I got up today at the buttcrack of dawn to get to the shinkansen at Nagoya Station. In case you don.t remember, the shinkansen is the super-fast bullet train that Japan is famous for. They say you have to ride it at least once (well, I don.t know who "they" are, but I suspect that "they" are the train company).
It was dinfinately cool. I had loads of leg-room (not like I need it) and it felt like flying. I tried to sleep along the way, but it didn.t really happen. I seem to be having another bout of insomnia. 2 hours later, I got off the train at Mishima Station in Shizuoka Prefecture and went to meet Obaa-san. He is the brother of one of my English as a Second Language students in Missouri.
We drove to his parents's house in Susono. It was pretty rural, but still had a lot of stuff to do. Mostly gamblind and eating, so it was my kind of town. Obaa-san.s mom came out to greet me. I.d met her once before in the United States, but she.s a lot more "genki" (energetic) when she.s not jet-lagged.
Yuko (my ESL friend) showed me pictures of her house, but I didn.t know that it was so big. One house (made in the 1700s) was connected to another newer Western-Japanese style house. I stayed in Yuko.s old apartment (it had it.s own bath, kitchen and bathroom) and the rest of the family in the other one.
There were 7 dogs, 2 cats, 12 koi (big Japanese carp), and multiple chickens and roosters. Cool. Her father is an animal doctor (alas, I can.t remember how to spell vet.) so he likes to keep them around. It turns out he sleep with all of the dogs, so the mother has her own room. That.s really funny.
Her entire family was so energetic and nice. I gave them gifs brought from Pittsburgh (hometown) and some Kishimen from Nagoya (Nagoya is famous for Kishimen...noodles). Then they gave me a comic book written in English and Japanese. It was really entertaining. Then the mother handed me this envelope with 200 dollars in it. I was shocked, but I was told it.s a custom to give students money. That totally covered the shinkansen fare.
We had a really yummy lunch and had a walk in the yard. Yuko said that you can see Mt. Fuji (which is in Shizuoka Prefecture) from her backyard, but I didn.t believe her. I was scanning the mountan range, not very impressed, thinking Fuji was one of the little peaks when I looked up above the clouds. I stopped breathing it was so high. And beautiful. And awe-inspiring. I just looked and looked and looked. You have got to see this thing. I was told that I was lucky to see it because the clouds are usually too thick this time of yar. I got to watch the sun set around it. Nice.
Obaa-san and I went to a bookstore and bought some souvenirs. I picked out what I wanted and he bought stuff for me. I protested profusely, but he insisted. Very nice of him. It was so relaxing that we didn.t run around trying to see everything.
The whole family went out to a sushi restaurant...it was really expensive and they ordered a tray for everyone and then an extra one because they said that young people like me must eat a lot. I protested, but to no avail. Then they ordered some special dishes for me alone. Tasty. Then we had a beer and some miso shrimp soup. I was so stuffed. They kept telling me to cram it in. I could barely walk home. Then Yuko called from Missouri to see if I was having a good time. I was having a great time.
I got into the furo and went to bed in Yuko.s old apartment. Comfortable futon. Before bed I read my comic book.
The whole day they kept complimenting my Japanese. It was funny. The mother and father are studying Engish by radio, so they know a few words and the son knew quite a lot. I spoke in Japanese to the parents and son on the first day and Enlish to the son on the second day. I was fine with Japanese both days, but I heard from Yuko that he wanted to practice his Engligh so I responded in whatever language he spoke in. Fun. The mother and brother kept teaching me Japanese sentence forms, classical Japanese sentence forms, vocabulary, kanji, famous sayings, and poetry. I was really happy that the mother took the time to correct mistakes they had made in Japanese. Kanji characters that they.d forgoteen a stroke on, for example. She kept telling the some to correct himself because I would remember the mistakes. She.s right. I appreciated that because people tend not to correct my Japanese when I make a stupid mistake. Help me out here, people...
So I woke up early and went to the big house for breakfast. We had a traditional Japanese breakfast. Again, the mother made ample portions because, as she put it, "young people can eat a lot." Dang it. Again, I was soooo full. It was very tasty and I ate everything except for the natto. I can eat natto, but I was already so full that I decided to forgo it. Since the container hadn.t been opened yet, it wasn.t a waste.
Ooba-san and I drove to the bottom on Mt. Fuji and went to an animal safari park there. We drove through it with about a million other people. Today was the beginning of Golden Week (I.ll explain later) so everyone was on vacation. The animals were cute, but most of them were sleeping, We drove under a giraffe.s neck as it reached out for some leaves.
Then there was a petting zoo and I got to pet a wallaby. We saw kangaroos, too. I was completely shocked when this red slimy thing reached out of the kangaroo.s stomach. Then I realized it was a hand. Ewww. Sure, pouches sound cute, but they.re really kind of gross close up.
There was even a section where you could hold a baby lion. Groups of 3 could go in for $100. Poor lion. I pitied almost every animal in that park. Animals should have more room to run and fewer people trying to pet them.
Next we climbed almost halfway up Mt. Fuji by car. It became so cloudy that we couldn.t see more than a few feet in front of us, so we had to turn back. It was really neat. Yuko.s family told me that when I decided to climb Mt. Fuji (probably just before I come home wince early August is the best time) that I can call them and they.ll give me a ride and a place to stay. Nice, huh? I was told that sometimes climbers need oxygen so there are oxygen kiosks on the mountain. $20 bucks for a minute. Sheesh.
I bought little souvenirs for my host family, the Sato.s, Obaa-chan, and my Sensei.s (they teachers got Mt. Fuji-shaped cookies...hehehe). I won the payment battle and bought those myself. If someone else buys the gifts you want to give away, it.s kind of wierd.
I had a huge dinner with the Obaa-family and they took me to the station where I got on the shinkansen and went home. Good times. But there was a bad surprise waiting for me when I got there. Read on in the next chapter.