Thursday, July 7, 2011

My introduction to Kochi

Expat Column 15
BY Mark Johnson, Hidaka Village, ALT from USA

When I first got to Kochi in August of 2009 I was dazed in a state of constant wonderment. I had lived in Tokyo before, but this was something entirely different. The roads here were windy and narrow with no sidewalks, the mountains were visible over the building tops wherever you went, people spoke with a dialect I hadn't studied. It was like coming to Japan for the first time all over again, except this time I liked it!

My first weekend here I was brought along to another ALT's birthday party in the mountains of Ino town. I rode north along the Niyodogawa, marveling at how pristine the water was. When we arrived I met other ALTs, foreign exchange students, as well as some of their Japanese friends who had all gathered for the celebration. We drank, played music, cooked, ate, chatted, stargazed and fell asleep, half a dozen of us sprawled out on the tatami floor tired enough to sleep despite the heat.

When I woke up I was guided down to the river for a swim while we waited for the others to wake up.  On that 30-degree Kochi summer morning, dipping into the Niyodo river felt amazing. After that our watery adventure did not end as we made our way to the Yasui gorge. We hiked up a questionable dirt trail and found an emerald green pool fed by a strong but narrow waterfall. The birthday boy dove in!  So the rest of us followed. Once the horseflies came a-biting we decided to leave for the next waterfall, a much wider shallower pool where we picnicked, sunbathed, swam, showered in the high pressure splash of the falls, and then left to the coast, to Usa, for the fireworks show that evening. My first festival in Kochi was a blast, the people I shared it with remain good friends even now, and the adventure leading up to it gave me the best first impression of a new place that I've ever had.

Taken from vol.42  published in July 2011 Tosa Tea Edition

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