Italian Viking and Lost in Japan

What exactly would an Italian Viking be? You might ask yourself. It is not a man with slicked black hair, an Armani suit, riding a Vespa around a huge galley while he screams “Rowwww!” to his peons. Nor is it a hairy, red headed man, gnawing on a hunk of raw bear, while lounging at the Trevi Fountain.

It is, in fact, an all-you-can-eat Italian Restaurant. Japanese Italian, which I can assure you, is not American Italian, nor is it Italian Italian. But….it’s not bad. I just wouldn’t pay for it frequently. Or ever, if I’m picking the restaurant. The “all-you-can-eat” word is a Scandinavian work: smorgasbord. Thus the Japanese decided to translate “smorgasbord” to “viking”. Because that’s how they translate things, sometimes. Sort of like with paper bags on their heads. But it means that I get to go to a viking restaurant, so it’s all good.
The food selection was decent, but none of the food really wowed me. There was a salad bar, which was fine. There was pizza, which was tasteless or full of weird toppings (notably an array of seafood, hotdog slices, and corn), and I grabbed one which I thought had normal marinara sauce on it which in fact turned out to be ketchup. Not the taste I wanted in my mouth.
The pasta was also just kind of eh. I tried a little bit of about half the kinds they had out, but nothing was remarkable.
There was cookies n cream ice cream though, and that hit the spot. Especially considering the almost complete lack of ice cream diversity at grocery stores.
Carolin, Mika, and I decided to venture to Costco without the aid of a Japanese friend. We chose to take Carolin’s car, which seemed the less likely to rattle to pieces and/or burst into flames. Hopping on the Kito Kanto expressway makes it a relatively easy journey: https://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&oe=UTF-8&ie=UTF-8&gl=&daddr=Maebashi,+Gunma+Prefecture,+Japan&saddr=Ota,+Gunma+Prefecture,+Japan&panel=1&f=d&fb=1&dirflg=d&geocode=KaFVR2Pr3x5gMV2jW7Gs9OJO%3BKa2wZ-rd8x5gMVQ-zkZlr4Pf&ei=4Tr9UNilOfD3mAWR_4DwCg&ved=0CDAQ-A8wAA
The way there was fine. We used Mika’s iphone GPS and got there in good time. The way back however, Carolin’s gps wasn’t working, and Mika’s phone had died…
Apparently, in Japan freeway exits and entrances are not in the same places. We were able to get back on where we got off, however, the only two choices of direction we were allowed to drive were both the wrong way. We found ourselves on the expressway heading into the outer skirts of Tokyo and had to get off and ask a Japanese toll collector in broken Japanese where the fuck we needed to go. We got a general idea of what he was saying, but not enough to be sufficiently helpful, it turned out. We ended up wandering in a general direction back toward what we hoped was Maebashi, and once we got there, we didn’t know how to find the earlier freeway entrance (which was probably in the next city down the line) that would allow us to drive in the correct direction. Then we spotted 354! 354! Hurray! We knew from one of the schools which we teach at, that, at the very least, 354 EVENTUALLY goes through Oizumi. And we could figure things out from Oizumi. We took that back, it took about an hour and a half total, we were waylaid by some construction and some further lack of any sensical Japanese road signs, but eventually we happened about an area where one of us teaches in, and wound our way back from there. It was certainly an adventure, and we had to rely on Mika’s rough Kanji-reading abilities. (Note: NOT Hiragana and Katakana…Kanji. The full out crazy pictures of which there are over 5,000). Some Japanese roadsigns use Romaji for city names (Romaji is roman lettering…what we use for the English language) and there are arbitrarily some which only use Kanji. There’s seemingly no rule for when they use Kanji and when they use Romaji, other than if you are lost, you can rely on the certainty that every sign will be written in Kanji only. 
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