Sunday, December 6, 2009

Baby and a week of finals, fun?

Greetings friends. A lot has happened in the past week or so. Last Saturday I was heading out to meet my friend who was supposed to be coming from South Korea to hangout for the weekend, when I was told by my host grandma that my host mom and dad had taken off at 5 in the morning for the hospital. I was told while I was finishing my lunch at 12:30 that my mom had successfully given birth to a baby girl. The house was buzzing with happy feelings, and I was reluctant to leave, but my friend was waiting, so I headed out to Ueno to meet her. I had been waiting at Ueno for about an hour when I got a phone call from said friend saying they weren’t going to be coming as they had missed their plane. So I headed home. I joined my family at a traditional Japanese restaurant to celebrate the new addition to the family. I met my friend the next day and enjoyed a delicious meal with her friends that had attended Winona.

Fast forward to Wednesday. Today my host mom returned home with the baby. It was an exciting time and I tried to stay out of the way.

Thursday. I finally got to hangout with my new host sister. Today I discovered why babies are called aka-chan. This baby is the reddest thing I have ever seen. Aka being short for akai, the color red in Japanese. She is also kind of ugly, but you get used to it and now I think she is kinda cute. I also held her for the first time today. She is tiny, I thought I was going to hurt her on accident so I gave her back to my host dad to remove myself from the hurting the baby on accident equation.

Friday! Today my host dad told me they had decided on a name. I had been told earlier in the week that the name was being contested because of kanji compounds that my host dad didn’t like. For those of you who do not know, Kanji that stand alone and kanji that is put together have different meanings. For example the kanji for flower, , and the kanji for fire, , together mean fireworks, 花火. So my host brother’s name is Nozumi, and my host mom wanted to name the baby Hikari. That’s a pretty name, right. So my host dad was all like, “Ummm no. That’s not going to happen.” To which I responded, “And why is that? I think Hirari is a pretty name.” His response was, “Oh yes, it’s an adorable name, but if I was to put the kanji for Nozumi and Hikari together they would be shinkansen. I don’t like the shinkansen. I like to drive everywhere.” So for those of you who do not know, the shinkansen is the rapid express train that goes really fast. So I shut up about the whole deal, it wasn’t my place to say anything. So Friday night we got to write her name for the first time. In celebration my host family gave me a brand new Shoudo, Japanese calligraphy, set. So we sat down after dinner and I was told in a defeated voice that the baby’s name is Hikari. Apparently the 7 hours in labor and 9 months of carrying the adorable red bundle had given her the right to choose a name. Through out this entire process I couldn't get this comic out of my head, don't judge me.... LINK!

So now we enter this week. I have 3 test all finals and a paper to write… I hope I can make it through it….

Monday, November 16, 2009

Long overdue update.....

Greetings friends!

