Weekend Special (way too long)
This last week/weekend was by far the most entertaining one so far, my friends, but unfortunately i havent got a picture to show for it. I will have to try to recapture it in words before i forget any more details.
Preamble - the week
Wednesday I went into Tenjin to meet up with my friend Cira and try to find a Japanese class that a lot of the JETs go to in the city. having missed Cira by going to the wrong trainstation, i decided to get into Tenjin myself and find the place. I had met the main class instructor, Kimiko Suzawa, at the Fukuoka Hanabi (fireworks) festival the week before, so i had her business card with the class hours, name of the building, and presumably, the address. But in Tenjin i discovered that was not the case. Somehow i found the place without the address by asking for directions in a swanky hotel, and managed to get there only ten minutes late. The class was great. I had only JUST finished learning katakana and hiragana that day, and she already had me reading and taking notes in them, and asking strangers what their names are and such. It was a lot of pressure that i wasn't comfortable with, but that's how you freaking get better at a foreign language. Without that kind of experience, i wouldnt feel as pushed to integrate the stuff i'm learning. The class is $10 for a month of weekly lessons and once a month the whole group goes and does something fun. At the end of august we're going to a baseball game. I am pretty psyched about having found it as it's a good excuse to get to Tenjin every week and socialize (and learn Japanese). Suzawa sensei employs a bunch of young Japanese to lead structured conversations for several different brackets of skill levels. It's pretty much exactly what i was looking for. I would be going to my second class tomorrow, but the Asakura highschool brass band is playing a show tomorrow evening (actually a girl with a trombone JUST wandered past me and is currently bowing to the music teacher).
After the concert, my Kyouto sensei (vice principal/underboss guy) is taking me out with his wife to the Kirin Beer Farm. The Kirin factory is located here in Amagi and they apparently have a restaurant too. it should be great. He, like everyone else, seems reeeally curious if/what/how i drink. all invitations in Japan seem to involve an obligatory "and also get drink" by association.
On Friday I went to Futsukaichi again, this time to meet some other new people-- a different crowd of JETs who have been around for a while including Roman. Again, i was supposed to meet Cira at the station. Again, we wound up at the two different stations. This time, though, i was expecting it, so after 10 minutes at the JR station, i took a bus over to the Nishitetsu, where i found her wandering around a sidestreet looking for anyone or the restaurant. We found the place we were meeting, the "Son's House" American/Mexican grill, which was hilarious. I have not been so psyched about all of consuming of fastfood/western food that seems to go down when i hang out with other JETs. I am still really excited about Japanese food, but i can understand why the ALTs who have been here 1, 2 or 3 years crave some greasy imitation American Food, especially when out with other gaijin. I ordered "Plate B" which consisted of 1 huge burger, 1 huge taco, and 10 french fries.
The weekend adventure
On saturday I ventured out to Kokura, a district of Kitakyushu, the other big city in the prefecture outside of Fukuoka, to meet with four others from Orientation that i hadn't seen since we split up at the airport. We all made a pact to visit each other/party in one anothers' inaka (middles of nowhere), rather than only meeting up in the big cities where none of us live.
We first met up at a Mister Donut, yet awkward new friends, in the big train station and, dear reader, by the end of the night the five of us were crashing drunkenly at a local love hotel. In those first few minutes at Mister Donut, my camera battery died, which was seriously upsetting, because so much entertainment went down afterwards.
THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
CHRIS- a friendly bloke from just outside London. Total "indoors kid," as Laura put it after a few drinks. Had a hard time dealing with takeoff when we flew to Fukuoka, but knows how to throw down and karaoke for hours.
MONICA- Aussie girl and fellow photog nerd. together we mourned our lack of cameras, mine for want of battery charge, hers for lack of bag space. and both enjoyed cooking some awesome pork and kimchi okonomiyaki
PATRICK - Tallest of the group, and therefore, our team leader. From Georgia, comes with funny accent, especially when drunk. totally lewd and openly a complete perv. fixated on asian girls. Rocked a Spongebob Squarepants "PATRICK" tshirt and kakhi cargo shorts, proceeding to meet up with his ex, hit on the girl selling phones outside of the Softbank store as well as our 18 year-old waitress at the okonomiyaki restaurant. Speaks Japanese with a special extra-nasaly voice.
LAURA- also refreshingly lewd. totally fetishizes the norse, scandinavian and german types. Not afraid to yell about almost anything. metal and electronic audiophile. four-time renaissance faire attendee. Accidentally wore the same outfit as every woman and female mannequin in Japan (black vest over white shirt). Also, loves loves LOVES to talk about poop.
We left the station and were wandering around the area along the river. When we noticed ¥100 paddleboat rentals and couldnt afford to pass em up. crashing into other crafts proved to be anticlimactic, but several other factors ensured that it was awesome to paddle around the river, anyway.
After we disembarked, we were back on foot again and, after checking out a free "museum" about the river ecology, which consisted largely of mudskippers and a big glass window so you can see into the water, we hit up a cafe-- a sort of Japanese Starbucks spinoff-- where we all got beverages called "Swirkles."
