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Goodbye Japan T_T さよなら日本

Time check … midnight, exactly. In roughly twelve hours time I will be leaving my dorm and beginning the long and arduous journey back to the UK. First off, here’s an appropriate tune by John Loeffler (not sure who sings it though), The Time Has Come.

Between trying to pack my life into various boxes and send things home via the Japanese post office (an expensive, time consuming and freakin’ heavy task by the way), I’ve tried to fit in a few more of my “When in Japan” wants and desires including making a few new ones which did kind of jump on me spur of the moment. So I guess now with my big ass hefty bag packed and my smaller hand luggage missing a few things (this laptop, my PSP and DS which are charging etc), I should tell you how I’ve spent my last week in the land of the rising sun.

First off I’ve not been able to go into university at all this week which was really gutting. As I keep banging on, at uni’s one of the few places I can meet up with Japanese friends who happen to live in a different prefecture from me. It was not that I physically couldn’t go, it’s that at the moment a lot of schools in Kansai have been closed down since the breakout of the Piggy Flu in Kobe, which in turn has spread to my own Osaka. Thankfully no one I know has been infected, though a couple are nursing regular colds.

During the week I managed to get in a final trip back to Kyoto with two friends (European and Japanese). Between the three of us there were similar things we wanted to see, as well as our own individual interests to follow. Buying bus passes for 500 yen (£3.33) which gave us travel across the city, we set sail for 金閣寺 (kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion Temple).

The only thing that was against us was the weather. It was warm, so definately t-shirts, but it rained. This meant that the nice views of the Golden Temple could have been spectacular views. Not only that but it’s a pain in the arse trying to take photographs holding a brolly. During our time in the park we came across an interesting vending machine which sold disposable cameras and film, though this was not the strangest vender of the day. Walking to the bus stop we passed a vending machine selling neck-ties (fair enough), and hoover bags. Yes … hoover bags. The thing you stick in a hoover.

Next on our group voyage was one for me, a visit to another one my Leeds based Japanese teacher’s universities, Doshisha University. Carrying on from my adventure in Hiroshima, this was the second of three universities on my list. After taking a video (where the sound didn’t record properly) we headed off for a quick lunch.

Altogether we then went onto the 銀閣寺 (Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion Temple). Although the building was under construction, well, renevation, the Silver Temple (though actually brown and woody) was still a nice site, and so was the park area that accompanied it. At this point we split up, and I headed Southward towards 清水寺 (kiyomizudera).

In English we have a saying about “taking a plunge”, in Japanese the equivalent is “jumping off the stage at Kiyomizudera”. An awesome temple that is supported by strong 13 meter high wooden columns, Kiyomizudera gave spectacular views and good photos despite the crappy rain.

Before going home I wondered the streets of Kyoto’s Kawaramachi area before eventually meeting a KFC Colonel Sanders (life size model) in a kimono and Happi coat.

On Wednesday we all got together again for a trip down the Hankyu line to the 中山寺 (Nakayamadera). Nakayamadera is a Buddhist temple in 宝塚 (Takarazuka), and is known as a temple to pray for an easy childbirth. Though none of us were expecting (wanting) kids anytime soon, the excellent weather compared to Kyoto made for a nice day out (and also this was the first temple I’d been to with an escalator). After a bout of karaoke, we then went our seperate ways.

Time Check … 02:08 … crap. Sodding distractions.

That night me and a guy from France went to the Speak Easy darts bar in Umeda for a final drink. Originally due to the fact I still had a lot of crap to sort out I’d only intended on stopping for one or two (much like how I intended on writing this entry a lot faster so I’d be in bed by now), but as one thing led to another we ended up staying until the bar closed at around 5 am; hello sunshine. It’s thanks to this darts bar that we’ve been able to practice spoken Japanese with native speakers outside uni (the bar staff), but also I’ve developed a taste for Soft-tip darts (though am still not very good at it).

