Saturday, November 24, 2012

San Francisco, Day 8

To be honest, Alyssa and I are sort of done with this vacation. We've seen pretty much everything that we've wanted to see. I think this is about the maximum amount of time that I would want to be on vacation, at least in this sort of a setting. It might be different if we were in a situation where we had a working kitchen or something. So we had no real plans for today, and just wandered the city.

We took the bus to Japantown, which is one of the only things that we haven't seen in the city so far (also not seen: the twisting Lombard Street, Coit Tower, Muir Woods, the Winchester House, all of which we're fine with missing). Japantown is much smaller than Chinatown, and seems to only take up about four blocks or so. The thing about Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Italy is that it's sort of difficult to determine where they actually start and end. For Japantown, most of the area we went in was a shopping mall type area filled with Japanese food and shopping places. Alyssa was in heaven, but after you've seen one shop full of Asian things I feel like you've seen them all, in part because most of the stuff they stock is stuff to sell to tourists. There were two exceptions.

The first was a japanese video store, which was filled floor to ceiling with slim DVD cases. There was almost no English in the entire store. It was pretty interesting, as it was the one place in Japantown that I could sort of believe I was actually in Japan. It was also weird to think that for a lot of Japanese Americans with poor English, this is a primary source of Japanese media from home like television shows and movies.

The second was a bookstore, which was fully stocked with row upon row of manga. Alyssa bought a Japanese magazine full of pictures of cats and cartoons featuring cats. Neither of us have any idea what the words mean, and it's a little confusing which way you're supposed to be reading, but Alyssa laughed along to the pictures. There were lots of art retrospectives that I wanted to pick up, and manga series that looked interesting, but for that stuff I think it's probably better to just go online, where you can read reviews. We're also running into baggage space issues, so it doesn't make that much sense to buy large hardcover books (which I think are better bought in person where you can look through them first).

We stopped at a store that sold only mochi, which was awesome, and bought some souvenirs for friends and family. Some of the shopping was interesting to me, but describing it here would just be a list of items, and we bought most of the really cool stuff.

For lunch, we stopped at a random Japanese restaurant and each had a bowl of udon: chicken for Alyssa, beef for me. It was good, though the broth was a little fatty. After that, we stopped by a Japanese market on the way back to the hotel, where we picked up more things, including lots of cheap foreign candies. Funnily enough, Alyssa overhead someone saying how much cheaper all the things were in Japan. I think foreign markets are one of the biggest pros of living in a big city, and I wish that we could have brought some liquids back with us instead of just dried goods. Duluth is great, but sometimes lacks variety.

We got back to the hotel room and packed up. Our flight leaves tomorrow very early, which means that we have to get up even earlier. I'm eager to get home. There are things about any big city that I don't like, and San Francisco is no exception - the noise, the press of people around you, the homeless problem, the rudeness, the feeling of being insignificant. Duluth is just the right size for us, in the long term. And I think next vacation we're going to shoot for somewhere on the opposite end of the population spectrum.

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