On castles, gardens and salarymen- Okayama

Day eight. Early run this morning to go and see the castle of Takamatsu. It stands white and beautiful next to a flowery garden on the harbor. I then got started on my way back North; with a stop over in Okayama to see the castle (another one) that has been nicked named the ‘crow castle’ for its black color (to see it, check out hutiny on instagram, the low cost subsidiary of this blog).  When he sees a castle, my son always asks in which war was that particular castle involved. From what I understand and read -but I may be wrong- these samurai castles where not so much involved in sieges and attacks the way ours in the West were.  The war in which they were most involved in fact was the Second World War, during which most of them were flattened through carpet-bombing. Their impressive moats did not protect them from the skies.

Okayama had another first class sight to offer in addition to its castle: A beautiful garden. As much as I am left cold by most manufactured Chinese garden by which you dig out the pond to make up the mountain as to make sure that there will be mountain and water, the Japanese ones, albeit also artificial, have something very touching. While Japanese people tampered with the whole countryside in a way that is esthetically questionable, they really know what they are doing when it comes to public parks. The one in Okayama comes with tea fields, rice fields, tea rooms, and of course the whole palette of trees to ensure that they can be pleasant during most season (well in the summer, they are mostly ‘green’ - 吾唯足知).

The rest of the trip from Nagoya to Magome exposed me to some interesting drivers and unusual work ethics (By our standards). The train driver from Nagoya to Nagatsugawa (behind whom I happened to sit) stood upright in the most formal way, pointing to his journey plan displayed on one of these small gray Japanese clipboards with microscopic precision and regularly throwing his hand (and his index finger) forward while saying ‘Sheeko’, as if he was trying to encourage an army of footmen to follow him in some forward infantry action. Given that this was just a small regional train, i can only imagine the hype that must be going on in the driver's cabin of the bullet train. Next, the bus driver from Nagatsugawa to Nagome was extremely attentive to everyone, including the noisy foreigners and their bulky luggage. He explained ad libitum all the details of the complex payment system. But best of all details, he removed his hat every time he drove past a cemetery.
(Written later) About the train driver, I am told by 小山 via 大卫 that two things are happening:

(1) The driver is not pointing at the path ahead, rather he is pointing at markers along the side.  He is doing this because all drivers are legally bound to do this, to reduce the probability of accidents.  The driver has a checklist of these markers, and as he goes along his route, he has to literally count them off, and verify when he has passed through them.

(2) He is most likely saying "Yoshi!  Ikkou!"  which means "Good!  Let's go!"  It is  not certain, but it seems like the most plausible explanation of what he is saying.