Friday, July 31, 2009

Sayonara Japan

Well, I leave for the airport in an hour. I don't think I need to say again how much fun I had and how much I've learned.

Don't worry Japan, I'll be back.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Things I've missed and am looking forward to...

  • my family
  • my friends
  • Oxy
  • Dexter
  • the other pets
  • skim milk
  • pizza
  • Rose Bowl
  • understanding the language and not having to guess what people are saying to me
  • being able to predict the weather fairly accurately
  • not having to pay so much for transportation
  • being tan
  • not the heat though, I think I prefer humid, we'll see

Things I will miss...

I've lived here for five months, so of course I've taken a liking to some things and will miss them when I return to the Land of the Free. There are, of course, more things than I am able to list here and if I were to name them all you would probably die of dehydration before I could finish. Anyway, in no particular order:

  • My friends- I've made some great friends here and even though sometimes there are communication problems, they're really fun and my stay in Japan exponentially better.
  • My host family- they've become like actual family to me and I will miss them like family.
  • cheap karaoke
  • sitting on the train learning new kanji from the advertisements
  • neon lights
  • the conbini- for it's 24 hour service of delicious food, especially the inari, milk tea, lemon water, "turds", a large variety of bread products and candy. Thank you conbini for feeding me cheaply for the past 5 months.
  • cell phone charms- everyone from the youngest kids to the oldest men, if they have a cell phone, it most certainly will have a charm. A cute one at that.
  • The clear plastic brief cases carried by college students.
  • the size of novels, they're all small,thus easy to read on the train with one hand.
  • animated emiticons/other images used in cell phone mail
  • the unexplained joy I feel when the trains come to both sides of the platform at the same time
  • the music signaling closing doors on the Fukutoshin line, and the voice of the anouncer.
  • the train system in general.
  • old people smiling when they see me playing kendama
  • Japanese kids
  • sakura flavored food
  • vending machines everywhere
  • the signature sound of Kirin
  • Japanese tv (including commercials)
  • Foods: okonomiyaki, takoyaki, ohm rice, tendon, nikuman, curry (indian and japanese), yakisoba, my host mom's cooking, katsudon, spicy cucumbers
  • feeling safe all the time
  • Kichijoji and the bands that play there
  • Yamanote line
  • Kasumi and my favorite restaraunts there
  • TIU!
  • LOFT
  • UniQlo
  • Modern Design Tees
  • not understanding mostly everything around me, but trying to figure it out

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Other Side of Tokyo... Living the Life of Luxury

I've been in this country for almost five months, but until this week there was a part of Tokyo hiding from me. If it weren't for my money-dropping, (apparently) sleep deprived, foot-aching aunt and uncle I would never have experienced it.

Day One
I spend the day souvenir shopping for my friends in Asakusa, which is more or less on the way to the airport so I decide to go meet Nur and Jeff. They weren't expecting me, so I was a pleasant surprise (I'm sure). The train ride to Shinjuku was a little long and uneventful but it was nice to be with them. From the station we took a taxi. We pull up to the hotel and the stewards greet us, calling Jeff by name. They escort us to the lobby and have our check-in paperwork elegantly displayed on a big desk. After 20 minutes of deciding what room we actually wanted (a bigger one that looks out both toward the east (Mt. Fuji) and south) we settled in.

Now this room is not like any hotel room I've ever been in. Huge windows, 43rd floor overlooking the city, a giant king sized bed (they put a "cot" in for me, granted it was the best bed I've slept on in months), large cabinet space for mini-fridge, tea and coffee sets, drawers and extensive alcohol collection. There was a huge flat screen tv, a desk-table and an arm chair, a dressing room with closet and a safe (for us to keep our products in...). Then there's the bathroom. The toilet seat was heated ( I loved it, Nur and Jeff weren't big fans, said it was too hot- then again they kept the room at 20 degrees Celsius), the shower shot water from three different places, all adjustable, and the bath tub was next to the window, looking out on the city. No big deal right?

Day Two
So if you were staying in a room like this you would want to spend a lot of time in it too, right? That's the idea we lived by for these few days. The first night I went back to my place and returned to the hotel in the morning. We had a buffet breakfast and went out to Harajuku and Shinjuku. We took the train to Harajuku, saw Meiji Shrine, walked down the shopping street and walked to Shibuya. We were minutes from the the famous intersection, but never made it there. We ate in a cheap restaurant and left unsatisfied, into the rain. Since I'm such a nice niece I gave Nur RoboSaru (my umbrella) and faced the rain uncovered. We found a taxi station and headed home. We got to the hotel around 4 and that was that for the day. Since both of them had become temporary crippled with a variety of foot ailments, I ventured to the conbini to buy a variety of Japanese snacks and for the second night in a row, that was dinner. High class enough for you? I kind of liked walking into, what has to be one of the classiest hotels in the country, with a bag of Coke and chips from 711. Jeff fell asleep around 5, Nur fell asleep a little earlier and I played on the fast wireless internet.

At some point in the day, as we walked back toward our room we spot Noel Gallagher from Oasis walking in the opposite direction down the hall. I see him and I'm 90% sure it's him, so I turn to Nur and she's in shock, barely able to keep walking. Definitely him.

Day Three:
After getting kicked out of bed really early (since they both went to bed at ridiculous times) we went down to breakfast. I had delicious french toast. We walked to the station to go to more department stores, because we had fun doing that the day before, but since it was still early nothing was open. We instead went to Shinjuku park and enjoyed a nice, random, rain and wind fiasco and a nice garden. After awhile Nur had gone into shopping withdrawal so we made it to the nearest Lush and bought some bath product. phew! After some poor experiments with another shopping center, we sat down for an Okononmiyaki lunch which turned out to be really fun. At this place we cooked it ourselves, so I pretended to know what I was doing and served up some tasty food (Jeff helped).

We took a hotel break for awhile, lounged, napped, watched more Mtv Japan, ate 6 fancy pastries and then headed to the New York Bar, then Grill for drinks and dinner. This time I wore flats. We had some ridiculously expensive drinks and Pig oil french fries and enjoyed the Tokyo night sky from 52 stories up. It was nice. Then they started playing some live jazz and we eventually sauntered over to our table in the restaurant. The food was delicious. According the Food Art rules I had to get an appetizer and a main entree and that I did. I had white asparagus tenpura with some kind of raw tuna followed by veal with herb butter (they both had much more elegant descriptions on the menu, mind you). Nur had tartar followed by a steak of some kinda and Jeff had some other fancy appetizer and a different steak. All the food was amazingly delicious, I was quite satisfied, thanks Food Art.

And then we just realized, bathed in bubbles and went to sleep.

Day Four:
Woke up early again and went down to breakfast. Today's breakfast was special, and no not only because I remembered to siv my tea every time I poured it. As we sat and ate, two men were seated at the table next to us. One had the same look as Noel Gallagher and a British accent and the other was a bigger guy. Nur and I joked that he was in the band and the big guy was the sound technician. Then a Japanese guy joined them and we said they were jamming together. Finally a woman came in and called her as the manager/ public relations. Sure enough, they talk about some cds and the van, blah blah and she pulls out a paper with "Oasis" written in big letters on the top. Talk about exciting. Nur and I are dying by this point and talking about it walking back to the room when we see Noel again, flirting with some Japanese girls in the lobby. If one time wasn't enough, Nur stops in her tracks, mouth gaping and hands flailing. Could you be anymore obvious? We look up the band online and find out that the guy we were sitting next to was Gem Archer, the guitarist/harmonica player of Oasis. Mr. Archer, we know what you had for breakfast "Three bowls of corn flakes," as he had announced. That was exiting.

We took a cab to Shibuya because Nur was set on seeing the intersection. So we saw that and wondered the streets for awhile until we came to Tokyu, which is the Park Hyatt equivalent of a department store. This is where the fancy, ridiculously expensive stuff was, so we had fun looking around and buying pillow cases. In the same building was a market where we saw $50 cherries, a $50 mini square watermelon and all kinds of other overly expensive foods. It was fun. In the same building was a museum with an exhibit of eye-teasing art. It was interesting but there were too many people inside and it was not comfortable so Nur and I viewed, made it out of there and waited for Jeff while sipping fancy beverages.

After some hotel room recuperation we headed out to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant that a random lady had recommended to us the day before (which was really weird by the way). The food was good, it was cheap and it was fast. So we were back in the hotel and going to bed by 8.

Now here I am, sitting in an armchair on top of Tokyo, looking out at city lights, waiting to see if I can view the fireworks and typing a blog, while Nur and Jeff are asleep... at 9 pm. Oh the life of luxury. It's fine though. We've had a lot of fun and milked this hotel room for all its worth (which is a lot). Tomorrow they head out and I'm back to the guest-house life for my last few days in Japan.

I'm sure there are things I've forgotten to write, so maybe I'll add them in later, maybe you'll hear it from them.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nikko Trip

Thursday and Friday I went to Nikko with my friends Tomoki and Taka. It was a lot of fun. Nikko it north a ways in the mountains. It took about 3 hours by bus on the way there. We went with a special program that included the bus ride, one night at an onsen and 2 all you can eat meals, all for really cheap.

