Yesterday I took a “semi” official tour of Aioi. To be completely honest I wouldn’t really call it a “tour” except that I searched and searched for an appropriate title for this post and found nothing that could perfectly relate my feels. “Tour” will just have to do.
I thank my mom and her mother for the seed of adventure that they planted. Maybe not adventure though. Maybe it was a seed of adventure that was watered and sprouted as determination. Does that make sense? I hope so. Anyway, one of my favorite stories that my mom tells about my maternal grandmother is this one. If grandmother Vera wanted something she went out and got it. My mom always says she would never say “I’m going out to find a job”. No. She would say “I’m going out to get a job” and guess what. She always did. Although, now that I think of it, maybe it wasn’t my grandmother that said or did this. Maybe a great aunt? I forget. I said all this to say that I am determined to explore this country. And today was my first big solo adventure.
The girls basketball team had a “tournament” in Aioi. I put tournament in quotes because I have no idea what the technical name for it is and all I have to refer to is tournaments. Basically, our high school team went a city over to play 3 or 4 adult women’s basketball teams. What would you call it? A basketball cram school? Nah. A tournament. Right.
So, yea. I should also add that yesterday was a national holiday in Japan. Cultural day. So instead of waking up for work, I got up ready to explore. I left my apartment with my keys, wallet and a slip of paper with times and locations written in both English and Japanese. Thanks Chie! I felt like a little kid whose mom sent them off alone with a note pinned to their shirt. It was great.
A short walk to FamilyMart, a quick ride on bus #12 and I was at Himeji Station well within my desired time frame. It dawned on me as I rode the bus toward the station that I’d never bought a train ticket by myself. The only other time that I’d ridden the train, I’d been with the senpai (upperclassman) Japanese speakers. Nothing looks as daunting as a wall of kiosks when you have no clue what the heck you’re doing. Thankfully, the worker at the information desk spoke a bit of English. I showed him my cheat sheet and he quickly found my train, the time, price of the ticket and the correct platform. Shout out to that guy! I love you.
I made it to the correct platform, waited for my train and then realized that I had no clue which stop to get off on. A friendly worker showed me the train routes. I took a picture and saved it as my phone’s home screen wallpaper.
A few stops later and I was in Aioi. My third city in Japan. Himeji, of course is my first. Kobe was second. And now Aioi. The adjective that I can readily think of to describe Aioi is quaint. It’s a cute little port city with the best views I’ve seen in Japan to date.
When I exited the train, I followed the flow of traffic and was led out of the busy station into utter peacefulness. Sure there were people standing at the bus stops waiting but they were all quiet. I was looking for Aioi City Gym. If that don’t sound like I’m a Pokemon trainer then I don’t know what does. Gotta catch em all, Pokemon!
I thought that I could walk there but I’m ashamed to say that I panicked! I walked out of the safety of that station and felt super lost. I quickly opened the map that Chie sent to me on LINE. That map was accurate but I realized that it was too great a distance to walk (for the first time). I asked a few “uber” sweet citizens for directions and finally consented to taking my first “Takushi” aka a taxi. While in the cab, I realized that I wouldn’t have found the gym if I’d taken off walking. It was two miles of lost and it didn’t appeal.
Unfortunately, the cabbie dropped me off at a gym. It wasn’t a Poke gym. (But if it were I’m sure, because it was a port city, that the gym leader would have used a Staryu.) The building was huge. The courts were upstairs. I took off my shoes and left them in a cubby hole near the foot of the stairs. Our team had already lost a game and were preparing to play another. Overall, they held their own against the adults. They could have been more aggressive but there were spurts of beast mode.
For lunch we walked to a plaza across from Peron Castle. Peron Castle is a Chinese style building on the waterfront. I loved walking across the bridge because of the creativity and insight the architects used to paint those flowers. Up close, you only see pink paint in random places. But at a distance, you can see that each splotch is a beautiful flower. That wasn’t the view I was talking about. I’ll get back to that. But look at those cute flowers! This bridge was max kawaii (cute)!
You can see the castle off in the distance. It was massive and being used as a sort of indoor/outdoor market. People were buying and selling fruit, vegetables and all sorts of other goodies. We walked past all the hoopla and headed for an udon restaurant. On a scale of Peanut butter (10) to poop (-1) (with peanut butter being the best and well you know the rest), I’d rank this udon as an 8! It was so good. I should add that it was my first udon! I added all the condiments. Shredded ginger, green onions, bits of fried batter and a soy sauce and mirin concoction? I think it was mirin but I’m not sure.
We beat the lunch rush and were delighted to see the line growing longer as we left the restaurant. The walk back was cool. After a few more hours of games we left and I was taken to see the “seaside view”. The winding road that led to the view was super cool. It still amazes me to see deep forest green trees! After living in Arizona for 6 years, I really miss seeing colors other than tan and brown. Fall in Japan is underway. So there were giant green trees, red leaves, and orange leaves. It was beautifical.