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Hiroshima Menkyo Center - and Beyond

Friday, August 19, 2005
Before I say anything else, I'd like to point your attention to the following photos:




(Thanks to Cory for taking the photos)

As far as I can make out, that card says that I am licensed to operate a motorcycle with an engine of 50ccs or less. One point for me. Other than numerous early mornings, and some pretty intense Japanese bureaucracy, not too much happened in Hiroshima. I ate at McDonalds to give it a shot and had something called a "Mac Big Club." The Mac Big Club is kind of like a big mac, but you get one burger patty, and then one fried egg. Instead of special sauce, you get really spicy mustard. It was good, and it's always fun to see how McDonalds is different in different places.

Speaking of eggs on food, Japanese people seem to really like the aesthetic of an egg on top. You can get Ramen noodles with a raw egg on top, a steak with an egg, fried but still runny on a steak. Almost every salad has egg in it, and most sushi rolls do too. Sometimes they boil eggs in soy sauce, which actually tastes really good, and people like the brown color the eggs turn. The worst egg experience I had was at a Chinese restaurant in Hiroshima. I had a piece of duck, and on the side were two soy sauce eggs that looked like they had been soft boiled and cut in half. What it was more like was they were dipped in boiling soy sauce until they became firm enough to hold together without a shell, then cut in half and served, the yolks still raw and cold. Mmm.

Besides that, I just wanted to post these two pictures to show how big the difference between the tides are here. Here are two pictures of a little harbor near my house, one taken at my lunch break, and one in the evening.





That's all I've got for now, I have an orientation is Saijo city for the entirety of next week, hopefully by the time I get back I'll have the internet at my house - I'll have some catching up to do when I get back.

Fishing, Festivals, and Back to Hiroshima - continued

Wednesday, August 17, 2005
So, anyway, that was fun yesterday. I am probably going to end up posting the abridged now with less talk and more photos version, but the pictures haven't changed.

Wednesday

The morning after my fishing trip was another early one, Megan, Cory, and I got up and drove to the ferry port to head over to Hiroshima for the Hiroshima prefecture JET orientation. The first night we all went out, first to an all you can eat/all you can drink beer garden, then a club called Sacred Spirits. A lot of drinks were drunk, and a lot of people were hurting in the morning. Here is how my friends Emily and Byron spent their lunch break, and then most of the afternoon orientation sessions.


They were in the lobby, so I can only imagine what all the passing Japanese businessmen were thinking as they walked by.

Thursday

On Thursday I skipped a bunch of orientation sessions to go explore Hiroshima. I got lost in a giant department store, I saw some cool restaurants, I met up with Cory and Megan for lunch, and then I ended up in a giant arcade. It's called Round 1, and it's seven floors of games. Each floor is divided by genre, type of game, and so on. When I say arcade, it's not just video games, but video games plus bowling plus weird rooms that you can explore plus about twenty types of gambling, and a floor of photo booths that is women and couples only.


This is a seriously giant bingo machine.


The "Alien" theme slot machine/first person shooter.


This was something I had never seen before. On the screen is a horse race. It's a video game, with the latest graphics and everything, but no one is controlling it. The players sit at these little screens and place (real money) bets on the virtual horse race. There are dozens of these games, each one a little different. Some have the screen plus a little miniature track with horses on rails, some have everyone sit around a betting table. There's a lot of video game horse racing around here, actually. In a store that sells Playstation games, there were two entire shelves of horse racing games.


A pretty awesome chair.


Slot machines, I think. It was almost impossible to figure out the subtleties of all these games.


A bunch of Japanese boys, playing as a bunch of US Marines.

Saturday


We got back to Osakikamijima Friday night because Saturday was a festival. All week I had been seeing workers put layers of varnish on long wooden boats in preparation for this day. Each neighborhood on the island was represented with a boat, rowed by local guys. A taiko drummer sets the pace, and young boys in Shinto robes at the front and back of the boat twirl things in time with the rowing. They race around, away from the island and back, over and over again, shouting in time with the drum. Between races, they sing songs, drink sake and beer, and then go do it again.















This crazy boat was a part of the festival, but I'm not quite sure what it did.

That night, The boats all came to Tarumi ferry port, where they took turns trying to climb stairs. The drummer would start calling out and drumming faster, everyone would start rowing like crazy, and then the would go crashing into a steep stone staircase and the boat would slide up. At the peak of their climb sometimes the boat would capsize, or take on a lot of water, but they just pulled their friends back in, bailed out the boat, and did it again. Most of the boaters were so drunk that after they got out of their boats, they could hardly walk.




Through all this, the Tarumi ferry kept making stops, avoiding the boaters who would veer as close to ferry as they dared, never falling behind schedule.






There were fireworks - it seems like there are fireworks at any festival here. The displays go on for a long time, and they are often very close and very loud. Miyajima (an island nearby) has a display that goes on for two and a half hours.


