And like that, August is almost over. Barely seems possible. Summer can’t be mostly gone — I haven’t even had the season-appropriate unagi (fresh water eel) yet. But there it is…
Since last time, I went to the OLDCODEX concert at Zepp Fukuoka with Shaina. Our seats were second floor, first row. Which was a perfect vantage point. Until the lead singer told everyone to jump and the balcony swayed. Instant motion sickness for me. Funny how I can do roller coasters just fine, but that kind of up and down motion does me in. The day before the concert, helped set up two floors of computers for the office renovations, and earned a free lunch and a day off for it. So now my next weekend in Tokyo will be followed by an extra day to recuperate, which is fantastic.
Got my hair dyed the weekend after — or rather, got highlights and lowlights. The stylist, Yasu, did an amazing job and my hair has its best color ever. I go back in late September and we’ll do color again, moving it closer to the warm blonde I’m after. Expensive, but worth every yen. After that, puttered around Tenjin with my coworker Lexi, introducing her to Donki (after introducing her to Alice and the Pirates and H. Naoto fashions a few days before). Typhoon weather that day — cooler, rainy and windy — so didn’t stay out too long. We did fail at finding a Mexican restaurant I was after, so will have to find it later.
My boss was in town last week for just a few days. Met to talk about my goals for the next few months, and i seem to have chosen well. Need to start working on getting some things started, see how they go. The main thing I said I wanted to do was to participate earlier and more in-depth with various projects the process manager would like to implement. Looking forward to having some real input and impact. While boss was here, went out with him and coworkers the first night to a yakitori place, which involved beer and many skewers of grilled meat. Even ate the liver, though my favorite has to be the rooster wattle, which amounts to grilled chicken skin.
That Wednesday, a bunch of us went to the local shrine for the Mitama (Soul) Matsuri, which is a part of the local Obon celebrations (you can read about Obon here). Met wives and kids of various coworkers, ate more grilled meat on a stick and and enjoyed a beer. And then thoroughly enjoyed wandering around looking at the 6,000 painted lanterns on the shrine main grounds, and listening to a very good flute player. A very, very pleasant evening.
Friday the rains came in, along with thunder and lightning. The last things I wanted to see, as I was flying to Osaka after work. And sure enough, my flight left 90 minutes late and I got to the airport just around the time the last trains were leaving. Technically there was one train left, and I could’ve tried it and a taxi to get to my hotel, but I’m unfamiliar with that station, and the idea of dealing with a taxi at midnight didn’t appeal. So I called and managed to cancel my hotel room and spent the night in what amounts to a manga lounge at the airport. It’s not free, but the drinks are, and I could shower, so that was good.
Up early to take the train(s) to Kyoto and met up with Nancy. Had breakfast at Starbucks, dropped our bags at our hotel and decided to walk to the eastern part of Kyoto to visit Sakamoto Ryoma’s grave. And we had walked most of the way there when Mother Nature decided to drown Kyoto. I by drown, I mean bury the city under rain of biblical proportions. We decided pretty quickly returning to the hotel post-haste was the thing to do. Still, we were beyond soaked by time we caught a bus. Water was starting to rise up over tires and spewing out of manhole covers.
It was still many hours too early to check in, so we hit the 100 yen store at Kyoto Tower and bough cheap shoes — patriotic American flipflops for Nancy and something akin to pink crocs for me. And raincoats. New shoes and coats in place, we made it back across the street to the station and hid out in the karaoke place there for three hours. Our stuff didn’t really dry out, but we could have hot tea, and after 2:45 minutes, food (it was forgotten, and then not what we ordered and I was very surprised it wasn’t free). i abused many a song before we wrapped up and checked in. Dry clothes and a nap were good for the soul, but we decided to pass on dinner and the Obon bonfires (which did happen), since the rain kept coming back. Food from the convenience store and sleep were in the cards.
Next day dawned humid. Disgustingly humid. And potentially rainy, though it never did. Hung around the station and picked up souvenirs for coworkers and only headed over to KBS Kyoto Hall for our concert — Granrodeo & MUCC about 2 hours before the show. Ended up wandering around Gouou Shrine, which is on the way, for a while. For reasons I don’t yet know, it features wild boars. For a bit it was populated with Rodeo Girls, which was rather amusing.
Show was fun, though I’ll pass on the MUCC crowd surfing (watched a girl tumble over me and onto the floor — staffer missed catching her — ouch!). Headed back to Osaka after the show, spent the night in the lounge again … and then almost got stranded in Osaka when my early morning flight got cancelled. When everyone ran to the lobby to get in line, I called the airline to find out my options, which were: try to get on the 2 PM flight or get a refund. Took my refund and went in search of an alternate flight. Figured out pretty quickly that the 2 PM flight WAS the first flight with seats. Switched to trains, then, and figured out I could get to work by 1. So I did that. My boss was beyond understanding and actually told me to take the day off if the train was too expensive. But I was already on the shinkansen by then.
And then, amusingly, as I was trudging from the station to my apartment, I passed a film crew on our sleepy little harbor street: a photographer, a videographer, a sound man, an older manager type person … and a younger looking guy. I kept out of sight of the camera, but about a block before my apartment, they stopped. I skirted them, then couldn’t resist looking back. I had just enough time to register that he was cute, young and probably Korean when the manager-type saw me and exclaimed WHOOOA! I laughed and waved, and took off. Shame I wasn’t just catching them during my lunch hour, could’ve stuck around to find out who he was.
Have my Chinese visa now. Just need to pack and print out touristy and travel stuff. And buy some serious face masks. Flight is next Monday afternoon. Looking forward to it, but also looking to being past it, since two weeks away from home is a long time. Will definitely be visiting the Forbidden City, since it’s within walking distance of hotel. Not sure yet about other places. Boss says lamb is the dish du jour in Beijing, so hope to have lots of it while I’m there.
Have already booked a hotel for weekend Hiroshima trip a couple of weeks after I get back (for another concert, no, not Granrodeo this time, believe it or not — that’s the weekend before, when I’ll see them twice); will pick up train ticket for that this weekend.
Inherited a collapsible exercise bike from my coworker. He moved it into my apartment and it’s sitting near the TV right now. Will start using in earnest when I get back. And if I can get to sleep in the next few minutes, maybe actually start using it in the morning….
August pics can be found here. (scroll down for new pics)