Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mixi is not helping

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it before, but Japan's youth have their own version of MySpace/Facebook called Mixi.

To me it's a bit of a hybrid between MySpace and Facebook, without all the annoying applications. On Facebook, it's kind of expected that you put your real identity to your profile -- you don't get to make believe you're someone else. If you want to join a specific Facebook network, you have to provide proof that you're a part of that network in some way (university networks require a valid university email). You can gain a lot of insight into someone's life just by looking at their Facebook profile. Lots of drinking pictures? Dungeons and Dragons application? Friends spamming The Office quotes? It allows me to fit people into stereotypes that are fairly accurate.

MySpace is a free-for-all these days: a mess of advertising, copy+pasted Facebook features, and fail. You can be who you want to a certain extent. If you're a pretentious emo kid you can be 100x more pretentious with your MySpace profile. I hold onto my account only because I've had it for so long; I'm pushing five years on the same profile. That's longer than like... everyone.

So yeah I buried my lead, sorry. MIXI okay. It's like Facebook in that it's fairly exclusive; you have to be *invited* to Mixi. But I guess after you get in, you can invite yourself over and over again to make new stupid profiles. You can still tell a lot about someone from their friends, their friends' photos, etc. I added one guy as a friend because of the crazy drunk pictures and videos he posted. One thing about Mixi is that you can't make your entire profile private. You will always see some basic information and up to three photos that person uploaded. And the greatest double-edged sword feature Mixi has is profile tracking -- Mixi remembers the last 60(?) people who visited your profile. It made me scared to troll pages at first; I always look at ganguro and pretty boy profiles (they're by far the most entertaining). But now I just don't care.

While I enjoy Mixi and spending hours translating the kanji and grammar found on profiles, it makes me miss Japan. I miss seeing all kinds of crazy hair and fashion, miss the ganguro and the clubs and shopping. It's also become another thing for me to check everyday on top of the other two networking sites, three email accounts, celebrity gossip blogs, and the new non-Blackboard called BlueLine.

But it is fun, provides many LOLz, and may help me remember *some* Japanese. I have some Japanese friends I message using Japanese, so I have to remember grammar and how to conjugate verbs. Even if I can't *write* a certain character, I'm begining to recognize some of the more common ones I never learned in class. And the English... oh it's so funny. The hip-hop boys always have misspelled gangsta terminology, like "huthlerz (lisp much?)" and cuss words that were obviously sounded out. Nothing like doing journalism/grammar/spelling/difficult English all day then sign in to Mixi to see it all thrown out the window.

Friday, August 29, 2008

So it's not just me?

I've been back at Creighton for a few days now. There's still a big brown box next to my computer and the suitcases are half-full of junk, but I am more or less settled.

I started my position as ad manager for the school paper, which sucks right now, and I was stuck in my little corner for a good part of the afternoon catching up on calls and emails. One of the editors, Mary, who had just returned from a stint in Poland this semester, came by to entertain me. We studied abroad for the same reasons, and ironically seemed to have had similar outcomes from the time abroad. Neither of us knew the local language very well and still don't have a firm grasp of it, drinking was always a good time (in Poland? I would have never imagined), and we didn't really hang out with the natives.

The same editor was in my dorm when I got back today, prepping with my room mate for a photography adventure on the roof of the law school. My room mate, Lisa, studied abroad last semester at a Jesuit school in Ireland. The three of us started talking about our trips, and we agree that:

1. We have no idea where our money went
I just read on the interwebs that Tokyo is ranked as the second most expensive city to live in, and I can believe that. My application packet to Sophia said I'd need about $1500 a month to survive, and I laughed. It's so true, though. I don't even want to think about the amount of money I spent, let alone try to figure out what I spent it on. My room mate had to deal with the currency exchange in euros and pounds, and Mary managed until she got to traveling around Europe.

2. There's no place like home, but... America sucks.
We don't like it here anymore. Mary told me point blank, "I do not want to be here. I want to be in Poland." I've been telling anyone who wants to know about my trip that I loved Japan (despite the cost) and I will run away one day to live there, or at least get paid to fly back and forth a lot. All this journalism stuff? 18 credits a semester? Ad manager? I love it, it'll look great on a resume, but in the end it's all part of the plan to return to Nihon.

3. America sucks but Americans are so interesting!
Why are Americans so fascinating to everyone? We're magnets for odd things and attention. Mary had some crazy clubbing stories, and I've complained enough about the looks I'd get in Japan. Lisa didn't mention anything weird, but she went to an English-speaking country. Americans aren't *exotic* to the Irish.

