November 23, 2012

It's Thanksgiving?

Before falling asleep last night I decided I needed to make some concrete plans for myself to avoid another day of aimless wandering. The trip has begun to get a bit lonely and I think the best way to combat that is to give myself things to look forward to rather than hoping I'll just stumble upon something fun.

I knew I was headed to Kagoshima and that I was without accommodations or plans, so I went online and decided that what I really wanted to do was take a ferry from Kagoshima (which is the southern-most point of "mainland" Japan) to Yakushima Island. I had learned about this UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve after watching Princess Mononoke a few weeks earlier. The landscape in this Miyazaki film was inspired by Yakushima as many of the key illustrators travelled there for inspiration. The film is so moving and beautiful that I decided I just had to go visit the island.

The ferry tickets were not cheap, and I decided to spend two nights on the island so I could take the 10 hour hike to the highest peak in order to see one of the oldest cedar trees in the world, but when's the next time I'm going to be in the Southern-most part of Japan with nothing to do? I also plan on watching Mononoke one night when I am there in the first installment of the series: Nicky Watches Movies in their Setting. The title of the series needs some work, but I've decided that whenever possible, I'll watch a movie in either the place where it was shot, or where it was based. So of course, when I return to Tokyo, I'll be watching Enter the Void.

Ironically then, today I watched a documentary about Woody Allen in Japan. This was my first experience going to the theater alone! And when I say alone, I mean I didn't go with anyone and it was mid-day, mid-week, in Japan, in an English documentary about a Jew.

Needless to say, not a packed house. There were 3 other people in the theater, but I'm pretty sure they were their accidentally. Not a peep from one, meanwhile I was cracking up. Do you know how awkward it is to be in a movie theater, by yourself, cracking up when no one else is laughing?

The film put me in a great mood. What a guy. What an extremely lovable and inspiring guy. Skipping the fact that he's brilliant, he's just someone doing what he loves and what seems to keep him going is not fame or success, but rather the desire to keep making and keep asking the same three questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? Why so much suffering?

I left the theater and made my way South for Kagoshima. Both Fukuoka and Kagoshima are located on the Kyushu Island, which is the Southern-most major island of Japan and responsible for most of Japan's food production. What does that mean? New Kit Kats!
Not the most original flavor...
Great color
I treated myself to a travel sized box of Strawberry Kit Kats (5 mini packages) and while I was not terribly impressed with Nestl├ęs lack of ambition with regards to the flavor, that did not stop me from eating all 10 waffers. Immediately upon opening the package a sweet aroma filled my nostrils. These were definitely the most pungent of the flavors, even more so than Shinshu Apple. But much like the Shinshu Apple, I felt like the extreme flavor overwhelmed the rest of the treat. That, and I realized that strawberry flavor taste nothing like actual strawberries. But, in the world of artificial strawberry, this Kit Kat is perhaps the king of taste and sweetness. I felt my teeth rotting away with each bite as the sugar content was through the roof. Literally, I think the roof of my mouth has been reduced to nothing. Sugar salactites are probably hanging in place of my uvula.

Upon arrival in Kagoshima it was dark. Japan has not embraced daylights savings time and I have not embraced waking up in the morning, so as a result, much of the Japan I've seen has been artificially lit. I again navigated to my hostel using a series of maps, sans GPS and was once again delighted to find my destination. I passed a place called Dolphin Port, which from afar looked happnin', but upon arrival was dead:
A sort of boardwalk village along the coast
Peeping Tom Santa

I did enjoy the public foot bath though!

After soaking my feet in the public foot bath (why these don't exist everywhere is beyond me) and being treated to perhaps the most beautiful, albeit pixelated, face in the world (and the more I travel, the more I can confirm), I realized it was Thanksgiving in Japan! And I hadn't eaten, save the Kit Kats and hard boiled egg I had for lunch. Unfortunately there is no turkey in Japan. Fortunately, I was so hungry by 8pm that I was less concerned with having a proper Thanksgiving meal than I was just having a meal.

So, ladies and gentleman, I present to you my Thanksgiving feast: A medley of chicken, papaya, mushrooms, seaweed and various Japanese vegetable which are served over rice which is then drenched in hot chicken broth. And on the side? A pork and lettuce salad!

It's the sort of meal Colombus would have enjoyed had he actually made it to India

And what am I thankful for? That I didn't have to eat this:

And that I am not so dumb that I need a sign to let me know how sheets work:

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