The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I have a week off this week. There are no classes at the University, and officially we are supposed to stay close to Beppu because we are "on call" but we know and our employers know that there is no chance that we will get called in. So although they can't officially tell us to go on vacation, they have been kind of like "Enjoy your home study week!" Wink Wink.

I went back to Hirado to visit some friends. First stop was to drop in on my old calligraphy teacher, Mr. Tateishi. He's a very funny old guy who chain smokes, drinks about 50 cups of green tea a day, dabbles in all kinds of fine art (but is a master potter and calligrapher) and speaks his mind with a distinct country charm. He's always been really kind to me and always gives me some kind of present when I go and visit him. Of course I enjoy getting stuff (doesn't everybody?) but I always worry that he thinks I only visit him because of his consistent gift-giving. On the other hand, it's easy for him to take a couple minutes and make me a calligraphy plaque like the one he's making in the picture. For him, it's two minutes, but for me, it's something I'll treasure for a long time.

That night, I stayed at my friend Jeroen's place. He's a Dutch guy who speaks fluent Dutch (obviously), English, and Japanese. Now he's married to a Japanese lady and has two incredibly cute little kids. He's very into Japanese cultural stuff, particularly tea and iaido (which is how I know him). He had a big tea event in Hirado so we went to it together.

It was an annual remembrance ceremony for William Adams, a British pilot who came to Japan just after 1600. He became a trusted advisor of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, and established a trading house in Hirado. His story was fictionalized as the novel "Shogun" by James Clavell. Here's a shot of Jeroen by Adams' grave stone, which has a Christian cross and his Japanese name, Miura Anjin.

At the ceremony, there were a number of speeches followed by a special tea ceremony performed by the headmaster of the ChinShin style of tea, Lord Matsura Akira. He is the 39th (?) lord of Hirado and a direct descendent of the local daimyo who used to rule this area in feudal times. He currently lives near Tokyo and if Japan were England, he might be described as an Earl or perhaps a Baron. (Does England have Barons?) I spoke to him at some length and he is a very cool guy who speaks fluent English.

After the ceremony, we went back to the tea house on what used to be the Matsura family's mansion, and is now the local historical museum. I and a number of other guests received tea from the masters of ChinShin tea style. It was a very cool experience.

The next day, I met my friend Kazuko and we went to Nagasaki and Glover Gardens. It's quite a romantic place (when you're with the right person!) and the view was great. It was a beautiful sunny day, with a nice breeze off the bay. We wandered around Nagasaki for a while together ... it was a very nice, relaxing, laid back kind of day.

The next day, Kazuko had to work, so we said goodbye and I decided to head off to Kumamoto. I really like Kumamoto because it has a strong samurai tradition, with a great castle and a legacy of a lot of Miyamoto Musashi stuff. I have seen it all before, but I wanted to see it again and take a load of pictures.

Unfortunately, my Kumamoto trip was basically a disaster from start to finish. The bus from Sasebo takes 2.5 hours, so I arrived around noon, called some friends and met them for lunch. On my way to meet them, I took one picture out in front of the castle, of the castle's builder, the famous general Kato Kiyomasa.

I met my friends and over lunch, we checked some tourist pamphlets. I discovered that the museum I had come to see was closed until October of 2007! So there was half my itinerary gone. After lunch, I went off to the bus center to find out about going to the famous cave where Miyamoto Musashi wrote the Book of Five Rings. It was only 2:00 in the afternoon, but I was informed that, if I took the next bus to the caves, I wouldn't be able to come back because the last bus returning from the caves would have already left. Great system! So, the second half of my itinerary was gone, too. I asked them when I could catch a bus back to Beppu, and the lady informed me the last bus was leaving in 15 minutes. So I couldn't even go and take pictures of the castle! In the end, I think I was in Kumamoto for something like 2 hours, and I took one picture.

So in conclusion, Kyushu's a nice place, BUT YOU NEED A CAR!

I'd kind of like to go back (learning from my mistakes and all) but the memory of my recent failure is just too fresh. Maybe in the fall.

It's Wednesday today, and I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with the rest of my week. On one hand, I won't be too sad if I end up doing nothing much, but I know that I'll feel a bit jealous when I hear everything the other teachers got up to. Must make a plan ...


At 9:16 PM, Anonymous TSUBASA said...

Do you remember me?
I'm TSUBASA in TUS,chiba.

I came here and saw your blog after a long interval.
I'm very glad that you have great time in kyusyu!

Do you have nothing to do?
Why don't you comeover to chiba :-)

You know, we'll invite all students and teachers to have "3rd BBQ PARTY"! next week which is anniversary of the establishment of our university.
(Do you remember our "call sign" of that? Oh, don't speak out. haha)

I'll be back here soon to see your exciting experiences!!

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Zambo said...

Hey Jeff.

Sorry this trip didn't really go as planned, but i think you made the most of a bad situation...and you know for next time.

I hope you enjoyed the rest of your "home study week"...

Please e-mail us your current address...I think we have your old one...and your package will be sent on Monday! (Sorry for the delay...There's no good excuse really)...

Take care, my friend!

Your Pal,



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