Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Golden Week is upon us

If I'm not mistaken, today was the first day of Golden Week in Japan. I've mentioned it before, but Golden Week is a bunch of national holidays that happen to be at the same time and many Japanese get a week-long vacation. Sensei made the mistake of telling us that for most people Golden Week is 11 days of nothing; Sophia students only get three or four days off. I should familiarize myself with what holidays are being celebrated, but I'd rather party.

Since we had today off, we went clubbing in Roppongi last night. Roppongi is um... well it's not the nicest place in Tokyo. Lots of clubs and bars, and many Nigerian immigrants working as bouncers for those clubs and bars. There are a few nice restaurants and a high-end mall was built a few years ago to make the area less seedy, but it's still one of those places. (Aside: The dean of the exchange students ended his welcome speech with, "And for the love of God, don't go to Roppongi.")

When you party in Japan, you party hard. Trains stop running from around midnight until five or six in the morning, so unless you've got a car or want to pay for a taxi, you're out all night. We got to club Gas Panic at around 1130pm and left the next morning, sun rising, at 5am. The scene in Gas Panic was a mix of Japanese, gaijin, and creepy chikan (pervert) salarymen. I went clubbing in the same area a few years ago and I don't remember running into salarymen, so I was a bit taken aback to see older guys in suits taking shots and dancing (if that's what you can call it; it was closer to seizures for most of them).

In America if you want a drink you go up to the bar or find a hostess, but in Japan the hostesses hunt you down and make you buy drinks. Seriously, the bartenders and hosts were fairly aggressive with drink orders. Staff members would troll the dance floor throughout the night with laminated mini-menus on their lanyards, pushing people to buy drinks. The guy serving the seating area was trying to get all the tables to buy bottles of champagne.

A few little things throughout the night made me go, "What?":
- The bartenders did a karaoke version of some old Japanese pop song and held up a poster of who I assume was the original artist.

Sorry for the bad quality, but you get the idea.

- Way too many people knew how to do the Soulja Boy dance.
- They played Avril Lavigne's song "Girlfriend," and every single person in the club knew the chorus. Every. Single. Person. It was hilarious.
- There were Japanese hip-hop boys that put up a hardcore front, but the second you bumped into them it was, "Sumimasen!" and they would bow politely. So gangster, those guys.

EDIT: You can smoke in Japanese clubs. NOT GOOD. We spent five and a half hours in smoke and the fog stuff they spray on the dance floor. I left the club smelling like cigarettes, and I had an ashy taste in my mouth from all the second-hand smoke. It's been two days and I'm still coughing.

We have school the rest of the week, but on Saturday we'll be taking a day-trip to visit the area Tama lives in. I forget what we're doing, probably sight-seeing or a festival of some kind, but it should be fun.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I'll have to do another dorm post soon. I haven't been doing anything of much interest lately, just school and wandering around my favorite shopping spots.

I'm always surprised to learn what is appropriate and what isn't in Japan. On Tuesday, I was sitting in my poli-sci class, listening to the three girls behind me gossip in Japanese. Granted, our class is about 70 students and that kind of behavior usually goes unnoticed in such a large class. They were in their own little world at the back of the class, not even trying to hide the fact that they weren't paying attention to the lecture. In America most kids have the sense to at least fake taking notes or seem inconspicuous, but these three Japanese girls were pushed away from the table, no pencils in their hands, not taking notes. Professor Anno made comments about people being too cool for his class, referring to the girls, and they didn't take notice. About halfway through class, Anno stopped the lecture completely and asked them to stop talking.

Maybe it was just those three girls, but I have never seen students so rude to a professor before. If I'm bored at Creighton, I usually bring my take out my laptop and go on the internet rather than interrupt class. You know a prof is boring at Creighton if more than half the students lugged their computers to class. (In fact, I have yet to see someone bring a laptop to class; I suppose the trains are too brutal for such a sensitive and expensive thing to be brought along for most people.)

