Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm trying to get back on track. Sorry I haven't been posting regularly.

I really have no excuse as to why I haven't posted in a while. I could complain about how I had midterms and stuff like that, but to be truthful, I didn't spend very much time worrying about them anyways. I did make pretty decent grades on them though, or at least the ones that I have gotten back so no need to be concerned.

As far as news goes about what I have been up to, I have been freezing my butt off as it turns slowly to fall here. This past weekend, I went to my favorite Japanese bar (They are called Izakayas) two days in a row. The first night, there weren't many of us and we just sat around eating random dishes and having a few drinks. The second night, I was hanging out with the same people and one of them was a Japanese guy that I am friends with. He is a very funny guy, but he has the same problem that all Japanese guys do, he is really, really shy. He was telling us about how he liked a foreign exchange student girl and that he hadn't talked to her in three weeks and she didn't even know his name. So we spent a good hour or two thinking about how to get her to notice him, when all of the sudden she walks in the door with her friends.

So, first thing I did was grab my drink and sit down at there table and ask if I can drink with some other fellow Kansai Gaidai students, which of course they couldn't reject. Then I forced my Japanese friend to come over. Before I knew it, my friend had gotten her number and they spent the rest of the night being drunk together and trading out who was going to go to the restroom to... toss their cookies haha.

Nothing happened that was interesting at all until Tuesday, when I broke up with my girlfriend of only one week on the basis that I didn't want to have a long distance relationship. This, of course, like any break up was not overly enjoyable. However, the reason I am sharing this is because of the irony in the situation. For some background information, in Japan there is a story about the daughter of God. One day God decides that his daughter is a very hard worker and he is proud of her and thus she needs a good husband. So God goes to earth, finds a hard working guy and hooks 'em up. They then proceed to leave the path of hard work and become very lazy. So God punishes them by sending the guy back to earth and the daughter back to heaven. He says they can only meet for one day a year aka long distance relationship. The river that separates Heaven and Earth is called Amanogawa. There is a river in the town that I live that is also named Amanogawa. It happens to be the place where we had our first date. Then I decided I didn't want to have a long distance relationship. If you can't see the irony in this, I will be sad.

So on to more depressing stories: Clothes Shopping in Japan.
Today I went with my friends to go to Shinsaibashi, also the best place in Osaka to go clothes shopping. After going into the top three most popular stores there, I began to realize that even if my gut has been shrinking, I will never be small enough to fit into Japanese T-Shirts, Jackets, Flannels, Button ups, sweatshirts, fleeces, Polos, or anything that you use to cover your torso. My friends that are smaller than me walked out today with some awesome shirts. I managed one long sleeve T-shirt and some boxers. My host mom tells me I will probably have to go to a big person store (I can't tell whether to laugh or cry). On the other hand it does make you feel awesome when its your shoulder width and not your stomach that is keeping you from getting clothes. Oh I forgot to mention, I will never be able to buy socks in Japan. I have a better chance of buying shirts than socks.

Here are some random videos, then I am done.

That about pretty much covers everything I have to say at the moment. I am going to Kameoka, Stillwater's sister city this weekend to spend the night and take part in a cultural festival. I'll post on that in a while!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More catching up, the other half of my Hiroshima trip: Miyajima

So, Uncle Dale, the first part of my last post was strikingly similar to an answer to your comment on my last post. I have to say though that I hadn't read your comment until just prior to making this entry. I found it amusing anyways.

So, I left out quite a bit about my trip to Hiroshima last blog post. I got carried away with my opinions on Hiroshima and forgot to actually write about what I did. So here is the continuation of my travels.

Hiroshima is on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea which is basically the water in between the islands of Japan. Off the coast of Hiroshima is a small island called Miyajima that due to its spectacular beauty and large mountains was chosen as the place to build several shrines that are very well known. It is also an awesome place to sample the local seafood which is without a doubt amazing, and to try various maple products.

This is me in front of the famous Torii. The only one that I can think of that is out in the water. Usually they are on land. In the late afternoon when the tide comes in you can walk out to it.

The part that I mentioned about local seafood has to do with the popularity of oysters. Oysters here are actually a very decent size and they make a great snack.

Then there is my new love:

That's right, it is pancakes. The best drink in the world and so far the only place I have been able to find it is at the top of a mountain on an island. I hope that blows your mind.

Well, every time I sit down to write an entry I get distracted and it turns out way too short. As a consolation though if you plug this URL in you will get a public access to my facebook album of my trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. If you count the fact that a picture is worth a thousand words, then that makes my blog post about the length of a novel. Have fun.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I apologize for not having written in a few weeks, but as I am an extremely important person, I don't have the time to waste on writing blogs so you can get your fill of my life in Japan. Just kidding, except for the part about being busy.

Anyways, about two weeks ago I went to Hiroshima to listen to a speaker talk about her experience when the atomic bomb dropped. She was 14 years old at the time, and she had been activated with all of the other children her age at the time to work in wartime factories. She was only a few kilometers from the hypocenter when the bomb dropped and she was trapped under the machines that she had been tasked with working at because of the impact of the explosion.