After the fireworks, one boat just refused to quit. They must have hit the steps ten or fifteen times in a row.


Funny story about today. I was supposed to take my scooter test, but it turns out that my boss confused the English words for "Tuesday" and "Wednesday" so I missed the test, which was yesterday. Now they are sending me for a one day business trip to Hiroshima's equivalent of the DMV. I'll be back in two days, hopefully with some interesting stories.

Fishing, Festivals, and Back to Hiroshima

Monday, August 15, 2005
Until I get the internet at home, It looks like I will be perpetually catching up here. I took a day off to go fishing with Mori on Tuesday, then I had an orientation Wednesday through Friday, then it was the weekend, and here I am now, with practically a week's worth of stuff to catch up on.

Monday

Just a quick note - on Monday night Megan, Cory, and I went back to Okushi beach. It was still barricaded, swept, bulldozed, and clean, but I understood some of the appeal. It may not be the best beach when you look back from the water, but when you look out to sea - what a view!





Tuesday

Tuesday was fishing day. I took one of my summer vacation days, and Mori and I agreed to meet at his boat at 6am. Up at 5:30, it was already hot out and getting hotter. I biked down to the dock and waited for Mori to show up. After a few minutes he came chugging around the seawalls, flicked the heavy 30 foot boat into a neat 180, waved and shouted his usual greeting of "Hey! Ben!" I walked down to the boat and we got ready to go.

When I say we got ready to go, I mean for most of the time I was entirely confused as to what was going on. Mori's father showed up and began going through the bait shrimp with Mori one by one, randomly throwing out certain shrimp. Mori turned to me and apologetically said "The shrimp are not strong." I nodded vigorously in agreement and continued to watch as Mori and his father sorted shrimp, muttering to each other and apparently sorting out the weak shrimp. At about 6:30, we got under way.

We followed the island's shore, stopping in a narrow straight. Using two anchors and two winches, Mori's father anchored the boat perpendicular to the flowing tide, and then we got to fishing. The fishing was traditional Japanese fishing, no rods, no lures, just a line that you hold in your hand, a hook with a little weight and a shrimp on it, and your reflexes. You drop the line down, wait for a bite, and then yank the rope as hard as you can. If the fish is still on, you haul it in, throw the fish in the live well, and go again. A big fish causes problems though, Mori caught a Red Snapper that was about a foot long and the line pulling through his hand cut two of his fingers in two different places.




Mori's father: a really scary dude at first.




Me, fishing.

The boat was a great old wood boat with a small cabin about two thirds of the way aft. The seats across the front were just planks that you could slide around for ideal fishing position. The whole thing had a great tough utilitarian feel to it, and I would be remiss in my foreigner-with-a-camera duties if I didn't photograph every inch of it.


The post that guides the anchor rope - at one point it was straight and square.


The cabin - as far as I can tell you lie on these blankets and operate the instruments.


From the back of the boat, looking forwards.


Mori's father spent most of his time sitting on an upside down bucket, but I guess if he gets uncomfortable he can sit in the captain's chair.


And then I caught a fish! A medium sized Red Snapper! Mori's father had some gruff words of congratulations for me, and then he walked back and offered to take my picture with the fish. What a guy.


Netting a Snapper.




An octopus trap boat from Akitsu, on the mainland. He laid a line of nets across our anchor line, which prompted some angry shouting. When we tried to pull up the anchor and found it stuck on a line of octopus traps, there was talk of cutting the guy's line. In the end the line was not cut and we went home. Mori's month in Australia must have included a lot of swearing because while sometimes he will call me and say "OK, I will come your home in 20 minutes ago," when the Octopus boat steamed off, he perfectly fluently said "Fucking stupid octopus boat. What the fuck." Bravo, Mori.

Just as we were about to leave I spotted something moving in the water. We scooped it up and it was a giant beetle (though apparently this was a relatively small one). They are prized as pets in Japan, boys collect them, and keep them for a few weeks, feeding them and making them fight other boy's beetles. After the few weeks are up, they let them go.







We got home at around noon. As we were going back in, Mori invited me to his house for dinner. He came and picked me up (on foot, carrying his skateboard) and we walked to his house. On the way he pointed out some local landmarks: "This shop is so fucking expensive." He would say, or "Fucking nice house, man."

We got to his house and I met his mother, sister, three dogs and two cats. The dogs were well trained, and at one point I realized they understood more Japanese than I did. The meal was delicious, we had Snapper sashimi, yaki soba, chicken, tofu, and egg salad. Mori and his sister translated for me, and at the end of the night I was invited back out for night fishing. I don't know when I'll go, but I'm looking forward to it.

I've still got to do Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but it's time to go home and apparently there's another festival tonight at the beach. Tomorrow, then.