Let's go hurtling (naked, of course) through time, back to Thursday afternoon, when I arrived in Osaka after way too long on a train. Ashley, one of the Osakan Fulbrighters, was sweet enough to meet me at the station, so I didn't get horribly lost! Yay! We wandered around the Umeda area, checked out this extremely quirky shop (which I think we have a smaller version of in Nagoya, since they definitely had some of the same stuff), and rode a Ferris wheel which gave us a pretty good view of the city...which I forgot to take a picture of because Ashley and I were doing the Two Fulbrighters in the Same Place => Must Talk SO MUCH Thing. Oh well.
Then we got dinner at a REALLY GOOD izakaya* which had The Best kara-age (fried chicken) I have ever had in my life, and also this amazing roasted satsuma imo (a kind of potato) with butter thing. Oh gosh, so delicious.
Also, the conversation was excellent! Seriously, this year's Fulbrighters are a group of intelligent and fascinating people, which means that I could totally talk to them for about fifty million years. (Whether they would want to talk to me for that long is another matter entirely.) It makes me way too excited to have everyone in the same place again for the mid-year conference.
Anyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyway, after that Ashley stuck me on a train in the direction of Nellie, and I began a scavenger hunt (with clues via text message) in which I tried to figure out how to get to her place. As it turns out, although she lives in Osaka, she's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out in the countryside, so it doesn't feel much like Osaka at all. But I got there eventually! And I got to see her campus, which is really nice, because she goes to an art school, and art schools seem to have nice campuses by definition.
And theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen we went to her apartment and I got to see her Really Awesome Textiles, because DANG. I wish she had pictures up somewhere! (Hint, hint, Nellie.) She's made some absolutely gorgeous pieces, which are all the more impressive if you consider that last semester was the first time she took textile classes. She's also been spinning her own yarn, which, as a knitter, I can highly approve of.
STAMP OF APPROVAL, GUYS.
Friday morning I was apparently really tired (probably had something to do with getting about 6 hours of sleep every night for almost a week) so I slept in a little and then Nellie and I made Weird But Delicious Bread. It was squash-spinach-carrot, which sounds bizarre but tastes marvelous. We didn't even poison ourselves!
And then we wandered around her neighborhood, which is A. super nice and B. super inaka and found a tiny shrine:
I'm not sure what this is supposed to be, but it's pretty cool-looking, whatever it is.
This is definitely an Ebisu shrine, as indicated by the giant Ebisu mask.
And theeeeen we went into the city to see an art exhibit which one of Nellie's professors had a piece in. On the way we came across this:
...if this is not a love hotel,** I...I've lost my faith in Japanese hotels, I guess. IT HAS OSAKA CASTLE ON THE ROOF, YOU GUYS.
Anyway, the art exhibit was lovely, and we got in for free because Nellie had a Magical Postcard. So it was great all around!
Also, we got this kind of Osakan dango which was SO DELICIOUS and I would totally eat some right now if I had them.
So then Nellie had an event that evening so we parted ways and I headed back to Nagoya to collapse!
And that ended my Fulbrighter-seeing spree (5 in 7 days). It was fun, guys! We should do it again! I'm so excited to see everyone at the end of this month. SO EXCITED.
Saturday was Hina Matsuri, so I met up with Kocchan and O-san (who told me to call her Shou-chan because we are PALS, oh my gosh). We rode the train for a little while and then Kocchan drove us around because she has a CAR and also a DRIVER'S LICENSE, which is exciting.
Anyway, we went to this fire station in Toyota City*** which has an attached museum sort of thing where you can experience different types of disasters! So we experienced a typhoon, which was exciting, because it turns out that you can't keep your eyes open in 30 kph winds. And then we experienced an earthquake, which was a lot like the old shake table at the California Academy of Sciences. It was maybe a little bit more intense, but the movie was less exciting. (They had a movie showing people in a convenience store during an earthquake which they ran while the shake table was in motion, except the people just stood there for about 10 seconds after the earthquake started looking clueless, and THEN they realized that maybe they should duck and cover.) And THEN they had a room which was supposed to simulate being trapped in a building ON FIRE, where there were a bunch of doors and some of them opened and some of them didn't and you had to get to the exit while ducking beneath the "smoke" (actually from a fog machine or something similar, I think). We got through without making any mistakes, partially because I have a really good sense of direction for some reason. Oh, and then there was a station where you could practice calling 119 (the Japanese equivalent of 911) for various accidents and there was voice recognition so you had to say simple sentences. Ironically, Kocchan failed spectacularly, probably because she wasn't speaking loud enough to be picked up. I mean, when they asked where the little girl was drowning, I said, "A bridge somewhere," and that was accepted, so...