This women has seen more suffering than anyone else I have ever met before in my life and the only thing I could think about during this was that this lady was using an extremely humble form of speech, and most of my friends would never notice that. It made me very uncomfortable. I don't claim responsibility for the dropping of the atomic bombs as an American, nor do I think that that image should be attached to Americans of my generation either, but I still claim to be a citizen of the country that destroyed her world, and for that reason I was very unsettled by the fact that she was using this manner of speaking to almost put us, the listeners on a pedestal. I mentioned it to my teacher, and he told me that he was glad I noticed and that he hoped I would understand that this lady only wants other people to learn from this experience. She doesn't have any intentions of pointing fingers at anyone. That was the most impacting part of what I learned from her. Nobody should ever have to experience anything like that.

This is the Genbaku dome. It is the last building in Hiroshima standing after the atomic bomb dropped, and it serves as a symbol to remind us of the horror that comes from war.

I have to say I am very thankful for this lady having shared what she did with me and my classmates, because this is the type of feeling I want to bring home with me from my time abroad. I saw a facebook status recently saying : Random person is now at Hiroshima ground zero. I won't say who it is (hence the random person part) but it made me extremely angry when I read it. I was sick to my stomach that someone would make a joke like that, but that is only because that person doesn't understand. I know now that I won't let anyone talk like that around me ever again.

I did have the good fortune of getting selected to be one of the groups of people that presented gifts to the Speaker. I got to be at the front of the line to meet her. That was all thanks to Raghda, who was chosen by Dr. Scott to give the Speaker the present and who was nice enough to let me tag along! That is one of the only times that I considered not washing my hand ever again, but I forgot and washed it after I went to the bathroom. Force of habit I guess.

Anyways, I will try and post a nicer blog post probably tomorrow. I still have quite a bit of story telling to do, so get your reading glasses out Dad, and anyone else who is as old as Dad.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Danjiri Matsuri, also known as the Festival where people get hammered and run around with giant wooden carts almost running over small children!

Don't be frightened by the title. Danjiri Matsuri is much more dangerous than that... Just kidding!

I'll start off by explaining how I got into going to this festival in the first place. Matsuri or Festivals are huge here in Japan, so when one comes around everyone is excited and ready to party and eat good food and have lots of fun. My friend Shizuka also feels this way about Matsuri and so when one came around in her hometown she thought that inviting all of her friends was the right thing to do. Therefore, I was invited along with some other people, who mostly bailed out on us and didn't go because of "other plans" (you know who you are), to go to Danjiri Matsuri in the small suburb of Osaka that is known as Otori (which if you are curious, roughly translates to large chicken). Matsuri always sound fun to me so of course I agreed to go.

Background on Danjiri Matsuri:

Danjiri Matsuri is a Shinto religious festival asking a Kami aka god, to provide for a good rice harvest. The Japanese start harvesting their rice right about this time of the year so this is an especially important festival. In order to honor this god, they spend approximately three days drinking as many beers as possible and then pulling huge wooden, shrine-esque carts around town as fast as they can. These carts are called "Danjiri". For those of you who have trouble putting two and two together, that is where the name comes from. Here is a Danjiri:

As you can see, its a bunch of men dressed in traditional matsuri outfits with there names and the name of the shrine on them, and all of them has a can of Asahi within reach. Fun times are had by everyone.

I actually arrived on Friday with Shizuka and went to her house where her mom made an awesome dinner for us called Chanko. Its famous with Sumo Wrestlers and it is basically a big pot of broth with chunks of all kinds of meet and vegetables. Its amazing. Then we watched the kid danjiri matsuri which is the same except much slower. After that, she said that her aunt was in an Izakaya (Japanese Bar) down the street and that we were gonna go visit. So, we walked down there and her mom told me that I could drink/have anything I wanted and she would pay for it. I was already in awe of her because of her letting me in to her home, feeding me dinner and agreeing to let me spend the night. She also gave me a cool towel! So we go into the bar and sit down at the table with her family and friends and it turns out that the "friends" are actually the bar owner and his fiance. He is only 31, which I thought was pretty young for a bar owner. He had me try the Korean beer, which I liked enough to have four mugs of that night. Half way through that, we went and got Peter and Chiharu from the train station and brought them back with us to the Izakaya where Peter had three mugs of the awesome Korean beer and then we finished up. You really have to love Japanese hospitality. It is like no other.

The next day, we got up somewhat early and went to the Otori shrine to see the Danjiri teams taking a break, and when I say taking a break I mean sitting in a circle chanting as every person one by one chugs a beer. Then we got up close and asked if we could have our picture with the Danjiri and since they were all drunk, they were of course fine with it. Then they had us take a picture with them:

After that, they started asking us about the size of our male genitalia, and one guy actually reached out and tried to grab it. Then he claimed that he was gay. I told him I was not, and directed him to Peter with a "Douzo" which means "I am offering this to you" in Japanese. Then as a gift for having been harassed they gave us each a pony beer to help us forget haha. We wandered around for a while after that before going back to Shizuka's house and taking a ride to the mall for the afternoon until the next part of the Danjiri, which started at five.

