Wednesday, 26 September 2007

PostHeaderIcon Muroto and Natto

The temperature is starting to get cooler now and it means I can get a nice sleep at night without air conditioners or fans. The days are a lot more pleasant as well and I was able to enjoy a nice cool breeze as I watched the elementary students practice for their sports day this coming Sunday. They had a lot more interesting events than the junior high such as bamboo pole climbing, stilts and unicycle racing. Also, they are much more excited about participating and compete a lot more than their elder counterparts. The nice weather started to make me feel sleepy and I was having a nice relaxing sit down in the sun when a wave of hunger hit me very suddenly. It dawned on me that I hadn’t eaten anything bar some pineapple in the last twenty-four hours. The last hour before lunch was pretty uncomfortable as my stomach growled in anticipation and my body started to weaken. I suffered through the pain like the brave gaijin I am and made my way to the office where the (usually) scrumptious school lunch was being served. Mmm what could it be today?” I pondered before someone mentioned the words 'natto'.

Yummy

Yes, it is indeed fermented soybeans and it does indeed have an acquired taste. I have been meaning to try it since I came to Japan as it is quite a big deal but I always hoped the meeting would be on my terms. Yet I found myself sitting at a table with numerous nine year olds watching my every move. In the end I didn’t mind the taste; it reminded me of bad coffee flavoured chocolate. The most annoying part was the constant sticky strings that followed every mouthful, some got up my nose. The rest of the lunch consisted of a bowl of seaweed stuff and some small fish. My poor stomach was not satisfied.

Autumnal Equinox Holiday

I believe I gave a little bit of a teaser about my antics this past weekend and now I shall write up the events in full. Last Friday was my half day so Noah and I went into Kochi City before meeting up with Andrew for dinner. We ended up in a small Italian restaurant and I had a surprisingly good pasta with meatballs. On Saturday I stayed in bed past 8am for once before venturing out in my car to buy some petrol.

My lovely car

I got a full tank for about £12 which pleased me greatly and there was even an attendant who filled it up and washed my windows. I was driving home when I decided to continue down Route 55 to see what I could find. Route 55 is the only road in eastern Kochi and follows the coastline all the way. Indeed, at many times its two lanes are the only piece of land between the steep mountain sides and the rocky coast. I ended up driving for ages because I couldn’t find anywhere to turn around but it was a pleasant drive regardless with some nice views of the Pacific. When I returned I got my hair cut by the same barber as last time. Like many cafes and shops in Tano the place has a distinct 1970s vibe to it and so I never expect much. My hair is pretty rubbish anyway so I didn’t really care and let him cut away whilst we talked about the rugby. Later that night I drove Noah and Andrew to a shop just outside Kochi City that sold a portable keg.

Noah loves keg

We can fill it with 2/3 litres of Asahi Lager and it plugs in to keep everything cold! We tried it out that night and it was great.

To Muroto!

On the Sunday morning Noah, Andrew, Matt and I set off along Route 55 towards Muroto City. Muroto is not so much a city as one continuous line of buildings hugging the coastline for miles. Most settlements in Kochi are like this but not as extreme in their length. I thought I should include a map to show you where all these places are so please enjoy my dodgy Google Earth screen capture.

I think eastern Kochi looks like India

We met up with Joey who is a new ALT from Melbourne in Australia. He hosted us for the weekend and took us on an impromptu tour of the area. We began by driving up to a viewing platform built on top of one of the many mountains. It looked over the southern tip of the prefecture and we were almost surrounded entirely by the Pacific.

Hello Pacific

Incidentally, Muroto is probably one of the worst possible places to live in Japan at the moment. This is because a MASSIVE earthquake is due to hit somewhere in Kochi, the surrounding prefectures or the area of ocean south of our island. Apparently the ‘Nankai Earthquake’ happens every 150 years and the next one could happen at any time in the next 50 years. They told us about this at orientation and when I mentioned this to my supervisor she laughed for a bit and then said “Yes, you will probably die”. If this were to hit out in the ocean then Muroto is going to be absolutely destroyed by the resulting tsunami. This is because the cape is in such a vulnerable position as it jolts out and is surrounded by water in every direction. If anyone is worried that I might die in a tsunami then you should be safe in the knowledge that Tano will get a fair bit of warning, we have large sea defences and the emergency building is next door to me. Anyway, it is quite an interesting thought to have in your head as you stand on some rocks by the coast knowing that it is statistically one of the most dangerous places in the country.

No tsunami in sight... for now

We also visited temple 24 (out of 88 on Shikoku remember) which is around 1000 years old and a lighthouse that has the biggest lens in Japan. After that we went down to the beach and climbed all these amazing rocks along the coastline. Noah, being the crazy and energetic American that he is, climbed as far out as he could and stood on a very tall rock as waves crashed around him. Now that was THE most dangerous rock to be standing on in the whole of Japan. As the sun was setting we visited a large adventure/baseball park up in the mountains and after playing on the swings and chutes we hiked up to another platform to admire the sky. Then we ate lots of delicious chicken and drank far too much beer from our keg.

The next morning the weather wasn’t as nice but we took a drive along the far eastern coast of Shikoku. We stopped at these gigantic rocks named ‘The Lovers’ and admired the waves crashing against the shore. In a somewhat philosophical state of mind but hampered by a hangover we came up with some profound thoughts such as “There is a lot of water in the sea” and “Waves are really powerful”. We then drove further up to Toyo which has an excellent beach for surfers. None of us were prepared to swim but we ventured in as far as we dared and threw a frisbee about for a bit. It was by far the flattest beach I have ever seen. This may seem like a strange observation but after the main wave had crashed the water continued to flow for a good 50 metres. This meant that a small wave of a few centimetres just glided along the sand for ages at a steady pace.

I was just about to conclude my Muroto adventure when I remembered one of the most exciting parts. On the way home we took a shortcut through the mountains which winds along the rugged terrain and reaches so high that you are level with the clouds. We stopped at an intriguing spot and found some (basic) stairs that soon vanished into the darkness of the trees. Being in an adventurous mood we set out to conquer None (pronounced no-nay) mountain still damp from the beach and hungover from the previous night. It was a tough and uncomfortable trek but once we had started there was no turning back. Along the way there were some very patchy paths and the leader always carried the important ‘spider stick’ to protect us from their evil.

Every tree looked the same apart from this red chap

It reminded me of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ and I tried to explain this to my weary companions but my suggestions that I was in fact Indiana Jones fell on deaf ears. After a good hour or so we reached a pillar in the clouds that told us we had reached the summit. That evening we got washed and dressed and had a nice meal at Rock Green CafĂ© thus concluding our holiday weekend.

The Muroto adventurers of September 2007

The next few days

The reason I have stayed up till 1am finishing this mammoth entry is because I’ll probably be too busy in the next few days to update. Tomorrow night is the leaving party for my supervisor. I’m not sure if I mentioned that she (Chika) is starting a new job next door at the town hall. I’m still a bit upset that she is leaving because I get on really well with her and it’s always good to know she is there. Our new supervisor is quite young as well and seems quite nice so I’m sure it won’t be a problem. I have two options for Friday night (Kochi Uni students barbeque or a birthday party) whilst Saturday is dodgeball in the city followed by a party in Kitagawa. Sunday is the sports day at elementary followed by ANOTHER enkai that evening. Ach, it’s a hard life…

P.S. All of my September photographs are now here.

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.

Shashins