Friday, October 22, 2010

International Birthdays

Hey it's my Birthday. I turn 25 today (woah). Ok well actually its still the 21st in the US, so I guess technically it won't be my birthday until 2pm this afternoon when it hits midnight over there. And actually actually I was born at 7:09 pm on the 22nd, which is in fact 9:09 am on the 23rd over here... So I'll just have to celebrate on both days. :D

Speaking of birthdays, I've probably told this story before, but I like it and its my birthday so I'm going to tell it again.

Back in 2005 I turned 20 (this tends to happen when you were born in 1985). This was very cool that I was no longer a teenager and I officially entered the group of people in their 'twenties.' But at the same I'm I wasn't 21 yet so it was kind of... meh. No longer a teenager, but still have a year to go before I can drink. The following year I studied abroad in Japan (and I'm still studying that broad in Japan... ahem, yea... ok back to my story), and in Japan the drinking age is actually 20 instead of 21. Hooray! I can legally drink a little bit sooner! Then October 2006 rolls around, and I turn 21. Hooray! I'm 21 now! This is a big deal!

...wrong. In Japan you were able to drink when you turned 20, so no one cares about turning 21. In fact, turning 20 in Japan is like turning 18 & 21 combined because you are able to drink, vote, drive, etc. Plus, the government throws this big Coming of Age Ceremony for you and all your other fellow 20 year olds, with the whole country taking a holiday (the 2nd Monday of January I believe). So too bad about 21, that all happened when you turned 20.

So long story short, I completely missed that big 'now able to legally drink' birthday because of my wonderful timing and differences in drinking ages between the US and Japan. Related, Kana turned 20 in Japan while I was there, and then studied abroad in the US the following year... where she turned 21... see above face.

Impromptu Japanese lesson! How do you say happy birthday in Japanese?

tanjoubi omedetou!

You can also say it more formally with:

o-tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu

There's no birthday song as far as I'm aware, although I wouldn't be surprised if they sing the Happy Birthday we're used to.

UPDATE: I'm pretty sure this is exactly what a birthday is like in Japan. Yea, definitely. No mistake.

And of course, complete with a remix -

Good 'ol Azumanga Daioh

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And back again

Back in Japan again. This whole impromptu trip to the US has really been an interesting experience. I mentioned it before, but its really been weird to go back and forth between American and Japanese societies. Despite the fact that both are so completely different from each other, they're both normal to me. Americans would probably find life in Japan very different, almost backwards and weird, and of course vice versa for Japanese in American society. Indeed I also feel them to be completely opposite, yet they both feel normal to me. Such a strange concept.

Also for the first time I'm coming HOME to Japan - to a different country. Of the 3 other times I've come to Japan it was always the start of something - vacation, study abroad, a visit. But this time I'm coming home to a home that was already here waiting for me. I didn't have to somehow figure out my way to get there, no hotels either, just going home like business as usual. It's almost like when I would drive home over the weekend from Minneapolis to Milwaukee, except that I flew half way across the planet and it took 4 times as long to get there. That said, those planes sure make the world feel small. Sure a 13 hour flight is crazy long, but not impossible.

By the way, I'm definitely glad I took ANA over Delta again. As nice as it would be to have a direct flight from Tokyo to Minneapolis, the rickety old 747s Delta (aka Northwest) flies on that are old, cramped, and only have a projection screen in the front of each section. ANA's 777s that run between Chicago and Tokyo on the other hand are much much newer, have nicer seats, each with your own personal monitor. They even had over 30 movies to chose from! (No joke!) I watched 4 on the way to Chicago, and 6 (yes 6) on the way back. If I remember correctly...

Tokyo > Chicago
Prince of Persia
How to Train Your Dragon
Some Japanese Shows

Chicago > Tokyo
The Last Airbender
Cop Out
Rush Hour 3
Die Hard 4

So if you imagine approx 2 hours per movie, that would be 12 hours of movie I watched on the way back... which is indeed possible on a 13 hour flight. I suppose there is one advantage with being completely out of touch with movies in the US. When I fly back and forth I can watch ALL of them to keep myself from going crazy (I am unable to sleep in a plane seat).

Anyways, nice to be home. Still feels a little weird, but at least I don't have terrible jet lag. Also hooray for American cereal and cheese I brought home with me!! :D

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Japan to USA in 24 hours

There were around 200 or so people at my grandpa's funeral. It was really a testament to how many lives he touched. There were so many things he did that I wasn't aware of either, like visiting shut-ins and such. What an awesome guy he was.

Well this trip to Minneapolis has really been an interesting one. Every other time I've returned to the US it's been planned out in advance, which means I usually have some time leading up to the trip for my mind to switch gears and prepare to jump back into American society. This time however, I booked my tickets on 3 days notice and suddenly I'm here in the US, which is a 180 degree difference from the life I had in Japan. Yet at the same time, despite my life in Japan and the US being so completely, utterly, and drastically different... they both feel normal. It was really a bizarre experience. I'm seeing things I haven't seen in 6 months (restaurants, shops, etc), yet their existence feels commonplace to me, as it should. But the commonplace things in Japan are anything but common in the US, and vice versa. Yet, these are all common to me now.

