Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Visitation

I've been busy since the last update on here.  On the 3rd I went to Kobe and ate at a restaurant we used to frequent back when I was a student at Kobe Uni. The owner made us something like a six-course meal, and only charged us 1000 yen each. The food was delicious and I had three beers as well. I felt like we should have paid more but what can you do? Then we went to a bar my mate used to work at. We watched some English footy and drank some Turkish beer called Efes Dark, which was the best beer I've had in a long time. My mate got it all for free as well, so it was a very cheap night out.  For the first time in ages we got the last train home rather than stay out.

The next day me and my housemate invited some of the local gaijin round and we celebrated Bonfire Night. It was the 4th, so a day early, but we were working till late the next day. We cooked a massive pot of chili con carne and a big sack of baked potatoes that went down a treat.  Then we went to the river and lit some fireworks and made a bonfire. The fireworks were tough to find, but all in all the night was a success.

From what I remember the next weekend was a pretty quiet affair as payday came late this month and nobody had any money. Although on the Sunday night we had the first band practice for a Ramones cover band I'm in. It's me and three other teachers from work.  The Japanese rehearsal space we use is sweet, loaded with top of the range equipment that you can rent for free. It's a lot of fun practising there.

The next day I met two mates who were over from the UK, and thus commenced our week of drinking and enjoying Kansai. On the first night we went to 'Cockroach Alley' and encountered a few of the locals. One of them slapped my mate on the arm and shouted at him in Japanese, asking why he was in Japan. Another started touching my housemate's nose, saying it was beautiful and that he should be an actor. The next night we went to karaoke and stayed until around 5 in the morning. We drank a lot of whiskey and I fell in a bush on the way to the river.

Unfortunately I don't remember much after we left karaoke, which is very unusual for me, although I woke up the next day with cuts all over my back. Mental night.

The next night we calmed down a bit and went round a friend's house to play cards. But on Thursday we went back to karaoke where we got very rowdy once again.

On Friday it was my day off, so we decided to be cultural and visit Kyoto. It's something I've never done, despite living in Kobe for a year and Osaka for three months now. I'm not the biggest fan of Japanese history or culture, and I've always been trying to save money, so I've never travelled much within Japan. On the day we woke up in the early afternoon, then procrastinated a lot.  We visited Pokémon Center Osaka, which was fun. I'd heard it isn't as good as the one in Tokyo, but it was still fun, and I bought a couple of Blastoise pieces of merch.

It's a shame they don't have more stuff from the older Pokémon games; the newer Pokémon were much more well-represented, but I don't know them - most of them look more like Transformers to me. As was to be expected, a lot of the products were cute and aimed at little kids, but me and my mates said it would be cool if they made a line of badass, dark merch for all the adults who are into Pokémon. Still, it was fun, and there was an area where people were gathered and playing on their DSs.

On the way to the Pokémon Center we also stopped outside the train station to see the waterfall clock, and there was also a few people playing songs on a massive xylophone, which I filmed a bit of on my crappy phone:

We stopped outside the station for a while and just enjoyed how random and unique Japan is sometimes, but eventually we caught a train to Kyoto, and by the time we arrived it was already dark. I took my mates for some traditional Kansai food in the form of yakisoba and okonomiyaki, and then we headed for Kiyomizu-dera, one of Kyoto's most famous temples. As it was night the whole place was lit-up, and looked even better than I imagine it would look in the day. It took quite a while to look round the whole site, and as it's high up, you get a really good view of Kyoto. It was fairly busy as there are lots of Japanese maples in this area, so people had come to see 紅葉 (autumn leaves). I took my mates for purikura, then we caught the train back home.

After work the next day we did a big night out in Shinsaibashi. It was OK, but there's nothing much to report, other than pounding cocktails one after the other is expensive. The next day we recovered and didn't do much, although I had band practice again in the evening, which went well.

My mates left early the next morning, and they'd both really enjoyed Japan. One might be coming back to work. They brought me a few things from back home, such as HobNobs and baked beans, which was cool. British food, how I miss thee.

