In addition to sushi, one simply must do karaoke in Japan. In Finland karaoke is highly popular, sung in pubs where everyone has to listen to the often very drunk, and very poorly skilled singers. In Japan, the promised land of karaoke, you gather your friends and go to a private room, where you can sing for a certain period of time – for extra price the drinks are included. Food and snacks can also be ordered for more satisfying experience.
Beppu may not have nightclubs, but there are several karaoke bars where you can shake that tambourine and pretend you’re the Black Eyes Peas. On the last weekend before school start, bunch of exchange students and few Japanese buddies gathered in a karaoke room in Beppu Tower for a few hours of singing and drinking drinks that were ordered mostly by pointing from the menu.
In addition to Gangnam style (two Korean-savvy girls singing, many Scandinavians dancing), on the playlist were hits like I Will Survive, This Love from Maroon Five, some Coldplay, and many others. For next time, I need to make a list of the songs I want to sing – oh yes, there will be a next time. For 1600 yen you can sing for 2 hours, drink as much as you can, and apparently there is some kind of transportation from AP house as well. I wonder how much karaoke costs in bigger cities?
What is Japan without sushi or (in the case of me, a poor student) kaiten or conveyor belt sushi, where you pick your favorite portions as they come from the kitchen. In case you are lucky enough to be dining with a Japanese-savvy person, you can also order items from the menu, and they will be delivered to your table. Even though your nihongo is not that strong, pointing at the sushi plate pictures is efficient way to get your favorites, too.
In Beppu I have found 2 kaiten sushi places so far, one in You Me town and the other one is where the pictures are from. Unfortunately I have no clue what the name is, but it is located near Beacon Plaza (also known as the diving tower).
Reasons why I like kaiten-sushi:
It is cheaper than going to a sushi restaurant (in Beppu, two pieces of ebi, salmon, unagi and other more common nigiri cost 105y, as well as most of the gunkan-maki and 4 pcs of maki. More expensive sushi are approx. 300y, which is around 3€)
It is fun to watch the conveyor belt and different kinds of sushi
You can eat various kinds of sushi, as much as you want (which can lead to an unpleasant surprise as the plates keep on piling up)
Unlimited green tea, gari (pickled ginger) and wasabi
I was totally lost on wednesday when I tried to find my way to the hostel. Yesterday, things have changed! After a 5 hour walking trip in the burning sun around the city center, I feel much more at ease in Beppu. I lost a layer of skin but found my way.
I also now know” all” the electronic shops here, as it took 2h hours to find a replacement for the crappy plug adapter I bought in Finland. There are 2 (!) of them and I might have bought the treasure of the city knowing how hard task it was to find (but cheap 190 yen, not even 2e). The center is actually quite small. Beppu is stuck between mountains, volcanoes and the sea. There is a sand beach but there is some construction going on, maybe against tsunami.
Exactly a week ago I finally got in to the AP house, tired of travelling and sleep deprived, too. What a week it has been, every day filled with new things, events, people and information!
Today we had AP House welcoming ceremony for all the new residents (I think there is over 1000 of us). First in the Millenium Hall, there was few speeches and an entertaining video about the AP House rules. After that, we went to the cafeteria to enjoy a buffet and performances by Yossha-Koi dance circle and the Japanese drum circle.
The RA (Resident assistants, two students on each floor who are responsible for, well, almost everything) had prepared many dance performances for us, all of which were surprisingly well practiced! In Finland, there is no way you’d see guys dance (6 dance routines in a row) – specially if the dance includes feminine or otherwise sexually charged moves. Vive les cultural differences!
Today was the first time I ate pizza with chopsticks! The menu was international, like the residents in AP houses. We were truly welcomed to the house, and even though I’ve been here a week learning all the manners and everyday life, this event made the house seem even warmer and friendly, if possible.
Today was my first encounter with the ultimate Japanese efficiency – even though everything has gone rather smoothly so far, the health check up of today was the proof of Japanese capability of organizing and dealing with large number of people.
All new students were taken on shuttle buses to the health center. We had previously filled out a questionnaire about our medical history, and another document about our current health. With these documents we went from one check point to another, and always someone confirmed that we were still carrying our own documents.
After receiving a cup to pee in, I went to the changing room to put on a robe. X-ray was a matter of an inhale, followed swiftly by blood pressure, then blood sample, and the usual height, weight and eyesight examinations. All of this was over in 20 minutes! I was not the only one who felt like being on a factory production line, since there was several hundred of us! If only things were this fast in Finland… Back home, the health check up is only a matter of stepping on a scale, being measured and asked about feelings. Now the only thing left to do is to wait for the results and hope that I do not have any serious illnesses. Most of my friends, me included, were wondering why they were measured to be shorter than before. Most people have apparently also lost weight since coming here, although with all the noodles and snacks, it seems unlikely. Maybe that is a Japanese paradox, and I am two cm shorter in here!
Another example of Japanese efficiency today: My toilet was broken – it was leaking and keeping the flushing sound. I went to the office to explain the problem to the lady who does not understand a single word of English. After explaining her about my toire problem, I signed a form saying that it is ok with me if someone comes to my room to fix the problem. After few hours, nothing had happened. My Japanese friend came with me to the office to explain that there is quite a waste of water with the leaking (they are very sensitive about wasting water here). As it turns out, the lady had thought that my toilet lamp is dying, and that’s why they did not come sooner. The security officer came to my room (after asking permission), and within 3 minutes the toilet was fixed. It is easy, if you know how!