Saturday, February 20, 2010

Behavior Modification

Now this title I know no one will get :b

Crazy week! Midterms are coming up, so everything's really busy. I've been interviewing people for my upcoming Japanese midterm presentation (I have to talk for 3 minutes in Japanese about information I collect from interviewing 7 Japanese people), and I actually made good friends with Taisho-san tonight, who's the bartender at Ontakesan bar. He's a really cool guy, and people are much more laid back at the bar and less stressful about my attempts at Japanese, so it was a good time, and I got a couple of interviews for my project. Two birds, one stone!

We also went to okonomiyaki last night, which is a sort of food. It's...really hard to explain. It's sort of like the Japanese equivalent of pizza, as I've heard it described. It's vegetables, meat, and such in a pancake-ish batter fried up into a savory-flavored pancake-type thing. Also, in most, if not all, places, you have to make it yourself! Basically, you sit on the floor around a table that has an electric griddle built into the middle, and you're given a plate and a little spatula, and two big spatulas for using on the griddle. You order, and you're brought a bowl with all the ingredients in it, including the batter. (At this point we had to ask the okonomiyaki-ya lady how to do it xD). You then oil the pan and spread it with the spatulas, and put the veggies and such on the griddle and leave the batter in the bowl. You fry up the veggies a bit, and then make them into a circle and dump the batter in the middle. Let it cook, flip it, finish the other side, divide it up and put your favorite sauce on and enjoy! There's actually a special sauce just for okonomiyaki, and it's often used on takoyaki as well. It was really tasty, though a bit difficult to make for beginners. Also, they had ramune (a special type of soda in a special type of bottle. Hard to explain, but you can find them in the US), so this is the first time I actually saw that here in Japan. Also, Coke in glass bottles, ftw! =)

Also, Japan has some great sweets. Tried Hai-Chuu (High Chew?) for the first time, and it's really fabulous. Like the Japanese version of Starburst, I guess. Also, Assault Rifle Chocolate for Valentine's Day. Not even kidding. Of course, since the new Eva movie just came out here (or is coming out? I can't remember. I'm not on top of my Eva news :b), so they're doing all kinds of promotional stuff, including assault rifle-shaped chocolate. Weeeird. But hey, anywhere you can walk into any old convenience store and get chocolate-covered almonds is a great place in my opinion. Speaking of food, I went out on a limb last night and bought some fish. Didn't know what it was, but I know I wanted to try fish. I'm so tired of getting bento here that have a piece of salmon or something in it, and it still has the bones in it, so I wanted to do something on my own. Well, I got this filet, I think it's tuna, and I used half of it tonight to make tuna teriyaki from scratch. Not that it's that difficult :b. Biggest problem is that teriyaki is about 75% alcohol-based (2 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsp sake, 2 tbsp sweet sake, 1/2 tbsp sugar), and we're not allowed cooking alcohol. So I had to substitute water and it turned out a little salty, but it wasn't bad. I need to tweak it a little, but it was still tasty. My taste-tester Abby said it was fabulous, so I guess that's a good thing =). Next experiment: orange chicken. Got some orange marmalade to try it with, though Abby says we might do garlic-cheese salmon tomorrow. For those of you that don't know, cheese is rare and expensive here, so garlic-cheese is especially a treat, particularly this delicious stuff Abby makes =).

It's really surprising how much you don't realize you'll miss butter and things like it until you don't have it! I will say this though: the Japanese do bread right. The packs we get are all uniform, full inch or inch and a half thick slices of bread that toast perfectly every time and are really delicious. True, each pack is only 6 slices, but with how much rice we eat, the bread doesn't really go that quickly. Except on Valentine's Day when I was feeling homesick and got raisin bread and made some really fantastic french toast with it :D. Sometimes, home cooking does the trick. Like tuna-mayonnaise sushi! Surprisingly, it tastes just like a tuna salad sandwich, if you put just a little lettuce in it. Really good stuff, but don't confuse it with ebi-mayonnaise unless you want shrimp salad =).

Not much else this week, due to general busy-ness. Have postcards, will send. I unfortunately bought them just before midterms, which was probably dumb of me. I'll get them out soon though! See you all again soon~

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Take Me Home, Country Roads

Phew. I know it's really been a while. A loooong while. With how classes and everything have been, it's been hard to find time to update, especially with how long my posts usually get. But here's a good look at what's happened since last episode!

I've visited the other dorm in Takadanobaba~ We went to go watch the Yamato Nadeshiko drama that's on Friday nights (which will be more familiar to many of you as the live-action drama version of Wallflower). Such a good show so far, and it's such fun to watch and try to figure out what's going on. It's all in Japanese, and isn't exactly like the manga goes, so it's fun to try our hand at translating. It seems to be turning into a weekly thing, since we've also discovered Seizeriya. That's a sort-of family restaurant (really reminiscent of American style, and someone mentioned they have them on the US West Coast?) that serves really cheap and tasty italian food. $4 for a personal pizza, and then unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, including soda and juice and espresso and cappuccino and tea? Craaaaaziness here. Literally, getting unlimited coffee in itself is a rarity here, let alone stuff like that. It's wonderful <3. Plus, tastiest tomato-cream seafood pasta ever.

