Monday, March 30, 2009

Hinami plus some

This time, it's not chronological.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

School + field trip

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, March 21, 2009


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

Monday, March 16, 2009


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 12, 2009


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

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

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

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

I ate an apple today. It was delicious.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


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


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

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

My host family is great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cell phone tomorrow!

Friday, March 6, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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