Since I wasn’t able to coordinate with anyone I know in Aichi and I’m still too new to be “part of the gang” in the dorm, I went to Nagoya by myself yesterday.
Let me preface this with a word about Okazaki. To quote Declan, the all-round coordinator, Okazaki is “a car town.” He said that there were an average of 1.8 cars per household, and in his experience, any convenience store with fewer than six parking spaces doesn’t stay in business. I find this to be terribly plausible; my dorm is nearby a highway, and in contrast to the corner of Higashi-Osaka-shi I was in last year, this area comes up sorely lacking in convenience. There are many more cars than I’m used to seeing in Japan, and far fewer Lawsons/7-11s/Family Marts. The nearest train station is still at least twenty minutes away on foot (though there’s a bus, which I may use next time, just to avoid being sweaty on arrival).
That said, the train station is a major JR stop, meaning that even express trains tend to stop there, and it has a direct line to Nagoya’s major stop. Once there, you can switch trains, get on the subway, find a bus, or just walk. My goal was the geek sector, or at least somewhere I could nerd it up — in this case, an area called Oosu in Naka-ku. Navigating the subway was simple, but finding the area I wanted wasn’t. I asked directions from a package courier, hoping he’d know off the top of his head, but he asked me to wait and made two (!) phone calls before drawing me a map on a pair of small shipping labels. It wasn’t the best map, however, so I ended up wandering around. Had lunch at a place called Yoshinoya, a major beef-bowl chain that’s been recommended to me but that I didn’t get to visit before. I wolfed down a spicy 牛丼/curry rice combo, which was delicious.
For the last few days, I’ve had a light sore throat and have felt slightly under the weather. It feels kinda like I’m fighting off a cold, but it might also just be the difference in weather and my unusual non-sedentary activity. (In truth, a lot of the people I’ve met here seem to be catching, fighting off, or recovering from a cold.) Regardless, I had to hunt down a pharmacy so I could get some diphenhydramine (which I’d neglected to bring along). After my sidequests, I finally found my destination: 赤門通り (Red Gate Street).
Aside from the usual assortment of used book/game/CD/DVD stores, there was a sizable game center, which is where I spent my evening. I won several things and failed to win several more, but the easiest game by far was what I call “the key game.” The machine has three rows of locker keys on thick, hanging strings. Each key corresponds to a coin-locker-style cabinet with a prize, located beside the machine. Examples of the prizes include mugs, clocks, pillows, t-shirts, and figures. The manipulator inside looks like the end of a clothespin you grab (not the pincer end), controlled by two levers. You raise the thing up, then slide it to the right to line it up with the keyring or string. The manipulator then moves forward, pulls down, out, and returns to position — ideally drawing the string completely out of its holder, but if nothing else, making it easier for next time. This means that with modest aim, even a bad player can eventually win something. Once the key drops, you can then open the nearby cabinet and claim your prize, and you leave the key in the lock so the staff can reset it. I won a small trash can (I was unclear as to what it was before winning it), a small pillow, and a towel (possibly two, I’m not sure what one thing is) from that one, as well as another towel from a simple UFO-crane game.
The other feature of the game center that got my attention was something I never expected to see: Silent Hill The Arcade, a light-gun game from 2007. I couldn’t hear the English voice acting to see if it was the usual mediocre-yet-compelling style, since the place was so noisy, but I played until I got past Pyramid Head before realizing that even with a second player, it’d be an expensive game to play through. Yet another game we’ll never see a home version of.
I had also planned to go to a Mandarake store nearby, but I was having so much fun where I was (and had gotten a later start than I intended), that by the time I went over, they were closing. 8:00 on a Saturday, can you believe it? I’ll go back, now that I know how to get there. The trip home was pretty uneventful; a short run on a crowded subway and an express train brought me back to the JR Okazaki station, and since I’d missed the last bus by about ten minutes (how was I to know?), I walked back to the dorm. One very necessary shower and a surprisingly-delicious piece of 骨なしチキン (boneless chicken) later and I was ready for bed.
I’ve decided today is for laundry and homework, which gives my feet a break and lets my body try to shake whatever’s been dragging me down.