi is a great place to go camping, swimming, and canoeing. (I guess; I never tried the canoeing.) I would recommend this place without hesitation. It’s just that I personally never want to go back. Mark and I just had too many bad things happen to us there. I almost died! But other than that, it’s great!

It’s just us!

Monday August 4

Before we booked the campsite we checked the weather report. It said there would be rain on Monday, but nothing but sunshine the rest of the week. We packed up all our stuff and headed to the campsite on Monday.

We were not surprised to see no one else there. Like I said, it was to rain on Monday. The guy who showed us to our spot told me that the place would get very crowded on Tuesday. We were placed in the lot farthest from the bathrooms because all the other lots were reserved for the next day.

Although it hadn’t started to rain when we first arrived, it looked like it would soon. So, Mark and I quickly put up our tent. We got it up in time to have it shelter us from the rain. We had a barbeque and just as we were done, the rain stopped.

It wasn’t quite hot enough to go swimming, but it also wasn’t quite cold enough to not go swimming. So, we went swimming. There was a path that went up towards the mountain. The water flowed down this path with several pools or steps along the way. The path ended at the campsite and emptied into the river.

This placed seemed so perfect. All we needed now was for it to be hot and sunny the next day so we could follow the path as far as it went of the mountain. As for that day, it was getting dark and we were getting cold. We headed back to camp, put on dry clothes, and slept during the rainy night dreaming of clear skies that would never come.

As dry as it gets

Tuesday August 5

The next day everything was damp. The whole night it was either raining or drizzling. I hoped that the sun would come out and dry everything out. I looked up at the sky. There was not an inch of sky to be seen, just a huge blanket of fluffy cloud covering everything.

By noon the rain and drizzling stopped. Even though there was still no sun, I put everything out to dry. There was a strong breeze blowing that would dry our stuff. I clamped, clipped, and weighed everything down in the wind. After a few hours, everything was dry. I took in all the stuff in time to save them when it started to rain again.

Bacon and Asparagus

We also took down our tarp and put it back up correctly. This made all the difference. We stayed drier through lunch and dinner. We sat under the tarp all afternoon enjoying the time despite the rain, but wanting the rain to stop so we could go explore the water trail.

But we were okay with another rainy day. We still had hopes for sunshine that Wednesday. As we ate dinner it started to rain harder, but we did not notice. The tarp kept us nicely dry and the picnic blanket is waterproof on the bottom. So we did not notice the flooding around us, until one of us had to use the bathroom.

“No big deal,” we thought. We just put everything in waterproof containers or on the table under the tarp. Then we went into the tent. It was a bit early to go to bed, but it was getting cold outside.

In the tent the flooding was even more noticeable. The tent itself was dry, but we could feel the water under the tent. It felt like we were walking on a waterbed. This still did not bother us. We got into bed and tried to sleep.

Then, I felt it. It was a drip on my head, then another. I looked up. Mark felt it too. “Are we leaking?” I asked Mark.

“No, the water is coming down so hard, it makes the fly touch the tent.”

Inside a tent on a rainy day, you will have condensation on the underside of your fly. If the tent is put up correctly and your tent and fly are not touching, the water will roll down the fly and fall outside the tent. If your fly and your tent are touching, it will start to rain inside your tent. That is what happened to us.

This was a big deal. I hate being cold and wet while I sleep. I can take one or the other, but not both. Then Mark came up with a genius plan. “Let’s just go home, sleep in our bed, and come back tomorrow when everything has dried out.” You see, we still thought that the sun would come out the next day.

The drive back home was almost impossible. We could not see very far ahead of us. I think it started to rain harder and harder. A semi passed us going the opposite direction and nearly washed us out to sea in it’s wake. But, we did get home safely. We dried off and went to bed.

It was drier than we expected inside the tent.

Wednesday August 6: Take the Weather with You

Mark and I woke up early the next morning. We lay in bed listening to the heavy down pour outside. Six o’clock turned to seven o’clock then eight and nine, still the rain didn’t let up. Around ten that morning we decided to just go to the campsite, get our things, and cancel our last camping night.

When we went outside we saw that the drains on the sides of the streets were flooded. Here in Japan the drains are deep, wide ditches of death. If you drive too close to one and fall in, well… that would be the end of your car. Honestly, I don’t know why no one covers them up with a grate or something.

We got to the campsite to find the swimming area completely flooded. The cheaper camping spots, the ones with no electricity, were underwater. If we had been camping there all our stuff would have been washed away. We had no problems getting a full refund for the remainder of our stay.

We packed up our camping gear and dried them out at home. This was easy to do, because once our tent went down, it stopped raining. The next day the sun shone lovingly on the dry earth. It was perfect camping weather. I cursed the sun all that day.

The trees by the river side are completely under water.

Instead of going straight home we stopped at a sushi place for lunch. On our way there, we thought we’d have a look at our own river that is not too far from our home. This is where I exercise every morning. Well, you can’t see where I walk because that path is underwater. There are also trees and a little island that you also cannot see.

Sushi makes everything better.

One of Mark’s coworkers told him about a farmer who chased after his pregnant cow as she floated down this river for miles. The cow fell into the river and got washed away. The farmer and a couple of firefighters worked for hours trying to get the cow back on land. The cow and calf are fine now.

Should the clouds be this close to land?

Camping Trip #2: Schedule Camping – August 25 to 28.

Another Monday, a few weeks later, we tried it again. Despite the rain, the campsite seem really nice and we still had not explored that water trail up the mountain. We knew that it would rain on Monday, the day we were to begin our stay, but by Tuesday there would be clear skies and sunshine.

We stopped off at Yumeland Funo for some locally grown vegetables and carrot ice cream. Yumeland is known for its unusual flavors of ice cream. So far I’ve tried: asparagus, tomato, carrot, and almond. Carrot and almond are the only flavors I would try again.

We did manage to get to the campsite and set up the tent and tarp just before the rain started. It wasn’t heavy rain this time. In fact there were enough pauses in the showers that we were able to use the bathroom throughout the day without getting wet. After the last rain camping experience, this was downright pleasant!

Butterfly dancing near Mark’s foot

Sunshine and a Butterfly

The next day around 14:00 the rain stopped and the sun came out. I hung everything that was wet out to dry. Once everything was dry Mark and I relaxed under the tarp. Along came a butterfly and it flew around our camp; a good omen. It seemed like it was going to be a great camping trip.