We also went to NHK Studios :D! It's where they film a lot of Japan's television, and it's the studio that came to Pitt to interview people learning Japanese. We got to see their kids' show mascot doing a version of the chicken dance with kids, and it was adorable. They even had a booth where you can dub over an anime (in Japanese, of course!). I got the easy part, funnily enough, and just had to voice the cute animal character. Such fun~! We also got to check out the world's first 3D television that doesn't require 3D glasses. Made my head hurt, but it was really awesome. NHK is also the home of Domo-kun, which (for those of you that aren't familiar with Japanese things) is that new brown toothy-smiled mascot for Target. They had half of the store dedicated to him! They had a million phone charms of him in different outfits, and I just had to get a geisha domo-kun =). They apparently also have a television show that I really wanna see now. It's about two Komainu (though I don't know how that's spelled), which take a little explaining. Japanese Shinto shrines generally each house a god, and that god is served by two komainu, spiritual dog protectors. And the ones in this are adorable! One's all grumpy and mean, and the other's really carefree. I really wanna see if I can find more about it.

We also went to Shinjuku and discovered just how big a department store can be. The store we went to was almost literally a 10-minute walk across from one end of the store to the other, and then 14 floors up, and two below ground. The basement bottom was all food, combining shops with a huge full-sized grocery store. While it's really common to see grocery stores as the bottom floor of a department store, this place was just absolutely mind-blowingly gigantic. And we found baking chocolate for the first time ever! Nom. They had yummy gyoza (a type of dumpling) there, and peach-mango juice with it made for a good lunch.

Speaking of stores, found the first store that actually had clothes in my size, and really cheap! This was Zara, and they had a whole clearance section of stuff that was like 1500 yen ($15) and under. I found a shirt and a jacket-shirt and got them and love them =). I also found a nice pocketwatch-necklace that I really liked. It has this classic antique-look that I really loved, and it goes well with the new shirt (the sleeves of the shirt make it hard to reach/see my watch, so it fixes that :b).

Uuuuum what else. People from the dorm went to Roppongi and got ripped off by what they, in their own words, said were "Nigerians". They got invited to a bar/club that charged $30 for the night, unlimited drinks, they passed out, and woke up in the morning with the guys demanding a ridiculous sum of money for things they claim they ordered. They made them go to the atm, and one guy got away, but the other was ripped off for hundreds of dollars. Moral of the story: don't drink in Roppongi. The Temple orientation people aren't lying when they say that.

On a lighter note, I got to learn how to play the koto! We only learned the simple "Sakura" song, but it was still really awesome! The koto is a 13-stringed 5 or 6 foot long instrument, and it's weirdly both simple and difficult to play. The women there teaching us were really surprised at how well we learned the song, so they played us two performances. It was a really great time =).

We found a Chipotle!!!! Not really a Chipotle, but that same style, and so GOOD. I've been missing home food, so we found this place called Frijoles and went there for lunch. Turned out to be the best Mexican food, even better than American Mexican food. They have you choose burritos, tacos, or however else you'd like your food, then what's in it (spiced grilled chicken, beef, pork, or beans), then toppings (omg such fresh veggies have never been had in an American place), and then salsa (I hate raw tomatoes, and this stuff was the most delicious salsa I have ever had). They also had handmade tortilla chips with salsa <3. A tad expensive, and definitely only a once in a long time thing, but so delicious. I also tried Pepsi Nex for the first time, which is sort of like the Pepsi answer to Coke Zero. It's passable, though it kinda does have a weird aftertaste.

Speaking of food, my mom would love some of the drinks here. Grape juice with Aloe (including the weird aloe bits) is in all the machines here, and some other things with aloe in it. My favorite drink so far is the Melon Au Lait, which tastes just like honeydew/cantaloupe in drink form. It's really great stuff.

Not much else going on, though, other than classes and homework. Lit class just keeps on being great, though I do have a lot of reading to do. J Culture class is starting to pick up and is starting to look good, though he still has a bad habit of talking in circles. Japan Today is unexpected coooool. I wrote a paper about Minamata, and got an A on it. Guaranteed 10% of my grade, go =)! Surprisingly really interesting course, though it didn't seem so at first. And some people have complained that our teacher is kind of vain and such, but it's become really apparent that he has a good reason to be. He really knows what he's talking about, and it's kinda comforting to know that. As for Japanese, just had my second interview test and aced it, too. I also love love love that teacher. She gave us an activity to discuss in groups in Japanese about ranking a list of 15 objects in order of importance, given the situation that we're stranded in the desert after a plane crash. Unfortunately, most of the vocab for such things we learn for that day and then never really use it again, and we're not warned ahead of time what we'll be doing, so we can't research vocab and study it beforehand. As such, it's really difficult to retain the vocab that's outside of the required book vocab, but hey. I'm absorbing it =). I have to get working on my midterm project for that class, for which I have to take a survey of at least 7 Japanese people of some question of my choosing and make a graph for it and present it for 3 minutes. Not too bad, I think.

I've got off tomorrow due to Founding Day, which is a national holiday. Sort of like the 4th of July, I guess? But yeah, relaxing day to get homework done and read this novel for Lit class, and watching movies that will probably make me homesick. Then Akihabara again this weekend! I can't wait! I'm going to see about that wig when we go back =).

