I sleep on a pile of comforters/duvets and Tori sleeps on the bed. We get plenty of natural light in our room thanks to the big paper-shaded windows right next to our bed. I roll out of bed usually around 7:45am while Tori’s getting ready for work. My Job? Make breakfast 🙂
8:15am – DEPARTURE
About this time we leave for the bus stop. The bus depot is about a five minute walk from our place. It is conveniently located at the Hirosaki JR (Japan Railway) Station. Anyone coming to visit will come thru this station. See that apartment on the second floor, right next to my ear? That’s our place!
8:35am – The Walk-away: I just saw Tori off at her bus, so it’s time to walk back through the station and back to the apartment. Here’s what I see on my way:
Here is Hirosaki Station. The adjoining brick building is a small department store. The department stores around here are pretty crazy. most have a grocery store in the basement. In many places they take the place of what we consider shopping malls.
This giant apple is inside the station. Aomori prefecture (they use “prefecture”, we use “state”) is known for its apple production much like Washington… weird eh?
This is the park and ride by our house. Every bike is essentially the same. Unless you’re taking the train somewhere, bikes are the way to go around here. Lotsa bikes. Lotsa lotsa lotsa bikes.
9:00am – GOOD MORNING…ER…EVENING?
Talked to the brohymn on skype for a bit. If you do not have skype, PLEASE GET IT! It has been our life line to home and it is free to use! Facebook updates only do so much to maintain friendships. Right now our internet connection is intermittent, as we are poaching it from someone (i don’t know who) in our apartment complex. So much of obtaining a normal life has hinged on us becoming registered aliens over here. I will get my alien card next week.
Some time in the morning I usually start to marinate our lunch. Since I’m not working I can make chicken and noodles or something instead of a ham sandwich….besides, I haven’t seen a jar of Miracle Whip since I left the States!
10:30am – TIME TO EXPLORE!On this particular day I decided to bike to Tori’s school, since I have yet to see it. Here are some pics:**note** I took many more pictures on my way home from the school. Part of this trip was to time the commute for Tori if she decides to ride her bike instead of take the bus.
Leaving the apartment. It’s old, the walls are drab and dirty, the door is short and heavy. I love my apartment. Seriously.
Getting my bike out of our storage unit. We bought two used bikes for 10,000 yen (about $100…I have learned to just drop two zeros for an almost accurate but quick recalculation). A new bike costs anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 yen.
The open door is our storage unit. We also have a parking space, but no car to fill it yet. yet. stay tuned…
I took this pictue whilst cycling through town. Not the wisest decision. Bikes kinda have free reign over the roads and sidewalks here. You kinda go where ever you want/have-to to avoid cars, people, traffic lights, other bikes, potholes, curbs, telephone poles, …more people.
I took this picture (again, mid pedal) because of the peculiar yellow strip running down the side walk. Any guesses as to why? Give up? IT’S FOR BLIND PEOPLE! This strip is found pretty much anywhere there is a decernable sidewalk present. It’s kinda fun to close your eyes and try to use it….Hopefully that doesn’t offend anyone out there that’s blind, although if a blind person could borrow my eyes for a few minutes I’m sure they’d find it equally amusing, so the exchange is fair IMO. No blind person is going to read this anyway so I think I’m in the clear.
Ah…the ol’ Bar Grandpa! I haven’t wet my whistle here yet, but bet your ass I’ll check it out soon!
The Old Tank is right around the brick from Bar Grandpa. Maybe the same bar? I dunno. I’ll keep you posted.
My whip. I put electrical tape on the cross bar so I’d recognize it if I have to park in a sea of bikes. I know what you’re thinking: “wait, isn’t that a woman’s bike?” …no, all commuter/daily use bikes look just like this, some maroon, some green, some black, some blue, all about the same design.
A group of girls riding their bikes across the street. I waved, they ignored me…I felt like an idiot.
11:00am – I MADE IT!
Success! I made it to the school. Only took about 25 minutes of non-stop pedalling. I can’t go into the school while Tori’s working, so I rode my bike around the perimeter of the campus to check things out…
…I found a baseball game! Minami (home) vs. Iwate…or Odate…er….some other team. Minami won 10 to 4! I talked to the pitcher’s dad in broken english/japanese about his son. He’s a sophomore so he won’t be one of Tori’s students. About the only thing I can say in confidence is: “Watashi no Oksan wa eigo no sensei hirosaki minami koko ni imasu.” translated: “My wife is an english teacher at Hiroskai South High School.” This is usually met with an suprised, “Oh?! Eigo no sensei desu ka?! Ah! So, so, so!” translation: “WTF?! YOU’RE WIFE IS AN ENGLISH TEACHER? YOU?! WITH THE TATTOOS AND THE NOSE RING?! NO EFFING WAY!!” …actually, it means: “Oh?! An English teacher?! Ah! I see, I see, I see!”