I know I have been absent recently, but I have had a very busy month…. I guess I should start with my visit to the magical land of Hakone. Hakone is a mystical land near Mt. Fuji that has hot springs. So while my friends and classmates were off exploring the Kansai region of Japan and having worlds of fun, I went with my family to this magical place. It took us about 4 hours to get there and we stayed at a place called Yunessun. This was a nice hotel that was also a spa. We started our hot springs adventure with Dr. Fish. For those of you who do not know, Dr. Fish is where you sit with your feet in a pool and tiny fish eat you. It was weird and an experience I hope to never experience again. Then we moved on to the hot springs. The first was just a really big and really hot pool that had a waterfall in it. That was nice, but very very hot and my host dad and I were finished with it very quickly. The next one we went to was the tofu tub. It smelled weird and was slimy… Then we hit the seasonal tub! Since it was before Halloween, we got the privilege of bathing in Pumpkin. The water was green but it was not an off-putting experience. Then we went to the Turkish baths and the steam rooms. After we finished our inside exploration, we decided to head outside and explore the hard-core tubs. The first tub was the coffee tub. I do not like Japanese coffee to begin with (I believe that Brazilian coffee is inferior) so this experience was a little wasted on me. The water looked like coffee does so I felt uncomfortable getting into what looked like a boiling tub of coffee, but in the end it was not a totally negative experience. The next tub we hit was the wine tub. This was fun, it smelled like red wine and the water was purple. Nozumi, my host brother, was the first one in and seemed to really enjoy the purple water. Then we went to the traditional onsen portion of the spa. It was boring and lame. From what I was able to read on the sign and what my host dad told me, it is a regular bath with some sort of charcoal like incense in the water. Lame. So we moved on. The next tub was the Green Tea tub. My host family was particularly looking forward to this one because of the health benefits of bathing in this miracle concoction. When we got there we were surprised and disappointed to see that although the sign and all the maps said, “Green Tea,” it was, in fact, Oolong tea. Lame. So we continued on to the next tub conveniently located less than 5 feet away, the sake bath. We all entered sans my pregnant host mom and enjoyed a quick soak in the other miracle bath. So now we had bathed in all the tubs. Our auras were probably all rainbowy in happiness and being made healthy-ness. So we decided to eat and head to bed. After dinner Nozumi and my host dad and I went to the onsen, or public bath. Throughout the day, although we were considered to be at an onsen, we were wearing bathing suits. There is not a lot of things more frightening that public nudity. I was pleased to see that we were the only people there. Immediately my host dad started whipping off his clothes. Looking back now I can see that this was probably to help me feel more comfortable and not perceive this experience as scary of something that I should be ashamed of. Then Nozumi and I got naked as well and moved from the locker area armed only with our small towels into the shower and bath part of the onsen. I proceeded to take a shower and get into the tub that was a cozy 33 degrees Celsius. After I while I had enough and decided I was done being naked with my family and got out and got dressed. We then all went back to the room for some well deserved rest. That night I learned that the Japanese people are all a bunch of whiners that refused to take action. We all laid in the same big room in our futons slowly drifting off to sleep. I was uncomfortably warm, but I didn’t feel that my physical concerns were as important as my pregnant host mom’s so I didn’t say anything and suffered through it. Then Nozumi exclaimed his warmth and demanded action to be taken. This sentiment was echoed by my host mom and then my host dad. But no action was taken. The air-conditioner remote was located about 3 feet from my host mom’s futon but there was no movement coming from her. So we spent the part of the night just before we fell asleep all saying how hot it was in the room……

The next day we headed out into the city of Hakone. It was another exciting adventure and we rode on a real live-fake-pirate ship across the Hakone Lake which I was told by my host dad is actually 5 lakes. I was not impressed I was all like, “This is nice, but I know what a lake is, I’m from Minnesota!” My family and I laughed and continued on our way. We stopped again at another touristy area. There was this hill that people were walking up. We got out and started walking up it. About halfway to the top, a good 15 minutes in, my host mom said, “fuck this!” and went back down the hill. I thought to myself, “Oh, I guess she had already seen what is up here and doesn’t feel like finishing the climb in her condition.” We then reached the top. It had been a 30 minute climb. I looked down and saw that the hills looked to be on fire with magical golden flames. The sun was setting and the reeds to either side of the road we had walked up were lit by the soft red and gold glow of the setting sun. Then we went down the hill. We then departed and returned home at about 10 that night.

After my friends returned from their adventure, we resumed classes and everything was going smoothly. My friend Chris started looking at housing and we found a nice apartment that is located about 10 minutes from Ueno and about 30 minutes from Akihabara. The rent is 120000 yen split between 3 people so it is about 40000 yen plus 20000 yen for utilities and internet, again split between 3 people so about 46600 per person, so about 500 us dollars a month. That’s the budget I had set for myself for rent during the break that’s exciting!

Then we started getting set up for the Hapiokai. This was the mini-event where our host families came to the school and we either preformed a skit or a speech for their pleasure. I had at first decided to do a skit with my classmates. Then the skit became less fun and more what one guy’s religion/morals would allow us to perform in a skit. So I bailed and decided to write a speech. At first I was told my speech had to be 10 minutes. That was a long time… So I started my speech. Then because the skit people broke into 2 groups, my speech was reduced to 6 minutes. Then we found out that the other class’s skits might be a little longer, so my speech was reduced to 5 minutes. Then the teachers decided to streamline the process to help move the speeches and skits along. Now my speech was to be 4 minutes. So I changed my topic and re-wrote my speech. I finished and practiced my speech with my teachers. Then I was told that I needed to reduce my skit to 3.5 minutes. So I was kind of rushed….. In the end, I wrote a speech in Japanese that talked of my love of the Gundam game I play and the new Pokémon game I had bought here. During the Hapiokai I received applause in the middle of my speech after I had told the audience that I was almost finished catching all 493 Pokémon. I’m only 5 off! So that was a validating experience, having a bunch of old people applaud you for wasting over 500 hours of game play in the last 2 years on catching one of every Pokémon….