4. Foreign guys > American guys
I walk around campus completely unimpressed with the boys. I grew to appreciate the smaller, less intimidating, chou kawaii, not-so-freaking-hairy Nihonjin boys; Mary and Lisa grew to appreciate the wonderful accents and charm that all European men seem to be blessed with. American boys... gah... they're so impolite, they're too worried about "looking gay", they don't dance, they're so dumb, etc. I'll take Arashi and KAT-TUN over whatever boy bands we have in America. Who's Diddy pimping these days? Day26 or something? Whatever.

----------------------------

I forgot to add one very important halfie to the list last time...

JERO!


Like Crystal Kay, he's half-black and half-Japanese and a popular singer. Catch is, he sings enka. KiKu airs enka singing contests from time to time, and it's usually old men and women singing about long lost loves and heartbreak. It's strange to watch his YouTube videos -- looks like Ne-Yo but he's singing in slow, drawn out Nihongo. Perfectly fluent, too; I think he has a video with that other half-Japanese girl in my last post.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Chance at Japanese Superstardom

...cannot be fulfilled this year.

Ma and I were watching House last night and a commercial for the LesPros model search came on. They are having an open audition to join the agency/win some prize, but I'll just be starting classes at Creighton when it happens. I looked online and you don't even need to speak Japanese to go to the audition! The website specifically mentions that people who are half-Japanese tend to do very well in Japan, and I'm pretty sure that's what LesPros is looking for.

Here are some halfies that I know of off the top of my head:



Shirota Yu is half-Spanish and half-Japanese according to his DramaWiki. Ashlie and I got sucked into the Rookies two-hour series finale thing on TV one day, and we were like, "That guy is NOT full Japanese, even though he is speaking the language perfectly and has a funny haircut."



Crystal Kay is a big JPop singer, half Japanese and half black. She attends Sophia University, and I know one of the Oizumi girls had an art class with her. She said Crystal usually sat at the back of the class and didn't pay attention (I can't say I'm any better), but she didn't make an ass of herself in front of the class for a presentation. Good enough for me.

And this girl. I'm not sure what her name is, but she is always on TV and I'm almost positive she's half.

Granted, I don't look at all like I'm half, nihonjin always thought I was insane or lying to them when I told them, and I'd probably have to drop 15lbs. before I'd get to do anything fun. Christina always tells me, "Yeah for an Asian girl you're kinda chubby, but you've got those big innocent eyes that everyone loves so that makes up for it." I guess I can only be an ANTM contestant in purikura booths.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Now that I'm back...

I've been back in Hawaii for a few days, and I can't say I'm overjoyed. Sure, I'm happy that I won't have to spend as much money on a daily basis, happy to see all my friends and family, happy to speak English and not feel completely retarded.

But I'm not sure when I'll get to go back to Japan, and even when I do I won't be able to go back to the crazy life I had over the last four months. I'm too old to go back to Sophia for undergrad studies, and it will be a long time before I can enter their Japanese graduate program. I can't even fathom writing an essay in Japanese, forget a thesis. I'm not interested in doing the JET program because I hate kids, I might get stuck in the countryside, and it's not an opportunity to formally learn Japanese, which I think I'd benefit most from.

Despite the Debbie-Downer side, the semester in Japan was definitely one of the best things I could have done. I'm that much more motivated to learn Japanese and incorporate that into my future career. "Bilingual in Japanese and English" is not just something that would be really nice to put on a resume (insert accent mark over the second e), it's a very personal goal. I've had my little victories in Japanese, like reading the names on mailboxes or having short conversations, and IT'S SO COOL YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I'll enroll in Japanese school for little kids or be the oldest person in a Japanese class at UH I don't care. I'm not that weird, I can pass for an undergrad. Hopefully I'll retain something by the time I finish my degree at Creighton.

-------------------------

Over the next few blogs, I'll try to do some reflecting (i.e. stuff you don't really have to read) and put up stuff I never got around to posting.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

So it ends.

My last blog while in Japan! So sad.

I haven't got time to reflect on everything at the moment, but I will do that when I'm back on Hawaiian soil.

It's been real.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Things to do before I leave

I'm heading back to America in a few days, and I've got loose ends to tie up. I'm bringing Christina along to like all of them to translate haha.

1. Have to cancel the cell phone EDIT: Done.

The cell phone was something I needed and despite the cost I'm glad I had it. I will miss its cuteness when I have to go back to my Sprint LG whateveritis.

2. Have to cancel the bank account

Honestly, nothing good has come from me getting a bank account. I could have very well survived on just my American bank card and international ATMs. I got the account because I wanted to have my dorm fees paid automatically, but no one told me you can pay almost any bill at a convenience store (which I did for the first two months anyway because the request wasn't processed for that long). When a friend sent a wire transfer for some Japanese software he wanted me to buy, the bank took out 20% of the $100 transfer and questioned me as to why I needed the money and who it came from. Seriously, the ganguro shop girls at Shibuya 109 have better English and customer service skills than all the well-educated, uniformed employees at the bank. I'm thinking about just taking out all the money and leaving the account open.

