Monday, November 19, 2012

A Date with Doctor Fish...

On Friday I enjoyed a second cultural trip to the island of Miyajima, where, several weeks ago, I visited the famous Shinto Shrine located there and made maple leaf cakes. This time, we were scheduled to burn designs in to rice scoops and then enjoy some free time on the island. While I am getting to know a number of the people who also travel on these trips regularly, this time I had my friend, Yolanda, (you may remember her from the Hiroshima trip) along with me.

Our trusty tour guide, Akie, had us travel to the Miyajima ferry by tour bus this time, not public transportation, which seemed faster. Once we arrived on the island, it was time to get crafty with yet another hot tool. It seems like the crafts we make usually require some sort of flame or exceptionally hot tool: The Glass Village was an open flame to melt the end of the muddler closed; baking maple cakes required cooking them over an open flame; now, I;m required to use an electric wood-burning stamp to decorate my rice paddle. Clearly, the Japanese are not as worried about being sued by a clumsy or stupid tourist as Americans are. It's refreshing.

Learning the history of Miyajima rice scoops
Decorating my scoop
Yolanda decorating hers.
I went with a double-sided design. Spring cherry blossoms on one side...
... fall maple leaves on the other.
After we burnt our rice scoops, it was free time! Yolanda and I ate at a local restaurant and then did some shopping (sorry, can't talk about it here... it was Christmas shopping and I know potential recipients read this blog!). But the highlight of our trip: Our date with the Doctor Fish! You may have heard about this pedicure-like procedure where small fish nibble at your feet. We've been wanting to try it, and Akie had shown us a flier on the way to Miyajima, so we figured we would give it a shot.

First of all, the place was incredibly hard to find. We kept looking for the Doctor Fish sign, which turned out to be a poster in the window of a restaurant. Yes. In a restaurant. Yolanda took the lead and headed to the back of the restaurant, where she saw a makeshift pond made out of PVC pipe and what looked like a plastic tarp. For 500 yen each, we would get 10 minutes of fish therapy. While the dozen or so Japanese around us ate lunch. And when I say "around us" I mean within 1 to 6 yards of us, depending on which part of the TINY restaurant they were sitting in. Chalking this up as part of our Japanese adventure, we took off our shoes and, as instructed by the fish wrangler/restaurant chef, put our feet in to the water at the same time. Let the nibbling commence!

Random Japanese tourists being entertained by us who didn't mind behind photographed, obviously.
My feet are very ticklish, but the nibbles were very light, so the tickling was something I could handle. For some reason, the fish liked my feet more than Yolanda's and especially enjoyed my right ankle. I teased Yolanda that they must like white meat. :)  Yolanda's reaction was to squeal for the first minute or so. "I can"t believe fish are eating my feet!" Neither could the Japanese around us, who gathered around, fascinated, to watch and laugh. Of course, I have no idea what they were saying, but I swear I heard the words "Stupid Americans." Just kidding.

These little fish are especially popular in Turkey, where they live naturally, and most often help the symptoms of psoriasis. My feet did feel smoother and refreshed, so there may be something to these Doctor Fish.

And a follow up to my trip to Fureai Park in Yuu: My pottery was glazed and sent to us. Here it is in it's green glory:

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