Those of you who are long term readers of the honTony blog, or those of you who have talked to me about my life in, or outside of, class, will remember that I am a country boy at heart. You can click here to see a photo from a previous posting if you haven’t seen before, or have forgotten, the beautiful countryside around where I grew up.
Although I work in the centre of a huge urban area, from where I live in Otori, it doesn’t actually take so long to escape hustle and bustle of the city. So, today, before I went to shop for some new shoes, I decided to take a short train ride south from Hagoromo on the Nankai line, past Kansai airport and Rinku town, towards Misakikouen. I have taken Hugo down there a couple of times by train and each time we have noticed a huge park, which runs along the oceanside, before you get to Misakikouen itself: today, I thought I would have a look for future reference. So I grabbed my camera, cycled to Hagoromo, and jumped on the first train in the direction of the countryside!
Half-an-hour later, I found myself getting off the train in a little place called Hakkotsukuri, or something very similar. After walking for about 5 minutes, in the general direction of where I imagined the sea would be, I arrived at a little harbour full of fishing boats, with dozens of sagi (one of my favourite birds, I have to say) perched on rooftops, lamp posts and boat masts.
Just before the harbour, I noticed an interesting sight: somebody was drying wakame in the weak winter sunshine. I spoke to an oldish woman who was warming herself next to an open fire, and she told me that she had hung the wakame the previous day and that it would take a few days yet until it was properly dry. As I spoke to this really friendly lady, I noticed another sagi sitting on the rooftop of her old house behind the drying wakame.
I walked around the harbour looking for good photos and observed some fishermen cleaning out their small fishing boats. As I walked around the corner, and over a small river, I came to a small cove, with a sandy, but dirty, beach. I noticed two women on some rocks next to the calm ocean with their arms in the water up to their elbows. I wandered over and said hello and asked them what they were doing. They told me they were looking for clams (asari) and showed me a big bag full of fresh shell fish, and I thought how tasty they would be in a paella, or a risotto.
As I wandered back to the beach, I noticed piles of brilliantly coloured seaweeds next to the water: konbu and wakame, and several other varieties I can’t put a name to. How much nature was I going to encounter on this walk, I asked myself.
I struggled up the hill away from the empty peachy-peachy beach, making a mental note to return there in the early summer, when I am sure it will be thronging with young people having fun, and found myself outside a store house surrounded by oversized vegetables, mainly hakusai and cabbage.
As I looked down the side of the store house, I was reminded that spring must be just around the corner when I saw some gorgeous, brightly-coloured daffodils (suisen). Of course, as I am Welsh by birth, these are my favourite flowers – the national flower of Wales.
After I stopped to smell these beautiful, delicate yellow flowers, I started to walk along the railway line to the next station, suddenly remembering I was supposed to buy some shoes – all this nature had made me forget about the awful chore of shopping!
As I entered the village of Tannowa, just off route 26, I noticed a few people standing outside what looked like an empty shop. On closer inspection, I discovered it was a fish shop. An empty fish shop. However, there was notice on the door that suggested something was going to happen at 3.30pm. It was 3.27pm and I figured the shoe shopping could wait three minutes, so I hung around with the obachans, waiting for what I guessed would be some kind of delivery.
Sure enough, at just after 3.30pm, a little white truck pulled up outside the shop, and while the village’s school kids stopped to practise their English with the pink-faced gaijin, we all gathered round to see what was in the back: a whole array of locally caught fish!
Everything was so cheap! There was fugu at 1000¥ for the whole tray and a kilo of sardines for 300¥. Live prawns were being sold at 1000¥ for a huge box, and the obachans were practically fighting over the baby octopus and squid. Some of the fish was unknown to me, and looked like it had come from another planet, so I asked what they were called. Okoze, came the reply, devil fish I thought. Very odd-looking!
Here are some photos of the locally-caught fish they were selling at such ridiculously low prices.
I wandered back to Tannowa station to get the train back to Sakai to buy some shoes, and I couldn’t help but think how sometimes you don’t need to go anywhere unusual to feel something special. I saw so many beautiful and interesting things on my little walk, just a half-an hour train ride from home, and I came home refreshed having met several local people who were so kind and friendly, just what you expect in the countryside.
One thing that sticks clearly in my mind now, that I didn’t take a photo of, is the memory of the daikon growing out of the ground outside the wooden store house. Comingg out of the top of these vegetables were the most delicate little white flowers: another sure sign that spring is almost here. And I still don’t have any shoes, the shopping can wait! 🙂