Return to Fujisaka

July 22, 2009

(Originally Published 15/03/2008)

It’s Spring Break!  Yep, that means spring cleaning time!  My desk had reached a critical stage during these last couple of weeks and now, slowly but carefully, I am becoming able to see bare patches of wood again.  It also means vacuuming!  This is not to say that this is the first time I’ve vacuumed since I got here, oh Heavens, no.  It’s just been quite awhile since I vacuumed because these last couple of weeks have been pretty busy with tests and papers.  Today also happened to be linen changing day (every ten days) and these are the only days that I actually fold my futon up and take it off the floor so it is a good day to vacuum.
The weather today was absolutely gorgeous – sunny, warm, with a gentle breeze.  After getting some groceries this afternoon I decided to go for a little walk in the direction of Yamadaike Kouen.  First I passed by a cool sign that demonstrated how the nearby chain worked automatically to let cars come in and out if they had the remote control.  I like how it’s called Robot Gate.  I need to get a video of it operating sometime because it’s so cool.

I jogged leisurely along the shimauma (zebra) trail and continued on the one stretch of the trail that leads on after crossing Route 1.  The whole trail is interesting in that it stretches a long way East-West across the northern part of Hirakata.  However, it’s broken up into little sections and it’s kind of hard to find how to get from one section to the next because you often have to go up or down the intervening road a couple of blocks and it’s never easy to tell which direction to go.  However, I’ve finally managed to find all the sections.  Each one is named after a certain animal and there are strange statues along the side of the trail (zebra, lion, giraffe, squirrel, etc…).

Map of Trail

Map of Trail

This is what the new section of the trail looks like that I hadn’t been on before:

So anyway, I reached the risu (squirrel) section of the trail and realized that this was not a part of the trail that normal people frequently travel on.  It had been taken over by homeless people and there was trash and little “homesteads” all over the place, not to mention the abundance of mangy alley cats.  I passed one man sitting on a bench and nodded to him.  He got up, unzipped his pants, and began peeing on the path in my direction.  Slightly nonplussed, I continued on a little faster.  I stopped to take a picture of an abandoned scooter in one of the drainage ditches alongside a small road.

A little further along I came upon another couple of homeless guys sitting on some benches and drinking together.  I nodded and said “Konnichiwa” and to my surprise one of them looked up at me, grinned, jumped up and said “Hello!”  He stumbled over to me and said (everything from now on in Japanese), “What country are you from?”

“I’m from Oregon in America.”  I never just say America.  I’m not particularly proud of being American but I am proud of being an Oregonian.

“Ah, Oregon!” they exclaimed.

“Do you know it?” I asked.

“Umm, ahh, northwest, right?” said the man on the bench.

“Yeah, it’s north of California,” I replied, folding my hands in front of me and settling in to talk.

“Ah!  I’ve been to California!” said the man on the bench, turning to the side and spitting.

“Please, please, relax,” the man standing next to me said, coming closer and looking up at me with crossed yet pleading eyes.  “Relax, relax.”

“Huh?  Yeah, I’m relaxed.  Don’t worry,” I replied.

“No, no.  He’s drunk.  I’m so sorry,” implored the man, so close now I had a far-too-good look at his toothless gums.

“Yeah, I know.  It’s okay, don’t worry,” I said, trying to make him feel at ease.

“Oi!” said the man on the bench.  “Kid, I’m going to teach you something that will help you while in Japan.  When you’re talking with someone, you should look them in the eye.”

“Oh.  Okay.  I understand,” I said, grinning a little sheepishly and shuffling my feet while checking my surroundings for possible escape routes.

“Relax, relax, please!” said the smaller man next to me.  He gestured frantically at my clasped hands in front of me.

“Oh?  Are my hands bothering you?  This is my relaxed pose.  How should I stand?”

“Oh, that’s such a Japanese posture! (In English)  It depends on the case.  It depends on the case.”

“Okay,” I said, switching my hands and clasping them behind my back instead.

“Oi!  Where’d you learn to stand like that?” exclaimed the man from the bench as he got up and approached me.  “You know kendo?”

“No, I don’t know kendo, but I took karate for awhile in high school.”

