Yes I have been ridiculously lax on the blog front- probably due to falling into a routine from travelling into living, when things start to strike you less because you`re used to them.
Well yesterday I left Masuda (I was there 6 weeks) and hitchhiked down to Fukuoka in Kyushu (the southernmost of the four islands that make up mainland Japan). It was a pretty interesting trip. Noriaki-san kindly drove me to a local service area in Masuda, handed me a sign he`d made and waited for me to get a lift.
My first ride was with two elderly gentlemen from Masuda, whose Japanese I couldn`t understand that well due to my little knowledge, and perhaps their age and dialect. However, with many apologies on my part for my lack of understanding and a canned coffee (you can buy hot coffee in vending machines here) insistently given to me by them, I made it down to Yamaguchi, my next stop. Here I thanked them, made up for my lack of language skills by reciting my favourite proverb in Japanese, and wrote up the sign for my next stop, Shimonoseki.
I was waiting all of about 5 minutes when a big red jeep pulled up and a green-suited, medal decked infantry-man opened the door and said "Shimonoseki? Ok."
He was from Kyoto and his Japanese was so much easier for me to understand. We rode to Shimonoseki discussing Kyoto, Yakuza, fish and chips, pubs, hunting and the army, and he sneakily took a back road to the service area in Shimonoseki (one of the busiest in Japan due to the view from the bridge to Kyushu being a major photo oppportunity). I thanked him, he left and I put my bag down a second when a middle-aged man with a baseball jacket and cap came up and started some small talk in English.
He was returning to Fukuoka from Nagano, where he had been coordinating a "machi-okoshi". A term I didnt understand but wrote down for later. Heres the definition I found:
A term which reflects the revitalization and economic development of a town or area. The term is often used in reference to projects such as this museum. Similar projects are being developed in countless rural communities in Japan to increase tourism and fight depopulation trends in Japan’s rural communities. (Source: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com.au/encyclopedia/lexicon.php?id=94)
(His allegiance to the town, around 600 miles away, was purely based upon the fact that it shared the same surname as him.)
He was a retired Electrical engineer and was very eager to practice the English he`d studied in university, so he spoke in English and I (as much as possible) in Japanese. We talked about hayakushikotoba (might be spelling this wrong, but theyre basically japanese tongue twisters), kotowaza (proverbs again) and his hobbies, including country and western music and dance.
He dropped me off in central Fukuoka and I wandered around for two hours before finding a hostel (I recommend Khaosan Fukuoka. Went out last night for incredibly good ramen and slept pretty early (still on a farming sleep pattern.
More soon possibly but for now I need to plan my trip to the local Asahi beer factory.