Last week, whilst almost spitting the entire contents of his bento box over me, Ohmiya-sensei told me to take a look at the work of a Japanese artist called Akira Yamaguchi. He said he had a feeling that I would like it or rather, "I think you can enjoy it". This phrase, along with 'Let's/Please enjoy it" has become one of my favourite Japanese English phrases. My students say it all the time; I like its simplicity and I feel happy when someone says it.
Akira Yamaguchi is an artist who appropriates the style of old Japanese paintings and infuses them with modern inflections, in a very humorous and often ironic way. For example, he will paint a picture of a man grooming a horse that has motorcycle wheels instead of legs. I like his paintings of Edo style villages in which he uses the Katakana alphabet (this is the Japanese alphabet used for Western or borrowed terms) instead of the Kanji alphabet. I think you can enjoy Akira Yamaguchi's work!
Last weekend, I crossed the Seto Ohashi bridge to visit my friends in Okayama city. Ahh, Okayama is amazing; I had such a happy time there.I went to a really beautiful little cafe for lunch before heading to Okayama Castle. Okayama Castle is often nicknamed 'the crow'... for its dark and ominous appearance.
It seems that Saturday was my lucky day as right next to the castle, there was a small petting pen full of rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and chicks. This made my weekend, really and truly.
I really wish I had a pet here. There is a cat for sale here in Marugame. He is a beautiful tabby cat called Tomoko and has been sitting in a basket, adorned with flowers and streamers down at the shopping arcade for the past couple of days. I want him.
Autumn is arriving in Japan. It is such a welcome change from the Japanese summer time (the hottest temperatures I have ever had to endure, and I only caught the tail end of it). I love the hazy sunshine and the crisp, gentle breeze. I think that Japanese parks and gardens are best enjoyed in the Autumn. Korakuen Park is supposedly one of the three most beautiful landscape gardens in this country. At the park, we met a lady called Keiko and her friend. Keiko was the most infectiously happy person you could meet, I'm going to write to her :-)
On Saturday evening, I met up with some more of my friends from training. It was so great to see them.
On Sunday morning, after a lovely breakfast, I took a trip to Kurashiki. Kurashiki is a small city beside Okayama city. It's name can roughly be translated as 'town of storehouses' which refers to Kurashiki's important role as a rice distribution center back in the Edo period. These pictures don't really capture the beauty of Kurashiki due to my incompetency with cameras - forgive me!
Kurashiki was so beautiful; the canal area was lined with interesting shops and restaurants. It made me long for a girl friend; I felt bad dragging the boys into wooden toy shops and the like. I hope to visit again soon, especially after Taoka-sensei told me yesterday that there is a famous tofu restaurant in Kurashiki in which they even make their desserts from tofu, eee!
I felt flat and upset on the train home from Okayama on Sunday evening. I miss city life so much, more than I had ever imagined I would. I spoiled what could have been a really lovely conversation with my Mum (I'm sorry) and went to bed in a foul mood. When I returned back to school on Monday however, my mood lifted. When I am at school, I don't think of Marugame in an aesthetic context. It is impossible to think badly or negatively of Marugame when I work with some of its nicest, sweetest and thoughtful inhabitants. My colleagues and students at Maruko are the best I could ever ask for.
On Monday, I got some post in the in house post box; one girl had written me two copies of the same letter - one copy in English and one copy in Japanese so that I could use it to study from. Another girl made me a coconut cake, and I spent time after school talking with some of my other students. My colleagues are just as thoughtful. I told Ohmiya sensei that I was thinking of visiting my friend Rachel next weekend in Kasaoka (over on the mainland). Before I had even finished the sentence, he ran (or rather stomped) off to get various ferry, train and bus timetables and even suggested driving me there. In a couple of Fridays time, I am attending a Welcome Party that my colleagues have organised for me. They made invitations for it in purple, my favourite colour.
Marugame isn't the experience I was expecting, which gives me an even greater curiosity to explore parts of Japan in which I can find inspiration. Perhaps a blessing in disguise? When I think of the kindness that people have shown towards me however; from little gifts to much needed motherly like text messages from my colleagues, it makes me feel that I have perhaps been placed here for a reason. It is very comforting to know that even though I am very far away from home, and essentially alone here, there are people close by who are always looking out for me. That is a wonderful thing.