Sunday, January 08, 2006

Leaving Shimane...Again

Well, today was Day Thirteen, the day before I have to go back.

Up and out from under the kotatsu. Feed Jiji. Get my stuff together. Pack.

Then I headed over to Shigiharas. Except I got there just after nine and woke them up. Good thinking there, Dustin. What are you doing at nine in the morning on a day off? (Answer: Sleeping.) But they answered the door and had me come in. We had some breakfast, and then we all headed over to Ranpu no Yu to soak in the hot water. Last chance for me for a while.

Good bath. Then it was over to the station to buy a bus ticket to Okayama. No way was I shelling out $60 again for the train. The bus ended up only being a couple of thousand yen cheaper. Whatever. At least the bus won't rock back and forth.

Then it was back to Fureai no Sato to meet up with Jason and The Don for lunch. Another JET came along with us, and since I am a horrible person, I can't remember her name for the life of me. Anyway, the four of us piled into Jason's jalopy and went over to Hanaya, a soba shop in Izumo that makes a darn fine batch of soba. I wanted my last meal in Izumo before I left to be soba, and everybody was nice enough to go along with my request.

Hanaya is a cool shop. It's been around for at least 100 years, if not more. It also has presented the Emperor with soba (not the current one). Any store in Japan that is deemed worthy of presenting the emperor with food, and then actually goes through with it, is given a special term they can add to the store's name: kenjo. So the actual name of the shop is "Kenjo Soba Hanaya". I just think it's cool that I've eaten the soba of Emperors. It may not be The Breakfast of Champions, exactly, but The Soba of Emperors has a nice ring to it, I think.

After lunch with the gang, we swung back by Fureai no Sato to drop off The Don and the girl, and then Jason followed me over to Lisa's so I could pick up my stuff, after which he would give me a ride to the station.

It was good to see Lisa again. She looked like she enjoyed her trip back to the States. I was glad I could catch up with her too. Then it was bye-bye to Lisa and Jiji. I loaded my (significantly heavier) luggage into Jason's car and then he took me over to Izumo Station.

I killed off the time until the bus came by shopping for some souvenirs. I also walked over to the hotel where Tomoe worked, caught up with her and Yasuko, another friend from way back. I talked with them for a few minutes, and then, not wanting to interrupt their work anymore, I headed back over to the waiting room.

Just before three, the bus showed up. I loaded my bags on, and just as I was about to get on the bus, Jara showed up to see me off. That was very cool. I said bye, told him to get up to Hokkaido and visit sometime, then got on the bus and headed off to Okayama.

Four hours later, I was there. FOUR FREAKING HOURS. I would have been better off taking the damn Yakumo. Snowy roads and people just not getting on the bus when they needed to slowed us way down.

But anyway, I was in Okayama, off the bus, and out in the fresh (that's debatable) air. I tried lugging all of my stuff over to my hotel, which was not as easy as I'd imagined because the bus let us off way past the station at the side of a really busy road. Not the best place for a highway bus bus stop, guys. Whatever. That, and the map to the hotel wasn't the easiest thing to understand. But finally, I figured out where I needed to go.

On my way there, the two people I was planning on meeting found me. I guess a white guy carrying around a bunch of luggage in downtown Okayama sticks out more than I thought.

Mr. Sekiguchi and Mr. Kinoshita are a couple of gentlemen involved with a shrine group I'm part of. It's known as the Ichinomiya Pilgrimage Society, and I've been involved with the group since late 2000. It's a group that's dedicated to visiting Ichinomiya shrines around the country.

What's an Ichinomiya shrine? Well, before the current system of prefectures was established, each region in Japan was its own nation-state, united under the central government/shogunate but ruled by a king. There were shrines throughout each of these kunis (nation states), but only one was the most important shrine within that kuni.

Ichi = one
no = a counter/connecting term
miya = shrine
Ichinomiya = "Number One" shrine

Most of these shrines still exist throughout the country, and I happened, through my travels, to visit several of these shrines without knowing that they were Ichinomiya. When I found out about Ichinomiya and found a list of all of the Ichinomiya shrines across the country, I saw the names of several shrines that I had already visited. I figured that if I had visited that many Ichinomiyas without even knowing it, I should try and visit them all.

And I did. I'll probably write more about it some other time. But my Ichinomiya pilgrimage has definitely made my time here more meaningful.

Anyway, the director of the group, Mr. Irie, passed away at the beginning of last year, and the group has reformed and started out again with renewed purpose. Mr. Sekiguchi is the new director, and Mr. Kinoshita is now the representative for the Chugoku region (Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tottori, and Shimane). While I was in Shimane, I was the representative for the Shimane/Tottori area. Now that I'm up in Hokkaido, they want me to be the representative for the Hokkaido/Tohoku area. They also want me to participate in a forum in Nara in September, and if possible, work on not only translating a book from Japanese into English, but also write a book of my own about my Ichinomiya experiences.

I need to get around to doing that.

So they picked me up, drove me over to my hotel, let me get checked in, and then the three of us went out to an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner. We discussed things, talked about Hokkaido, and ate some good food. We also stopped by Mr. Kinoshita's house and paid our respects to his father, who had just passed away the five days before. Then Mr. Sekiguchi gave me a ride back to my hotel. Not a bad day.

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