Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'm back! ただいま!

For some of my Japanese friends who only understand Japanese, I'll be writing this post in English and in Japanese.

I got back yesterday, though my plane was delayed because of the snow in MN. Also, they sent my luggage on the wrong plane, so I didn't get it until around 11PM (at which point I was already in bed). So far, I haven't done much besides sleep. I did have a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast, which was good, as cheese is expensive in Japan.
Now I've gotta clean my room and unpack, so catch ya later.



Sunday, December 23, 2007


Well, got through the last of my finals. Got through the sayonara party. Got most of my stuff packed. Pretty much everyone else has left, so I've got the apartment to myself, and it's really empty. I've now got two days to kill, and it seems like almost everyone who came here for the program has left, and my Japanese friends all are busy at work. Really boring. I'm done with most of my packing. All that's left is killing time for two days (and hoping my flight doesn't get canceled).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Updates (some of which might matter to non-Iaidoka)

It's been a busy few days. Friday I had my final presentation for my hellish Architecture class. It was made even more 'fun' by the fact that my rib started giving me serious trouble while I was on the train to head to class. I managed to make it through the presentation without dying, though, so it's all good. Just have to get through my Japanese final on Tuesday, and I'm good to go.
Yesterday, I spent time in three different prefectures (Chiba, Tokyo, and Saitama). Finally met up with Risa (my Japanese conversation partner from last Spring at the U). She's doing well, and is hoping to make it back to MN to visit people in February (although that is likely the WORST time to go to MN). We wandered around Kawagoe, a city known as 'Little Edo' due to the large numbers of Edo-era buildings that are preserved there. We then had some traditional Japanese food for dinner; she thought it was hilarious that I had never eaten raw fish before, so she ordered me some raw tuna. Also, I ate too much wasabi.
Today, I went to the budokan for Iaido class as usual. They decided they were testing everyone today. The guy who's been teaching me decided that he wanted them to test me, too, although I've only been training there for less than two months. He told me to just do Mae, Ushiro, and Uke-Nagashi (because those are all similar in Japan to the way I'm used to doing them back home). I managed to survive it. I'm really gonna have to make time to buy a Japanese hakama and dogi before coming back to the States, though... they are way nicer than the ones I've been able to buy in the US. Also, surprisingly enough, doing Iai in an Iai hakama is alot more comfortable and convenient than doing it in an Aikido hakama.
I think that covers just about everything. I'll be back in MN a week from this Tuesday, so expect me in class at the dojo on the evening of the 26th =D

Also, finally got around to uploading some more pics:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Finals time... ugh...

I figured it's been two or three weeks since my last post, so it was about time I do another. It's about finals time here, so I've had very little time for much of anything. Although I'm done with my history final, I still have to prepare my final presentation for architecture. Also, the Japanese teachers seem to enjoy piling tons of last-minute final assignments on us -_-
Last night, I decided to give the other branch of the Jewish community in Tokyo a chance, so I went to the Chabad Channukah party. Just like Chabad things in MN, it involved paying a large amount of money (after I was lead to believe it was free!) to get food that was mediocre at best and spend time around people I don't really have anything in common with. Is it strange that I felt like more of an outsider when surrounded by all these Israeli Jews than when surrounded by Japanese people? Also, most of the people there were Israeli, and quite a few spoke neither English nor Japanese. A few got loudly drunk, and I felt sorry for the Japanese staff at the hotel where the party was held.
For the next few weeks: prepare a two-minute presentation on solutions to deforestation in Japanese (if anyone knows how to take two minutes to tell people 'just don't cut down so damned many trees' in Japanese, please let me know!) by tomorrow. Test in Japanese on Friday. Speech at the Funabashi English-speaking society on Saturday. Iai-do class in Urayasu on Sunday. IES movie night on Monday. Probably gonna have to get my re-entry permit from one of the government centers on Tuesday. Sometime before Friday, I have to prepare my architecture presentation (which, by the way, is expected to be done as though I'm an architecture major... because the prof is INSANE). Meeting my Japanese conversation partner from the U of M last year the following Saturday. Got another Japanese test the following Friday I believe, and then I'm done. Found out that alot of the full-year students will be having a big party on the 26th here, which I won't be able to attend because I leave on the 25th.
I'll leave you all with a final random statement: I have been told by people of at least 3 different nationalities that I look like Johnny Depp.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Still here...

