This year, my Halloween weekend consisted of work in the Saidaiji area and lots of exploring in the Kansai capital, Osaka!
After finishing team-teaching classes at my favorite (and only!) JHS on Friday, Trevor and I headed up north to Osaka city, where we would be spending the weekend for my business trip and for our Halloween adventure. My Principal and Vice Principal expressed some concern with having me drive to somewhere as busy as Osaka, but I reassured them that everything would be okay and that I would always be careful while driving.
Actually, driving to Osaka was not as bad as I expected it to be. Everyone warned me of how traffic-ridden it would be, but to me, it didn’t seem too hectic…
I think what threw me off was how expensive the toll roads here are. I heard from my predecessor and from many other sources that toll roads were pricey, but I really didn’t expect them to be almost ¥1000 per toll booth! I was lucky enough to have enough cash on me to pay for the tolls to get around…
Anyways, here’s a breakdown of what we did for our Halloween weekend:
Friday, October 30:
We arrived at our hotel around 7pm, three hours after we left Totsukawa. We walked to DenDen Town to try and look at some of the hobby and electronic goods stores, but unfortunately, many of them had closed early. (Our hotel was about a 20 min walk from the more busier parts of the city)
After our leisurely walk around the city, we settled in for the night in preparation for a JETNet event that would be taking place the next morning.
Saturday, October 31 (Halloween!):
So a little bit about JETNet Events:
“Nara JETNet is an association comprised of Nara JETs that runs events with the goal of grassroots internationalization in local communities of Nara Prefecture.” Nara JETNet started out in 2001 and runs free events for the public, about 3-4 times a year (pretty much once per season)
JETNet is unique to Nara in that it was awarded a prize by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for its achievements in: promoting international exchange; increasing awareness of the JET Programme; and facilitating cooperation between JET participants.
(Totally pulled this from the packet I received on JETNet at Nara orientation haha)
We left Osaka and drove back to Nara prefecture in Saidaiji, where the event would be held. It was about a 30 min drive and after finding parking and walking towards the station to meet up with the CIRs
frantically and constantly thinking I was late, we arrived safely and ready to interact with Japanese participants!
I had signed up beforehand to be a team leader to help the event out and I’m glad I did! The group I had was amazing and we were able to interact with one another without feeling forced or awkward. It was a very relaxed setting as we walked from Saidaiji to the Heijo palace ruins where we had lunch and then did activities and games afterwards.
The hike consisted of walking through residential areas that led to a shrine, a beautiful park, and finally to the Heijo Palace Ruins. During this walk was when we were able to interact with our group members.
After lunch and doing an ice-breaker of 2 truths and 1 lie, groups rotated between activities and games, consisting of Wink Murder, Hawk and Sparrow, One-Leg Sumo Wrestling, and Petanque.
After departing ways, Trevor and I began to head back to the parking lot when we decided to take a detour through the Heijo Palace grounds. A festival had occurred earlier that day, so colorful flags were still erected around the grounds, and a large dragon statue made out of what looked to be the remains of nature and other random things stood in the middle.
Walking through the palace grounds was a great way to end the work day. I’m reminded of how beneficial these kinds of events are not just for JET participants, but to the public as well. I had a lot of fun and I could tell many of the Japanese participants also had a great time. I hope to see these same participants again at future JETNet events!
The sun was already setting when we left Nara, so by the time we got back to the hotel, it was already dark. At least we were lucky enough to visit some of the stores in DenDen Town before they closed down around, a lot of them closing between 7-8pm.
At some point while we were walking, we saw our first maid cafe… I guess we could have gone in for dinner… but we opted for Mexican!
A highlight of the night was eating at a small joint called Queen Tacos. To be honest, I was so thrown off when I saw that this particular place served actual tacos. I’ve constantly heard that you couldn’t find Mexican food in Japan, so I never expected to be eating a taco, especially in a very small restaurant.
Sunday, November 1 (Umeda and Tsumahashi):
For months we have been planning on visiting the IKEA in Osaka to buy a new bed. We took this opportunity to go to IKEA this day, but beforehand, we decided to explore more of what Osaka had to offer.
We decided to head to the famous Pokemon Center in Umeda Station! Prior to that, we were able to meet up with my friend Eri (the same person whose family helped Trevor when he first arrived in Japan!) and thanks to her guidance, we not only toured around the Pokemon Center, but we were also able to go to the Pom Pom Purin Cafe, somewhere Eri has always wanted to take me 🙂
The Pokemon Center was awesome! Sadly, the Pokemon door that I always saw in Google Images was non-existent; Eri told me that because they moved the store to a different floor of the train station, the door was not able to be built along with it… So sad.
The Pom Pom Purin Cafe had a line with customers waiting to eat there… luckily it was only a 10-15 min wait until the three of us were seated in the cutesy-themed restaurant.
I ordered a Thai-style coconut curry meal that tasted almost exactly like the Thai curry my mom makes at home… the big difference? No spiciness… at all. It was so good, but my mom’s curry- the spiciness makes a big difference! Big points for the cute presentation though. Eri ordered dessert- being it is the Pom Pom Purin Cafe, it only makes sense to have プリン！ (pudding)
After walking around part of Umeda, we parted ways, with Trevor and I heading to Tsumahashi, where the Osaka IKEA stood. Getting to this IKEA was very interesting: we had to drive across the bay on a very tall and long bridge that extended from the mainland to a man-made island where the IKEA was.
I won’t really get into what the IKEA was like… it was pretty much like the IKEA back home in Minnesota, but the eating area was much bigger with traditional Japanese dishes that can be chosen alongside the famous Swedish meatballs that IKEA is known for. We found a nice bed and were ready to head home until… the boxes didn’t fit in the car. -_- Luckily, Trevor had the idea of taking everything out of the boxes, which was perfect because that really took down the size of everything and we were able to head home to Totsukawa with not only a new bed, but goodies from the Pokemon Center, and lots of photos Trevor took to highlight this perfect Halloween weekend.