Monday, October 30, 2006

Bowling for Vanilla Gaijins *updated v2.0!*

Burninating the Updates!!1!one - for those of you who may have already read through this, i through in a lil update down a few paragraphs ^^

I never really went clubbing at all in the US, and I’m not sure how much I’ll be doing of it here in Japan, but getting into Vanilla in Roppongi for free like that cant be beat. I didn’t have to buy a drink or anything, it rocked. The only problem is that not being able to go home until 5am can be rather bothersome, since it takes a good hour to get back, especially from Roppongi. Throw into the mix being extremely tired as well, oy vey, lol. The trick is to go until 4 or so, then go to a delicious ramen shop or yoshinoya or something, and catch the 1st train out. But that’s usually a pretty packed train, and after dancing or w/e for 5 or 6 hours, yur usually not really up to standing on a train for 45 min… then again… I usually do that everyday anyways… meh

Anyhoo, lots of interesting and funny costumes at the club. Oh, and I gotta say that one was much more enjoyable than the one I was kinda… dragged to in Shibuya last time (which was actually my 1st time at a club). We were gonna go to Harlem in Shibuya, which is a pretty big/popular one so I’m told, but they wouldn’t let us in, one of our friends either had shorts on or… w/e, they can be real strict on who they let in, I mean… it is they’re club, they can let in whomever they want or don’t want ya know, anyways, that time we ended up in some no-name club next door, I believe called… 27 Destiny… but how in the world do you compete against the biggest popular club that’s right next door right? In comparison to Vanillia, 27 Destiny was like… a bar with a thin dance floor. I was also extremely tired from jet lag at the time, and couldn’t hear a thing cause the music was so obnoxiously loud. Ugh.

Vanilla was fun though. Its really really big, and I’m told its one of the most famous clubs in Japan, so its just cool at least to say that I’ve been there. This place was gigantic though. 2 floors with different types of music. The 1st floor had a large hip-hop dance floor, and as well a smaller House dance floor in a different area. And then the 2nd floor was a huge All-mix floor, primarily techno-style music. I like some hip-hop, but not everything, I’m more of a techno kind of guy. Plus, hip-hop/rap tends to get a lil… too dirty? for my tastes, idk. I just... like techno, and actually I really understand the appeal of the techno club life for a moment last night.

Of course I enjoy techno myself, so that appealed more to me in the first place, but the dancing was different than the hip-hop floor. The hip-hop floor was more dancing with a girl or something (which of COURSE I enjoy, don't get me wrong), but the techno floor was like… dancing more with the music and just having a good time. Plus I got this really big Japan vibe from the crowd in the upper floor, its difficult to explain but like… we basically like, started a chant to the beat when it started a new phrase. Some ppl or… idk how it turned into that but like, boy this is hard to explain, I’ll find a video on YouTube later to show ya, its really fun, cause everyones doin the same thing and such with the beat. Kinda like… seeing everyone do some certain dance to a song or something that you don’t know, but you look close, figure it out, and then you start dancing with em, and everyones dancing together and it’s a lot of fun right? Kinda like that

****************** Update **********************
***I seem to be unable to find a good video atm, and one example i can think of i dont think would exactly work, theres too much... otaku'ness in that video, although, i suppose it would help get a better idea of what i'm talkin about... woah holy crap, a new video!! and they're way worse in this one, they get off beat right away, hilarious!!! anyways, imagine a cooler version of the sort of 'chanting' they're doing, and that should do, most of the videos of clubs i found were too loud or there was too much bass to make anything out anyways
for the mean time, enjoy one of the more awesome crazy happenings of Japan, man i love this place, i have some videos of my own kinda similar that i'll be uploading to my YouTube account after i compress them, despite my camera taking compressed video, it... doesnt really seem to do that well of a job compressing the video... meh

Oh, and I’ve been meaning to touch a bit on a certain subject: Gaijin (foreigners) So, last night was my first time going to Roppongi, and I hadn’t really made any big effort to go there prior mainly because of one reason: Gaijin. Roppongi is pretty much the main place that a lot of the foreigners in Tokyo go to. In other words, theres a lot of them. Especially at Vanilla, where women and foreigners get in at a discounted price usually, aka: they’re encouraged to go there. Now call me crazy, but one of my primary reasons for being in Japan is to have an active social life speaking Japanese with my Japanese friends. I can hang out with all the gaijin I want in the states, although… gaijin in the states would be… well I’m here to hang out with Japanese friends not white ppl, lol (no offence anyone who’s here in Japan reading this, lets hang out, its totally cool, don’t worry). But see here’s the only problem:

…I’m a gaijin -_-

Its really weird, cause I’ve definitely been adapting a quite Japanese viewpoint without even realizing it of trying to not involve myself with all those stupid gaijin >_< For instance, I was on the train, on my way to Roppongi by myself yesterday evening. I switched from the JR Shonan-Shinjuku line to the Hibiya Subway line at Ebisu (got that?) I noticed a few gaijin around the station, as I figured I’d be seeing more and more the closer I got to Roppongi, haha. Now keep in mind from your own vantage point, you cant really see yourself. So when yur surrounded by a bunch of Japanese ppl who all share similar features, you eventually being to assume that you yourself must blend in with them. Its quite an errie feeling, which you don’t often realize until you look at pictures or something with yourself in them at the end of the day, heh. Anyways, I get on the train and sit down when I see another foreigner sitting on the other side of the train in… jeans and a polo or w/e. Now I have no idea what set me off, maybe it was the way he dressed (foreigners’ style is just terrible in comparison to Japanese, why do u think I started dressing better the last semester before I came here?) Anyways, I remember looking at this guy and thinking, “ahh… a gaijin? Oy vey,” or something along those lines. Basically, a generally negative type feeling. Well, this was then suddenly followed up by, “oh crap… I bet I look exactly same as he does on this train to everyone else… dangit!”

So in fact, I myself am one of those stupid gaijin, and no matter what I do, just because of the way I look I’ll never cease to be a stupid gaijin. I have been taking every step I possibly can for the things I can do to avoid the baka gaijin title, and I have been having a descent amount of success. Actually, funniest thing ever last night. It was around 4 in the morning, and we were dead tired as u can imagine, just sitting around a small table chatting. First a (Japanese) friend of mine mentioned that I looked a lot like one of her good Japanese friends as far as face, hair, etc. So, there was kind of an implication that I looked sort of Japanese. I didn’t know if I should feel complimented or not, it was just kinda a funny moment.

Well this was then proceeded by another friend of mine (I think Spanish) who mentioned that she thought I was actually a half (half Japanese half… anything else). I was completely taken aback, this time I really didn’t know whether or not to feel complicated or w/e, I was just in totally shock on the comment. But at the same time… I felt a great sense of accomplishment? Well her reasoning was that for one, my Japanese is supposedly doing quite well and sounds natural. As well supposedly my features, this part relating to the 1st comment, could have been a convincing for a half. It was just… weird. Now contrary to what most of my friends probably believe, I’ve never actually wish I were ever a difference race, be in Japanese or w/e. I’m quite content with being an American of German descent. I would think I would find life quite… depressing if I wished I were something else. The only feeling towards being Japanese now is purely a ‘wanting to blend in’ desire. Since, no matter how much Japanese mannerisms or language I know, my 190 cm height (6’ 3”), blonde hair, and facial features will never come close to blending in. Especially the height factor. I’m gonna be takin some pictures of myself in a crowd eventually, you gotta see it, its so funny seein my head stick out, haha.

Anyways, as one of my goals is to do the best I can to avoid all stereotypical baka gaijin mannerisms and such, upon hearing that I looked/acted in a Japanese fashion, I felt… incredibly complimented, haha. Laugh all you want, but I’m gonna use that as confidence, especially for this 5 min speech I’m gonna be doing Friday, ugh.

As for today, good day ^_^ Got to sleep in again, which I was FAR overdue for extra sleep, but it seems like I’ll be missing out on that sleep tonight a little. Of course that’s what happens when yur out till 7:30, and sleep in till 3pm. I need to limit myself to only doing things on Firday nights instead of Saturday, cause then you have Sunday to make up for throwing yur sleep cycle a whack. Oh, and now that I’ve gotten a good rhythm down for my daily activities, its about time I get around to finding a Lutheran Church around here. It definitely exists, its just difficult (and at times saddening) to get around to those things when an extremely small percentage of the population is Christian. Well Sophia was founded by Jesuit, and has I believe Catholic masses on Sundays… meh

Anyways, what did I do today...

