Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Memoirs of Kagoshima

I turned 30 on August 21st, 2011. 

I had no expectation that I'd spend my 30th birthday at home in Japan, due to my pending visa status. Yes, I rolled a dice a couple of month ago to see where I'll be livin' for next few years - after preparing all the documents necessary for approval, paying my lawyer and immigration, etc - and the dice kept spinning unexpectedly long. 

After 911 and then recent market crash, the situation has been rougher also for immigrant, even when he's lived in the U.S. for 12 years and everything he owns is there.

So I took this frustrating situation as an opportunity for vacation. I'd worked hard enough for past few years to think I deserve to take a month off. (but as this "detention" period extended into 3 months, I ended up taking a few of jobs in Tokyo... life of freelance!)

The highlight of it is my trip to Kagoshima, southern tip of Japan, where my father was born and raised, and where I hadn't visited since I was 9 or so.

Growing up in a middle-class apartment complex in mediocre suburb of Tokyo, Kagoshima was so far away for me geographically and psychologically.

Sakurajima Mountain. An active volcano.

Another view of Sakurajima. 
Monument says: "Flowers lives are short, and filled with suffering"

When I first decided to leave my home when I was 16, my Dad had little objection, saying "That you going to the States is like me going to Tokyo. Go ahead if you need to". Looking back, my family wasn’t wealthy and studying abroad was not very common even among rich ones.

I didn't know how to appreciate it then. I just went. He paid. I ended up staying and now I pay my bills. 

As I've lived away from home long enough, and was coming close to the age 30, I started thinking of "home". Where is my home? What's my roots? My parents had already moved out of Saitama (suburb of Tokyo - yes, New Jersey of Japan) where I was born and raised, and where I wanted to escape from. I started researching on Kagoshima which is my Dad's home. 

My family Buddhist altar. 

My family rice field

Kagoshima used to be called "Satsuma", one of the strongest country within Japan during Edo period (Samurai era). Those rebellious Samurais from the film "Last Samurai" are supposedly from there.

Ever since Japanese history started, even way before Samurai era, Satsuma people were considered outsiders (Hayato). They'd often fight against Japanese government and been put down, and slowly and secretly expanded their powers. 

Towards the end of Edo period, Satsuma samurai has become known as one of the most influential and powerful ones - fighting wars against England and then against Japanese government. (Anglo-Satsuma War / Satsuma Rebellion) 

 Shimazu family was the leader of Satsuma

It turned out that my family (Hayasaki) was samurais under Shimazu.

Therefore, Satsuma (Kagoshima) people are often called Bokkemon (not Pokemon!), meaning fearless (or reckless), brave, naughty, rebellious and daring. Then it made sense about what my Dad said about me when I was child - he was a leading protestor himself when he was in college- and he probably saw something common in me. I'd tried to deny it, I'd tried to be obedient, I'd tried to avoid troubles but it's just in blood. 

U.S.A. was kind and welcoming when I first came here in 90's- and I was comfortable to be there without causing troubles. The country that allowed me to be me.

Anyway, now Kagoshima stands as one of the neglected prefectures in Japan, only known for its agriculture and stock farming, and potato Shochu (liquor). My uncle indeed owned a liquor store. A large decrease in young population has been a problem for a while, as they all go to Tokyo and other big cities for modern labor. 

Nearest pond Imuta-Ike

My relative's shed

My uncle and his grandchildren

Spending my time here for a week, I truly admired the way they live, simple yet deep lives they enjoy and appreciate for themselves. I've never lived in such country-side, and it often fascinated me and it crossed my mind that I might stay here and provide for myself. 

But now that I got visa approved for myself recently (thank you United States!), and my career in TV/Film production, my professional/casual buddies, my goal to stay as a filmmaker is still set out in New York city - a concrete jungle covered by extreme coldness and hotness.  It's the city I chose. It's the city I love. Don't know where I'll be in 5 years but I know I'll be in New York next month. 

Food in Kagoshima!

Snacks children eat, along with special spice and miso.

Chicken Sashimi (raw chicken). Yummy. No stomachs harmed. 

My favorite places in Kagoshima!

Senganen: Warlord Shimazu's villa

Also many many spas (onsen), particularly in Ibusuki area.... none of which I could take pictures of, haha.