I woke up early on my own this morning. I thought about going to the Tsukiji Fish Market, but saw that it was raining. As I was wavering in my decision, Lisa murmured that I didn’t have to be quiet since she was awake and that if I wanted to go to the fish market, she would be happy to go with me. We threw on some clothes and scampered down to the market. We nearly passed the market, but some old fisherman pointed us in the right direction. Once we entered the market, we dodged our way in between trucks and out of the way of people racing around on motorized carts. We found our way to some shops and then pushed through to the actual market. The market itself was a sea of activity – everywhere you turned there were all manner of sea life for sale and people were busy chopping, hauling, throwing things on ice and filling orders. I felt that no matter where I turned I was in the way and if it hadn’t have been for Lisa’s New Yorker gumption, I probably would have abandoned the project all together. Eventually, we made it out of the fish market alive and back to our hotel for our last breakfast. From there, we packed up our bags and then caught a cab back to the train station.
At the train station, Lisa and I activated our JR passes, and let me just say that they JR pass is amazing. The last two times I was in Japan, I was ineligible to use the JR Pass because I was on a school or work visa and the pass is only for tourists/visitors. Once you activate the pass, you simply flash it at the entrance gate and you can ride any JR line (including rapid trains and shinkansen). The pass was a bit pricey – $483 – but considering how often we’ll be on the shinkansen this trip, I can already tell that it is well worth it. We took the shinkansen down to Shin-Osaka and then transferred to another shinkansen that would take us down to Kokura. The second train went all the way to Kagoshima, and I admit that my heart strings were pulled a bit at the idea that I would be so close to Kagoshima without having the chance to visit.
Allison’s friend Ikuyo and three of her students came to meet us at Kokura station, where we took a moment to have some tea and get organized for the next couple of days. Two of the students were recent grads and one of them was incoming. The incoming student was Y, whom I would be staying with during our time in Tagawa. Y and I got to know each other on the car ride back to her place. She is 22 and went to a three-year vocational nursing program and would now be working towards a Bachelor’s in midwifery. She explained that part of her education was being paid for by a hospital in return for agreeing to work at that hospital for five years once she graduated. She said that it felt like a long time since she really wanted to work in a birth center. I had to sympathize since I will probably be in a similar position once I graduate. I also learned that her brother, who is my age, recently graduated from nursing school and that she had become interested in midwifery after witnessing the birth of her sister’s children. I arrived at Y’s house, where I was welcomed by her mother and her dog and they helped me settle in to my room upstairs. After a simple dinner, I took a bath and crawled into bed.