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From Rags to Riches

Why does where you sleep define who you are?

The next morning I woke to the sun, and I couldn't get back to sleep. It was simply just too damn cold, and I had to pee. The bathroom was again, quite welcoming, but I didn't want to stay inside and hide. I wanted to go out into the city and find something warm to drink, yeah, at like 5 in the morning. I left the small station and started wandering the empty village. First, to the glowing beacons from last night. There were vending machines down the street from the station, and I knew they just had to have hot drinks... but no. This town was so backwards from the bustling cities I'm used to traveling through! Then I tried walking up and down the streets looking for maybe an early morning cafe or market. But all I found were houses. I wondered around for nearly an hour, and still, nothing. How do these people function? They just have places to live, but no shops, stores, or even gas stations. The streets here were quite small through. I wondered if any of them even had cars? Now that it was almost 6, I decided it was time to give up my wondering and go wake up Joe for the 6:15 train. When I got inside he was gone as well. So much for being prepared to get on the train early. I settled down into the seats just outside the ticket booth and I waited. Joe came in to the station a little breathy and dazed looking. He went for a quick jog to get his body temperature up. Then the gates opened, and we were finally on our way to Toyooka.

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The sun heated up the country quite immediately, and by the time we hit Toyooka it was already in the mid eighties, and it wasn't even 8 o'clock yet. Joe and I both agreed to not call Adam for a ride until at least 9 am since we got the impression that he tends to sleep in after closing his restaurant quite late at night. So into the town we went in search for some breakfast and please dear god a cup of coffee.

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There were little rocks of this same face all over the place. He is the symbol for Toyooka because of the cool hexagonal rock formations they found just outside of Adam's place.

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The first poster is the symbol for Nara (you know, the place with all the deer, hence the antlers), and the other poster is one in a series of my favorite train station posters. It is always these three same girls posing like statures in various places in Nara.

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Yeah, even their candy is sexist.

We ended up finding a really sweet looking cafe that served pancakes. We messed up our order a bit, so it wasn't exactly what we were looking for, the quibble quarrel, and I convinced Joe to just eat the food and be done with it. Then we headed back to the station, got on a payphone and got in contact with Adam. He said he could come and get us in like an hour, and then we can tour around town a bit, and we said "Take your time, we are going to sleep." Then we laid out in the sun and took a nap just outside the parking lot.

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When Adam came to get us he explained this modern statue that we passed on the way out of the station. Apparently Toyooka is the city that has the grand honor for the reintroduction for the Oriental white stork. Four decades ago the oriental white stork became extinct in Japan, the victim of rapid industrialisation and modern farm practices and heavy pesticide use that destroyed its habitat. Today, it lives in the restored wetlands around the small town of Toyooka in western Japan, now a showcase for an ambitious conservation effort called the Satoyama Initiative. And apparently, Shinobu (adam's partner) doesn't like them.

He took us back to his place first to unpack our things, then we went down for another nap (all 3 of us). Shinobu was already at their restaurant, Sticks, and we agreed that we should go there tonight after Adam's english class. He teaches two classes in the afternoon to children, and he invited us to come along with him and play with the kids. We thought it sounded like fun, and he teaches on the bay that leads out to the Sea of Japan, so if we ever got board, we could always go hang out on the water. But until then, we all acted like huge bums, and slept. And I say acted, only because we weren't really bums. We had a job we were all going to today, and we had a house to sleep in. We were just sleepy people, not to be confused with bums in the slightest.

The first class of kids were really cute. 2 girls, about 7 years old, and 3 boys. The littlest girl had the cutest hair style, like a really long wedge cut, shot in the back, and then just the bangs were really long in the front, and she would play with the long bits of her hair as she twisted her head around with a big smile saying quiet wipers in Japanese to Adam when she couldn't remember the english words to say. Adam brought a bunch of poker chips, and we would hand them out to the kids who answered first, or who spoke the best English. They let me try Japanese with them, and they were all quite happy to help correct me, but at the same time, quite gracious because they were so impressed with how good my english was. "My name is Kenji, and I like baseball." All the boys picked baseball. And the surprising favorite color was yellow for the girls. Adam thinks its because their school uniforms have the yellow hats. Favorite food, winner in both genders, was fish. I guess this town is a fishing town, and the children don't get many sweets here because it is not a rich town either, so when asked their favorite food, fish was natural. Adam made fun of my favorite food, "Green bean des ka?" He asked the kids to translate, I know I couldn't. "So des!" A kid got it right. "... Pizza desu yo!" Apparently when other American's visit they always say Pizza. All the children laughed. Adam was Canadian, practically same diff in my opinion.

