Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Temple, Temple, Geisha; Temple, Temple, Monkey

I have returned from Kyoto! I'm totally exhausted! However, I'm blogging now anyway! Why? Because otherwise I will procrastinate and it'll get done in late January or something.

As the title of this post suggests, Kyoto has a LOT of temples. Seriously, I saw so many that I feel I never need to see a temple or shrine again....

Anyway, our trip began at Tokyo Station where Rachel and I managed to get on our night bus with only minor hiccups. We got to Kyoto Saturday morning at about 7am but couldn't check in to the hostel until 3:30 so we dumped our luggage in a coin locker and headed for Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion).

Beautiful isn't it? That's real gold decorating it. At this point the sun was peeking out, so actually looking directly at the Kinkakuji was actually kind of hard it was so shiny. The area is really pretty too. Anyway, Rachel and I bought "dreams come true" charms and got our fortunes out of a vending machine before moving on. In this area we went to Ryoan-ji, home of a famous zen rock garden and Ninna-ji another beautiful temple. As we walked we also saw some other points of interest...

This was a closed storefront that Rachel and I loved. The words in the top corner say "Hobby Adviser". Japan and English can be incredibly entertaining.

Anyway, after this temple excursion we made our way back to Kyoto Station to pick up our things so we could go check into our hostel and meet up with my friends Rachel and Brian Pitt who are in Japan because Rachel's in the JET program. (I apologize that there are two Rachels. You'll just have to deal with that.) We briefly explored the area that evening before having an early dinner because Rachel Leppert and I were completely exhausted from the not sleeping much on the bus and all of our walking (seriously, we crashed around 7:30pm).

Sunday we all four headed up a path with a bajillion temples and shrines and all the shops that cater to the tourists that visit. We visited Daikoku-ji which is home to a HUGE statue of Kannon.

Kannon is an important figure in Pure Land Buddhism. He's the Boddhisatva that is sort of like Amida Buddha's right hand man and helps lead the faithful to the Pure Land. Another stop we made on this huge temple pilgrimage was Kiyomizu-dera (pure water temple). It has a wonderful view of the city and a large swath of mountains as well as water that is believed to have healing properties (I didn't drink any because it cost money and there was a big line, but Rachel Pitt and her husband did...unfortunately, the next day Rachel caught a cold).

This is the healing water viewed from higher up in the temple. By the time we got there, the line was much longer. Withing Kiyomizu-dera was a shrine whose name is eluding me at the moment (I'll look it up and stick it in later). It's the home of the famous love stones.

You rub the first stone while thinking of the one you love, then close your eyes and try to walk in a straight line to the second stone. If you hit the second stone, you're destined to be together. Help is allowed as it means you'll have assisstance on the road to love. We also saw something really awesome in the are that was NOT a temple or shrine: a geisha!

Sorry the photo isn't rotated correctly. Blogger's being annoying. We ended up seeing three geisha on our trip. This one saw us looking at her and getting cameras out so she stopped so we could get photos.

After all of this temple hopping, we were very tired (temples in the area lined a road going up the mountain so there was much uphill walking that was very tiring. However, we couldn't go back to the hostel yet so we ate some ramen and tried to go to the zoo but found it was closed until after New Years (we actually had several cases of bad luck with this kind of thing). So we found a place to sit and sat because we were super tired. That night we tried to go get gyoza at a famous gyoza place only to find it's closed on Sundays. We ate elsewhere.

On Monday we split up as Rachel and Brian (the Pitts) wanted to see Kinkakuji which Rachel Leppert and I had already done. We were really exhausted so we took it kind of easy and got some shopping done while taking frequent breaks for snacks (like a matcha cream puff--excellent by the way). We also stopped at a park where a bunch of children were feeding pigeons (what do you get? Fat pigeons!) and getting mobbed by said birds for their trouble, which was pretty funny. However, the cool thing was this guy:

I don't know if you can quite see, but he's got a cool beard thing. Anyway, he stood there and posed for pictures for a while before flying off. Though we came back later in the evening and he was in the park again in a different spot. He must like it there. That night we finally got our gyoza which was definitely worth it.

And then our last day in Kyoto rolled around. Rachel and Brian left by Shinkansen in the morning, but Rachel Leppert and I had to amuse ourselves from 9am (the hostel's check out time) until 11pm when we could board our bus home. A daunting task, but we managed to do quite well. First we wandered around the Kyoto station area and found another temple (not sure what it was though).

This is the fountain where you purify your hands and mouth. I liked the dragon a lot. After lunch we headed over to the area of Kyoto called Arashiyama which was my favorite part of the day if not the entire trip. In Arashiyama is a monkey park. Now at this monkey park you don't just get to see monkey's from a distance no. You hang with the monkeys and feed them and stuff. They were everywhere! And very cute! Of course at first it's a bit freaky because you are warned not to look them in the eye or they might attack, but you get used to them very quickly.

Sorry once again for the lack of correct rotation on the photo. iPhoto and Blogger are conspiring against me.

