I’m sorry I haven’t updated sooner—jet lag had to beaten down, family had to be seen, and my last semester of college has begun (I can already tell that it’ll be a lot of work. Papers even have to be written for my yoga class.) I don’t want the blog to lag or suffer for my lack of time management, so my goal is to post at least once a week. Also, I’ve figured that I don’t have time right now to post any one or few massive posts of Japan, so I’ll just write a bunch of little ones.
My first glimpse into Japan was its incredibly easy transportation. We had to get from Kansai International, which is just outside of Osaka to Nagahama, which sits on the eastern side of Lake Biwa in the Shiga Prefecture. The train trip took about two hours. We might have not been able to do it on our own, if not for the JR’s scrolling electronic boards that displayed the stops in kanji, kana and romaji.
Hindsight bias intact from visiting the larger cities of Japan, it’s safe to say that Nagahama is a sleepy city. Though the size of the population (around 80,000) puts to shame the small Wisconsin town I grew up in, and even with it’s array of rice fields, a decent sized main street and distinctive downtown area, it didn’t feel much larger. It was the perfect place in which to compare the rural Japan to urban Japan.
My friend, a JET instructor, lives in an apartment building named Highlife Morii. His apartment is outfitted with a tatami floor, sliding doors, and a toilet that’s located in its own closet-sized room. On top of the back of the toilet had a spout with which you could wash your hands. Yes, with toilet water. I loved it.
Nagahama castle is absolutely beautiful, but I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to go inside of it. Instead, most of the time spent in Nagahama was in Kurokabe Square, or Black Wall Square. Most of the buildings in this area were built, I believe, in the Meiji period. Walking through this winding section of stores and restaurants while taking in the smell of old wood and frying pork felt like traveling back in time. Glass workshops, for which Nagahama is well known for, are also located here. Sculptures, such as the giant kaleidoscope showcased the talent found here. Just one day here was enough for me to shed off all the stress I had brought with me from Chicago.