Thursday, 29 August 2013

The island of Sado

Saturday 24th August 2013

Weather: Hot. The sun was out for most of the day making it very hot indeed. Thankfully the clouds consumed the sun just as the festival was about to start.

MP3 track of the day: O-Diako (part 2) - Kodo drumers

Rightly or wrongly, today I decided not to set an alarm to allow me to wake up naturally. Time was not on my side however I thought I needed the sleep. I finally woke around 9am to find the sun pouring into my room. Still half asleep I had enough wits about me to realise that today would be hot. I moved into my blog room and continued writing yesterdays blog; I would have loved to have opened the curtains and take in the panoramic view of rice paddies, mountains and the sea however the sun was just too strong. Once finished I had a quick shower and left the hotel. The time; 11 o'clock.

If you imagine Sado as a clock face, Ryotsu is roughly where the '3' should be. Today I would be traveling across to the '9' (visiting Mr Donuts for breakfast along the way) before taking the coastal road north past the 10, 11, 12, 1, and 2 before arriving back at the 3. After this I would drive along the coastal road south past the 4, 5 and 6 finishing at the 7 ('7' is roughly where Ogi is). This was a tough day; it was already getting close to midday and tonight's concert, within Ogi, opened at 5:15pm. Still I ate my doughnut as quickly as possible, got all the way across to the '9' and proceeded north.

The island of Sado is extremely beautiful. As I drove this way and that, I stopped every few minutes for another beautiful photo opportunity. Usually the drive would consist of rice paddies, the cliffs and the sea to one side of me with terraced rice paddies, woods and mountains to the other. This in itself would have been beautiful enough however, what really sets Sado a part, are all of it's little villages. Most of the buildings, either old or new, are built to look old. This is the first time, within Japan, where I have been pleased to see Japanese architecture. Normally buildings are built 'for purpose' with little thought given to aesthetics. Here the buildings seemed to be made of wood with beautiful curved roofs and many wooden sliding doors. Most of my photos included rice paddies, woods, mountains and the sea however, usually, it was a building or two which became the focal point of the photo. I was enjoying photographing Sado so much that I stopped almost every five minutes. After an hour had past by, and I'd only completed 10% of my route, I realised that the photography stops would have to reduce. I therefore limited myself to only the most beautiful views.

I was really enjoying my drive around the north of the island. There wasn't another sole to be seen and, with the rolling hills, mountains, woods, rice paddies and the occasional village I didn't want it to stop. Some may say that, after reading this blog, the terrain seemed to be repeating itself however, even though the main ingredients were the same, the end product was always slightly different. An example of this would have been when I crossed one of northern Sado's many bridges. Instead of looking out to sea I focused inland where I saw a small stream meandering away from, what looked like, a rain forest hanging onto the slopes of the islands inland mountain range.

After reducing my photo stops to one per half an hour, I made it back to Ryotsu around 2pm. Once again everything was closed along the main high street. I did stop to look in some souvenir shops because I desperately wanted a photo book of the island however, like most Japanese souvenir shops, they consisted mostly of food. Slightly annoyed I left and hit the road south.

The south of Sado was similar to the north in many ways. Sado is an island made up of two mountain ranges; one in the north and one in the south therefore, the mountains and trees were still there. The little villages, like in the north, also hung to the sides of the island however, the southern mountains were a lot steeper than their northern cousins meaning that there were less rice paddies. The road too got a lot narrower and, quite often, it was reduced to a single cars width with many 'passing bays'.

The time was rolling on towards 4pm. I was only 15kms out of Ogi and I had stopped to take a beautiful photo of a small village with a huge mountain as the back drop. Getting back into the car I knew that I was now okay for time.

Once in Ogi it immediately became apparent that it was a lot busier than yesterday. I still managed to park however, space was starting to become a commodity which Ogi was running out of. Once parked up I headed back to the market where things were in full flow. After a quick walk around I decided to pin myself to the food stalls. You see, six or seven steps north from the food stalls and things started to get very 'hippy' indeed. Stalls with braided haired staff smiled at you as you gazed upon a collection of 'hand crafts' which looked as though they had been rescued from a skip. Apparently an acorn is worth around £15 as it symbolises 'harmony', 'beauty' and 'being at one with nature'. There were all kinds of baggy clothes for sale. Apparently you have to pay a lot more for a garment which looks as though someone had done a quick job at stitching it together, than you would for a item which has actually being tailored to fit a human being. I hate these 'nut tea drinking, didgeridoo playing, call me Squirrel naming, barefoot hippies. None of them have a job, and when they try to make a bit of money they sell inferior goods and sneer at properly made items as they 'had not made the right of passage from the womb of mother nature', or something like that. With a Jehovah's Witness yesterday, and a strong smell of body odor today, I ate a taco, a cheese nan (which was horrible) and some tandoori chicken before leaving.

