Waddling off the night bus with swollen ankles and undoubtedly a bit of body odour we walked through the humid streets of Sakata to Ben’s place. After much needed food and showers we took Tom off to the highlights of Sakata… the supermarket, HardOff (second hand shop that is just amazing) and the 100Yen shop! After such a busy and strenuous morning we naturally felt the need to unwind and relax by heading out to the sea.
Training to Fukura we spent the afternoon (and a fair portion of the evening) drinking beers in the sun, eating snacks, climbing over the Buddhas (carved into the rocks) and jumping off the rocks and swimming.
As tended to be the pattern of our days in Sakata we started slowly… In the afternoon Tom and I went into Ben’s school to speak to one of the classes. Our chat to them covered everything from where Tom lived in the states, to my travels, to the teacher insisting that Tom tell all his friends to vote for Hillary Clinton as Japan did not want Donald Trump to be President… quite a lot of pressure on Tom I thought!
That evening we went to Kappa Sushi… undoubtedly one of my favourite restaurants in Japan. The novelty of sushi coming via spaceship or race car has not worn off! After many, many plates of sushi and quite possibly the same number of beers we were asked to leave (as they were closing not because we were being rude or annoying) and off we went on an adventure through the park next to Ben’s apartment that provides an excellent adventureland for the slightly inebriated.
The highlights of our remaining days in Sakata were undoubtedly dinner at Ben’s friend’s restaurant and the trip to the aquarium.
Returning to Kakochan and Kochan’s for dinner I was greeted by a warm cry of “PIPICHAN” as I walked through the door (Pipi because I pi, pi, pi like a bird the whole time aka talk non-stop!). Much like the time before, dinner at Kakochan’s and Kochan’s was a wonderful evening, endless food, drink and excellent company always makes for a good time. To my slight dismay, the food this time was more red meat based and included liver and tongue – which it turns out I don’t have a stomach for.
Satochan, Ben’s friend took Tom and me to the Kamo Aquarium on one particularly wet afternoon. This is an aquarium that centres around jellyfish which was quite unexpectedly far more interesting than I had anticipated. Jellyfish are seriously aesthetically pleasing creatures…
The aquarium also had a sea lion show on while we were there. Turns out sea lions are quite athletic animals and also quite intelligent. The sea lion was able to perform handstands, jump through hoops, balance a rugby ball on it’s nose and catch rings around it’s head…. I cannot do one of those tasks. Full points to the sea lions.
For Tom’s final night we went out for dinner with Umetsu, Satochan and Tokochan. We went out for okonomiyaki where Satochan and Umetsu cooked up more food than I thought humanly possible. Okonomiyaki is brought from the kitchen as a collection of raw ingredients that the guests cook themselves on a teppanyaki.
I left Sakata the next morning – after breakfast with Ben, he and his friend saw me off at the train station. Making it to Tokyo I went for a run and some soba noodles and then had a final sort through of my belongings before my flight the next day. Waking up at the crack of dawn in Tokyo I was restless and ready to get on a plane to NZ – waiting to catch a plan is perhaps my least favourite activity.
To try and burn some of my perhaps nervous energy I went running in the park near my hostel – after doing some stair repeats for a while I went to leave the park only to be stopped by a Japanese guy in his hands he held three drinks, a water, a green tea and a sports drink. He gifted them all to me as he was unsure which I would wanted but thought I might need a drink. It was an act that would never happen in NZ, yet here in Japan I wasn’t remotely surprised. I have grown somewhat accustomed to this innate kindness and generosity that the Japanese consistently exhibit.
Boarding the plane in Tokyo and approaching my final destination of Christchurch I was excited at the thought of abandoning my backpack and having access to other items of clothing. I also had a moment of being absolutely stunned and gutted that my five months of insane fun had come to a close so much more quickly than I anticipated and sort of wishing that my flight from Tokyo was bound for somewhere else new and exciting in the world as opposed to little old NZ.
Since arriving home and being reunited with friends, family and dogs I have to say I am pretty happy to be back… There’s something about home comforts that just can’t be beat sometimes!