Thousands of Miles from Home


Golden Week Continues

Well, it seems as if I can’t finish one weekend of craziness without plowing right into the next, leaving scarce time to blog the outcome of either. But just to set the record straight, let me take you back to last weekend for part two of Golden Week Adventures. When we last left our hero...

He was bowling. A 168, which is not too bad for not having played the game in a while. Micah, in a terrible fit of rage and madness, had made another trip to Osaka (his second for the week) following the BBQ on Ishima. The venue was at a club called Tsurunoma, which was hosting an event called “7 days 8 hours,” at which one DJ plays an 8 hour set for a full week, with a different DJ every night. It just so happened that DJ EYE of the Boredoms (arguably Micah’s favorite band on the planet) was playing one night and Micah’s couldn’t miss that opportunity. I stayed in Tamano, for I needed a break after the grueling previous weekend spent in the big city and was planning my own trip to Kobe on Saturday. My host parents suggested I invite Micah along for the ride, and it just so happened that Micah’s cousin is now living in Kobe as an English teacher. To further spookify the situation, there was a large Rotary Exchange meeting being held in Kobe on the same day as our trip. Micah and I had to make an appearance. And so began the story of how Micah made his 3rd trip to Osaka in a little under a week and a half. That is terrible, yet somehow simultaneously awesome. Micah spent the night at my house on Friday so we could get an early start by car to Kobe the following morning. So on a Friday night we found ourselves bowling.

The following morning my host father, mother, Micah, Keiko, and I awoke at the crack of dawn and left for Kobe. It wasn’t a terribly long ride and we arrived in the city around 10. We spent the morning at the Osaka Aquarium (Kobe and Osaka are right next to each other) which was one of the places I didn’t get a chance to see on my last trip to the city. I was impressed by the entire venue, and needless to say I saw a whole lot of fish. The pictures do a better job of telling the story.

After the aquarium we ate some lunch and shopped at the nearby waterfront mall. It was there that I made a disturbing and completely unexpected discovery about my host mother. When I opened the trunk of the car to stash some items I purchased, I found two huge paper bags filled with books and videos. And not just any books and videos, erotic Japanese porn books and videos. I thought to myself, “What in the world is this treasure trove of erotic material doing in the trunk of my father’s car?” My host family, noticing my surprise, started laughing and saying something about “the police.” When the laughing subsided, I discerned that it is my mother’s job, as a volunteer policeman, to collect aforementioned erotic material from various “drop points” in Tamano to take to the Police Station for disposal. Sure, that’s what they all say.

After shopping, I wanted to meet the exchange students who were staying at a hotel on Port Island, and Micah wanted to visit his cousin. Micah’s cousin got off work at 7 and the exchange student seminar lasted until about the same time. If we waited until the evening it would mean returning to Tamano late at night. Instead of scratching the whole idea, my host mother suggested Micah and I take the Shinkansen back to Okayama (a quick 45 minutes from start to finish). By some stroke of extreme luck/coercion, Micah and I were able to stay the night at his sister’s apartment in the city.

My host mother came with us to Port Island, a manmade landmass off the coast of Kobe to drop us off at the exchange student convention. Port Island was nothing like mainland Kobe at all. The entire area was remarkably silent, with nothing but large hotels and trees lining every road. It was an amazingly nice day, and as the sun set I wondered to myself why more people didn’t come to the island to relax. Around 6 I met with Urte, the exchange student from Kochi City in Shikoku, and said goodbye to my host mother. Urte introduced Micah and I to the rest of the exchange students who were a little surprised to see us but happy nonetheless. I had not realized that so many students were living in Kobe and Osaka. The outbound Japanese exchange students for next year were also at the convention, which made quite a large group of kids. They were having a large banquet shortly and we didn’t feel like crashing that kind of party uninvited, so we left the island with the promise of 5-star hotel rooms if we needed them later that night.

