Greetings, from "balmy" Kyushu, where the temperature is approximately colder than is entirely comfortable! I arrived on Friday night and told bad jokes at Mary and made her spew her tea everywhere. It was exciting.
Saturday I was feeling a little bit under the weather, so we had a fairly quiet day in. We did make a chocolate decadence cake though, which was sooooooooooooo tasty, and I attacked Mary with ponies, because I will shakubuku her like WHOA.
Today I was finally reunited with Alyssa, another Fulbrighter, who I haven't seen since orientation in September! Alyssa is based out of Fukuoka and doing really cool research on pottery and also speaks the most gorgeous Japanese ever. Whenever she opens her mouth a flock of angels flies out. JAPANESE-SPEAKING angels.
Alyssa and Mary and I were kidnapped by Tatara-san and taken to Shimabara, which is waaaaaaaaaaaaay to heck and gone, but we drove along the Ariake Sea and it was BEAUTIFUL. Unfortunately, I got carsick and pathetic on the way there, as I am prone to do. But we stopped at a convenience store and I bought gum and then I wasn't as pathetic anymore.
Anyway, finally we arrived in Shimabara, where we went to a random hotel with attached restaurant.
And we had shabu shabu, which is where you dump a bunch of vegetables in boiling broth and then you take thin pieces of pork and swish them around in the broth (making a shabu shabu noise) and EAT THEM ALL OM NOM NOM.
And we also had nabe, which is where you throw a bunch of stuff in a pot until it is cooked and then EAT IT OM NOM NOM.
Also, the shabu shabu pot was adorable.
This was the view from the restaurant.
As you can probably tell, though, the weather was kind of lame.
Mary and Tatara-san!
They are pals.
The decor was REALLY INTERESTING. I am a fan of the tree-columns.
...look at me failing to take pictures of the food until after I have eaten all of it.
Zenzai for dessert! OM NOM NOM.
Mary was enjoying her zenzai way too much.
...or maybe I was making dumb jokes at her.
YOU WILL NEVER KNOW.
This was the front of the hotel. GORGEOUS. They had a table that was basically a giant chunk of wood that had been varnished and had a castle wall carved along the top edge. SO COOL.
Also, GORGEOUS SCENERY.
This is Mt. Unzen, which SUDDENLY EXPLODED 20 years ago and wiped out swaths of land with FIERY DEATH. Fortunately, a nearby mountain protected most of the town from FIERY DEATH, so only about 40 people died.
Also, it is the cause of the worst volcano-related disaster in Japanese history? Yup.
This rock is staring at you.
Then we went to a random park where they preserved a bunch of the houses which were hit by FIERY DEATH.
...yes, the ground is exactly where you think it is.
I would not want to be in that house while it was being hit by FIERY DEATH.
...because people will always throw money at things.
I don't even know.
So theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen we went to Shimabara Castle.
Suddenly, we were attacked by NINJA and SAMURAI and A GUY DRESSED LIKE A EUROPEAN????
I really like the guy in the back with the spear.
P.S. I totally stole Mary's jacket and it doesn't fit me.
P.P.S. I always seem to steal Mary's clothes when I come over. HMMMM.
The castle had a collection of fascinating Hidden Christian artifacts,* including a bunch of statues of the Virgin Mary, which were disguised as statues of Kannon. They also had these weird/terrifying/interesting stained glass windows which depicted people accused of being Christians being tortured by having boiling water poured over them and being burned to death and being drowned. Not the prettiest sight. The whole exhibit made me wish I knew more about Hidden Christians, so I'm probably going to check the Nanzan library for a book on the subject.
Views from the top of Shimabara Castle!
Silly fence, getting in the way of my view.
Also, it was really cold.
So then we got back in the car and drove and drove and drove and I fell asleep, and then we stopped and got CLAMS for cooking later, and then we drove and drove and drove some more and got lost in a rice field and then drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and finally arrived back in Takeo.
Man, so much driving.
By the way, this is the chocolate decadence cake we made! We gave some to Tatara-san (and I also gave her omiyage from Nagoya).
And now I am staring at Mary and wigging her out.
So, yeah, that's what I've been up to!
*The Hidden Christians were people who refused to give up their faith even after the Tokugawa shogunate outlawed Christianity, and came up with all sort of interesting places to hide crosses and statues of Mary and Jesus.