Hey, been a while since I've posted... been really busy lately, with midterms and now gearing up towards finals. The Nagano trip was fun. Lots of nifty old-looking buildings. Also, onsens rock. On the last day, we even got to go and see a monkey onsen, so whenever I get around to uploading pics, there will be pics of me with monkeys.
Upcoming stuff for this week: Japanese test tomorrow, followed by a Thanksgiving thing (which is why me and my roommates are currently making around 20 lbs of mashed potatos). Tuesday I have to do a skit thing for Japanese; I'm apparently supposed to be the girl from The Ring, because I apparently have enough hair to pull it off. I have my first final a week from this Thursday. There's an overnight trip to Nikko sometime this week (though I don't remember when). Also, I've been having random chest pain near where my rib got broken this summer, so I'll probably have to get it checked out at some point.
The weather here is still fluctuating from around 50-60 degrees, so it barely feels like Fall most days. I'll be flying back on December 25th, as airfare is cheap then (go figure...) I think that's about it. Later, folks.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Current stuff...

I survived the architecture midterm. I probably didn't do very well, but maybe I did well enough that I'll still be able to pass the class. I took my history midterm on Thursday, and it was fairly easy. I have another Japanese test tomorrow which I should study for, but I probably won't.
On Friday night (technically Saturday morning, I guess -_-; ) I was up until like 3 AM finishing reading The Lies of Locke Lamora... it was a damned good book, but I wish I hadn't felt the need to stay up all night finishing it.
Then, I spent a couple hours walking around with one of my roommates looking for stuff for some type of Halloween costume. Came away with a ridiculous tie and a bandana, which was more expensive than it should've been. Also, got thoroughly soaked, as this was all during a typhoon and I didn't have an umbrella.
Today, I went to the Urayasu city budokan, where I observed the Urayasu city Iai-do club's class. It was nice; thirty people all there to train in iai. Also, the people there were all significantly more friendly and welcoming than anyone from the Tokyo JCC was. I'll probably be joining up with them, though I doubt I'll go with a suggestion that one of the yodans made (which was that I should try to test for my Japanese shodan in Iai-do in April).
I also got assured by the top administrator in charge of this program that a certain confrontational individual will no longer be an issue, as he was given a stern talking-to. Wow, I sure do love bureaucracies. Oh yeah, I had to bus over to Kaihin Makuhari to be told this, which was about an hour round-trip and cost me 420 yen (though I'm supposed to be reimbursed for the money).
Additionally, my PSP now runs PS1 games, as well as PSP games. I am very impressed with the technology of the PSP; I can even check my email on it!
Also, I will be going on a trip to Nagano (where I won't have internet access) for 4 days starting on Wednesday morning, so I'll be incommunicado until sometime this weekend.
I hope everyone back home is doing well, and I'll see you all in a couple of months.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Since last time

Still fighting with IES to get them to do their job regarding a certain issue. They seem to be trying to make it so difficult for me that I get frustrated and give up. They obviously don't know me very well.
Tonight, I ate a skull for the first time. It was a fish that I ate whole. It wasn't very good, though my roommates liked it.
Tomorrow, I've got my midterm for architecture. It is going to suck hardcore, as the prof seems to be of the opinion that we should all either be architecture majors or be spending all of our free time doing readings for her class. Everyone who I've spoken to in the class feels like they're going to fail the midterm (which is worth a full 30% of our grade in the course). I'm comforting myself by telling myself that she can't possibly fail all of us. It's a nice theory, anyway.
I'll be heading over to the Budokan near Meikai on the 28th to watch a class of the local Iai-do dojo. I will probably end up joining, as they are fairly inexpensive and I need to get some Iai in. Also, because nobody there speaks English very well, it'll also be more practice for my Japanese.
I think that covers most everything. Hopefully next week will suck less.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Time for another update!