At the mall, we went to a restaurant called Kushi Katsu, which is basically a "Fry your own breaded stuff" restaurant. It was all you can eat, and of course Peter and I aimed to get our money's worth out of it, unless this is Hassan reading, in which case Peter only ate chicken and white fish with lots of vegetables. After we had finished, he and I both were ready to pay and Shizuka's mom again said she was going to pay for us which is unbelievable because it all you can eat restaurants are not cheap in Japan. We then went grocery shopping and returned to the house before going to get our friend Megumi and heading to the next part of the Danjiri Festival.

Danjiri is not nearly as exciting to explain so I think I will just post a video or two instead so you can get an idea of what it is like.

As you can see, very fast, very exciting and very fun!

Then, after we had watched our fair share of giant moveable shinto shrines being pulled around as fast as possible, we went and helped ourselves to a all the Matsuri food, which is the equivalent of the food you get at the county fair, except better.

Here is me eating grilled squid:

By the way, the necklace I have on is an O-mamori, essentially a good luck charm. Both Shinto and Buddhism have O-mamori, and they are typically made for specific purposes (i.e. passing a test, having a successful love life, making it safely through an airplane, getting over an illness). This one however, is special, and according to Shizuka's aunt who is the one that gave it to me, it is pretty rare. It doesn't seem to have a special purpose, but it is still awesome. Besides, I already have a Victory and Success O-mamori on my keys. At first I thought it was just a souvenir, but then I realized that it is big enough that it weighs my keys down in my pocket so they don't fall out anymore. It actually does work!

Back to food. Here is me and Peter eating Karage, with some awesome spicy sauce on it. We got it from a guy who had only one tooth, so we know the quality is top notch.

After that, it was time to head home, so we got our bags, and with all the Japanese knowledge we had tried to express how happy we were with our experience this weekend and how nice Shizuka's mom had been to us. After trying to find the words over the course of ten minutes we finally gave up and got on the next train headed home. Thus was the end of one of the most awesome experience's I have had thus far in Japan. That is saying something because I have loved every second that I have been here. Well, I hope that you guys enjoy this post.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My musings on the odd parts of Japanese Society, plus some updates!

I was doing some observing as I rode the bus in this morning, and I realized that there are many things here that still come across as awkward and strange even though I have been here for a month now. I figured I would just give my opinion on them a while. First though, allow me to direct you to the top of my blog where I now have a link to my Flickr photos so any of you who are not getting your share of photos can look there for some calm and comfort.

So, weird subject numero uno: Religion in Japan

Just for some background, Japan's religion focuses mainly on Buddhism and Shintoism with some other smaller religions on the sidelines. One of the strangest things that I have noticed since being here is that Buddhism and Shintoism overlap with each other to a point where you can't go to a Shinto Shrine without accidentally also going to a Buddhist temple or altar while you are exploring and vice versa. Its like they have always coexist and are part of the same entity. On the other hand, while many Japanese consider Buddhism to be a religion, if you were to ask them if the followed the Shinto religion they would tell you they don't know what it is. Not because the word is different in Japanese (it isn't), but because Shinto isn't a religion to them, it is a lifestyle. They worship the spirits of nature the same way that you would get up in the morning and take a shower and brush your teeth, if that makes sense. It is just normal everyday life, not religion. No wonder most people aren't sick here, it is because they send mail to the shrine for sore throats. No one in the United States does that... The other strange part about religion is the smaller ones. You have the Christians, which to be truthful I am not sure really exist, because there churches are very not church like and most Japanese that I have talked to go to church to play basketball or hang out with their friends, not to worship. Then there are the "New Religions" that started recently like Soka Gakkai and Happy Science that are growing in "power" and even have their own political parties sometimes. Soka Gakkai actually submitted a member to every political position in the national government at one point I believe. I saw a Happy Science building today. It was a huge, very attractive building that had the words Happy Science on the front. Not to be offensive to Mormons, but it was something similar to Mormon buildings in a way that it seemed to have large quantities of money. The thing that confuses me about Happy Science is that its name used to be "The Science of Happiness." It changed its name for some reason, and now it is just hard to take them seriously. I think there is only space enough for one "science" based religion in this world - Tom Cruise *cough cough*. So that is it for my musings on religion.

The next weird thing is snack food in Japan:

For one, Seven Eleven has some of the most amazing pre-made meals I have ever seen. They put some restaurants to shame! Then there are the Onigiri, rice balls with a meat or fish filling that are perfect for a snack anytime. That stuff is just weird because of the amazing quality from a simple convenience store. The other weird part is the dried foods. I actually just finished snacking on some dried squid jerky. I got the strips, but they also have flattened squid head that has been dried and octopus tentacles. Pretty much if it comes out of the sea and it is chewy, the Japanese have dried it, prepacked it and set it up right next to the beer case for your convenience. Funkiest looking drinking food I have ever seen.

