Hold on to your hats folks, this is going to be a fairly hefty blog. Why haven’t I updated this is almost a week? Well being tired tends to take a few things out of you. But if you stick with it and read the whole thing, you’ll come accross topics like a reggae bar in Sannomiya, getting jumped on by a random American woman, Green Porno, a 7 hour walk home at night to blow off steam, and getting a train home with a monkey, an army man and a Frenchman.
So let’s start with Halloween. As I said in my last entry I did indeed walk again from Uni to Sannomiya. This time I was aided by the fact that I didn’t have to take a detour to avoid being associated with an obvious over-the-top western tourist and managed to complete the walk in an hour and a half, meeting up with everyone at a reggae bar in Sannomiya called Second Chance. This time it was a bit of a night walk … well, not quite night when I left, but it was when I got there. Before this there were many photo’s taken in the Ajisai room and many different costumes. I went down my usual cheap-ass route and wore a purple hat (which was part of my usual clothing) and borrowed a pair of white framed lensless glasses. Tonight Matthew I’m going to be … Spike Lee! Admitadly it was mainly the Americans who got it, but I didn’t really care much.
Oh, I and I did leave that Gaikotsu on balcony!
Coming back to the reggae bar for the time being, when I got there it was a happy hour so drinks were cheaper than usual. That being said, I think I have a strong feeling that Second Chance water down their drinks. I say this not because they tasted weak (in fact they were rich and full of flavour, but because I had quite a few without feeling any effect. Maybe I missed the sign that said ‘Alcohol Free’ at the door.
On the food side it was quite hit and miss. I ordered two plates; Garlic Fries and Fried Chicken. The garlic fries came with 3 dipping sauces (ketchup, mustard and a garlic sauce) and were legendary. The were called fries, but they were much more like a British chip: big, bold and potatoey. The sauces were also fantastic! Normally I hate mustard, but this kind had a strange appeal to it and I was able to easilly use all the sauces rather than just the traditional ketchup. However, the chicken was less than fantastic. I seemed to be very ordinary and lacked a lot of flavour. Did I mention it was also sitting in a big ass puddle of MAYONNAISE!!!
MESSAGE TO JAPAN – NO MORE MAYONNAISE PLEASE! T_T
After the reggae bar the large group split up a bit and I joined a group heading to a karaoke bar. As well as my usual repetoir I sang back up for a few of the others as we partook of an all you can drink offer. I don’t know if it was a Sannomiya alcohol selling code for that night, but once again the drinks were very weak (yet still full of flavour). After singing our hearts out and individually downing somewhere between half and a dozen drinks, our time was up and we were on our merry way. From the looks of some of the people we passed, some were merrier than others!
Upon getting back to the train station, we coincidentally met up with most of the others who we split apart from at the reggae bar. Because me, ‘the monkey’, the ‘army man’ and the Frenchman (no outfit, he’s genuine!) live in the same dorm, we took the same route going home together. The stares we got on the train were much more than we normally got (which by the way are now almost non-existant) and were also combined with some laughing. Still, it was always all in good fun. Kudos to the monkey for acting as dignified as much as a man in a monkey suit (literal pun) could act.
We had to get off the train a stop early, as it wasn’t stopping at our station. We could have waited for the next train, but instead we just walked from Awaji station to home. Many more stares were had and a few bike crashes narrowly avoided as the odd-squad went walking along. At the dorm I felt hungry so me and monkey went on to raid McDonalds for a burger. I could go on about the funny looks and stares we got, but I think that message is kind of embeded in the rest of the halloween entry. However at McDonalds something pretty amazing did happen. I only ordered one burger (that wasn’t the amazing thing), and was actually asked if I wanted a bag or if it was fine as it was (cue the "wow"). Seriously, everytime I’ve gone and just had one thing (and had it for take-out) I’ve ended up with more bags than produce. This was amazing.
