Finally going to wrap up my winter travellings, it’s been a journey eh?
Having met Mark and asked if I could volunteer at the farmhouse he had acquired I went off to Niino, a tiny village in Hyogo. Spring was dawning yet it was still cold and smatterings of rain came and went. The house itself was gorgeous, needing a lot of work, and freezing at night. Inside was often colder than outside. I slept with two pairs of socks on, leggings, jumpers and my winter coat, sometimes gloves. Staying in a room meant huddling around a space heater, wrapped in blankets. My sleep pattern changed from late nights and 10:30am wake ups to heading to bed once black nights consumed the area and waking up around dawn. It was refreshing to have a regular sleep schedule chasing the sun. Planting seeds and potato spuds with the other volunteer. Cycling around the sparse area. In a bamboo forest behind the property was an abandoned house. All in all, it was a beautiful place but with little to do especially if your only means of transport was a bicycle. I stayed six days and returned to Kobe to see friends a final time before returning back to university.
Returning to Kobe was strange. I stayed in Mark’s city flat a few nights, met up with a few friends. I volunteered with Team Clap.Ton for a festival they had helped set up and wandered around with them as they worked. I went to Osaka for an evening with an American friend I had met whilst volunteering. The following night I stayed with some Japanese women I had met through teaching English. One of the friends lives on an artificial island made before the huge earthquake in 1995 when Kobe’s population was booming. It felt eerie, lots of modern buildings and open space with not many people. It was urban design encompassed, park areas and winding buildings that led to shops and restaurants. Most were empty and I wondered how many people lived in the towering apartment buildings.
We had Sri Lankan food for dinner and watched an Indian film before sleeping. Waking up to a huge traditional breakfast, we later went to the Fashion museum and headed to Kyoto where I would have to catch my bus back to Tokyo. Kyoto was packed with people milling around, ancient temples sat next to disposable and cheaply built modern buildings. We explored Toji temple, looking at its treasures for a little extra money. After that we went to Hosomi Museum to catch the Shunga exhibition. Shunga is erotic art, usually associated with ukiyo-e woodblock prints. I had only seen it in passing but to be surrounded by it was somewhat overwhelming. The strange depictions of human genitalia, the anatomically incorrect back bendings made it somewhat fascinating. Queues moved from piece to piece, hmming over the pornographic works. It was great.
I am incredibly grateful for my experience of travelling around. I found that I was less interested in cities and sight-seeing, both somewhat exhausting. I loved walking around, eating, drinking and making good friends. Kobe became bearable because I was lucky enough to make friends. Friends that I hope to keep and see again soon. So thank you, everyone who helped me out, who put me up for a night, who had a little bit of kindness to give.
Thank you for reading, next post on Japan will cover my final term at uni and departure.