My Weekend Part II: Hiroshima Sake Festival
Saturday morning I awoke at Catherine’s house at 8:30, an early rise to catch the early ferry to Hiroshima! We were so excited we were blasting Whitney Houston and jumped right out of bed and into dancing mode. We got ready and met Katie at the station where we had to take a short train ride to the port. Once at the port, we met up with a few other JETs and we all took the ferry together. We took the slow ferry (half the price of one way on the fast ferry) so it took about 3 hours. But the ride wasn’t bad, it was a beautiful day out!
Me on the ferry to Hiroshima!
We arrived at Hiroshima and took the tram into the main station, where our ryokan was just a short walk away. A ryokan is a Japanese style hotel, and ours in particular consisted of a small tatami room with three futons for us. It had a small TV, and tea was waiting for us upon our arrival! Two old men run the ryokan, and were so sweet. After struggling to help us in English for a while, Catherine says to them “I can speak a little Japanese” and they seemed relieved. The first question they asked her was “how tall are you?” haha (Catherine is taller than me, and Japanese people are always curious about your height.) Then they lead us to our room, where we hang out there for a few minutes and then make our way back to the station to catch the train to Saijo, which is where the sake festival is happening.
Katie and Catherine in our room at the ryokan!
Sake festival was already in full swing and we were already receiving texts from JETs who were already there, so we wanted to get there as soon as possible… after a quick stop to McDonald’s of course. Satisfied, after consuming an entire Quarter Pounder Meals with Cheese each, we got on the train to Saijo. Once there we found the Sake Festival quite quickly: follow the trail of drunken people. Saijo was having a large festival which took up many blocks of the town, but the sake tasting was located in a small tent which was hidden away from the rest of the festival. Once inside (a ticket was about 10 dollars), you were given a small sake cup and invited to try any and all of the 900 different kinds of sake that were available. The connoisseurs of the festival were running around with a booklet, trying to get the rarest and the most delicious of the sake, and writing their opinions in their books, while the rest of us just dived right in to whatever sake was closest. You just walk up to one of the many stalls and point at the sake you want and they serve it to you! We asked one of the workers if he liked his job of pouring sake for all the people, and he said “no, I want to be drunk, too!” Love the honesty! It’s actually amazing how different all the sake can taste. We found one that had a distinctly banana taste that was quite delicious. Others were very bitter and less to our liking. We ended up hanging around the “Shikoku” area where all sake from our island was being given out. The place was FULL of foreigners, including JETs from all over, as well as a lot of American Marines from a nearby base (these Marines were best avoided at all cost as they were incredibly obnoxious and annoying). All in all the festival was a blast! And we got to keep the cute little cup.
Me and Joanie and Catherine
When the festival was over at about 9:30 we all got on a train and headed back to Hiroshima to find a bar. Apparently there was a “foreigner’s bar” somewhere, so we all went there… and it was exactly that: A bar where all the foreigners in Hiroshima hang out. It was actually incredibly strange. Perhaps I am just used to being a minority, but seeing so many people around and understanding them all was overwhelming (haha). Catherine, Katie and I had a midnight curfew (placed on us by the old men who worked at the ryokan – as they usually close up the front door at 12, and go home to bed, we were asked to come back before then, although they told us they would “wait up for us”) so we didn’t stay long at the foreigner’s bar. Having the midnight curfew was actually a blessing though, gave us a reason to get home early and get some solid sleep, as we had plans to go to the Peace Museum on Sunday. Our friend James ended up having no place to stay that night (as he couldn’t find reservations) so he asked if he could come crash in our room. Once we arrived at the ryokan, however, the old men owners were less enthused about having a boy stay in our room (and we couldn’t solve the situation by telling them he was gay, as that would only further complicate and confuse.) He asked “is this one of your brothers?” and thus provided us with an obvious escape route: “why, yes, he is our brother”, and so he was allowed to stay after paying a fee. It was hilarious. I sung lullabies to put everyone to sleep (and by that of course I mean I put on my iPod and song along to Nicki Minaj rather obnoxiously until I fell asleep) and that was our night in Hiroshima! We arose to a phone call at 9 am informing us it was checkout time and we were to immediately leave the ryokan. So begun our Sunday.