A couple of weeks ago, two uni friends, Benito and Toby made their way over to Japan for 3 weeks of snow, sushi and Nintendo products.
Lake many visitors to Nippon, their adventures began in Tokyo, where they sampled the scents and scenes of the pulsating capital. Then it was a quick train ride to rural Fukui, to enjoy a taste of local life.
Ben, being a big advocate of food, was most interested in trying the many different types of Japanese fodder. During their stay, I managed to introduce them to all the classic Japanese dishes, from stereotypical sushi, to okonomiyaki, nabe, sauce katsu-don, and Japan’s famous fast food chain - Hachi Ban Ramen.
Toby on the other hand, famed for his “sparrow belly” was less impressed by the culinary selection. However, he made up for this by being VERY impressed with every single capsule machine and Japanese toy that crossed his path.
What should have been a short trip to the local conbini became a drawn out affair, as Toby investigated every toy, model and figure that he could find. As the days passed, Toby’s bags swelled, as he continued to purchase the country’s supply of Nintendo key rings, transfomer merchandise and other general tat. In fact, even though the headmistress of my school found Toby’s love for Anpanman (a cartoon character popular with kids aged 10 and below) a little strange, she presented him with a home made Anpanman soft toy.
One of the high lights of the tour was the visit to my school where the boys were subjected to an interrogation by the students. The first question asked by the girls was always “Do you have girl friend?”; Toby had to break a few hearts, but Benito who is currently single was told he “looks cool”.
After lessons they got a taste of gaijin fame, as word quickly spread through the school that two new foreigners had been sighted, and everyone wanted to get a look. Gaggles of giggling girls asked questions and the special needs kids wanted autographs.
Despite some initial resistance to the Onsen experience, they managed to shake off the Englsih prudishness, and take a dip in the hot waters of communal spas, whilst the snow fell from above.
We also made a few trips to the slopes to sample Japanese powder and night riding. Ben managed to overdose on the local delicacy when he got completely stuck in the deep snow. I had done two and a half runs by the time he’d managed to free himself from his powder prison.
The final stage of the trip saw us head to the big city of Osaka, to take in some hussle and bustle. Meeting up with a friend of mine, (www.willspin.com) we visited shopping centers galore. Perhaps Toby’s favourite location was the Mario Cart game in the arcade, where he enjoyed beating me by a narrow margin on two occasions (I was robbed!). Once the Apple Store was sighted, it was inevitable that Toby would want a bite and he proceed to purchase some incredibly expensive headphones. For comparison, I also bought a pair of headphones that day; mine cost exactly 10 times less than Toby’s.
All too soon the week came to an end, and though we’d packed a lot in, it was time to break the fellowship. Early on Monday morning, I left the travellers sleeping in the hotel, and fully suited and booted, I blended into to rush hour throng of commuters, as I headed for a conference in Yokohama, Japan’s second city.
A big thanks to the Bentio and Toby for making the trip out here, I’ll be seeing you soon.