That's all I can really think of for now. I'm going to try and keep on top of this a bit more from now on. Sorry for the wait guys!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Zuton Fever

So yeah, pretty much everyone in the dorm is sick, including me. Fortunately, mine's almost done with by now, but it was pretty bad yesterday and the day before. But I did get to fit in with all the sick Japanese people! When someone's sick here at all, they wear the face masks, like they're trying to get us to do in America. It's really commonplace to see people wearing masks everywhere (they even have scented ones!! :O), and it's a good idea to wear one when you're sick too. Being up close and in people's faces on the train isn't really good for preventing colds from spreading. And you do get wedged in like sardines on the trains during rush hours, which are generally around 7-9 AM and 6ish PM? I haven't yet figured out when they are, since my class schedule (fortunately!) doesn't send me to and from school during rush hours except once. And that was insane. People mention that your personal-bubble limits will be tested when you're in Japan, but you really never can expect it until you experience it. You're literally wedged up against something on all sides until it's completely impossible to move, and they still pack more people in. It's also kind of weird and frightening to be a foreign female crushed in a crowd of strangers and unable to move. Fortunately, I had a friend with me, so it was slightly less awkward and less worrisome. It's well known that there are pervs in Japan that take advantage of this sort of situation and grope helpless girls, which is why they usually employ a women-only car during rush hours on more commonly-used rail lines. Tip, though: it's never a good idea to wear a shorter skirt and use the train alone during rush hour unless you know there's going to be a women's car. That's asking for trouble.

But anyway, I promised word of classes! Temple's definitely more demanding here, or maybe it's just that it's Japan? I'm going to have a quiz/test every Tuesday and Thursday for Japanese, and I already have a final paper proposal due next week. Unfortunately, I needed to buy the rest of my textbooks that I was planning to let slide and save some money by using the library, since the library has really dumb and short hours. Which equated to me shelling out another 8500 yen for two books. Ridiculous. Plus, Temple doesn't have a policy like Pitt that discourages teachers from pimping their own books that they've written and making you buy them for the class, which I found out the hard way for my Japan Today class. Hopefully the books will be worth the money and keepable, or easily sold on the internet after the semester's done. But my classes are pretty okay. I like my Japanese class, though I don't like the practice exercises we're given to practice phrases. It's really rigid and doesn't allow us freedom to produce original sentences, which would be more beneficial. As we are, it's mostly just reading different parts of a dialogue. though I suppose as the semester goes on the pace will pick up and we'll get doing different things. Japanese Culture is alright, except it seems like the lectures alternate between mind-numbingly dull/useless and actually interesting, vital information. The first class we learned nothing, the second was really cool and full of pictures and explanations and such, and the latest class was about "Japan has changed so much! But no, it hasn't.) Literally. Blech. Anyway, Japan Today is kind of interesting. I brought in an article about the Yasukuni shrine and the controversy around it, and we all discussed it. I just really need to turn on my liking-history function and I'll be able to survive it. Best class so far though is my Modern Japanese Lit. The teacher's really a good teacher. Rather than being a teacher that just drones on in lecture sounding like a textbook, she's really engaging and makes the material interesting and easily understood. Plus, we're reading Japanese ghost stories and the like, of which I read some during my sophomore year in my Japanese Tales of the Supernatural class. It's a lot of fun so far, and the readings are really interesting, too. Hopefully it will keep being so. What worries me most are the papers, which are the usual 10 pages, but the paper is longer here! A4 is the standard size, but it's something like 8.5 x 14, rather than 8.5 x 11 for the standard page. So much more page to fill up D:. I need to get researching for that final paper, though. I think I'm going to try for something about Japanese women, since I really delved into the topic for the last research paper I did (which was only women's speech).

Also, a foray into the world of laundry! Oh, Japan, why must your dryers suck? The laundry here is crazy expensive, 200 yen per load for a teeny washer. And then we need to line-dry clothes outside in the cold, which is impossible on any weekday, seeing as we're in class during the time the sun is out and drying. I did try, though, and my clothes were still wet after sitting outside for 5 hours, so I brought them inside, hung them up, and cranked up the heater. They eventually dried, but I decided to go to the 100 yen shop to get a couple of clothes hangers for drying clothes (they hold a bunch of clothes and can hang right in front of my heater). While they were drying, I went downstairs to make my first bento on my own - hot dog octopi, spinach wrapped in an egg, and stir-fried rice. They turned out looking cool, and I will have to update with pictures. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the bento with me to school since I was running late, and I had to eat it for dinner. It sucked. I realized I don't like leeks, which would've probably been a good idea to find out beforehand. I ate a can of tuna instead, and it tasted so much better, though I do need to figure out how to tell whether the tuna is in oil or water. The oil kind tastes like I'm eating grease >_<. I did get to try an ice cream popsicle, though. It was wonderful, with a vanilla layer outside, a really sweet vanilla puddinglike filling in the top, and then strawberry ice cream filling the bottom half. =) Yum. Cheered up my day.

