After work one day, I decided to go for a bike ride to explore my friendly Osaka neighborhood. After tentatively crossing several roads where you can’t see around the corner for speeding cars, I breathed a sigh of relief that I had not been hit yet. The last thing I wanted was to be scraped off the highway and sent home to my parents in a plastic bag.
One story that I had learned from a coworker at my workplace was that they were very strict about arriving on time to work. One worker was hit by a car on the way to work and was taken to the hospital. He was docked a day and a half’s pay for not calling in.
I was really hoping to not be hit by a car on the way to work.
Stuck behind an old woman with shockingly fluorescent purple hair on her bike and with no way to get around her, I used my time wisely by pondering the names of various shops I passed.
Hmmm, what was Sea Brain?
Thinking that it was some sort of aquarium, I was disappointed to see that it was just another one of the many Pachinko parlors on every corner.
Pachinko, a strange type of mindless slot machine game, exists everywhere. Moving around silver balls seems to be the main point of the game. I am very intrigued by the people who play Pachinko and spend all their money feeding these brightly lit machines. Surely there’s a Pachinko Anonymous group out there somewhere where these people could get some help.
Finally passing around the purple haired lady, I managed to attract some surprised “Oh” sounds coming from two old men on the street. I’ve found that I can either attract a lot of attention, simply none at all, or even be ignored. All while doing the same thing. It depended on the person. It was all very exciting.
Later that same day, I went to do some shopping in Namba, one of the main shopping areas. Nearly stumbling across a man doing an extensive set of pushups against a bench right in the middle of the shopping strip, I had to stifle my laughter.
Older Japanese men sometimes like to do silly things like this, often accompanying these movements with exaggerated sounds, as though they were really doing something strenuous. You will often see them doing simple stretches or in this case, push-ups, in the middle of a busy area. I’m not really sure what motivates one to do this. Lucky for them, I’m the only one who seems to notice.
Recently, I’ve been trying to study Japanese. Memorizing a few key phrases, I decided I would practice them. Feeling confident and proud of my newly acquired language skills, I went to get a cell phone.
“Eigo ga dekimasuka?” I asked in Japanese (do you speak English?). The shop owner, a young man, gave me a confused look.
“Eigo?” he asked.
“Eigo”, I repeated clearly.
“Eigo?” he asked again.
“Eigo ga dekimasuka?” I asked again, this time very slowly.
“Eigo?” he asked again.
“English” I said.
“Okay, Okay”, he said, nodding. “Just a little”.
Had I not just been repeating the same thing he was saying to me over and over? My new found confidence was shot.