Rennis got in touch with me. He sent me some info on an iai dojo near Meikai University (the college where I'm taking most of my classes). I sent them an email asking if / when I could observe a class. I kinda messed up my rib again last Friday, but it's doing okay now. I've been eating lots of really spicy Korean instant ramen. It's cheap and delicious. I've found that frying it is really tasty as well. On a less-food-related-topic, I came within inches of beating the shit out of the neo-nazi in this exchange program. I think most of the people who were near us at the time were surprised that I didn't pound the crap out of him, but it would've been somewhat awkward as it was in the middle of class. I am, however, probably going to start carrying my knife again. It's kind of annoying, though, as I was kinda hoping I'd be able to continue going places unarmed for a while. Oh well. Also, I've got two tests coming up next week... hooray -_-. I've also got to make a presentation on the differences between Japanese houses and American houses... what fun... I think that covers just about everything. Matta ne.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Steve, you were right...

So, I'd been without a sword here for around 3 weeks. I had started going into sword withdrawal, so I did some research on sword shops in the Tokyo area. One that was mentioned several times was a place called Sakuraya, near the Nihon Budokan. I went there, and managed to not drool. It is to iaidoka what General Nanosystems is to computer geeks. The shopkeeper was an older Japanese man who spoke some English, so between that and my woefully inadequate Japanese we were able to go over what I wanted. I suppose most foreigners who make it to his shop want to buy the longest iaito he offers, because he initially tried to sell me a 2.5 shaku sword. I said that I generally prefer something around 2.3 - 2.4 shaku in length, and that's when I think he realized I was actually looking for a sword to use for iai, rather than yet another dumb gaijin looking for a souvenir. He started pulling out many swords of the length I asked for and the price range I was looking at, and after about a half hour of him showing me different swords, I decided on the one I wanted. I paid for it, and he packaged it in a nice little 'to-go' package, complete with carrying handle. So, yes, you were right Steve... I wasn't able to make it very long without a sword. Here's a link to some pictures of it:

p.s. John, you might be interested to know that my electric Kanji dictionary actually has BOTH ways of writing Karate! I was kind of surprised, because usually they only show the modern way of writing it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

This weekend

I went to the Tokyo JCC for the first time on Friday. The experience was less than enjoyable. They demanded ID at the door, flipped through our passports, and demanded to search our bags (because obviously we were carrying bags loaded with weapons... it couldn't just be that we had our bags with us because we had class until 4:40 or so...). After services, one of their rabbis decided to make a speech about how any Jew who didn't actively belong to a Jewish community was the same as an apostate or a heretic.
Also, I went to Tokyo Game Show. Saw some stuff; didn't find anywhere around there to buy a PSP, so I went to Akihabara, figuring they'd have one there. I found exactly one place in all of Akihabara that still had the PSP, and the only color they had was pink, so I went ahead and bought a used GameCube for the apartment for cheap.
When I got home, I busted open the GameCube box, intending to hook it up and try it out, only to find that apparently in Japan GameCubes come with everything you need EXCEPT a cable to connect it to a TV. One of my roommates suggested we try heading over to a mall at a nearby station to check there for the necessary cable.
While waiting for the train, I bought a drink from a vending machine that looked interesting. It turns out it was barley tea, and it made me very sick. We went to the mall anyway, and eventually found a game shop. The shop, however, had no GameCube cables. They did have PSPs, though, so I bought one (although they didn't have any copies of FFVII: Crisis Core left). We then went home, where I promptly ran to the bathroom and vomited forcefully enough that half the contents of my stomach went out through my nose. I'm still feeling somewhat queasy, and have yet to do my Japanese homework. I am very glad I don't have school tomorrow.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Updates, and why my hands smell like fish

