Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Friday, October 21, 2016

My favorite beverage:  Japanese green tea
Caroline picked me up at 5:30 this morning so she can take me to the bus station.  With more little omiyage from her for Mama-san, Forde, and me, my bags are stuffed and heavy.  But declining an omiyage is rude and no fun.  She’s bought a green tea latte for me and peanut tofu. Unfortunately, I do have to give the hot container of tea back to her as there is no cup holder in the bus and in my sleepy condition I’m sure I’d spill it all over me.  I have 4 hours to wait for my flight so I eat the peanut tofu later at the airport --- a lovely subtle flavor.

It’s difficult to say goodbye to Caroline as we’ve only had a little over a day to visit after all these years. (We haven't seen each other in about 35 years or so.)  And she's been so generous in her time, driving and spirit.  She seems to know everyone.  Fortunately there is email!  Caroline has to leave by 6:00a.m. in order to get to her class at 9:00a.m.  It's not that far but evidently the traffic is so bad that it takes 2-3 hours instead of the 1 hour it should take so once she drops me at the bus depot, it's a quick but emotional hug and she's on her way.

The flight from Naha to Kobe is just as nice and smooth as the longer one from Tokyo but this time I get a window seat overlooking the ocean, not the land.

It's so wonderful to finally see my friend, Tomoko Miura, at the Kobe Airport arrivals area!  Like Caroline, it's been a long long time since we've seen each other (11 years or so).  Tomoko was a student on a summer language program to my alma mater, Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, from Hope's sister college in Tokyo, Meiji Gakuin,  in 1973.  (Tomoko went to Tada University in Tokyo as a International Relations major.  Her English is fluent.  She also speaks Hungarian, a sister language of Japanese as is Finnish.)  I was supposedly teaching English as a Second Language for that summer program--- questionable as I didn't feel I was very good at it but I think they thought that since I had just returned from being a foreign student in Japan the previous year, I was qualified.  Hmmm.   Tomoko and I are both so glad we've kept in touch all these years.  (She visited my former husband, Richard, and I in the late 80's at New Years so she could go to New York City's Time Square and see the Ball drop.  She was meeting a friend there.)

There are no pictures remaining from my arrival at Kobe and the scenes from the industrial port there because my camera was definitely dying....  Unfortunate as the pictures were of the huge orange and white cranes that unloaded cargo from the ships.  Kobe is a major port for Japan.

We took the train from the airport into Kobe and then the train to her town of Ashiya to the west in Hyogo-ken (prefecture).  Always fascinating views from the trains.  I love to constantly watch the houses and the big huge buildings that these cities produce.

When we finally reach Ashiya-shi (Ashiya-city), Tomoko-san explains that when her parents purchased their house, the area was very middle-class with moderate incomes.  In the last years, it's become a very fashionable and expensive area in which to live.  There are expensive (and excellent) restaurants, high end clothing stores, and very unusual and beautiful houses.  
Very unusual and expensive house front (garage to
left and front door at end on right).  Flower planters
are in the middle alcoves.  Traditional American
quilt pattern mosaics are part of the sidewalks.
They also have some exceedingly beautiful manhole covers!  Each city has it's special identifying theme.  In Ashiya, it's Japanese pine tree (matsu) and waves.  I kept stopping and taking pictures!
Ashiya city manhole cover with Japanese matsu
pine trees and waves

Manhole cover with lilies for water drainage
Manhole cover for electricity
Very small "manhole" cover for water connection

After settling at her house (very, very steep and long stone stairs up to her front door) and more stairs up to my room (these stairs will become an inside joke between us--- more soon on this).  She loves cats, as I do, but hers are extremely shy.  I'm not quite sure how many she has---- 5 or 7, I think.  All are rescued from outside.  It's only within the last day or so that I have been able to somewhat pet and scratch Bibi---somewhat.
Steep driveways and steep stairs
are everywhere.


Steep stairs to Miura's house.

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