After dinner I wanted to get something cold to drink from the nearest vending machines. so, Mark and I took the path along the road towards the main building of the camp. This was a paved road where cars drive, not a trail. There was a spot on the road between two street lights where we could see out to where we were going, but not down where we were stepping.

I was wearing flip-flops and I felt two simultaneous pricks on my foot. At first I thought I had stepped on something, but the wound was not on the bottom of my foot. It was on the top. I turned on my flashlight to see a snake slithering away. I told Mark that I might have been bitten by a snake.

At first he thought I was joking. I shone the flashlight on the snake as it slithered into the grass. “Are you sure it bit you?” Then I aimed the light on my foot. Sure enough, there were two puncture wounds on my foot. “It was either a snake or a really short vampire…”

I turned around to continue to the vending machine. “Where are you going?” Mark asked. “Go to the car!” He ran to the campsite. I was surprised at how much pain I was not in. It felt like I was bitten, but that was all. I don’t know what I expected being poisoned by a snake would feel like, but I felt fine. No foaming at the mouth, no fever, no seizures. Or maybe that’s for rabies.

Mark was in the Boy Scouts as a kid so I asked him what he knew about snakes. “Did that snake look venomous?” “I have no idea,” he said, “I learned about snakes in Michigan, not about Japanese snakes.” “Well then, what did you learn about treating a snake bite?” I was expecting advice like, “suck out the venom,” “pour hot water on the wound,” or “drink this magic potion.”

But instead Mark said, “They taught us to get the person to the hospital as soon as possible.” So, that’s what we did. Mark drove as fast as he could on the road. We ran a couple red lights after stopping to make sure nothing was coming. I sat in the car wondering what would happen to me. Was I going to die? Was I going to lose my leg? I wasn’t in any serious pain, so I figured that maybe I’d be okay.

We got the the emergency room and I walked in while Mark parked the car. There were two nurses talking behind the admittance counter. “Snake bite!” I said. “Hebi!” The nurses looked at each other in amazement. “Hebi?” they said. Now, my Japanese isn’t that great. I know the word for “snake” and the word for “shrimp”. One is “hebi” the other is “ebi”. Because of their slow reactions I began to worry that I had just walked into this emergency room and announced that I was bitten by a shrimp.

The nurses slowly made their way around the counter to where I was standing. They had collected about 3 doctors on their walk towards me. Now my foot was beginning to hurt. I could see the horror on the doctor’s faces and they muttered things to themselves in Japanese. “Oh shit, this is serious,” I began to think.

I could no longer stand up. My legs started to give out as a doctor poked at my foot. As I was going down I felt some hands guiding me and I landed in a wheelchair. Right on cue, Mark came in. Suddenly it became an emergency and I was being wheeled to a back room at top speed. I almost expected to hear someone yell, “stat!”

We got to some other area of the emergency room. There was another patient laying in a bed with several IVs in his arm. As they pulled the curtains to give him privacy, I wondered which one of us was in the worse situation.

Before anything else happen a nurse came it to start me on an IV drip. I guessed that every patient got one. She asked, miming, if I was left or right-handed. I’m right-handed, so she put the needle in my left arm. Well, actually it went into the back of my left hand. Fun, right?

No one spoke English and neither Mark nor I knew the Japanese words for this situation. I had many bug bites all along my legs and the nurse asked me about them. “Mushi” I told her. “Bugs.” I focused on the bug bites. They grew increasingly itchy. In fact the more nervous and scared I got the itchier those bug bites were. The pain in my foot felt like nothing compared to those bug bites.

A doctor came in and asked a couple questions in Japanese, but we could not answer him. He stood there repeating his questions in Japanese at various speeds and with different gestures, but I was too freaked out to communicate with him.

An older doctor walked in the room. He pulled up a chair near my foot and stuck it with a needle then he looked at me. He said nothing. I looked at him looking at me. After a while he opened a package that had a scalpel inside. “Jesus Christ, Mark, what is he going to do with that!?” I tried to get him to stop. “Let’s talk about this first!” But the doctor paid me no mind. I pulled back my foot, but he held on to it with a very strong grip.

“Look at me,” Mark said. He held my face in place so I could not look at the doctor. “What is he doing!?” I thought that maybe he was cutting out a huge chunk of  my foot to get the poison out. I had no idea what was going on. My view of my foot was blocked by a sheet or towel and it was numb so I could not see or feel anything. “I don’t know what he’s doing, but he is a doctor and he is doing what needs to be done,” Mark reassured me.

I felt nothing from the bite on my foot, but my toes were really itchy. My legs were itchy. My arms, head, face… everything was itchy. I pleaded with the doctor to give me my foot back so I could scratch my toes. I scratched at my arms and legs like a crazy person.

My foot shortly after getting to the ICU

The doctor put a simple bandage on my foot and left. The other doctor stood there ready to ask his questions again. This time he tried to speak in English.

“Hospital…” He said this word a couple times and mumbled for about 2 minutes. “Another…” Again there was a couple minutes of mumbling. “I think they want to take you to another hospital, Josie,” Mark said solemnly. Is it that bad? I cannot be treated here… I have to go to a special snake bite hospital!?

“Will I lose the leg?” I asked the doctor. He looked at me and smiled. “Yes,” he said confidently. “Yes!”

“Will I die?”

Not skipping a beat or noticing the fear in my voice, he showered me with yeses. I looked at Mark. “He says I’m going to die!”

“I don’t think this guy even understood what you asked him. Even the most stupid doctor would not smile and tell a patient she is going to die. I think that his smile means you’ll be okay.”

The nurse waved at me to get my attention. I think she realized that whatever the younger doctor was doing was freaking me out, so she wanted me to ignore him. She held up a bag filled with little bottles and a giant syringe. I let out a gasp imagining the size of the needle that would go to the syringe. The nurse waved her hands as if to say, “No. No needle.” Then she pointed to the IV tubes to show that the syringe would go in there.

4 extra ports for all sorts of drugs!

