Derek’s Departure and a Snowstorm

Jen talked about some of the new years festivities, but here are some more photos of our adventures around the city that day (and one or two from earlier that I forgot!) — after dropping off Mom at the shuttle, we walked over to another temple and through a park where much frolicking was participated in. The temple (which Jen talked about at more length) was super crowded, but we did manage to get food. Then the next day Derek and I decided to head out to Akihabara, which is the tech center which is basically packed with computer/game shops, arcades, and maid cafes. It’s a colorful part of town, and mostly we just wandered looking at stuff, although we did stop in one shop where we found Derek some fun accessories (accessories being the way to go when you’re Derek’s size in Japan). We tried walking through an arcade, but the first floor was all those silly claw games where you try to grab prizes, and it was so crowded and noisy we bugged out pretty quickly. We got a lovely Ramen lunch (we have turned Derek into a ramen connoisseur) and then headed back to the apartment and out of the frigid cold. We had originally planned to go to Mt Takao that day, but over breakfast we decided it was just too chilly. I had to run another study abroad workshop on Saturday, so Derek and Jen went out to see some parks while I extolled the virtues of speaking up in class and phrasing your arguments even stronger than you were totally sure you felt! As always, my students were pretty cute, and there were some funny and adorable comments:

“We must protect our fragile arse.” (Earth is difficult to pronounce for Japanese speakers)
“Can you give me a list of how much restaurants cost for taking a girl on a date? What about McDonalds?” (My response: Less than ten dollars for the entire relationship.)
“In Japan, everything is small — small garden, small kitchen, small people, but in high school I visited Minnesota, and in Minnesota, everything is big — big gardens, big kitchens, and big hearts!” (See, they’re freakin’ adorable.)
New batch of study abroad students comin’ at you Amurika. Treat ’em good!

Derek had an eventful last day in Japan — in the AM we took him out to a “shrine sale” and he picked up a few really nice carved wooden statues (one of daikoku, god of wealth, commerce, and trade, and one of fukurokuju, god of happiness, wealth, and longevity) for a really good deal, and then after some wandering which included a korean lunch under the train tracks, we headed out to meet Jason and Yuko for dinner. We went to a kyushuu specialty izakaya, which turned out to be somewhat unusual food — we had normal things like sashimi and gyoza, but we also ate motzunabe (hot pot made with intestines) and basashi (raw horse meat). The horse I actually thought was really good, but the hot pot was not my favorite — the intestines didn’t bother me much (although they were chewy) but there was an odd flavor of the broth. At any rate, Derek started the trip with still-twitching fish, and ended with intestines and raw horse… so you can’t fault the guy for not being game for new things! 😉

Anyway, the weekend after Derek left we had a massive snowstorm in Tokyo! It’s unusual to get enough snow to really stick here, so it was both beautiful and a huge mess since the local drivers don’t know how to handle themselves on snow. It came down hard and fast most of the day, and Jen and I decided this was the perfect weather for a hot bowl of ramen, so we piled on the clothes and braved the storm. We went to a local place that offers a special variety of burnt-miso ramen — it was very good, and quite different than any other ramen I’ve had, although the broth was a touch oily so it was hard to drink. The waiters at our restaurant, not having many clients, had also decided to brave the storm and had built a snowman (yukidaruma) in front of the restaurant, and kept running inside for supplies (bowls for the eyes, a plastic tub for a hat, and shovels for arms). By the time we got back to the house the snow had lightened up a bit and the field outside our windows had filled with screaming children on sleds (and not a few adults as well!)

This coming weekend we are headed to Fukuoka, where they specialize in Hakata ramen (I know — this is becoming a theme. We originally planned to do a special ramen post with all the different types etc as part of the snow post, but we decided to hold off until we return from Fukuoka. And ramen is so hot and delicious when it’s cold outside!) At any rate, nothing says Martin Luther King Day like hot noodles! Er… wait….

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