“Hey, you uhh… wanna go bowling? Were leavin at 18”

“…yea ok”


Yes, I went to the bowling alley on the 6th floor of Don Quixote and had pizza delivered to our lane there. When they say those department stores have everything, they really do have everything, not kidding. There was also a game center there (typical), and the usually groceries and other usual department store things. I don’t remember what was on some of the other floors though, I’ll have to get back to you on that. But yes, I went bowling in Japan for the 1st time, and it was cool. Very fun to see all the difference between American and Japanese bowling alleys. I’ve only been to 1 so far of course, so I cant say that that one necessarily represents all of Japan bowling, but I’m sure others are similar. Lets see, what were the differences I noticed…

IMG_8436The shoes were like… Velcro shoes, oh, and they were of course labeled in centimeters, but yea… Velcro, it felt like I was wearing kid shoes, haha. Also the actual bowling lane was quite impressive, complete with the screen switching to a close up camera view on your pins right before yur ball hits them. Take that American bowling. The scoring was more of the same, but much more detailed, i took lots of pictures so you can see the differences yourself. It did of course, have that general feel of Japanese… extra service. Some bowling alleys can get dusty and a lil dirty depending on where you go, but this place was nice and clean and well kept up, like most places in Japan, complete with 2 towels at each ball return for the 2 lanes for… whatever purpose you wanna use that towel for, wiping off the ball I guess, w/e. Basically stuff that I’d never really seen as common in the US.

Very fun, but a lil pricey (as is everything in Tokyo) at 500 yen a game. I’m told they don’t really have the sweet deals like we do in the states where you can do unlimited bowling all night for 10 bux (man what a sweet deal). But I’m definitely gonna be keeping a good eye out for it. Plus that place would be a cool fun thing to do on a date ^_^ gotta show off my American bowling skills, all that hard work bowling with ‘Better than Batman, Superman, and Catwoman Combined” is gonna pay off one of these days. Wait a minute, it already has, I freakin won a bowling trophy bak in Minneapolis, haha, yea, thats way cooler >_<

And afterwards, since I was already at Don Quixote, I decided to do some shopping for some other necessity items I needed. Ya know, don’t you usually buy toilet paper, dish rags, etc after you go bowling? I mean, its in the same building right? lol, ended up takin a while and buyin a number of things there, but its all stuff I needed, now my room is is much better order and convenience. I did have to wander back to Azalea from Don Quixote by myself though, kinda a pretty good distance, about 15-20 min walk I think? But I managed, not exactly the most direct route… but I made it back, woo

Well its almost 2 am here, I should be getting tired sooner or later now, writing this was supposed to help in that cause, lets find out if its working or not… unfortunately the shower may cancel all of this out… bleh

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Speech Contest?! ugh

**not sure whats wrong with this post, but it doesnt seem to want to put it on my blog**

ok, on my way to a halloween party in Roppongi in a min here, but i wanted to just say a lil somethin somethin so it doesnt pile up again, lol

So, our school festival is coming up next week, and it looks like i'm gonna be participating in this speech contest. i have to make a 5 min speech (in Japanese) and just... speech... it... at the school festival, lol. all my Japanese friends kept telling me i have to do it since supposedly i speak Japanese well so... i'm doing it. I'm not really worried about the speaking part, just the... fact that i still havent finished writing it, lol. I figure i'll do it on Minnesota since thats the 2nd coolest thing after Japan, lol. Anyways, i've got a week to finish that up and practice it, so i really gotta get back to work on that after all my shinanigans this week.

Actually i should have time to work on it cause with next week being the school festival, of course we dont have school, duh, just on monday, and then the rest of the week off. I love Japan. Course i'll be going to the festival for the days we have it, at least one or 2, but i might be going to some others as well, not sure, but what i'd really like to do is go somewhere cool. I could go somehwere local like Odaiba or Yoyogi park or somethin, or the Imperial Park in Shinjuku, tha'd be cool. It'd be even sweeter to go to like, Kamakura again, or Yokohama or Enoshima. Hey i should visit Mia, maybe i'll send her an email, let her know i have the week out. Actually i havent met up with Shu yet either, i wonder if he has any spare time...

well anyways, gotta get goin, we're meeting at Roppongi station exit 4b at 9, now the question is should i take Yuurakuchou to Yotsuya, or just JR from Ikebukuro, hmm...

oh yea, and theres this "Yamanote line Halloween Train" that supposedly goin on tonight, i'd love to check it out, it sounds like it some legend, hahaha

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Testing 1... 2... 3...

Just testing out some better way to view the pictures i post...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kamakura and Nikko - plus getting up to date!!

So i'm offically 21, what a weekend.

**Pictures uploaded!! Specific links later, but now its time for bed, oh and btw, my friend uploaded some more pictures of me on his site, including my amazing emo train picture, w00t**

Finally strayed away from Tokyo for the 1st time too, and i gotta say it was kinda a nice breath of fresh air. Honestly though, I love the metropolitan atmosphere. I've always lived in a major city of some sort (St Louis, Minneapolis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis again, and now Tokyo), so i just cant really imagine life outside a city, it would be so... unconvinient, haha. But living in a super megalopolis like Tokyo... dang. I've got pictures from the time i've gone before, but from the observation deck 200 some meters up in the Metropolitain Building in Shinjuku, all you can see are buildings. I'm not kidding. Its seriously a solid sea of buildings all the way through the horizon in every direction, except Tokyo bay of course. But even Tokyo bay is scattered with artificial islands. Tokyo is an amazing place, and I take alot of pride in living here now. However at the same time i've learned a great appreciation for more open spaces. The rest of Japan isnt nearly as packed as Tokyo.

I was browsing over the JR website and ran across this pdf that had some general facts about JR's operations and such. Theres 6 different branches of JR in all of Japan, and if you take a look at first page there, on the bottom right it shows a little chart of the daily usage of stations in the different branches of JR. Obviously much the fault of the Tokyo and Kanagawa areas, Tokyo and Yokohama being the biggest city, you can see there that JR East has 60 more stations with more than 100,000 or more passengers/day. Thats insane, and i'm one of em :P

Anyways, Tokyo, very busy place, yada yada. As you can imagine, a breath of fresh air is pretty nice after a month of narrow streets and packed trains. So Kamakura, quite a place lemme tell ya. I've been there before, so it was actually pretty sweet have a sense of nostalgia, as well as being able to take it in for a 2nd time from a different point of view, this time in the fall instead of dead of winter. The leaves here havent quite changed color yet, but at least there were leaves this time, heh.

First we went to Shakado Kiritoshi (釈迦堂切り通し), about a 15 min walk or so from the Kamakura station. After winding through neighborhoods and up steep narrow hill you arrive at this entrance to a tunnel cut into the side of the hill/mountain that leads to the shrine. Very cool. I'd not been there before, so it was of course to nice to see something new. It would certianly be fun to see all the stuff i have before, but new stuff is even better of course. I might read up on some of these places more later on, but i'm not exactly sure on the exact history of the place for the time being. There was this shrine of some sort where you can wash yur money and then dry it over the burning insense and like... you gain monetary luck... or something, idk. Basically, its this cool shrine thats litterally cut into the side of the mountain. Of course i took many many pictures, and a video.

After that we went back to the Kamakura station and split up from there to go get lunch, as it was, ya know, lunch time, and we were all starving. Oh, did i mention i had to be at Sophia by 10 am on a saturday. And with my commute taking about 45 min or so, i had to be up around 8:30 and leave shortly after 9. Why i was up till 2 or 3 the night before... i dont remember. Anyways, i didnt really get much breakfast, so i was starving. And what better to fill me up? Okonomiyaki baby. Soba iri Okonomiyaki to be exact (Okonomiyaki with soba noodles in it). Delicious. Seems you could make these yourself, similar to the previous Okonomiyaki place i went to, but we had them make em for us, cause that was easier and quicker, meh.

