Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring Break Kagoshima 2k11 (Wooo!)

Well it’s Wednesday, and we just had opening ceremony. I thought it was yesterday, but that was the send-off ceremony, basically graduation cryfest 2.0, in which we said goodbye to the leaving teachers and they all gave speeches. It was a good ceremony, not especially fun, but I’m starting to learn that life is change and you cannot keep a thing, although I am the type to keep every thing. (Sometimes it seems like my strategy never was to learn to let things go, but rather to develop the necessary musculature to just carry it all around forever.)

I jumped right into send-off ceremony after returning from Kagoshima; it was a pretty direct transition. After getting home at 10:30 rather than, like, 7, I went to bed, and had to get up early for work. How did I get so delayed, you may well ask.

The trains in Japan do run on time, and the train from Kagoshima takes a whopping 3 hours and 46 minutes with the connections I was taking. On the way down, it was 4 hours; I got on the Sakura, the Kyushu shinkansen now making trips about hourly up to Osaka and back. I wasn’t the only one with my camera out as the Sakura rolled into Himeji.

Sakura, Sakura...
From 2011_04_01

I spent the train trip wishing I had spent seven dollars less and gone without seat-reservation as the old lady next to me remained asleep and with the windowshade drawn for almost the entire trip. It was a lovely afternoon, and I actually found a seat elsewhere for part of it so I could stare out at the mountains.
When I arrived in Kagoshima, my first impression was that it’s an excellent city. The information booth ladies were helpful in extreme, and there was a cute Japanese man tap-dancing on a stage just outside the station, which area was covered in flowers. Flowers in planters, in baskets attached to poles, growing everywhere. It was warmer, of course, than Hyogo. 

From 2011_04_01

Manderines (Wervs) came to get me, and we took the bus back to her place so I could unpack the ridiculously heavy bag I had toted along (and which she saved me from dragging up a huge hill by coming on the bus, not the tram), full of random supplies and books and things. Grabbed dinner in a nearby Chinese place and chatted until bedtime.

Saturday morning we walked down past her school and caught a tram into the city. We got lost, and then found again by a nice older guy who informed us that there were free shuttles running from the Chuo station to Yoshino park, where there was a flower festival. We decided to check it out, and discovered a whole bunch of awesome in the warm (almost hot?!) sunny gardenscapes. We walked all over the park. Wervs won’t have any money for a while (having just arrived, and not yet paid), and since I just broke the bank on tickets for 3 to Okinawa (plus the shink to Kagoshima is in fact over $400 round trip), we were in the mood for cheap entertainment. The flower festival was also excellent. The sakura were blooming, and I found real Belgian-style white beer from a booth vendor. (I realize I have not yet posted about Hokkaido, but I swear my beer obsession is because of that winter visit)…

From 2011_04_02

Wervs in spring
From 2011_04_02

Sakura, Lem, and beer. HA NA MIII!
From 2011_04_02

From 2011_04_02
Guribu (Kagoshima mascot), wervsi, and Sakurajima in the background.
From 2011_04_02

Once we were good and tired, we returned to the station to get tickets for the sightseeing bus, which we took up to Shiroyama. We looked out and took some pictures of Sakurajima, and then I proposed a little walk down the mountain to the main road where we might catch a bus or tram back toward the station. It was a beautiful day still, and the walk was really nice. We ended up walking all the way back to the station, though, which was hell on feet/calves/shins, et al.

After eating some Kagoshima style ramen near the station, we opted to just take the bus home and crash out. The following day was for Sakurajima.

Sakurajima from the flower park.
From 2011_04_02

Sakurajima is the massive volcano dominating the city of Kagoshima. I had heard about it, but I didn’t understand what a big deal this thing is until I saw it myself. It’s a big ol’ mountain, visible from all over the city, which sometimes erupts. There had been like 323 eruptions so far this year when we visited. Mostly it’s just ash, although some historic eruptions have overwhelmed villages (yeah there are actually people living on Sakurajima) and in 1914, the island ceased to be an island and became a peninsula. Wervs has to watch out for dustfall, the ash that will drift her way apparently in the summer more than other times, settling on everything from people’s skin to laundry left out… gotta make sure to carry an umbrella and a mask around I guess! It’s just something people in Kagoshima live with.

Sakurajima from Shiroyama.
From 2011_04_02

We took the ferry, a 15 minute windy ride, and walked one of the shorter trails. Our poor abused legs rejoiced when at last we stuck them into the hot water of an open footbath. I long to partake of Kagoshima’s many onsen offerings, but alas I was in no condition to go. Next time!

This important rock marks the place where an islet was before the eruption made it just part of the main Sakurajima island.
From 2011_04_03

Footbaths, YES!
From 2011_04_03

After our short jaunt to Sakurajima, we had lunch at Dolphin Port, and met up with her friend and contact Yoshi. He drove us to Sengan-en, the villa and garden site of the Shimadzu clan, long-time lords of Kagoshima. We walked around and enjoyed the scenery there, and saw a cloud of ash over Sakurajima. Basically, the Shimadzu clan was a group of badasses who by turns fought with and secretly worked with various powerful groups (England, the Shogunate, etc.). Their villa, and also their city, is excellent (and just as flowerful as the station area would have you believe). Yoshi is a cool guy and I’m glad he’s in Kagoshima, and taking care of Manderines.

We stopped by a few stores on the way home, and actually made dinner, kinda, after a bit of confusion. We watched some Miyazaki until we passed out, because Yakushima, an island off Kagoshima, is said to be the inspiration for the forest in Princess Mononoke; I want to watch the rest because that movie is better than I remember.

Wervs pours herself a drink. On the floor by the fridge. <3
From 2011_04_03

Monday we took it easy, walked around, bought a bookshelf for Manderines’ apartment, and then I went on my way toward the station. Overall, it was a pretty nice spring break trip. It was weird to be reminded so vividly of what it was like to be where Wervs is, knowing and having so little, yet. I actually found myself toying with the notion of trying to live in Kagoshima for a little while.. maybe I can make an extended stay at some point… It’s not that I want to leave Hyogo, no, I want to stay in Hyogo forever too. The longer I live, the more lives I want.

Which brings us back to the trip home, and the way our high-speed train slowed to a crawl, then a stop, then sat in Hiroshima station for two hours while somewhere further up the line someone took care of “an accident with casualties” or something like that. At first I thought they were saying jishin, which is earthquake, and I was like, no way, an earthquake damaged the train line?! But then I realized they were saying jinshin. I suspect somebody jumped a train, which is a harrowing and saddening thought. And a weird note on which to end spring break.

1 comment:

  1. Well, there is hardly any counter space. The floor works fine.