Friday, May 29, 2009

Exactly Midway Point (Yesterday)

I can't believe it is halfway over already. Exactly 9 weeks and 3 days left. It is going sooo fast!

I feel like there is so much I still want to do...I can't even start to make a list, but speaking more Japanese is definitely on it. I feel like that is what I am doing the worst in right now. After I get finished with the bulk of my midterms next Thursday, I promised myself I would go shopping and start dressing more Tokyoish. Lol, I only have 2 months left after all!

Japan's Internet Suicide Groups

There was a lecture at Sophia that I attended tonight. "In the Eyes of Others: Self, Society, and Suicide in Japan" given by Chikako Ozawa-de Silva of Emory Univeristy. I probably don't have to point it out, but it was a pretty dark, depressing talk...

Through her research and ethnography of Japan's internet suicide groups she came to three main conclusions:
1. Ordinariness
2. Wish to die in comfort
3. Wish to die with others

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world. But Silva argued that group suicides are different because of the three reasons mentioned above. Annually there are about 32,000 suicides nationwide, but only 100 or so of them are group suicides, so they only constitute a fraction of the overall picture. But it was a place to start researching.

We saw clips from two contemporary movies on this. In "Suicide Club" (I forgot the Japanese name), it documents different group suicides. In the small clip that we saw, Shinjuku train station footage was showed, A huge group of girls were waiting for a train, among other people. I was trying to identify who was going to try to kill themself. It was so haunting though, because the group of girls, who you would otherwise suspect were just coming home from school or something, were actually a suicidal group. They looked happy and were chatting among themselves. But as the train approached, they became silent, held hand (like 20+ of them!), and jumped off the platform. All girls, probably no older than high school aged. The creepiest video footage I have ever seen...seriously....

The other was from an animated series that was entitled "Paranoia Agent." Apparently it aired 8 episodes from February-Marc 2004. It is disturbing in the sense that it is a really light movie, it isn't dark at all. In fact it makes suicide look normal. The series follows an old man, a middle aged man, and sadly a really young girl as they search for a way to end their lives together. It was sad how young the girl seemed and the fact that she seemed normal and happy, but didn't want to live anymore. It took the idea of suicide and their search of different methods so lightly it was creepy.

Probably the saddest point of this all is the fact that these people meet up because of the importance that cultural factors play in the desire of people to kill themselves together. Since Japanese society is very collective, an importance is placed on the self in realation to others. The self that people believe they have is living through the eyes of others. There is a need to share their world with a group of people and others. Their "mother of all fears" is social rejection, to be left out.

So in conforming to the norm, even in their last attempt to end their lives, some Japanese people feel the need of others. A need to be needed by others, in order to give their lives a sense of meaning. Collective suicide is essentially a shared experiance.

It was an equally insightful and depressing event. Definitely a downer on my Friday night. I can't help but to think how sad this is. Silvia read posts that she found on suicide sites. It is troubling because most of the participants are young and they aren't desperate like suicidal people are usually portrayed. They just seem lost or confused. Like one of the people posted, "I don't want to die, I just don't want to live."

After the event I was walking to the train station alone, I am so paranoid of witnessing a train suicide now...

I was just reading the plot of the Suicide Club movie and it creeps the hell out of me. That is exactly the kind of stuff that gives me nightmares...

Oh NO!

I woke up disoriented this morning. My light was still on from last night. I was hot because I was still wearing my jeans and shirt from the day before. I had no idea what time I fell asleep (sometime between 11:45 pm and 1:30 am) or what time it was. My eyes were dried up from wearing my contacts and I felt gross from not taking a shower like I planned to.

Lol I 21 pages into reading a book for class. My plan was to read to the end of the chapter, then take a shower to wake up and finish studying for my midterm.

Instead I heard the church bells ringing signaling it was 8:20…sh*t! I was already late. I had to have left 5 minutes ago in order to catch my 8:22 to get to class in time…I HATE THIS FEELING!

I can’t help but think it’s been forever since I fell asleep studying. I definitely don’t miss waking up like this…I couldn’t afford to miss any more Japanese classes, so I threw on a new pair of clothes and ran to the station. I was 20 minutes late to class. How embarrassing. At least I can say I made it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Somehow I haven't gone shopping since I had the crisis where I couldn't get money out of the ATM. I haven't spent more than $15 on myself since then. Crazy! And since Jenna (Reese's sister) is coming in 3 weeks, Maylee (Seattle friend) will be visiting, and Grant (little brother) will be here in July, I am waiting so I can actually go shopping guilt-free when they get here.

I must say that Shibuya 109 is my favorite mall ever! The stuff there isn't cheap like Harajuku, but I always feel like clothes are worth the investment.

My Favorite Stores!

1. Samantha Thavasa- Despite the name, this is actually a company started and established in Japan. They basically sell bags and really cute purses! Girly, yes. They are considered a half-step down from LV and Coach here, but designer nonetheless.

2. Peach John- Japan's version of Victoria Secret's Pink, except the whole store is devoted to young women. It is very mainstream and they have ads and billboards everywhere.

3. Cecil McBee- My ABSOLUTE favorite store! They always sell cute dresses and shirts. Totally dressed-up Tokyo fashion. Their stuff just looks Japanese to me. Lol.


I am so burnt out right now. I feel like I am cramming for finals, but school is not even close to being finished...This is what I get for slacking off the last two weeks I guess. No doubt that the next couple of weeks are gonna be hell.

I am sooo close to finishing up my senior synth class. It wouldn't be too bad, but SU's quarter ends the same time we have midterms here at Sophia. In other words, I am hit with a lot of major stuff all at the same time.

I haven't slept much for a week, actually I've got less than 6 hrs per night for since last Monday, so exactly a week. Lol, I couldn't will myself to get up today, so I missed Japanese and got 11 hours of sleep last night. I imagine that will be my only break till June 9th when I finish up midterms.

Just finished writing a 10 page paper that will count for the "attendance and participation" part of my grade in that independent study senior synth class.

Now I have 3 midterms looming over my head and my senior synth "social responsibility" project worth 40% of my grade. Thank goodness for Reese, because he is basically putting together the website for my senior synth!

Midterms start Friday for me. Have my "Culture and Identity" midterm that day and a 4 page essay question. This weekend I am going with Wakatake (volunteer group) to Chiba for an overnight trip. After getting all the work, I was debating whether or not to skip out. I could definitely use the two days to get stuff done. But if at all possible I am planning on going. And because of that, next week will be quite ridiculous.

Monday for Japanese have a two chapter grammar test and "role-play" test and take home kanji test. THEN all on Thursday my senior synth project is due, have to turn in Ethnography of Japan's midterm 10 page paper, and have the listening and interview part of my Japanese midterm.

One step at a time. I cannot wait until summer actually starts. I am so jealous of the people who are already on vacation...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weekend Recap

Friday: The Hub with Jocelyn and Kim. Jocelyn and I got there early. Actually too early, as soon as we entered we were told to come back at 5. Right at 5, we opened the bar. Lol. I felt pretty ridiculous. Had J-sized drinks for $2.60-3.10. Right before happy hour was over we waited in line again and ended up having a total of 6 drinks on our table. After went to 3 Coins bar? It was their 6th year anniversary, so the small bar had a dj playing music there. All drinks/food $3. The cooks in the back were smoking as they cooked...A LOT of gaijin there. Idk why. Lots of white middle-aged guys too. For some reason, older white gaijin guys here tend to creep me out.

Saturday: Went to Meguro with Wakatake again today. Played/worked with a guy that was 20 years old. My age. What a huge reality check I get everytime I go there...His mom was so nice and made us homemade onigiris to eat for lunch. He would smile every once in a while and it gave me an overwhelming sense of happiness. He would say things like "ii na", "jouzu ne", and could say "itadakimasu." He could also feed himself, but the pieces had to be cut into unbelievably small sizes and put in his dish one at a time. He could use hashi that were connected (like the version for kids when they are just learning), but if he wasn't watched he would use his hand to scoop it up.

Really realized the senpai kohai dynamics today too. As an "underclassman" another frosh girl and I were obviously given the crap jobs. I resented it at first. It seemed like a personal attack on me. But I just had to keep reminding myself that it was a natural division for people here. It is not something that I am used to. And definitely not something I like or fully comprehend.

Left early to go to church at Tsukiji's English service, but couldn't remember if it was this week or next week and didn't want to risk riding an hour to find out.

Sunday: Went to Sugamo with Travis, Bea, and Clem. It's known as the "grandmas Harajuku" and no doubt the name was properly give. Almost everyone shopping there was over the age of 65. With stores completely filled with grandma print linens, canes, and their famous red grannie panties, it was understandable why almost everyone that got off my train at that stop was old. A lot of street food though, omiyage places, traditional and specialty foods.

The Nail that Sticks Up Gets Hammered Down

As much as I know Japan is a democracy, at times it seems like it is a hybrid of a free, yet tightly controlled society.

No doubt there are people who stick out here. The overly dressed anime girls at Harajuku, an eclectic collection of people who reject the suits and opt for non-traditional jobs, grandmas with dyed hair. But the great majority of people conform. Men of all ages leave nearly at the same time in the mornings dressed for work. Housemoms are always seen getting their kids ready for school and seeing them out the door.

