What is Shiso like? What about my apartment?
I’ll report more on this as I go, but let me give you a run down on what I know about Shiso, so far.
Shiso is actually a sort of conglomerate of four towns, put together to form one city. Yamasaki, where I live, is the largest of the four, and Ichinomiya, where I work, is the second largest. There is also Chikusa and Haga, more to the north of here. I live near the main road that connects Yamasaki to Ichinomiya. This is convenient because the bus stop is right across the street. It also means that I have access to a bunch of sweet restaurants and stores right within short walking distance. I can bike just about anywhere I need to go in Yamasaki, including the one department store, Jusco (the department store is sort of like a mall, with different stores inside, including a grocery store and a 100-yen shop!), and the post office.
My first impression of Shiso was the mountains. They remain a big part of the beauty of the landscape, surrounding us on all sides. These mountains aren’t particularly tall, but they are steep, and they are immediate. The other major feature is the river(s). The Ibogawa or Ibo river is at the center of the valley, and my apartment building is also right next to that. The main road actually follows the river, at least as far as my school.
This is the river that was causing problems when the typhoon off the coast of Japan was making it rain so heavily for so long. It was fine where I was in Yamasaki, but just up the road on the way to Ichinomiya, there were problems with flooding and even some rockslides. When I finally did go back to school, I saw that the look of the river had changed from the few days before, when I’d first seen it. A lot of debris got washed down, pieces of trees and stuff, and so it looks a little more dead and weird than it did before. Farther up in Ichinomiya, past my school, parts of the road had been washed away entirely.
This is a view of the river during the typhoon rains, as taken from my apartment terrace.
Another view from my apartment, in the other direction.
But aside from that, there is water everywhere. Along every road there is a ditch, and most of these seem to be constantly running with water. There are also smaller rivers that can be seen here and there. I love the way the water sound is so prevalent, especially when you get away from the two “main” roads of the town. I kind of wish I lived more removed, like Miriam and Lana do, but I suppose the convenience of access I have is important too.
one of those ditches
from along the mountainside
On my exploratory walks and bike rides, the landscape is filled with mist, mountains, water, and rice paddies. I also like the look of the old-ish Japanese houses to be seen along the way. The view from my bus window on my way to work is also fantastic. I’ve also passed by the gateways of a couple of shrines and temples, so I want to investigate that some more, too, as I get settled.
This is along the mountainside, a view of one of the many cemeteries I find so fascinating, because they’re not like the ones in the US.
Rice field, some of the regal roofs I like.
My apartment is pretty sweet in a lot of ways. I have a small backyard which is utterly desolate, so I’m thinking about trying to grow some plants back there.
No, seriously; this “yard” says, I’ve crawled in a hole to die.
I have a sort of bathroom hallway, as the shower/bath, toilet, and then washing machine and sink are all in different ‘rooms.’ My kitchen/dining area connects my living room (which has airconditioning!) and my bedroom (which also has airconditioning.. I am told this is unusual, in my building). Both those rooms are tatami rooms, which means I have woven mat floors in them. I like the tatami, although I’m paranoid about messing it up.
I do have a gas stove, but I don’t have an oven. I have a big sink and all the essentials when it comes to kitchen ware. I suspect that my microwave does more than American microwaves, but I don’t know how to use it. My bedroom has a big closet complete with extra futon and tons of hangers. The living room has a little futon-couch just like the one I wanted to buy at Target two years ago. I have repaired the sinkhole in the middle of it (at least for now?). There is also a TV, DVD player, and a set of sweet speakers. And a rug and little table. There is also a fan which I move from room to room, in order to save my life.
I love Shiso because I really am just a small town girl, and my recent visits to the city have confirmed it. As the dingy city buildings gave way to mountainous countryside out my bus window on the way back to Shiso today, I became happier and more relaxed. I’d rather sink my teeth deeply into the life of a small city than try to wind myself around the coils of a large one.