Sunday, May 29, 2011

Week 22

A fairly unsurprising week this week. Nose to the grindstone and all that.

I did have a little fun last Tuesday when, after going out to my favorite burrito place for lunch, I took a four hour bike ride around the city. The weather was spectacular, nice and sunny but not overly hot yet. I got lots of pictures and the first sunburn of the year. Tuesday night my girlfriend came over and we had pizza as a make-up date for the upcoming weekend (when she was going to her parents'.)

Wednesday I did some early window shopping in Den-den town (the electronics district) before coming home in the afternoon, doing laundry, and cleaning up my apartment.

Thursday through Sunday kind of blurred together, without a date night or my high school class to break up the week (my high school kids were out on a field trip.) One interesting point, I suppose, was that we did get a lot of rain dumped on us yesterday by an incoming typhoon which has now more-or-less broken up and left us with an overly cloudy/windy Monday morning.

I know things have been slow the past few weeks but I think June is shaping up to be a bit more exciting... at least I hope it is anyways.

**Also, I'm told I have a few readers out there. Please feel free to use the comment section to leave and comments/questions/suggestions you have. Oh, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Week 21

Most of the past week was a blur in anticipation of celebrating my girlfriend's birthday on Sunday night.

I seem to remember that last Tuesday I stopped by the local game store (the ONE that stocks "foreign" games.) I've had a copy of "Apples to Apples" and "Fluxx" for a while now and while they're both fun games but I've been wanting to expand my collection. I finally broke down and bought "Once Upon a Time", "Lunch Money", and "Aquarius" this week. This of course led to a games night that evening, which was a lot of fun. *Everything with quotes in this paragraph is the name of a different card game.

Wednesday was spent rolling D&D characters for a new campaign that a friend of mine is starting in June. A bunch of us got together in the early afternoon to discuss the game and roll some dice. It's really fun to get together and be nerdy with other nerdy people one in a while. Once the work of character creation was done we went and got ramen, drank, and played card games until 2am.

After a couple of days of work, Saturday night, I met up with some friends at a concert venue down the street. My favorite Osaka based band opened, followed by a weird all female psychedelic-rock-revival band, and closed out by an okay-band-made-awesome that had the drummer from my all-time-favorite Japanese band. (za 50 kaitenz, kinoko hotel, and the piizu)

Finally after much preparation and "discussion" I met my girlfriend after work on Sunday and we went out to celebrate her birthday. I chose a sushi restaurant that my friend had recommended. I would normally not have tried this place, as it's one of those restaurants where they don't put prices on the menu (yeah, intimidating.) All-in-all dinner was amazing. I'd been told that "good" sushi was totally different from the 100yen sushi-go-round stuff but I was unprepared for how much better it was. In the end dinner ended up being much more reasonable than I had anticipated (a good thing for my monthly budget.) Dinner was so reasonable that we splurged on a taxi back home where I presented an order made cake I had had made as well as a small box of Legos I wrapped up. (The girlfiend was impressed/happy. Yay!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week 20

This past week came in with a bang, had a whimpering mid-section, and had awesome finish.

While last Sunday (May 8) was my Japanaversery I ended up going out and celebrating last Monday instead. 3 of the 4 remaining people from my training group (myself included) went out to our favorite bar after work and ended up stating until the sun came up (the latest I've been out in quite a while.) Luckily Tuesday was a rainy day-off so it didn't matter that I slept in until the mid-afternoon or that I ordered pizza for dinner so I didn't have to leave the house all day.

Wednesday was similar to Tuesday in raininess but I did manage to get out of the house. A bunch of friends and I went uptown, first to a batting cage, then to play ping-pong at an entertainment center, and finally to do a couple hours of karaoke. Although it sounds like we did a lot, it was still a surprisingly lazy (and cheap) day.

Nothing too special about the work week this week. Went out for sushi with my girlfriend on Saturday.

Yesterday (Sunday) on the way into work on my bike, I happened to see a sign saying "Mexican Food/Bar" out of the corner of my eye. I talked some of my co-workers into joining me there for dinner (a ridiculously simple task.) It turned out to be a bit pricy but incredibly good. With this place and the new burrito place across town I think Osaka is experiencing an Mexican food "boom"... and not a minute too soon.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Week 19

This past week was much more relaxed than the one previous, like a nice vacation after my vacation. The two or three notable events this week were a trip to the zoo, a concert, and an anniversary.

