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Catching Up

Monday, August 08, 2005
I've been away for a few days, and even though everyone keeps promising that I'll have the internet at home "soon," it's not happening. For now, I'm still posting from the Board of Ed.

Okushi Beach

The story starts last Thursday after work, when Cory, Megan, and I went to Okushi Beach, which from what I understand is Osakikamijima's premier beach. The Japanese love rating things, there's a top three list for almost everything in Japan. Top three best views, top three best train stations, best roads, best restaurants, anything really. I don't think that Okushi Beach is in the top three, but it is apparently known in Japan as one of the great beaches. I'm not really sure why though - It's a flat sandy beach, that's for sure. It's raked and swept and bulldozed into total flat and clean-ness, and between the back of the beach and the field where you park, there's a giant concrete wall instead of dunes. The effect when you're in the water looking back up the beach is more postmodern minimalist fortifications and less cheery summer beach. The water is lovely, and completely clean as well - a fine net is strung up all the way around the swimming area to keep out any sort of wildlife that you might bump into. We swam, and then I wanted to take a walk, down the beach a ways, away from all the micro managed perfect vacation spot. I'm glad we did.

Anywhere there is water on Osakikamijima, there are thousands of these little insects. I don't know what they are, and they range between a half inch and almost two inches in length. They stay near the water, but I think they almost never go in. As soon as you see them, they see you and they hide just out of your line of sight. Sometimes there are so many of them that you round a bend and there are hundreds of these things, all streaming away from you, and in two or three seconds you can't see any of them at all.

In this picture you can also see the type of rock that the cliffs are made of. It's like rough-packed sand, hard - but run your hand over it and little bits come off. The erosion of these rocks is what makes the sandy beaches.

Cory and Megan - so far away!

In the background, you can see Okushi Beach, in all its swept sand concrete wall glory.


On Saturday morning I got up at the crack of dawn to go to taker Driving School to participate in the mandatory "Scooter School" - a really easy and not particularly enlightening three hour session whose two high points were driving around the fake city streets that the driving school had set up on a scooter, and watching a video where some poor out of work stuntman crashes five different scooter about 15 different ways. The guy got hit by a car, crashed into trucks, went through puddles, went into a ditch, over a number of hoods, and wasn't wearing much protective gear either. At one point you get to see a helmet-eye view as he zooms between two lanes of stopped cars. All of a sudden someone opens the door of their car right in front of him and gets out of the car, and the video freeze frames on the poor driver's blurry terrified face. I didn't understand a single word of the narration, but you can be sure that I enjoyed the trials of the unnamed stuntman.

From Takehara I caught the bus to Hiroshima City for the 60th anniversary of the A-Bombing. I had arranged to meet a couple of JETs there, with plans to go to the peace park, the museum, and then the river at night, where people float paper lanterns down the river. Hiroshima was a mob scene. There were tourists everywhere - it was strange to see foreigners again after even just a week on the island - what is coming home going to be like?

I didn't take any pictures earlier in the day, the peace park is a park and venue around what they call the "A-Bomb Dome" - one of the few buildings that was left standing after the bomb. That building is pretty incredible to see, the brick and concrete survived pretty well, but there are metal staircases, window frames, and other pieces that are just melted into these soft and droopy shapes. Something else that I didn't expect was that around the building, maybe ten feet out from every wall, they left all the rubble - there are piles of bricks, concrete, and stone. It's just a tiny area, and it's surrounded by fences and healthy grass, but you get just the slightest hint of what it might have been like when the entire city was just a single field of rubble.

The museum was interesting, depressing, packed with people, and very hot. We walked through, but I think I'll go back another time and actually spend the three or four hours that it calls for.

After the museum we got some food and then went to the river to watch the lanterns. They started at 7:30.

Three boats with about five people in each boat constructed, lit, and launced every lantern. I think there were over 20,000 of them launched.

Small boats went up and down the river, supplying the lantern boats, occaisonally bringing fresh crews of people to work on the boats.

People made candles and lit them all the way around the dome's outer edge.

You could write your name and a message on a small piece of wood, which was then added to a winding wall of names and messages.

Coming Home

I'm almost done, I swear. On Sunday, I got back to Osakikamijima, but I arrived at the farthest ferry port from my apartment. It's a 40 minute bike ride, and so I decided I'd take it slowly and see if I could find anything new. About ten minutes into my ride, I came across a seawall that ran from the road I was on to a little island. I saw that there was a bike parked on the seawall, so I parked my bike, and walked out. There isn't much to say, other than it was a beautiful little rock outcropping, clear water filled with little fish, an entirely different sort of rock, rough and jagged, occaisonally breaking off in almost perfect squares, making comfortable shady places to sit. I was struck again by the "woah, I live in a tropical paradise" feeling.

A fisherman went by. I waved to him. He waved back.

And that's it. Lunch time.