On the first day we rode down a river on a big canoe. It was so pretty! The area was beautiful, pretty much undisturbed nature. The canoe driver was really funny too, even though I didn't understand most of what he said.

We also went up the mountain on a ropeway. At the top there were monkeys! It was cool that they were so close, but it was sad because they were caged in. Their living space was really big, but was all dirt and rocks, no trees or grass. They were really accustomed to getting fed too. When Taka bought food they all flocked to her and tried to grab. There were a few babies too, which were really cute.

There was a nice path to walk to a big Redwood tree, but it was supposed to take 30 minutes, and we only had 10 before the last gondola went down the mountain.

There were 3 different baths at the hotel. They were all pretty much empty when we went (at least the womens' were, Tomoki said the mens' were full). Two were open-air, which was so nice and refreshing!

The next day we went to Nikko Edo Wonderland, which is more or less the Japanese version of a Renassaince Fair. It was this big village set in the Edo Period (1603- 1868). It was awesome! So much fun! All the workers were dressed up in traditional clothing, the buildings were old looking, there were lots of shows and displays. By the end of the day most people had gone home, so we were some of the only people still there. The workers were getting bored (as I would imagine, since some people's jobs were just to walk around). We played kendama with everyone we could find. One guy was so good! I learned a few new tricks. Everyone was impressed with my kendama skills, especially for only playing for about one month.

Nikko is also famous for the having the tomb of Ieyasu Tokugawa and some shrines, but we didn't have time to go to those. That's okay by me, I'm kinda done with shrines and temples for awhile.


Only 2 weeks until I go back to America! Weird! I think my mind is starting to prepare. I saw a car today the same color as the Camry and I thought "oh only 2 weeks until I can see him!" but then I remembered he's gone....

Nur and Jeff come on Wednesday! I can't wait!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The giant Gundam in Odaiba is awesome. It was huge. Pictures to come.

Odaiba was cool itself. It's an island in Tokyo Bay, with a nice waterfront walk. At night the Tokyo skyline was really nice. To get there, we took a monorail which was completely computer opperated... cool!

I'm going backwards in time, but before the monorail we were on the Yamanote line and the train was stuck at shibuya for about 10 minutes because there was someone walking along the tracks somewhere so we couldn't go. Then, as they tried to catch him he disappeared! Weird.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And yet another reason so love Japan...

In my house there are a lot of kids that are students at a language school nearby. I was invited to go play futsol with them, so I did. That's cool by itself, playing futsol with a a bunch of people my age from all over the world, all communicating in only Japanese more or less. The best part is.... the futsol court was on the roof of a building. It was a really nice facility, outdoor, surrounded by netting so the ball doesn't go flying 9 stories down. It was so fun! Yeah I was by no means one of the better players, but I definitely held my own. I was also probably in the best shape and lasted the longest out of anyone. It was so fun!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Being an idol in Japan is no easy task. Other than having to be attractive and cool, you have to be able to sing (at least well enough to be part of a boy band- which inevitably means you need to be able to dance), act in dramas, movies and commercials and then there are the photo shoots. I swear these boys must have photo shoots everyday. Every month, every teenage girl magazine is filled with images (accompanied by articles, interviews, blood types, boy measurements, etc) of the popular boy bands and stars (but really, just boy bands). Oh the price you pay for being a cool, good-looking young man in Japan...

I went to the Sword Musuem yesterday. It was really interesting, I some nice written material about the different kinds to swords, differences between them, differences between the styles of different eras, etc. and also one about how to care for a sword, because apparently the lady you gave it me thought I would need this....

My friend Alex emailed me and invited me to a baseball game with him and his mom who was visiting. It was pretty fun. We bought tickets at the gate and the seats were still really close and pretty cheap. The game was at the Tokyo Dome, which was awesome. The seating capacity was pretty low, but we were inside, so it's understandable. It was also nice because it was nice and cool inside, it was miserably hot and humid out. The game itself wasn't all that exciting. It was the Tokyo Giants against Yokohama Bay Stars. Giants won.
Interesting things about the game:
-unlike American baseball games, there is ton of cheering during the pitch. It was cool. The team at bat would make as much noise as possible.
-there were cheerleaders.
-there were girls wearing small beer kegs on their backs walking up and down the stairs selling beer. There were girls for every major Japanese beer: Asahi, Suntory, Kirin, Ebisu. Then there were girls selling tiny, shot-sized bottles of hard liquor. It was so strange.
-When a relief pitcher came on for Yokohama, the entire stadium erupted in cheers, which was very ironic since it's the Giants stadium. We think the pitcher, who was old, either used to play for the Giants or is a national baseball hero of some kind. He got flowers after his inning.
-The last few innings, the Giants crowd was cheering for Yokohama, again... We couldn't really figure out why, maybe they just like a good game?
- Outside the stadium was a horse betting place. Outside of this stadium was the dirtiest place I'd ever seen in Japan. There were newspapers (with race results) and betting ticket stubs EVERYWHERE. It looked like New York (not that I've been there, but that's what I imagine New York to look like).

Monday, July 6, 2009

And so begin the solo adventures....

Friday night was my birthday party, maybe the only 21st birthday party that did not involve alcohol. Some of my good Japanese friends and I got gyoza and then went to karaoke for 3 hours. It was awesome. I got some gifts too. A big multi-picture picture frame and a card from my freshman friends. My other friend got a frog-head shaped clock and a kids book in japanese so i could practice.

The train ride home was something else. There was an accident on my line so I was waiting on the platform in Ikebukuro for about 40 minutes. While waiting I saw this guy across the tracks passed out laying on the ground. While I was watching I saw 2 people take pictures of him, 3 people laugh after looking at him and only one old guy ask him if he was okay. He still managed to jump up and get on his train, impressive.

Since it was around last train time there were TONS of people and they managed to get probably most of us on ( i don't know for sure because I was so squished i couldn't see anything. On the platform while we were waiting this young pregnant lady, from nepal ( I think that's what she said ) started talking to me. She said I didn't have the face of an American and I reminded her of a friend from home. Huh... Anyway, I felt really bad for her because she was pregnant and getting knocked around, but there really wasn't anything to do about it.

On the next car we heard some loud shouting after the first stop, later I saw puke all over the floor in the car... possibly related?

Saturday after swimming, doing laundry and studying some kanji, I headed to this area of Tokyo called Shimokitakawa. It's pretty close to where I am, which is great because I loved this place. I was reading a blog about music clubs and I came upon this club called Club251. I think in that blog it talked about this place having the highest percentage of guitar ownership in the country or something, he could've been making it up, but if it's not number one it's sure up there. Everywhere you look people are toting guitars or some other instrument.

There was a show at this club, so I thought I'd check it out, but I didn't end up going in because you needed to the ticket beforehand. I didn't really have a back up plan, but that's okay because I was really excited to wander the streets of this area. It's awesome. There are tons of clothing stores, vintage stores, cd stores. I wandered for about 3 hours, bought some really cheap used cds. I was amused by the 100 yen baskets at the cd stores that American cds like Hanson, Bush, Garbage; I guess 90's music isn' that popular here anymore...

There are also tons of street performers, especially by the station. One group was this guy on guitar and another guy sitting on some kind of box and he was hitting it. It was drum, duh.. but a kind I've never seen. It was really cool. They have a real show later this month, so I might check it out. There was another guy who had an array of manga set out and you could chose one and he would read it to you, doing different voices for the different characters and such. It was really cool. He was a funny guy (funny looking too, kinda reminded me of Charles Manson).

There was another guy playing acoustic guitar that I watched, it sounded like he had a lisp while he sang, it was amusing. He was good though. A guy came over holding a baby, the age right after learning to walk. He put the baby down and the baby started dancing to the music. It was so cute!!!!!!! I started laughing out loud because of how funny and cute it was.

All in all it was a very successful, fun night. I hope I find more places like it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Adventures in Babysitting- My Parents in Japan

The moment I met my parents at the airport our roles reversed. For the next week I served as:

-interpreter (which was really difficult since my Japanese is barely good enough to get by on my own in normal situations- and they may have thought I knew more than I do)

-tour guide (often of places I hadn't been to before)

-navigator (thank god for my sense of direction and ability to read maps, because apparently they left those skills in the US- despite thinking they knew where they were going half the time)

-food suggestor (so my dad wouldn't eat ramen for EVERY meal)

-money payer (granted it took me awhile to get used to using Yen too)

-and then there was the task of keeping them from hitting, teasing and quarreling and getting lost. At one point I considered buying those leashes for children so I wouldn't lose them in the train station.

Other than acting as their parent for most of the trip (or maybe because of that) we had a really good time. It started out kind of rocky, but once I started warming up to them again it was time for them to leave. Although it was a short trip we saw a lot, experienced a lot and for the most part avoided bad weather (by bad weather I mean rain, ask my mom and she'll say the only good days were the days it rained, not a fan of the hot humid).

The highlights:

  • Kawagoe: walked a lot, probably more than we should've, but we saw some cool things. They saw my school (which, low and behold is a college more than one buidling, because apparently those exist) and met some of my friends. *First instance of Japanese men telling my in Japanese that my mom is cute. We also went to karaoke, which they LOVED. Not only was it a lot of fun and cheap, but it we were in air conditioning for 2 hours.
  • Kyoto via Shinkansen. Walked the Philopshers Path from our hotel to Ginkakuji. It was really nice. * We were talking to a rickshaw driver and he told me in Japanese that my mom is cute.