I arrived at the concerts ticket gate at around the same time as yesterday however, due to the influx of people, I was way down the line. I was so far down that I was handed an orange card and asked to come back in half an hour. For that half an hour I walked around the village of Ogi where I found little to interest me. I did go into a bookstore, to try to find a photo book of Sado, however, once I realised that the DVD's of porn outnumbered the books on sale, I knew I wasn't going to find anything appropriate.

To prevent everyone descending on the park at once, the spectators are split into three colours (red, blue and orange). It's a 'first come first colour card served' system where, if you have a red card, you enter the park at around 5:15pm. If you have a blue card you enter at 5:30pm and if you have an orange card you enter at 5:45pm. Like I said I had an orange card and therefore entered last. This meant that I was sitting a lot further back than yesterday but it mattered not; the view was still excellent. As soon as I sat down the sun was forced behind thick cloud meaning that sun cream was unnecessary. Unlike yesterday I had brought a bottle of coke with me so I drank that as I waited. Looking around me I realised that I'd made a slight mistake. When picking some where to sit I'd prioritised 'view' over 'neighbours'. The couples, blokes and old people around me were lovely but, as I peered over to my left and across a walkway leading to the stage, I noticed three groups of girls all within one area (and no bloke in sight).

As I'd entered the park last it wasn't long before the concert started. Drums could be herd from behind the stage however, drums could also be herd from behind where I was sitting. I turned away from the stage to see a procession of drummers playing and dancing as they walked down the 'walkway' towards the stage. Once on stage the performers started with a lively beat. The group of lads to my right got up and raced to the dance area where all the other knitted hat wearing, tobacco smoking, acorn tea drinking hippies were dancing (to what tune I had no idea; their moves certainly weren't in time with the music being played) so that they could 'be one with the sounds of the forest'. Another thing which annoyed me was that, it would appear, Japanese people are unable to sit down for more than thirty minutes. I know there were a lot more people today than yesterday, but I don't remember any spectator, from Friday, getting up whilst the performance was on. Today everyone and his wife had to visit the bathroom, buy a drink or stretch their legs. It was getting annoying.

The performance was quite different from yesterday and therefore, I didn't enjoy it as much. Yesterday was all about the drum, however today the drums were accompanied by string instruments and a keyboard. The main performer was playing an old Japanese guitar (called a shamisen) which, though played perfectly, I felt took too much away from the drummers. It would have been great if he had done one or two pieces before giving the stage to the drummers however, he accompanied them for most of the night. Though all of the performers were dressed appropriately tonight, the guy hitting the biggest drum of all seemed to have had his costume stolen. He came out in a white loin cloth and I was hoping, as I am a champion for equal rights, that some of the women would do the same. They did not.

Even though the performance was thirty minutes longer than yesterday (and I'd preferred yesterdays) the time evaporated to the point where I visibly looked stunned that the show was over and two hours had passed. After the drummers final bow, the crowd clapped the performers back onto the stage for another thirty minutes of music. After that the show was really over and so I packed up and made my way back to the car.

Once again leaving wasn't an issue though, with only one main road from Ogi to Ryotsu, I did get stuck behind the slowest car in the world. Originally, after the show, I was going to stop at a restaurant I'd found yesterday however, I found myself not wanting food. Instead I was very tired so I made a brief stop at a convenience store (where they too sold Vanilla Coke!) before getting back to my hotel and hitting the sack; I mean futon.

Before going to sleep I set an alarm for 7am. The time was 11:30pm therefore 7 hours sleep should be fine. Tomorrow the plan is to drive up a mountain to get some photos overlooking the island, before visiting some temples my guidebook recommended. Also I hadn't seen the coastal road from 7 o'clock (Ogi) to 9 o'clock.

Sleeps for losers!

Toodle Pip!

P.S. I'm having difficultly doing the concert justice in words therefore, if possible, when home I'm going to look at the Kodo website to see if there's a DvD of the performance.

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