Swirkles? Swirkles! I couldn't stop laughing. So much so that Patrick asked me in all seriousness if i was, in fact, high. I kept trying to use "Swirkle" in a sentence and couldnt even get it out. Just try saying it. Now try to imagine ordering one. it sounds like the sound that would come out if someone was drowning in 2 inches of water. We also read a children's book there about a dog named "Wansuke" (Dogs say "WAN" instead of "Woof" in Japan, i guess) who says things like "KonichiWAN" and, interpretively, "Let's get married, lol."
After the Swirkles, i think we made our to Kokura Castle, a big fortress built in 1602. These days it is just filled with dioramas and ice cream vending machines on the top floor, as well and mannequins with topknots. I think it's really a damn shame that they turned the interior into a museum, but whatever pays the bills, i guess.
After that there was some various idling around. We wandered back towards the train station, i think, though the order of events might be mixed up. At the station we found a giant block of ice... i guess for cooling/washing your hands on, but since everyone touches this melty slab with their sweaty paws, it can't be very sanitary. We met some Australian University deferrers who were staying in Japan too and we all gathered round the ice slab looking like total foreign creeps talking in english and rubbing out hands on the public brick of coldness for like almost an hour.
From there Patrick invited us to accompany him to meet his ex girlfriend who lives around there for the obligatory "So.... youre in town... how's it going?" visit. I couldnt turn down the opportunity for viewing awkwardness so we went with pat as a posse. It turned out to be pretty mild, save a few awkward moments of eye-contact with his Japanese ex. Oh i forgot to mention that he also brought along his supervisor, a younger teacher from his school who is in charge of him, kind of as his date, but by this point she had gone home.
I dont remember if that was before or after Okonomiyaki, but that's what we ate for lunch/dinner. Okonomiyaki is an excellent japanese food which consists of veggies, and meats as you like them, joined together triumphantly in a pool of batter and egg. At some restaurants they cook the whole thing for you, but at the really cool joints like ours, they bring out a bowl of raw ingredients which you mix yourself and fry on a hotplate at your table. Glorious, as you can season and sauce it up as you like. I made a heart. Such yum was had.
After that it was getting to be evening, i believe so we went to a combini and bought cheap beer, since we had discovered that purchasing an "all you can drink" option at the karaoke bar was going to cost like ¥4000 (about $40). From the combini we went to an arcade. My first Japanese arcade. Oh god it was so cool. ridiculous games. sad, sad faces gambling their money away, etc. Laura and I played a few pathetic games of GuitarFreak and DDR before She and Patrick started the downward spiral by drinking and smoking in the arcade itself. Not sure if this was allowed, Monica, Chris and I joined in, but several dirty looks assured us that people were miffed by this behavior, so we moved to the riverbank, where we avoided roaches and got a little slanted together. Serious bonding and talking smack.
From there, we went back to the karaoke joint and got ourselves a room. They brought us wayy too many rounds of beer and we ended up paying almost the "endless booze" price anyway, but still cleared it by a little bit (maybe $10 or so).
Outside there were some Japanese people outside a hiphop club, trying to get us to go inside. Apparently talking some smack to Patrick, who seriously insulted the guy and we hurried away. We grabbed some snacks at a combini (where i found black qtips. so cool) and then we were pretty much ready for bed.
Having vaguely planned to stay all night at an internet cafe with recliners and beds in special "all-night" rooms, it now seemed like a better idea to find a LOVE HOTEL. It didnt take very long. We stopped to ask where we might find one at a Comfort Inn. Classy right? "Excuse me, legitimate establishment, can you tell me where to find your trashy counterpart?" They said there wasn't one around, but then we found one across the street called Hotel Paris or something great like that.
We got the attention of the employee lady in the lobby, who was seriously startled by us. We didnt discover until later that at these businesses, contact with the staff is intended to be minimal. You select a vacant love den from a lightboard in the lobby with photos of each available room illuminated, simply press press the corresponding button, and a key drops out like a vending machine. You then take the key up to the appropriate room and settle the bill via pneumatic tube. Having tipped the staffer off that we clearly had no idea what we were doing, she came up to the room to bother us several times and i hid in the bathroom while Laura and Pat pretended to be a legit couple.
There were no exciting rooms like with rotating beds or built-in bondage gear or "on the subway" themes. Nah, this place wasnt high end, but it came complete with two free condoms in a special holder by the bed and lots of Japanese porn on the tv. The shower pressure, also, was excellent. Pat, Laura and I all hung out on the porch in our underwear before degenerating into a cuddle puddle. Laura and asked me to be a "Chastity barrier" against Pat, but I wasnt about to risk being grazed by some dude-thigh or something worse, so she had to sleep in the middle and get double-arm spooned. Going three to a bed was hard, because as you know, i like to starfish all over a bed. We were serenaded to dizzy sleep by the muffled, pained squeeks of Japanese actresses. Total classiness. this is why i came to Japan.
The next day was the shameful commute home. I was the only one who brought a change of clothes. we had MOS burgers for slunch. MOS is a burger chain (Mountain Ocean Sky) where you can get highschool caf grade patties, sometimes sandwiched between a rice bun. brilliant.
We hit the arcade one last time and made photos in a floor entirely devoted to the activity. We hit a machine called "PARTY GIRL" It was WAY too much fun for something that sounds so lame. omg we got to draw on the pictures! hahaha. seriously though. scarily addictive.
After that we headed back to the train station and sleepily tried to figure out how to get back to our respective homes. We split up and that was that. I only messed up the commute a little bit and got home in about three hours. Go ME!
I like Japan.