A little room is given for alternatives. There seems to be slight deviation from the norm that is acceptable. But Japanese people tend to stay within the safe limits of what is expected from them. I have not fully identified what that line is, but there are consequences if they overstep the boundaries.

Sunday I went to Sugamo. While I was waiting for Travis and a couple other friends I noticed a guy sitting on the ground right near the entrance to the station. He was wearing a mask that totally covered his head and looked like a rock. It was basically some kind of Halloween mask and had eye holes. The entire time I was waiting he just sat there cross-legged on the ground holding a sign, unfortunately I could not read the kanji. He got curious looks from the grandmas and grandpas walking by. People would stare as they left or entered the station. He waved at kids, but otherwise was totally still and silent.

It couldn't have been 10 minutes before a police officer came over to speak to him. I wasn't close enough to hear what he said, but essentially the college-aged guy had to move outside the station.

I couldn't help but be surprised. I've seen stuff like this happen. Japanese people will tolerate a little deviation from the norm, but when it seems to be too much police immediately step in. There is an overwhelming police presence here. Since crime is so low and Japanese people tend to behave themselves, I feel like there isn't much that the police do besides give directions and control petty things like the guys sitting there with a mask on.

The police are nice, but persistent. They will tell you in the nicest way possible to stop. Dame means no and no questions are asked. When they illustrate it, bringing out the two-fingered x, it is pretty clear. I feel like there are too many police here for the society's own good.

It seems as though the society is so structured it is confining. Kim and her boyfriend Landon missed their bus coming back to Tokyo from Kyoto during Golden Week. With no housing arrangements, they had to stay overnight at the station. Apparently there are only certain places that people are allowed to stay in the station. Ultimately all the people sleeping there were confined to one little area. It seemed interesting. They were free to go anywhere else if they weren't sleeping.

It seems as though the Japanese people are used to this system though. Naturally they don't tend to stand up to authority, they don't question whether or not it is a violation of their freedom of speech. There is a curious balance of self-control, obedience, shame, guaranteed rights, and individualism at work here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

SEP: Worth Watching!

We were at Shibuya Friday night and saw a group performing on one of the busiest corners. Missed most of it, but they have a video online. They're called Session Entertainment Project. The video is pretty long, but if anything start watching halfway thru, that's when they start doing a lot of the solo dancing. Its pretty amazing. The beginning is a little slow, but I promise its worth your time.


Right now I am sitting in my room as rain is pouring down outside. There is periodic lighting and thunder. I really cannot remember the last time I experienced a thunderstorm. Although it rains a lot in Seattle, there never seems to be lightning and thunder, or at least that I remember.

More than anything it reminds me when I used to live at home and on the rare occasions that it did rain in Ontario, my whole family would go outside to sit on our bus stop and listen to the rain. I really don't know why I think of that right away. But I wish I could open my window to hear it better. (My window doesn't have a screen though, and I am still itchy from the last mosquito bites that I got the last time I left it open.) I love listening to the rain. Somehow it is almost meditative,


It seems like it has been forever since I posted. In the four days since my last one, I have had a few significant realizations:

1. I am screwed!: I think it is safe for me to say that I have not had more than 5 hours of sleep for the last 4 nights. Its not like I'm terribly busy, a lot of stuff is just coming down now, and I'm not wiling to make any sacrifices in my social life. So I am still waiting to get a decent night of sleep. I am starting to worry a lot more about my senior synthesis project. I can't believe SU will be finished in two weeks! My synth is due in 11 days. And I totally forgot until a few days ago that I also need to write up a 10 page paper to turn in for my attendance and participation part of my grade...I'm gonna be busy till June 4th.

2. Food/drinks are not as special if you have them everyday: Haha its another one of those genius things I have come to terms with. I have been eating a lot of stuff here that I would never let myself buy on a regular basis under normal circumstances. But since I am in Japan, I figure what the hell. It is a problem if you buy desserts or sugar drinks everyday though. And that is what I have had a tendency to do. It just doesn't taste as good if you are used to having it constantly. I've gone through this with milk tea, chocolate, ice cream. I finally learned...

3. School is not everything, its not even the most important thing: My mom always says, "School is your job." With that in mind I have always taken education very seriously. I have stayed on top of my work. There is so much more than classes though. And I feel like until now I have always missed out a little bit on the rest of it. For the duration of college (minus two quarters) I took 20 credits, overloaded my schedule with an extra class. Even in high school, I was enrolled in courses at the community college each quarter during my senior year. This is one of the few times I have really relaxed and just enjoyed it. I'm pretty much out all weekend now. Go out to drink with my friends Friday, volunteer Saturday, and travel and explore Sunday. It has been really nice. Wish I went out of my way before to do stuff like this.

4. I WON'T be able to do everything: This has been hard for me to accept. There are always things happening, places I want to go, things I want to do. Realistically I won't be able to totally fulfill everything that I want to do. I always feel like if I choose to do one thing, I'll be missing out on something else. I really want to travel to Kyoto, Okinawa, and Korea too. But being rational, I don't have the time or money to afford to do all of that. I think this is kinda the beauty of traveling though. There is no way to go everywhere or do everything, so you always feel the need to go back and the list of places you want to go and things you want to do is always expanding.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

華道部 Kadobu

So stoked, I finally joined the "kadobu" (flower arranging group)! Of all of the clubs/circles, this is the one I wanted to get involved in the most. I couldn't get in touch with the group, but one of the girls in our dorm told me where and when they meet, so I went today.

Kadobu is not to be mistaken with ikebana. Its confusing, but flowers are not put in a vase and it seems as though kadobu uses more of a range of "nature type things." So in their arrangements sticks, leaves, stuff like that complement the flowers.

There were ten of us for the lesson today. Apparently a kadobu teacher comes in every week. She gave instructions entirely in Japanese, but would come over to us individually to help us out with our arrangement. With my elementary Japanese I was able to get by. And somehow I could speak the best of the three exchange students that were there. So lol, they would try to have me translate. Ya, didn't work so well. Haha.

*my creation*

Its amazing how different arrangement can turn out, even when you have exactly the same flowers, same instruction, and everything. Mine ended up looking pretty cluttered. But some of the girls who had been doing it for years looked really good. Even a guy from Europe who has been doing it since last year took it really seriously and fixed his branches for the entire hour and a half.

It was about triangles today. The flowers were positioned in three different heights and in somewhat of a triangle. The longer branches the same. But the two triangles (flower and branch triangles) interestected and thus balanced the whole thing out.

My finished work looks really I'll try harder next time :)

We got finished around 6:45 pm. And I rode a crowded train home, doing the best I could to not get my flowers smashed. It was an unbelievable break from school and the test I have tomorrow. I love flowers and I am so happy to join kadobu :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Thing About Washing Clothes...

I am going to be soo happy to have a dryer when I get back! There's one in the dorm, but no one really uses it. Actually it seems like most Japanese people air dry stuff whenever they can. Its not too bad, but it doesn't work well with my laundry habits.

I tend to save my laundry up until it is absolutely necessary for me to do it (aka run out of underwear or jeans)...this system has been working for me for the last 2 years in the US. In an hour and a half and $1.75 later, my clothes were clean, dry, and ready to fold. Here it is a different story. It costs me $2 just to wash my clothes and a good chunk of time to find places to hang each piece to dry afterward. Today I nearly forgot my laundry in the washing machine. That would have been a disaster.

I do not nearly have enough hangers for the two weeks worth of wet laundry, so I have shirts and pants hanging off nearly ever surface in my room. Occasionally I forget to consider the drying time and end up using my hair dryer to get the moisture off a pair of underwear or something that I need to wear the next day. At that point I feel pretty stupid, lol.

I hate having the feeling that you need to break your clothes in after they have sat out to dry. Jean especially get really stiff. I cannot wait to have a drying machine when I get back home.


Was just talking to Jocelyn today about this. Lol apparently washing machines are an "American thing?!" She lived in Australia and London and said that both places primarily air dry clothes? Didn't know that...haha she said that drying is really bad for the environment. The US is really not as green as we like to think it is.

Swine Flu

The swine flu has infiltrated Japan. It was bound to happen, but of course no one really wanted to finally hear the news. So far the cases have been limited to Japanese high school students in the Kobe area I believe. Maybe Osaka too. Or that's what I've heard.

Everyone also knows that it is inevitable Tokyo will be struck sooner or later. The government takes public health issues VERY VERY seriously. I have heard rumors that when a pig flu case is reported in Tokyo, all the colleges and schools will shut down. It is very likely that they will also suspend public transportation like the trains, buses, and subways as well.

So far Sophia has been very vague with details, but profs have been saying that schools will probably be closed for a week or more. AND that there's a good possibility that we'll hafta make the time up. Finally got an email today from Sophia listing precautions we should take and most importantly "not to panic" lol.

Although I know a lot of people who are looking forward to having a week off of school, I can see this causing a lot of problems. One of my friend's brothers was going to come to Japan next month, but facing a potential quarantine, he may not even attempt to come. I have various friends and family who will be coming to Japan later too, so I really hope that this won't be a problem for them.

And this may seem trivial, but I don't want to have to change my plane ticket home. The last thing I want to do at the end of the trip is pay a fee so I can stay longer and make up lost class time. Yes I am cheap and yes I still want to fly out August 2.

