Wednesday night, instead of our usual shodo practice, Mayumi-san and I drove into Asahikawa for dinner and a movie. I don't think I've gone into Asahikawa since I first got here! I was really sorry I didn't bring my camera -- the clouds and the sunset over the hills and rice fields was beautiful -- even with Asahikawa's smokestacks.
The movie theatre is in a "big box" complex on the outskirts of town. In the basement is a huge supermarket. And there they have the holy grail for westerners living in Japan: whole wheat flour. So once I have a free day (maybe this Monday, it's a day off to "respect the aged") I will be trying my hand at baking bread in my mini-oven. I don't usually eat white bread, and that is all they sell in the stores here. One of the other ALTs was telling me there is a town somewhere in Hokkaido where the large Australian population petitioned for whole wheat bread, but that is the only place he knows of where you can get non-white bread in the store. I also bought some stewing beef -- 666 yen for 500 grams (it was on sale). That's about $7 CDN. And some parmesan and gorgonzola. Hokkaido cheese is pretty good, but very mild. I like my cheese stinky. They have free refrigerated lockers outside the movie theatre, so you can shop and then watch your movie.
We met up with one of Mayumi-san's former students, who is now a Junior High School teacher in Asahikawa, and had dinner in Asahikawa's ramen alley. There are 8 ramen shops, side by side, across from the movie theatre. I finally tried shio (salt) ramen. It was incredible. I may have found a new favorite. Maybe it was just so tasty because Wednesday really felt like a fall day. It was cold and miserable, and nothing warms you up like a big bowl of hot noodles!
Movies are generally pretty expensive, about 1800 yen ($18). But Wednesday is "Ladies Night" and seats are only 1000 yen. We saw "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". I quite enjoyed it -- much closer to the spirit of the book, and the oompa loompas were great. It made for a very nice break from my regular routine!