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Monday, April 4, 2016

2016 JAPAN SAKURA ADVENTURE: Day 8--Takamatsu

First, breakfast at the Crown Prince Palais:

Note, ensconsed on this tray is a cup of natto, or fermented soybeans.  My mother never served it, so I never got used to it.  Before this trip I might have tried it twice in my life.  The smell in the early days was terrible.  It's still not terrific, but, just on this trip, this is my 4th natto.  Why?  This is like brown rice.  Not particularly tasty, but good for your health.  The probiotic advantages are getting to me.  I hear you need to stir it a hundred times till it gets all sticky and gooey and white.  This is probably to get as much oxygen into the cup so that when the germs get to your stomach, the bacteria will be well prepared to do what it is supposed to do.  In my case, I've tried wasabi, grated ginger and ume (that red Japanese fermented plum) to flavor the batch. 
I might add at this point that I'm still in shock, as I got to know three people on this tour about as well as anyone else.  However, the son (who is thirty, and might have been the youngest person in the tour, and largest--the least likely to get ill) is back in a Matsuyama intensive care room, for he came down with an ailment that appears to be life-threatening.  The rest of the family is flying in to be with him.  Which leads me to the matter of trip insurance.  Our Hawaii escort couple pay $300/year, and others on this trip around $150 just for these few days.  I'm heading towards 3 million miles on Star Alliance, but have never once bought this type of insurance.  At my age, this now should be a serious consideration.  According to the couple, a trip can well be from Kaimuki to Mililani on a car...and do you know what an ambulance costs these days?  Something to think about.

Before we left Kochi, we visited the Yosakoi Museum.  Way back in the 1950's the country was in recession and the leaders of Kochi dreamt up a tourist attraction.  Why don't we invent a dance parade and invite the country?  They called it the Yosakoi (means come over tonight) Matsuri (Japanese for festival).  Wow, talk about success, they this year (August 9-12) expect at least a million visitors just during that period and 21,000 dancers.  Throughout the country (there are now 200 such festivals) cities/villages send their troupes to Kochi, and, not coincidentally, 200 of them show up.  I've always wondered what inspired anyone to practice all year, buy their own clothing and pay their way to something like this.  The weather is really hot and humid in August.  
I know, because two decades ago I came and really enjoyed the experience (but not as a dancer).  There is a huge fireworks show each night, or, maybe it was only the final night.  By the way, anyone can dance in the parades for a 500 yen fee, or, for 2500 yen (about $22) you also get a happi coat and naruko (that wooden clapper to the right--I brought home two).  Here are two of our Panda Yosakoi dancers:

We were then told we had two hours to walk around the arcades, and I thought, what a waste of time. What could I do for two hours.  Well, I could have a long lunch (on our own).  But even McDonald's was closed.  I thought of a bento and walked around two floors of Daimaru, but decided against, for there was no place to eat outside.  The bus left a 12:30.  At 11:50 I walked into this high class Japanese restaurant in this arcade to the right, was seated in a room by myself and no one could understand each other. People on Shikoku do not speak English.  As the timing was short I picked a photo, plus a beer.  Finally, at 12:10 the following tray came.  Had no idea what it cost, but it included that Kochi seared bonito and a lot more.

I gobbled what I could in five minutes and went down to pay.  I looked at the check and thought my bill was 11,250 ($100) Yen, but that was because the 11:50 looked like 11,250.  The total bill was less than $20.  As I was about to leave, I thought I'd better go back up two floors to the restroom, as the bus had no facility and the ride was to be two hours.  It was now 12:20, and the walk to the bus was about 5 minutes.  Came down, but forgot my umbrella upstairs.  To make a long story short, I was the last one on the bus.

Have to show Hello Kitty at least once.  Why?  She is now 42 years old and her real name is Kitty White.

Well, the bus ride today was around an hour and a half, and our first stop was at Ritsurin Garden in Takayama.  Our guide went into some details about the prominence of typhoons here, so scientists came up with a technique to dwarf the pine trees.  Here is one to the right.  What a wonderful place.

I wondered where those red flowers came from, and just looked up:

Yes, my Blue Bar Pigeon showed up here, too.

Above Dennis and wife (I'll fill in names later when I'm sure they are accurate).

We then rode to the JR Hotel Clement Takamatsu.

My view is of the JR Takamatsu Station, where I walked over to find my dinner.  Everything here looks brand new, especially our hotel.  I almost got a Lotteria hamburger, but decided to try for something better.  Here, a restaurant that specializes in pork cutlet, or tonkatsu in Japanese:

The meal was the most satisfying I've had on this trip.  There is something about a memorable Japanese meal in the comfort of your room in Japan, with a view of a train station and the TV playing an enka (old style singing) program. Eddie Flores of L&L Hawaiian Barbecue should send his chief chef to Japan to learn how to make pork cutlet.  The bento above was as good as the best Tonkatsu I ate in Nagasaki, where this dish is particularly famous.

Tomorrow we're off to Osaka, which means there will only be three days left of this Panda tour.


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