Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oita, Park Place, and the BBQ

That weekend we'd been planning for awhile; there was a new Studio Ghibli (Hayao Miyazaki's bunch, responsible for Mononoke, Spirited Away, etc.) movie coming out that Saturday, and a bunch of us wanted to see it. The original plan was for Aya to rent several cars that the AP buddies would then drive groups of us out to Oita city to the Park Place mall; however school admin caught wind of it, so it got changed to chartering a bus...which worked out to be cheaper, actually. Barring the somewhat isolated portion the elementary school was located in, this was the first time in Oita for the majority of us (about a half-dozen stayed behind at the school to go wander by themselves from there).

The bus took off down the coast, through Beppu, down beyond 高崎山 and 海卵 (Takasakiyama & Umitamago: Monkey Mountain and the [Sea Egg] Aquarium), through downtown Oita to the more suburb portion of the town where Park Place was located. If I lived in Japan...this is the kinda place I'd like to live. The neighborhoods have a good bit of old and new construction mixed in, it's not super crowded like the larger cities, but there's more going on than in a tinier town like Beppu.

Our first sight of the mall was the large Ferris Wheel that stood up over the trees and opposite the ginormous sports dome Oita was home to. The mall's a fair size apparatus, so we get a good feel of its size as the bus circles around to a place it can park and offload us. During this time, Aya's collecting student IDs of everyone who's going to the movie (and having a bit of fun playing the bus tour guide), and for some reason, all the IDs get funneled to me. I'm sitting there flipping through some of them for s#*ts and giggles, and I come across Matt's (not Bond). If you remember the picture from the shodo activity and how he looks kinda stalker-ish (every photo he takes's the bags under his eyes); imagine one looking like a goth terrorist. That's his student ID and passport photo: nigh-unto-white pale skin, dark circles under his was not a flattering one, but nonetheless he laughed at it as everyone passed it about the bus amid a chorus of "HOLY CRAP" and such comments.

At any rate, we offload ourselves from the bus, I hand Aya the playing-card-sized deck of student IDs, and we're given about an hour to meander, find food, or what have you before meeting at the theater at 11. Adam, Becky, Jason and I walk through the mall, following signs for the "Food Terrace" for breakfast. As we walk outside into the main plaza of the mall, we grab some maps that include stores, and food places, and decide on Mr. Donut. Along the way we pass through the central area with this large fountain. We saw later in the day as it turned into afternoon that it was a popular place for families with kids, as the fountain jets would regularly shoot up to 3-4 meters in height, cooling off the kids cavorting amongst them.

Passing by, seeing the various shops all sporting some rather enticing sales threatening to pull Becky away at every turn, we make it down to the far end of the mall to Mr. Donut, and have our breakfast of coffee or juice and donuts. During this time we also try to figure out the map of the mall to get our bearings on where the movie theater is. The morning quickly turns towards 11am, and we take off to the cinema, passing through the main plaza again, where I see, snap a picture of, and resolve to later explore the "Plaza Capcom."

We arrive at the theater, welcomed by numerous posters of Hollywood movies in their Japanese poster form, as well as many native works. Much to our delight, you can get a very respectable sized 'small' popcorn (about the size of a medium back home) for a mere 200¥. We're early, a group of people we met up with along the way opted to go for food at 'Freshness Burger' at somewhat perilously close to showtime, so we're left with some time to poke about the lobby...specifically all the capsule toy machines they had there.

Aya and Asami show up, Aya with tickets and IDs to return to everyone, and we move into the theater. A few things about the theater: for one, concessions are bleedin' cheap, the seats are way more comfy in the stadium seating back home, and when you buy a ticket, you actually have a seat assigned to it. Given there were as many of us as there were (we were half the audience of the first show of the day), we just took up 2 aisles anyway and sat where we liked.

The movie begins with some of our group still arriving slowly from Freshness Burger (fortunately they all got there during trailers, so Aya wasn't left waiting on people and missing the movie as a result), and we're treated to the informational things, but in a more entertaining fashion. Qoo, a juice drink here that tastes kinda like Sunny Delight, has a mascot of the same name. Qoo and his friends go to the movie, and in funny little clips you're asked not to smoke, use cel phones, or use an empty drink cup with ice in it as maracas during the film. Following that is trailers: a new Naruto movie (meh), the Japanese dub of the A-Team (funny to hear), and a trailer for the subtitled Harry Potter 7, part 1 that would be coming to theaters this fall.

