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A Wrap-up of Kanazawa

Greetings from Tokyo. Well, technically I'm staying in Sayama City, Saitama (which is the prefecture just North of Tokyo) about an hour outside the city center by train. My host family--from my six-month AFS exchange trip in high school--kindly agreed to let me stay with them for the next two weeks. I've got an interesting lineup of coffee shops to check out from the get-go, and I'll have a lot of me-time on the train to and from the city (thank goodness for the online Chicago Public Library).

That being said, I had a lovely last few days in Kanazawa that ended up being much more social than I expected.

First, one of my friends (who I randomly met in a cafe last summer--we hit it off and I saw on facebook that she's a regular at Transit Beans so we reconnected earlier this month) randomly asked me if I wanted to go to a "tea party" at one of her friend's house. I said yes--why not?--and she and her husband picked me up in their sporty blue car.

When we arrived, our host had prepared this selection of handmade desserts--chocolate cake, a sort of cheesecake, and a mango mousse--with coffee. They were all very kind and we had some very interesting conversations about English naming practices--namely middle names and people who have "XYZ the second" or "XYZ Junior" attached after their initial names.

Here we all are, looking silly. Our party ended when our host (on the right) had to leave to pick up her kid from kindergarten.

Two days later, I met up with ANOTHER friend I met in a cafe (she's very global--speaks four languages and has lived in many countries) who just moved to Kanazawa about a month ago. In the basement of the train station there was a local handicrafts fair, so we went to check out the offerings.

I bought a ceramic mug. Everyone knows I love mugs. And because I'm a regular at Blanket Cafe (who uses a lot of this guy's ceramics!) he knocked 500 yen off the price (i.e. about $5) so that was a pleasant surprise.

Later that weekend I spent some time wandering up and down Tatemachi--a pedestrian-only shopping street where lots of the "young people" go to hang out here. It's near the MacDonald's, the Taito game center, the local Animate (for all your nerdy anime needs) and some cute boutique-y shops.

One of the shops on this street is a chain called Village/Vanguard. They specialize in both books and just weird things (and they're really cheap, so if you're ever looking for a fun souvenir for yourself, it's a place to look). The shop is organized thematically: all the things relating to one topic (whether they be books or items) are all clustered together in one part of the store.

For instance, here is the "bread" themed section:

Here is the "weird body-part and baby-shrine" section:

And here is the "Nazi/ Hitler" section:

I honestly believe that someone needs to rethink their shop design, because my first thought when they displayed the books that way was "it looks like a shrine". And that's not the image you want to go for with books on Hitler.

Moving on.

On Monday I went to visit Kanazawa University where I was indeed offered a job! I spent a little bit of time at their library's cafe, but most of my time was spent getting introduced to the two possible areas I'd work: Public Relations or the International Services section. In the former I would help with university publications (interviewing students and teachers about their projects and research), social media (particularly translation!), and press releases--basically helping the university promote itself online and to the community. In the latter, I would work in some way with Japanese students looking to study abroad or with representatives from Kanazawa University's sister schools (which includes a school in rural Illinois and Tufts).

There's the view of the campus from the roof of the administrative offices.

The school also makes its own wine with grapes it grows on the school farm. Why doesn't Yale do this? (Does Yale do this?)

And before I forget, there's an assembly of all the cafes and coffee shops I visited in Kanazawa (one unique drink from each). From left to right:

Blanket Cafe/ Blue Monday/ Cafe Takeya/ Collabon/ curio/ Good Day Chai Stand/ Green Bar/ Hickory/ Higashide Coffee/ Ishikawamon/ Kanazawa Coffee Shop Honten/ Katsura Coffee/ Kotomi/ Kotori/ Nazoya Cafe/ Oh Life Delicious Book Cafe/ Safu Vege/ Starbucks/ Tachibana Coffee/ Transit Beans/ Umi and Orugoru/ Urara

Yes, I know that a few of those drinks are smoothies or tea and not coffee...

My first full day in Tokyo/Sayama has mostly been preparation for the next few weeks. Finalizing on google maps where, exactly, all these various cafes are and starting to process the data from the 47-odd surveys I've managed to accumulate (and struggling to read everyone's handwriting).

My host brother and I did stop to the Sayama City Citizens Center where there was an art exhibit of art by local residents, and my host grandmother had one picture (see above) on display, which was cool!

Tomorrow I head downtown to Blue Bottle Coffee (an American firm expanding in Japan and I hope to pick their brains about what purposeful adaptations they made to "appeal to the Japanese customer", if any) and potentially meeting up with my Yale Japanese teacher!


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