November 28, 2012

That Hit The Spot

The day began early as Rika had offered to drive me and one of her students down the coast to a famous Miyazaki shrine on the water. But before we set out, she had to make a quick pit-stop at her parent's house. They spoke very little English but still wanted to invite me in for tea, sweets, and to give me a gift. And of course, they also wanted a photo:
If you're ever low on sweets, just hope a flight to Japan as they love to give gifts
We swapped cars with her parents, picked up Yoshiko and headed South along the coast. The cloudless sky, crashing waves and palm trees all seemed more SoCal than SoJap:

Peace signs with Yoshiko
My wonderful couch surfing host, Rika

The drive through Miyazaki city was quite pleasant. We talked about language, culture differences and whatever else came to mind, and if it weren't for the Coldplay mix CD, I'd have said it was pretty perfect. No part of the journey felt like we were in Japan, however, and even when we arrived at the shrine, with its Torii gates and red paint, it felt more like we were in South East Asia rather than Japan:

No good shrine is without a money making gimmick, and this place was no exception. Below the cliff was a rock which sort of looked like a turtle, which was all they needed to encourage tourists to throw clay pebbles at its back. If one made it into the pool of water that collected on its shell, that was considered good luck. And for 100 yen, you were given 5 chances at glory.

I can't say I believe in the good luck, but I certainly believe in the good feeling that comes from accurately throwing pebbles, and I made two! Between this and the prizes I won by shooting corks at toys, one might accidentally mistake me for physically coordinated and athletic.

Inside the cave: prime real estate for a gift shop.
I kid you not, this sign is advertising a rock which looks like a breast. They make candy from the water that drips from this rock, which is said to be good for expectant mothers. Right...

Yoshiko and Rika tried to convince me that I needed some boob-milk candy, but I thought it best to put some real food in my stomach. Unfortunately, the town is famous for their seafood so we ended up driving to Obi, which is known as "little Kyoto" and is famous for their Chicken Namban: Japanese sweet and sour chicken.

As happy as I was to hear the words "sweet, sour, and chicken" so closely in a sentence, they failed to mention that the dish comes smothered in mayonnaise. And if you're thinking that mayonnaise doesn't really go with "sweet" "sour" or "chicken" then you're absolutely right! But I was happy to be eating chicken rather than the shrimp ice cream we had seen earlier in the day.

We strolled around Obi for a bit and enjoyed the scenery, most of which reminded me of the Oregon:

On the way back, I told Rika that I would like to take her and Koji out to dinner as a thank you for letting me stay with them. We swung by the house to pick him up and then set out for burgers. Over the meal, Koji wanted to practice his English and was very eager to use some of the phrases he had picked up. At the end of the meal, I decided to teach him "that hit the spot". It took a little bit of time to explain what it meant- when you're really hungry and you feel it in a certain part of your stomach, and then when you eat a good meal, it completely fills that spot of your tummy, thus it hits the spot- but he finally understood.

As we finished our meal, he kept repeating to himself "hit the spot. hit the spot. hit the spot." He was trying to cement it into his brain but I feared he was just remembering the words and not the meaning. While he was repeating the words to himself, Rika asked what I had planned in Okinawa, to which I replied I didn't have any plans and asked for suggestions. 

"Well Koji has been a few times, but he really only goes to pick up women."
"Oh really?" I inquired, shifting my attention to Koji, who gave a coy smile.
"Yes, the women there are very beautiful." he replied, before being scolded by Rika. But he continued "They hit the spot!"

I was confident that he understood the meaning.

Before saying my goodbyes before bed, I taught Koji a few magic tricks to beef up his act. 

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