Also, slippers are so important in Japan. And shoes in general. I realized why when I tried to go outside in the courtyard to hang my clothes, and I came back inside with leaves and stuff all over my slippers :<. Being such, I got a pair of "bathroom slippers" from the 100 yen store, which are basically weird plastic booties that are sufficient for using outside and in the kitchen (communal kitchen, icky floors). Also, 100 yen really warm awesome-looking midcalf socks! =) Jackpot! But I did get "wet tissues" thinking they'd be like wipes that I could use to wipe down my desk and all, since they come in that plastic container that you just pull them through the top, but they turned out to be bleh. They're like wet dryer sheets, and they smell weird. Maybe they'll be useful for something though.

Oh! I made some Japanese friends (sort of?)! I had to "interview" two Japanese people and get one to take a picture of me with the other, and then vice-versa, and then get their names and emails in order to send them the pictures, and do all of this in Japanese. I found a pair of girls in the cafeteria (which is more like a big common room in the building where people can bring food and eat it and hang out, but you can't really buy food there other than from snack machines), and they let me take pictures. Their names are Hana and Mika, and once I figure out how to get the pics from my phone to my email, I'll have those up too xD. I also met a girl last week named Keiko, who joined our group at the cafeteria last week and we've been talking to. Since it's Abby's and Rebecca's birthdays this week, we're all going to do karaoke on Friday night, and hopefully Keiko can go along. Seeing as it's a birthday thing, I didn't feel it would be polite to invite Hana and Mika (Abby and Rebecca don't know them), but Keiko's a mutual friend. Plus, she really wants to practice her English, and I'd like to practice my Japanese, so maybe we can figure something out? Maybe :b

Speaking of which, I signed up for events! I had to do several, since the OSS only takes exact change, and I had 40,000 yen to pay for the 38,000 yen Tokyo trip. I did make it in for Tokyo, so three-day Tokyo trip, here I come!! :D. I also signed up for the koto workshop, which is a traditional Japanese stringed instrument, and that's in the beginning of February. Lastly, and probably most important, the language exchange partner program, which is this Friday. I get to get grouped up with other people of similar interests and hobbies, and hopefully find a person or two that I can meet up with every week or so to practice my Japanese and teach the other person English. Plus, I get my 500 yen deposit back just by attending. Win-win! I need to figure out where it is, though. They're not really good at keeping everyone up with that. I'm going to see if there are any other activities I should see, but I think the only other things I might look into are the baseball game (the Japanese are crazy about baseball, and going to a game live is a completely different experience from going to one in America) or the samurai sword workshop, which is where we get to see swordfighting by the man who choreographied (is that the word?) the swordfighting in Kill Bill. I know the baseball game is cheap, but I dunno about the sword thing. I'll have to check it out though. It just really surprises me how many people are going on both of the big weekend trips here. One's to Sapporo for the Snow Festival, and the other is to Kyoto, and they're each well over $300. I know it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance, but wow that's a lot of money, not including how much you spend on meals and souvenirs and everything else. I do really want to see the pictures my friends take at Sapporo though. It sounds like it'll be really cool, with all sorts of ice sculptures and such. I just really want the complete contrast to Tokyo that Kyoto offers: tradition instead of modernity, nature and aesthetics over the city and industrialism. I'm really looking forward to it, though I do need to see who else is going so I can see about requesting roommates :b.

Anyway, to the books now for me! Goodnight~

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Future Soon

It's gonna be the future soon, and I won't always be this way, when the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away.

So it really is the future soon. Almost two weeks into this thing already. Can you believe it? And still going!

So Saturday I got up late after sleeping for ages (jet lag wearing off makes me stay up till 1:30 AM and then sleep forever the next day, apparently) and spent a good morning playing Red Alert 3 with Mike online. Really fun times with Tim Curry and his terrible Russian accent. After that, Abby and a couple of other people needed to do a Jusco run for groceries, and I needed a couple of things and craved a couple of things (omg miiiilk), so I went with. Unfortunately, they do not sell strawberry milk by the carton. I've only seen it in the little 500 ml cartons in 7-11 :<. I did restock on juice, seeing as I've caught a cold again. It's this Japanese atmosphere. It's soooo dry, which is such a change from Pittsburgh where it rains all the time and is always humid. It doesn't rain that much here at all, and the air is just so dry that it's messing with my sinuses and such >_<. But back to groceries. Got a 98 yen big pack of udon noodles, woo! They're going to be delicious.

Afterwards, we came back and Keisha, Abby and I all *attempted* to make oyakodon, which was okay, but not as good with the recipe tripled. It was easier to handle and such when it was smaller sizes, but now we know. Also, it would've been very delicious if the rice cooker wasn't made of fail and more fail. Apparently all the dorm rice cookers cannot work in one way or another, and this one can't handle more than 1 cup of rice at a time. The rice we tried to eat was gluey on the outside and still hard inside, so it was kind of nasty. Tip: buy your own rice cooker, know how to use it. They're cheap and better than the dorm ones.

Sunday I wasn't planning on doing much other than doing laundry and making curry with Abby, since I wanted her to teach me how. However, I got a knock on my door from Keisha asking if I'd like to go to Shinjuku with them to find the art store. Abby is an art major, and Keisha is taking an art class, and both of them needed class supplies that couldn't be found at the 100 yen store, though a lot of it they surprisingly could. I'd never been to Shinjuku, so I said 'hey, why not?'. Quite an adventure, let me tell you. We had to figure out how to pay for the fare to Shinjuku, seeing as the commuter pass only covers half the trip (from our town to Gotanda, where we switch trains to go wherever). We stopped to ask the station guy, and he told us to pay there. We were kind of wary, but once we got there, we found a fare adjustment machine to set it right. Abby has good tip though: Add extra money to your Suica card other than your commuter pass fee. It'll let you go where you need to go without needing to adjust the fare.

