More apologies for the long delay! This time I have a really good excuse. Besides my internet breaking again and being really busy at work, I got a contract for Treasure Traitor with Double Dragon Publishing! It’s a small, e-book and print on demand paper back publisher, and I`ve been ripping my hair out trying to decide if it`s the right time/right choice. I got an email from a Christian agent I sent the book to who says it`s not ready yet. She loves the story, but it`s just not good enough yet. She said she was really glad she waited on publication so that her writing could mature. But then I looked up her name on google and couldn`t find a single thing she`s written. Maybe she waited TOO long, or in other words, hasn`t published at all. She also cautioned me against an ebook publisher since I likely won`t be able to sell the paper rights to anyone else for at least five years. But ebooks are sort of the new thing now, and she strikes me as a little old fashioned. Other people feel I`m ready, that this is a good opportunity, but I have a really sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I just can`t shake. What`s wrong with me? I`ve strived for ten years to get a contract with a publisher and worked really hard on this submission specifically, and this is my all-time dream. Is my anxiety from God or is it self-induced? I asked God to give me a clear, decisive answer, and when I read my devotional for that night it was about "waiting on the Lord." The sermon on Sunday was about resisting temptation and not giving into the devil's lies. But then when I prayed about it today, my devotional was Ephesians 5, which includes the verse "Be very careful, then how you live-- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's Will is." I was so certain God was telling me no before I read that. Is this my big chance or would I be making a mistake? The timing SEEMS perfect, just after I get back from Japan. But then, maybe receiving the email from the agent at the exact same time is also "good timing." Double Dragon is also interested in the sequels, so that would give me something definite to work on with deadlines. But I can`t help but notice that some of the books they publish are a little lacking in editorial quality, as if they could have used a few more good revisions, and they don't seem very selective, but they have some award-winning authors too. Ug, I drive myself crazy! I haven`t been able to sleep or eat for three days. I hate to keep them waiting and should probably give them my decision soon. I just wish I could tell the future, sometimes, you know? Or maybe I just need to trust God more.
Anywho, back to my vacation with Mom. (There`s nothing like procrastination!) Saturday morning, we went to akame guchi! Well, there was a bit of a communication mix up and Mom took a little long getting ready. We almost missed the 10:00 bus to the falls, but caught it just in time. It was so full! But it’s no wonder everyone wanted to go to the waterfalls; the weather was perfect. Once we arrived, we stopped by the salamander center just before the main path. Japanese salamanders are HUGE! But check out this little Mexican guy with the red gills. He’s cute:
Here’s the river leading up through the waterfalls. It’s really pretty in the morning, with a bit of mist steaming off the water.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t too buggy. The river spills over a total of forty-eight waterfalls and leads through a primeval forest of mostly cedar and fern. It’s quite…enchanting. Mother and I both stopped by an interesting tree with unusually flat roots. No doubt the flatness was caused by shoes trampling over them through the centuries, but we both got an impression of fairies or some other little creatures living in the tree and using the flat space as a dancing square. I thought it was interesting that we both came up with the idea independently. I guess I get my creative side from my mom. So here’s our fairy tree:
Even though there are technically forty-eight waterfalls, only about seven of them are big enough to be particularly impressive. Here’s one of the first big falls, one of my favorites:
And here’s a path leading up the mountain, but we weren’t allowed to go up there:
Not long after that, Mom had her first experience with Japanese toilets. She was shocked that the Japanese wouldn't prefer Western style after visiting other countries.
"These are so unsanitary and uncomfortable," she noted.
I shrugged. "Believe it or not, I've seen people prefer the Japanese style over Western."
That completely dumbfounded her. I didn't tell her how bad the toilets (aka holes in the ground) were at this park. Suffice it to say, when something in my pocket fell down the hole (at the time I thought it was my train ticket), I didn't even consider reaching into the dark pit of doom to retrieve it.
About three quarters of the way along the trail, we came to a beautiful green pool full of fish. I was so tempted to jump right in! Surprisingly though, no one was swimming. A few kids were splashing in the pools nearer to the falls, but absolutely no adults. I don't care; I'm a foreigner, I'm entitled to stick out and look weird. Next time I'm definitely bringing my bathing suit:
Doesn't it just scream "Swim in me?"
