回転寿司と観覧車。

The opportunity to sleep in is one I rarely miss on purpose, but this time I simply couldn’t make it happen. Still, I got plenty of rest, and it was a sunny (if humid) day.

The plan, since my conversation partners seem somewhat busy and our time is running short, was to go to Umeda with Josh, Warren, and the two of their conversation partners who actually show up. I’d met them before when they invited me to try okonomiyaki, so they remembered me. Heaven also went along, since her conversation partners have been silent lately, yet her roommate gets invited to other peoples’ plans. The four of us met Takahiro at the nearby station and took the train to Umeda, where we met Yayoi. I was told we would first go shopping.

Shopping began with clothing stores — expensive ones. Josh and Heaven found a couple things to buy that weren’t atrociously pricy, but I wasn’t much interested in looking, and Warren found nothing with a reasonable price tag. I spotted some Engrish on a few t-shirts in one store, and talked to a pretty girl working there who was studying English (who seemed very pleased to talk to Americans). Our next stop was a 390円 shop — not like a 100円 shop, though. Reminded me of a Spencer Gifts, with lighters and knickknacks and incense, but also with what looked to be secondhand clothes. It was also pretty much female-oriented, so we guys cleared out and waited for Heaven and Yayoi to finish. (The pun for that amount of money is “san-kyuu,” which sounds a lot like katakana-speech “thank you.”) Next was what Takahiro called a “sundry shop,” which was a multi-floor department store/mall-esque place with no real focus. I saw a fair amount of Ghibli merchandise (though no Spirited Away) and bought some Giant Pretz (tomato flavor!) to go with my Giant Pocky.

I’ve got (the bare minimum of) rhythm.

I had asked if we might go to Yodobashi Camera, since it’s mildly famous among gamers who keep an eye on Japan, but I learned later it was out of our way, and we basically made a special trip. (I was somewhat embarrassed, but very appreciative.) They had a 360 set up with Kinect and were giving away t-shirts if you tried out Dance Central. No XL shirts, sadly. Heaven went first, dancing to “Poker Face,” and collected her t-shirt afterward. I consented to try it as well, but I really wasn’t in the mood to do a Lady Gaga song. I asked, “Again with Poker Face?” The demo guy said, “Yeah… do you wanna do another song?” “What have you got?” I asked, and he scrolled through them until I saw a good choice for any game: “Funkytown.” By this time, a small crowd had gathered around, since two people in a row — gaijin, no less — had tried Kinect (these guys weren’t having any luck before we came along). I got a couple impressed noises while I flailed around, which tells me the onlookers don’t get out much. I got a size-L t-shirt for my trouble, and rejoined the group. Heaven and I got photos of each other with both cameras, and they’re not pretty. After a quick purchase of a couple omake magazines and a run through the ガチャポン machines, I’d had my fill of Yodobashi camera (though not before Josh and I kept Yayoi from leaving her camera behind).

Next was dinner, which was to be at a 回転寿司 (conveyer-belt sushi restaurant), but our wait time was about 50 minutes, so we killed time at a Baskin Robbins (or 31, as it’s known in Japan, though the American name is part of the logo). I didn’t get anything, since I was saving room for dinner, but everyone else got a little something. It being Japan and space being at a premium, you ordered downstairs, then took your ice cream upstairs to their dining room. Yayoi accidentally threw away the receipt for our spot in line at the sushi place, so she had to rescue it from the trash, clean it off, and dry it using the restroom’s hand dryer. (I could see myself doing the same damn thing, to be honest.)

The conveyer-belt sushi restaurant. It’s great at a hundred yen per plate, until you look over and realize just how much you’ve eaten.

When it was time, we went over and were seated in a booth at the restaurant. It’s an unusual setup, but makes lots of sense: there’s a belt that snakes through the place, looping through the kitchen, with stools near the front of the shop and booths near the back. If you want something, you just pick it up (unless it’s on a red bowl, which means someone specifically requested it), and in this shop, every plate was 100円. Sure, it adds up, but it’s still cheaper than American sushi. There’s not just sushi, though; there’s also sweet potatoes, desserts, and other Japanese morsels that whirr by. We started out with Americans on the inside, because our hosts were polite, but we quickly decided that Yayoi should be on the inside where she could tell us what stuff was and special-order from the touchscreen menu. They served alcohol, but only beer, and Yayoi wasn’t interested, so only Josh had one (and it was a huge bottle of Asahi). Heaven wasn’t interested in trying the sushi, so she ordered some udon and a dessert. The rest of us packed it in, though: Yayoi and Takahiro had six empty plates each, I had nine, Warren ten, and Josh topped us all with twelve. I’d already schemed with the three other Americans, since our Japanese friends were being extra nice to give up their day and spend their free time and money with us, so we each chipped in 300円 and paid for their dinners. For Heaven and me, it was also a way to thank them for letting us crash their outing.

The Ferris wheel in Umeda.

We rounded off our night with a ride on a massive 観覧車 (Ferris wheel) that cuts through a building — the name escapes me, but it’s huge and affords a magnificent view of the area. By night, it’s prettier, but much harder to get photos due to the enclosed cars (whose windows foil camera flashes). There was even a speaker for MP3 players so you could supply your own music. The ride was about ten minutes, maybe fifteen, after which we did some プリクラ (the little photo booths where you can edit and print them out later). They only cost 400円, which Heaven had the four of us chip in for, and Yayoi separated the photos for us (at a table with some scissors, provided by the store) so we all had a set. They even walked us to the station and made sure we got on the right train.

Once we’d returned, I took a detour to the closest 7-11 to get a cheap can of Coke (500 mL for 100円, which is the best deal I’d seen). On my way back, a little old lady across the street seemed to be talking to me, so I went over to see what she wanted. She was difficult to understand; my lack of fluency was exacerbated by her lack of enunciation and Kansai-ben, plus I think she was rambling a little. She was saying something about eating bento somewhere down the street, to which I kindly replied I’d never had bento there. She then told me my skin was very nice, even milky, adding, “Americans have such kind hearts… but Koreans… scary.” I gently interjected that at my university, all the Korean students I’d met were very nice, which seemed to give her pause. “Huh,” she finally said, “nice Koreans…” I had to bow out after a few minutes, though, because I was not only footsore, but knew if I didn’t leave soon, I’d be there for quite some time. A short time later, I was home and asleep. Excellent day.

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