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片町 Scramble

2008 June 26

By now it seems my parents’ workplaces are my primary audience here, which is kind’ve amusing. WordPress page stats give me a little information on which posts are most popular – or post, in this case, as “外来語” is the winner by a long shot – but I’m trying to get a feel for what sorts of things people would like to hear about in addition to my adventures. That way, I can think on the topic and hopefully produce something good on it.

Today I have adventures to relate. Ben was absent from this morning’s reading class, so I walked over to the co-op with Eric from Rwanda, who as it turns out is a chemistry major as well! He’s focusing on chemical engineering, but he’s also a fan of organic, so yes, there are a few of us out there. I relaxed for a couple hours, then around 3 hopped a bus to 広坂, the stop closest to 金沢21世紀美術館 which I visited previously, and walked up the street toward the Ishikawa prefectural arts and crafts museum. I found a walkway to it but got to the building to find it under heavy construction. The security guard told me the museum is closed until September, which was a great disappointment, especially since I had visited their website before going and didn’t bother translating the announcement about when they would reopen. Durf.

At that point I considered going back to 兼六園 to get some pictures for you all, but a sign on the street indicated that the area across the street was a shopping district, so I thought I’d walk down and take a look. This was a good idea – turns out there’s a store devoted to Kanazawa crafts right next to 金沢21世紀美術館 that had some really beautiful things, especially 手まり. Temari were originally toy balls made for children by their mothers using strips of old kimono – they’re not originally from Kanazawa or even from Japan, but they appear to be a major craft here (my local Hello Kitty has one), possibly because there are so many kimono made here. Now temari are more ornamental and made by old ladies, apparently, at least according to the woman at the craft gallery. Most importantly to me, 手まり and any other cloth-related craft made in Kanazawa distinctly contradicts Prof. Okazawa’s insistence that Japanese art rarely uses color. There were exquisite 手まり at that store with brilliant rainbow patterns.

I walked down the street, crossed, and walked up the other side looking for a bus stop. The one I found didn’t return to campus, though, so I crossed again and bought a drink from a vending machine while I pondered what to do. I randomly picked a fruit drink made of 梅, which as it turns out is the fruit of what we call the Japanese plum blossom – the “Japanese apricot”, or ume. It’s delicious. I haven’t yet tried umeboshi, which is the pickled fruit, but it’s a traditional Japanese treat.

Well, after a few sips of 梅 juice, I felt brave and thought I’d just start walking and see where I got. I picked the right direction to start walking and ended up near Katamachi (written as in the title of this post), the busiest district in the city where all the shopping is. I turned into the Tatemachi shopping arcade, which Asami, Becks, Ben, and I walked through over the weekend, and wandered around for a while shopping and knocking over bicycles. I was, as usual, complimented on my Japanese by a store employee while browsing through some clothing; too bad I don’t have much vocabulary when it comes to clothes shopping. I’m putting a picture of myself in one purchase up on Flickr – they’re sunglasses, but they definitely don’t look like it. This may explain why I never seem to see people in sunglasses in Japan, even when it’s bright and sunny out – are they all wearing stealth pairs? The majority of my purchases today were souvenirs; some of them I’ll probably mail out, so once I figure out exactly where they’re going, I’ll take pictures of them and perhaps post them. 

The one problem with wandering out to 片町 was finding a bus going back to campus. I could barely even find a bus stop in the area! I walked back toward 兼六園, though, and found a bus station where a bus to 旭町 would be shortly arriving. Rode back to 旭町, walked around the corner to another 旭町 stop, and got picked up by a bus back to campus. Success!

One language note I have to mention is that recognizing characters is very important, even if you can’t pronounce or understand them. (Thus why I give the pronunciation for any word I give in Japanese once and then procede to use the Japanese – I’m training you all as well as myself.) When I plan a trip out, I open up my map, find where I want to go, and then stare at the characters associated with the nearest bus stop. At the bus station, each bus has a number but is mostly identified by its final destination. I have to play a little matching game, then, where I look at the route map until I find the same characters as the place I’m looking to go, then look at the symbols of the final destination(s) of buses on that route, then look at the schedule to see when that bus will next arrive. Then I either pick out the destination on the station headerboard and watch the little bus symbols next to it until they light up, or I memorize the destination and number of the bus and watch the buses that pull up. The nice thing about Japanese bus stations is, they all have this headerboard with the destinations of each bus that comes through. When a particular bus gets within a certain radius of the station, a green light with a bus symbol on it starts flashing next to that bus name. When the bus arrives, a second green symbol lights up. (At smaller stations, a red light on the bus stop pillar will start to flash, and then the green bus lights up; there are stations that are literally just a pole with a sign on top, though, and they only have a schedule posted.) Buses also announce their major destinations when they arrive at a stop, for the benefit of the deaf.

I guess that’s something I’ve meant to mention and haven’t; Japan is an extremely disability-friendly society. Almost everything is indicated with both lights and cheerful recorded voices. When you cross the street, the walk sign is always backed up by a noise to indicate to blind people that it’s safe to cross, and the noise actually sounds alternately from both sides of the street to guide them. Most Kanazawa crossing lights make little peeping noises that I mistook for a bird when Mrs. Hashiba and I first went walking! The currency is also very blind-friendly. Every coin is a different size or weight; 5円 and 50円 coins have holes punched in them (though the 500円 coin doesn’t for some reason); and the bills are slightly different lengths. Foreign currency is starting to make me realize just how unfriendly American currency is – not only are our bills impossible for blind people without a system of folding or separate storage or something, our coins don’t even have their value in Arabic numerals on them! The latter seems like it should be a pretty big issue, to me.

Off to upload some Flickr offerings for now, but one more little tidbit I picked up from a conversation in class on Wednesday – foreigners LOVE Krispy Kreme. Min from Brunei tells me there’s a Krispy Kreme in Australia that he asks for presents from any time anyone he knows visits Down Under, and a Japanese girl we were chatting with said she visited Oklahoma for a short time and loved Krispy Kreme. I had no idea they had spread that far! 

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