I spent a few days in Kagawa, the smallest prefecture in Japan and my fiance's hometown. It's about eight hours and five transfers from Fukuoka by train. The meeting with the family went well, and I was happy to see this side of Japan. When Kagawa does get tourists, its usually busloads of Japanese eager to try Sanuki Udon, a dish famous in that area.
Kagawa is comprised of a large city and several towns and villages like this. This area was particularly rural.
It was served by a couple of train stations. The first is Sue Station:
The second is Takinomiya.
I thought the town was really charming, and it had at least one thing in common with a town you might find in Pennsylvania: though it was rural and in the middle of nowhere, they put a huge shopping mall right in the middle.
Aeon is apparently ubiquitous throughout Japan. The mall was pretty nice, though, and had a huge grocery store, three floors of shops, a movie theater, a McDonald's, Mr. Donut, loads of other good restaurants. And a coffee shop:
They're putting in an electronic's store across the street. One interesting feature of Aeon and of a lot of restaurants and stripmalls in Japan was that they're islands in huge parking lots. This is a layout you'll find a lot in the US, though in Korea shops are usually stacked on top of each other, with a parking garage underneath.
In Kagawa's capital, Takamatsu, is the large Ritsurin Koen (栗林公園).
Takamatsu is a city of 670,000, I guess considered small, but I liked it. It was the first city in Japan we really visited, and a feature it would share with the others is that its downtown pedestrian shopping area is covered by a translucent roof. You can see that the streets weren't too busy this Monday.
Takamatsu is on the Inland Sea.
Across from Takamatsu Station, a short walk from the pier from whence those two pictures were taken, is "Symbol Tower" and a new shopping mall.
When taking the train from Okayama to Takamatsu you pass over the Great Seto Bridge. At 13.1 kilometers long, it's the world's largest two-tiered bridge. I tried and failed to get nice pictures of the sunset over the islands.
We also spent time in Kyoto, visiting among other places the Temple of the Golden Pavillion.
And an old movie set.
Then a day in Osaka.
And okonomiyaki, a regional specialty.
I was impressed by these cute messages below the puppies on display at an Osaka pet store.
I have teeth that could hurt you. but that I choose not to bite you. Remember before you hit me.
Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don't understand your words. I do understand your voice when it speaking to me.
My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be painful for me.
You have your work. Your entertainment. and your friends. I have only you.
And we went to Himeji, to see Himeji Castle.
You'll find a few more pictures on my Flickr page. I got the "Look! Funny English!" and the "Ooooh, it's so exotic!" crap out of my system when I first came to Korea, so you won't find many photos like that in this gallery. A few other points:
** I didn't exactly look hard, but I checked about ten ATMs in a number of different cities, and didn't find one that would let me use my international debit card from Korea. Has anyone else had any experience with that? I've been able to use mine in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and the United States. Good to know that when I go back to Japan I'll need to bring a full wallet.
** To my surprise, Japan wasn't that expensive. It's possible to spend money, I'm sure, but you can also eat a good meal on a budget. In Osaka, especially, there were tons of options for lunch for 500 yen (about 5,000 won). We had hotels in downtown Kyoto and Osaka for roughly 80,000 won. More expensive than a Korean love motel, sure, but even cheaper than what you'd pay for a tourist hotel in Jeollanam-do. Where the money does add up quickly, though is with transportation, but as somebody from the United States, I'm used to paying for food, transportation, and accommodation. I recently looked into booking a room near my alma mater for next month, and was surprised to see that rooms in this rural Pennsylvania town are between $100 and $130 a night.
** Both in the hotels and in her parents house I was surprised to see we had about seven channels on the television. I didn't go to Japan to watch TV, I'm just sayin'. In the morning I caught some of the morning talk shows, and the hot topic all week was Noriko Sakai, an actress who disappeared with her son after her husband was arrested for drugs.
Most media coverage painted her as an embarrassed victim of a bad husband, but things have changed since her husband told police that Noriko was also a drug user. Police have issued a warrant for her arrest, and the media has begun to air any bit of information they think might support the case against her.
Some of this information includes a tattoo on her ankle and a streak of color in her hair in a 2007 interview.
** For those interested about the swine flu front, when I was at the ferry terminal in Fukuoka, I was given a quesitonaire about any symptoms I might have. I filled it out, but when I arrived in Korea there was nobody to collect it. My fiance wasn't given one, so I don't know if this was handed only to foreign-looking foreigners---she looks Korean, swear to God---or what, but it was printed in both English and Korean. When I entered the terminal in Busan a man gave me a quick scan with a handheld device, presumably to check my temperature, and then I was waved through.
** Whoa, Japan has Wendy's. I'm saving that for my trip back home, though. Japan also has Freshness Burger. Actually, I was surprised to learn it was a Japanese company. I've eaten it a few times in Korea and like it, though it's a little expensive.
** Here's something that caught my eye in the Saturday paper.
Good price, though. R.O.K. Sojourn recently wrote that foreigners who make fun of Koreans' bad English are A-holes. While I agree that constantly harping on ridiculous English is unbecoming of a teacher, people who insist on using a language they don't understand, and who seek to profit off of an English that often veers into the nonsensical and vulgar deserve the mockery they get.
** In a related item, please learn to spell the name of your country on your immigration paperwork.
Maybe it's just shy around foreigners.
All in all it was an excellent trip, and I look forward to visiting again. In conclusion, Japan is a land of contrasts. Thank you for reading my essay.