3. Have to arrange for takkyubin EDIT: Done.

My trip to Narita Airport is going to be two hours by train, and I'll be damned if I don't know better than taking my huge suitcases along for the trek. Takkyubin services allow people to ship their luggage to the airport a day or two ahead of their flights so they're free to take public transportation without big bulky luggage. Really all I have to do is pack my suitcases, hand the dorm manager some forms with the luggage, and he'll do the rest.

4. Get rid of all my dorm things

Dishes, hangers, clothespins, detergent, shoes, etc. I'm not sure what to do with all of it. I wish I could leave the hangers and clothespins to spare the next girl who lives here from having to go buy it all again. I've got like three pairs of shoes I don't want to bring home, do I just throw them away in the non-combustible trash can?

5. Party

300 Yen Bar in Ginza on Wednesday night. Should be interesting.

-------------------------------

Here's some purikura we took last night after a trip to an izakaya:




Okay I'll go study or something.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

FINALS

Finals suck.

I can't go out and do anything, I have to study, blah blah blah. I have three finals this semester -- three days of Japanese (conversation, kanji/listening/reading, grammar), modern Japanese literature, and international politics. I have a paper for history, which I half-assed last night. I mean really, if a prof can't be bothered to give me a guideline of what he wants a 10-page final paper to look like (beyond the paragraph that's in the course syllabus) or even grade the other papers I've written for him, then I can't be bothered to put much effort into it.

I just finished the Japanese finals this morning. I got 10/10 for the conversation, bombed kanji in an epic fashion, and did pretty well on the rest of it. Today I have my literature final, which will be graded by the most opinionated and anal professor ever. Next Tuesday is the international politics final, which is going to be FUN. His teaching style does not justify how ridiculously hard his tests are. Even though he's probably got tenure, I'm going to rip him apart on his evaluation.

ANYWAY I found something funny:
http://www.king-deco.com/

All the major girly shopping plazas have a store like this. You give them your keitai or DS or random crap, and they bling it out for you. Bic Camera sells some pre-made DS plates with bling you stick on like a giant crystal-covered sticker. I haven't seen anyone with a phone or DS like the ones featured on the website, but I don't have any ganguro friends.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I met another Fujiyoshi

Desperate to get out of the dorm last night, I headed to Ikebukuro to wander around. After getting off the train, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Suimasen..."


Yeah, like I can read where you live.

I half expected to see someone I know, the other half expected to see some little old lady about to ask me something. It's happened before. Instead I got a short little Japanese guy in his 20's carrying a ton of athletic equipment. Conversation in Japanese as follows:

"Do you speak Japanese?"
"Uh... my Japanese isn't great..."
"You have Fujiyoshi on your back."
"Yeah."
"My last name is Fujiyoshi, like on your back." *shows me an ID card, with the same lucky wisteria characters I have*
"Really?"
"So why do you have that?"
"It's my name. I'm fourth generation (implying I'm ethnically Japanese but not Nihonjin) half Japanese."
"Oh, I see. *Takes out keitai* Can I take a picture of it?"
"Yeah, sure."

At least he didn't hit on me. I want to go to Kabukicho one night and wander around with my tattoo showing, maybe I'll get a yakuza come up to me and speak their harsh yakuza dialect.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CoCo Ichiban and Bling-bling

I found some photos from when Dan was here! My camera battery has been dead for a few days so I kinda forgot about what was on it.

Anyway, we went to CoCo Ichiban in Shibuya. We have this chain in Hawaii but they're called Curry House instead; I would think because "CoCo Ichiban" has no meaning to someone who doesn't know anything about Japanese. Though it's the same chain, you order a bit differently in Japan -- you choose the amount of rice you want (200-700? grams, increments of 100g), how spicy you want the curry to be (scale of 1-10, but 6-10 has its own little red box in the chart they give you), and then what type of curry (chicken katsu, hamburger, etc).



Let's break down what everyone ordered, yes?


Dan: 400g- level 4 - croquette curry


Megan: 200g - level 4 - hamburger curry


Me: 300g - level 3 - some kind of pork curry


Ashlie: 300g - level 2 - katsu curry

Level 3, though seemingly unimpressive, was definitely spicy enough. And it was that kind of spicy that you don't feel until you've eaten a few bites, then you realize your mouth is on fire. It was delicious.

After lunch, we went through the epic Shibuya 109 5-days Clearance. I may or may not have a sound byte of what you hear when you enter this overly crowded cornucopia of ganguro-techno-clubbing-trashy madness, but I hope these two photos suffice. I was afraid to take a picture of the shop girls, who are all on stools or small ladders with cones in their hands shouting out the latest price cuts at their store. INSANE. EDIT: If you're friends with Dan on Facebook, he took some photos of the shop girls. Like a freakin' gaijin.




