It’s odd that I’ve forgotten to include the topic in my posts, but Sunday saw me heading out to the Zepp Hall in Osaka to see Jack Johnson, live. Kyunai Ayaka-san brought a CD of his along to play during exercise care way back in January and I was caught by the intriguing lyrics and easy-going melodies.
It definitely feels like the work of a boy who grew up surfing and living in Hawaii, being good background music when it suits, or drawing a thoughtful, refreshing line when you stop to listen. He has become quite popular out here in Japan and is here touring with his third album at the moment – I think tonight he’s in Nagoya.
From the beginning; On Saturday evening Niall, myself, Norrice and Christina were at Maeda-sensei’s house for a barbeque with a load of Japanese children and their parents. The kid that sees me as little more than a tree was there and didn’t hesitate to start climbing on me as soon as I took the corner around the side of her house ^^;. We played around and prepared the barbeque for a while until clambering kid, Takahiro-chan suddenly got upset and ran off (I assume it was because I stole his hat for longer than he thought funny oO). I followed him down the road trying to stop him, my mind frantically drawing on all the sources I knew for dealing with kids, which disappointingly seemed to originate entirely from movie scenes…
I tackled him with the first thing that materialised in my head, and let him punch his anger into me. This got me several shots to the solar plexus (I’m glad he was only about 8 years old) and snivels instead of crying, but he didn`t stop walking! I followed him down the road and under a bridge, talking as best I could in Japanese, but he didn’t utter a word in response. I couldn’t very well physically restrain him from wandering off as I pictured things in my head involving a screaming child and angry Japanese citizens – the obaasan (grandmothers) can be surprisingly nimble when they need to be and I`m sure all those days working in the rice paddys have given them hands made of hide packing a hefty wallop… So on I followed, over another bridge, down another road. ‘I’m sorry’. ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘This is far.’ ‘Your mum. Worried’ ‘Let’s return’. I got odd looks following a sullen child down the street in my bright orange shirt…
Taka-chan eventually stopped and sat down of his own accord. I thought up a new plan of action while I tied my shoelaces. Bugs! Of course – all boys like bugs, right!? It turned out with a gruff nod in response that he did, but not frogs (dammit, why does nobody like frogs! ^^;). He began collecting snails along the path until he spotted a stick – a large one at that. I can still remember the joy a large stick would instill in me not so long ago. Why, I would pull large sticks directly from the earth just to hold it and feel the almighty power run through me. With a stick, anything was possible! You could brake through folliage, poke into holes, dig the earth and swing it into annoying siblings. He seemed to feel that same authority and shot a grin at me. I relapsed into Kendo training pose, my hands cupped above my head to act as the men (helmet/mask), and we were off! I was just teaching him to call out and stamp his foot as his mother pulled up in her car. I had feared she would think badly of me for being alone with Taka-chan (as foreigners in Japan don`t have a great reputation) and perhaps she did, but she humbly apologised to me and we went back to the barbeque. Taka-chan quickly forgot about his upset back at the party and we were throwing balls and back to clambering in no time ^_^.
Later on that night, just before we saw the kids off home, a few of us took a stroll to the nearby river. It was a little early for them yet, but we began to count: Ippiki, ni hiki, san biki, yon hiki, go hiki… as many as roppiki (6) green lights emerged from the banks, some aloft emitting their fairy light into the air. I’m something of a firefly fantatic, having not seen them properly since the Summer of the Mendips camp in Somerset when I was 12, save for an odd one or two along the banks of the Kinabatangan River in Malaysia this March. This wasn’t the sight of the dozens I saw on the night walk all those years ago, but it looks promising. I hope to return in a couple of weeks to see if there are more ^_^.
I paced down the familiar Miyukidori shopping street in Himeji on Sunday morning, stopping to buy an apple along the way but I was surprised to see them selling durians there too! Since I haven’t written about my Malaysia trip yet, I’ll fill you in. Durian is known as the ‘King of Fruits’. A spiky exterior with a soft yellow coating around the large stones inside, it has a very powerful odour and rich, creamy taste. It`s notorious for its smell and the fobidding ‘No Durians’ sign alongside the `No Smoking` one and other standard instructions on Singaporean buses is testament to this. The price matched such a tropical fruit – nearly 25.00 pounds!
I met Kyunai-san outside the station having minutes ago wolfed down an oyakodon (chicken and egg on rice), to make our way to Osaka. We arrived early at the Zepp Hall and spent a little while wandering around a flea market there that day and afterwards along a small river. The curious little creatures in the water seemed to interest us both more than the scenery around, something like water fleas crossed with tiny shrimp and a small kurage (jellyfish) ^_^;. It was just as well I stood up from peering into the darkened water at that moment as we almost missed the gaikokujin (foreigner) cycling past on the other side of the river – a moment’s hesitation bound us, but it was unmistakable seeing him later on stage – Jack Johnson! Interesting entrance too, no security or anything, just him and his friend on bicycles.
The concert was good fun – nowhere near as energised as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers one I went to last Summer as the music is a different sort, but people were bobbing along nonetheless. The whole crowd was singing along to the chorus of ‘Bubble Toes’ midway through and I could hear the Japanese girls around me swooning over him; ‘Kawaii Jacku!’ (Cute Jack) and even one or two ‘I love you’s from the second floor ^^.
To complete the night, Kyunai-san took us to a restaurant she’d visited before – a robatayaki (a Japanese style barbeque cooked in front of the customers). It was animated from the point we walked in with a round of Bingo and people ordering from all directions. The ‘fry boy’ in front of us would take the various food items and barbeque them before serving, sometimes via a long wooden spatula like object that reached several metres to the customer. You order small food items individually, kind of like ordering nothing but appetisers. The atmosphere was a lot of fun as it drew together the whole restaurant as opposed to dining privately – the walls were laden with Polaroid photos of previous guests and groups having fun – quite unlike anything I’ve tried before ^_^.
I’d better push on with the other notes. I’ve been pondering my position out here and decided that I haven’t any reason to rush back to the U.K. quickly as getting a job will be difficult (I have no transport out of my town) and little time before University anyway. So considering I’m already saving some money out here, I figured I would extend my stay slightly longer. This date is only likely to change if my flights are cancelled or such as I need to be back home for August. Therefore, my return flight is now July 28th. I’m sorry that I’m being selfish in continually rescheduling my stay, but it’s not much longer…
The other reason for pushing this back is because I happened across a reference to a small pilgrimage on Shoudoshima (Shoudo island) in the book ‘Hokkaido Highway Blues’. It is a scaled down version of the 88 temple walk Shikoku island that takes about 60 days to complete, supposedly walking in the footsteps of the Kobo Daishi, who introduced Shingon (True Word) Buddhism to Japan. The Shoudoshima one is still 88 temples, but about 150km and takes a week or so. I might be doing that in middle July hopefully just after the rainy season, before I return. As a point of interest, the number 88 represents the evil passions in Buddhist doctrine which one can rid themselves of by visiting each temple. Since I don’t have time to do the full 1,600km one on Shikoku yet, I thought this would be a start ^_^. I’m looking for a book in English that details it, but it’s likely I’ll go ahead regardless.
Okay. A final note of well-wishes to everyone doing exams and other things at the moment and a small request: I was just wondering how my posts read… Can you give me a comment and some feedback? Are they too detailed? Not funny enough? Too hard to read? Downright boring? I’d appreciate some thoughts ^^. Thanks.