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Ai Rabu Japan

July 22, 2009

(Originally Published 31/08/2007)

Japan is suffering from a cute epidemic. Everywhere I look – cute. It’s overwhelming. It’s fantastic!

Yesterday I met Jenshin for the first time in person and we went to downtown Hirakata City with Willy and Jen’s friend Nikki. It’s a pretty easy walk to get there from campus but you have to walk down one of the crazy roads where you feel like you’re likely to get hit by a car at any moment. There are literally only inches between you and the traffic. It’s very disconcerting. Anyway, we made it downtown and walked around a bit, enjoying all the sights. We crossed the river and passed the train station and then checked out the city hall. Willy needed to pick up another Alien Registration Card application form because his got soaked in one of the showers earlier that day. So, we wandered around city hall for a little bit until we found the Alien Registration desk and I was able to successfully ask for another form. Whee! I’m feeling pretty confident about my Japanese. After that, we walked around the park a little bit, Nikki snapping pictures left and right and me wishing I had my camera, and then we went to Tsutaya. Tsutaya is a Japanese bookstore and I felt SOO good exploring it! I love Japanese bookstores. Whatever people may say about Japanese people being much quieter than everyone else, it certainly doesn’t hold true in bookstores, malls, and train stations. Anyway, we searched for a magazine that has a picture of Dave in it but we couldn’t find it. It’s called Tokyo Graffiti and apparently some people just stopped him one day because he looked so awesome and interviewed him and took his picture. Naisu.

So, we left the bookstore and looked for someplace to eat. We passed under the train station and came out next to a shoe store. This tiny Japanese woman, she must have been less than four feet tall, started talking to us. She was so cool! Her English wasn’t half bad and she said, “Hello! Whaa! You’re tall!” Then we talked about shoe sizes and she asked me what size I was in American shoe sizes. She held her foot up to mine for comparison and it was great fun. So, I told her we were looking for an okonimiyaki shop (sort of a cabbage and egg pancake) and she gave us directions to a place in the train station. It was SO GOOD! The waitress made our okonomiyaki right at our table in the grill which is embedded in the surface. It was probably the best food I’ve had since I’ve been here. We were all a little worried because the waitress left for awhile and it seemed like the food was burning but we thought she had asked us to wait until it was done. Luckily, it didn’t actually burn and we figured out that we didn’t have to worry about anything because they were taking care of it.

After we ate we went to Kiddy Land, a store under the train station where there are TONS of Gachapon machines. Gachapon machines are full of capsule toys and each one contains an assortment of related items and you’re never sure which one you’re going to get. Willy has been looking for these ever since we got to Japan so we had a great time perusing them all and Willy got some cool stuff. Kiddy Land is so cute you feel like melting into a warm puddle of contentment with every new thing you look at. Tissue box holders shaped like Elmo where you pull the tissues out of his back. Snoopy and the gang paraphernalia. Hello Kitty, Domo-kun, Totoro and other Miyazaki themes, crazy blobular dogs, pandas and koalas and fish and everything that could possibly be cute is there. It’s so cool.

When we finally made it out of the shop we walked along the river for awhile. It was dark now (it gets dark very early here, about 7PM) and some people were playing with sparklers down by the water. We went back into downtown because I had spotted a crepe shop earlier. I am so glad we went. It’s a really narrow restaurant with barely any room to sit at the bar. It’s cramped on both sides of you because the seats are close together and the wall is right behind you. It’s really warm in there and sort of smells like burning oil. But it’s so incredibly awesome! It’s one of the coolest places I’ve been because of the guy who runs it. He’s a cool middle-aged dude with a really rough accent. He made lots of jokes and asked us lots of questions about where we came from and whether we were students at Kansai Gaidai and if we liked Hirakata and about his trips to America and Canada and Mexico. He is such a jokester and was always making jokes about where the other people in the restaurant had come from (“He’s from Thailand. He’s from Vietnam. She’s from Cambodia. I’m from Mongolia. Just kidding! It’s a lie! I’m a liar.” He only knew a few words in English but we had a good time trying to figure out how to talk with him in Japanese. It was a really great experience because most people don’t talk to you if you’re a foreigner. It’s sort of like they’re afraid you won’t be able to understand them so they try as hard as they can not to make eye contact with you. This guy was brave and we had a great time talking with him. Willy and I have decided to go there once a week and try to talk to him about various things. We’re hoping we can develop a good friendship with him and learn some really cool stuff.

Well, I’ve got to go to the opening ceremony now and then this afternoon I’m going to Kyoto! Wheee!!!

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