After the post-presentation reception, I got on the train and headed for Gunma. I was still in my slacks and Y-shirt and was lugging my luggage around with me on a steamy, hot afternoon. It got up to 35 degrees (about 95 Fahrenheit) that day, and it didn’t seem to have cooled down much by the time I started my journey. The subway wasn’t too bad, but boarding the commuter train out of Kita Senju for Isesaki was terrible. You really have to push to get on one of these trains, which isn’t much fun, especially when you are near the door and have to get out at every stop to let the people behind you off. It started thinning out after a few stops in Tokyo and Saitama as most of the commuters who work in Tokyo got off and I had a nice 2 hour trip on an air conditioned train listening to reggae on my MD player.
I got to Isesaki around 10:00 that night and walked to La Bodeguita. Kalani and Yukiko met me there and we chowed. I was still a little full from the reception earlier, so I just had some anticucho (grilled beef hearts on a skewer) and French fries. We headed back to their air conditioner-less house and watched a few Family Guy episodes.
The next day, I slept in and had a late lunch at La Bodeguita with Yukiko. I had their fried rice and half a bottle of their hot sauce. We then went to city hall because Clark (another Canadian English teacher in Isesaki) had to do something there. I went to the board of education to say hi to the coordinator that used to handle us crazy ALTs (foreign Assistant English Teachers), but he had the day off, so I went downstairs to say hi to another friend that works there. After city hall, I decided to get my hair cut and skip going to my old junior high school because most of the teachers are now at different schools and it’s summer vacation, so I didn’t think anybody would be there. Instead, I went to see Koyama Sensei, an art teacher that was really nice to me when I lived in Isesaki.
Koyama Sensei has an art gallery down the street from La Bodeguita, so I went by there to see if she was there. Her daughter lives in an apartment in the back, so she let me in and called her mom home. Koyama Sensei came back and we caught up on what has happened in the two years since I left. She has retired and now teaches a few art classes on the side, paints, and runs her small gallery. She seemed like she was in high spirits, not having to deal with rowdy junior high school kids all day.
She took me to dinner at the best unagi (eel) restaurant in Isesaki. I am a big fan of broiled eel, and this was some of the best I have had since coming here. Thanks Koyama Sensei!
Afterwards, we went to London Bus to chat some more. Kogure Sensei, one of the most fun Japanese English teachers to work with (she used to teach her kids how to cuss!), met us there with her daughter. Kogure Sensei is a smart lady with a great sense of humor, so it’s always a pleasure to sit down and chat with her. Again, we spent most of our time catching up on the past two years. Apparently, Nichu (one of the junior highs I used to work at) has really gone down hill. Many of the teachers don’t get along and there are a lot of delinquents running around in the school. Bosozoku (motorcycle gangs) occasionally circle the school trying to find recruits among the more rebellious kids. One of these kids apparently even punched the principle at school! It was sad to hear, but it was good to know that both Koyama Sensei and Kogure Sensei were doing well. It might be better for their health and well-being, but I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Nichu needs more teachers like them to bring the kids back in line.
My friend Atsushi, who also works at Isesaki City Hall, came down to London Bus and we chatted for a while after the teachers left. He was recently married (like my friend Akizumi in Tokyo), but he still lives at home. He and his wife have an apartment on hold, but the building is still under construction, so it might be a while before they can move in. Atsushi is a good guy, and again, it was good to get to see an old friend.
Kalani, Yukiko, Clark, Aussie Mike, and Aussie Craig (who I hadn’t met before), all came down later. We hung out pretty late. The important thing here is that I got to eat one of Akira-san’s ‘London Sandwiches’. London Bus has the best roast beef I have ever had, so if anyone is going to make it out to Gunma anytime soon, I highly recommend you make a trip to the bus. I only wish I had more room so I could have eaten another one, but after all the La Bodeguita and eel, I really couldn’t. Well, OK, I did have a few bites of a friend’s sandwich later that night, but that doesn’t count.
I wish I could have stayed on Saturday night too, because they had the annual Isesaki festival on Saturday and Sunday. I really needed to get back to AC and my room, though, so I made the 5 hour trip back to Yokosuka Saturday afternoon, after a last lunch at La Bodeguita.
Sorry I talk so much about food in Isesaki, but after you really get to a certain cuisine, (like the food and hot sauce at La Bodeguita) and go without it for two years, it is amazing to eat it again. I don’t know when I will get back to Isesaki, but I hope it isn’t another 2 years.
Other than the food, it was great to see all you guys! Yukes, Kalani, thanks so much for letting me stay at your place! I know I bitch a lot about the heat in your house (although the bat that flew in the house Thursday night didn’t really bother me that much), but it was great seeing you guys again! Stay genki! And I definitely want to thank Koyama Sensei, Kogure Sensei, and Atsushi for taking time out of their busy schedules to come see me. Aussie Mike, keep traveling the world! Aussie Craig, it was good to meet you man! Akira, thanks for the good times and the great sandwich! Everyone else, thanks and take care of yourself!
That’s all for now. Tomorrow I will try to post about the Yokosuka Fireworks Festival. These things are so much better from VIP seats…