I ate an orange at the game, and got a wicked sun burn on that right knee you see chillin in the sun.
A shot of Iwakisan. This picture does not do it justice. That mountain is HUGE!
A view from the bridge into one of the canals that ribbon thru town. There are bike trails that run the length of these concrete creeks. Ducks and giant koi swim in them.
A pagoda/shrine off to the side of the road in a small park. If I read japanese I’d tell you what it is or why it’s there; eitherway, it’s pretty bad ass looking, whatever it is.
There’s a giant bowling pin on the building down there. The building itself is a huge entertainment hall with bowling (obviously), karaoke, probably a huge arcade, and maybe some pachinko. On that same street is the dance club we went to last weekend, and many other bars and clubs, seeing as it is close to the university in town.
This statue is in another small park near city hall. Don’t know who this Madonna is, but she’s too pale for my taste. Why does the sun burn our skin, but bleach everything else? Chew on that, Science!
It’s mid day, and the streets are pretty barren…
I always try to find something to rest on while waiting for a light to change……and yes, I have a bell. And I use it. The shopping bags have taken the place of a suitable man-purse/backpack until I find one I like.
This giant stucture is another one of those department stores I told you about. They get pretty creative when designing these places. In my mind I was thinking that it was some way-cool sumo arena or something…oh no! Just mostly women’s clothing and some soba restaurant upstairs….frown.
Some Japanese cars. Most cars and trucks look like the retarded offspring from some scion, mini cooper, beetle, civic-gang bang.
I thought this poster was pretty hilarious. No doubt its creators wanted to express diversity….in a world without black people.
In the world of convenience stores, 7Eleven is KING! This building is Ito Yokado, a 7Eleven DEPARTMENT STORE. This is where Tori and I do most of our shopping for groceries and pretty much everything. There’s a music shop on the top floor with guitars, pianos, trumpets etc. There’s an arcade. There’s also a McDonald’s in the basement foodcourt and a Baskin Robbins on the first floor if we need a taste of home 🙂
Remember that chicken? Well it’s ready to throw in the skillet! I beat Tori home so I figured I’d get lunch ready.
Here’s Tori, enjoying the finished product. To the right is our living room. To the left is our bed room. There were sliding dividers that separated all the rooms but we took them out to open up the place. Word is we’ll probably throw them back in when winter comes as to conserve the heat to one or two rooms.
So, lunch consisted of: Teriyaki chicken with stir fried onions and peppers; salad chopped with oranges in sesame dressing; udon noodles and iced green tea….not bad eh?
I took a nap after lunch…
3:00pm – Nitori or not, here we come!
Tori and I set out to find Nitori, an Ikea-esque store were we hoped to find relief from our current sleeping arrangement. WE’RE JAPANESE MATTRESS SHOPPING! I should point out that many Japanese sleep on futon mattresses, which is little more than a long thin pillow on the ground. Some people just sleep on the floor! I’ve been getting somewhere in the mid range of tolerable to uncomfortable sleep for a week, and Tori misses me sleeping by her side, so we’re off to find a solution.
This overexposed picture is of another bowling/amusement supercenter. It looks like an egyptian pyramid rollin’ on ecstacy.
About an hour after we left the house, WE FOUND NITORI! This over-exposed picture proves it. “Why do I look confused?” You may ask. Well, how the hell am I going to buy a bed in a Japanese furniture store. Most people in our area speak limited to no English, so the pantomiming we do to get by gets a little old sometimes, and can be dangerous if they’re asking if you want to open a credit card to pay for your bed. We were in luck…
…because THIS guy works at Nitori! He speaks damn near perfect English, even down to using “like” as a filler word. He saved our bacon. He also snowboards, so we exchanged email with him so we can shred this winter together.
6:00pm – Celebration
To celebrate our successful mattress purchase, Tori and I went to the McDonalds in the basement of Ito Yokado! Tori got a McPORK off the 100 yen menu. I got a double cheeseburger meal. **A note about McDonalds** They make your food when you order it. I’ve had fresh burgers and hot fries every order. On the flip side. You can’t get extra bbq sauce and (this KILLED me) NO FREE REFILLS.
7:30pm: Getting my swell on! So our friends Mike, Claire and Alesha came to pick us up to go to the public athletic center and I forgot to bring my camera. I’ll try to paint a picture the best I can. Imagine a stocky, phillipino dude (MIKE) with a shaved head and beard driving a japanese (right side drive) Honda subcompact with a Chinese/American (Claire) in the passenger seat. Alesha, an English/Jamaican rode behind Mike, Tori got the hump and I took the left rear window seat. We drove to the complex, worked out for an hour or so, then mike drove us home.