Friday, 11 January 2013

Day 19: Castles and famous novelists.

Day 19 (24 Dec) Christmas Eve in many places but apart from the odd Santa Claus around the place, not a huge celebration in these parts. Always interesting staying in the houses of people you barely know, so at 6.12am on this day I found myself looking at a very dark window on the sort of second floor-come-mezzanine of Jinko's friend's house. Sleeping patterns vary enormously in Japan with my usual preferred early starts. For most people around me here, 8.30am is an early start. 

Early morning light, Matsuyama
'Tis going to make the 6.12am shot a challenge, especially since I'm sharing the for the next few days, the 6.12am local time shot switched to 7.12am (6.12am Perth time); at least then one could discern some light patterns on the curtains...

Most of today was going to be a bit of touring around, left to our own devices to explore the Matsuyama Castle and trace the steps of Natsume Soseki's 'Botchan' novel. For students of  Japan, Soseki is one of the better known novelists of the late 19th/early 20th century novelists. It seems every Japanese town has its castle and Matsuyama is no exception. Always on a hill or high point of town, you get spectacular views of the city and there is always an interesting history attached to the buildings. Even Jinko found the story around Matsuyama interesting and you always get an amazing sense of history when you see artefacts from 400 years ago on display. 
The spectacular stone wall of Matsuyama Castle
By the time we returned to Ehime-san's house, she was preparing a 'Christmas Party' for her students (and to 'show-off' the foreign visitor I guess). I need to keep reminding myself that although I've been to-ing and fro-ing to Japan for nearly 30 years, Japanese people when they first meet me always want to ask all those 'gaijin' (foreigner) questions...can you eat sushi? Can you eat natto? How did you learn to speak Japanese? You can get into a public bath? Yep, all that. I just answer politely these days. 

Christmas party preparation, 6.12pm.
Turns out, Ehime-san is actually a highly-regarded 'shodo' or calligraphy artist and she runs  a shodo school. The house also doubles as a gallery for her work, and this is where we were at 6.12pm, readying for the 'party'. One of the visitors, I learnt later, was a candidate in the recent election. She didn't win but gosh, that was a conversation I missed out on...

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