“Have a nice day, tomorrow.”

July 22, 2009

(Originally Published 14/10/2007)

That is the slogan on the window of a pachinko parlour – in Fujisaka.  It’s early Saturday morning (about 1:00AM) and I just got back from another adventure.  I walked in mountains tonight.More...
It all started after ceramics class when I went for a little walk with Willy.  We started off right as the sun was setting and the clouds to the west were brilliantly October orange.  We walked in a direction I’d never been before, the one area of Hirakata I hadn’t yet ventured into: Eastern Hirakata.  We passed a really cool auto body place with an old fashioned car on the second floor in a showroom above the garage.  We walked along Route 1 which is the main road between Osaka and Kyoto so there was quite a bit of traffic and it was really noisy but there were also many interesting restaurants and attractions along the way.  We passed a huge bowling alley and countless pachinko parlours.  At one point we passed a restaurant with a picture of Kappas on it and when we took a closer look we discovered it was a kaitenzushi place!  I love conveyor belt sushi!!!!!  We didn’t go in but kept going and wound up in a cool park called Yamadaike Kouen (Mountain Field Pond Park).  It was really dark and kind of creepy but it was huge and there were real trees there!  Also, there was a huge pond in the middle and lots of cool hiking paths through the trees.  However, the park was absolutely jam-packed full of CATS!  They were everywhere, I kid you not.  Man alive, so many cats.  Willy and I were actually a little nervous that we might get mobbed by a wave of felines.  Big cats, little cats, super little cats, super HUGE cats, orange cats, black cats, grey cats, white cats, spotted cats, calico cats, cats, Cats, CATS!  Man, it was crazy.

We turned around and went back to campus and then we parted ways because Willy wanted to go to downtown Hirakata to meet Abby and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.  After a moment, I struck off toward the Kappa Sushi restaurant.  I decided to try to take a different way to get there and ended up in a serious residential area full of dead ends.  I saw a path cutting across a rice paddy and thought it would get me where I needed to be.  Well, it fizzled out pretty fast and soon I was trekking along a tramped down dirt path through thick weeds and grass.  Just as I reached the other side, I stepped ankle-deep in icky, stinky, mucky mud.  Both of my feet were covered and I had to wrench my feet out carefully to avoid leaving a shoe behind in the bog.  Disgusted, I climbed over a fence and tried to scrape the mud off my shoes.  I used my handkerchief and managed to spread mud around to even more places where I didn’t want it.  But, I still wanted to go to the Kappa Sushi place so I walked along scraping my feet and trying to find grass to shuffle around in for a little bit.  I passed a Gei Sen (Gaming Center), another Bikkuri Donkey (man, they’re everywhere in the Kansai region), and some other amusement supercenters.  When I got to Kappa Sushi, I quietly snuck in the front door and as inconspicuously as possible tried to seat myself at the conveyor belt without anyone noticing me and my stinky, muddy boots.  Then I turned around and realized that all those people I had just passed had been waiting for someone to come take them to their places.  Oh well.  Sheepishly, I began perusing the passing plates.  Each plate was only 100yen and there was an amazing variety.  It all looked so good and before I knew it I had taken seven plates.  Some of the highlights were wasabi eggplant sushi (man, it was so blue), kappa inari (inari is fried bean curd shells wrapped around rice but these were special because they had an image of two kappa stamped on top), egg salad sushi, some sort of fish egg and cucumber roll, and tamago (egg) slit down the middle with rice inserted in the middle.  Lots of cakes, puddings, and fruit dishes went by too as well as hamburger sushi (a small strip of hamburger grilled and placed atop a bed of sushi rice).  If you wanted to order something special you could press the touch screen in front of you and whatever you ordered would come out soon on the shinkansen (bullet train), a special express dish that whipped along above the other train and stopped at your place so you could unload your dishes.  Man, it was so cool.  I got all tongue-tied when I tried to get a host’s attention and signal that I was ready to pay and leave and so I was very frustrated with myself when I left.  I stumbled out the door awkwardly and tried to figure out what to do.

