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2008 July 19

My last post was nearly a week ago, so it’s time to get you all caught up in the meantime.

On Wednesday night, I had dinner with Asami and Takuya, who also visited Williamsburg back in March, at a Japanese burger chain called Mosburger. I had a rice burger – instead of a bun, two rice cakes sandwiched the “burger”, which was a mix of veggies, egg, and shrimp. It was like fried rice in burger form. It was nice to learn a little more about Takuya, but I find him hard to understand – I’m not used to male speech or youth speech, and he does both. Toward the end of the night I was able to make a little conversation, but for the most part it was pretty awkward for me.

On Thursday I dragged myself out of bed to get to class, only to discover it was exam day and I really shouldn’t have gone. This particular class is seriously advanced, so the “easy” exam consisted of reading two newspaper articles (with whatever dictionary assistance desired), picking out keywords, summarizing, writing your opinion, and then answering a second section with questions that I didn’t even look at. I read the first article, wrote down keywords, and was halfway through a summary when the 1.5 hour class period ended. That’s pretty good for me, but pretty bad for that exam!

After that, I had arranged to meet Mrs. Hashiba for lunch and some shopping in the old geisha district near her section of town. Turns out I picked a weird bus route to get there, but I’m proud of myself for managing it as well as I did – I caught a bus out to a random district I’d never been to, realized I was out of change and ran into a liquor store to buy a pack of candy to break a ¥10.000 bill, went back to the stop and realized the bus I was looking for didn’t stop there, crossed the street and found a bus that arrived at the time I was expecting there, and waited at that post for ten minutes until the bus arrived and confirmed that it went to 橋場町.* I should have just taken a bus to Kenrokuen and changed or walked from there.

At any rate, Mrs. Hashiba, poor thing, was waiting for me at the bus stop on the hottest day of the year (as the liquor store owner told me). Plus, she had brought me a gift, wrapped up in a beautiful wrapping cloth.** We then went walking in search of a place for lunch; we couldn’t find the cafe she had wanted to take me to before (we found it on the way back, of course), but we ended up in a nice cafe having scones and toast and such all homemade by the young woman single-handedly working the place while Mrs. Hashiba chatted her up on how skilled she must be. After that, we walked down to Higashichaya and wandered around the stores for a bit; in almost every store, Mrs. Hashiba tried to find something to buy me. We also looked at several gold leaf stores and sampled gold leaf-containing foods – Kanazawa produces about 98% of all the gold leaf used in Japan, so it’s a big part of local culture, and rich people in the area have long been convinced that consuming gold leaf is both elegant and beneficial to the health.*** It certainly feels weird to eat, but in an elegant sort of way. We also got to see a bathroom in which all the tile was covered in gold! Then Mrs. Hashiba’s son picked us up and drove me back to campus – I somehow managed to give successful directions, despite having to recall my directional vocabulary and despite he and I understanding each other as little as always (same issues as with Takuya, plus a slur and an accent). It was sad to see them go, but I’m looking forward to sending them some snail mail when I get back to the States.

Today, I went out to the train station to get my rail pass and a ticket back to Tokyo so that I can start working out my return plans. After that I thought I’d visit Nagamachi (長町), where the samurai retainers of Lord Maeda lived, but I had trouble figuring out where the best bus stop would be and decided to try walking it instead. I made it with no trouble, but I did make it a little too late to get into the Kaga Yuuzen dying store, which I also couldn’t find. At any rate, I got some nice pictures of the outsides of the samurai’s homes as well as the nearby neighborhoods, saw some more local glazed pottery, and found a nice store to shop in. After that, I remembered that there was a Noh production on tonight, couldn’t find a bus that ran to the stop I was looking for in time, and walked out to the theater where I thought Okazawa had said the performances were held – but a troupe of high schoolers were unloading equipment for a musical rehearsal, so oh well. Then I had a further series of adventures with buses and ended up walking from Asahimachi back to campus, so today was an exhausting day for the ol’ legs.

So, now you’re all caught up, and there’s an assortment of new photographs to look at, including samurai houses. Cool, huh?


* Coincidentally, 橋場 is also Hashiba, but not 羽柴 like their name.
** The traditional wrapping medium of choice in Japan is not paper, but cloth. Stores are full of beautifully dyed and patterned wrapping cloths that, to my foreign eyes, seem as nice as presents!
*** It isn’t, but gold being an inert metal, it isn’t harmful either. It’s like consuming Splenda – your body can’t do anything with it, so it goes out as it came in.

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