  • Ate some good rame and introduced them to Okonomiyaki, which they loved.
  • Nara- rented bikes, almost rode in the completely wrong direction (until I took control of the situation), saw deer, had the potentional of seeing my friend Jeni who was also in Nara, but we missed each other, saw the Daibutsu (Big Buddah), bought a whole bunch of Omamori and went home.
  • Back in Kyoto we saw a rock garden that just wasn't that cool and discovered bus travel kind of sucks.
  • Finally back in Tokyo, we went to Akiba where my parents were so close to buying a new camera since their's is about 7 years old and the size of a small child. We ate at the Doner Kebab truck and my dad spoke to the guys in Turkish, which was cool.
  • MY BIRTHDAY! We went to Meiji Shrine, which was a fam favorite, went shopping in Harajuku and Shibuya (which I enjoyed...). We had plans to go to the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku because at the top is the New York Bar, featured in Lost in Translation. I mean, this just turned into a ridiculous fiasco. We got lost... twice (at least), ended up at the wrong hotel... twice and walked at least 4 miles. When we finally arrived at the bar we get turned away because there's a dress code.... you can't wear flipflops. gah. At this point we were all hot, sweaty, tired, hungry and thus... cranky. We decided to go down to another bar in the hotel, on a lower level, so not as classy right? Too bad one drink was an average price of $20 and it was a cloudy/hay day so the view sucked too. Needless to say we didn't go there and settled for some Chinese food and a a taxi ride to the station. We bought two pieces of cake and ate them at the hotel, then went out to Hub Pub for a drink. *A very drunk Japanese guy started waving at my mom, she's just too darn cute.
Today we checked me into my new room and then I took them to the airport. It was sad to see them go, but I'm really glad they came- they brought me cookies and candy. We had some fun too I guess...

End of JSP

So at some point I must've walked through a time portal and skipped a few weeks here and there because the past 4 months went way to fast to be normal time. On the bus ride to Narita Airport, (for most people it was to go home, but I was picking up my parents) we were remembering our bus ride FROM Narita the second day in Japan and it felt like it just happened.

I didn't realize how much I enjoyed my host family until the last week, especially the last few nights. We took some family photos which was fun in itself. They gave me a copy in a big frame, on which they all wrote me a message. I love it. They also got me a Japan National Team soccer jersey... score. I was so sad when I was walking back to the house with my parents. It was the first time I had to hold back tears. It was so sad thinking that I wouldn't be walking home there everyday. aw. I will see them a few times before I leave for America though.

I've made some amazing friends. I wish I had been better friends with some of them earlier on in the semester, but it's okay, we have the rest of our lives to be friends. And I feel like the JSP kids are friends I will have forever and I will want to keep in close contact with. It was such an amazing adventure we experienced together and we made countless good memories. It's sad most of them are so far away now...

Monday, June 15, 2009

I went to another Urawa Reds game, but this time sat in the 6th row. It was awesome. We were so close to the field! Reds beat their prefecture rival 6-2.

I also saw went to my host brother's game, he scored 2 goals. yay!

Other than watching soccer I spent the weekend writing 15 pages worth of final papers, yay, fun.

One of my Japanese sensei told us some amusing stories about Japanese difficulty with English pronunciation:

While visiting an elementary school in the US, she asked the kids to clap their hands, but it came out "please crap your hands!"

When a friend called her as she sat around her house and what she was doing, she responded: "shitting on the couch."


Saturday, June 6, 2009


We had a field trip to see Kabuki yesterday. It was a special program for students to be learn about the traditional form of theater, so it started with an introduction to teach everyone a little bit about Kabuki and it's origins. This also meant that the theater was filled with hundreds of high school kids. We had special receivers to get English explanations in our headphones. After the introduction, they performed a play. It was really cool. The sets and costumes were amazing. The narration was crazy. There are guys that sit in the corner of the stage, some have instruments and some have scripts. The narrators spoke in such a strange, singsongy way that even Japanese people wouldn't understand so there were screens with subtitles in Japanese. I could read some of it along with what they were saying and sometimes one sound would last 5-10 seconds with several pitch changes and flourishes. It reminded me of in Finding Nemo when Dori speaks whale. This was one of my favorite things I've done so far.

I got 146 lines in Tetris. I'm getting much better.

This is a link to our Happyokai film. Our Japanese narration isn't provided but I thought you might want to at least the silent movie part.

JSP is over in 2 weeks! Time flies when you're having fun.

I'll be putting a lot of new pictures up soon, so take a look. Pictures from Asakusa, Yaskuni Shrine, Yokohama and the Ramen Museum.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I stayed up all night to watch the Champions League final last week which turned out to be not as exciting as I'd hoped, but I won $5.

I went to Yokohama again yesterday. This time I went Chinatown and The Ramen Museum.

Chinatown was pretty cool, LOTS of food everywhere. I had a pork bun, which was HUGE and delicious. Otherwise, it was just like the one in LA or San Francisco, but bigger.

The Ramen Museum was pretty much amazing. The museum part was not that interesting, mostly because it was in all Japanese so I got nothing out of it. The food area though, was something completely different. It's a replica of Japan in the 50s (it's the first food amusement park in the world). They went around the country to find famous, long established ramen restuarants and got their recipes and opened 9 little "shops" in this museum. So you can go around and pick which famous ramen you want. Each place has the choice of a regular bowl (which is huge) and a mini bowl (which is still lots of food). I got a mini bowl at the first place I went to which was miso ramen with tons of garlic. It was soooo tasty. Then I split a mini of tonkatsu ramen, (which has a pork broth), that too was soooo tasty, yet completely different. It was so hard to choose which kinds to eat.

It's hard to believe that the semester is only three weeks from ending!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I have more to write, but for now this is all.

Saturday was the JSP Happyokai where we all had to get on stage in front of an audience of our host families and TIU friends and give a speech, perform a skit, etc. I was so nervous. I did my presentation with the two other girls in my class. Since we're A class no one was expecting anything spectacular, but low and behold, ours was probably the best, and I'm not saying that just because it was ours. We got the most laughs, most applauds and most post-show compliments. In film class we learned the in the times of silent films and before dubbing and subtitles were used, dubbing and sound effects were done live by a performer called a Benshi. Unlike American silent films where the dialogue was in text form, in Japan the Benshi would voice every character and the details of the story were really up to him to decide. So, for our happyokai presentation, we created a silent film, made is black and white and grainy, and dubbed it live on stage. It was awesome. Our video and script were hilarious. It was a lot of fun. Oh and my introduction included me saying (in Japanese of course): "Japanese is a little difficult..." followed by a perfectly executed Japanese tongue twister. I got lots of laughs for that one.

I went swimming! My life is now exponentially better, but I'm really tired. I didn't even swim that much I don't think. I was in for about and hour and 15 minutes. Right as I was getting out this lady asked me if I could show her daughter how to swim breaststroke, and I proceeded to do so and teach her to the best of my abilities in Japanese. It was awesome. I love swimming. But now I'm tired.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fat sweaty men and pretty girls in kimono


Wednesday we took a trip to Ryugoku, the area in Tokyo where the Sumo Stadium is and watched the 4th day of the 14 day tournament. It was a lot of fun. I liked the atmosphere more than anything. At the beginning of the day there were not many people so we moved up closer, not much closer, but still. The first floor was all VIP seating, where you had to get walked to your seat, so we couldn't get in there. The seats down there were just sit on pillows on the floor seats. The most expensive seats, ~$130 were right next to the ring. We saw some people get squished by wrestlers who fell out of the ring. It was amusing. The second level was regular seats. I thought our view was fine, so it was okay.

We saw a lot of matches. There was a lot of down time though because each match has a 4 minute prep period during which they sumo wrestlers through the salt in the ring, try to psych each other out and just prepare. Finally, they'll start and fight for usually 7-20 seconds. So, it was short bursts of exciting-ness. Around 4 the big guns came out, by this point most of the seats were filled, despite being a wednesday night. There were a surprising number of foreigners too, russian and mongolian. The current number one is mongolian so a lot of old, nationalistic japanese men are unhappy about it.

It was a lot of fun. There were a lot of rituals, everything from blessing the ring at the beginning, acknowledging your opponent and even receiving your award if you won. There were some matches that had sponsors, so the winner would be given a fat wad of money.

Tea Ceremony

On Saturday I went to Lucy's host family's house where Lucy and I got put into real kimono. Lucy's host mom's friend is a kimono sensei, so she's a master at putting them on people. It is a long and arduous process. Each one of us took about 20 minutes, if not more. There were too many layers and pieces to count, but they were beautiful. My kimono was cream with a green sash, Lucy's was pink with deep fuchsia sash. Pictures soon. We looked really pretty. We got to wear the silly shoes, that were probably meant for someone with size 4 shoe. Walking in the kimono was very difficult, I finally truly understand the scuttling. There is no way you can take big steps. Getting up a step into the doorway was killer.