Surprisingly enough I haven't noticed a surge of people wearing face masks or anything like that though. Jocelyn's host mom is insisting that she wear one on the train (although she probably won't). If there is some miracle by which Tokyo can avoid the swine flu, I would be a very happy.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Although I really go through hot and cold phases with Japanese class, I really have loved my two anthro classses. I think anthro is so relevant and interesting. Of course, no chance for a job after college, but an interesting field none the less. Just thought I'd give a short update with school progress and such.

Japanese- Three hours of grammar, kanji, and conversation patters each day is pretty exhausting. I always feel really bad for the prof that comes in second period. Lol the whole class has already sat through and hour and a half of Japanese and gets pretty restless even before the second half starts. Its really hard to focus for that long, BUT I've gotten a lot more used to it than I ever thought I could. I have already learned all the grammar that we have gone over so far, thankfully! I have no idea how other people are keeping up with the speed we're going at. Everything we learn has UNBELIEVABLE relevance though.

Culture and Identity- Such an interesting course to be taught at our university. Considering that most of the students at Sophia come from non-traditional backgrounds (like were educated overseas, travel abroad frequently, are an exchange student, or whatever) this is so thought provoking. We have read a wide range of articles most recently on Japanese fashion designers, the commodification of African culture and African tourism industry. The discussions are so interesting because there are people from all over the world, with various experiences, from various cultures. So interesting.

Ethnography of Japan- The prof is really the one that makes this class great. Although he is American, he has been in the country over 20 years and really knows so much about the culture and contemporary issues. He always is very animated and shares personal examples all the time. We are currently reading Ruth Benedict's book "The Chysanthamum and the Sword" that was written in the WWII period. Talked about gimu and giri (obligations to people who made you who you are and to associates). Went over the significance of gift giving as part of it as well. I feel like I can understand my family more now or at least why they are so concerned with paying for the bill at restaurants and reciprocating. This is probably the least structured class I have ever had. But suprisingly I have been fine with it. Today our prof told us to read chapters 8, 9, 10, and 13 for next class. Everyone groaned. He was like "You guys are all babies! Ok read 8 and 9." The whole class cheered. It was so funny!

I Hate Group Projects!

It is only 7:30 pm and I am exhausted. I realized I forgot to write a Japanese composition last night at 1:30 am, so I didn't get to sleep until nearly 3. It wouldn't be too bad under normal circumstances, but I have a lot of stuff to do this week, early class every morning. I need the sleep, but I also need to get this work done. It is a hard balance.

In the hour and a half I was studying, I also wrote a skit in Japanese. We have "role play tests" periodically and the next one is coming up Thursday. I have a partner and two skits to write and memorize. We split it up so we each did one.

I wrote mine last night, typed it up in Japanese, and printed copies this morning. I gave one copy to my partner and was going to have our prof check the other one.

During the break between the two Japanese classes my partner approached me. We had both written scripts for the same skit. We each thought that the one we wrote it for was our own. He/she was like, "Well...why don't you write YOUR skit (implying I was the only one who didn't know what was going on)." I was pretty shocked and had to have said alright in a really ticked off tone.

Not trying to be bitchy, but I need to get this one down. I've been pretty salty since this morning. He/she left no room for compromise. I really don't mind doing my part, but I feel like we were both at fault in this situation. If it was me and I noticed first, I think I would have first at least offered to write it or at least help out (no matter how much I didn't want to have to do it)...ARRR. I think the problem with working with anyone is that you never know what to expect from them. And I was definitely not expecting this...

Total BS. I looked at what he/she had for the skit. His/hers was handwritten, on the back of a piece of scratch paper, and really just looked thrown together. REALLY?! If anything we should have gone with mine. I hate spending time on stuff like this and having to redo it for no reason.

Just an angry side note. Sorry for ranting.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Inspiration On a Shirt

Bought my brother a shirt today. I won't totally give it away, but i loved the quotes on it.

Conquer Yourself, Conquer the World Later

Be a first rate version of yourself
Not a second rate versiosn of someone else

Trust Yourself!!
Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life

What Do You Think? (Really Please Respond!)

This discussion board post really made me mad!

Idk just wanted to see if it just struck my nerve, or if it seems totally ignorant to others as well.

We are looking at illegal immigrantion in my Culture and Identity anthro class. Just watched a movie entitled "Dirty Pretty Things" on Friday. It is definately not a feel-good movie, but I think it is pretty realistic in the way that it portrays the lives of illegal immigrants. And it is actually a movie, lol not a documentary or anything like that.

Our prof had us respond to it on a class discussion forum. AND I just read this post (postee will remain anonymous):

"I think immigration has been a problem for some time now. People from poor countries are immigrating to "rich"countries in huge numbers and that turns into a big problem as they cannot all find proper jobs and live a normal lifestyle. They are often forced to do dirty works and end up needing to become criminal and steal from others.

I think that "rich" countries should not be obliged to receive immigrants to a certain extend as each country should take care of its own problems before it takes on the problems of others.

I think there are different types of immigrants and that decides how they are accepted. Some really want to do proper jobs and live a good life, learn the host countries language and get used to the customs while others are lazy , do wrong jobs and live in clusters with other people from their country and not accepting the host countries customs and language. The first type is of cause welcomed by the host country while the second is not very pleasant and can become a problem.

Countries can of cause benefit from immigrants. Other countries food, culture and customs are always interesting and can be learned from.

Immigrants face a lot of obstacles, some are unfair but then what in life is fair?"

Idk but that just made me very angry! Maybe I was just raised differently, or it might be because I grew up in a farm community where I actually saw the houses of illegal immigrants, knew what hard lives they had, or whatever. But hearing something like this from someone who is in college and is close to entering the real world scares me. He/she could be the next president, CEO, or whatever in their country. Sometimes I wonder what the world will look like in a few years when our generation is running everything.

So this was my response:

"I think it is unfair that you say that illegal immigrants "often...end up needing to become criminals and steal from others." I feel like that is EXACTLY how immigrants have been stereotyped and portrayed, but actually I do not think that is often the case. I believe that is totally unfair to the immigrant group as a whole. Although it may sometimes occur, it is wrong to think that they are just criminals and the low lives of society.

I also find it interesting that you consider immigrants that live in clusters with people from their own country a negative attribute. I think you have to understand where these people are coming from. They are brand new to the country and sometimes know nothing more than their native language. It is hard to adapt to a new culture and learn a new language, much less try to accept the fact that they will be living in a totally different society and country they may know little about. To consider these people "not very pleasant" and "problems" is ignorant. We as educated people need to try to understand them and their situations before we start classifying and judging them."

REALLY let me know what you think.

Having Too Much Fun: No Time for HW!

Its 11:15 pm and I just got home. And I have yet to seriously look at the homework I have for Monday! OMG weekends go way too fast!

I let myself sleep in today and nearly slept 12 hours last night. It seems like the only time I have to catch up on sleep is on the weekends, yet I hardly can let myself waste the time. There are so many other things that I want to be doing besides sleeping!

I feel bad because I turned down two invites this weekend alone. One last night to go to yakitori and a bar and today to go shopping and out to dinner. Two different friends. Two people let down. I'M SORRY! But I was planning to meet up with Travis today to go to Asakusa again.

Just a few hours after I woke up, I left my dorm to meet him at Shibuya. It was really sad because we got there right as a parade was ending on one of the main streets. Neither of us knew about it. But lol, we got there in time to hear "ありがとうございます!” (thank you for coming) and see everyone who was dressed up in hapi coats. I think it was called hanamatsuri or something like that. Poor Travis was VERY bummed!

While we were walking around, we looked at a few different stores. It is amazing how even the side streets are busy. I love Shibuya, there are just a ton of clothes everywhere. It is great.

After went to Yoyogi park where they were having a "Thai Festival." Basically tons of people, tents selling Thai merch, Thai food, Thai fruits and veggies. Lots of stuff, lots of people. I was so happy because I got to eat pad thai, probably for the first time in 2 months! Yummy yummy. We got it from this stand with women who were obviously ethnically Thai, but spoke Japanese.

Its really interesting how that works out. Like a lot of the kebab places have people from abroad that own the restaurant and serve Japanese people. And there are a lot of black (idk if they are from Africa or are African-American) working at Harajuku. Its pretty crazy to think that they traveled all that way, have settled here, and know the language. Its probably hard to live in a place where you stand out so much and there aren't a lot of people that can identify with your culture.

I also bought a fruit from a stand selling produce from Thailand. Its sad, but I cannot remember what its called. Actually today was the first time I heard of it. But Trav said it was good so I bought a bag. They look like plums on the outside, but have a red skin you have to peel away, the white fruit inside is sooo good. Really delicious! And from what I've heard a lot cheaper here then they would be in the US. Like Travis bought one in Seattle for $3, and I got a bag of 4 for $5 today. So good.

Later we went to Asakusa. Even though the weather was bad and looked like it was about to rain, TONS of people there. ABSOLUTELY TONS! Like it is hard to explain how densely packed the whole area was. It was mainly a lot of waiting around. The main street was closed off for traffic for most of the time, so we were walking on the 4 lane road. Really crazy.

We waited on a corner for one of the major mikoshi to come. Lots and lots of people just waiting. We were on the corner of one street across from the famous huge red lantern (I'm so sad I forgot what it is called in japanese). Anyway, it was funny because Travis pointed out how quiet and patient everyone was. People were standing there I'm sure a lot longer than we were and the volume level was just above a whisper. Really quiet for such a crowd. Waited for probably an hour. It was late.