While in the US I made sure I hit up the usual places - Famous Dave's, Perkins, Baker's Square, Chinese, Pizza, etc - and got my fix on American food. Wow did all of that ever taste AMAZING. I was also fortunate enough to get the RIBZILLA they're promoting at Famous Dave's right now. I took plenty of pictures (and I think my dad even took a video), more of that later.

I also got to go to a Twins game!! I had pretty much conceded that I wouldn't be able to see a game this season, but as I just so happened to be in town, I searched and was lucky enough to find a set of tickets off of craigslist for ALDS game 2. Actually, the seller I found was an Army guy who was very genuine and sincere about the tickets (I was very wary of fraud of course), and he was only looking for a fair price to make up losses on other tickets his brother had found. The seats we found were home run porch terrace (that middle deck out in left center above the bullpen and below the screen), row ONE seats 1 through 4. Oh yea, those front row seats were quite amazing. I took plenty of pictures I'll post at a later date. By the way the game was bittersweet since it didn't quite turn out how I'd like but... at least I was able to go!

Other than that it was nice to see family and friends. I did stop in at work at it looks like people still remember me there (thanks guys!), and met up with some friends to watch the Twins game, and even later had some Boot Hockey!! Again it was strange how easily it was to switch to my American life in less than 24 hours. We'll see how things pan out this coming December when I visit for Christmas and New Years.

More to come!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Remembering Grandpa

It's been a couple weeks since my last post. I'll definitely admit some a lot of it is do to with procrastination, but this last week of silence was a result of another matter out of my hands.

My grandpa had been spending the last few months with my parents in Milwaukee, as he had grown too weak to take care of himself. This past weekend he collapsed with a headache, and was taken to the hospital where he passed away a couple days later as a result of subdural hematoma. Our family was fortunate enough to be with him before he died, and I was even able to Skype with them in the hospital room, so we thank God we were able to at least say our goodbyes.

It has all been quite a shock to me, since my grandpa has always been energetic and active despite being now 81. The distance between Japan and the US has added its own bizarre twist as well. In some sense, as I'm living on the opposite side of the world in a 15 hour difference time zone, I didn't have regular contact with my grandpa anyways, so it's also difficult to grasp the concept that he is no longer with us. I can't just hop in a car and drive to the hospital, which can also be very frustrating.

I was however fortunate enough to book a flight to Minneapolis for his funeral on Monday. For that funeral we were asked to mention a few items that we remember about grandpa to put in the bulletin. I think I'll end this post with a few of the things I remember about my grandpa.

Remembering Grandpa...

During college when I lived in the dorms, Grandpa was my 9 am alarm clock without fail every Sunday, after which he would come pick me up to go to late church. This is of course after he already went to early church, every Sunday. He also went to bible study too. The church truly was a second home to him.

Grandpa would pick up and throw away litter, or return rocks that had strayed from their bed in the landscape at a parking lot, just because it was the right thing to do and it wasn't too much trouble for him to do it anyways. Every now and then you'd stop and wait, wondering what he's doing picking up rocks in the parking lot, but I wouldn't mind having a few more people like that around.

If you've ever talked to my grandpa, then I probably need give no introduction to myself, since I'm sure you've heard about me and the rest of my family. He certainly loved to talk about his family. Its nice that we were so important to him.

My girlfriend studied abroad from Japan, and whenever Grandpa saw her one of the first things he said was, 'Are you ok? You doing alright?' After a year it almost turned into a joke, but we always appreciated that he cared enough to ask, every time, without fail.

Grandpa was the best cook with the most variety I've ever seen. He had his way with subs, dinned on gyros, made papa's pizza and famous ribs. He was always good company with noodles, and especially enjoyed some good ol' Sunday buffet, both country and chinese style. It was delicious every time. Thanks for taking me out to eat so much Grandpa. I'm gonna miss that.

I have made the trip between Minneapolis and Milwaukee so many times with my grandpa, that he memorized the mile markers for certain road signs that we would pass. Thanks for keeping me company Grandpa.

Grandpa always had at least a dozen boxes of cherrios, and a few jars of strawberry and grape jam and peanut butter (a few each that is). The pantry was also filled with several packages pringles and granola bars. No they weren't for him. He always gave them away to the school, to our family, and to me. I've not met a more humble person who wanted so little, and gave so much.

I've played a lot of cribbage with my grandpa, and one game I got a hand that was 1 point off the perfect hand (four 5's and a queen). Despite my unbelievable luck, somehow he still managed to peg out and beat me.

Sure am going to miss you grandpa. Say hi to grandma for me though. If anyone would like to know more information about him, we've created a caring bridge site for him here.