A Trip to Ago Bay

About an hour by local train from Ise lies the Ago bay. A natural bay with dozens, if not hundreds of small islands and rocks studded all around it. The local train got emptier and emptier and by the time I arrived at the last stop called Kashikojima, I nearly had the train to myself. There are a few resort hotels around, but Kashikojima itself consists of just a few houses. Half of them are oyster restaurants, half of them sell pearls and the pier offers a large variety of boats of all sizes to take you around the bay. At first I rode the biggest of them, a fake European sailing ship of old including fake masts and sails.

Due to its size, the big boat stays in the main canals between the islands around. After a short lunch I then took a second, smaller boat that brings you to the further away corners of the bay. The bay is not “pristine” if that’s the word, since more or less every spot available is occupied with oyster farms. The bay is beautiful nonetheless and interesting too and was worth the visit and good for a relaxing stress free day. If you have the choice between Toba and Kashikojima, I recommend Toba though, there is more action in Toba and since the islands are higher, the Toba bay has the prettier views.

Work Hard – Play Hard

I love living in Japan, otherwise I would be here for fifteen years already, but there is one thing that I really really think the Japanese have to learn – to take “longer” holidays. I work at a non-Japanese company but of course I have mostly Japanese colleagues. I think we have 5% or so non-Japanese staff. Those 5% are from all over the world, many Germans of course, but half of our non-Japanese staff is from somewhere else.

The tendency is still that the Japanese staff take off a day here, a day there, a long weekend here, an extension of a few days to the three one-week company shut downs we have, at most a week in between, at most. I was on holidays two and a half weeks in winter, I will be on holidays two and a half weeks starting from coming Wednesday.
I am sure that I will again hear comments when I announce Tuesday night, see you next on 17th of August as I did last winter of “leaving too early” (I’m taking one and a half weeks off before the week the company is closed, I did so in winter, I will do so now) or “yaccha ikenai yo” = “you can’t do that”. Yes, I can.

I did it before, I will do it again and it’s no big deal at all. Also the Japanese colleagues could do it, but they don’t. There is still such a big stigma on enjoying yourself, on having fun, on doing what you wanna do, it’s so sad. Very very slowly it is changing, but way too slow. The main excuse for not taking longer holidays is “that it would cause meiwaku – inconvenience to your colleagues”. That’s of course nonsense, see to it that you have a proxy and be their proxy when they wanna go on holidays and what’s the big deal? But “abandoning” your “oh so important” job for two or three weeks is just something “you don’t do”. It’s one of those senseless dogmas in this society that hinders people from doing what they want to do.

We foreigners are “allowed”, sort of, to take holidays “since we need to go ‘home’ from time to time.” It does not even matter that I’m not going “home” most the time. I’m a foreigner and it’s our custom to take long holidays, so I am allowed to do it.

I wish, oh wish, the Japanese would claim that right for themselves as well instead of going on these four day “refresh” vacations. You just can’t forget about work and recharge the batteries within 4 four days.
Well, I shall continue to be a “role model” of work hard – play hard and keep on encouraging my co-workers. I hope that by the time I retire, I will have seen one or the other of them taking two weeks off in a row!

And by the way, my summer trip will take me to Europe. Wacken heavy metal festival first, then a few days Barcelona, then a week in Portugal for one more heavy metal festival in Vagos, the rest sightseeing in Porto (oh port wine, I’m coming!) and Lisbon. Cheerio!