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Published: October 1st 2019
We joined the Shinkensan - Hikari 465 - at Kyoto, bound for Okayama which took just over one and a half hours following which the local train - Shiokaze - took just over three hours to reach Matsuyama. As we stepped off the train we were welcomed by our lovely Japanese friends Sappi and her mum Masako waving madly; it was lovely to see them both again. The last time we were at Matsuyama was when, together with Ross, we attended the wedding of Sappi and Takaya. Since then their son Kento has joined the family however he was in a Nursery School Child Care at the time so we didn't meet him until a little later. Masako took us to Sappi and Takaya's new house which had been built on the site of what was the house of Takaya's grandfather and where we stayed for the few days we spent in Matsuyama.
The capital city of Ehime Prefecture, Matsuyama is on the island of Shikoku which overlooks the Seto Inland Sea to the west and the Shikoku Mountains to the east. The train journey to get there goes through some lovely countryside. And, as an
added bonus, Matsuyama has many hot springs with Dōgo Onsen, Japan's oldest hot spring which has a 3,000 year history situated there. But this time we were too busy to visit one of the hot springs, more's the pity.
Once settled into our upstairs bedroom, and with Kento collected from Nursery School we were taken to a BBQ area which was set up next to the River Omogo (at least I think that was it's name) which runs through Matsuyama. It was there we were joined by Takaya, Sappi's brother Yusake, is wife Mai and their seven year old son Ryunosuke who could speak a little English; his first question to me being to ask me how old I was! The BBQ food and portable gas cookers on which it was to be cooked were bought from a couple who were running the show. Much to the delight of Ryunosuke there was an area made from a container which was partially dissected to form a stage and with music playing it was where Ryunosuke entertained us all with his karaoke singing and dancing!
That was a good start to the few days we had
in Matsuyama. With Takaya at work and Kento at Nursery School during the day, myself, Kev, Masako and Sappi (who had taken a few days off work) were able to enjoy a few little adventures.
One such adventure was a visit to Matsuyama Castle which is situated high overlooking the town. Initially taking the cablecar from Shinonome Station on Ropeway Street within three minutes we arrived at Chōjaganaru Station and from there it was a walk of about ten minutes to the castle entrance. Then we climbed to the top of the Castle Tower which offered us a 360 degree panorama from Mt Ishizuchi to the Seto Inland Sea; it was no mean feat up a series of very steep and narrow stairs. Matsuyama Castle is celebrated for the beauty of its stone walls which soar to a height of over ten metres. We also visited Matsuyama Castle Ninomaru Historical Garden, designed as a Lovers Sanctuary with lots of citrus trees and flowering shrubs.
Another adventure, which proved to be an hilarious afternoon, was when we had a lunch with Masako's mother and her sister Tomoko (Sappi's Grandma and Auntie). They couldn't speak English
(that is apart from Sappi) and we can't speak Japanese so a small instant Voice Language translator- which Sappi had rented before we arrived - helped to keep the conversation flowing. The many translation mistakes which the machine made in both English and Japanese had us all in stitches of laughter. And during all that fun we still managed to eat a lovely Japanese smorgasbord!
The next day, after breakfast at a fantastic bakery we headed off to the Tobe Ceramics factory which has a history going back over 200 years. There we all decorated small bowls which are now being fired and, once they are ready, will be sent to us. Sappi painted a bowl for herself; Masako made one each for her two grandsons Kento and Ryunosuke; Kev made one each for our Copenhagen granddaughters Sienna, Evie and Isabella while I made one each for our Melbourne grandkids Grace and Rupert. It was an exercise which we all took very seriously and are now eagerly awaiting to see the finished results when they arrive.
From there we went to the Bansuisō Villa, a French style château which was built in 1922. Renowned
as an excellent location for social functions and visited by the Crown Prince (and later Shōwa Emperor) Bansuisoō was designated a nationally important Cultural Property in 2011. No sooner had we arrived when Sappi, Masako and I were asked if we'd like to dress up in some kimonos; an invitation we naturally accepted. It was great fun swanning around the place in our costumes but the shoes were very hard to walk in. That little adventure over, in the evening Yusake, Mai and Ryunosuke arrived at Sappi and Takaya's place to celebrate Mai's birthday.
The whole time we were in Matsuyama the temperature was humid, ranging from 31 to 36 degrees C and our last day was no exception when we attended a festival held in Matsuyama Park overlooked by the Castle high about us. That was great fun too but, alas, all good things eventually come to an end and the following day we made the journey back to Tokyo. But not before we ate our last meal together at Takaya's favourite Sushi Restaurant which was as good as he said it was.
Thank you to Sappi, Takaya, Masako, Tomoko, Grandma, Yusake and
Mai (and not forgetting the boys Kento and Ryunosuke) for the wonderful hospitality you showed us. Extra special thanks to Sappi and Takaya for hosting us in your beautiful new home; it was a pleasure to spend time with you and we hope it won't be too long before you come to Sydney so we can repay the favour!
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