I paid 100 yen to use this computer for 15 minutes, so you better be happy that I am making a post. Forgive me for errors, too, because this is a strange japanese keyboard and i must type rapidly.
The 100yen/15minutes internet machine I used. It has funny slogans on it like: “It can enjoy the Internet for 100 yen” and “The Internet can be enjoyed on this table!”
On Friday I went to Ikebukuro after work to get my JR East pass. Acquiring the pass alone was a challenge, I almost didnt get to the View Plaza (which became just Vju, and was inside a coffee shop), but I was able to get the pass without trouble once I was there.
I wanted to buy a new belt because mine was breaking, but I didn’t know where to go. Most clothes places are really expensive in Japan, and I didn’t need some ultra-chic belt, I just needed something to keep my jeans up. Amazingly, I found a Gap. I wandered in and ended up talking to a sales guy there in Japanese a little bit. I was trying to convey how crazy I thought it was that I was wearing a Gap t-shirt that I had purchased half-way around the world. The music and the atmosphere of the place could have been any Gap store in America (just more Asians), they even had a New Order song on for a while.
I stayed up really late, Im not sure why. It may have been the 500ml coke that i impulsively purchased on my way back from the station. To make matters worse the mosquitoes were really bad, so I slept terribly, eventually resorting to spraying bug spray on myself. I also had just washed my jeans, and I needed them to be dry by the morning. I couldn’t put them outside because it was going to rain. I think my solution was pretty innovative (for 4 in the morning anyway).
I woke up around 7 o’clock, got ready and was at the station by about 830. First I had to take a train from Wako to Omiya, which took about an hour. From there I grabbed a shinkansen (bullet train) to Niigata. There was about a forty minute delay for that train. In the meantime I ate at this ultra-fast food traveler’s udon place, but it was really spicy and I got some broth on my shirt.
When I boarded the train there was some old guy passed out on it, he may have had a heart attack or something. The JR squad assembled and got him out of the train in a timely manner, at which point I finally sat down.
The ride up was alright, but I was on a double decker in economy class, so it wasnt especially comfortable. From Niigata I started running into trouble. I was already feeling late, and now I had to decide to take a bus or take the train. I tried to take the bus because it would take me to within walking distance of Aqua Design Amano, but I couldnt find the bus. See, in Tokyo there is much English, romaji, or at least hiragana. In Niigata this is not the case. After some deliberation I called the English hotline and used some Japanese on a JR gate guard to find the proper train. I found the right one at last, by this time feeling very late as well as hungry. I had another 30 minute delay so I bought some random food at the kombini. This was the pattern for the day, buying random kombini food and eating it in a station or on a train. I felt I was stared at a lot more in Niigata than in Tokyo, I don’t think this was imagined.
At the Niigata station I saw these cardboard box structures that were the “homes” of the homeless. They were actually pretty well designed and you could tell their owners cared about them.
Also, I saw a homeless man in the same hallway as these cardboard houses. He only had a piece of cardboard and a blanket. Yet still, he took his shoes off before passing out on the cardboard. I think that says something about Japanese culture.
The ride to ADA was strange. There was this weird guy with a facial twitch or something in the seat next to me. I don’t know what it is, but I think a lot of people in Japan have weird degenerative nervous system disorders. I see more people than usual with strange gaits or twitches or things like this. He got off at a middle stop, and I spent the rest of the time sampling the new music that my Finnish friend gave me.
The view outside the train looks very different from Tokyo.
Another shot outside the train, the houses are more traditional here.
A quick pic I took outside of the train on the final trip to Maki station, I like it.
After getting to Maki station I was confused about the map. I thought Maki IC was Maki station, so I wandered around the area for about a half hour trying to figure out where ADA was. By this time I was a little panicked because I was running out of time to see the tanks, as well as in the process of getting stranded in a rural town in the middle of Niigata prefecture. By this time it was about 2:30, and I really needed help. I talked to some school boys I found on the street (it takes all my courage to try to talk to someone a little older than me, or even the same age, but little kids I talk to easily). They eventually got it through my head that where I want to go is very far away. I walked back to the station and found the taxis there, as they had explained (and as the ADA map originally said).
