Thousands of Miles from Home


I Demand a Recount

I am expecting the New Year in Japan to be exciting or at least celebrated in different manner, but I have to get Christmas out of the way first. As was mentioned earlier, I traveled to Tsuyama on christmas day by train to spend time with Janna (who lives in Tsuyama) and Cori (who was coming from Okayama). But before that, on Christmas Eve and after the surf rock band concert and dinner, Jittan, Shoko, Masatoshi, Shun, and I opened our christmas presents. I gave Jittan one of my West Virginia t-shirts with a huge bass fish on it. She thought it was hilarious and we all noted that about three of her could fit inside it. For Shoko I found her favorite candy in Okayama and wrapped it with a considerably smaller West Virginia t-shirt. Shun got a shirt with a bunch of flowers on it (haha). He liked it, though. I put the most thought into Masatoshi's present, but maybe beacuse he was the easiest to shop for. I found some great dog-print boxers and a dog-print tie as well. Since he's always squinting at things through his glasses, I found a massive magnifying glass at the 100 yen shop. And a dog statue from one of the shrines we visited earlier in the year. He laughed for a long time so I guess he enjoyed the gifts. I even caught him using the magnifying glass later.

I got some gifts too. My parents sent me some socks and a lime green turtleneck for cold weather, and Mimi sent (matching) gloves and scarf which match my emo black jacket. Nora sent two awesome stuffed robots with funny names. The Watanabes bought me two books, one about sumo with a ton of funny pictures and another about Go (which is extremely difficult to comprehend). They also bought me a stuffed dog made from super-soft material that I had my eye on for a while.

But back to Tsuyama. After arriving at Tsuyama station I met Janna and discovered that Cori was going to be late. Janna and I rented some bikes then went shopping at a nearby mall while Cori figured out which train would get her to Tsuyama. A few hours later Cori finally arrived and we rode our bikes around town, ate lunch, then back to Janna's house. After some cake and a chat with Janna's family we headed to the Tsuyama International Hotel where the three of us would be staying that nite. The Tsuyama rotary club was hosting a party so about 25 people were there for the occasion. Dinner was amusing, with an appearance from Japan's own Santa Claus who facilitated the gift exchange. By the end of the evening I received some picture frames, a dreamcatcher, bizen pottery, and various other miscellany. Oh and lots of chocolate.

After dinner, Janna, Cori, and I stayed up a good part of the nite in the apparently deserted hotel. There (among other spectacles) we encountered the door leading to nowhere as well as the "stairs of refuge."

In the morning, I woke up early for continental breakfast, then went to the girls room to see if they were up. After we packed everything, Tomosue-san and Hikasa-san picked us up in a giant Hummer. It looked even larger because of the small size of japanese cars in general. After making a quick rap video featuring the Hummer, we were on our way. Our first stop was Diasen, a famous mountain to the north of Tsuyama. When we arrived I saw snow for the first time in Japan, although it was a little thin for skiing. We stopped for a while on Diasen and rode a ski lift to where people were skiing and snowboarding. A massive snowball fight insued involving both kids and rotary members. We didn't ski due to the lack of snow, but were promised that in the next few months we could come any time we wanted.

After some refreshments on Diasen, we piled back in the Hummer (which turned out to be useful on the icy roads) to go the nearby Tiffany museum. With my knowledge of Mr. Tiffany, I suspected the museum would contain a bunch of lamps, and maybe some jewelry. I was way off. There were masterpieces in each of twelve categories manufactured by Tiffany: lamps, windows, ceramics, furniture, fancy goods, art jewelry, vases, silver, enamels, bronzes, mosaics, and paintings. On top of that, the museum plays host to a very large garden in which I would have been forced to spend a great deal of time had my mother been nearby. I was very impressed, and in fact wished I could have spent more time in the museum. In the chapel of the Tiffany museum, some handbell players performed and then sang energetic christmas songs that reminded me of "Sister Act."

Before calling it a day, the five of us stopped at a nearby famous onsen to relax after a long day (of relaxing). The onsen was shaped like a giant bowl because the town is known for bowl making. Made sense to me. Although I cannot vouch to be a critic of japanese onsen, the water quality was good and the company friendly.

That evening, after a dinner of sushi, I bid farewell to Tomosue-san and Hikasa-san. Cori and I took a high speed train back to Okayama, where I then caught a bus for Tamano. Arriving home, I found that both Miyu and Mai had returned from college. We talked for a long time and watched "Dawn of the Dead" before I collapsed from exhaustion. Mai gave me a Tokyo Giants (baseball team) mascot figure that doubles as a bank, and I gave Mai and Miyu something from my collection of fine West Virginian goods.

The following day I started the sad process of packing for my next host family. But I'll leave that up to another entry.


  • Your reader community has missed you. Glad you are up and running. Happy New Year.

    By mom, at 6:01 AM  

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