Saturday, May 15, 2004

My Weekend in Shikoku
This weekend I went to Shikoku, the only one of the four major islands of Japan I hadn't visited yet. Considering the fact that it's right across from Kyushu, I really should have gone there a long time ago, but I've been terrible about traveling.

The purpose of my venture was to visit a good friend from my Calvin College days, who is teaching English in Matsuyama in Shikoku. Which is another thing I've really been terrible at: visiting friends in Japan.

I had another friend from Calvin who was in Kagoshima for a year (which is even the same island that I live on) and I never got my act together enough to go down and visit. And I had a cousin who spent a year as an exchange student in Nagoya (or was it Nagano-I keep getting those cities mixed up). I made a couple half-hearted attempts to contact him, but never organized a trip to visit him.

My Calvin friend in Shikoku has been there for a year now, and is leaving this week. So this was the last opportunity I had to visit. So it was now or never, and I said to myself, "Damn it Joel, this time I will go and visit."

Of course because I had waited till the last minute, my timing was not ideal. It was just a normal weekend rather than a long holiday weekend, which means it was a bit of a rushed trip (caught the ferry out Friday night, and returned Saturday morning). Also my friend was working whilst I was there.

But I was able to entertain myself during the afternoon. Matsuyama is a decent sized city, and you know me, I'm a country boy out in Oita Prefecture. So I was able to enjoy all the nice things about a big city. I went shopping, went to an English book store (watch for more book reviews and recommendations in this space coming soon).

I went into an internet cafe for a couple hours and got some work done on my job search application front, (which is another thing I've been terrible about) while listening to Air America via the internet.

And then I played tourist for a while and went to visit Matsuyama castle, where I (dig this)

Got my picture taken with a model
(not making this up I swear)

Matsuyama castle is on top of a big hill. There's a rope lift up, but I opted to hike it. My timing was a little bad, because arriving at the top I got there the same time as a senior tour group. The castle was pretty small and cramped, and I was competing for space with these seniors (some of whom seemed a bit pushy to me).

On the way down I decided to take the back way. I came to a Japanese garden at the back of the castle, which I thought I'd check out. There was a sign saying not to enter, but the door was wide open so I thought I'd poke my head in anyway and look around.

I ended up interrupting some sort of photo shoot. I don't know who those people where or what it was for, but there was a whole team of people, a photographer, people holding up stuff to reflect the lights or something, and a Japanese model doing various poses around the garden.

I heard someone yell out, "hold on, a foreigner's just entered." Someone ran over to tell me the garden was closed. They were pretty polite about it, but people in Japan are usually tolerant of foreigners who don't know what's going on. I apologized, but then as I was leaving the photographer shouted for me to wait, and said maybe they could use me for a few photos with the girl.

I have no idea what I looked like through the other end of the camera lens, but I imagine those pictures couldn't have turned out to great. I was caught a bit off guard, nervous about being thrown together with this pretty Japanese girl, and besides I was never great at posing naturally for pictures anyway. So I doubt these pictures will ever see the light of day, and even if they do I have no idea what they were for or what publication they would appear in.

Still, it ranks as one of my more interesting stories in Japan.

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