The second level Japanese class is way better than the third level one. The review we're doing is ACTUALLY REVIEW for me! *GASP*
Apparently, our dorm manager is convinced that we don't eat enough. I guess that's what happens when all three of us are skinny and she's convinced that we can't even handle turning the rice cooker on, because we're guys -_-(). On that note, one of my roommates made a tasty fried udon dish tonight. I got to be the official cutter of ingredients. That job included gutting and chopping up the fish, hence why my hands smell like fish.
Plans for tomorrow / this weekend: buy more RAM for my comp (one of my RAM chips appears to be bad =( ), buy a PSP and FFVII: Crisis Core (because it's an FFVII tie-in!), and go to Tokyo Game Show. I suppose homework and studying fall somewhere in there, though I don't have school on Monday, so I could always wait until then. Also, my hands continue to smell like fish. Yuck.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My new quest (and recent events)

The last few days have been fairly busy. I switched into a lower-level Japanese class, which involved a more in-depth interrogation than I would have liked. I went on a bus tour of Tokyo, which was interesting, although it took the whole day. I walked around Akihabara, and looked at many geeky things that I would buy if I had the money. Also, I realized what my quest will be while I'm here: I shall try and sample as many different kinds of wacky pastries as I can. There are tons of pastries, and they are tasty and cheap. I got a pastry the size of my head for only 105 yen! That's less than $1! Also, I've come to the realization that two things I'll miss alot when I go home are the trains and the pastries. I really like riding the trains here; hell, I wish my morning commute was longer so I could spend more time on them in the morning. I'll miss the pastries because they're cheap, tasty, and everywhere. I also found out that my hair is now too long to go into a full jewfro. I think that just about covers the events of the last few days.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Best. Dinner. Ever. (and other oddness)

So, the Japanese classes here are divided into 3 levels. Level 1 is for students with 1 year of Japanese; level 2 for people with 2 years; level 3 for people with 3 years. Somehow, the placement test put me in level 3, though I can't speak worth a damn and I suck at kanji. It also placed one of my roommates (who has 3 years of Japanese) and another guy who's got like 5 years and has lived here before in level 1. WTF, seriously... on the plus side (at least for me), they freely allow people to drop down into a lower-level class than the one they tested into. I'm seriously not a level 3 student... I might be able to pull a C or perhaps a B- if I bust my ass, but that's not what this is about.
On a less annoying topic, I had an interesting dinner tonight: rice and toast... now that's class! Apparently, the dorm manager will be making us dinner tomorrow night. She can't speak English at all, but seems nice enough (though I'm not quite sure what's going on half the time when she's talking to us... vocab is a bitch!).
To-do tomorrow: deal with alien card registration, pick up my meal subsidy money from Shin-san, and hopefully buy a denshi-jishou (electronic dictionary)... and study so I'll not make a total ass of myself in level 3 Japanese on Thursday... blearg -_-()

Monday, September 10, 2007

Placement test

I took the placement test today. It didn't seem too bad, though that could just be because I'm such a moron that I don't even realize how little I know. Also, had the campus tour type thing, and posed for a picture. Had onigiri and odango for lunch (I should put that in Japanese, but I'm too lazy to switch over to hiragana). Got some type of opening ceremony to go to tomorrow. I'm supposed to wear 'formal' clothes, so I might tuck in my shirt. I think that's about it for now.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

So, when my blog was in Japanese...

I apparently accidentally deleted everything... oops ^_^()... at least my links are now all in English again. Also, I moved into my dorm today... it's pretty nice, I'll post pics sometime... my roommates both seem all right, too... and I've got free internet!!!