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Sports Day, Takehara, and Neko

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
It's been a while, I've got a few things to write about. I really should break these up into separate posts, maybe I will in the future. Either way:

Sports Day

Last Sunday was Osaki Town Sports Day. Rather than being limited to one junior high school, this one was for the whole of our town, children, parents, and grandparents (more on that in a bit). Again the sports day was an odd mix of ceremony, loony sporting events, and town-wide day off.

As usual it took place at a school, on the traditional japanese dusty dirt field, this time ringed with tents, each one representing a neighborhood. Cory and I arrived at 9:30 and were ushered to our tent, for Mukuyama neighborhood. We checked in for the neighborhood tug-of-war and then watched some of the events. A sports day is a dificult thing to describe. People bring all sorts of picnic sets, the whole family sets up a spot and everyone just watches and cheers while the Jackson 5 and La Bouche is blasting over what sounds like a pre-war loudspeaker. The events range from couples running and then popping a balloon between them with vigorous hip thrusts to the generational relay. In this relay the teams are made up of as many generations as a family can muster. Usually it's son, father, grandfather, but there are aunts and uncles, cousins, all sorts of combinations.

The last leg, getting ready.

The "Run Around The Track Barefoot While Negotiating Various Devious Traps and Hazards" race.

The Mukayama cheerleading squad.

My favorite event. The parent-child race, where the parent runs the race and the child performs various tests of dexterity and coordination. This was the grab the donut (in a plastic bag, this is Japan after all) with your teeth from a clothespin.

Also, I forgot to mention that the parents all have to wear big black rubber boots.

In the end, Mukayama came in third out of six. The winners were team red, who apparently always win because the neighborhood boss (and my doctor) is super competitive and makes the entire neighborhood practice before the day. They pretty much destroyed the competition, but we were in a close race for second. We lost the tug of war against red, then destroyed purple. I saw tears in the eyes of grown men on the purple team - that's how bad we beat them.


Monday was a national holiday, National Sports and Recreation day. I made plans with Liz, a JET from Mihara to get lunch in Takehara. We went to the Hiro House, known for it's toasted sandwiches and milkshakes and had toasted sandwiches and milkshakes. Afterwards since Liz had no scooter, we decided to walk and see what we could find. We walked over to the old Edo period neighborhood (I've been there before) and explored around a bit. Down an alleyway, across a little dusty path, was a stone staircase up to a big shrine. We climbed up and found a gorgeous shinto shrine up on a little foothill overlooking Takehara. It was maybe a five or six building complex, smooth old wood and stone. Up some worn wood steps there was a balcony you could look off of and a bell you could ring if you were making an offering.

These things are all over japan, especially around shrines.

You have to take off your shoes to come up here, which is fine because the wood is old and smooth and warmed by the sun.

On the balcony you could see out over Takehara and I could imagine why they might have picked this location, seeing over the town, visible from anywhere, beautiful with the deep red structure and black tile roof. We stayed up here for a while, just enjoying the experience of warm wood under our socks and the city out in front of us.

The shopping center where I can get J-Pop CDs, hardware, video games, and some other things. It's pretty cool being there, because you are essentially under this giant mountain. (I realize it's not really giant, but it looks big when you're there.)

After the temple, we found some steps leading up. A few minutes later we found ourselves in a terraced cemetary, paths winding between fenced-off areas of monuments. After a short walk, we found more steps, leading to new monuments, and then more stairs. We kept going up, each set of steps becoming less and less stable until we were climbing up loose rocks and gravel, over roots and under spiderwebs. We passed by who knows how many small tombs, and then we came out on a big outcropping of yellow rock. We had climbed pretty far, the temple was far below us. Looking down, we could see the things we had passed on the way.

A cemetary plot on the way up.

The view from the top. The shrine is on the left, below the cemetary you can just see there.

What hike in Japan would be complete without threateningly large spiders?

We climbed down and headed out into the setting sun. At the station we went our separate ways and I caught the next ferry home.


In the news from closer to home, I bring you live updates from my lap:

World, meet Neko. She is a six weeks old and the new object of most of my attention. She keeps me up all night and then wants to play all day. This would all be terrifically annoying if she wasn't completely adorable.

She is tiny, maybe a foot long when she stretches out, usually much less. She like sleeping in my lap and in fact that's how we spend most of our time together. When she's not sleeping she likes eating fingers and faces, as well as long walks on the beach and traveling.

Having a kitten changes your life pretty substantially, but so far it's for the best. I will try my absolute hardest to not post kitten pictures every day of the week. I can't make any promises though.