When it looked like something was coming a bunch of people crowded onto the street. The police were trying to get everyone back. But lol what happen next surprised both me and Travis. A policeman was asking the people in front of us to move back a little more and one old man talked back (actually yelled back to the officer). Travis said he said something like "Well if it came on time we wouldn't still be waiting here." Japanese people around us actually snickered. Very shocking. Lol. The policeman gave up. Haha.

When it finally came, really was a crazy site. The men don't just carry the mikoji, they have the pole on their shoulder and kinda bob up and down so the shrine looks like it is bouncing as it moves. OMG didn't realize how much energy it took. They would switch out in shifts and all of them looked really sweaty. The men who weren't carrying it formed a human circle around the carrying crew. They linked arms and would wobble out or in to keep people from getting too close. Idk if it happned on purpose, but the shrine seemed to drift to one side, pushing people on that side back and then drift to the other, pretty crazy.

It was so hard to see because there were so many people. Both people in matching hapi coats with the shrine and tourists/Japanese people watching. When it came so many phones and cameras were lifted up to take pictures and everyone went on their tipytoes to catch a glimpse. It was very overwhelming. Kinda like what I imagine Time Square is like on New Years Eve. I've only seen crowds like this in Japan. I can tell why there were so many police. It would have been so easy for someone to get trampled.

So not only are people there to watch the mikoji, but after it passes nearly the whole crowd follows it. So it was a swarm of people going after the shrine.

Travis had to explain the whole process to me because I am pretty uninformed on Japanese cultural events like this. Apparently there are shrines for each neighborhood, So it is the people from the neighborhood that coordinate the carrying and determine what the group wears. Also I heard from Travis and Scott that the Yakuza members are allowed to show off their tatooes at some point during the festival. Like that is the only time they are ever actually allowed to. Over the course of two days we didn't see any though. Although today Travis said there were a bunch of "scary looking" Japanese men that were dressed in matching hapis.

Also a shocker was what the guys were wearing. Some had a hapi coat with white pants. Others just had the hapi and a diaper type thing on. Kinda like a speedo, but the bottom half of their butts were exposed. Haha Kim, Candice, and I were laughing about it on Friday. Def not what I was expecting.

We waited again near the Asakusa Shrine. It was another 30 min or so wait. People were lined up in front of the closed shops, on the side streets, really wherever there was room.

Lol I couldn't tell whether it was the same mikoji that we saw earlier, or it it was a different one. Either way it was really close to us. Really close. Like last time, there was a so a float type thing that had women on it playing traditional music. It really set the mood.

After it went by, we followed it just like everyone else. Lol part way though the police blocked off the rest of the crowd right behind us. And once it got to a certain point, everyone had to get off the main street and go a round about way to the actual shrine.

We ate chicken steak there that was ridiculously good. Then went home. And now it is 1:27 am and I really need to sleep...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wakatake Circle

I have finally gotten serious about joining a group. In the US I'm a pretty flaky club member, so I knew it would be hard to stick with them here. Japan is all about having a place in the world, like somewhere you can devote your time to and build relationships. In college, the kids are all about having a club association. It is in no way like American university clubs. Usually Japanese students would only have time for one, as they are quite demanding. Aka the Watakate "circle" (compared to "clubs" supposedly less serious) has lunch meetings twice a week for an hour and activities every Saturday from 10 am-6 pm.

I origionally wanted to join the kadoubu circle, flower arranging, but when that fell through, I went soul searching. I stumbled upon a few volunteer groups and found one with a really long English explanation. Went to their club room in the ghettoest building on campus, was welcomed when I was reading their meeting sign, and have been going to meetings ever since.

Today was the first day I went to their main activity on Saturday. Everything is very structured. It seemed weird to be weird that it was so planned out, after all we were just gonna "play with disabled kids." The meetings take place entirely in Japanese and of course they are talking at conversation speed, so someone updated me with the info. Mainly: don't wear accessories, tie your hair back, and you'll be barefoot in the classroom so you don't slip when you are lifting or carrying the kids. Maybe this is going to be a little more involved then I thought.

We all met at Meguro station at 10 am. Killer to wake up! And walked together to the elementary school. It wasn't until on the way to the elementary school that I got the details. The girl I was paired up with is in a wheelchair, a junior in high school, and can't talk. Ok this is going to be a lot different than I thought.

We got there, set up, and waited to greet the kids. After getting over the shock value that they were all in various stages of mental retardation, I did my best to deal and help out as much as I could. I don't discriminate based on stuff like that, but I am always uncomfortable around special needs cases I guess. You just don't know what to expect, and you don't really know what to do.

Despite my shock and suprise, it turned out to be such a rewarding experiance. I almost cried probably 4 or 5 times throughout the day.

Before today I never really placed a face on the families before. The girl my group worked with today was brought to the elementary school by her mom. Her mom was really pretty and actually looked like one of my friend's moms. Very well dressed and I found out later that their family would be considered to be in the highest tier on the kanemochi scale (rich people). All the parents that came to drop their kids off and pick them up just seemed so happy, very social, very optimistic. I am sure the kids are so hard to take care of, but it seemed as though all of them were doing such good jobs. I was very impressed and very humbled.

During the course of the day in groups of four or five, we fed the kids we were working with lunch that their parents brought. Our girl's mom bought our group onigiris and dessert. So nice. We talked to them, changed their diapers (not something I was expecting to have to do), worked on a craft together, did a little physical activity, and "played." At various points we'd have little meetings where we would introduce each disabled child and cheer for them.

During one of those times, we gave each disabled student a chance to respond. Most don't really respond, or aren't responsive at all. But sometimes they will lift their head or move a finger or something. During one of those times, we were waiting for a little boy to respond. He like most of the kids was severely retarded, had to be strapped into the wheel chair so he didn't fall out. Probably the least disabled of all the kids was sitting right next to him. He had down syndrome, but could talk and comprehend. He was sitting right next to the other boy and reached out and held his hand. It was one of the most touching things I've seen in my life.

The parents came to pick their kids up at 4 pm. We went out to help load them in. It was then that I realized right next to the school a little league and soccer team was practicing. Little kids, really cute, very capable. I was just thinking to myself, life is so unfair. Their school is right next to the disabled school. They are so close, yet so far apart. How did they turn out so different?

We went back inside to have a meeting before we were finished. I could see the same young boy who we waited for his response earlier. He was out in the garden with his dad. He just turned 10 years old today and we sang him happy birthday. It was so touching because the dad was just sitting in front of his sons wheelchair talking to him. I'm sure he was probably just as unresponsive as before, but the pair were there outside the window for a long time. Just father and son. I suppose just like it would be in any family situation.

I realized today the love of parents. Unconditional, unfaltering love and concern. Parents of disabled children impress me the most. They know they will never really have the chance to watch their kids grow up, go to dances, get married, take care of them when they are old. They will probably worry about their kids everyday of their lives and plan for them for when the guardians pass away. They have a mountain of challenges each day for feeding, changing, and carrying for their babies, who will never grow out of it.

Yet today I realized that they are able to love the kids exactly the way they are. Whether they cannot express themselves, speak, or even hold their heads up, The parents are able to love and accept them. No hard feelings, no regrets. Just moving forward one day at a time. Occasionally getting help and leaning on one another for support.

This Saturday was demanding, challenging, and eye-opening. Today was more rewarding than I would have ever expected. I learned a lot about myself and I learned what it takes to be a good parent. Unconditional love, no matter what the circumstances.


Weeks go by so fast here.

A huge festival started yesterday in Asakusa. It is the one where the guys are carrying the huge gold-like shrines. Even though we missed the big parade because of class, Travis, Scott, Kim, Candice, and I met up to eat dinner and check it out. A lot of the shops at Asakusa were already closing when we first got there, but there were more street vendors there then I have ever seen! It is so crazy how the norm here is yakisoba, takoyaki, seafood, ramen, okonomiyaki, choco bananna, candied fruits, and alcohol! So good and yummy.

I ate a bunch of dessert stuff and a big fried bread thing filled with gyoza meat. It was not as good as it looked, but really popular and different.

We didn’t stay there that long, but did try to win goldfish. It was 300 yen per scooper. They were the carnival style ones, a plastic circle with paper in the center. You get as many goldfish as you can scoop up before the circle totally breakes. Really really hard. I got one, but Travis couldn’t get any. The guy running the stand gave him a trophy one though. Lol must have felt bad. Later Candice and Scott had a competition. Candice got two and Scott zero. Candice traded hers in for a prettier one and Scott got a really ugly fat fish for trying ☺

After all of us girls went with Travis to Shibuya to meet up with his friends at a standing bar. All of the food and drink was only 300 yen ($3). I had one of the strongest drinks of my life there. Gin and ginger ale, super strong, really cheap. I was tipsy off that one. Crazy!

Met a lot of exchange and Japanese students there. All of them were from Aoyama. Lol the white exchange students would speak to us in Japanese, had no idea that our native language was English. It was pretty funny. I guess because Kim, Candice, and I are Japanese, they just figured we were from there. Really unexpected.

Of course we left late enough that we were walking fast to catch our train/subway back. It was absolutely the most squished I’ve been on a train ever. I’m glad we had all drank before, otherwise it would have been totally unbearable.