Then she put her syringe cocktail together. Every time I looked at the younger doctor, she waved at me to look at her. She held up the syringe with everything mixed inside it and said something in Japanese. She spoke slowly, clearly, and repeated herself 3 times. “Hebi no blah blah blah desu.” It was something for the snake poison. It went into one of the many ports along the IV line.

Then the nurse pulled out a picture book. She opened to a page and pointed to a drawing. There was a gender neutral humanoid with welts all over it’s body scratching itself. The caption said, “My body is itchy.” “Hai, so desu!” I replied.

The nurse turned around and picked up an IV bag from her cart. She showed it to me and put it back. Then opened her book again and gave it to me pointing to a phrase. “Anti-itch.” She hung the bag from my IV pole and attached it to an IV port. I felt better instantly. No more itching.

Then she showed me another IV bag. This one had English written on the bag itself. She showed me the English writing. It said “antibiotic”. I nodded, “okay” and she hung that one to the IV pole and attached to the IV port like she did with the other bag. She also added another bag of steroids to the pole and port. That IV stand had a lot hanging from it.

I wanted to relax, but I was worried about this “another hospital” that might happen. I was physically shaking. The nurse asked if I was cold. I was not. I was just scared and I didn’t know what would happen next.

Then another nurse came in. I had met her before. She lived in Seattle and spoke English very close to perfectly. I was so happy to see her.

“How are you?” I asked her. She laughed and said she was fine and working the night shift tonight. “How are you, Josie?”

“Oh fine,” I said. “Well, not so fine. I got bitten by a snake…”

She did some translating and cleared up all the miscommunications.

1. I would not be going to another hospital. I would be going to another floor in this hospital, the ICU.

2. I would not lose my leg, though I would lose function of it for a few days… or weeks.

3. I would die, but not because of this. Unless, of course, I were a Highlander or a vampire. (My grandmother was from Scotland, so I might be a Highlander afterall.)

On the bright side, you get to lay in bed all day for a couple weeks!

Double Vision

The Seattle nurse helped Mark fill out the paperwork to get me checked into the hospital and help take me up the the ICU. Was I so sick I had to go to the ICU? Apparently, yes. I spent a whole week there. Every morning I had blood tests and my urine was closely monitored. I was kept on IV drips the whole time and I went through many bags of antibiotics each day.

From my symptoms and other tests that they did, the doctors knew that I was bitten by a mamushi, a type of Japanese pit viper. There was antivenom for the snake bite. The doctor did not give this to me. He said that the side-effects of the antivenom were, “undesirable.” He did not elaborate on this. Instead I was treated with continuous IV drips and made to pee a lot. This was to flush out the toxins. The medical staff was concerned for my liver, but mostly for my kidneys. My urine was checked often for blood.

I don’t know the difference between the last two on the list. Though, I always picked the first because it was spelled correctly.

My first hours in the ICU my foot was swollen and I was asked each hour about a list of symptoms. They would ask if I had double vision. After responding no, I would get a, “Are you sure? Try. Don’t you see two of things?” This was done in Japanese of course, but I could tell, they were expecting this symptom and they wanted me to get on with it.

About 4 hours after being bitten, my vision did indeed become doubled. I felt like those drunk cartoon characters, except shaking my head did not bring back my regular sight. For the next few weeks my right eye was lazy and just could not keep up with my other eye. I looked cross-eyed. Even now, as I write this 3 weeks after the bite, my eyes still do not work as they did and I get headaches when I read for too long.

The leg pain started right after I got to the ICU. After a few hours, my swollen foot became a swollen leg. I was given drugs for that, but the pain continued. I was told that I could not get any more drugs until six the next morning. After that I was given drugs twice a day for the next 2 weeks, and that kept me pretty pain-free. I found that as long as I didn’t move my leg, it did not hurt.

This meant that I was stuck in bed. The nurses put a potty in my room so I would not have to walk all the way down the hall to do my business. But, even using the potty next to my bed was too much work for me. I had to keep my leg vertical. Sitting up with my left leg dangling down would cause more pain that I could bare. So, it was bed pans for me.

At first this was so hard to do. I could get in position, pull down my own shorts, and hoist my butt up so someone could slide the bedpan under me. The nurse or Mark would put a towel over me to give me some ounce of privacy. But then I would just lay there for minutes trying to start.

Sometimes the nurse left the room and that made it a bit easier. But peeing in bed was hard. As a kid, I was a bedwetter. When I was young, I wanted more than almost anything to not pee the bed. As an adult, peeing in bed, even while using a bedpan, felt like I was going against nature, god, democracy, and all that was decent. Several times Mark had to turn on the faucet in the room to get me going. I did not like it one bit!

triple drip action

Soon after my vision went, the nausea kicked in. I felt sick all over. My muscles were sore. I was tired. My leg hurt. I started to keep my eyes closed. That first night in the ICU, Mark spent the whole night in an uncomfortable chair next to my bed. He helped me when I needed to use the bathroom and tried to keep me comfortable, reassured. and entertained.

The next morning they brought me food. I didn’t even look at it; not that I would have seen it if I did. My vision was very bad and I was still very nauseous. Just smelling the food, made me feel sicker. I asked for the food to be taken away. Mark stayed until I fell asleep again, then he went back to the campsite to pack up our stuff.

a little water weight

He came back in time for lunch. By then my thigh was also swollen, stiff, and I could not move it without horrible pain. Keeping still was the best thing, along with keeping my eyes shut. Mark tried to feed me some of the lunch I was given, but I really had no interest in it. I just wanted sleep and drugs… sweet, sweet drugs.

That afternoon I was officially told that I would have to stay in the ICU for at least a week. Before this news there was hope that the poison wasn’t affecting me too badly and I would be sent home after 24 hours. But the blood work showed that I was getting worse, not better. This meant that my leg would get even bigger, my vision would get a lot worse, and it would be about a week, before I could pee without a small audience. (The peeing thing bugged me the most.)

I never noticed how delicious hospital food was…

By the evening on the first day of my stay my nausea had stopped. I was so hungry. I hadn’t eaten all day. I was lucky that on the day I had my biggest appetite, the hospital served its finest meal. It was the best dish I had ever been served in a hospital. Of course that doesn’t really mean much.

I remember my first ever hospital meal. I was 8 years old and stayed four days in the hospital for a concussion. I was a little daredevil and my best trick on a merry-go-round went horribly wrong at school. I didn’t eat my first day and a half because I kept throwing up. But once I stopped, my doctor wanted me to eat something.