Lucy's neighbor is a tea ceremony master, so we first got to be "guests" while one of her students was the host. The student, a roughly 70 year old woman, performed the very intricate process of serving tea. The process was very slow and complicated. There are certain ways you have to hold the bowls (not cups, bowls), a certain way to hold and lay the ladle, special way to mix the tea. Then, once the tea was prepared, she sets it out and the first guest scoots up, using her arms to scoot, like a gorilla kinda, and takes the bowl back to her spot, one backward scoot at a time. Then the first guest has to tell the second guest that she's drinking first and thank the host before spinning the bowl twice, resting it on the left hand and spinning it with the right, clockwise. Then the host starts making the second cup. When the first guest finishes, she wipes the place she sipped from with her thumb and forefinger, spins the bowl two more times and scoots forward to return the bowl. Really it was silly, but it was really interesting. Then Lucy and and I both got to be hosts, one at a time. You make the tea with powdered green tea in hot water and you whisk it until it's frothy, it was tasty.

There are a few pretty popular bands from TIU. I saw some of them play in the quad at school the other day, they were actually pretty good. Then we went to see this other band at a Battle of the Bands type thing, at this cute little "Live Hall", just a space for small shows like this. It was a lot of fun and all three bands we saw were really good. The first was crazy and rocking, the second was a little mellower and the third, our friends, sang in English (2 of the members are only half Japanese, including the singer), but mostly just rocking. I liked all three a lot. My friends and I all chipped in to buy one copy of each bands cd, and will just all burn the cd to our computers. After all the bands played they handed out sheet music to everyone, with lyrics and then the whole song was led in some Japanese graduation song or something. It was very very bizarre. I don't know why this happened or who thought it was a good idea, but it happened and my mind was blown. It was a lot of fun and I really want to start going to more small shows like this.

Random things:
-Current list of mento flavors I've seen/had:
strawberry yogurt
carmel and cream
green apple

-I saw an old woman, probably 70ish, on the train today. She was wearing normal clothes, suitable for her age, but then a trucker hat that said in huge letters "MARIJUANA" and had a marijuana leaf. It was so funny. She probably had no idea what it said.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Camping in Nagano

This weekend there was a "camping" trip to Nagano, and by camping I mean staying in an onsen and spending a few hours in nature. Regardless it was a lot of fun. It was a JSP/ TIU student event; a chance to meet new people, bond and practice Japanese/ English. I made a lot of friends, so that was cool. We went to this lake where I went canoeing with two new friends and then later hiking with a bunch of new friends. The lake was really small, but really pretty. We stopped on a shore where there were a bunch of Shinto statues. Some JSPers swam, and I was going to but then we were told it was not allowed. Oh well. The weather was great too, which was a relief since it's been raining for the past week. The area we were in has lots of ski resorts because in the winter they get 10+ feet of snow. We hiked up some of the trails toward the ski lifts, there were great views from there.

For lunch we ate mochi that we got help make. Mochi is basically smashed sticky rice. You smash it with a huge mallet on a specially carved stump/stand. I got to do the last 10 hits. The mallet was heavy and the mochi was sticky, it was a lot of fun. Plain mochi doesn't really taste like much, just rice. We had it in a soap, which was strange, since I'm used to mochi as a sweet.

At night we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows, which was a first for all the Japanese kids, most of them didn't seem to like it that much, which I don't understand. The marshmallows here don't taste the same, and some of the ones we had were flavored, so I had a few banana flavored roasted marshmallows, which was strange.

On Sunday morning we whittled our own chopsticks out of pieces of bamboo. It was really fun. At first it was really hard, tough to get the hang of. The second one was much easier and I finished it much faster. I'm proud of them, I spent a long time on them and I think they came out really well. For the rest of the day I took pictures holding them.

There are this fuzzy inch worms here that Japanese people are terrified of, it's actually pretty funny. They said it was poisonous and not to touch it, but I picked it up with a stick and some of the Japanese kids would run for their lives if I got near them with it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Golden Week

Food courts in Japanese malls
In America you would never be able to use real dishes in a foodcourt, where people have to bus their one tables. Dishes would go missing, they would be carelessly left on tables, it would be a mess. In Japan however, not only does each food station have different dishes, some even give you hot plates. You take your food to your table, eat it, throw the garbage away and take the tray with the dirty dishes back to the return area at the given station's station. It amazes me how smoothly this operates. In addition there's the issue of the garbage cans, which I don't think I've ever written about. Most garbage areas whether you're at home, at TIU, at the eki or the conbini (convenience store) (and the latter 3 places are really the only places I've seen trash cans in public) you'll find yourself in front of 3 cans: P.E.T. (plastic) bottles, cans and combustibles. At home, it's just plastic and combustibles, I don't know where cans go... Anyway, you'll very very rarely find just a single trash can.

Major ironic fact about Japan #2 (#1 was the train suicides): There are no trash cans ANYWHERE except the places stated above yet there is no litter. It blows my mind. I often find myself stuffing trash in bag and waiting until I pass a conbini, because I know there won't be a trash can anytime soon. I think the major difference is that here it's considered rude to eat while you are walking, so there are less people eating McDonald's while walking to school and throwing their trash on your lawn (that's for you Burroughs High School students, we really appreciate it). If you don't have trash, you won't have anything to litter with...

Major ironic fact about Japan #3: Japan is home to the most innovative, most over-the-top toilets YET at least half of the bathrooms will have a western style toilet and a traditional, smelly, dirty, gross, hurts your knees hole-in-the-ground toilet. I don't understand. And it's not like people always choose the western style first either, there are people out there who prefer squatting. Granted not all wester toilets have heated seats and different functions, some are as plain as in the US, but still.... you're not doing your business in a hole in the ground... And they ALWAYS smell, even if it looks clean, it's going to smell terrible, guaranteed . This isn't just in little restaurants or the like either, this in the lobby of a pretty nice hotel, or a pretty new shopping center. Blows my mind.

Golden Week:
Urawa Reds Soccer game: Awesome. The game was great, our seats were great, even though they were the nosebleeds I still felt close. Ryu's senpai from his club team, a 17 year old, number 24, played which was cool. I bought a sweet Abe shirt in youth large so it was cheaper, and a fake Torres jersey outside for $10. Reds scored in stoppage time in the second half to win the game. Legit. I can't wait until the next one.

Yokohama Matsuri: Spent a ridiculous amount of time and money getting to Yokohama, only to get lost and miss all the fun things at the festival, yet got to enjoy the crowds.... But I ate some good food, enjoyed the slightly humid, breezy weather, saw the water, and admired the second largest city in Japan.
Sidenote: On the train from Tokyo to Yokohama we saw this guy on the train wearing a nice suit and carrying a heavy duty silver, locked briefcase. He was holding onto the overhead handles and we noticed the edge of tattoos showing from under his shirt sleeves, which probably
means his entire body was covered, thus Yakuza. We had our resident Yakuza expert (my friend Matt has done a few research projects on the Yakuza) with us, who informed us that the entire body was covered except a center line. The tattoos are meant to represent armor, because when the Yakuza started in the Tokugawa era, they were ronin (masterless samurai) who banned together to protect peasants. Fascinating. The real question is though, what was in his briefcase?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Today I went on a "date" with Ann and her friend. We went to Wakaba Walk, which is a mall. We got ぴりくら (pirikura)- which are pictures taken in a booth and then decorated and printed onto stickers. We have similar things at home, but it's intensely popular here. I think I went 3 times in the first 2 weeks I was here, so it's been awhile. It was fun. Middle/ High school aged girls have little books designated for the collection of pirikura stickers.

So at the mall, I was astonished by the number of preteen girls dressing like they're in their late teens/twenties; high heels, fancy clothes, big purses. And it was obvious they were not accustomed to wearing heels because they wobbled and stumbled and just looked awkward.

The movie Ann wanted to see wasnt playing so we saw Shinchan- which is for kids younger than Ann and Mika. Every kid got a kazoo... whoseever idea that was was out of their minds. These kids have never seen kazoo's before, so giving it to them resulted in headaches for me and all of the parents around. The movie was pretty funny. I didn't get the details because it was in Japanese, but basically this environmentally crazy guy and his cult enter town and people get turned into animals and this little boy and his friends save the day. I'm not sure why everyone turned into animals or how the 2 bad guys involved (who were also enemies) made up and turned good, but it was entertaining and I got the gist of it.

We also saw what may be the local version of Miley Cyrus. Ann and Mika were really excited about it. It was a live performance by this girl who was MAYBE 10 years old and sings modernized traditional Japanese music, so it sounded like. It was really crowded. She was really talented, but we waited for an hour and after 20 minutes they wanted to go home.... kids. It was fine with me though. I had fun.

I finally asked why Ann is called Ann when her name is Yasumi. The kanji for "Yasu" is 安 which means "safety in the house" (or "cheap" when followed by い. Another pronunciation of 安 is "an," thus, Ann. Ta-kun's friends call him Kuro, short for Kurokawa, which I think is pretty cool.

Monday, April 27, 2009


First I just want to say this may have been the longest I've gone without internet in years, it's been a full week since I've surfed the ever-expanding webs of cyberspace.

Last week we had spring break part 1. Since we are halfway through the semester (ah! it's going by so fast!) This is just a JSP (our program) spring break, so the other TIU students and the rest of the country were not on break. Their break comes next week, last week of April/ first week of May; it's called Golden Week. Schools and companies are all on break. We get Monday and Tuesday off from school, but it creates at 5 days weekend for us, since we don't have class on Wednesdays. Anyway, for spring break part 1 we went to Kansai, which is basically the area surrounding Kyoto, including Osaka, Kobe, and Hiroshima.