There is also the large amount of "Hamburg" restaurants. Japanese people like steak sometimes, but what they like even more is a big slab of ground beef covered in sauce with a little black really hot thing on the side so that you can cook the meat again if you so desire too. That and all you can eat soup and salad and free refills which you have to have a coupon to get apparently. Needless to say I have had my fill of slabs of ground beef for the semester.

Lastly, this is what my life is like in Japan:

I hope that clears up any misconceptions haha.

Well have fun with this post.


P.S. Saishyo gu, injyan hoi, aikan desu = rock, paper, scissors in Japanese

Monday, September 27, 2010

Posting just to post again...

So it is Monday night, I haven't done anything really that special since I finished the weekend, but sometimes I just feel like writing about life. Today was a relatively simple day. I managed to keep myself from sleeping in class all through out today and I actually really enjoyed the Japan and China class today. We were talking about the detention of a Chinese ship captain in Japan for fishing in Japanese waters which actually led us into a huge discussion about how Japan still hasn't apologized adequately to China for the Nanjing Massacre. On the other hand no other country in the world has seen fit to apologize at all for the atrocities they committed, at least not without being forced to by a treaty after a war.

After class, I got a good workout in and then went and watched the Shorinji Kempo club practice. I will be going to practice starting on Wednesday and hopefully I will stick with it, but I am not going to say I will because it always seems that I don't when I do. On the one hand it looks like alot of fun and they seem to be really friendly and eager to help us learn Japanese. On the other hand, its still pretty time consuming. Whatever happens, happens though.

It rained today so I had to take the bus home, but it wasn't so bad because I met my friend Yurina, a native, on the way to the bus stop. She was apparently taking the bus home too because it was raining. She is studying Spanish so she likes to say Spanish words to me all the time, which makes for an amusing conversation because most of the time I never catch what she is saying because she can't pronounce the r sound. She can do the double rr sound where you roll it on your tongue really well though haha.

I found out today that I apparently surprise Japanese people a lot. They say that my intonations when I speak Japanese sound just like a Japanese person so they never see it coming when I talk. If only my vocabulary and my grammar were on that level. Maybe at the end of my stay then.

This weekend I am going to Danjiri Matsuri in my friend Shizuka's hometown. Then the weekend after that I am going to Hiroshima like I mentioned before. I'll keep posting in the meantime.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Golden Temple and the Golden Arches

This past week we had two holidays so I only had three days of class. Needless to say I didn't do much posting, or really anything. I was supposed to go to a field trip on Thursday but that didn't happen because it rained so instead I went with my host family to an all-you-can-eat restaurant (they even had Tokyo Pot all you can eat stuff!) and then to a hot spring which aside from all of the male genitalia hanging out, was actually really relaxing. Sometimes sitting in really hot water watching a big screen TV, outside at night is really comfortable. I would do it again.

Friday, I stayed at the university almost all day long just to pay the initial price for the trip to Hiroshima. I am going there the second week of October to hear one of the last remaining survivors (that was actually old enough at the time to recall what happened) talk about his or her experience at the time of the dropping of the atomic bomb. As an American I think that this is something that I should see and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to listen to this person speak. Afterwards on Friday though, I went to my favorite ramen restaurant where you can get a bowl of ramen and a plate of gyoza for 4 dollars. Then we went to an Izakaya (a Japanese bar) and hung out for the rest of the night until it closed, at which point we walked all the way in the opposite direction from our final destination to a convenience store and then back in the other direction to a park where I hung out until I had to go to the bathroom so bad that I didn't have a choice but to leave.

Saturday, I went with David, Raghda and Hart to Kyoto to go the Golden Temple aka Kinkakuji Temple. We spent forever figuring out how to get there and sitting on a bus waiting for it to finally arrive. Finally we made it to the temple, stopped at the bathroom, Hart and I decided we wanted to eat and so we left before looking around. We walked all the way down to a Big Boy, sat down there, found out it was nothing but hamburger patties drenched in strange red sauce and ditched without telling the attendants (not my most polite moment in Japan). We made it about a block away, gave up and got food at a McDonalds (where David, being the picky eater that he is spent 5 minutes trying to order exactly what he wanted the way he wanted it with a McDonalds worker that spoke no English, or in his case Spanish). We finished, walked back to the temple and found out that it actually closed at 5:00. We had gotten back there at 4:55. So 2 hours worth of travel by bus and train only to go to the Golden Arches.

After that Raghda decided that we should go exploring so we wondered around while David complained (not really haha) about how Americans always want to go to McDonalds and never want to see real sights or try anything new. After walking all over, we found out that we weren't anywhere close to where our train stop, but David still wanted to try and walk there haha. Then we vetoed him and found another train and took it back to the station where we had started our "adventure" in the first place.

