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CouchSurfing and friends in Nagoya

August 8, 2012

Dear Readers:

After Izu, I visited Atami, where I was treated to beers by local shopkeepers at a street festival, Numazu, my friend Kazuya’s hometown, where I met a researcher whose daughter studies American literature in Oregon, Shizuoka, where I saw a colorful shrine called the “Nikko of the West,” Iwata, where I stayed in a hotel inside a warehouse and visited the empty site that 1,500 years ago held an important temple, Hamamatsu, where shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu lived before conquering Sunpu and moving to Shizuoka, and then Nagoya, where I met my friend Naoki for the first time in two years.

Naoki and Toyota

Naoki was my tutor when I studied abroad in Fukuoka, and now he works at Toyota. He’s working in the factory now and will soon have an interview to determine his career path. He wants to do marketing. All the new employees have to work in the factory for a few weeks to understand firsthand how cars are made. We climbed the Toyota building in downtown Nagoya (where he might work soon enough), visited the castle and the festival there, and ate eel at Maruya, a famous restaurant. I wish we could have spent more time together, but even for an afternoon I was grateful to see Naoki again!

Couchsurfing with Hirotsu-san

I found a great host who welcomed me to Nagoya and invited me to do laughter yoga with his friend, the instructor, and a group of mentally handicapped local people. His blog is below. The link links to the post about our day together, and under the link is the translation of the page.

Hakucho no hitori tabi

Or, “A Swan’s Solo Travels”

August 4 Saturday

“My friends invited me to do laughter yoga, so we did laughter yoga with mentally handicapped people. I invited Kieran and he wanted to go along, so we went together.”

Keeping house

Hirotsu-san gave me a lot of valuable advice when we discussed the purpose of life, the meaning of truth, the nature of reality, and the usefulness of religion. He left early on August 5th to go to Nagano and help his friend build a house. He will sell his house and move to the mountains, so he wants practice building. He took a highway bus to Nagano, and will ride his bicycle back to Nagoya after a week. He left me to look after the house. He was invited to attend an early morning meeting of an “applied ethics” society, but he left for his trip, so he kindly suggested I go instead. One of the organizers picked me up at the house at 4:20 AM. As it was August 6th, 67 years after the bombing of Hiroshima, the 5:00 AM meeting was partly Hiroshima-themed. The reading was an eyewitness account of the bombing, and some of the speakers talked about remembering the news of Hiroshima and the unconditional surrender when they were children. Some other members talked about family matters. The focus of the society is a return to life based on the laws of nature, wherein one applies practical ethics to their daily life to improve their happiness and the happiness of those around them. I would like to say more about the society, but perhaps in a different post.

Hirotsu-san’s miniature hostel

I spent most of a day alone at Hirotsu-san’s house. I visited Meijo University nearby, and climbed the 15 story tower, where I was treated to the sunset over Nagoya and the mountains beyond, and below a vast graveyard that couldn’t be seen from the road. Later, another Couchsurfer came to join me. Abdel from Tunisia had surfed with Hirotsu-san before, then left to hitchhike to Tokyo and back. Abdel speaks four languages. He learned French and Arabic growing up in Tunisia, and his impeccable English by watching TV. Since high school he has spent two years at Beijing Language and Culture University studying Chinese. After he graduates he wants to work in another Asian country. We had a lot to talk about, and the next day ate curry together at Green’s K, a cheap buffet restaurant in the neighborhood.

Later on August 7th, another Couchsurfer, Allison, arrived from Osaka. Allison is from Connecticut and speaks Japanese, having studied two summers in Nagoya and Osaka during high school. We are the same age, and both recent graduates. She’s going to spend a while in a temple in Kyoto.

The three of us went out to eat Taiwan ramen, which for some reason is famous in Nagoya. We asked around and found a place called Oolong close to the subway. We ate ramen, then spoke to the staff in Chinese. It turned out they were from Harbin, and came to Japan 18 years ago. They said the Japanese government provided them with many necessities when they moved, so they were grateful and hope people can let the past lie and get along today. A young girl working in the restaurant was the host’s niece, a high school student who was studying Japanese to enter college in Japan.

We drank beers in the park, and saw a group of people setting off fireworks, so we joined them. It turned out they were four swim trainers at a local sports club, and they shared their sparklers with us. We finally got to celebrate the summer in Japanese fashion. We exchanged Facebook names, they left, and we sat for a while longer in the park until a young guy named Shoshi came by and talked with us. A student at Meijo studying economics, he moved to Nagoya from Okinawa for college, and told us about Okinawa’s unique culture.

After a full night, we all slept soundly. At the crack of dawn, Abdel left to hitchhike to Osaka. Allison and I ate at Green’s K and visited Atsuta Shrine. She returned to keep house, and I took a bus from Nagoya station to Osaka.

– Kieran


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