They gave us a couple hours for lunch and then we could go with our groups to go check out the most famous Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine (鶴岡八幡宮) in Kamakura. Now i have been there before, and it was really really cool to see familiar scenery in Japan, haha. It has been about 2 years though, so there were some differences i suppose. I did go to the shrine from a different route so, that was a different vantage point i suppose. The biggest thing through was that there were actually like... leaves on the giant famous tree next to the giant flight of stairs. Anyways, couldnt really spend a bunch of time there cause were had to get back to the Kamakura station again to meet up with everyone and head over to Kōtokuin (高徳院) where the famous Daibutsu (大仏) is.

We actually took one of old skool train/street cars to, i believe the Enoden Hase station, and from there walked to Daibutsu. I've also been here before as well, so it was again cool to see something familiar again. This was actually the only thing that cost money to get into, but it was only 200 yen, so its pretty cheap. Had some fun with pictures there, not that i really need 50 pictures of a giant statue of buddha but... w/e

Daibutsu officially ended the Amity event for the day, and most people headed off home, however several of us decided to go check out the beach in Kamakura for fun. Hey its free. It was really dark out, so you couldnt really see anything, but it was cool none the less to see the ocean... or hear it. Again had some fun with my camera, unfortunately i didnt bring my lil mini tripod (i love that thing btw, thank you dad), so i build a lil mound of sand that i set the camera on and opened up the shutter for some 15 sec exposure shots. They turned out pretty cool, adding to the 250 or so pictures i took for the day. Not all are gonna be uploaded to flickr of course. Well i could if i wanted to, i've got enough space, but... do you wanna look through all those pictures? lol

Oh yes, I was gonna meet up with my friend i stayed with in Fujisawa, since Kamakura is like, right next door, but she was pretty busy, so it didnt work out, bummer. I did head back to Shinjuku afterwards with the people that went to the beach and we went to a rather pricey, but delicious Indian curry restaurant. Good ol bowl of curry and some nan, delicious. It actually worked out pretty sweet, cause 2 of the girls there, being Japanese girls, only ate about 1/2 of theirs, so i pretty much got 2 meals out of it, and was actually close to being full, it was awesome.

By this time it was at least 10 pm, and i didnt get back home until 11 or so, after which, well i was hoping i could have taken care of this Kamakura buisness so this wouldnt turn into a giant post on 2 huge events but... partially being extremely tired, as well as exhausted, and at the same time still attempting to make last minute plans for Nikko the next day, i was up till 4 am, and had to wake up at 6:30, ugh.

So its my birthday now, and quite a fun day it was. Unfortunately it was extremely stressful at the same time, oy vey. Unfortunately i didnt get to look into a bunch of stuff about Nikko before going, so not really having a plan of action makes things very difficult. I know what Nikko is famous for, and what there is to see, but as far as getting there, timetimeables, etc etc... ugh

First off, it was extremely difficult to get up, being only 3 hours of sleep at best. Then i misjudged our time and although we did leave about when i wanted to, that was too late to get to Kitasenshu station and meet my other friends and head out for Nikko on time. This turns a 1300 yen ticket into 3300 yen or so for the next express train, sigh... not very good news espc whem my friends were hesitant to go on account of money issues. Then our seats were on different cars, 3 of us in car 1, and the myself and my other friend in car 5. In other words, we're waiting for the train on different ends of the platform. This hence causes me to get on the train right before ours cause its like, ya know, oh the trains here, get on it. Wrong train. Luckily there was some dude sitting where i would have been sitting so we figured this out and got off the train before it left. That could have been a big mess. However new problem. I think i dropped my ticket on that train, cause now i cant find it T_T At least i still have my express train ticket, but i lost the regular ticket that was 1320 yen (approx $10). Upon asking the station attendant, he tells us i'll prolly ahve to buy a new one, whoo hoo. Then i get on the right train, only to find my friend and I on the smoking car!!! seriously!!! agghhh!!!

ok ok, now begins the good news, and its about time

Upon asking one of the train attendants, we were able to move to car 2, and thank God! In less than 10 min my clothes were already reaking, and my throat would have been killin me after a couple hours of that, ugh. And then upon arriving in Nikko, it turns out that, well i did need that ticket, but seeing as though Japan is just amazing about being trustworthy, they let me go and told me to be careful. Yes!

So we're in Nikko... now what?

crap, what do we do? >_<

So, this plan had originated from our random venture to the Ueno zoo, and then unofficial plan was to meet up with Matt and use his car to get around (he drove from Saitama to Nikko). Well, there wasnt really room for the 5 of us, so that didnt really work out very well. Not that that would have been a better idea anyways, cause the roads were packed. Nikko is a different kind of narrow, Mountains narrow. But the open spaces were amazing, haha. As well i swear the air was just... fresher. Well of course it was, Tokyo is a gigantic city that spans as far as you can see in every direction. A little city in the mountains would have to have crisper cleaner air.

For the time being, we went and got something to eat. I had Nikko Ramen and Nikko Gyoza, i couldnt tell you how its different from regular ramen and gyoza, but i guess it was, heh. After lunch we headed over towards Tōshōgū (東照宮) for the time being, and would decide on anything else after that. I had brought my laptop with me assuming i could just stash my bag in the car but... that didnt seem to work out, so it was pretty heavy lugging that thing around. But then again i'm used to lugging a heavy back like that around. Anyways, we ran across some cool old skool looking Japanese building with a Japanese style pond next to it. I think it my have had something to do with a museum... or something... idk, it was cool, i took pictures, lol.

The first rather famous thing we finally came across was Shinkyō (神橋), a red bridge that spans over one of the rivers in Nikko. We didnt actually walk across it, that costs money. If you pay you can go down on some scaffolding and check it out too, but there was a lil shrine of some sort near it, and that was free, weee. oh yea yea, I put a lil 5 yen (the lucky coin) in this one thing and then rubbed this little stone, and i guess i get... well something good. w/e, it was just fun to do, hehe.

After that, and up a ton of steps and steep roads, you reach Toshogu, woo. Now this place was amazing. It was actually like... well i'm not exactly sure of all the names of the places, i should have got a map of the temple area. I have one of Nikko, but not of all the temples. Cause there were a few big buildings before we actually got to the main Toshogu temple.

The scenery up there is just amazing though. I can take some really nice pictures with my camera, even better than i used to, much thanks to my friend Davy whom i've mentioned before. I was definately wishing i had his camera up there though, haha. The main Toshogu temple was just breathtaking though. So the architecture in Japan is different from that of the US in the first place, but then you go to these shrines and temples that have been around for centuries, and some for millienia, and you just have nothing to compare it to. So yea, i took alot of pictures (over 500!), and some videos. I'm experimenting with taking some small video tours of these places, as there are alot of advantages that videos have in capturing the feel of a place that a picture just cant. For instance, I can take as many pictures as i can of the crowded trains, but you just wait till i get a good video of all the people getting off a train and then back on, heh.

We met up with the other friends of ours by chance that drove to Nikko at Toshogu, and hung out with them while we were there. As well we also stuck up conversation with a couple guys that live in Nerima-ku (where Azalea House in Heiwadai is), so that was one of those small world moments. But best of all (I wish i had a video of this), while taking a picture of one of the buildings, an extremely cheerful old Japanese guy asked if i was russian, upon replying in Japanese and explaining to him i'm American from Minnesota, etc, he seemed to be really excited and happy to talk to me. I doubt he was drunk, i suppose its a possibility, but i think hes just one of those awesome super happy people in the world. He went on to tell me about how he's a carpenter and makes Taiko drums. My friends then made their way over to me (this guy must have really liked shaking my hand, cause he was holding onto it for a good couple minutes) to check and make sure i was ok. Ya know, tall foriegner with a slightly confused look on his face talking to this very outgoing Japanese dude, haha.

So this cool Japanese guy is wearing a flat cap. Well so was my friend. Oh yea baby, this guy sees my friends cap and gets super excited and long story short, my friend switches caps with him. hahahaha, it was so funny. This Japanese guy was seriously the happiest man on the planet for a minute or so. I wish i got a video of the thing. Luckily i was able to snap a couple of pictures, one of em turned out really well, the one where he hugs my friend with the biggest smile on his face >_<

Anyways, it cost about 1300 yen or so to get into the main inner temple part of Toshogu, but it was definately worth it. Why it costs that much is beyond me, cause they've gotta be making a killing, i mean, the place was packed, and at 10 bux a head, thats alot of money!! But wow, breathtaking. So ornate and just... wow. Hopefully some of the 100+ picutres i took will help show you guys just how amazing it was. Some of them turned out really well. I dont like to take those boring straight on peace sign pictures, you've gotta make it interesting, get it from an angle and get a good shot fittin yurself into the scenery, hehe, anyways, i had a lot of fun taking pictures of the place.

