I was asked by Mr. Tanaka from the International Center of the Momoyama University if I was interested in going to Tsuyama, a small town in Okayama prefecture during the weekend of 30th/31st October. The invitation came from professor Kishida of a university in Tsuyama and since she asked for a male and a female foreigner I went together with Nicole, an exchange student from Italy at Momoyama. We were supposed to try cake and answer a questionnaire for Mrs. Kishida’s students.
The meeting point was at 8:45 in the morning at the bus station in Osaka, so to be sure that we’d make it in time, we left at 7am. The fact that I had caught a nasty cold the day before didn’t really make getting up so early any easier. Since we had a detailed description of how to get to the bus station it sounded pretty easy, but of course it wasn’t. After asking several people, we finally reached the station 2 minutes after the bus had left. Everyone else had already gone ahead but thankfully Mrs. Kishida waited for us. I think we did a good job on making an amazing first impression.
We had to take the bus that left 30 minutes later and after a 3 hour ride we finally arrived in Tsuyama and were able to meet the rest of the crew. It was a very diverse gathering of people, promising an interesting weekend. First of all we went to eat lunch, but since the restaurant we chose was too small to hold the whole group, we had to split. I got lucky and got into the funny restaurant, where the owner was pretty old and asked us about six times which food we had ordered until it finally arrived.
After that we went to do what we actually came for and that was eating cake and judging it. Every year there is the so-called “Sweets Festival” in Tsuyama, where one can choose 3 pieces of cake out of about 90 different types. So after choosing and eating our cakes we answered a few questions about why we chose them, which of them we liked most, etc., and that pretty much already concluded our duty in Tsuyama. From there on out it was all about enjoying the weekend (as if eating cakes wasn’t enjoyment).
We then walked around the town which wasn’t overrun by tourists, so one could get a much more authentic, first-hand experience of Japanese life. In the evening we went to check in at our ryokan and since I’ve never stayed at one before I was pretty impressed. Everything was clean and neatly prepared, it was quiet and one never felt rushed, like it sometimes happens in western style hotels. After checking out the rooms we left our luggage there and went to an Izakaya. We had a lot of fun there and several locals, some of who we would also meet the next day, came by to say hello. It was as if everyone knew everyone in one way or another in Tsuyama.
After taking the obligatory group photo we returned to the ryokan where I first put on the yukata, while the others prepared some tea. After the tea I went to take a bath and when I returned everyone was already asleep. So I did the same and slept amazingly well. Now that I know how comfortable a futon can be, I need to pimp mine too I guess. It’s like once you tried a kotatsu you can’t go back to a normal table, especially not during winter.
The next day started very interesting with a Japanese breakfast which is not one of my favorites. I don’t really eat much in the morning and if I do it’s something light, but fish and stuff like that is a bit too strong in taste. But I tried my best and what I couldn’t eat I just gave to Nicole, who can eat pretty much anything anytime. After the breakfast we strolled in Tsuyama’s old town which is an area around Tsuyama castle where many houses are built in traditional style. Some of them are museums and can be entered, all free of charge. The attendants were usually elderly couples, who were eager to show everything they had to the few visitors that came every day. It was really very quiet and contemplative. In the afternoon it started to rain heavily so we didn’t go to Tsuyama castle as planned, but instead split into three groups. I went with the group that was going to the natural history museum. After we had seen everything we gathered again at the Tsuyama tourist center and everyone bought some souvenirs. We also answered some final questions concerning the tourism in Tsuyama.
In the evening we went to the bus station and after many goodbyes returned to Osaka. On the way I also got the crazy idea of having to try a bus toilet, which I had never done before. It was a stupid idea. The ceiling was maybe half my height and I hardly got inside let alone being able to turn around. But somehow I managed and live to tell the story.
It was a very nice weekend that I will keep in good memory and I made many new friends. I hope to be able to go to Tsuyama again soon.