Mom started getting pretty exhausted after that, not to mention overheated (it was about 95 degrees; not so bad in and of itself, but after hiking in it for long enough, it starts to get to you). They say it takes 1.5 hours to hike the trail and 1.5 hours to hike back. Yeah, right. More like 3 hours there and 3 hours back. I pushed her on just a little further, and it was worth it. We made it to the famous twin falls, the pride of Akame guchi. Here they are:
The brochure says it looks a giant carrying a boulder on its shoulder. I like the rhyme, but I don't quite see it. Maybe a giant's face, with the water as crying eyes and the rock as a nose. That I can see.
On the way back, I took mom's picture by the first big falls. Here she is:
So I've been to the falls three times now, but I've never hiked the whole trail! Next time. It's on my list of things to do before I leave Japan!
So we got back to my apartment about 5:15, hoping to change into our yukata before dinner with Pastor Toshi's family and fireworks at 6:30, perhaps even take a nice little nap. That's when I realized I did not drop my train ticket in the toilet pit of doom. I dropped my house key. I spent about five minutes fretting about what to do, rang all my neighbor's doorbells to find that they were not home, and after ten minutes lucked out and cornered one of them just as he was pulling in the tiny apartment lot. He brought a phone book and I called my land lord. No answer. I called the lock smith. No answer. Just when I was about to panic, the lock smith called me. Turns out, the one and only lock smith in Nabari was in Iga for the day, about forty-five minutes away. Fortunately, however, his secretary spoke English (she sounded like she was from the Philippines) and promised to get ahold of him. All this time, my poor mother is sitting against my metal door, sweating buckets, assuring me she's all right, she'll just go to sleep right there. Then Pastor Toshi calls at 6:00 and says he wants us to walk to Jusco for dinner. (There's no way they can pick us up, go back and find a parking spot because of the fireworks.) I drag Mom a mile to the restaurant (at least it's air-conditioned) to have a Japanese style dinner sitting on the floor. Mom is shocked when even Pastor Toshi's elderly father sits on the floor, but I assure her that's just custom. All during this time, I'm trying to get hold of my friend Karen who wanted to see the fireworks with us, but to no avail. The lock smith's secretary called me and said the smith would call me at 7:00 when he came back from Iga. But that wouldn’t give me enough time to get to the fireworks! Thinking of my mom I said OK, but he never called. Our dinner took forever to arrive, and Mom realized she does not like soba (a noodle made from a special kind of green plant), Japanese rice (or at least not in the quantity that it is given)…or just about any other kind of Japanese food except for tonkatsu, fried pork. But we finished just in time to go outside and see the fireworks start at 7:50.
Karen called me back and we said we would meet on the bridge. Ha, ha. The bridge was packed with all kinds of food and game stalls and well over a thousand people, looking for the “best spot” to see the fireworks. We watched them there for awhile, but Mom hated the sardine feeling again, so we looked for a less crowded spot. Finally, about ten minutes before they ended, we found a really good spot along the street.
Japanese hanabi (literally flower fire) are really amazing! These lasted for a full forty-five minutes, and were brighter, bigger, louder, and more colorful than American fireworks, and often ended with a special effect like crackling, changing colors, golden streams falling, or screamers. That’s the other thing, Japanese screamers look like little ghosts, snaking their way up to heaven with a blood-curdling screech. I wonder if the metaphor is intentional or if I just have a strange way of making associations. Here’s a video, though no screamers in it. You’ll get to see those in my Shirarahama fireworks video later! But if you ever come to Japan, I definitely recommend going to see a fireworks display. Plus they’re free!
After all the excitement and big booms, I called my land lord back. Of course, he was still lingering at the fireworks with his four kids. I got in the car with Pastor Toshi’s family and continued to call until I finally got ahold of his mother, I think. We realized it would be a lot faster if Mom and I simply walked home, since the traffic wasn’t going anywhere. The land lord’s father came over and he opened the door for us. Sure enough, my spare key was in my wallet, which I had left at home. Who knows what happened to the locksmith, but at least I didn’t have to pay over $100 to get my door opened! And Mom got to sleep in a real bed…or rather a real futon that night, under the air conditioning. Poor Mom probably walked well over ten miles that day!
So that’s all for Saturday, July 24th! On Sunday we went to the Tenjin festival in Osaka, one of the three largest festivals in Japan!