On the way back I also felt like opening a new line to my Osakan food checklist by finally trying Takoyaki. Takoyaki is a fried octopus ball, and although I’m no stranger to octopus or food that comes in ball form, these were completely different to anything I’d ever tried. It was an interesting combination of creaminess and meatiness in one with a small air-pocket in the middle. It was nice, but don’t get me wrong I probably won’t be having Takoyaki too often.
Skip forward a day to the 1st of November. An old fortune says that if the first words you say on the first day of a month are ‘White Rabbits’ then you’ll have good luck throughout the month. Unfortunately I confused myself with a late night munching on takoyaki, so my first words came out as ‘Black Bunnies’. I hope that doesn’t arouse any old supersticions.
On this day I lost some money on a bet I placed before coming to Japan. I made a bet with my brother that my two nephews would pass their driving tests before he does (seperate bets, one for each nephew). My brother’s older than me and my nephews are 5 and 2. Congrats on passing your test dude.
Thanks to a friend from Konan, I was introduced to a show called Green Porno. It’s an …. I’m struggling to think of how to describe it. It’s a show that shows different mating rituals of various bugs and insects, but it’s told in a very kid-show style. By kid-show, I mean the kind you watch when you can’t even talk. There’re 8 short videos on the website, and also some extras including a making of.
With a friend from Uni, I went to Nishinomiya Kitoguchi. Clearly not feeling stared at enough, we both sat in a very public area with white-boards and just practiced kanji over and over again and again. It was actually quite fun, and when we could overhear people talking about us or reading the kanji that we were writing it was more inspiration to keep on going. I was quite tempted to put my hat on the floor to see if I could make a few yen, but I was pretty sure Japan had laws against busking, at least without filling in mountainous paperwork beforehand. I’m thinking of making this a regular thing, because not only was it interesting, I actually did remember most of the kanji I practiced.
2nd November was a Sunday. This would normally be a day where SDS (Sunday Dorm Syndrome) kicks in. However, today was different! Today I (and a dude from Uni) would have a host familly … for an evening. Konan had kindly arranged for dorm students the opportunity to have dinner with a familly, giving us the chance to be able to speak with Japanese people we didn’t know in a new environment. This basically bridged the gap between dorm and homestay students. The family that we went to were quite far up into the mountains of Kobe, and yet the train ride seemed to be surprisingly short. As a gift I gave them some British tea bags (Tetleys) and a cottage figure I’d picked up in London.
Dinner was wonderful. I can’t remember the name of the main dish, but it’s very similar to Shabu Shabu. A large pot of boiling water in the middle of the table is accompanied by a range of vegetables (some of which were home grown) with thin slices of beef, all arrange around the table. These were then piece by piece put in the water and we all helped ourselves. This was followed by American Upside-Down cake and some After Eights! There were also some Scandinavian sweets that we tried (the familly too tried them for the first time) and they were … different. We also tried (I’d never eaten so much in Japan before) some persimmons, a fruit which appeared to cross the boundary between orange, tomato and mango. In other words it was bloody good, all of it was bloody good.
Throughout the night we talked and listened and enjoyed each others company. I learned some new things about both Japan and America and in turn passed on some of my knowledge of England and Wales. It was a great 4 hours and I really appreciate everything that the host family had done in order to make it special. This is what it was like to have a host family.
9 o’clock came and it was time to say goodbye. We were driven back to the train station, but stopped on the way to see an awesome view of Osaka from the up a mountain at night, all lit up. I was going to take a picture, but unfortunately I knew my camera was too naff (not to mention I left it in the car). We arrived at the station and said our last thanks and goodbyes.
I went home with a smile.
I woke up on Monday 3rd November with a frown … no more than that, I was grumpy … no wait, I was just plain naffed off. To say that my smile from the previous night was upside down would be like saying Mount Fuji is just a pile of muck in the ground. It was a national holiday, Culture Day, and that meant I was starting my day hungry. Having not brushed my teeth the night before (out of shere laziness on my part) I could still taste the delicious repas from that night’s meal. I left for Uni in a slump, with my only sense of pleasure coming from the fact that most people would have the day off. That may sound odd, me being glad other people got the day off, but it meant that I could be assured of a seat on the trains rather than have to stand ‘sardine in a can’ style.
