May 29, 2006

A Trip to Saga's Dirty South

Well, Kobe was nice enough, although I don't have much to show for it beyond a sheaf of handouts and a few new elementary school lesson plan ideas. I saw a little bit of the city, but only in the course of heading out to dinner in the evenings — as the guides suggested, it looked like a nice city for living, with a strong nightlife and plenty of nice restaurants to choose from, but didn't as much to offer for the visitor as your Kyoto or Sapporo or what have you.

Far more exciting was the Sunday after I returned, when I took a trip to Kashima City to participate in the 22nd Annual Gatalympics. Kashima sits on the southern coast of Saga-ken, with huge mud flats (Japan's largest) stretching out as the Ariake Sea's tides recede — a product of one of the world's greatest tide differentials, with low tide at about six meters below the high point. Every year they have an annual "Mudflat (gata) Olympics", with locals, exchange students (there were even some Bangladeshi folks studying at Saga University) and a crowd of us ALTs mucking about in all manner of games. Saga gaijin came out in force, which the crowd of photographers there clearly loved; my event was the "World Cup", where I was roped together with four other JETs as we made a mad lunge to grab a replica of the real deal placed in the middle of an expanse of mud before some forty or so others made it there first. We didn't quite make it, but we had already been playing around in the mud for a good hour or so waiting for the event to start, so no one really cared. I was too covered in mud to go near my camera for most of it, but the whole thing was a filthy blast, and I'm still cleaning the stuff out of my ears.

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