The happy post you've all been waiting for: Magome, October 30
On the bus from Nakatsugawa train station to Magome I found myself grinning from ear to ear in an excess of joy. Mountains Mountains Mountains!!!
Even the fact that according to the sign in the dining room I can look forward to having an entire fish complete with eyes for dinner is not really fazing me. At least it looks cooked...
I'm on my own! I'm doing what I wanted to do and it's working out GREAT! I'm not an incompetent weirdo, and even though I'm in a rural area of Japan without the ability to speak Japanese, I'm doing just fine. I'm actually finding it's easiest to just listen and nod politely when people are giving me instructions or telling me things and rely on my reading to fill in the gaps of what they're likely telling me. I wouldn't recommend this as a lifelong strategy but for a few days I think it'll work out fine.
I don't seem to have a room key. I wonder if that's a problem? I wonder if I'm supposed to ask for one or if it isn't the standard thing or what...
This is all very disjointed so I'll try to start again...
So, I found the right bus to Magome and got on it with my enormous plague of a pack. As we drove out of Nakatsugawa we immediately were into farmland, with terraced rice fields going up the hills and little tiny garden plots with all sorts of leafy greens and so on.
The bus was on a regular road, and then a highway, and then turned off the highway onto this insanely narrow one-lane street that switchbacked up a mountain. It was insane! Tree branches swept along the side of the bus as itthe bus cautiously navigating the switchbacks... I took ass many pictures as I could, though who knows how well they'll turn out.
I took hundreds, and I mean, literally, hundreds of pictures today. I've almost filled up my one gig memory card. That's over 1000 images! I still have the 512K card with me though, so no worries. Also, an interesting statistic that comes up out of that is that I need four sets of batteries to to have enough juice to take that many pictures. That's a lot of batteries!
So... I'm having dinner. That was then; as I write this sentence, I have had dinner. Confusing much?
So... dinner... good heavens. What a good little adventurer I am! I tried absolutely everything (except for the skewer of what were probably shrimp, because travelling alone means never having to say you're sorry that you don't like shrimp, after all).
I'm actually totally proud of myself, and I discovered many things on the table which were much better than they looked, like the cold little fried fish avec eye, which looked kind of sad, actually, but which tasted sweet and was very tender (I ended up using my fingers to get all the meat off the bones, it was too good to leave), and the tempura vegetables, which I'm almost ashamed to say I've never tried before because I thought they'd be yucky. I was so excited about my fish success that I threw caution to the wind and tried them and they were delicious!
There's three spodgy brown things in a bowl, and I even tried them. They actually seem to be potato, actually, but I'm afraid that although they're not hideously disgusting, they're not that exciting either. There's also... what looks like thinly sliced raw meat in a bowl towards the back. I even tried that. I was laughing at myself as I picked a piece up in my chopsticks and dipped it in the dipping sauce and took three deep breaths and then brought it to my mouth to take a bite. It was... raw meat. It wasn't horrible, but it also wasn't initially exciting enough to tempt me for another bite. But the point is, I tried it!
The table is covered with little bowls with little tidbits and little bowls of sauces, and there's a sort of open clay pot which, ,when I sat down, the tiny little japanese woman who keeps explaining everything lengthily in japanese to me came over and... set it on fire. Dude!
This strange little blue waxy thing inside just burned incandescently with a blue and white flame which curved up and around the lid over the pot, which, on closer inspection was actually a little skillet with a lid, and inside the skillet were various local mushrooms, a big slice of onion, pieces of raw chicken and vegetable and a piece of something grey and wobbly. Okay, I have to admit, I haven't got up my courage to try this one yet, becuase I have a pretty firm rule of not eating things which are grey and wobbly, and honestly, I've been so good, I don't need to push myself any more. Right? Right.
One of the little dishes contained a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, green onions and hot peppers and the little japanese woman explained at great length and with many gestures that this should be poured into the skillet at some point. Undoubtedly, she specified which point, but that information didn't quite come across gesturally as well, so I just poured it in whenever I wanted to.
The fried onion was simply to die for. I could do with a whole onion fried that way, it was just so delicious. There were probably three or four different types of mushrooms and they were all quite individual and tasty, which a nice chewy texture. Some of the mushrooms were those long thin stringy white ones you sometimes see in stores in Canada, but I didn't recognize the others, which were small and very round.
Wow! That meal really exceeded my expectations which were so low that I bought myself snack foods should I end up hungry after the meal, so that I wouldn't have to feel resentful about not having dinner. I actually think that was a good idea anyway... I wasn't putting pressure on myself to eat things I didn't want that way.
And okay, so my 4K walk this afternoon probably did a bit to help the attitude, not to mention the heaving my 50-lb (actually, 60-lb) pack all over the countryside all morning. I have quite a bruise coming on my wrist from my pack actually. I'm not sure if I caught the pack strap on the back of my wrist in swinging it down or what. It's not painful to move, just a little to touch, so that's good at least.
Have I mentioned yet that I'm ridiculously happy in Magome? I think I feel like socially the pressure is finally off and I can just be myself, and that, combined with the fact that I'm in a beautiful place in the mountains eating good food and feeling wonderfully independent and free leaves me feeling practically euphorically happy.
It doesn't matter what happens for the rest of the trip now... I've had this moment, and that makes me happy and the trip a success. This moment wouldn't have felt quite this good without all that went before it, and so I accept that too.
I know I should do some more reporting, but right now I think I just want to relax and maybe go for a short walk before I go to bed early and relax. I'm physically tired, in a good way, but sleep will be delicious on my futon on the floor.
Oh! I forgot! First I'll bathe! That's exciting too!
What a delicious day!