Hello loved ones :-) This week is Silver Week in Japan - it's a national holiday of five consecutive days so everybody at school was very happy at the arrival of a rare break in the Japanese education system. Today is Respect for the Aged Day - so happy Respect for the Aged Day Nana and Grandad. I love you. <3
Unfortunately, my Silver Week didn't start very well. My beautiful bike, Betsy Blue was stolen from the train station on Friday night. Without a bike, it is truly impossible to live life with ease here in Marugame; everything is spaced out by mountains and ricefields and a journey from the station to home, which is a swift ten minute cycle, takes an arduous half an hour to walk. I was so disappointed; I loved my bike so much. Having a bike like Betsy made me the happiest girl in this town. For now, I am reluctantly riding my friend's old bike. It is a vomitous orange colour, the brakes don't work,it has no light, so I am breaking the law by riding after dark, and it sounds like it has asthma. It is so noisy so I get even more stares than usual.
When I bought my bike, I paid for a security tag to be put on it, so that if it ever went missing, the police could attempt to locate it. Yesterday, I went to the police station where I was able to tell the police in Japanese (I felt proud of myself!) that my bike had been stolen on Friday night, the colour of it, the security number and the approximate time of the theft. The policeman I told this to promptly shouted to his colleagues, at which point, seven very small and slight police men bounded down the stairs and said that they would begin the search for Betsy straight away. Eight police men helping to look for one lowly bike is,I feel, deliciously indicative of the non existent crime scene in Marugame.
They then advised me that I shouldn't buy a new bike just yet. Quite often, stolen bikes turn up again....because they haven't really been stolen, they have been borrowed. Apparently, it is common here for people to 'borrow' bikes, ride them to the grocery shop and leave them there. It was very amusing but utterly bizarre to hear the local law enforcers attempt to persuade me that my bike had not in fact been stolen but had been borrowed. I don't think it would be possible to find police men in any other country in the world who would try to depict a minor criminal offence as a neighbourly, sweet and lovely thing! After having left the Koban, I almost felt that I had done a good deed by 'allowing' one of my fellow citizens to 'borrow' Betsy. I hope she turns up. Here is a picture of her. I miss her.
Here is my desperate attempt to make my temporary rusty contraption look attractive. A lady who lives just down the road from my apartment has the most beautiful garden. It is truly a pleasure to cycle past it on the way to school as it is brimming with colour and fragance. I bought some flowes from her for under a pound. It was really idyllic to cycle in the sunshine with flowers in my bicycle basket. Do you think I did a good job?
The special thing I decided to do for Silver Week was take a day trip to the city of Kobe which is in the south of Honshu, the main island. Kobe is an interesting city as it was one of the first Japanese cities to open its port for trading after Sakoku, the policy of seclusion imposed in Japan in 1633, ended in 1868. A famous Kobe quote is 'If you can't go to Paris, go to Kobe'. I have talked about my frustrations with Marugame and for a while, I was beginning to think that Marugame was typical of all of Japan. I felt disappointed that Japan was failing to enthuse me...until I visited Kobe. I had the most amazing time, it gave me a renewed sense of enthusiasm and happiness about being here. Kobe is a big city;I adore cities. I love the buzz of a city. I love seeing shiny glass windows, behind which are the most beautiful displays. I like stumbling upon cute little cafes and interesting shops. The thing I love most about cities is that because they ooze with so much life and creativity, there are exciting things going on, half of which you are unaware of until you mistakenly stumble upon them.
Kobe had all of these things; I loved the European influenced architecture and the harbour. The bakeries selling proper cakes (!) melted my heart,the narrow streets full of curious little shops made me grin inanely and the friendly people made me feel welcome (people didn't stare at me like I was a leper!)There were so many beautiful things that my eyes ached at the end of the day. The city is where I belong and Kobe is the first place I will return to once I get my October pay check. I feel so excited about taking Mum, Dad and Oliver here at Christmas time.
A typical Kobe street brimming with curious shops. The wires above look very hazardous don't they?
Down by the harbour.
In 1995, there was a huge earthquake in Kobe which killed over 6000 people. This spot down by the harbour was left untouched after the earthquake. It was eerie to see.
It was Kobe Fashion Week and here are some beautiful girls.
Look at all of the people! There were probably more people in this little courtyard than the entire population of Marugame - I was so happy!
The day trippers - happy and content after having eaten some delicious cake - we took so long choosing a cake that I almost missed my bus back to sleepy town, oops.
Ed and I found a piece of home in Kobe.
I'm going to write some more in a separate blog post as I realise I am beginning to ramble now. If you have a penchant for reading things chronologically, please read this post first, followed by the one above!