Then we agreed to go meet Raghda's friend in Kyoto, where they led us around for an hour or so without finding any food at all and with Raghda complaining about how it was awkward the whole time and how every time she mentioned to me that it was awkward I would just smile and act like nothing bad was happening. I was already kinda grumpy though so I made it more awkward by just saying I was gonna go back to Hirakata and they wouldn't have to worry about me, which prompted everyone to say the same thing and then we left Raghda's friends in Kyoto and went back to Hirakata where I promptly bought the fried rice and gyoza that I had had my heart set on all day. After that I went to Karaoke for three hours and then called it a night.

Finally we arrive at today. I got up early this morning, caught a train by myself (kind of a surreal experience when you are the tallest, blondest person there) to Fushimi Inari where I met up with my Religion in Japan class for some onsite learning. I actually went to the top this time, which Sam and I didn't do last time we were there, half because we were supposed to be somewhere soon and half because we thought that we pretty much had gotten to the top. It was pretty awesome, I have to say. Lots and lots of these huge red gate things, and tons of fox statues. Then I wandered around with Etienne (sorry if I messed up your spelling, man), Dina and Estefan over to Tofukuji temple which was really huge and also a very interesting looking temple. Finally we headed back to Hirakata and I rode home. So hear I am writing a blog post when I should probably be doing homework or telling my host family that I am home haha.

Well I hope my life story was interesting enough for you.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just updating for the sake of updating.

I didn't really think about what I was going to write prior to starting this post, but I there were a few good things that happened recently so I figured it would be a good idea to share that with the world. First off, I found my house key, which I was worried about. After checking with the Karaoke place and the restaurant I went to and still not finding my key, I sat and thought for a little while about what possibly could have happened to my house key. I realized that the only place that my key could have fallen out at was those darns chairs make you sit really down low to the ground with your knees in the air that they have in the CIE building on campus. So I checked in the CIE and sure enough it was there.

On an even happier note, my friend that lost her purse that had her passport, camera and phone in it got word from the police today that they have it and it still has all of her valuables in it.

This is what she looks like when she is happy:

So she was pretty much like that all day today. Tomorrow I am going to the moon viewing festival which is in Kyoto. First three hundred people get sake and these little desert things called dango, except these dango are maid special for the the celebration. I don't really know how long or exciting the festival is, but at least I can say I went. I have no better plans at the moment so I will go. Plus Kyoto is awesome so even if it is boring we can still enjoy ourselves somehow. Well I hope everyone is doing well.


Monday, September 20, 2010

All the things that I haven't been telling you about, plus I learned how to post pictures!

I'm back! Already! And this time, I am not grumpy, but happy. Now I am going to proceed to cram as many secrets about my life in Japan as possible into this one blog all the while posting pictures and videos (yeah I learned how to post those too, but I decided the title would be to long if I wrote that also.)

Secret one. There is a secret eating style passed down from generation to generation that is followed rigorously here in Japan. It is the art of when and when not to use chopsticks. For about 90 percent of food here, you use chopsticks, and then right when you think you are safe, you see the rice in the bowl and you are breaking your wooden chopsticks in two getting ready to eat, they stop you and tell you that you have to use a spoon. The Japanese like curry with rice alot. It is everywhere and it is pretty good. However, you have to eat it with a spoon. If you try to eat chopsticks they will not let you eat. They won't get angry at you, the just won't let you eat your food. Its the most agitating thing ever, but Japanese people consider curry rice inedible via chopsticks.

Example of a Meal you Cannot Eat with Chopsticks:

That restaurant is awesome by the way. Unlimited naan, but one is more than you can eat anyways so it is really just a trap! Just kidding.

Secret two. Some times your food moves in Japan.

Secret three. Deer here will kill you for a deer biscuit.

And here is a brief summary of my day:

I got up this morning at 9:00 am after having walked way the hell into the middle of nowhere and then back (fortunately we caught the train on the way back) and not getting home until 2:00. I found out quickly that my host sisters softball game was actually at 1:00 and not 11:00 so I had actually gotten up two hours early. Fortunately, my memory had turned back on by the time I digested all of that and I realized I had to do laundry so I did that instead of going back to sleep. Then I took a shower, got all prettied up and then got in the car like I always do, on the left side in the front, only to realize that the steering wheel was on the wrong side of the car. Some one moved it apparently, but I went with it because I'm not allowed to drive in Japan anyways. We drove around town for a while before coming to this really long park area along a river and after not being able to find an entrance we decided to drive down what looked like a bike path, but since we are in Japan there really is no difference between a bike path and a road so it was ok. Finally we got to where we were supposed to be and I got out of the car and helped my host mom carry the cooler she had like the good host son that I am. After we arrived on site, I realized pretty quickly that I was the only foreigner at this Softball tournament and I became pretty popular pretty quick because of it. I started my interaction with the community first by playing the elevator game, aka pick the kid up off the ground and put him as high into the air as possible. Then we played the "How much English/Japanese do you speak game" which only got me cries of amazement whenever I told them I weight 100 kg, which is true. After that I was introduced to an English teacher that actually teaches English to my youngest host sister (kinda dangerous cause I always tell them that the English in her homework is really weird). She actually spoke perfect English and we talked the whole time back and forth in English and Japanese. Then the game ended and we headed back home. It was raining at the time so I was a bit grumpy about the thought of my clothes hanging out to dry getting rained on. It hadn't rained though by our house so I was ok. Then I went and played catch with my host sister for a while, then watched her practice pitching with my host mom. She has one hell of an arm! Then my host sisters and I made curry together, which is really just meat, potatoes, carrots, lots of onions and a special seasoning brick (I kid you not) that you dump into it with water. Super easy, and delicious. While we were waiting to finish, I got my butt kicked in Wii Sports and then finally got to eat which made everything better.

