Towards the end of April I prepared myself for visitors. I mainly stayed unoccupied to avoid unnecessary money spending as I knew that soon my brother, Jake, and his girlfriend Katy where coming to visit. What made it even better was that I was going to be having time off work because it was “Golden Week”, a series of national holidays that got bundled into one long week, meaning I could really relish their visit and generally the spirits in Japan will be high. They arrived just before the beginning of “Golden Week” and for the first couple of days they stayed in Tokyo to have some time exploring on their own while I was at work. Then on the Wednesday evening, before the holiday had started, they made their way to Kazo to meet me at Intersect SFL, aided by some vague instructions I had given them. It was all quite surreal as those couple of days at work had been, what is now, normal to me and then just as I am finishing up they come casually walking into my school, like I have just been living round the corner all this time. I think was also surreal for Jake seeing me in a suit. We headed home, made some gyoza, drank and caught up on the almost 8 months since I had seen them last.
The next day in Kazo I had a busy day planned for us. I had work that day but it was the perfect chance for them to come and have a peek at what I actually do with most of my time here. Kindly enough, Teru’s wife had booked a wonderful traditional Japanese restaurant for us to all have some lunch. It was pretty much a feast. The centrepiece was “kamameshi” a seafood rice dish served in the eponymous pot. The “kama” pot sits in a wooden frame and underneath is a small flame. Once the flame goes out it is ready to eat. Its resembles a Japanese risotto. With this we all each got a fair helping of sashimi, tempura, Japanese pickles, miso soup and some vegetables. I’ve never been a massive fan of seafood and neither has Jake, although I am getting much more used to it now I have been in Japan but I think it was a bit of a shock to him. Still the squid sashimi is something I do not think I will ever get used to. It was a great lunch as it also felt like a proper Japanese experience. We then headed to Fudoka preschool for their first Japanese teaching experience. Jake seemed like he was getting a bit nervous, but I told him there was nothing to be worried about and Michiko, who owns the school made them feel right at home. She even made Katy a cute necklace and origami crane. The kids had been told they were coming so they were extra excited and curious when we started teaching. Unfortunately they were clued up about them so we did not get any funny responses from the questions about where they were from, like they did with me. We practiced food vocab getting Jake and Katy involved and then practiced “do you like?” questions. Me, Jake and Katy asked each student together. Most were quite good but some where a bit overwhelmed by 3 white people asking them questions. Luckily we got no one crying but they did freeze up, mouth open gazing into our strange alien faces. Overall we had a good lesson, I think the kids found us just as amusing as we found them. The next day in Kazo, and the last before we went on our planned travels, we had a more relaxed day. We met Teru and one of my students, Hiromi, for some ramen noodles. For some reason Hiromi wanted to go when the restaurant first opened, so it was more like breakfast, and I never thought I would have ramen for breakfast. Despite this it was the richest and most delicious miso ramen I have had so far, and it was of course accompanied by gyoza. We then went to the local shopping centre for a browse. We tried out all of the massage chairs in the electronics store, marveled over the prairie dog in the pet store, which I now want, and checked out the weird children’s books, including the midget encyclopedia (こびとづかん), a book about poo (うんこ), and arse detective (おしりたんてい).
The next day we set off for Tokyo. We caught the train to Harajuku and went to see the Meiji shrine. It was a beautifully hot day and we were lucky enough to witness the procession of a traditional Japanese wedding being held at the shrine. The bride and groom both dressed in Kimonos, being shaded by people carrying umbrellas, were being followed by their guests in a formal line. The bride wore this interesting Star-Wars-esque hat that is like massive balloon-like chefs hat. Later we wandered through all the bustling areas of Harajuku, such as Takeshita street, looking at the all the hip and wacky shops, slowly walking our way back to Shibuya. It was around rush hour time when we got to Shibuya so it was a great time to walk across the crazy spaghetti junction that Shibuya is famous for. It was then to the cheap izakaya that sells beer for only ¥120 to start our long night ahead. We stayed here for a while drinking and tried one of the most disgusting alcoholic drinks I have drunk, and I assure you I have had my fair share. It was an “ウコンサワー” (Ucon Sour), a turmeric type tea mixed with soda water and “shōchū”, a sake like spirit. After having maybe few two many drinks, we headed to Shinjuku to see Teru’s band perform. It was a pretty wicked gig and it got us in the mood for dancing, it was a little bit of a bad turn out but I think our drunken dancing made up for that. After the gig we met up with some friends back in Shibuya ready for some fun. Jake managed to gear everyone up to go to Ageha, a huge club, if not the biggest in Asia, located a free bus away from Shibuya station, which Jake managed to smash a whole bottle of red wine on when getting on. Getting inside Ageha made me thankful for Jake trooping on and insisting on stamping out our reservations on going, as it is a ridiculous place. It really is huge. The DJ booth is a massive square that ominously floats in the wall over looking a dance floor fit for a game of football. For some reason it even has its own swimming pool, in which I managed to have a quick dip before getting dragged out. It seriously makes no sense why it’s there if you can’t go in! The music was pretty much flawless, too. Despite it being a hedonistic paradise it may have been a bit much for us towards the end of the night. I spent a lot of my time trying to look for a not so cheap hat I was wearing that I had bought as a birthday present for a friend. I had taken off it off with my other clothes when I braved going in the pool and then just wandered off. Jake took a turn for the worst and for much of the night and became well acquainted with the toilet. Katy got worried and did laps of the club looking for Jake, as he had mysteriously disappeared to the only place she could not look, the little boys room. How ever many hours later, I found the hat exactly where I had left it, which I thought would only happen in a Japanese club, Jake emerged and got reunited with Katy. By then the music subsided and it was kick-out.
After leaving the club we then realized we were in a pretty inaccessible part of Tokyo for around 6 in the morning. Jake was not well at all. So instead of getting some form of transport out of there we passed out on some grass, in the blazing hot heat. We got a few hours sleep and also quite sunburnt, which in retrospect probably did not make us feel any better. That Sunday was when we had planned to stray away from Tokyo and start our travels around some of Japan. Surprisingly despite our state after our nap we managed to get on a train and head to Kamakura, a honeypot tourist town a little bit outside of Tokyo. It was a wonderful day, a perfect day for sightseeing, although we had no energy to appreciate anything at all. We visited the “daibutsu”, a large bronze budda, but only through a slit in the gates as it was too much of an effort to go in. We visited a secluded and tranquil shrine that had a wonderful view of the coast, which we enjoyed it by taking another quick nap. We sat down complaining about how rough and tired we were feeling in “Hasedera” temple a really attractive temple accompanied by an equally beautiful Japanese garden. Later we visited the beach to enjoy the nice day and view of the Japanese coastline, but instead caught up on the lost sleep from the previous night. We really adopted the beach bum style. So now I can say I have been to the lovely town of Kamakura, however I do feel I should probably go back.