Chasing Cherry Blossoms
about mearchive

Saturday, August 13, 2011

An English Boy in Matsuyama: Part Ichi

I am literally in love with this picture. But, before I explain the context, there's something that needs covering: namely, the fact that I spent Wednesday morning IN HOSPITAL.
When informed of the fact that I’d spent the morning being looked at by a doctor, Tom, my friend from New Zealand that I met in Tokyo, presumed (like many of my other friends would, depressingly), that it was with alcohol poisoning. I can confirm that the reality was much less glamorous: it was, in fact, an ear infection that I’d picked up from swimming in the sea. After two hours waiting, and a further half an hour of having my ears prodded with hot needles (ohmyDAYS the pain), I was allowed to escape with a prescription for some antibiotics.  It was a little scary being in a foreign hospital not understanding what the fuck was going on, but one of the Japanese teachers I work with (Miyazaki-sensei, a pretty good speaker of English), was there to do all the translation and see me through, so everything was alright in the end! Plus, I got given the rest of the day off work to rest at home! Every cloud, right?
Also, for my first eight nights in Ainan, I was lucky enough to have to cook dinner for myself only once! The good thing about being a gaijin in a small town full of hospitable people is that everyone you meet will fall over themselves to try and show you snippets of their culture by, amongst other things, plying you with heaps of Japanese food. So on Monday night, Miyazai-sensei treated me to shabu-shabu at her house, where, as well as being presented with some lavish homemade cooking, I was also gifted with my very own yukata... the kanji on the back says “ichiban”, which means “first” or “number one”... she knows me too well; on Tuesday night, my supervisor’s family threw me a traditional Japanese barbeque, where fish-hating me somehow found himself eating shark, swordfish and clams, swapping numbers with a 73-year old lady in my adult conversation class who I promised to call, AND doing a post-barbeque tour of the local karaoke establishments until four in the morning (including personal renditions crucifixions of the Beach Boys, Beyonce, U2, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Ne-Yo, Wham! and Britney Spears... most of which were thrust upon me by eager Japanese people wanting to hear some well-known English songs sung by a native speaker); and, finally, on Wednesday night, Haru’s original owners cooked me okonomiyaki at their place... DELISH!
So after yet more busy days (and nights) in Ainan, it was time for me, on Thursday morning, to hop on a bus and head north to Matsuyama, not only the capital city of Ehime prefecture, but also the largest city on the whole island of Shikoku. It’s three hours away by bus from Ainan and it's here that the above photo was taken on Thursday night. Here in Matsuyama, I’ve been busy attending the Ehime Prefectural Orientation (basically a smaller series of lectures for all the new Ehime JETs: think Tokyo Orientation but on a smaller scale), which finished yesterday, and, from Monday, I’ll be taking part in a Japanese language course for ten days!  The Ehime Orientation was, essentially, both good and bad for the same reasons as Tokyo: good for providing an opportunity to meet a bunch of other interesting JETs, bad for consisting of a jam-packed schedule of lectures of variable levels of interest. Anyway, on Thursday night (the first night of the Orientation), there was a social for all the new JETs at an izakaya in the middle of the city: basically, you pay 2500 yen up front (around £15) for all the food and drink you want. This was a completely alien concept to me. And only now do I understand why I’d never seen these places at home. The thing is, the Japanese are a polite, unassuming bunch, so give them an all-you-can-drink event and they’ll pace themselves like they would on any other night. The gimmick is lost on the majority of them, really. Switch the crowd to a bunch of twenty-something gaijins and the phrase “all-you-can-drink” suddenly becomes a challenge. We’re not so polite, and not so unassuming, and we’re here to get our money’s worth. Unsurprisingly, then, the outcome is very different.  In a word: carnage. I certainly wasn’t the only one stumbling into lectures on Friday morning looking like he’d been shat all over by a sweat monster after a few too many chu-hais. And I certainly wasn’t the only one still feeling rough when we all met up to hang out in the park the next night.
So now it’s the weekend and Orientation’s over. The language course doesn’t start till Monday, so I treated myself this morning to my first lie-in since God knows when. Plus, class is only two hours a day for the next two weeks, and the rest of the time I’m free, so I figure I’ve got plenty of time left to explore Matsuyama. I want to go up to Matsuyama Castle on the hill at some point. Just cruising around the city this evening, I managed to stumble upon a carnival in the street – I thought I’d take a path I hadn’t been down before to try and find somewhere new to eat and BAM, hello street festival! There were rows of dancers for as far as the eye can see – little kids, old women, even a Thomas the Tank Engine seemed everyone had turned out to celebrate something. If only I knew what it was!

Oh, forgot to say – my first pay day’s this Friday. The priority with my newfound wealth is to redecorate my apartment back in Ainan. Reckon I’ll also buy myself a Nintendo 3DS and take advantage of the fact that the new Mario Kart’s being released donkeys years earlier over here than it is at home. Yeah, I’m cool. At the moment, I’m booked into the local capsule hotel where I’m sitting writing all this down. I figured I couldn’t turn down the offer of the chance to spend a night sleeping in a pill-shaped pod. Plus, it’s dirt-cheap and slap bang in the middle of the town.  Ideal.

 So I’ve been living in a capsule for three nights now... I figure it’s time to move on. On that basis, I’m off to stay with my friend Rachel (a fellow first-year Ehime JET from Canada) in Hojo, which is a twenty minute train ride away from Matsuyama city centre. Rachel’s been kind enough to say I can stay the week, so I’ll be with her in Hojo until Friday. Then, after class is over on Friday, I’m off to Hiroshima to visit Tom. Luckily, Hiroshima Prefecture is just north of Ehime Prefecture on Honshu Island... I’m not quite sure how I’m getting there yet, but apparently there’s a ferry from Imibari or something. I’ll work it out! So then I’ll spend three nights at Tom’s in Akitsu before rushing back on Monday to spend my last five days in Matsuyama! Since when was life this chaotic?

Image Hosted by


Post a Comment

<< Home

Layout adapted from a creation by tuesdaynight / Click here to go home.