That was pretty much most of what we did in Nikko. I really had wanted to go and see a waterfall or go to an onsen, some of the other things Nikko is famous for. But unfortunately we were short on time and enough pertinate information to make any decisions on what to do, so the better option was taking the cheaper train from Tobu-Nikko back to Kitasenju. All in all though, very cool day, frustrating at times, but lots of fun. I was really happy that i could go to Nikko on my birthday instead of just partying and getting drunk or something. I'm in Japan, call me crazy, but I just felt like i'd rather spend $50 on an mind blowing cultural experience than booze. I get enough partying from nomikai and karaoke anyways, as well as the lounge, haha, crazy lounge.

Well the 2 Japanese friends of mine went home, and the 3 of us stopped in Ikebukuro on the way home and ended up at a Shakey's (pizza). I wanted to get some yakiniku, as i've yet to eat that since getting here, but as is the case with most things i've been doing so far, i dont really know much about where to go and whats good, haha. But Shakey's was delicious, its been the first real pizza i've had since coming to Japan, and it was seriously delicious.

Didnt get home till rather late (again), so i'm still tired from not enough sleep this weekend, and exhausted from walking around for hours with a super heavy bag with my laptop in it, haha. But it was great, lemme tell ya, another awesome chapter to add to my travels in Japan. Upon returning to the lounge though, a friend of mine (who coincidentally goes to the U as well) went out and bought a ton of ice cream, so that was my birthday present, hahaha. Hey it was delicious, i'd also not had any ice cream since getting to Japan either, so woo.

And just to get completely caught up to date here, i'll touch on monday and tuesday, as well as today.

Monday: Drama, SMAP x SMAP, and Ainori, only the best of Japanese television. I'll go more in depth on that later, i love Japanese TV, except for the keeping me up late and not doing my homework part of course, ugh

Yesterday I went to a family restuarant (kinda like... a small dennys?) with some new friends from class now and chilled there for like, 5 hours, it was awesome, haha. Course i didnt get back till late... again and was up till 2 or so... again, lol, oh well, it was a lot of fun. Made some new friends, got to eat some really delicious Taiyaki, which means i know where theres a good taiyaki place in Yotsuya. Somehow i've been managing to giri giri get my homework done for class, that 15 min break inbetween the 2 hours is a life saver, allows me to like, go to bed earlier, and just finish up 2nd hour's homework during that break, haha

And finally today. Wednesday's are nice with their only morning classes part. I still have to get here by 9:15 which is kinda annoying, but i'm done by 12:30, so thats nice. I get to come to the computer labs after lunch and spend a couple hours doing this stuff, haha. Anyways, i've got a test in Japanese tomorrow, so i should prolly head back and study for that a bit, as well work on some other homework. I really need to start reading for my Japanese History class too. But for the time being, i've gotta think of a topic and write out a 5 minute speech for this contest i'm gonna be doing for the school festival apparently. More like, i dont really have any choice anymore, cause now i cant let down my friends, haha. I'm not really worried about speaking for 5 min, i just have to figure out what in the world i'm gonna talk about for 5 min, like, somethin interesting. I'll make something work, I always do.

Actually, i got the best compliment yet since coming to Japan yesterday, and i should try and use that for confidence in this contest thingy. Hiroki, the guy i met yesterday, complimented my accent as being the best of any foriegner he's heard. And i'm really glad, cause that means I'm doing a good job at it, I honestly feel the accent is one of the more important things in speaking the language. Cause you can know all the vocabulary and kanji, be waaay more fluent than i'll ever be, but you'll still sound really... stupid if you cant speak it like its supposed to be naturally spoken. Maybe i'm just good at impressions, ever heard me do Monty Python and the Holy Grail? ^_^

Well i should get going, I'll be uploading pictures tonight **uploaded** if I have some time, but i've gotta get something together for this contest for the meeting by friday, and the week after that is when i have to do it. I'm pretty much doing it on super short notice, but w/e. Hey, if i win i get 2 tickets to an onsen, thats pretty sweet


Monday, October 23, 2006

Japanese Support これ、見えるのか?

For those of you who have been following my lil journal/blog of sorts for all my shinanigans here in Tokyo, Thanks, really. However I'm sure some of you may be wondering just what exactly all those boxes in a row are every now and then, like these:





Now if those are all boxes, then you dont have Japanese support on yur computer. Then again, what reason would there be if you cant.... well now you have a reason!! You may not be able to read it, but at least you can look at it and be like, hey thats cool. And you can show yur friends about be like, hey check this out, my friend who's studying abroad in Tokyo can read and right this stuff, how cool is that? lol

...yea, somethin along those lines >_< Anyways, for those of you interested in being able to see the Japanese i'm writing for various things here, check out this link here at microsoft. Download that and install it, and whala, you can see Japanese. I wont write alot, but i'll prolly include the Japanese for the names of a bunch of places.

But its only 2.5 megabytes, and with where computers are in this day and age, anyone can spare 2.5 megs of a file. Pictures come that big nowadays.

Oh, and for those of you who already have that installed, and even better for those of you who can read that... w00t, you should get Mixi and start reading some of the Japanese journals i'll be writing

Friday, October 20, 2006

上野動物園 - Ueno Zoo!

Huzzah, its the weekend!

Seems i've managed to survive week 3, and supposedly i'm already 150 or so kanjis smarter as well... supposedly, haha, actually its been going well. I may not remember exactly how to write all of them, but reading them wont be too much of a problem anymore, so thats good. I have been able to read alot more around town than i used to though. I gotta say, its pretty cool when you learn something in class and then randomly see it on the street or in the store, and you have one of those, "ahh! i can read that!!! sweet! i know exactly what that says now!" moments. puts joy in my heart, lol >_<

anyways, i gotta touch at least a lil on Ueno park before i get on with things. so wednesday after class i went to work on a japanese assignment (make and memorize a small conversation based on a situation) with my partner, and right afterwards i ran into some friends and it kinda went like this

"hey, you uhh... wanna go to the zoo?"


"...yea ok" >_<

so i went to Ueno Zoo 上野動物園. had to buy some bread quick before we left since i didnt get a chance to eat, although i could have since we took forever at the bank, grr, but it was definately worth it, and only 600 yen to boot! Ueno is officially one of my new favorite places to go. The park is free, the zoo is super cheap, and both places rock. Easy cheap awesome place to go hang out. Can't wait till the spring when all the sakura trees, err... cherry trees in the park bloom. Another one of those things you wont believe until you see it all, haha

The zoo was pretty much just that though... a zoo, just in Japanese. They had some weird names for some of the animals though. It was like the english names and the Japanese names were different, even though the Japanese was in Katakana, which is like, how you write foreign words in Japanese, primarily english. I cant quite exactly say how it compares to a zoo in the US, i've only really been to the Minneapolis Zoo and the Zoo in Milwaukee, so... idk, seemed to have a bunch of birds that i've never heard of before, meh, and of course they have panda

I did learn one thing at the zoo. I'm prolly gonna mess this up a lil bit, but basically, in Japanese society, a big nose is a good thing. Yes. I went to the zoo and learned this, lol. A big nose, or a high nose... like saying in Japanese would literally translate to 'high nose' Anyways, I forget the exact reasons, more than likely it spawed, i guess, from how Japanese or Asians as a whole supposedly in general have smaller noses, or flatter noses. Don't quote me on any of this, but if i were Japanese, I would love my nose. Cool

Yes, I most certainly did bring up the movie Roxanne with Steve Martin, and now i'm gonna download that and watch it again, haha. Actually, i also learned that the movie Roxanne actually comes from an old... French play i believe (called Cyrano) and its going to be performed soon here in Tokyo. I might go and check it out.

