Chasing Cherry Blossoms
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm a celebrity... [but don't] get me out of here!

So, there's been quite a bit happening here in Ainan-cho over the past few days which has been pushing me even further towards the decision to say YES to re-contracting... some of it insane, some of it just pure fun.

When I bought my Rilakkuma onesie
for £6, I never expected it to be such
a hit with the locals...
On the insane side of things, I had a pretty hilarious experience on Saturday night. Drinking at a local izakaya, I made a new group of friends who were, for once, the same age as me! (Mental note: izakayas are cheaper, less creepy and attract a younger crowd than hostess bars... definitely my new hangout of choice). In a town where everyone either seems to be sixteen or sixty, that might seem pretty mental in itself. But sadly, that's not the peak of the story. No, the peak occurred when one of my new friends, who, you should note, this was my first time meeting, turned to me and said, "Oh! Jim! Look at this!" and showed me a picture he had saved on his phone. But this wasn't just any old photo. Oh no. It was a photo of me. In my Rilakkuma onesie. Shitfaced. Considering I'd never met him before, I couldn't decide whether to be cracked up or creeped out. In the end, I settled for a little bit of both. Being the only foreigner in town, I've come accustomed to my pseudo-celebrity status by now, but this took it to a whole new level. Mental, and just another example of how ridiculous life here can be. Not quite sure I'm ready to give up that ridiculousness just yet.

This has also been the week that I joined Ainan Yakuba's volleyball team! My friend, Megu, the one responsible for drawing me the awesome picture I blogged about a few posts back , invited me to watch a game on Monday evening, and before I knew it, I'd gone from spectator to participant and am now a fully-fledged member of the team. I've got my first proper matches next Monday and Wednesday, and then apparently there's a team social after the game next Wednesday evening too! I've never been much of a sportsman, but, as I gathered from watching the matches yesterday evening, nobody really takes themselves too seriously, so even though I don't have particular confidence in my abilities on the pitch, it's all just about letting loose and having fun.. and that I can do!

After Monday's introduction to the volleyball team, me, Megu, Shogo and team captain Shigeki went to a local combini and grabbed ourselves some dinner. Then, we took it back to mine and huddled round my kotatsu where we whiled the next few hours away just chatting and enjoying each other's company. It wasn't until Megu innocently asked what the time that, looking at my watch, I realised it was half past midnight and we'd hung out together for the best part of SIX HOURS. Whoops. I guess time really does fly when you're having fun! After almost four months in Japan now, I really feel that my Japanese is coming along, too. I mean, it's still pretty elementary, but considering I spoke literally none when I arrived, and now I know my hiragana, katakana and can hold a simple conversation, I'd say I've made good progress! And I also feel that I'm slowly starting to build up the kind of social life I was more accustomed to at home - now I've joined the volleyball team and have made some real Japanese friends in Megu and Shogo, I don't see any reason to quit just yet! 

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