Spencer Warn, a fraternity friend of mine who I had also taken Japanese classes with had planned a sudden trip to Japan in search of work. He was looking for employment along the same lines as what I do here, but was open to just about anything that would get him back in the country. He had studied abroad for a full year at the same school I had spent a month at, so we have a lot of overlapping friends in the Tokyo area. As I can very well understand, once you’ve been here for any length of time, to go home is to be out of your element. As a fellow former resident, his clambering back to this place could not be more logical to me. When I had heard he was in Tokyo, I coaxed him onto a bus to come visit me for a weekend.
At Ryan’s, with creepy Jon in the back.
He arrived uncomfortably early on Saturday morning, so I trudged over to the station to get him. Once back at my place, we just relaxed for a bit till later in the afternoon when we went to the Shionoe Art Museum. I had met someone a few days earlier who invited me to a tea party and ocarina concert, which was plenty interesting. Following that, I also had an appointment to teach some English with Makita Sensei. I always try to make things interesting for these lessons with various props, and taking a friend along as a new pool of interview questions is a great way to do it. Everything went great, other than my impressive ability to bleed from the lips after cutting it on pineapple…
With our job done, it was time to head into Tak[amatsu] to engage in the rest of our night . On the way to picking up Yusuke, a Japanese guy I met and was introducing to the group, we notice the whümp whümp sound of a flat tire. We earned some man points by having it swapped and on our way again in 15 minutes. Whenever I told Japanese people we had changed it ourselves, they were really impressed. In Japan, the spirit of ‘do-it-yourself’ has been chewed up and spit out by a ‘pay-exorbitant-prices-for-anything’ one. We were soon able to meet up with the main group, who had assembled at Ryan’s apartment a few hours earlier for a dinner party. Ryan’s town is famous for carving stone, and in the latter part of the summer there is a famous walk that includes a countless sum of finely carved lanterns, set alight every night for families and couples to enjoy. There were indeed some really cool ones, and had Kanako been there (ideally without everyone present as well) I would have gotten some major brownie points for the romantic nature of the path.
A couple examples of work that was there. Not so sure about that last one…
After a bit, we got back to Ryan’s, where socializing began. Due to my summer travel shenanigans, I was absent at both orientation sessions, so I was still only just meeting the new batch of teachers. This crew had people coming largely from England, America, Canada and South Africa. I’ll be looking forward to ramping up my international exposure and network of foreign contacts. After a few hours here of getting friendly, the consensus that splitting a few cabs to the city became the best course of action. I was fine with this as well, since a tour of the Takamatsu nightlife was an important part of any itinerary I construct for my friends. We went to a place called Amazon, where us knowing the bartender quite well earns us a few extra liberties. Into the night we went, and didn’t get home until around 5am. I was impressed with my staying power, as my poor sleep habits tend to have me sapped of my will to go on by 3:00.
On Sunday, we had another full day of pretty casual fun. In the afternoon, a simple request that Spencer would like to see the mountains chained from a back-road car excursion, to the exploration of a deserted house buried deep in the forest, and also a long chat with my landlord at his equally remote workshop.
The road. This portion didn’t have a cliff to the side, like most everywhere else.
I had taken these roads a few times before as I occasionally grow weary of the main one. I’ll often take my guests through these too, since they can see the most isolated of Japanese life. On the way through, we came upon an old house that was was being completely reclaimed by nature. The most logical thing to do was to go check it out, of course. Sidestepping spiderwebs and battling with countless mosquitoes, we managed to work our way through the front gate. There were no paths, and the bamboo had come right up to the house. The peculiar bit was that everything had just been left behind. There were dishes, futons, and books strewn about – the house had been utterly deserted. There were numerous places where the floors had sagged and rotted though completely, though that didn’t stop us from working our way to the top floor, which had many interesting artifacts. We found pictures, school books, some clothes, and numerous trinkets. While we didn’t loot anything, it really charged my curiosity about the history of this town, and to know what other nooks and crannies of history could be stashed in the woods.
From the outside
One more of the inside, the main floor was hurting a bit.
After a solid hour of walking around the grounds, we got back in the car, and made it to my landlord’s metalworking shop. This too is buried deep in the woods, but represents property that has been in his family for over 200 years. We ended up just talking with him for at least an hour over some coffee. We learned that the guy who owned the land and house had just up and left to Kobe 50 years ago, and also that the 250 acres of land could be bough for as little as 600 dollars. Whether I have any actual use for it remains to be seen, but I’ll keep it in the back of my mind. Owning a mountain in the town I lived in would certainly make for a good souvenir, especially if I could be a homeowner as a result…
Back at home, Spencer noticed that he would need to leave that night on the overnight Jumbo Ferry to Kobe if he were to catch his next bus. So, after getting some food and readying the bags, I got him into town to catch the Jumbo Ferry. We said our goodbyes and he was on his way.
Though the actual stay was abbreviated a bit, we did manage to pack a great deal into the weekend. It had been over a year since I had last seen the guy, and any chance to play host to people from home will always be embraced by me. Spencer too had a great time, and in only those two days was fully converted in his placement hopes. Initially having his doubts about the countryside, hoping instead to remain in Tokyo, he now wants to be buried as deeply in the hills as myself. Hopefully a future return by him grants us the chance to repeat the weekend and explore my world a little further. I also want to reassert my open door policy to everyone stateside, I would love to have more friends make it out here.