Last weekend I packed my bags and headed out to Saga prefecture for a weekend out with the rest of the 2nd year teachers (as in 2nd grade of middle school, not their 2nd year on the job). It looks like it’s a yearly occurrence with school staff in Japan to have a random outing together to help harmonize The Group® and smooth the wheels of mutual ass-kissing for the year to come. It was pretty fun actually, and was also my first opportunity to observe the infamous Japanese vacation in action.
“Now what could he possibly mean by ‘the infamous Japanese vacation,'” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s one of those vacations where every last second is planned out from the get-go and there’s always a leader shouting “C’mon dammit!! Hurry up and relax!!” Granted, I got a lot of neat pictures taken, but I’d hardly call the affair relaxing.
Anyhoo, we started off by stopping in the charming little town of Karatsu. It’s a coastal town with a neato 16th century castle you can tour. Well, in reality it’s a circa 1960’s castle since the original burned down and the whole thing had to be rebuilt, but it still looked neat. The coolest part was the display of all the artifacts they had found on the site, including pottery, swords, samurai armor, documents, and my personal favorite a pair of “uniform” shirts that had been taken from(presumably) dead ninja. How cool!!
We continued on to somewhere (I was sleeping in the car and when I woke up we were already there), where there were a pair of shrines embedded on the side of a hill. There were a TON of people there all getting their shrine on (see the Holiday Recap) and there was a lot of pretty woodwork going on. It might have been more interesting if I knew where it was, but it was pretty neat nonetheless.
We chilled out that night in a Japanese Inn, called a ryokan. I always like staying at these places because they invariably have hot springs, or onsens (and it did), and you always get to wear the traditional Japanese clothing, yukata (and I did). I got a picture of me in one for those who are thinking they’d like to see such a thing, but it wasn’t on my digital camera, so you’ll have to wait until I can get a copy and “scan” it into the ol’ ‘puter (i.e. use my digital camera to take a picture of the picture. Lame, eh? I know).
The next day we went to the town of Yobuko which is famous for it’s ika. That’s squid for all you non-speakers out there. Sure enough, as soon as we pulled into town there were street vendors all over the place hanging squid from wherever they could. You can see one of the squid boats in the picture below. Apparently they do most squid-fishing at night because it’s easier to catch them then. The boats turn on these bright lights which lure the squid to the surface where the fisherpeople (damn this political correctness!! “Fisherpeople,” really!!) then bore the squid to death by showing them Ally McBeal episodes. You can see in the photos how ruthlessly efficient this method really is.
This day’s theme was apparently “insanely crowded restaurants,” because we parked the car and headed into, you guessed it, an insanely crowded restaurant. Raw squid is the speciality of this place, which perplexes me, because how can it be a specialty if it’s not actually cooked or altered in any way? Whatever. Anyway, “How raw was the squid, Scott?” I hear you ask. Well, imagine a squid still squirming around on it’s plate when it’s brought to you and you’ll have your answer. Yeah….raw. The first time I saw this, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. It was just a little too unsettling. Fortunately, that was a few months ago, so this time I was good to go and we chowed down. Squid isn’t really my preference, but it’ll do in a pinch.
After another few hours of driving, we ended up at our last stop of the day, an eel restaurant. An insanely crowded eel-restaurant as a matter of fact. Don’t believe it was insanely crowded? Check the picture showing our waiting accommodations! Anyhow, I thought this place was much tastier since the eel was cooked in some kind of teriyaki sauce and served over steamed rice. Mmmmmmm.
And that brings us abruptly to the end of this week’s update. I’ve got another trip coming up this weekend, this time with the people from the Fukuma Town Office, so you can look forward to another late update detailing what is sure to be yet another absurd adventure. See you then!