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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

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Ryokan? Ryoukai! (22-24 May)
From Osaka I took the shinkansen to the southern island of Kyushu and so to the onsen resort of Yufin, picking up my friend Chiho en route at Oita. I hadn't seen Chiho for two years, except at the end of a Skype line, and it was great to be with her again.

Of course, my main reason for being in Yufuin was to visit the Cotswold-themed attraction, Yufuin Floral Village - but I naturally took the opportunity to book us into a ryokan for night - the absence of which from any Japan trip would be like a gaping wound.



Anyhow, the Nogiku ryokan answered our expectations. At its entrance there was a saddled deer, looking like an extra from Princess Mononoke, and beyond that a wise and kindly frog deity, to which we solemnly prayed for our safe return from the convenience store, which did indeed come to pass.

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Our room had a little private onsen, which I was very pleased about, being a bit shy of communal naked bathing. The weather that evening was cloudy, and it was lovely to sit in the 40-degree water, with drops of rain plonking into the water beside me like Basho's frog. Later, after lights out, I began to tell Chiho about a project inspired by my recent reading of Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan, or ghost story anthology. It's a common belief among Japanese schoolchildren that if you hiccough 100 times you will die, and I thought that it would be interesting to write or collect a book of 100 ghost stories, each called "The First Hiccough", "The Second Hiccough", and so on, up to the title story, "The Hundredth Hiccough" or Hyakkaime Shakkuri (百回目しゃっくり). Dare one read all of them? It would be like a Goosebumps version of The Ring.

While I was describing this sure-fire bestseller, I was alarmed to see a spectral green light floating a few feet in front of my eyes. Chiho saw it too, but (being an old Japan hand) quickly identified it as a firefly, which had somehow flown into our room. I'd never seen one before! It was exciting stuff, and of course I did my best to share it with you by way of a video. If you click below, you'll have the extra excitement of hearing me mangle the title of one of Isao Takahata's greatest films.

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The following morning the clouds still draped the mountains' shoulders, but at least it wasn't raining (mostly):

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We set off towards Yufuin Floral Village, a fifteen-minute stroll, mostly past tourist shops full of rather interesting items by which I would have been even more easily distracted had zeal for scholarship not been my constant lodestar. Even so, I was almost seduced by the No Face chopstick rests and soy sauce dispensers.

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Yufuin Floral Village itself was on a relative small scale, its houses built (with some help from Dreamton's Yume-mi Company, I believe) in the Cotswold style, and each focused on a different character, not all by any means British or literary: Peter Rabbit rubbed hindquarters with Sean the Sheep, Heidi Girl of the Alps and Kiki shared the limelight with Alice and the Moomins.


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Owls bring happiness, indeed. But are the owls happy themselves? And what about the goat?

This was clearly a very different kind of operation from British Hills or Dreamton, using Britain as a kind of roomy architecture to accommodate many kind of Europe-themed childhood favourites. Nevertheless, the overall emphasis was definitely British, from the Mini outside the Alice shop to the stall selling cream teas, and of course the underlying theme of Cotswoldiness (a term I plan to trademark).


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On the way back we stopped for lunch at a Snoopy-themed restaurant, where the demi-glace hamburger was surprisingly delicious:

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Chiho had to get on the bus back to Kagoshima then, and I booked into another (cheaper) ryokan for the second night, before heading over to Fukuoka for a day off from the Cotswold project and a second chance to experience a city I'd really enjoyed on my first visit two years ago. But that will have wait until next time...

I'm impressed by your Japanese! Sure sounds advanced to this total ignoramus.

I would so, so, so love to stay in a ryokan some day.

You just heard me ask Chiho whether she'd ever watched The Fireflies of the Grave. But perhaps we can put that down to a combination of excitement and sleepiness?