After the monkeys we explored the other areas of Arashiyama. We skipped going to Tenryu-ji as we were thoroughly templed out by this point. We did go to the huge bamboo grove right next to Tenryu-ji though. Apparently it's where they filmed that part of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon where they fight in the tops of the bamboo... We kind of got lost on our way there though so we actually only discovered it by accident. On the part of the excursion where we didn't know where we were going we met a really sweet cat that didn't want to get off of my lap. Seriously I pushed her off and she just turned around and crawled back on before I had time to get up.

As it got dark we eventually got cold and headed back to the station where we treated ourselves to ridiculously gorgeous cake. I've included the picture of mine.

We then visited the Skyway of the station before finally getting our stuff out of the coin lockers so we could get on the night bus. And now here I am, back in Tokyo. Sleep deprived but mostly happy (though my iPhoto is flipping out so I can't put any videos in...sorry).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

メリー クリスマス!

Thought I ought to make a Christmas post here. Merry Christmas everyone! If you're curious as to what the title says, it's really easy. It says merii kurisumasu, which is Merry Christmas Japanized.

So Monday was my last day of classes before my winter break. It's not the end of the semester yet. I've still got January and the tiniest bit of February to go. Anyway, I made it through the too many tests I had, did a little Christmas shopping in Shinjuku, then went home.

Tuesday was a national holiday (the emperor's birthday actually) so I stayed home and hung out with the host family as a kind of pseudo Christmas. We all made gyoza which is a stuffed pasta thing rather like raviolis so that was actually really nice. We ate so much of them that when dinner rolled around we weren't actually that hungry. Except for cake. We all walked to a nearby hotel where there's both a cake shop and a giant Christmas tree with lots of lights. Then we brought the cake home to eat (there was strawberry shortcake--my favorite, a very large cream puff, and mont blanc which is a cake made with chestnuts). Then there was a movie on tv that we all decided to watch (except Su-chan who was by this time asleep), but it turned out to be a French movie with Japanese subtitles so while I have some grasp of both those languages, the combination of the two was a bit two much for my English speaking brain to handle and I gave up and went to bed.

Christmas Eve I headed over to Rachel's neighborhood because we wanted to get our hair cut. Yup, I now have a Japanese haircut. And it's short--for me anyway. None of my hair actually manages to make it to my shoulders anymore, close, but not quite. I managed to make it through getting my hair cut without too many language hiccups which made me feel very good about myself.

Christmas day. Not my best as I was a bit lonely (though I did Skype my dad and Melissa for a good couple of hours). Both my host parents went to work today. It was okay though since I got some time to just relax and do nothing without feeling guilty about it. I opened my presents from Dad as he sent them wrapped so I got presents.

Tomorrow's the exciting bit though. I'm off to Kyoto on the night bus for a little bit with Rachel (and I'm meeting up with my friend Rachel--a different one--when we get there). So look forward to some pictures from the former imperial capital. We come back on New Years Eve which should be interesting as well.

Anyway, Merry Christmas everyone! I miss you all now more than ever as Christmas really is a time of friends and family. However, I am making friends and even a kind of family here for myself so while I'm a little sad, I'm very happy as well. Merry Christmas and God bless.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sooooooo tired today...

This is another picture free post. My life can't be all glamour!

Last week wasn't very exciting. The one momentous thing that happened was we found out about which practicum we're doing during spring break. Unlike American spring breaks, ours falls between the semesters so it's actually about 2 months long. During a month of that time, the Japan Study program sends us off to various parts of rural Japan to do some kind of internship. There's a daycare, an herbal medicine company, a Buddhist temple, a ski resort, and more. I'm going to a place called Minakami where I'll be staying in what we might call in English a lodge (the word doesn't translate well...) and helping the family that runs it. So I'll be helping do cleaning and cooking (*cue my mother jumping for joy*) and other odd jobs like that. So far, sounds kind of meh I know. The exciting part is the area I'll be in. Minakami is mountainous and has a lot of natural hot springs so there are a lot of onsen around. There's also a craft village where I'll be able to learn how to do some traditional Japanese crafts like making noodles. I'm very excited about this even though during that time I'll be cut off from my friends. Only two other Japan Study people are going to Minakami and we'll all be busy so I doubt we'll see much of each other. I see this as an opportunity to greatly improve my Japanese.

Anyway, I thought you all might be interested in that development. I'm pretty excited though it's still a month and a half away.

Really, my life other than that has been studying (with the exception of last night). I had a debate in my Japanese politics class today (against my professor--and I won--not that anyone's really that surprised). Thursday, I have both a presentation and an exam (Social and International Relations of Japan and Asian Religions respectively) while I have a huge verb test and a Japanese politics exam on next Monday. You'd think it was finals, but it's not. Those don't start until the end of January.

Anyway, it's kind of late (not really) and I was up doing karaoke last night and had class all today so I'm going to bed. Good night!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ok, now you can have pictures

I really should be working on my research for my panel presentation, but whatever. I've got a pretty good start so I'll post some pictures for you guys.


This is a picture of a model at the Edo-Tokyo Museum where I met up with the Japan Term students. There were lots of cool things to look at there though to be honest, I was paying more attention to my friends who I had not seen in six months. Also, a lot of places you weren't allowed to take pictures. After the museum, I tagged along with Ashley's group to Roppongi where they had to find certain landmarks and take pictures. They were happy to have my Japanese experience though you really don't need to speak Japanese in Roppongi (it's where all the foreigners hang out).