I get lazy between contact changes, so I wore glasses a few days this week. I have stereotypical emo glasses -- thick black rims, rectangle lenses, etc. If I can find the cartoon version of myself my brother whipped up I'll post it. Anyway, girls don't really wear glasses (megane) in Japan. I've seen a few older women sporting spectacles, but the high school and university girls don't find them fashionable I guess. I've only seen nerdy otaku (geeks) wearing emo-style glasses.

I noticed I got a few more looks than usual when I wore glasses. This band was performing on the street in Ikebukuro (a typical activity to create buzz for a new band or artist), and Saniya *swears* the lead singer gave me a look. The type of look was not specified, but I assume it was one of "Oh my gosh GAIJIN wearing GLASSES AND A BACKPACK ew." Guys my age on the train also gave me such looks. I'd go off and swear at them, because I'm an American damnit and I don't put up with that crap, but I'm sure they wouldn't be able to understand.

Aside: Prof. Anno was talking about the immunity that representatives from other countries receive. "You can't just arrest the Chinese ambassador or the German ambassador or the American ambassador... actually you can't arrest an American, ever." The Americans in the room chuckled at the acknowledgement of gaijin smash.

Today, my mission is to find tampons. The girls say you can't find tampons anywhere (I don't know I haven't been looking myself), mother says she bought some at a convenience store, and the internet doesn't say much of anything. We shall see.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Baka Gaijin

Normally I would not comment on the behaviors some unfortunate gaijin display, as I am sometimes a baka gaijin myself and I am still learning about the little things in Japanese culture.

However, the disgusting behavior some of the male foreign students exhibit and their attitude towards Japanese women annoys me to no end.

Now, perhaps I just happen to meet and befriend the wrong people. This in no way is reflective of all the male foreign exchange students, but it seems to be a trend among the ones I know. You know who you are:


I am personally appalled at how some of the guys look at the girls here. Yes, they are lovely and feminine and very polite. True, most of them will be nice to you if you go up and talk to them. It's the culture; they're trying not to be rude.

However, you should know better than to take advantage of this. It doesn't make you cool to have a little black book full of names and numbers to busy your nights and weekends. Stop assuming they'll do whatever you want just because you ask them to. If you want a quiet, submissive woman to dote on you for a while, go to a hostess bar where they're paid to do that. Don't expect the exceptional, well-educated women of Sophia University to be your call girls.

Have some respect and some class. You make the rest of us look bad, and I don't appreciate it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Asakusa and Interactions with Natives

I haven't posted in a few days, but I have some interesting stories to make up for it.

Yesterday we finally made it to Asakusa! I first went to Asakusa in 2005 with Micheru and Ted-san so naturally I had to go back again. The main attraction is the temple, but the sidestreets around it and the main road leading to it are good for picking up snacks and miyage (travel souvenirs). It's kind of a tourist attraction so I expected to see a few more gaijin than normal, but I was still surprised at how many natives were there. It wasn't a particularly nice day, a little windy and drizzling, but lots of people still showed up to pray/eat/buy/etc. I found a little charm that had the typical school backpack. It was so cute but I didn't buy it... I should have.

The more I interact and observe Japanese around campus, the more I go, "DUH I knew that they did that in (Sailor Moon, Crayon Shinchan, Soko Ga Shiritai, etc)." Clubs here are hard core. If you're a member, club is practically your life. The athletic clubs practice five to six days a week and practice as if they're official school sports teams. Most of the other clubs meet two or three times a week to sing, practice, dance, or hang out. And God forbid you join two clubs, how can you split your loyalties that way?

Saniya tried to join the Saffro Family club, which is like a gospel chorus. They get together and sing a few times a week, and seemingly try to imitate African-American church choruses. If I can get the short performance video Natasha took at a meeting I'll post it. After the first practice, Saniya came back to the dorm complaining that all she did the whole time was "sit on the side with the other first years and watch the older members learn new songs." She didn't sing but five minutes, and the older club members let the first years go home after an hour and a half out of pity/mercy.

I suppose it's a form of hazing -- first years have to put up with all kinds of crap to show their dedication to the club. It's a privilege to be a member of a club, you have to prove you're worth being a member. I got an email from my Folk Song club saying something like, "We have band practice today at 5pm at Sophia. First years can bring snacks and drinks." Translated properly, that means, "Show up at 5. Bring food (minions)." I ignored the email since the people who recruited me know I'm not that good at Japanese and they usually email me in English if I need to know something. But I did think about buying some food and taking it just to show some good will. I know, I'm a terrible gaijin.

