Good news everybody! As my negotiations entered the 11th hour, a break-through was finally made and I managed to get 6 days extra holiday, to take my total for next year up to 21 days. Added to the fact that I had a nice weekend in the prefecture, I’ve officially decided to both stay in Japan and remain in the exciting, dynamic prefecture that is Okayama-ken. Maybe its like (excuse the football analogy) Lucas Neill deciding to go to West Ham rather than Liverpool, because they wanted him more (the BOE is very keen to keep me- thats right, Steve is likeable in all time zones). Maybe its because of the great rates of pay and the comparatively light work-load. Or maybe its just the path of least resistant, paving the way for me to consume more sashimi and buy more needless things with the minimum of upheaval. Whatever the reason, like Gandhi and his passive resistance, I’m staying put.

A Trip To Takahashi

Against the backdrop of this exciting news, I had a very enjoyable and busy weekend enjoying this great Prefecture of ours. I drank more than intended on friday night, and thus made a late start to the next day. Eventually however, I got to Takahashi, a town about 50 minutes north of Okayama, in the mountains. It had a beautiful garden, Raikyu-jji, dating from 1604, and I also (unintentionally) ended up walking all 5km uphill to the highest castle in Japan, Bitchu-Matsuyama-Jo. It was calm, peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable, and I met a couple of nutty Japanese guys, one of whom was obsessed with “soccer”. After walking all the way back down from the castle, I ended up in Okayama for food and drinks with a friend. Sunday was spent shopping for hats and bags, and successfully buying them (thanks to Miwa’s excellant help). Then we went for yakiniku, BBQ meat with special oishi yakiniku sauce, mmmm! In the evening we saw The Departed, which is definately worth seeing just for Jack Nicholson doing a frightening impression of a rat!

So there we have it; after 6 months in Japan I’ve (almost) committed myself to another 18 here. I’ll be working out the details in the coming days, but my holiday should now allow me to go to Taiwan for 5 days in March, have Golden Week in May, have two weeks to possibly come home in summer, have a week and a half for winter vacation, and then have another couple of long weekends (Hong Kong and Singapore maybe?) and Golden Week next year. Not bad.