This is a picture of our table at the Waseda-Japan Term faculty free dinner. Sooooo much food! They just kept bringing it out! This was obviously taken before we started eating. That was a really fun night though it also kind of sucked because it was on Wednesday night and I had to get up the next morning to go to class and take a kanji quiz.......


Friday, I once again met up with some of the Japan Term group and accompanied them to Yokohama. Here they are in front of some roses at a garden around a preserved diplomats house. For those of you who don't know, Yokohama is a port so many Westerners lived there after Japan was opened to the world by Commodor Perry. There are still a lot of Westerners there (as can be seen by the many international schools and the more European feel to many of the businesses).


This was also taken in Yokohama. It says that children are not allowed to enter, but I thought it was an entertaining picture.


And look! Food! After returning to Tokyo, I took Ashley and Jessa with me to Shinjuku to meet up with my friend Lydia and a couple people she knows at Waseda. We decided on okonomiyaki for dinner. It's like a pancake with veggies and meat and stuff in it. As you can see, you generally cook it yourself at the table. They just give you a bowl of the ingredients which you stir then pour on the griddle. It's super delicious.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Oh right, I have a blog.

It's been a while. Sorry about that. I'm a very bad blogger apparently. No pictures today. Not because I don't have any, but because I don't feel like messing with it at the moment. Instead, you get to read.

Last week was not that special. I had class, taught English, and went to a party (though it was more of a "gathering" really except there was no brie--5 points to the first one to get that reference). I can't actually remember doing anything over the weekend which probably means I was pretty much a total bum.

This week I also had class. On Tuesday, I had a really awesome Japanese class, in fact, where we took a field trip to Toraya, a traditional Japanese confectioners. A very tasty experience. The only downside was the commute. In order to get to school, I go to Hanzomon station where I get on the Hanzomon line for one stop to Kudanshita. There I transfer to the Tozai line and get off three stops later at Waseda. I met my class at Waseda then we returned to the Waseda station and took the Tozai line to Kudanshita and transferred to the Hanzomon line for two stops to Nagatacho--that's ONE STOP away from where I live. It was pretty annoying really. It's a good thing I got sweets out of it.

The most exciting thing about this week though is that the Japan Term students arrived. They got here Monday, but I didn't meet up with them until Wednesday because of that little thing called class. I did get to spend all of Wednesday and Friday with them though. Unfortunately, they've now moved on to Kyoto so I won't see them again until next weekend. I'll talk more about what we did when I get my pictures up.

Anyway, that's pretty much it right now. Later!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Claw Machine Saga


Look what I got! A bunny! Today I went to Akihabara (home of the famous Electronic Town for those who don't know) because I desperately needed an external hardrive (I had about 1GB left on my computer's HD). Anyway, I was successful in that (I also bought a DS game and a 4GB thumb drive). Rachel, Laura, Kate, and Jeff also came so that we were just hanging out once I had finished my errand. We went into a store that had a couple of claw machines with these bunnies. I had seen them before and wanted one (soooo cute!) so I was looking at them longingly through the glass knowing I'd never get one as I am terrible at claw machines. Well, a store employee saw me and came over, unlocked the machine and moved the bunny you see above so that it was literally teetering on the edge of chute thing. It still took three tries to get the silly thing XD and I had Laura help me because I'm still lame, but I got a bunny! And a girl that worked at the store came over to congratulate me (I think that was her job actually...) and I found the guy that had set it up for me and thanked him. Yup.

Please give me ideas for a name for the bunny. Preferably Japanese (so this request is aimed at YOU Jessa--or anyone else with some nihongo knowledge). Sorry, Usagi-chan is not creative enough.

I should also mention that today is Jeff's birthday (Happy birthday Jeff, not that you read my blog...) though we're celebrating it on Monday with karaoke. Maybe I'll get another karaoke video :P

Yesterday, I had another day with the American business class. It's so much fun! Too bad it's only three sessions :( However, next week we have a party after the class. Hopefully I'll manage to get some phone numbers off the people in my group... Hey, a couple of them are really cute.

And I also realized I lied about having basically no photos from my trip last weekend. I have a video I took while on the bus as I really wanted to be able to show you guys the lake and the fall colors. It kinda worked so I'll put it up. Enjoy!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sorry...

I must apologize for how long it has taken me to post anything. In my defense, I've been pretty busy with school lately. I had midterms (though now I'm done with those) and stuff. I also have to apologize because I'm pretty sure I promised some awesome pictures from my weekend trip to Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, the weather was not so good. It was too cloudy to even see Fuji-san except for a brief couple of moments in the morning when I was still refusing to get out of bed. That just means no pictures. I did have a pretty good time.

