のんびりする時 Carefree times

Max, Jillian, and Kaori; me taking pictures of picture takers

Its nice to have a break every once in awhile isn't it? Just last week I decided to go back to Miyazaki for a few days to clear the cobwebs from my head and get a chance to relax. Like last time I took the Car Ferry from Osaka to Miyazaki. And again like last time, I met another nice person who I got to know on the way there. This time his name was Kenji and he was just getting back from a Linkin Park concert in Osaka. He lives a little north of Miyazaki and works at a butcher shop. We talked about music and movies and such and its always interesting to know whats popular and whats not for Japanese youths. There was another school festival I went to that had a concert with just cover bands. The offspring seem to be quite popular still as well as Green Day and Sum41. I can't put together whether it is some kind of time delay in there importing, or the image these bands produce fitting with the mood/intrest of the youth. I use to think it had something to do with what people think is hip in the states but not so much anymore. What's disappointing is there is a lot of good Japanese music and films that nobody seems to know about that's within Japan.

Back to the adventure at hand: I was about to go to bed when I was asked by Kenji if I wanted a ride from the Ferry terminal to the station tomorrow when we got off the boat. I was kindly reminded of what I love so much about Miyazaki; the people. I'm always blown away by the genuine kindness that comes from people in this area and the friendly greetings you hear from strangers passing you by. I was taken to the station where we parted ways and exchanged phone numbers. He actually called me a few times to check how I was doing and invited me to his shop if there was time. I had made it back to the palm trees and calming blanket that envelops the atmosphere surrounding Miyazaki.

Well I guess there is one thing that can never be quite relaxing is the transportation. Miyazaki is an interesting place in that having a car a bike or some form of your own transportation is crucial if you want to get around without having to plan everything in advance. I scratch that, you just can't really get around Miyazaki unless you have a car. The trains come about once every hour and depending what station you're at the buses will come about 3 to 4 times a day. With that kind of time delay its pretty important not to miss your ride. Which is what I almost experienced by twenty seconds as I had to transfer trains in the morning. Arriving at the foreign yet familiar Kibana station west of the Miyazaki Campus I made the short trek inland at a snails pace to better enjoy the wide open spaces. Its interesting to think how much of an effect your visual surroundings can have on your way of thinking and how you react to things in general. The sky seemed to open up along with my mind.

After arriving, I met with Hirase Sensei, the professor in charge of the exchange program between Miyazaki and Evergreen on this end. I had lunch with him and the two new exchange students Jillian and Max Countryman and Kaori a good friend and exchange student at Evergreen last year. The atmosphere is always a party when you come to his office. We chatted and looked through some of Hirase's photo albums: his trademark possessions.
The Udo Shinto Shrine off and to the left under the rocks

Then Kaori, Jillian, Max and I took a trip down to the Udo Shinto Shrine, a famous shrine built into the cliff side off the beach. The weather was kind of stormy so the waves crashing against the rocks was a nice site to see. The place seemed to have a lot of history and stories to tell but unfortunately I couldn't read all of the signs and information provided. There seemed to be a lot of separate articles from the main shrine in which you could pray for specific blessings. It was really fascinating and I wanted to know more but we ran out of time. I bought a charm for my friend for safe travels who had just passed his driving test. The charms or お守り (omamori) are sold at shrines and can serve for various specific situations. A few that you can usually find are for success on entrance exams, safe travel, safety for a healthy birth, for finding a lover, fortune, general good luck and so on. It is actually a part of the culture I have often times overlooked but it always seems to come back to me whenever I'm driving in someones car and see an omamori hanging from the dashboard.

A big part of my trip this time was buying gifts or おみやげ (omiyage) for the people back in Kobe. Miyazaki is a great place to get these local souvenirs because of the various famous things it has. One of those things being the mayor of Miyazaki. Hideo Higashiokubaru (quite a mouthful) use to be a famous comedian and now is the humble mayor of Miyazaki prefecture. What's comical is that his fame has created his namesake and his face to be profitable gift items and boosted tourism to Kyushu. Just imagine if you saw Arnold Schwarzenegger's face plastered on the side of a laundromat or on gift wrapped chocolates or on bottles of California wine. That's how famous this guy has been made.
A Souvenir with multiple mayors in different costumes for just this one product he's got his face on here 4 times (15 times if you count the sides and the back)

Not having to cook for a few days was nice too. We went out to several restaurants and in replace of Thanksgiving dinner, Jillian cooked french toast to which people in the dorms where commenting on the delicious smell. I think it really brought me back home for a second, back to my elementary school days. It was a little over a year ago where I first really met Jillian through the three week exchange program to the small town of Toyooka in Japan. It was really nice to see her again and talk openly about each others experiences and catch up on things. That and meeting the cat(s) she provides for was great. I just kept thinking that her kindness for these animals will inevitably attract more.
Jillian and Kaori

Speaking of kindness, Kaori as I mentioned earlier was the one who provided wheels throughout my stay and again, like I said earlier we made it to places that would have been impossible to get to without her. It was nice seeing her even though she was very busy and concentrated on graduating. I felt a little guilty because of the bad timing. On a lighter note we got to visit one of her friends who had just had a baby. We got to hold him which blew my mind that this lady would just hand her several month old baby over for complete strangers to hold. She seemed to be very proud of him.

Causally talking and eating and spending time with friends was I think just what I needed. There were a few people I didn't get a chance to see while I was there but I still got in contact with them. In the idle moments I had a chance to clear my head a little and think about where I've been so far this year and what will happen in the next three months and beyond. I honestly don't know that clearly what the future holds but just like the last time I visited Miyazaki I'm feeling positive and upbeat. For some reason the trip seemed to reinvigorate my wonder and amazement of all that I'm wrapped up in at the moment. I have my doubts and my ups and downs but when I see things clearly there's so much I have to be thankful for and many thanks to say towards a lot of good friends. Best of luck to all of you out in Miyazaki.