She told me that I could eat or not eat anything on the tray I wanted and it didn’t matter what order I ate. “I could have dessert first!?” I asked her. I could. I dived into the dessert which was a corn bread. It was dry and had a sticky sugary film on top. I hated it. How does anyone mess up dessert?

I tried the meat. It was liver and I had never had liver before. My mother grew up in a very poor family, so as an adult she refused to make dishes she thought of as non-delicious things only really poor people would have to eat. It tasted like filth that needed salt. But it was slightly better than the vegetables which were canned string beans.

I chose not to eat anything else while I was in the hospital. The doctor did tell me that I didn’t have to eat anything if I didn’t want to. Of course she was just talking about the first meal, but I took it as a rule for life in general. I had an IV line and my mom brought me fruit, sandwiches, and juice boxes. Plus, I didn’t tell anyone then, but my roommates parents snuck in McDonald’s for her every night and they always brought me fries, McNuggets, and a strawberry shake.

Standard Breakfast

Breakfast was always miso soup, rice, some vegetable, and a juice box of milk. I was asked if I wanted bread instead of rice. I chose rice.

The last time I was in the hospital in Japan I made the mistake of picking bread. Every morning I got a steamed slice of white bread in saran wrap. If I didn’t open the bread right away because I was in the bathroom or asleep when they placed the tray at my bed, the bread would be too soggy to eat.

There was a toaster many of the patients used to toast their soggy bread. But that required being mobile enough to walk to the common area on your own while holding your bread. I just could not pull that off, so after a few days I asked to switch to rice.

My meal

The meals come with a little slip of paper with information. On top is the date and my name. On the side is what ward I’m staying in and how many calories the meal has. It was always around 6~700 kcal per meal. Then it listed the stuff on the tray and this list always started with rice.

The food isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. It’s adequate. But, it only takes a few days to become totally sick of it. I had cravings for spicy food, cheese, and whole fruits. You would get fruit in the hospital, but it was like a segment of an orange or a wedge of an apple.

The second night I made Mark get me “stuff to eat!” He came back with eclairs, potato chips, and chocolate cookies. “No. I didn’t ask for a snack. I wanted something to eat.” I sent him back out into the night to get me spaghetti. I ate it lustfully. I ate until I felt stuffed and handed the rest to Mark.

“You sent me out twice to get you food and you barely touched it?”

I looked at the bowl of convenience store pasta. He was right, I hadn’t eaten much. But it felt like I ate so much more. I must have been really sick.

View out of my window

You’ve peaked

On Friday, my 3rd morning in the ICU, the doctor announced that I had “passed the peak of venom” in my blood. For here on out, my symptoms would decrease and over the next few months I would go back to normal. He also told me that there would no longer be any daily blood tests.

I sat in anticipation of him telling me I could go home, but that did not happen. I was to have at least one more blood test on Monday morning. If the result was favorable I could go home Tuesday afternoon. I wanted to protest and demand that I be sent home immediately, but even I had to admit that since I could not even use the bathroom by myself, I was better off in the hospital.

Mark spent hours in the ICU too.

By Sunday I wanted out. I had spent the last 5 days in a room in the ICU. I never even left this room to pee. What was worse was that I could not even see out the window of my room. The window was behind my bed and my body was to stiff for me to turn around to look through it. I wanted to go somewhere else, even if it were just another part of the hospital.

Mark asked one of the nurses for a wheelchair. I eagerly, but slowly, maneuvered my way out of the bed and into the chair. My left leg that had been kept in a horizontal position was now bent at the knee. It took only a minute for so for the pain to start. “Mark, I need to get out of this chair” Back in bed my leg was straight again and in about 15 minutes the pain had subsided. I was stuck in my ICU room.

Later the doctor told me that if I wanted to I could stay in the ICU even longer and wait for my leg to get better. Since I could not move around so easily, he thought it would be a good idea for me to just stay for a few extra days, maybe even another week. “No, that’s not happening!”

strange drawing on the calendar in my room

Monday morning I tried hanging my bad leg off the side of the bed to build up a tolerance. I kept doing this every few hours. I would let it dangle until it started to hurt. But that seemed to be doing me no good and by noon I abandoned that plan.

My next goal was to use the portable potty in my room. I reached out for it and dragged it close to the bed. Then I scooted myself to the edge of the bed leaving my left leg on the bed. I had to not only keep my left leg in position, but also not get my IV line caught on anything. I pushed off the bed and got my butt on the potty. I was in a good enough position, but my pants were still up.

By Tuesday morning, with my IV taken out I had mastered solo peeing. It felt great! One of the nurses noticing my improvement asked if I wanted to take a shower. “Go to the shower!?” I had only bed baths with hot wet towels up to that point. “I would love a shower.”

She got a wheelchair and took me to the shower. She had placed a plastic chair in the shower stall so I could sit. The water was already on and steaming up the place. She helped me out of my clothes and placed me in the shower. I sat down and put my left foot up on a shower shelf where shampoo or soap would be kept. The nurse handed me soap and shampoo then she turned around. I sat there trying to remember when I had enjoyed a shower this much before.

After the shower the nurse helped me to balance on one foot as I got dressed. She then took me back to my room. And asked if I would like to go for a walk in about an hour. “What is today, my birthday!?”

Another nurse came to get me. I got into her wheelchair and she whisked me away. We were not really going that fast, but it felt like we were with my wonky eyes. My eyes could not focus in things fast enough as we moved through the hospital. My right eye worked a little better than my left eye, but it was still not functioning as it should. I was beginning to get nauseous, but I said nothing. I didn’t want to be taken back to the room just yet.

According to the doctor, it would take a month or two before my vision went back to normal. It would also take a while for me to be able to walk without pain or my foot swelling. (Two months after the bite, my right foot still gets swollen when I walk. The pain is almost gone though.)

Tuesday afternoon I was released. My blood work showed that I was improving enough to go home. Mark came to the hospital after work to get me. There were still forms to fill out and other things to do before I could officially leave. The leaving process seemed to drag on and on. Once in the car I felt free!

Donuts make everything better!

