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Jam and Flowers

Thursday, April 27, 2006
This island is famous for blueberries. A while back I was proofreading the mid-term exams for Osaki Junior high, and the third year's test had a reading comprehension section. The paragraph was about Mr. Yokomoto, the man who brought blueberries to western Japan. Mr. Yokomoto was a child of this island who had moved away with his parents to Tokyo. He had gone to school and studied agriculture, but had really hated living in the big city. He was a descendent of many generations of farmers, and deep down he knew he wanted to work the land. Coming back to Osakikamijima, he tried the traditional oranges and citrus, but was unsatisfied. He decided to try blueberries. No one had ever tried growing blueberries this far west and south in Japan, but he was not deterred, and the rest is history.

I present to you Yokomoto-san, and his blueberries.

See, I read that paragraph and corrected a few punctuation errors, and I moved on. I went to my Monday Japanese lessons and never could remember exactly what my teacher's name was, but I knew it was Yoko-something. Then one day it just clicked. I remembered that her name was Yokomoto-san, and I remembered that paragraph, and I realized that my Japanese teacher was Mr. Yokomoto's wife. Small world.

Yokomoto-san: Japanese Teacher Extraordinaire.

Mrs. Yokomoto and I have Japanese lessons every Monday, and roughly half the class is just chatting, and we got to talking about how her husband had tried to photograph their products, but the pictures hadn't been great, so what advice did I have. I offered to take the pictures, and so the next chance I had, I went up to their farm and photographed some jam.

It's delicious. I was paid in trade, so I got a jar of kiwi, blueberry, and strawberry. On toast they are most excellent.

The other thing that was happening around the time I took the jam photos is that the island was bursting into bloom. It's slowing down now, but for a few weeks there, every tree and bush was covered in flowers.

This was on my commute home from school. I wonder if taking the F-Train home in Brooklyn will be able to compete.

There's a garage along the main road in town that has some beautiful flower out in front.

At Higashino Junior High they had spectacular cherry blossoms for a week.

I post this picture only because I was on my way to school with seconds to spare, but it was beautiful and grey out and I pulled off the main road to find a good spot to take a picture. I found this, which was better than nothing, and then got back on the road. I ended up being 10 minutes late for school and the principal called me into his office to remind me that school started at 8:10. Oops.

Lastly, these two pictures were taken on a flower-seeking trip with Mori. After this little trip to Nagashima, we planned to go to Ikunoshima - the tiny island next to Osakikamijima - by boat to see the cherry blossoms. Stay tuned, that's what you'll get next time.

And then no more flower pictures for a while, I promise.

The Nakayoshi Maru

Monday, April 24, 2006
It's been a long time since I updated, and I'm not exactly sure why. I'm busy, but I'm always busy. Who knows. In the time since I wrote about the end of my family's visit, spring has finally arrived, the cherry blossoms have come and gone, I had spring vacation, the new school year started, and I got a new boss. It's been busy and I've got a good three more blog updates worth of photos from the past 23 days. This may be a very busy week of updates.

The morning after my parents left I was invited to the ceremony that officially declared Mori's family's new boat ready for fishing. It was pretty early on Saturday morning, and I biked over to the dock bleary eyed and half asleep. I got there and found the Nakamura family (Mori's family), a bunch of fishermen, and a few friends by the boat. Some plates of food were spread out on the new benches, a bottle of sake was being poured into paper cups, and everyone was bustling to make sure the boat was ready to go.

On the bow was a big fish that had been caught the day before and a yellow flag whose meaning I have forgotten. Someone said some words, everyone toasted to the new boat, and then Mori poured the Sake over the bow.

Then, it was time for pictures.

From left: Mori, Mori's father, the four fishing customers for the day, a man whose face I can't see, Mori's mother, Akira - who went on the old farmhouse adventure and ate sour kiwis, and Mori's girlfriend.

We drank some more sake, and then it was time to go fishing. Mori invited me along as a sort of Captain's guest, and so off we went. Everyone was after Mebaru, a little brown fish that is delicious and (I think) exclusive to the inland sea.

That's not a lot of folks with fish, a Mebaru rod is incredibly thin and light so you can feel the tiny bites of a Mebaru.

The fish started coming up, and soon everyone was hauling (no, maybe not hauling - lifting) Mebaru into the boat.

Doesn't it look like he's staring enviously at my awesome fish? He's not.

Even me!

After a while Mori's father came out with a late-arriving customer. The guy jumped onto our boat, and got right to fishing. Mori's father stuck around though, chatting and seeing what we were catching. It looked like he was happy to see his new boat out for business, filled with customers and catching a good amount of fish.

It's also a nice picture of the old boat in its natural environment.

Three hours later, we headed back. There was to be a big feast to celebrate the new boat, and I was invited along for that too. The women had been busy while we were out fishing, and there was a ridiculously huge feast awaiting when we got back. It's in the background of this picture, but the giant fish had been made into (delicious) sashimi, with the head sticking up out of the center of the plate. Yum!

Apologies to Mori's mother, who is cut off on the left of this picture. She can thank her son, who took this picture.

With any luck at all, on Wednesday I'll be back with the island bursting into flower, skateboarding, and maybe some more adventures.