I've talked about lunch at Sophia before, but I don't think I mentioned the weird sex segregation that occurs. At lunch, the lounge where we eat is filled with almost all females. Before the lunch rush I might see a few guys come in and eat quickly, but I never see boys in that room most of the time. Saniya says she sees them go to classrooms during lunch. My big group back home is about 1-1 male-female ratio, and I hang out with whoever, whenever they're free. In Japan, I have only seen boys and girls hang out together a handful of times. It's usually a group of girls chatting or a group of boys standing around being cool. I have no insight as to why this happens at the university level. Clues, anyone?

Next time, maybe another dorm post.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dorm Series: Dining Hall

***Note about last post:
I reread what I wrote, and it sounds slightly negative. I think the culture of keeping up appearances, looking cute and nice on a daily basis, is a good thing. It kind of sucks for me at Sophia because I don't dress up as girly and I look kind of sloppy, but in general I think it's something a lot of my American peers can learn from. You don't have to look like a model everyday or spend an hour doing hair and makeup in the morning, but you shouldn't go around looking like you just rolled out of bed either. It's probably just another sign of conformity, but I like it better than Creighton where it seems like some girls try to out-ugly each other.

I'll start my dorm post series with one of my favorite places -- the dining room! Yay food. I realize it might seem lame to do posts on such mundane, everyday events like eating. Too bad. Breakfast and dinner are served Monday through Saturday; we're on our own on Sundays and national holidays. There is a set menu for each meal: an entree, side dish or salad, rice, and soup. Shoyu and some sort of pickled vegetable are by the iced tea and ocha (green tea).

When I come into the dining room, there's a sink and a ticket board on the right wall. Each resident has a ticket on the board, and you turn that in when you grab food.

I live in A105, so this is my ticket.

I grab my ticket and drop it off in a little container in the same shelf area were the main food is. Grab a tray, grab my individual servings of the entree and side dish, and move on to rice.

In the picture there's nothing set up, but there are usually containers of bowls for soup, rice, and tea cups. There's a jar of chopsticks, shoyu, and saucers for shoyu or pickled veggies. Tea and rice are also in this area.

You can sit at the little wooden table if it's open, but most people sit at the tables. It's a very small dining area to service a few dozen residents, but it's okay.

The sink and stove area where the girls are in that photo is open for residents to use. There are pots, pans, knives, and cutting boards under the sink. If you use it, you wash it. I'm not sure who controls the TV during meal hours, but it's usually tuned to some crazy Japanese game show.

When I'm done eating, I put my tray with all the dishes I used on this shelf.

I've never seen more than three older women in the kitchen at one time, either cooking or washing dishes. They make great food compared to the dining halls at Creighton; it's practically home cooking. I'm told dinner is better than breakfast (I've had breakfast twice). I'll have to try to get them something at the end of the semester.

I'm not sure how I'll illustrate my daily commute, because any pictures of the train would just be of the person smooshed up next to me. Seriously. We'll see.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Birthday and Fashion

I think I have the current Japanese young women's fashion "look" down to a formula:

- Girly (frills, lace, charms, etc.)
- Large body (no form-fitting top half stuff)
- Skinny legs (leggings, tights, skinny jeans, knee-highs, etc.)
- Heels or boots
- Accessories such as scarves and headbands a must
- Bags must be larger handbags, name brand preferable
- Nothing has to match as far as color or print, but must be in a genre -- hippie, chic, feminine, punky, etc.

I've seen a handful of native girls break these guidelines. I saw two girls wearing sneakers today, and one with a backpack. All the other girls generally followed this "look." When I first got here, I thought all the girls had great style and were unique. Yet after a few days, the conformity began to show. It exists in America, too, but differently. Here, I don't think anyone has the exact same piece of clothing -- there are so many little corner shops and boutiques that girls can find cute things no one else has -- but the style is the same. In America, you can generally look at a pair of jeans or a top and get an idea of where it was purchased. A lot of girls have the same items of clothing, but it is how the items are worn is where girls express their individual style. If that makes sense at all.

