Getting settled in Utsunomiya

We got up Monday morning, took the free shuttle bus back to the airport from the hotel, and used the money they gave us to buy bus tickets from there to Utsunomiya station.  My card didn't work at the ATMs, so we had to use Jamin's for everything big, and I'll have to pay him back when I get my card working.

Here is the first shot of Sky Tree from the bus.  It was pretty cloudy all day.
We arrived at the station a little before 1:00, and since we weren't supposed to meet up with Charlie until 4:30, we decided we'd walk there and take our time looking at things, eating lunch, and so on.  We briefly stopped at a large shrine along the main road.
Stairs up to the main part of the shrine.  It's pretty striking in the middle of a busy city street.

Jamin looking at the large torii in an open space in front of the stairs.
We climbed up some side stairs instead of the main ones, but they worked around to the same point.  There were a few different buildings up there, but this one seemed most interesting to me.

A long line of torii leading to a shrine that had a small table with offerings to a local god, I suppose.  It looked like a few people had left some food, including convenience store bread.

There were I believe four kitsune (fox) statues just outside the front doorway, three of which had red bandanas tied around them.
I didn't take many more pictures today, unfortunately.  It's mostly just been typical Japanese city streets, which I've photographed enough times in the past, I think.  However, Jamin and I spotted this as we were walking.

a photograph of a restaurant named "Rice Reaf" (Leaf with an R)
Somewhat unfortunate Engrish, though definitely not the worst I've seen.
The shrine didn't take too long to see, so we went the opposite way down a side street towards some castle ruins, I think.  The maps said that, but we didn't make it that far.  Instead, we saw a shopping arcade on Orion street and decided to walk through looking for food and interesting stores.  We stopped to eat at a Matsuya, where I got a "hamburg" steak (more like meatloaf) and egg meal, and Jamin got some gyuudon (beef bowl - beef on rice), to which he added a raw egg, stirring it in.  I've tried similar, but didn't care for the nearly raw egg, as you may recall if you read my blog from two years ago.

After the meal, we went to a store in the arcade that was all anime-based goods.  It was actually several stores in one building, each on separate floors.  We looked around for most of the remaining time there, but didn't end up buying anything.  I might go back later for something though.  They had lots of used figures for good deals, music CDs, DVDs, and a bunch of doujinshi and other books.  For manga, though, you can't beat Book Off's prices, so I didn't even look through them here.

As it was getting close to time to meet up, we left and walked the remaining two miles or so to the school where Charlie teaches.  I didn't have an actual map, so we were relying on reading the signs and talking to people to get directions.  We found what I was pretty sure was the school wall, and a teacher standing at a nearby corner, so I asked for directions to the specific area I wanted in order to confirm, and even though I was the one asking, he immediately turned to Jamin to respond.  The same thing happened when we talked to the crossing guard in front of the main gate, and, really, every time we've talked to anyone so far.  It's already getting a little annoying, but the real problem is that because he's here, everyone assumes he speaks Japanese and talks at full speed without enunciating, making it harder on me trying to actually understand.  I generally get it, though.  Just not used to hearing the language like that quite yet.  Well, I shouldn't say that.  Many people spoke to me as if I were fluent during previous visits (probably in hopes I was so they didn't have to worry about it).  But now that I've got an Asian with me, they assume I'm not.

We met Charlie outside the school, after giving up waiting for him inside because we weren't quite sure where inside we would see him.  I was actually surprised they let us in, but it was after class hours, with just the clubs still around, so I guess they weren't too worried.  By this point, it had started raining enough to warrant an umbrella, and that kept up for most of the rest of the day.

He led us down the street to his apartment, where we dropped off most of our things (including my camera) and took a short break before going out to the stores in the area.  We first went to a Hard Off/Book Off (same company, different types of products).  The Hard Off was for old hardware.  We got an ethernet cable to use with Jamin's mini wireless router he brought, and they also had a bunch of old games and game systems, really old CRT TVs, oscilloscope, and other cool stuff.  I ended up buying a cheap PS2 game (Memories Off Duet, a visual novel I know only by name), and a few random manga for practice later (one of which turned out to also be a currently-airing anime, which I didn't even realize until after I bought it because I didn't check the title).

After that, we stopped by the supermarket and got some groceries.  I mostly picked up non-perishables that I could eat for snacks and light breakfasts, and an old karaage bentou (fried chicken with rice and some small side dishes) for dinner.  We spent the rest of the evening talking and making plans for the next few days, and went to bed a little after midnight.

We're now waiting for our luggage to arrive.  Charlie left for work a few minutes ago.  As soon as we get our luggage, get cleaned up and repacked, then we're heading out to Tokyo for a few days to tour around Akihabara and Asakusa, possibly among other places.  I won't be bringing my laptop, so no more blog posts at least until we come back Friday night.