Meeting new people, hanging out with old friends, trying to speak Japanese, eating good festival food, going places, and drinking…it doesn’t get much better than this.

Sleep Update

Not only did I sleep at 9 pm, but I didn't wake up till 7:30 am the next morning. Didn't really have time to finish my homework or totally study for my quiz...

BUT since then I have been in a substantially happier and more social mood. Maybe all I need it just a little more sleep.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Need Sleep :(

Somehow my sleep schedule is totally off right now. It is only 8 pm and I am considering sleeping now and waking up early to do my homework. I am so exhausted, but I guess the weekend is around the corner.

I'm trying to figure out why I am so sleepy now. I guess I went to sleep late Sunday and Monday night. Like not ridiculously late, but porbably only got 6 hrs of sleep a night. Tuesday I took a fat nap from 6-9pm and couldn't go to sleep until 4 am Wednesday morning. In other words, I only slept 3 hours Tuesday night.

SOMEHOW (I really don't know how!) I woke up at 7:30 that morning and went to both my classes.
(Lol you should be proud of me mom! I'm not wasting the money you're spending on tuition :))

So of course, I was exhausted Wednesday and had to take a 2 hr nap that day too. And now its Thursday night, and its pretty much guaranteed that I will sleep before 9 tonight. Goodnight, I'm off to bed :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Saikyo Sen: Train Suicide?

It is so crazy that I actually forgot about this until now. I ride the Saikyo line everyday to school. Its a really major one that runs through most of the big Tokyo stops (Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya). I have to transfer to the Saikyo at Akabane. A ton of people take it, so there are always lines and even crowds of people waiting to climb the stairs to get to the platform.

Today there was a mass of people waiting at the bottom of the stairs that go up to the platform. No one was going up. It was blocked off. The time schedule was blank for the Saikyo going both directions. It looked like no one knew what was going on. Very odd.

I was so lucky because I was with a French guy from my dorm. Thank goodness for him because he knew another route we could go and still get to school. We were a couple minutes late, but I was just happy I made it in time to take the quiz.

Now I am beginning to think that I barely missed witnessing a train suicide. There is a really good chance that an accident happened before we got there on the very line and at the very station that we were at. There would be no other reason for them to completely stop all the Saikyo trains AND not even let people up the the platform.

At the same time, a lot of the media portrayal and common belief here is that train suicides are an "inconvenience" and not so much of a human tragedy. I might have mentioned before, but the JR company that runs a lot of stations is starting to fine the families of people who commit suicides at train stations. Not only does that seem rather harsh to me, but it also seems to show a total disrespect for the life lost and the family grieving. I don't think I'll ever fully understand suicides, but I have certainly had a lot more exposure to the problem since I've been here.


One of the best things about Sophia and taking classes here has been my schedule. Even though I have a first period class every morning and a daily dose of three-hours of Japanese, I get finished at 3 pm. AND Wednesdays I don't have class after lunch! In fact the whole Faculty of Liberal Arts department, that all the exchange students and some Japanese are in, has every Wednesday afternoon off.

It has been the best way to get over hump day and it has made my weeks go so much faster. I <3 Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I really don't know what I've been doing with my time the last two days. For some reason I have lost my productive drive and urgency to always do something. With that said, I feel like I have spent a lot of the time I would otherwise consider "wasted" just thinking. I usually don't have time to just think. Lol before now I would have probably would have considered all the better ways to use my time. But I guess I can start to understand how some people can just sit, daydream, and spend countless hours caught up in their own thoughts.

The shower rooms were switched again today. It is amazing what a difference water pressure makes. Rain baths v. showers. I've had two showers since then and I cannot get over how happy I am to have it. Its something I would have never thought twice about before. I never even thought about water pressure. Its one of those trivial things that we take for granted. We don't really appreciate it until for whatever reason it doesn't come through.

I feel like a lot of life is like this. You never recognize how good it is until something goes wrong. I never realized how financially stress-free my life is till I couldn't get money from the atm. I didn't really truly appreciate my family until I moved away for college. I didn't realize how much friends mean to me until I was all alone and without them. Sometimes it even takes us a death of a loved one for us to really value and cherish our lives.

For me, I wish I could recognize all the small things that I always take for granted. Like water pressure. Like the availability of clean drinking water. Having reliable health care. Government and law enforcement that is not corrupt. Idk. There are so many examples, but again, it is my inability to actually recognize them.

When you recognize the causes and conditions that have brought your life and current situation into being, even the bad times are never as bad as you think they are. There is an overwhelming amount of good in every bad. With this realization and appreciation, there really is never any reason to be sad. There are a million reasons for us to be thankful everyday in every situation.

Expiration Dates

I noticed that a lot of the expiration dates are a lot shorter than I would assume to see in the US. For instance, it seems as though the shelf-life of products in grocery stores are significantly different, like almost all seem like they are fast approaching. Even with omiyage gifts that I have bought.

Earlier when Travis and I went to Ueno park, during hanami, we bought a packaged jelly that has a cherry blossom flower in it. Really cute. The expiration was only two months out! At that point we knew we had to send a box home right away. Also at the sumo match, I bought some souvenir-style cookies. I didn't realize till afterward, but they expire next month! Not what I was expecting for sure...

I wonder if the products here are less processed. Or that the population just demands fresher foodstuffs?

I do like the idea that most Japanese go grocery shopping on a daily basis to buy just what they need for the day. I think that's a lot different then the American concept of making grocery lists and buying a week's worth of food and ingredients at a time. To be more specific, it is the Japanese housewives. Every time I have gone to a grocery store, its always women who are the ones shopping. It is rare, very rare, to see Japanese men picking up anything besides bentos there. Its really nice to have fresh really fresh vegetables and meat at every meal. I think it is mainly the time and inconvenience factor that dissuades Americans from going this route.

Since I've been here, I've been trying to buy groceries on a daily basis, instead of buying weekly and stockpiling them. Really, I think you almost have to. The portion sizes they sell here are significantly smaller. They are meal sized, definitely not "family sized." I do miss the value of Costco's huge bags of frozen chicken breasts though. I think the reorientation of my grocery shopping has almost been a lifestyle change.

Starting to Get Sticky

Haha I was going to write this and just realized that Travis just blogged about it. Well its worth mentioning again.

The humidity is definitely starting to come around. Ever since it stopped raining, the temperature has risen quite quickly. I love not having to wear a coat when I go out at night. But I can tell it is gonna get nasty really soon. Sticky, yucky.

Today was 76 degrees F. I still can not do the metric conversion. Lol, I feel so stupid when everyone else can use kg, degrees C, m, etc. Its too bad that number one, I don't know the metric system, and number two that I cannot convert anything. I rode the train with an exchange student from France this morning. We were talking about a hike he did in Korea and he said the distance in meters. Lol, since I didn't know how far a meter is, he converted it for me. I just felt ridiculous. He knows that there are 1.6 (CORRECTION!) kilometers in a mile. Wow, am I behind the curve or what?!

Anyway. Humidty is at 64% today. Not too bad, but then again it is overcast today, and its not that hot yet...Since yesterday I constantly have the feeling that I need to shower. I just feel gross and I swear I look sticky.

The high point is that all the classrooms that I know of at Sophia are air conditioned. And my dorm room has ac too.

I'm sure nothing will be as bad as the last time I was in Japan. My junior summer of high school I was in Osaka for a week in the middle of July. I stayed with a host family. It was really great, except for the fact that they only had air conditioning in their living room. All the bedrooms were on the second floor. The heat and humidity was what I remember most from that experience. Sweating every night under the covers is absolutely awful.

I have faith that this time around won't be that bad. However it is the crowded train ride commutes in 100% humidity in the middle of summer that I'm dreading the most...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Side Note

Lol in class today my prof was talking about our annodated bibliography assignment again. He was trying to make the point that we are not necesarily writing a report on the topic, but are focused on looking on how it is represented and portrayed by the media and other groups.

Someone was talking about blogs. He said something to the effect of, "Some people think that blogs are the method through which people who are communication retarded try to convey their feelings and thoughts." He said that's an actual argument.

Ouch. Lol, I hope that's not a reflection of me personally...

Recent Notes

More reminders
-grocery store shopping (sushi, sashimi, sales)
-amazon japan...
-work ethic (v. America, mcdonalds)
-siri lankan (usb comp, engineer)


Lol went to a sumo match with Jocelyn and Kim on Sunday. The stadium had the most tourists I have seen confined in a single area. I guess it is one of those quintessentially Japanese things to do here. I guess that's part of the reason we wanted to go so bad too. As much as I hate to admit it, we are just as bad as the rest of the gaijin here. Haha.

We bought souvenirs and ate chanko, a soup like dish that the sumos eat. And took a lot of pictures...(I really need to buy a cord so I can start uploading all my pics...) The days events started at 8 am, but thankfully we decided not to show up till 1ish. All the junk matches are at the beginning and get progressively better as the day rolls on.

Basically we didn't know what the heck was going on till the very end. And we didn't know any of the sumos till we learned their names through the souvenirs we bought. We cheered for Kim's "shirt guy" and my postcard sumos. Lol they are supposed to be the best two. Good thing I bought the postcards, lol otherwise we would have had no idea. And we read about a Bulgarian guy that was featured in the English pamphlet.