So that finished last weekend and I have been working on some other projects as well. Now I am studying for some more tests and I have a paper to write….

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Japanese Commercials

This commercial and the one posted below have been attacking my mind with such ferocity that at times I find myself unable to think of much else.

I like the Aflac one more myself, but I can't seem to forget either of them.... These are fairly tame examples of Japanese commercials.... Some of the other ones I have seen have destroyed my brain...
In other news, I have almost beaten the elite 4 on my Pokemon Heart Gold game. Also, yesterday my family and I went to Yokohama and eventually ended up at the Pokemon store. They have an event going on right now where when you beat the elite 4 they give you a trainer card like the one in the game with all of your game information on it. I think my PA friend Asuka is planning on taking me and whomever else wants to go next Wednesday to the Pokemon Center in Tokyo. I should have the elite 4 finished by then.....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Silver Week and Culture Shock

There are 2 major holiday blocks here in Japan. The biggest one is in the spring. Golden Week is a week where many Japanese holidays just happen to land together to form a 9 day weekend! Yay! This week is Silver Week! I have until Thursday off. So far I have done nothing...
I have had my share of experiences that made me question why I was in this increasingly strange country. I think the thing that stands out the most in my mind happened just last week. I had taken a break on my ride in to the station last Wednesday for some coffee from a small island of vending machines about halfway through my route. Consequently I missed the train I usually take and ended up waiting at the platform for a good 10 minutes. During this time I saw the most terrifying thing that a person who bikes for 15-20 minutes both ways everyday could ever see. I was playing with my I-pod, and I heard a terrible screeching sound. I looked up in time to see a 50ish looking business man on a bike get hit by a lady driving a vanish vehicle. The bike was totaled. I started looking for a way to get over to the guy without having to run through the station, when he pulled himself up and waved to the driver. He then grabbed his scrap metal bike and walked away. I could hear him apologizing from the platform. As he limped away, the lady pulled over, got out of her car and checked it for damage before driving away herself. I don't know about you, but if my bike was totaled, or if a car hit me and I was on the ground from the impact, I would probably not just walk away with a destroyed bike.... The rest of the week there was a police officer at that intersection.
This evening, as I watched my host brother struggle to read, I realized we were kind of in the same boat. I could read faster than him, but I had no idea what I was reading.... But he couldn't read at all... Hehehe

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Silver Week and a Golden Weekend

This weekend has been one of firsts for me. On Friday I got my Alien Registration Card. Then I got my phone. LINK This site has the details better than I could write them.... But overall, I am loving my TV. Once I get a MicroSD card, I will use my phone as a media player as well. I'm thinking I can watch some Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, or some The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, or even Some Are You Afraid of the Dark. That will be awesome. Apparently this phone can also play flash games, so I might look into finding some.
Saturday was spent in quiet contemplation, and looking for Ghostbusters in Japanese for my host family. We found a store that rents it, but it was rented already.....
Sunday I got a call from Lance inviting me to our friend Brent's Barbeque. I went and ate delicious Yakitori or grilled bird, grilled shrimp, grilled peppered bacon, and random other meat products. There I met Brent's host-brother, he was a neat guy. So much so that we took him with us when we went to practice our terrible Karaoke skills that night. We decided that in order to maximize our training montage, we needed to approach it sober. We opted out of Nomihodai (all you can drink) this time, and instead enjoyed a fun session of friendly singing. I sang such works as Love Slave by Under17, Fruits Candy by an artist whose name I could never learn to write, Promise by MiChi, Daydream Beleiver by the Monkees, Ai No Shirushi by Puffy Ami Yumi, and another song that was introduced to me by the best teacher I ever had.
But I think the highlight of the night was the duet Brent and I sang. We sang Angel by Shaggy, he did the rap parts, I did the rest. It was amazing.
On the way home while on the train, I was playing some Pokemon and ran into a situation that occurs 8 times in 65536 or 1/8192, 2-13, or approximately 0.012207% for those mathly inclined... I found and caught a shiny version of a Pokemon I am currently using in my party. She will now replace the one I have been raising for the last week. For those of you who do not know, shiny Pokemon are Pokemon that have a different coloring that their non-shiny counterparts. If you are interested in seeing the difference, I direct you to HERE. The sprites are at the bottom of the page just above the links and name trivia section.
I would like to thank those of you who donated to my phone fund. I am still accepting donations, so feel free to contribute what you can.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Returning from dead!

