First, I drove to the house of a friend for directions. (I took the same hand-drawn map she gave me last week to the door and she pointed the way.)
I knew I was a little too early for anything to be open, (Misawa wakes up at 10) but I headed over toward my destination anyway. I pulled into the parking lot of the local "mall" at 9:45.
There was only one other car there.
I hopped out (and down...it's very high) of the car, got the stroller out, and started readying the children.
With 10 minutes to go, five or so more cars had now entered the lot.
I noticed an employee come and unlock the outer automatic door so I let Sammy push the stroller towards the entrance. We joined a few other early birds inside the entryway, but still couldn't get past the second set of sliding doors into the stores so we just waited.
A few more minutes passed and I noticed a few things. First, the parking lot continued to fill up almost to capacity before the store had even opened. Second, all of those people tried to cram themselves into the same small space I had cluelessly meandered in to. Third, I was a FULL head taller than every other person--man or woman.
As we stood there, I had a front row view of what was happening inside. Just beyond the glass a group of young women were standing in a circle. All were wearing black slacks, white shirts, and pink aprons. There were two men standing near by and one was giving what I assume was a pep talk. All at once there was a chant (probably "hi" which means "yes" which is used constantly here) and everyone bowed at once. And then again. Then again. Then again. And...I wasn't counting but...probably again and again.
After the last bow, the circle broke up and everyone scurried in a different direction.
Five minutes later, they let us is.
And I almost got flattened.
The sweet little old ladies who only moments before were ooohing and ahhhhing over my children, were now single-minded in their determination to get past me even if it meant trampling afore mentioned children. It was insanity! It was like Super-Walmart at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. Those ladies (and men) were serious!
Once the stampede vanished into the distance, my first order of business was to get to the nearest bathroom, and quick. Sammy had made it abundantly clear with word and deed that he REALLY needed to go potty.
I walked up to the nice looking young greeter and asked "Do you have a bathroom? Bathroom? ...bathroom?" hoping that it was a word she was familiar with. It wasn't. I was tempted to imitate some of Sammy's hand gestures, but refrained.
She had no clue what I was saying and called over an official looking male. I repeated my question. More baffled looks but no results. Then I remembered my cheat-sheet...the little card they gave us our first week here with a few key words and phrases printed on it. I pulled it out and pointed to the kanji sign for "bathroom". Both employees brightened and said "AHH! Toilet!!!" at the same time. Directions were given and we got there quick.
Note to self: Next time ask where the "toilet" is.
After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. I got my shopping done, (oh, I WISH I could show you what I got...but I don't want to ruin the surprise for the recipients) and headed to play group at The Weasel's Den (an airplane hangar converted into a giant recreational space which includes a huge indoor playground).
All in all, it's been a pretty good day.
Sooo...how's YOUR day been?