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Cranes are Supposed to Bring Good Luck!!!

January 4, 2010

Yesterday I went for a drive out to the crane wintering grounds up in Izumi, Kagoshima.  My friend from the radio station, Ono-san, went with me.  We stopped off first at “The Niagara Falls of Japan.”  I was going to wander around and see if I could find a better spot to capture the whole falls in a picture, but I ran into a nice older couple who wanted to take me out to lunch.  So, this is the picture you get.

We had a really nice conversation with the older couple from Kumamoto.  The husband kept making a bunch of bad puns and seemed really happy that he had someone to listen to him.  I hope they come and visit me here in Miyakonojo someday, and maybe I’ll get a chance to go stay at their place in Kumamoto sometime.  After lunch, I found a cute little cell phone strap with a kappa enclosed in a glass drop of water.  The cool part is that inside the glass, around the little kappa, is real water from the waterfall.  As soon as we left the building, I spotted this giant blob up in the rafters.

They tell me it's a bee hive.

It’s a bee hive!!!

Well, after that, the man still wanted to hang out with us, so he asked if he could come with us to Izumi to see the cranes.  We drove along, caravan style, with him leading the way.  He drives like a maniac and I could barely keep up.  We careened around a one-lane mountain road (with two-way traffic) and finally wound up in Izumi.  As we were coming into town, I noticed a terrible screeching sound coming from the front of my car when I pressed the brakes.  Uh oh, I know that sound.  I signaled the car in front with my lights that I was having trouble and then pulled into a convenience store.  I had a pretty good idea that my brake pads were worn down to nothing.  I ran across the street to a rental car place and asked if they knew of any place close by that might be open and able to take a look at my brakes.  The guy behind the counter was super nice and, after finding out that I didn’t know the area, he jumped in his car and led me down the road to the service station.  He got me set up with the people there and then waited around to make sure I would be okay.  I was really touched by how friendly he was and how concerned he was about my plight.  Anyway, the gas station guy got the tires off and, sure enough, the pads were completely worn down on the front driver’s-side wheel.  He called around a bit, but all the parts stores in the area were closed (it was a Sunday, and only two days after New Years, and almost everybody in Japan closes down for the week surrounding New Years).  So, he put it all back together, told me I could probably make it home if I didn’t use the brakes, and then saw me off down the road without charging me a dime.  Man, people in Izumi sure are nice!  So, feeling slightly less than safe, I drove off towards the crane park, using my emergency brake and applying only enough pressure to the foot brake so that the brake lights would come on.  I wasn’t going to come all the way out here and then turn around before seeing the cranes!

The park was amazing.  There were over 11,000 cranes there the day that I visited.  I didn’t really get any good pictures there, and I think it’s because I had my camera on sports mode that all the pictures turned out really grainy.  Oh well, here are a couple shots from the park.

We drove down the coast and stopped a couple of times to look at the scenery along the way.  The whole day was just packed with beautiful views.  I bought a whole bag of giant fruits that are kind of like really big grapefruits except that the peel is super thick and you have to peel the sections on the inside too if you want to get at the pulp.  It’s a lot of work to eat one, and it’s pretty sour, but it’s a fun challenge and I feel like I’m getting pumped full of Vitamin C.  I also really like to support little fruit stands by the side of the road, especially when doing so offers me views like this.

Okay, so that sort of counts as my first sunset of the year.  I also saw this cute little bird in the evening light.

Alright, I know there have been a whole bunch of birds in this post.  But…  Did you know how beautiful crows can be?  Especially when you get out of your car to take a picture of a sunset and you discover that there are thousands of crows roosting in the forest nearby.  Thousands!

Crows on a blood-red sky

This is actually what it looked like (although I haven’t done any tricky Photoshoppery, nor do I ever, to any of the pictures I put up here).

It gets better…

And the final shot of the evening.

I really should put up some pictures of the thousands of cranes and the thousands of crows, but I didn’t get anything I’m all that excited about showing you.  So, I’ll just have to go back again sometime and see if I can capture that as well.  We had dinner at a cute little cafe somewhere south of Kumanojo.  It had a beach bum theme, with an upside down VW logo, a bunch of umbrellas, and a single pool table.  Part of it’s a restaurant, part of it’s a bar, and the two guys who ran the place were really laid back about everything.  I had the chef’s choice rice dish, because when I asked what was in it the guy told me that it depends upon the mood of the cook, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to see what sort of mood he was in.  It was delicious.  Ono-san had omelette-rice with a cheese sauce, and I tried a bit of that too and it was scrumptious.  I’d like to go back there someday.

Anyway, now I have to figure out whether it’s worth it to go through all the repairs my car needs and get it ready for the car inspection in March, or whether I should junk it now and get a newer car with the inspection already built into the price.  Unless it gets exorbitantly expensive, I’m going to stick with what I’ve got and get it all fixed up for a couple more years.  It’s hard to find such a good little car as the one I’ve got, and there’s really nothing wrong with it, so I might as well take care of it for awhile longer.

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