Today I went out to Mihonoseki, the peninsula that makes up the northeast tip of Matsue, most known for the highly important Miho Shrine, and for its lighthouse.

Can you find the red 'you are here' marker?
The primary point of my activity today

To the south you can see Nakaumi…
Hey look, it's Daisen!

…and to the north you can see the Sea of Japan.
Not to mention the Oki Islands, though they aren't in this picture.

It’s a fairly rural area, with a very laid back way of seafood-rich life.
There were still more in the water, too
Wish you were here, Dad!
Literally, the bridge to the floating island
You want to drive around in this ancient shrine? Sure, why not! I'll help you up there!
I'm still not a big fan of azuki (red bean) manjuu, but I found out today that I do enjoy kuri (chestnut) manjuu!

While waiting for the festivities to start, I peaked into the tourism center to see what was for sale there (besides dried squid and dried seaweed and all kinds of dried fish).
It looks wide from this angle, but the upper floors are actually very narrow
The dried squid beckons you!

That was when the old ladies seated in the back who spoke in a thick Izumo dialect addressed me: “Welcome. Come sit down for a cup of tea.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you don’t refuse when old ladies offer to have you sit down, especially if you have the time to kill. They served me dried squid first and showed me how to tear off the pieces a little bit at a time. It was not my first time having dried squid (I certainly got my fill a month ago while interpreting for a squid-drying workshop!), but one of the other things I’ve learned is to just shut up and pretend it’s my first time hearing something when people want to teach me something, no matter how much I may think I know about it.

After that they gave me some of the kuri-manjuu I had seen on sale in stalls outside leading to the shrine (that I was nearly tempted into buying myself!), and some sencha prepared in a Chinese style tea set–warmed up ahead of time, gong-fu-cha style.

The conversation was light and the location was highly informal, but according to my book-knowledge but yet unpracticed tea philosophy, it was essentially a tea ceremony. I was invited to eat a couple morsels before taking part in the tea my host had chosen and served her favored cups, and we appreciated each other’s company in the fleeting moments it took to consume them.

Though the squid sort of changes the mood... or sets it?

It was light conversation. What country are you from? Have you always lived in Mihonoseki? Is this your first time here? How old are you? Were you a teacher at Mihonoseki elementary school? Has this festival always been like this? Do you have a boyfriend? Hmm, even old ladies can sound like high school girls sometimes. High school girls with thick dialects.

In the spirit of being a guest, I asked questions about the tea cups, and then they decided they should prepare Japanese style matcha in a proper wide cup. Guess who got her afternoon dose of caffeine?

Over the course of our little tea party, they called out to acquaintances walking into the shop, or acquaintances walking into the shop called out to them. They were invited to tea with us, and each time someone new showed up to talk about the make up the girls put on him for the festivities or about the year end party they’re planning, the old ladies introduced me, my job, my country, my age, and that I’m going to find a boyfriend (you can guess whose idea that was).

Soon after the festivities started and the party ended. Even outside where everyone was crowding around with giant cameras that put my point-and-shoot to shame, acquaintances who had briefly passed through the tourist center made sure to point out the best spots to me.

And just what had I gone there to see in the first place?

This was ceremonious, really.

I’ll explain this December 3rd festival properly another time. There is a lot more of the Kojiki to retell first!