Saturday, October 4, 2014

9. Rain and marriage prospects (aka day trips I've taken)

I've taken a lot of day trips while I've been here, mostly due to my inability to speak Japanese and unwillingness to organize a place to stay at night.  Also I have a car, so I can come back as late as I want.  My car is tiny, but surprisingly roomy inside and it gets over 40mpg so that's pretty cool.  Also it's a manual, but the gearshift is on the left side of me because you drive on the left side of the road here.
It's a good thing I have that spoiler.  It's pretty handy when drag racing through the rice patties.
Cars with yellow plates are called Kei-cars.  They have a smaller engine and are generally tiny and less safe, but get better mileage and are cheaper. Even pickup trucks are super tiny here.  These things have the same dimensions as my car, and all the farmers around here use them.
We have REAL trucks in Amurrica.
Roads here are super narrow and have sharp dropoffs into mini ditches on the side, which makes me having a tiny car even cooler, because I can turn super sharp into a random alleyway (good for drug deals and illicit gambling) and know exactly where all parts of my car are.  Here are a few of the day trips that I have taken in my trusty white speed-pod.

Takeda castle
   This my first trip, and it was pretty high on my to-do list, because I took a look at a picture of it, and it apparently looks like this:
Never trust a picture.
 It might actually look like this, but we chose to go on the day the typhoons started.  We spent the entire time shivering and just being super wet in general.  From our point of view, it looked more like this, and we were actually walking in the ruins of the castle itself:
I think I see the peak!
The typhoon was actually super destructive to Tanba in general.  It washed away quite a few roads and bits of railway.
I went and volunteered one day to help clean up the mess, and I was surprised to learn that some of the people who were helping alongside me had driven 3 hours to help out.  I guess whenever there is a natural disaster (frequently in Japan), the government organizes buses to drive people to help out, and lends tools (from shovels to backhoes) to the places in need, even if it's someone's private property.

Kyoto and Daimonji
My second misadventure was going to a festival in Kyoto, which was actually really cool in retrospect.  However, it was raining so hard that the main street of the neighborhood we were in turned into a river.  We visited a famous bamboo forest with some very big bamboo, which looked exactly like many forests in Tamba - still very cool though.
I swear I sometimes change my clothes.
We also visited a lot of temples, where often the rain would pick up and we would be stuck huddling under the overhang of a building that we were too cheap to pay to go into.  We did go into a few overpriced restaurants to get out of the rain, where we paid $9 for a cup of bitter tea.  Oh wait, the tea wasn't bitter; I was.  That's right.  The temples were pretty cool though.  Kyoto is a beautiful city. 
It looks sunny in this picture.  It wasn't.
This store only sold chopsticks.
Gotta have my sandwiches.  This is pre-rain.

They stopped offering rides once it flooded.

There's a "big" fire on the mountain!

We went to a festival where they light fires on a mountain to outline certain Chinese characters and other pictures, the most famous of which is the Chinese character for "big."  I have no idea why.  Probably some cultural significance or something.  A very cool trip which unfortunately was rained on rather harshly.

Fukuchiyama and a Barbecue
One of my Japanese friends invited me to something he described as a large culture festival where he would be playing Irish harp.  I went and checked out the city it was in first, and I went to a pretty cool castle there.  Immediately after, it started raining super hard (no flooding this time though!).
You can't quite make out the McDonald's sign in the town below. Or as they say, Makkudonarudo.
I used google maps to go to the address that my friend sent me, and ended up 10 km away from where I was supposed to go, at a random Buddhist temple.  I asked the people there about it, and they had no idea what it was.  They were very kind, and let me try to wait out the worst of the rain in the temple and hang out with them.  The monk-in-residence apologized to me that he wasn't wearing his monk outfit that day and was instead wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  We got to bond over the fact that we both liked playing upright bass, but didn't own one.  I guess he used to play a lot in the jazz scene in Kobe before he started tending the temple full time. 

Anyway, the rain never died down, but I eventually made it to the festival, which was a bunch of people huddled under a tent in the middle of nowhere.
You know it's good when the people at the front apologize to you for how the party is a failure and don't let you pay the entrance fee.
It was actually great fun.  It was an international festival, so I met people from all over the local town and Eastern Europe, the latter of whom were on a business learning trip.  Later we went into somebody's greenhouse and had a barbecue, which was really cool.  My concept of a barbecue has usually been limited to hamburgers, steaks, and hot dogs.  Maybe fish if you're very open-minded.  These guys barbecued equal parts vegetables, meat, and noodles, and then smothered everything in a special sweet-and-sour barbecue sauce. It was delicious and awesome.
I asked this guy if he liked the Yankees, and he said "who?"  In retrospect, that's probably good because I don't know enough to have a conversation about any kind of sports.
The Beach!
 I finally managed to take a trip where it didn't rain, and it was the perfect one to have good weather on.  We went to the beach of the Sea of Japan, which was perfect swimming temperature, and really beautiful.  We swam around in the ocean, and my friend Tyler found something red at the bottom.  We came to the conclusion that we would poke it with a stick.  It turned out to be this gem:
Oops, I dropped half my Jetski in the ocean.  Oh well, that's its new home now.
As we lounged on the beach with our newfound treasure, a local woman approached us and told us she came to the beach every day to feed the cat that lived there.  We all started talking in Japanese (by which I mean Tyler spoke to her in Japanese and we listened intently), and she seemed very nice.  We ended up talking for about 2 hours.  She wanted to be friends on Facebook, so we did that.  After we got back home that night, we all got messages from her in Japanese.  It took me about 10 minutes to decipher her message and reply, at which point she messaged me back immediately.  I gave up.

The next day Tyler told us about his interaction with her, in which she told him "I like you.  I love you." in English, and that she wanted to be his girlfriend in Japanese.  Later that day she upped the ante with "I wont to marriage with you."  Tyler managed to avoid a phone conversation with her, saying that it was too difficult. We were all fairly amazed, but the best part happened later that night.

I got a message saying that she wanted to "secret chat" with me.  I thought that maybe she wanted to dish some juicy gossip on her feelings for Tyler, so naturally I was into that.  She called me, and I answered against my better judgement, because I know how difficult it is to understand another language over the phone.  She didn't mention Tyler at all and instead focused on how much fun our time at the beach had been.  Then she decided to tell me how much she wanted to get married, which she immediately followed with "Do you want a Japanese girlfriend?".  I tried to tell her that I liked to take things slowly, but my Japanese wasn't up to the task, and she kept interpreting it that I wasn't interested in women.  Eventually I agreed with her to save time.  She stopped talking to us after that, but we haven't ruled out the possibility she'll go after the rest of the males in the group.

 Since littering is a huge crime, and throwing things away is super difficult here, I ended up taking the half a Jetski home with me.  Now it's all I have to remember an interesting trip to the beach and a woman who was probably on the prowl for more than cats.

Highlights of random English apparel I've seen:

T-shirt:   Is it in?
Purse:    Do everything you can to succeed.  Make-up can make you happy.
T-shirt:   Are you move? Recently I began to become sticky in my lifestyle.
Hat:        Boner!
T-shirt on a 12-year-old girl:  I feel like making love.
T-shirt:   This is a spicy message from blue cross girl.

Picture credits