As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been a busy week. The reason being… OBON! The past two Obon weeks have been quite memorial — from one of my first experiences in Japan, to having a horrible fever and being hospitalized. This year was no exception — although being unemployed, it was obviously less of a relief from work.
Early in August was the Fukui Phoenix Festival, which I’ve now gone to three times. Fortunately I was able to enjoy it more this year, not having to be at work until 9 pm on the days of the festival. It was the same as always — yosakoi dancing, food vendors, the usual — but it was nice to be able to go through it leisurely. Plus, I got to see Hitomi’s students’ dance this year.
I also went to Fukui’s gaming circle. I’ve been dying to find some kind of gaming scene in Japan, so I was thrilled to have a free weekend to see what was going on there. They only meet once a month, and it’s a tiny group, but I was able to see a couple very odd (but interesting) Japanese table RPG’s, as well as the Japanese version of Mage: The Ascension. Surprisingly, while the rules mechanics were the same as in the US, the game play style was quite different. For example, in Mage, Japanese and Americans seem to have vastly different preferences as to which kind of character they play. Actually I guess that’s not so surprising, but it was interesting to talk about. Unfortunately my Japanese wasn’t good enough to actually play the game — just good enough to chat and watch the game. Hitomi’s game vocabulary wasn’t good enough to translate for me, so I explained the concepts to her, since I’m familiar with gaming, and she explained the Japanese to me. It was fun, but sadly I’ll have to study for another year or so before my Japanese level is up to gamer snuff.
Besides that, we went to a free flamenco dance class that my friend Yumi’s cultural association was holding. Later in the week, Hitomi, her parents, and I drove to Norikura mountain in Gifu at night and climbed it to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great, but at the top we were able to catch the sun breaking through the tops of the clouds (below us). The air was so thin it was hard to breathe, and it was COLD! But it was really awesome to be above the tree line in the clouds. It actually felt a lot like an alien world, so I imagined I was exploring Mars or somewhere.
On the way home from Norikura we decided to stop at some of the traditional villages in Gifu, since I’d been wanting to see them for a long time. Hitomi’s car navi has a sick sense of humor though, because after we climbed and descended a nearly 3000 meter mountain, it directed us not along the highway, but on a country road with no stops, no outlets, and only about 7 feet wide, which snaked all the way over another mountain range. It was seriously a feat of engineering to make this road, where a slight mistake would drop the car over the non-existent shoulder, 2,000 meters down into wild forest where possibly no human has ever set foot. Hitomi’s car was screaming and roaring trying to climb this mountain, and we had to turn off the AC just to ascend… luckily at the top it was close to freezing temperatures so it didn’t matter so much. But jiminy creepers, that was one sick road.
After we finally made it down the mountain (it took maybe 2 hours to wind along that death-trap road), we got to Shirakawago only to find it 100% full of tourists. We were so exhausted we drove through it, sweating and nearly falling asleep, and gave up on visiting it. I took some photos as we drove past though. After that we did manage to stop at Gokayama, which was better in every way than Shirakawago. We saw a traditional village and a gunpowder factory located in a tiny valley with only a river and highway tunnels to access it, completely cut off from the outside world by steep mountains. It was a total fantasy world. And then finally we got home, I ran my online D&D game, and then sleeeeppppttt!
The rest of vacation is hard to piece together, because we did so much. I know we rented 20 DVD’s and have been burning through them like mad. I’ve been painting in all my free time. We also went back to Takefu for the Takefu summer festival again, and did the Bon dance in the rain. I was able to remember the steps this year, astonishingly, and it was really fun. We also went to Hitomi’s family’s ancestors’ graves to pray, saw an ancient painting of Hell in a temple, shot off fireworks, relaxed and spent a lot of time with Hitomi’s family members who were able to come back to Takefu for the holiday, and drank way too much beer. Last night we went to a barbecue at Hitomi’s friend’s family’s beach house and again drank way too much beer. And today we went to Shibamasa World, a small-ish amusement & water park. It was a good day, though now I’m extremely sunburned.
Tomorrow work starts again, but I think both of us feel even more exhausted than before vacation begun.