That about raps it up!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

What happens when bad things happen in Japan?

The title of this is probably somewhat misleading. I am not talking about bad things like murders or accidents. I am talking more about breaking the rules or inconveniencing someone, or simply not living up to expectations. I have had experience with all of them so far, unfortunately. This probably will sound more whinny than I want it to, but it is 2 am and I am mildly frustrated at the moment.

Lets start with failing. I attempted to make it into the level 3 class this week for reading and writing because it is technically the level I should be in. However, after not having studied Kanji (the Japanese characters that there are thousands of) I didn't pass the level 3 test. My reading and writing teacher, a level 2 Japanese teacher, when I asked her about my results, came up to me and said "You didn't make it" and then smiled. Now some people say that a smile in a difficult situation like that is normal for Japanese. I would probably agree with that except for every ounce of me was telling me that that smile was really saying "Ha told you so, you couldn't handle level 3 anyways. Aren't you lucky you get to be in my class." Needless to say, I am not overly fond of this teacher, but lesson learned; Japanese people smile in difficult social situations.

Next comes inconveniencing someone. There is the 'walking with 10 friends down a narrow sidewalk in Japan, hindering bicycle traffic' type of inconveniencing where you receive glares, but no comments all the while until you apologize with a Japanese "I'm sorry". Then there is the one where you lose your house key after spending the whole night out in Karaoke until 5 am in the morning. Fortunately my host family was very calm about it and helped me find the opening times for the places where I might have lost my key. I think that in other families that could have cost me my homestay.

Finally the last part is breaking rules. Most of the time, Japanese people are non-confronters. If you break a social norm and are for example very loud on the train, for the most part they won't ever tell you that you were doing something wrong. (They will, however, fight you tooth and nail about whether you can eat your curry rice with a spoon or chopsticks. You have to eat it with a spoon. I don't want to eat curry rice with a spoon, so I will never eat it again.) Tonight, I left the Seminar House 4 building at 10:00 pm just like I was supposed to and walked all over town with my two friends before coming back to the Seminar House to get my bike. You are actually not allowed on the grounds after 10:00 if you are not a resident, which I was aware of but somehow that didn't occur to me. I sat out there for like 10 minutes with my friends talking before one of the Resident Assistants, who happened to be one of my good friends, told me to leave right away. I left, but I really felt bad for possibly having cause him trouble.

This post is not to complain, so much as to say that I have respect for Japanese people, including my friend for the fact that sometimes you have to be harsh, even with your friends to make sure a rule is enforced. He knows that I will never do anything bad at the Seminar House, but if I do it, then other people might do it, and other people aren't as nice as I am.

Sorry. I suppose this post wasn't so much for you as it was for me. I used it to vent, and to justify why my friend had to do what he did. Thanks for listening though!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Americans are more than just loud, noisy and bothersome. They are also...

I get into discussions about Americans quite a bit with my family and I have been starting to realize that it is because I am not what they expected an American to be like. I was watching a TV show today, apparently my youngest host sister's favorite" and the Learn English section came on. This is a comical TV show by the way, so this is not a very serious Learn English program. It starts out with some Japanese dancing around and being goofy and then pans over to an obese man, obviously a foreigner(from a Japanese perspective) sitting on a couch in with about five pizza boxes at his disposal. This cute little Japanese girl is singing to him the whole time, asking him to do things and he responds the whole time saying things like "I don't want to," "Not right now," and "I'm tired". Thats when I realized that the status that we have held for a long time in the eyes of other countries as "Number One" has now been diminished to "Number One Fattest" and "Number One Laziest" whether we deserve it or not.

So far my host family has asked me a handful of questions about myself with regards to what Americans are like and its hard to say that there actual beliefs are wrong, because many times I agree with them.

Japanese Conception #1: Americans are picky eaters

Today my host mom said she was happy to have me around because her friends had a host student once who was picky and really wanted American food. They made him mashed potatoes apparently, and he got upset because they were served cold when he thought they should be served hot. Fortunately for me, I like food in general so I am pretty content with what is on the table, but on the other hand it is still hard for me to think of ever getting upset because my host mother didn't cook American food properly.