Then for the second class Joe and I went out to the shore.

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We got some snacks and decided to have a bit of a picnic, and we realized what everyone had been saying about the freaking bugs in Japan! They are loaded, absolutely loaded with bugs. It freaked me out so much as I went to climb up onto a black rock, and it started moving and wiggling away to reveal a slightly tan~ish orange rock. But the nice thing about the bugs here is that they don't like being around you, so we sat up on the rocks, away from the creepy clickies, and enjoyed the view.

Then Adam came and grabbed us and we went on the scariest road trip ever. He drives really really fast and erratic, like a crazy person pretty much (of this I have yet to fully decide, but he is at least a little crazy... but aren't we all.)

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First destination, a shrine on the edge of the water.

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Second destination, well, we were trying to find this one place, but I guess it got turned into a funeral home or something, of this I'm not really sure. This is what I get for sitting in the back seat trying not to vomit as Joe and Adam talk (wait until you hear the next video, he is so Canadian! This normally isn't so funny, but being in New Zealand at the present moment, and hearing all the crap aboot Americans... its nice to hear a good, old fashioned, strong Canadian accent to laugh aboot... aboot, it never gets old. ^.^*)

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This was the closest picture of what Adam was trying to describe to us as we drove back and forth through and up the mountains. He said that just a few months ago the rice hadn't risen up above the water's surface, so all over Japan there are fields of these rectangular mirrors perfectly smooth and reflective giving you a clear inverse of the mountains and clouds. He said its one of the most spectacular things he has ever witnessed, and the Japanese for t he most part don't even notice. Its just that time of year. They find it pretty, but its nothing to get too excited about. Try to imagine someone from the tropics seeing leaves change color for the first time. Sure, we think its beautiful, but its nothing to freak out over... its just fall.

As we were heading back from the failed second destination we accidentally stumbled upon a graveyard we think for the Miko of the village. His grave stone was so large, and with a sculpture of him, that Adam believed he must have been the towns spiritual guru, and when he died they made a glorious resting place for him with the forest and mountains to his back, and the ocean to the front. Then when towns people died, they wanted to be buried in his same cemetery as their spiritual guide, probably to help guide them through the afterlife. None of this is certain of course, but it was interesting to come upon this site like an Archeological dig, and just throw ideas around like snow balls.

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Last stop, as it was getting dark, Adam really wanted to go for a swim. "I would have joined you... but its getting too cold!" I told him. "No, no, no, this water isn't cold, it'll be fine." Said the Canadian. So we drove on the windy mountain roads looking over the ocean to his favorite beach.

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When we got there I put my feet in, and after a few minutes of walking around they were numb... yeah, it was cold. Adam went in to his waist, but I think it was a little too cold for him as well. But he was right to pick this as his favorite beach, it was empty, dead, we were all alone, and it was beautiful! He said that as long as you come at the right time, the place is empty. The Japanese are really into tradition and doing things when you should do them, so on a Saturday afternoon there will be loads of people picnicking here and swimming. But once lunch is over, the crowd starts to fade away, and therefore the place is either full, or empty. Weird.

Next it was onto Sticks were we got some really great food (Shinobu is an amazing cook!) and we told stories and drank Japanese beer into the night. Adam was a bit displeased when it came out that the reasons some of the Mochan bus were going back to the bus was so we could drink cheep alcohol, then come back into the restaurant and hang out. I guess I'd be upset too if I found out I was opening my home to these strangers for a free place to stay, and bringing out some rounds of free beer and snacks, were going behind my back trying to save even more cash. I mean, he has a restaurant he has to run too. Oh well, me and my drunk mouth, or is it just my mouth in general? In any case, I think everyone is better for it in the end because it is true, and now he knows what to watch out for the next time a wish bus comes through (cheep backpackers).

Posted by - Rain 13:31

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