I stayed up late the previous night, despite still being shattered from my walk to Sannomiya, but I don’t even remember what for. I think it was just one of those nights of reflection (where I COULD have been writing a blog entry), but anyway I’m getting off topic. It meant that on the train I could get some sleep and try to forget about the rumbling in my stomache.
Arriving at University I headed straight for the shop. I could only feel I that I could partake a Ghana bar (a chocolate bar), so paid for it and headed to class. I offered pieces to my other dorm-hungered friends, who modestly turned them down. As usual one class member makes comments that he thinks are clever (if he’s clever then a baby learning 1+1=2 must be a genius), but I couldn’t feel the need for any of his crap today. After all, today was a reason that dorm students could take it out on others, even if they had it coming all along. So this being the case for every clever thing he said I quickly shot it down with a large dose of sarcasm and directness. He soon got the hint I think.
Monday’s are the day I tutor English, so after a quick lunch I headed up to the room. Being a holiday I didn’t really expect anyone to show up. But regardless I prepared the room, writing information on the whiteboard, including the British word of the day (to pop – I’m just popping to the shop). To my surprise … wait, that’s not the right word, to my expectation nobody came. Given that I was there for two hours, I used the time to practice kanji for this week’s quizes. I did have a couple of visitors come by the room; another transfer student and a Japanese teacher, but they didn’t stay long. Eventually, my two hours were up and I headed to the Ajisai room.
Feeling a need for a rest I covered my eyes with a giraffe scarf (also apparently known as a snood) and lay across some chairs at the side of the room. Even though I was awake with my eyes open looking through the tiny gaps in the fabric, my stillness must have given off the impression that I was sleeping as I overheard several people commenting on it. It’s amazing what you can here when you really listen. I won’t write them down here because I think that would be a little harsh to people who like talking about people behind their backs, then show a different facade when the person in question walks into the room.
One thing that did get on my nerves was when someone started moaning about their host family. They were giving it this and that about how they’re only eating Japanese styled food and how they can’t hang out with friends for every minute of the sodding day because the family wants to do things with them, like go to places and such. God, what a ponsey smarmy git! First of all consider yourself lucky to actually get food everyday (had it not been for my own home visit it would have been two days without a proper cooked meal), but you actually have a family willing to take your ungreatful ass to places you’ve never been to and are willing to help you learn Japanese. I won’t even go into the fact that you’re also paying less than the dorm guys … whoops, too late. Me being in my meditative like state at the time didn’t move or shout him down, but I was mentally picturing destroying him in an effort to calm myself down.
After a while I got up and just sat down, briefly including myself in the convestion that was going on around me. As it approached 5 o’clock I realised I’d already done the homework that was due the next day and had already memorised the kanji for the quiz. With nothing to really head home for and no desire to stick around, I proposed a question to the students sitting in my vicinity.
"How long do you think it’d take to walk to Juso from here? I wonder if I can get there before 9 o’clock."
After explaining my reasons why I’d be willing to do such a walk (those mentioned just above) I was on my way, leaving the parting words
"If I’m not in tomorrow, someone phone me to make sure I’ve not passed out in a ditch."
I started walking towards Okamoto station as I still considered just getting the train home. As I approached the station I had my pass ready to go through the turnstiles, but instead I turned left and just kept on walking. I put my pass back in my wallet, crossed the train tracks at a cross point and walked down an alleyway in the direction of Osaka.
At this time of day it was still quite bright out, so walking down the back alleys of Kobe wasn’t too bad. Not to mention there were plenty of people around. My plan was to stick close to the Hankyu trainline as I knew this would be a surefire way to keep on route. I decided to see how I felt at the next station and decide then whether to continue or not. This was the beginning of what some would call a long night, and leave a physical effect on me that would last … well, I still hurt.