The drive was gorgeous. Sadly taking pictures from a moving bus is very hard. But fall here is definitely colorful. Lots of reds and oranges. It was cold though. Not in Tokyo, but the place we were staying was quite chilly. The place was pretty cool. We stayed in traditional type rooms with tatami mats and futons. With the futons filling up the floor at night it felt like a great big sleepover. As for activities, I didn't end up going to the onsen because I didn't want to walk the 15 minutes in the cold with a threat of rain to get there. Instead I played basketball with Rachel, Hue, and some of the guys. Never do that. The guys were jerks (in the best sense). It was fun though and it kept me nice and toasty.

After basketball, I took a bath (I know it doesn't sound noteworthy, but Japanese baths are an experience). Then there was dinner and after dinner we had a party. Very laid back but lots of fun. Plus it was cheap as snacks were provided and we only had to pay 500yen a piece if we wanted alcohol.

Then we went to bed and didn't get enough sleep since we were up again at 7:30AM so we could have breakfast and get ready to check out. I just hung out at the place we were staying until lunch and then after lunch we left. I know, it doesn't sound exciting, but I had a good time just hanging out with the group. We have some pretty cool people.

So that's the weekend... Not much for other news. Today I'm going to Waseda to help with the American business class (I did this last Friday too but I'm not sure if I mentioned anything about it before). We watch the Apprentice and I help the students discuss what's going on in English and make predictions about who will be fired. It's pretty fun, and I get paid.

Anyway, can't think of anything else to put in here... I'll try to get some pictures in my next post. This weekend is my friend Jeff's birthday and Rachel and I are planning to go to Akihabara (I desperately need an external hard drive) so hopefully some fun shots will come out of that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pictures for "A week in the life of Me"

I got the photos working so here they are!



First up is the Torii at Meiji-Jingu Shrine in Harajuku. It's beautiful. I'm not sure if you can quite see at the top, but there are three golden chrysanthemums.










These people are complete strangers, but they were standing there letting people take pictures of their absolutely adorable daughters all dressed up in traditional clothes. I'm not sure why, but there were actually several little girls dressed in kimono and a few women as well. In a different area there was also a Shinto wedding going on. Cool, yeah?





And here I am at the shrine next to a bunch of chysan- themums. There were all shapes and sizes of them. So amazing. This area had smaller ones but there were som where the blossom was as big as my head.









And here's Tokyo Tower! It's so pretty all lit up. Too bad. I really like the perspective on this photo by the way (good job Suzanne!). Random fact: Tokyo Tower is based (obviously) on the Eiffel Tower. However, Tokyo Tower is a few meters taller.

For those who are curious: I saw no magical girls or people with wings. There were a lot of noisy school groups though.





This is from the evening that Suzanne and John came over for dinner. Mami's younger sister was there (and kindly took this photo). Both Suzanne and John got their egos stroked when Mami and Tomo tried to guess their ages and were very wrong in the correct direction. The food we're about to eat in the picture is called sukiyaki. In that pot is sauce that you put meat and veggies and noodles and whatever into to cook. In our bowls is a raw egg that you put the cooked food into before you eat it. Absolutely delicious!






As I said, Rachel and I went to an ikebana exhibition (Japanese art of flower arranging). I probably took a hundred pictures before my camera battery died, but you get two. Sorry, but uploading takes a while. And then arranging them is tedious and annoying because I'm a perfectionist. Anyway, this one is really pretty. There were a bunch that were cool, lots were beautiful, and some were just strange.












This is one of the ones that I thought was just cool. The color is awesome and the shape is so fun. I really enjoyed going since it's such a unique experience to Japan. I don't think any other country has such a heightened art of flower arranging.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A week in the life of Me

Sorry I'm so slow. I haven't been able to get Suzanne's pictures to work here so I was waiting to post until I could, but I've given up for the moment... Sorry, but at least you get to hear about what's happening.

Monday, Suzanne and her coworker John arrived and as it was Culture Day (a Japanese national holiday) there was a festival at Waseda that we went to. It was pretty fun, but we didn't stay too long because Suzanne and John were understandably tired from traveling.

Tuesday I had class, but then I spent the evening with Suzanne and John. We ate curry for dinner and then went to a bar for a bit.

Wednesday we spent the morning watching the election. We couldn't tear ourselves away until Obama was declared winner. After that we went to Harajuku. We went to the shrine there wich is gorgeous. They have all these chrysanthemum flowers growing in pots there. We saw a lot of little girls wearing kimono too which was adorable. After that we wandered around the shops a bit before getting back on the subway to go see Tokyo Tower. That was really cool. It's so pretty when it's all lit up at night.

Thursday I had class again, but after that Suzanne and John came over to my host family's house for dinner (we had sukiyaki). My host dad wasn't there, but Tomo (my host mom's younger sister) came over. We had a really good time.

Friday was Suzanne and John's last day so we were going to stay close to the hotel so they could get to the airport on time. We wanted to go to the Imperial Gardens, but apparently they're closed on Fridays :( So we went to the Museum of Modern Art instead. That was cool since I got to see several pieces that I remember studying in the Japanese art history class I took at Knox.

Saturday Rachel and I went to an ikebana exhibition which was really cool though my camer's batteries died halfway through (I still got about 90 shots though). I think I'll put a couple of those pictures up later. I'm being lazy about photos right now.

