Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Japan Day 17 - Pilgramige 2.0

From day one i knew i wanted to go to Hitoyoshi because that's where Natsume Yuujinchou was loosely based on.
The other place i wanted to go was Karatsu since it's where Yuri on Ice Loosely takes place for the first few episodes. It's also a seaside town and no matter what would be pretty to go to. 

However i miscalculated. 

Yesterday was considered a free day so Marise and I took it easy and just went to the aquarium... Apparently today we were all supposed to go to Hiroshima. 
Thing is HIroshima is pretty far from where we are AND i really did want to go to Karatsu and I had kinda planned to do that today. Marise and I discussed it and said even though we did want to go to HIroshima, better to go to Karatsu because who knows when we can come back to Japan. 

So once again we broke off from the group and i'm really happy we did. 

The trip was simple but odd. As a foreigner in Japan i can have something called a JR pass, essentially i pay a lot of money but i get to ride all JR and some shinkansens for free. This doesn't apply to subway/trams/local lines/busses. 
So to get from here to Karatsu we had to take the subway.... but about halfway through the trip the subway turns into a JR train.
Essentially we had to pay 3 bucks then the remaining 7 was free. This was super easy heading there.... (heading back was an adventure but more on that later.

We arrive in Karatsu and it's sunny and stunning. Not a lot of foot traffic but still we had a few locations we knew we wanted to try to get to (the bridge and the castle mainly.) 
So we headed that way, both were right beside each other which was nice and even though it was up a lot of stairs it wasn't like Inari and the view of the water from the top was super pretty. 

We also checked out the bridge which was... well a bridge nothing too special there. 

Then we looked for a place to eat. 

"The reviews on this place are good and it says it likes yuri on ice fan" 
So we headed over and oh boy... it wasn't kidding. 
First question. "Anime ga suki?" (Do you like anime?)
"Hai" I replied and got a clap from the chef. 
"Yuri on Ice suki?"
"Hai" i replied again and then... then the merch came out. We were literally surrounded by plus toys, mugs, posters, gold rings (given to the chef by kubo but i'll get to that) given place mats of the three in hot springs or in a car shopping... it was a little nuts. 

Then we looked at the menu and the first thing i spot is a 100 dollar steak. 
'Oh no we made a mistake' I thought to myself. 'Why is such a fancy place embracing anime so much? Just cause it's set here' 
Eventually i did notice some more reasonably priced options (i mean still cost a lot but it was 100% worth it) and we ordered and waited. 
Now there was nothing english in this place, and my japanese isn't the best, i can get by but just barely.
So as we wait for him to cook our order in front of us more merch appears... we notice a yuri on ice room where the show is just constantly being marathoned. He walks by and his chef coat gets more and more Yurio merch. 
He shows us his phone and it's got a agape yurio background. 
The store's music is all yuri on Ice on loop. 

It was interesting to say the least. Eventually a japanese customer who spoke very good english came in and helped me translate some of the chefs stories. 

Apparently he is one of kubo's friends (more on this later) and he really loved the show and took full advantage of the fact that it was set in the town he worked. 

We ate our meal, it was (for lack of a more appropriate term) fucking amazing. Worth every penny. And then as we got up to get ready to pay the chef stops us. "Ochoa ii?" (Is free tea good/would you like some green tea) I reply that it's good and then he gets us to pick mugs... i picked Victor and Marise got Yurio and then he took us to the yuri on ice room and handed us a notebook. He asked us to write a note and enjoy our tea. 

So we did and then just as we were getting ready to leave once again he stops us and asks us if we are rushing to the next place. Well no this whole trip was about no more rushing and just doing our own thing. So he brought us to the side of his store and told us the story of why he embraces the anime as much as he does.

Again my japanese is not the best but the gist i got was that He always loved anime but it was considered odd to like something that was seen as being for children. 

I'm going to side step for a second because when i heard him say this my heart broke. It's hard to explain but anime is everywhere here. It just feels like another aspect of the culture, not everyone likes it but i didn't think it would be odd if someone did like it as an adult. But here was this amazing chef who had a complex about the fact he liked shows like Madoka magica. 

Anyways he continued on his story about how he became a chef and eventually gained a Michelin star. (Which having eaten at his restaurant i can understand cause the food was amazing) I'm not sure if he met kubo before or after this but she apparently came to eat at his store and noticed that he liked anime. They discussed it for a while and after hearing how he felt about his passion she cried and gave him a hug. Eventually the two became close friends. She would come and discuss themes of the show (fate, love, bonds) and even though he wasn't part of it in any way he felt a deep connection. 

He was invited to cator one of the events for the show and had a group photo on his twitter with the production team. I'm not sure when but Kubo even gave him a replica of the golden ring that the main characters had. (She apparently proposed and everything) and with her help he decided that he could embrace his passion of being a chef and an anime fan and just have fun with it. And that he's seen more people from all over the world thanks to this then he may have simply being a Michelin star chef in a tiny seaside town. He was great full to the show for helping him accomplish this and hopes to continue being a fan of all things anime for many years to come. 

After this we were able to pay but then the customer who spoke English really well came and showed us to the station were we could fill out a survey and get a map with all the show locations. 
We ended up also seeing all the aspects of the station and yuutopia thanks to this map (we could have gone to the beach but it was already starting to get late. 

ANow for the way back... we started JR but halfway through he had to rush off the train, go through the ticket booth. Pay the 3 bucks and rush back on the train. The goal was simple... get back on the same train we left or wait the 13 minute for the next one. 
Miraculously we managed it and it was quite the adrenaline rush. 
After that we just grabbed some mcdonalds (cause it was cheap and we had spent enough on food today) and i grabbed another natsume cafe item because dammit i don't have a problem i swear. 

As much as i did want to see Hiroshima... I'm really glad we did this because i had an amazing day and i felt closer to the people here then i ever had before. I can always come back and see it next time. 

Tomorrow is the massive trip back to Tokyo for the final few days. 
My family is tying to convince me to stay but between my JR pass ending soon and my lack of accommodations (not to mention missing my bed, my cats, my computer and oddly toilet paper that is more then 0 ply) I really just want to head back to canada and sleep for a day.... or two... we'll see when the time comes. 

Also fun fact.... even though. I have nearly taken 1000 pictures my camera STILL says i have 9999 shots left.... well at least i never had to swap the cards? 

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