Why does everyone in this country run everywhere?
Also, please only greet me once. I enter Starbucks across from Takenaka and it sounds like a pet shop full of kittens. Irasshaimaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Irasshaimaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Irasshaimaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! There is one especially hyper employee that needs to lay off the coffee. If she doesn't stop nodding while talking I think her head will fall off. I would guess she was a cheerleader, but I don't think they have those in Japan.
Over the weekend I went to Fukuchiyama to visit the Takeshita family. I'm getting used to the JR system. SO I thought. I reached Amagasaki and had to transfer to a different train line to get to Fukuchiyama. On the information board, I see “Express-Fukuchiyama-Track 2-11:00”. It was 10:58, perfect! I was going to wait for an 11:20 train, but here's one. Oh wait, for whatever reason, this train stopped at Sasayamaguchi. So I had to wait for a local train (local trains are BRUTALLY slow). The whole trip should have taken about 1 hour 45 minutes. It took almost 3. Amusing though was the middle aged man sitting across from me unabashedly reading soft-core porn. So I giggled inside at that. But the laughter stopped when he removed his shoes and put his feet on the seat next to me. THE HORROR OF ROTTEN CABBAGE! En route to Fukuchiyama, I remembered how great the Japanese countryside is. Beautiful mountains, rivers, water falls, rice paddies. A great escape from Osaka/Kobe. On Saturday night we watched Team America. I actually don't know if Tomoko liked it, but she kept asking me what all of the bad words meant. On Sunday I made Mama Libutti's meatballs for the family. OISHI! I was actually able to muster up the ingredients and get a fairly close approximation to home. Sauce was a little sweeter, something was slightly off with the meat, and I had to use panko instead of regular bread crumbs.
On Monday I took a two hour lunch! There is this small restaurant near work that I went to once. The 30-something woman that runs the show is incredibly friendly and speaks fluent English (almost impossible to tell the age of many Japanese women, I'm completely guessing). The great part is her slight southern accent. She lived in Texas for four years, learning English and acquiring the accent. I ordered the special, and within a few minutes, she had printed articles from the New York Times for me to read while I ate. Soon she returned and talked my ear off. But it was fun. We talked about Texas, burritos, American Idol, housing, groceries and everything else. Finally she “let me go” to finish my meal, not before bringing me some hot rice. She then returned with a box of microwave chili for me to take home. Then someone came from the kitchen with a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese. She told me to let her know before hand and she would make it for me. Then she said she would cook anything I wanted, nachos, guacamole, anything. I might go in tomorrow and ask if she can make me something special for July 4th. Like a steak or a burger. I'll definitely have to take her something if she does that.
On Tuesday, Toyo Ito gave a lecture at Takenaka. Obviously it was in Japanese and I understood nothing. The images were all things that I had seen (many in person at his office last summer). I wish I could have understood, because taking clues from the sequence of the images, I think it was a pretty good talk. You know, with like, buildings and materials and people and stuff. The sad thing is that, even though I couldn't understand the language, the whole thing was more coherent and attention grabbing than pretty much any lecture I've seen at Penn.
Osaka Station could use some serious help from Bruce Mau (he's known for his info-graphics and diagram for you non-design people). You HAVE to know where you are going in that place, because the signs only get you more lost. For example, you enter a building with a huge sign that read “JR Osaka Station.” Perfect. You go down the stairs and the overhead signs point to the various subway lines and the Hanshin and Hankyu train lines. But what happened to JR? You start walking. It's gotta be around here somewhere, I'm in the JR Osaka Station right? Ahh, the Midosuji Subway, you ride that every morning after getting off the JR line. You can find it now. Ahh, there it is, the arrows point that way. You follow the arrows, but wait, they are pointing up the stairs. You came down those stairs. Oh yeah, the station is actually in another building labled Midosuji Gate across the street.
I discovered a food phenomenon. Chiisai shiroi sakana (small white fish). If you get a dish with CSS on it, it's going to suck. They are these tiny white fish that are about 1.5 centimeter long and 3 mm in diameter. They taste like nothing, have no texture, nothing, they are nothing. But they are an indicator that whatever they are masking is going to be crap. The cook must think “Man, this salad sucks. Let's put some CSS on it.” Take tonight's example. It was some kind of soy sauce soaked sticks (maybe daikon) and meat particles. It was both sickly sweet and incredibly salty.
My friend at work, Yamamori (don't know her first name) reminds me almost exactly of my friend Hyoeun at Penn. She was blown away today by my magical ability to write her name in kanji. She proceeded to thank me profusely. It's two simple characters meaning “mountain” and “forest.” I figured it out because I'm just learning some stuff from immersion. I can also write Takeshita, Takenaka, Kawanishi, and Yamaguchi. My kanji vocabulary consists entirely of useless words: nothing useful like...beef or chicken.
At around 3 today, I was starting to fade, so I made a trip down to Lawson to get a caffeine shot. NO DR. PEPPER! But what's this aluminum bottle? Bubble Rocket? SPACE FLAVOR!? It's some kind of drink, and I'm getting it! As I'm walking back to Takenaka, I have a goofy grin on my face as I know, oh yes, I am about to indulge in the taste of the great vastness of space. THIS is why I come to Japan. New and unique experiences. I showed the bottle to Yamamori and she started laughing at “Space Flavor.” Eagerly I drank the future. Yamamori looks at me, I look back, look in my dictionary and say “ringo...sekken.” She cracks up laughing. Space isn't very delicious, more like apples with a hint of soap.