It’s been close to two weeks now that I’ve learned of my placement in Hidaka, and a whole lot of things have happened since then. As a fervent follower of the various facebook groups concerning new JETs, I’ve come across lots of new information about my little town and I want to share my findings with you.
Before I get into that, I’d like to talk about my new friends and fellow JETs. Everyone seems to have the uncanny ability of bonding instantly with strangers from all over the world. What I mean to say is that, even though none of us know each other in real life, we’ve all somehow bonded into instant friendships, exchanging mailing and placement info, and planning vacations in other parts of Japan according to a very nifty map made by a new JET like us, Neill (you can read his lovely blog American in Japan and his adventures in Aomori-ken). As such, I now find myself with a whole new array of friends that will soon be sent to the four corners of Japan, and with whom I now share an unbreakable bond and sense of attachment. I think that’s it’s normal for us to feel this way, seeing as we will soon be thrust into an unknown world and forced to fend for ourselves.
Now unto the good stuff!
Info Packet from the Board of Tourism
A very kindly soul on the forum posted a link to the JNTO website where it is possible to order brochures about various parts of Japan. I went ahead and ordered one of each that they offered, and received the pack today through snail-mail (4 days from Toronto, not a bad deal!).
I got several guides for Tokyo because I’ll be very close to it, as well as for the Kansai region (which I plan to revisit during my stay). They even threw in a guide to Saitama prefecture because I told them I was moving there 🙂 How nice and considerate of them (and this is why I love Japan so much ♥ ).
Now when I heard about this, I almost died of joy. I know that there are several IKEAs around Japan, I even went to the one in Chiba-ken last summer, but I didn’t know they had one in Saitama-ken! This is great news for me, as I was planning on going down to Chiba to shop for some goodies for my apartment.
I’m quite happy I won’t have to take a 3+ hour train to get there; I can just go to Shinmisato to buy my stuff!
I’ve already made a list of things I’m going to be getting for myself from IKEA: cheap, adorable and functional is my motto when it comes to buying accessories. I found the cutest clothes hanger/dryer in the shape of an octopus that I just know will look fabulous on my balcony. I’ll also be getting cushions and new shower curtains (I don’t particularly like the idea of using somebody else’s old ones … yuck). I feel that the IKEA staff and I are going to become best friends over the course of this year ^_^
First off, I love nature and walking around in forests and the likes which, in retrospect, might have affected my placement in Hidaka … Anyway, there is no shortage of mountains in my area ^^ Apparently at the top of Mount Tounosu you can see both the Tokyo skyline (complete with a view of Sky Tree) as well as Mount Fuji at a distance. I sense in my near future a whole lot of hiking up and down these mountains, snapping pictures and maybe even painting some watercolours ♥ I might even start a whole new “36 views of Mount Fuji” collection, some 300 years after the original paintings by Hokusai.
Also, in all of my current fangirl glory (and deep love for the novel NO.6), I plan to go to the top of the mountain and, while overlooking the city, sing this song at the top of my lungs 😀 Might also do the same thing when going down to the nearby river ♥
Totoro no Mori
Speaking of nature, a native of Saitama told me recently about “Totoro no Mori”, Totoro’s Forest. It took everything I had not to start jumping up and down like a 5 year old.
Apparently the scenery in Totoro is based on the countryside of Saitama-ken and as such, in recent years, a conservation movement was inaugurated in Sayama with the hopes of protecting the forest in that area. Appropriately so, it was named Totoro’s forest, to emulate the one represented in the movie.
I can’t wait to visit this awesome place and report back here (complete with videos and slides of course ^^). I’m not really sure what to expect, unfortunately there isn’t a lot of information about this place on the net (even in Japanese, the info is scarce), but maybe that’s an advantage … it will be a complete surprise once I get there! Now if only there were a real Totoro dwelling somewhere in that forest …
Finally, I’ve come to learn that there is an archaeological site in Hidaka, relating to the Jōmon era (Approx. 14000 to 300 BC). Now this must be my lucky year, because 1) I absolutely love archaeology, 2) I am a fan of Jomon pottery and 3) I own several books on the subject and have been to exhibits right here at home. This is so exciting for me, you can’t even begin to comprehend. It’s always been a life-long dream of mine to partake in an archaeological dig and take part of history as I do so. I don’t know if there is a digging site open to the public, but my teacher assured me that there are several of them across Japan where, for a small fee, you can adorn hard-hat and gloves and go digging for ancient treasure *_*
I think that sums up what I’ve gathered so far from my little town flanked by mountains and rivers. Of course, the fact that I’ll be amazingly close to Tokyo isn’t so bad either. I can always hop on a train and zoom downtown for some “modern” shopping & dining (if ever I get tired of looking at flowers and mountains all day long!). I have a list from here to China of things I want to see & do in Tokyo that I didn’t get the chance to do last time so I’m sure I’ll never have a dull moment. I forgot to talk about Saitama city, where a whole lot of stuff happens as well. To me, Saitama sounds like Chiba, a mini version of Tokyo 🙂
If you’re interested, I found this lovely site that introduces travellers to the region: Lovely countryside in Hidaka