Long Holiday: Day One.

The greatest day in Japan yet.

It began yesterday morning as I packed up my mama-chari (Japanese name for the style of bike I have) with food, water, my camera, and a change of clothes.

I was off to Oda – a seaside city a little over 20 miles from Kawamoto. The way was hilly, and I had to walk my bike up several steep climbs…but flying down the other side was easily worth the effort. I haven’t felt so free in a while.

I took the time to practice smiling on my journey. I’ve been reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s Be Free Where You Are (sent to me by MJ), in which I found a delightful chapter on Smiling As a Practice:

“Make smiling an excercise. Just breathe in and smile – your tension will dissapear and you will feel much better.”

“There are times when your joy produces a smile. There are also times when a smile causes relaxation, calm, and joy. I do not wait until there is joy in me to smile; joy will come later. Sometimes when I am alone in my room in the dark, I practice smiling to myself. I do this to be kind to myself, to take good care of myself, to love myself. I know that if I cannot take care of myself, I cannot take care of anyone else.”

So I smiled as I rode my bike.

I rode steadily until I reached Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Site – a silver mine that I will someday explore in depth, but took the time only to wander around and eat lunch at yesterday. I found a nice climb up the side of the mountain to a lookout tower, where I was rewarded with a view of the sea, Mt. Sanbe, a tiny mountain village, and a mountaintop fortress!

It began to rain as I left Iwami Ginzan, and I sought shelter soon after near an unusual shrine just off the road. As I approached the shrine I realized there was a gathering of a good number of people in a tatami room nearby. I was feeling quite out of place, but decided I had nothing to lose in speaking with the group so I parked my bike and gave them a warm Konnichiwa!. I was invited into the room and given tea and sweets as I introduced myself with the little Japanese I could. Eventually, one of the women told me she spoke a bit of English, and explained to me that the group was gathered for the funeral of a community member. I was intrigued and tried to ask some questions about funeral practices, but my lack of Japanese left me a bit helpless, so I sipped my tea and smiled while watching funeral preparations commence. There were many offerings of food to the deceased, which was fancily packaged and arranged with much deliberation.

The actual funeral ceremony was scheduled to take place later in the evening, so I stayed for a while longer, and then left after the rain eased up a bit.

I followed the road to Nima, where the Nima Sand Museum is located. I had heard that the museum isn’t all too exciting, but I decided to take a walk around the grounds. I came upon the most extravagant slide I’ve ever seen…it twisted and turned and dropped about fifty feet from top to bottom. I had to give it a try…

From Nima I took Highway 9 the rest of the way to Oda. Although Hwy 9 is a beautiful seaside route, it’s not necessarily bike friendly, and I found myself concentrating on the shoulder of the road more often than enjoying the scenery. I was able to stop at one beach before coming into Oda, and spent my time searching for shells and watching the sun set.

I spotted this scene from the road. It was too perfect: a ramshackle beach home approached by a man in classy attire carrying an umbrella with a dog at his heels…

I arrived in Oda on time and met several fellow JET participants for an evening of socialization. I had a great time, and ended the night by gazing at the moon from the top of a car.

Without doubt; another Great Day.

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