Our story thus far: a gaggle of gaijin are invited to hold forth atRubyWorld 2009 in alittle-noticed corner of Japan. The conference was on Monday and Tuesday;Wednesday they took us on a scenic Shimane tour. Matz and Ko1 andProf. Takeuchi came along, and I got pictures so you can too.

(For context, see?? September*?*Liking Matsue.)

The logistics were complicated.Abigail and Evan Phoenix needed to fly to Tokyothat afternoon, as did Prof. Takeuchi (previously featured here)andSasada Koichi.So someone figured out a bus route that would hit a bunch of the localhighlights and still get them to the airport on time.

It started early;while we were waiting blankly in the lobby for the bus,Miyao-san the conference organizer said ?Oh, Matsumoto-san will also cometoday.?So Matz got to do tourist things, some for the first time. I cansympathize, there are a lot of terrifically cool things around Vancouver that I?d never see if wedidn?t have visitors to entertain.


Our first two stops get their own essays, coming later: TheAdachi Museum with its famousgarden, and the Abefamily?sWashi atelier in the villageof Yakumo where we admired and made traditional Japanese paper.

Along the way, the countryside was starting to speak tome.Houses scattered among a thousand shades of green, the kind of thing thatmakes us Pacific Northwesterners happy.Well, and then I had to keepchecking that the bus wasn?t a cat, because it looked like we were rollingthrough aMiyazaki film.

This rice paddy in particular needed to be photographed.

Geeks On a Bus

Remember that along with Matz and Ko1 and Prof. Tak (of theTak function),there were Charlie and Tom the JRuby guys, Bruce Tate the Java apostate, Jeremy thecore-Rails dude, Evan of Rubinius, Stephen Kong representing Shanghai onRails, and yours truly, the Web dinosaur who?s worrying more and more everyday about how to sugar-coat Functional Programming.We spent way too much time ignoringthe scenery in favor of actors and messages and procs and lambdas and specsand threads and standards politics and the deplorable state of certain gemsand undergraduate education and a bunch of other things.Who knows, perhaps in retrospect this will turn out to have beenuseful.


The people who had to go were flying out ofIzumo airport, sothat?s where we headed at mid-day. Izumo is famous for Shinto andSoba; we stopped for lunch in a local joint specializing in the latter.

I had naÔvely supposed that soba meant ?skinny noodles?, but it turns outthe name refers toBuckwheat. I canrememberDad, an Agriculture Ph.Dwith a Botany bent, complaining about that word because, hesaid, the ?wheat? part is a lie, it?s not even remotely related. Whatever youcall it, That Plant goes into making soba and some very intensely-flavored honeys, so it?s OK by me.

I posted an Androidpicture of the meal on Twitter, andoddly the SLR version doesn?t improve on it. Soba was the theme andthere were a lot of variations, most of them good, the highlight being theblack noodles, so I had to buy some after lunch in the attached sobastore.

Here?s the aftermath; I thought the restaurant decorverged on Canadian with all those rough-hewn logs.

Left to right front to back: Matz, Bruce Tate, AbbyPhoenix, Evan Phoenix, Charles Nutter, tour guide.

Observe the Japanese-style tables; low, with mats to sit on. I got alaugh, as lunch wound down, by pushing back and complaining about my WhiteMan?s Knees problem.

The Countryside

Superficially, Shimane is kinda like where I live: green, near the ocean,lots of once-cut forests, mild climate. Here?s the big difference:Just about anywhere in the NewWorld, when you get out into the country, you pretty soon encounterdistinctly poor-ass homes and farms and roadside businesses, featuringrural decrepitude, peeling paint, rusting vehicles, and so on.

Shimane?s not like that. I think we got pretty far off the beaten track, andsaw some extremely rural lifestyles close-up; doubtless they were unimaginablydifferent from mine, but I saw no obvious outward symptoms of poverty,ignorance, or decay. Something?s different here, what it is ain?t exactlyclear.

Here?s a random view somewhere in the rice paddies around Izumo:

That Shrine

Izomo-taisha (????)is an extremely-important group ofShinto shrines;here?s the first one you come to.

Those really-big rope-ends hang down and the lore says that if you tossa coin up and it lodges there among the fibers, your wish will cometrue. My first try with a 50• piece lodgedbefore I?d formulated my wish. Don?t ask what a person?s going towish for when they know they hold a winning hand. World Peace is mystory and I?m sticking to it. As I strolled away, the rest of the party werehurling coin after coin upward and not scoring much.

As at many Shinto shrines, you can post your wishes, on papertied to trees or little flat boards on little-flat-board racks. I was in oneof the big shrines atKamakura onceand someone had posted a little board with English writing: ?I wish for alittle flat piece of wood to write a wish on. Hey, it works!?

I don?t know the significance of the horse in the next picture; one of a cluster of metal animal sculptures, their faces similarly shinyfrom the stroking.

This last shot is actually a half-sculpture; the other half, ten yardsaway or so, was a large whiskery divinity or semi-divinity apparently in aweat the golden orb.

Geek bus trips, something I?d never imagined; but it seemed to work.