Bamboo swords and Japanese burgers.

The next week, I went to my first Tuesday kendo class and was surprised to see both basketball players and cheerleaders filling the gym. I asked my fellow club members what the deal was, and they explained that on Tuesdays, the basketball club got half the gym and the cheer club one-quarter, leaving the remaining quarter for kendo. They get the whole gym on Thursdays, but Tuesdays they have to share. Unsurprisingly, fewer people show up that day. Still, Natascha and I managed to get in some practice, and again on Thursday, this time with some of the upper-class girls who apparently don’t participate as much now. By Friday, my calves hurt — not the backs, but the sides, due to the way you move your feet.

I also took the time to ask a couple members about the ensemble. With all of the clothing and armor items, plus a bamboo sword, I knew it’d set me back. The prices they quoted me, even for a cheaper set, were still high enough that it would be foolish for me to buy them. I won’t be here long enough to make good use of them, and taking them back would mean they’d get stashed in a closet somewhere. (Japanese traditional arts without a practical street usage are uncommon in America.) At least I know why there aren’t any dues for the club: they assume you’ve already got the expenses paid.

Earlier during the week, I’d been sitting in front of the TV with one of the Chinese girls from the other side of the dorm (i.e. the ones taking regular classes instead of Japanese-language classes), a girl named Suyi. A MOS Burger commercial came on, showing their current special (Hokkaido bacon and cheeseburger), and I had pointed it out to her, saying it was really good. Later that week, she and another student had asked if we could all go to a MOS that weekend, so that Saturday, the three of us (I never did get the other girl’s name) boarded the city bus for Hoshigaoka. I struck up a conversation with an elderly man seated beside me, who asked me at one point if I was a high-school student. (It’s been a long time since anyone made that mistake.)

The restaurant was very close by Issha, one subway stop from Hoshigaoka, and we all enjoyed a delicious lunch. Afterward, the girls stopped in a health-and-beauty-aid store and then went with me to Nagoya Station to shop. I explained that there was a vast amount of potential shopping to be done in and beneath the station, as well as outside. The other girl with us wanted to know where the Animate store was, so I walked them down that way. After a bit of browsing (during which Suyi got bored and her friend bought something), we walked back and parted ways.

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