I have been Freaks and Geeks obsessed lately. Mostly because before I had internet at my place, it and the handful of movies I brought were the only thing I had to watch while falling asleep. But now I have the internet, which opens my options up a lot. Freaks is still being played all the time, but now I can watch The Office too.
Anyway, I got back from Osaka last...Thursday? Has it been a week already? It's weird to think that I've already been here almost 3 weeks. It's going by waaaay too fast. Anyway, on my last day in Osaka, I walked around an awesome street called Dotonbori. It was the kind of little pedestrian-only street that you come to Japan to see: very crowded and absolutely jam-packed with things that make a little alarm in your head go off that says SENSORY OVERLOAD. It was great.
I have found that this is a bad combo: Can't read kanji/kana + very busy city in Japan + hungry. Although, it can't be avoided if you're walking around all day. Eventually, ya gotta eat. But, you look around and there are places everywhere, but you have no idea what to choose. On every street corner you see ramen shops with men slurping down their noodles and sitting elbow-to-elbow. Or little intimate izakayas that have the mandatory Japanese sustenance of beer, rice, and fish. And most places have no English in sight. I remember seeing a restaurant that said "English-friendly" on its doors, and I thought to myself "pssh, I'm not going to let a little language barrier get in the way of me absorbing the culture, I want to eat with other Japanese people!" But it's kind of a no-win situation. In busy areas like Dotonbori, you either step into a place lousy with other Gaijin (which isn't necessarily bad, mind you) or you walk into the kind of restaurant that most are in Japan and stumble all over yourself because you can't read/speak Japanese. It's an interesting conundrum. And pretty good inspiration to keep cracking down on my Japanese lessons.
Anyway, I was wondering around aimlessly when I decided that I wanted some good sushi. I wandered into a restaurant that specialized in such and a very friendly woman spoke to me in half Japanese/half English, which was nice. I love the usual reaction when I tell Japanese people that I'm DC...they usually say something about Barack Obama followed by "yes we can!" I love it.
So I had my sushi fix and I didn't feel nervous in this restaurant at all because the staff was so friendly to me. And I'm getting pretty used to be a lone Expat wandering around Japan.
After Dotonbori I went back to the Kita area where my hotel was and stopped at the Umeda Sky Garden. It's basically two huge buildings joined together with a circular observation deck at the top. It was night when I got there, and quite lovely. The elevator was a bit scary though. Needless to say, I wasn't entirely comfortable riding in the glass elevator (which basically felt like you were soaring up on thin air) in a earthquake-plagued country, but I lived to talk about it, so all was good.
The next morning I tried to get a ticket for the bus back home, but all was booked except the most expensive bus tickets, which I think kind of defeats the purpose of taking the bus. So, I decided to splurge a little bit and take the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Not much more money and about 5 hours faster. Oh, and an amazing view...annnnd a trolley that comes down the aisle with snacks/drinks. With the scenery and the speed of the train, it felt a little like riding on the Hogwarts Express. I'm such a nerd. I even got to see Kyoto, Nagoya and Yokohama from the train, which was cool.
I also went into Tokyo on Saturday even though I had come down with a pretty nasty cold. Still kind of getting over it. I got tired more quickly being sick and all, so I didn't stay long. Just long enough to see Ikebukuro and Nekobukuro/Tokyu Hands. Tokyu Hands is a pretty amazing store for art supplies and such, but everything is kinda overpriced. Nekobukuro was on the top floor and it was pretty neat. Cats everywhere! Constance went there when she came to Tokyo, and I'm glad I went because I'm missing my three little furry babies back home.
Anyways, in other news, I've had 3 days of teaching so far. I like it pretty well, although I hate being so slow at planning lessons. My favorite classes are the adults, hands down. You can just talk to them, and they pay attention and prepare. I even had a high school class on Wednesday evening, and it was really fun. The male student's name was Akira. Always a good sign. The only thing I messed up on was an adult class earlier in the afternoon in which I absolutely loved the students, but they asked me to speak more slowly next time at the end of class. I guess I got a little excited talking to them, and spoke too quickly. Oh well. At least they told me.
On Saturday night I'm hoping to attend my first fireworks festival in Yachiyo, and then I'm going into Tokyo on Sunday with Nathalie most likely. Sunday is the last day that the big Gundam in Odaiba is going to be there for a few months, so I need to see it ASAP. I'll definitely have a bunch of pictures to post come Sunday night!
Well I'm off to bed at a decent hour for once. Gotta long day ahead tomorrow.