Once we got there, we were kinda lost. Abby had been to the smaller store, but that was really more of a bunbooguya, or stationery store. We needed to find the big one, but had no idea where it was. So after wandering a bit, Abby and Keisha pointed out a counter where we could ask where we needed to go. Turned out to be one that actually spoke English, so my Japanese kinda went to waste. They did actually Google the location for us there and printed out a map, so they were really cool and nice. If the Japanese people are anything, it is helpful. Be careful, though. There are cases where the person you're asking directions from has no idea, but will venture a guess, whether it's right or wrong, rather than say they don't know and appear unhelpful. Ask several people for directions, and don't trust just one. We kinda realized this when we were following the map they gave us and we made the mistake of using a McDonalds and KFC as a reference point. Reeeeally not a good idea, considering how many there are. We kinda wandered around for twenty minutes, got lost, asked many directions, and finally found we'd been going in the opposite direction of where we needed to be.

Good thing though: we passed so many awesome looking arcades! We kinda explored one a little bit, and there was a girl playing Taiko, which is sort of like a simulator/rhythm game of traditional taiko drumming. Think guitar Hero, but with one big drum and you holding two sticks that you need to hit the right spot on the drum with at the right time. And holy woah was she good. It started off slow, and then she just went crazy on that thing. I wanna go back and play :3. ALSO. MOYASHIMON KEYCHAINS YEAH. I need to go back JUST FOR THOSE. I don't think they'll fit on my phone as a charm but STILL. I'm going to see if I can win one or two for me and for people back home, since that show was the best at anime club =).

We did finally make it to Sekaido, the art store. It was BIG. 4 or more floors of just art supplies, and so crowded too. It took us a while and many requests for help finding things, but we finally got most everything. We also met up with one of Abby's artist friends and took the train back to Gotanda with her. She's a big fan of Mos Burger, which is sort of like a McDonald's alternative here, so we all decided to go there for dinner. We couldn't tell what anything was because it was all in kanji, but they had some pretty interesting choices. Shrimp burger, seafood burger, rice burger, chicken teriyaki burger, all sorts of things. I ended up getting the chicken teriyaki burger, and it was pretty good. Really interesting, too. Their burgers here are a lot smaller, but much better quality. The buns aren't soggy and mushed, the lettuce is crisp and fresh (the beef burgers actually have cabbage on them instead), the fries aren't thin and oversalty and overgreasy (they actually taste like potatoes! They're really homemade-tasting), though the drinks are tiny. I got a water, and it was eeeeeensy. The white grape soda is reportedly good, and the melon soda is bright green xD. A neat meal, but overall too small and not really filling and overexpensive. I don't know how the people in my dorm keep going out to McDonalds at least once a day to eat. It's crazy. Japanese food is just better.

But afterwards, Abby wanted something sweet, and we were going by the Baskin Robbins on the way to the train, so we stopped and tried one more Japanese-style American food: ice cream. SO DELICIOUS. But SO EXPENSIVE. It was 330 yen for a small scoop of ice cream. Craaaaaaazy. But it was a good one-time thing. They give you a tiny spoon to match, so you don't eat it as quickly, and it feels like you're eating a lot more than you are. It's also easier to savor that way and not overeat. I got caramel apple tart, and man it was good. Like I said though, only a one-time thing.

We came back home and Abby finally taught me how to make curry! :3. We also didn't fail at rice, so we waited until everything had cooled down, and I packed our bentos for lunch today. They were really cute, but they've been eaten. Bento are usually meant to be eaten at room temperature, but the curry was kinda weird that way. I think I'll heat it up next time. Delicious though! I'll have to buy some potatoes and make some of my own. Tuesday night I'm going to try to make my own bento with cocktail weiner octopi and stuff. We'll see how it goes! I'll take pictures of that one, since it'll be all my own work. Pictures will be up soon! I've been really busy, and as a result, usually falling asleep on my computer. Mike can attest to this, as I usually fall asleep mid-conversation. Anyhow, goodnight for now~ I'll have more on classes later~~!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Soul Rescuer

Okay, so catchup time! Yesterday was pretty full, and tonight is less so. Feeling a bit down and bleh because of the party tonight. Kinda wanted to go, but then everyone got all dolled up and pretty, and the best I've got are my jeans and sneakers, seeing as it's too cold for a skirt and I didn't bring leggings because they told us not to bring anything fancy. Plus the talk about going to Jusco to get alcohol bottles for everyone kinda turned my attention off, but with the dorm so quiet and no one around, it's kind of lonely. Once I'm done this I'm probably going to go curl up downstairs with Highlander and a blanket and hopefully feel a bit better.

