Michelle and I, being the gluttons for punishment that we are, recently hit the pavement again in Japan for another road trip adventure. This time, instead of going south, like we did in during our Kyushu Roadtrip, we struck out to the north-east, past Hiroshima, past Kobe, past Osaka and even past Nagoya to the small town of Tajime.
|The long trek from Oshima to Tajime, a 9 hours drive on the ETC (toll highway)|
The trek was arduous. To get to Tajime from our apartment in Oshima it took a gut-wrenching nine hours of driving on the ETC. Luckily we were able to break up our journey on Friday (June 10th) night with a pit stop in Fukuyama, where we got hang out with our friend Allison at her apartment. Despite the fact we dropped our small car key down a tiny hole in the console of our car, and that I spent two hours in the rain trying to get it out, we had a great time hanging out with our friend in her town. Starting from Fukuyama the next morning the drive was a much more manageable five hours and 30 minutes.
The purpose of our trip to Tajime was to visit Sako San. Last October I began having a language exchange with Sako San over Skype. On Monday and Tuesday evening every week, we would spend 30 minutes conversing in English and then another 30 minutes conversing in Japanese. Talking with Sako San over skype over the past eight months has been a blast, but we had never been able to meet. With Michelle and I leaving Japan at the end of July, if we were going to meet we had to do it soon. Michelle and I decided that if we could all find a free weekend in June, we would make a road trip up to Tajime to spend time with Sako San and his family. Luckily over Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, June 10th thru the 12th, we were all free.
It was great finally getting to meet Sako San in person. After we arrived we put our bags up in the second house that Sako San's family owns (so Michelle and I had a nice and traditional Japanese house all to ourselves), and we went to meet his family. His wife was very nice and kind, and his mother was one of the cutest grandmothers we have ever seen. Sako San's sons were very well mannered. His oldest son attends an international program at the local high school and just recently got back from a year home stay in Canada. His English was fantastic. After chatting for a while, his family cooked us a FEAST of different Nagoya style Japanese foods that we had never tried before. After dinner we played a game of Monopoly, which was followed by an awesome little welcome party that they held for us. They hung a box from the ceiling, and after we pulled the cord streamers fell out with welcome messages written on them. Then Sako San's grandmother presented us with some gifts that she had hand knitted. Michelle and I were in shock - it was all completely unexpected.
|Having a feast with Sako San's family the first night we arrived|
|Getting owned in Monopoly|
|Michelle and I holding the gifts that Sako San's grandmother hand knitted for us|
On Sunday, the only full-day that we spent in Tajime, Michelle and I went with Sako San, his wife, and his youngest son to play frisbee golf at one of the top ranked frisbee golf courses in Japan (I didn't even realize there were rankings for such things). We had a blast. The weather was great, and the natural scenery around the course was fantastic. We followed this up with a nice Kansai style okonomiyaki lunch, and then went to the Toyota Museum in downtown Nagoya (Toyota was born and raised in the Nagoya area, and the company's headquarters are still located there). That night for dinner back at their house, I had my first taste of Sukiyaki - a dish where you cook meat and vegetables in a large pot and dip them in raw eggs before eating.
|Sako San "teeing" off at hole #1|
|My frisbee flew over the fence about two seconds after this picture was taken|
|Exhibit at the Toyota Museum|
|I thought it was great but Michelle wasn't a big fan of the raw egg dippage...|
After dinner, they threw us a small farewell party. It was the sweetest thing Michelle and I had ever seen. Each of the family members presented us with a small present, and Sako San presented us with a wall scroll that he had hand painted kanji characters on himself. Michelle and I were overwhelmed. We weren't expecting any of this. We stayed up a little while longer talking before saying our farewells. The next morning we had to be up and out early, and after saying goodbye to Sako San one last time we were off on our nice 8 hour drive back to Hiroshima. Our trip to Tajime to visit Sako San has been one of our most memorable experiences that Michelle and I have had here in Japan.