Ahma try to condense everything into a greatest hits post but first some of the basics:
Kagoshima which is located on the island of Kyushu. It's the second largest city on the island after Fukuoka which is where I flew in. Kagoshima is also the name of that prefecture (or region) in Japan. The city is famous for many things like its sweet potato, black pork, radishes, and the giant active volcano a few feet away called Sakurajima. One of the great things about Kagoshima is that any picture you take looks amazing because there's a giant active volcano in the background at all times. In Japan, I was visitng one Anne Recinos, who has been known to speak five languages at the same time. She is an English teacher there!
Highlights of my trip in mostly chronological order:
The Kagoshima Aquarium
Home to lots of awesome looking fish and a fun dolphin show.
While Christianity is not the hottest religion in Japan, it felt like it could have been given the temperature of the chapel (badump chhhh). I was burning up but everyone else seemed ok. Still, it was cool to hear the Catholic mass done entirely in Japanese. Plus, since I didn't understand any of the sermon, I can't feel guilty about anything.
Drunken Horse Festival
Putting aside any concerns you might have about animal cruelty, this was an interesting (read: ridiculous) event we went to in Kumamoto last Monday. Basically, lots of different groups dress up, do their hair in cool crazy ways, get a similarly dressed-up horse drunk on sake, and parade through the streets of the city while people bang on drums and two hypemen scream things like "Put your hands up!" We got there around 9:30 am and the parade was well underway and continued to go on for hours. Lots of drunk horses on the streets. We had read on blogs that at the end of the day the horses were killed and disposed of since their drunken meat tasted bad but this probably isn't true. Hopefully.
Kumamoto also had a cool giant castle and nice botanical gardens and other things that were worth seeing once the billionth horse passed by.
To get to the volcano, you take a short, five-ish minute ferry ride over to the island its located on.
A small little park and playground that has replicas of dinosaurs, Dinosaur Park has no actual purpose aside from being awesome. One of the best moments on my trip happened at the park when we saw a small boy start screaming at the top of lungs, take off his shirt and pants, and proceed to run around the park, naked and still screaming madly. His family was not as amused.
Also at Sakurajima, I experienced the relaxing hot springs on the island. But in order to fully relax, I had to get over the fact that it was a public bath which meant that I got to shower and be naked and enjoy the brutally hot waters with lots of naked Japanese men, young and old. It took a while to get over that--especially since as the only non-Japanese male at the onsen, I was getting lots of looks. I was used to getting looks in Japan but getting looks when you're naked is ...different. Still, the water felt great and bathing in the cold water afterwards felt even better. No pictures were taken.
Kagoshima has two gigantic shopping centers: AMU Plaza and Tenmonkan. AMU Plaza is an actual mall which has a giant ferris wheel on the fourth floor that lights up at night and you can see from miles away. Tenmonkan is a maze of streets filled with tons of shops and restaurants and slot machines. It is impossible to navigate. The only thing I can find there (usually) is the arcade where Anne and I played Taiko almost daily.
The ferris wheel gave us a wonderful view of the city but I realized that I'm not too fond of heights after riding it. Or maybe I'm just not fond of someone trying to rock the ferris wheel cart when we're hundreds of feet above ground, Anne.
We went to a beautiful garden on the outskirts of the city.
I never knew this about Japan but apparently, it's semi-Ramadan all the time. As in, you do not eat unless you are in a designated eating area. That means no eating on the go. Drinking is fine and you'll find vending machines absolutely everywhere. But you'll never find any snacks in those machines since the temptation will be too great to eat it immediately, I guess. In any case, we had food but we had no place to eat it. I was all for playing the tourist card and just breaking the social rules but Anne was above that. In the end, we found a semi-secluded bench and stuffed our faces until we saw people coming. We then hid the food in our bags til they passed and continued to shovel food in our mouths til we were full. I felt like I was committing a crime the whole time.
Sports Day is basically a long, glorified field day. Every school has their own day where the students' parents come out and watch their kids run, do relays, traditional dances, etc... They take time out of the school schedule to practice for the day. It's a very big deal. I went with Anne to both of her middle school's Sports Days. After some marching and speeches (both in Japanese), everyone stretched to a great soundtrack that I'll hopefully be able to download from somewhere and the events began. At one school, I got to participate on the teacher's team for an event where you throw as many bean bags as you can into a bucket on a pole. We lost. Not because of me.
And lots of other things. There was so much that I saw and did. Like eating excellent sushi! And watching Kill Bill 1 and 2! And going out for all you can eat and drink with Anne's co-workers! And individually wrapped bananas?!
I didn't karaoke but I'm already starting to make a list of things I want to do when I go back. But for now, time to get back to life in Cairo. On the bright side, I think I might have finally overcome Pharaoh's revenge.