Tuesday (18 March): walked 45 minutes from Kiet’s place to Kamojima Station (man, that shoulder bag was heavy) and just barely caught my train, went to Julie’s place, repacked my bags, shipped a 10-kilogram (22-pound) box of SXSW/souvenir/clothing stuff via sea mail back home, went to Ikeda and to Terumi’s house, walked to Marusho (Takahide and Masumi’s kimono shop) and visited them because Masumi would be out of town on the day of our eikaiwa parties, called Mitaka (and forgot that in this culture, “I’d love to see everyone in the beginner’s class” translates into “Will you organize a beginner’s party for me?”), went grocery shopping with Terumi and had temakizushi with her and her husband
Wednesday (19 March): after a big breakfast (cheese toast with basil, eggs, salad, coffee, mikan (mandarin orange)–they seriously eat this stuff every day), we drove to Takamatsu in search of a doll (nihon ningyo) for my mother
— store #1: from the time of ordering, it’d take them 2-3 days to make one
— store #2 (You-Me Town): nothing, but we also went to Lush and wandered for a bit
— lunch: after driving for over an hour, after which we realized that our map was totally wrong, we found an Indian restaurant with so-so food, though the Indian chefs subbed chapatis instead of naan for me as a treat
— store #3: had several dolls in stock, and I chose and purchased one
then we came back in time for dinner and had delicious udon and tenpura at Sanuki-ya, and then I got in touch with Julie, and later met up with her and Brian for 2 excellent hours of nostalgic karaoke in Ikawa
Thursday (20 March): a national holiday, so I wanted to leave the day free to spend time with friends; because of rain, the plans people had fell through, but while shopping at Daiso, I got in touch with Ashley and Ange and caught a train out east to Kamojima, where I met them and Kam and Lou for a very late lunch, and then rode back with Ashley to Ikeda, where we had dinner and hung out, then I went back to Terumi’s and we stayed up late talking
Friday (21 March): eikaiwa parties! Beginner’s party was at Toshiya (a coffeeshop/cafe), for 2 hours, and the intermediate party was at Seikai, the old and gorgeous ryokan right next to the community center–the girl waiting on us kindly gave us a tour afterwards at my request, and we got to see the room that Emperor Hirohito (the Taisho Emperor; we’re now in the Heisei era*) stayed in when he visited Ikeda during his tour of Shikoku! Afterwards, I returned to Terumi’s place and loaded my bags into Shizuko’s car, and Shizuko and I headed to Oboke with Katsue to take what ended up being a gorgeous boat ride through the canyon, then back to Shizuko’s house, where we made dinner and hung out with Rie and the rest of the family, and actually ate dinner in their irori room (a tatami room with a hearth built into the floor and a pot hook hanging from the ceiling)
*A note on Showa/Taisho/Heisei and the like: those are names of the periods that each emperor reigned. I was born in Taisho 56, or 1981. The current year, 2008, is Heisei 20. Official Japanese date-keeping involves these years, sometimes concurrently with the Common Era/A.D. dating.
Saturday (22 March): got an early start, and was seen off by Shizuko, Terumi and her husband, and Kazumi, which kicked off nearly 30 hours of traveling: Ikeda to Tokushima by train, Tokushima to Kansai Airport by bus (I slept and just narrowly missed our trip over two of my favorite bridges, the Naruto-Kaikyo and the Awaji-Akashi (longest suspension bridge in the world!), linking Shikoku with Awaji Island and Honshu), then Osaka to San Francisco to Denver to Atlanta; I was really losing it by the time I got to Denver, and had to deal with a kind of bitchy flight attendant who swooped down and ordered me to check the doll I was carrying, which made exhausted/jetlagged me nearly start panicking, but all was well in the end.