“solitaire”

5/10/12   –   17:23

And the onslaught of papers and projects continues without end. As such, there wasn’t even time to write about anything during Golden Week which was last week.

Wait, Golden Week? We don’t have that in Amurr’ca. Ah, yeah, that’s right. Well, Golden week is a 3-day weekend followed by a 4-day weekend and the two days in between are usually counted by people as holidays too. So in essence, you get a full week off from work or school [except for some institutions like Kansai Gaidai that want their Japanese students to go to school even though it’s a holiday] to do whatever you want. Most Japanese travel during the holiday so all of the tourist attractions in Kyoto and Osaka are crowded with people coming in from the country and public transportation gets uber-[more]expensive [than it already is]. When I told my mom about this holiday week she was like “Wow, Japanese people get more days of vacation than we do.” I’m not sure that’s true, but my mom has been working five or six days a week every week and often on national holidays for over twenty years[?] now. Perhaps she’s entitled to make the statement. Also, happy Mother’s Day.

But anyway, what did I do?

I did nothing.

I did nothing and it was glorious. It was golden, if you will. [ahaw, haw.]

And by nothing I don’t literally mean I stayed in bed and watched Parks and Rec and the Office, which I am very well capable of doing. It’s just that, in relation to everyone else I know who took fantastic trips to Hokkaido and Okinawa and Taiwan and everywhere that isn’t Hirakata, and even in comparison to my own magical wonder trips to far-off lands like Hiroshima and Tokyo and all of Asia… my week in the Kansai area was たいしたことない. It was a good break from school though, despite the having to write papers on my days off, but what can you do.

Here’s Golden Week as a series of bullets and impressions.

– 都おどり. Miyako Odori. One of the things on my bucket list when I came to Japan was this performance put on by the Geisha of 祇園. Unfortunately you can’t take pictures while the performance is happening, but I did snap this wonderful shot [>_>] of the … curtain. Woo.

Youtube has graciously offered their special view of the performance, however in a bite-sized one minute clip. It was very elegant and Japanese and fit all the stereotypes that I have in my mind of traditional Japan. I’m sure I’ve written this before but my flawed image [which is 100% a joke] of Kyoto people [many of which are my friends] is that they get off the train from school, arrive home to their traditional shoji-screen’d tatami’d Japanese villas and change immediately into their kimono and hakama [which are relatively uncomfortable to wear]. This is obviously untrue, but whenever I tell Kyoto people about it they seem to laugh. Kind of like how I laugh whenever someone tells me they think that every single American owns a gun.

– In wild contrast to the grace and elegance of the Miyako Odori, there were a few instances of rampant debauchery with my band peeps. But that’s as per usual. Shotaro is upping the amount of times he wants to go out and drink with me because I have less than a month left here. One of the times we had the 伝説のアルコール勝負 which pitted the three foreigners in the band with a representative Japanese drinking team of three. Needless to say, we won, but they put up a good fight. The “all asians can’t hold their drinks” theory is bunk. But every stereotype has some basis in truth and Bo-chan was a prime example. Things didn’t end too well for him at the end of the night and I hear he got an earful from his parents when he returned home the next day at 2 PM. On a vaguely related note, the Japanese concept of 割り勘 which is something like “splitting the bill” is completely different from the American version of “splitting the bill,” I’ve found out. When people go out to a bar, they order a bunch of food for everyone to share and people drink until they’re done. At the end, no matter how much or how little you ate or drank, the bill is split evenly. In America, if you don’t drink or eat anything, you don’t have to pay anything. that’s what I was used to and I found out the hard way that even if I have one beer and a few pieces of nankotsu, I will still have to pay $25. Cultural differences, I tell you.

