Sunday, 3 March 2013

Adventures with Friends (Dazaifu)

The week after we met Eiji and Erika we arranged to meet up with another Japanese guy called Naoya. It was cold and raining and when I saw a burger place for lunch that's what we did. I think we spent over an hour and a half in there talking with Naoya about games, language, anime and just random stuff. Then afterwards we went to an arcade and played a few games. Although it was a short afternoon we soon met up with Naoya the following weekend (16th Feb)


So Dazaifu Tenmangu is a pretty famous shrine in Fukuoka (I'd been once before 5 years ago but not since) so allow me to give you some background on the shrine. There was a man called Sugawara no Michizane who was a court scholar around the 870s who's specialities was literature and poetry, and later became ambassador to the Tang Dynasty (China), Consultant and held  a number of other positions in court. Due to political struggles he was stripped of his positions in 901 and exiled from Kyoto and moved to Dazaifu until he died in 902. After his death there were a number of disasters hit Kyoto including storms, drought, diseases etc. So thinking these we the cause of the angry spirit of Sugawara the court re-installed his name and eventually made him the Shinto god Tenjin, and because Sugawara was a scholar people all over Japan now go to Tenjin shrines to pray for good test results. You may have noticed Tenjin is the name of the shopping district in Fukuoka, that's because Sugawara stayed there for a bit before going onto Dazaifu. Also in Dazaifu is apparently one of the oldest plum trees in Japan which Sugawara was said to have brought with him from Kyoto (now the shrine are full of plum trees). I also found out that plums were brought over from China so I imagine Sugawara must have picked them up on his travels to China as an ambassador.

(Me and Wes infront of Sugawara's plum tree)

So I digress, Wes, Naoya, Naoya's friend Kou and myself all went to Dazaifu on a sunny Saturday in Naoya's car. First things first I had to try one of the hot ume gae mochi that were being sold all over the town. They're baked mochi (gewy riceflour) with anko (azuki beans) in the middle and a plum imprinted on the top. I burnt my tongue >< but they were really good!!!

(Me with an ume gae mochi)

We then headed up to the shrine itself which was full of people! And although it was the weekend a TON of school kids. But it is the exam season so I guess that makes sense. I actually got an omamori (a protection/good fortune amulet) from the shrine for study.
Before you reach the main shrine is 3 bridges which are (Kou told me) supposed to be the past, present and future, and it is apparently bad luck to look back as you cross them because it means you're too focuses on the past and not enough on the future.

(Wes and Naoya getting off the bridge of the future~~)

After wandering around the shrine we ended up wandering up this hill/mountain behind it to an Inari shrine (a fox shrine) and then got slightly lost. But the walk was good and we talked about all kinds of stuff.
Once we'd made it back to town we were pretty hungry so went exploring for food. Most of the restaurants were packed though except for this one Korean place which was great cos I'd smelt it as we were walking into town. As long as it's not spicy Korean food is really nomable!

(Omnomnom Korean foods)

We explored the town a little more after that including a small temple but it was getting late and we were pretty tired so headed off home.
But that wasn't the last time we saw Naoya...

Manly Australian Cafe

We couldn't think of what to do with Naoya so asked him to invite some of his friends and we'd all go karaokeing/gaming. Unfortunately only one of his friend's were free so on Tuesday 26th Feb we met up with Naoya and his friend Ayana who he's studied with in Canada for a year. They took us to an Australian cafe called "Manly" in the back streets of Tenjin. We didn't order much but I think spent over 2 hours in there talking about random stuff (including shocking Ayana a bit by how geeky the 3 of us were), and even met by chance a mutual friend of theirs who was there to ask the cafe owner for advice for going abroad. It seems like that was how Naoya and Ayana knew the cafe too. The owner seems to be an Aussi-phile and enjoys giving other people advice on going abroad, but not just to Australia. He was an interesting guy. Although we were only there for drinks we decided we'd go back for dinner some time cos they had kangaroo, crocodile and ostridge on the menu! Omnomnomnom

Fingers crossed more plans will be made with Naoya soon, but in the mean time Wes and I are making plans with other new people we've met through the language exchange site and with our new classmates. More on that later :)

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