I sat at home for several weeks, because that is all I could do. My Japanese teacher came by to see me a few times and she brought gifts. But, for the most part, I was stuck at home. I tried doing housework, but standing for too long would make my leg swell and it would hurt. Around October was when I felt good enough to walk and stand enough to do things like make dinner or do the dishes. Until then, Mark had to do everything.

Nobody wants the green folder with the syringe clip art on it.

About a week after I left the hospital I had to go back for a check up. They did some blood work and I got to talk with the doctor. He said I was doing fine and my symptoms would all go away in a few months. This would be my last snakebite related hospital visit.

*****

This section of this entry was written about two months after the snake bite. My eyes are back to normal. I can walk for about an hour before my foot starts to hurt, but any amount of walking will still cause the foot to swell. But now the swelling is slight and not painful. My foot still hurts if you poke it where the snake bit me, but I think that will go away with time.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.   Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Gonokawa Canoe Park Sakugi
(江の川カヌー公園さくぎ)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°50’21.4″N 132°43’20.0″E

Address:

116 Sakugichokoyodo
Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture 728-0131
Japan

Phone:

  • +81 824-55-7050

Websites:

Cost:

  • Autocamping
    • ¥1,000 per site (This is a flat rate. It doesn’t matter how many people are staying in the tent.)
    • Comes with an electrical outlet with 2 sockets.
  • Regular Camping
    • ¥500 per site (This is a flat rate. It doesn’t matter how many people are staying in the tent.)
    • No electrical outlets.
    • This area tends to flood in the rainy season.
  • Showers
    • ¥100 with no time limit

Hours:

  • Reception is open 8:30 to 18:00
  • Showers available 8:30 to 18:00
  • Check in\out 15:00/14:00

Notes:

  • There are coin washing machines, but I don’t know how much they cost.
  • There is an overpriced restaurant and a small shop to buy a few things.
  • There are cabins available, but I don’t know how much they cost.

Map:

 

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Japan, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Things to do in Miyoshi

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 12, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

All Pictures

It looks like there are lots of stuff to see and do here.

What do you want to do this weekend?

Mark and I now live in a small town. Sure Hiroshima, a big city, is not that far away. But who wants to drive for 1.5 to 2 hours depending on traffic, only to spend another 30 minutes hunting for a parking space, then spend about $30 on that parking space. Hiroshima is nice and all, but unless you know you can get free and easy to find parking where you’re going, I say take the train!

So Mark and I have really been putting a lot of effort to find things to do not too far from home. It’s tough because hardly anyone puts their stuff on any of the tourism websites. Then when they do, all the information is completely in Japanese or completely in English. This makes finding things really hard. I need the information to be in English so I can understand it. But I also need the corresponding information in Japanese, because all the signs are written in Japanese.

But, this is what Mark and I found in our new town so far.

Learning about Carter

The Jimmy Carter Civic Center

It’s pretty much a homage to Jimmy Carter. You can learn all about Carter’s hometown, his teenage years, what Carter did after his presidency. The man has done a lot. But, they don’t have too many visitors here. When Mark and I showed up we kind of startled the people who worked there.

There is a library upstair where kids go to get help with homework, study, or watch anime.

Ice Cream Flavor for sale today: Almond, Milk, Asparagus Strawberry, Green Tea , some type of citrus

Yumeland Funo

We heard about this spot from one of those picture tourist maps around town. The map highly recommended this place, claiming this was one of the best spots in Miyoshi. Sadly, the map is right, this is one of the best spots. Though, it is just a rest stop for drivers.

They do have festivals and activities here. Every time Mark and I go they seem to be cleaning up from something that happened the day before. We did manage to catch a motorcycle festival. There were more motorcycles in the parking lot than were on display. Mark and I viewed the bikes on display then walk through the parking lot where the owners, who also expected to see more bikes, were more than happy to show off their wheels.

trying a little bit of everything

Along with a small farmer’s market type shop, there is a 1,000 yen ($10) all you can eat buffet here. You get 1 hour to eat and drink as much as you can. It’s very popular with the old folks. They will always maneuver themselves between you and the coffee machine in your last few minutes at the buffet, so don’t count on getting that last glass of iced mocha.

The food is great. It’s mostly vegetables, but there is plenty of meat. There is not as much a variety of meat dishes as there is of vegetable dishes. Plus there is a salad table, many soups, and 3 types of rice. The dishes change with the season, but you can count of there always being lots of old people there.

Trying to get as little wine as possible. Do you guys have smaller cups?

The Winery

We visited the Miyoshi winery. There you can sample as much wine as you want. There were eight barrels of various wines to try and one barrel of grape juice. Normally, I would have been the designated driver since I don’t like alcohol. But, I’ve been sick lately and I cannot drive. Since Mark had to drive, I had to be the wine taster. I took one of the tiny plastic cups and drank as little wine as I could. I did find a very sweet wine that I liked. We bought a bottle that is still sitting in our kitchen waiting for an occasion to be opened.

Sharktastic!

The Shark Place

Mark found this place. He passes it on his way to work. His coworkers told him about this restaurant that advertises alligator meat, but actually sells shark meat. There is something with the local dialect that the word for alligator here also means shark, but this is not true for all of Japan. (Or something like that.) The menu is all shark versions of food; shark burgers, shark hot dogs, shark steamed rolls, shark soups, shark stir fries

Is there anything that cannot be sharkified?

The owner and the restaurant were featured on one of the many eating shows in Japan. While you enjoy your shark meal you can watch the show, over and over and over and over again.

We live somewhere under that fog

The Sea of Fog

When I heard about this attraction, which is also the town’s claim to fame, I was not impress. “Your biggest attraction is overly moist air?” But Mark and I woke up early one Saturday anyway and drove up a nearby mountain. There was an outlook which took you even higher, so you can look down at the city. And the photo above is of the view I had.

And this photo!

It was really nice!

Finally, random Japanese clothes long enough for me!

Historical Park

We visited a museum inside a big park. It was a nice park and a decent small museum. There isn’t a whole lot going on there. But, this particular day they had an incense exhibit that one could pay extra to see.

We felt that 700 yen was too much to pay for a museum that was mainly in Japanese, so we chose not to see the incense exhibit. We only paid the regular 200 yen entrance fee.

What’s going to happen here?