And now you're pretty much caught up. Well, today I had my first midterm, but that's not interesting really since it was very midtermy and I'm sure you all know what that's like.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Suguru's birthday

This was just too cute to wait so you get another post so soon! Today is Su-chan's 2nd birthday so we had a nice dinner though I doubt Su-chan really understood the concept. Anyway, in the picture is Su-chan blowing out candles. Sorry he's cropped funny, but it's impossible to get him to stay still long enough for a good photo usually. You do get to see the cake though. Let me tell you, the Japanese really know how to make a good cake. It was delicious. And my host family really spoils me as I got two slices (which is two fifths) of the cake. Yummmmmm.... I guess it's maybe too bad that my birthday is after I leave. Though I'd have to share it with my host dad. Though that could be pretty fun...


While at the Studio Ghibli Museum, I bought a Totoro plushie for Su-chan as he LOVES that movie (I'm sure by the time I leave Japan the number of times I will have seen that movie will be in the hundreds and I'm not kidding in the slightest). So here's a video of him playing with it right after he opened it. If you couldn't guess, the other two people in the video are my host parents. Enjoy!
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Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Beginning of a Busy Weekend

As it's been about a week since my last post, I'll start there with my updates.

Class as usual on Monday and Tuesday (though Tuesday Kate and I got to give a presentation on how the US election will affect Japan in our Japanese politics class). Wednesday was an errand day. Kate, Laura, and I all headed off to the Immigration Bureau to apply for work permits. Living in Tokyo is very expensive so I've started searching for possible students (might have found one already!). Then there was class again Thursday.

Since I don't have class on Fridays, this will be a four day weekend for me. Monday is a National Holiday (Culture Day). Waseda will be holding a festival starting tomorrow though some activities started as early as yesterday.
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This is a video of some cheerleaders that were performing during lunchtime on Friday. They gave us candy :D They are somehow affiliated with Waseda though I'm not sure how as Waseda's colors are red and gold (no blue) and we're not the Falcons, our mascot is a bear. (Also, please ignore Rachel and my conversation bits in the background, it's not that interesting.)

Today I went to the first of the Waseda-Keio baseball games (SouKeiSe, where Sou is Waseda--don't ask it's a kanji thing, Kei is Keio, and Se is fight). And Waseda WON!!! 3-1! Now, I don't particularly like to watch baseball as I think it's incredibly boring to watch. However, this was different as I barely paid any attention to the game. The Japanese are very into their cheering. We sat down in the stadium about an hour before the game started so we could learn cheers. So much fun.

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Here's some cheerleader video from the game. These are Waseda cheerleaders. There are guys too but I didn't get any good shots of them though they are INCREDIBLE! Being a male cheerleader here does not carry the same stigma as it does in the States.

Now for some boring old photos:

Here we have the sign behind the Waseda section of the stands. There's our bear mascot ready for baseball!

This is the Waseda flag. These guys would stand there and hold the furled flag horizontally for about half an hour before unfurling. Those things looked way heavy, but they just stood there with these serious expressions on their faces. Also, that silver tip looked like it was designed to harpoon whales.

And the winning scoreboard! By the way, once we won instead of leaving the stadium, everyone stayed for over half an hour to complete the formalities. Waseda sang our alma mater then basically saluted the Keio students then Keio did the same back. The players all bowed to each other probably more than once, and the flag guys on both sides bowed more than once to each other too (with the flags). Japanese people have some peculiar habits...

I might post again after the activities of Monday for this is a busy weekend so there'll be lots to tell about hopefully. Tomorrow is Su-chan's birthday (and Kathy's!) and Monday my Aunt Suzanne arrives. So look forward to more later!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Skit Videos

These are videos taken of skits meant to teach some useful lessons about living with a host family. Performers are our Waseda helpers. Momoko, Asuka, Shouhei, and Yutaka (the lovely "girl"). Anyway, they're in Japanese, but still it's fairly obvious what's going on.

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First skit: Sorry it starts in the middle, but I didn't think to take a video at first. What you missed: Yutaka was given natto (Japanese food that smells bad and looks like snot... most foreigners hate it and some Japanese people too) and said "she" liked it even though "she" really didn't... What will happen the next day?


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Second skit.


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Third skit.


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Fourth skit.


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Fifth skit. Probably my favorite.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Studio Ghibli Museum

Sorry, photos inside the museum are forbidden. Thought I'd get that out there before I get shot or something. I do have a couple of photos from outside though...

Anyway, I'll actually start before the museum with Friday. Friday it rained. Really really rained. As in I had an umbrella and still managed to get my legs and arms soaking wet. Not pleasant. However, it stopped raining in the evening which was good. That night Jeff, Rachel, and I went to a nomikai which is (adults close your eyes) a drinking party basically. There was food too. Delicious food. I had a lot of fun and met a bunch of really nice people including two Japanese boys that sat accross from us. One was Take (who was about my height and actually knew what area of the US New Mexico is in) and Shogu (who was adorably short as in about 5'2" and one ore two of those inches was his hair). In the picture is myself and Rachel. In Rachel's glass is this really yummy creamy stuff. There was also a delicious green apple drink and lots of beer. And soda and water if you wanted... Sorry we're all sweaty. It was really hot since we had little stoves going on the tables to cook our food. (Basically we dumped meat and veggies in sauces to cook then fished them out piece by piece with our chopsticks.)

