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Published: March 19th 2009
Mum and Dad have been friends with Paolo and Mariko since before I was born, from when they lived in Montreal. Mariko is Japanese so they spend some of the year in Japan. I can't remember the last time I've seen them, probably at least 15 years ago or so, but dad emailed them to see if they would be in Japan at the same time as I was, and it turned out that they would be and were kind enough to let me stay with them for 2 nights at their home in Okayama.
It wasn't far from Hiroshima to Okayama - about 2 and a half hours. Mariko met me at the bus station but we nearly missed each other because I didn't recognize her and she wasn't sure if she recognized me (but I think the fact that I was the only Westerner standing around looking lost helped). We took the bus back to her home where Paolo was waiting for us. It's nice to see them again - most of my memories of them and their daughter, Anne, are from when I was really little and some of them aren't so clear anymore. But I remember
their faces at least. Their house is wonderful - very traditional Japanese, or at least what I imagine to be traditional Japanese. There are sliding doors and wooden floors and a small onsen-style tub in the bathroom. We take a bike ride through the older part of town together, where they still grow rice in small fields, and before you know it the sun has set and its gotten late. I'm given instructions on how to use the onsen, which is fantastic, and then head off to bed on my traditional bed on the floor.
My second day in Okayama, Mariko's friend Tomoko (whom mum stayed with years ago when she came to Japan) offered to take us somewhere farther out of town because she has a car. We drove out to an old house that was built over a hundred years ago by a man who made his fortune in salt production. The house was huge, and beautiful, and very well preserved. They also had a display of dolls in honor of the annual Girls Day, which was just a few weeks earlier. From there we went for lunch at a hotel by the In-Land Sea and then
on to Kurashinki, another old-style village. We walked around and looked at the shops and visited the Toy Museum. After a cup of coffee at the Ivy Square, Tomoko dropped us off back at Paolo and Mariko's. We had dinner and watched Japanese game shows on TV, soaked in the onsen and then i tucked myself into bed again.
I left for Kyoto the next day. I said goodbye to Mariko at the house and took the local bus into town. Paolo met me at the bus station on his bike and said goodbye there. It was really lovely to see them again, after so many years, and I know that mum and dad were pleased because they haven't seen them in just as long I think. There are friends scattered everywhere and its always nice to catch up.
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