Yeah, that's a cop.

Today, I went to Bic Camera to get a new pair of earphones, as the left side of my rip-off $35 iPod earphones is going dead. Bic Camera has an entire wall of all sorts of earphones, most of which you can try out before you buy. They keep a display rack of earphones that you can put into your ear, and each set is connected to some music source playing a pop song. Apple's advertising techniques work on me, so I wanted to buy some white earphones to keep the iPod look. I FOUND THE CUTEST EARPHONES EVER I LOVE THEM. And I managed to get some other CUTE bling too:


Charmy Kitty iPod sticker and new earphones


I bought them like that.
They also come in pink and black if you wanna send me $15 to buy you a pair :)



I have yet to bling out the keitai

Ooooh Japan why must you make me spend money and make me overly girly?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Recruiters

Haven't been doing anything of much interest lately, but we did see this guy hanging around Ikebukuro. We were in a restaurant overlooking a busy street, and this guy stood out for obvious reasons.





We couldn't figure out what he was doing. He was hanging around with his umbrella, checking his phone every so often, obviously waiting for something or someone. Ashlie suggested he was getting stood up by his girlfriend. Kawaisou (pathetic/pitiful), ne?

But then an associate showed up, and it became apparent they were recruiting for *something*.





And Mr. Cool Hair Guy is probably a pimp of some sort. He lets his not-so-cool-hair minion do most of the work, and he just sits around like a monkey.





Christina gets these kinds of guys come up to her all the time. They'll say, "Aah! Onee-san! How old are you? Are you legal? Come to my bar! You can be a hostess!" These two weren't the only ones out at this particular time, either -- there was another guy (who I didn't get a picture of) who must have gone up to a dozen or more different girls doing the same thing but didn't get any responses. Three cops passed by these guys, so I assume these practices aren't completely illegal, just annoying.

Just a few weeks left! I've got a 10-15 page term paper to write that I haven't started, and three other tests to look forward to! Hooray!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Things the Japanese Do that We Shouldn't in America

1. Nampa

I've heard nampa translated as a few different things (girl-hunting, flirting, skirt-chasing), but basically it's when a guy randomly hits on a girl on the street. Not in a bar, not in a club, not in an izakaya, but literally on a street corner or sidewalk.

Some afternoons in Shibuya, you can see j-rocker types waiting around like lions observing a herd of water buffalo. They'll hang out on the edge of the sidewalk until the Hachiko intersection gets busy, then they'll wait in the middle of the sidewalk waiting for a pretty girl to walk by. When one comes by that they like, they'll try to walk next to her and get her to go to bar or restaurant or something. Why you'd do it in the afternoon in Shibuya, I have no idea; I've never seen a successful attempt at that time of day.

I was a nampa victim last night waiting for Dan. The Hachiko statue* outside Shibuya station is a big meeting place, so there are lots of teenagers and 20-somethings waiting around for their friends. We were minding our own business, waiting for Dan, when a Japanese guy comes up to us and starts talking in Japanese. I thought he was on his phone not facing us, so I ignored him until Ashlie started laughing. He had a friend with him who was a bit embarrassed and kept trying to get the first guy to quit the nampa, but he kept going. I got a drink at Atom out of the whole ordeal; he offered to pay my cover but I declined because I thought that might mean I'd owe him a trip to a love hotel.

Anyway so my ORIGINAL point, having to do with the title of this blog and all, is that we should not adopt this practice in America. The number of pepper spray-related emergency room visits would skyrocket. I find the short Japanese boys who speak broken English kind of endearing, but I don't think I'd find it so cute coming from a frat boy. There were some American boys hanging out around the bathrooms, hitting on the girls who came in and out of the ladies' room, and they were just embarrassing to all Americans (especially on the 4th of July).

Speaking of my grand nation's independence day, I totally forgot about it. But once I was reminded in Japanese class, I decided to go to McDonald's, a truly iconic American institution, to celebrate. No pictures, but I had a salsa chicken burger thing. It was okay. Go America.

*The Hachiko story is the cutest story ever. Go read at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A month left?

I have about one month left in Tokyo! Oh the horror...

As soon as I finish my stupid history paper due on Thursday, I'm going to go to the Pokemon Center in Hamabatsucho (something like that), Tokyo's gay district Ni-Chome (fun fact: Ni-Chome has the highest concentration of gay bars per block in the entire world), and probably out for clubbing this weekend.

All the great shopping places are having crazy sales this month. 109 is having their very well-advertised five-day sale this weekend and Sunshine City/Alta are in the middle of summer sales as well. I'll have to go get something nice :D

Dan will be here this week, and Brian told him to basically do everything he did. SO one more round of the Lock-Up, Club Atom, and maybe my first trip to a standing bar. YAY.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I don't have to look...

