I'm now two weeks into my stay here, and a lot has happened. I've met a lot of cool people, and seen some beautiful places. I'm having fun every day at Emina Backpackers here in Otaru.
The people in Japan still haven't stopped surprising me, two weeks into my visit. It goes beyond people here being exceptionally nice, though; everyone seems to be trying their hardest to enjoy their lives, and to spread their fun to the people around them. It's totally different than what I'm used to back home, where strangers mostly keep to themselves. Staying at Emina Backpackers has allowed me to meet a lot of great people because guests are always coming and going.
One group of traveling guys took half an hour trying to find the coolest possible kanji name they could give me. One jokingly asked if he could give me the character for "old lady," but I noisily protested in broken Japanese, which they found very amusing. The name they ended up giving me was pretty cool in the end. They tried their best! Really cool group of guys. We talked for a long time.
Another interesting guest we had was a young middleschool girl, Miyabi-chan. She practiced her English on me by introducing herself and then telling me I was cool. When I told her she was the cool one, she hid her face in embarrassment. Charming girl. She's also an artist, pianist, and can ride a unicycle and juggle - very busy kid, I guess. Impressive, though, and talking to her made it obvious to me that she was very smart. I talked to her and her parents for a few hours with Motoko-san helping me with translations, and then they all went to bed for the night. The Next morning, she taught me how to play a new card game, and then proceeded in destroying me at it multiple times. A half hour later, it was time for her and her family to leave. We said our English "it was nice meeting you!"s to each other, and then her and her mother walked out to their car. And then Miyabi-chan ran back in to say bye to me once more. Too cute, hahah!
Cho-san is a friend of Motoko-san and her husband, Chad-san. An international student from China, he's one of the latest people I've met because of Emina Backpacker's. Like everyone else I've talked to, he's surprisingly cool. Cho-san is studying at the university here in town, and fluently speaks Chinese and Japanese; English is the third language he's taken on, and he's very proficient at it. He took me up the university recently to meet other international students and to study Japanese. Because of him, I made another ten or so friends, and had to go buy myself a Japanese phone. There are people from all over the world in the club, and all of them know at least two languages, with a few of them knowing five - pretty incredible! Looking forward to hanging out with Cho-san and the rest of them more for the rest of my stay. They all seem really interesting.
I've had a lot of fun meeting all my new friends here, but I've had almost as much fun exploring the town of Otaru itself. The place is incredibly pretty. Otaru is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and the sea on its fourth. Because of that, no matter which direction you're facing, you're going to have a great view. The canal area the city is famous for is gorgeous, but the rest of the town is no slouch, either. The whole place is full of hills and small streets, with traditional Japanese buildings and temples breaking up the very clean newer buildings. At night, the town's shops light up brilliantly; it feels like you're walking through a charming old amusement park more than a town at some times. Great atmosphere, for sure! I haven't climbed Otaru's famous Mount Tengu yet, but the view from Temiya park was pretty incredible itself. On the opposite side of town from Mount Tengu, Temiya sits on a very very large hill, and overlooks the bay and the rest of Otaru. You can see out to the ocean on your left, and across the whole town to the mountains on the other side on your right. Comepletely beautiful. I can't wait to go out painting here. Otaru is one of the prettiest places I've ever seen, without a doubt. The blooming sakura trees at Temiya park didn't look real; the whole park is full of cherry blossom trees. When they're in full bloom, you're surrounded by a sea of white flowers and falling petals. Pictures do them no justice. They're simply incredible!
I've only been in Otaru for two weeks, and I've had nothing but great times the whole time I've been here. I'm here for another month, and I only expect things to get even better as I explore the town and meet more new people. Otaru is pretty amazing!