Hello again friends! It seems that I have neglected you without even noticing that a month has passed.... I am sorry.

Anyways...... So I really haven't done anything in the last month.... I found a closer arcade that has the Gundam game I really like. So I went there and took a video of the game..... This game is awesome....

Speaking of awesome games.... You'll never guess what game was released last Saturday here in Japan! I was so excited for this release I went and waited outside of a store in Kawagoe for it. I was 2 hours early and ended up being the 4th in a line of about 40..... So far I have put in somewhere around 20 hours. The game is in Japanese, but that hasn't stopped my drive to finish this current installment to a series in which I have put in a recorded 900 hours in the last 2 years alone..... Thats right, the 4 or 5 people that understood, the newest Pokemon game just came out. I am kicking ass and the only other person who has it is one of our PAs and she is so far behind me its not even funny.

So, I think that sometime in the next week I will be getting my phone. From what I understand, the total cost for the phone itself will be around $300.00 USD. Moving on to less financial things.....

I suppose I should give everyone a break down of my typical day here in Japan. I wake up at around 7. I stumble out of bed and get dressed. Then I pack my bag for school and shut off my airconditioner, maybe open a window or my patio door. Next I head to my host families house, coming from the main house, and I enjoy a breakfast that is typically, eggs, sausage or bacon, 2 large slices of toast, and maybe a bowl of rice. At between 7:30 and 7:45 I leave for school in a chorus of goodbyes and traditional greetings. I take my bike and at the first major intersection I say hello to the older crossing guard lady, and we talk for the 3 minutes I am in talking distance before I get out of range. 3 weeks ago I started saying "Good morning!" in a very respectful/distal style, and this last week, we have been shouting the equivalent of "Yo! Mornin'!" to each other, apparently we are friends now. After another 15 minutes of riding, I reach my bike parking lot, and head to my station. After a total of about 20-25 minutes, I am standing on the platform, ready to take the train up 6 stations by local and 3 by express. I arrive at Kamefukioka, the town where my school is, and I walk the 5 minutes from that station to Tokyo International University. I typically arrive at 8:20, and I chill until class starts at 9:10. At 9:10 I begin my first class of the day. My Japanese class is a 3 hour chunk of Japanese only loveliness.... At 12:20, I finish my class and either go to the cafeteria or head to 7-11 for a quick lunch. On Mondays and Thursdays, I have another class from 1:10 to 4:20. When I am done with class I usually go home or stop in Kawagoe or some quick shopping, I am currently looking for a cheap over the shoulder bag. I ride my bike home, and I just kind of hang until around 7 when we usually eat. After dinner I take a shower and head back to my room where I play on the internet and do my homework before heading off to bed at about 11:00. As far as I can tell, my only chore is to take my laundry basket when it is full to my host mom's laundry room.

Thats my life, full of excitement, and bike riding.... Also, I now have Skype, I am online off and on during the day and parts of the night.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Host Family and Gundams

