Sunday, April 15, 2007

The final weekend in Utsunomiya... and Japan!

Well, just a little over 2 days left in Japan and things are still rolling along well. Saturday, we hopped into my dear wife's beloved Pajero for the last ride into Utsunomiya before we leave. The cherry trees are still doing their thing up here in cold cold Imaichi, which is nice. I am really glad I got to see another cherry blossom season here, truly the best time to be in Japan.

When I heard a little while back that Scott was coming back to the 'Nomiya, I was quite excited. It had been almost a year since he left, and he was sorely missed. Yoshiko and I met up with him at the station before Yoshiko left us to do some shopping and have lunch with a friend, leaving the two Utsunomiya vets to reminisce about old times. We quickly decided to do what we used to do all the time, walk. At least a couple of times a month, Scott and I used to wander around town shooting the proverbial shit and taking in the scenery. With cherry season just finishing up here in town, we still had plenty of scenery to take in, here are the hanging cherry blossoms which have just popped out along the river.

Since Scott had witnessed the construction of the "famed" Utsunomiya "castle", we thought we'd swing by so he could see the result of the couple of hundred million yen spent on this concrete monstrosity. As Scott put it, it's something right off the pages of "Dogs and Demons" by Alex Kerr. The very fact that they used concrete to shape the entrance way show just how much thought was put into making this an authentic reproduction... not to mention the concrete encased elevator which juts out over the wall in plain view. We did get a bit of comic relief on the walk down though, when we spotted this dog with his very own umbrella!

After a quick stop in at Mahal for some curry and nan, we decided to do one of our more frequent loops and eventually wound up in Hachimanyama park where the blossoms were falling like snow and covering everything in pale shades of pink.

And when I say falling like snow, I'm not kidding!

I think this is my favourite point in the cycle of the blossoms, as they start to fall and the leaves come out. Quite nice. And here is the Scottmeister himself.

I hadn't managed to get many decent macro shots of the blossoms so far due to lack of time and effort, so I tried my hand at it on Saturday. The wind was blowing quite a bit, but I think this one came out pretty good.

After the park, we made our way to the nearby temple where we visited these funky little guys for the last time. Very interesting little display.

We then made our ceremonial walk down to Yamaya as we often did back in the day before meeting up with Yoshiko again down by the station. After Yoshiko and I checked in to our nice room at the Roynet hotel, we headed on up to Le Metro to grab and hold a table for her and her friend Noriko. On the way there, we saw that the carp streamers had been hung over the river in preparation for Boys' Day in a couple of weeks.

After a nice little rest with Yoshiko and her friend, we headed back out to meet Isao and Tomoko who were taking us to a little Yakitori place they like. With some time to kill, we ended up again in front of the "castle" where the cherry trees which were recently planted are adding some beauty to the surrounding grounds.

Yoshiko joined us at Yakitori after getting her hair cut and we had a great time conversing with Isao and Tomoko. They really are great people. 8 o'clock came pretty fast and we had to sprint over to AEON to meet the group for the usual pre-party beer at the Lion's Head. We then headed out to Matt's farewell party at Universal Dining, a very nice place for a party, where we spent the evening eating and drinking and saying goodbyes. As has become an AEON party custom, the crazy guy (usually guys, but one couldn't come) put on a bit of a performance. This time, Masa dressed up in a friend's maid outfit... love the look on Matt's face on this one!

Alas, the party came to an end and I had to say my goodbyes (for real this time) to everyone. I've been a bit of an AEON ghost recently, as Setsuko put it so well. Gone, but not gone... running into students in the street or around the school and such. Finally, they will be rid of me!

This morning, we got up and had breakfast before making a run to Tobu to find a gift for Yoshiko's parents who have made our last week in Japan so wonderful. Here is the final view we had of the big city of Utsunomiya. Not much to look at, but beneath all that concrete and under those power lines, are some wonderful memories. This is where I made my home for the past two years, met dozens of wonderful people and the woman I married. Utsunomiya will not be forgotten, and we WILL be back... my Japanese family lives just up the road after all!

For lunch, we stopped by a little place called Saimon in Imaichi where Yoshiko had worked a long time ago and she said her goodbyes to her friends there. When we got back home, we cleaned out the Pajero as it was going to be picked up by the dealer shortly... and I got to take it for a spin! My first real driving in Japan! It was quite hilarious when Yoshiko told me to make a left turn and I immediately proceeded to turn on the windshield wipers since the controls are reversed here (along with the driver's seat and the side of the road one drives on.) I quickly got my bearings though, and it wasn't that bad, I'm sure Yoshiko will do fine in Canada.

So here we are, on the verge of leaving Japan, homeless, vehicleless and soon to be cell phoneless as well. Sheesh! As I said, it will be nice to get to Canada and get settled in.

Tonight, we hooked up the web cam that Stacy gave us at our wedding to Yoshiko's parents' computer and tested everything to make sure it worked while her computer-wiz brother was around. Tomorrow, I will get back into tech mode and teach my dear mother-in-law how to use MSN Messenger and Skype to keep in touch with us in Canada.

On another note, I have recently discovered Facebook. Very interesting! I've been able to find so many people from my past on there, and see what everyone has been up to. Very cool site! 4 friends so far! Look me up if you're on there...

Anywho, that's about it for tonight. Probably just 1 more post from Japan before I leave and this chapter of Sushi and Maple Syrup will come to a close. What a terrific journey this has been, and over 37,000 hits to this blog! Thank you very much for following me along and leaving me messages. I hope you stay with us as we start our new life in Canada!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your blog when I was looking for people's experiences during an AEON group interview (with the demo lesson)and I've been reading it ever since. Your post on the demo lesson had some good tips which I believe helped me get a job with AEON myself! Now you are about to leave Japan to go home and I'm about to leave home to go to Japan! I hope my journey will be as wonderful as yours! I have really enjoyed reading your blog the last year and many of your stories have made me more excited about Japan! I wish you and Yoshiko the best of luck in Canada! You two are such a lovely couple!

3:30 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Thanks Louana! And congrats on the job... I'm sure you will have a fantastic time here.

Good luck!

7:14 PM  
Blogger tornados28 said...

Hey, Skype. We just got Skype hooked up so my wife can talk to her family in Tochigi from here in Los Angeles. It is awesome.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey tornados28!
where in Tochigi is your wife from?

7:17 AM  
Blogger tornados28 said...


Otawara and her grandmother and other relatives live in Nikko.

5:06 PM  

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