So then yesterday was Studio Ghilbli museum day. As I said, no photos from the inside so I'll just have to tell you about it. They have several rooms that you go through and explore with stuff from different movies and there's always fun tunnels or tiny doors or spiral staircases to get places. There was also a big stuffed cat bus, but it was only for little kids so I could not play in it :( Anyway, there was lots of cool stuff so if anyone ever comes to Japan, try to get tickets (they have to be purchased in advance but they're only 1,000en). The only downside to the experience was getting the Ponyo song stuck in my head (Ponyo, Ponyo...those are the only words I know!)And in the above picture is Laura posing on the roof of the museum with the robot from one of the Ghibli movies I actually have not seen. Sorry.

Melissa, you can thank Kate for this photo as she is better at remembering food pictures than me. This was my lunch from the day at the museum. It's a "fish set" with fish, spinach, sweet potatoes and rice. They also served tea. Rachel was more successful eating her fish than me (or at least hers was prettier at the end). Stupid bones.

Also, in random news, birthdays in general are following my usual pattern (as in I always know people who share birthdays). Sarah (who was in the karaoke photos) has the same birthday as Mom, Su-chan's birthday is the same as Kathy's (which means it's also the day before Vammy's), and to top it all off, my host dad's birthday IS THE SAME AS MINE! Finally I've met another August 8th birthday! Though mine's still cooler being 8/8/88 and all (though it's less cool in Japan year as it's 8/8/Showa 63...silly emperors).

And that's what I've got for you today!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Japanese Festival!

Hon-Kawagoe festival! I went with Kate and her host mom on Saturday. It's a ways a way (it took me an hour and a half to get there), but it was lots of fun. Plus, it was a true cultural experience.

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In the video you'll see a dashi (Jessa knows the kanji, mountain + car). They're really cool. The festival had at least 10 of them moving around, each with different stuff going on. The only downside of the festival was how crowded it could be, but you could put up with a lot because it was so fun.


This is a picture of sweet potato swirled with vanilla flavored soft cream (we know it as frozen custard). It's really really good. Seriously, very awesome. There was food everywhere at the festival. Chocolate covered bananas, lots of stuff on kabobs (including really yummy cucumbers), cotton candy, dumplings, and so much that I don't even know.


Next is a picture of a little stage that they had every block or so with musicians and the dancer. Very cool. When a dashi would come by, the dancers on each would often react to each other which was fun to watch.


This is for Mom. This sign was at a yakisoba booth (yakisoba is one of the tastiest things in the world by the way). Soba is buckwheat noodles.


Finally, this is a picture from a haunted house at the festival. I didn't go in (it was kind of expensive and that's no really my thing), but I thought it was interesting. The woman in the well rises up and down from it.

Anyway, today I'm off to Jimbocho to check out the used book store area there. Later!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Finally, what you've all been waiting for........

Su-chan! It's kind of obvious which person he is in this picture. On the left is Tomo-san, Mami's younger sister. And the man is Tomo's husband Hiroshi (called Hiro). Mami as you've probably figured out, is behind the camera. I tried to get a picture with her in it, but when I picked up my camera, it told me the battery was dead. And we all wanted to eat that delicious looking food on the table too much for me to run get new batteries. Notice that this is also a picture of food! On Tomo and my plates is pizza which sounds very American, but on portion of the pizza I was eating was tuna and corn. They have the weirdest topping here, but it's sooo good! The dish in the middle closest to the camera is salad on top of katsu (meat cutlets). The other dish is a cheese tomato thing, not really traditionally Japanese but very yummy. In my glass is plum wine (tastes kind of like Port though a bit less sweet). Tomo-san is drinking ocha (at least I think it's green tea). She's very pregnant so no alcohol for her. Hiro-san is drinking beer, if you couldn't tell.



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Here's the karaoke video. I hope it decides to work this time... In this video: Jeff, Sarah, Rachel, Kate, and Laura.

Wednesday, I went to Harajuku with a bunch of people. I love that place. It's so unlike a lot of the rest of Tokyo. It's way more laid back (until you get into the posh area where all the designer stores are). I could easily shop there a lot. Kathy will be interested to know taht there were multiple little shops devoted entirely to socks and stockings. Actually, knee high and thigh high socks are very much the fashion here (though often paired with incredibly short skirts) as are leggings and tights (again usually worn under really short skirts or shorts). I bought two dresses while there.

Also in Harajuku, we went to a character store where I bought a new wallet and a day planner. Mom will like this. They had half of an entire floor of the shop devoted to Hello Kitty. The other half of that floor was Studio Ghibli. Totoro and Hello Kitty: two things that I've now been overexposed too...

Anyway, that's it for now!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Of Karaoke and Mt. Fuji

Nice blog title, yes? Very Japan-esque.

