大阪から宮崎まで From Osaka to Miyazaki (part 2)

Updates before stories. It is officially summer vacation (finally, having to go to school on the fourth of July was confusing torture, my body was just not up for lectures and language tests). Hopefully there will be lots of stuff to experience and share, I'm also looking forward to more random updates. With that I should mention that I finally, FINALLY feel like I've gotten settled in and gotten use to life here (little before the half way mark; not bad), which is great because I feel like myself.

So back to Miyazaki. Only about 200 miles away from Kobe but seemingly thousands away is Miyazaki University. Here is where the other half of the exchange students end up, which couldn't be any more different from Kobe. We reach Shaun's dorm and the first thing I notice when we walk in is the off and on flow of people walking by shouting greetings at you. I couldn't help thinking "holy crap people talk to you around here!" Overall I found the talkative level to be higher. Call it southern hospitality but people in Miyazaki like to talk. We get to Shaun's room and well, there's not a lot of space; bed and desk lie between a straight away from the door to the balcony. Any remaining floor space happened to be my bed. I worried at first that we would kill each other by the end of it but no blood was shed. The community in the dorms is great and coming from various different countries and backgrounds. The stories about the mess are true however, something about having a shared dorm kitchen with fresh college students (sometime even veterans) just spells mildew.

The view from Shaun's pad in the international dorms on campus. Mountains? Yeah whatever.
Time slows down and faux boredom sets in that feels so natural and unrestrained. I could sit and look at the scenery all day. Straining the limits of what can be done in a small town, we go around, seeing the local sights, meeting friends, eating at local restaurants and just kicking it Miyazaki style. Shaun's friends drive us around from time to time making the impossible easy. There was even a time when two complete strangers drove us back to the campus because it was on the way. The random encounters and friendly faces had to be the most surprising thing about the trip. That and the one car trains that looked to be about 60 years old. The tram, train, whatever you call it, traveled through picturesque mountain scenery away from anything that resembles human civilization. It was as if the quite mountains were real and the noisy foreign object or train we were riding in was fake.

After seeing some sights one day we were invited to a farewell party for some English teachers.

A BBQ party. I have to say barbecues seem to be more popular in Japan then in the states. Also you're not cooking half a cow your cooking half a cow cut up into bite size pieces. Who ever came up with that gimmicky marketing ploy that bite size = fun size probably has been to a Japanese BBQ
Neither of us knew anyone there except for one or two people but we were immediately greeted as if we were long lost friends. First off these were all people had been abroad and/or had interest in English. We heard from the departing teachers there experience in the remote areas of Kyushu. This community that I was apart of for that evening was very different from community as I have experienced it back in Kobe. For one, formalities where thrown out the window and the feeling and conversation flow seemed to focus on the interpersonal connection everyone had to the collective. Naturally everyone had something to relate about so it was a rare occasion altogether I think...

Collectivism can refer to society being like minded, working together, and putting the importance of community above the self. However in a big city like Kobe I think collectivism can also refer to the common fact that everyone is collected together in the same space. I'm not saying that people in Kobe do not have high regards for their community, they do. When you see something like a group of volunteers picking up trash around the town people do care about the collective. However does the collective value the collective first? Are people in Kobe more individualistic? I can't answer that.

The adventure proceeds at its nice and tempered pace as a day or two passes. I'm given a bike and some time alone to explore the area. I ride pass field after field of rice patties and do a loop around the area. The architecture is pretty interesting on the way to the school actually.

Woah! "A" frame apartments, pretty slick looking, I wonder what its like living on top.
After that Shaun takes me to a small, out of the home, family run restaurant in the neighborhood. They give you a ridiculous amount of food, enough to feed 1o starving orphans for only 500 yen (about 5 bucks). I guess the missing link between Miyazaki and Kobe is family. Something that's constantly playing in the background, family in Miyazaki takes center stage. From this little restaurant, to relationships, to community and events I saw family where ever I went.

Killer rain, giant bugs, and a little pizza and beer later, I've come to my last day in Miyazaki. We take the day to go and visit Heiwadai Park.

This ancient ruins of a Mayan civilization that accidentally wound up on the small islands east of Asia... actually the structures about 70 years old, the same age as the kindly gentleman who explained this to us. Its created out of ancient stones from various countries including China and Korea.
The park is filled with replicas of what are called Haniwa, clay figures that originate from the Kofun period or beginning in 3rd century Japan. They were apparently buried with the dead. The stylistic forms they take on are really fascinating and mysterious. As a faint picture of a society long ago they bring up more questions then they answer. Seeing them before in museums was fun but having them in the park made for better photo ops.

This is the happiest Haniwa in Miyazaki... look at him he's so full of himself.
Posing with the Haniwa while unfortunately having eyeballs, makes it hard to fit in with them.
That's Better

After that it was about time to return, Shaun takes me back to the station where we chat for a bit, slowly but surely after five days, conversation became smoother and less awkward. Unfortunately that's when we say farewell, back on the ferry I went to Osaka and to my nice soft bed. I'd like to thank Shaun for sticking with me the whole time I was there and with out him I doubt much of it could have been possible.

I'd like to add on the way back to Kobe I was in Osaka when I must have taken the wrong exit off the subway because I ran into morning rush hour traffic. This was a first seeing as what I've qualified as traffic all my life takes the form of cars was now suddenly transformed into people. A constant flowing river of people walking deep into the underground stations. I have to emphasize that there were no waves no let up just a stream, as if all of Japan were trying to ride the subway. Swimming upstream for about ten minutes I finally make it above ground to the city air and return to another world as dream like as the one I just left.

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