Masuda! Out in the wilds of Shimane prefecture, the least populated in Japan, this small town was a big change from Tokyo. Robin and I headed out there on a complicated series of shinkansen then a pokey local train to stay with Caroline, a couchsurfer.

After finding Caroline’s place, about a 15 minute walk from the train station, we all headed to dinner at the best kaiten restaurant in Japan. Kaiten (conveyor belt sushi) generally doesn’t have a great reputation. A frient once compared it to the McDonald’s of sushi. But this place was a shining exception, as one might expect in a prefecture renowned for its seafood. After dinner, Caroline took us to a small izakaya, again pretty different from the ones in Tokyo. People were as friendly as in my last small izakaya in Kagoshima, but it also had an amazing selection of fresh fish in an icebox and extremely fresh fish in a saltwater tank. We didn’t stay long because Robin and I were tired from a day spent on trains.

The next morning was a tea ceremony! Caroline drove us to a nearby town where some of her Japanese friends were practicing the art of sencha-do, or Chinese-inspired green tea ceremony. As we learned, this is quite different from matcha-do, which is what most people think of as a "Japanese tea ceremony." The basics are the same: the host makes tea for the guests, who enjoy it and each other’s company. But the details… well… the steps are quite different. Also, these ladies did it fairly informally. One of them had been studying sencha-do for a while, and the rest were learning from her. They did a great job both of making the tea and of making us feel welcome! All in all a wonderful experience.

Then we headed to a the local department store where some special needs students Caroline teaches were having a fundraising sale, wandered around a local park, and borrowed some bikes to explore the coastline and rivers of Masuda.

And then onwards to Hiroshima. Thanks, Caroline!