Chasing Cherry Blossoms
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Konichiwa, Ainan!

So it's all been decided... a phonecall from home today has revealed that I've been assigned to Ainan Town in Ehime Prefecture! I've been doing my best to do some research on Ainan, but, quite frankly, details are pretty hard to come by...! Nevertheless, here's a collection of a few snippets of information which I have been able to uncover:
Firstly, Ainan is not part of the Japanese mainland, but is a town situated on the south of Shikoku Island (the smallest of Japan's four main islands). It's a small, mountainous fishing village, which is home to a number of national parks and has a population of less than 30,000 people. In other words, it's pretty damn rural. As one website writes: "Ainan is a seaside haven, whose rich, calm waters nurture tropical corals, colorful fish, and the abundant pearl and tai farms in the region."

Also, on the more quirky side, Ainan is located in Ehime prefecture, home to Japan's oldest onsen (hot spring), Dogo Onsen, which was the inspiration for the bath-house in Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away"! Obviously, having seen the film more times than is probably healthy to admit to, it's top of my mental list of places to visit.

All in all, then, it looks like I'm going to be a bit of a country bumpkin for the next year! I'm quite excited to be going somewhere so rural - out of interest I looked up the population density of Ainan compared to London: whereas the latter's over 12,000 people per square mile, Ainan's just about 120 people per square mile... quite a difference! And from watching the JET Introduction DVD which I got sent in the post, Ainan's a smaller town than all but one of those featured. Of course, it's a little daunting to be going to such a remote town, but, on the whole, I'd much rather be somewhere untouched and rural than a bustling, suffocating city. Any tourist with enough money can go to the big cities and have the big experiences that any tourist with enough money can have, but how many can say they've had the chance to live for a year as a member of a rural seaside community?

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