I decided to head back to the crazy cat park but once I got there I just kept going.  I ended up in a second set of mountains (taller and further away) and turned right once I hit them and followed the JR line.  There was a really nice view because I was higher up than the plain that most of Hirakata sits in.  Actually, last week Jenshin drew up a map for me and told me to take a quest.  This map showed the area I went to tonight.  I found the park and I found the train station that were on the map but I didn’t have it with me (it was back home on my computer) so I was just working from memory.  I was interested to find out where the line begins and ends and went inside to see.  One end of this line is at Kizu (presumably somewhere near the Kizu River, one of the tributaries of the Yodogawa) and the other end is at Kyobashi (near Osaka Castle).  The line actually keeps going all the way to Sasayamaguchi but it changes colors at Kyobashi so I’m not sure if it was the same line or not (at the end it is called the Fukuchiyama Line).  I was quite tempted to keep going and just follow the railroad tracks all the way to Kyobashi.  But I didn’t.  I walked back on a different road and realized that I have walked almost all of Hirakata now.  There are still many back roads and secret areas to discover but I’ve been in all the corners and lots of the areas in between.

I turned back along a different road and found the largest area of undeveloped, open space I’ve seen yet in the Hirakata area.  It was at this point that I began to smell the earth.  It felt really good to finally escape the stink of the city – the sewers, the exhaust – it was all beginning to suffocate me.  I stopped for a moment and breathed in deeply of the sweet scent drifting from the fields and from behind me in the forests on the mountain.  I walked back along this new road and found myself in the heavy industrial area of Hirakata again.  I made it almost all the way to the Love Hotel neighborhood before I turned off and worked my way back through some new back neighborhoods that I hadn’t been to yet.  I stopped at 7-11 to grab a chocolate macadamia drink and found out that they were selling all sorts of crazy Halloween candy!  I bought an orange pumpkin roll (kind of like a tiger roll – orange cake rolled up with white icing swirled inside), a Halloween Pocky set (Pocky is candy-coated biscuit sticks, and this set has pumpkin, milk, and chocolate flavors), and a set of Halloween Koalas March (just like regular chocolate Koalas March, little biscuits shaped like koalas and filled with chocolate, except these have koalas in Halloween mode decorated to look like ghosts and witches).  I bought all this cool stuff and took it home and I’ll post a picture soon.  I actually had a “Surprise Pumpkin” muffin at the coffee shop at school today and other than there being funny green seeds in it I think the surprise was that it didn’t taste much like pumpkin and wasn’t very good.

I passed another 7-11 right in front of campus and was accosted by a drunk gaijin.  “Hey!  Hey!  Where ya goin’?” he yelled as he stumbled over to me, clutching a beer.  “Hey, you should come get drunk with us, man!”  I tried to explain to him that I just wanted to go back to the Seminar House but he wouldn’t listen and just keep trying to persuade me to come.  He was blocking the whole sidewalk and I tried to pull him out of the way of an oncoming bicycle.  He turned around and looked at the bicycle and ran out in front of it yelling, “Hey!  Stop!  Woah, woah, woah!  Let me look at your shirt!  Dude!  It’s a Metallica shirt!  Sweet!  Do you like metal?  I love metal!  I love Metallica!  I’ve got a sweatshirt that looks just like that!”  He turned to me and a couple of other gaijin behind me and asked, “Hey, how do you say sweatshirt in Japanese?”  “Se-ta-” replied one of them.  I was going to tell them that it’s actually “Tore-na-” but he turned back to the poor, befuddled Japanese guy on his bike and said, “Yeah!  I’ll show you my sweatshirt someday!”  He turned back to me, “Hey!  How do you say, ‘I’ll show it to you’ in Japanese?”  “Miseteruyo,” I replied, wanting to bow and apologize to this poor guy on his bike who was just passing through.  I was able to slip away unnoticed as they continued to talk to the guy on the bike and I felt embarrassed, not only that they were out drinking in public but also because of the way they were acting.  I know these guys and they’re almost always drunk and loud.  I don’t know how they can afford to go out drinking every night.  I wouldn’t want to be drunk with these people because they’re not funny, they’re just loud and dumb.  I don’t know why they have so many friends.  Anyway, I escaped down a narrow alley and walked through some quiet, dark residential areas.  It’s true that taking the less-travelled road makes a huge difference.  I passed a place that confused me for a moment and I stopped to think about what I had just seen.  It was a large open space that was surrounded by big trees and in the middle of this space was a slide.  However, all over the rest of this space were Shinto shrines and torii gates signifying a sacred area.  I couldn’t tell if this was a shrine, a playground, or both?  The more I learn about Japan, the more I’m inclined to think it is probably both.


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