Last Wednesday the usual group got together for a tour of the Osaka Mint. All Japanese coins for the past 140 years have come from this mint (paper money is produced in Tokyo.) The tour started off with a 15 minute video overview of the history and facilities. This was followed by a walking tour of part of the grounds (home to 127 varieties of Japanese cherry tree) and the factory floor (where huge machines have all but fully automated and perfected the coin minting process.) After the tour portion we were left to wander about the mint museum where we could see examples of ancient Japanese coinage as well as examples of fine crafted medals (think Olympics and the Medal of Honor.) Once again this week's tour was free but did require at least 10 days prior notice as well as a working knowledge of Japanese to book the tour (you've got to fax them a bunch of information.)
After the usual Wednesday night out with the guys I managed to drag myself out of bed Thursday morning and joined two friends in going down to Sakai (South Osaka) to see an exhibit celebrating the 150th birthday of Alphonse Mucha (Czech Art Nouveau artist.) Evidently Sakai is somewhat famous for it's collection of Mucha works as a businessman named Doi amassed a large collection some years ago. This was a nice chance to see a wider range of Mucha's work, as the last exhibit I saw was all Art Nouveau and only included a few of his posters. The Sakai City Museum itself is quite nice and is situated next to the largest Kofun (key-hole tomb) in Japan (which I wanted to see but didn't want to travel all that way for the sole purpose of seeing it.)
After my last Friday high-school shift this year (I've been teaching at an ECC sponsored high-school for the last two years) I joined one of my co-workers and set out apartment searching. What once seemed like a good idea (moving into a bigger place with an actual kitchen in a nicer neighborhood) quickly disolved as any apartment approaching ideal was super expensive. We did eventually find 3 apartments which were "okay" and set an appointment for Monday morning to go look at them.
Saturday night I went out for dinner with my girlfriend and her roommate. Her roommate's really nice (and I think I made a good impression... I hope.) After dinner we all went to sing karaoke at a really swank but oddly cheap place (Karaoke 808(?) in Shinsaibashi.)
Sunday the girlfriend and I celebrated 1 month since I asked her out by going to Namba Parks (a big open-air mall in the city) for dinner. We had a nice meal of Okanomiyaki (wiki it, I can't explain) followed by ice-cream on the top level of the mall (which is a big park.) It was a nice evening and, though we were wearing coats, it wasn't uncomfortable to sit outside and watch the city.
Monday morning I met with my co-worker again and set out to look at the apartments we saw on paper the previous Friday. Unfortunately one place had already been taken and the remaining two were is a so-so neighborhood (and only one was in a good building with an okay floor plan.) I'm currently thinking long and hard as to wether I should move or stay in my current place (which isn't too bad... really...)
It's now Tuesday morning (March 1st) and it's shaping up to be a busy day. The biggest thing on my to do list: sign up for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test.) That and laundry, cause ya' know laundry won't do itself.