Friday in Kokura

I have the promised “Virtual Häagen Dazs Japanese Classic Parfait” post written but need the technical expertise of the household alpha geek to show me how to post photos with it. So today you just get words.

I had the day off today – Daikyu – they call it. It’s a day off because of having to work on a day when you usually wouldn’t have to, for a culture festival or somesuch. However, my school, in it’s infinite wisdom and love of paperwork, gave me Daikyu today (Friday) because tomorrow they are having Friday’s classes and a seminar for the students in the afternoon. Today they are having Saturday classes (yes, Saturday classes). Needless to say, I booked vacation time (Nenkyu) for tomorrow because it would really suck to have to go to work tomorrow.

I spent the morning not doing much at all, which was a nice change, and then went to Kokura (downtown) around noon.

I finally braved this one temple supplies shop to buy some incense. I used my very sparse Japanese to explain to the man (the women saw me and ran and got him) that I wanted some ume (plum blossom) or jinko incense. I have no idea what jinko incense actually is, but it smells kind of woody and a little piny. It’s not cedar of any sort though – that’s Hinoki.

Ok – just did some googling on jinko, and it said that jinko is “aloeswood.” A slightly scientific link here. I like the fact that the resin is to protect the wood from parasites, which would lead one to think that the effect of burning the incense would be similar.

The temple shop man showed me the two ume incenses he had, but neither of them really appealed to me. When I asked him about jinko, he hemmed and hawed, and then got out a box that said “Nanzan” on it. Time for more googling:

It seems that Nanzan in a place in Nagoya. Hmmmm. Anyway, he let me smell the incense and I asked for 2 boxes, cause it was just so nice. One is for a friend. (Friend who I promised incense to, I finally bought it! So you’ll get it soon!)

He seemed quite happy that I sort of knew what I wanted and before leaving he kept saying “Sample! Sample!” and asking me to wait. So now I have 2 more little boxes of incense. One he pointed out as “jinkoish” and the other is honey-scented. The jinkoish stuff smells like a Chinese apothecary and the honey stuff smells kinda sweet. At least unlit they smell that way!

I then continued on my adventure down the arcades, in search of a Father’s Day present for my dad. I went into one of the largest kimono shops in the arcades (the small ones are a little intimidating) where they are always very helpful but seem a little terrified at the same time. There was a mother and her 18-year-oldish daughter in the store buying yukata (summer kimono) and they kept looking over at me and whispering “Kakkoi!” which means “cool” or “funky.” Much nicer than the very unimpressed looks I was getting from the old ladies on the bus on the way down!

So, I was in this shop looking for something Japaneseish for my dad and I found something! I’m not going to write much about it here, because it’s not father’s day yet. Let’s just say, Dad, you have one already, but when I saw what was written on this one I had to get it for you! Heh. I’m looking forward to showing it to Ed when he gets home. I also bought myself a nice kimono-cloth drawstring bag and a birthday gift for a certain young woman whose birthday falls on Canada day.

So I kept on my way and went to Quest. Yes, I know I said I was trying not to buy any more books, but I did go to the bookstore that has an English language section. I wanted to use a ¥500 coupon before it expired. That’s just an excuse – I’ve been reading Jarrod’s copies of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” for something to read, and was planning on starting on “The Time Warp Trio” books tonight, but bought Diana Wynne Jones’ “Howl’s Moving Castle”. I think that most of you know that Japanese animation god Miyazaki just released this movie in the past year. I’m hoping to see it in English while we’re back in Canada. I keep seeing the funky paraphernalia for it that they sell at the Miyazaki paraphernalia stores. So now we have the book! Yosh! (That’s Japanese for “yes” and “awesome” combined.)

Next stop was MUJI. I love MUJI. It is hard for me to go into MUJI and not buy an item of clothing. And though I spent a fair bit of time looking at the clothing there today, I did not buy any. Seems their summer line includes a fair bit of lace accents. ew. I do own a copious amount of MUJI sweaters though. I bought myself a journal with a red linen cover and a few small household items. Also some oregano. I think Ed has posted about the problems of finding decent spices here. We’ve been out of oregano for a week or so now, and though we could buy some at the Spina grocery down the street, their stuff seems much more suited to the Japanese palate (read: almost flavourless). The MUJI stuff is good though. mmmm. oregano. No cilantro though. I am going to buy a bunch of fresh cilantro when I get back to Canada and make a salad with it as the main green. 2 years without cilantro is too long. (Though I did get a bit in Thailand last December.)

And if I haven’t totally bored you yet, I next went to Riverwalk. Follow the link for a picture. Yes, that is one building. It is huge. What you don’t see is that just to the left of the yellow part of the building is Kokura Castle. I won’t go into it more because Ed has done a good job here. I wandered around the shops a little, but decided there was nothing worth buying and went to Starbucks to have my usual, a Matcha Frappaccino. mmmm. Matcha. That’s powdered green tea to the uninitiated. I won’t go into detail about matcha here because there’s more than enough in the forthcoming “Virtual Häagen Dazs Japanese Classic Parfait” post. The staff at Starbucks always seem to want to try to speak English to me now. Months ago I would try to order (the menu is in English & Katakanaized English) in English and they would look at me blankly. So I had to pronounce it katakana style: Maa-chaa Fu-ra-poo-shi-no. Just doesn’t sound yummy when you see it spelled out that way. The women working today actually had very good English, not just memorized rote phrases, which is what I’m used to!

So I sat and drank my cup of green creamy goodness and watched people walk by. I was going to leave when this guy started walking towards the Starbucks and staring at me. Perhaps it was the fact that I had taken off my cardigan so my shoulders were showing. (ooo. shoulders! I’m not allowed to show my shoulders at work because it’s “inappropriate” and the rule seems to extend out into public for the most part as well.) He looked like he had stepped out of Spymaster magazine (the fashion magazine for men in Kyushu). Spiked orangish hair, cop sunglasses, a bright orange shirt with some Engrish about trucking on it (I didn’t want to stare back so didn’t get a good look at it), worn jeans and cowboy boots. And he was strutting. I was about to leave anyways, so packed up my stuff and left in time to see him waiting for his order. whew! I just did not want to deal with that today.

Dealing with men hitting on me is one thing when we both speak the same language and I can mention Ed within the first 5 minutes of the conversation and then they leave me alone, but Japanese men are a totally different situation. Those that aren’t too shy to hit on foreign women seem to have no qualms about you being married or not. I did have a guy phoning me too often for my comfort level last year and just had to ignore him until he left me alone. ew.

So, having escaped unscathed from Starbucks I went and caught the bus with the conservative old ladies home. So glad I’m not at work today. Time to unpack all the goodies I bought now (though I did eat my overpriced Toblerone bar while writing this).