Saturday, October 17, 2009
Tottori Sand Dunes/鳥取県砂丘 (P.S. I love you camel)
I have received several e-mails from my former host sister, Risa Miyake, since coming to Shimane. Now I met Risa about six years ago the first time I came to Japan to Hiroshima Prefecture with my fearless Sensei Leader, Mrs. Countryman, and our gang of genki gaijin (lively foreigners). Her family took me in as their own daughter and were kinder to me than I can ever repay them for. The last time I came to Japan I was in Tokyo for a few months- and Risa and her Mother took the bullet train from Hiroshima to Tokyo to visit me. Once again, they were so kind to me. I am lucky to have such good people in my life.
But that was almost four years ago, and at that time I had shocking red hair and was thirty pounds lighter. So I was more than a little shy to meet these guys again. Sometimes we put too much stock in appearances and forget that some people really love you for what's inside- really. It's hard for me to believe that at times. This nervousness made me put off meeting them, when Hiroshima is less than three hours away. When Risa e-mailed me to see if I was free today for her family to come visit, I almost said no. How stupid of me.
Luckily I overcame my fear and said yes. So Mr. and Mrs. Miyake and their son Sena came to visit me today. (Risa is currently attending college in Kobe so she wasn't able to come. Another time.) They wanted to go visit the Tottori Sand Dunes, which I had been wanting to see anyway. It was ridiculously great. No one fainted at the sight of me. Mr. and Mrs. Miyake haven't changed a bit. But Sena has definitely grown up- the last time I saw him he was in fifth grade. Mrs. Miyake says the day I left Hiroshima she found him on my bed crying that I'd gone. Now, he's almost an adult- about to graduate high school and plans to attend a college in Hiroshima for Engineering. He works part time at a Ramen shop. In fact, their whole family has cool and particularly Japanese-ey jobs. The dad works at a nori (seaweed) factory, the mom sells menswear, and Risa works at Lawson's, perhaps Japan's most prominent convenience store. What a great bunch. Not only that, but they brought me gifts of an amazing scarf and three pairs of super cute socks, which (aside from chocolate) are my two favorite things in the whole world. Did I mention these are great people?
Now, my state has the Indiana Dunes, which I went to once in fifth grade, but they were nothing compared to this. Tottori prefecture is famous for these dunes. They are literally like mountains. You can peer over them and see the sea. Climbing them made my rear end and thighs burn like mad. And for some reason they had camels that you can pet. The Japanese word for camel is 駱駝 or "rakuda" which sounds for all the world like a loanword (like "terebi" for television or "sutoroberi" for strawberry). But there is kanji for it, so I'm stumped. I can't find the answer so my mind is itching, not that any of you really care about nerdy Japanese language nuances, so I will get back to the dunes. After climing the dunes we went to pet said camels, and for a coupe hundred yen got to do the tourist thing and climb on their back for a picture. I got to pet an especially handsome guy whose hair was whiter than sand. I liked him a lot. I wish I had a pet camel instead of my stinky goldfish. We then bought some omiyage- Tottori's meibutsu or specialty item is its pears, so we bought many a pear flavored item. We then drove back to Matsue and did some shopping before returning home.