Sunday, April 06, 2008

Out and about in Nagoya

We did eventually get up yesterday. At least, I eventually got up. The Builder and AJ had been up for a bit by the time Austin hauled me out of bed to get dressed. We were off to Nagoya for a bit of a look see.

We started at a convenience store for some money (most Japanese ATMs don’t take foreign cards; bank, Post Office and Convenience store ones usually do) and a snack for lunch. Austin and I had rice parcels wrapped in seaweed with chicken mayo in the middle. It was rather nice. The Builder had an egg and ham sandwich. Austin and I had also bought rice patties with fishy bits in them. This apparently was by mistake. Austin doesn’t like fish. I do and mine was quite nice – but rather more than I needed!

We made our way to a shopping arcade, and found a group of people doing a drumming exhibition in a square just before the arcade. They were very good. And very enthusiastic. We stopped to watch for a while and then went to the arcade. I have a new pair of trainers. New season Converse for around £30! Taffa will be soooooo jealous (so, it would appear, was Freyja but I don’t have Freyja tagged in my mind as quite such a Converse Freak). There was a stall selling pancakes, wrapped into a cone and filled with cream and fruit. I just had to have one. Filled with mixed berries. The Builder had one filled with cream and orange slices. No strawberries for him!

We pottered around Nagoya, looked in the shops, played in a rather fun department store (must come back on our return visit and raid it), looked at a foreign language book shop where Austin can get some learning Japanese material and then went through the sunshine, past a rather nice fountain, to Spaceship Aqua, which is a beautiful public space made of glass and white materials which floats up to a rooftop filled with water, and with a blue space below where there was a juggler juggling and children playing board games, and arcade style shops around the edge – oh, and two dinosaurs propped at one end watching proceedings.

A hot chocolate in Starbucks and then it was time to meander back to Nagoya station where we were meeting Kaori at 7, for an evening out on the town.

Starting with dinner in a Japanese restaurant. We were upstairs in a little room with a sunken table. We had to take our shoes off to enter it. We started with drinks – Austin and I had some sort of quite weak vodka-like drink into which you pour freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. And then we had a selection of different kinds of food: chicken skewers, a kind of thin omelette atop various vegetables in sauce; pork skewers, soya beans in rice paper, noodles with vegetables, some sort of rice concoction, spring roll style things filled with yam and cheese. It was all very, very delicious. Oishee! And we had lots to drink with it, including sake. Kaori has given me a bottle of sweet sake which we didn’t drink. The sake in the restaurant was not sweet.

The toilets are space agey in restaurants and shopping malls. They have electronic keypads attached to them! The seats are warmed and the buttons, if pressed, will direct a gentle stream of hot water towards your bottom, or, depending on the button, a bidet style steam towards your whole nether regions. Oh, and there’s a button which will produce a flushing sound so no one can hear what you are doing!

Anyway. Enough of that. We left the restaurant and tried to get into an Irish bar. But it was too full, so we went somewhere else, to the Elephant’s Nest and had a drink there. Then we moved on to try and get into another bar where Austin and Kaori and The Builder could play darts. But that was really too full and time was marching on (the last train from Nagoya back to Gifu is just after midnight). So we went back to the Irish bar, which had emptied out quite a lot and had another drink before heading back to station. Kaori went off home. So did we, but in another direction.

It was a good evening. Kaori is lovely. And very pretty. And it’s amazing how well you can communicate when she has a little English and e have no Japanese. It helps that Austin can provide a translation service, but you can do quite a lot with a few words, gestures and miming. Austin wrote us out a little introduction in Japanese for when we first got to the restaurant. Mine was longer than The Builder’s :S Still, it seemed to go all right. At least Kaori seemed to understand what we were saying! A bit later he made me do it again in Italian. I was quite impressed that I could suddenly turn out a paragraph in Italian, without having time to think about it. I don’t have any reason to speak Italian very much any more.

I am warming to Japan. It was very stressful (for me) when we first got here and I had no idea what was going on or how to do things. It's beginning to make much more sense (again, it helps having Austin around, who understands how things work). It's a bit odd, though. In Japan it is forbidden to smoke on the public streets - but you can smoke in the pubs and the restaurants. It's a long time since I've come home from an evening out smelling faintly of cigarette smoke.

Time to get up. It’s another lovely day and we are going out this afternoon to explore around Austin’s corner of the world and, I hope, to look at the cherry blossom

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