Monday, August 9, 2010
Sunday, 8/8/2010 10:46 PM
I just took a bath. And by that, I mean that I took a shower as I normally would, but instead of drying up and stepping out of the shower, I hopped into the tub adjacent to the shower area. And I just sat there, pruning, and enjoying the water. Not really sure what a bath is about, besides relaxing, but the bath tubs in Japan are tiny. Say, about 3x3x3 feet cubed. That said, it’s kind of hard to relax in there the way you could the ones in the U.S. But it’s not impossible. And it still felt good; especially after such a hot day! Everyday it’s been ridiculously hot here. But I found it interesting, because usually, when I spend a lot of time under the sun, a sensitive part on my elbows gets burned (I know, right?). But today, I just got *really tanned* and thankfully not burned. But since I was wearing the necklace my girlfriend gave me, I now have a healthy necklace tan to match my watch tan and bracelet tan. Rock on.
So this weekend was filled with a lot of celebrations, hence the title of this post. On Friday night, I went out with two co-workers and another friend of theirs. We’re all about the same age, so it was pretty fun! There was no need to stay reserved and overtly polite like I would for my mentors here. We went to a family restaurant; no alcohol there, but instead, they have all-you-can-drink soda, tea, and soup. Yes, all-you-can-drink soup. From a dispenser that is not unlike a cappuccino machine. It was kind of strange…but quite tasty! And even more peculiar were the burgers there: in Japan, there are two (at least?) types of burgers: there’s the ハムバーガー “hamubaagaa,” which is just like a normal American hamburger you could order at McDonald’s or wherever. Then, there’s the ハムバーグ “hamubaagu,” which is Romanized as “hamburg,” like the city. And the hamburg is JUST the burger patty on a plate, without a bun. In fact, it was served with rice (there is actually a choice to order bread instead of rice, but it is not a hamburger bun). And the hamburg I ordered had cheese inside! And it had the option of being served with two different types of sauces: a tomato sauce, or a French-style dark sauce whose name escapes me. Anyway, great meal, and a wonderful time getting to know new friends.
Hamburg, on left, served with shrimp:
On Saturday was the Tanabata Matsuri, which took place in Sendai. That festival is a celebration that involves long, colorful lamp-like decorations made of paper. We JET ALTs in Miyagi used that festival as a reason to meet up; unfortunately, the two others I met up with had missed the first group of people (composed of two), and others who seemingly went by themselves or with their supervisor. Though, considering that none of us has a cell phone and only one or two have internet access at their apartments, that’s a pretty decent turnout for lack of communication.
Anyway, having met up with two others, we walked around and checked out the stores nearby the Sendai Station. I found a variety of interesting stores, including a place that rents out DVDs, CDs, and manga. I also went to a thin, but tall (10-11 floors) shopping mall, filled with women’s clothes. I had to go to the basement floor to really find any clothing for men. And damn, they were right: since I’m a Medium in the U.S., I’m a Large in Japan. And even the Large looks like it’ll barely fit; people here are so skinny! (But not everyone, obviously.) But yeah, so many guys are skinny as a twig. And some women are surprisingly tall. But I digress.
We also found a Starbucks! Caramel Frappuccino still tastes good here! If anything, I think it might actually be better here…hmm. And finally, I went shopping at a Japanese Hyaku-en store (Dollar Store)! I bought some gift bags/boxes for my omiyage, and I also got new house sandals. Afterwards, we went to an electronics store that had a huge phone section; one of the JETs I was with managed to get her phone that day. She ended up picking AU, probably because she heard they were the ones willing to allow a foreigner to start services with them without having the Alien Registration Card on their person (but required the passport, and a verbal confirmation that the card was ordered or being processed). I’ll make another post later, after I investigate more about Japanese phones this week.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay in Sendai much longer because the return bus was leaving at 5 PM. This means that I had to miss the celebrations, which were mostly at night. But at least I got to explore the area and get a feel for how the bus system works. Now I gotta figure out how the Shinkansen works. :-)
Here's that toilet I mentioned in last week's post:
Continued at 1:56 PM, Monday 8/9/2010
Later that evening, I called up a co-worker (the guy who took me to the hamburg place), and he took me to an internet café. This store is just chockfull of fun. Besides renting a computer in a private booth, you can rent out a game room, where you can sit and play games. You can also rent manga, or go to the arcade which has all the games on free credits. There are also a bunch of billiards/pool tables, darts, free ice cream/drinks. All for just about $5/hr or $10/4hr.
On Sunday was the Kappa Matsuri. Kappa is a sea sprite, or sea monster. Literally, its name is spelled “river child”, or 河童. Kappa is the mascot of this town (and you see him everywhere, even in neighboring towns!), so naturally there is a festival to celebrate him. The festival was really interesting; there were a bunch of tents setup in front of the Town Hall, where various foods were served like foot long hot dog franks, tako yaki (octopus meatballs), delicious slices of beef, and snow cones, perfect for this hot weather. There was also a stage, with various performances like dancing, singing, taiko drums, and even dancing by toddlers. There was even a couple from the Caribbean who came and did a drumming performance. The opening act was a singer from Tokyo who sang a few songs he wrote. I liked his music enough to buy a CD; I introduced myself as having come from America, so he autographed the CD with “I’m glad to see you!”
After the performances, there was a big Kappa Dance that involved nearly the entire town parading through the street doing simple choreography in sync. And of course I danced with them! As if I even had a choice! Afterwards, I was introduced to my neighborhood; as the Kappa Dance was performed with each neighborhood split up. After the festival was over, a kid who had just graduated high school came up to me and started talking. One of the first things he asked was if I had a girlfriend. I was warned at the Tokyo Orientation that people tend to be very nosy here, and they will ask all sorts of questions, which could be as intimate as asking about physical measurements. Having forgotten the advice to say “himitsu” or “secret,” I simply said, “yes, I have a girlfriend.” To which he replied with more questions; I quickly changed the subject by turning the question around on him and proceeding to talk about Japan life. The conversation quickly subsided, and everyone went home.
After a hard day's work, what better to drink than this?
After getting home, I was tinkering around with the washing machine, trying to translate the various labels and buttons on it so that I don’t end up destroying my clothes or my apartment. A few minutes into that, my doorbell rings. Lo and behold, it’s the president of my community! He was inviting me to come out to one of the centrally located buildings, where people were gathering. When I got there, I was quickly shown a place on the tatami mat to sit, with food and drink offered upon my sitting. I had sat down next to the older lady who had shown me how to do the Kappa dance. Now, I know how pushy people can get when they’re offering things to eat and drink; but this lady took it to the next level! Having kindly accepted the food, I ate some and drank some, and before I even drank 1/4 of my glass, she quickly filled it up. And again. And again. Even after I said I was okay! And she also grabbed a second plate for me to put more food on, without checking if I wanted to eat it. Hahaha, good times. I felt bad because I had gotten quite full very quickly, so I couldn’t quite finish everything. She then packed up a bunch of the food for me to take home. And gave me orange Fanta, which they’ve referred to as “Juice” ever since I’ve arrived here.
I took some pictures of the festivities this weekend, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to upload them in a while because I still don’t have internet access at home. It was suggested to me to create a Flickr account for such a purpose.
Word of the day: 祭り 「まつり」 “matsuri,” or “festival.”