Well my birthday is comin up this weekend, i'll be turning 21. Kinda... weird, its like, turning 21 is a definately a big deal in the US, and its still cool here cause, well its a birthday, thats cool. But i find myself so caught up in the moment, it still hasnt quite hit me that i'm gonna be 21. It'll prolly take me a long while to get used to changing my answer to 'how old are you?' Or it wont really hit me until i go back to the US and get carded, then i'll feel 21. The drinking age here is 20, but Japan isnt very strict about it. Cause like, people are more responsible around here, so as long as yur not making a big mess of things or bothering people, one beer at a restaurant isnt gonna kill ya. Now of course they're not selling beer to 10 year olds, but if you look of age, chances are you wont get carded.

But... then again I am a gaijin, so they'd prolly rather just sell me the liquor and get on with things rather than trying to ask me if I'm of age, haha. Anyways, very soon no longer a problem no matter where i go, thats pretty cool.

And being my birthday weekend, i'm gonna be doing some pretty cool stuff. Saturday i'm going with Amity (a circle here at Sophia) to Kamakura, a place in Kanagawa near Yokohama (all southwest of Tokyo about 45 min to and hour). Kamakura is loaded with temples and shrines and the ever popular Daibutsu, which literally translates to giant buddha, cause well... thats what it is. A giant statue of a buddha, haha. Anyways i've been there before the last time i came to Japan, so i'm really looking foward to going back to some familiar scenery.

As for Sunday, Nikko baby. Nikko is a couple hours north of Tokyo, so it'll be the furthest i've strayed from Tokyo. I'm really lookin foward to it, a special place to go to on my birthday. Gonna try and look into more about the place before i just blindly go

Oh, and being 21, i'll have to have at least one beer :P

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Okonomiyaki, Azalea, Ueno, and more!

Ok, a lot to cover, apologies if this gets long.

First off, Shibuya Okonomiyaki, only the best. I'd love to explain alot of the stuff i encounter and do while here in Japan, however i think it may be best to leave that up to good ol Wikipedia. I <3 Wiki ^_^ Anyways, i believe i mentioned before about my cousin coming to Japan. He came here 2 weeks after i got here, a bit too soon for me to be used to Tokyo and know what places are good, but fun none the less. We only got to hang out 3 times during the 2 weeks he was here, but hey, i met up with my cousin in Tokyo, how cool is that? Anyways, being a rare occassion of my cousin being in Tokyo, i thought it would be nice to go do something/eat something rather... Japanese, ya know, since he came out all this way, perhaps we should prolly go do something super Japanese, just an idea, lol

So we went and ate some Okonomiyaki, oh btw, planning things and such is a pain, well worth it of course, but you wanna invite everyone, however you dont really know how many ppl you can have come since we've never been there, and not everyone was really definate or not whether they'd be coming, so you end up with, 10-20 ppl possible for coming, and then you gotta figure how many ppl to make reservations for and... ugh, but hey, it was a lot of fun, and i've got pictures and videos to prove it, nothin like super yummy freshly cooked okonomiyaki, mmm-mmm

Yea, we went to a place where you actually cook them yourself. I've eaten okonomiyaki before of course, but i've never actually gone to a place where you cook it yourself... and i'm definately going back, lol. It was a lot of fun, and delicious, as are most places around here in Tokyo, allbeit a bit on the expensive side, course beer does cost about 300-400 yen, that kills ya, anyways, check out the pictures it took here, videos coming later

So that was Thursday night, Friday night was the Azalea party, after my weekly lesson test in Japanese btw. Oh yea, so i'm taking this intensive Japanese class, and its been about 3 weeks of class now. I seem to be doin alright. it was funny though at the orientation stuff one of the speakers basically told us not to take Intensive Japanese if you want to have a social life, lol!! It was funny how much he was like, discouraging us to take it, but then again, that is a good way to weed out those who arent as serious about it. Anyways, it definately is a difficult class (and time consuming!! if it were on the same credit/hour rate, it would be worth 20 credits, not 8), but right now its more quantity difficult rather than... quality or w/e. I'm learning about... 60 or so vocab words a week, 50 or so kanji, oh and then all the kanji from the 90 min kanji class on wednesday, anyways, its not exactly difficult cause its the same ol same ol memorize vocab and kanji, which i've been doing for the past few years now. I have been learning some new grammar structures, but mostly its been review and reinforcement, which is actually good though, cause it should turn into a nice solid foundation to fall back on and reinforce my Japanese.

In other words, I'm likin it ^_^

Anyways Azalea Welcome Party! So every year the owner of World Student Villiage, Haruo Yokoyama has a Welcome party of sorts at Azalea in the middle area where most people keep their bikes. Yakiniku, Oden, Yakisoba, Beer, and others, all free? I'm there! It was really nice to meet and talk to some more people at Azalea that you usually don't see. Theres actually about 80 people that live in Azalea, or at least, thats how much it can hold. A majority are foreign exchange students, many of which go to Sophia, but there are a number of others that go to different schools, as well if i'm not mistaken, theres some people that just... live there... or something, i don't quite understand it, maybe i've seen or met 1/2 the residents so far, anyways, nice to see ppl that arent around quite as much.

Most of the people i know are those who hang out in the lounge -> free internet. Alot of people, even those who i saw more often when i got here, arent around as much cause they have internet in their room now. I'll be getting it soon, but its still fun to hang out in the lounge, i mean, come on, its nice to have internet in yur room (which i'll be getitng), but instead of being cooped up in my room, i'm meeting people from Germany, Denmark, Poland, France, Norway, England, Korea, China, etc. I think thats a fair trade, what do you think?

Pictures from the wonders of free food and drink here, as well all night karaoke afterwards, not sure if that was exactly a good idea, but it a lot of fun. Turns out theres a pretty nice and cheap karaoke place in Heiwadai, only 15 min from Azalea. It was only like... 1200 yen for all night nomihoudai, only soft drinks though, no alcohol, but... well there was enough served at the lil outdoor party of ours, so that wasnt a problem, haha. Actually it was really good karaoke cause half the group left around 2:30 or so, but 3 of us stayed until 5, when it closed. Got our money's worth, and I got to sing a LOT more than i usually do (big groups are fun, but you don't get to sing as much), plus i got to try out some new songs i wasnt sure i could sing or not, all in all, gotta say it was a good time... as well as exhausting

Unfortunately... or perhaps fortunately... well i slept in past when i needed to leave for the Amity picnic in Yoyogi Park Sat morning at 12, which was really a bummer, cause i wanted to go pretty bad. However a group of my friends were going to Ueno for the day, so I tagged along, now that was worth it ^_^

We left around lunch and headed off for Ueno, which is on the northeast part of Tokyo. We can get to Ikebukuro for free with out commuter pass, and then from there it only cost what... 170 yet to get to Ueno on the JR Yamanote-sen. And then Ueno park is free man, one of the rare wonders of Tokyo, cool places that are free, haha. Its actually pretty big too. We walked around all day and didnt hit all the cool stuff. Temple, shrine, museums, a zoo, etc are all there, its pretty cool. Course the museums and zoo cost money to get into, but the park itself is free, and its definately a really nice day trip to go walk around the park. My friend Davy brought his amazing camera with him again, so we left alot of the sweet picture taking up to him

Before the park however, we walked around the shoping area in Ueno, as well as this giant toy store in Ueno. I'll be doing my best to try and give examples as to just how things are over here, but i really gotta get pictures of all this stuff, cause you gotta see some things to believe it. Streets and intersections are easy to take pictures and videos of, and i'll prolly be able to get some pictures of the stores, but i think i'll have to manage a video here and there to really show you what its like. They dont waste space, lemme tell you that. Its amazing the shelves and stuff dont turn into a giant junk pile in 1/2 hr. Its like... I used to work in Kohl's, but they prolly pack 5-10x as much stuff in the same area, yet its waaay cleaner as far as product being where its supposed to than we had it at kohls, course... theres stuff EVERYWHERE so i guess even random stuff out of order looks like it belongs there, haha. As well i'll have to see if i cant capture just how crowded the trains can get. Hopefully i wont be accussed as a pervert or voyeur while doing it -_-;;

So it was quite an exausting day in Ueno, afterwards we stopped in Ikebukuro at an Izakaya place called WaraWara for dinner. Izakaya places are pretty much... order food and such, mostly appetizer type portions, and drink, haha. We just ordered food though, and like a soda or juice or something, but its just appetizers. So regardless of getting a number of them, it was nowhere near enough to fill me up, lol. They did put us in the back corner of the restaurant after a kind of surprised look upon seeing 5 gaijin walk in, haha, i'll have to mention a thing or 2 about the different treatment i get on account of my gaijin'ness later, course the most fun is surprising ppl big time when i start speaking japanese, haha

So thats saturday, I had planned on doing Karaoke with my cousin that night before he left back to the states, but he had headed somewhere else for the day, as well i was in Ikebukuro for dinner and... well things just didnt seem to work out i guess, oh well, next time ^_^

oh yes, many many pictures here

Still have more to write about, I'll get to it sometime later, I don't have any homework tonight, amazingly, just a test tomorrow, but... you dont really need a whole lot of studying for that, 15 hours of class a week is more than enough study, haha

ok, borrowed DS + Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! come make my ride home super easy! ^_^



Monday, October 16, 2006

電車とホームのすき間にご注意ください... Mind the gap

Perhaps i should start using some of the ample time i have before and after classes in the computer lab to write a lil somethin on my blog, thats a lil more proactive than playing games the whole time right? actually i did just print out some stuff for class just now, i've actually been doing productive things on this computer here for the past... 1 1/2 hrs now ^_^

But anyways, more importantly, Azalea Party & Ueno!!