... at the guy sitting next to me in the computer lab to know he is gaijin.

If I had to describe everything he did before he even logged on to the computer system, I WOULD DO IT IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT WAS THAT LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS. I'm almost positive his thought process went something like, "LET ME THROW MY BAG DOWN AND BOUNCE IN THE CHAIR A FEW TIMES TO GET COMFY AND MESS WITH THE COMPUTER SCREEN WITH EXCESSIVE FORCE AND THEN LOGIN."

I'm just saying. I try to be as inconspicuous as possible; blending in is good.

I wish I could make an appropriate demotivator to post.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Konpa!

Yesterday was the Japanese class konpa! It was a lot of fun, I'm very glad I went and I feel sorry for the people who didn't. Losers. Maka set up everything, which was nice because I detest planning events. We had two hours of nomihodai and lots of good food (which I forgot to take pictures of because I was a bit preoccupied with the nomihodai). Two out of our three senseis showed up at first, but we got the last one to come by the end of the party. HAPPY TIME.

Pictures that I'm not sure I should post because it's obvious I was drunk and not looking my best:


Claire said one of the senseis admitted to not really liking Jake (left).
But they all love Alex (right).













Everyone complains their Japanese teachers suck,
but ours are awesome.


After konpa, I met up with Ashlie and Maka took us to this mixer of international and Nihonjin students. Two girls came up to Ashlie and I, so we were speaking broken Japanese to them for a while. We left with them and three boys, one of which looked like a yakuza, and wandered around Shinjuku. One of the boys spoke fairly good English and was quoting Star Wars ("My best movie!!!") all night in a really bad accent.


Keeko, me, Ashlie, and Maki.


IDK but cute yakuza boy is not in the photo. Sad.

Ashlie and I caught some of the last trains home and called it a night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quit Gawking

I'm not in an incredibly great mood today. After Japanese, Ashlie and I tried to go find Yasukuni Shrine -- the infamous shrine where certain WWII class A war criminals (including Tojo) are honored for their military service to Japan. The shrine's website says that it's a 10 minute walk from the Iidabashi station on the Chuo line, same line that I take to school. The site's map is a bit confusing, but if it's that close to the station then I figured it would be on a map by the exit (all the train stations have maps listing landmarks, hospitals, government offices, etc.).

We walked around for close to two hours and did not find the damn shrine. It wasn't listed on any maps for the area, and we looked at about 10 maps. There are two stations closer to the shrine according to the website, so I guess I'm forced to go to one of those to try to find the shrine.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Yesterday, I was in a fairly good mood. If I had been in the mood I'm in now, I'm not sure what I would have done. Standing on the train platform going home, two obnoxious Nihonjin boys, probably Jouichi boys, were gawking at my tattoo. I'm used to people trying to read it or glancing, but these guys... I almost went over there to gaijin-smash their faces. I probably should have. I gave them some dirty looks and they stayed away from me.

On the train home from Ikebukuro, I found myself complaining about a child. But oh, not a Japanese child! Honestly, Japanese children are perfect and obedient and quiet 90% of the time and I am rarely irritated by them. This child was an American, with her American mother, who reminded me why I shall never have children of my own.

By American standards, this little girl was well-behaved enough. In Japan standards are (thankfully) much higher. Kids are expected to be quiet and sit still when on the train. There was a little Japanese girl the same age down the car, and she sat in the same spot for the entire time she was on the train. This American kid, however, was fidgety and could not sit still for whatever reason -- she had to be leaning over her mom, looking at the novel mom was reading, wanting this, wanting that. There was one seat open when they got on the train and mom gave it to the daughter, but daughter whined that she needed mom to sit next to her. MOM GAVE IN squeezing some poor older woman into the end of the seat. When the squished woman got off and they had two proper seats, daughter decides she wants to sit on mom's lap so she does. GOOD GOD.

Maybe that's what's wrong with parenting in America, giving in too easily (among other cultural and social circumstances). "No" isn't a horrible swear word that you can't use with children. I admit I used to pull stuff like that, and I don't know why my parents let me get away with it.

If tomorrow weren't my long day, I'd go do something spectacular. Friday evening I'm supposed to go drinking with my Japanese class, teachers included. Should be interesting and expensive.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Food stuffs

Remember that Mega Tamago I mentioned a few posts back? I had one yesterday in Shinjuku. It really is monstrous, but I managed to conquer it. The bacon was a bit too raw for me (and I loooove my sloppy non-crispy bacon) but it was pretty good.




Egg, BACON (I didn't even know it had bacon),
and three beef patties.




