In the Osaka Subway after a Happy Meeting
Neither of us are the type of "expat" who's been sent here by some company on high rolling salary, living in the best places in town, rather we are both people who came here by our own choice and money, living very simply while we are at it.
I'm living in a 50 year year old house on 70 square metres of land in Kyoto. He was at that time living in a share house with a number Japanese 20s to 30s year olds in Nagoya. We both have a desire to live here in as local way as possible, trying to learn the language and culture while we are at it.
Well, he was only fairly new in Japan at that time, so there was a lot to talk about how to survive the life here. He's also got an IT background, so it we chatted quite a bit about the latest in programming languages and developing web based applications. So it was a good few hours in Osaka, but then I had to get back to Kyoto to teach a class. This snap shot was taken on the way back home.
Down and out in the Kyoto Subway
While I can say now, life here is great on the balance of things, sometimes I have a bad day. Here is a recount of one such bad day...
Well, it had been a stressful week, there was lots to do and more things came up unexpectedly (as they do sometimes). So, I finally got the chance to go out somewhere by myself for the evening, maybe a little adventure. When Dave was with us, he had told me tales of interesting places he found in Kyoto. So I set out towards the North of the city and only found that Starbucks was open, maybe because it was Monday, or it was too early in the evening? Looked crowded in Starbucks and the only seats available were outside ones, too cold for that on the 1st of March in Kyoto! Didn't really want to go to Starbucks anyway.
So then I remembered how I saw some interesting restaurants above the subway line in the South of the city, so I decided to head South. The first stop I tried ended having nothing there dark streets, nothing much of interest open, so I walked one subway stop North and by then was hungry, all I could find open was McDonald's! I decided I might go for a 120yen cheese burger because at least it would keep the hunger away until I found somewhere better. While in McDonald's I figured that it must have been on the Southern part of the other subway line, so I'd have to head East via the JR train line. Headed back North on the subway up to the JR Station, caught the train one stop East and then changed on the other subway at Yamashina then headed South again for afew stops till I got to Ono.
At Ono all I found was a few closed car yards, an open convenience store, and roadside Gyudon restaurant. It was already too late in the evening by then for the shopping centres to be open. So I decided Gyudon was what I'd eat. Gyudon is basically slices of beef in a sauce served on top of a large bowl of steaming hot rice. Now against better judgement and warnings from Ritsuko about cheep Gyudon restaurants (cause they might use nasty high chemical content mad cow infested beef!!!) I went in had bowl of Gyudon for about 400yen. As I left the restaurant it started to rain quiet heavily. As I got into the subway station I made this snap with the Casio, the only photo I took that day. Then I started sneezing, it was a the beginning of a cold.
Then it was only on the way home I realised I didn't have my house keys (and I don't have a cellphone). When I finally arrived home it was after 10pm and Ritsuko was asleep up stairs, and I had to ring the door bell a few times before she came down to open the door! Yep, I had a bad day!
Some Japanese foods have become famous in Australia: things like Sushi, Teriyaki (although in a highly modified form), Tempura (which is originally a Portuguese dish), Ramen (which originates from China) and Teppanyaki. However, I've never been able to find Okonomi-yaki on the menus in Japanese restaurants in Australia. Yes, back then we did sometimes make it ourselves, but it was never quite the same as what we can get here.
Okonomi-yaki isn't exactly something you'd find at high class establishment though, and thus probably why restaurants in Australia didn't offer it. Okonomi-yaki is a kind of Japanese savoury pancake and an Osakan soul food. It's one of the dishes you might find at cheap roadside eateries or places you'd go with workmates to have a few beers.
Well Ritsuko and I went into Osaka one Monday morning, because we don't start work until 4:00pm on Mondays and it's a quiet day to look at the shops. For lunch we found a great Okonomi-yaki place in the Yodobashi Camera building. I also bought Ritsuko a new CD player while we were there and didn't buy anything photography related, that time.
So if you ever go to Osaka make sure you try Okonomi-yaki (cooked at your table is the best way to enjoy it). Also try the Hiroshima version if you go to Hiroshima because it's quite different, but equally delicious.
This PBLOG entry is inspired by a BLOG on Mike Beddall's site
about sports drinks in Japan
. Mike complained about the fact that all Japanese sports drinks, no matter what brand all look and taste the same. They are all a cloudy white colour and taste slightly grapefruitish. Even Gatorade in Japan doesn't come in the choice of flavours it does in other countries. Mike mentioned that the only Gatorade he's found in Japan was an Orange coloured one, but it wasn't Orange flavoured.
I wrote on the comments (which I can no longer find on the site), that I had found a Blue Gatorade in Shiga, but since I've got no photographic record of this, I can't prove it.
Now other than photography and maintaining this website and other websites, the other thing (outside of work, church, family and trying to learn Japanese) that I like to do is running (actually in Australia cycling as well, but now here in Japan cycling is my transport, not my recreation). So, needless to say I consume a lot of sport's drinks and I've been putting up with the milky white slight grapefruit flavoured Pocari Sweat, Aquarius, and Dakara (whichever is cheapest for 2 litres this week at the local Co-op supermarket).
Well, during a photography trip, I finally found a vending machine which sold Gatorade. No Blue Gatorade this time, just the Orange coloured one which tastes like every other Japanese sports drink except with a slight mikan (mandarin) taste, rather than a slight grapefruit taste! I still believe I found a much more delicious Gatorade in Shiga which was blue coloured, but until I do find it again, this is all I've got to show. Still hoping for my favourite Red (Raspberry flavoured) Gatorade to turn up here too.
A Visit to the Dentist
Well it had to happen, with all the chocolate I was eating... While I was drinking some Aquarius (a Coca Cola made clone of Pocari Sweat, in other words a sports drink), I felt something hard hit my tongue. I spat it out and found it appeared to be a piece of tooth, one side white and the other side black. I was shocked, had one of my teeth rotted through? Well after a lot of lectures from Ritsuko about my chocolate eating habits, she booked me in at a local dentist that had been recommended to us as the gentlest dentist in town.
Well when we got there and I showed her (the dentist) the bit of tooth, she examined it and said it is a piece of plaque and I don't have a broken tooth. I felt like a bit of a doofus at that point! She said I'll have to have a full clean and scaling before she could examine to see what shape my teeth really are in. Well, the last time I went to the dentist was 9 years prior in Australia, that clean and scaling was such a traumatic experience, that I never went back there again! Yes, I guess I'm a bit of a wimp! Well, here I am in Japan about to face the clean and scaling again...
Well, the truth be known this dentist is very gentle, compared to the one I went to nine years ago in Oz. After a clean and scaling, an examination and an x-ray, she pronounced my teeth were in perfect shape, I just had a lot of plaque on them. Now with the plaque removed I can feel each individual tooth with my tongue, which is a rather strange feeling. I thanked her most politely and exclaimed in my best Japanese that "you are so gentle", which kind of took her by surprise. (Note Ritsuko was with me at the dentist to translate)
Well I'm definitely going to go back for regular cleans and scales now!