After Amami… Busking in Kyushu and Escaping the Tsunami.
It was a blistering hot Thursday morning when I woke up. All of my things were wet because I was using my friend’s hand-me-down tent for storage. It wasn’t quite rain proof. In fact I wouldn’t even call it water resistant. So it didn’t fare well in the intense tropical rain the night before. My hiking pack was starting to show signs of mold growth. All my clothes were dirty. I was tired. I was hungry. I was spending too much money living at a festival. I woke up with an intense desire to be somewhere else that day, and I was going to make it happen.
After the festival all of the ferry companies (only two on the island) were booked up for a week, but one of the companies had 2 ticket cancellations. I could buy the ticket if i came into the office quickly. I immediately set off on an escape mission which involved hitchhiking to 3 different places to collect all my stuff and exchange some dollars into yen so I could pay for the ticket. After I had my ferry ticket in hand and I was waiting in the 70’s feeling sterile terminal for boarding to begin… I started to feel a little bad about all the people I was leaving behind. Some of my favorite people there didn’t even know I was leaving because I didn’t run into them that morning to say goodbye. Oh well. We are meant to be connected to some people. Some meetings are fleeting though. Ichigo ichie. “One meeting, one chance.”
^^^^^ I asked this Obaa-Chan if I could take her picture. She smiled and agreed, and then started walking out of the frame, and over rough terrain I might add, she was determined. I tried to explain to her “no, I want picture you!” but it was no use. She smiled and pointed to her banana trees in the back. They were green, so I didn’t assume she was offering them to me. haha.
I packed into a big room on the ferry with maybe 200 other people. The floor was packed with sleeping bodies! The aisles were packed with shoes and bags! The entrance lobby was full of more bags and surfboards! Most people who came to Amami for the eclipse had to camp due to the small amount of lodging on the island, so almost everyone aboard had a giant hiking pack or some huge bungee-cord monster on wheels that they dragged around. It was packed and noisy and just… just… I went out onto the top deck. Ah, space. We were surrounded by intense darkness, but you could see some lights far on the horizon, probably fishing boats. There are beer vending machines on all ferries in Japan. There is no better place to drink than on a ferry. The tilting of the boat back and forth gives you the sensation that you’ve drank twice as much. So I sat sipping a cheap Kirin beer -staring into the darkness, processing everything that had just happened in the 2 weeks that I stayed on that little Island. And of course! Once again feeling that completely enveloping sensation of traveling to a place completely new.
When the ferry arrived in Kagoshima everything was grey. I knew rain was coming soon. I had planned on hitchhiking, but it’s pretty hard to get a ride in the rain. If the driver doesn’t accidentally hit you due to low visibility they are more likely to think you’re insane for standing in the rain than to feel sorry for you. I decided to take the train.
At this point I’ve only got a small amount of money, and I’ve been in Japan long enough to know how the train system works. This is how I met Tact! You see, Tact and I were riding a train sitting across from each other when we were unexpectedly asked for our ticket. We each had to pay $22. After paying the train guy we both looked at eachother and loudly whispered “KUSO!” which means “SHIT!” We were instantly friends. I spent the next 3 days traveling with this guy. Any time we got into sticky ticket situations Tact would use his Jedi mind trick powers to get us through. I played the part of foreigner guy who can’t speak Japanese and doesn’t know what’s going on. I spent 5 months in Japan mastering this role.
Tact was a really cool guy. My Japanese was good enough, but mostly, his English was good enough that we could have pretty detailed conversation. He’s an artist/illustrator who works in Japan. He was traveling with no tent or sleeping bag. Inside his really small backpack he only had some clothes, fish tins, a small camp stove, and a ton of Sea Shells from Amami! haha. I respect people who travel with so little.
^^^^^ Tact sleeping on the train next to my beefy pack.
We stayed in Kyushu for one night; in Oita city. We weren’t really sleepy, so I suggested we look for a place to go busking. Busking is playing music on the streets (in hopes) of attention or (usually) money- CD sales or donations or food or alcohol or anything, and of course for the joy of it! -sometimes only for the joy of it. I played my flute for some extra money. Tact tried to sell some of the t-shirts he designed and had screen printed. First I wanted to make a sign saying “okokoro kudasai,” [like “heart please” or “mind/attention please”, an old phrase] but Tact said “nagesen kudasai,” [“money please” but also a very old phrase, so he said it would be funny. but it is still very direct for Japanese] would be better. I made $20, tact made $0. I met some really nice people that night too. It was my first night busking. It would not be my last!
The next day was grey and rainy again. The rain constantly fluctuated it’s intensity. Usually just a steady drip, but sometimes a fierce downpour. Apparently we were crossing the path of a Tsunami that caused some landslides in western Kyushu. Anyway… it was nothing dramatic like that for me. It just meant seeing many flooded lots, yards and gardens (but no houses) outside of the windows and having to bear riding in a train going… unbearably slow. I’m not sure of the reasons, but sometimes for an hour at a time we would slow to what felt like 10mph, and in between we would only speed up to 20 or so. At one point the train stopped and told us we had to board buses to get to the next 3 stations, and continue by train from the 3rd station. And then it was all gone.
To be continued… つづく
I’m staying busy in Oregon! It’s been pretty warm the past 3 weeks, in the mid 90’s. I’ve been camping out every night. I helped a friend work on his strawbale/COB cottage project the other day. I only did carpentry, no mud work, but it was nice to see the house in this stage. I could still see almost every beam in the house and how the house was put together. I have lots of time to relax, practice my flute and read. Working the soil in the garden is very meditative also. I’ve been working long, relaxing hours.