When I hit Shukugawa station I soon realised that I wasn’t going to make it all the way to Juso by 9. I was feeling much better than when I left uni. I was more relaxed, I had fresh air in me, and I was having fun. Not wanting to call it a day I kept my assessment of ‘play it by ear’ and would decide at each station if to carry on or not.
To save giving an account of every step, I’ll just put it to you that I had three dead ends (right up to peoples houses), went into two awesome shops (one electronics that had things much cheaper than other stores, and a second hand book store with quite possibly the biggest 105 yen manga section I’ve seen so far), had to take a 40 minute detour to walk up and down the bank of a river (Japan doesn’t seem to let you cross rivers easily unless you’re on a train or in a car), passed the Hi-Chew factory, and discovered that a black guy wearing all black walking in the dark with no road lights must be a very spooky thing to see for many Japanese people.
According to Google Maps, the journey should have been 22.3km (13.9 miles) and should have taken about 36 minutes … by car. I of course am forbidden from operating a motor vehicle while here on my year abroad, and heaven forbid I actually follow google’s set out route. I had no map, no real idea of where to head, and no Sun (to navigate by … no compass either). At the same time I had no worries. At several times along the way I imagined headlines about worse case scenarios, but soon dismissed them as depressing. Oh, and as for the 36 minutes malarky, well … I didn’t make it to Juso by 9 o’clock.
Just as the clocks chimed for midnight I could be seen hobbling just down the road from Juso station. My feet hurt, my legs and back hurt, my eyes hurt, but man was my pride strong. I thought I’d really impress myself and jogged for the last few hundred metres, killing off my kneecaps in the process and nearly crashing into many drunken businessmen. I must have looked a right sight. I hobbled through the turnstiles and made my way to the platform … to see my trains doors close.
I said a few words that no one should ever hear.
My next train was in twenty minutes so I figured it would be a good idea to get a drink. After hobbling up and down my platform, and a second platform, I eventually came to the vending machines. I bought a lemon flavoured drink and noticed the Ice-Cream machine right next door. I figured that I deserved a treat, so bought a chocolate chip ice cream. When i bent down to take it from the bottom of the machine I noticed something odd. Well, two things really. Firstly was that I had no pain and seemed to have got my energy back. The second thing was that there were two ice creams in the pick up spot. I thought my luck was on the up.
It didn’t last long. After taking two steps away from the machine fatigue and pain set in heavier than before, leaving me trying to hobble back to my platform. You know it’s bad when you’re overtaken by a man with a zimmer-frame, but to be fair if he’s agile enough to be up partying past midnight then all respect to him. I found a seat on my platform and started munching on my chocolate chip ice cream. The second ice cream appeared to be a green tea variety. About halfway through the first ice cream, enjoying every morcel and getting energy and strength back, something caught my attention in the air. To this day I still don’t know what it was, but that lapse of concentration caused my delicious nectar of the gods to go tumbling to the floor.
( TT__TT )
I put it in the bin with a slight tear in my eye; partly because I had to stand up. I then moved onto the second ice cream, saving the drink for after. Now for those of you who this scenario may happen to (getting doubles on an ice cream vending machine), you’re better off leaving the freebie right where it is. For you see, ice cream does a little thing when it reaches a certain temperature for so long and it’s called melting. When you try to pull open an ice cream that’s been melting for a while, you tend to have a little accident. For me, it looked as if someone had thrown some 1990’s kid show gunge my way, as my ice cream (or should I just call it cream) splurted out of the packet. I picked up what I could and made another trip to the bin.
When my train came I’d been sitting down for a while and felt relaxed. Unfortunately for me, so did my knees. They did not want to be bothered when the train came and boy did they let me know. I compared the pain to when I first bent my left knee after getting a full leg cast reduced to a half leg one after snapping my shin bone in half. Yes … it hurt like hell. No … there were no seats on the train.
I got home just before 1 o’clock, roughly eight hours after first leaving the Ajisai room. I was in bed … not in a ditch.
I spent the vast majority of the next day either in vast amounts of achey pain, or sleeping in various places. I did well on the kanji quiz, 100% baby (10/10).