Japanese Conception #2: Americans eat alot

I have been trying to cut back on portions just to get used to it lately, so I eat just one bowl of rice and just one portion of dinner instead of gorging myself until I have to be rolled out. My host mom told me that compared to other Americans I ate like a bird. But hey, at least I am not picky.

Japanese Conception #3: Americans are lazy/fat

Well the TV show explains the reason for them thinking that, as well as McDonalds, Coca Cola, and really sweet candy. Needless to say I am a bit smaller than what they were expecting (although I am not small by any means to them haha).

Japanese Conception #4: Americans drive their cars too much

I don't know where they got this conception from, but I can't say that it is wrong. I know people that will drive their car to their neighbors house.

That pretty much raps it up. Sorry if this was a bit of a mean post, but I can't say that my opinion was that much different when I was living in America anyways :)


Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Daily Life as a Foreigner in Japan

I was talking to Dad last night on Skype and he seemed to think that the next post I write should be about daily life for me here in Japan. That sounds like a worthy enough topic for me so I will give it my best shot. Here we go.

I live in a suburban district of Hirakata City which is technically a suburb of Osaka. Although this is suburban the idea of nice neat houses all in a row like the ones that you find in the states is actually not accurate at all. My house is, along with the rest of the neighborhood on top of a very large, next step being a mountain, size hill. Every morning I get up and eat breakfast, shower and bike to school.

Japanese people are bath lovers. Their culture is practically based around it. They have large communal man made baths in hotels and inns, and they set up hot spring resorts like the people of Oklahoma set up oil wells. They are everywhere. This culture extends to the household as well. Every night after my host father gets home from work everyone showers and then bathes, in the same bath water, one after the other. I, however, am a none conformist and I insist on bathing in the mornings before I go to school. The only unfortunate thing is that the custom here is to sit on a tiny little stool and hose yourself off, turn the water off, soap up, and then hose off again. I'm getting used to it though.

For breakfast, my host mom has already made food for my host dad so she makes some extra for me and has it on the table ready for me for when I get up. I grab a bowl, get myself some rice and then chow down. Breakfast usually consists of a breakfast meat, sausage or bacon, (one time I had this thing that tasted like meatloaf though) an egg, two pieces of lettuce and two slices of pear. It gets the job done. Before a meal you always say "Itadakimasu" which means thank you for providing this meal, and after a meal you always say "Go-chisoosama" which pretty much means the same thing. Both words are pretty much used exclusively for before and after meals so I am not exactly sure what their actually meanings are.

As far as the bike ride goes, I would like you to read my previous post about that. I will however say that it is getting slightly cooler out side so I no longer show up to class dripping with sweat.

I have four classes that I am taking this semester. A Japanese Speaking class that I think its spectacular with a very motivating teacher, a Japanese Reading and Writing Class with a teacher that I cannot stand (that I am fortunately going to try and get out of and replace with a higher level), a class on Religion in Japan that seems very interesting so far but it is at a bad time of the day so I get sleepy, and a class on Japan and China and the way that they have developed over time similarly yet completely differently. The way my schedule is set up has no rhyme or reason to it so sometimes I won't have class until 11:00 and other times I will have class at 9:00. I have no issues with it though because I am done by noon on Fridays. :)

After that I typically go to the gym and then go home again where my host mom is preparing dinner. I sit and hang out with the kids while they study for school. They are learning words in English at the same time as I am learning them in Japanese so it is pretty amusing to sit there with a book and just go back and forth with them. Then at around 7:30 host mom puts dinner on the table. Today was eggplant sliced up and mixed with ground beef and then fried in a little bit of oil, along with a piece of fish, egg tofu and some rice. Rice is the most consistent thing you will find in meals here. I usually eat it with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Then I sit in the living room with my Japanese books and study some more before going to bed on a futon. My family is a bit more western oriented than most families so there aren't any ridiculously different things about it. Needless to say, I enjoy living with the Morimoto family, and I think this will be a very good semester.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Emergency Post: Bicycles in Japan

I decided not to long after I had finished my bike ride today that once I had regained my composure, I should write an entry about Bicycles in Japan. I tried really hard to make an acronym for them but the only thing I got was:


Needless to say the acronym thing didn't really work out that well. Kerosene was the only dangerous sounding word I could come up with that begins with K.

Here is some background information on how this was all started. I just moved in with my host family today and after having discussed all the rules and curfew stuff (which was not that bad, I will talk about it some other time) I was asked whether I wanted to take the bus everyday or ride a bike. Well, naturally, being the healthy individual that I am, I chose taking the bike.

Once that was decided, host mom laid out a map on the floor and said this is the way that you get to school everyday. It looked to me like one of the maze things that they give kids on a piece of paper at Chili's so that they are occupied until there chicken nuggets come out, except it had been messed up and restarted 4 times. Ok thats a gross exaggeration, its bad as far as remembering the route goes. Anyways I said it seemed difficult and she said don't worry host dad will show you tonight.

