Way back on the 27th I enjoyed a great day out and about in Utsunomiya city. Interestingly enough that’s just what I did today as well! Funny how that worked out…
Min and I at the Utsunomiya shrine
On the 27th, Ryota and I made the hour long trek into the capital city of Tochigi Prefecture, Utsunomiya, where we met my good friend Min. Min is the Korean exchange student who is currently studying at the University of Utsunomiya whom I met during the Nakagawa Rice Harvesting Festival way back in October. I have been in touch with her ever since and last week we were finally able to meet up again, and luckily Ryota was able to spend the day with us also. Seeing as the University campus is located outside of the downtown area, none of us knew the main strip of Utsunomiya all that well. We decided to follow one of the “walking tours” on the map I grabbed from the train station. We laughed at ourselves- an American, a Japanese, and a Korean making our way though the city as map following tourists. We spoke almost entirely in Japanese seeing as Min knows just a little English, yet her Japanese is fluent. We covered the main sights of the city: the shrine, the malls, the shopping street, a gigantic ginko tree, and even a beautiful stone church. Inside, there was a tiny Portuguese Post-Christmas service being held, so we stopped in. Min is Catholic, I a Methodist, and Ryota a Buddhist/Shinto/Christian/Mix. I found a great amount of peace and nostalgia sitting in a warm church knowing that God was up there smiling, just like me, at the fact that even in a country where the Christian population hovers around merely 1%, I still managed to find a cozy Christmas service…albeit in Portuguese…
For lunch, get this, we went with Min to one of the most famous fried dumpling restaurants in Utsunomiya called Min Min!! We planned the whole day around being able to get into Min Min…we’re so lame! But it was well worth the 30-minute-long line, as the Gyoza dumplings were absolutely delicious! Fried, grilled, or boiled, they were all topnotch. For dinner, we also treated ourselves to a fun Korean restaurant called Seoul. We ate Yakiniku, Bibinba, Reemen, and more. It was my first real experience with good Korean food and I can already tell that I’m hooked. Min is sincere that I have a place to visit in Korea any time I want. Wouldn’t that be fun?!?
After dinner the three of us went to take Purikura (fancy snap shots in a big photo booth). Min loves them and has been several dozen times here in Japan. The same can be said for Anaïs, the Rotary exchange student from France, so I have a feeling her and Min would be a dangerous pair in a Purikura arcade!
Later on I met up with Ayano, saw Ryota off to his train back home, and waved good-bye to Min as she biked back to her dorm. I was happy to be heading to the Baba’s household, but I was sad to be leaving Ryota as he was so kind to me throughout the winter break. I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll be able to meet up again soon. Hopefully the same can be said for Min too, seeing as she goes back home at the end of February. I made my way back to Ayano’s house where Max, Luke Bradt (Ayano’s past host brother, a Minnesotan, and a current Rotary exchange student to Osaka, Japan), and I spent the four days leading up to New Years; more of our adventures there to follow.
As for today, the 8th, I spent a second enjoyable day with my friend Miki. Yesterday as we were talking at the ski resort, he mentioned that he still hadn’t seen Avatar yet. I told him I hadn’t seen it in 3D, and so he invited me to go to it with him today. Therefore, according to the Exchange Student #1 Rule of “don’t decline kind offers made by friends, no matter how little money you have in your wallet,” I gladly agreed. So we made our way into Utsunomiya this morning, it being his only day off of work before school starts, and saw Avatar, walked around the Bell Mall, and simply did what teenagers do at when they’re bored: no, not drugs! We killed time just going into stores, listening to CDs, finding a book shop, and eating McDonalds…Yep, sounds about right to me =) Good day, I’d say