座和民と大蔦島のさよならパーティーそしてある橋 – Zawatami & Tsutajima Sayonara Parties & Some Bridge

August marks the time that us old folks leave and the eager new faces arrive.  Sayonara season is upon us.  Every year we go to the island of Tsutajima for an incredible night of fun and festivities.  But every year, there is also a debate launched by those less adventurous types who aren’t willing to stay the night on an island, or are otherwise too lazy to travel an hour to get there.  Generally, the people complaining the loudest are those who have never been at all.  This time around, so as to appease these people and quell their cries for revolution, it was decided that we would also have a sayonara dinner, where those leaving would be paid for by the local AJET chapter.

We island goers didn’t really think it necessary, but as a returner being paid for, there was no justification in complaining.  We all gathered at Zawatami on Friday evening for some good times.  There was a great turnout of returners who were likely drawn from their recesses by the lure of friends at no cost, as well as stayers willing to shell out to see these people for perhaps the last time.  There were a number of others that I had fallen out of touch with since my first year, so catching up with a couple of them was good as well.  We had about 3 hours of course food and bottomless drinks and a lot of people determined to make the most of it.  We ended up staying well past the time limit on account of us ordering too much and having to sip away at our backlog.  Waste not want not.

Some of the crew

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We all had a great time talking about whatever, laughing and taking photos.  There were many unexplained pictures that came from my camera being passed around.  At one point were were trying to take some impromptu glamour shots, and at other times were just making stupid faces.  We had a great time.

An example of the latter

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For reasons beyond my understanding, I was asked to raise a toast on behalf of the party.  I wouldn’t really consider myself much of a wordsmith, but I was able to pull something out and make it work well enough.  Among other things I reflected on what an incredible thing it was for me to have the friendships of such a diverse group of people and how fortunate we’ve all been to have shared some piece of this adventure together.  It may have gotten rambly at the end, but everyone seemed pleased enough.

By midnight everyone had gone their own ways, with most stopping by another establishment, doing karaoke, or just returning home.  Everyone had a wonderful time and this being the last chance for me to see some of these people, it was a great way to say our goodbyes.

Ain’t nothing like a little singing…

With one of the parties finished, that meant that for the third and final time, we were to congregate on the island of Tsutajima to take part in merry celebration.  Last year there were far fewer people leaving, and even then most of them didn’t come thanks to some conflict.  This time around though, Kagawa is seeing a mass exodus and many of us were there to celebrate.

Saad, Hannah and I were in the Fun Car and well on our way to the small island located on the far west side of the prefecture, just off the port of Nio.  I felt like it was time to get of the freeway pretty soon, so Saad checked the navigation for us.  Everything seemed to be in order, but when the time came we were unable to get ourselves off of the freeway.  As these are all toll roads in Japan, they don’t have a whole lot of exits on them.  Having missed ours, we had to keep going for a while.  At the mercy of the road, we continued on for about 15 km, nipping into two other prefectures before we were able to get going back the other way.  We lost a bit of time.

When we finally did arrive at the port, Saad hopped on the boat to ferry our stuff across while Ryan, Hannah and I swam.  This was standard procedure for me, but Ryan was making his first crossing like this.  I jumped in off of a large retaining wall, bringing back summer memories of jumping off of the pier at the Holland State Park.  The water was as warm as I’ve ever felt for the ocean. We moved pretty slowly, but there was no rush.

Here was the view from where swam.  Big and Little Tsutajima, Tetrapods

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When we arrived, there were not a whole lot of other people there but it wasn’t long before we had a crowd.  The island is quite small, but in my previous two visits I hadn’t actually explored any of it.  So with a couple of the others we made the 5 minute hike to see the other side.  I was amazed at the beauty of it.  There were beautiful brown cliffs that we perched on to enjoy a view out over the Seto Sea and some islands as well.  I stupidly forgot to bring my camera here, but Google Images gave me this one.  We climbed on top of the rock formation at the lower right hand side.  After indulging in the view, I skipped a few stones with Ollie and then returned to the main gathering area.

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At this point, the grills had started to come out and people were trying their hand at cooking.  I knew that I wouldn’t be up to the task, so I just brought a couple bentos which while mediocre did get me filled up.  From here on out, the event continued as it always does.  We did a good amount of swimming on the large floating rafts.  We moved them closer to each other so that we could play toss a football and a frisbee from one to the other.  There was a pickup game of soccer which I looked on at from the cabanas as well.  At about sundown, some people started to get a fire going which was nice, since I couldn’t really be bothered to this year.

Buseidon, Greek God of the Beach

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One of the perennial highlights of this island is the bio-luminescent plankton in the water.  One it was dark, swimming just off from shore would cause a neon blue light to form in every bit of the water you disturbed.  This gave a beautiful shadow effect to every pass of the hand that was even better when enjoyed though goggles.  It really is a remarkable bit of nature.

I’ve never met this man, but the effect looked like this.  Long exposure shot

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Until the time that everyone turned in we danced to music, did a lot of sparklers (I pranced like no man has ever pranced before), and shared in some good conversation.  In some ways it was a tamer event than years past, but the people there made it great.  The sayonara party has been held here for at least a decade, and it is certainly a tradition that I hope to never see change.

The sun was coming up by the time we turned in and before long we were all rousing from our unsurprisingly awful sleep.  This was however the first year that I chose to crash somewhere other than on the sand by the fire.  The wooden board I instead used was made for a horrible bed, but I was having a hard time getting excited about the basking my moist self in the sand all night.

Mornings are the worst

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The next morning, we all sorted ourselves and got off the island within the 7 o’clock hour.  Certainly the worst part about the party is having to wake up there, but generally the night’s antics are enough to justify it all.  Saad, Hannah and I had made plans to drive into Tokushima to see the Iya Valley vine bridge.  This is pretty far away from anything else, but it did take us though some really mountainous areas and along some very windy roads.  Some of the road started to look familiar and then I realized that I had traced portions of this route with Soeng ages ago.  One of the must sees is a statue of a naked boy peeing off a rock, officially translated into English as ‘Mannequin Piss Boy’.

The statue is so out of place, but its embodiment of every man makes it perfect

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When we finally arrived at the vine bridge, there were a ton of Japanese tourists.  After parking up and walking down the path to where we could see the bridge, we were sorely disappointed.  It was indeed a vine bridge, but it didn’t really have a look of authenticity and was likely reinforced with wires.  There were hoards of old folks inching across it as if it were somehow scary.  We felt as if we had been conned by Japan and its tendency to tout remarkable nature of average attractions.  We opted to settle for a picture and save ourselves the cost of walking across.  I don’t regret going though, it had to be done, but I would never go again of my own free will.

Here you can see just as much of it as is necessary

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We made the drive back and we were all home at last by about 1.  There was plenty of day for us to do what we wanted, but like the rest of the island goers, I spent the afternoon asleep.  It was overall a great weekend and the sayonara parties had to happen before I could make the mental transition into ‘go home’ mode.

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