Examples of Japanese fashion:

Tights, heels, baggy dress, trench

Baggy dress, trench, heels

Baggy top halves, boots, heels, leggings

Boots, flats, leggings, shorts

Baggy dress, trench, tights, boots, large bag

Even the guys have name-brand man purses

Baggy shirt, skinny jeans, heels, big bag

Oh and YESTERDAY was my birthday, since it was the 13th of April in Japan. We went to a little Italian restaurant by the train station to eat dinner, and I got a apple pie marble cake thing too!

Happy 21st birthday to me!

Still no luck with classes. I went to a really interesting anthropology class dedicated to studying the use of keitai, but I have no anthro background and my Japanese speaking skills are lacking so I can't take the course. It was suggested I take Modern Japanese Lit and Comparative History, but I can't find out about those classes until Thursday. I'm not sure what classes I'll end up going to tomorrow other than Japanese.

I'll start posting about the dorm, my daily commute, and the campus soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

First Day of School

The day before yesterday (Thursday?) was a bust because of the rain. We went to the supermarket by the train station, ate ramen at our favorite little shop, and came back to the dorm.

Yesterday was the first day of school! As I wrote last time, we don't register for classes before school starts. The professors give introductory lectures for the first two classes, and students can go around to whatever class they like to see if they want to take the course. The classes tend to go Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday.

It's going to be hell registering, but I kind of like this system. I know now that the profs for the classes I went to yesterday were boring and I'll have to make better choices for Monday. I don't know if I've just been spoiled by the profs I have at Creighton, who are usually interesting enough so that I don't fall asleep in class, or if I was in a bad mood or something. I was bored to tears most of the time, and I saw people falling asleep or zoning out way more than I would back home. I tried to pay attention since the material seemed interesting, but the profs are killing me. I'm glad I'll only have to suffer through three classes other than Japanese.

I think all the Sophia classes are organized so that there are no classes from 1230-130 -- everyone gets a lunch break. The SAME lunch break. The cafeteria was way too crowded, and the food was pretty blah. You buy a meal ticket from a vending machine at the entrance to the dining hall, and you go to the proper line to get your meal. I got a miso ramen ticket for 300 yen, so I went to the ramen line to get it. I think Saniya had bi bim bap ("It has kim chee in it! It'll be spicy!") and Jim got curry. Water and green tea stations were by the food lines.

Golden Week is coming up in Japan. It's a bunch of holidays that happen to be right next to each other, so most people get a week off. At Sophia, we'll have maybe a weekend and four days off rather than a one-week break. The girls are going to Kyoto, but it's more than $500 for the trip and I can't afford it. Folk Song club is doing a "band camp" bonding thing for freshmen and new recruits for $200, so I might do that instead. I haven't sat down and translated the flyer they gave me, but I'm fairly certain it's during Golden Week.

My birthday is tomorrow, but I'm not sure if I'll get to do anything fun for it. Some of the girls have a rave to go to tonight, some big famous DJ is doing a show, and the other girls are sick or unwilling to go clubbing. I might just call up Jim and Jaime and go drinking with them in Shinjuku or something.

I'll post some pictures and commentary of Japanese fashion later.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

So Charlton Heston DID die

Wikipedia and Google are the best things in life. I do have one issue though -- I have a Google search box in my Firefox browser, and it will automatically search Japanese Google for anything I put there. I'm sure there's a way around it so it goes to American Google but I don't know what it is.

I got my hanko! It's such a small little thing but I think it's so cool. I noticed that Bic Camera sells hanko cases with cartoon characters, I assume for kids. But why would a child need a name stamp? What do they have to sign?

Since I got the name stamp, I got a bank account. If I need money or people want to donate to the Carly In Japan fund, they can wire me something. The exchange rate isn't even $1:100 yen. So sad.

Yesterday was wet and rainy -- absolutely no fun. We went to Ikebukuro station to buy rain boots, but they're all so expensive. The cheapest I found were $37, and they were more cute than functional. I might just buy them anyway.