After looking around the museum I was very thirsty. We had walked through the park, before going into the museum. I was really looking for a vending machine when we found a waiting area set up for some type of ceremony.

Mark found a book with an anime story about some kids and incense and he sat down to read. I’m not one to pass up a good sit in a comfy chair with a beautiful view, so I sat down too. Whatever was going to happen, was not happening right now, so there was no harm in sitting for a few minutes.

sitting freestyle

After five minutes or so we got up to leave. As we were walking towards the exit a man approached us. “I’m sorry, but would you like to join us for an incense ceremony?” I thought he was asking if we wanted to watch. We said that we would love to join and took seats on some of the chairs circling the tatami mats.

After a few minutes we were ask to join the rest of the people on the mats. I started to protest explaining that I had no idea how to do whatever they were doing and that I could not even sit on my heals like they did. “Oh no,” the man assured me, “You can sit freestyle. And no one here has done this before. We will explain to you.”

smell and remember

We were given 4 cups with burning incense one at a time. We had to remember the first one, so we could compare it with the other three. Then we had to say which of the other three, if any, had the same smell as the first cup of incense.

Everyone moved with purposeful grace. No one was making any spontaneous movements. I tried to mimic the others as best as I could as I took each cup, sniffed at it, and passed it to the left. The man reassured me once again that I was okay doing things freestyle.

The lady sitting next to me offered to help explain things. She spoke some English and she also told me that I didn’t have to move like everyone else. She seemed to find my awkward movements cute. That is, until I held the incense cup.

“No, no, no! Hold the cup like this.” She mimed holding the cup. I tried to do what I thought she wanted me to, but clearly I was not doing it right. She reached over and moved the cup from my right hand to my left. I tried the hold again, but did not get it. The lady took my right hand and placed it over the cup and squeezed it down to make a small hole over the top to let a small amount of smoke out. But she squeezed too hard causing the palm of my hand to touch the burning ember of incense inside the cup.

I let out a little yelp and dropped the cup. I did manage to catch it before it fell to the mat, but the ember had gone out. The man rushed over and bowed, apologised, and did some ceremonial gestures to take the cup from me. He took it and relit the incense and handed it back to me. Now I felt like I had way too much responsibility.

Write with this?

When we were done we had to write down our guesses on a little folded strip of paper. First we had to take a piece of coal and rub it on a plate with some oil on it. This made gray ink that we could dip our little brushes in. I unfolded my paper and asked the lady next to me for help. I told her what I thought the answer was and she pointed to the kanji I needed to write on the paper. I copied it, folded the paper, and waited for someone to come take paper from me.

Everyone’s scores

I got all the guesses wrong; all of them. To be completely honest I thought they all smelled different and only pick one at random to be the one that matched the first incense.  Mark on the other hand got them all right. That guy really knows his incense.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture)
(三次市)
(Miyoshi Shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’11.2″N 132°51’21.9″E

Address:

2-8-1 Tokaichi-naka
Miyoshi city, Hiroshima prefecture 728-8501

Phone:

  • 0824-62-6111

Websites:

Cost:

  • This town is one of the few towns in Japan that has more than enough free parking everywhere.

Hours:

  • This is a small town. I know it calls itself a city, but it’s not. Nothing opens before 9:00 and everything is closed by 21:00. The exception being convenience stores which are always open.

Notes:

This town is mostly known for its wine (and lack of Starbucks).


Cormorant Fishing
(鵜飼)
(ukai)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’35.2″N 132°51’13.6″E

Phone:

  • (0824) 63-9268

Websites:

Downloads:

e-mail: miyo-344@bz01.plala.or.jp

Cost:

  • Weekdays
    • Adult 2,500 JPY
    • Kids 1,250 JPY
  • Weekends
    • Adult 2,800 JPY
    • Kids 1,400 JPY

Hours:

  • June 1st – August 31st each year
  • The event lasts one hour
  • Launch is at 19:45
    • Please arrive by 19:15

Notes:

  • Mark and I did not try this. We only watched from the shore. We are still contemplating whether or not we really want to eat fish from a bird’s throat.
  • You eat the fish that the birds catch.
  • This is just one of 13 places in Japan where you can see ukai.

The Jimmy Carter Civic Center
(ジミー・カーターシビックセンター)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°42’01.8″N 133°05’21.3″E

Address:

940 Oaza Hongo Kounu-cho Miyoshi-shi Hiroshima 729-4101

Phone:

  • 0847-67-3535

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Tue – Sat 9:00 – 18:00
  • Closed:
    • Mondays
    • Dec 29 – Jan 3

playing with a Carter bobblehead

Fun Factor: 2 out of 10

Good points:

  • It’s free.
  • It has air conditioning.
  • It’s near a campsite.

Bad points:

  • It’s nowhere near downtown.

Notes:

  • There is a campsite nearby.
  • Almost everything in the area is named after Jimmy Carter, from the Jimmy Carter Baseball field to the Jimmy Carter Street.
  • It feels like a shrine to Jimmy Carter.

Yumeland Funo
(ゆめランド布野)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°51’20.8″N 132°47’49.5″E

Websites:

Hours:

  • April to September
    9:00am to 7:30pm
  • October to March
    10:00am to 6:30pm

local market

Fun Factor: 5 out of 10

Good points:

  • It’s not too far from downtown. It’s about a 30 minute drive.
  • There are sometimes festivals and celebrations here.
  • There is plenty of free parking.

Bad points:

  • It is bsically just a really nice rest stop.

Notes:

  • There is a restaurant with a ¥1,000 all you can eat buffet. They specialize in locally grown fresh vegetables.
    • 11:00 ~ 14:30
    • You get 1 hour to eat and drink all you can.
  • There is a farmer’s market type shop where you can buy inexpensive locally grown vegetables and fruit.
  • This place is also famous for its ice cream. Along with the regular flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and green tea, you can get unusual flavors like asparagus, tomato, and carrot.

Hiroshima Miyoshi Winery
(広島三次ワイナリー)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°46’40.2″N 132°51’59.8″E

Address:

㈱広島三次ワイナリー
広島県三次市東酒屋町445-3

445-3 Higashisakeyamachi
Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture 728-0023, Japan

Phone:

  • 0824-64-0200

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

  • Free to enter and sample wine
  • Wine cost from about ¥1,000 a bottle to very expensive wine.

