19 days in…
A familiar face is a rare and treasured thing when you’re far away from home, and so it was with the greatest of pleasure when we alighted from our 4th train of the day at Kumamoto station to be welcomed by Taichi-san and my HoHo Jamboree father, Toshiaki-san. Kumamoto had proven difficult but we were finally here.
However, the reason for our delayed arrival was evident all around the prefecture and the famous castle had taken a great knock in the earthquake too. As we looked on at the damage a journalist snapped away behind us, then requested an interview; I of course obliged with something along the lines of “the castle may have taken a hit, but like the spirit of the people, the tower is standing tall”, which was lapped up by the pap, though quite how it may have been translated who knows; it hadn’t made the next days edition. Of course, the main reason for staying with Toshiaki and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying, was the bounty of his wife’s cooking. Atsuko-san can turn anything into a delicious meal and does so in a flash. Tempura vegetables are just one of her many specialities and during one meal when we were eating Sashimi, my innocuous question of do you cook any fish or just always eat it raw, brought about a plate of flat fish poached in soy sauce and mirin and absolutely perfect.
A great bonus of being a member of an organisation like the scouts is not just that it can bring about connections, but it can also bring together it’s members to help stitch together a community, and in the wake of the earthquake, that is exactly what the scouts were doing. We joined the scouts at the makeshift campsite that they were sharing with the army on a park in town then gathered at the volunteer centre. For our morning’s task, six of us were placed in a team to collect a damaged cabinet from the 5th floor of a council house and take it to the tip. A pretty frustrating job for six people in two vehicles. Our afternoons job was far more rewarding as we dismantled a wall that had partially collapsed between two properties, though once again strict obedience of the rules had me puzzled. That night we onsened and camped out in an authentic UK contingent Jamboree tent that Santoshi-san had brought after the Jamboree.
Our final day in Kumamoto ended with our farewells to our Japanese family as we boarded our sleeper bus to Nagoya, unaware that we were going to board a further two buses and spend 19 of the next 21 hours on public transport to find accommodation; welcome to Tuesday 3rd May – the start of Golden week.