|Culture Festival (Chiran)|
|Red Torii Gates @ Fushimi Iinari Temple (Kyoto)|
|Plastic Food! (Everywhere)|
|Have a Child, Need to go to the Toilet? No Problem! (Everywhere)|
|Nishiki Market (Kyoto)|
|Vegetables in Miso (Nishiki Market, Kyoto)|
|Light Festival (Makurazaki)|
|Meeting Chris + Alan 2 + 1 (Osaka)|
|Going Nuts Over Arcades (Everywhere)|
|Taiko Challenge Against Taiko Master Wendy (Kagoshima)|
|Fake Geisha (Kyoto)|
|One of Kyoto's many Temples (Kyoto)|
|Temple Life Over the City (Kyoto)|
|Zen Gardens (Chiran)|
|Temple Tree (Kyoto)|
|Inland Sea (from Shikoku)|
|Tatami on a Ferry (Shikoku to Kobe)|
|Random Picture of Diana's Home Town in a Subway (Kobe)|
|Private Onsen (Miyazaki)|
|Yoshi & the Hulk (Miyazaki)|
|Yoshi's Wife & Abs (Miyazaki)|
|Playing in the Park (Chiran)|
|Colourful Nabe (Everywhere)|
|Happy Abs at Kaiten Sushi (Makurazaki)|
|Eggplant Sushi! (Makurazaki)|
|Yoko in the Magical World of Recycled Windmill Bottles (Ei Cho)|
|Thermal Sand bath at Sunset (Yamagawa)|
|Raw Chicken (Kagoshima)|
|Self Cleaning Toilet Controls (Everywhere)|
For those of you who know Abs, you are sure to know of his eternal adoration of the country of the Rising Sun. I would go as far as saying that Abs’ top 3 loves would be in this particular order: Japan, food, Diana. Abs loves Japan. And for my first week I entirely shared his love for the country.
My introduction to Japan started in Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku with a big bowl of steaming udon noodles. Sitting in a small traditional Japanese restaurant on tatami with the waitress constantly bowing and welcoming customers was enough to make me realize I was in a different world. The food was delicious, the people were friendly and extraordinarily polite, service was efficient and the toilets had bum driers and music. Honestly what more can you ask for?
That same day I discovered the 100 yen shops and my life was changed forever. All those products that I had only dreamed of or seen on the telemarketing channel were now right in front of my eyes and available for only 1 euro! What’s more, there were all sorts of junk food that I could have never imagined: chocolate covered crisps, sweet potato donuts, cheesecake flavoured chocolate... I was won…
My infatuation with Japan only kept growing during our five days in Kyoto. Whether it was the stunning temples that we visited, the Zen garden guard that happily took our picture after we sneaked in for a last minute snap or the pumpkin slices that Abs made me taste, I was ready to call Japan my home. At this point of course Abs was secretly high fiving himself and considering bumping me up to number 2 in his list of loves (goodbye food, hello Diana).
But then we flew to Abs’ old stomping ground (Kagoshima) and somehow during our 4 hour drive from the airport to Makurazaki something changed… my new found love suddenly didn't seem so perfect. Somehow the scenery didn't seem so beautiful and there was this weird vibe that came from not seeing anyone on the streets in the middle of the day (except the shopping areas). It was almost as if the locals had been warned that something was about to happen and had all escaped (Abs calls this the "countryside").
Sneaking an apple into my mouth in the back streets of Kagoshima (Japanese do not eat apples whole or with the skin on) and concealing Abs eating a bento on the train (Japanese do not eat in public spaces, excluding parks, restaurants and other designated establishments) was fun and kind of weird but confirmed that I could have a fling with Japan but probably not a long term relationship.
That said hanging out with Abs' old friends, trying karaoke, relaxing in onsens, going crazy over purikura and arcades all made our stay in Japan thoroughly enjoyable and our time a bit too short. And after 3 weeks of visiting countless shrines, 5 nabe meals, 1 game of badminton, 2 excursions to onsens (natural hot baths to the uninitiated), 3 purikura sessions, 1 taiko drum performance, at least 10 kgs of chickes to feed Abs' insatiable appetite for kareage (fried chicken), countless mochi and rice balls and baking 1 birthday carrot cake we left Japan.
(ps just a quick shout out to all the old friends: Ishimoto Sensei + family, Tomi & his wife, Yoshi + family, Kt, Kohei & Yoko, Wendy & Koichi, Natsumi & Chang Wei, Madoka & Ken, Ant + the ever-growing family, the Nishino's (西野), my old students Yusei & Shota and of course the great Mr Kawatoko. It was great seeing you all and we can't wait to see you all again)