I found two more Kit-Kat flavors. However, I can't send them off to someone who is already expecting some snacks because I already sealed the package (hahaha). For your amazement:

Strawberry Kit Kat: Quite delicious! Not too sweet, kind of tastes like the strawberry dipping creme that comes with Pocky.





Mango Kit Kat: I guess Kit Kat decided to make all their *tropical fruit* flavors in mini-size. I can't decide if I like it or not. It tastes like mango, but how well mango goes with chocolate and wafers is... eh.





More purikura, with special guest John:


If you didn't already go watch that Arashi video on YouTube, you should.

Unrelated to the rest of the post, but there's like a little vegetable patch next to the dorm. A few grandpa-looking gentleman and some school kids have been working on it for a while now, and they've got neat little rows of vegetables growing. Earlier I noticed a few crows out today; they were hanging around the roof when I went to do laundry, but I couldn't figure out why they were out *today* of all days. Looking out my patio onto the vegetable garden, though, I see WHY: They're digging up the vegetables and having a feast. Tried to take some video but they saw me >.<

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Things the Japanese Do that We Do in America

2. Procrastinate

I'm in the computer lab, working on my politics mid-term that is due tomorrow morning. I've been working on it steadily for the last week -- I know what I want to argue, I've got the evidence and sources lined up, it's just a matter of putting it all together. I had about half of it written before I came to the computer lab to finish it up.

I snuck a peek at what the guy next to me (who smells like good cologne with a hint of cigarettes) was working on, and he's doing THE SAME PAPER I'M DOING. He just started it. I hope you're not citing that John Lennon Wikipedia page, dear. EDIT: THERE IS NO FIRST PERSON IN ACADEMIC ESSAYS. Oh what I'd give to be able to point that out to him and not look like a complete something-or-another.

I thought to glance over to the girl to my left, and SHE'S DOING THE SAME PAPER, TOO. But of course we females have far more completed than the male, it's Sophia after all.

I wonder who will get the best grade...

Wasuremono!*

I forgot to mention here that Ashlie and I had a wasuremono (*lost things/articles) adventure last week. We proved to ourselves that we cannot speak Japanese.

Remember that pretty pink Sophia University envelope thing I posted a while back? The thing that holds books and papers and school things? Ashlie forgot hers at the ticket counter of Shibuya station, and we didn't realize it until after half an hour of shopping. We went back to the ticket counter and saw that it wasn't there, so I flipped through my Japanese notes as to how to go finding a Lost & Found office, describing her bag, etc.

Too bad I don't have enough vocabulary to understand a lot >.<

I managed to ask a station manager where the Lost & Found was located, but I didn't catch most of what he said, only "ichiban." (Number 1? What the hell does that have to do with anything?) We figured out he meant it was on platform 1, but only after consulting a map in English located elsewhere in the station.

So we are at the Lost & Found office. I have no idea what those envelope things are called in English, much less Japanese, but we described a bag with Japanese textbooks inside that we lost at Hachiko exit about half an hour earlier. Great. Okay, they're holding the book bag thing at the first station manager desk we went to.

Frustrating, but technically I didn't ask if the station manager had the bag -- I asked where the Lost & Found was located.

They made Ashlie show her Sophia student ID fill out a form with her name and address in order to get back her bookbag. They don't do that in America, do they? They just give you the article back no questions asked. Either way, Ashlie got her books back and we went to an idol shop to go buy Arashi merchandise to feel better.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You Can't Have Spelling Bees in Japanese

This morning in Japanese class, sensei was asking us about different school-related things in America. We had to write a sentence on the board using some kanji from the current lesson, and someone wrote:

"Tesuto to kuizu wa kubetsu ga nai." (I cannot distinguish [the difference between] tests and quizzes.)

Sensei looked a bit confused at the writer (who is quite a funny cookie if you ask me), and asked the class at large what the difference was between tests and quizzes. We came to the conclusion that the amount of content and point value were the distinguishing characteristics of tests and quizzes. Quizzes cover smaller amounts of material and are worth fewer points; tests cover a lot of material and are usually worth a good chunk of a student's grade. She also asked us what the word "quiz" came from, like if it was short for something, and I don't think we gave her a real answer to that.

Then we got to discussing the readings of the kanji in this lesson. It's all map-related words, like the different words for prefecture, town, city, etc. Most kanji have at least two ways of being read (yomikata), the Chinese reading and the Japanese reading, which makes kanji that much more frustrating to learn. You have to know 1) how to write it, 2) how to read it both ways, 3) the translation to English. But if you can recognize a word in kanji and know at least the meaning in English, you can make some fairly educated guesses as to what it is. At the same time, if you know a word but can't write the kanji, you can always spell it out in hiragana.

