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Will's tour diary
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I woke late. Richard was still asleep. Kevin and Geoff had been up and taken a walk, scaring the old people in the neighbourhood who thought they knew all the foreigners on the block.

It was time to initiate Geoff in the noble tradition of public bathing, so leaving Richard in the care of the sandman, the three of us drove to Roman no yu Senta (Roman hot water Centre) . We stripped and I ran through the etiquette for Geoff's benefit:
-this bottle is shampoo
-this bottle is soap
-wash thoroughly before you get in the bath
-make sure all the soap is rinsed off
-make some effort to cover yourself with your modesty towel as you walk from bath to bath

Geoff's initial response was not encouraging: "There is no reason for public bathing". But once in the bath he became a convert.

Ramen for lunch. Delicious, but the waitress berated us for not eating the horumon (intestines) side dish.

Back at Guy's Richard was up. We took off for Mt Aso, a volcano located about halfway between Kumamoto and Oita. The slopes of Aso were wild and grassy, whilst the distant summit loomed smoky and bare. A real volcano - very exciting, except that thoughts of Dante's Peak were never far away, and we had no children or dogs with us to ensure our survival in the event of an eruption.

Richard opted out of the walking-to-the-top component, satisfying himself with a cafe at the summit parking area. Kevin, Geoff and I began the short hike. It was 3.40pm. A guy at an information booth told us we really shouldn't be walking up - because it was past the official "last entrance time" of 3.30.
"It takes at least 30 minutes to get to the top" he warned
Knowing it wasn't dark until 5 I quipped "We will run up!" and we set off at a brisk pace. This may seem a little naughty but the summit was less than 2 kilometres away and there was a sealed road - if we got lost in these circumstances we deserved it.

The crater reminded me so much of Star trek sets - barren, earthy planetscapes, with eery smoke issuing from the ground, that the sudden appearance of James T Kirk would not have surprised me in the least. Disappointingly, no Federation officers, but hordes of Korean tourists, easily distinguishable from equally well-dressed Japanese tourists by the fact that nearly every one of them was wearing sunglasses.

The volcano lazily billowed smoke, occasionally the green of the crater lake becoming visible. We strolled the walkways leading from the viewing point, taking in the alien landscape as the sun set behind a veil of clouds. We made it down just before dark to find that Richard had been kicked out of the now closed cafe, and was freezing in his shorts and t-shirt.

Come evening and we hit the town. We used a special method of navigation - we rang Jude, whose photographic recall of the geography of Kumamoto's streets saw us find a Shiroki chain izakaya with the accuracy of a smart bomb (within 50 metres...). Richard, Kevin and I wanted Geoff to meet some locals but we were thwarted on two fronts: (1) we were seated at a booth and not on tatami mats, and there were dividers between booths, making it impossible to see over (2) the people at the table opposite weren"t very sociable.

Given that it was Japan and there was alcohol present it was't long before a young guy rocked up to the table introduced himself as Nozomu, and lead us to his table to meet his friends. There were three guys sitting opposite 3 excruciatingly shy girls. I realised it was a "gokon" - an arranged group date. Gokon is a popular Japanese way to meet a partner - a group of guys meets a group of girls and go out. Over the course of the evening couples form (or do not form), phone numbers are swapped and.....well you can guess the rest. I wished Nozomu good luck. He said "Nah..its already crash and burn".

Back at the table Richard was talking to the 4 Japanese girls who had just taken up residence in the opposite table. They were keen to chat and invited us to a club. We boogied the night away at a small hip-hop club, though Kevin was photographed asleep in the corner towards the end of the night. The English JETs were supposed to meet us, so when a small hatted figure ran at me with arms outstretched I assumed it was Guy, and lifted him up in a swing style lift. It wasn't Guy - it was some Japanese guy I had never met before. He didn't seem to mind and we kept dancing.

Come one o'clock we said goodbye to the girls and left. Along the main shopping mall we found one of those arcade machines with a claw which you steer in an attempt to grab stuffed toys, only this machine wasn't filled with toys but with live lobster. I am ashamed to say that the need to test my skill overcame my respect for animal rights, and I made four attempts to grab one of the poor chaps, succeeding in grasping one unlucky individual twice, but losing him again.

Coffee at a trendy place which overlooked the mall, then home in the wee hours.

I think Geoff had a comprehensive Japanese experience.


email: will@genkienglish.net

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Opinions expressed in this diary are personal views of Will Jasprizza. They do  not necessarily represent those of Genki English, especially where he is  making jokes which sounded better at the time!!! Please be understanding!


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