Because I originally planned my trip around Miwako possibly having a job, I basically scheduled my time so that we'd have the weekends to hang out, and during the week I would try to meet up with other friends when I could. Since she didn't end up getting a job, I kind of didn't really bother contacting other friends. But I still wanted to see other friends, so on Sunday night we decided to gather with our other Otaruian friends from our college days.
Miwako's mom drove us to central Otaru, which took longer than the train would have because she was freaking out over the snow. We met up with Erina and discussed what we should do. There's not much to do in Otaru. We came to the same conclusion we have every time the three of us have hung out over the past 8 years... karaoke. So we stocked up on drinks and snacks and headed out for Toraemon, our favorite place to hang out at in Otaru. And then we discovered it was no longer there. We didn't just lose our favorite hang out spot, Otaru lost an institution. Toramon always gave out coupons for 500 Yen (which used to be like... $5, but is now probably more like... $100000) for the first hour of karaoke, but was still cheap after that (or even without a coupon). Besides this, you could bring your own food and drinks in. If you didn't bring your own drinks in, the drinks there were cheap. The place was awesome. But now it is gone.
After the girls convinced me to not burn the entire city to the ground, we set out to find a different karaoke venue. The other main choice was Thriller Karaoke. For some reason, about 5 years ago there was a sudden boom of horror-themed karaoke establishments in Japan. Why is karaoke in a building filled with Disneyland-like horror-themed objects more fun than normal karaoke? Exactly. But that place was too crowded, so we went to Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Do, which none of us had been to since my going-away party as an exchange student way back in 2003. It was fun, though. Once again, I focused on Unicorn, Fishmans, and Polaris. Since I've tricked Miwako into liking all three of those, it gives us a lot of songs that we can sing together. I also found out that Yurameki in the Air by Fishmans (I posted a link to a video of sorts in my first entry for this trip), which is a 17-minute-long song, actually works out really well in karaoke form. Everybody wins!
After karaoke, we slowly wandered our way accross town through the shopping mall arcade thing, which was filled with a preview of the Otaru Snow Light Festival. By which I mean "snow and ice things filled with candles". Some students from the Otaru University of Commerce had a booth set up where they were selling coffee and homemade candles, as well as offering free purikura-style printouts of pictures taken in front of the various snow sculptures. At first, we we all disgusted at the thought that the three of us graduated from their school at least 4 years before they even enrolled, but then we decided to support whatever it was that they were doing.
After this, we met up with Miina and Yuki, and arrived at Maruta, another Otaru staple. It's hard to accurately describe the atmosphere of Maruta. The booze is cheap, the food is cheap, there's a million things to choose from, there's crap all over the walls (which is mostly a list of the things you can eat and/or drink), and you sit on the floor in a big room at a table surrounded by other tables with other people doing the same thing. They had recently moved to a new building which none of us had been to. It wasn't exactly the same (it looked a little too nice to be Maruta), but it still had the same feeling overall.
At some point, Erina and I were talking, and she randomly said that she was happy that Miwako and I were dating. I guess that she probably could have figured it out (actually, she probably should have noticed my giant crush on Miwako years ago), but it surprised me to hear her talking about it for some reason. But then the other two overheard us and went nuts, and it was like a moment from Friends or something. Miwako, being incredibly shy, got all quiet and hid behind me. That's when Miina (who is always coining awesome new psuedo-English phrases) created my new favorite phrase to describe Miwako, "too much shy". Earlier in the evening, Miina and Yuki asked me if I was dating anyone currently, and I sort of dodged the question because I figured that Miwako would probably react exactly the way she did. But eventually she got over it, and now that it was common knowledge, our friends were super excited that the two of us were finally together after all these years.
Because the trains in Japan are stupid, we couldn't hang out for too long, so the five of us took some time to take some ridiculous pictures on our way to the train station, of which this is but one:
Then Miwako and Erina and I rode the train together, and Erina spoke more of how happy she was that Miwako and I were together before we got off at Zenibako and walked through an awesome little park completely buried in snow on the way home. I owe Erina a great deal of gratitude for making too much shy Miwako be slightly less too much shy that night.