– Shotaro also offered to take me to the Minoh Local brewery that produces Minoh Beer which is located in… you guessed it, Minoh. [That’s north of Osaka a bit.] I met Shotaro and Aiko at Kyobashi and we set out for the family owned brewery. It was sort of really awesome, actually. Everything was self-bottled and of arguably higher quality than Kirin or Suntory or Asahi or any of the normally bottled brands. They also had a dark lager that tasted something like Guinness. It was amusing to see the kids just crawling around the feet of our barstools as grandma poured us some of Minoh’s finest from the tap. Definitely an experience, lol. Props, microbreweries.

– I have no appropriate segue into the next topic, so here it is. So the glasses I’d been wearing for 3 years, which had survived the rowdiest of nights as a freshman and sophomore in Gainesville, and romped around the world in Europe and Asia, finally snapped. In half. It was a pretty sad day because even though they were beat-up as hell, they were still Burberry. However, rendered effectively blind, I had to head to the station on my bicycle throwing caution to the wind and taking my chances on not getting hit by a very small car or an old woman on another bicycle. The cheapest I could find were a pair for around $60 with lenses included that I picked out randomly from the first counter I saw. Turns out I’ve got a fair amount of compliments on them since I got them. Now I can say that I have a pair of black hipster glasses from Japan. That’s pretty cool, I think. They’re the ones I’m wearing in the featured pic for this entry, actually.  Also, I was able to get them at lightning speed. From the minute I entered the glasses shop, taking the eye exam [where I had to read hiragana. It was amusing], until I picked up my glasses, approximately one hour and a half had passed. In America, I have to wait days for my glasses to be ready. It’s ridiculous. Grats’, Japan.

– Alexis studied at Kansai Gaidai a couple of years ago and now she’s back in Japan for funsies with her friend Gabriela. I met up with her at Fushimi Inari Taisha and we did a little shopping in Kyoto. It was a fun time and Fushimi Inari is still one of my favorite places in the Kansai area as far as I’m concerned. I need to get a fox plushie from there before I leave.

– Also, on our way back down from the mountain, we stumbled across the Nintendo building. Who knew that one of their bases was near Tofukuji in nowehere, Kyoto. Hm. It wasn’t much to look at. It was very grey and looked a lot like the first brick gameboy. Afterwards we saw a sign that said Kyoto Party and proceeded as such.

– My other adventure of sorts was to revisit Uji with Ayumi and Seth from the band. In summary, we spent the day being senryuu poets and mimicking Murasaki Shikibu. Other than that, tea, tea, tea, and wisteria which was NOT at Byodoin because there was some sort of blight or weather condition that made all of Byodoin’s famous wisteria flowers not bloom this year. Awkward.

We found some right outside the temple though and that was nice. And free. It was also amusing that Ayumi’s family name is Fujinoki which refers to the tree she’s standing in front of. I wish there were something named after my family that I could take a picture with. I guess I’m going to have to invent something.

And here are the dregs that come out when I can’t think of anything anymore:

– I’ve come to the conclusion that in Japan, nobody sleeps. Ever. Except for on the train. And this is why everyone is so sick-prone.

– If I can make it another 2 weeks, I’ll be home free and I can enjoy my last week in Japan with friends having fun instead of dying with schoolwork like I am now and have been for the past month.

– I sent a package home and by package I mean a suitcase. It was filled to the brim with books. Approximately fifty pounds of books. Ridiculous. But I will be so happy when they get to me in like THREE MONTHS. [Surface mail uses boats and takes 2-3 months according to Japan Post]

– Here’s a shout out to Marisa. She’s having her own burst of prolific postage on her youtube video-blog that makes me feel obligated to post as much. Too bad I’m not having such exciting adventures as of late. It’s the combination of having traveled maybe a bit too much [BLASPHEMY!] last semester and being broke as a consequence. I’ll update when I can, though, and between now and the end of May, I’ll think of some adventures I can go on maybe. For now, I leave you with this anti-meiwaku-smoking ad I saw while on my way to the Osaka School of Music.

“When I bumped into someone, I apologized. When my smoke hit your face, I said nothing.”

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