Good morning from my hotel room in Kashihara. It's been raining to-day and almost everyone has an umbrella! People ride bikes while holding their umbrellas up and open! Stores and restaurants have umbrella holders outside though I've been carrying mine in because I've heard umbrellas are one of the few things in Japan prone to get stolen, I suspect because most of the umbrellas are sort of considered communal property once in the holders.
I've been staying in as much as possible but I have to go out for food. I got my breakfast this morning at Mister Donut, the closest thing to a Starbucks around here. The coffee is good, the doughnuts are very mild but not bad. A bit eggy. They have toast, too, but toast is so thick here it's basically cake. It's pretty good. Still wish I could find a place that sells oatmeal.
I had to go to the laundromat yesterday. There was only one other person there, a middle aged woman in traditional kimono sitting in the corner. I tried to stay as far from her as possible and felt twice as awkward trying to figure out which machines were washers and which were dryers. I don't think she liked seeing a white guy there, she stepped out a few minutes later. I'd heard white people get odd reactions, particularly in areas far from major cities, but I'm quite used to being stared at since I've always dressed like a weirdo. Surprisingly, my clothes and umbrella aren't nearly so conspicuous around here. Wandering around Osaka in my black fedora and grey herringbone tweed Inverness coat and black scarf, I got some looks but I've seen several people with big black hats and the Inverness coat looks quite a bit like a certain traditional Japanese overcoat I've seen a few times. Even toting heavy luggage doesn't mark me out much as I've seen several people on the trains and wandering about with big metal suitcases on wheels.
I can't get over how clean everyone and everything is here. The laundromat was in mint condition. All shining steel and sparkling linoleum. The tables were so flat and clean I felt fine using them to fold my clothes. The toilets are legendary, of course, all with bidets and heated seats. I've never felt so clean in my life. It's no wonder the Japanese word kirei means pretty and also clean.
Not that my Japanese is great. I can do simple sentences well enough to get by but smart phones have made things absurdly easy. I don't even have service yet, I'm able to use translator and google maps with wi-fi, which is free in nearly every convenience store and train station. World travel used to require some intelligence, I think, but I'd been noticing for years how people who've travelled extensively don't seem to be particularly, shall we say, brilliant. But now you can buy smartness in a phone.