Some comments on a recent post of mine made me realise that I’ve spent a lot of words being cynical and superior about the people I meet here. Which really wasn’t my intention at all. For the most part, I have a great time hanging around with Kansai Gaidai students, Japanese and gaijin alike. The reason I post stories about meeting stupid and prejudiced people is a) because it’s out of the ordinary and b) because I think it’s funnier than the average details of my day. But from now on I think I’ll throttle back on the cynicism and talk about some good things that have happened.
Like yesterday, when I went out to Tsuruhashi, the mainly Korean district of Osaka. Chae, a Korean guy from Seminar House 4, was taking a bunch of people out to dinner at a Korean restaurant. I arrived late, as I had to buy some stuff in Den-Den Town, the part of Osaka famous for electronics, and spent a few minutes waiting to meet up with Chae. Walking out of Tsuruhashi station, you run into a cramped warren of alleyways with train lines running overhead and lanterns strung between buildings, filled with stalls selling Korean food. It had a kind of Blade Runner look to it, only less menacing.
A random guy stopped me on the street to practice his English. I kept answering him in Japanese, only to be reminded that he was Korean. An important distinction, and one that I hadn’t had to grapple with before then. Yet another thing I’m grateful for learning.
Chae led me down the street to the restaurant, accessible through a tiny door that I had to bend double to get through. The place served yaki-niku, a type of dish where you get a selection of meat and vegetables and cook them yourself on a hot plate. I sat cross-legged around a big table with 10 other people, almost all of whom I didn’t know before. It was a fun night. Some people were new, some had been here last semester, but everyone was out to learn, not to prove what they already knew. In that kind of relaxed atmosphere, you can’t help but have a good time.