We left on Tuesday morning. I had to leave my house at 6:30 to get to Tokyo by 8, but I got a seat which was nice. By the time the train reached Ikebukuro station, it was packed, but that was nothing. From Ikebukuro we had to go to Tokyo Station in order to catch the Shinkansen. This 20 minute ride was the most ridiculous ride of life. The first few stops weren't too bad, pretty crowded but tolerable. Then all of the sudden there was a mad rush into the train, and when I thought it was full and no one else could get on, more people were pushed into the car. (Literally pushed, but men called "Pushers" who wear white gloves. It is their job to push people and make as many people as possible fit into the train.) It was ridiculous. I was standing next to my friend Jamie and she was off balance, so was basically supported by the people around her. She was eventually more or less sitting on my leg, as her shoulder jammed into my sternum. Breathing was not easy for about 5 minutes. No one could move at all. It was absolutely ridiculous, but I'm glad I got to experience it once. I feel bad for those salary men who have to go through that daily.

The Shinkansen was really nice. The seats were comfy, lots of leg room and there were power outlets (which came in handy when my DS died). The 4 hour ride went by really fast. Eventually, after more train rides, ferry rides (yes, we sang "I'm On A Boat") and walking, we arrived on Miyajima, an island outside of Hiroshima, known as "One of Japan's Three Most Scenic Spots," I don't know what the other two are.
• famous red gate in the water, O-Torii
• wild deer that just chilled around the city.
• big elevated shrine, because in high tide the water makes it way all the way to the shrine. There is a stage for a special kind on dance, that they didnt put the normal acoustic devices in underneath the stage, because in high tide the water makes perfect resonance.
• Rope way up to Mt. Misen, where there are monkeys, but we didn't get to see any. A friend went running up there the next morning and saw the monkeys, lucky.
• We stayed at an Onsen, (hot spring resort) which was fun. We slept on futon on tatami mats, very traditional. I went to the onsen, it was strange but I got over the nakedness.
• The food at this place was a little tough to handle. It was really fancy, traditional food. Lots of oysters, which I don't really like and everything seemed to taste like saltwater, which was not enjoyable. There were probably about 10 dishes, I didn't know what most of it was, and most of it was not very delicious. Breakfast was the same way. Oysters for breakfast? No thanks.

Wednesday we made our way to Hiroshima where we saw the A-bomb memorial Genbaku-Dome, which was almost directly underneath the explosion, so most of the foundation was still intact afterwards while everything around it was completely razed. It was pretty amazing. We also went to the Peace Park where there is a memorial for a girl who died of Leukemia, caused by exposure to the radiation. She heard that if you make 1000 paper cranes you will be granted a wish, so she started folding paper cranes until she died. She made over 1000. Her classmates, moved by her determination, earned money to build a memorial and continue to help other children. It was cool. After that we went to the Peace Memorial Museum, which was very moving, yet fascinating. There were many artifacts recovered after the bombing, including everything from burned clothes, watches stopped at 8:15 and even the skin and fingers of a boy who died.
In the Peace Park there were hundreds of school kids. It seemed that every school required the kids to go up to foreigners and say "Hello, may I ask you some questions? My name is ____. What is your name? I am from ____. Where are you from? Please sign here" and they'd hand you a notebook. We were bombarded by children. They just kept coming. If you spoke to them in Japanese they'd all freak out. It was hilarious. It was fun at first, but just became a nuisance, so we started telling them in Japanese that we didn't have time, then dart away as they gaped in awe at the fact we spoke Japanese.

One more 2 hour Shinkansen ride later we were in Kyoto. We walked around to the shopping/restaurant area, and met up with some Oxy kids that are studying in Kyoto right now. The next day we had a bus tour of Kyoto. We started out with the Kinkaku-ji or "Golden Pavilion," which was pretty cool, since the top two floors were coated in gold leaf. It was really crowded with more school kids, but this time they didn't talk to us (phew). Next stop was the shogun's castle. There were a lot of murals and nice wood work. The floors creaked in the more outer hallways. This was done on purpose and called Nightingale Floors, it was done so people couldn't sneak around and assassinate the shogun (because by "people" i mean "ninja".) After the castle we had a buffet lunch and an expensive hotel with a really nice view of Kyoto. The food was really really good. We worked the lunch off climbing up a huge hill that the next stop resided on. It is a Tendai Buddhist Temple, called Kyomizu-dera. The main attraction here is a waterfall/fountain that has three streams, one for intelligence, one for beauty and health, and one for love. You can drink the holy water from as many as you want, but if you drink all three you're greedy. I drank health and beauty, it tasted like water. Finally our tour ended with a trip to Gion, the geisha district. We saw the 137th Miyaka-Odori, a performance done by the Geiko and Maiko (geisha and their apprentices) to mark the beginning of spring. It was dark in the theater, kind of boring, in Japanese so I couldn't understand and at the end of a long day, so I and the the other JSP kids, kept falling asleep. From what I did see, the stage was really nice, there was live music/sound effects and the backdrop was really pretty.

Friday was a free day in Kyoto/ surrounding area. A few of us took a train out to Kobe to get some beef. We found some at a restaurant in a little shopping center by the harbor. Who knows how good it was or if it was really Kobe beef, but it was delicious and pretty cheap. I can say I ate Kobe beef, because it was beef in Kobe, good enough for me. On the menu there was a $200 steak you could buy, none of us felt like dropping that much on lunch, so we stuck with the lunch set. There was a mini-amusment park area which was pretty fun. We went on a mini rollercoaster. The boys were too big for the seats, so they had to sit sideways and take up a whole car each, which was hilarious. In the middle of this area were giant, fuzzy robot animals to ride. Obviously for kids, but we had fun riding them. I rode a panda, there was also a giraffe. On the way back to the station we stopped at a shrine. It was really pretty and quite, and obviously not much of a tourist attraction. It might be my favorite shrine so far for that reason. It was much more moving without tons of people, it was so peaceful.

Overall Kansai was fun. They ride the escalator on the opposite side than in Tokyo and everything was a little more expensive, but it was a good experience. In the end though, it was nice to come back to Tokyo.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I was walking from the super(market) today and there were these two old ladies trying to open their car but it the key wasnt turning. As I walked past I heard a click of a car door unlocking on the other side of me and I looked and it was the exact same car, but no one was around it. So clearly, they were on the wrong car. I said "Excuse me, um..." (in Japanese) and point to the other car. They are confused for a second then realize what happened and laughed and thanked me, but were clearly embarrassed. It was funny. Oh, it was a Honda Fit too.

R4 is great.

I leave for Kansai tomorrow!

Disney Sea

Saturday was Disney Sea. Other than being terribly expensive (as all Disney attractions are, not to mention the $20 to get there and back) it was fun. It was really really clean.

The bathrooms may have been the most impressive part. They were spotlessly clean, there were never lines and there was always soap in the dispenser. I always felt cleaner after leaving the bathrooms, as one should.

There were some ice cream vendors here and there but the main snack available was popcorn. There were so many different flavors. I tried strawberry, chocolate, carmel and curry. They were all really yummy, but I think the carmel was my favorite, it wasn't carmely as at home, but that was fine. Naturally, I liked the sweet ones better, so the curry was my least favorite, but it did indeed taste like curry.

The rides were cool. We went on Tower of Terror twice, Indiana Jones, Journey to the Center of the Earth and one other whose name I don't remember but it had a loop. They were all pretty fun. It was surprisingly not that crowded, so lines were usually only 30-45 minutes (and to think that's short...). The rides were a lot like Disneyland, but maybe a bit shorter. Maybe its because I haven't been to Disneyland in a few years and in fact the rides there are short too, not sure. Anyway, they decorations and all were cool.

While in line for Indiana Jones, we were standing in front of a group of deaf Japanese kids. It was really cool to see them signing in Japanese sign language, not that I could really tell the difference between that and American Sign Language. When the line entered a tunnel and it was really dark, they couldn't see each other signing so they got their cell phones out and shined them on their hands, so others could see. It was really cool, because I never really thought about how deaf people can't communicate in the dark. At one point I smiled at one girl and we kind of became silent friends. Later another boy bumped into me and nodded an apology. After the ride, outside, I waved to them and they waved back and giggled. It was a fun experience.

Japan is funny because they Disney characters that are popular here aren't quite the same as in the US. The most popular here are Stitch, Marie from Aristocats (really....?), Chip 'n Dale, Winnie the Pooh and of course Mickey, Minnie and the princesses. I don't think I saw a single Lion King item in the park. There was this AWESOME shark backpack that I really wanted. It was a shark's head with the zipper where the the teeth were. I don't know how to explain it really. I would have bought it but it was $80. I bought a bracelet, a keitai strap, a silly sign and some sweets for the host family. As I overpaid for my souvenirs I just thought "what is it about Japan that makes Disney so much more appealing?" I really have no idea.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I did it. I ate at McDonalds. IT WAS DELICIOUS. Possibly better than at home. And the buns were normal McDonalds buns. Good Deal.

