“Welcome to Obama!”: Days One and Two of Kat’s (Not Quite) Epic Christmas/New Year 2008 (and technically 2009) Trip (of wonderfulness)

It didn’t take me too long to plan my trip over winter vacation.  I couldn’t go anywhere too far away because I hadn’t saved the money nor bought the plane ticket, so I figured the time had begun to continue crossing things off The List.  As such I chose to go to Kumamoto, a thoroughly B-E-A-Utiful place, in case anyone was wondering.  As easy as it would have been to go from Fukuoka straight to Kumamoto, I decided to take the long-ish way so I could visit the friends down at the Hanto for Christmas.  I’m a social creature, what can I say?  I like being around people for holidays. 

As a teaser:

There are actually two towns in Japan with the name Obama.

There are actually two towns in Japan with the name Obama.

So I got to Shimabara and immediately set about spending money (by eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant) and baking (an Apple Pie, as promised to Sabsy).  We ended up having this huge feast (by Japanese proportions) involving pineapple, pumpkin soup (delicious!), apple pie, and pizza.  Other things were planned, but alas, we got so very lazy.  I also watched Love, Actually, a necessary addition to any holiday gathering.  By the way, though I do not recommend nonfat milk for Egg Nogg, it works quite well for most other things, thank you. 

The hour grew late and, unlike myself, Sabsy, James, and Tom had to work in the morning, so Sabsy and I drove back to her place for some much needed rest. 

The next day, I decided to hang out in Sabsy’s town of work: OBAMA!!!  As soon as she told me she worked in such a mythological town, I knew I had to visit and take lots of pictures of me acting like an idiot, preferably around signs that also said “Obama.”  While I did not quite accomplish the latter (a difficult task whilst wandering around alone) the town, though small, was actually quite enjoyable. 

Obama in Japanese literally means “Small Beach.”  This particular town, close as it is to Unzen, is both an onsen village and a fishing village.  It’s really rather quaint (though I like Iki better…) and had a number of nice parks.  I also may have fallen asleep on one of the park benches.  But let’s not talk about that.

If you read Japanese, you know that says Welcome to Obama.

If you read Japanese, you know that says Welcome to Obama.

Steam from the sulfuric gases rising into the air.  I loves me some sulfuric gases.

Steam from the sulfuric gases rising into the air. I loves me some sulfuric gases.

I think the town Sabsy actually lives in is the one across the way in the misty-romantic mountains.

I think the town Sabsy actually lives in is the one across the way in the misty-romantic mountains.

So I probably walked about two or three kilometers when I finally found “Obama,” the small beach.  Really very small.  And also pretty dirty.  It was right next to a tiny port with plenty of boats.  This place offered me a great amount of entertainment.  I dangled my legs over the concrete edge to take a bit of rest, and while I sat, a man about seventy feet away opened up and peed into the water as if it were no one’s business, and another man half in drag went to pray at the nearby tori honoring the sea and the sailors.  Yeah.  Obama = rock. 

It was from this vantage point that the man peed.  Hey, when you have to go, you have to go.

It was from this vantage point that the man peed. Hey, when you have to go, you have to go.

Anyway, I pushed myself to my feet after overcoming from a fit of the giggles and glided my way back into the “downtown area” to the tune of several Christmas songs I’d purchased on iTunes during the previous two weeks.  The weather wasn’t particularly balmy, but I walked enough to feel a bit toasty, so I took a break at the “Marine Park.”  It was here that I ran into my second exposure to Japanese Culture:

Peeeerdy Kittyyyyy...

Peeeerdy Kittyyyyy...

So I sat down to take a breather and possibly open up Jane Austen’s Persuasion, when instead this beautiful cat approached and demanded attention.  Though afraid of fleas, worms, ringworm, lice… really, anything under the sun, I still couldn’t resist temptation and set forth on the Epic Petting Spree.  Though I will admit I tried my best to keep the fur off my shiny new coat.  I figured it couldn’t be too diseases or anything since the baby seemed very well fed–which to me means he or she had owners.  In any case, all was going well, there was much meowing and purring involved (on the cat’s part… maybe…) when all of a sudden I lost my companion!

A Cat, thine heart is as fickle as the wind upon my breast...

A Cat, thine heart is as fickle as the wind upon my breast...

Didn’t see heads of the cat after that, only its tail as it gleefully followed its new attention provider.  Apparently exercise is way more of an attractor than my own (not-so) potent charms.  Oh, my heart, how it ached (mostly because I started running). 

Rejected, I got some late breakfast, wandered to another park (where I slept on the bench), realized I was really cold, found a small “French” cafe, and hunkered down for the long haul.  I sat there for nearly four hours, drinking tea and ordering the occasional cake, until Sabsy finished at school.  I also almost finished Persuasion, which I had just begun that morning on the aforementioned park bench.  Really good book, actually.  I liked it better than both Emma and Sense and Sensibility, though nothing can ever beat Pride and Prejudice.  Still have two more of her books to read… but I’ll get there eventually.

In any case, we travelled back to Shimabara where James made us some most excellent lamb, Tom got really sick, and I eventually went to sleep after watching “Tropic Thunder” (=hilarious.  My favorite movie with Tom Cruise in it, definitely). 

Next on the adventure: Kumamoto City!  Stay tuned… tomorrow.  I don’t want to overwhelm all three of you.  😉

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