||By Nora Roberts -- Continued
Well, the day has finally come. My very first
festival. The Japanese don't know how lucky they are to have such a long and rich history. I told my Host Family that there are no festivals in Perth (besides the International Arts Festival - hardly traditional, and they didn't even blink an eyelid. But for me, festivals are the most exciting part of being here. It gives everyone something to look forward to.
On Friday there was an Entrance Ceremony at the Bunka (Culture) Center. This is a huge building which could be considered interesting if it wasn't so, well, gray. I waited inside for the other
students. For an hour! When one finally arrived, I was so relieved that I didn't listen to a word she said to me! Somehow I got from the lobby to a seat in about the thirtieth row of the grand hall (over 1600 seats), though I can't remember how. The band on stage was playing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (Is that what it's called?) and then YMCA. Definitely not songs that would be played at the entrance ceremonies of universities in Perth. Hang on, we don't have entrance ceremonies in Perth.
I had no idea what to expect. But I didn't know just how boring the ceremony was going to be. At least we had our little books telling us all about the university. In Japanese. We tried to figure out what clubs were available by reading the kanji and looking at the pictures. Clubs aren't compulsory for us, but we thought we might actually make friends if we joined in. Three of us were there on time. The others were so late they had to stand in the doorway. I felt as if I stuck out like a cherry in a bowl of oranges. But these university students were apparently so refined, they couldn't give a hoot about a white girl sitting in their midst.
It rained all day. Lillian, Catherine and I walked in circles (of course!) in the rain. It took us around one and a half hours to get to the train station (it should have taken 10 minutes). What an adventure! We stopped for directions at nearly every convenience store, but they didn't turn out to be very convenient, as we couldn't understand the directions at all. We persisted though, until we found ourselves on Himeji's main street (Otomae dori). We were so tired by that time that we just wanted to sit down somewhere and eat. Previously, we had been unable to agree on a good place for lunch, but when we laid eyes on Bonanza Okonomiyaki at the station, all three of us were ready to go. The place seemed really cute.. it looked a bit like Lone Star Family Restaurant. We sat down and decided what to order.
When we were ready, we confidently asked for what we wanted. But the waiter kept arguing with us. So we spent about 6 minutes arguing with the waiter, who couldn't quite explain to us what the hell he was talking about. It turned out that there were two types of what we wanted, one where you choose your own toppings and the other where the toppings are already included in the price. That was a challenge. But it turned out to be worth it, when the most wonderful okonomiyaki (literally translated 'As you like it') was thrown onto the hotplate on our table to cook slowly while we added weird flakes and things from containers on the table. Although we must have entirely frustrated the waiter, in true Japanese style he was still willing to take photos for us. Even though Catherine's camera didn't feel like working and he had to try three times as well as using both mine and Lillian's.
As we ate, we spoke about our families at home and found that we had a lot in common. All three sets of parents had constantly bugged their lovely daughters about the
Japan, the scholarship confirmation, the flight, and anything else they could think of. It was so brilliant, eating real Japanese cuisine while talking to two girls from Perth.
The mall runs parallel to the main street and there are many people inside, especially when it's raining. We passed many shops, and finally stopped at one in which
socks and hosiery were on sale. So many
stockings! So cheap! I bought two pairs of socks for Y105 each (about $1.20?), but resisted the urge to buy a hundred pairs of stockings.
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Japanese style dinner and party