A lot has happened since I last set my sights on this page... I met my host family and I have started my official life in Japan.
I suppose you are all wondering about my new family... They are great, better than great, amazing. After I sat down at their table at the welcome/opening ceremony, my host dad asks me what I like to do. Eventually it got out that I like Gundams. You know, giant fighting robots, the anime has been around for 30 years, over 7 different series.... So anyways, my host dad is all like, "hey, we should go to the giant Gundam in Odaiba!" and I was all like, "But isn't that like 2 hours away?" and he was all like, "Psshaa, that's not a problem." So after I got my stuff into my bitchin' room, (I have a couch, a bed, a coffee table, and a desk w/a wheely-chair) we set out on our grand adventure. Now, before I go into that in great detail, there are some other things I need to tell you. During my introduction to my host family, I was met with 3 surprises...
1. My host mother is 7 months pregnant.... They say its a girl....
2. My initial thoughts on the gender of my host sibling were correct, is was a boy, the information given was just wrong
3. My host dad really likes German cars, a lot. For example, he has a silver 97 Porsche just chilling in the garage, we are going for a ride soon
So there you have it, my host family is full of surprises.
Anyways, back to the Gundam! So we left the house here at like 2:30. We get to Odaiba at like 4. We move 1.5 miles off the highway and park at like 4:30. Then we set out to find the 30 meter tall replica of a Gundam (giant fighting robot.) Apparently, my host dad just knew it was in Odaiba. We walked around in this park for about 30 minutes before we found it.

Finally, through a break in the trees, a Gundam head emerges, I felt like yelling, " IT"S A GUNDAM!" Like so many in the anime, but I decided not to embarrass my host family like that. We went closer and I took pictures of the giant mechanic wonder that cannot exist in our world due the devil that is physics. I was in a state of awe, this was a real Gundam, though it may not move or be functional, it was a Gundam. Needless to say, I was surprised by what happened next. Cool, huh?
So some people would say, "Alright, I've had my fill with Odaiba, there are thousands of people here, and I just wanna go home...." Not my host family. My host mom was hungry, and this was acceptable, seeing how she is pregers and all. So we left the Gundam zone and went into the shopping complex a block up. Here we found lots of restaurants, all full. So while my host dad and brother went looking for a bathroom, my host mom and I set ourselves up in 2 different lines. She was stationed at a ramen shop and I was set to hold a spot at the American buffet style restaurant. My line ended up moving faster, so for dinner I had rotisserie chicken and tacos. We soon left Odaiba and returned home. We arrived back at the Takayama residence at 11:30. I unpacked and sleep ensued.
So yesterday there was this big storm-like thing called a typhoon. Also my afternoon class was switched with Friday's class. So I had the afternoon off. I couldn't go home because I live a 15 minute bike-ride from the train station and it was a typhoon, so I didn't have my bike waiting for me, I had been driven and given instruction to call when I got back to the Fujimono station. Sooooo I have about 4 hours to kill. Time for some more back-story! My host brother is a Mario-Kart fanatic. He plays all day long, a l l d a y l o n g ! ! ! And hes really really really REALLY good. The thing is, he only plays to win when he gets mad at the other people he is playing with. I witnessed this fury only once. Some guy from France, yeah France not even a real country, is ramming into Nozumi over and over again. Nozumi is 1 lap behind the lead car, and currently in last place. He gets mad, takes out the car ramming him, and takes the lead. He wins the race and shuts off the Wii. He expects me to play this game with him every second I am home... I hate Mario-Kart for the Wii.... So I had 4 hours to burn, its raining sideways, and I am tired of playing that damned game. I head out to Kawagoe station from my school's station, Kasumigaseki. Its about a 5 minutes train ride. I go to the shopping street, Crea Mall, and I begin my search for a book off. Book offs are the super discounted second-hand books movies and games stores. I eventually find one 30 minutes from the station. There I purchase myself a copy of Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Those of you who have played with me know that when I get angry, like Nozumi, I can bring the pain and win. A new copy of this game here in Japan is about $60.... I got mine for about $30, so 50% off the regular price. Score! I brought this game home, soaked to the bone, and proceeded to inflate my ego by beating the stuffing out of a 5 year old little boy. I have not lost a game yet, and we have been playing for the last 2 days.
Tomorrow at 1, my host dad is taking me to look at contract phones with his company. Docomo should be competativly priced, but if they are not, I can still do the Soft Bank option. I have added a button to my sidebar for my mom's convenience. Everyone is welcome to use it.
Oooo, so more exciting new before I submit this bad boy and head off to bed, I talked to Katie for about 2 hours on Sunday afternoon for me, Saturday night for her. I have Internet, and I do check Facebook to see who is online. If we are not Facebook friends, we probably should be if you are reading this. I guess the point of this last part is, yes, you can talk to me with AIM, MSN, and Facebook.