あけましておめでとうございます

Happy New Year to everyone. Before I recap on what I did yesterday I just thought I’d share that greeting with you.

One thing I forgot to write about in the last entry is about the kindness of others here. On the train to get our hair cut, we were sitting across from and elderly woman wearing a facemask. Facemasks are a common sight here as people wear them to either try to stop the spread of any disease they have (or have been in contact with), or to try to help them avoid a common illness going around. As we were leaving the train she tapped me on the arm and held out a mandarin and a biscuit. I couldn’t translate what she said well, but she was giving them to us as a gift. We were stunned and had absolutely no idea why, but this kind of generosity back home would have caused a lot of scepticism.

Wednesday’s nightclub was a lot of fun. I’ve forgotton the name, but it was in the Shinsaibashi area of Osaka popular for it’s shopping and clubbing. The club played R’n’B, Hip-Hop, and Reggae tunes, though thinking about it I can’t actually name one Reggae song played. Drinks were on par with most places that I’ve been to in Japan (expensive), so I stuck mainly to the cheapest beer on the menu. All the guys working there were awesome and friendly, frequently giving us free drinks and conversation.

When I walked into the club though, I wasn’t expecting to end up playing Connect 4 with a tremendous amount of effort and determination. This came about about half an hour or so after we arrived when the barman (who I don’t think was native Japanese) began to set up Connect 4 on the bar and started playing people. He went undefeated for bloody ages, and I lost on numerous occasions to him, often losing by my own stupidity, but he really is good. After a while he pulled out a bottle on wine on ice, offering it as a prize for the first person to beat him.

Enter my one friend who it turns out was a Connect 4 champion when she was at school. They played a number of games with the barman getting the upper hand on each one. Until she finally managed to turn it around and scored us the win(e). Pretty much from then on I found myself getting hooked on the strategies of Connect 4 in a way that I hadn’t felt since I was at the World Rock Paper Scissors Championships back in 2005. By the time we left (at about 6am) I was rather drunk and was pleased that I’d given my mind a good workout.

Before heading home we (the three of us from our group who stayed that late) went to a little place for some food. Customers in there seemed quite stunned at our level of Japanese, which was probably aided by our alcohol induced confidence. I decided to munch on Curry and Rice, fearing that if I were to have a hangover (or worse), it’d help keep everything settled.

I got home at about 9 o’clock yesterday morning and didn’t wake up until about 7 o’clock that evening, New Years Eve.

Because of the fact that today is New Years Day, the most important occaision in the Japanese calendar, I wanted to make sure I could get some food ready incase the convenience shops are closed (which in fact they aren’t). I was told about a cheap supermarket down the road by a friend of mine, but unfortunately it had already closed. Venturing further down the way I came across a Lawsons 100 yen store. Score!

To let in the new year, a friend and I wanted to go to a temple to hear the ‘banging of the giant bell‘. We found a nice little one and joined an incredibly long line outside. I should point out that we didn’t know what we were actually queuing for, but thought it was more curteous than just going straight in. Getting a few stares, something I’d not actually had in a while, we felt that this was probably not a time for ‘tourist style picture taking’ (for excellent tips on how not to look like a tourist, watch this “How To Not Look Like A Tourist” video from Howcast) … so I just got the one photo from outside the temple.

It turns out we were in line to ring the giant bell, which even though it seemed every was doing it, felt like a great honour for me to participate in. I did some praying in the various areas of the temple, and was given some Nihonshu (Japanese sake) also. It’s nice because now that I’ve been to this temple I feel that I would be able to return to it again one day. During the next few days I’ll be going to some different temples, as is the tradition in Japan.

We came home feeling pretty cold, though I’m pretty certain it’s not as cold as it is back in Telford.

Today, I’ll probably try sleeping and relaxing. I’ve still got to finish my essay for Leeds, but I think I want to enjoy the little bit of free time I have.

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