There were actually a fair number of white sumos. We would try to figure out if they were Japanese or white when they came out. Some were hard to tell. Consider that we were in the second highest section. AND our tickets were $50! I cannot even imagine how expensive the seats close on the first level were... haha but anyway, Jocelyn would be like, "Ok, he has chest hair. Def a white guy!" Lol the funniest test of race ever!

The nice thing is that the sumos are so big, really easy to see, even from the second level. Its nothing like a baseball game. Def get to see all the action. Haha sounds kinda obvious, but it made a big difference!

The matches went really fast. At the beginning the two competitors would enter the ring and banners of their sponsors were brought out. One of them was sponsored by the big ochasuke brand (lol I don't know the name, but I could recognize the packaging) and later someone was sponsored by McDonalds!

Most of the time was spent in preparing, kinda like how baseball players do a routine before they face a pitcher. They would slap themselves, drink water, spit it out, kinda flour their hands up (like with stuff rock climbers use I think), throw salt, enter the ring, and if they thought it appropriate step away and do it again. They seemed to have an unlimited amount of time to start. Some sumos would back out multiple times before they actually started. I think they would back out to kinda psych the other one out. Idk for sure though. None of us knew the rules :)

It was interesting because there was a featured article on the Bulgarian in the handout, like I said earlier. Apparently he beat a grand master champion a few years ago and that's when he really got famous. We were talking and were like, "I wonder what the Japanese think about him?" Its like getting beat at your own game. There was a lot of commotion before his match. He lost pretty quickly and the crowed cheered a lot. It seemed as though the crowd was definitely not for him in that match. I think for the Japanese people there was some satisfaction in seeing him loose to a Japanese sumo. Or at least I would assume so.

Kim and Jocelyn were rooting for him and after the day was finished we asked Landon if he was too. He said definitely not, he was going for the Japanese guy. I'm pretty biased in this case. Lol I like to think that Japanese people have superiority of genetics or whatever for stuff like this. Of course I know its not true. But for some reason I still seem to think stuff like that. Lol it makes me laugh.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I believe this is one of the first times I have legitimately been homesick. Usually I miss certain things whenever I travel or move, but I really have never missed home this much. Even when I was in India for a month, or when I first moved to Seattle to go to school, I never have missed anything as much as I miss Seattle and all of my friends there. Even in such a big city as Tokyo, with all the people it has, I can be lonely. That's amazing and sad all at the same time.

Its not like I haven't made friends here or haven't been going out. In fact I just got back from a sumo tournament that I went to with two of the girls I've grown closest to. But I think it is the fact that I know I am going home to an empty room and that I will be by myself for the entire night that kills me. Walking home all alone, from the station has been the hardest part of living here.

Even though I didn't spend tons of time with the girls in Seattle, we always had dinners and parties, always had chances to catch up. I lived with Megan, so we would cook and talk on a regular basis. I miss knowing I could call them. Having the ability to meet up when our schedules permitted. Knowing they were nearby, knowing that I could count on them if something came up. Now the distance doesn't allow for the small comforts like that.

I have no idea how I used to think I could live by myself. At the end of my freshman year, I wanted nothing more than a one-bedroom apartment. I'm glad it didn't work out. I would have got so lonely.

Maybe its because I am so used to cooking for me and Reese. Used to studying together. Never had to worry about being by myself. Maybe that is why I am the way I am now. Or maybe he just helped me realize the part of me that needs interaction, that thrives on close friendships.

While some people fear death, I am most afraid of being alone. Losing my family, my friends. I cannot imagine anything worse than that. Realized this about myself a few years ago. I haven't really thought about it much until now. I don't think it's something I can necessarily get over, but its worth confronting. Especially now.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thinking in Japanese

Last night when I was lying in bed trying to sleep, I was going over conversations I've had in Japanese. My memory is terrible, so I have no idea how I even remembered them, much less why I was thinking about it at 2 am. Either way, by some miracle, I actually was recalling entire sentences I've said in Japanese within the last couple of days.

Most of them where grammatically incorrect and/or included English that I had to add for the inability to think of what I wanted to say in Japanese. I found myself correcting the sentences or trying to figure out how I could have said them better. I really don't think there is much I can express in Japanese, but really this reflection has started to persuade me otherwise. But it still takes me a while and some deep mental searching.

If you talk to me live in Japanese, it still doesn't come out very well. But whether I realize it or not, I'll be reviewing it in my head for the next time.

The Coolest Thing I've Bought Yet!

Recently I haven't spent that much money. LOL instead I'm saving it for when Grant and Jenna get here. But over golden week I bought on of my favorite items yet. I don't know what its called it Japanese, but it is essentially a sandwich maker.

If you've ever seen Japanese sandwiches you will realize the following:
1. they are crustless AND
2. each edge of the sandwich is sealed

They are kinda like a sandwich-version of pop tarts. Really convenient, compact, and mess free. None of the fillings will fall out and you don't have the eat the crust.

I always wondered how they were made. Little did I know there are plastic squares that you can buy. The best $9 I've ever spent!


I've been studying ALL DAY...I am pretty over it right now. I have plans tomorrow and a two chapter test and "role play" test for Japanese Monday. So instead of going anywhere, I have been slaving away in my room. It was raining for nearly four days straight during golden of course today was really sunny and the weather looked great outside. *sigh*

What a sad weekend I've had so far. Friday night I was working on my senior synth project. And all day today studying for Japanese. I know it will probably be like this until I finish up my class at SU next month. I have a good amount of work to do before then.

Realized today that I study probably the worst way possible for Japanese. We always have daily homework that I try to finish as fast as possible. I never read the grammar notes that we are supposed to for class. AND I don't really review anything until it comes to preparing for tests. Lol, it may be an okay way to pass, but this isn't the best way to actually learn anything. This may explain why a lot of the Japanese hasn't stuck with me. After the test, I am going to attempt to change my study habits, but I know its gonna be hard.

For the last 15 years, I have measured my academic success on grades, rather than the amount of material I learned. Its a sad realization I have come to in my last term taking classes. In some ways I see how the school system's reliance on grades breeds mindsets like mine. And if we were to rate my performance in terms of grades, I have done well. I was never the type of person to skip class all the time and I almost always finish the entirety of assigned readings (no matter how boring they are). But realistically, how much do I remember? Sadly, not much. Scholastic information was stored in the short-term section of my memory and always mentally disposed of at the end of each quarter.

Finally, and its about time, I can admit I like classes. I have never been a person who was thrilled to go to school. But I have recently begun to appreciate learning (of course it depends heavily on the subject and professor!) Some people love computers, math, or sciences. For me it's always been about humanities. Its not a field that will is going to make you a lot of money, but I figure you might as well pursue what you enjoy. Between international studies and journalism, I have truly loved some of the classes I've had thus far. Currently with my anthro classes here, I enjoy the readings and even look forward to lectures.

Its easy to get bogged down with all the hw and assignments. But its an opportunity to EVEN have the chance to go to school, much less college. This is something I need to remind myself more. There is no excuse for studying half-heartedly. Education is not something to be taken for granted and it should not be wasted.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Loose Pants

Lol today I realized all of my jeans are really loose. Like I probably haven't been this skinny since freshman year. I've been kinda strict with what I let myself eat. But then again, I don't think its any different than Seattle. I think the main difference is the walking. Oh and portion sizes. My goal is to keep this up so I HAVE to buy new jeans when I get back. LOL.

I really don't eat nearly as many veggies and fruits here. They are pretty expensive, so I have a hard time spending the money on them. Really it makes me laugh. Cooking dinner is always pretty funny. I swear I can eat a ridiculous amount of French toast. I've probably made that the most. It really is my favorite breakfast/easy meal. I've made fried rice a lot too and gyoza. Tarako spaghetti once and karage chicken a couple of times. I still have yet to buy fish from the small fish market. Maybe next week and get some yakitori on the way home from the station.

I love the noodles here, so haven't really craved much American food. If anything I probably miss pad thai the most. I am also starting to crave barbeque food, like cheeseburgers, corn on the cob. I am definitely gonna plan a bbq get-together when I get back. We don't have an oven at the dorm either (weird huh?) so I miss baking. CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! haha

Lots to Think About...

I am finally realizing now that this will be my last term actually taking classes. When I get back to Seattle (granted all the credits transfer and everything) I have to do a journalism internship for credit fall quarter, then that's it...pretty crazy. I still can't wrap my mind around that.

I don't think I'm ready to graduate yet. I still don't feel like I'm old/mature enough to enter the real world. Lol I would much prefer living off my parents for a few more years if that is alright with them :)

I've put in a couple of good days of work on my senior synthesis. Hard to believe this is it. Wrote 5 news stories, 11 pages. Still have 3 or so articles left to go, plus putting together the website. Its not that close to being done yet, but at least it seems less daunting now. Its really too bad I have to do it from abroad. But since it means I don't have to stick around for two more quarters, I am happy to do it now, even in Japan...

Wow this is literally it. Two and a half more months in a classroom and I'm finished...

There are some big choices to come. I hate to admit it, but I'm pretty scared.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

弟 (Little Brother)

Lol just found out my little brother got accepted to the BCA youth exchange this summer. He will be coming to Japan in July to tour our mother-temple in Kyoto and do other cultural/religious stuff. Lol he'll either be coming up early or staying later. HAHA i get to show my little brother Tokyo!