Yesterday, Wednesday the 5th of November, when actually when I started writing this journal! It was also a very special day in the calendar … Bonfire Night of course! Unfortunately because of the North American presidential election our British holiday seemed to be backshelved. Never mind Guy Fawkes, I still remember you … and how you failed. ^_^
In Japanese class we were presented with our new textbooks, having finished (again) Minna No Nihongo. Now we’re using ‘An Integrated Approach To Intermediate Japanese’. To be honest at first glance it looks like it takes the style of MNN’s various books, and combines it into one hefty hunk of a book. Even though I’m looking forward to the new grammar points, vocab and so on, I’ll definately miss Biji-san and co from MNN. Still, I’ll be looking back over those books when I start forgetting the simple stuff again.
After Japanese I took a trip with a friend to Nishinomiya Kitaguchi. I wanted to head back to that electronics shop (the one from the walk) as they had a Denshi Jisho (electronic dictionary) that was reduced from over 31,000yen to 19,900yen. I was going to get one of these anyway while I was here, so seeing this one was a bargain. To be honest, this month I was either going to end up getting one of these, or a bike. But to be honest, I don’t think I’ll be in the mood for much self-powered travelling for a while. My friend bought a significantly cheaper one (about 3,300 yen), which comes without all the gimicks and fancy things mine did, but it also didn’t come with a touch pad which helps when it comes to finding kanji that you don’t know the reading for.
Making my way back from Okamoto station to Uni, I soon came across an American woman looking very out of breath running with a buggy. As she ran past me our eyes met and she came to a screeching halt (minus the screeching).
"Are you American?" she shouts to me. I thought maybe she was in some kind of trouble and needed an English speaker.
"I’m British." I reply,
"Oh I guess you’ll do. Obama just won and I had to run and tell someone about it and give them a hug!" She shouts as she dives my way and hugs me. Regular readers to my blog will already know my dislike of the stereotypical American (and for the record not all the Americans on my course here fit that bill), so I just stood there with a look to say "yeah … and?". Don’t get me wrong, I understand the significance of the election, but since I’ve been here at times it’s felt like I’ve been in an extention of America rather than Japan. No offence intended to anyone, but America isn’t on my list of places to go in my life. But still, I’d like to thank this lady for giving me something to laugh over with my non-stereotypical American friends.
Because of the fact that I knew I would have my PE class today, I decided to take a bath last night instead of a shower to see if the hot water would help my muscles relax a bit as they were still quite achey. I woke up this morning with a lot less ache, but it was still there. I still haven’t had a full 7-8 hour sleep since before the walk to Sannomiya, so I’m really pushing it. I think I’ll catch up at the weekend.
Walking to Kamishinjyou station I was tired. Waiting for the train I was tired. Standing on the train getting squashed like poo under a shoe I was tired. Walking from Okamoto station to Uni I was tired. During class this morning I was tired. Taking a short nap during the 10 minute break helped a lot, but by the end of the class I was tired.
As I approached the changing room for PE I knew I’d be in for an interesting session and I wasn’t dissapointed. Though I was a lot weaker than normal on the treadmill and bike where I normally do quite an intensive cario-vascular warm up (ooh … big words), I managed to increase some settings on the weights machines. I did tell some people about my 7 hour stroll and the story was met with both shock and disbelief. Perhaps they thought I just used the wrong wording (I’m the only foreigner in the class), but it also gave me a bit of excuse for my naff performance on the treadmill.
After getting my mark back from my Linguistics exam (and slipping in and out of consciousness during the actual lesson … sorry sensei) which wasn’t good but still a pass, I headed home. I noticed my left knee starting to throb and felt like it was swelling a bit. Stopping off at Juso on the way back (I took the train before you ask), I bought some postcards and a knee support. If anyone wants me to send them a postcard then please ask me ^_^. I’ll wear the support tomorrow and see how I get on.
Well, I don’t think I’ve missed anything out, but we all know what my memory is like. If you’ve made it this far, then congratulations and thank you. As a reward, here’s an animation about 10 sticks!