And then we took a disaster safety quiz which was pretty clearly meant for elementary students, but somehow we got a question wrong because none of us knew that you can use a fire extinguisher as long as the flames are shorter than the ceiling? Oh well. We got a Certificate of Awesomeness, on which we decided we were a single person:
Deina Shou Kosato. BEST NAME EVER, AM I RIGHT?
So THEN we went to pick up Kocchan's sister, and went to a park nearby which is famous for its plum blossoms, except only some of the plum blossoms are blooming right now OH WELL.
Shou-chan, me, and Kocchan.
Did I mention that Kocchan had just come from a job interview? I'm pretty sure we totally confused the woman at the fire station.
Also, BEHOLD THE BEST SCARF. And the really nice sweater my mom knit, which I have been wearing every day all the days.
So THEN we went to Kocchan's house, and all the remaining pictures are from her (or technically her dad, because her dad has a snazzy camera).
I'm really confused about why I'm not looking at the camera in any of these pictures. SO CONFUSED.
Anyway, that thing behind us is a set of Hina Ningyou (雛人形), which are a special kind of doll you put out for Hina Matsuri. They are supposed to represent the wedding of a prince and princess (the top row of dolls). Kocchan's family has quite an impressive set (a lot of people only have the prince and princess), so they also have:
Second layer: The princess's handmaidens.
Third layer: Musicians for the wedding (playing drums and flutes).
Fourth layer: Two body guards, one old and one young.
Fifth layer: Three cleaning guys, one laughing, one sad, one angry. I asked why they are sad and angry, and Kocchan said, "Probably because they have to clean at the wedding."
Lower layers: The princess's dowry. Also a plate of chirashi zushi as an offering.
An important part of Hina Matsuri is that you have to put away the dolls on the 4th/turn the prince and princess to face away from the room or else the girls in the family will never get married.
Yeah, I know.
It's interesting, because there's a lot of concern in Japan about girls being unable to marry (Hina Matsuri, the whole concept of Christmas Cakes, etc.), but not dudes. That's kind of changing with the new concept of 草食男性 (herbivore dudes, basically, which is to say dudes who are not aggressive and girls have to chase after them), but that's more of a question of character than of some outside force stopping them from marrying.
Kocchan's older sister, mum, and dog joined us for this picture.
...why am I incapable of looking at the camera.
Here are the dolls on their own!
This is chirashi zushi! It's the food associated with Hina Matsuri and is basically raw fish, vegetables, and thin slices of fried egg sprinkled over vinegar'd rice. It's delicious!
We also ate a bunch of other delicious food, and then we looked at pictures of Shou-chan's hometown, which, by the way, is gorgeous and in the mountains by Tibet, and then we saw Shou-chan's wedding pictures, which are the best possible wedding pictures.****
All in all, a fun evening!
*An izakaya is sort of like a bar, but not really. It is way classier and serves food and you don't have to drink any alcohol, although they usually have a pretty big drink menu.
**Hotels for...well, let's just say you rent them by the hour. Rather than, say, being unobtrusive and subtly classy, they enjoy being garish and loud and LOVE HOTEL LOVE HOTEL LOVE HOTEL OMG COME HERE FOR ALL YOUR RENT-BY-THE-HOUR LOVIN'. I have never been to one (for obvious reasons), but some friends of mine went (just to see what it was like) and said it was really weird and they were afraid to touch anything, somewhat understandably.
***Yes, as in the car.
****She and her husband got married in traditional costumes, and while they were taking their wedding pictures, the photographer suddenly told her, "Now grab his ear! Kick him! KICK HIM!" The results are approximately as hilarious/brilliant as can be expected. She still has no idea why the photographer said that. She also has normal wedding pictures, but they are nowhere near as exciting.