Five Things I Won’t Miss About Tanegashima
1. Bugs. I’m especially conscious of how much I won’t miss the bugs here now that the rainy season, and subsequently the termite invasion, has started. Many of you will remember from an e-mail I sent out last year about the swarms of termites that come from “the mountains” to invade people’s homes, lose their wings and die. Right now there’s only a few, but it’s only a matter of time before my house and everything in it will be littered with their corpses. In addition to the termites, I can’t wait to get away from the gejigeji, the mukade and the spiders, which, no matter how hard I try, will just not conform to my artificial selection program. A reduction in mosquitoes would be nice, too.
2. Mold. Three bags, three pairs of shoes and a pillow. This is the death count of my personal belongings due to mold. I clean my house often, I use mold-killing sprays, I have de-humidifiers all over my house, I leave my closets and doors open, but to no avail. One week into rainy season and my just-cleaned shower room looked like a third grader’s science project. My last piece of brown bread turned a special kind of disgusting, and every morning my allergies are so bad that they can be classified as “debilitating” (this is WITH allergy meds and herbal remedies). Unfortunately it would seem that mold is just a bi-product of sub-tropical weather.
3. Lack of Effective Heat/AC. Insulation isn’t that big here in Japan. This means that buildings are really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter. My house is particularly bad because it’s a giant concrete block with floor to ceiling windows all along one side. The schools are even worse since they don’t have heat or AC at all (the JHS being the exception). You have to wear a towel to work in the summer and you learn to trust that your extremities are still there even if you can’t feel them in the winter. I feel most sorry for the elementary school kids, who have to wear shorts year-round.
4. Misuse of Sidewalks. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been driving down a windy road only to come around a corner and nearly flattened a pedestrian walking out in the middle of the road – even when there are perfectly usable sidewalks lining both sides of the street. Alternatively, I also can’t count the number of times I’ve been walking on a sidewalk only to hear the soft ringing of a bicycle bell seconds before being nearly flattened by one.
5. Lack of Anonymity. I can’t go anywhere in Nakatane without being recognized. It’s not that I have anything to hide, but sometimes if I’m having a bad day or don’t feel good, it can be tiresome to have to be polite and friendly. The upswing of this is that if I am feeling down, sometimes having an impromptu conversation with somebody can make me feel a lot better =)
Five Things I Will Miss About Tanegashima
1. Steppin’ Lion. This gem of a restaurant has replaced all other forms of burger-and-fry joints in my heart. E and I go almost every weekend and when we order, all we have to say is, “same thing,” which for E is a jerk-chicken burger, fries and a java tea. For me, it’s a jerk-chicken burger topped with egg and fries. The owners – a sweet couple from Fukuoka – make fun of us a little for never trying anything different, but I think they’re secretly flattered by our unwavering loyalty. Steppin’ has a fun atmosphere with a Jamaican theme – it’s one of the few places you can just sit and chill for hours listening to reggae and absorbing the BBQ smell.
2. Living By The Beach. I think my area of Nakatane is about six miles wide. I can see the ocean from the windows of practically all of my schools and it gives me a sense of space that I might not get living in “mainland” Japan. When the mood strikes me, it’s about a 15 minute drive in either direction to get to the beach. Nakayama-Ueho-Takeyano is a surfing and fishing hotspot and until recently, used to be pretty good for walks (erosion, etc has changed to shape of the beach a lot). Now I prefer Nagahama on the west side for walking because it’s flatter and the sand is firmer. It’s also a bit more secluded, which makes it good for things like picnics.
3. Shochu. So it’s not fun when it’s leaking out your pores the next morning, but I really do like shochu. The taste is often mild and it mixes well with water – ice in the summer and hot water in the winter. It also mixes well with tea. Perhaps more than shochu itself, I like the culture associated with it. Not the part where you get totally smashed, but the part where you go to a party and split a bottle among friends. The part where if you don’t finish your bottle, you write your name on it with a special marker and store it at the restaurant until next time. The part where you can instantly bond with someone over your tastes in shochu, similar to the way people bond over sports. There’s a regional pride associated with shochu and even though it’s not my favorite, I think I will miss Nakatane’s Shimano Izumi the most.
4. The Way It Smells. Tanegashima has a special smell – it’s the salty ocean smell combined with the sweet smell of wet grass. The smell reminds me of summer even in the dead of winter. It’s a fresh, clean smell that conjures up feelings of memories I can’t quite place and makes me smile when it catches me unaware.
5. Shimanchu. I believe I’ve written about this before, but it remains one of the things that most impresses me about Tanegashima, the thing that I am most reluctant to leave. Living in a small town on a small island has its share of difficulties, but the warm-hearted and generous nature of the people living here make them more than worth it. I think about the small kindnesses people are always showing me, the bits of themselves that they so freely share…After hearing some stories I almost refused to come, but now I can’t imagine a bigger mistake. I’m so glad I came, so grateful to have been allowed to discover this special part of the world, and most of all, the beautiful and kind people living in it.