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Archive for July 2012

Last day in Japan

Posted by Shaun

Well, this is it.
I'm leaving for Narita Airport around 2pm tomorrow.
I had my two big suitcases shipped to the airport this morning, and I vacuumed and dusted my room. My carry-on bags are almost packed...
It's a weird feeling.

I've said good bye to all of my friends here... It's sad to separate from everybody, but the good thing is, I have friends all over the world now, and especially all over the United States. No matter where I travel I can say to someone, "Hey, I'll be in your neck of the woods soon, can we meet up?"
That's a really cool feeling.

And I'm excited because I get to take one of my friends "home" with me. I'm really glad to have the opportunity to meet and become friends with the Waseda student who's studying at my college next year. Hopefully we'll have lots of cross-cultural adventures starting in September (and tonight we're going to that maid cafe I mentioned in my previous post, so I'll update about that later)!

The world is really a lot smaller than any of us realize. I met someone at a nomikai on Thursday who studied abroad in Missouri, my home state, while he was in high school. I was so excited about it that all we did was talk about Missouri the whole evening. But most people in Japan have never heard of places outside of New York and California, so my excitement is understandable, right?

One of the things I've really learned in Japan is that I don't know anything about so many parts of the US. And that's sorta embarrassing. I've never been to New York, or Boston, or DC, or LA, or Niagra Falls... It would take too long to list the states I've never been to. So from here on out, I want to get to know my own country better.

I'm not sure yet if I want to live in Japan in the future, but I don't want to forget Japanese. I feel like I've finally gotten to a point during this year where I can actually enjoy Japanese. I can't turn back now. And I can't lose the language that connects me to so many of the people I know this year. So I have to keep studying. Time to forge on ahead. 進め、日本語の道へ!

Emails I sent myself on the way back from Fuji-Q

Posted by Shaun

Last Sunday at Fuji-Q Highland was interesting. It was a holiday on Monday, which I didn't realize, so the roads were incredibly crowded. Both my bus there and back took two hours longer than they were supposed to because of traffic. Then the park itself was crowded too. We only road two roller coasters, but they were the best ones. Eejanaika, the Guinness World Record for most twists, and Takabisha, the Guinness World Record for steepest drop. Eejanaika in particular was really amazing. I actually cried. I had such an adrenaline rush after that one.

So here's some emails I sent myself during the bus ride back.

"8 hours of buses and 4 hours and 50 minutes of lines for less than 5 minutes of roller coaster glory. It's hard to believe, but it was worth it."

"Today's menu:
Eggs and toast(thanks Missus!)
2 onigiri (sake and mentaiko)
Green tea (thanks Madi!)
1 taiyaki
1 peach flavored softserve
1 age pork man"

The great thing was that you could eat and drink in the 2-hour lines. And people let each other get out of line to buy vending machine drinks and food. Which allowed us all to survive the waits. Actually it was really beautiful weather that day, not too hot at all but hydration is important regardless of the weather.

While looking at the monitor in the bus:
"That's not how acronyms work:
Chuo Highwaybus AlliaNCE"

Upon seeing that the word for street, doori, is almost always translated as "avenue" on highway signs:
"Who decided every street was an avenue?"
The strangest part is that they tend to actually leave the Japanese word for street on there, so you get  Chuo-doori Avenue and Waseda-doori Avenue and Meiji-doori Avenue and stuff. Why "avenue"? Why not throw in some "boulevards" and some "places" and some plain ol' "streets" for good measure?

Cool things I've done recently

Posted by Shaun

This post is going to take the form of a list because I've been terribly neglectful of this blog.
And I'm not actually that sorry because I'm in oh-my-goodness-20-days-left-in-Japan mode and I've been that way since day 50 or so, so don't blame me for not wanting to stay in my house and blog.

This post is actually only happening because 1) I'm in the library and supposed to be working on a presentation and 2) I want to brag about the cool stuff I'm planning for this and next week.

Stuff I've done (thanks to the dates in my planner...):

1) Watched a traditional dance performance I totally didn't understand
2) Went to see my friends' band perform in a SILS music club live in Roppongi. They called their band the Guy Jeans because they're... the only all-gaijin band in the SILS music club. Yeah.