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Friday, 2 November 2012

Halloween '12: Part II

So Halloween Part II was pretty fun as well. Me and my housemate dressed up as KISS again, but it took a while to do the makeup, and then to meet up with our mates, so we ended up missing the party in Shinsaibashi we'd intended to go to. But it didn't matter because the biggest Halloween party in Kansai was happening in Triangle Park in Shinsaibashi.

We turned up and there were hundreds of people dressed in Halloween costumes either taking pictures or just enjoying the atmosphere. This place is home to all the freaks of Osaka on a normal night, so on Halloween weekend it was the place to be. And, once again, I randomly bumped into people I know. I saw two people who were in the year below me on the Japanese Studies course at Shef Uni, and then a guy from JET who I'd shared a hotel room with at the orientation in Tokyo. I also got chatting to another random guy from Sheffield. 世間が狭い was certainly an apt expression.

People enjoyed our KISS costume and we got a lot of photo requests, which we granted, and we even bumped into a couple of other people dressed as Gene Simmons. No Paul Stanleys though.

We didn't really have a plan at any point in the night, so we went spent a lot of the night walking around Shinsaibashi, interacting with other costume-wearers.

My makeup was better second time around

We went to Kama Sutra/Cinquecento, then back to Triangle Park, then back to Kama Sutra/Cinquecento.  We sang some KISS on the karaoke at Kama, and I stayed out till about 8:30am. By then it had started to rain, as everyone made their way home in their bedraggled Halloween costumes.  Fun night.

On Monday I was working at our Shinsaibashi school, and it's always sobering to walk around the places you hung out at on the weekend, but see them swarming with Japanese businessmen on their way to work. 

Staying true to my word, I went to Shakey's again on my break. In fact, there are two Shakey's in Shinsaibashi, so this time I went to the north Shinsai restaurant rather than the south one.  I arrived around 4:15 and there was still 45 minutes of the lunchtime buffet left, so I got all-you-can-eat pizza for 690 yen. I don't know why anyone would eat anything else when this kind of offer exists. There was enough pizza, but there was less choice of salad and meat than at the other store, but that was maybe because it was the lunchtime buffet. I will have to conduct more research.

And then on Wednesday night I went with a friend to a Canadian pizza place in Shinsaibashi called Slices. There wasn't anything particularly Canadian about the pizza (we had a half BBQ chicken, half deluxe), but it was the best thing I've eaten in a while, if a little out of my normal price range. This place does serve other Canadian products though, like Canadian beer, and poutine, and the interior is like a log cabin. Although my friend, who's Canadian, says the poutine wasn't that authentic.

While we're on the topic of food, McDonald's has become pretty much a daily thing now. The reasons are: McDonald's are everywhere (I now know the nearest McDonald's in every vicinity of Osaka), it tastes good and it's really cheap. I usually buy three Chicken Crisps for a meal, which comes to a grand total of 300 yen. It's not healthy, but when you're poor there's not much choice.  

On Wednesday I also got a parcel from home, which included some British Halloween treats. Was pretty cool.

After pizza on Wednesday we watched Michael J. Fox's Teen Wolf. What a strange film. I'd never seen it before. Just about every scene has something over-the-top and cheesy about it. It's bizarre and hollow in a post-modern kind of way. I didn't feel like I'd watched a film when it was over.

The weeks seem to be flying by at the moment. I teach kids for three hours every Thursday afternoon, and as I have to travel to a small town called 関目高殿 it sticks out in my schedule and has become like a marker of how fast time is passing. Thursdays seem to come round really quick every week, and like they say, time flys when you're having fun, so I must be having a good time.

Teaching the kids is interesting. It's a completely different vibe to the slow-paced, sedate English classes at my main job. Japanese kids are comedic geniuses, and they crack me up.

I'm reading Slash: The Autobiography at the moment. It's a great read so far, and livens up the monotony of riding trains in Japan.

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