Last Tuesday I went to the Tennoji Zoo (in downtown Osaka) with my girlfriend. We had a great time, to be sure, but there were two unforeseen snafus in out visit. First, I didn't count on the fact that it was a nation holiday and that everyone and all their kids would be at the zoo at the same time. Secondly, that some of the animals were away for some reason and couldn't be seen (notably the rhino and the hyenas) also, going mid-day, a lot of the cool animals (lions, tigers) were asleep. Still, we had fun and my girlfriend made a delicious lunch-box for us which we enjoyed while people-watching (which turned out to be easier than animal watching that day.)

Wednesday I lounged around in the morning and headed off to Kyoto in the evening to see one of my favorite Japanese bands play. The event was in a really cool live-house that was actually a re-purposed Japanese-style store-house. I met up with some friends at the concert and we went out for drinks afterwords in North Osaka. Unfortunately a few of us who live in the south missed the last train and had to taxi home (which wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be.)

The last "event" of the week was yesterday (Sunday, May 8th) which was my Japan-iversary. I've been in Japan (with ECC) for three years now. My how time flies.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Week 18

Last Tuesday I pulled overtime again. Coming home late in the evening I quickly packed for Wednesday's adventure before getting a good night's sleep.

Wednesday I met up with some friends at Abeno-bashi station were we caught a rapid train for the two hour ride from Osaka to the middle-of-nowhere Nara. We arrived at the foot of Mt. Yoshino (on of Japan's many sacred mountains) at about 10:00 am. We took our time and slowly made the ascent. We had great weather for the first 2/3 of the hike until we reached the summit when someone just had to go and say "gee, it's hasn't rained yet" causing an almost instand down-pour. All-in-all it took 5 hours to hike up and about 2 to hike back down. Rain and exercise aside it was a great hike with some really good friends making for a good day.

Thursday, in some cruel twist of scheduling I had to work my normal shift. Fortunately, Golden Week started on Friday and I got to spend the day with my girlfriend (we went to a flower park in the outskirts of the city.) On the way back we stopped off at my place so I could pack for the weekend before going to her place where we made gyoza (pot-stickers) for dinner. (Who knew that a dish called pot-stickers REALLY sticks to the pan? Well, I do now.)

Saturday had a 4:30 wake-up call so my girlfriend and I could pick up our rent-a-car by 5:00 and our friends by 5:30. We had a nice drive out of the city, tailed by the rising morning sun. It took us about 4 hours to get to our first destination: Izumo-taisha. (too long to explain, click here) We spent almost two hours walking around and taking pictures before getting back in the car. Our next stop was Mt. Daisen (kanji translation: Big Mountain.) About half way up the mountain (by car) we stopped at a dairy farm and had some delicious fresh ice-cream. Somehow our navigation system though it was a good idea to take us to our next destination by going OVER the mountain so we had a harrowing hour of hair-pin turns inches from thousand-foot precipices (admittedly accompanied by some spectacular vistas.) Some time later we safely arrived at out hotel in Tottori. After checking in we all headed off to the baths to relax before heading out to dinner. On the way to dinner we witnessed an attempted drive-by bag-snatching (a "common" crime in Japan) luckily the victim fought off the assailant and both ran away before we really realized what was happening. We had dinner at a nice izakaya followed by some relaxation and drinks back in our hotel room.

The next day we slept in a bit and hit the baths one more time before hitting the road. Sunday's main event was the Tottori sand-dunes. Of couse it was just our luck that we arrived on the windiest day of the year and were beaten by flying sand the whole time (I still have sand in my hair.) I was the only one brave (read: stupid) enough to climb down to the water's edge and put my hand in the Japan Sea. Turns out going down a sand-dune is a totally different story than having to climb back up it. After a lot of shoe-banging-on-the-ground and coat-shaking (and a spin through the gift shop) we got back in the car and got some lunch at a local restaurant that surved the local delicacy of a bowl of rice with grilled and raw squid on top (it wan't to bad, and was VERY filling.) After a stop at a fish marked down the road we pointed the car back towards Osaka. We had one more unexpected adventure as my friend got us pulled over for speeding. Fortunately we found the ONE nice traffic cop in Japan who let us with a warning (after which we continued back to Osaka... a little slower.) We rolled into the city about seven o'clock with the setting sun descending behind us. After fueling the car up and returning it, we fueled ourselves up at my favorite burrito restaurant.

Monday was spent sorting photos, doing laundry, cleaning the apartment, and buying airfare home for the summer.