2 hours later...

Host Dad and I get our bikes and get going. At first I'm feeling it. I'm loving the ride, the view is phenomenal (my opinion on that hasn't change since i got back from our excursion by the way) and everything is just wonderful. Then all the sudden we hang a left into a McDonalds parking lot and go down a ramp that leads to the worst hill in all of Japan. There is approximately 2 centimeters of bike lane, which for those of you who aren't metrically capable, less than an inch, and we are slipping past cars that are waiting for the light to go green.

Half way up, I am tried to avoid scrapping the cars with my handlebars and not fall in the foot deep ditch that japanese people require (possibly by law) next to all areas where bikes are ridden when all of the sudden my sandal just breaks. So I scoop it up, walk/pedal up the hill with cars now driving past and catch up to host dad. From there on, I am home free on a flat road except we have to stay on the sidewalk which is only 2 feet wide and changes in steepness every foot or so. Couple with that, the light posts that they didn't have any more space for make a charming obstacle for you to squeeze around.

We finally made it there and then back, but I have a much greater respect for the capabilities of bike riders in Japan. I also have a new found awe for the damage that can be caused by a bicycle. Well cross your fingers that I don't get run over by one of these little box SUV's that they drive here.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

I'm sorry/not sorry at all

I want to begin this blog with an apology for not having written in a long time because I know this is the way that most of my family members keep up with me at the moment. I have been in orientation the past week so I haven't gotten on my laptop at all. So sorry about that.

On the other hand though, I have been having an awesome time hanging out with a bunch of great people from all over the world, going to some of the biggest cities in the world, and eating some amazing food. For that I cannot apologize.

I just moved in with my host family today and I think I will enjoy it here. The only issue I can think of at the moment is the ridiculously hot bike ride to and from school for a half hour every morning and evening.

Well, I plan to post again soon with more detail on my life, but right now I am going to spend some more time with my host family. I don't want to seem like the type that just sits in there room all the time.


Friday, August 27, 2010

First two days in Japan

I finally made it to Japan! The first day was exhausting and a true test of my speaking capabilities in Japanese, which I found are somewhat useless for navigating Japan. So no one ever told my Japanese teach that it would be useful to teach us what normal signs say and what to ask people when you are looking for the right train. I figured it out though figured it out though.

Last night we went out to a local restaurant and I got some fried rice and pot stickers. It was excellent. Today I had takoyaki for a snack. Takoyaki is basically a ball of batter with octopus and mayonnaise and some other things inside. Its a pretty awesome snack.

Earlier today we went to Osakajo which translates to Osaka castle. Its gigantic! Its basically a museum inside but the outside its really impressive. I stopped at a cup vending machine. You put money in, choose your drink and it dispenses a cup, then ice then if fills it to the brim. I was awed by it, needless to say.

Then we came back to the hostel and Dave showed up not to much later. We were mildly worried about whether he would make it or not, which if you know Dave that should make sense haha. That about sums up the past two days. I'll get some pictures going in a while, but I only have a few at the moment.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

7 days and counting...

So the past few days now, since I am starting to get close to my departure date, have been spent at work, the gym and hanging out with my friends. When I am actually involved in those things life just seems like its gonna go on the same without any change. However, when I zone out for a second and stop and think, "You only have 7 days left in the USA.", all of the sudden I get that feeling. The one were it feels like you just ran through a meadow collecting butterflies for an hour an then gorged yourself with them. I hope that conveys it well enough. Unfortunately the time periods of not realizing that I am going to Japan are great enough that I don't feel a need to open my textbooks and practice nearly as often as I should. I'm hoping that writing that down in this post will help me come to terms with that. Upon reflection, I think not. I have been practicing my capacity to eat Japanese food though, much to the dismay of one of the other students going to Japan. We ate a sushi house today and Tyler, a guy that went to Japan last semester, and I made the other student eat tuna nigiri - basically raw tuna on top of a nice ball of sticky rice. He made one of those gagging faces coupled with the "Oh my god what did I just eat?" looks. Classic!

Well thats about all that has been going on in my life. Hope it was at least slightly amusing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I got my Certificate of Elegibility

This is hopefully the shortest post I will ever write. I got my Certificate of Eligibility which means I can get a visa now. On top of that I got a plane ticket and I will be a arriving in Osaka, Japan on August 26th. Later than I planned, but heck, the fact that I get to go in the first place blows my mind.

See ya,


Friday, June 4, 2010

First Post, but still 8 weeks out from my Japan trip

I still have another 8 weeks left, but I decided it was about time to start the process of blogging. I have gotten a lot of help and information from other peoples blogs and I was hoping that mine would be useful to someone in the long run too. I plan to give my camera test run soon enough, so I'll post those pictures up here, even though they will be of Oklahoma. Hope everyone is doing well.