Kochi

Originally published on 30th December 2015 on Blogger

Well, where to begin the telling??? We got up before the sun and scrambled around to get organised, as after Kochi we were changing rooms in the guesthouse. We took a taxi to Kyoto station, and by 7.20am, we were on our way. This was the girl’s first ever time on Shinkansen and Maki’s second. It is very affordable with JR Pass, but far less so without. This pass is only available for temporary visitors for a maximum of three weeks.

So the first leg of our journey was Kyoto>Okayama. Bullet train, one hour and twenty minutes. Then onto a local train to Kochi. Kochi is on Shikoku, Japan’s third largest island. It has only four prefectures and Kochi is the farthest from Honshu (the main island)…and has a vast coastline along the Pacific Ocean. The climate is warmer, but wetter, and perfect for agriculture, although 84% of the area is heavily forested and unusable. It is beautiful.

Maki said she couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and she still finds it boring and not particularly beautiful. For me, it was quiet and pretty and very similar to home, except Japanese. Perfect.

We arrived at the station at 11:30 and were met by Maki’s mum. The girls call her Obaachan (Grandma) and she has the most happy and friendly face. We met her once in Kyoto. It was really nice to see her again. Immediately were whisked quickly to Maki’s town, Takimoto, and straight to the community house. Think local over 60’s club. This is a traditional Japanese hall, with tatami and sliding doors, where the older ladies meet for calisthenics and morning tea (which they call salon)…..

Maki’s nephew, Hiroto, who is 7, had drawn a welcoming cartoon, and there were about 12 old ladies, ranging in age up to 86, to greet us. Also, Maki’s niece, Narumi, and her cousin Mae, both of whom we met in Kyoto in March. This was somewhat overwhelming. Especially for Finn. They get very few visitors from foreign countries, and they all thought Mya was very cute. They had prepared some beautiful food, nabe, Japanese hotpot and assorted rices and pickles. It was the end of year party.

After eating and stuttering out a few thank yous, and showing some photos of where we live (they all want to visit Australia now), Finn, Maki and I headed for her mother’s house. Obaachan had organised some local high school students to speak English with us. Maki’s grandma was sitting in the kotatsu, a traditional fixture in a Japanese home. It is a low table, with an area to put your feet, and it’s heated. She sits right near the entrance, looking out over the front garden. The home houses four generations of Maki’s family, her grandmother, mother, brother, his wife and her niece and nephews. The house is recently renovated, a 110 year old original building, added to, in a very beautiful, modern but traditional way. I loved it. It had sliding screen doors right along the front of the house, which is always sunny. The house uses traditional methods of passive heating and cooling. Glorious.

Anyway, I digress, back to the narrative. The students were lovely, very shy and nervous, one had been to Melbourne, and the other was interested in doing a home stay during university. He spoke very well, and said he wanted to be a biologist or physicist. The girl was born in Hiroshima and said, because of this her interest was in world peace and she intended to study international relations. We talked about paper cranes, Healesville Sanctuary and how different schooling works. They gave us a bag of Japanese sweets, asked us to please come back and then it was almost dinner time, so they left.

Maki took me for a walk around the family property. Many relatives live in the vicinity. I kept saying how pretty and quiet it is. How much I loved the trees and the gardens. Maki said it was what she had grown up with, and she found it pretty boring and she couldn’t wait to get out when she was younger. She still finds it boring…… Funny, I grew up in the city and love the peace. She grew up in the peace and loves the city…….

Dinner was sawachi. This is a traditional dish of Kochi, big platters of sushi and sashimi. Being right on the ocean, the fish was super fresh….. And delicious.

Finn and I slept in Maki’s childhood bedroom, with Japanese wallpaper, paper screens on the windows and tatami. On futons. It was a cold night. Although Kochi is quite temperate during the day, it got down to -3C….. Very chilly.

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