March 2007

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at
previous issues.


Tea cups Soon Ok made
Hello, friends.
This month, I will introduce you Ms Jun Soon Ok, who is a highschool teacher in Teagu City, Korea.
She stayed with us, not as a hotel guest, but as a friend, for two weeks.
She is teaching Japanese language at school. She would like to experience the real life in Japan. So she came to us, and just like our daughter who works far away and sometimes comes home, we spent much time together.

She wrote an essay in Japanese, which I am going to put on my April edition of Japanese version of this page. Before that, I will let you read in this March issue by my translation.
I hope you will enjoy.

My trip to Karatsu
Jun Soon Ok

When Mrs. Okochi, Okamisan of Yoyokaku, advised me to write an essay on my trip to Karatsu in Japanese, I was at a loss, because I was not confident of my command of Japanese, or knowledge of history of Karatsu. But after a second thought, I decided to try. Even if I had no deep knowledge about Karatsu, I will write just like I write in my diary whatever small things that mean a lot to me. A journey by myself, my first homestaying, Yoyokaku, Karatsu...

This must have been a destiny, I assume. A Korean proverb says "Only when your sleeve touches someone else, it is a destiny." And this time, not only my sleeve, but my whole self touched Japan.
Three years ago, I planned to go and study in Japan, but difficult problems of my job made me give up the wish. Since then, I have always wanted to see Japanese people's lives closely, and to speak Japanese to my heart's content. As a Japanese language teacher at highschool, not only the things I read in books or things I see on TV, but my real experience in Japan I wanted to tell my students. This is why I wanted to stay in a Japanese family.

I am rather shy and have no courage. How could I think of the idea to go home-staying, I wonder. My friend, who introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. Okochi, said that I was going to stay in Karatsu City. At first Karatsu sounded 'Karasu' ( crow). I had no idea where Karatsu was and how it was written in Chinese characters. I looked for the city in the map and the dictionary. With only little information about Karatsu, and with an uneasy heart, I left Pusan by boat and arrived at Hakata Port on January 8, 2007.

The driver of the taxi I took from the port to the subway station asked for what I came to Japan. I answered that I was going to stay in a family in Karatsu, and that since I didn't know them directly I was very much worried. The driver said, "There are so many good hearted people in Japan. The host family must be good people. You should just cheer up!" During the short train trip to Karatsu the word 'cheer up' echoed in my head. I thought this word was the proper hint to me in this status of mind, and it became the motto I should keep until this journey ended.

Well, now, I will cheer myself up, and will start on this quest!

Mrs. Okochi, Soon Ok, Mr. Okochi
It was getting dark. Mr. Okochi picked me up at the station. On our way to Yoyokaku, from the car window, I saw the beautifully lit up Karatsu Castle. Then I stepped my first step into Yoyokaku.
Yoyokaku! My first impression was that I am so sorry that I came here without any previous knowledge about it.This ryokan has endured more than hundred years' history. How beautiful it is! I have come to an extraordinary place! I was amazed because I had longed for old architectures, and a Japanese ryokan itself was my first experience. Honestly, I was afraid if I could really stay here as a 'home-stay'. Mr. Okochi's long, more than 30 years, love of Korea, and Mrs. Okochi's deep knowledge and good pronunciation of Korean language surprised me. I thought I should study more about my own country.

Stonewall path
Next morning I started to walk around Karatsu. Karatsu seemed to me somewhat like my hometown Jinju. So quiet, not too big, and the place that warmly welcomes visitors. Among the places, a small path called 'stone wall path' near the castle became my most favorite spot. The right-hand side of the path is the sea, which was so calm and serene, that I thought it was a river. How happy it would be if I could walk here every morning. I saw a highschool next to the castle, and the sound of chime from the school was quite different from the one in Korea, but it made me, a school teacher, wish to step into the school.

Time Drum

I had not expected to see it, so, when I happened to see it, I said to myself. "Oh, what a good day it is!" It was a doll of Samurai who came out of the door of the tower and hit the drum telling the time11 o'clock.