Monday, April 13, 2009

ひさしぶり (long time no see)

Dear Friends and Loved Ones,
I'm sorry it's been so long since I posted, but really life has not been that exciting. However, I took some time today and wrote a very very long post for your enjoyment. I wracked my brain for things that I've been meaning to write and things you might find entertaining. Enjoy.

I've had two hamburgers since I came to Japan. The first was at a cool diner called Oatman's. Lucy and I went after class one day. The diner had American decorations all over the place, there was a sign that said "y'all come back now, ya hear", and it played some sweet American tunes from the 90s. Oddly enough, there were only girls in the entire place. It was strange. I had a Teriyaki burger, Lucy had an Avocado burger. While they were quite delicious and hit the spot, it was definitely not an American hamburger and actually, mine didn't taste much like a teriyaki burger, perhaps because it was drowned in mayonnaise (a completely other topic I will come to later). It came with maybe 5, tiny steak fries. The patty was pretty small for a diner burger, and the bun was strange. Strange as in, it was shiny and had a distinctive taste, maybe sweet? but I recognized it again when I had my second burger in Japan. I had number 2 in Tokyo, but it was just a fastfood place called Lotteria, which are everywhere. Here I got real fries, which were awfully tasty. The cheeseburger was delicious, made with chedder cheese (but really, not a fan of the chedder, I prefer American cheese), it was literally meat and cheese, no onions even and had the same kind of bun as Oatman's. So I'm thinking that's just the Japanese hamburger bun. I wish I could explain it better.

Now the real question is: does McDonald's have regular McDonald's buns or Japanese buns? I will find out if I ever bring myself to eat at one of the two McDonalds I pass twice a day.

I had a paper due on Thursday, so I wrote it the Sunday before. We were also going to have a midterm in that class that Thursday, so I thought ahead. On Tuesday night some students had a study group and I walked over and teasingly called them nerds. They retorted with "Didn't you write your paper already?".... touche. I do believe I was the only person in the class of 25 that didn't have to write my paper wednesday night, oh and Shosuke, but he thought it was due on Wednesday. Luckily too, the midterm was turned into a take-home test, not due until May 2nd. But yes, I finished it already. *Dad, after all those years of waiting until the last minute to do things, I've finally learned, doing them early is WAY better (please note this revelation occurred sometime in the past few years).

I went to school to do homework and study on Saturday (I'm a good student), and some friends suggested we go to Meiji shrine in Tokyo. So of course, I graciously refused their invitation and did my homework instead. Just kidding! I didn't want to lug around my heavy backpack with my computer and books in it all around Tokyo, so I put it in a coin locker at the station. Seeing that I didn't want to carry my phone, wallet, camera, etc around in my hands all day, upon arrival in Harajuku, I promptly found a bag store and bought a new bag. I needed one anyway, so it all worked out. The best part of this story, is that my bag says, in big letters: "I AM ANXIOUS ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING." Thank you Japan.
On a side note, we walked through a very popular shopping strip and it had tons of cool shops. One shop had, what might be, the cutest socks ever made. Lucy and I plan on returning and actually shopping. This time was just a walk-through on the way to the shrine.
The shrine was so pretty! It's in this huge park in the middle of Tokyo, which in itself is amazing. I took pictures, look for them soon.

Saturday was Dexter and Dill's "birthday." One year old! I miss them! (Unrelated, but still interesting)

The weather has been absolutely beautiful the past few days. Warm, if not borderline hot ( it felt really hot while I was running). Sunny, blue skies, pretty clouds here and there. For some reason, the only shorts I brought are ones I'm not terribly fond of... what was I thinking? So, I need to either invest in some and/or have someone send me some *nudge nudge wink wink dad*. I'll definitely need them, especially once summer hits. I heard that girls in Japan don't wear tanktops because they have the connotation of only being worn by tough girls in gangs. But also, I think Japanese people just like to be hot. I was warm in a tanktop (which I was wearing because I'm tough and in a gang... clearly) and jeans, and I look around me and people are wearing pants, longsleeves and jackets. The price of looking cute? Except it was everyone, not just the young, fashionably dressed hipsters. I mean, it's 80 degrees, not 60. On the other hand, girls will wear shorts/skirts that don't live up to their purpose of covering the entire butt, when it's cold outside. And I don't think many of the sweatshirts are made for warmth, just fashion. So really, I have no idea.

I can eat sushi and sashimi now, and enjoy it. Phew, good thing. Not that it's eaten as often as you would think. I mean, it's definitely common, but its not like everyone eats is everyday. My family has it maybe twice a week, and it's usually just a side dish. I can eat most mushrooms too. Those mostly get me with their texture though. In any case, my taste buds are evolving. (But not toward tomatoes. I get teased in my Japanese class because my teacher and the two other girls all love tomatoes.)

Which brings me back to mayonnaise. I don't know if I've written about this yet, maybe I have. If so, I apologize but I promise to bring new material this time. Japanese people LOVE mayonnaise. It's like people who love Ranch in the US, but worse. They eat it on everything. "Oh here's a salad, want some salad dressing? - Oh no thanks, I'll just gob on some straight mayo." "Oh yum karage (fried chicken pieces), why don't I dip it in this giant dish of mayonnaise that came with it?" I don't understand. I don't understand Americans eating Ranch on everything either though. But really, this is ridiculous. The other night, my japanese friend and I ate some karage. Seeing that I had no use for my mayonnaise, I gave it to him. After eating there was some leftover in the extra dish, and we were all talking about how much he loves mayonnaise. He takes his chopsticks, picks up a HUGE glob of mayo and eats it...plain. The table erupted in a chorus of "EW," "Gross!" and "That's disgusting!"

When at a restaurant, the food is often times not served all together. It is not rude in Japanese culture to start eating before everyone is served.

I bought a DS. The software is in English. The game is not, but that's okay, it's not really necessary. I've also come to the conclusion that I really am terrible at Super Mario Brothers. The DS has wifi, so when in the same vicinity you can chat with other DS's and even play the same game against each other, only one person needs to have the game, everyone else can just download it. I played Tetris with two other people. It was so much fun. I clearly need to work on my thumb muscles though, because they got tired quickly.

My otoosan got a new cell phone. The charger doubles as a stand, but even better, the phone sits on it horizontally and doubles as a digital clock. It's pretty cool.

I had fun trying to teach my host sister the difference between the sounds of "full" "fool" "fall" and "four".

My host mom needed a place to put something, so she took a newspaper ad and folded it into a box. It was amazing.


Thursday, April 2, 2009


Today I went on a field trip with my film class to the Ghibli Museum. It was pretty cool. Makes me want to watch Miyazaki movies.

We also stopped at a famous gelato shop and a shrine. It was in a really cool area of Tokyo. There were a lot of cool little restaurants and shops, I will definitely be going back at some point. It's kinda far, but that's okay. The third line you take to get there, the Chuo Line, has the most suicides (people jumping in front of the train), so on the train it announces "the train may stop suddenly in case of an accident." The other lines don't have that warning.

Speaking of which, the other night there was such an accident. The trains were stopped for a long time. It took my host dad twice as long that normal to get home. The trains were all off schedule, but when I was going home, I got the station just as one was pulling up, so I guess I lucked out.
For people that try not to inconvenience others at all, the way commit suicide is very ironic. Jumping in front of the train inconveniences EVERYONE.

It was hailing today. I asked my friend when the weather was going to start getting better, and he responded saying "my host dad told me that the weather is like a woman's heart and is always changing." It made me laugh. I want the weather to get better so I don't have to wear a jacket anymore.

I wish I could stay for another semester but then I wouldn't graduate on time.

There are signs everywhere in Tokyo promoting Tokyo 2012, I hope they get it.

I put hot pink shoelaces in my shoes. They look cool. It's a little loud, but I'm in Japan, so I'm over it.

I got a postcard from Mia today! Thanks!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hinami plus some

This time, it's not chronological.

This weekend the sakura blossomed. It's beautiful! Saturday, we went to a park in Shinjuku and I took 214 pictures there. There are 75 different kinds of cherry blossom, who knew? Not that I saw 75 different kinds... A lot of my pictures look the same, I mean, a cherry tree is a cherry tree.... so it was easy to edit which ones to put up. There were tons of people there because it's traditional to take a picnic and drink while gazing at the blossoms, called a hinami. Granted we didn't drink or picnic. It was still a lot of fun.

Instead of taking a picnic we went and spent a good deal of money (and by that I mean more than $7) at El Torito (go figure...). It was pretty good, hit the spot after having talked up the mexican food on the way there. The portions were really small compared to the US, but the hot sauce was pretty tasty. And who thought it would take me a month in Japan to appreciate guacamole. Regardless of the odd timing for Mexican food, it was fun and pretty good. I just thought it was ironic that we would eat Mexican food before viewing cherry blossoms in Japan...

Friday night we went to a pub in Ikebukuro called Hub, it's pretty famous and there are a bunch of them. There are also a ton of gaijin there. I think I prefer the company of Japanese though.

My Japanese is getting better, and thus my confidence in speaking is slowly increasing. I started a conversation with Ta-kun, probably our first one on one. It was really exciting, to me at least. I had taken a picture of a billboard of Full Metal Alchemist because I had tried to tell him about it on my first or second day with my family, but the name is really different in Japanese, so it didn't get across. So I showed him the picture and asked him if he knew it, and I told him that's the one I was talking about before. He knows it, and likes it. yay!

