I am the first to admit that I am not the easiest person to travel with. I am a stickler for an itinerary, a Nazi about punctuality and don’t even think about getting your hands on my map when we are sightseeing. If you don’t adhere to my strict expectations of travelling etiquette there is a fair chance I will never travel with you again…ever.
From prior experience I have determined that travelling with a member of the opposite sex usually poses the most challenges and is riddled with the most dramas. Men on the whole are disorganised, think communication is a nicety rather than a necessity and despite all their claims are more often than not terrible with directions.
So when my fellow ALT and friend Cheyne suggested we check out Sendai for a weekend I understandably had my reservations. But in the spirit of ‘Yes Man’ I feel that my time in Japan is limited and I need to make the most of it…throwing myself at every opportunity I can. So I thought on the proposal for a good 10 seconds before agreeing to meet in the city that is somewhat of a midpoint between our two home towns in Japan.
Little did Cheyne know, but the weekend was a test of sorts. A test to see how my travelling tolerance has improved but more importantly, a test to see how Cheyne would perform as a travelling companion. Could he disprove some of my theories of travelling with men?! It was only 2 days right? Surely it couldn’t go too wrong…
Cheyne’s prospects did not start well when I stepped off the Shinkansen at 11.15pm Friday night and he was not there to greet me as planned. Under normal 21st Century circumstances this wouldn’t be a problem…I would have just called him to find out where he was. I would have, but Cheyne, in a bid to keep his life simple and relatively technology free (ironic coming from one completely obsessed with computer games) does not own a mobile phone. Strike 1.
After a scan of the platform area, I deemed the Sendai Miyagi station far too large to search for Mr Mattos without a team of trained beagles or the like. I concluded that he must be running late and therefore the best course of action was to head for the hotel and wait for him there. After all, I had my trusty iPhone on me so he could call or email me…so long as he wasn’t lying dead in a ditch somewhere.
At 2am Saturday morning, Cheyne arrived at the hotel looking like a man returned from war. In my sleepy haze I heard the words ‘forgot to bring the hotel details’ and ‘couldn’t find a pay phone’ and ‘no internet cafes’. No bother to me really…I hadn’t lost any sleep over the matter…literally…I had been sleeping peacefully while Cheyne wandered the streets of Sendai for 3 hours.
Saturday morning things began a little better…namely we were in the same location. We started the day with a plan to find the Sendai Loople bus which would take us to all the main sites of Sendai….apart from the whiskey factory Cheyne wanted to see. On our way to find the said bus, we stumbled on the food markets we also had wanted to check out…serendipity? Things were looking even better. We marvelled at the curious and bizarre array of fruit, veg, fish and miscellaneous produce, walking away with some jumbo inari for breakfast. Cheyne’s travelling companion stocks rose a little with food in my stomach.
With rice to sustain us, the bus was found and we happily made our way to our first destination… ‘The Site of Sendai Castle’. Unlike the title suggests, there isn’t actually a castle there…it was destroyed in WWII. But Cheyne and I were still sufficiently entertained by a Japanese wedding at Gokoku Shrine and a little man producing hand crafted wares in the gift store. I must admit, Cheyne gained brownie points here too for being as equally excited about the random assortment of souvenirs as I was.
Next was Osaki Hachimangu Shrine where we took in the spectacle of it’s ornate rainbow awnings and intricate shingled roof. A shrine like most others it was serene and had the obligatory mountain of stairs to climb to its entry.
It was at this point we decided it was time for Cheyne to pop his cherry…his ‘Loft’ cherry that is. We had both spotted the glorious yellow signage next to Sendai Station on arrival and having heard my praise of the stationery store, Cheyne was willing to take a look. This is when his travelling compatibility rating went through the roof. Anyone who is willing to step over that yellow threshold with me deserves a medal…seriously. After a quick ramen to bolster us for the adventure we headed straight for the sticker section of Loft and followed it up with the stationery and toy sections. Again Mr Mattos rose to the occasion and proved that it’s not just me that loves this store as I found myself dragging him away, a full shopping bag in hand.
Post Loft we hatched a new plan, to go in search of some umeshu. Cheyne and I both have a sweet tooth and the plum wine was beckoning after all those stairs and shopping. We dropped our purchases back at the hotel, showered, changed and headed in the direction of the action.
A few blocks later we found ourselves in the main covered shopping drag of Sendai, Ichibancho….looking at shoes. A slight detour from our main mission, Cheyne humored my need to look at (and buy) another pair of Converse All Stars. This earned him bonus points as a) men hate shopping and b) Cheyne has a size 33 foot…there was no way he was going to find anything in that store for himself, even if he wanted to. One of the sales assistants confirmed this by practically laughing at Cheyne when he asked for his size in one of the shoes…
We eventually made our way out of the shopping area and found ourselves surrounded by bars and restaurants. Which one to choose?! I bravely left the decision entirely up to Cheyne and after a few failed attempts, he came through with the goods. Just as my patience was wearing thin and I was about to take control of the situation, he found us a little gem of a bar called ‘Amber Rondo’. A short time later we were happily sipping our scrumptious umeshu while waiting for our chorizo pizza to arrive (which was tiny, just like the bar).
Sunday we returned to the shopping area and decided to have some fun in one of the arcades. I knew this was dangerous territory. There was every chance Cheyne was going to undo all his good work over the weekend and sabotage any future travelling potential with me. Arcades are Cheynes thing. Computer games are Cheyne’s thing. These are not my things. Though he lured me in with the promise of a purikura (photo booth) opportunity so I was powerless to say no. Purikura is my thing.
I endured a whole 5 minutes of watching Mr Mattos play Gundam before politely excusing myself to use the bathroom and get a drink. Gundam is definitely not my thing. Post Gundam, Cheyne was happily charged up on game adrenalin and willing to head to the purikura where I must admit, he was subjected to at least 15 minutes of torture. I say torture but I am pretty sure I saw delight in his eyes when he discovered you can add pretty bunny ears to your pictures…
As we parted ways later that day at Sendai station I did a mental tally of Cheyne’s travelling compatibility points from the weekend. On the whole he performed pretty well…for a guy. I might just be able to travel with him again. Though I did hear he caught the wrong train going home…