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Ah! School is almost starting, and I'm already having trouble keeping up with writing about my life. Well, we left off on Friday, so on Saturday, I woke up at roughly 5AM right when the sun began to rise. Noticing that I had absolutely no food and not feeling comfortable enough with my lack-of-Japanese to go to a restaurant, I decided to bike to the grocery store, which was roughly half a mile to one mile from my residence. The smaller streets here have barely enough width space for one car and one bike, yet they are still two-way streets. In addition, there are really any sidewalks on the smaller streets, so I took my time getting to the grocery store to be safe and to not accidentally hit any pedestrians, which apparently happens more often than you would think (probably close to the number of pedestrians getting hit by bikes at ASU or bikes getting hit by cars). At the grocery store, EVERYTHING is in Japanese. Unless you have seen the packaging or food before, it is a hard guess of what an item is. Also, fruits and vegetables are so expensive; it makes it difficult for me to justify buying healthy food. And when I say expensive, I mean a small one ounce box of blueberries costs three dollars. Yeah, I know right?! In Japan (like every other country aside from the United States), you have to purchase plastic bags if you do not bring your own reusable bag. I love that Japan does this, along with a few other environmental initiatives like So-Dai-Gomi.
For those who are wondering what So-Dai-Gomi is, it's an incredible, though sometimes time consuming, step that Japan makes to contribute to the efforts against global warming and pollution. It happens twice a month, and it is a procedure done when you have large garbage that usually doesn't fit into normal garbage bags. EVERYTHING is separated out during this large size waste pick up. Wooden items such as chairs or dresses are in a pile. Plastic bottles (with their labels and caps placed into a different plastics disposal) are separated into a pile. Paper cartons (washed, open, and dried) is another pile while there are three separate piles for glass bottles: transparent glass, brown glass, and colored glass; and the list goes on. All the members of the community bring their garbage that is not classified as burnable, plastic, or paper to So-Dai-Gomi twice a month. Luckily for us, the collection area is right outside our residence; some members have to drive to bring their garbage to a collection area.
Anywho, after I bought groceries (rice, tuna, spam, gyoza, ect.), I went for a run. This time, I decided to find my way to the Himeji castle, which only took about ten minutes going an eight and a half minute pace. This is the first of many times visiting the castle in person, and I loved every second of it. It is as beautiful as people have hyped it up to be. Pictures shown at the end of this post do not do the castle justice. I only did a simple run around the perimeter of the castle, which also has a mote surrounding the walls of the castle. My run totaled about 25 minutes of actual running and an addition 15-20 minutes of being lost. I followed a canal path to the castle, but I did not notice that it has a fork in the canal while running to the castle. Thus, I took the wrong fork running back, and I noticed this because I was getting exhausted from running a seemingly longer run than the time it took me to get to the castle. Eventually, I found the right canal and headed upstream back to Shirasagi.
Day two of my 30-day yoga challenge was completed in the afternoon. Later in the evening, our last member of the new teacher cohort arrived, and as per tradition, we took her out to eat. However, because we have already had Sushi Roe this week, we decided to take her to Muche, an international fusion restaurant that was much closer. As we walked over to restaurant, we stopped by at Amane, the wine shop across the street from our residence, to say hi to the husband and wife who ran the shop. They are so incredibly friendly; the wife speaks English, but the husband does not. The new teachers introduced ourselves to Aki (the wife), and she went inside to grab a pen and paper so that she would be able to remember our names. She later added me on Facebook. Their shop is a wine shop containing imported wine from other countries; I look forward to visiting their shop again, not only for the wine but for their hospitality and joyful company.
Muche's description was just as odd as the food was, although I love how big the portions are, something I don't find frequent in Japan. Kevin, a JET teacher from South Africa (same Kevin with an industrial engineering degree), and I shared a baked linguine seafood pasta. It contained crab, clams, and shrimp, and it was delicious. I definitely look forward to going there again to try some other dishes that seemed interesting. I think everyone who went to Muche can agree that the food is nothing like how you would expect them to be based on the menu pictures. Regardless, it was a good restaurant with good food (aside from the pizza) and great dessert.
I am loving Japan so far. I think a lot of my nerves are gone, and I'm sure they'll be completely gone once schools starts. It frightens me that Japan is growing on me because it would be more reason to extend my contract for two years. However, the longer I wait to use my degree as a biomedical engineer, the harder it will be to get a job...to get my dream job: a field clinical engineering specialist, helping doctors implant pacemakers into patients. That's the dream! Lots to think about, but I definitely plan to enjoy every second of everyday while I'm here in Japan. Just soak in the awesome.