Actually, our trip to Hirakata Station yesterday was rather uneventful. It took a long time, especially because we had to walk around Kansai Gaidai (they’re closed for the holidays), rather than through it, which is shorter. I got lost a couple times, but everything turned out okay. We went to Tsutaya Books, which was smaller than I anticipated. (Kinokouyan Books in Tokyo had an English section). My roommate had a ball looking through the manga section while I wandered around the Jazz and J-Pop sections of music.

I’ve never been a fan of Japanese popular culture, to put it delicately. My interest in Japan is more in other sections of its culture – its history, traditions, and religions, and how those are shown in daily life here in Japan. I have nothing against pop culture, really. It’s just never appealed to me, while it does to a lot of other people. It gets tiring, I guess, when people’s main interest in Japan is because of anime and manga. Trust me – I’ve actually made an effort to watch anime and read manga, but never found what was so appealing about it. The only anime I ever liked was Miyazaki’s work (no clue why.)

So, we also stopped by Starbucks, and went into what I thought was a big supermarket. I was so wrong! The supermarket was instead a department store! The outside had all sorts of pictures and words about food, but the food was confined to the first floor. Department stores in Japan are very different from what we have in America. Picture a department store smashed together with a mall, but all open-air. That’s what this place was. Just for fun, and to see what there was there, we rode escalators all the way up to the seventh floor, which had many kimonos for sale. Beside them was a display of art, held by the Kiwanis Club of Japan. We looked around at it, and discovered that it was an exhibition of works done by 6-year-olds, done on the theme of peace.

It was really interesting to see what these children depicted for peace. All of the works  were stunningly good, in terms of detail and composition. There were cranes pictured, the Atomic Dome from Hiroshima (I’ll actually be visiting Hiroshima in October, I think – part of my Peace class), smiling faces and flags from around the world. It would kind of  be nice if we lived in a world like that.

After that, we walked home.

One thing in particular the Japanese are quite good at doing taking something completely ordinary/dull and turning it into something interesting. Take office supplies, for example. The folders and paper clips here are works of art! Even pencils are nicer here.  Here’s something that, walking around Hirakata City, you notice very quickly. Japanese roads have these huge, treacherous ditches on either side of the sidewalks. They’re gutters to drain, really, but they’re so big and deep that if your bicycle ran into it, your tire would drop inside and you’d be seriously injured. So the Japanese put concrete covers over these to prevent just that from occurring. In other sections of the city, they’re boring grates, but around my seminar house, this is what they look like:

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Don’t you wish life was always like that?

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