|Hotel Patio Dogo lobby|
Tomoko was out first Japanese teacher, whom we met 8 years ago. She was studying for her Masters degree at the U of R & we met her through a mutual friend when I'd mentioned we were looking for someone to teach us Japanese. We quickly became friends & in our 2 years studying with her, Tomoko gave us a wonderful foundation in Japanese language & culture. We visited Japan for the first time after these 2 years of lessons, & her mom, Nobuko-san, kindly invited us to stay with her for part of our trip. Tomoko's sister, Keiko-san, & family (including 2 sons, a bit younger than Brendan) live next door to Nobuko-san, so Brendan got to meet some Japanese kids, too. It was amazing to stay with a Japanese family & do some sightseeing with them.
Tomoko left Rochester for the University of Minnesota 6 years ago, after graduating from the U of R, to start PhD studies, but we've stayed connected & she's visited us for New Years a few times as well. Brendan & I got to see her last summer on our brief trip to Japan (she spends part of her summers here), but Charlie hasn't seen her in a couple years. We also stayed with Nobuko-san (who lives in Mizumaki, a small town outside of Fukuoka City, on the southern island of Kyushu) 2 years ago on our last family trip here. As it turns out, Tomoko's father was from Matsuyama & they have relatives here. So when we mentioned that we were going to visit Matsuyama, Tomoko & Nobuko-san arranged to take an overnight ferry from Kyushu to Matsuyama & stay here for a few days. Tomoko says that the ferry is for people who want to visit Dogo Onsen- they can sleep on the boat, then arrive in time for a morning visit to the onsen, some gift shopping, then take the boat back home later that day. That's exactly what they did- except they checked-in at their hotel rather than took the boat back home :)
When they arrived at our hotel, a little after 10:00 am, they were fresh from the onsen. They had cute little baskets that the onsen gave them, to carry their things. We were so happy to see them! Many photos were taken :)
|baby birds in a nest over a store near our hotel|
|Karakuri (mechanical doll) clock that "comes alive" every hour|
Nobuko-san & I continued to catch-up on things during the ride. She speaks no English, & when my Japanese got stretched too thin Brendan would look words up for me on his iPhone app :) But she & I generally get by without too much trouble.
|Matsuyama streetcar, right across from Ropeway Dori|
I'm going to apologise here for the lack of food photos. I think I've gotten far enough into our trip that the fabulous food is becoming such a normal occurrence that I don't remember to take photos! Arrgh! But- wow! The food here is so great! (After living in the US for so many years, Tomoko says she agrees with me :)
After lunch we strolled & shopped some :) More prezzies to take home! We decided to take the Bocchan Densha back to our hotels, which is a special train that looks (& feels) like the trains that ran here in the early 20th century. Tomoko looked-up the schedule, so we had some time for dessert at the only Starbucks in Matsuyama (we think :). It was Tomoko & Nobuko-san's first time at Starbucks (I don't know how Tomoko has avoided it so far, living in the US for so long...).
|Nobuko-san & Tomoko deciding what to have|
|Charlie & his macaron (Japanese-style macaroon)|
I did some research, & it turns out that Bocchan (usually anglicised as "Botchan") is the name of one of the most famous novels in Japanese, written by Souseki Natsume in 1906. It's a story about a young man from Tokyo (the titular Bocchan, which means "young lord") who finishes university & is assigned to teach in Matsuyama, far away from anything modern or familiar. The story explores the issues around Japan's rapid modernisation in the late Meiji era (post-black ships). The Dogo Onsen features prominently in the book, & there are various characters who are archetypal- the person with strong morals, the left-leaning person, the weak-willed person, etc. We've seen wooden cutouts (the kind with a hole for your face) all over town with these characters on them & now I understand :)
The Bocchan Densha (densha means "train") was quite the experience:
On the way back to the hotel Charlie took some more great pictures of the Dogo. Tomoko had showed us a map of the place that they'd been given when they went this morning, & the first floor is the baths, the second is the place to change clothes & have a rest & refreshment (Nobuko-san had a little nap there this morning) & then the 3rd floor is reserved for special events. The whole building is open to the air, with bamboo mats flapping over the openings.
The walk home was lovely. The little street we were on had a canal running alongside (looking for all the world like it was coming from the Dogo- runoff?) & then eventually under the sidewalk, & we could hear the pleasant sound or water running the whole way back to the arcade. We browsed a bit & then had some iyokan (local version of the mikan orange) soft ice cream cones for dessert. Yum! (for any of my friends who know how terribly lactose intolerant I am, Japan is the magic place because none of the dairy products here bother me! How do they do it?!?)
We said ouyasuminasai (good night) to Tomoko & Nobuko-san at our hotel, & we are looking forward to meeting Tomoko's friend Yuka-san tomorrow for a day of sightseeing by car.