Had quite a busy week last week I must say. Went over to the Nermia ward office or w/e its called to pick up my Gaikokujin Touroku Shoumeisho, i love that i can say that and know what it means... i should really look up the kanji for that, its cool like how i know how to write World War II in Japanese: Dainiji sekai taisen (第二次世界大戦)hehe, anyways the actual Nerima station is outside of my daily commute route, so i had to pay extra, and what i really should have done is looked up some cool unique to Nerima place/thing to go to while we were there, cause it basically just cost us 150 or w/e each way just for 1 min of picking up some lil, although sweet, card. Well, it took a few min to walk from the station to the building too, actually i must say it was nice to exit the subway system.

Ok, so the trains in Tokyo are basically divided up into 2 different systems: Tokyo Metro and Japan Rail (JR). Tokyo Metro is pretty much Tokyo's subway system, and JR is the railway company thats EVERYWHERE in Japan. Now i take the Yuurakuchou-sen from Heiwadai to Iidabashi or Ichigaya where i switch to the Namboku line for 1 or 2 stops till i reach Yotsuya

all subway.
all underground.
no natural light or air for 40 min

I gotta say it is cool to take the subway, i like it, it can have its advantages ya know, like i'm sure it'll be a lot colder in the winter riding JR since its all outside... but keep in mind they really do pack these trains like sardine cans, you dont need heat when you and everyone else is sharing their body heat with the 5 people cramed against them (ok, it hasnt been that bad, but it seriously is like that on occasion, really depends on the time of day) As crowded as it is, my commute really isnt that bad, I usually have at least enough breathing room, but... then again i'm a head taller than most ppl, so it feels like i have more room... yea, it actually is pretty dang packed, i was pressed up one dude who almost got his tie caught in the door when it close, haha, one of these days i'll take a picture of the trains stopping at a station, then you'll believe me, lol

Anyways, yea, as cool as it is to say "I use the Tokyo subway system everyday," I would be just as content with "I take the trains in Tokyo every day" lol, it gets really hot and sweaty just wearing a track jacket or a blazer or something, ugh, i can't imagine how terrible its gonna be wearing a big jacket, along with the other 200 or so people on the car you're on. Plus, its underground. Theres nothing to look at!! and theres no fresh air either. The Nerima station, where we went wednesday, is still the Metro, but after it leaves Shin-sakuradai it leaves its underground isolation and emerges to the wonderful world of... nature. Ok, well granted Tokyo is pretty much solid buildings but still, thats better than being cooped up in a tunnel, no? Actually, believe it or not, there is quite a descent amount of green in Tokyo, just depends on where in Tokyo you are, lol

**note: sen = line, ie: Yurakucho-sen = Yurakucho line, i'm used to hearing their Japanese names, so thats what i write down, sorry, lol**

If you're interested in how the trains work here, check out this nice pdf map from JR, unfortunately it seems to be a bit outdated, the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line and Yurakucho Shin-sen aren't on there, but it does have the route i take every day, Yurakucho's been around forever. That pdf file has 2 maps on it, the first is JR, and the 2nd is the Metro, stations are of course shared, so you could, for instance if i want to go to Shinjuku or Shibuya or something, take the Yurakucho-sen from Heiwadai to Ikebukuro, and then switch to the JR Yamanote-sen, Chuo-sen, Shonan-shinjuku, or w/e, they all work, theres freakin a ton of lines that run around the main Yamanote-sen circle (thats the main black and white striped circular JR line on the metro map, notice in its shaded and say on the bottom right 'area of Yamamote line')

So, if your curious as to just where in the world i'm galavanting around Tokyo at the moment, please follow along at home with these easy to follow instructions on how to take the trains/subway in Japan ^_^

First, Heiwadai, northwest of Ikebukuro on the outskirts of Tokyo, the boonies believe it or not, but you prolly wouldnt believe me if you've seen the pictures of the area, actually there is a rooster nearby, haha, i get a kick out of hearing that lil... guy every morning, lol, no he's cool, anyways, Ikebukuro is on the northwest corner of the Yamamote-sen, and Heiwadai is 5 stops further northwest past Ikebukuro. So get on the subway (Yurakucho-sen - tan... or yellow, w/e) at Heiwadai station (after a 10 min walk from Azalea T_T), now is where it can get tricky, see there is another new line called the Yurakucho Shin-sen (as i mentioned before, oh and it turns out the completed and running section for now is on that map, haha) that runs from Kotake-mukaihara to Ikebukuro on a different track, but of course runs on the same Yurakucho tracks before it gets to Kotake-mukaihara. Now if you get on this, yur gonna have to switch at Kotake-mukaihara to the other normal Yurakucho train waiting on the other side of the platform for ya. Gotta say its pretty cool to pull up to a station in a packed train, and see an empty train waiting on the other side of the platform for you... but that feeling disappears once the train literally just empties and fills up the one waiting. Fortunately, more often than not, its a regular Yurakucho line that you get on and you basically just take that most of the way. From the boonies of Nerima's Heiwadai into the heart of Tokyo, along with a couple thousand other Japanese people on the 10-car train. Luckily alot of people get off at Ikebukuro since its such a big station, thank you God, cause that gives you the opportunity to get a better spot on the train before it repacks, gotta move towards the space inbetween the seats, not the sardine can inbetween the doors, lol (i think i've mentioned that before on here... meh, w/e) So, continue on past Ikebukuro, and down to either Iidabashi or Ichigaya, and then the transfer...

lol, transfering is really easy, especially if you stay within the same system (Metro or JR), Now, Iidabashi's transfer from the Yurakucho-sen to Namboku-sen (teal) is actually about half as far away as Ichigaya's (70m compared to like, 180m or something), but Ichigaya is a nicer station and its got that sweet moving walkway, as well its not as crowded since most ppl switch at Iidabashi, and since Yotsuya is just one stop from Ichigaya, you just have to deal with a packed train for one stop, which is nothing. Plus, yur right at door where you need to be, first dibs on the escalators baby (make sure yur in the right car of course), its so amazing to not have to deal with a crowd when yur on the right train, w00t, lol

and thats it, total travel time... i'd say 45 min? 10 min walking time and about 30, 35 min on the subway, the Yotsuya campus is literally right next door to the station, its the best thing ever, 2nd to getting first dibs on the escalators of course >_<

I could actually stay on the Yurakucho till Kojimachi and walk 7, 8 min or so from there, eliminating a transfer but... bleh, forget that, i'll be lazy, i give myself ample time to get to class anyways

so ya got it? Now come visit me, now that you know how to use the trains, k?

I'll make another post for the Azalea part and Ueno trip, my 'Trains in Japan' rant seemed to grow rather long, i could prolly still keep going too, like on how psyched i am for them to finish the Yurakucho Shin-sen which will go through Shinjuku to Shibuya... which means i can go to Shibuya for free baby!!! YEA!!!

