Monday, February 23, 2009

A Rainy Day in Takamatsu...

Last week we went on a day trip to Takamatsu, the capital city of Shikoku, an island south of us on the Inland Sea. I hadn't really been outside Okayama since Osaka, and it felt great to be on the train heading somewhere new again. What made it even better was that the track was about 200 feet above the inland sea. It was really cool and a pretty amazing engineering feat. There were huge pillars that went right into the water holding up a massive track for two trains to run at once. So the hour train ride was interesting the whole way, and when we got off everything just felt good. Takamatsu is right on the coast, and one of the main reasons we were going there was to hang out for a bit by the water and have a few beers. Before we did that, there was a garden that we heard was pretty great, and after walking around in there for an hour or two, I'd say it was one of the most impressive things I've seen so far.

From the beginning, the garden was amazing. There were these really old trees that had bark that looked like a tortoise shell and branches that bent in all sorts of crazy ways. You can see tree limbs held up by crutches all over Japan, but I've never seen trees so contorted anywhere before. It looked like all of them had a terrible birth defect, but at the same time it was a really beautiful thing. After a path lined with these trees, we followed a path up a mound which was labelled as Little Fuji. What we saw at the top was something distinctly Japanese, something I can't say about most of the country, with no influence from Western Culture at all. The landscape looked just like a woodblock print or a screen painting, and it was what I always imagined when I thought of Japan. Trees were trimmed perfectly, and the patterns formed by everything seemed to have a very natural flow. I never really understood what all the hype about Japanese gardens was about, but after that view, everything changed.

Anyway, we kept on walking around the grounds, and soon found a bridge with a bunch of koi in it, all swarming around a group holding bread. It was hilarious watching their mouths extend a few inches out to try and suck up the bread, and we decided to feed them ourselves. I got way too into it, and started putting my hand down in the water and having fish suck the bread right out of my hand. It was really funny, and we got the group we first saw all into our little show. One of the men in the group grabbed my bread and started poking the fish in the eyes and stuff and I wasn't sure exactly what he was trying to achieve but it was a lot of fun.

After the koi, it started to rain. Lightly at first, but then it picked up and we thought it'd be best to head back to the main part of town. We managed to find the garden alright, but we got lost on our way back due to my terrible sense of direction. We ended up at a station on the opposite end of town, and then got off on the wrong stop on our way back to the main station. Haha, it ended up working out ok, because we bought some beer and potato snacks and found the tracks. On our way back, an old guy with a toothpick dangling out of his mouth opened up the door of his house and gave us a nasty look and a grunt. We didn't know what the hell he was doing, so we were kind of making fun of him when we heard a voice call out " SUMIMASEN, SUMIMASEN!" from behind us. It was the old guy, and he gave us two umbrellas for absolutely no reason. It was pretty cool and it felt good knowing that some people are genuinely nice and don't need a reward for helping others out.

We finally got back to the main station and the coast, but the rain was really coming down by then. We were determined though, and after an umbrella led charge to the coast we found a gutter under an overhang that was dry. It smelled a little, but it was really peaceful after spending a long time in the rain. We ate our snacks and drank our beers and then went up to a building by the station for a high class dinner. We thought we deserved it, and we really wanted some good sushi since we haven't really had any good stuff since we got here. We found a comfy looking restaurant and got a bunch of tasty sushi accompanied with a few containers of sake. Heaven.

We also went to the Naked Man Festival but I feel like I've typed too much already so I'll keep it real short. The festival is a bunch of guys dressed in only a sumo wrestler diaper all fighting for a stick that brings happiness. It was a lot of fun screaming at the teams while they ran around the festival grounds and giving them high fives. The guards were pricks though, and they kept pushing me back whenever I got a little too close to the runners. It was definitely a good night, even if the actual competition part of the festival was kind of weak.

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