Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mum & Dad in Japan: Okayama and Kobe

** New Videos Added **

The second part of our big journey would take us back to the main island of Honshu, but a little to the east in Okayama prefecture. I figured we'd drive back the way we came, back up Awaji island and into Hyogo prefecture then make a left to Okayama. Our Navi said that it would be quicker to cut across Shikoku and take the Seto Ohashi bridge straight into Okayama. This was a pleasant change of routes because this bridge is the longest two-tiered bridge system in the world and I had never been over it by car before. Needless to say, my parents had never been on it either.
Once we crossed the big bridge we planned to make a brief stop at Kurashiki, the picturesque town Yukiko and visited in September of last year. Unfortunately it was raining a little but we still had a great time there.

The quiet canal of Kurashiki.

My dad checks out an interesting side street.

A solitary swan swims solemnly. Yes, alliteration at it's finest people.

A coffee shop with ivy growing along its walls.

Warming up inside a coffee shop that Yukiko remembers going to with her parents when she was young.

Jo somehow always manages to keep himself busy.

Of course our final destination was the Takebe International Villa in Okayama. This is one of five international villas in Okayama that were openned to bring more foreigners to Okayama. They are all in the countryside but seem very nice. I chose the Takebe villa because it is situated in an onsen (hot spring) resort and we could enjoy the facilities anytime we liked. There's a short video about the Takebe villa here We were very lucky to be the only guests staying there and had the entire villa to ourselves. I thought the villa was very good. The bedrooms were simple but the big kitchen and dining room were great. Best of all were the onsens right next door. And I can't forget the 3500 yen per person rate either, not too shabby in Japan.

The villa is on the right.

The villa's side view.

Just down the stairs from the villa is the women's onsen.

Next to that is the men's.

Jotaro got some excellent crawling done in this long hallway that leads to the dining room.

The dining room

The kitchen

There was also a little shower with a tucked-in/hidden toilet on the first floor. I never used the shower though as there was a fabulous onsen right next door.

Jo managed to find the magazine rack pretty quickly

Jotaro takes a little nap with his grandpa

We went on several nice walks around the villa. We got to see some beautiful old farm houses.

Dad always manages to fit in some fishing wherever he goes. He doesn't catch much though.

One evening we went to a local curry rice restaurant that advertised all the international kinds of curry they had on the menu. They had a curry from nearly every country. When the waitress came to our table however we were informed that she only had regular beef curry that night. Oh well. Yukiko thought it was hilarious how the menu stressed the extremely high number of calories in the curries as a selling point.

After 4 days of soaking in the onsens we headed back to Kobe. Back at my apartment I was amazed to see an email from Kansai Gaidai University. This is a foreign language university in Osaka that I had applied to just before my parents arrived in Japan. It was so far the first and only university I had applied to work for. I really didn't much to come of it because I've got friends who've been trying to get full time work at universities for years without success. This email said that a teacher had suddenly decided not to teach in the Spring and they were looking for someone to quickly filly a slot. I was very lucky to have included my friend Sara as a reference because she currently works there and they asked her about me a few times. The email said they wanted to organize an interview with me right away and the day after my parents returned to Canada was decided on. More on this story later ...

One night we were joined by Toshikatsu, Keiko, Seigo and little Yuka. We went to a shabu-shabu restaurant near the Oriental Hotel in Kobe. It was my first time eating shabu-shabu and it was delicious. I think I abused the all-you-can-eat policy a little. Unfortunately Yuka got really sick halfway through the meal and started vomiting up her orange juice everywhere. Poor little thing. It didn't dissuade me in the least from eating more shabu-shabu though.

Toshikatsu, me, Yukiko, Seigo, Yuka, Keiko, Dad, Mum, and Jo up front.

My parents have very good timing. They were able to witness Kobe's Luminaria, a collection of streets lined with decorative lights that memorialises the Hanshin earthquake of 1995.

Hordes of people line up to see Luminaria.

Our friends Kazu and Hiroko went above and beyond the call of duty by ordering these helium balloons to welcome my parents to Japan.

My dad was very impressed by all the little cars in Japan.

Mum and Dad spent 3 days in Kobe and we did a lot of walking and shopping and more walking. On our last day in Kobe we went Harborland and enjoyed the ecletic mix of shops and nice weather.

Unfortunately this night the dreaded stomach virus returned. We were at a very nice okonomiyaki restaurant with Yukiko's parents and her uncle and aunt when suddenly Jotaro started projectile vomiting all over the place. Two dinners in a row, two nights in a row, with puking. Seemed like more than a coincidence to me. This was my parents' last night in Japan and we were all going to spend the night at Yukiko's parents' house. Jo's stomach seemed to calm down a little but he had a fever and slept only sporadically through the night.
The next morning Yukiko and I were going to drive my parents to the airport and see them off. But as luck would have it, the next victim of the horrible virus was me. I was basically incapacitated for the entire day. The one time I stood up I threw up. My stomach was in a very bad way and I had to camp out near the toilet quite a bit. When I wasn't there I was curled up on a futon next to Jo who slept most of the day. As I couldn't move Yukiko and her dad took my parents to the airport. I was glad that they weren't feeling sick because it would really suck to be sick in the middle of a 10 hour flight back to Vancouver.
Of course we later found out that my mum did get sick while in the air and filled many a vomit bag during the trip. How horrible! Then my dad fell ill the next day. Yukiko was also sick the next day and the virus wound it's way throught the entire Tsuda clan as well.
I was especially worried during my downtime as my interview with Kansai Gaidai was the very next day. Thank the pantheon of gods from all cultures that it was only a 24 hour virus. While I was extremely tired I managed to get dressed and head out for my interview. The interview went well, I think. They said they would make their decision sometime around Christmas when the university closes for the holidays so I won't have to wait long.
As for the virus, we think it was the dreaded Noro virus. All the adults that got it were out of commission for only 24 hours but poor Jotaro was sick for nearly a week and a half. My mum said that there was big stomach virus epidemic in Toronto afterwards too. I wonder if we started all that?


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