Today was, in a word, busy. We got to sleep in a bit, since there wasn’t a 9:00 class, so we began with Japanese. Our teacher, Fujita-sensei, mostly worked on numbers, one of my weak areas. I’m fine to produce them, but listening to a quick recitation is tricky for me, especially when you start counting in 万 (10,000). After that was lunch. The guys and I hit their walk-up MOS Burger and just nattered until it was time to go back.
Our next class was listed as “Myths, Legends, and Family,” but was apparently a basic culture/integration course. The girls didn’t seem fond of the professor, a guy named Kim Kanel; I can see how he might be a bit abrasive.
After that, we split up. Warren and I went down the street that leads away from the arch we use to enter, which is lined with shops — mostly restaurants, but there’s also a Lawson’s (convenience store), a bookstore, and a ゲーセン (“game center,” or arcade) filled with older games (e.g. Capcom vs. SNK 2), semi-old games (e.g. GGX Accent Core), and newer games (e.g. Street Fighter 4). I finally got to play Mushihime-sama Futari and got 3rd place, which tells me that either no one plays that game, or they reset the scores last night.
Next was a joint class with next semester’s WVU visitors/our conversation partners. They gave paired presentations about nearby places, including Kyoto, Nipponbashi (and maid cafés), and Universal Studios Japan. Their delivery was mostly mechanical, like a cross between speaking via katakana and a grade-school report — amusing, but occasionally difficult to understand. We also played some odd icebreaking games: one involved the pseudo-leader, Kazuma (who’d given us our tour the first day we met everyone) being asked questions, but only allowed to answer with the word “banana.” Another had us standing in threes; two faced each other and reached their hands out diagonally with fingertips touching, like a roof (the house), while the third knelt between (the tenant). When Oomura-sensei called out “fire,” the house people had to break off and find a new tenant to be the house for (not necessarily as the same pair). “Flood” meant the same for only the tenant, while “twister” meant the whole group had to split up. We had an odd person, of course, making it a complex form of musical chairs. We were also introduced to our conversation partners. Each roommate pair had five people (okay, one group had four and one had six, which makes no sense to me). Mike got one guy’s e-mail, but the rest of our group either left too soon, or we didn’t get a chance to get their contact info. Once everyone left, our time was our own, and we went back to the U-Community.
There’s a restaurant chain called Royal Host that was recommended to us, so I finally went tonight with Josh (since everyone else had eaten). I had corn potage (the real thing, not Umaibou), and a meat-sauce hamburger with cheese filling (and no bun) that came with corn, potato, and fried eggplant (the last of which I gave to Josh). A little more expensive than I’ve been eating, but very good. I’d like to go back.
Finally, I went back out and just walked around. Watched some breakdancers at Kawachi-Kosaka station, saw some kids wrestling for fun in a park at the end of the 商店街 (shopping arcade), found a fairly-new コインランドリー (“coin laundry,” or laundromat) with a machine that sold Sangaria ramune in a metal bottle, talked to a couple of dog-walking ladies (one with a large dog, one with a smaller one), and eventually tried out a small 居酒屋 (izakaya; pub).
The izakaya was small, with a little area with a couple tables in the front and what looked like another in the back, but the room was primarily a long, narrow strip with a bar on one side (the other side used for walking). They were surprisingly friendly, even joking around with me, but not dwelling on me too long. When I ordered a beer (a Kirin), they served it with a little premade dish that had three compartments: squid and roe (with cucumber underneath), cold pork with some sort of sauce, and what looked like a snail; I guess that comes standard with your first drink there, since I wasn’t the only one who got such a dish. Wanting to be a good sport, I ate everything (except the cucumber). Not horrible, but I wasn’t looking to ask for a second helping. I got seated in the last spot at the bar, farthest from the door, and one of the servers even spoke to me a bit; she apparently studies (or has studied) a little English, but wasn’t confident enough to use it in front of the customers (who weren’t helping by urging her, “Come on, speak some English!”). Eventually, one last person showed up, but there were no more seats. They quickly dragged out another stool and sat it next to me, then sat the new person there. She was a pretty girl named Rena, a local nurse who apparently worked with several of the current patrons at a nearby hospital. She spoke some English, which she said she’d learned from a friend in the past. Nursing in Japan doesn’t require nearly as much schooling as it does in America, so she wasn’t some snooty med-school grad. She was very friendly and patient, willing to talk to the foreigner who’d taken what would have been her seat. She ordered sake, and got it traditionally: a wooden box with a cup set inside, the whole thing flooded to nearly overflowing. She gave me a sip, and it was surprisingly less strong than clear liquor I’ve had in the past (though probably no less potent). She smoked (apologetically), but I managed to endure it. When it finally got late, I made a gracious exit, but not before a complimentary cup of tea. The bill was a bit high, but I decided the experience was worth it.
Early day tomorrow, so I’m off.