A Very Engrish Tourist Weekend

Long distance friends are complicated. Some people freak out about friending people on Facebook they don’t know in real life, and rightly so. Who knows… the person could Google Map your house and rob you… or worse.


Daibutsu-san says: You shall not pass!

The trouble is, when you relocate to Japan, all of your friends become long distance friends, so you have to find ways to overcome your inexplicable anxiety of making friends that would be long distance if you weren’t in Japan. The easiest way to do that: beg your Asian Studies major friend for help, get put into touch with a friend of his, and boom. You have an instant contact in Japan, an acquaintance who visits Nara with three of her friends and you all become… friends.

Or you get kidnapped.

Shika Snacks

Kidnapping: Almost as scary as a starving shika!

In my case, it happened to be both. Lauren, a friend of my friend, brought two friends with her: Kate and Annica. By our powers combined, we had mango apple soft serve ice-cream, wandered around Nara Koen, and had a good time being annoying-as-hell gaijins. And we played the role of tourists quite well. We fed the shika, of course, and we visited Daibutsu-san, which is an incredible experience I plan to have again.

We also ate lunch at Pinocchio’s, an Italian (etc.), very western-style restaurant on Sanjo Dori. The food was good, but we did find some LOL-esque things in the menu…

Menu Fail 1

“Bowl of rice with something.” It’s like Spam: we know it’s something. We just don’t know what!

Menu Fail 2

“…with some kind of sauce and cheese.” Two things: 1) What is the unknown: sauce, cheese, or sauce AND cheese? 2) WC Mode ON. This seems a little vague to me. Can you be more specific?











And don’t get me started on spelling.


One of these things is not like the other… For the record, Crrry sounds Grrrreat.

In all seriousness, Pinocchio has good food. If you’re feeling like you need a taste of the west… or the east… you should go.

From there, on our way back from Nara Koen, the conversation went a little something like this:

Lauren: Oh, by the way, we’re kidnapping you.

Me: Eh?

Lauren: And we won’t take no for an answer.

Me: Eh? But–

Lauren: No buts.

Me: H…hai… ;_;””

And so went my first kidnapping. We hopped a train to Kyoto, then went to a game center not far from Kizugawa. During this trip, I learned the following lessons:

  1. Starbucks is so much better in Japan.
  2. I cannot DDR worth a lick anymore.
  3. Karaoke is awesome.
  4. I apparently have the single greatest hidden talent of all time: riding a mechanical bull. And it was totally worth five days of cripping around like a ninety-year-old man.
Mechanical Bull

For the record, I maintained my decency courtesy of leggings.

My kidnappers dropped me off at the train station the next morning with expertly written instructions on how to get home without getting completely and hopelessly lost (unfortunately, one of my not-so-hidden “talents). It was really sad leaving them behind, but alas… I wanted to get back to Nara soon enough to write a few lesson plans, which I had totally neglected to do and which I could not do on the train because I was stupid enough to bring the books AND the blanks, but not the actual materials for the courses. I enjoyed the train ride and realized I already had a horrible case of Stockholm Syndrome. Until next time, I’ll remember being pissed about the absence of F.U.N.’s “We Are Young” on the karaoke machine, failing so epically at DDR that even the beginner level was excruciatingly challenging, and sleeping on a floor that was surprisingly more comfortable than my own futon.


The Departure and Arrival in Retrospect

4 am Breakfast

4 am Breakfast with Flat Kristin at the airport. By this point, I was completely exhausted. Best part: I haven’t even gone anywhere yet.

Tiny planes are frightening. I managed not to cry until I took off from Detroit. I felt entitled to it. After all, I was on about an hour and a half of sleep and on a plane the size of a school bus, leaving my home state behind for at least a year and praying to God that we didn’t crash. The familiar slipped away, and off I flew. An hour later, I was in Chicago, already nauseous beyond all reason.

Cue plane number 2: slightly bigger, but still, I cried during take-off. It’s that nostalgic feeling of leaving something familiar behind. Chicago was, for me, the final frontier. It marked the farthest west I remember being. I nodded off on the plane and woke up to find we were flying over some dessert mountains. The first thing I did when I landed was call my dad to tell him we made it safely. The second thing I did was hunt down some food. I spent $10 on hummus and $3.50 on a vitamin water, and I felt no remorse. After all, this was my last meal in America, but I had to fly another 6,000 miles, so I didn’t want to eat something heavy.

And, at last, the plane to Japan. I got teary-eyed in San Fransisco during take-off, but I didn’t cry. I sat near the back of the plane between two Japanese men who kept bumping me. I slept seven hours of the flight and spent the other three eating, drinking, or using the restroom. Then, we landed.

As I stepped off of the plane, a wave of heat hit me, not like a ton of bricks but like a wet down-feather blanket. It was the sort of thing that shouldn’t be crushing but winds up being crushing just for the shock of it. I wandered through the airport, retrieved my luggage (tip: buy weird-colored luggage and luggage tags. It makes your bags easier to find… thanks for the hideous red luggage tags, mom, and thanks for the magenta bags and blue jelly tags, grandma), and proceeded through customs without a hitch.


An ofuro. If I ever come home, I’m going to need one of these…

One of the secretaries was there to meet me at the airport. By then, I began to feel the thing I chugged almost a gallon of water to avoid: jet lag. Dizzy, displaced, and a little distracted, the secretary helped me ship my luggage to the branch school (it was about 2,500 yen for 2 bags) and took me to meet two of my fellow trainees. The third was arriving on a later plane and would arrive later.

Once we were together, we boarded a train that took us from the airport to another train station. (I’m still really bad with place names, so bear with me). This first train was incredibly nice; the seats swiveled so we could all talk with each other. I was just content looking out the window at the ocean, the mountains, and everything around me.

We then took another train to Daikokucho Station and walked the short distance to our hotel. The size strangely didn’t bother me and still doesn’t. It’s small, but it’s comfortable, complete with three futons, an oshiire (Japanese-style closet), a couch and TV, a small balcony, and, of course, the absolutely necessary bidet and ofuro.

There is a 24-hour discount grocery store around the corner. We all bought dinner and settled in, me with the knowledge that the next day, still jet-lagged, I would spend nine hours in my first day of training.

So it all begins…