Diary: Okayama Regular Life, spring-ish / ramen, friends, singing, coffees, shrine, farm, graves etc.

Dave visits a Café terrace at Night – at “the Market” for a special event (described below) – photo by Ryoko (van Gogh homage)

After all the friends came and went from the wedding festivities in April (including a hospital stay by one intrepid adventurer) and then the Emperor abdicated and new one enthroned, then we rambled through much of May to Toyama, Nagano, Niigata etc. seeing small museums, riding various trains, soaking in a few hot springs, visiting a few pals… oh then of course, doing all the paperwork and procedure for my zairyu card, national insurance and pension programs and setting up our little house with some 2nd hand furniture, a fresh shelf books and hooks and hangers… we set about just “normal life” here. 

Note: Indeed, indulged with a very practical maneouver to acquire a stack of books… this pile is primarily from Vancouver and Vancouver-related by Grant Lawrence, Aaron Chapman, Eve Lazarus, plus Marc Zegans and David Willis… i will document these and many others recently added to collection forthwith(ish). 

What follows are very mediocre snapshots to chronicle various normal-outings, non-events, day-to-day errands, and other otherwise insignificant actions. 

For the record, we live in Tsuchida neighbourhood outside of Okayama city (shi), the capital of Okayama prefecture (ken). A mix of old (pre-war) homes, new homes, rice fields. 20 mins by car or 30 minutes by the fantastic Uno Bus to Okayama Station. Easy to go to Kurashiki or Bizen or the inland sea

I’ve even tried to plant some garden boxes and various seeds for greens. Okaasan (mother) has a much better technique and diligence with gardening. 

A couple of awesome pals came to visit. Naoki-san who i know from Canada when he was an engineering student at UBC – we connected especially as we both lived/stayed in Guam, Palau and Yap, plus Japan and Canada. He came with new pal Suu-san who also lived in Guam as a kid and now in Tokyo area. A very kind and thoughtful gent. 

First was a stop at Honky Tonk coffee kissaten for a lovely brew. 

Then a stop at Munetade shrine (jinja) to show where we did our traditional wedding ceremony. 

I took a snap with the kindly monk in the main hall who allowed us to wander around, mostly unsupervised (not usually permitted). 

the use of various materials, each with unique smells, textures and constructions is quite remarkable as is so complex and simple at same time

Plenty to learn about the symbolism of each aspect should one be inclined i suppose

Filled out a prayer on a wood prayer board with words to hang up handily for the various deities to observe in their leisure moments. 

All my wishes are already granted. Well, main one anyhow… a few more on my list #healthy

 Carrying on with our wonderful guests, we visited Mac Kobayashi’s goat farm for beers and/or espressos and lunch and a listen to some records. 

Also went saké shopping at the same tiny store where we purchased the mighty stash for the wedding party. They are shallwesay, very generous with the samples!

Naoki and Suu stayed at the parent’s house located approx 1 metre from us :) they had fun drinking and talking with Otoosan (who is a recently retired road engineer.

We also went to Osafune Museum with a truly incredible assortment of ancient swords beautifully displayed plus a workshop where artisans continue to make new swords using olden (mostly) techniques. No snaps but did make a scrapbook page or two (of course). 

Ryoko and the lads took a trip to Naoshima for art and a hot bath as well but i was tapped out at that point. Note: i did visit Naoshima for art and bath on my own covered in a separate dispatch. 

Personal stamps (hanko) are very important in Japan for “signing” documents. Usually folks have a few in various levels of security and the most important ones (used at banks for example) are registered at the city office. 

You can also get more “casual” ones made from a self-service machine using Hiragana, Katakana or Romanji writing. 

In this case, a cheap and cheerful DAVE stamp, just for kicks and for cost of 500 yen (about $4.20 USD or 5.02 CAD #notreallyallthataccurate). 

On another outing, we stopped by Ryoko’s maternal grandfather’s grave. He died of fcking cancer aways back. We lit some incense and i introduced myself. Note: this photo is not his grave marker, this is just the general area snapped as i was struck by the waves and waves of graves (haka) stretching and blending into the city scape.

Another outing was to see a friend play piano for lunchtime at this hidden restaurant in the woods. 

The restaurant, despite sorta fancy appearances, served the classic Japanese comfort food “om-rice” – yes an omelette filled with fried rice and covered with ketchup or in this case, demiglace sauce. Proof we don’t just eat ramen. 

Another time we stopped by a market in a parking area of a natural foods/bakery store where several vendors set up with various artisan foods and drinks. We saw our pal Seno-san of Koti Brewing, a “nano-brewery” from Bizen.   

Also at the market event, Slow Coffee had a booth run by Kanji-san . They were a supplier at the wedding party as well and love finding their quality beans on offer. I really should be their spokesmodel.

Another time, we stopped at a home centre/diy store for something and then went for ramen (a lot of these stories include ramen but i’ll try to streamline :)).

