On Tuesday, August 14, I saw Kiyomizu Temple and returned from Kyoto to Osaka. I checked my email in an internet cafe, and a message from Miho said she and a friend were at a bar in Namba. Miho lives and works in Kobe, but the night I came back from Kyoto, she happened to be drinking in Namba, the area where I had booked a capsule hotel. This was the first in a string of felicitous events.
Meeting Miho in Namba
I met Miho and her friend at Cherry Bomb in Namba. The bartender was from California and made us 200-yen tacos. Miho teaches English and oversees a dance club at a high school in Kobe. When I was an exchange student in Japan in 2009-2010, Miho was an exchange student at the University of Georgia. We met when she came back to visit UGA in 2011, and she came by my house in Atlanta over spring break. We moved from Cherry Bomb to a different bar in loud and crowded Namba, and passed over the central bridge with a huge lighted Glico advertisement. At the next place, the bartender was a friendly man from Israel who spoke fluent Japanese with the customers. We agreed to meet again in Shanghai and I left for the night.
Going to Kobe with Aya
The next day, I met Aya in Umeda, and we took the train to Kobe. Aya was an exchange student at UGA in the fall of 2011, and I met her during the orientation for the Japanese exchange students that year. She’s a college student in Osaka. We visited Ikuda Shrine 生田神社 in Kobe, near the area where lots of foreigners once lived in Kobe. The shrine was colorful, with purple cushioned seats for an audience, and the woods near the shrine were the site of a battle in the Genpei War some thousand years ago. Aya told me the Japanese students who had studied at UGA were having a reunion in Fukuoka on August 17 and invited me to join. We parted around the Daimaru department store and I walked through Chinatown to the sea, where cracked pavement and leaning lampposts were left in situ to commemorate the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1995. A clock that fell from the hands of a famous statue was left stopped at 5:46AM.
Meeting Makoto & Hitomi in Rokko
At twilight, I took the bus east through Kobe to Rokko, and walked south to Rokkomichi to meet Makoto at the JR station. Makoto and Hitomi (who joined us later) studied at UGA for a year in 2011-2012, when I was Vice President of the Japanese Conversation Club. Both are college students in Kobe. Makoto is from Fukuoka, and Hitomi from Aichi. Makoto took me to the place where he works, a tonkotsu (pork-bone soup) ramen restaurant that serves the “Hakata ramen” famous in Fukuoka. He treated me to karaage (fried chicken) and tonkotsu ramen that tasted like the real thing. He (falsely) claimed to have forgotten English. I met his co-workers, and soon Hitomi got off work and came to eat with us. We then went to a bar up the street until late, and talked about our friends, our studies, and whatnot. Both were going to the reunion in Fukuoka. We parted at the station, and I took the train back to Osaka.
Meeting Mr. Kanbara, the composer who drives a cab
The train was a few minutes late, and I missed the last train in the subway, so I took the overland loop line to Tennoji thinking I could walk to Namba and Shinsaibashi. While walking didn’t seem impossible, it was almost one in the morning in a nearly deserted huge city, I was really far from Shinsaibashi, Namba is a little crazy at night, and the hotel locks its doors at 2AM.
I hailed a cab. The driver who picked me up was named Kanbara Yoshiaki, and during the day writes music. He kindly took interest in my life and travels, and asked me to friend him on Facebook. His music is available on his blog and on YouTube.