Today was much of the same thing. We went to Ikebukuro to shop, but we left the station this time. Went to Bic Camera for a web-cam and then to Sunshine City, a large shopping plaza. I didn't do too much damage, less than $100 between the web-cam and a rain coat. A very, very cute rain coat.

We also made it to part of the Imperial Palace grounds and Ginza. We were kind of tired by the time we got to the Tokyo neighborhood where the palace is, so we just stayed near the sakura by the moat.

Some Sophia gaijin boys, Jim and Jaime.

Ginza is like the middle of Ala Moana shopping center; it's all the high end boutiques in one area. Most people come to Ginza to window shop; there's even a phrase like Ginza-shopping that means window shopping. We passed by huge buildings for Dior, Bulgari, Coach, Armani, Cartier, and a shopping plaza with Tiffany's. I'm not sure if Gucci really needs to be housed in a multi-story building.

People also come to Ginza to people watch. I saw a guy who looked like a typical salaryman, the lips he put his cigarette to were glossed and the fingers holding the cigarette were beautifully manicured. Better manicured than my nails, for sure. There was speculation that he was a gay salaryman, but I'm not sure any company would let a male employee get away with that sort of stuff.

I swear I'll be starting school soon. From the other entries you would never know I'm supposed to be studying. I think the way we'll be registering for classes is to go to class and then register, kind of like how I signed up for clubs. I'm under the impression the first week of class is to see if you like the material that will be covered in the course and then decide whether to register or not. The only class I know I have is Japanese. First day of "class" is Friday.

Tomorrow I'm hoping we make it to Asakusa, which is the location of a very large and famous temple. I've been there before, but I think I should go give thanks/money before school starts.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Club Day

From the last post -- the lost girl made it home alright. Good thing she knows how to catch the train, though; we always lose her when we're wandering around the city.

Yesterday we spent some time at Ikebukuro. I forgot to mention on the cell phone post that we found a Don Quixote the day we got cell phones, but here are some photos anyway:

That's Tama and Saniya.

It's even more packed and random than the one in Hawaii. Don Pen is even scattered throughout the store.

I have not been keeping up with my celebrity news. Charleton Heston died? What? I saw it on one of my gossip blogs, which prompted me go to CNN.com to verifty. The headline, however, was an article on "geisha guys."

On the way to the train station today, we took a little side alley to find somewhere to eat and Natasha swears we passed one such man. He was very well dressed in a suit, had his hair dyed and styled, and was fairly good looking. "Really, really, really, ridiculously rich women pay for them," she said. I guess if I had the money I'd pay some Japanese pretty boy to keep me company.

I digress -- today was club day! We got to Sophia expecting the campus to be relatively quiet with maybe some gaijin running around. However, it was more like this:

Most of the clubs and circles on campus were actively recruiting members for the semester. It was a completely different atmosphere than Creighton's club recruiting days, where people join clubs to put it down on resumes or because they need the community service. It is to my understanding that in middle school and high school in Japan, students have to join a club or they'll be social outcasts. I suppose that mentality carries on into university.

There were sports clubs (hockey, soccer, lacrosse, soft tennis, tennis, cheerleading teams), music clubs (choir, bands, orchestras), social clubs (international friendship club, walking club), dance clubs (G-Splash street dancing, flamenco) and clubs for social causes (law, model U.N.). Most of the clubs put someone out that spoke English so it wasn't too hard to communicate. I'm told that while each group does take part in whatever they say they do, really it's just an excuse to go drinking and party.

A few clubs piqued my interest:

The Folk Music Club
- Not actually dedicated to folk music, but rather to J-Rock and American rock bands.
- Their meeting room was taken up by a four-piece band playing Japanese rock songs. In between songs I managed to talk to one girl about her taste in music. We were scrolling through my iPod and came upon one of the most awesome bands in the entire world, The Darkness, to which she said, "Ah you like The Darkness? HOLY SHIT I love them!!!" She actually said "holy shit," and it was the funniest thing ever.

