Monday, 10 December 2007

PostHeaderIcon Matsuyama and Hiroshima

Today is Friday and that means I only have one meeting before finishing at noon. It’s such a pleasing end to the week but once again I am neglecting my Japanese studying in favour of my blog. I figure if I get all this out of the way then I can spend my afternoon sitting on my backside playing my new video games.

In between weekends – 20th-22nd November

When I returned from my weekend in Tokyo I was feeling a bit rough from all the traveling, drinking, lack of sleep and had caught a pretty bad cold. I only had to work from Tuesday-Thursday but they were all pretty packed days as I had a full set of classes but hadn’t done a lot of preparation. Although feeling like death warmed up, I managed to dress up pretty smart for work that week and all my classes went well. I seem to remember the Wednesday afternoon at elementary being pretty rough though. I sat through lunch in a bit of a shivering and droozy daze whilst the kids were firing questions in Japanese at me with their mouths full. No worries though, I relied on the good old “Hai/Yes” in response to their queries.

On the Thursday night my big boss (Kyoikucho) at the Board of Education took Noah and I out to an izakaya after work. An izakaya is usually referred to as a ‘bar and grill’ and it’s basically a place to socialise, drink beer and eat pretty good food. The place we went to had just opened in Tano which seemed to make the locals quite pleased. Despite there being over 3000 people here there were no similar places in town and the nearest one was over the bridge in the rival metropolis of Nahari. My boss at work is a really cool guy and it’s always a pleasure to enjoy his company. I get the impression he’s the driving force between Tano having an ALT and a CIR. I think he sees our presence in the town/schools as important whilst some others seem a bit “Meh” at times. As I write this he is currently having a sneezing fit in his office. The last one ended with a defeating plea for it all to end. We got talking to a local guy as well who said he had grown up being told to hate foreigners but said he had changed his opinion over the years. He was talking away (well, to my boss and Noah) and then left only to return with two bottles of Shōchū for Noah and I which was really nice and unexpected.

Matsuyama and Hiroshima – 23rd to 25th November

The following morning Noah, Andrew and I set off again on another traveling escapade. We didn’t really have a plan but we had the day off and wanted to make the most of it. In the end we decided to head to Ehime prefecture in north-western Shikoku and so got the bus through the mountains to Matsuyama City. We walked about for a bit before heading in the direction of the castle. It’s on quite a large hill in the centre of the city and is one of only a few that is original and hasn’t been rebuilt. The sun was setting over the city as we reached the top and we got to see an excellent view.

Matsuyama at sunset.

That night we drank some whisky and played darts in a bar which was actually excellent fun. We then hired a pretty fancy karaoke room until 7am in the morning and after a few hours drinking/singing we crashed on the seats there before being thrown out.

We managed to haul ourselves across the city to reach the ferry terminal for the next leg of our trip. There is a ferry link from Matsuyama to Hiroshima that takes around two and a half hours. The journey is over the Inland Sea so there are hundreds of tiny islands to admire along the way. We had a ‘Thanksgiving’ breakfast of Pumpkin butter and bread that Noah’s mum had sent him from America. It tasted a bit dodgy to me but I was hungry and pretended I was celebrating Thanksgiving or something. We got the tram into the centre of the city and walked around for a short period. I think the other guys wanted to get a boat to Itsukushima Shrine which is the massive red Shinto shrine that gets submerged at high tide. However, I really wanted to go to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and it would have been a bit stupid not to have gone since I was there. I would have gone on my own but they came anyway despite visiting it before. It’s quite a bizarre tourist attraction as you usually visit places of natural wonder or those that celebrate some form of human achievement. I won’t talk about it much but there is certainly an atmosphere and feeling that humbles you when you’re walking around the Dome. Especially when you look at a photograph of the city after the explosion and wonder how such a new, vibrant place grew from its ashes.

The bomb was aimed at the 'T' shaped bridge I took this picture on.

I was already well read on the events so the museum didn’t reveal too much new information. Although some things that struck me were:

a) The level of censorship about the atomic bombings in post-war Japan by America.
b) The mayor of Hiroshima always sends a letter to the government of a country carrying out a nuclear test.
c) Russia had over 40,000 nuclear warheads at the height of the Cold War.
d) I read an account of two girls who survived the explosion in a bank. Their description of what the city looked like when they came out of the building was quite harrowing and hard to imagine.

I waited ages to get a clear shot but this is now my favourite.

Later on we went and checked out Hiroshima castle for a bit. Then we headed to the youth hostel to book our places for that night and crashed for an hour. That evening we met up with Marika (Japanese girl who stayed at my apartment for a bit) as she’s now working as a translator in the city. We went and got some Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki (It means ‘whatever you want… fried basically). Then we got some coffee to try and stay awake but ended up heading back at about 10pm to make the curfew. The next morning we were up at the break of dawn to make the same journey all the way back. I felt tired and dirty most of the way home but it was another excellent weekend of traveling.

Yes, the observant among you may have noticed I started to write this on Friday morning and it’s now Monday evening. Well done, if you were an elementary student I’d give you a shiny sticker. Also, ‘Guid Mornin’ is actually regarded as ‘Scots’ language and means I’m bi-lingual. Cheers.

More pictures from the two weekends.

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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