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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 173: A trip to the Japanese countryside

JAPAN | Saturday, 26 April 2008 | Views [1193]

Pete & Kumi fight their allergies

Pete & Kumi fight their allergies

Saturday 26th April

We left Kumi's flat at 09.30 and headed into town on another beautiful day. I had packed up my stuff and brought my rucksack with me as I would get the train back to Tokyo from near Shigu, the village where Kumi's parents lived. Before getting the train out of Osaka, we met up with a girl called Catherine, one of Kumi's friends who happened to come from Donegal, and it was nice to meet someone from so close to home. We had breakfast and got on the train about midday.

It was nice to be taking a trip with the guys, they're a lot of fun and very easy to spend time with. The Japanese countryside is still reasonably built up and you never seem to get away fully from developed areas (at least in the parts that I visited). It took us a few hours and a couple of trains and a bus before we got to the town of Shigu at about 15.00. Kumi's mother welcomed us into their home, a traditional house with tatami floors, blinds dividing the rooms and a lot of cool decoration. None of the bedrooms had beds, as we were to use futons instead and it made it all seem a lot less cluttered than what I was used to.

After a coffee, Kumi, Pete and I went for a walk aroud the town, visiting a few more local temples and finding out more about the preparations for the forthcoming 'Golden Week' that is one of the most important festivals in the Japanese calendar. It was a very quiet place, with little sign of the towns inhabitants, even though it wasn't a small place by any means (it seemed to be small by Japanese standards). It was a very pleasant evening and made for a welcome breather from some of the large cities.

Kumi's father came back from work (many people in Japan work at least one day over the weekend and people walking about in suits is a common sight on a Saturday and Sunday), and we had a great dinner of what is called shabu shabu. Thin slices of raw meat, together with mixed vegetables and noodles, are placed by each person into a large bowl of stock, all of which is cooked over a gas stove in the middle of the dining table. The action of moving the food from side to side, in order to cook it through, is called shabu shabu, hence the name given to this kind of meal. After the food has been cooked, it can be dipped into a bowl with sesame oil or dressing and eaten immediately. As well as being delicious, the fact that everyone is the cook makes it a bit more fun and interesting, particularly for a shabu shabu novice like myself.

After dinner, we relaxed by playing a few board games – one called 'Othello' which I quite liked and also Chinese Checkers – while Pete got some help with his Japanese language homework from Kumi's father. We stayed up until midnight in the hope of seeing a replay of the Chelsea-United game but we had to settle for brief highlights. The 2-1 defeat for United left me properly pissed off and the chances of United throwing away the title had become very real. I headed to bed without saying too much to the guys; I tried to hide my depression from them but I don't think I did a very good job of it!


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