So, I`ve been at Shiso Home about a week now and the reason for the lack of updates is simply because we have to pay for the Internet, and use it within a 2 hour block each day – which also convieniently includes dinner in that timespan. So yup, not at all pleased with that, although as of yet, I haven`t really suffered computer withdrawl symptoms, only keeping in touch with people.
Shsio Home is located in Haga-cho, near Yamasaki City in the Hyogo prefecture. As you might`ve guessed from the restricted Internet, we are in a really rural area, which is good and bad in many ways. Dave is at Hansin Home, in a larger City and has department stores and more facilities etc, although you couldn`t beat the air and the view we have out here! It`s also cooler where we are and surprisngly, even at Harima Home just in the next town, it gets hotter as you go to towards the city. We have a small `Lawson` convienince store about a 10 minute bike ride from here and several other shops the further you go. If you go the 18km to Yamasaki (as we foolishly decided to do by bicycle on our second day here), you can find some larger stores and a McDonalds – which has signs advertising it for 15km!
I`m trying to be concise and quick here, so I apologise if the entry seems choppy. My apartment is 3 areas including a tiny bathroom and kitchen and a standard bedroom of the Japanese style; nothing flashy. The bath is Japanese style (that is, deep as opposed to long) with a Western style toilet. The kitchen has a gas (?) hob – which you can tell I haven`t used yet – a mini fridge and a small toaster oven which comes in handy for the morning bread we`re given. The bread is oishi (delicious) as it:s freshly baked right here at Shiso Home and eaten by the residents and staff of all 3 Cheshire Homes – Hanshin, Harima and here at Shiso. My room has a bed (Western style, unfortunately for me) with tatami mats covering the floor and sliding tatami doors for the entrance to it and the cupboards.. It`s comfortable enough, so I`m happy ^_^.
The area surrounding us is mountainous covered by a thick – whats loooks to be coniferous – layer of greenery. In Haga-cho, the houses are small, somewhat run down Japanese houses and many, many small areas for growing rice. We can often see the local women in their large braod brimmed hats out working in their gardens and the men up on the roofs performing maintenance. As I said earlier, the best thing is the quiet, fresh rural atmosphere, but it is far from the city (and bloody expensive to get there!) and lacks a great many things to do. Saying that though, there are plenty of small shrines and temples to see, and if I`m not fit after these 6 months, then I`ll be very annoyed – we`re having to cycle and walk everywhere you see :P.
We have been warned of the poisionous snakes in the woods around us, and told of deer and bears that sometimes make an appearance. There are also wild boars at Harima )20 minutes down the road form us), again, only speculation for me so far – I haven`t actually seen any! I might add that there are nasty black, yellow and red coloured spiders all around our apartment block. I have pictures (which I doubt I will be able to post online until I get home, unless I get lucky or find a CD shop to burn them onto and send out to people). The are (unsurprsingly) poisonous, but haven`t been too much of a problem so far. Kyunai-san – (who has explained most of our tasks and helped us settle in) cleared them away for now – except `Fat Bastard` (aptly named by Jessica – my GAP partner), so I felt a little pathetic after complaining about them ^_^. I guess I`m not used to having such initimidating arachnids outside my door – wasps from England are no comnparison – these guys would have them as a light appetiser before munching on a king-size whopper moth ^_^;
Anyway, that`s the basic stuff down. Hopefully I`lll be able to type more soon, maybe Wednesday when we go for tea ceremonies at a Buddhist`s Temple, who kindly offered us the full use of his facilities, including Internet, lifts to the city and staying overnight on occasion. It sounds odd, I know, it being a beautiful Temple. – We had the great experience of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony on Wednesday, which apparently we get to do every week. So hopefully it won`t become boring ^_^;