Well, life back in Kurume is both fun and natsukashii – reminiscent of the past. I’ve spent the past 1 and a half weeks living with my first Japanese host family, and it’s been great, meeting friends from the past and catching up with everyone. Arrival in Kurume was great – I caught the train down to Kurume, and a taxi to Naoko’s house. In the taxi, I was actually able to communicate with the driver and give him directions – something I’m not yet able to do in China – a very satisfying experience. First night at Naoko’s was spent at the local Chinese restaurant, catching up with everyone and having a delicious dinner of Japanese Chinese food (much better than Australian Chinese food!).
Since then, I’ve been taken around to see the many sights of the area by a good many friends. We went to Yanagawa to do a boat cruise on the canals and had an amazing 60 year old man as our navigator/driver/entertainer. He sung songs (often with my name in them) and continually made jokes, of which I understood about half (his accent/use of slang was extremely strong). He even had me up on deck steering the boat… The boat itself was unique – it was steered and propelled by the driver at the back with a long stick (no motor here) and had a table in the middle which we sat around. The table had a blanket over the top, under which we stuck our legs. Under the table were big pots of hot coals, which kept the boat (and our legs) nice and warm. After our cruise we sat down for a lunch of eel and rice – yum! I also went to Saga with the Yoshida’s, to go to the local onsen – Japanese hot spring bath – a fantastic treat on a cold winters day.
Exploring Kurume has been fun and kind of sad – everything is changing dramatically. All the shops around where I used to hang out every day after school are closed – they have moved to the new shopping center that is out of town… Back at my old high school was interesting – I met up with my old homeroom teacher and English teacher, and met the two current ALTs (American English teachers). My old homeroom teacher had me go to his class and introduce myself in English (they are 3rd year students – grade 12 – studying English)… I gave a quick introduction – my name, age, what I’m studying etc and asked if they had any questions. Only one, from a loud boy in the front – ‘are you married?!’ (in Japanese). To which I replied, also in Japanese, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand Japanese, if you ask in English I might be able to answer’… No response!
I visited with the Hashizume family and went up to Kiyomizu to see the temple (imagine all the steps you’ve ever seen in your life, then double it)… and afterwards we went to a sushi ‘train’ restaurant to grab lunch – YUM. Dinner was again raw fish – this time at a favourite restaurant of Naoko & Hirosuke, with friends of theirs. The difference being that the raw fish I tried that night was fugu – the deadly pufferfish. And it was delicious (we also had it served as fried fish). Yesterday and this morning was spent at the Onsen resort in Yufuin – a fantastic place that we had all to ourselves – my belief is because it was so damn cold. But the hot baths were fantastic, and the dinner incredible. After dinner Naoko and I relaxed in my room and polished off a bottle of Australian chardonnay, a perfect end to my Japanese part of the trip.
Well, now I’m getting ready to head back to China – tomorrow I’ll be on a ferry to Qingdao – from there I’ll head up to Beijing to spend a bit of time shopping (and freezing my butt off!).
Take care all
p.s. watch out for the deadly swiss chocolate – it nearly snapped my finger in half when i tried to break a piece off – now i have an awesome bruise under my nail – why does this type of thing only happen to me?!