Wednesday, 18 December 2013


If you'll excuse the Tribe reference, I want to share some pictures of a couple of weekend trips from the past month or so. The first was to Fukuoka, the biggest city on Kyushu and about a four hour bus journey away, for two things: shopping and sumo.  A JET friend and I hopped on a bus on the Friday night so as to be fresh and ready on Saturday morning, and ended up spending the journey drinking wine from mini bottles alone since we were assigned to separate (empty) buses. Oh Japan. Here's to solo wining on cross country bus journeys. 

Aside from pilgrimages to Forever 21, H&M and Zara, there are also alot of cute vintage stores in Fukuoka: here's a great post with all of them on a map! Many of them seemed more expensive and more contrived than the many run-down second hand shops around that you can find steals in, but I could have easily bought this whole mirror of earrings. 

In the evening it was time for all-you-can-eat, wine and karaoke. 

One of the best photo bombs I've come across. Kudos, Manu. 

This picture just about sums up where the night went from there. 

The next morning we headed to an exhibition of Studio Ghibli sketches and drawings. It was really lovely to switch off the phone and spend a few hours getting lost in the whimsical illustrations, like being a child with their pictures books again. 

I realised when uploading this that it's a bout the most Western-looking street I've been on since coming here.  

Next up, we stopped for lunch in a little ramen shop before heading to the international centre for the sumo matches. Only once we'd sat down did we notice two massive wrestlers sitting behind us! When they stood up they towered over the waiter and the rest of us. 

The matches themselves were great fun to watch, and 3-4 hours seemed the perfect amount of time to sit back, spectate, and make smart-ass comments while snacking. We squeezed into little cushioned areas of four floor mats, separated from each by foot-high barriers. 

Most of the time was consumed by posturing and ritual before the match even began. These rituals are symbolic and to do with purification, as well psyching the opponent out. A limit of ten minutes was set on this "cold warfare" period in 1928, but has been reduced to four now. The judges are elaborately dressed according to rank, and the world of sumo in general is one of strict and complex hierarchy - there must be some great ethnographies out there. 

Often the fights are over within seconds. In one of the first we saw, a tall, slender Mongolian defeated the more typically huge Japanese by neatly side-stepping his charge, provoking loud applause from the audience. 

The 'stage' of the matches is called the dohyo. 

Special aprons. 

We may or may not have picked our favourites according to how much we liked their butts. 

After the matches it was time to home via the Fukuoka illuminations. I'll definitely be back. 

The next weekend jaunt in store was a little closer to home: Takachiho, in the north of the prefecture. Annica, a chum from Miyazaki, and I picked up Alissa and Jo in Nobeoka and continued road trippin up through breathtaking valleys of autumn leaves. Our destination was Takachiho-kyo or gorge, one of the most famous sights on Kyushu. 

Legend has it that Japan's sun goddess brought light to the world from here. I think the waters here are believed to be sacred. We booked a boating slot and went in search of lunch. 

Unfortunately these soba chutes weren't in use, but we did get a hearty meal (and were sternly told to finish it all by the little old lady chef). 

The boating was insanely beautiful. We took turns haphazardly trying to avoid waterfalls and serenading each other with 'Kiss the girl' and 'Just around the riverbend'

Sheer panic. 

Beautiful carp, one day you will be mine. 

It was everything I'd imagined Japan to be before I came - magical and serene. 

We warmed up back in Nobeoka with Mexican food and hours of after-dinner youtube classics. 

Peanut butter and banana waffles for breakfast = an expat's heaven. 

The mixed emotions inherent in the food instagram. 

The journey home was fueled by Macklemore and Christmas songs. I'm going to miss these weekend excursions. 

1 comment:

  1. That gorge adventure looks so magical! The photos are stunning; so close to what I picture when I hear a Japanese legend or story. And I love that you guys sang Disney boating songs. I can't get through a canoeing adventure without bellowing out some Pocahontas.

    Stern old ladies who make others finish their food crack me up. Great stories as usual!