Felix, who is part of the larger YES English School calls and says he's popping round to get my computer. It's early Sunday afternoon. He's kindly offered to install some software on it for me. Cory turns up as well and Felix announces they've really come to take me to Asuke. There's a gorgeous river........(I rush for my bathers), a fantastic museum, rave , rave, rave....... It all sounds truly wonderful and I know I've already said yes but hey, I've done no homework all weekend and I just got home 3 hours ago. Pull out. Come on, you can do it.
So that's my Asuke story. Haven't quite made it there yet and I'll jump at the next invitation. I knew I was going to miss out on something special though. And I did. It sounds idyllic. I checked with Cory the next day. But I did some study, didn't I?
But I can tell you about the wild beach party at Hamamatsu in Shizuoka prefecture. That's where I had been until 6.30am that same morning. It came after one of those rather uninteresting barbeques you get invited to as the token foreigner. Performing monkeys isn't far from the truth. Towards the end of the evening we had to entertain the children with a song. I sang the Sukiyaki song which I thought he kids would know. Wrong! The worst part was that there was nothing to quench our thirst , or reward our efforts with except for litres of Ulong Cha which I find unbearable. No water available. Morten and John had been invited - I had let myself be dragged along.
Getting back to the party, Morten had been invited. By a Brazilian he'd bonded with in curious circumstances which I won't go into. So at about 1.00am in the morning we are waiting in the Eden car park for this Paulo to pick us up. Contrary to the doubts we'd been harbouring, he does show and I fall into a serious panic wondering if he's not the guy who followed me home that day. We won't be getting a ride afterall, the car is full of cheaky babes, who, judging by the level of bare flesh, are certainly not Japanese.
A long drive, a little sleep for me, and we park the cars. I walk with our host and confirm, to my great relief, that he is not the stalker. It's a long walk along a road that is suggestive of some tropical paradise. We finally arrive at the beach. The air is sweet, there is the hum of music in the background and there are lights glowing dimly through the dense scrub in the distance. I am beside myself with excitement. I am no longer in Japan. Gone is that feeling of reserve and restraint. This place is buzzing, there's freedom and life in the way these people move.
Over the sand dunes and before us is what appears to be a row of tents and a sea of people. I rush ahead, eager to lose myself in the crowd's euphoria. The band has stopped playing and we walk around the tents selling cocktails that smell of sugar cane and lime, and chunky bits of meat that have been barbequed. I have conversations in Spanish with a few people, a little dance and the party is over. We don't go. The sun is about to set and the place assumes a lunar aspect. Cliches come to mind. We head for the beach. Weird, abstract, concete shapes flank the beach we see before us. we are not prepared for John's bold dash into the water. It's wild out there and he's not in a state to be braving the menacing surf. I think I am about to watch someone drown. To our relief, he comes back looking somewhat refreshed and satisfied with himself.
It's time for breakfast. We eat before joining the pilgrimage back to the cars. There's one guy with attitude - he decides to leave his jeep in the middle of the road, music blaring, while he goes to relieve himself in full view of all of us passers-by. Unnecessary, we think. We notice the caricature of himself painted on his rear window. So naturally we recognize him when we see him further along the road, unhappily providing the policeman with necessary details and his jeep looking a little worse for wear.
Imagine walking accross a long pedestrian bridge. Although it's well illuminated, the moon is shining brightly. You reach the end of the bridge and by the moonlight you can barely make out the carved faces of strange animals at the foot of a flight of weathered steps. The prayers and hopes that hundreds of people have attached to the trees whisper to you as they move with the wind. A white rat makes his way up the stairs and the air is charged with mystery and intrigue. You walk around the island discovering its surprises that greet you at every turn. From one side you can make out another island, from another thousands of tiny lights.
You are on Takeshima. It's opposite the Prince Hotel in Gamagori. Many of my favourite places are near water and this is one of them. In Australia I live near the beach. Water gives me a sense of tranquility. Always. I think it may have something to do with the fact that I have a Venetian background.
I let myself be draggged there by a young Frenchman towards the end of a party one night. He kept insisting I see this wonder of an island and I could never have imagined anywhere so exquisite. Need I say - his intentions were honourable, of course.
While you're there, take a walk around the gardens of the Prince Hotel. I'd like to take a book and sit there one day. If you're curious to see some of the rooms you could also do what some Yamasa students have done and pretend you're considering staying there for your honeymoon.