living in Osaka involves a lot of walking. And I mean a LOT. The walk from my temp-dorm (I’m getting a host family this weekend, so I’ll be moving out) to campus is about 30 minutes in itself-that is, if you don’t get lost. Which I did yesterday. For 2 hours. I was walking back from orientation with one of my newfound friends, and after I walked with her to her dorm I couldn’t figure out where I was. There are 4 dorms for international students:Seminar houses 1,2,3, and 4. She lives in 4. I live in 3. Shouldn’t be too hard to find, right? You might think so- but then you probably don’t know me very well. I can get lost preeety darn easily, so finding my way ACROSS a SMALL PARK and down the street to my dorm was no easy feat. At the end of the park is a 5-way intersection. The one straight across from the park leads to my dorm, but me being me I ended up going down all the other streets instead.
You may ask yourself “why didn’t she ask for directions?” Well I did. From 6 seperate people.
I asked two Japanese girls and they told me to follow this other person ahead of me with a suitcas, because he was going there too. But suitcase guy rounded some corner and I lost him.
So I wandered around.
I asked a construction worker in my nicest Japanese. He pointed down some street ahead of him, and I went. He was wrong.
At the end of that street, I stopped an American couple and asked them. They told me I was going in the completely wrong direction, and that I needed to go back to the intersection and aaaallll the way back to the end of the road opposite it. They too, were wrong.
Finally, I asked an Australian guy playing catch in the park. “It’s down there,”he said, pointing to the road immediately to the left of what the construction guy had told me. And so it was. Not half a block from the intersection.
But the days adverntures were not over. As I entered the gates, I met Mariko (my friend from Oberlin, and former roommate), who invited me to go to Top World with her to buy some cheap dinner (Top World is a supermarket). She, her friend Alex (from exotic Vancouver) and I set out, detouring at the 100yen store (100yen= about 1$). The 100yen palace is really an amazing place. Knights and Gavias love dollar stores, and this place was no exception. I drooled.
But anyway, back to the funness. We were walking to Top World when Alex ran into some of his other friends, who were headed to Conveyer belt sushi. For those of you who don’t know, conveyer belt sushi is a type of sit-down place where all the food on the menu circles around and around on little plates on conveyer belts, and you either pick up what you want as it comes by or order it off a screen and fresh stuff is zoomed right to you. The restauraunt was great, and pretty cheap too (about a dollar a plate, but I stuffed myself with 5 plates and only paid $4.50, somehow), but it was another LONG LONG WALK. And did I mention the cars? They are tiny and fast and quiet, as are the vespas and bikes, but the problem comes in the lack of sidewalks. There aren’t many on the busy roads, and so the vehicles are right up on you as you walk past. The bicyclists tend to ride on the sidewalks, though it’s illegal, and they don’t signal to you- I’m sure I must seem paranoid, because I turn to look behind me every 15 seconds. Also, the sidewalks often have draining ditches running the length of them, to add to the danger.
Today, a bunch of people explored downtown Hirakata. It was also a LOT of walking, but this was filled with blinking lights and tons of Japanese fashion! You could see school kids milling about in the mall, a cute little girl whooping a pokemon arcade game as her mother and older sister cheered her on, and families going out to dinner. (and in case you were wondering: yes, schoolgirl skirts are as short as the animes depict. I wondered how they didn’t freeze in this weather!). We went to Kiddie land, the cutest shop ever! It sells clothes and toys and handbags and various other adorable things. I bought a keychain of a plush poop named unco-san (mr. poo). Afterwards we found this nice little food court, with a noodle restaurant that sold huge bowls of udon for $5-8.50. I was in heaven! Sooooo delicious, and soooo cheap!
We also went to several bookstores! It was pretty funny, seeing 10 foreigners crowded in the children’s corner (the only books we could read).
Yeah, all this time we’ve been stared at a lot, but that’s ok. Maybe I’ll feel differently after a few more weeks, but really people are more discreet about it here than back home. No one follows me, or makes comments, or stares even when I look back at them. Well, not a lot of people, anyway. And even though I’m not too familiar with the language I’m not too uncomfortable. Strange, isn’t it? I feel more comfortable here than I do sometimes in the mall back home.
Ok, I should get to bed. Tomorrow I’ve got to find a bank to exchange my cash for yen. Goodnight, cyberfriends. Tune in later: same bat-time, same bat-channel.
* Opening song of “Totoro”. Translates as: Walking, walking! I am in good spiriiiiits…