Monday, January 14, 2008

1/16/08 Finding Tochigi Prefecture, Cont.

I figured in order to give Angelica a better picture of my typical week that we should check out the surrounding cities in Tochigi. We managed to hit both of my two usuals, Ota and Sano. Keep in mind that I haven't even reached New Years yet... I'm going as fast as I can! Hehe.

We had to get something to eat before we went anywhere. After a short food-finding mission, we went to the kaitenzushi place nearish to my house, right across from the mall.

I don't recall how well I have described the "conveyor belt sushi" place previously. It would be an awful disservice to not mention it, so at the risk of repeating myself, I'll take this opportunity to give a brief overview.

Maybe one of my favorite places to eat in Japan is the kaitenzushi. Literally "revolving sushi" (according to my deft dictionary skills), it is a sushi restaurant for the masses. Rather than sit opposite the counter from a mean old man with a knife and a pile of fishies, the chefs are all in the back out of sight, where they belong! Booyah. Anyway, they prepare a variety of sushi on small plates, then set the plates in a continuous line on a conveyor belt. The belt then snakes through the entire restaurant, making itself accessible to every single table.

It is on the low end of sushi to be sure, both in quality in price, but they are often uncommonly crowded. Maybe one of the few places in town that I have ever waited to get a seat are these wonderful establishments. It is convenient for me, children, and the semi-literate in that you need not actually read the menu, as you can simply pull whatever you desire from the conveyor belt. If what you are hankering for doesn't seem to be on rotation, though, you can order something specific from an intercom installed at each table. The one we went to on this occasion was cool because each table had its own touch screen menu, which cuts human interaction down even further... yes! At the end of your meal, a waitress will simply count the number of plates stacked on your table in order to calculate your bill. Most plates are about 1 dollar, but there are specially colored plates denoting higher prices. Things like cake, juice boxes, and French fries will also randomly appear mixed in with the sealife on the conveyor.

In conclusion, kaitenzushi is cheap, easy to order, and friggin delicious. I would eat there everyday. And my mom says that's ok.

Your special orders will come by on the same conveyor, only with a table number and a sign telling everyone to keep their sticky claws off of it.

Here's a picture of me loving sushi.

Sano. It is possible that I made a mistake taking her to Sano, as it features both a shopping mall and a huge outlet mall within walking distance of each other. We spent a considerable part of a day looking for a "Japanese style" purse. As the outlet is mostly comprised of American and European brands, there wasn't a whole lot of Japanese styled things to be found. So after a long day of shopping, we started to walk to the other mall. But wait.

Not even yet out of sight of those awful stores, one of Angelica's shoe's heels broke, making walking a very unfortunate exercise. Luckily for one of us, we were right next to a giant outlet mall... So after quite enough shopping, we plunged back into the jungle to go shoe shopping... AHHH! hehe. After a bit of fruitless wandering, I took Angelica to the Nike store and she wasn't allowed to come out until she bought some shoes... hehe. Quite an experience.

Here's a really spoiled girl wearing some new kicks.

We then briefly checked out the more standard mall in Sano before we were ready to ditch town. Unfortunately the nice shuttle bus that had conveniently taken us from the train station had stopped for the day, so we were left in clutches of the taxi people.

Quite an interesting taxi calling system. The large green sign on the left side is the place to wait for a taxi. Fine. The map on the sign, though, directs you to go to a different sign first. You can just make it out: its at the end of the row of bikes on the side of that column, also green. Anyway, you go over there and press a button located on the wall in order to call a taxi. I'm not sure how much I believe that button actually does anything, but after a bit of a wait a taxi did in fact arrive.

Here I am talking trash to a conquered Sano. Yeah, Boyyyy!


On a separate day that same week we took the train to Ota. I think that Angelica was surprised how short of a ride it is: maybe three or four train stops from my house. It might be that the two cities actually border each other... not completely sure.

I wanted to go there specifically because I wanted to show Angelica all the cool ethnic stuff near the train station. I think she thought the Brazilian supermercado was cool. She was trying to convince me that because she could speak Spanish, she would therefore be able to make herself understood to the Portuguese speaking staff. Maybe they were just unprepared for the EspaƱol, but the little that we tried was not very successful. We then had a nice dinner at an Indian place and we strolled around town a bit.

We went to check out a nearby arcade and had a bit of fun playing some random things. I thought that I should once again demonstrate my claw game prowess.

This little character is named unchi-kun. Unchi, meaning poop in Japanese, is a lovable little guy from some TV show that I have never seen ("-kun" is a name suffix used for males... I think it means little boy). I do know, though, that he will have a good life at my apartment. Reminds me a bit of Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo.

Unfortunately a YouTube search for "unchi" didn't give me the insight I was hoping for, but it did yield an entertaining Japanese (with English subtitles) potty training video. Enjoy.

Here is a gigantically out-of-place wedding hall in Ota. It invokes comparison to the White House, but upon closer inspection the building seems a lot cheaper.. the whole thing looks to be constructed of different colors of concrete. The chapel looking thing to the right is similarly fake. It is built on top of the main building and doesn't touch the ground. Anxious to see what a fake house of worship looks like on the inside, I looked for an entrance, but soon realized the only way in is through the lobby of the main building. I think Angelica was not amused by the concept of a fake church.

One of Angelica's favorite things in the world is losing to me at video games, so I figured we should use our various train wait times to get some quality Nintendo DS time in.

Angelica met some of the gang at karaoke one night. That spacey-looking remote is how you pick which song you want played. She was completely captivated by my crooning.


Completely unrelated to anything, but cool anyway. An interesting ad for the lottery featuring some Power Ranger looking characters.

Speaking of which, the Power Ranger series' are all originally a Japanese product. For release in the US some of the scenes were re-shot, but all of the battle scenes are taken directly from the Japanese series and dubbed. Trivia, I know.

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