“Oh, karate and kendo are completely different.  That posture is very bushido (the way of the warrior).”

“He’s a kendo master with his own dojo!” exclaimed the smaller man next to me.

“Oh, really?” I asked.  “That’s great.”

The bigger man approached me.  “How is your body?  May I check?”

“Um, what?  I don’t think I understand.  I’m fine…” I tried to say but he was already feeling my chest, then my abs, poking and jabbing here and there and squeezing to see if I had any fat around my middle.

Caught off guard, I looked down and him and stuttered, “Um, what?  Uh, my body’s fine, thanks.”

“Huh, fine!  Yes, it’s fine,” he said and gave my stomach a nice hard slap.  He held one hand up in front of my face and curled it into a fist.  I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this but before I knew what was going on he had grabbed my arm and said, “Do you know this move?” as he attempted to twist my arm.

“Uh, yeah.  I know that,” I said, trying to shrug him off.

He grunted and released my arm.  Apparently satisfied, he went back to his bench and sat down.

“Umm, where does this trail go?” I asked, trying to change the conversation and see if I could work it into a departure.

“Well, where are you trying to go?” asked the man from the bench.

“Nowhere special, I’m just exploring a bit.”

“Ah, this trail goes by the Hirakata sports center.”

“Excuse me, can I ask a question?” asked the smaller man nervously next to me.

“Yeah, go for it.”

“What is your feeling of Japan?”

“Hmm.  Well, I really like it here.  I’ve met so many really nice and interesting people.  But really, I do get kind of homesick sometimes.”

“No, homesick.”

“Ahh, homesick.  Why?”

“Well, I’m from the country and I really don’t like living in the big city like this.”

“Ha, big city!  Hirakata is country.”

“Ah, yeah, I guess for Japan it is, but…”

“Yes, but what are your true feelings about Japan, eh?” asked the man from the bench.  “You don’t have to pretend.  I want to know your honne (true feelings).  Don’t you think Japan is bad?  Don’t you have a bad image of Japan?”

“No, I really do like Japan.  I just get kind of tired of it sometimes.  I get tired of the tv programs and I don’t like how so wound up in appearances everyone is.”

“Ah, yes, well thank you.  See you,” said the man from the bench rather suddenly.

“Ah, umm, yes.  Thank you.  Maybe I will see you again here sometime.”
”Yes, we come here every weekend,” said the small man next to me, crooning up like Gollum with muddy, befuddled eyes.

I took my leave and continued on, feeling like I probably wouldn’t actually come down this part of the trail again anytime soon.  The encounter was somewhat interesting, and it’s nice when people actually talk to me, but I felt kind of weird too.  I found another trail along the river next to Yamadaike Kouen and ran along it until I reached Fujisaka station (the place I found in the middle of the night in one of my posts long, long ago).

There was a man fixing bicycles under the bridge but it was such a mess down there I couldn’t tell whether he was living down there or just did business down there or what.

I continued on under the tracks and jogged up a hill and found a cool park full of tennis and basketball courts and even a community swimming center full of all sorts of fun pools and slides.  There was a nice trail that wound up and down the hill through a forest and next to a small creek, a pond, and the railroad tracks.  I turned around and ran back through Yamadaike Kouen and then trotted back up the river until I got back home.

I’m not doing anything special this week (nothing’s planned, anyway) but I’m really looking forward to some time to just sit around and relax, sleep, clean my room, read, watch movies with friends, and study a bit for the remainder of my midterm exams next week.  Hopefully there will be at least some more cooking adventures to share.



  1. Hey! Found your blog while googling around trying to find a public basketball court in Hirakata. What section was the one you came across located in, and whereabouts in the city can I access it from? 🙂

    • Hey! Thanks for the comment. Always cool to hear about people enjoying Hirakata. Public basketball court, huh? Hmm, there are some over by Yamadaike Park. If you cross under the JR Line and head up the hill, there’s a park on top and there were courts there. There’s a big public athletic center over in that part of town, too, and you should be able to play there. Sorry for the late reply. I hope you’re able to find someplace good to play. Have a good time in Hirakata!

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