Hours:

  • 9:30 ~ 18:00

Mark has to drink from the kids’ barrel, because he is driving.

Fun Factor: 3 out of 10

Good points:

  • If you like free wine, this is great. (There was an old guy who was just drinking as much wine as he could before staggering out the door.)
  • If you’re like me and only like certain wines, this is good too, because there are 8 wines to be sampled before you purchase.

Bad points:

  • It really is just a wine shop.
  • They don’t sell cheese!

Notes:

  • Japan has a zero tolerance for drinking and driving. Bring a designated driver or take the bus.
  • There was one barrel of grape juice for kids and designated drivers to sample.
  • There is a “factory tour” that you can take. It takes a whole 2 minutes and you really see nothing.

Fujita Foods
(フジタフーズ)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°46’29.4″N 132°53’21.9″E

Address:

Japan 〒729-6213 広島県三次市

Phone:

  • +81 824-66-1082

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

Shark Menu

Hours:

  • 8:30 ~ 20:00

wani burger

Fun Factor: 7 out of 10 if you like eating weird things, 3 out of 10 if you don’t

Good points:

  • It’s not expensive.
  • The food is good.

Bad points:

  • There is only shark on the menu. So if you’re not down for eating shark, this is not the place for you.

Notes:

  • They also serve shark desserts like shark pudding.

Sea of Fog
(霧の海)
(Kiri no umi)
from Takataniyama
(高谷山)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°47’47.9″N 132°49’23.9″E

Address:

〒728-0025 Awayamachi, Miyoshi-shi, Hiroshima

Phone:

  • 0824-64-0066

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Parking

Hours:

  • Spring or Fall
  • Between sunrise and 9:00

The famous Sea of Fog

Fun Factor: 7 out of 10

Good points:

  • It’s a great view.
  • Doesn’t take too long.
  • Looks great in person, but fantastic in photos.

Bad points:

  • It can get a little chilly. (I’m a weather wimp.)

Notes:

  • You can bring your breakfast or snacks with you so you can eat while you enjoy the scenery.

Miyoshi Fudoki Park and History Folklore Museum
(広島県立歴史民俗資料館)
(Miyoshi Fudoki no Oka Park)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°45’48.5″N 132°53’50.0″E

Address:

〒729-6216 広島県三次市小田幸町122

Phone:

  • 0824-66-2881

Websites:

Cost:

  • The park is free
  • parking is free
  • The museum
    • adults 200 yen
    • students 150 yen
    • special exhibits have additional fees

Hours:

  • 9:00 ~ 17:00
  • The Museum is closed on Mondays, but the park is still open

Play with an ancient toy

Fun Factor: 5 out of 10

Good points:

  • It’s not too expensive
  • you can dress up. But they only have two sets of clothes; one for a man and one for a woman.
  • The park is very big.

Bad points:

  • It’s a museum. So if you don’t like museums, just stick to the park.

Notes:

  • There are no vending machines anywhere near this place, so get some water before coming here.

Map:

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Japan, Kōnu 町, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Festival For No Reason

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 28, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

All Pictures

Everyone is ready to dance!

So I’ve Started Taking Japanese Classes

Mark and I now live in a new city once again. This time, we live in a little sleepy town called Miyoshi that is behind god’s back and 2 hours by car from Hiroshima city. It’s a nice town with no malls, no Starbucks, and only one McDonald’s.

I get the feeling that the town either used to have more people or they are expecting a population boom. Everywhere you go in this town there are way more parking spaces than necessary. I’m not complaining; I think it’s great. That’s how it should be. It’s just odd. With places like Hiroshima city that seem to have one parking space for every 10 cars, it’s weird that this place seems to have 15 parking spaces for every car.

Out of step, but still having fun

When we first got to this town, someone at Mark’s work told him about an international potluck. We wanted to meet some people from our new town so I made some chili and we went. The chili was a hit and many people came up to me to talk about my chili.

We met some foreigners from Mark’s company and some others not working for his company. I was a little disappointed to find out that the people who weren’t co-workers of Mark did not actually live in my town, Miyoshi. Miyoshi is big, landwise. It used to be a bunch of small towns with almost no population and with Miyoshi in the center. A few years ago they did away with some of the surrounding towns and called the now bigger town Miyoshi. So now, anyone not in Miyoshi lives at least a one-hour drive from downtown Miyoshi.

Someone really enjoyed the new Planet of the Apes movie!

So, Mark and I are living in this new city and we didn’t have many friends yet. We also didn’t have internet yet. Getting the internet in Japan is a big almost insurmountable task. It can take months before someone comes by your house to install the cables or whatever they do. There is a lot of preamble to get through, like asking your landlord if it’s okay for you to have the internet and other stuff I don’t understand. Because we didn’t have internet at home our first few months, Mark and I went to the library almost daily to use their free wi-fi.

One day while checking emails I ran into a lady I met at the potluck. She said that she taught free Japanese lesson for some Mark’s coworkers and insisted that I join. “Why not?” I thought to myself. So Mark and I started going to weekly Japanese lessons.

The glow from a food vendor

One day the Potluck Lady thought that since I was a housewife, I shouldn’t just have lessons once a week, but twice. She insisted that I join another weekly free Japanese class closer to my home in addition to the lessons at the library. I tried to decline, but I could never come up with a good reason not to go. My Japanese is very bad and I really should be signing up for all the classes I could get. So, I thought I would try it out. “Why not?”

I was given another Japanese teacher and I liked her instantly. She is funny, witty, and she goes out of her way to make her lessons fun and interesting. It’s amazing when you think that the lessons are free!

In costume waiting for the bus downtown

My company wants me to get more people

So my teacher sends me an email Thursday morning. (My lessons or on Thursday afternoons.) She was inviting me out to lunch at the new restaurant of a British friend of hers. “Great,” I thought, “I love meeting new people.” She picked me and we drove out to the countryside of Miyoshi. The plan was to have lunch then go to class. Classes are held at the Miyoshi Board of Education building.

But we got to talking and time just slipped by. At first we were going to be half an hour late, then that deadline passed. Then we would be an hour late, but that deadline passed too. So, we gave up and just skipped class that day.