Yesterday had an interesting start, as I rushed out to get the train and didn't get breakfast. I was on the train with Dan, a friend who's in my Japanese class that I was heading to. We got to Tamachi really early, and he was in the mood for coffee, so we gave Makkudonarudo Hanbaagaa (McDonald's!) a try. Blech. Really terrible for breakfast. Dan likes his coffee black, so he was happy with it, but I got a McGriddle or whatever that thing is, and it was nasty. The bacon was barely cooked and the taste of pancake and egg together was just off-putting. People have said that McDonald's in Japan is alright for burgers, but not for breakfast or anything, and I can say from that experience, the breakfast part is right. It does seem incredibly popular with Japanese people for dinner, though, since it was packed when I was on the way home today.

I actually just found out about the Setsubun festival that's coming up for the beginning of February. It apparently involves eating an entire handrolled sushi roll, putting on an oni mask, and throwing things at our dorm managers. I HAVE NO IDEA. But it sounds like fun xD.

We had our first real Japanese class today. It was pretty neat. A lot of acting out conversations, mostly invitations in polite and casual speech and how to accept them and turn them down both ways. Best part ever though was the homework, which I still have to do. We were given a list of about 10 or so things, and we have to pick one to do by Tuesday, and eventually do up to 5 or 6 of them throughout the semester. They're interview things, and we have to write down what vocab we plan to use and all. It just gets a bit tricky. The things on the sheet are like "Go have yourself made up at a department or cosmetics store," "Get a haircut and talk to the hairdresser and tell her how you want it cut," "Go to the public baths," "Ask someone their favorite kanji/proverb/tongue twister and why and translate it," "Get your picture taken with two different people and get both of their emails," and such. Really cool and interesting and sounding like fun, but SO FRIGHTENING TOO. *nervous nervous*. Going to try the onsen one for this weekend, but if things don't work out for that, I'll head to the ramen shop by campus during off hours and ask their favorite kanji. I went the other day when they weren't busy, and they were mostly just bored, so I figured it'd be a good chance xD.

Next was Japan Today, which is actually turning out pretty interesting. We bring in articles for different topics, and discussion ensues. This class's theme was disparities, such as gender and age and such, and we mostly talked about the work force and how getting a job is difficult these days due to such job security that Japan has. Keeping one is easy, but getting a job is getting really tough, so some young Japanese grads end up working part time jobs all their lives. If you don't jump onto the ladder right out of school, it's difficult to get on at all, which is the problem nowadays.

After class, I hung out in the cafeteria a while to wait for a friend and ran into Heather from high school. She said her art class had gone on a trip to the best place ever: Sailor Moon's neighborhood. They actually went to the town that the show was based on, and she said they even found the temple that Rei was a priestess at :o. Pretty awesome stuff. She also advised me to get the "beep beep beep card" when I said I was going to get my commuter pass, so from here on out, the Suica commuter pass should be known as the beep beep beep card. I probably won't stick to that :b

The activity clubs here look so cool too~. I wanna join the cooking club, or maybe the anime club. More likely the card and board gaming club. Who knows? xD. They all look interesting, even the fishing one, though I lack the equipment to join, really.

We left later and went to get my beep card, which wasn't actually as bad as I thought it'd be. It was expensive, but it really does cut the overall cost of the commute in half. Plus, I don't have to buy tickets or stick anything in the machine anymore. Now I just flash it and it beeps and I'm good :3. Sorta like an EZpass for the train. Good stuff, and I highly recommend it. If you're living here and commuting anywhere by train, you can set your commute route on the Suica card and they'll give you a good deal on 3 months' worth of travel. It also makes me feel more like everyone else to just beep it and be done :3.

Afterwards (and after using my card for the first time!) we came home, and I stopped at Jusco to get tuna, mayo, and dashi to make a bento lunchbox for the next day (the dashi was for dinner that night though). I will say this: Japanese mayo tastes SO DIFFERENT. It's called Kyuupi Mayonnaise, and it's really good, and they love to put it on EVERYTHING. Takoyaki, okonomiyaki, etc. It's crazy. We did have a bit of trouble trying to find dashi, seeing as I've never used it and didn't know what to look for at all. So I asked a woman that worked there about it, and she literally spent at least five minutes of scrutiny and a phone call to a friend to figure out which would be the best instant dashi for oyakodon (which is what I mentioned I was planning to make). Completely unexpected helpfulness. I only know a couple of people Stateside that'd actually go to all that trouble :b. It was really nice and sweet of her =). We also found this crazy stuff that looks like flavoring for rice, like herb and dried things and sesame seeds you mix in with rice. I'm going to try dipping my onigiri in it to give them some more flavor. It'll be interesting at least xD.

We came back then and hung out a while to wait for my other friend so we could make dinner, and in the meanwhile, I got cultured in the face. Keisha showed me pictures of her family and pictures of the Cropover festivals from Barbados, where she's from. It was really cool to see all the costumes and finery and find out that a lot of them were related to her. Really neat stuff =)

Unfortunately, dinnertime never came. When Abby came home, it was late, and we found out the kitchen had been closed down due to clogged sinks D:. So I couldn't make dinner or my bento, and Keisha was out of instant food. Fortunately, another friend got her some good noodles, and I had an emergency bento in the freezer of fried chicken and something else. Always keep an emergency bento tray in the freezer, in case of kitchen failure. That is my advice. Abby tried to make rice to make onigiri for lunch, but apparently the rice cooker on out floor is dumb and doesn't work (though the buttons being written in Japanese certainly doesn't help). Paul gave her permission to use the kitchen rice cookers though, as long as she took the dishes upstairs to be cleaned, so it turned out okay. A little bit soggy and frustrating, but alright.