A view down main street, standing at the station.
Helpful school children. I will talk about the ADA place later, with a special post devoted to aquariums. It wasn’t as I expected, it was a place where he actually works on tanks, where real people have to maintain tanks. So, though a showcase, it was also more down to earth. I realized that what he does is not impossible, and that I can accomplish similar things with effort (especially if I am focusing all my efforts on a single tank). I got a lot of good ideas from looking at the tanks, I can’t wait to implement them.
Note especially my reflection.
The highest concentration of beautiful aquariums I’ll probably ever see.
Now, the ride back. I left at five on another taxi, waited for a train again at Maki station, and took the train to Niigata. There was another delay before the next train, so I went to the kombini and provided some entertainment to the cashiers as I tried to ask them to heat up my soy sauce (I should have known that is not the custom). On the train I lucked out (I had been trying to strike up conversations with people all day, but usually it was innapropriate or I couldnt muster the nerve). The girl next to me had a DS. We talked for the whole thirty minute ride. She is a graphic designer and is studying to be a game user interface designer (the art side, I guess). I think she is going to one of those technical schools that Bachnik talked about, that are less prestigious than even the lowliest Japanese University, but yet actually teach good skills that lead to good employment opportunities (vs. shitty universities that lead to nothing, but have more prestige anyway). I forgot her name already, too bad. The conversation was in a combination of Japanese and English, augmented by my DS Lite dictionary (her English was almost as poor as my Japanese, so it was very interesting).
One of my snacks, it was the last one that had the goat and wolf friends manga post it pack. I attribute this to fate.
At Niigata I was very concerned that I was not going to get to Kusatsu in time for the bus and would end up stranded in Naganoharakusatsugochi or whatever it was. I bought a ticket and was lucky that there was a shinkansen at that exact time (very lucky, I almost didn’t get on in time). I missed the transfer at Takasaki though, so I had to wait. Fortunately I ended up on a limited express and it took me to Naganoharakusatsuwhatever faster than the normal train I had scheduled for, so I got there in time for the exact bus I needed. It was a comfortable ride.
On the bus I was freaking out that I would miss my stop. Everything was kanji, I was frantically looking up words to try to match them up. At the station I couldnt find my ride to the hostel and was starting to try to call them, but then he walks up and he’s like “Taylor Baasu?” The van he took me to the hostel with was kind of ghetto, it also seemed farther away from the station than expected, but we arrived in one piece. The hostel is pretty nice, or at least as nice as 4500 yen a night can get you. It is almost completely empty. This is because it’s mainly a hostel for skiers. I can tell, everything has a ski feeling. The whole town has a feel of quiet town in the summer that gets really busy in the winter (kind of like Taylor Falls in Minnesota). The biggest difference is that it also has the hot springs going for it during the summer and all the time.
My room, could fit four people in it.
I hope it did it right, I’ve never been to a hostel before. I dont know what I’ll do tommorow, there is very little time, I will probably have to pick two things. Even then, everything seems far away and all the maps are unreadable to me. I’ll figure it out in the morning, I guess.
The bathroom slippers: it looks like the gentleman and lady are walking to the toilet together.
I think it would be really fun to bring a group here and go skiing, the rooms are very big and I can just imagine it being very fun. I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to do that, but how awesome would it be to do that this winter before I go to Hong Kong? Imagine going to onsen after a long, fatiguing day of skiing.
The “Cyber-Labyrinth Megalith” game I tried playing in the lobby.
During the long rides I mostly slept, listened to music (both familiar and music I got from my Finnish friend), and played my DS lite a little bit (mostly Super Mario Kart).
Maybe Ill edit this post later, I also have some content to add about the aquarium and things. I’m out of time, peace outside.
Get ready for part 2, Sunday, as well as the ADA appendix.
%Note: you have just finished reading the edited version. I added pictures and cleaned up the grammar in parts.