The Kimochi Warui Diary
The first thing we noticed in Osaka were the streets. They were a bit dirtier than the other parts of Japan we’d visited. Supposedly, this is an indication of Osaka’s laid-back culture. If I were to live in Japan, I’d most likely belong in Osaka.
I plugged my phone into a wall socket in the train station. I got it running long enough to pull open the map and get a reading of the hostel’s location.
Jotaro took a photo of my phone’s screen. I unplugged my phone, and it was dead within seconds. We then followed the streets via the picture of the map on Jotaro’s phone. Fortunately, it was a mostly straight path to our hostel.
Before even entering the hostel, we had to talk with the front desk clerk. He was situated behind a glass window—like buying tickets at a movie theater.
But this time, instead of a Japanese clerk, we were met with a stocky, blonde, unshaven foreigner.
“Ya gotta reservation, then?”
After giving him my ID and confirming our reservation, he met us at the door. He gave us our key and instructed us on storing our shoes in the provided shoe cubbies.
Once inside, we were greeted to a whole group of guests surrounding a low table. This hostel seemed much livelier than the one in Nagano. The guests immediately introduced themselves and invited us to take a seat.
First, we met a white female foreigner, who was the girlfriend of our hotel clerk. She was Elizabeth—from London.
Our hotel clerk was actually a guest himself, just operating the front desk in order to gain a little extra money to fund their trip. He was an Australian named Daniel.
There were also two Japanese—a young man and woman, but they weren’t travelling together.
The young man’s name was Tomonori. He was skinny, had a messy head of black hair, and wore thick-rimmed glasses. “Nice to… meet you,” was the extent of his broken English.
As for the young woman, she introduced herself as Tomoyo. She was fluent in English and only had a hint of an accent. She was born and raised in Japan, but regularly traveled in and out of the country.
Tomoyo wasn’t particularly feminine. She didn’t dress like any of the Japanese women I’d seen so far. She wore puffy pants that looked good for use in the rain, and a long-sleeved shirt—functional clothes for a backpacker. She even had a large backpack like the kind Jotaro and I carried. She gave us a smile, a wave, and a perfunctory “Nice to meet you.”
“Roight then,” Daniel said. “What brings ya to Japan?”
I prepared my stock answer—the one that required the least amount of explanation while being closest to the truth:
“Well, I’m thinking of teaching overseas and thought Japan would be cool.”
Daniel and Elizabeth nodded and said, “Us too!”
They explained that, before coming to Japan, they had taught English in Vietnam for nearly a year. Before that, they did Hong Kong.
And before that, Daniel was in a worldwide farming program. This allowed him to assist farmers in several countries all over the world. This eventually brought him to Hokkaido, where the winters got so cold that the buckets of water he fetched from the bottom of the hill would freeze on the way back up. He was liking Osaka much better.
“If you’re interested in teaching overseas,” Elizabeth said, “China and Vietnam are great places to start. You can even use that experience to help you land a job here in Japan.”
China? Vietnam? Not that I’d ever been to either, but I could only imagine bad things about those places.
Plus, what was the point if it wasn’t going to be Japan? The whole purpose of teaching is just to get in the country!
Before I could respond with a stock expression of gratitude, Tomoyo leaned over and spoke up.
“Why are you so certain you want to teach in Japan?” Then, a smirk grew on her face. “You got yellow fever, or something?”
That was blunt!!
“Haha, nah,” I shot back. “I just thought Japan seemed interesting, and I’d heard a lot of good things about it.”
Even through his broken English, Tomonori joined in too:
“Maybe he is otaku?”
Him and Tomoyo both laughed.
“I’m just joking,” Tomoyo said. She motioned to a set of mismatches glasses on the table. “You guys should drink with us!”
Glad to change the subject, I accepted the offer.
“Sure, but what is it exactly?”
“It’s, umm… Special Japanese tea,” Tomoyo said.
“Yes! It a special Japanese tea!!” Tomonori repeated, hardly able to contain his laughter.
I took a drink. No surprise—it was alcoholic. But it was also fruity, too. Not my favorite combination, but they were only shot-sized, so it wasn’t bad. They were easy to put down though, that’s for sure.
Daniel jumped back into the conversation to ask what we had planned for tomorrow. Jotaro and I had nothing, so they gave us some suggestions:
“Roight… First then, ya might wanna head to Nara Park. Ya gonna see a lotta deer, and you kin pet ‘em. Then, on anotha day, you kin go over ta Mount Kouya, and check out the big boodher.”
Jotaro and I looked at each other. “The big boodher?”
“Yeh, roight. The big boodher. There’s all sortsa temples up in the mountains, and in one of em is this massive boodher.”
“Got it,” I said. “We’ll definitely check it out.”
It was starting to get late, and people were heading back to their rooms. Jotaro and I took our bags up the stairs to see our rooms for the first time.
We went up four floors of a winding, metal staircase until we finally found our room. It was just one room, and it was the size of a room for one person. No bathroom or amenities—those were situated on their own floors below ours.
Most of our room was filled with the bunk bed we’d be sleeping on, with just barely enough space to walk around it.
We dumped off our stuff, took our showers, and got into bed.
As I tried to fall asleep, the conversation with Tomoyo kept replaying in my mind. I could already imagine what she was thinking to herself:
Fanatic. Otaku. Weaboo.
Is an obsession with Japan more acceptable in the west than it is in Japan, itself?
Either way, I wouldn’t be getting out of here without another confrontation.
Best to just lay low for now.