My initial Sunday plans were to meet with my friend Yuuki, who had finished two semesters of regular classes at WVU before the break, and Kotaro, who’d been sent to WVU by the Itochu Corporation’s Tokyo office for a semester of IEP. Yuuki is from Osaka, while Kotaro just happened to still be there from attendng a college friend’s wedding the day before.
I was to meet them near exit 14 of Namba station at 11:50 for lunch, but hotel checkout was at 10:00, so even after checking the internet to make sure my plans were still in place, I had more than enough time. Shin-Imamiya station was around the block, and JR Namba (which connects with the rest of Namba station) was one stop away. My goal was to find a coin locker in Namba station as close as possible to the departure point to Osaka station (my eventual destination). The duffel bag with my clothes and sundries was cumbersome, so I wanted to unload it and my umbrella — but my problem was that I wasn’t sure how to properly express this desire to station employees. (I’m sure it’s not that difficult, but at the time, I simply couldn’t properly arrange the clauses in my head.) I ultimately found the closest lockers, got some change, and shoved my duffel and umbrella inside, leaving me with just my mostly-empty backpack. After a moment, I shoved that in as well.
I exited the station at 14 well ahead of time and was immediately found by Yuuki. He’d gotten there really early to make a reservation at a local place, and said Kotaro was already in the area as well. He made a call, and I was briefly surprised to hear him speaking not only politely, but in business-style Japanese. It made sense, though; Yuuki and others had been given a great deal of advice from the Itochu and SMBC guys last semester concerning job hunting in Japan, so he saw Kotaro as a mentor and elder. We picked up Kotaro in a coffee shop and walked around Namba/Doutonbori while we waited for the restaurant to open. In the end, it turned out that Yuuki had gotten us a table at… Daruma. Same place I’d eaten the night before, different location. Even funnier was that we mistakenly went to a different Daruma first, which was only a couple blocks from the right one, yet neither was very far from the one I’d been to Saturday. Ah, well. There are worse things than kushikatsu two days in a row.
Lunch was nice, with light conversation and deep-fried things-on-a-stick. The guys were glad to have some native English to listen to for a change, and I was glad to see two people I honestly didn’t expect to see (Yuuki because he hadn’t initially responded, Kotaro because he doesn’t actually live or work in Osaka). We got a photo afterward, then walked Kotaro back to Namba station, where we learned that his coin locker was in the bank next to mine. We also ran into one of Yuuki’s university senpai, a cute girl named Miho, and spoke a bit before Kotaro headed off to take the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.
Since the ladies in the Yamasa office had been so helpful, I stopped off and got some snacks as お土産、after which Yuuki wanted to go to Bic Camera. When we arrived, he told me Miho was probably still there — she’d said her computer was broken, and she was off to shop at Bic for a new one — making me think that our being there wasn’t coincidence. We found her and listened to the Bic sales guy talk up various computers while Yuuki asked pertinent questions (and I recommended to Miho that she shop in the store but buy online for less). Miho finished up and left, leaving Yuuki to shop for camera lenses and get photo prints before he had to go.
Around 4:00, I used a pay phone to call Miki, the other girl from the hotel last year. We agreed to meet on the Doutonbori bridge, where I’d spent time with Jin and Alyson the night before (hey, it’s a landmark). While I waited, I spotted a pudgy guy in the classic yellow-and-black Bruce Lee outfit, posing with nunchaku and saying how he had the spirit of Bruce in him. I took a photo for the guy with his phone, then one with my camera, barely avoiding the flock of amateur photographers and sightseers to get their own pictures. I also spoke to an American guy with his Japanese fiancée and her friend before Miki finally arrived. She and I had both eaten, so we basically knocked around the area, stopping at ドン・キホーテ (Don Quixote, or “Donkey,” as it’s nicknamed), the same place I’d bought my little rolling suitcase last year with Alyson. I still marvel at the volume and diversity of goods in that place; you can get luggage, gachapon, adult videos, souvenir snacks, t-shirts, and lots of other crap you don’t need… but it’s still pretty damn cool. I bought an Umaibou slicer, while Miki got some cinnamon Kit Kat (which was pretty tasty). I didn’t have a lot of time, so we went back to Namba station and spent some time talking in a coffee shop before I took my leave.
Once I cleared the exit gate at JR Osaka (which is also Umeda), I spotted a crowd watching two girls performing. One played the guitar and sang lead, while the other sang backup and used what I originally thought was a speaker, but turns out to be called a “cajon,” which can uncannily imitate the sounds of a drum kit. I took out my camera during the song they were performing and caught the singer’s eye, giving her a questioning look; she gave a slight nod-and-smile for assent, and I snapped a couple shots, then bowed slightly, drawing a small nod from her as well — and she never missed a note. They had a small CD pile nearby with a sign advertising the price, and since I liked what I heard, I went over and deposited my 500円 for their CD between songs, which got a brief thanks from the lead. (You know, of the small amount of shopping I’ve done here, not having a CD-capable computer or a game system means I can’t enjoy most of my purchases until I get home.)
When I arrived in Osaka on Friday, I got off the bus at JR Osaka and took a train. Going home wasn’t quite so easy: I had to walk to the Willer Bus Terminal in the more-or-less nearby Umeda Sky Building’s “Tower West.” I could see the building from the station, but there’s no direct path; I had to walk way around a few city blocks and come at it from a smaller street in such a way that it was hidden behind several other buildings until I was almost there. The terminal was inside, and I was just early enough to get my seat assignment, use the restroom, and freshen up. (As a side note, I had a U-Community 手拭い (hand towel) with me, since at best Japanese bathrooms only ever have hand dryers, and after using it to dry my face, I still somehow managed to lose it before getting on the bus.)
The ride back was nice, actually. I was about a third of the way from the door this time, and the bus wasn’t full, so I was lucky enough to have an empty seat beside me. I immediately set up Captain America and watched the end (finally!), then checked to see what else they had. They had Thor (マイティ・ソー), but it was dubbed — meaning I’d miss a lot of dialogue, and I prefer movies in their original language, anyway — so I cued up Repo Men instead. We stopped at a different waystation this time, but I don’t think we stayed as long. I say this because our scheduled arrival time in Nagoya was 10:10 pm, yet we arrived and were getting off the bus around 9:30! One more train ride back to Okazaki and a quiet walk back to the dorm, and all that remained was to unpack and do my homework. As expected, I didn’t get much sleep.