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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Looking Back At Ohtawara

Last week, my friend Matthew traveled back to Japan on business in Tokyo and then traveled the 163.9 kilometers north to Ohtawara-shi (City of Ohtawara) in Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) to visit his ailing father-in-law.

Matthew (and his family) have been back to Ohtawara-shi a number of times since he and I were AETs (assistant English teachers) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme between 1990-1993.

While Matthew stayed in Ohtawara few years longer than myself to get married and begin his family.

I trudged home a broken and dejected man after my girlfriend elected to forgo love in order to obey her father who wanted to further his own carer ambitions by not having me anywhere involved in his daughter’s life.

I can only hope he’s dead now.

Not bitter much, I know.

That’s what you get when you read this blog—my true reaction and feelings on a topic.

The photo above was taken by Matthew… it is a view looking north.

The large white building is Zuiko Haitsi (Zuiko Heights)… my old apartment building (apartment #307… why that hasn’t been made into a worshiping shrine I’ll never know!)… once the tallest building in the city (the photo shows the rear of the building)… was a symbol of “eliteness”… it was a three-bedroom, L-D-K, two-balcony place that was made for Japanese families with a lot of money.

Obviously there were other very nice places around the city… oh my goodness…. some of the houses were spectacular… 300-year-old farming mansions that look as new as the day they underpaid peasant carpenters to build it. Awesome. Matthew’s place was pretty darn nice, too… not as large as my apartment, but very nice, nonetheless.

I think that white blocky tower that is part of my apartment complex held the elevator. 

Just in front of the apartment complex is a yellow-painted Catholic Church. Despite being Catholic, I only entered its doors twice—to pass over some mail I had received by mistake (it was written in English, so the postman naturally assumed it was for me)… and once to go and say hello to the priest… who had, as a young man, traveled in to Hiroshima a day after the dropping of the world’s first atomic bomb on a populace, to lend comfort and aid to the distraught citizenry.

The homes in the area surround a much wider 4-lane roadway—only one-lane apiece back then. Some of the older homes were pretty decrepit looking… and after having been swept away recently, Matthew informs me that there’s a park put in its place. Real greenery that doesn’t involve rice.

The city name of Ohtawara translates in English to “Big-Rice Field-Field”… as there were/are apparently a lot of rice fields in the area.

It’s true… you could throw a rock in any direction and hit a rice field or a 7-11. Okay… maybe you needed two throws, but that then would NOT be an exaggeration.

Matthew climbed to the top of an apartment building constructed after he and I left to snap the photo.

Did you know that in three years of living at Zuiko Haitsu, not once did it occur to me to take a photograph from behind my building to capture the mountains.

Hmmm… I wonder if that’s because I felt the front was better? Still… mountains! Mountains with wispy clouds being blown by cold winds…

The mountains in the back some 10 kilometers away from my apartment building are the Nasu mountain range… a bunch of active volcanoes that do emit small plumes of steam… but only when I’m climbing it apparently.

My girlfriend/fiancé lived just south of the mountains… which brings us back to d’oh.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
Andrew Joseph

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