So yesterday (Thursday) I managed to tick off two more things off my list. First of all I finally got around to going to a media cafe. Most of my fellow foreign students use these as a cheap(er) means of having somewhere to sleep when you miss the last train, but because I normally don’t venture far enough away that I couldn’t get back on Shank’s Pony I’ve yet to have the need to kip in one. Now I know that these vary from place to place and company to company, so I’ll just give a quick overview of the one I was in, Cats. Cats is a mens only cafe with shower facilities (at an extra charge I think). The room I got was small, but comfortable, with fast internet access, reclining leather seat and access to the plentiful DVD and Manga library. I wish I could say I nosed around a bit more, but I had something I needed to find online; the final university.

I was lucky in that my final teacher studied in Osaka, but I was unlucky that it was Osaka prefecture rather than Osaka city. I’d never taken the monorail here, but because it’s very similar (aka pretty much the same) to taking the regular train I didn’t have to worry. The Osaka University of Foreign Studies in the Minou area of Osaka, had merged with and became a part of the Osaka University in 2007, but remains in the same location.

After taking a video message at the university, as done for the others, I then walked the long way back to the train station exploring the countryside area. In a way it seemed to remind me a lot of various pictures of Shirakawa (Gifu) that I’d seen. I guess because I couldn’t get to Shirakawa this time around, Minou was a nice alternative. However for some reason every dog there seemed to get angry at me.

Which brings us to today (Friday), my last day. The time is currently 02:39.

First let me top up your background music. This is one of my favourites to do at karaoke, Anata by Akiko Kosaka.

Me and a couple of friends (the same 2 who I went to Kyoto with) had decided we’d head to Sushiro for lunch (sushi on conveyor belts). On the way we made an important stops though. I have a bank account here in Japan and since I’m leaving the country we (Konan exchange students) have been recommended to close them, unless we intend to return to Japan in which case we need to give the bank our home address. After a lot of explaining and mangled Japanese from me (and a lot of patience and understanding from the girl who served me) my address was changed and we headed off for lunch.

Not really much to report on as far as food goes in comparison to last time we went, except this time we got the worst table at the very end of the conveyor belt, meaning every other buggar got the best choice. Should I make a dorm/homestay comparison I wonder?

After lunch we popped into Softbank so that I could cancel my phone contract. Doing this early meant that I had to pay for the remaining period of time on there, but since I was quite smart at the start (smarmy buggar aren’t I) it was only a few thousand yen. From the sound of some of my friends because they went for more expensive contracts (some as long as 2 years, as well as actually costing more) they’ve had to pay up to £200 to get out of their contracts early. Now what to do with my Japanese handset. Ebay?

We headed back to Umeda for a wander around and ended up eating a crepe; mine being banana chocolate & strawberry, but soon parted ways with some tears.

Right … tonight … nearly done. Pachinko is a funny ol’ game isn’t it. Me and a European friend finally had a go on the game that holds it’s own popularity in Japan. Now because of the fact neither of us had a clue on what we were to do or how to play (other than the fact it used tiny balls pinging into a machine), we found a pachinko parlour that seemed to be quite empty and had a staff member easily visible (for when we cocked up). Splitting a bucket of balls between us we cracked on and after wasting at least half of them found out what to do (thanks to sed staff member). Our 1000 yen (£6.64) bucket was soon gone (after about 10 minutes), so we headed off. I guess once you know how to play and learn how to work the machine, you’re bound to get better.

For dinner a few of us went to our local 鳥貴族 (torikizoku, the 280 place) where after eating my usual Chicken Heart and drinking my huge glass of beer, I tried a black ice-cream. It tasted like burned bread.

We ended the day with a trip to a games arcade where I held my own in Virtua Fighter 5, but got my ass handed to me in both Tekken 6 and some tennis game.

So I guess this is it. The next time I write on this blog I’ll more than likely be in a different country and will have left the land that I have come to love. I want to thank every one that’s made this year possible (except for the jerks … you know who you are (if you’re reading this, you’re probably not one, so rest easy)) and really mean it when I say that I will come back if it’s the last thing I do; didn’t fancy quoting the Terminator.

So to sing us out, here’s Vera Lynn with We’ll Meet Again. T_T (finished @ 3:34 am)