So it's been a week since I updated this thing! Wow! A lot has happened really. Last Wednesday we had our karaoke outing for Evil's birthday (and Mos Burger for lunch). Lots of fun. I had a video I wanted to stick up here, but Blogger hates my videos :( That's really not nice to all the people that read this blog! Oh well. I have some normal pictures. The first picture is Jeff, our token guy. This is actually the least creepy picture of him I think anyone has managed to take...usually he makes strange faces... And with Jeff is the star of the day, Laura. Next is Sarah grooving to the music in our underwater themed karaoke room. And the last picture is Rachel singing very dramatically. She was really actually very good at playing everything up. Incredibly entertaining.

Thursday was class. Apparently nothing else that day as I can't remember anything happening then. Friday, we had a program meeting at which we signed cards. One of our number had an abscess in her spine that had to be operated on: she's fine now. So there was that get well card. And more seriously even than that, Michiyo, our go to person who basically runs the Japan Study show here on the Tokyo side had a huge tragedy befall her. Her husband, a famous mountain climber here in Japan, died in a accident while climbing Mt. Everest. So there was a card for that. Not a happy meeting really.

Later Friday, I went to Shibuya with Laura, Jeff, Rachel, another Rachel, and another Laura (the other Rachel and Laura are not from our program, we met them in various classes at Waseda). There we bought cds, ate burgers and crepes, and tried to find someplace to play DDR.

And then there was the weekend. Yesterday was a national holiday here (Health-Sports day) so there was no class. Mami took me to her older sister's house in a town whose name I do not remember (something Atami, maybe?), but it was not Tokyo :P We took the Shinkansen which was pretty awesome (yes, they are insanely fast). And from the balcony at Mami's sister's one can see Mt. Fuji on a clear day (not well, but it's definitely there!). We did lots of going to playgrounds with the kids (Su-chan, Michi, and Ko-chan, all boys). Ko-chan was super adorable (Mom would love him, big, fat cheeks), but he cried if I looked at him too much. Must be my weird green eyes :P

We also ate TONS of sushi at this place with the conveyor belts. It was really cheap too (so we went twice). Seriously, us three adults and the three kids all ate for under 3,000en each time (3,000en is about $30). Here in Tokyo, sushi is really expensive so it was awesome to be able to eat like a pig.

And now you are all wondering where the pictures are. Sorry, I overslept Saturday morning and had to rush to get ready, so what did I forget? My camera. Mami took some pictures though so I'm going to see if she'll email them to me when she gets them on her computer. It might take a while though. Sorry guys.

The last big news is that I finally met my host dad last night. He was here when Mami, Su-chan, and I got back from Mami's sister's. We all went to curry together for dinner (Mami still doesn't quite believe me when I tell her that spicy foods are just fine with me, really). Anyway, my host dad is actually really tall, a few inches taller than me (about your height Dad). So I suppose I should qualify that with "for a Japanese man". Seriously, I feel tall almost constantly here.

Anyway, that's the news. There's probably more, but this post is incredibly long already so I'll leave it there.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Boggled...

Wow a lot has happened. In one of those life happens sort of ways.

Friday, I did just as I promised myself. Nothing. This did wonders for my cold which is now long gone. Yay! This weekend was really fun. Saturday morning Su-chan's nursery school had an undokai. Sorry, there is no real English translation; roughly it means "exercise party". Basically there's dancing and running and stretching and obstacle courses. Mostly it was just the kids that did these things but sometimes the audience got to join in. I had a pretty good time. And Su-chan is totally the fastest two-year-old of the bunch. He's going to be a jock when he gets older. After, we went to a park so that Su-chan could play. There we met a French family (French father, Japanese mother, two little boys). They all spoke English so I actually got to use three different languages which was pretty cool.

Saturday afternoon I just hung out in Shinjuku with Kate, Jeff, and Rachel. There was much wandering and an experience with severely overpriced cheesecake. We also had a long discussion about Japanese gestures that we thought was hilarious though I'm sure passers-by just thought we were nuts. Silly gaijin.

Yesterday was class and Laura's birthday. Rachel, Kate, and I had dinner at her host families which was super delicious. We had a good time just hanging out there and chatting. Her family must be rich though as their house is HUGE (by Japanese standards) plus they have a gigantic tv.

In the picture from left to right is Kate, Laura, me, and Rachel since this picture doesn't have a bajillion people in it, I can actually name them for you! All it needs are Sarah and Jeff, and you'd have my main friend group here all together. Sadly, Jeff had practice and Sarah had a prior engagement so they couldn't come. I promise to take pictures at karaoke and stuff tomorrow though, and they'll be there.

It was last night when I got home though, that things got...too exciting. Mami hurt her shoulder really bad somehow yesterday (she hasn't told me how...) so I got to call an ambulance and take care of Su-chan while she got brought in. Do you know what? It was the first time I'd ever actually ridden in an ambulance. I've been in one before, but it didn't actually go anywhere while I was in it. So I didn't get much sleep last night. Mom will sympathize as Mami now has a sling apparatus that she has to keep on for four weeks.