Also, I don't know whether I mentioned this, but the other night when going to get phones, I had been having a bad day, and the phone stuff didn't help, and everything else, and I kinda snapped at one of my neighbors. She's a good person at heart and I know she doesn't mean any harm and I like her as a friend, but she does get under my skin sometimes. But this does bring up a good point: if you're living in a dorm/apartment/whatever with someone, especially abroad, try to be as civil as possible, because you have to put up with them whether you like it or not. Fortunately, I stopped things from taking a downwards turn and we're on okay terms again. Now I've learned to try harder from now on to be as good as I can be to be dormmates, too.

Random stuff though? The other girls went to Jusco and bought Ikea-like shelves for their dorms, 900 yen. They're build-it-yourself, but they looked pretty nice and handy, so I would suggest them =). Also, 100 yen shops - if you're taking beginner's Japanese and really want a good hiragana practice book, 100 yen shops sell ones for children. So you're learning them just how the Japanese do! They seemed pretty handy for the people I know that are beginning Japanese.


On to today. Today started off fairly well. Couldn't sleep too well last night, so I was tired this morning, but I still got to campus 40 minutes early to get breakfast. I had been craving strawberry milk for the whole week, too, so I knew I was getting that. It's crazy the things you crave when you don't get them anymore. I don't even like milk all that much xD. I will say though, strawberry milk in Japan is DELICIOUS. Tastes just like strawberry pocky <3. I was at a loss as to what to actually have for food, though. Bento get old after a while, so I decided to try a salad. Someone had been saying how good they were. All the dressings are in Japanese, though, so I picked one at random. It was sesame! Yum. It was actually a really good change. Much healthier than McDonald's. It was pretty complex for a salad: iceberg lettuce in big leaves on the bottom, then cabbage as the bulk of the salad, then topped with half a hard boiled egg, some tuna, some corn, some carrot slices, and some cucumber. It was really, really delicious, surprisingly so as a breakfast. I'm proud of my healthy breakfast :3.

Anyway, first Japanese Culture class today. It looks to be really interesting and applicable to my time here. We're learning about Japanese culture that's used every day, like mannerisms and such. It looks to be pretty cool, but we didn't get into anything much yet. Then came Japanese Lit again, where we talked all about Japanese history during the Edo period and the Meiji restoration and Commodore Perry and such. The Japanese depictions of Commodore Perry were really funny. One looked like a weird Reagan, and the other looked like Beavis. It was a good class. I really like the teacher; she's really upbeat and funny and leads a good class.

After class, I got my ID card registered in the library since I went exploring Azabu Hall a bit, and I figured I wouldn't go to the party tonight due to lack of sleep and clothes and general confidence. I have a hard time going to parties with people I don't know well, but that's just me. So I checked out the library with Jess, and looked through the INSANELY HUGE collection of DVDs that the library has and will lend out for a week at a time. There were several I was debating, but I settled on Highlander, due to many many recommendations and Sean Connery and the many references I have heard in my time among the nerd clan of Pitt.

Then, to the real adventure of the day! I had noticed a bunch of restaurants near the station that seemed to have cheaper food than near the actual school building, so I decided to try one out for dinner. I'd been craving curry all day (for a couple days, really, since Abby mentioned she had made some homemade~), and I found a really cheap place where you pay at a machine outside that has pictures of all the food (I usually have a hard time ordering because I can't read kanji well, and the machines don't rush me), and tried Curry Gyuu. It turned out to be a really good deal. A cup of hot black tea and miso soup with plenty of kelp and seaweed in it, followed by a plate of mildly spicy curry with carrots and slow-roasted beef in it next to some rice with sliced cooked beef piled on top, all for 540 yen. The beef was wonderful, kinda strange in that it was long and thin like bacon, but with the taste of really good roast beef, combined with curry sauce. It really hit the spot and satisfied that curry craving. Plus, such a better dinner deal than most places that jack their prices up to 1000 yen or so for dinner. Still haven't gotten to go to that world's best ramen place yet - it was closed when I passed by on the way home. I will get you one day, best ramen!

Anyway, got the train back home and was feeling good and full and happy using my new beep beep beep card and the fact that the train was the least full I had ever seen it (it's pretty rare to have an open seat as far as I've seen, and there were many open), but then the train stopped one stop before mine and they kicked everyone off >_<. I couldn't hear why, but we had to wait on the next one, which of course was packed, as well. Ah, well. Got home to the dorm and I figured I'd do something different instead of just running up to my room, so I went to the lounge. I got to watch the one dorm manager and my neighbor playing Left 4 Dead, and it was a good time. The party people came and kidnapped her, though, so I got to take over for her for the finale, in which I was punched clear off the building by a Tank. Nonetheless, it was fun.