This should be fun. I hope he has finished growing his hair out for locks of and got it cut so he doesn't look like a total scrub. Maybe Japan will teach him how to dress too. Lol, just joking. No but really...

May 7th: 2nd Year Anniversary

Today is May 7th. Reese and my 2nd year anniversary. Like Reese said this will probably be the most unconventional anniversary we have. Or at least I hope so. Talked on skype for nearly 3 hours today. Its still not the same as being there in person though.

Its really sad when you can't be together on occasions like this. Thousands of miles across the ocean, with a 17 hour time difference, and haven't actually seen him for over 6 weeks, I knew from the beginning it wouldn't be the best time to celebrate.

I really give props to the couples who manage to work a long distance relationship. Its a hard way to do it and not really my style, or Reese's either, I think. But at the same time I think the distance and time apart makes you appreciate the other person more. I try not to bring up Reese's name all the time (afterall what is more annoying than someone who talks about their significant other constantly?) But I notice Travis always says things like, "Reese would love this..." or "That's Reese's favorite..." stuff like that. I think no matter where you are there are always things that remind you about the people you care about.

What makes today more special than tomorrow or yesterday? I think it is memories. Identifying a day when it all started makes it feel more real for people. Kind of like birthdays. Each year, half year, or month, you can track the progress. Look back on where you were and see how far you have come.

However, I don't think that time really shows that much for relationships. People can be together for years and then break up or get a divorce. I wouldn't necessarily say longer is better like many would argue. I think being together for a long time shows commitment, but isn't necessarily a gauge for how close the couple is or how much they love each other or whatever.

Its hard for someone on the outside to judge or measure another person's relationship. Sure you can see how they act together, ask how long they have been a couple, take observations, interview each person. But really no matter how hard you try, there is really no way of knowing how they feel for each other. It is a very personal thing, a mutual understanding, something that people on the outside have no way of comprehending or fully grasping.

So as long as two years might seem, I really do not believe that time is something you can brag about in relationships. And love is something you cannot explain to others. I guess its really just between us, me and Reese. Two is just a number and today is just another day. Special to us, but why I don't really know.

Day with Yukari

Today I met up with Yukari, one of my Japanese friends. We met at a GL lunch chat session. She is really sweet and speaks unbelievable English. On her suggestion we went to Sunshine City mall at Ikebukuro. In the mall they have a place called Namja. Its really hard to explain, but basically you pay a few dollars and you get to enter the establishment.

It is kind of like a theme park in that the decorations and set up are portraying like an "old Japan." Idk what Namja is exactly, but there were samurai dressed animated looking cats that I believe are their mascot/trademark. Yukari said that the Namja at Ikebukuro is the only one, its not a chain. There were a lot of kids there but also a lot of couples and young people. Apparently Ikebukuro is really popular with young adults. Even though it is a stop on my way home from school, this is the first time I have gone outside the station. Lol.

I don't know exactly home many floors Namja was, but it seemed like it had to be at least 3 or 4. Each floor had some specialty on it. One had multiple gyoza stands. The room was set up to mimick a crowded street filled with street vendors and it surprisingly looked the part. Little stores lined the zig-zagging street. And every place had various versions of gyoza with different fillings, gyoza in soup, oily ones, non-oily ones, basically every kind you could imagine. We ate at the one that was the first to establish itself there. There was a little grandma who was welcoming people to the stand. Her picture was everywhere around the booth, so we assumed she was the owner. We chose their best selling gyoza and it was delicious :)

The next floor had an ice cream museum. A ton of weird and strange flavors. They came in really small dixie cup sized pre-packaged dishes. For between $3-5 you could buy ones that tasted like nori, wasabi, tako (octopus), sakura, azuki, an unbelievable assortment. There had to have been at least 100 different flavors. Further in there were shops that sold ice cream from various parts of the world. Italian gelato, Belgium, Hong Kong, soft cream, and Hokkaido ice creams. We went with Hokkaido, which was like soft serve in a crepe. Really really good. I cannot get enough of the ice cream they have here.

There was another area with desserts like cakes and various other sweets that we had to pass up. Also a floor with services like massage and other beauty related sorts. However, we did stop at the arcade. The prizes they have are so cute, but nearly impossible to win. Disappointing but to be expected.

We spent the rest of the day walking around the mall and eating/chatting at McDonalds. The service at McDonalds here is really fantastic. The place was crowded so one of the employees found us a table, another person was clearing people's trays for them, and yet another was directing customers to the shortest line at the counter when they were ordering. McDonalds is much more hip and clean here then it will ever be in the US.

Learned a lot about Yukari and Japan in general today. She is really quite amazing. She has studied in California and Australia. Her dad lives more then half the year in Hong Kong, due to his job at an international company. So she has also visited him there and traveled to China and Korea. She's gone to private Catholic school her whole life. Furthermore Yukari will be studying at a language school in Vancouver during summer break. People here amaze me. And it is great to have a Japanese informant.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I realized every time I go downstairs to cook in our community kitchen I am grumpy. Maybe its because I've been in front of my computer all day working on my senior synth. Or maybe its the fact that I haven't gotten dressed and that I'm just not that happy with how I look. Or it could be that I would rather just have a private kitchen and not have to deal. Or some combination of the above plus more...

I can be a pretty big homebody. Especially on days like this, where it is raining so hard there is no way you will go outside. And you have so much to do there really is no chance for much more than a few minute break on facebook. I've pretty much been staring at my computer screen for the last 7 hours straight. I hate how you see the day changing right in front of you and you don't have much more to show for than a few digital pages of work and a bunch of notes. Now its nearly 10:30 pm and I'm wondering where the day went. Still have stuff to do...

I just realized while I was cooking today that I always dread going down to the kitchen. I don't know what it is. I pretty much have something to do whenever I am hungry, so maybe its the feeling of wasting time. There are days I would rather not have to worry or think about speaking Japanese. And as sad as it might sound, there are also days that I would rather sit alone, be by myself, and not have to worry about making small talk and being friendly. Lol that sounds to emo. But a lot of days I wish I had a lot more privacy here than I actually have.

I feel bad for all the people who have to put up with me in the kitchen though. Today I was feeling the worst for them. Its not like I see a lot of people in my dorm on a regular basis, but I can only imagine what they think of me if they only run into me while I'm trying to cook and not be bothered. I wish I could apologize for my behavior. Its really not who I am, tomorrow on I'll be a happy kitchen mate. I'm gonna try harder to make life better for everyone in the kitchen. LOL


Walking back from the club, I got a huge reality check. Inside the subway station there were upwards of five homeless men who were arranging cardboard to sleep on. Some were just lying on the ground next to the stores in the station. It was one of the saddest things I have seen yet. They didn't have bags of their possessions or anything. Just sleeping, their heads tucked inside their jackets, lying on the hard tile. People in the station, on their way home, didn't look twice at them. It was such a sharp contrast. Men and women dressed up from their night out with friends or families walking right past their opposites impoverished men who are all alone and have no where else to sleep but the station.

The homelessness was not something I thought I would have to deal with. I know housing is expensive here, but I think it has been so shocking because the city seems so rich. Tokyo is one of the most expensive places anyone can live. The rarity of actually seeing homeless people probably magnifies how bad I feel every time I see someone in that stage in their life. Its like the opposite of India for me. Instead of seeing so many poor and homeless people on a regular basis that I got hardened to it, the sharp sharp contrast of rich v. poor here is unbelievable.

Riding the train over a bridge one day, Travis and I saw a collection of shacks right near a river. Small one room, built from left over metal and everything. Plus they were right next to a baseball field where a little league was playing. While the little boys practiced, the people living there were hanging up their laundry. Every once in a while, I see people resting or sleeping at Shibuya. Just 5 minutes from my favorite high end mall. Like Shibuya is one of the Tokyo's fashion capitals. So much wealth all over and yet some people are sleeping on the ground. Its a sad sight.

I always wondered if it is more downgrading to be homeless in a rich country rather than no that is not as developed. For instanced India, where a great majority of the country would be classified as working-poor and a huge number are homeless or live in slums, verses Japan, who it developed, technologically advanced, and a great majority of their population is at least in the middle class category. I'm sure they are used to being homeless wherever they are, they probably don't know any more than the extent of their circumstances allows. But I'm sure the demographics and population of the area around them has to affect how they think of themselves and their situation.

You always wish there is something you can do. It must be such a hard life.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Club A-Life

I wonder if the name at all corresponds with the NY urban brand A-life? Regardless it was one of the best nights I have had yet. Aska invited me to a party hosted by a group called Zero. It a bunch of Sophia and Waseda college students who throw parties. From what I understand they rent out the clubs then organize bashes. They even have a bunch of sponsors. Aska said they are the best party people, so I decided early to go.

Advanced tickets were half the price, so Jocelyn and I decided to go with those. Only problem is that you have to get them directly from a Zero member. Aska's friend forgot the tickets the day before, so we were put on the waiting list. It is a pretty exclusive thing, the night of I had to say "Zero, no bob, no guest desu" as confirmation? I don't know exactly what it was for, but it got us in for $20.

We got there around 7pm and the party started at 4. So a good number of the people in there were already drunk. I was actually amazed how many people were there considering it was so early. The dj altered between trance/techno and American hip-hop every half hour or so. We were both surprised at both the turn out and atmosphere.

