Monday, February 12, 2007

my chikan

We went to the Hokkaido historical village, which showed the pioneer-style village of about 150 years ago. We spent the early afternoon slogging along the snowy roads, checking out the original printing press of the Otaru shimbun, hanging out in the tractor stables, and tasting amazake with elderly volunteers inviting us to sit by the blazing pit for a "fireside chat". Outside, the occasional horse-drawn sleigh canted past, inducing us to hum "winter wonderland" while walking around.

Back at the entrance building, we struck up conversation with some Panamanian tourists, flexing our Spanish and they their English. It was amusing to watch the tourist speak to the vendors in Spanish and the vendors replying in Japanese, neither understanding each other.

Best of all, an old man sat making postcards from elaborate paper stencils, each design emerging from a layered sheaf of paper, each color flipped aside as he finished with it. He refused to sell any to us, insisting instead that we each take one for free. He signed them for us.

Back in Sapporo, we ate dinner at the Indian restaurant Taj Mahal, the same place I. and I ate last year, then went to see the sculptures in the Odori park blocks. They were beautiful, but word to the wise: it's better to visit the festival at the beginning than at the end. The sculptures were a bit dirty and melted, all around worse for wear than the ones we saw last year at the opening of the festival.

As a final capper to the night, back in the room, the phone rang around ten o'clock. I answered it in English, expecting it to be either C. or Mom. But no. A man told me, in English, that he was looking for companionship and other sweet nothings. He sounded like a foreigner - he didn't have a Japanese accent. Flustered, I angrily told him that my boyfriend was in the room with me and asked him what he'd like me to do, at which point he hung up. Creeped me out - my own personal chikan, and I wondered how he had known that a woman and a foreigner was in this room. I hadn't seen anyone in the hall on this floor, and though he could have spotted me in the lobby, there was no way of knowing my room. Perhaps he passed by and heard female voices. At any rate, I immediately wished that I had said something more witty and withering. Alas.

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