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!