Friday, April 4, 2014

Erica

I am standing on that road for quite some time when a car stops. I have this very complex (by my standarts) japanese sentence in my head which I will be proud to use. It was the product of collective thinking of the monastary in Kaiyo: Shimanto-noho choto-e nosete kudasai: a little bit in the direction of Shimanto (city) please. However, when that woman stops a ridiculous song is playing on my PSP console which I use as an mp3 player. I just realized that I lost my earphones so the sound is playing loudly.
So I am too busy to stop my stupid music to try to speak japanese.
"Where are you going?" she asks in perfect english, thus rendering my japanese language attemps futile.
"Shimanto, where are you going?"
"I don't care where. Just somewhere and Shimanto is as good of a destination as any."
I later explain to her that I am going to Sukumo from where I'll take the ferry to Kyushu. She figures it's a shame that I skipped Kochi, it's a beautiful city and she lives there.
We are talking in a café while eating chocolate sweets with cream. Erica is fourtish, she is single like Nobuko, maybe that is a common thing here. She says that if I have time I can stay at her house and since she seems above average interesting and speaks english I do like the opportunity. Plus, she says that she'll take me to Sukomo the next day which saves me the hassle of walking out of Kochi.
Teatime according to Erica

Erica's kawaii little pink car


Erica lives in her mother's house. She also has several gardens in Kochi. We stop by one of the gardens, it is full of flowers. Vanes are turning around in the wind. The next stop is the actual house, it is huge. It is decorated with taste in a japanese style and it is super-impressive.
Erica's garden


A real-life size wooden tiger welcomes me in the front door where an insanaly long hallway goes around all the rooms. My room is the central one. Its walls are made of thin-wood and paper as the traditional architcture dictates and they are all basically sliding doors. Therefore, depending on how much of the doors we open, my room can be either and empty space part of the large hallway or a closed room. Next to my room, there is a shrine. It is also huge. We burn insense and pay our respects to the departed memebers of the family, same as in Mongolia.
Entrance

That's my room!


That evening, Erica takes me to Kochi city. People are having parties under cherry blossom trees. They are very easy going, it is rare to see japanese people in such a non-shy state and I'd be curious to joins them but that would mean abandonning Erica and her company is interesting too. There is a flower and candle festival at the Kochi castle. The candles are just light bulbs otherwise they would be blown away by the wind but the flowers are real and beautiful.
Flowers in Kochi


Kochi castle


Erica takes me to the biggest food court in Kochi. We want to look at different kinds of food and pastries. Window-shopping for sweets that's my thing and eventually we meet one of Erica's friends who sells strawberry bread and he gives me a piece. It is actually the only piece left and it looks yummy!
Erica has friends everywhere, I talk with a buddhist monk who lives in China and knows some chinese. My chinese is terrible but still way better than my japanese. The waitress is also cool and beautiful too. It is easy to talk to people because they are Erica's friends and she tells them my story which places me into oh-my-god-that-guy-is-crazy category and that's not a bad category to be in, in Japan.
Food court
 At Erica's, I get a hot bath in a bathtub... again! It's more a jaccuzi than a bathtub actually. What is very wierd is that Erica has two toilets: one for men and one for women... in her own house! The toilets are so smart that you don't even have to flush them, they just flush themselves because of sensors installed on them.
The bathtub has temperature regulation which makes the water stay warm without me having to worry about anything. Last but not least, Erica has a massaging chair, and a very good one. Warm baths, good food, massages, my life on Shikoku is really comfortable.
I didn't mention that but Erica is a professional dietetician, she does television shows about cooking, I don't have to point out that her food is just deliscious.
Food!


Her mother returns, she is seventy but she is active as hell. She takes martial arts classes in swordfighting and dancing. And she doesn't really look like seventy. The next day, she introduces me to her friend who lives in an old-style japanese house too. Her friend is really nice too but more shy beacause she doesn't speak much english. By the way the 70 year old supermother was in australia and can manage some english.
Her friend has a friend who is a hairdresser and since I need a haircut for some time she offers me to go there and he will make me look more civilised, free of charge. She just worries that I may not be satisfied with the haircut. I point out that unless she paints a nazi symbol on my skull, I'll be thrilled since I am waiting to get my hair cut for months now, I was just waiting for an opportunity to arise. I jump at that opportunity because a haircut costs about 40 dollars in this country and there goes my zero-budget. Side note by the way, if I use all my donation money to get a haircut, then it's only ten dollars out of my pocket and I am still under-budget. However, it would be stupid to spend all of my hard-non-worked money for a stupid haircut since I have discovered that looking like a caveman still gets me rides, even in Japan.
The hairdresser tries to transform me into a civilized being


The hairdresser is also a barber and a photographer so he can transform all my face into a human face. My beard however is a tough adversary for japanese razors. They are used to japanese people who barely have a hair on their face. He shaves me three times and probably has to throw away the razor afterwards.
"Kakoi!", says Erica which means something like handsome.
We go to the restaurant to eat some more great japanese food but it doesn't make much of a difference since the food Erica makes is about the same quality standart.
I can stay another night and I show Erica how to edit videos and put them on youtube. The computer room is a big room with a small table. There is a space inside the floor under the table to put your legs and that space is heated.
The next day, Erica takes me in the direction of Sukomo, to her favorite place. It is a shrine just on a cliff from which we can see the sea. The view is beautiful. First, we go through a tunnel of dense vegetation and suddenly rocks appear, we are facing the sea, the wind and the sky.
On the way to Erica's favourite place
Erica's favourite place, a panorama

The next place she takes me to is a strange one. Giant stones are piled up on a hill in a very unnatural way as if something big has dropped and arranged them there. The place gives up a strange vibe and there have been many alledged UFO sightings there. It is said that some people can feel a strange power in that place, it makes them nauseous. I don't feel nauseous but I feel strangely tired. It dissapears a while after we leave the place. Coincidence of course, yet it adds to the ambiance of the place.
There is a stunning view from the top and a great place to sing according to Erica. Erica used to sing in a band back in her student days.
View from Erica's singing place


Big stones are piled up in an unnatural way


Then we go to see her friend who works in a hotel. She tries to find me a place to stay. The hotel manager is really kind but doesn't have enough power to let me sleep there for free. He used to hitchhike in Hokkaido and Thailand so he is really moved by my story. He gives me a camelia flower to remember the hotel and I can go to the onsen for free. They are said to have one of the most beautiful hot spring baths in Japan. They have pictures of the emperor of Japan bathing there, it's quite a classy place. There is a stunning view on the sea and I can see the sunset while being in the hot spring. The ironic thing is that men and women are separated and women cannot see the sunset because of the separation barrier. I guess if a choice had to be made, it had been made by men.
This is a comfortable way of life


Erica has a lot of friends who own hotels but each time the hotel is booked. Japan is the first country in the list of my 17 countries that I am visiting during the tourist season so I don't stumble upon empty hotels as I did in China and Mongolia during winter.
After depleting all her housing resources in the Sukumo area she leaves me in a park with a heavy heart. It is a nice park and there is a tent there already. Some cyclists.