Despite all the great experiences I had and the amazing people I met during the other parts of my trip, the 5 days in Okayama were among the best, and most memorable. They were basically a long succession of lunches and dinners with friends, punctuated by reflections on how little had changed and being touched by how I’d been missed.
The Friday night was a enkai with the lads I used to drink with- Nishimura, Toda, Kawasaki and Kawahara. I also got to meet “Steve 2” that night, Erik- a kind and generous guy. We all drank and sang till midnight (highlights including “Under The Sea”, “Rokko Oroshi” which was sang 3 times during the evening, and some Japanese classics I won’t bore you with the details of), and then me and Kawahara continued drinking until 6 in the morning, spending a good 3 hours talking about deep and meaningful things in a stylish bar (with cheese platters and shiny drinks), and 3 hours in Agape, a round table karaoke bar (more karaoke, yay!). It was great to see old friends.
Saturday was spent mostly tired and hungover, but I also got to see a friend for dinner, and sunday was also spend wandering round Okayama, visiting the old places. Monday I had lunch with two teachers from Seishi High School, and spent the rest of the day and evening with a close friend, visiting Kojima- where I used to live- and popping into my old apartment, thanks to Erik. I immediately readjusted to the places and the people, but it has only being 6 months and really nothing has actually changed (except one bulldozed pachinko parlour on Kojima high street). Tuesday was more friends- Kawabe Ring Master and Yutaka Akahoshi of Krash Japan fame, and another enkai in the evening. The most touching moment was going back to Seishi High School- my favourite female students screamed with delight when they saw me, and there were lots of hugs- it’s nice to be missed! I also got a three page letter from a girl who can hardly speak a word of English, and who had clearly put a huge amount of effort into writing it (maybe I’m just a softie, but there you go).
It did feel like although nothing much had changed in the 6 months I’d been away, now things are on the cusp of change. A good friend will be leaving Japan soon, and lots of my teacher friends will be leaving the schools I taught at, one to an entirely different prefecture. Also the ALT position in my two schools will cease to exist in August due to cut backs from the downright weird Kurashiki Board of Education.