Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pre-departure: Where I'm Going

Family, friends, casual acquaintances, fellow travelers on the boxcar Earth, welcome to my blog! I think most of you know how negligent I can be in returning emails, calls or visiting, and being separated by several thousand miles of Big Blue will only exacerbate it so I've created this site for you to know what's happening while I live in Japan.
For my first installment I'd like to give you all a primer for where in Japan I'm heading and what it's like there. Everyone, please pull out your big maps of Japan. I'm sure you keep it handy. Japan is composed of four main islands (Honshu, Shikoku, Hokkaido and Kyushu) and hundreds or thousands of tiny ones scattered around its coasts. These islands are divided into administrative districts called prefectures that are analogous to American counties in size and scope. Remember, Japan is about the size of two Californias in total area. The southernmost large island, Kyushu, in its northeastern-most region is the prefecture of Oita. Just north of Oita's geographic center is a town called Kusu, which is actually the amalgamation of a handful of tiny villages. The entire town has a population of just over 18k.
I remember traveling to Tokyo in the summer of 2004 to interview one of Toei's directors and telling him the prefecture and city I was living. His response was "Where?" Now I am in the backwater of even that unknown prefecture.
Do I regret the country placement? When I first heard about being placed in Oita again I was elated, but that wore off over the next few days as I learned how small a town my placement was. On the other hand, I hate the tremendously exaggerated hustle and bustle of the larger Japanese city. Oita City was just right for me when I lived there. Knowing that all JET placements are final I became resigned to my fate, but in recent days, after much research on Kusu, I've learned a good deal and actually have become anxious with anticipation to experience its many supposed charms.
The main town sits in a somewhat-narrow valley with steep mountains abutting it to the north and south. Running through the middle of town is the Kusu River, which looks to be pretty healthy, at least in comparison to plenty of other Japanese rivers I've witnessed. To the south of town is the rather unique Mt. Kirikabu, which is a tree covered mesa like you might see around Arizona, minus the desert. There are several sake breweries in and around town and several onsen for one to soak their weary bones in too. The more I read about it the more it sounds like my personal paradise.
It's damn inconvenient to travel anywhere though. About an hour and a quarter via bus or train to Oita City, an hour and a half to Fukuoka. There's a highway on the north end of town that would cut that time down in half, but it's quite the pretty penny to use it. Not sure about the motor vehicle situation yet anyways.
That's all I can really say about Kusu for now. As I learn more I'll post here. Below are some pics of and around Kusu for you to enjoy. Until then...