The boss Kuuya-san is a friendly fella who is also pals with famous Mac Kobayashi. His restaurant is spacious, has a nice Onkyo stereo and also has boiled gyoza. 

Speaking of Seno-san, we saw him again at an event at a cafe called “The Market” where they sometimes have special events and Mac Kobayashi appears as guest chef.

Seno was pouring beer (of course) and the photo at the top of this dispatch shows the street scene of cafe tables outside in a narrow street like van Gogh’s Café Terrance at Night painting. 

Inside we had a little variety of meats on sticks and small offering of Seno-san’s Koti Belgian white beer.

We stopped by Ren-san’s “Piano Bar” jazz club a few times in amongst our outings. He opened last year, it holds maybe 20 people and has a piano, drum kit (which i played with Ryoko on piano) and stand up bass, plus all Ren-san’s art decorating the walls (along with jazz album covers).

The other place we visit from time to time and Ryoko occasionally performs at is called Bird Live House – we had a welcome party here for wedding guests – and there is a drum kit, piano and casual community atmosphere. 

…and they serve Ginger Ale in heavy green glass bottles which appeals to me for several reasons. By the way this time Ryoko performed a few songs with a pianist and trumpet player. 

For another Ryoko performance with the Mae Maes band, Otoosan and I hopped the bus into the city for a gyoza and craft beer festival at a park. Dozens and dozens of booths selling unique varieties of gyoza! Too many to try really and really the whole event was a bit of sensory overload for me but wow…  

There were so many kinds of craft beer with vendors coming from all over the region including some tiny islands, with their kegs and set-ups. 

I chatted with some of the brewers to encourage their noble efforts and make pals while practicing my burgeoning Japanese language skills.  Note: i thought i had a few more snaps of this event and various breweries, i’ll try to find out if this is true.

I mentioned so many ramen stops, here’s my fave (girl and ramen place). I have a whole collection of photos of Ryoko’s face and food as my heart beats quicker each time. Yes, smitten. 

Further proof we don’t always eat ramen, in fact we eat at home most of the time with the usual Japanese assortment of miso soup, fish, rice, pickles and mugi cha (barley tea). Lousy photo, decent food. 

Another lousy photo of a basic but nice enough lunch with fruit/yogurt, various vegs (steamed) and hard-boiled egg. nothing fancy, yet a photo exists. 

Another stop, another coffee. So lovely in this fine cup and well prepared. Not sure where or whatever but that hardly matters. A coffee somewhere in Okayama sometime in late spring or early summer for the record. 

Sometimes, actually rather frequently, folks send us boxes of vegetables or other agricultural products. In this case, a case of asparagus. Huge stalks, so fresh and delicious. 

On a stop at Mac Kobayashi’s farm, saw the lovely card Jen and Leah sent him in thanks for his hospitality for the wedding. J&L were wonderful guests and embraced Japan living and were a huge help. In the card photo is Reira, Mac’s daughter holding her (1 of 3) child and also noting the bamboo cups made my my parents in law. Love it. 

Other artifacts and remnants of the wedding friends’ adventures are here and there at Mac’s farm including insta-photos, autographs on the wall, tins of smoked salmon, a jar of pickles i made and…

… Sons of Vancouver spirits including their famous apricot-mash Amaretto James L. brought to the party and a special limited bottle of the Engineer’s Rye brother Dan brought along. 

Leah and Jen also sent up a card with them in full hotdog regalia on the street after (you guessed it) another bowl of ramen. The card is in here with a little display of artifacts, photos (especially photo booths and instants) plus treats including bizen pottery and a resin art made my Kim E in Austin, Tx. 

When we tracked down a place for developing (genzo is a fun Japanese word) film from wedding party, they had such a fun assortment of cameras on offer. 

We dropped some things off at Ryoko’s storage locker for various work supplies, and while there, gathered chestnuts. Here’s Ryoko and her work truck doing just these things. 

One time i had to go into the city for something and needed to regroup, eat something… wandered into a tiny alley and found a small resto of some kind and walked in to everyone’s surprise. So many secret little haunts, run literally by Mom and Pa and somehow doing great food, fine price and getting along in the business world. Love it when a chance stop works out so pleasant. Perhaps i shoulda taken a photo inside and maybe i did, regardless, the moment stay with me.  

We dropped off pet rabbit Maru-chan at Uehara’s house. This young gent deals with same/similar illness as me (ME-CFS/Fibro) and is mostly exhausted like me. Anyhow, i passed along a special card of power and healing sent my way by Kat Code in Vancouver who is our same club. 

Finally, a trip by bus to Kansai airport and a plate of curry with cutlet and rice (not ramen!) before heading off to Nusa Ceningan for a stretch.

Always happy to head out with Ryoko on an adventure. In just over a year, we’ve already doe many trips together. She know my limitations and pace and requirements so we make a fine team.

(Almost) matching suitcases (acquired under completely different circumstances) and my old-timey box of tricks, ready to go. 

Lousy photos, great life. Roll slow, stay weird, make art and always be kind.