Back on the mainland, Micah and I met his cousin Miria whom he had not seen since he was a kid. I suppose it was an odd reunion, meeting in a large Japanese city that neither had lived in for very long (Miria came to Japan one month ago), but we managed to find a small noodle shop and had a great discussion about life, Japan, what two Rotary exchange students were doing alone in Kobe, and where to get the best bagels in town (Miria said she can get them for free at the Synagogue).

Kobe is known as a city “on the hill,” so after dinner the three of us took a walk around the town trying to find a good place to view the city as a whole. We settled for a colossal tower attached to one of the stations and rode the elevator to the top floor. Sadly there was no observation booth but upon inspection of the bathrooms I discovered the most massive window I have ever seen overlooking a city (from a urinal). Micah and I said goodbye to Miria at the base of the station, and took a train back to Port Island.

We met up with the exchange students who were just finishing their banquet. Earlier in the day they had mentioned wanting to see the town of Kobe at night, but when we arrived the consensus had changed to that of wanting to stay in the hotel because the trains stopped running at midnight. They also wanted Micah and me to stay, but we were faced with a difficult and counterintuitive decision. On the one hand, we could stay in the hotel for the night and travel home in the morning, which would be easy enough to do. Or, we could take a train to Kobe and catch the last night of “7 days, 8 hours” at Tsurunoma, which Micah professed was an amazing club. I was also scheduled to give my farewell speech to Rotary the following day in Okayama. If we stayed in the hotel we might get discovered, and I doubted any Rotarians would be at Tsurunoma. And so, bidding farewell to our fellow exchange students, Micah and I fled Port Island for the safe haven of Osaka.

We just caught the last train into the city, and took a short taxi ride to Namba station. When Micah had come to the city three days before it took him all evening to find the club. This time we had a little better luck, but as is the usual case with Micah and I we walked around for a good 30 minutes before finding anything that looked remotely familiar (all the while munching on delicious konbini sandwiches).

Tsurunoma was hosting the last night if “7 days, 8 hours” featuring DJ Moochy. The clubs we had previously experienced in Osaka were pretty awesome, but Tsurunoma knocked their socks off in almost every category. The place was decorated like an underground lair, with sheets draped over cave-like walls being lit from behind by color changing lights. Near the bar was a Super NES/Famicom where people were playing Tetris, and couches were scattered all over the place. In the main dance room the ceiling was covered with chains and netting, and DJ Moochy was playing an amazingly trippy tribal beat when we walked through the door. Behind the DJ were three TVs of varying sizes being controlled by a VJ in the back. In front of and being lit by the TVs was a glowing icosahedron (20 sided cube-thing). In front of the DJ and separating him from the dance floor were two huge elephant tusks made of metal. This might seem like an amazingly weird club design, but everything seemed to fit together perfectly. Almost made me think, “well of course there should be large metal elephant tusks in front of the icosahedron, it’s only natural.”

DJ Moochy spun all night, while Micah and I took turns moving from dance floor to couch to Tetris. All the while the TV screens played the most trippy video selections I could have imagined. Clips of Disney’s 1963 “The Sword in the Stone,” played in slow motion and backwards while being mixed over a starfield. Everything was from the 80s and earlier; old videos of Fela Kuti, McDonald’s adds, and what must have been clips from Tron. Simply amazing, and DJ Moochy mixed tracks that were every bit as good as Richie Hawtin. The atmosphere in the club was so friendly, and everyone seemed to be there for the music and to dance. I remember dancing my way to the bathroom and feeling a little sleepy when someone offered me a drink; tomato juice, of all things, and just perfect at around 2:30 in the morning.

Sometime around 3 Micah and I took a quick nap on the couch and I awoke feeling completely refreshed and ready to dance. Micah trounced me in Tetris, but Tsurunoma remains one of the best clubs in Osaka, if not Japan. Micah and I exited the club around 7 in the morning and boarded a Shinkansen back to Okayama. At 11 I was showered, shaved, and looking sharp to give my farewell speech to the Rotary (even though I still have two months in the country).

But that is another story...


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