Not quite the same in English. There aren't always clues to a word's meaning in the word itself. If I were learning English as a second language, I can't imagine I would ever assume the word "lavatory" means the same thing as "toilet" or "bathroom" if you didn't tell me. I suppose you can study Latin for prefixes, suffixes, and things like that to get clues. Yet I didn't start really learning that stuff until middle school and I don't know if that would be helpful to someone learning basic English. And even if you know a word, there's always a chance you'll misspell it, so there's no hiragana-type safety net in English.

At that point we came to the concept of spelling bees. You can't have spelling bees in Japanese the same way you have them in English. In Japanese you can spell anything you can sound out, but English has all kinds of stupid rules and silent letters all over the place. You can tell a Japanese first-grader to spell some complicated Japanese word and they can do it in hiragana, but you can't tell an English-speaking child to spell "juxtaposition" at the same age and expect them to do it. In fact, I'm sure you can't ask some college students to spell "juxtaposition." Sad.

I can't think of a good segue... So, tomorrow -- dinner with John in Asakusa. I will be having a delicious dinner of fatty tuna sushi mmmmmmmm it will be great.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nothing New

I figure it's been a week since my last post, so I better write *something.* Feeling lazy, however, and I've got 10 minutes before dinner, so we'll go like this:

1. Saw John on Friday, went to The Lockup (again) with Ashlie and Christina. We got to experience the monsters TWICE this time! Amazing. Ashlie and I had gone to the bathroom before the second wave of monsters, and almost didn't make it back to our cell before the lights went out. THAT was scary. I'd post the purikura we took but apparently I have to pay for it through email if I want the file.

2. DID. NOT. SEE. ARASHI. AT. TOKYO. DOME. Sad pandas. We flipped a 10yen coin, atama (head) or shippo (tail) and got shippo to not go find a pair of scalped tickets. I really don't know if that's what you say in Japanese. Instead, we sent in a postcard to Fuji Television Network to try to get tickets to a taping of VS Arashi, their game show. I hope someone at Fuji Television can appreciate (read enough English to understand) the stupid story I wrote on the front.

Go to YouTube and search "VS Arashi" or Arashi in general if you want to discover the wonders of these five Japanese idols. They're hilarious. (This clip is one of my favorites)

ALSO PRAY THAT WE CAN GET SOME TICKETS!!! BELIEVE!!! Postcards are selected "at random" according to the Fuji TV website. I think mine sticks out enough.

3. All-you-can-eat (tabehoodai) and all-you-can-drink (nomihoodai) are regular things here in Japan, like a karaoke places or special restaurants. On Friday, Tama and her friend showed us a dessert tabehoodai restaurant, Sweets Paradise. I paid $15 for 90 minutes of all-you-can-eat pasta, curry, cake, ice cream, fruit, etc. It was great. Photos:







Maybe I'll do something interesting soon, like visit Yasukuni Shrine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mini-Post: Blue Hawaii Pepsi

In my favorite class ever, there's one guy who always sits by us who plays golf. You know how I know this? His left hand has a glove tan so bad that the skin on his hand is about five shades whiter than the rest of his skin. And he wears a golf hat. Anyway, today I noticed he was sipping on some Blue Hawaii Pepsi.



So of course I went out and got one for myself. I thought I would be appalled by the combination of pineapple, lemon, and Pepsi, but it is quite refreshing. It tastes more like fruit punch than anything. Just another example of Japanese companies introducing silly new things to keep consumers interested. I must admit, this strategy keeps me buying soda and snacks that I wouldn't normally spend money on. "Oh new flavor! I'll get one and try it, just to say I did..."

Ashlie: So Carly, does it taste like the motherland?
Me: Indeed.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Eigo wa chotto muzukashii da yo...*

My final midterm is in the form of a take-home essay. It's for my favorite international politics course that I always talk about -- I don't think I've discussed any of my other courses to the extent that I have with Anno's class. Anyway, Anno posted the essay questions on Moodle (the Japanese version of Blackboard) along with a tip sheet for writing essays.

This tip sheet, though I have only skimmed through it, is like a window into Japanese academic culture and language problems.

The opening sentence is, "Many of your sempai who took this course in the past (natives as well as non-natives) have had difficulty writing good English."

The "writing good English" part is universal. I know people at Creighton who can't write a decent essay to save their lives, and I'm sure it's much harder to write an essay in a second language (Aside: I think "...have had difficulty writing English well" sounds better? It sounds awkward as it is. Whatever). It also implies my English skillz, as in I haven't gotten a paper back with less than a B+ in two years, will secure me a good grade. At least better than those three guys I drew a few posts back.

