Finding Japanese classes in Kitakami is proving to be somewhat challenging. Given that it's not a city drawing huge numbers of gaikokujin
, perhaps it's not so surprising. It's problematic, though, because I very much need to be studying formally. So, at least for now, I've decided to take matters into my own hands.
Accompanied by my copy of "Japanese for Busy People," a notebook, and a columned kana practice book, I set out for a study venue. I was a college student in the early '90s. I know how this goes. Studying occurs in coffeehouses, and my destination was clear: Cafe Goo-Goo.
Cafe Goo-Goo is a mod little cafe on the main street that runs by our house, a short ride past the motorcycle shop and the love hotel (it's pink!). At the top of some very clean white stairs, one encounters a door inlaid with blue glass ovals, which opens onto a white room containing a bar and four tables. I was greeted by a cheery Japanese hipster boy (CJHB) and invited to sit wherever I liked. I wanted the chance to streetwatch, so I took a glass-topped table overlooking the street, rather than a 60's soda fountain seat at one of the round tables in the back.
I ordered a choco-banana parfait and an iced coffee from CJHB and settled in to study. Being mostly obscured by large, Pucci-ish, pink-and-orange decals, the window was not so conducive to people watching. Fine -- I was there to study and eat a cute, tasty dessert, which CJHB produced in short order, complete with chocolate wafer cookie and adorable pink and white star candies. The unexpected genmai flakes at the bottom provided a delightful crunch at the end. Ahh -- good parfait, good study session (bonus points for communicating with CJHB about my peanut allergy!), good new place to grab snacks. Really, anyplace that drops "Let's Groove" into its already awesome J-Pop soundtrack is okay by me.
The way home takes me past two bridges over the Waga River, which I previously hadn't crossed. Maybe it was the view of the mountains ahead, maybe just a continued desire to explore, but something inspired me to cross the one nearest our house, Kunenbashi ("nine-year bridge").
in America, we went to dinner with our friend Yoshino. A minor difference of opinion arose, which caused her and Matthew to debate in Japanese and resulted in this classic phrase: "It is not daijoubu
." Translation: "It is not okay."
Well, having done it twice now, I can state with relative authority that riding your sketchy bike across Kunenbashi is not daijoubu
. I'm sure the attached side path is completely secure and no one's ever accidentally plummeted from it to a watery demise, but the combination of moderate wind, rushing water below (visible through the not-quite seam between the path and the bridge frame), hollow-sounding clank-clanky metal, and my fear of heights made me glad to be back in rush hour traffic on the other side. Until I remembered that I'd have to cross it again in order to go home. Damn you, Kunenbashi!
My ride took me down to a beautiful, serene park alongside the Waga River. I heard the five o'clock music for the first time since I arrived, passed some older gentlemen practicing chipping at the golf course, and met an Iwate dog (like an Akita dog, but smaller). The day was cool, windy, and overcast, but the lack of sunshine was easily overlooked by the sheer pleasure of being alive and out in the mountains -- in Japan! Woo-hoo, I live in Japan!
Being a New Mexican, I love mountains of all kinds. I admit a special fondness, though, for Japanese mountains. They frequently erupt with clouds of steam from geothermal activity. They're also big enough that their tops mingle with clouds on a regular basis. I'm not sure which is going on in this photo, but I'm inclined to think it's a combination of both. Whatever -- it's cool.