Monday, October 31, 2005

Headed North... of my neighbourhood that is...

Met up with Scotto at good ol' Tullys this morning, had a seat outside on what will likely be one of our last such coffee breaks until the spring. This morning, after sitting for about half an hour, I decided to head back home and put on something heavier... I am no longer in denial, cold weather is on it's way to Utsunomiya. Today was around 10 degrees in the shade, ok so long as you're wearing a sweatshirt...

So after about an hour or so, we headed out for what would turn out to be a 4 hour walk\odyssey through an area of Utsunomiya I had never walked around. I had driven through the area North of my place on Sunday morning, and found it to have an interesting character... so I suggested to Scott that we'd head out that way, and we did. Nice thing about having a sense of direction is not being affraid to venture out into unknown areas... and knowing the train track were East of us, we felt pretty safe wandering around aimlessly on our own... as we usually do on Mondays.

So we headed West, wrapped around the Tochigi Prefectural Office and then headed North into a rather classy neighbourhood. There were lovely houses with amazing gardens and old-looking Oya stone walls, quite a nice character to the 'hood. Unfortunately, we also came accross a gaudy marriage hall made to look like a church, while the back of it looked like some byzantine building... odd. It was well built, using marble and lovely materials, but just a nasty thing to have in such a nice neighbourhood. We eventually hit a main street and decided to head on East and try to reach the train tracks... on the way we stopped in at a cute little French bakery and had a quick bite, just to tide us over until lunch.

Here's a shot of the center of Utsunomiya seen from a couple of clicks up the Kinugawa river.

As we kept walking we spotted some rather obvious proof that Japan is lagging far behind other nations in it's environnmental\health and safety legislation. Right here, about 2 feet from the sidewalk and surrounded by commercial buildings, restaurants and homes was a poorly maintained building COVERED with asbestos insulation. There was even asbestos in the open-air rafters, quite disturbing, though not surprising.

Right around the corner from the carcinogen, this lovely flower growing in a community garden.

AAAAARRRRGGG!!! For the second time this week I see a beautiful car with no one to love it... how sad! The first was a BMW M3 sitting in a garage with 2 inches of dust on it. This time, it's this Mercedes sitting in a lot with all 4 tires flat and the insignia half bent off.... where is the owner??? If anyone knows, let him know I am willing to remove the car from the premises for a small payment of 200,000 Yen and will of course be requiring the ownership papers...

Kept walking in the direction of the Station and ran accross this amusingly named dog grooming place... American Dog Wash... just checked out their web site and other than the name... there's no English to be found... how American...

There was also this horrific use of the English language to try and persuade people not to let their dogs pee in and around the business... quite amusing. For those of you with bad eyes, the lower section reads: You must teachs your dog manners. Then we are dog lovers each other. Thank you." I think I'll take more of the Engrish pictures... last week when I was walking with Alex we spotted both a "Stone Reraxation massage" and a "Beauty Saron". Come on people, crack open a dictionary before you dish out thousands of dollars on your business signs!!!

We finally chose between Kumamato Ramen, Yokohama Ramen and Praktica for lunch... Praktica won hands down and we started walking that was. Lovely lion statue, unfortunately it guards the entrance of a garrish pachinko parlour/public bath thing...

Once at Praktica, we were of course greeted by our gracious hosts and took a seat outside in the sunshine. Not too many of these opporunities left, so we thought we'd enjoy the fresh air while we could. We both had their wonderful Vietnamese Curry and Rice... the rice isn't the typical white sticky rice, but a different variety... quite nice. Every time I go there, I am reminded of why I keep going there. Great food, great service, gotta love it... and I'm not just saying that because the owners read my blog... lol

Accross the street from Praktica is an affront to my psyche greater than both Pachinko and Asbestos put together. Many young Japanese girls these days are going to great lengths to change themselves into something quite frightening... this place is a temple to them... a tanning salon called "Blacky" and which promises "Hyper tanning" how nasty is that??? As Scott mentionned, in 30 years we will be dealing with a large segment of the population looking like Magda from "Something about Mary". (Click here for a reminder, and if you know anyone who goes into one of them shake-and-bake tanning machines on any kind of regular basis, have them watch the movie... for added effect you can replay the sequence of Madga topless multiple time.)
So after a great walk and a great lunch, we headed in to Nagasakiya, got some grub for our bare shelves and split off on our seperate ways. I watched Phonebooth (again) today and Matrix: Revolutions (for the first time) both of which I borrowed from Yoshiko. Thanks! Matrix Revolutions was better I found than the second one, which really disapointed me. I still think the first one was the best, and maybe I need to watch all three in close succession to understand all the intricacies of the plot... but I found the second movie just used too many stupid CGI scenes where actors could have easily performed the work. I was particularly pissed about a scene where Trinity falls off a building, completely computer animated. Come on guys! Actors have been falling off the buildings for hundreds of years! Make it look real and use the actual actor, not some CGI mock-up!!! Anywho, enough of a rant. I'm gonna stir up some dinner and get into Lonely Planet Beijing for a bit...
Plans for this week? 2 days of work, Source on Wednesday night, National Holiday on Thursday, 2 days of work, another weekend... woohoo!

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Blogger Anskov said...


I came across your blog through a culinary website as I was looking for restaurant recommendations for Utsunomiya. My name is Matthew and I'll be joining you at Aeon in January 2006. I am looking forward to looking over your blog - it looks like a great preparation source for me as I get ready to go.

I will be sending a proper introduction to the school soon. I am looking forward to meeting you and everyone there at the beginning of next year.

Best regards,

Matthew Christensen

If you'd like you can check out my blog at (but try not to judge me by my Halloween post - I'm generally not that scary)

5:18 PM  
Anonymous TDF said...

That is not a Pachinko Parlor in the back ground. It is a "Health Sauna" (kenkou sauna).

Which I think means it is a place to buy sexual favours.

I used to work for one of your competiting eikawa's (GEOS) and I did the ALT route as well with JET for 2 years.

If you are enjoying your time now I would definetely recommend you apply for JET. Better pay, more vacation and less work overall. This gives you more time to explore Japan.

Good luck.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Aha, so it's a bath place... my Pachinko comment still stands, the second half of the building IS in fact a Pachinko parlour... familys go in to bathe on one side while the father gambles on the other... lovely compromise!

7:15 PM  
Anonymous TDF said...

My mistake...probably just a normal bath house for families like you said. I just seem to recall someone telling me that a lot of these "health" places were associated with the sex trade in Japan like soaplands etc.

The Pachinko parlor would have been my first guess to if I didn't or couldn't read the sign. Pachinko parlors are a blight on Japan's city scape.

4:33 PM  

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