Today was not so fun at school due to the lack of sleep and the fact that I got told that there is no way I am allowed to move up a Japanese level despite the fact that everything is sooooo easy. The reason? The class above mine is full. Argh! So I just have to sit through a class that's frustrating for me because it's too simple. I'm here to learn Japanese, not review! I feel like this is middle school math all over again. Stupid placement tests seem to be out to get me. I did my best to move up though. I went all the way to the Japanese language coordinator for Waseda before I resigned myself to my fate. So annoying. At least I know there's a couple other people in my class that feel the same way I do. We've sort of created ouselves a little "this is too easy" support group for each other so we have people to complain to.

So anyway, that's what's happening. Last night and today were a bit hard, but I'm sure everything will be okay if not superb. At least I have karaoke tomorrow to look forward to...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hisashiburi!

Hello everyone! It's been a few days! Life has gotten busier since classes started Monday. So far everything is mostly okay, but I really need to move up a level in Japanese. Way too easy! So hopefully soon though I'm starting to get frustrated as I keep getting a "wait one more class and see". I don't want to wait! I KNOW this class is too easy!

I also dropped linguistics and picked up an Asian religions class instead. The linguistics professor was rather boring. Plus, Watt-sensei (our resident director) teaches the religions class so that's cool. I really like him.

Also, ketai picture! I know my mom wants to see this... See? Bright pink! I actually think this is the best color that was offered because it's interesting. Plus, it seems like all Japanese girls have pink phones to the point that any other color seems incredibly masculine. The phone charm has a little bell in it so it rings :D

Also, this phone is way smarter than me. I haven't figured everything out yet (as everything's in Japanese), but this phone can do some amazing things.

Also, some of you may know that I went to Studio Ghibli (or rather, I walked by it since you can't go inside) because of Facebook. But for those of you that didn't know, here's proof! Cool, eh? This plaque isn't really very big (maybe two feet across) and it's the only sign saying what the building is. And since the studio is in this suburbian, residential setting, it's very quiet and out of the way. It's over by where my friend Kate lives with her host family. I'm actually a little jealous of where she lives because there's more space. She has three parks within walking distance. I live among office buildings right near the center of Tokyo. Not that I'm complaining since I really like my host family, but it's a bit of an adjustment for this small town girl to suddenly be in the big city.

So, on a downside, I have a cold. Luckily not a bad one, but it's still annoying because I'm all sniffly. Thankfully, I have no class Fridays so I can just laze around and feel better. Unless Mami and I go to Tokyo Tower (Mami is my host mom, cute yes?)

So one more picture because I want to make sure you can see the entire Japan Study group. There's a bunch of us so I won't be naming everyone, sorry. However, here we are in front of the Daibutsu in Kamakura. We ended up getting some random Japanese tourists to take this picture so we could all be in it. We actually got quite a crowd to gather to see the giant group of gaijin. Actually, I think it might just have been that we were blocking the stairs...

So that's all. I'm sorry I have yet to put up any pictures of food. I always forget as I'm usually way more interested in eating the food than pausing to take a picture. Someday I will remember though. I promise! Eventually the novelty of being able to find udon everywhere will wear off so I'll be able to snap a picture first, slurp up the noodles later. For now though, I just dig in. I might actually have to learn to cook here or I'll come back with no way to eat all the delicious things I'll have gotten used to here. I'm sure Mami will help me with that...

Well, then. Ja ne!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Errands.

Yesterday and today have been mostly errand running. Yesterday I had to get a pretty thorough health check in order to exercise in Waseda facilities. I can't use the pool yet though since I still need an ekg.... So thorough! We also had our last orientation session yesterday! Yay! We're all fully orientated! Plus, we got to fill our our cell phone paperwork.

Today, I got my teiki (commuter pass) so I can go to and from Waseda for free (the program reimburses the cost of the teiki). Then a bunch of us went to pick up our cell phones. Of course, they're in Japanese so we then spent the next hour trying to figure out how to use them. They're pretty high tech. And our phones our very basic. I'm sure everyone will be surprised to know that my phone is bright pink. Color choice was limited, and I didn't want something boring like black. Then Laura and I went to open bank accounts. I was the only one that actually did. She has to wait until she's 20. So soon I'll have a bank account here! Woot!

Laura and I explored Ikebukuro (where the bank we chose is) and the area around Waseda while waiting for the party we wanted to go to to start. We didn't actually go to the party as we decided socializing was not worth the 2,000en required especially since we weren't really hungry.

I also checked on my classes. I got all the ones I wanted so I will be taking Comparative historical linguistics, Public choice theory and Japanese politics, and Social and international relations of Japan along with my nine hours of Japanese per week. Cool.

I told you guys that things would start getting less interesting the longe I was here...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Finally some pictuers

Hello Kitty poster. Just for mom.












The Thunder Gate in Asakusa.









The right side of the Thunder Gate. The images would be better except there was mesh in front of the statues.







The left side.









This is Senso-ji in Asakusa.








This is Shouhei, one of our Waseda students that was helping us out. Right here he's hanging on to Jazz's bag. We thought he looked cute...







This is the torii leading to the Hachimon shrine in Kamakura. The girl on the right facing us is Asuka, another of the Waseda students.







This is the Hachimon shrine.









And here it is! The daibutsu! Big Buddha! For 20en you can go inside (which I did). The Buddha is Amida Buddha in case you wanted to know...