The demographics were good. I would say all of the people there were college students. Pretty much everyone knew most of the other people there. Nearly everyone was Japanese. But since most of them were educated in international schools, they switched easily between speaking in Japanese and English, although Japanese was primarily spoken. It was also one of the best dressed clubs I have been in. None of the girls were wearing anything particularly skanky. Actually I really liked the dresses, shirts, and outfits that they had on. Its def different from the US in a good way. I like how you don't have to deal with the tight, low-cut stuff that a lot of American girls wear. Oh and also, the guys don't hit on you like crazy like they would in the US.

Halfway through the night they even had people perform. Like two girls did a hip-hop dance routine. Then a group of three guys had something like an America's Best Dance Crew show. It was soo good. Really the best thing I have ever seen live. After two guys did a show to the beat of a rap song. In sync they would catch the soccer ball on the small of their back, flip it up and balance it on their head, juggle it with their feet. It's really hard to explain and I really am not doing it justice. The last group was a guy beat boxing. He was really amazing. Sounded like something was being mixed, he had 5 or more sounds/rhythms going at the same time. But then while he was doing it, the rest of the group came out. Two guys who were yo-yoing to the beat, a dancer, and a soccer juggling guy. It was the craziest thing to see them doing it all at the same time. Such a good group of performers. I hope to upload one of Jocelyn's videos soon!

When we were sitting watching the whole club going crazy, I was thinking what better dancers Japanese are then American guys. Really it seems like they are not only concerned with how they look, but also how well they can move. Really saw some guys that stand out. The white exchange students were doing their 2-steps looking awkward and the Japanese guys were totally showing them up. Lol even big guys can dance. I have determined the superiority of male Japanese dancers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sometimes Things Don't Work Out: School Edition

I cannot believe how fast my time is going here. Both golden week and school in general. Trying to balance my senior synth and schoolwork here and life has been tough. Well actually hasn't been that bad, but I really haven't done much work on my synth yet...

I have set out an upwards of 40 emails to journalists, editors, communication professors, ethics profs, women's studies scholars, bioethics professionals. I would say that half have not sent back a reply, a fourth have no comment, and I have had success getting 7 responses in all. Some are short one liners. Others are more in depth. By far the most detailed response has come from the editor of the Seattle Times (surprisingly enough)!

One ethics prof at SU didn't want to respond by email, so I set up my Skype to call him. I test called Reese. Stayed up till 2 am Tokyo time for his 10 am office hours. Dialed the number and his line was disconnected. I emailed him trying to figure out what was going on. Turns out he gave me the wrong number. He said it would be better if I called him Wednesday...

Arrrrr. Please explain to me why I am up at 2:43 am, didn't get the interview, and need to do this all again Thursday morning :(

Golden Week=Family Time

I like the idea that most of the country has the better part of the week off. It is obvious what a workaholic culture Japan has breed. Most dads are busy working so they can support their families. I imagine that they aren't home much, nor do they have much time to spend with their wife or kids.

However, it seems like this is the one break every year that most people have to make up for all the time lost. Instead of having trains packed with salarymen, families, couples, and friends have been filling all forms of public transportation. This is the first time I have seen so many men in casual clothes instead of suits. Dads are everywhere. Before it was rare to see a father and child out together, now they are everywhere.

It is sad because I can tell they are good dads. They just don't get much time at all to see their kids and watch them grow up. Instead they are working so the financial aspects are set. It must be a hard life. I know a lot of moms stay at home. They probably don't get to see their husbands much either and they have a lot to manage on their own.

Its really too bad it has to be so black and white, an either work or family choice. I am happy for everyone that golden week gives families a chance to be together for a few days.

White Dads, Japanese Moms

I was at Yoyogi park with Travis, Bea, and some of their friends. A lot of people out because it is Golden Week. Kids, dogs, families, bartenders practicing their alcohol juggling. Travis pointed out a group that was sitting near us.

There were a bunch of happa kids running around. All of the guys near them where white gaijin and the women were Japanese. That was the first time I really saw so many happa kids in the same place here. It really exemplified the "white fetish" that was big in Japan during the late 80's early 90's. Like 8 families. All the white dads talking in English. The Japanese moms talking in Japanese. An interesting observation to say the least.

I'm not one to judge who marries who or whatever, but I found it curious that their group wasn't associating or in the park with a Japanese man/white woman family nor a Japanese/Japanese family nor white/white family. I wonder how that worked out. It is always interesting to see how gender and nationality plays into relationships and especially marriage and association trends.

Kids Kabuki

There was a kids kabuki performance at what I believe was a Shinto shrine in Hatchobori. (I still have problems distinguishing Shinto shrines from Buddhist temples. It's pretty bad, I know...). Met up with Travis and Bea to watch it.

The kids were soo cute. I couldn't really understand what they were saying, apart from the props and acting. But they took their parts so seriously. I had to keep reminding myself that they were little kids. Their performances were just magnified by the fact that they were so young and still did so good. It was quite amazing that they remembered all their lines, all the steps and moves, on and on. They just had the cutest voices when they talked. Like really high Japanese voices. I love it when kids speak in Japanese. It just sounds so much cuter than English.

Today I decided, when I have kids I will have them do something traditional like this or odori. I am sad that I never took odori lessons like a lot of my friends. I think it is one of those things that helps you appreciate and learn about your culture.


Travis and I went to Shibamata Saturday. This will prob somewhat of a repeat of his blog, since he posted about it before me. But here it is from my perspective.

I love the old areas of Tokyo. It reminds me of the city's humble roots. There is something satisfying about buying directly from the people who are making their specialty sembe, dango, or whatever their product is. I have never been that crazy about food, but Tokyo is changing my mind. I can definitely not say I am a foodie, but it is so fun to find delicious snacks/desserts sold at obscure small stands. The fact that you can see the people flipping the sembe over a fire is crazy. I am so used to the disconnect between food and the people behind it, this whole experience as been refreshing.

We bought some of the best dango I have ever had. Soo delicious. The shop was really traditional. I wish there was a better way to explain it, but there's not really anything I can compare it to. Really nice too, because there are few tourists in this area. I feel like it takes away from the experience when a bunch of gaijin are all over the place. Also found a place that sells really fresh handmade hard candies. I usually don't eat hard candy, but this was so good. It was almost a little soft because it was just made. Sugary, yet light, not an overpowering flavor. Perfect!

Hawaii Festival

VenusFort mall at Odaiba is hosting a two week Hawaiian Festival. The mall is absolutely gorgeous. It is looks like Caesars Place in Vegas. European design, clouds and changing ceiling, huge Greek fountain. Go figure, I went two times in three days...

Friday went with Kim, Jocelyn, and Lydia. Somehow the train directions that I got from the site took us north instead of south. It took us a total of probably 2.5 hrs to get there! Needless to say we missed the performance at 4:30pm. It worked out well though because we were starving when we got there. They have a restaurant at VenusFort that serves Hawaii food, or a Hawaii-Japanese fusion. I got a lomi lomi salmon salad, Kim had North Shore garlic shrimp, and there were loco mocos and a few other "local" favorites like that. The best part was that the performance was right outside the restaurant. While we were eating the group Pali (Kim and Reese don't know who they are) were performing and we could see and hear them from our table. They sounded quite "Hawaiian" (lol, idk what that means!)

After we went outside to watch the dance performance. Kim, being the hula dancer she is, was like, "This isn't hula and those girls don't look Hawaiian. They look Polynesian." After it was over, she asked where they were from. North Shore, Honolulu. Haha it wasn't till the next day that I read the postcard thing they were handing out. LOL they were from the Polynesian Cultural Center on Hawaii's North Shore. Lol Kim was right and they really are from the North Shore. Kim just thought they were saying it, so they could be considered legit.

The fire dancers were the best part of that night though. Even Kim was impressed. At one point there were 5 people on the stage all twirling their fire sticks at the same time. They would set them down on the stage at certain times and the fake grass stage caught on fire a few times. Small fires, but there were people at every corner with water and fire extinguishers. Pretty crazy. It was one of the best performances I have seen.

On Sunday I went back with Travis and some of his friends. We primarily wanted to see Manoa DNA. It is weird because they played at UW's luau last weekend and they are here in Japan the very next weekend. It was the second day that I realized what an advertising gimmick the whole "festival" is. There were representatives from the hugest hotels in Honolulu at the mall with booths and information (Hilton, Marriot). The whole thing was hosted in part by Hawaii's tourism board. Aloha print bags, shirts, and dresses were sold at huge profit. They even had a huge advertising video broadcast before the performance. Miss Hawaii was also there. She was interviewed and it was the fakest thing I have ever seen in person. What is your favorite island? "Well...All of Hawaii's islands are beautiful. But I would have to say my favorite is Oahu in the summer..." Biggest BS I've ever heard in my life.

Finally after all the tourist plugs Manoa DNA played. They are actually really good. I don't think I have actually heard any of the stuff until that day. Really really talented singers/musicians. Travis' Japanese friend was absolutely amazed. So cute. It was standing only and the area was packed. Almost everyone was wearing some kind of Hawaii print. A surprising number had T&C shirts or 88 tees. Manoa DNA even sang some songs in Japanese.

I stayed after because Bruce Shimabukuro was there (Jake's little brother). I thought he was going to play, but actually he was just giving a group lesson and signing autographs.

I really can't wait to go back to Hawaii. Seems like it is everyone's paradise.