Thursday, May 23, 2013

Matsuyama Castle, Dried, Deep Fried Squid and the Oldest Bar in Matsuyama

Thursday marked another full day of activities in Matsuyama.  In the morning, I hiked up a steep, unmarked trail leading up a mountain situated not far from our accommodations for an astonishing view of the city.  We had heard about it from Ken, the lead faculty from CLC. At the top was a small Shinto Shrine.  It was quite the work out getting up there.  Later that afternoon we would hike up another mountain in the city to see the famous Matsuyama Castle.  It is the oldest and most complete castle in Japan. No one actually lived there but rather it was used as a point of defense for the city if needed. It was originally built on the other side of the city closer to the coast, but was moved to,it's current location for strategic reasons.  It required the builders at the time to move the local river that flowed thought the city.  Give his took place in the 1600s, it is particularly impressive to consider.  As it turns out, the castle was never attacked and as our guide told us, could be considered one of the biggest wastes of tax payer money in history.  

After we toured the castle, the lead faculty from both schools, Ruth and I met with the President of Ehime University for a brief time.  Ken, Tamara and I then went to a Japanese leadership class to observe how students are being taught how to develop their leadership skills.  The class was conducted in Japanese, but some of the co-teachers translated for us so we could better follow the conversations.  

After class we went out for dinner at a Japanese Fusion restaurant where I got to try dried, deep-fried squid.  It looked like fried onion strings, but definately was more chewy.  I have to say that I prefer the hydrated kind of squid--calamari.  Although, we had intended to head back to the hotel after dinner, Ken was interested to show us the oldest bar in Matsuyama, which he had visited during a previous visit.  We wandered around for awhile looking for it and conferring with many different people about its location.  One thing that makes finding such places even more difficult is that there are no street names in Japan.  Rather, addresses are based on neighborhoods and the order of which buildings/homes are constructed.  I can hardly imagine how everyone eats around.  I would hate to try and navigate in a bigger, more crowed city like Toyko.  Just as Tamara and I were thinking the bar was a figment of Ken's imagination, we found it. It was the tiniest little bar I have ever been to, but it was probably one of the nicest.  The bartenders/owners of the establishment are a cute, elderly couple in their 70s, if you can believe it.  They didn't speak English, but you could tell by their faces, that they were kind hearted persons who had good humor and loved what they were doing.  And you could tell by the regulars that they loved the owners.  I'm not normally one to visit bars these days anymore, but I am grateful for the opportunity to meet the owners and see this place myself.  The owners do not have children and so it is hard to know how long this bar will be there.  I asked them how long they intended to run their business, and they said as long as their health allowed.  May they have long life.

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