I sorry this is rushed but this is the greatest story of Japan thus far and it must be told; this is the story where we really experience the Japanese culture, all thanks to a friendly little neighbourhood called Mikage and the linguistically talented Kaccey. See for the past few days we have been staying in Mikage (which is near Kobe) with an old school friend, Kaccey & her husband Bernado. When they heard we were coming to Japan they kindly offered us their lounge room futons and their excellent skills as tour guides. Who were we to turn them down? So on Saturday we arrived on their doorstep, late of course at having taken the right train in the wrong direction but thankful to see a familiar face. I was also particularly grateful for having a place that was quiet and easy to sleep late having had to be up at 7:15am the previous three mornings. But this is no tale about sleep, no, this is a tale about the random events that occurred in the 48 hours following our arrival and it goes like this…
On Sunday evening on their way home from work, Kaccey & Bernado spotted a festival occurring in the streets of Mikage and promptly fetched us for a squiz. The procession, which was sort of like a parade, was being held to mark 10.10.10 and we followed the them along as they pulled a large wooden cart atop with people through the streets and back to the precinct to which they each belonged. Fascinated, Kaccey tried to initiate a conversation with them to find out some more about the event and how they could become involved but they wouldn’t have a bar of it and promptly shut her down. Disappointed, we were headed back to their house to have a beer or two and decide what to do with our night when we saw the local group loading their cart into the shed at the end of the street. We wandered up for a stroll and again Kaccey struck up conversation with them but this time they were more than happy to have a chat and to give her information about how Bernado & herself could become more involved. We stood around for a little while talking to them and looking over the big cart (which I feel shit about not knowing the name of), even able to pose for a picture pretending to pull it while they all began to clamour into the hall beside it for a feast of sushi & Asahi. Everyone was merry and before we knew it, I had a beer in one hand and the four of us were being ushered in to join them. Not ones to pass up an opportunity such as this, we graciously sat down and ate the sushi & beer that was constantly being pushed our way while nodding as they spoke to us in a language we didn’t understand. If I have to say one thing about Japan, it’s the fabulous hospitality of its people. They seem to be constantly giving, wanting you to have more! Poor Shona, not wanting to seem rude, was forced to eat a little raw fish but quickly discovered (as I had been telling her) that it is incredible and soon began to happily dig in. We sat and ate and conversated with them as best we could for the good part of 2 hours before they all started to clear out. Three of the men were headed for a bar around the corner and offered Bernado to join, which he then extended to us and we found ourselves quickly being whisked away for beers at the local. I cannot express to you how incredible it was to be invited in with this group, all of which had spent the day pulling an incredibly large cart around the streets, but then to be invited out for drinks as well! It was awesome! We sat and drank and drank some more, talking away to them in English with Kaccey translating when necessary. It was a great night. In the end, they even paid for our drinks (which I now know is a custom in Japan) despite our protests and the night ended with an invite around to Mr Hasegawa’s house the following evening for dinner.
Now this is cool. The following day, we had a brief wander around Sannomiya (the ultimate shopping destination) stopping at a place called Donkey. I cannot begin to describe to you the insanity that is Donkey but I don’t need to, the pictures below speak a thousand words. They have everything in this place, including an 18+ section filled with the weird and the wonderful, in case you thought all would not be catered for. Conveniently, it’s located right beside the party goods section so mums & dads shopping for things for their children’s birthday parties don’t have to go far. We even stopped in for a little post shopping foot onsening before we headed over to the Hasegawa household for home cooked Sukiyaki. When we arrived, the Hasegawa’s, Junko & Masaki, and their son’s Makoto & Nobuhiro greeted us. They welcomed us into their home for the most incredible experience so far. We were ushered up into the living room and the awaiting meal, a large cooking pot sat squarely in the centre of the table with food supplies surrounding it. We were given an egg to break into our bowls while Mr Hasegawa started to cook the beautiful kobe beef and vegetables. We sat and feasted on this traditional meal while Mr Hasegawa cooked. We urged him to eat but he never appeared to as round by round came our way. It was the most incredible & delicious experience and I was so grateful to Mr & Mrs Hasegawa for inviting us to experience this with them. After dinner (and after me spilling the remaining raw egg all over my lap) we retired to the boys bedroom to listen to the talented Mrs Hasegawa play the shamisen. It was incredible how well she played the instrument! I was not entirely sure how the night could get much better when Mr Hasegawa treated us to a martial arts demonstration to top it all off. After this we sat down for coffee & Tim Tams, the taste of Australia we had brought with us for them to try. We taught them Tim Tam Slammers, which went mildly well before we headed back to Kaccey & Bernados to let them get to be. Mikage was a different but most awesome adventure and I am most glad for it. I feel so strongly that you cannot experience a culture without experiencing it through the local people and now I feel I have experienced Japan.
Our last day in Mikage, Shona, Bernado & I went up Mt Rokko for a little wander around. We encountered a few good views but no much else. Except when we hiked to this large carved stone, and on the way back came across a snake – a poisonous one at that!