Pottery made float miniature
A little further I walked. There was the Exhibition hall of 'Hikiyama'. I had no idea what Hikiyamas were, and went into the hall. I was frightened to see them, huge and fierce looking things. At the time there was no other guests in the hall. The dim light, without anybody around, made the atmosphere more gloomy. The Hikiyamas looked down on me as monsters. After seeing the video at a corner in the hall, I knew they were floats for the festival parade. As far as I knew, the festivals in Japan were Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka, Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori. So for me, it was new and surprising that the festival in Karatsu is so famous and big. The shouting voice of the boys pulling the floats are like Korean language. It made me think that the name of this city Karatsu might have some relationship with Korea. Looking at the Chinese characters of Karatsu differently written on a restaurant's sign, I imagined Karatsu was so called from the names of Kaya, or Shilla which were names of old countries that existed in Korea thousands of years ago

Tea house of Kinshoji Temple
Not far from the Exhibition hall, there is an old temple called 'Kinshoji'. I can not but tell you about the tea house of Kinshoji Temple, because it fascinated me so much. It looked as if the house was hiding quietly from people's eyes. As for tea ceremony of Japan, I do not know anything. But Mrs. Okochi once took me to see a practice of tea ceremony. It was so difficult and beyond my understanding, but I only knew that the tea ceremony is a total art of Japan. From the old time, Japanese people have been interested in quiet, and decent things, and those things give you a calm feeling and settled status of mind.

An old architecture that used to be a bank
On my way back to Yoyokaku, I dropped in an old architecture, which used to be a bank until recently. I like Japanese Meiji, Taisho, and Former Showa Eras' architectures, and I envied that the buildings were reserved in Japan. In Korea, even if under Japan's occupation, we should have reserved old buildings, since they were the history. Another great architecture in Karatsu is the Takatori House (National important cultural asset). The house was under repair and was not open then. But thanks to Mrs Okochi, I could enter it and see the gorgeous inside. I was so much absorbed in seeing the house, that I totally forgot to take pictures. I am sorry I cannot show you the beauty of the house.

Okawachiyama kiln town
During the 13 days of my trip this time, my diary is written longest on the day when I visited Okawachiyama, Imari City. I will never forget the feeling I had on that day. The first time I tried to go there by myself, I failed. I was not familiar with such a small one-box train, that I thought this should not be the train to Imari. The next day, I was now confident and got in the train.The view from the train window was so beautiful, and there was a feeling of a lonesome journey. I once saw a Japanese TV program of a train journey, and I have long desired to do it myself someday.The weather was cloudy and cool, and nobody was walking on the street. I was a little excited by myself. I like places where there is a feeling of loneliness.

After I came to Karatsu, I got to know about pottery. Karatsu pottery, Imari, Arita, each one has its own identity and has a graceful attraction. When I see Karatsu pottery, I feel I like this best, and when I see Imari, Imari is wonderful, and to see Arita makes me fall in love with Arita porcelain. As for Karatsu pottery, Mrs. Okochi gave me a chance to make tea-cups. The cups must be fired, so I am waiting and looking forward to seeing how they come out. I could not resist my excited feeling on my way home from Imari, so I drank beer on the train, and wrote my memos. I was afraid that I might smell drunken. I hurried and ran the way back on my secret pathway in the dark

Now I am back to reality. Everything seems a dream to me. Since I could meet many wonderful people, I could make such wonderful memories. I do not know the difference of Japanese two words deai (encounter) and meguriai (chance meeting), but these two both remind me of my trip, and they became my favorite Japanese words. I would like to extend my gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Okochi, staffs of Yoyokaku, and the people I met in Karatsu.

Thank you very much for your kind reading of my small journey record.

Jun Soon Ok

I hope you will visit my town Taegu too.

Well Soon Ok is gone, and we miss her so much. Maybe we will visit her in the near future.
Then I will tell you about her country.
Thank you for reading this.
Hope to see you again next month.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

Proprietress of

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