Daily Archives: 2009-09-29

Photo Photo! – Muroran, Japan

I popped out of bed just as the boat came to a stop. It was too early to do anything else but eat so I headed up to the food. Afterwards, I had a couple hours left before I was meeting the gang to get off the ship. I wasn’t going to do the gym today but since I was so wide awake, I decided to have a short session. Well short turned to intense. As I had worked up a sweat with a short hike, I decided to run it out for the last half hour. My initial plan was to conserve my energy because I had no idea how much walking we would do today. But instead I just packed some extra fruit and nuts to give me some energy if I lagged.

I quickly showered and then had Fernando at the coffee bar whip up my favorite energy smoothie to go. I joined the others and I could tell we were all excited to get off. Hello Japan! There were lots of young Japanese students in their uniforms waiting to give us help if we needed it. Immediately I began learning the words for Good Morning (Ohio) and Thank you (Arrigato). I greeted and bowed my head whenever one of the locals smiled at me. I was giddy as I got onto the shuttle bus that would take us around the small port town of Muroran.

I was pretty much pasted to the bus window studying the various Japanese characters on all the signs and buildings. The curves, lines, dots and swishes make up beautiful calligraphy which means something to them but nothing to me. I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between up and down in this land. Oh oh…not knowing these cryptic symbols may pose a problem when it comes to bathroom time.

As the town we docked in is a relatively small port, it was still quite quiet on a Sunday morning at 9am. It was warm and sunny as we, four pie eyed tourists, began snapping photos of anything and everything. We peered into the windows and I made sure the others knew of my fondness of supermarkets. They agreed that would be a worthwhile venture and we could go explore once the doors opened.

We had a little time to kill while we waited for the sleepy town to wake so we just wandered aimlessly. The streets were more or less empty save for the random old little man riding a bike down the road and a troupe of elderly runners which we dubbed the fitness patrol. They pipe peaceful classical music into the streets through loudspeakers which we all found pleasantly strange.

It didn‘t take but 10 minutes before I got my first “bow” from a stranger. A small delicate slightly tired looking woman took the extra second to greet me as we passed each other on the road. I was thrilled with the interaction and equated it with the smile from strangers I illicit when traveling.

We happened upon a used junk store that was just opening up and decided to take a look. It was an absolute minefield of hidden treasures which kept Darren and I enthralled for a good half hour. We inspected the antique items carefully and giggled at the ridiculous ones. From Coca Cola memorabilia to stuffed iguanas to old style Anime figurines to my favorite, a very heavy iron Samurai helmet.

This guy had something of everything for everyone and I imagine he was amused by how excited we were in his store. Most of it was, in fact, junk but hey, it was Japanese junk! And who knows just how old it was or where it came from. I half expected to find a Mogwei hiding around some dusty corner. Darren discovered a quirky iron rooster bell adorned with real stained glass that he became attached to. The shop owner wanted 500 yen but I haggled with him and got it for 2 US dollars. “Robby” the rooster became our mascot for the day.

Stores began opening their doors and the town began to liven up. We were asked if Marshan and I wanted to try on a kimono for free to which we said, hey why not? I had a slight suspicion that they would be trying to sell us something but I have no problem saying no. It was a lovely experience as 4 cute little Japanese women dressed me in the elaborate silk costume. The showed me how to pose and encouraged the others to take photos of the elegant yet heavy red dress. It was beautiful though I couldn’t imagine walking around and being functional in such an bulky getup.

Grateful for junk stores.

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