Tomoki the PA, Lucy and I went to Akiba to return my DS, which worked out smoothly thanks to Tomoki. I'm going to buy the older version sometime next week. It won't be green, but I'll get over it. Maybe I can buy a cute cover for it or something. I can get a Japanese-English dictionary program, which would be sweet. I'm excited.

Yesterday I did what few, if any American tourists to Japan have ever done... I attended a middle school band concert. Ann is going to be in band club next semester, so we went so she could get an idea of which instrument she wants to play. I think she decided on clarinet. I would have guessed flute. It was just like any other band concert except the kids were wearing japanese middle school uniforms. I was really tired, so I kept falling asleep. oops. I was able to read the kanji of one persons name, yay! 10 kanji down, 1990 to go to be able to read a newspaper.

I got straps for my kettai finally. I got a Shikamaru from Naruto, Hitsugaya from Bleach and cream puff, which Shikamaru is eating, and a piece of pizza for Hitsugaya. Oh Japan.

I went running today. I found a paved path that goes along the river for a long time, through rice fields. It was fun. I'm going to check out the pool my okaasan told me about sometime soon. I sure could use a swim.

Something I've noticed: if the sun is out, i automatically think it's warmer out. however, it usually isn't, but I have already convinced myself it is, so I don't notice how cold it is until way later.

Wednesday: Ghibili museum with film class.
Sunday: Disney Sea maybe

Thursday, March 26, 2009

School + field trip

I got 100% on both my hirigana and katakana tests, yay, kanji here I come... finally. I can write my host family's name, person(人), and prisoner in Kanji. Yay! I was so excited when I learned Kurokawa (黒川), the first thing I did when I got home was show my okaasan. In class on Tuesday we wrote the longest sentence we could think of, and then later Lucy and Bianca and I wrote another:

1. PAのともきはきのうごごくじごじごふんににほんじんのともだちのまットさんとしんかんせんでいけぶくろののみほだいバーへいきましたか。
"At 9 pm yesterday, did the PA Tomoki, his Japanese friends and Matt went by bullettrain to an all-you-can-drink bar Ikebukuro?

2. うのせんせいはAクラスとにほんじんのPAのしのさんとせんしゅうのかようびごぜんじゅうにじよんじゅごふんいJALのひこうきでほかいどへいきましたか。
Did Uno Sensei, the A class and the Japanese PA Shino, take a JAL airplane to go to Hokaido last Tuesday at 12:45 am?

Uno Sensei was so impressed. She bragged to the other teachers. Yay A class!

We had a JSP field trip to Nagatoro, a city in the mountains, where we learned to make udon. It was fun, but rather difficult. We didn't get to make the dough, only roll it out and cut it. So first, you take the do and put it in the center of a plastic bag. Then you step on it until it flattens out. Then you take it out, fold it in quarters, put it back in the middle and step on it again. You do this as many times as you want. It got to a point though, at about the 4th round, when stepping on it didn't do much. Then you take the dough out and put it on the huge cutting board and roll it around the rolling pin, which was a long stick, smaller in diameter than an american rolling pin, but twice as long. You roll it away from you, gently pushing it out with your hands (hands stay on dough, not pin) and then get to a thick part and slide it back toward you. Repeat a million times. Not quite a million, but it felt like a million. One would think I would be better at this part, having baked so many pies, but really, I wasn't. Once it's big enough, sprinkle a ton of flour on it, roll it up on the pin and unroll it again, but layering it on top of itself. It's hard to explain with words. I may eventually have pictures. Then you break out the huge knife and cut 3-4mm pieces and pick them up and twist them so they don't get tangled, put them in the box and take them to the pot of boiling water. We got to eat our udon too, which was fun. It was tasty. We each made about 3 servings worth of noodles, so I got to bring some back to the family. I also bought them some sweetened beans (mame) that were supposed to be good, and I didn't know, but my otoosan loves them. lucky.

After udon making we went to this river where there were these huge rocks//cliffs/ river. I tested the water and having so much experience testing ice bath water in the training room, I figured it was about 60℉. Warmer than it looked and I expected since it was really cold and rainy out. Many of us plan to go back once it gets warmer out. It was really cool.


Kawagoe festival: Pretty fun. Not the best weather for a festival, since it was rainy and very, very windy. My umbrella succumbed to the Bernoulli principle at one point. Other than the weather it was a lot of fun. Due to a lack of communication between the JSPers, few people planned to meet up for the festival, yet we all ended up finding each other at some point. I set out from Kawagoe-shi station and used my ever-improving Japanese to ask the station agent how to get to the place on the flier I had. He pulled out a map and ushered me in the right direction. I ended up finding it easily. I lost my keitai strap somewhere in the streets of kawagoe though.
First, I happened up a very long line of very old women in matching kimono dancing to taiko drum music (one of the drums was played by girl who was probably about 7, she was awesome.) Further down the street there were old men dressed up in refurbished samurai armor. This was really cool. These guys fired old rifles. There were these business men, suits and all, standing in the crowd next to me talking about one of the samurai (clearly a friend of theirs) and how his glasses didn't fit in with his costume. The called out to him about it and he stifled a laugh. I was amused.

Then I went into Tokyo with my friend. It was cool. I bought a shirt at a cool t-shirt store and speaker for my ipod. It's about 2 inches long and half an inch wide, looks like a lego and plugs right into my ipod. It's really loud too and powered by the ipod. Oh Japan. I bought it at Kiddyland, which blew my mind, more or less. It's a huge store full of toys, tech stuff, cute stuff, socks, cookware, random stuff. It was a lot of fun just to look around.
We went to Akihabara to the huge electronics store. When I say huge, I mean 8 (or more) floors in a huge building, jam packed full of every electronic device you could ever dream of. I bought one of the new lime green Nintendo DSi's (only to discover you can't put it in English or use R4 on it, so I'm going to exchange it for a less pretty but cheaper and more useful, old DS. It's so pretty though...

Saturday, March 21, 2009


◆ Japanese Film class is pretty cool so far. We've watched some silent films and silent animated shorts.
◆ I had a pretty sensible conversation with my little sister today about what time she's going to bed, what time I'm waking up and about the times of my classes tomorrow. yay! better each day. We also spent about half an hour playing with my photobooth application on my computer. She was amazed. There's a similar application on her Nintendo DS.
◆ I went to aerobics with okaasan today. it was great. the other ladies were so fun and nice. it was also really nice to workout. The first half was relatively tough aerobics-y stuff, then the second half was hiphop dancing and yoga. Really, the hip hop dancing made me feel like I was showchoir again. Not my forte.
◆ I saw a Honda Odessey commercial where George Clooney gets out of the car and pumps gas. There's some nihongo words written on the screen. I thought it was hilarious.
◆ I was walking down the stairs (by myself mind you) and I hit my elbow. Instead of saying "ouch!" i said "itai!"

Monday, March 16, 2009


I went with Lucy and her okaasan to this doll museum in an old, traditional Japanese house in the countryside of Kawagoe. It was cool, not much of a doll festival, but it was really cool to walk around this huge house and it's garden. Served for many pictures. Then we went to the temple in Kawagoe. We're going to back again when the cherry blossoms are in blooming. It was still cool.

I asked Lucy's host mom about the sweet potato products. She said she could direct me to a brewery for the beer and we stopped at a small shop to look at goods. In the brief look inside, I saw sweet potato fries, baked slices with and without molasses and another one that i learned was very sweet. So Mom and Dad, I will go back and bring you all kinds of treats.


(sorry this one's a long one)
Saturday we went to いけぶくろ (Ikebukuro), so my first experience with Tokyo, but it wasn't all that great. We went to "Sunshine City" which is basically a huge mall. While in the mall we went to a place called Namjara or something. There was a ¥300 ($3) entrance fee. It was really strange and I'm still not sure what to make of it. Inside there were different areas: Ice Cream City, Healing City, Gyoza Stadium and a haunted cat place (..?) It was strange. I first went to Gyoza Stadium. There was a a seating area and then a bunch of different gyoza stands. I got normal gyoza at one place and then garlic at another. The にんにく (garlic) gyoza was really good. The stands were all really close together, so it was really crowded. We wondered what they were thinking when designing the place. The seating area was wide open, the tables were table-tops sitting on 2 beer crates. It was strange, but tasty.
We saw this strange white guy wearing a button down shirt tucked into Kappa sweats pulled up to his ribs pretty much. On top of that he tucked his fanny pack into his pants. There will be more about him later. **

Then we went to Ice Cream City. Ice Cream City was filled with shops that offered all kinds of ice cream, sorbet and other ice cream-like desserts. We happened upon some other JSPers near the SoftServe section. There were about 21 choices (i would say no pun intended, but really... i had originally written flavors (unless you go to Oxy, you probably won't get it, sorry)). Flavors included classic Chocolate (which I tried and was better than expected), Wasabi, Melon, Milk, Soy Bean Flour, Peach and many more. I got チョコといちご (Chocolate and Strawberry), it was so delicious.

