Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ho-Hum (?)

I had my first seemingly uneventful weekend in Japan - no trips to thousand-year-old temples, no hikes to the tops of mountains, no backing my car into a ditch. It had to happen eventually - my Japanese bank account couldn't keep up with the pace of all of my weekend excursions lately. So I kicked it in Fukui this weekend - had dinner with my Japanese tutor and her fiance on Friday, drinks with some friends on Saturday. But an uneventful weekend in Japan isn't the same as an uneventful weekend back home - in Japan, uneventful weekends are still blog-worthy.

Off House
Add this to the list of Things I Love About Japan. This is a second-hand store, and happens to be the only place in town where one can buy a "gently used" pair of pants, sofa, toaster - and, if you really wanted it, a life-sized porcelain chicken - all under the same roof. Off House's companion store, Hard Off (yes, you're reading that correctly) sells used electronics. The Japanese love of shiny, new things means that there are some great deals to be had at these spots - and dumpster-diving gaijin aren't ashamed to shop there.

I visited the Off House/Hard Off Mecca on Saturday afternoon. My mission? To score a cheap snowboard n' fixins before the first snowfall hits Fukui (which, the way temperatures have been dipping lately, could be sooner than later). As I've been blessed with large-even-by-American-standards feet, I was a bit nervous about finding appropriately-sized footwear. But Off House is a magical, magical place. I was able to find a size 26.5 (my feet sound even bigger in Japan!) pair of boots in a lovely shade of lavender. I also picked up a scuff-free snowboard - complete with bindings - to match. I passed on the porcelain chicken, but snagged a pair of shades for a grand total of ¥10,105 - that's just over 100 bucks.

This winter, I'll be blowing all of the money I saved in the mountains of Fukui, which, incidentally, are slightly steeper than the hills of Wisconsin that I'm used to riding. We'll see how long it takes before I'm blowing all of the money I saved on medical bills....

Bug Spotting
The Suzuki and I headed into Fukui City on Saturday night. A shiny, new VW Bug caught my eye on the highway - there simply aren't a lot of VWs in Japan. I stared closer, then squinted - it appeared the driver was sitting in the left seat - something I haven't seen since leaving the U.S. in July. But it gets better: I passed the Bug only to notice that the car also had spinner rims and ground effects, plus TV monitors in the head cushions. I'm sure this kid is turning heads in all of the rice paddies he's driving through...

While we're on the subject of cars, this entry merits a brief discussion on car names here in Japan - they're all in English (sort of), and they're all hilarious. There's the "Friendee," which looks kind of like a toaster on wheels. There's also a model called "That's" and one called "Life" - a friend once told me that he saw the two parked side-by-side in a parking lot and snapped a picture. But my personal favorite - and I've only seen this once - is called "LaPuta." I'll leave you to sort that out with the help of your Spanish dictionaries.

Maruoka Matsuri
In any other part of the world, news of going to a festival would not be included in a blog entry on an Uneventful Weekend. Festivals are loud. They're exciting. They're colorful. But they're a dime a dozen here in Japan.

This weekend, my own little town had a festival. I met my host mom there for lunch at noon on Sunday, stayed to watch the parade with dozens of cute, smiling kids in costumes, and then headed home. A couple of hours later, I got a text from a friend - she was participating in a dance with students from her school. I should come to watch.

So I hopped on my bike, peddled over - and, upon arrival, was pulled into the crowd of identically-dressed students dancing in the street. Just in case being a tall, foreign 20-something in a sea of Japanese middle schoolers didn't make me stick out enough, I was wearing a bright white sweater while they were all in dark blue t-shirts. And, of course, I didn't know the dance steps. But I trudged along with some Macarena-esque moves, tried to keep up with the crowd as they moved up and down the street, and obligingly smiled and waved for the TV cameras that were taping the festival.

And I know people in this town. Classy as usual.

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