Last post from Matsuyama

Wednesday August 13
The Mayor's Office – Welcome Party- Matsuyama Matsuri
After another free homestay day, we all met up at Matsuyama City Office to meet Mayor Nakamura. I finally gave my speech that I have been working on for the last two weeks. A total of six people helped me with it and according the Miyazaki's my delivery went well. I initially thought that I would memorize it and not read it off a paper, I had a hard enough time reading out of my little notebook. Thanks to the Sasaki's and whoever else donated the journals, my came in real handy when it came to writing my thoughts at the camporee... btw, did I mention the heat???
After the formalities and exhange of gifts the mayor opened up for informal questions and answers, I thought it was really nice of him to spend the extra time with us. We concluded with a group picture of me and Don sitting on each side of Mayor trying to look important. I don't have a picture to post but I'm sure I'll get one soon.
Then it was off to the Zenniku Hotel for the welcome party. Buffet style light dinner, more speeches and omiyage exhange followed by the final dance performance by the boys. There must have been some miscommunication about this dinner because several boys showed up without their dancewear or props. Being the prepared scouts that they are they just winged it and considering that, the dance went pretty well. I thought the camporee dance was actually their best performance though.
After the welcome party we headed out to the Matsuyama Matsuri about four blocks away where we were given these baseball noisemakers and rope and ball and bell things to wear. Don kept saying we were moved to the front of the procession so we could finish early so I began to wonder who the boys would follow to learn the dance. I could just see our scouts leading the procession and not knowing how to do the baseball dance, nightmare time... Much to my relief Mr. Kojima led the boys and being the odori masters they are they picked it up in no time. You parents would be proud of how enthusiastically they danced in Matsuyama. For you NYLT'ers they did the NYLT 'How do you feel?' shout and led the group behind us in an old fashioned wave that ran from the front to the back. I don't know how many people commented to me on how much energy and enthusiasm they boys showed. And they did it all in the sweltering heat of Matsuyama. Did I forget to mention the heat??? Another cool thing that happened was as we were dancing through the shopping arcade members of the homestay families as well as total strangers would feverishly fan their uchiwas along the sidelines for us to help cool us down. I don't know for sure how long the parade route was but I'm sure it was close to a half mile.

This may be my last post from Japan, hope you enjoyed reading about our misadventures.

asm jeff

I had nothing to do with the pictures the boys took with the cute Japanese girls at the Matsuyama odori. This time they were on their own...

Musshi Atsui!!!

Did I mention the heat????
Never again will I complain about the heat in Sacramento. I just looked at the thermometer under our canopy and it read a cool 43° CENTIGRADE !!! that about 110°F for you folks back home... luckily there is a slight breeze so its not like a conventional oven, more like a convection oven...

Learned a new Japanese word, musshi atsui. Translated: humid heat. Doesn't even come close to describe the conditions here...

The boys got serious and really practiced the dance last night. I can gladly report that they are about 90% there. At this point they are fine tuning the group and helping individuals who aren't quite there yet. Good to see...

Did I Mention the Heat???

Oh, Did I mention the heat???

Camporee Day 1

We arrived at the camporee around 10:30 am at Niihama, about 90 minutes east of Matsuyama along the north shore of whatever island this is. Fortunately someone has set up the leaders tent but the boys had to set up their own. Did I mention the heat? I sweat so much that I could have washed a car with the towel I had around my neck to keep me cool!!
Last night I sleep outside of the tent on a cot. I woke up at 3am to do my duty and change into a tshirt, the tank top I was wearing was not quite worm enough... This morning at 948am it was 100 degrees in the shade but there was a sight breeze so things weren't SO HOT!!!! Oh, and did I mention the HEAT!!!!

The Homestay Begins...


Upon our arrival at Matsuyama station we are greeted by Sumikosan, the Matsuyama leader we hosted last year. Our omiyage luggage had been sent ahead to the local youth center where we all met for the formal introductions and homestay assignments.

Don and I thought the host family stay would be the end of the 6am wakeup calls...WRONG!!!! Don had the pleasure of waking up at 5:30am to walk the dog with Mr. Fujioka. Way to go Don!!! I, on the other hand was in heaven. Sumiko's husband Mitsuo had recently gotten INTERNET!!! YEAH!!! The 'Big Chicken' post came via the Miyazaki's internet.

Don and I spent the day sightseeing (in a nice air conditioned car) with the Miyazaki's and Mrs. Fujioka along the Mimanami Hashi (bridge) that connects Imaribashi City and Hiroshima. There are a series of 4 huge bridges that connect several islands to Hiroshima. The scenery was great despite the haze and clouds. One of the islands was our lunch stop which consisted of Tai sashimi, deep fried Tai and some sort of sea snail. The view was fantastic...

The whole time we are sightseeing, Sumiko's two daughters and four grandhildren are tailing us in their van carrying the bicycles. Didn't I mention the bicycles?? Mitsuo, Don and I cycled across the last bridge in the chain, a beautiful cable stay bridge similar in appearance to the future Oakland Bay Bridge.

After our bike ride it was time to head back to Matsuyama to meet some of the boys for sushi and bowling.

