Monday, February 28, 2011

Nothing much doing in Shikoku

This morning I woke from strange but prosaic dreams, wherein the Hotel Okura in Marugame was charging me like a wounded bull for internet access, to discover that it was foggy outside and cold, although as I was incompetent with the air conditioning the inside of my room was a miniature sauna. I snaffled down the strange raisin bread I'd purchased last night, gagged a little on my instant cream of onion soup, and then faffed around doing nothing much at all for a few hours before taking the train to Tadotsu, going for a walk round town and finding there was nothing at all to eat apart from hash browns at the bakery next to the station.

The day was uneventful; I spent it sat in various chairs, reading books, surprised to find that A Spot of Bother, Mark Haddon's second novel, was very very good, although at times revolting - there was a bit of self-mutilation where I was actually covering my eyes with my hands, which makes sense when watching television, but far less so when reading a book.

The one bad thing about today was that I somehow lost the bright orange rain cover from my backpack; I bought the backpack (a Vaude) a couple of years ago, and it was at least six months after I purchased it that I discovered it had an integral rain cover. So in some ways, no great loss, but it is something of an inconvenience and it's strange that somebody would remove it while I wasn't looking. Unless they had a matching backpack and somebody had stolen their rain cover, in which case it makes sense, but suggests a never-ending cycle of waterproof theivery.

We did purchase umbrellas in the 100-yen shop by the station, but these actually cost 105 yen each - I think everything in the 100-yen shop is overpriced by exactly five percent, which is good for them, but seems somehow unethical. Imagine the outcry if everything in the Pound Shop cost 105 pence.

We got a train from Tadotsu (where there is nothing) back to Marugame (where there is almost nothing) at 8:45, and bumbled down to a tiny restaurant near the station, where the drunken clientele were amazed to have the three of us wander in. It felt very local - of the three of us, only I have any Japanese, and an abject smattering at that, so although I could explain that I was a vegetarian and that I wanted beer, our conversation didn't go much further, apart from when one of the guys told me that one of the other pissed-up Japanese sitting at the bar was a 'baka'. That's one word I did remember quite well.

It's nice to meet drunk Japanese people who insist on plying you with fish. It seems that for the denizens of Marugame, the appearance of gaijin is a remarkable and hilarious event, and they kept offering us more and more unpleasant foodstuffs: pickles, "fugu" that I suspect may not have really been fugu, and finally an enormous bottle of beer for me, so at least I got some carbohydrates while the others dined on fish.

Honestly, I think my diet this week might kill me. Instant soup granules, whiter-than-white bread, and beer. It's a strange old situation when you miss Hong Kong for the healthy food options.

Tomorrow I have to get up early: it will be the first of four days of training for me, which will probably consist of being chucked on the floor in all sorts of undignified ways by a procession of young Japanese students. (It's a university seminar this week, so most of the people I get to train with will be 18 or 19 year old Japanese, who may have never encountered a hairy British chap like myself before and, if past experience is any guide, might not have encountered the amusing phenomenon of brawny British wrists that resist their attempts to bend my hands into uncomfortable shapes. Which in turn will mean people have to resort to other methods to take me to the floor, which will probably cause me to yelp a lot.)

Now, I hate getting up early, and I've just drunk 633 ml of Asahi beer and followed it with a bowl of rice, two English muffins and an entire block of cooking chocolate from the supermarket beneath Marugame station. And I still haven't figured out the air conditioning. Could anyone discern the slightest problem with what's going to happen next?


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