Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 63

No time right now to divulge previously promised details. Look at this instead.

Sign reads, midori hashi. Translates to "Green Bridge."
It's not green.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 62: Takoyaki Party

Yesterday, I went to E's host mom's friend's house where they were holding a takoyaki party. It was pretty interesting because they taught us how to make it from scratch.

Hard at work.

It's pretty simple to make but I think the most important thing you need is the takoyaki grill, otherwise you won't be able to get the ball shape.  

While we were eating, we talked about a lot of things, one of which concerned our different generation perspectives. I think I may have made myself stand out more than I wanted to by saying that I had a guy friend that I would be perfectly comfortable living with, with whom I had no romantic feelings for and any chance of that changing was extremely slim (this may have surprised the older ladies the most since one of them asked me twice if I thought if there was a possibility in the future that I would want to marry him -_-). And then again, I mentioned that I couldn't see myself marrying and having a family in the foreseeable future. I might as well have written "strange and indecent" across my forehead. 

Okay, that's an exaggeration as the ladies were still very kind and understanding. Still need to fix my brain-to-mouth filter.

Afterward, my friends and I headed up to a mountain party where a bunch of ryuugakuseis and Japanese students were gathering. There were 40+ people and the view was amazing. Shall divulge more in next post. :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 59: Big, Shiny, and Prettyy

We got a new TV today. Holy quality, Batman. 

I have midterms this week and had my kanji exam this morning. I have another on Friday and my last one on Monday. Can't wait until Monday is over. Even my gut is apprehensive with my impending doom.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 58: Earphones

I left the link on this picture so you can take a closer look. But there are banana earphones, screwdrivers, legos.
And gum.

A mini-announcement: I know most of my posts have been fairly long ones varying from detailing certain events or giving tidbits of Japanese culture, but as of right now, I'm finding it difficult to continuously uphold that amount of content. This is mostly due to the fact that I don't have a lot of time anymore and I come home every day pretty wiped out. And any energy I do have remaining, I have to utilize for studying. So from now on, I'll be bouncing back and forth from updating with long detailed posts to short ones like these, where it's just a picture and a caption, depending on the time and energy I have at the time. I realized that I've been postponing updates to later dates when I have more time, and so I think this way, I'll be able to update more frequently (and er, abide to the "mission statement" of this blog better).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 55: Izakaya Part II - Nomihodai

I just wanted to say that today was horrible. It was hot today and I felt so sticky and gross. Does not help knowing that it's only going to get worst. -_- But tonight, I went to an izakaya to meet some Japanese students (you know, make new friends and all that jazz) and so I've decided to make this post an izakaya 2.0 post. I actually wanted to go into a certain aspect in particular, and it's called nomihodai.

Nomihodai is basically an "all you can drink". An "alcohol buffet", if you will. Not all izakayas have this option, but most popular, or large, chain izakayas will have nomihodai. In a nomihodai, for a set price for each person, you can order as much drinks as you like from a separate fixed menu (from the regular non-nomihodai menu) usually for a time limit of two or three hours. There's also an option of tabehodai, which is "all you can eat." It follows the same guidelines as the nomihodai except with food. I believe most izakayas will have an option where you can do a combination of the tabehodai and nomihodai.

There's an izakaya in Umeda that I've started to take a liking to. I like the music they play and the ambiance is an interesting mixture of contemporary and traditional. I can't remember the name of it right now so some pictures will have to suffice.


The only problem with this place was that downstairs, there weren't any legitimate barriers between non-smokers and smokers. For someone like me who can't stand smoking, it becomes a bit of a problem. However, if you're seated upstairs, there are curtains that you can use to separate yourself (and keep the smoke out) from other tables.

Usually you'll get a complimentary bowl of edamane
If you're a heavy/strong drinker, then I feel you would really get your money's worth with nomihodai. But if you're a weak drinker like me, it's a bit less so. However, I think playing drinking games is most definitely the cheapest with nomihodai.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 54: Kobe Matsuri

On Sunday, I went to Kobe for what I'm assuming was their annual summer festival.

At the entrance of the train station there were people dressed in feathers and dancing to...I dunno, Spanish music maybe? I had and still don't have any idea what they were doing.


There was a parade going down the main street but it was sooo crowded. It was a pretty warm day as well so we ended up making our way to Kobe port. 

The ocean breeze felt amazing especially after walking around so much in the heat.

There's also something else I've noticed the past couple of days. Just outside of Juso station, there have been street performers popping up. 


Although I'm pretty sure they've always been there and I just haven't been around the station late at night enough to see them.

In other news, the weather is beginning to shift. It's starting to rain every other day and the temperature is rising. I guess this marks the beginning of the sticky and hot weather and...I wanna say summer? Has summer started or is it in June? Huh, well either way it doesn't change the fact that this weather will turn me into a sweaty, make-up melting off my face, mess. 