Finally the movie proper: 借りぐらしのアリエッティ (Karigurashi no Arrietty: The Borrower Arrietty). Anyone familiar with the concept of The Borrowers and a beginner -> intermediate-level grasp of Japanese would have no problem with the movie. The narrative is basic enough, and not overladen with jargon or complex history, and visually explicit enough in the ongoings to get the grasp of what's happening, if not understand the story entirely. I only missed a few specific words here and there, mostly concerning with a type of herb/tea/etc.; very cute movie, definitely gonna have to see it again when it comes stateside.

Following the movie, we've about 4 hours worth of shop-n-wander time until we need to meet back at the bus to return to Beppu/APU. Adam, Jason and I decide to scope out the music store we passed by in a rush earlier, while Becky heads off to peruse the sales we saw before breakfast. Foiled in my attempts to find a comprehensive CD of the K-On! tunes, I pick up one of Tak Matsumoto's (guitarist from B'z, badass stuff) solo CDs, and Jason nabs the non-soundtrack CD from Arrietty that has her song done by Cecile Corbel. A bit more wandering about, and we reunite with Becky to go find some lunch.

The "Food Terrace" we end up at kicks the crap out of any food court a mall back home has to offer, we have to walk around and look at every menu to narrow it down, because everything looks tasty (the Italian gelato/sweets stand by the entrance was very tempting...). Becky gets a similar udon to her favorite here (vegetarian limits her diet somewhat...), Adam went for a rice omelet, I got a pork cutlet/rice bowl, and Jason...we're not sure what it was, nor was he entirely, but he proclaimed it to be good (mine front center, Adam's center frame, Jason's to the right of Adam's, and Becky's empty bowl in the back). Another thing: while it was 'fast' food, it wasn't in the same vein as sateside; you place your order, you're given a beeper like when you're waiting for a table at a restaurant, and perhaps 5min later you're called up to retrieve your fresh, delicious food.

Appetites sated, we walk over towards the Plaza Capcom sighted earlier, running into Zeff along the way. Outside the huge storefront that compromises the Plaza Capcom Arcade were a few different statues of Capcom icons, such as this chibi Megaman sitting on his rather unhappy-looking robot dog, Rush. The interior of the arcade was mammoth, and perhaps a quarter of it given over to a playground-like area for kids, but surprisingly there weren't as many arcade machines as I would've expected. The majority of the Plaza was given over to pachinko machines, slots, and ufo machines (the crane stuff). Nonetheless, along some of the walls, we found game cabinets and machines: a few Taiko no Tatsujin, a Time Crisis 4, some other twin shooter games...then this caught my eye:
A ridiculously sized Tetris machine. Yes, those are the joysticks you play the game with; there's 2 buttons on the orb itself to rotate. Needless to say I couldn't resist, it was too cheesy and fun not to.

We kill a bit of time there, run into a few other SG people wandering about, then go in search of good clothing and Engrish shirts. Unfortunately the latter didn't meet my requirements for level of hilarity, but I got a nice pair of cargo shorts (that I need to exchange for a larger size...these aren't made for Western asses). We wander through a few more places, and find a used clothing store, whereupon Jason and I split off after awhile to peruse other stores in our short time left there. The two of us wander over to what was more or less a Japanese version of Spencer's, where I found and had to buy a bottle of "Curiosity Cola." I haven't cracked it open yet, but curiosity is calling me....

Despite not finding any good Engrish shirts, there was at least one photo-worthy Engrish sign out in front of a shop opposite the Plaza Capcom; it reads: Smart One Had One Good Idea and That Was Stupid. Be Stupid. I think it was a watch store, or some odd designer product. Go figure >__>;

Time in Oita about up, we return to the bus, my efforts at finding a proper obi to match my yukata also foiled, where it's a bit of a feat to gather the stragglers and make sure we're not forgetting anybody. As we get back to Beppu, the bus stops at Spa Beach where well over half of us depart with the promise of a BBQ later, and not wanting to take a bus we have to pay for to come back downhill. We split yet again with some of us wanting to go to Book Off (a few people needed more luggage), and others thinking it's 'too far to walk.' Wusses.

An hour or 2 later we meet everyone else back down at the beach, but we're still waiting on the BBQ set and such to arrive. As many of us are somewhat ravenous at this point, we walk further down to Youme town, run into Sam again, and snag food from the food court there.

Then, returning to Spa Beach after stocking up on libations and other beach party supplies at konbini along the way, we find that the BBQ has arrived, and Dan's running grillmaster. It's a good few hours of hanging out, shooting the s#*t, drinking, joking, and grilling, also leading to more peculiar photos like the one below. Before it gets too late, several people call it a day and split off to catch a bus back up to campus (I among them).

Asami was either laughing at something or looking at the grill, Chris (half his face in frame) was talking to Dan perhaps, and Matt was...well...being goofy at that point as well. All in all, quite a fun day to cap off an interesting week.

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