Back in my room now, and feeling better after having written this. Just missing all you guys back home a lot, and kinda mad that my classes cut out the best time to talk to all of you. Love you all, though, and can't wait to see you all again~ Mwah <3

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo

yes, this is actually the title of a song. A good one. I like it, at least :b

Okay, so tonight I'm not going to be posting the full shebang as usual. It's late and I've got homework to do, so I'll be trying to update completely tomorrow morning. Homework rules over blog. Quick theme list before I go to bed, so I don't forget anything tomorrow:

- 1st try of Makudonarudo Hanbaagaa, also known as McDonald's
- Setsubun Festival coming up
- Japanese class
- Japanese assignment for this weekend and semester = AWESOME yet FRIGHTENING
- Japan Today
- Talking with Heather
- Clubs
- Beep beep beep card (Suica)
- Cultural learning (not Japanese for once xD)
- Jusco and the Quest for Instant Dashi (kinda like soup stock, used in about everything ever)
- Tuna, Kyupi, and Rice stuff that I'm going to try to put on onigiri?
- Kitchen woes and emergency bento
- Rice cookers
- The Importance of Being Civil when Living in Close Quarters
- Tomorrow's party?
- Shelving
- Hiragana books

Yeah, that's aaaaaaall of what today's episode needs to include, so you see why I can't stay up to type all that out xD. I'll be up early tomorrow for it, evening for the USA. See you at the next time!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


There's a monkey in the future for you, and there's nothing modern science can do. So today was pretty cool and pretty suckily dumb at the same time. In various ways, both good and bad.

We all got up early today (getting up naturally at 6:15 AM is rather convenient) and went to the Ward Office to get our gaijin cards and national insurance cards. These are really important. If you plan on staying in Japan for an extended stay (I think it's longer than two weeks, but I'm not sure), you need to register as a resident of your ward, which is sort of like registering as a resident of your county in the US. Basically, if you don't get the gaijin card within two weeks, you'll be in big trouble if the police stop you for anything. Fortunately, just the receipt for the card is alright to carry around until you pick up the real card, and those take like two weeks to make. You also need to provide your own passport-size photos, which we got done at the photo machine at the train station. I FAILED AT THIS. I thought the red button was the "back" button. Apparently it was the "YES I WANT TO PRINT THIS" button, so I messed up and printed a picture of me looking down and needed to redo the entire thing >_<. Anyway, the application for the gaijin card wasn't too bad, and I need to go back in a couple of weeks to actually pick it up.

The national insurance was a bit more difficult. I'm really glad I went with a couple of people who really don't speak Japanese well, because they didn't speak any English up there. I was really surprised, since during orientation, they'd only mentioned that they didn't speak English well up there, not that they didn't do it at all. It was a good opportunity to use my Japanese =). We sorted everything out, though, and they printed us up cards right then and there. I was kinda surprised when we got back the cards and mine said the year I was born was 62, and my friends were 63. But then they explained that it was according to the Japanese year system, which is split into eras, like the Showa and such, which don't coincide with our years. So I was born in the 62nd year of the era, and my friends in the 63rd. Just something amusing :b

Unfortunately, the process was somewhat lengthy, and I was worried I was going to be late for my class at 11:30. We got on the train to Tamachi from Kamata at about 11, and got to the station almost exactly at 11:25. I didn't make it to the classroom until between :35 and :40, but it was empty, so I went to the room upstairs thinking I'd just mixed up the rooms. Turned out the one I jumped into there was an ethics class I'm not in, so I went back. I was late, but apparently the first class had been cancelled. All that rushing for not much. So I got some lunch at the 7-11 next door to Azabu Hall and had it in the cafeteria and talked a bunch with dorm people who came in and out. At one point, a girl named Keiko next to us asked if she could join in talking with us, and we all got talking. She was really nice, and it was a good time. We even exchanged numbers =).

I then went to my Japanese Modern Lit class, which seems like it's going to be really cool. The teacher's really laid back in attitude, but strict in teaching. She gave us the list of books, all of which I got today, and all of which she admitted have depressing endings. Apparently that's a common thing in Japanese Lit. But we did go into a good discussion on literary interpretation, and how everything is interpretable in any way, as long as you support it. Including Winnie the Pooh being a biblical reference to man reigning over the animals and stuff like that. Kinda interesting that literature is all basically gray area, when we all grow up learning the strict black-and-white mindset. Seems like it'll be a fun time though.

After that, I hung out a while, since I was expecting to meet up with some friends to go home and get our commuter passes together. I went down to the ramen shop down the street and got a miso ramen that, while a bit spicy, was reeeeally delicious. It had an almost creamy quality to it, because of the miso, but it was really flavorful and good. Soooo much food for the money, too. When I got back though, apparently the friends I was supposed to meet up with and I had had a misunderstanding, and I had just missed them at the place where we were supposed to meet, and we all went home separately. I'll have to get my commuter pass tomorrow, but that's alright. Also, Japan's banks have ridiculously dumb hours. I went to get some money changed to pay for books and get commuter pass money, and the banks are all closed by 3 PM. Really inconvenient >_<. Fortunately, despite the hell PNC is putting me through right now for making purchases, it still works at ATMs a bit, so I was able to get all my books. And cheap! =)

Not much else for tonight. Just going to bed, really, since I'm tired and need to rest my blistered feet. All this walking is tough on the feet :b. I need some Dr. Scholl's Comfort Pads or something like that. Maybe they'll have those somewhere around here.... Anyway, goodnight, everyone~ <3