Day 6: A Day with Mari-chan

So, the story goes that when I visited Epcot with Cameren in 2008 I met Megumi Kurata who was working as a Disney Cast Member in the Japan Pavilion at Epcot. I kept in touch with Meg as best I could leading up to my trip in 2010. Unfortunately, when my trip happened in April of that year Meg was out of the country for business. However, she was nice enough to introduce me to Mami-chan Ikegami, who I also met, though didn’t remember at the time, at Epcot. While traveling through Osaka last year I asked Mami-chan if she had any friends that I could hang out with, she introduced me to Mari-chan. We had a good time last year and kept in touch. Today I got to hang out with her in Osaka, kind of a date.

We decided to go to Spa World, which has two floors dedicated to Japanese Onsens with different themes. I went there last year with part of my host family. This year, me and Mari-chan went to the top to their Pool Zone. This was nothing short of impressive. Imagine, a pool elevated up about 10 floors with clear windows on all sides with nothing but city. It is really a sight to behold, so is Mari-chan by the way Smile

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This place really is amazing, but its nothing compared to the newly redone Osaka station. In Japan trains are central to the culture, Japan literally could not exist without them since it is a proven fact that highways are not scalable with large amounts of traffic (ask New York, Chicago, and LA about that) thus Japan MUST rely on trains. But the major train terminals are nothing short of insane from an engineering perspective.

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The Japanese have made it an art to integrate these train stations so completely into the city that often, unless you see the tracks, you don’t even know they are there (as in the case with the Tokyo main station). The station is literally built within malls and other entertainment facilities. There is nothing even close to this that I have seen in America. Perhaps the only thing that is slightly close might be Penn station or Grand Central in New York, but even these pale in comparison.

And the underground!! It is NUTS!! So many stores of all kinds. There literally is an entire second city underneath the first city. Its even crazier when you realize the Japanese spend a lot of time underground in such an earthquake prone area. This is why I go to and love Japan, the engineering is just off the charts and you can see why this is one of, if not the most, technologically advanced nations on the planet.

Anyway, so me and Mari-chan went to the pool and had a GREAT time, even though we had to wait in line a lot, it was still a lot of fun and Mari-chan’s English is getting much better and I am very happy to help her. She also helps me with my Japanese.

So after, we went to meet Mari-chan’s Mom. I always enjoy meeting Japanese parents b/c quite often their English is limited, as opposed to the younger kids who are usually actively learning it. This means, you have to use Japanese and its very good practice. They also tend to appreciate your efforts and will always forgive you if you make a mistake. Mari-chan’s mom was awesome and even was kind enough to help me pick out a gift for my Mom.

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You will notice in the picture that Mari-chan is wearing a special necklace, her Mom is as well. Apparently it helps relieve back pain. I have a lot of back pain since I am always carrying so many things. I decided I wanted one, so we headed to “Phiten” to get one. Somehow, I even got a free massage because I looked tired. This was a funny scene since, for a while, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, lots of very fast Japanese being spoken at this time.

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As you can see in the last picture, she found the sore spot on my left shoulder. I almost always tend to have stress buildup her and it gets REALLY sore. At this moment I am covered in patches that are helping to relax my muscles thanks to a cream she used. I am told I cant take the stuff off for three days, lol. But she said, if I do this, I wont have any pain when I climb Fuji, and boy wouldn’t that be nice.

Tomorrow me and Mari-chan will head to Kyoto to do some sightseeing. I am facing a problem right now, I am not sure where I can reasonably get my laundry done. The hotels wants about $80 for it and its not worth that much to me, Ill wear dirty clothes before I pay that much. Hopefully a solution will present itself.

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