🇯🇵 Japan: Yonago, Donuts, and Shopping

January 15th, 2017

The sofa bed, while perhaps not ergonomically great for my spine, is the softest thing I've slept on since I was kicked out of my bedroom by my renter back in August. When I finally get up I join Luke and Haley in the living room where we have a leisurely start to our Sunday with coffee and oatmeal.

For lunch we drive to Yonago. I'm all turned around, directionally speaking. Yonago is westward, which puts the Sea of Japan to our north and the Daisen mountain in front of us to the left. For some reason I always imaged Yonago being north of where my brother lived with coastline to the west. I should have looked at map instead of assuming every coast is like California.

The drive is beautiful, though the weather prevents a good clear view of the mountain. My sight lines are often obscured by wind fences along the highway. I get momentary glimpses of grandeur as we coast along at 70 kph.

The restaurant is called Gust Yonago in English and it is a "family restaurant." This means it is a sit down restaurant with a drink bar. We're shown to a table and given menus. We take our time looking at the photos of the food and Luke helps translate the text for us. When we're ready to order we push a button to signal the wait staff to pay us a visit. Japan does so many things right.

Our table is near the window and the sunshine on my back is warm. It doesn't take long for us to shed our winter coats and by the end of the meal I'm ready to go back into the cold.

Next stop is the AEON Mall. AEON (pronounced "eon" here) actually has a mall in Zhuhai and it's fun to see the familiar pink logo. We browse shops and explore the arcade. Arcades are noisy and the games are all rigged against you, but they are fun to walk through occasionally. Luke tries his hand at a crane game, there's only one object in the bin to grab: a big fat plushy cat. He snags it with the two fingered claw, but the abrupt stop when the arm reaches full height causes the toy to drop back down. It's a little bit closer to the hole now, but still several tries away from being won.

They have four player Mario Kart and I'd love to play, but some kids are already racing. We walk around to the horse betting game. A handful of older men sit in slightly reclined chairs watching digital horses race. They place bets on which one will win. It's bizarre.

"They know those aren't real horses, right?"

Of course the arcade has a bunch of pachinko games and we put money into one of the machines. The game is a cross between pinball, plinko, and slots. I turn a knob to release a pinball which shoots up the side in an arc. If I give it too much power, it shoots up and around and the ball is wasted. If I don't give it enough power, nothing happens. I keep twisting the knob, firing one ball at a time. When I get it right, the ball falls into an open place and bounces between little metal pins, like plinko. If it follows the right path, it has a chance to go into the one special hole in the middle. If this happens, a digital slot machine appears in the video screen and I have a chance to win, or something. I think. We start with 150 balls and it takes a good 40 or so before we get the first one in the center hole.

The characters on the slots never match up, though. Soon, I get a rhythm down and we get a few more chances, but no luck. When we have about 38 balls left a local comes and shows us how to clip the ball shooter knob in place so it continually fires and you have the best chance of winning. The rapid firing soon eliminates the rest of our balls. While a few make it to the middle hole, none give us prizes from the slots. My brother says he thinks hooking the firing knob like that is illegal, but when you're fighting these odds, that's probably the only way these guys stand a chance.

We exit the arcade, ears thankful for the respite from noise. We make our way down to the other end of the mall and stop at a dollar store. Technically it's a ¥100 store, or something like that. I load up, buying gloves with fingers that can operate touch screens, some decorative tape, and a little candy.

I did not buy this, but it looks useful.

Our next stop is Mister Donut. It's a small store and full of people. We picked a busy time to go. I end up buying five donuts. Don't judge me, they don't have good donuts in China.

Next door to Mister Donut is a pawn shop and this is where I go a little crazy. (No, five donuts wasn't crazy. It's a weeks worth of breakfast. Now shut up.) The store has a huge collection of everything from games, to manga, to clothing, to CDs. I buy a couple odds and ends, but once I find the CD section, it's over. I spend close to ¥6500, mostly on music. I wanted to get more, but my responsible side finally regained control of the wheel. I don't actually have room in my luggage for anything extra. Now I have to buy a backpack too. #firstworldproblems

For supper we stop at あまんて (Amante). It's a wonderful little restaurant and the food is delicious. We're the only customers. Luke and Haley tell me this is one of the best food places around. I don't tell them that I hear that from everyone these days. 😂 😝 😜

On the drive home we stop at a supermarket for some groceries. I pick up some hand warmers, it seems like a useful thing to purchase in this weather. Luke and Haley get ingredients for the week's upcoming meals and some "melt in your mouth" chocolate which is absolutely fantastic. I eat way too much of this candy over the following days.

There's a brand new convenience store called コスモス (Cosmos) and we need to stop because Luke and Haley have been waiting for this place to open. The store is bright and white with high ceilings and wide aisles. We browse the food options and purchase a couple of snacks. They have a bin of socks: plushy socks that looks both warm and stylish.

If the Chinese Zodiac says this is the year of the Rooster, the Phil Zodiac says this is the year of socks. (Just as the Chinese New Year doesn't start until late January, the Phil New Year starts mid December.) Until recently I've never really had socks that weren't simply black or white. In the last two months, though, I've purchased six pair of socks in a variety of colors and, yes, gasp, even stripes. Who have I become?

I bought a two pack. I should have bought more... is it too late to go back?

The last stop on our way home is right next door to Cosmos so we just walk over. It's a Lawsons. Lawsons is a little drug store chain, similar to a 7-Eleven. Haley uses the copier/printer to print out some sheets for lessons from a flash drive. While we stand inside the ground outside gets pounded with small hard balls of snow. Graupel is the scientific term, I later find out, but at the time I call it "hard snow" and it looks like it could be Dippin' Dots ice cream.

Weather of the Future™