Using / finding Internet is a little trickier than I thought it would be. At least here in the very south of Japan so posts have been sporadic. Sumimasen.
On Sunday we drove to Kagoshima-shi and explored Sakurajima, the most active volcano on earth right now, according to IB. Driving there was visually rich as we were driving around and through mountains covered in spring explosions. We took a ferry to the island, IB negotiating his way using a GPS in Japanese. On the island and once as we drove behind the island the volcano erupted, big roiling clouds of hot ash pouring out (see picture below). Once we literally felt the shock wave of the volcano right above our heads. Profoundly dramatic and humbling. We then went to Furusato Onsen where we sat in a hot spring heated by the lava of the volcano, watching the sun set over the ocean. The Shinto shrine in the hot springs is located beneath the twisted roots of a 200 year old ficus tree just at the edge of the warm and sacred water. This hot springs was auspiciously discovered about 350 years ago on Buddha’s birthday.
Yesterday we visited one of IB’s schools where we were warmly greeted and embraced by the students and staff. We introduced ourselves to all of IB’s classes as well as participated in all their activities. This was a surprising and complicated experience about which I will post later.
Last night IB gave a party in our honor at a bar / restaurant near his apartment. There were over 50 people who came—members of his volleyball team, his adult english class he teaches, japanese teachers he works with, and the other JETs in the area. It was a tabehodai and a nomihodai (all you can eat and drink). It was loud and spirited and filled with good cheer, community, silliness, and raucousness, but also there was warm conversation and many stories about IB in Japan. One of IB’s many gifts is his ability to create warm and sustaining relationships, clearly even when he is not fluent in the language. This was the palpable magic and energy at this party. Our honoring was really all about his new friends honoring him. Of course, some of that magic and energy was the result of a new alcohol we were were introduced to— shochu. Here in Kagoshima it is made from yams. More on shochu later as well.
This journey feels like a song which is sung at the Passover Seder— Dayenu— it would have been enough. At the end of each day, it is dayenu, yet each day opens up to even more than I can possibly imagine, filled with the beauty of nature, the generosity of spirit of the Japanese (because of the good relationships my son has built), the cultural richness, and the desire of my son to want to share it all with us. Dayenu.