Greetings again! If you have been reading this blog at all previously you might notice that it has been a while since I last posted. There are several reasons for this:
- I am not much of a blogger
- Blogging is hard
- Blogging while studying abroad is hard
- Blogging every day while studying abroad is hard
I’m not stating that blogging is hard as a complaint, it’s just a fact. I give major credit to those who keep daily blogs/vlogs. Kudos to you! Thankfully for me and my happiness, I found out I only have to blog once a week for my class. Because of this new revelation, this blog is now a weekly blog.
Since I’m making this switch, this post will be.. a little long to make up for not being weekly before. Expect updates very Friday from this point on! Now that we have that out of the way, here comes one and a half weeks of doings in Japan!
Starting the Week Off
This week (and a half) started out with us leaving Yuki’s apartment. We were really sad to see such a pretty home go, but we only live a little ways away in Umeda. Bianca and I cleaned the room and left some flowers for Yuki. If you ever need an Air BnB in Osaka, look for Yuki the coffee guy’s place.
Since we were moving, it was mandatory that it rain while we lugged our baggage all the way across Osaka, and when it rains in Osaka, it pours in Osaka. I couldn’t take a picture to do it full justice, but the rain in Japan is definitely much.. wetter than in Nevada.
We Pulled our luggage through the rain for about thirty minutes before we reached the offices of the people leasing our apartment. The area, somewhere in the surrounding area of Osaka Castle, was really pretty even in the rain. It was full of little restaurants and office buildings. Bianca said it reminded her a lot of the nice part of San Francisco.
After a very wet trip through Osaka, we made it to the DID-Global offices. We dropped off our luggage and didn’t sit down to do business. We had made the trip to DID-Global early in the morning so we could drop off our luggage and then go to school. We didn’t come back to sit down and do business for another four or so hours. However, when we did sit down we were greeted with tea and forms. I found it rather interesting that when doing business like ours in Japan, it’s not uncommon to have tea while discussing things. It was really nice, even if I’m not a big fan of tea.
In addition to the lease agreement, we signed an internet agreement. It turns out that a somewhat standard thing in Japan is this handy little device: a mobile router and modem. That’s right, this is a battery powered 100% mobile WiFi router and modem. We have internet anywhere we go, and it charges through a basic phone charger! This really blew me away. Why isn’t this more of a thing in the United States? It isn’t bad internet either, we get about 100 Mb/s download speeds in certain areas, which is better than what I get in Reno! Thanks convenient Japan!
After we signed the agreement and got our things, it was pretty late. We again dragged our luggage across Osaka to our new apartment in Umeda. Right next to our apartment was a really pretty park:
It’s still a surprise to see such pretty parks like these right in the center of a business district. According to my Geography professor, the reason there are so many parks like these is because they are remnants of visiting royal’s gardens.
The next day, me and Bianca decided to explore the surrounding area a bit, and ended up right in front of Osaka station. Apparently, that day a festival was being held! It was the うめきたまつりor Umekita Festival. Umekita is the little area we were in apparently. The festival was an odd mixture of different cultural tidbits of the area, like food and a local sanshin seller. They let me play the sanshin actually. It was quite fun! It turns out the sanshin (or “3 strings”) is the ancestor of the more famous instrument, the shamisen.
While we were at the festival, we had some really good fun and some good food. We had a very interesting man talk to us while we were there too, but I’ll leave that to another “People of Osaka” you can read (not available yet) here. Our lunch that day was our first encounter with the automated order system you find sometimes in Japan. I don’t have a picture of it, but it’s basically just a big machine with pictures of food on it. You pick a food and put your money in and it orders the food for you. Then you sit and wait for someone to bring it to you. It’s nifty, but I think I prefer service (it gives me a chance to practice my Japanese ordering skills).
We walked around more and it quickly became night. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom at the time, so there were a lot of prime moments to get Sakura pictures.
On our way back home, we went through Osaka/Umeda station. We saw a guy playing the guitar with a circle of people around him. When we drew closer to the performance, we noticed that all of the people watching him were girls. He had a little fan base going on!
It turns out this is a pretty common practice. We saw about two or three other people performing around the station on the way home. We see at least one every day now too. Generally, they are selling their new albums. Good luck on making it guys!
I’m about to enlighten half of you who have never considered mixing ramen, tomato soup, and cheese: it’s practically the best thing I have ever tasted.
