It’s raining, it’s pouring (Day 216)
Our last full day in Japan. Oh dear, it is bucketing down; it's raining. it's pouring...despite this, what have we loved about Japan?
After doing admin stuff out we went, umbrellas to the ready. Tim had found a recommended park to visit…mmm…was this a good idea? We hopped on a bus, followed google maps so we knew where to get off and arrived. But how to get in the park? After walking around 3 sides of the park, in the pouring rain (Did I mention it was raining?) we found the opening. Ah, we had to pay to go in, just like in Toyko. Not today, it’s too wet. Let’s find a café instead and decide what to do.
One hot coffee later (make sure you ask for “Hotto” otherwise you might get a “Coldo” one), finding no art galleries or museums to our liking, I suggested we went to a shopping mall as Tim needed some new headphones. A bus ride later, after chatting to a delightful Chinese young lady, we arrived. The few malls we have been to in Japan have been really nice. Quite a number of independent shops either side of a walkway with a curved transparent cover. We found a couple of second hand/vintage shops and wandered around, Tim tried a few shirts on…would you believe it – they were all too big!
The large majority of Japanese are small and slim and we read an interesting article why this is. In Japan, people tend to walk quite a bit; they have good public transport so people walk to the station or bus stop rather than get into the car. We also have seen many people cycle. It is very usual to have a bike and often we have seen women pedalling away with a child on the front and one on the back. As well as exercise, their diet is very healthy. Not much meat or fat, little dairy, if at all, lots of rice, fish and vegetables including seaweed. I am sure I have lost the odd ounce whilst being here. Mind you the muffins we bought yesterday don’t help.
Tim got his headphones and back on the bus and a short walk, yes, in the rain, to our Airbnb. Our host cooked us a lovely simple meal of miso soup, rice, salad and mackerel. The rain continued all through the night – I think we had the annual quota of rain in one day!
So what have the highlights of Japan been for us? The zaniness of Tokyo, with its people in a plethora of snazzy clothes, rainbow coloured hair, frilly dresses to the cool hip chicks in bikers jackets. The stunning panoramic vistas of the triangular mountains covered with the squidgy green canopy of the deciduous trees with the occasional line of white cloud somehow softening the view. The delicious food, wholesome ramen where we suck up thick udon noodles, the sushi with such fresh slivers of different types of seafood, our daily supply of onigiri, my favourite is stuffed with tuna mayo and Tim’s is salmon. The relaxing Onsens with the boiling mineral water dissolving our aches and pains from our tired muscles and the amusing tradition of sticking the flannel (often bright yellow) on our heads. The respect that the Japanese have for their environment, the cleanness, the neat manicured hedges and trees.
The people we have met have been so kind, generous and thoughtful. They will go out of their way to help us. Gentle souls, yet underneath this gentleness there is stoicism and strength. Sadly there is a huge suicide rate in Japan, three times the amount than in the UK, yet we need to understand the culture of the people. They don’t see suicide as a sin, as in the Christian faith. Think of the Samurai practice of committing “seppuku” or during WWII the “kamikaze” pilots. Suicide can be seen as something honourable. Yet there are huge issues of loneliness and acute social withdrawal known as hikikomori here.
I don’t want to end this post on such a sad subject (it seems to be in my awareness quite a bit recently and I have just written a blog about Suicide on Glows Coaching). What we also fondly remember in the past 4 weeks is the wonderful times we spend getting to know lovely Cleverson in Tokyo, Hiroko and Hiro taking us around fabulous sites near Osaka, and spending two delightful days with Jan and Simon with so much laughter. People, as well as the places we visit, are what makes our trip. Those moments like chatting with Vincent in Yakushima, Sayaka and Rene at GIRACHA and with our host Mitsuhiro and his wife Puku here in Kumamoto are so special.
“Sayonara, go shinsetsu ni arigatōgozaimashita”
South Korea and sunshine…here we come! Damn – I think it’s the wet season there as well – Hey-ho. “Tim, have you packed the umbrellas?”