Flowers, Nightlife and Ghosts

As mentioned before, this week was the Hiroshima Flower Festival. It was held on the 3-5th in Peace Park, a large park near the Genbaku Dome that is both a memorial to remind everyone of the horrors suffered when the bomb was dropped as well as to remind people of how important peace is. The Flower Festival is like most Japanese festivals only on a much larger scale. That is, the park and streets become entirely filled with food stands, random stalls and stages.

Origami cranes are a big symbol around Peace Park. My friends and I kept making jokes about the name of the festival, because we saw more food and cranes than we did flowers.

The festival food I ate was delicious, and I was very excited to find a bubble tea stand. In Minnesota I’d become something of an addict to the stuff, but after coming to Japan I was mostly unable to find it. I made a loud, excited noise when I saw the stand and ran straight over to it, much to the confusion of my friends. We also ran into a Korean food booth where I knew several of the people working. One of them was nice enough to treat me to 떡볶이, ddeokbokki, which is sort of like spicy mochi (mochi being very condensed, sticky, and delicious rice cakes).

Of the performances we saw at the festival, there are two that stood out to me. The first was a group of Japanese country singers. They were dressed like cowboys, so my friend and I had a bit of a chuckle… Until we heard their music. They were actually very talented, and when they sang in English it was almost without accent. We stayed and recorded their performance of John Denver’s “Country Roads” before moving on. The other performance we paused for was a girl rock group who were dressed in flamboyant outfits. They too were fairly talented and seemed to be something along the lines of a visual kei performance. No wonder I was intrigued.

My friends and I found the booth run by several students we knew at Hiroshima University and hung out there for a while. Some of our fellow exchange students were volunteering there, teaching kids how to fold cranes. After sticking around there for a while we were getting tired. We did a quick pass through Hiroshima’s shopping area, Hondoori, before hopping on the train back to Saijo.

That was the first trip into Hiroshima this week. The second was last night. You see, ever since I saw a fantastic documentary about host clubs entitled “The Great Happiness Space” I’ve had a strange fixation on them. I’ve decided that at least once, before I leave Japan, I will experience a host club first-hand. Last night I ventured into the city again, fully intending to have my host club experience.

Naturally, a host club, a place where you basically pay beautiful men to serve you drinks and flirt with you, isn’t in the most upstanding part of town. My friend ventured with me into this strange part of town to help me find one of my clubs. I’m very sorry I dragged her all around. She never got the gelato she wanted to eat while in Hiroshima.

That part of town was all flashy lights, hostesses (the female counterpart of the host) and drunken salarymen. We found the building where the host club I’d looked up information on was supposed to be only to find that apparently my information was a bit older than I’d thought. As my friend and I walked down the road a bit a salaryman randomly said hello to us. We stopped for a quick conversation that ended in, “A host club? I know where one is.” He kindly led us to the place where we’d started – apparently the club I’d intended to go to was under new management and a new name – but it wasn’t open yet. When this salaryman opened the door to a blackened club and told us he knew the owner, it was okay, that was when we thought things were getting a bit too shady and bid him farewell.

With a sigh we wandered a bit farther down the street. We came to a corner and started laughing, because we were faced with this:

That’s a host club if I ever saw one. After trying to find the club in a tangle of poorly labeled buildings, I attempted to go up. The club was apparently also not open at that time. The elevator ended up taking me to the floor of a hostess club where a beautiful woman and a confused looking young man gave me strange looks. “I’m trying to go to floor 3,” I told them, pressing the nonworking button several times. The young man tried to press it himself before saying, “Ah, it must not be open today.”

With a sigh I returned back to the first floor. My friend and I wandered around a bit before stopping at an information booth to ask if any host clubs were around. The person working at the information desk sent an older gentleman after us. I’m going to guess he was the owner of some type of club. Even though we addressed him in Japanese, he spoke in poor English.

“The host clubs don’t open until 20 o’clock.” 20 o’clock? We asked. “Midnight,” he told us in Japanese. I repeated his Japanese. “Yes, 20 o’clock.” he said again in poor English.

We thanked him and headed on our way. The last train was shortly after midnight, and I didn’t feel like bothering with some sort of accommodations in the city. This night was to be a failure. I figure it’s okay – I think I have the opportunity to fulfill my dream at the end of this month. My friend from Minnesota is going to study in Beppu and is stopping in Hiroshima on his way down to Kyushu. When he gets a hotel room there, I’ll be able to crash on the floor for a night. My dream will come true!

When my friend and I arrived back in Saijo, tired and defeated, it was just a little bit after midnight. My friend opted for sleep, but I wanted to do something else so that the night didn’t feel like a total waste. I called up my friend and we bought some stuff at a 7-11 before heading down to the lake area to chill for a while.

When we first arrived, we went to it at the usual spot but found there was an entire family of cats occupying the area. It was a mother and four kittens huddled in the shadow, watching us warily. My friend and I were both in awe at the cuteness for a while before heading down to a table closer to the lake, one uninhabited by kittens.

After about an hour or so of conversing down there we saw someone come down the path. This isn’t so unusual. The dorms are close to this area and there really aren’t that many cheap places to hang out. We watched him with the vague curiosity you’d give anyone walking around in the early hours of the morning, expecting either more of his friends to appear or maybe for him to light a cigarette, smoke it and go.

Instead we saw that the figure was holding a kitten. He placed it back in the shadows. We wondered how this guy knew the cats were there and kept watching. Soon we saw that the guy was rearranging the kittens like he had some strange form of OCD. Then he walked away from the cats like he were going to head back up the path to the dormitories… Only to curve off the path and disappear into the woods. He came back out, grabbed a cat, and disappeared into the trees once more. Then he reappeared, lit a cigarette, smoked it, went back to the cats, then started heading off once again. He vanished amongst the trees in a different spot. This time, he didn’t reappear.

“What the hell was that?” my friend asked with a laugh.

Jokingly I said, “He’s gotta be a ghost.”

My friend laughed and made a simple response. “Sweet.”

I suppose this has been a good Golden Week, if not a strange one. For the rest of this month I’ll be on the lookout for both hosts and ghosts. Hey, that rhymes!

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~ by megumiwasframed on May 7, 2011.

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