*

Once again, Christmas is coming this year too.christmas tree ornament

For the Japanese, especially for young people, Christmas is a time to spend with their boyfriend or girlfriend. In a way, it is the most romantic time of the year.

When I was younger, I used to enjoy self-deprecating conversations with girl friends, who were single. “ Do you have any plans for Christmas?” “No, how pathetic I am!” But I ceased to matter how we spend Christmas as we got older.

I looked forward to Christmas every year in my childhood, but somewhere along the line, I came to be annoyed by the romantic atmosphere and also by its commercial frenzy.

Which is why I feel uncomfortable every year in this season.

Maybe it’s similar to the feeling I had, when I had seen a  fantastic night view in Odaiba after a business meeting, which had the same romantic atmosphere. I left shortly, because I felt out of place.

But I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

sugamo,tokyo japan / 巣鴨地蔵前

When a single woman asks ” What should I do on Christmas!?” , I’ll give her this piece of advice: Go to Sugamo.

In Sugamo there is a shopping street called “Jizou Dori”. Yes, the street is well-known as a hot spot for old ladies. It is sort of like Takeshita Street for young people.

There is a big temple called Kogen-ji on the street and any dates with 4, the 4th , 14th and 24 th are the temple’s “En-nichi” , the day that its visitors to can receive blessings.

Which means that Decemember 24th is not Christmas Eve but En-nichi for Kogen-ji. The temple is filled with stalls and people.

You would recall Christmas when talking of red color, but in Sugamo red is the color of underpants sold by Maruji, the world’s first red underpants shop. Because it’s said that the red color energizes you and makes you healthy, the underpants is very popular among the elderly.

I bet you can get away from the romantic atmosphere of Christmas if you go to Sugamo on Christmas Eve.

The elderly people who come to visit, and the street is full of energy.

巣鴨 SugamoWhen I visited there once, I saw a group of old ladies in their seventies in front of a stall selling crystal-like power stones, talking with deep thoughts.  “ It takes million years for these stones to be formed. It makes me feel like I am nothing! “

Those old ladies made me feel like I was like a baby. At that moment, I thought that life might not be so bad after all.

The Christmas Eve which I had soft shell turtle for lunch on the street, was an impressive but also an unforgettable one. Maybe it’s because I did something that normally doesn’t tie in with the image of Christmas.

Sugamo is a fun place to visit anytime, so I recommend you to visit there once too.

*

三日月 

I had to get up 3:00 am to get on the plane from Cebu. I was surprise to find a big black dog sleeping on the floor of my room when I woke up before a worker knocked on the door. I often see the dog was lying on the bathroom floor of the main house. I wonder if he knew I was leaving.

I also found out I had a hang over. I drank Bombay Sapphire having sarupos with the family’s dad too much.

I saw some of the staff waiting for me when I went out of the lodge in the dark, feeling a bit woozy. I got on a boat with M-chan as they sent us off. It was time to say good-bye to Caohagan island.

Sailing through the darkness, the boat sped up. We were back of the world of Life of Pi.

The crescent moon was beautiful.

マングローブ

mangrove

Caohagan island has nothing special, but is a rejoiceful island.

People are never rich but they are happy all the time and say they love this island where there family live.

Staying in Caohagan would give you a moment to think about prosperity and happiness. A young islander said to me, “ Japanese people have everything but they are not happy, right? “ I heard many Japanese who visited the island said so. Do they really mean it? It just sounds like a cliché. Aren’t they just being too numb to realize and feel their happiness or joy? I should figure out my appiness, as I feel being numb too.

In the slow time flow of this island, I also felt that if you want to make a change in your life, you need much energy to make it happen.

I had to work the next day I came back to Japan, and it snapped me back to my daily life. I felt like I had been away so long but in fact, only a few days had passed. The days in the island seemed like unreal, though the many bug bites proved they were real.

Do I want to visit Caohagan again? Yes!

I cannot express how thankful I am for my encounter with M-chan, and the family of three whom which I was able to spend a wonderful time with.

アートThe end

photo by: detsugu

*

I strolled around the village on the island on the last day of my trip. Here and there I found stores, which were creating a nice atmosphere.

お店1 お店4

Caohagan has an age pyramidal with the youngest generation being the most populous, so you see many kids here. Some friendly kids remembered and called my name when we saw each other. They’re so cute!

ちびっこ1 ちびっこ2 CMみたい おねえさん

 I saw an old woman making a quilt. One third of the income of Caohagan is from selling quilts. At the Quilt House, you see women making quilts including some teenagers too. I bought some small ones made by the teenage girls.

キルトのおばちゃん キルト

As one of the optional activities in the afternoon, I went for a walk on the beach with the family that was staying at the same hotel as I was.

You can easily find sea creatures in the shallows, like urchins, asterids, sea cucumbers, and more. It’s a shame that not everything is edible, even if the asterids look like some kinds of sweets. On the other hand, some edible but grotesque creatures are so tasteful, like the sarupos.

これがサルポ。美味。

Sarupo

ヒトデ ヤドカリ

They are even good fresh. When someone go for beech walk, marinated Sarupos in vinegar would be served. I hope you enjoy its crunchy texture when you visit Caohagan.

After the walk, I took a nap in a hammock. I was only a sleep for les than an hour but I felt so good waking up but I felt so good.

ハンモック

So I spent some time at a café before it opened.

カフェアート

Yes, there is a café in Caohagan. You could even have the rare “kopi luwak”, coffee, which in the Philippines is called aramid or civet coffee.

This coffee costs 600 peso in the café, but on the other hand freshly made coconut milk, which are made after taking the other, only costs 100 peso. You could see how pricy the coffee is.

It had a mild taste. I wouldn’t say I have a good taste , but I could say that it had a rich taste…maybe.

I bet you would enjoy spending some time in this café if you visit Caohagan. You would be lucky if you see a singer there. He plays the guitar and sings Japanese pop, the Beatles, or local music.

ワンコ

It was M-chan and my last day on the island, but we all had so much fun at the Saki bar. It was just a couple of days, the family, M-chan and I spend together, but we became really good friends. The family’s mom was from Fukushima, the same prefecture I’m from, so we enjoyed talking about local topics.

We all sang in Japanese to a guitar a bit drunk dad of the family played.

Rum Calamansi with ice was so yummy. I have never appreciated ice in a drink as that.

It had been a while since I last been able to have so much fun with my entire heart. I was even a bit surprised at myself.

The time that had gone by at the island was slow and rich. I felt very rich time went by slowly. It’s maybe because life on Caohangan is as pure and simple as how freshly extracted juice is.

カラマンシーラム

To be continued.