The sempai-kouhai relationship is unique in Japanese culture. The sempai is like a big brother or big sister -- they help their kouhai in whatever way they can to make sure they succeed. In exchange, the kouhai is like the sempai's slave. Anyway, this sentence leads me to believe that everyone and their mom has some sort of sempai-kouhai relationship. Everyone's got someone looking out for them or is taking care of someone in this university setting. The natives and non-natives part confuses me a little. Does that mean gaijin and nihonjin can mix together? I wasn't aware I was allowed to have a nihonjin sempai or take on a nihonjin kouhai, it seems kind of weird.

Anno goes on about different grammatical structures that he finds students have problems with, like the use of apostrophes in certain words. Native English speakers wouldn't have trouble on most of the things he mentions, but the apostrophe thing is one of the most irritating grammatical mistakes I see from native English speakers. "It's", "its'", and "its" are all SUCH SMALL STUPID MISTAKES that soooooo many people I know make all the time. I'm sure someone can find an example of it in my own writing, possibly on this blog, but I do know better.

If I find any other gems worth mentioning I'll edit this post. For now, I'm going to go do Japanese homework.

EDIT: All this talk of grammar has me wondering about Japanese grammar. The girl to the left of me is writing something in Word in Japanese, but in the traditional up-down style. Most natives in the computer lab write their Japanese essays and whatnot in the Western style of left-right, like the girl to my right. And I'm just a crazy gaijin in the middle typing a blog in English.

*The title is supposed to translate as, "English is kind of difficult..."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Disneyland ni ikimashita!!!

I wish I knew how to write the title in Japanese.

I WENT TO DISNEYLAND TODAY YAAAAAAAAY!!! THE HAPPIEST JAPANESE PLACE ON EARTH!!!

I left the dorm at 730 this morning to get to The Japanese Magic Kingdom at 945. Tokyo station is just... unnecessarily LARGE; it took me like 10 minutes to get between the lines I needed to take. I was kind of scared to take such a long journey by myself, but John had to do it so I couldn't complain. I haven't seen dearest John since December 2005 so it was good to see him.

I saw *maybe* 15 gaijin the entire day, it was kind of weird. There are more foreign tourists at Asakusa on a given Saturday than there were in all of Disneyland. I suppose foreigners don't come to Japan to go to Disneyland, especially Americans since we've got two of those in our great nation, but it's still *Disneyland*.

Japanese society never ceases to amaze me. In the 8+ hours I was in the Disneyland park -- eating, waiting in line for rides, walking around, etc. -- I heard two kids cry. TWO KIDS. No tantrums, no fussing; some complaining and fidgeting but I sympathized. I really thought I'd get to witness a melt down during the wait at the Haunted Mansion, however. Mom, Dad, 4 year old son, and maybe 2 year old daughter were in front of us; Dad had just returned with water and gave a bottle to the son. Mom told him he had to share with the sister, and the sister had the biggest grin on her face sipping cold water from the bottle, watching the brother, SHE WAS SO SASSY. I feared the worst from the son, but it never came! You could tell he was getting anxious, but he never complained and was perfectly happy when Dad gave him the water back.

WHATEVER I KNOW YOU WANT PICTURES.


Entrance to *Tokyo Disneyland*!!!


John bought me Minnie Mouse ears, I bought the churro.
Why they have churros at Tokyo Disneyland I'll never know.
Please note the American flag in the background.




HI MICKEY! YAY! LET'S ALL WAVE! Everyone, adults and kids, waved at the characters. It was almost rude not to.


Anyone who knows me well knows that THIS IS MY RIDE...




... even if I'm not allowed to do stupid things in the boat.


Lunch at the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall.


Heart-shaped hamburger!!!


Possibly worth the $18.


BYE BYE!!!

We hit up most of the big attractions -- Big Thunder Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean (featuring new life-like Jack Sparrow being weird everywhere), Buzz Lightyear, I forget what else. I think we waited the longest for the Haunted Mansion, more than an hour, but it's like that in America. We found out toward the end of the day that some of the other big rides, like Indiana Jones, were in DisneySea next door. Damnit. I enjoyed what we did see, though. Buzz Lightyear was interesting:

video

I was wondering about the whole language thing before I got to Disneyland. Do the speaking characters speak Japanese or English? Would the songs on the rides be different? Can you really translate something like, "Savvy?" I'm not sure what Disney is trying to aim for with what they chose to change and what they didn't change, but it was all mixed up. The Greeting Parade theme song was English, but Mickey always spoke Japanese; some recordings were in English and some were Japanese. I heard English and Chinese instructions for one ride, but most announcements were in Japanese. So long as no one dies it doesn't matter.

We finished Disneyland at around 7pm. Ate dinner in Shinjuku, and did PURIKURA!!! I unintentionally chose a super girly set of backgrounds, but these things are supposed to be hilarious in my opinion.



My feet are tired and I am broke. Disneyland cost me about $100 ($60 ticket, $25 in food, the rest in small souvenirs) BUT I HAD FUN. I wanna go again. Damn you, Mickey!