Celebrity for a Day, or Two

Being an American in Japan has its advantages. Many people will complain about the challenges of getting around and living a daily life with the language barrier and being such an outsider. I kind of enjoy some of those things. I live for a challenge and I've always been very independent.

The past two days of my Golden Week adventure brought me to the two biggest theme parks in Kyushu: Space World, near Kitakyushu, and Mitsui Greenland, near Kumamoto.

My last post left me on a train for Kitakyushu. I arrived and found the Manboo (chain) Internet cafe that would be my bed for the next two nights. Monday night, I arrived too late for a mat booth (good for laying flat) so I slept in a reclining chair. Tuesday night I got a flat booth. Needless to say, I slept better on the mat than in a chair, though it was hot and booth booths weren't completely private (the Manboo in Omiya has private booths/rooms. Tonight I'm on my way to Kumamoto via highway bus. The place I'm going appears to have the semi-private booths, but they also promise massage chairs! I hope they're pleasant.

Both amusement parks were fun, and I think I rode every coaster in both parks by the end of each day. I had concerns both days as there were large school groups, but the parks were large enough and designed good enough to handle the small army of students. There were bigger fears today as the weather called for rain. The rain came, but as forecast it was gone by the afternoon, and the morning showers weren't too bad, so I was able to ride some rides in the drizzle. I'm up to 376 coasters now! I'll hit 400 by the end of the year for sure.

Being out here in Kyushu, at amusement parks around all these high schoolers, makes me really stand out. I believe I was the only foreigner at both parks, and the kids loved to wave and say hello. One boy told me he loved me as he passed by on a chairlift today. Three 20-something ladies waved at me as I rode a coaster. Being foreign kind of makes me a celebrity around here! A preschooler even said "bye bye" to me as she exited a bus this week. At the same time, standing out makes it hard to just blend in.

Last, riding these highway buses today, I realize how dependent I am on this cell phone for travel. If it wasn't for the Internet, my meticulous planning, and the ability to verify things instantly on the go, I doubt I could be taking such an ambitious trip on my own. Signage at the stops is limited and in Japanese only, of course. Train station staff know little or nothing about the highway buses, and nobody around here speaks English. But the challenge makes it that much more fun!

Pictures: Venus GP coaster at Space World, penguins in the ice cave walk through in Greenland, and my wooden stick "plaque" that goes on the wall since I rode Megaton 10 times today (8 in a row, and I did it just for that stick).

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