No Way, Jose!

Today was a pretty laid-back kind of day.  My sunflowers are doing amazingly, and now the leaves are getting so close together that I think the bloom will come out soon!  So excited!  I can’t wait.

I was invited to go swimming at Nishigawa beach again, but after our last fiasco there (remember the showers), I chose to skip out and have lunch at Quixote instead.  The invitation was from Hitomi, a woman who pastors a church in Osaka.  She’s super-sweet and will be staying in Shimonoseki as Nakayama-san’s guest through Tuesday.  She and I will probably make a visit to Shimo City University, her alma-mater, before she leaves, so I’m hoping I can see some of my new friends from there.

I went to Quixote, and I usually try to take something with me to have translated…not really translated, but to have the kanji written out into hirigana or even romaji (English letters for the syllables), just in case there aren’t a lot of people there to have a conversation with.  I don’t usually have a problem, especially when Satsuki-san is there, she loves to shaberu (chatter).  But today, only Mitsui-san and Tanabe-san (I finally learned the name of the Too-Tired-Teacher-Who-Used-To-Be-In-Yakuza) were there, so things were pretty low-key…especially as well all sat and ate and watched a Japanese mystery tv-show.  It’s so comfortable there…I really feel like it is my hang-out now.  They have no pretense of show or formality…I am one of the gang now…an unusual member who can’t understand everything and has blonde hair…but a member no less.  After Tanabe-san left, I asked Mitsui-san if he really had been in yakuza…to my disappointment, he said no!  it was a joke.  🙂  Oh well…I guess he really wanted me to think he was exciting.  Instead, he teaches jyu-ku (a type of martial arts).  Alas.

I came home and cross-stitched for a while and then decided to get my yukata on.  I was kind of embarrassed to take the train in my yukata and be seen, walking all the way to the station and on the train and whatnot…I’m already a spectacle.  So, I took a taxi, from the taxi company right next door, to Shin-Shimonoseki Station.  It was pretty expensive, but I felt much more comfortable.  It was funny…I don’t know if Japanese taxi drivers are as talkative with their riders as American cabbies are, but my driver was stand-offish at first and then began asking me all sorts of questions.  I did my best to keep up.  I listen for key words like, “Japan….come…when?”  and “Japan…like?”  and “…eat…?”  I think I did pretty well as there was little awkward silence and whenever I just didn’t have enough clues to give any kind of relative answer, I resorted to my “wakarimasen. Nihongo-wa mutsukashi-desu”. (I don’t understand. Japanese is difficult. (to which the driver, and anyone else, would retort, “Mutsukashi-ne!” trans. Yeah it is!))  The “eat” question was a shot in the dark, but when I started listing things I like to eat and don’t like to eat, the conversation kept going, so I think I was alright.

When I arrived to Shin-Shimo-eki, I called Mika-chan and we walked around the station until we found each other.  Then Ruthie and Amy (teachers from Baiko) arrived via train and then we hopped into Mika’s car and drove out to Toyoura district of Shimonoseki.  We bought this really great carbonated drink where you have to pop the top and release this carbonated ball into the bottle, so it gets super-fizzy.  We also got Yakitori and then found a good spot for the fireworks.  Little did we know that the firework shows usually last about an hour.  We watched them through the second “finale” and then discussed the varying images of different countries and cultures we have based on multi-media, and how it is such a skewed vision of what the culture really is.  We decided that people are the same wherever you go in the world, but because of the media, people develop a kind of  exotic view of other cultures.  The fireworks had by this time gone through their 4th “finale” and we decided we were hot so we bought snowcones.  Mine was peach flavored.  We taught Mika-chan how Americans view fireworks with the standard “OOoooooOOOo”‘s and “AaaaaaAAAAAahhh”‘s.  We did that a couple times for fun and Mika got a kick out of it.  By the time we finished our snowcones, the fireworks were in their 10th’s session, about to go into the finale when suddenly, from behind us, we heard a great commotion.  We turned to see a large number of black-suited men surrounding a person.  People were commenting all around us and the black-suited men were shouting out orders and pushing people away.  Ruthie thought it was a celebrity of some sort.  I thought it was the yakuza.  We finally distinguished that it was Shinzo Abe!  The former Prime Minister of Japan!

  Someone must have told him that there were gaijin standing nearby because without looking he bee-lined to us and shook our hands asking how we are doing and where we are from.  He even stopped long enough for a photo-op!  I didn’t notice, but Amy said that other people were taking our picture too!  Hah.  After just a few minutes, he moved on, but then we saw his wife and talked with another younger man who spoke great English.  I think he was one of the entourage.  By the time the initial shock of what had happened wore off, we realized that we missed the final finale of the fireworks show.  Oh well…we had a much greater show!

Here are some pictures for your enjoyment!
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=133255&l=c287d&id=500635206

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