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Amparo Bertram

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08:22 pm: Trip Report, Part VI
August 15th was our day to relax. We took our time in the morning, our main concern being whether we could fit all our purchases into our luggage. We checked out of the hotel and wandered the Sunshine City mall, looking for lunch. We agreed that we wanted to eat at the Mexican restaurant there so that megory could see what it was like.

In general, Japanese people don't like Mexican food. There are several proposed theories as to why this should be.

1. Mexican food is too spicy.
This reason is somewhat believable. Although they enjoy a dab of wasabi on their sushi, most Japanese people don't like food with strong flavor, particularly if it's spicy. They absolutely adore curry, but it's mainly Japanified curry that has had a spice-ectomy. Whenever I eat at an Indian restaurant run by people from India, the curry is properly spicy...and the restaurant is quite vacant. However, this does not explain why even non-spicy Mexican food is hard to come by.

2. Mexican rice has "stuff" in it.
This explanation was given to me by someone in Niigata, which is famous for its rice. It supposedly grows the best rice in Japan. Japanese people can be rather obsessive about the whiteness of their rice. The person who gave me this explanation also told me about the time she took a trip to Australia. Her host family there served curry and rice--a Japanese staple--but they put the curry ON the rice. She was absolutely horrified. Japanese curry-rice is served with the curry on one half of the plate and the rice on the other half, so that the rice can remain properly white. Now, this is also a somewhat reasonable explanation, since Mexican rice certainly has tomato and other "stuff" in it...but there are plenty of Japanese dishes (such as chirashi-zushi and sekihan) that also have things mixed in with the rice. Obviously, this can't be the whole story.

3. Beans are supposed to be sweet.
One of the most common "sweets" in Japan is sweet bean paste. It's used with mochi as a common dessert, or as a festival snack, and it's a popular flavor of ice cream. When a Japanese person sees a pile of dark beans, the expectation is that they will be sweet. However, Mexican beans are not sweet, but rather salty and even (gasp!) spicy. I can certainly understand this reason, because I feel exactly the opposite: I was raised to expect Mexican-style beans, so sweet beans always seem wrong to me. I can't properly appreciate them.

Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, Mexican food simply isn't popular. I occasionally run into an individual Japanese person who likes it, but considering that I am working almost exclusively with English teachers who chose their profession due to an interest in foreign culture, I think it's safe to say that the people I meet are a skewed sample. When we walked through the restaurant floor of the mall, every single place was packed, with lines starting to form outside the doors. Then we got to the Mexican restaurant...which was virtually empty.

We carefully chose items from the menu (which was a little tricky, because wednesday_10_00 and I had discovered on a previous visit that they use meat to flavor their beans) and had an enjoyable meal. By the time we finished, the place had started to fill up. There were even a couple people waiting for tables to open up. As soon as we left, we could easily see why--every other restaurant in the vicinity had lines stretching far out the door and, in some cases, all the way around the corner. People were escaping to the Mexican restaurant simply because it had the shortest wait time, not necessarily because they actually wanted to eat there.

Anyway, we picked up our luggage from the hotel lobby and caught a shinkansen back to Moriyama.

August 16th was megory's last full day in Japan. She spent the morning packing as much as possible. We had plans to meet up with some friends (gnine and her sister) that evening for a festival event in Kyoto. We set off in the early afternoon, did a bit of quick shopping, and then met our friends. They took us to a gathering at a building where we could climb to the top of the roof to watch the proceedings.

For this event, huge fires are lit on the sides of several mountains that surround the city. The fires are in the forms of various characters and simple shapes, such as a boat. The fires are lit at specified times, one by one. The picture at the right shows the character that we were able to see the best from our vantage point. It was the first one to be lit. As the evening went on, we could see a couple more being lit off in the distance. It was really spectacular.

The next morning we got up bright and early to take megory to the airport. This was only a couple days after the liquid explosive terrorist scare, which was highly inconvenient because she had planned to take a load of souvenirs containing liquid in her carryon due to weight considerations. So much for THAT plan. It forced her to do a bit of strategic packing.

The line at the airline counter for checking luggage was long, and though we arrived three hours early (as recommended), at least an hour and a half was spent just at that counter. That's before even reaching the security check area. Fortunately, they let megory check her carryon for free to cut down on the wait at the security line. We said our goodbyes, and then wednesday_10_00 and I took our leave.

On our way back from the airport, we met up with gnine again in Kyoto for some manga-shopping.

At long last, our grand travel adventure had drawn to an end.


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Comments

[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:September 12th, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC)
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I cannot look at that picture without thinking "Conan!"
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:September 13th, 2006 12:44 am (UTC)
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I was thinking the same thing. ^_^
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From:devimustang0929
Date:September 13th, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
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Ha! I remember that episode! Hmmm...I need to see more Conan. It's been a while.
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From:finabair
Date:September 12th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
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Oh, that mountainside is so NIFTY!!!

Also, sweet beans scare me. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:September 13th, 2006 12:47 am (UTC)
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Also, sweet beans scare me.

I've tried eating them. I would just vastly prefer chocolate.
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From:finabair
Date:September 13th, 2006 02:43 am (UTC)
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I can't have chocolate, really...and I can't imagine other beans being *good* that way. But I suppose if my reaction to the idea of sweet beans is so strong, I can see where mexican beans might be off-putting to everyone there!
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From:amilyn
Date:September 12th, 2006 11:41 pm (UTC)
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FANTASTIC post re: food.

*hugs*

I do love reading what you post, even when I don't comment.
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:September 13th, 2006 12:45 am (UTC)
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Thanks! That's nice to hear.
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From:megory
Date:September 13th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC)
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It was really hard leaving Japan. Thanks for running me all around the place.
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From:devimustang0929
Date:September 13th, 2006 05:47 pm (UTC)
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What an exhausting grand adventure, recounted in six parts! I always love reading your posts for little insights into the Japanese culture. Absolutely fascinating.

One general question, and I don't mean to insinuate anything:
Is there anything else to do besides shopping? You all sure do seem to do a lot of it. Then again, I like spending money just as much as the next person sometimes.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:September 13th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)
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Is there anything else to do besides shopping?

It depends on where your interests lie. There's sightseeing, of course, but after being here several years, it takes something more out of the ordinary than the average temple to capture my attention.

A lot of people who come here are into drinking, so bar-hopping is pretty popular. Japan has a whole culture built around social drinking. I don't get into that much.

Then there's the food. Every place has its own regional specialties. Many Japanese people like to just hop a train and ride somewhere to try the food. The train stations themselves have famous packed lunches. My problem is, almost none of it is vegetarian.

There are also cultural activities, such as Noh plays and Kabuki, and sports, like Sumo (not to mention baseball), but I'm not into any of that. There's nature hiking, especially mountain climbing--lots of mountains here!--but I'm too much of a wimp for that. It's an island, so there's plenty of fishing and swimming and boating for people who enjoy water activities.

So, there's lots to do...I just don't have much interest in doing much of it. I'm an indoor person.
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From:mangaroo
Date:September 14th, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC)

don't forget the shopping

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Is there anything else to do besides shopping?

Given our usual pre-visit discussions, this is the best question ever.

GAH! LJ is holding my "money can't buy" icon hostage, too.
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