The soup is what it sounds like, ramen in a tomato soup. The cheese is melted mozzarella, and the soup I got was filled with delicious stewed veggies. I was hesitant to try it at first, since it sounds a little odd in my opinion. However, this turned out to be one of my now favorite dishes. I’ve come back at least five times since to get it. If you ever get a chance, try this wonderful concoction.
Camping With High School Students
A few days after experiencing the best food in the world, our friend Jay invited us to go on a “day camp trip.” We had no idea what he meant, and when asked he said he had no idea either, it was just the best he could do to interpret his host mother’s words. It turns out, we actually went to a camp site in the hills of the Nishinomiya area. When we got there, we immediately made pizza!
We burnt the pizza but it was still quite delicious. Japan has a way of putting mayonnaise on just about every food imaginable, and it kind of works on pizza.
The interesting part here through, is that the camp we went to was a camp for incoming high school students. Jay’s host mother works at our University’s subsidiary High School, and so she was there to help out a bit and offered to take us along (ありがとうございます！). It is apparently customary for students coming in to a new High School to experience some kind of group camp-like activity. I imagine this is an effort to get the new students to bond with each other before entering a new, bigger, school. I couldn’t manage to ask the reasoning in Japanese, so I never got a straight answer from her directly.
Umekita Festival, Continued
After going to the camp, we still had some daylight to kill. We decided that we should take Jay to the festival we had been to earlier. The festival ran through the week, so we managed to come back and see more! This time, we got a wonderful treat:
It’s an Awa dance! A truly amazing festival dance that involved a lot of dancing around and a lot of fun traditional music. I’ve seen these before on the internet, but they are really quite amazing in person. Even this small conglomerate of people performing was a sight to behold. There is so much energy put into every movement that it really makes you want to cheer them on! It’s the perfect dance for a festival. Evidently, what they chant while dancing is basically “everyone is stupid, so let’s dance.” Wonderful!
Rain and Blossoms
Unfortunately, we’re in a bit of a seasonal transition right now. Because of this, we get infrequent heavy rains. This is particularly sad because when it rains heavily enough, it washes away the cherry blossoms. We got a few really heavy rains recently, and now there are practically no cherry blossoms to behold. Our time of はなみ(cherry blossom viewing) ended too soon. But it is fun to see everyone with their umbrellas:
Since the semester is still young for us, there are tons of people soliciting their clubs all around our college campus. It’s quite fun to feel so courted! They are all really nice people, and often try in vein to explain what their club is in English. We usually get the gist of it. Sometimes, it takes a little extra work to understand. For example, the club “Bugs Bunny”:
Turns out they’re a casual band club. They seemed really cool.
This last week, we went to Nara on top of a few other places. It was quite fun! It was a school organized event however, and so we were quickly ushered around without a chance to fully enjoy everything around us. Me and Bianca are planning to go back to fully explore the area.
The first thing we saw were all the deer! They are absolutely everywhere. The streets are littered with deer and little old ladies selling deer crackers. I purchased some and ended getting mobbed by deer while I was trying to unpackage them. One deer in particular got no love from me after taking a bite out my entire stack of around eight crackers while I was unwrapping them. The rest of them were cool with waiting.
Of course, we also saw the あいぶつ, or in English.. “Big Buddha.” That’s more or less the right translation. It is truly a sight to behold. The surrounding temple was huge and glorious. At the entrance, in front of the huge Buddha statue, was a pot filled with incense you could light and cleanse yourself with. You could also light some candles for a few yen, so I lit a few in memoriam of some friends.
There were other awe-inspiring statues, as well as a museum we visited. It was really amazing seeing such huge and historic monuments to the human condition, but in the interest of blog length, there will be no more pictures of our trip.
Den Den Town
Finally, the last interesting thing we did this week was visit a place in Osaka called “Den Den Town” (according to Bianca). It is a shopping street filled with manga, anime, figures, and all sorts of pop-culture memorabilia. It’s also a great place to find Gachapon. This street also has a bit of a darker side:
Does it look like a regular manga shop? Well we certainly thought so. It turns out, this is actually a porn shop. We were definitely embarrassed to have waltzed right into the shop. Bianca turned beet red. Since the area is heavily focused on pop-culture, it is only natural that there be something like this, but the shops are simply labeled “comic shop.” It can be rather difficult to tell when a shop is a normal shop or a porn shop. Either way, it was fun to run into one.
This was a very interesting week, and I am sure that the next week will be just as great! The weather here is starting to clear up finally, and good things are on the horizon. Also, we just felt an earthquake while I was writing this. My heart goes out to the people of Kumamoto who were near the epicenter of the quake.
(See you next week)