Yesterday (Saturday) was a lot of fun, despite a head cold that prevented me from using two of my senses (smell and taste). EJ and her friend Melissa came down for a visit from Tokyo, where they are doing volunteer work for a church for a few weeks. Maiko was still here, so we had a mini-SMSU exchange program tour group wandering the streets of Yokosuka. First, we went to an arcade where we took “puri-kura” (Print Club) to memorialize the day. For those of you who don’t know, puri-kura is a photo booth where you get together with some friends and take pictures in front of different backgrounds. When you’re done with your shoot, you go to the other side of the machine to select the four or five best shots and customize them with cutesy borders, stamps, writing, or other decorations. You then select the size of the prints, which are printed on one small sheet (about the size of a postcard), that is divided into little-bitty pictures that are actually stamps. This one sheet of personalized picture stamps of you and your friends costs about $4, but I’m sure the price varies depending on what kind of machine you use.
Puri-kura was really popular when I was in Japan as a high school student almost 10 years ago, so it’s kind of natsukashii (sentimental…? This word doesn’t translate to well into English) to see them still around and popular. Teenage girls have small puri-kura books with blank pages that they fill with the stamps of pictures of them and their friends, family members, boyfriends, etc. If I can figure out a way to photograph or find a good enough scanner, I’ll try to load our puri-kura images on flickr.
So after puri-kura, we went for a walk. I forgot to bring a map or guide book to Yokosuka, so I had no idea where we should go. We stopped by a touristy gift shop and looked at a map to see if there was anything worth seeing nearby. We saw that we weren’t too far from the Umi no kaze (Sea Breeze) Park, so we headed in that direction. On the way, we passed a Japanese Coast Guard station, so I took a few pictures. Needing to use the little boys’ room, we were lucky to find a group of ‘model homes’ along our route, where I went in to ask if I could use their facilities. I don’t really think they want you using their facilities if you are not looking at buying a home, but it’s easy not to worry about small details like this when you’re a foreigner in Japan and are not expected to have the same level of social restraint. More importantly, however, is the unyielding law of nature – when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. The first house I entered, I didn’t see a restroom, so I asked one of the agents. He told me to go in the house next door. When I went in there, there were a few people sitting around a table, I assume negotiating the terms of a home loan or something of that nature, so I quietly made my way toward the back of the house, where, I was told, I would find a restroom. I found the shower room (which is always in a different room than the toilet in Japan), then opened a closed door next to it and lo and behold, a porcelain receptacle was before me! I shut the door and prepared to relieve myself, when I decided to practice my Japanese by reading the sign above the toilet. It said:
Or “this toilet cannot be used.” I decided to use some restraint and managed to get myself out in time to ask someone in this building where a public restroom might be. They pointed me to the office around the corner, and I managed to relieve myself in great comfort and without causing a minor biological hazard.
After the toilet incident (which I thought was really funny), we walked along a sidewalk set up near the ocean. There were a lot of men out there fishing and you could see Sarujima (Monkey Island) in the distance. I’m not sure what they have on Monkey Island, but I’ll be sure to relate it if I ever make it out there. For some reason, I doubt there are any Monkeys there.
Anyway, we saw some interesting things on the walk. There was a museum dedicated to a Japanese punk rocker from Yokosuka who killed himself a few years ago. His fans build it in his honor after his death. After the museum was a park where kids were riding their BMXs over dirt hills, skaters had a place to thrash, and others were playing basketball or tennis by themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many sports played at the same time in one little area, but that’s what you get when you don’t have much land in your country.
The park that was after all of this was full of people walking their little dogs. I couldn’t believe they were bringing them there, because there were about 8 or 10 hawks, or eagles flying very low overhead, occasionally swooping down and striking something on the ground. It was very surreal. I would have taken a picture, but they looked like they were about to switch from attacking mice to pecking out people eyes, so we moved on.
After wandering around for a while and shopping at a local department store, we went to a little Okonomiyaki restaurant not too far away. It is set off the road in what looks like an old house and is run by two old ladies. On the second floor of the house there are four little tables with grills on them. You order what you like off the menu, they bring it up to you, and you grill it yourself. Okonomiyaki roughly translates as “grill what you like” and some people have called it “Japanese pancakes”. It is really just a doughy batter that you mix in vegetables, seafood, meat, or whatever you like and grill. I believe it was great (that’s what the girls said), but I was sick and had no sense of taste, so all I can attest to is that it had the right texture for Okonomiyaki.
As I write this on Maiko’s laptop, I am just going to spend the day recovering from my cold. I have a busy week this week working with the fire department, so I want to get over this cold before I get started. I am really glad I got to see EJ and Melissa (and of course, Maiko, too!) yesterday, but I wish I hadn’t been sick. I really wish I could have smelled the ocean and tasted the Okonomiyaki, but I’m not going anywhere for a while, so I’m sure I’ll have more opportunities.