Ohara Museum to Matsuyama

Kurashiki to Matsuyama
Another 6am wakeup call in Kurashiki. I have to admit despite the smaller size, samller rooms, real metal keys, the Kurashiki Kokusai rannks pretty high with me beccause they have INTERNET!!! Picure and posts from Kyoto were done in Kurashiki...
Well, I knew sooner or later someone would forget something. The LAST person I would expect to forget his uniform left if in the closet in Tokyo, hmmm who might that be???
Buffet breakfast in Kurashiki was a mix of Japanese and American style, no rice though. After 5 days of breakfast with rice this was actually kinda nice. Not having to worry about where to eat breakfast was even nicer.
It was then off on a walking tour of old town kurashiki. Kurashiki is an old town that a lot of rich people used to live in. Many of the old buildings lining the canal were storage houses for rice. Now they are souvenir shops and restaurants. One of Kurashiki's main attractions is the Ohara Museum of Art. Our tour included admission and we were amazed by the number of impressionist pieces done by some very well know artists.. . Chagall,

After the museum tour we shopped for omiyage. As I was walking back from buying a cool drink at one of the countless vending machines a merchant came running out of his shop yelling at our group up ahead. At first I thought someone forget his change, (last trip Don said one merchant was yelling at one of the Scouts when he told him to keep the change and turned around to leave. The clerk didn't want his boss to think he was stealing from the customers) It turned out that one of the scouts left his camera in the store... probably the same scout who forgot the uniform in Tokyo...

After shopping it was back to the hotel to collect our luggage and hoof it back to the train station for buffet lunch and a 3 hour train ride to Matsuyama...

Moving Day!! (again)

Moving day (again!)
It's off to Hiroshima and Kurashiki today. We're anticipating a long day as we have to wear uniforms for the Hiroshima tsuru and memorial flower presentation.

We arrived at the Hiroshima JR Station and met Shaw Fujii-san is a friend of Mrs. Ninomiya and kindly escorted us the whole time we were in Hiroshima. Off the Shinkansen and onto another bus that took us to the Hiroshima Memorial Park. This day before the anniversary the park was a behive of activity with busloads of people from throughout Japan arriving to pay their respects and deliver bundles of tsurus to the childrens memorial to Sadako.

SPL's Jared H. and Scott Y. presented the tsurus on behalf of Jan Kenpo Gakko as well as memorial flowers the Exchange Committee traditionally presents during the Hiroshima visit.

Then it was off to the Hiroshima Peace Museum to see the exhibits. If you haven't been there, this is one 'must see' if you're in or near Hiroshima. I think the boys found the exhibits a sobering response to the sheer tragedy of the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing.

2nd Day in Kyoto or I'm getting behind in my posts...

Okay, back to Kyoto, good thing I jotted down our days activities. I must be getting old, I couldn't remember what we did just one day ago...
Monday in Kyoto, our second day started with a brief visit to the Nishihongwanji Temple. Sac Betsuin's mother temple for you non-SBC church goers. Don's sister Jane is on a quest to replace the image of Rennyo Shonin at the Guadalupe Buddhist Church, apparently they've had the wrong picture up for several decades now. We visited the temple and everyone wondered why there were no pews. I guess pews are a Western Christian churh thing that BCA adopted a long time ago.
Next stop was the Sanjusangendo Temple famous for the 1000 or so wooden Buddhas carved by hand 800 years ago. No pictures allowed so just look at all the postcards your sons have sent. If you haven't received them by now don't hold your breath... Our nest stop was Nara, home of the Giant Wooden Buddha in the giant wooden temple. If I posted the videos of the boys crawling through a hole in a pole, that hole represents the size of the Buddha's nostril. Supposedly anyone who crawls t'hrough the hole will go the paradise... I protest, this discriminates against wide bodies...
There are also some vicious deer in Nara, if you don't watch it they will eat the money right out of your pockets. Linda found out that they will nod their heads if you offer food. Don't anyone tell her they are actually threatening a head butt and back off when you reward them for 'nodding their head'. Nara also is home to some delicious Narazuke, you know that sake flavored tsukemono that will never spoil. Hopefully I will bring some back to California unless I eat all of it first.
Lunch was next in a real 'hole in the wall' somewhere near the park above a small souvenir shop. Udon, tempura, buta yasai and some other stuff that was delicious but not recognizable by me. See Nara lunch pics for those.
By now the day is getting long so we head off to Arashima Monkey Park in NW Kyoto.Jokingly Ken-san mentions that we have to hike to the top of this mountain to see the monkeys.
Guess what, he wasn't joking. We hiked through the most humid jungle yet first up a steep set of stairs then up a narrow windy path to the top. I wondered if it would be worth it in the end...
Well, once at the top we were greeted by dozens of Arashima Monkeys, Ken-san told not to look them in the eye or carry things in our hands. Sounds like the 'hood, don't look at anybody or carry any valuables... The boys had fun feeding the Monkeys and the Monkeys hoyad fun seeing the boys in their cage. Hard to tell who was on display here...The hike back down the hill was alot easier going but the rain started falling as we neared the bus. Felt alot like Hawaii.

I have to give a lot to credit to the boys, they held up like troopers and were game for just about anything because after we got back from Nishihonwanji, Sanjusangendo, Nara and Arashima, we had a brief stop at the hotel and then piled onto a bus crowded elbow to elbow to go Gion Corner to check out some Japanese culture. Kabuki, Comedy, Flower Arranging, Koto playing and Bunraku puppet play were presented on stage in a span of approximately 50 minutes, and you know, I did not hear one complaint about how boring or bad the presentation was. It was then back to the hotel and late dinner before bedtime. Definitely the longest day so far...

asm jeff