After ice cream, we went down to the haunted cat area. It was full of creepy cats and other goons. Kids were running around with "ghost catchers" that looked more like virtual fishing. It was cool, but very, very bizarre.

**We met up at our designated time and place and we were just waiting for some others to show up and the weird sweatpants がいじん (gai-jin = foreigner), came over to where we were and started talking to Danny, telling him how he ate 40 gyoza and it cost $23. Then he asked "oh where did you say you were from?" and then "well enjoy your vacation in LA." That's when Jamie said "you mean Tokyo...?" "Oh right, Tokyo." I guess he had approached Danny with a question early and thought they were buddies now? And Danny had never told him where he was from. So all in all, this guy was a total weirdo.

Then we just shopped for awhile in Sunshine City, which was kind of boring. There were a lot of random stores like Talbots and Eddie Bower. I can't imagine why, they don't seem like the kind of stores nihon-jin (Japanese people) shop at, but who knows. I bought Ann a Stitch keychain for her birthday at the Disney Store (which is much more popular than, and nothing like the one in America). After getting too bored, we headed out and ended up at the entrance of another mall. At that point a few of us decided it was just time to go home. So I went home. Train from Ikebukuro to Takasaka is about 50 minutes. Yay Ipod.
Keitai = happiness
Japanese Keitai are amazing. I can send email to anyone I want in the world. yay! you can send email to my phone too! (surprisingly "audrey@softbank..." was taken...) I'll probably get it right away unless I'm in class. They use email like we use texting, so you can add little emoticons. However, the emoticons here are 3D, bounce around, dance and there are hundreds of options. You can even put a little picture of a guy swimming; his arms and the waves move. It's so cool!

Oh! I was in a hyakuen shop (dollar store) on Thursday and I bought Melon 'n Cream Mentos. They sound disgusting but I bought them, tried them, and even though I don't like melon, I really liked them. They didn't taste like melon at all really. And then Saturday I went to 7-11 (which is way better than in the US) and bought Cola flavored Mentos. They also had grape and fruit mix. The cola were pretty good, kind of spicy.

I stopped by Makudanoru (McDonalds) to get a coke, I got a small and it was about the size of a children's drink in the US. The Medium was about the size of a US small and I'm assuming the large = a US medium. That's the closest I've gotten to American food in the past 2 weeks. I think the coke uses real sugar, like the coke from Mexico. It's yummy. We had Pizza Hut pizza (among other things) for Ann's birthday dinner. It was pretty good.

I had my first non-nihon-go (japanese) class on Friday. The professor was drugged out on allergy medicine so he seemed out of his mind crazy. But the class should be really cool, it's Japanese Philosophy, so we study the different religions/beliefs. It should be fun.

Otoosan gets an asian glow after one beer. (ha... like Starlie )

Thursday, March 12, 2009


One of the dishes with dinner consisted of 4-5 inch long whole fried fish. I ate one. It was fishy and oily but wasn't completely disgusting. I didn't eat a second one. Instead, a ate more cucumbers... mmm. But I didn't dip them in mayonnaise like everyone else. That's just gross.

I got my kettai! It only took 3 hours of waiting to get the phone in my hand, and another 3 hours for it to be activated. Yay being able to know what time it is again! Yay being able to contact people! Yay Kettai! (It's a boring bar phone. It's white. I put a red monkey dangly on it. Seeing that most of JSP has the same phone in either white or black, it needed to be personalized.) At least I got to catch up on Naruto and spend quality bonding time with my classmates.

I went into a drug store today with the goal of buying face wash, since I inconveniently left mine in the Kawagoe hotel. I found "cleanse oil" and "face foam". I'm pretty sure I was in the right aisle, but I didn't buy it because I didn't have room in my bag and didn't want to carry it around all day. Then due to the kettai drama I forgot to go on the way home.

My friend Lucy and I went on an adventure through Kasumigaseki today. We wondered around until we stumbled upon a ramen shop. It was more expensive than we'd hoped, but since everything was in Japanese and there weren't prices anywhere, we had taken a chance. It was really tasty though. I didn't know what I was putting in my mouth most of the time, but it was good. I did eat a very flavorful mushroom (mama, be proud). After lunch we explored the "Great Depths" of Kasumigaseki. Upon our travels we met many strange objects (visible on picasa or fb) and Joe (who was on his way to the station). While trying to get back to school/ failing miserably and almost getting lost within the jungle of residential streets, we came upon a playground. Now this wasn't any normal playground. There was a hippo and a dog to sit on and the jungle gym was shaped like a space ship. Japanese Space Program here I come! We eventually made it back to school, no thanks to unmarked dead ends and twisty turny roads, but many thanks to the fact that Kasumigaseki is kind of small and only has a few "big" roads. And by big I mean it has a stop light once in awhile.

I ate an apple today. It was delicious.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I set up a Picasa album for Japan so you can also enjoy visual aids to live vicariously through my experiences.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I've started the method of typing everything out at home, so when I get to school (to the internet) I can just copy and paste for your enjoyment. yatta!

My host family is great.

My younger sister, Ann, loves to sing, especially Mama Mia songs. She's almost as tall as me and likes to point it out. We play board games and card games, hoping we know the same rules. The language barrier makes things difficult, but it helps me learn. We played jenga with colored pieces so I learned colors, and we played Go Fish so I got to work on my numbers.

I never see Ryu, he's always playing soccer. Ta has a part time job so I don't see him much either. He's an aspiring baker.

The house is small but everyone and everything fits... of course, since it's Japan. They've been hosting students off an on for about 16 years, so they're really experienced. I'll take pictures of my room at some point. It's simple but works out well.

They drive a Honda minivan. The back seat doors are controlled by the driver via remote control. There's a tv where there would be a radio in cars in America. When you reverse, not only is there a camera that shows you a view of your rear end, but it has lines representing your car, so you can tell exactly where you are (like inside the lines of a parking spot). Seatbelts don't seem to be used as widely as in the US. And of course the driver is on the right.

My Japanese needs to get better fast. I'm tired of not knowing what people are saying and not being able to communicate what I want to say. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it quickly, but for now it's exhausting. It already is improving though, and I try to use it when I can, even if it's just interjecting random nihon-go words into ei-go sentences.

I bought a new camera. It's ao (blue). I actually bought a legit case for it. Yay! I'm really excited. It's awesome.

Not having internet at home is a pain, but I'll get over it. I'll be spending more time at school and there's wireless there.

I rode the train by myself to school and back today... success! だこじょうぶ! It takes about 25 minutes round trip from my house to the station.

There is a famous comedy duo here called オードリー (Oodorii), which is my name. So whenever they're on tv my host family says "aaah oodorii!" and "ah it's you!" They're in a KFC commercial.

Three friends and I went to a Bento restaurant for lunch. We couldn't read the menu, so the most advanced speaker among us asked the owners what they recommend and we all ate that. It was good. I don't know what it was, a stew-like dish with tofu and ground beef. The place was really small, it fit maybe 15 people.

Cell phone tomorrow!

Friday, March 6, 2009


I don't know what "pariparibariishyoso" means. Paripari means crispy, other than that I'm lost. It was on my bag of chips. In any case, I laughed out loud when I read it.

Things I've learned and how they correlate to real life:

"sumimasen, shashin o karimasenka"
"iie, camera o kowaredesu"

"excuse me, can you take a picture?"
"no my camera's broken"

Yes, my camera is broken. It broke yesterday as I was taking pictures of the most compact toilet+sink+shower unit I've ever seen. The lens was stuck (which is weird because I wasn't trying to close it at the time). It beeps and says "lens error, restart camera." I've tried and tried to restart the camera; I've taken the battery out to no ado, it just beeps and the lens does not retract. Damedesu! Convenient timing too right? My options are to try to get it fixed or buy a sweet new camera that speaks to me, as do all other electronics in Japan. Pictorial documentation will have to be put on hold for now.

Speaking of toilets... most have control panels and heated seats. I don't really care about the control panel, just the heated seats.

I've determined Japanese style breakfasts are exponentially better than Western style, unless you like eating nearly raw bacon, foamy eggs and salad for breakfast. Personally, not a big fan.

I get a cell phone next week. I always feel like I'm missing something and I never know what time it is without one.

¥500 (~$5) and ¥100 (~$1) are coins, not bills. It's really fun and convenient, even though I usually hate coins. Easy to forget they're worth significantly more than US coins though...

It rained ALL day. Rather inconvenient and cold. It got to the point when a stubborn Pacific Northwestern had to buy an umbrella.

There are shoes everywhere and they're pretty and I want to buy them. I hope they have my big foot size in woman's shoes. I also saw cool hoodies for ¥990 (<$10). Cool.

Pocari Sweat = clear, flat airborne. Even if it doesn't actually keep me healthy, it tastes like it does, while restoring my depleted ions.

I like the trains, but I have yet to ride one without a returner or native guiding me. It's rather intimidating. There are several different speeds of train on the same line and about a thousand different lines in the Tokyo area. So really there are about a million trains. Not all the trains stop at every station along the way. They only stop for lightning, strong wind, some other weather issue and suicides. Classes get postponed if the trains stop.

I meet my host family tomorrow, yay! I'm nervous. I have to speak Japanese to a room full of host families and teachers for my introduction at the Opening Ceremony. I feel like I would have trouble with this even in English...