So last week was O-bon, the festival to honor your dead relatives. I actually know almost nothing about it. Whoops. But almost the entire country was on hiatus, except for the important stuff. Restaurants were often closed, etc. Rylan and I didn't want to stay in Morioka doing nothing for a week with only a few people in the city that we know, so we decided to take a trip to Hamamatsu and Tokyo to visit people.
Planning should be done in advance. We almost left Sunday night by taking the night bus, but Rylan would have had to take the train back to his house in the country to pack, and it was already 8 pm, and we decided that would be a bad idea. So he called me the next morning and was like "I'm at the station, when can you be here so we can go?" Uhh, ok sure! So I packed quickly in my falling apart suitcase. Right before I left there was a knock on the door, and yay! it's my new atm card! So I went to the bank and tried to use it, but funny thing, everything here is written in these very strange squiggly lines that I can't read. So I couldn't get it to work but I think that's because it wasn't activated yet. I hope. Anyways, we had lunch at a Jajamen place, which is a Morioka specialty, it's some kind of noodle with garlic and weird sauce and I don't really know what else, or how to describe it. Then we caught the next bullet train and went to Tokyo.
As soon as we arrived, there was the question of where to stay that night. We could either go to Osaka to visit Richard, but that was about another $125 away, or we could call people in Tokyo and ask to crash at their house, or we could go to Hamamatsu first and stay with Kirby. We did the last one, and got a local train there because it was much cheaper. But at the information booth, they told us the next one was leaving in 6 minutes, and the one after that was in another five hours. So we rushed on the train without a ticket, and stood for a couple of hours until we transferred. (This was all very rushed: "Is that the right train? I can't read those characters...Let's just get on it and hope, because the doors are closing.......") But we still didn't have a ticket, but this time we got to sit down. Because we took local trains that stop at every.single.podunk.town. the trip took four and a half hours when it probably should have taken one. But we got there finally. At the ticket gate I stood behind Rylan while he said something in gibberish (Japanese) to the guy. Apparantly he did what the girl in front of him did: "I don't have a ticket" "Where did you come from?" "Atami" "Ok, that'll be 2500 yen" Well, we did come from there...we transferred there! I got to the counter and said I was with the guy in front of me, then I found out what he did later. Oh well. Kirby came to meet us and we walked to his tiny little apartment. When we got there he wore his shoes inside, to great disgust to his guests.
Here are some pictures from Hamamatsu Castle. I hadn't heard of it before, but it seems to have belonged to a very very famous dude in the history books. Whaddya know?
Here's a statue of the famous guy.
Pretty tiles on the ceiling of a restaraunt where we ate.
And what the counter looked like. Very tranquil.
In Hamamatsu, it was sooooo hot! Way way worse than Morioka. I didn't even wear any makeup at all. Anyways, we were only there for a couple of nights, and were going to visit Richard, but decided against it because there wasn't enough time or money. So we called him at work (haha!) and told him. Oh well.
So next it was "Hey, Masaki, ol buddy ol pal, can we stay with you?" which turned out alright. It was like living with a host family for a few days again. Very nice to sleep on somebody else's futon and have real breakfast in the morning cooked by a Japanese mama.
(Tokyo was half as hot and humid as Hamamatsu but when I was walking on my knees in the house in Tokyo I almost fell over because I was slippery all over with sweat. This country is ridiculous.)
In the bathroom at a rest stop between Hamamatsu and Tokyo. How to use the Western toilet. Umm, do you think they need instructions??? No...
The view from Masaki's apartment.
Masaki eating ice cream.
Yes, the rumors are true. The trains are sometimes segregated.
Masaki works at the Rolling Stone Cafe in Roppongi, which is the super super rich area where all the embassies are. I actually got to have tacos! But the guy didn't know what cilantro was, and I was too busy eating to explain it to him.
We also went to Harajuku (which is where Gwen Stephani is always singing about), Shinjuku, Shibuya (yeah, I don't know the differences either) Ginza, which has the highest property values in the country, Tsukiji, which is the biggest fish market in the world, and there we went to a rotating sushi bar and it was delicious because it had all come in a couple of hours ago, etc, etc. It was a lot of walking around, and a lot of me complaining that my feet hurt. Masaki and I stopped at a tea shop to have some green tea ice cream while Rylan went to a ninja museum or something, and it was much less sweet than in America, which I liked. The flavor was definately much stronger. The girl let us sample all kinds of tea while she made it right in front of us. Every time she poured us cups, she would pour one for herself and duck under the stall to drink it Austin Powers style. I wanted to tell her "Lady, I'm American. I won't be offended if you drink tea in front of me." But I didn't. I ended up buying all three kinds. But small packs. Not big ones. Now I have to get a tea kettle.
The last night was when everyone that had been in Tokyo the entire time was actually off of work. So Machiko, Masaki (both Waseda-Earlham exchange students) James (who I lived with), Kozue (his girlfriend he lives with now), Kana (who I met in Morioka while I was on SICE but who lives in Tokyo now), Tetsuya (Kirby's BF), and even Kirby who took the train in all went out. They gave us who squid at the restaraunt, which I gave to Kozue because I don't like eating anything with eyes. There was also this snail looking thing that came from the sea. It tasted like normal fish, but I also don't like ripping flesh out of its home, and the texture was gross. So we did that, and then we did more photo booth things, and then we went to a bar, and then we went to a club (the one where Kirby and Tetsuya first me, aww!), and we were there for long enough for me to spill mango juice on my camera but not find it until the next day, then we had to get to the station and catch the night bus back to Morioka. While at the station, I thought I had left my cell phone with Kirby, and Kana was going to run with me back to the club, and I gave my locker key to Masaki and Rylan to go and get my baggage, but as soon as they left I realized I had it all along and felt really dumb. Then I got really nervous because it was 10 minutes to the station and my bus left in 15. But it was late at night so it was ok because the trains were not so crowded. At the station I saw a guy trying not to vomit in his shirt while his friend helped him, and a guy being walked by two policemen down the stairs to catch his train. I wonder if they were going to take him all the way home or what. This country is so forgiving. I told Kana how in America people would just think those people were disgusting and wouldn't both with them but here everybody watches out for everbody else. Even in Tokyo, with 27 million people. Weird.
I know this wasn't very much, but tomorrow is the first real day of school and I have a week's worth of vacation pictures to put up. I need to learn to do this during the day instead of when I'm right about to go to bed.