They say it should finish in 2007, and if theres any place in the world i trust for puncuality, its Japan, you can set your watch by the trains, i love it

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Officially a Gaijin

Ok, some free time in between class, i should stop playing games on these comptuers and do something productive, lol

I've prolly missed a few things but oh well, I've been really busy with a lot of things, so its been hard to keep up with this. As soon as i start to get a lil behind on this, i just dont have the energy to catch back up with it, and i get even more behind, haha, anyways, i'm now officially a foreigner in Japan, picked up my Gaikokujin Touroku Shoumeisho (Alien Card) yesterday, so now i dont have to carry my passport everywhere, w00t. Plus its good till my birthday in 2010, so i could just stay here for anohter 4 years, sweet! gah

haha, well i've gotta say i'm definately lovin it, no offence to the US or anything, i love Minneapolis, and Milwaukee, but man... how can you compete with Tokyo?! haha, theres still a whole bunch of places i've yet to go, and tons of amazing pictures i've yet to take. Actually, a friend of mine here has an amazing camera which takes unbelieveable pictures, so he's kinda been showin me the ins and outs of using my slightly more primative yet still amazing camera, haha. ie: appature, shutter speed, iso and what not, different settings to effect how the picture is taken depending on what you're taking a picture of, makes a big difference at times. But yea, he's got some pretty amazing pictures, check out his blog and as well his flickr pictures account, i should be in some of the pictures, or soon will be, actually i gotta get some of the pix of me from him, anyways, way cool stuff

So tonight I´m goin out with Brian and a bunch of friends for Okonomiyaki!! Should be a lot of fun, okonomiyaki is delicious. Metting up in Shibuya at 7 by hachiko... not that you know what that means, lol, anyways, many pictures to come i´m sure, course i cant be out too late cause i´ve got a test tomorrow... again. One a week baby, i should scan in my schedule so you can see how insane this Intensive Japanese class is. But uhh... then again you wouldnt be able to read any of it anyways... well just take my word for it, super hard. Actually... more so super busy right now. I know alot of the material, or am at least familiar with it, its just repetition at the moment. I guess memorizing like, 50+ kanji a week is fairly tough, oh and all the kanji from the pure kanji class wednesday too, hmm... meh, you get used to it, especially when they´re words you already know, w/e, ´ts all buena baby

Currently in the process of looking into possibilities of extending the free internet from the lounge into my room, haha, i´ll make it work, i can do it, save myself 3000 yen a month. I wasted a good couple hours last night that should have been spent doing homework or sleeping... bleh, the internet reaches to outside my door now though, stupid thick concrete walls are killin me though, haha

Well i´m in the middle of my Computer Studies 3 - Intro to Web Design class, i guess i should prolly get to work on something more productive, then again, this class seems to pretty much be a straight up self-study class, and its super easy since its html, nothing even close to the Scheme, Java, and C i've done before, I pretty much just do what I normally would be doing on a computer for 1 1/2 hrs, espc since i'll be using some of this html stuffs to further customize the layout for this blog, get ready for some cooler stuff yet to come, i should finish up that Flash thing i made for my last trip here sometime as well, i'll get around to it eventually

well, back to playin my-err class... working, productivity, and proactive...ness, yes, wee~

Saturday, October 07, 2006

1 week down

Ok, apologies to those of you keeping up on this on a... semi-daily basis, i really appreciate your interest in my... travels shall we say while i'm here in Japan, i've just been, rather busy of late, heh.

Anyways, RAIN! ohhh man it's been raining, today was gorgeous, and thank God, cause i really needed to do some laundry, but daaang, like a typhoon came through yesterday. and i actually wouldn't be surprised if it was. Now i've got this really nice collapseable umbrella that i carry around for when it rains, and its actually super convenient for the train, cause i can fold it up and put it in this lil cover/case and put it in my bag. However, it seems most ppl in Japan vouch for giant beach unbrellas and carry them everywhere, espc the trains, can get rather annoying, but w/e, I like rain, not typhoon rain, but its still fun, meh

School. Yes school, i am now taking classes at Sophia University in Tokyo, as well my schedule is all worked out. I've got 3 hours of Intensive Japanese from 9:15 to 12:30 every day, i have a Japanese History class: Developement of Japanese Society I, from ancient history till the mid 1800's i think, thats Tues and Fri from 1:30 to 3, and Intro to Web Design is Thurs at 3:15 to 4:45. Pretty rough eh? Well getting to school by 9:15 is, and i'm not complaining about that being early. Everyone takes the train at 8 am, ugh. It seems monday was the worst, and hopefully it will stay that way. That or i've been getting used to the tricks of the trade of riding the trains in Tokyo. See the trick is to get into the parts inbetween the seats, you dont wanna stand smushed inbetween the doors, thats where they pack people in. So you get in and move into the 'aisle' type area inbetween the seats, and its all buena. Aside from it being hot of course, oh btw, i'm not really looking forward to wearing coats in the train come winter, lol

Oh, and my cousin Brian is in Tokyo right now as well, actually he went to Nagoya to watch the F1 race, thats gonna be pretty sweet. But i went over to meet up with him and his friend Joe at Joe's parents apartment in Akasaka... wow... nice place, and AMAZING view. Anyways, went over there for dinner (DELICIOUS!!!!) and after that we went and wandered around Akasaka. And as we were walkin around we spotted Tokyo Tower in the distance... so we decided to walk there, haha. Took some good pictures of that as well, I'll upload them later.

Well i should really get going, I'll be getting the internet in my room eventually, and that will make doing these things alot easier. As much as i love the lounge here, its difficult to get stuff done in here, that problem will be solved when i get super crazy fast Japanese internet, w00t

Many more stories to come, still gotta talk about Nomikai and Karaoke last night, as well as the all night Karaoke i'm goin to tonite... weeee ^_^ Oh oh oh, i made BLTs today, yuuummmm ^_^ ok i'm out, c'ya

Monday, October 02, 2006


Well... i'm officially back in school. Although... not gonna lie, going to school in Japan just... somehow doesnt exactly feel quite the same, lol

Anyways, today was definately... good. Despite the early morning, the rain, SUPER packed train, construction, 3 hours of class that'll turn out to be the hardest class i've ever taken, it was a good day, lol. Yes, the morning trains, packed, SUPER packed, i mean squished packed. Like not even kidding litterally squished against other people in the train. For real! you'll never believe me until you actually experience it though, but i'm really not kidding.

But yea, somehow, just... feelin good about everything. Perhaps now that schools started i feel like things are settling down and such, before was just kinda... amiss, not really having any set plans for any day. Anyways, things are feelin pretty good, especially when the twins won the AL Central baby, woo!!

Ok, i gotta get to work on my homework, this intense class buisness is super hard, ugh

Realities of Life

So, it was super early in the morning, i wasn't able to quite fall asleep, and i decided to write a lil somethin that was on my mind... 3 pages and an hour later i was tired and fell asleep, haha, anyways, gotta say this is a bit deeper than my previous posts, haha, i'll see if i can find some fitting pictures later, just wanted to post this quick before i head off to class in 10 min


Monday, October 02, 2006 – 2:20am

Well, its almost 2:30 in the morning, and I seem to be unable to fall asleep, more than likely the fault of being up till 7 or 8 the previous morning and sleeping until 3pm. I haven’t even been up for 12 hours yet, haha.

So… I thought I’d just write a lil something for a journal

Its been quite an adventure so far, coming all the way to Japan. The time before when I came here was nothing but a wonderful experience, so much so that I was set on returning even before I left. That of course, was purely vacation, as well over the most popular and most important holiday of Japan. I mean its just guaranteed your gonna love it if you have any interest in the society or culture.

This of course, is not purely vacation. I’m here to study, study abroad. Granted I have been told that the classes will be much easier, as I won’t be surprised if they are on account of, finding English speaking teachers in Japan is not an easy task, much less good ones that specialize in the fields you need. However, nonetheless, this is going to be daily life, not vacation, just regular life as a student, except one difference: I’m in Japan.

On account of that, its not gonna be all fun and games all the time, and I know that. My biggest concern is money right now actually, but it appears as though I’ll be able to get a job teaching or tutoring English for $30/hr. Oh yea, definitely good to be fluent in English in a country that is dying to be the same, and has seemingly a difficult time doing it.

