Sept. 13, 2010, Monday
At the Nagai Youth Hostel, we are nearby to shops, grocery stores, train stations, bus lines, Y100 shops, and for Y200 ($2.40) we can use a bicycle for the whole day to get around. In fact, Manigeh and I did yesterday as we planned to go to the grocery store, a drug store, and the Apple store to restore her laptop’s movies. We inadvertently parked our bicycles in a Permit Area for bicycles while going to the train station to Namba. When we got back, they were gone! Our bicycles got “towed” for being in the wrong place!?!?!? We were appalled and amused at the same time – TOWING a bicycle?
The youth hostel reception desk clerks had never had this happen. They were great, however, and the next day (today) said they’d located the two bicycles and that they were moved a few feet further into un-permitted areas. They hadn’t gotten towed at all! We offered to pay for the two days and any fines, but only got charged Y400 one-day use for both of the bicycles.
We met some great people yesterday on our quest to repair Manigeh’s Apple Mac laptop so it can play movies.
The first person we talked with was “Joe” Genius who looked a lot like my brother Michael when he was young, or like my son, Geoff, when
he had longer hair. “Joe” set an appointment for 3:15 pm for us, and then sent us out to get lunch. It was 12:15 pm. We had three hours to kill…
Our mistake was looking for Unagidon when we were in a hip cosmopolitan area! We could have gotten almost any OTHER type of food than Japanese where we walked. BBQ, Shakey’s Pizza, French croissants & coffee, Latin foods, American fast foods, as well as the requisite ramen and udon places interspersed between the modern chic places.
Very hungry, we dropped into an okonomiyaki place (Japanese sort of pancake quiche), and had a GREAT and entertaining lunch!
We were seated by an elderly gentleman who greeted at the door, and he began our order (“What would you like to drink, and do you need an ashtray?”), served us enormous chilled mugs of iced oolong tea.
Then the REAL cook arrived – a young man. We teased him, though he was quiet, taught him some slang (well, Manigeh did that, “Back at you!”).
We ordered similar items to what a couple of young women next to us ordered (they were originally from Shanghai, but seemed quite comfortable speaking Japanese, too). We skipped the chicken grilled hearts, though.
I was amazed by the appetite of the two women! From two orders of large chicken hearts, shrimp and celery, yamaimo (moutain potato slices), sauteed chicken, natto & green onion okonomiyaki, warmed tofu w bonito, green onions, and soy sauce. They finished their lunch with two different kinds of yakisoba! Seemed like Sumo-sized lunches! Manigeh thought the two women could hide behind chopsticks, however! What DO they do after they eat?! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of them to show here.
The young cook, Sakurada-san, taught himself how to cook okonomiyaki (the Japanese pancake is grilled with a variety of ingredients, like bacon or octopus, shredded cabbage, green onions, pancake batter,
pickled ginger, special sauce, and nori – and each cook has his or her own style).
He had been working at the shop for 3 years, though cooking for 7 years. He wasn’t familiar with Facebook as he doesn’t have much internet access.
So, because he’s such a good guy, we’re going to put him on our blog AND Facebook!
We have several pictures and videos of the dancing hands of the fellow behind the Benihana-like grills, Sakurada-san!
After “lunch,” and on turning a corner, we came upon several shops down a mini-covered ginza. The crowd was made up of a mix of “real” workers in their uniforms, and people in costume.
That is, it is amazing how many Japanese girls are willling to dress up as their favorite female anime “heroine!” Japanese marketing is catering to the frou-frou-factor – how many ruffles CAN a girl wear?!?!? Such femininity is a bit too sugar-coated for me, but I can see it is a big business! SOMEONE is getting rich with this idea!
As an aside, it reminds me of an article Olivier Jumeau (previous blog) mentioned seeing in a global newspaper like US Today (scary thought) about how the power and the advantage recently of the girls in Japan compared to the boys turning into men. The article was written by an American and a Japanese, both men. In the article, it stated that young women in Japan have an advantage over men as many of them are opting NOT to get married soon after college, are living with their parents at home, and can save money from whatever measly job they have, saving more so than the same aged men who are working at higher paying jobs. The young men typically live on their own in an apartment, eat out often as is expected by their work, are expected to pay for dates’ dinners, go out drinking and spending money on their interests, which add up quickly.
LOL – ah, here is the sticking point – even if they take a girl out on a date, they can be rebuffed on their advancement of the relationship. An example was given about a man taking a women on a weekend holiday at a resort, and expecting to sleep in the same room, possibly the same bed. He has paid for the entertainment, meals, drive, and as they check in, the girl says, “No, I want my own room.” So, he pays for her room, too, and still expects some sneaky hanky-panky during the night. Alas, he is again thwarted in that expectation, too, and comes away broke, and no satisfaction as he’d expected.
The rules have changed and he’s not sure what to expect anymore. In the meantime, the women, who had been suppressed for decades, maybe centuries, before, were expected to drop out of the work force after marrying, and having no upward bound possibilities (talk about “glass ceilings!”) stayed home and managed the family accounts. That involved giving the man his stipend for drinking after work with his colleagues at least once a week, and paying the rest of the bills for running a household.
(Oddly enough, there is such a thing as a “Lady’s Luncheon” if I remember correctly from when I first lived in Japan, where the lady of the house would meet another lady friend, and they’d pay
Y1,500 for a beautifully laid out luncheon or tea service at a posh restaurant, while their husbands toiled away at the office, and had a Y800 bento box!)
Anyway, the gist of the article
women were in a
position than the young men as they
property, whereas the men had to keep renting since they couldn’t save enough, and the young women with buying power, then didn’t really need to marry until they wanted children. The observation was that many of the young men nowadays in Japan seem LESS masculine than prior years, and that they are having a really tough time asserting themselves in a relationship. Now, what’s so wrong with that?! So, the moral of the story is – better start going into businesses that cater to and attract women!
Returning to the Apple store at Namba, Tetsu helped Manigeh, and is an AMAZING guy! He was not only knowledgeable, patient, and friendly, but FUNNY! So, good-natured was he that he helped Manigeh backup and move her movies onto a new external hard drive to free up her laptop hard drive (it had 5 GB out of 75 GB available!), and told us to go out for about 30 minutes, and get some coffee while it was copying. He would take care of the laptop.
More than an hour later, … after we’d walked all around the OTHER ginza, not finding the coffee we hoped for, we bought some fancy croissants for Tetsu as a “presento” for going beyond super hero expectations. He was pleased, and very grateful. That same area also yielded a “Krispy Kreme!” Unbelievable.
It was 8 pm as we headed to the train station. Manigeh pointed out a skirt in a boutique’s window, and before I knew it, I had purchased a $200 designer skirt that was reversible, hemline adjustable, and could be worn as a medium-length skirt, long skirt, a dress, or a long shirt with these balloony like ruffles. I’m not a very good model, but there you have it. It’s my incentive to lose more weight, contrary to one of my main goals while traveling – to taste the unusual as well as the native fare! Well, my purchase “balanced out” Manigeh’s purchase of a great Sea Bee gear (AKA military CB – Construction Battlion), an olive green cross shoulder bag that has velcro for additional pouches, a gazillion pockets and storage compartments. A Perfect Complementary Accessory for the well-dressed camo guy or gal!
For the first time since arriving in Japan, the evening weather was perfect for our short sleeves, though still humid. It was a good day.