3) Went to go see Thermae Romae テルマエ・ロマエ which is a movie based on a manga about a guy from ancient Rome who gets sucked into modern Japan through a roman bath and brings Japanese bathing and toilet innovations back to Rome. It was entertaining. And since my mom couldn't figure this out when I described it to her, yes, it's a comedy.
4) Went to a cafe that had all-you-can-drink fresh juice and tried avocado milk, which is actually really refreshing and delicious.
5) Helped lead a discussion group in a 3-week class where Japanese students on Waseda's engineering campus watch The Apprentice and use it to compare American and Japanese business practices.
6) Met one of my friends from Knox while she was in Tokyo and went to go see the Sky Tree.
7) Ate all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu
8) Went to a cafe in Shin-Okubo called Coffee Prince known for its cute Korean baristas. Also for the adorable drawings they do on the coffee drinks.
9) Went to go see the movie of a book series I'm working on reading, 図書館戦争, Toshokan Sensou, (Library War), which was cool because it had animated versions of places I'd been! (Shinjuku's Kinokuniya bookstore, and some places in Osaka)
10) Got my hair cut.
11) Visited a class at Rikkyo University, near where I live, because the professor in charge of our study abroad program was teaching it and the students wanted to meet exchange students.
12) Went to eat unagi, found the unagi place was actually closed, and ended up overeating Indian curry and cheese naan instead.
13) Had udon and then later cake as well as lovely conversation with friends from my J-pop class

 14) Went to a flea market in Shinagawa with a friend of a friend from the US and her friends because they were in Tokyo
15) May or may not have caught bronchitis between 9) and 14), cough still not totally gone
16) Took an essay-writing test in Japanese on the 4th of July
17) Arranged for the pick up of and mailed home a box of clothes and a box of books, all by myself!
18) Finally tried one of the parfaits at a cafe by my station, strawberry + anko flavor.
19) Presented my final film project for my documentary filmmaking class
20) Immediately afterwards, went to a 飲み会 nomikai (drinking party) followed by karaoke. Took the second to last train home for the first time since going to Disney Sea (I don't get out much?)
21) Joined my friend's circle for "orienteering" around the Yamanote train line. We found 6 of the 7 locations and tied for second and third place out of 4 teams. So we didn't win anything, and I was super exhausted from 20) so I sorta fell asleep on the train towards the end.

Still to come
 1) A trip to Cafe NEWTYPE, which is a maid cafe in Akhihabara, with the twist that the maids are gorgeous 男の娘 otoko no ko. 男の子 otoko no ko written with the kanji for child means "boy" but in this case the kanji is for "girl." It's a new kind of gender identity (okay so I saw the cafe on TV and then I realized I could meet someone I saw on TV so I decided to go okay), according to the TV program I watched. According to Japanese Wikipedia, the term originated from a manga trope about beautiful crossdressing boys... I believe that as opposed to ニューハーフ new half or トランスゲンダー transgender people, who are born men and decide to live as women and consider themselves completely 100% women, 男の娘 still consider themselves male to some degree, although they dress and live as women. Translating Japanese gender identities into Western gender identities doesn't always seem to work too well, but perhaps 男の娘 would be a form of a genderqueer identity, from the Western social justice perspective. I'm really curious to learn more about "LGBTQ+" culture in Japan, because the environment just seems so different in Japan (which is why I put LGBTQ+ in quotes). At the same time, as a straight, white woman, it's definitely not a space I belong in so I would understand if there wasn't a lot of information available to me. But if anyone knows any research or books or manga on the subject (from a realistic, serious perspective), please let me know.

2) Finally, a chance to go to Fuji-Q Highland, with the same friend from Knox. It's a theme part in Japan with a habit of building a new roller coaster every few years so it can keep breaking records.

3) An all-night karaoke party

4) a festival in my homestay town with my host sister. She's going to lend me one of her yukata for it.

5) Farewell parties and finals.

6) Going to the police station to claim the 7000 yen I found on the ground in Harajuku and turned in to the police because the 3 month waiting period will be over soon and then it officially becomes my money. Ahaha.

If this ends up being my last blog entry before the airport, please forgive me! I'm a busy bee! Ahaha, look at that final project I said I was gonna work on today, sitting there abandoned.