However, there are a number of other concerns and major issues I’m sure I will face in the upcoming months. There were quite a number of preparation things that I needed to do before I left for here, however the one thing I seem to remember most vividly is a graph provided in an orientation booklet, which shows your general mood and emotion during your study abroad time. Now they’ve been doing this study abroad thing for ever, so I can safely assume it will probably end up being a rather accurate depiction of how my experience may go as well. I do however believe I am more prepared than others in this adventure I am undertaking, as I have already seen in some other foreign exchange students I have met. It amazes me and just throws me into bewilderment as to why some people here and yet aren’t very open to accepting differences in a different society or aren’t open to trying out new things and new foods that they may not be accustomed to. I mean, if you can’t be willing to adjust your daily habits and diet to what is more customary to the local culture, you’re gonna have a miserable time here, not to mention look like a complete and total stupid foreigner. Way to go, please continue to further the stereotype of baka gaijin, I’m doing my best to prove others the contrary.

Anyways, this graph that depicts your general mood goes something along the following lines. The pre-departure period is kind of a low, on account of not really a whole lot to do concerning studying abroad. You really just sit on your hands and wait until you leave, filling out the occasional, and very distracting, paperwork and other such things in preparation for leaving. Once you get closer to actually leaving, your mood goes up, way up, in an excitement of this new experience. I think they forgot to throw in a huge dip the week before, no thanks to the stress of figuring out how to pack for a year. Anyways, once you arrive in the country, you really feel an elation of excitement in being in a new place, a new home, and a new exciting life.

As time progresses and you continue on into a daily routine, you eventually begin to face more challenging issues of social acceptance based on the culture’s belief systems and values. You can imagine the conflict that may arise when political, cultural, religious, and other values that you hold do not coincide with other friends and locals in the country you now reside in for the next year. At the same time, with this and other various reasons, you begin to second guess your reasons for coming 6300 miles to the other side of the world in a different country where most all signs are written in characters you cannot read yet. As well many people speak your language broken at best, and something as simple as ordering food at a more traditional restaurant that you want to go to becomes a difficult and almost humiliating experience at times. Eventually you learn to cope with these differences, perhaps find those whom also agree with you, learn the ins and outs of how to get around, and rise back up into a more positive general mindset.

These issues then come around once more, for an even deeper dive down into confusion and distress, related to the previous reasons, but to an even larger degree the second time around, this time on specific and major issues that you hold very dear, yet others have a very different vantage point on. Many people enjoy clubbing, smoking, and drinking on a fairly regular basis, whereas you may enjoy other activities instead, yet still seek social acceptance with those who do. You may also run into a number of situations where you are discriminated against, purely on account of your nationality. Despite your best efforts in becoming culturally accepted by immersion into a society, there are those who will never accept you as a member of theirs. Conflicts in religious beliefs may also prove to be a major issue. With religion being the very core of someone’s morals and values, it may be very difficult to see eye to eye with people, when their basis is completely different from yours. At the same time, more pressing issues of life, related to religion among other things, may also prove difficult to cope with when other friends do not believe the same way.

Like the first major dip, you will eventually learn to cope with these issues, and come to terms with your current situation and life. From then on it is a fairly smooth ride it seems, with the occasional ups and downs on the way, but your mindset as a whole has learned to cope with daily life in your current situation.

Now I have not experienced all of these yet, I have some, and am aware of other issues I am sure I will becoming face to face with, however it is almost a numbing experience thus far. I have done a great amount of reflection on some major issues I will be facing, as well my stance on them. I definitely am glad I am here, and no matter what happens, I still hope to maintain a positive attitude towards it, as it truely is a once in a lifetime experience I am having, so I would really love to make the best of it I can.

But it really has been almost… numbing so far. I have been anticipating this experience for a year or so now, but it seems almost too much to take in, that I don’t really know what to feel about it. Of course I was very excited and happy to finally come here, but at the same time, there is so much involved and so many things I am experiencing, it feels as though my body is numbing the sensation as to not overload with emotion and excitement. At the same time, I am pursuing acceptance into this culture, and that would be very difficult if I am spending my time overwhelmed in the amazing new sights and new experiences that are just regular everyday things to the millions of people that already live here.

Its very mysterious. I was not expecting this experience to be like my last, as daily life is very different from vacation. Perhaps that as well provides some reason as to my recent mindset. Then again, I’ve yet to meet up with my friends from before as they have both been busy, so everything I have been doing since has been a brand new experience, completely created on my own accord. It seems almost a conflict of interest inside of me. One part screaming with excitement to be fulfilling my goals in this once in a lifetime experience, whereas another part is trying to dumb it down as to not get too caught up in everything, leaving me potentially more vulnerable to a large crash once I face the not so lovely side of living in a different country.

Anyways, no intention of giving off any negative feelings of being here so far. I’m definitely having the time of my life, which I’m sure many of you have seen from the over 200 pictures I took in less than 2 weeks. It seems I’m well aware of what’s in store for me this semester, but I’m at a loss of what do to about it until I get there. More than likely I’ll just keep doing what I’ve always been doing and have been since getting here. Just go with the flow. I can’t know whats going to happen, but I know I’ll be able to work through it somehow. I’m sure this will be a wonderful experience, and I will grow even more through the issues and experiences I will have in the next 10 months.

Sometimes I honestly feel as though I’m still gonna wake up one day, and find myself back in Milwaukee or Minneapolis, back to my normal routines. But it seems slowly and surely enough, that feeling is fading, as each day I grow more and more accustomed to daily life in Tokyo, Japan.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Well, definately making the best of my last weekend before classes start... aww man, classes?? Up until now it just feels like a total vacation, hangin out and partyin in Japan, lol. Well, then again... even classes arent exactly gonna be the hardest thing, it gonna be a fun year, lemme tell ya.

Oh, so i've registered for Intensive Japanese 2, a Developement of Japanese History/Society 1, and this Intro to Web Design class. Haha, yes, i'm taking a 2 credit intro to web design class, just for the hell of it >_< Anyways, its a total of 14 credits, and then add my online Maximizing Study Abroad course from the U, and you get 15. But i wont find out for sure what my schedule is at Sophia until Tuesday. Yea, apparently they're doing things old skool there where you actually go in and physically hand in this registration sheet. As opposed to like, doing it online and being able to figure out how many ppl are in which class so you can know if they're open or not and... well yea, Tuesday may or may not be a good day. Ugh

Anyways, i'll post my schedule up sometime later when that all gets figured out. For now though, a good weekend. Went looking for a DS all over Tokyo yesterday only to find out what we already knew: there all gone. Oh well, it was fun. Ended up in Ikebukuro and ate at Yoshinoya, mmm-mmmm. Yoshinoya is basically... Japanese fast food. Mostly rice bowls and such. But good, cheap, and good, mmm... Oh, and they finally have beef back in Japan! There was a ban on it for two years cause of a mad cow scare, but about a month ago it was finally lifted, woo ^_^

So we were in Ikebukuro, and after about 100 emails to and from ppl (i'm not kidding) we finally ended up with a group of about 6 for Karaoke. Good times. Turns out there was this Fukuro Matsuri goin on just outside the West Tobu Exit of Ikebukuro Station. Apparently its actually a rather big festival or somethin. I looked into more of it after i got home, wish I had know some of what i found out earlier, so it would have had some significance to me, but oh well. I got some good pictures. Especially from the 6th floor window of our Karaoke room. Great view.

Anyways, some more information about the current festivals for this month and next here
Also check out some more information on Fukuro Matsuri here and here

After a few hours of Karaoke in Ikebukuro, we came back here to Azalea. Shortly after we got back, some friends of mine as well as some other Italians (who are friends of ppl that live here) were leaving for Shinjuku. I was invited along... so i went, haha. I figure its my last free weekend before school, so all nighter for me baby, lol. It was fun though, i'm glad i went. Plus now i know even more people. We ended up at some restaurant in Shinjuku, and then all-night Karaoke baby, until 6 am, hahaha. Thats alot of Karaoke for one night, and i'd still go back tonight, haha. Lots of fun, i'm tellin ya

So yea, i didnt get home until almost 7 i think, only to find out that the TWINS LOST T_T haha, oh well, last game of the season comin up here. Come on KC, sweep Detroit, and Twins avoid the sweep! TAKE THE DIVISION!!! Quite a race though, even for the division up to the last game, wow, so i'll prolly listen to that after classes tomorrow, the least i can do is listen to the last game of the regular season

Well i should prolly get some sleep before i leave for campus tomorrow. Best i get there early, so i should leave here around 8. Welcome to the crowded rush hour of Japan, sigh...

Pictures as usual here, oh and here too