Last Friday, I left with my Board of Education staff on our annual trip. Last year, we went to Oita and had dinner on a riverboat. This year we went to Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture. We drove a little over an hour or so and crossed the massive bridge connecting Kyushu to Honshu.
The hotel we stayed in had a large onsen (hot spring bath) room, so after dinner, we took advantage of that. It was a great way to relax after a stressful week. Onsen is one of my favorite parts of Japanese culture. Once, when I was in Kyoto, we went to a small bath house the night before the opening of my theatre club’s play, and like magic, the tension in my shoulders was sucked out of me by one of the herbal baths.
The next morning, we drove to Kinzan Kouzanji (金山功山寺), which is the oldest standing wooden building built in the Zenshuyo style in Japan. Part of it was under construction, but we did get to go inside and see most of it. The leaves were changing and it was the perfect forest getaway from our normal routines.
After that, we went to the fish market. I don’t eat fish, so I’ve never gone before and I figured I wouldn’t have much fun, but I was dead wrong. Seeing all the fresh creatures being sold was amazing, and we had a lot of fun gawking at the things that were still moving.
We came upon a squid that was white with red spots that lit up in different patterns, signaling its freshness. I had no idea that squids had such a brilliant pigment. The colors caught and released on the squid’s skin, and the sight was mesmerizing.
We also saw shellfish and red snapper and countless other things I can’t even identify. The market also had vegetable vendors, flower vendors, and some of the men from the morning’s crack of dawn auction still remained, cleaning their knives. I would definitely visit more fish markets in the future if I got the chance. But it was sort of discouraging seeing my coworkers get so excited to buy fish when I didn’t think any of what we saw looked remotely appetizing.
We ate dinner at a restaurant with a beautiful view of a lake and the autumn foliage. My coworkers ate fugu (blowfish) and I got tonkatsu (pork cutlet). We were all full and happy on the drive back, many of us falling asleep. We stopped at a rest stop that had a beautiful view of the bridge between the two islands, and of the cargo ships gliding off into the distance to deliver their goods.
The next day, I took a train up to Kitakyushu and helped out with a Halloween party for elementary school kids. My friend is an English teacher who loves Johnny’s, so every month we get together at her house to eat and fangirl over DVDs. Since she is an English teacher, she sometimes asks me to help out with holiday parties, and they are so well organized and a lot of fun. It’s nice to get to interact with different students every now and then, and the kids were so excited to see me and the other JET who participated.
We played games, read Halloween stories, dressed up in costumes, and gave out candy to the hyperactive students. Thoroughly trodden, we packed up and went back to her house for a huge dinner of shabu shabu, sushi, and fried chicken. I love sharing big meals with people I just met. Food is an instant mediator.
I took my train back home, extremely exhausted but ready to tackle another week of school. The life of an ALT is never boring.