10 September 2008

Hosting my host family and a weekend trip

Last Sunday, I woke up a little bit early than my normal weekend schedule. I had invited my host family for a 'Nepalese style' lunch at my place. I have experienced the Japanese home-stay along with several lunches & dinners at my host family's house. And I have also invited my host family for dinners in the past when my own family was here in Japan. However, this time I was going to offer them my self-made 'Nepalese style' lunch (well! with my cooking capabilities, I don't know what I should be calling it!).

I prepared (cooked) Rice, Daal or Pulse (Edible seeds of various pod-bearing plants like peas or beans or lentils etc.), Tamatar ko Achar (Instant tomato pickles), Mixed-vegetable's fry, Chicken curry (A pungent dish of chicken flavored with curry powder), Salad etc. (etc. here doesn't mean end of thinking capacity, by the way!). The number of items that I was cooking was a bit less than what I would have liked. However, I could hardly manage that many items by their scheduled time of arrival.

My host family joined me at my residence at around 11 o' clock & I warmly received them. I offered glasses of juice to them before we sat for a round of casual talks on various issues. The issues included my recent trip to Nepal, whereabouts of my family, the calamity caused by Koshi (river) floods, the general people's perception over newly formed Maoist government etc. etc.. I was surprised by the amount of knowledge & enthusiasm they showed in my country's current affairs.

At around 12 o' clock, we decided to take the lunch. I served to them & for myself too, and was anxiously waiting for their response if they liked the food. Though, I knew that they are not going to say something 'negative' for the food that I had prepared (as a courteous manner). It appeared that they actually liked the taste of food items (that's what I could guess!). Especially, my Okaasan (host mother) seemed to be quite surprised by the effort I had put in to cook those items! I felt more than happy that they enjoyed Nepalese food and found it 'good', at least as a 'change'. By the way, we continued to exchange ideas & information about Nepalese cuisine during the lunch. After the meal, I served some sweets which I have brought from Nepal.

I presented them with a souvenir that I had brought from Nepal. It was a typical wooden carved 'Mayur Jhyal' (Peacock window). It's worth mentioning that Nepal has achieved unique position in the field of woodcraft. Traditional craftsmanship in the country is known for it's skill more than the material. It displays different meanings, emotions, and myths. The expertise of Nepalese craftsmen in this field can be seen in the intricately carved items. My host family happily accepted the gift and could not stop praising it.

It was around 1 o' clock when we decided to go for a weekend drive. This time we decided to have a trip to Fukuyama which is located at the southeast end of Hiroshima prefecture and is about 100 km far from the Hiroshima city. Soon, we were on the highway heading towards Fukuyama.

It took us about 1 hour to get to the Tomonoura area of Fukuyama, which is 14 km south of Fukuyama station at the tip of the peninsula. It's a historical port town. It's name literally means 'the harbour of Tomo'. The beautiful green islands floating in the calm Seto Inland sea is often reffered to as the Aegean sea of Japan. There are several landmarks and historical remains in this port town. Tomo-no-ura Seto Inland sea national park is one of the major scenic spot. The small verdant islands in the calm Seto Inland Sea is like a masterpiece. The area is blessed with hot springs containing radon, so the visitors can relax their body and soul in this picturesque spot.

In the days before ships had engines, those who visited Tomo by sea relied mainly upon the flow of the tides to navigate, with some help from winds and rowers. To leave Tomo for either east or west, the travelers simply waited for the tides to turn. The geographical features also made Tomonoura an ideal natural harbour with calm seas. Even these days, one can see many people resting and fishing there in the inland sea. I managed to capture an image with people fishing and relaxing (below):

Municipal ferry boats are available for Sensui Island, which is part of the Seto Inland Sea National Park. The rocky island offers great hiking and beautiful beaches. There are a few hotels near the pier as well.

Tomonoura, essentially a small fishermen's village, is beautifully situated on the Inland Sea of Japan, facing Sesui-jima Island.

The town has over 20 temples and remarkably well preserved merchant houses. Please take a look of the Japanese traditional houses used by fishermen and merchants in past:

After spending a little over two hours in Tomonoura, we proceeded to see Myooin Temple. It is believed to have been founded in 807. It's main hall is the oldest existing architectural blend of Japanese and Chinese styles; the former employed for the main hall and the latter for the details. The five-storied pagoda is the fifth oldest among the pagodas which are designated as the Japan's national treasures. In addition to the pagoda, Myooin's main hall is also designated as a national treasure. Below is a glimpse of Myooin Temple:

On the way, we also saw jinja (Shinto shrine), which you can see in the picture below. A Shinto shrine is a structure whose main purpose is to house ("enshrine") a Shinto kami, and is usually characterized by the presence of a shinden (also called honden) or sanctuary, where the kami is enshrined. The shrine is popularly known as Sado-inari shrine.

Our Next destination was Fukuyama castle. Fukuyama Castle was built in 1619. It was one of the greatest castle of the Edo Period but was mostly destroyed in the air raids of 1945 (world war II). The castle and the turrets (watch tower) are now splendidly reconstructed. There is a good collection of samurai armor and artifacts from castle life and a few parts dedicated to pre-castle history.

There is a new 'park-type' museum linked with Fukuyama castle park where, a large collection of 20th century European art and works of local artists are displayed. You can find the view of Fukuyama museum of art in the image below:

It was almost 6 o' clock and we had to get back. It was, indeed, a wonderful trip: an oppurtunity to explore the historical port town of Tomonoura & Fukuyama city. Finally, we were on the way back to Higashi-Hiroshima (the place where I live in Japan).

There are plenty of things to see in Fukuyama and near by areas. The list also includes Rose Park (In their best seasons, 5,500 beatiful roses of 280 varieties come into full bloom in this park & Fukuyama Rose Festival, held every mid-May centers around this park. Fukuyama is popularly known as 'the city of roses') and Fukuyama Auto & Clock Museum (Vehicles and clocks from the old days are displayed inside. Commercial mini-trucks nicknamed and loved as "ratting tricycles" in addition to vintage cars will bring you a feeling of nostalgia).

Around 7 o'clock in the evening, we were back to Higashi hiroshima. I really enjoyed the weekend trip with my host family. And I hope that you too have enjoyed reading this post.

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Alok said...

Nice pictures & description! I wish to be there in those pictures. Hope you will continue to have such trip experiences to share with us.
By the way, I know that you can cook well...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I read your post and happy to see that you are enjoying life here. No doubt that your host family liked what you cooked, as I liked it when you kindly invited me. More than the good points in the scenery around there , I think it is because of the nice way you describe it.

Lukmanul Hakim said...

Sure I love this post. I guess I am not that lucky to have an opportunity to visit many places here in Japan. LOL. Anyway, perhaps sometimes you should let me enjoy your famous cook, friend. Hahahaha.... :D Cheers!

Ramesh said...

Deependra ji, thanks for posting those beautiful pictures with details!
And those curries and pickles must have been very much delicious, as I also had luck to have enjoyed them several times!

Anonymous said...

Dear Alok, 'anonymous friend', Lokman & Rameshji,
Thank-you all for your lovely comments.
Dear Lokman, I am sure that you will get opportunity to travel around Japan in days to come. & of course, we will have a dinner together, someday !

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos and wonderful warmth you share with your Japanese host family. I love Fukuyama also and attend the annual Rose Festival..
Aloha from Hawaii

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