The ‘ Workaway’ placement was agreed for a month, but we hadn’t thought much about our onward plans. Japan had to be explored, and Christmas was rapidly approaching. It was going to be a very strange Christmas not being with either my family in Europe or with Becky’s side in Cape Town. It was important to make it as special as possible for the kids as they would be especially homesick.
An old friend of mine from my hometown Enfield in London had reached out to me knowing we were in Japan. He had been living in Tokyo with his family for 5 years, and had kindly offered for us to stay with him over the festive period – it was a relief that Christmas was sorted and it wouldn’t just be the 4 of us.
I could see Yoshi was stressed the week prior to us leaving and I figured it was due to the end of year party for his football academy which was being held after our planned leaving date. With me not there Yoshi would have to hire an assistant and he was struggling to find one. Becky and I decided that the right thing to do was carry on our trip down south, but cut it short to return to Moriyama and stay a couple of nights in order for me to help Yoshi. The news was met with huge gratitude, and our tearful goodbyes with our Japanese family were put on hold!
We took the train down to Osaka; excited for exploring a brand new city. It was a treat to have our own apartment, as minute as it was, especially one with heating. The first night we managed to find a quaint little eatery that had all the local delicacies. The place had seating for about 10 customers, and asides from us there was only a business man in there. He soon saw our bewilderment looking at the menu which was only in ‘Kanji’ so in broken English managed to help us. We spent a good couple of hours trying out new dishes and knocking back a few Shochu’s with him.
A visit to Ikeda, a train short ride away to visit the Cup Noodle museum had been hugely anticipated by the kids, and it didn’t fail to deliver. Upon arriving at the train station it was impossible to miss the way to the museum as there was a constant steam of people clutching Cup Noodle bags containing their unique creations. Instant noodles are an institution in Japan, and it was interesting to learn about the continuous hard work the founder – Momofuku Ando – did to perfect his creation, and also his subsequent work in the food industry. We got to design our own cups, choose various flavours and ingredients before seeing the creations sealed.
It was a whirlwind tour of Osaka, as were the following days in Kyoto, but both gave us a flavour of these exemplary cities that had the perfect balance of cutting edge technology and architect mixed with pockets of beauty. We satiated out knowledge for different parts of the the Japanese culinary spectrum, eating in convenience stores, from vending machines, street food and traditional restaurants.
The long complicated train journey back to Moriyama from Kyoto was avoided by opting for the more expensive but highly efficient Shinkansen bullet train. Kana picked us up from the same convenience store by the station like she did 5 weeks ago, and we lamented on how in that time things has changed, and how our two families had bonded. A Christmas dinner had been prepared in our honour, complete with a mash potato Christmas tree adorned with broccoli and cherry tomatoes. The purpose of our return was for me to help Yoshi with the end of year event for the football academy; matches, followed by a buffet dinner in a restaurant, a charity auction and presentation from Yoshi about his rice farm. Everything went to plan, and everyone was happy all round. The inevitable emotional goodbyes were said the following morning, and promises were made for rendezvous somewhere in the world within the next few years. This was one promise that would certainly be honoured.