Did you like the imagery I just provided? :D

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 50: Sushi will be the death of me

Sorry for the lack of updates! The time I usually spend blogging I decided to use to...sleep instead. :D

As you may have noticed, today is day 50! Whoopie! ....And I don't have anything special prepared. Heh. ^^; But I'm sure none of you were expecting anything so let's move on. :)

Tonight, my host family took me out to eat at another sushi roll restaurant, which reminded me of a previous event that I've now dubbed as The Stupidest Thing I've Done Since Coming to Japan.

I shall explain.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my friends out to a sushi roll restaurant because, dude, it was so cheap. Anyways, my friend challenged me to a sushi eating competition, to which I accepted. Apparently I was under the misguided impression that I could still eat like I could back in high school. So not only did I lose, I wanted to roll over like a bloated pig and die afterward.

I will never ever do this again. Worst decision ever. 
...Further proof of the damage that the ceiling over my bed has done. And that I'm just plain stupid.

However, tonight...

Plus a slice of cheesecake. It's self-inflicted doom. I shouldn't even be whining.

By the by, cheesecake with green tea is amazing. I don't have much of a sweet tooth. With a few exceptions, I don't really like deserts in general. However, the sweetness of the cake and the bitterness of the tea struck the perfect balance and it made me very content. :)
Oh, and can I also say how awesome the restaurant we went to tonight was? While it's your standard sushi roll place where you just take the plates off the conveyor belt and if you don't see anything you want coming your way, you can order via speakerphone, this place had a touchscreen where you can put in your orders. Which was delivered to you by an automatic mini train in the shape of a shinkansen (Japanese bullet train). Holy crap!

The black box you see on top is the touchscreen. Holy crappers, man.

Engrish, please:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 47: Shopping

One of the things you'll notice when shopping in Japan is the customer service. All the employees are extremely polite and accommodating and they're always eager to help you out, whether it's helping you pick out clothes or updating you on the latest styles. However, for me, this is something I take a small issue with.

I'm someone who likes to shop without disturbance (I'm looking at you, Bath & Body Works), and if I need something, then I'll approach a staff member. Often when I'm shopping here, a shop-girl will come up to me and point out how cute the dress I'm looking at is and will bring to me a belt or something that goes with it. I appreciate the gesture and kindness but uh, I'm in the middle of deciding whether I want to give you a load of cash or not. Interrupting my thought process isn't going to help you. So please scurry along as fast as you can in those 6-inch heels. But other than that, I really enjoy shopping in Japan.

Prices for clothes are pretty steep but I've been here long enough to be used to them and to know that you just have to be more selective in what you buy. The one thing I really like about shopping in Japan is that the Japanese love their wrapping. Usually in regards to omiyage, sometimes how the gift is presented is more important then what the actual gift is itself.

Anyways, the bags that they give you to carry your purchases are usually really nice and if you go to the nicer (read: pricier) stores, the bags they give you are actually made of fabric so you can actually reuse them as mini-tote bags.

I've kept most of my store bags and took a picture of the nicest ones that I have.

You'll notice that the Vanilla, earth, and Cecil McBee bags are fabric and totally reusable as regular bags.
In fact, I'm using the earth one right now.

When I first came here, one of the things I noticed was that about 90% of the girls here carry two bags: one is usually a fashionable bag/purse and the other is a plainer and smaller bag, usually something like the forementioned store bags. As of recently, I'm doing the same and I'm assuming it's for the same reason as these girls are doing. 

Before I was just using one bag and in it I carried everything - my notes, my books, wallet, pass-wallet, etc. Needless to say, after a while, it gets heavy. I then started to try carrying my smaller items (wallet, phone, pass-wallet, iPod, etc.) in a smaller bag and in doing so, it helped redistribute the weight and is now easier on my shoulder. Also, by putting my phone and wallet in the smaller bag, I don't have to dig around looking for them. And save myself from getting glares from the people in the long line behind me when getting food.

Also, practically all the stores tape their bags closed


All the clothes stores do it and even some convenience stores do it. There were a couple of times when I went to Family Mart (a convenience store that is everywhere) and when I told them I didn't need a bag and they'd put a piece of tape that said Family Mart on it on my water bottle, or whatever I was buying. I understand why now, but I'm still surprised when it happens.

Engrish post of the day:

A great gift for any parent. Not at all inappropriate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 46: Tottori Part III

Within the Tottori prefecture is the city of Sakaiminato, which is the hometown of a famous Japanese manga author, Shigeru Mizuki, his most known work being GeGeGe Kitaro. In Sakaiminato is Mizuki Road, which is a long street filled with shops and restaurants mostly devoted to this manga. Littered throughout the street are statues of each of Mizuki's characters. You can also get a guidebook where you look for stamp stations and collect stamps up and down the streets. If you collect them all, you get a prize.

Anyways, there were a LOT of statues, so I'm just going to post my favorite ones.

Nuri Kabe - It's literally a wall. And quickly became my favorite character of the bunch. :)

Main character Kitaro


He wants a kiss. Pucker up.

Nezumi-Otoko - literally translates to "Mouse Man"

Doesn't he remind you of that monster in Pan's Labyrinth?

This is what I look like during finals week.

It's a mailbox. Cute, huh? :)

Even their taxis are Kitaro-themed. 

