Last week Sunday, it was time to catch up with Maiko, which I hadn’t seen for quite a while with my traveling home and my jumping up and down in Nagoya & Tokyo Dome. She picked me up in her mother’s bright blue car and kept warning me that she’s a dangerous driver, and that she sometimes had to verify with her friends which pedal was gas and which one was brake. Well, I’m still alive and I didn’t have too many heart attacks that day while occupying the passenger seat, so I guess her driving was good enough. Well, convincing enough for a Japanese examiner to grant her the right to drive, so who am I to judge her? Besides I was just happy to be driving around instead of taking the Meitetsu again. I think she scared herself more than she scared me.
Watch out everybody, Maiko behind the wheel!
We stopped by her house, which neighbors Inuyama castle and she gave me the grand tour through her parent’s four storey house. Her bedroom was bigger than my entire apartment… just a little bit jealous here (or maybe a whole lot). After the tour her wonderfully crazy mother decided to feed us. I was still full from breakfast an hour earlier, but the omerice she prepared for us looked so cute and lovely that I decided to be polite and eat it all, except for the soup of course (I detest all kinds of soup, especially miso-soup). I met both Maiko’s parents (I forgot to eternalize her father with my camera) and they are both crazy, like Maiko and myself! I felt right at home!
Maiko’s mommy and her omerice, notice the heart of ketchup
After that we headed for some place entertainment place in Komaki, called Korona World. They basically had every kind of Japanese entertainment, an internet café, pachinko, a movie theater, a casino, a spa, karaoke, restaurants, coin games of all sorts, and of course purikura. We got us some coins and started entertaining ourselves with computer games, we especially enjoyed racing in the life-size cars, maybe because now we could be dangerous as hell and drive right into walls without physically hurting ourselves? And playing enlarged Mario Kart even made me want to buy a Nintendo, even though I’ve never really been a big fan of computer games (except for Tetris of course, which I totally adore).
I felt like a regular Shaka Zulu while hitting these drums
During one of her ‘dangerous’ drives
Purikura fun at the touchscreen booth
Pachinko is immensely popular in Japan, people empty their wallets into those machines and they get to adjust some knob a little in order to increase the chances of their metal balls landing in some ‘tulip with holes’ (as one of my students described it to me). Once balls end up in the tulips the number gets multiplied by 4 or something and they all start bouncing out of the machine. Many people have stacks of baskets full with those metal balls, and I was told that they get to sell them back to the Pachinko parlor for about half of what they paid for it, pretty pricey exchange rate if you ask me. Apparently it’s very hard to make any kind of profit, and if you do you’re looking at a profit of about ¥3,000, which is about 30 bucks. It’s easier to get rich from the slot machines, or rather it is easier to get poor from the jackpot-less (except when the machine has a built-in slot machine) game that is Pachinko. And nobody in there seems to enjoy themselves, I mean it does seem to be a pretty boring game, but luckily the video screen in the middle will keep the gamblers entertained while the machine eats their metal balls. The parlor wasn’t a pleasant place to hang out though, not just because of the low-hanging haze of cigarette smoke, but mostly because of the noise that was so loud that after just 5 minutes of being in there my ears already started to ring. Apparently, the gamblers solve this problem by putting a metal Pachinko ball in each ear…
Pretending to be a die-hard Pachinko addict
Another place where one can go deaf is a karaoke room, especially when I’m singing! This karaoke place actually the real Bon Jovi on the screen singing the same songs as the amateur singer. Normally they play some irrelevant Japanese movie in the background, so I’m always totally focused on the words, but when Bon Jovi unexpectantly appeared on the screen they got all of my attention! Can’t wait to go to karaoke again, especially at this place.
Singing with Jon
Late at night, Maiko and I drove back to Inuyama to pick up Yasu, whom I hadn’t seen since our vacation in the Netherlands so that was a happy reunion. The next day we decided to go on a long bike ride through Inuyama and more. It is fun to discover other parts of Inuyama, besides the way from my apartment to AEON. Yasu’s bike was quite crappy and the air was escaping rapidly from his front tire, so we didn’t really have time to stop at places to take pictures, which is a shame because especially the Kiso river looked impressive. We ended up in Fuso at a big shopping mall named Aeon (totally unrelated to my AEON) and discovered Eiden, a big electronics store where you can try out all the cool stuff. Like horseback riding machines for exercise and massage chairs for relaxation. After an hour in the very enjoyable chairs Yasu told me that the sign said you’re only allowed to stay in the massage area for a maximum of 15 minutes. But hey I’m just a stupid foreigner and don’t read Japanese, and the other chairs were all occupied by Japanese people who, I guess, couldn’t read Japanese either.
Yasu riding a mechanical and partly invisible horse
The two massage chairs I tried, if I were rich and my apartment wasn’t the size of a shoebox, I’d buy the black one
The rest of the day we spent lounging in coffee shops, at first in German-looking Komeda’s in Inuyama, which was nice but didn’t have a huge variety in coffee like our all-time favorite: Starbucks. But surprise surprise when we entered the Aeon mall in Fuso, we were greeted by a bright white and green mermaid sign! Needless to say, I was very excited to discover a Starbucks within bikeable reach.
The German looking exterior of Komeda’s
But I’m not sure I’ll go there again, because it gets dark really early here, and the ride back was extremely dark and scary (traffic-wise, as in is the driver of that car going to see me or drive over me). We were lucky that the moon was full that night, but that light made it all seem unreal like a video game. Which made me feel all powerful like the day before at Mario Kart, but I quickly reminded myself that riding in the dark without out light with crappy bicycles on a narrow sandy path, with on one side the cars driving by like maniacs (blinding us with their lights) and the edge of a rather high and steep hill on the other side. We survived, but the front tire on the bike Yasu was using didn’t, it died completely before we got back to Inuyama station. So we left the bike in the bike shed behind AEON, where we got it from in the morning, in the same condition as we found it in, before Yasu pumped fresh air into that tire. So I guess our biking adventures are over, we’ll have to do it by foot next time, unless Yasu really doesn’t mind running while I bike ;)!