During the meal my teacher asked me, and the restaurant owner, if we would like to be in the festival that weekend. I’ve been to many local festivals in Japan with Mark and he always has the same complaint when we see a friend of our’s marching along with the Japanese in the parade. “Why didn’t anyone call me to join too?”

She explained that the company that owns the study-school she works for, needed more people to march. She was asked to recruit family, friends, neighbors, students… anyone. She talked about 10 of her kids to join and was now working on getting some adults involved. We wouldn’t have to pay anything. The company provides all the clothes, shoes, drums, and anything we would need. I told her that we would love to join and the next thing I knew Mark and I were in the back row of a practice march and beating drums.

Mark, the march leader, me

First let me explain how this works. In most Japanese festivals, companies want their presences to be seen so that everyone can know that they are part of the community. (It’s actually not just companies but clubs and schools too.) The workers love festivals and most people feel proud to be working at their company so it’s a win-win for both the company and the workers.

Every year the company does the same dance steps in the same outfit. Then, starting from a few weeks before the festival, everyone practices the moves for 30 minutes after work everyday. So, these guys have been practising for weeks and they were doing the dance or march steps they had done last year, and the year before that, and the year before that for however long they worked at the company.

Mark and I started practicing 2 days before the festival. We were terrible! We would start off on the wrong foot, spin at the wrong time, hit the wrong beat on our drums, and were generally out of sync with everyone else. There was an eight-year-old girl in front of me who was really showing me up!

Mark looking all festivally

We were so bad. The march leader tried to teach us the moves. First she showed us the beat we needed to play. “Great,” I said when I finally got it. I was really for the next part. She showed us the footwork. After a few minutes I got that too. Then she got the group in place to start practicing another round or marching. I had the beat and I had the footwork. I just need to put them together.

The leader blew her whistle for us to begin marching in sync. I got a few steps in and noticed my drumming was off. I corrected the drumming, but now my footwork was not right. Every time I got my drumming in sync with everyone else’s, my footwork be off and visa versa. I thought that this would never work. But the leader came over to me and told me to relax, just have fun, and not to worry if I messed up.

Mark and I came to practice the next day and we were a little better. In practice on Saturday, the day of the festival, we were a little better still. We never did get it right, but by the start of the festival we had figured out that the drumming was the most important part then came the spinning at the right time. Everything else could be faked and done halfway. The most important part was to look like we were happy and having a great time. This was a festival after all.

Will dance for food

Bento and Beer

Before the last practice on Saturday we were given lunch and the clothes we were to wear. Throughout the whole thing, we were liberally showered with free sodas, juices, and sports drinks. On Saturday beer was added to the offerings. The drinks were placed and huge bins with big blocks of ice.

The men, Mark included, drank all the beer they wanted. But, it was a really hot day and after a while everyone chose tea or sports drinks over the beer. No one got drunk or even tipsy.

“Let us do your hair,” they said…

Do you want to get her hair done?

My Japanese teacher turned to me as I finished my bento and asked if I wanted to get my hair done. “What would they do?” I asked. I didn’t really want anyone in my hair, but I was curious as to what would happen if I gave someone free range. “Oh, they would put it up, add more hair, and put flowers in… like that lady.” She pointed to a women with an entire garden on her head. It did look quite festive.

Mark turned to me and said, “You should do it. It would look nice.” I looked at him a little annoyed, “My hair can’t do that!” I turned to my teacher and politely told her, “My hair really can’t do that. It won’t go up.” “It doesn’t have to go up,” she said, “they could just put some flowers in.” Mark sipped his tea and nodded. “Flowers,” he cooed, “that would look nice.”

“What the hell does Mark know about my hair?” I thought. But, as I looked around the lunch room I notice that 90% of the women there had crap loads of gigantic flowers in their hair. If I was going to do this festival thing, why not do it right. “Alright,” I said to my Japanese teacher, “But just the flowers. No putting my hair up.”

My garden

Of course that was just the agreement between my teacher and me. The lady doing everyone’s hair downstairs had her own ideas. I told her that my hair was hard to deal with and it would refuse to be put up. But, she was not one to back down from a fight.

I sat in the hair chair and she took out a tiny-toothed comb. I looked at her comb suspiciously. She began and I could feel her tugging around my head. She said something in Japanese. “What did she say?” I asked my teacher. “She said your hair is very… ummm… very,” “Powerful,” came a voice at the other end of the room. “Yes,” my teacher agreed, “powerful.”

But the hair lady did not give up. She put my hair up in several parts and pinned in some flowers. I didn’t like it, but everyone else did. In the end it didn’t really matter. No one knows what my hair is “supposed” to look like. They only cared that it had flowers in it like everyone else, so I just went with it. “Why not?”

As I was getting my hair done I asked the ladies in the room what the festival was celebrating. No one knew. I got answers like: “It’s just a festival,” “We like festivals,” and “Fun!” A festival for no reason… “Why not?”

Why is no one is watching us?

Is there anyone left to watch this parade?

In the end we marched our little hearts out. At first there were only a few people watching the parade. With hundreds of people in parade it looked liked our tiny town didn’t have anyone left to watch. But once we got downtown and on main street there were more people. Of course many of those people where the same ones from the front of the parade who reached the end and were now watching.

I’m trying to focus on my drumming career now.

Once we got to the end our group disbanded. We changed our clothes and watched the rest of the parade as we ate festival and rested. It was a long march on a very hot summer day. Mark and I had a great time. We even told my teacher to sign us up for next year’s festival.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.   Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture)
(三次市)
(Miyoshi Shi)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’11.2″N 132°51’21.9″E

Address:

2-8-1 Tokaichi-naka
Miyoshi city, Hiroshima prefecture 728-8501

Phone:

  • 0824-62-6111

Websites:

Cost:

  • This town is one of the few towns in Japan that has more than enough free parking everywhere.

Hours:

  • This is a small town. I know it calls itself a city, but it’s not. Nothing opens before 9:00 and everything is closed by 21:00. The exception being convenience stores which are always open.

Notes:

  • There are many Miyoshi cities in Japan. This one is in Hiroshima prefecture.
  • This town is mostly known for its wine (and lack of Starbucks).

Map:

Posted in Hiroshima 県, Japan, Miyoshi 市 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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