Gaijin Invasion


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Yamagata Trip

Posted by Tom on 05/25/2010

So this past week has been a change of pace, I’ve been hanging out with several of my new friends a lot more, which is really nice. They’re quite amazing people, and I’m really glad I’ve met them. Liu, the girl who lives two doors down from me shares fruits with me all the time, she’ll just call up at like 7:00 at night and ask if I am home (She just dialed my room phone # lol) but she brings over Kiwi, Grapefruit, Watermelon, all kinds of awesome fruits and we chat while noshing on various snacks. I’ve also met several new Korean students, Choi and Sol, who I’ve hung out with a few times, I have lots of classes with Choi, so we run into each other all the time. The way we met was kind of strange, as there was a misunderstanding at first, but as soon as that was solved, I found he’s honestly one of the nicest, genuine guys I’ve ever met. There are plenty of other friends I’ve been hanging out with recently as well, and it’s refreshing, nothing against my old friends, but theres only so much you can talk about with the same five people all the time.

Anyways, onto the topic at hand, this past weekend, my friend Naoko invited me up to Yamagata, her hometown to visit. The trip there was about a thousand times more difficult than it should have been. The night before was the TryMe party, which was good, and people came back to my room for a little party. Several people couldn’t return home until later, so a few people crashed at my place. My friend Kei and I stayed up chatting until about 5:30am before we both crashed. I was supposed to catch the 2:30 train to Yamagata, and I set my alarm for 12:15, but my phone was turned to silent mode, so the alarm didn’t go off. I ended up waking up at 1:25, and realizing how late it was, I packed really quickly, got ready, washed my hair very fast, and was out the door by 1:40. I made it to the bus stop quickly, but the bus would be 10 minutes, so I waited for a taxi to pass, but it ended up being 8 minutes until one did, I still rode it to Minami Yono, rushed to Omiya, and got my ticket at 2:05. Plenty of time. I ran up to the platform, and waited for my shinkansen. I was on the Hayate 119. I asked a conductor which train was mine to be sure, and he pointed to the train on platform 14. I jumped on grabbed a seat, and chilled as we passed several stations along the way. When we arrived at Fukushima, the station before Yonezawa (my destination) I noticed something weird. The train said the next stop was Sendai… which is in the wrong prefecture. It was too late to change trains, so I ended up riding all the way to Sendai, having to switch trains there, and head BACK to Fukushima, which was about 20 minutes away… 40 minutes wasted. When I got to Fukushima, I had to switch to another platform, but only had about 4 minutes to do so. The platform I was on only had a elevator, and while I was technically on the third floor, the building was 6 stories tall, each floor being a double floor. So the elevator took forever to come up and back down, so I had about a minute and a half to get to my train. The other platform had an escalator, but I went to the down rather than the up escalator first, and had to run all the way around, and run up like two and a half stories worth of stairs and I jumped on the train just as the doors were closing. I was finally on my way to Yonezawa… Then I noticed the ticket I had bought was to Yamagata Station, not Yonezawa Station, so I had ended up paying like 20$ more than I needed to for my ticket–and there is no refunds. Blech.

Once I was in Yonezawa I met up with Naoko and we headed to her house where I met and chatted with her family for a bit, then we went to the Black Lion festival, which is a special festival for the area Naoko is from. We watched the festival for a while before some of her friends picked us up to go to a party. The party was really far away… two and a half hours by car away, and we only stayed for about three and a half hours, before the return trip in the morning. We got back and crashed at one of Naoko’s friends houses and her parents came to pick us up four hours later. I was still kinda drunk when we headed out, and Naoko, Her mother and Sister, and I went to the Takahata winery, where we got to have free samples of a dozen kinds of wine. As much as we wanted to drink as well. I ended up having 6 or 7 glasses worth of wine before the trip was done, and then I ended up buying 5 bottles of various wines, some cheese, and some sausage. After the winery, we were supposed to go visit Naoko’s grandmother, but she was busy or something until 5:30 or 6, so we decided to go visit a nearby shrine and the gravesite of the feudal lord who build Naoko’s school 300 years ago. I got my fortune and it was a nice trip, as I was just sobering up from the Winery, Naoko told me she wanted to take me somewhere, so we walked for about 25 minutes and made our way to a Sake Brewery. The brewery was really cool, and then we got to the sampling room. They had 16 bottles or so, and handed you a shot glass when you walked in. After sampling all the kinds, which were actually all really really smooth and easy to drink, Though, I was pretty drunk again. There were several bottles of really expensive sake as well, but those you had to pay for a drink. The 100$ bottle of sake was $1.50 for a shot. So Naoko and I grabbed a shot of that as well, it was some of the best sake I’ve ever drank in my life. We headed back to Naoko’s grandma’s house soon there after and had some of the best 焼肉 (kinda like BBQ) I’ve ever had, and Naoko’s grandmother made me like a 8 course meal. It was way too much food, but it was all so good, so I tried my best to eat all that I could, without dying. We talked for a little bit, but her grandmother had a thick dialect and accent, so it was kinda hard for me to understand some of what they were saying. But soon I had to get back to the train station for the last shinkansen of the night, and I was on my way home back to Saitama. When I got home to Saitama, Jiyoung came over for a bit to chat, and then Seba, Jason, and Liu all wandered over as well, and we ate some of the cheese and drank some the wine that I had bought. After chatting for a bit, everyone headed off to bed, and I got some much needed sleep. It was excellent.

Yamagata is far removed from the big cities of Japan, it’s really rural, which was such a relaxing environment and to be honest, the place reminded me so much of Michigan, just very green, and there were lots of farms and the cherry wineries. Naoko made me swear I’d bring her to the Cherry wineries of Traverse City up in Michigan next year, as well as up to gaylord to the lake house, I’ll bring all the students up there in the fall when it’s too cold to swim but perfect time to just enjoy the lake. Perhaps for my birthday weekend… We’ll see.


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