Thousands of Miles from Home


Shikoku Excursion and the Difficulties of Being Threadbare

I am ecstatic. Can you guess why? It might be because I spent an excellent day in Osaka, but no, it is something far more exciting than the trip to Osaka and Kanonji combined. So excellent, in fact, that I will do something I don’t usually do and post a picture in the middle of a blog entry.

That’s right kids; I just repaired a large gash in the sleeve of my sweater with my own two hands, a needle, and some thread. I haven’t accomplished anything this great in the area of arts, crafts, and homewares since the legendary model car track made of magazines, newspapers, and wood that rocketed toy wind-up cars off my bed, into the hallway, down a large flight of stairs and out the front door with speed, accuracy, and frightening efficiency. Truly, that thing worked like gangbusters. But this sewing accomplishment blows that creation right out of the water. Sure, I could have left the gash in my sleeve. In fact at an Osaka shopping mall I spotted a “made to order” jeans location where you can select (from a menu) various cuts, burns, and patches that make your jeans not only unique, but also removes the hassle of actually getting some use out of the jeans because they unravel and fall right off on the street. Betty Ross may have created the spirit of America by (supposedly) sewing the American Flag, but I have resurrected the American soul with some blue thread and a little ingenuity.

Then again, perhaps that is a little exaggeration. I am, however, always ready for a deal. In Tsuyama I made sure to visit my favorite awesome clothes discount store, Mate. You might remember the picture of my spanking new jacket I purchased from that location. In truth I didn’t really like the jacket, but I was only $3. You can’t beat that with a stick! And deals like that certainly don’t come often. In fact, I would challenge anyone who happens to stumble upon this blog to go and find a three-dollar jacket of similar quality and style. You can’t do it! And if you can prove me wrong I will totally* send the three dollars required to purchase the jacket of your choosing (of equal of lesser three-dollar value). Send self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Three-Dollar Jacket Happy Challenge Contest Japan
C/o Benjamin Gleitzman
3-18-39 Tai
Tamano, Okayama 7060001 JAPAN

*Disclaimer: this contest is coming from someone who, at an early age, once poured an entire box of Cheerios on the living room floor and with a straight face told my father, “I don’t know who did it, but it wasn’t me.” I don’t think he has ever trusted me since.

With that out of the way, and still feeling quite excellent about the sewing of the sweater, a recap of the last few days.

This weekend I took a trip to visit my good friend Micah in Kanonji. Kanonji is a very small town on the island of Shokoku, with various tourist attractions but actually (Micah tells me) very little to explore entertainment wise. Micah, who I learned has apparently been living “Fear and Loathing in Tokushima” over the past week of spring break, spent most of the morning with me telling stories back and about our various Japanese adventures. I’ve traveled a lot of places, but his weekend in Tokushima probably trumps every exchange student’s story on Shikoku, and perhaps the entire southern part of Japan. No kidding.

But my real reason for coming to Kanonji was the 50th anniversary festival being thrown in the town. Micah said that flyers had been posted in train stations and bus stops as far away as Takamatsu, so I was expecting some craziness. There was a little rain that day, but I was very impressed with the large amount of “chosas” present at the festival. Chosa can be translated as “portable shrine,” and most of the festival was centered around the 30 or 40 drunk men per chosa lifting them high into the air. Micah and I found some of his schoolmates as well as girls dressed in Hello Kitty and Pikachu costumes before striking out on our own into the crowd in search of excitement. To our dismay, the festival ended around 4:30 so we accompanied the parade of chosas back toward Micah’s house.

That night Micah’s host father, who is head of the Rotary club in the area, took us to an amazing dinner at a nearby Hotel with some family relatives. Micah’s host father can be very difficult to understand, and in fact I admire Micah for doing his best to live a peaceful life in their household. The problem is that Micah’s father speaks “Sanuki Ben,” a sort of obscure and heavy dialect of Japanese whose name comes from the old word for Kagawa, “Sanuki.” He also mumbles, which does not help the situation. As a result he ends up sounding like a Japanese Ozzy Osbourne with broken, often incomprehensible statements, grunts, and whistles (okay I made that part up). But he was an excellent guy so I can’t fault him there.

At the restaurant, steak and sushi were on the menu as well as anything else we cared to order. Excellent conversation and displaying of the day’s photos occurred throughout the meal, and we returned properly stuffed to Micah’s house.

That evening Micah played me a ton of Japanese cd’s that I had never heard before. It’s sad to say but the best resource of Japanese music to date has come from Micah, who lives in Ohio. Following the Japanese jam session we played some electric guitar, told more stories, walked around the town for a while, and fell asleep to the smooth sounds of Miles Davis.

The next morning (or early afternoon, to be exact) Micah’s host mother made a very large breakfast after which Micah’s father and a friend took us on a grand tour of Shikoku. Our first destination was perhaps Kanonji’s most famous tourist attraction, the Zenigata Sand Coin. It is a massive coin, sculpted in sand on the beach of Kanonji that we viewed from a nearby mountain. The sheer size of the coin was amazing, even though there was heavy fog that morning and I had a difficult time seeing the entire coin in the distance. I could feel it’s presence, spread upon the beach like an ancient crop circle. Thought to have been sculpted in 1633, the coin is cleaned and maintained every year by Kanonji residents and high school students.

Our next destinations were a few of the 88 Temples of Kobo Daishi, who you should remember from my last trip to Konpira-san. Many people make the pilgrimage to all 88 Temples on foot, a journey that takes about two or three months to complete. I found the three temples that we attended to be quite beautiful, although one looked very new and was made of concrete because the original temple has been blown down during one of the recent typhoons. I would not mind making the journey on foot to at least a few of the temples scattered around Japan.
We then stopped at a Hotel owned by a rotary member for some coffee and a small chat. I had to take a train back to Tamano, so we quickly grabbed some Sanuki Udon, famous in that area of Kagawa, and I walked with Micah back to Kagawa station before saying goodbye. On the whole even though the festival wasn't that eventful I toured some excellent places and has a super time sharing stories with Micah, and would be happy to return again to Kanonji.


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