There was also a Shigeru Mizuki Museum that we went into. My host  mom got me an English audio guide so I wasn't just mindlessly wandering around not understanding anything. 

Inside, they had a youkai (demon/monster/ghost) garden. The audio guide told me that if I could find all ten youkai lanterns, that something very good will happen to me in the near future. I found them all. I'm waiting, Audio Guide, and will hold you accountable.

They also had costumed GeGeGe characters walking about. 
Saw this dude three times.

This post is brought to you by:


Cute themed toilet signs and Naga-chan who rested in my lap while I typed up this blog post. :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 45: Tottori Part II

The house is empty right now and I have no idea where everyone is. I texted my host mom but no response. How strange. :\

(Edit: Nevermind, I just heard my host brother climbing up the steps.)

Anyhoo, continuing from last post.

After the horseback riding, we arrived at Tottori. I think. There's a river that runs around the town so we rode one of these tour boats.


It was very relaxing and especially nice as the weather was clear and sunny.

The hotel we stayed at was...interesting. It was a cylinder structure and all the rooms were placed on the structure's circumference. And the rooms were filled with huge mirrors. Or the one that my host sister and I were staying in was. And it was strange. There was a huge mirror over one of the beds that thoroughly freaked out my host sister so we took the sheet that was covering the couch and draped it over the mirror. 


And taking off said sheet revealed this stain on the couch. 

Host sister: "That's not...blood, right?"
Me: "No, it's not blood. ...Probably."
Host sister: "EEEEEeeehhhh???"
Me: "I'm joking! I'm joking, it's coffee! Coffee!"

We went to an onsen again that night and there was an interesting difference in quality. The hotel we stayed in Shirahama actually had its own onsen, and it was bigger and felt cleaner. Not to say that this one wasn't clean, but it's like how there's an obvious difference between, let's say, a $30/night motel and $250/night hotel. 
Anyways, next post I'll cover the next day, and the last part of the trip. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 44: Tottori

I came back from Tottori Wednesday night and haven't been able to update since then since the internet has stopped working in my room again. Skipping from Day 38 to 44 since technically it is my 44th day here.

Went to Tottori via car and on the way, we stopped by Mt. Daisen.


You could go up the mountain by chairlift or by climbing it yourself. I of course chose the chairlift. 


On the way down, I saw a ram. Or a goat. I'm not sure which.

I think this mountain area is famous for its goats and cows? Hence, the goat-man. I guess.

Afterward, we went to a small ranch where you can ride horses. A week before, my host mom told me that we were going to go horseback riding and to bring a pair of jeans. I forgot. And wore a dress that day. 

The entire time while I was in line, I kept thinking how in the world I was going to climb onto the horse without flashing everyone there my London and France. So how does one do it? Slowly. And with the luck that I was wearing a flowy dress. And that there was no wind. 


Next post will be Tottori part 2. 


Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 38

The other day I was walking to Juso station when I saw people passing out something at the entrance. I was disappointed when I saw it wasn't tissue packets and they were passing out what looked like cards, so I just walked past them. Later in the day when I was walking out of the station, I saw they were still passing them out. Someone told me that these people normally get paid according to how many they pass out, I felt bad and decided to accept whatever they were handing out. Best decision ever.


I had no idea that they passed these out for free! I was so excited when I found out they were oil blotting sheets. Although in the back of my head, I was thinking, 'Oh, crap,' because I had just bought a packet before. :( What a waste of money. But ohmigosh, I love free stuff! :D

And now I'm constantly on the lookout for more free oil blotting sheets, but so far, I have yet to encounter them again. Boo.

A quick notice: I have school off tomorrow and Wednesday so my host family is taking me to Tottori, a city that's most famous in Japan for its sand dunes, so I'll be MIA for the next two days. Hopefully shall come back with interesting stories. If not, I'll make something up.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 37: Puri Kura

Went to Umeda tonight and did purikura for the first time. Well, first time for me.

I think some people are familiar with purikura. But for those who aren't, purikura is the shortened Japanese pronunciation of print club and refers to a photo sticker booth that is extremely popular with young girls. They are fairly cheap as you can get a set of 16 to 20 stamp size photos for about 400 yen ($4-5) of which you can select frames. clipart, and doodle on. However, purikura isn't restricted to just teenagers as adults can get a kick out of it as well, especially on dates. It's a big part of Japan's popular culture because it's not so much about taking photos as it is a social event with your friends. Many young girls will stick these small pictures on their phones, notebooks, and etc., and some carry photo albums of these tiny photos and will trade and exchange with their friends. I've seen some of these photo albums and they can grow to ridiculous sizes.

I'm pretty sure you can find some older machines in America in the Asian malls, but the machines here are pretty impressive. They're huge and usually are blasting music inside while you take the photos. The machines can transfer the photos onto your phone and select themes varying from hime (princess), mori (forest), and mote (sexy, I think?). The machines will even whiten your skin and make your eyes bigger.


In the first two, I don't think you can tell that much, but I think it's really obvious in these two how the eyes are fixed. Especially in the last one on the right where I look like a fusion of a goldfish and a doll.