Flamenco Dancing
- I think it would be pretty cool to be able to say, "Yeah I studied in Japan. I learned flamenco dancing while I was there."

Amnity Club
- Social club dedicated to hanging out with foreigners. They made it sound nicer than that but that's the gist of it.

Swimming Club
- I felt kinda bad after talking with Kentaro, the swim team representative. I like swimming, but I'd rather do water polo. I asked about it and he looked kind of sad, since he's a swim team member and not water polo. But I didn't bring a suit with me anyway, so I don't think I'll be joining either.

I'm still a bit sickly, and the other girls are catching what I have. It's going to get a bit rainy in the next few days, too. Hopefully it'll be nice by the time my birthday rolls around.

A few happy things to end the post:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Karaoke and keitai

I'll get to the title of the post later -- work before play.

Yesterday the girls and I took a trip to the ward office to do alien registration. Any foreigner in Japan who wishes to open a bank account or get a cell phone must have two forms of government identification, the easiest being a passport and alien registration certificate. The form wasn't hard and the staff spoke English, so things went smoothly. Our wait for the certificate is about four weeks, but other wards are faster and some of the gaijin boys are getting theirs in about two weeks. In the meantime, we're all given temporary certificates in order to start working on getting bank accounts and keitai (cell phones).

So we all went to a bank close to the dorm thinking we could finally put all our cash away, and have money wired in from the U.S. without too much hassle.

I'm breaking some copyright by using this.

For whatever reason that was not explained to us (in English), all bank patrons must have a hanko stamp with a person's name in characters in order to sign forms. I had an easy time with my three katakana and two kanji, but some of the other Americans had a harder time figuring out what to put. I'm excited to be getting one! It's just a cheap rubber stamp but I guess since it has my name on it that makes it cool.

But the day ended with some much needed super happy fun time!
© We tried to meet up with some of the boys, but we couldn't find them at Shinjuku station, so we went karaoke on our own!

I realize in America karaoke is something you do in front of an audience at a bar, and most people can't fathom why the Japanese would ever want to do such a thing. In Japan (and Hawaii), groups are given private rooms in which to sing badly and drink. Karaoke establishments that I've seen so far are in tall buildings (the one in the photos was nine stories) and can host many parties at once. Ours also had a drink menu -- we could message the bar over the computer and get drinks sent up to us. But the girls didn't want to get smashed at the equivalent of $12/hour/room, and I'm still on cold medicine.

Today we managed to buy our keitai. Japanese cell phones are far more awesome and made of much more win than American cell phones, in case you didn't know. Flip phones, twisty screens, free television, standard internet/email, and more styles and colors than you really need. Tama, my wonderful airport guide, came with us to translate. I cannot even imagine what I'd have ended up with (or how much more money I might have spent) if she wasn't there to help. Natasha, Saniya, and I will be paying about $300 each for the entire four months we're here -- kind of steep, but the cancellation fee makes up more than half of that figure. No one wanted an ugly pre-paid phone ;)

I got a pretty little slider phone in "Elegant Pink." Could have had white or black, but PINK is the only way to go. It was one of only four models that has English, so if a lot of people get AU they'll probably have my phone. It's so cute!!! I have no idea how I'll go back to my American LG Fusic after this phone.

We lost half the group around lunchtime before cell phones were purchased. Apparently, the half of the group that didn't get phones lost someone at a train station and she hasn't come home yet. Something to look forward to for the next blog, I suppose.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

It's been two days?

I feel like I've been in Japan for a month, but in reality it's only been two days. Two very long and draining days of train rides, shopping, and all the boring school stuff.

I spend most of my waking hours with three other girls who live in my dorm and attend Sophia -- Natasha (Australia), Kristine (California), and Saniya (Illinois). The three of them speak better Japanese than I do, which is a very good thing for me. They're awesome and I'm glad we get along well together.

Saniya, Kristine, and Natasha

Yesterday was orientation day. All the foreign exchange students sat through a lengthy presentation of deans and department heads, welcoming us or telling us where their offices are or why they are important to our learning process in Japan. I got a load of papers and booklets of things that I know I might look at once. These Jesuit universities love their paperwork. The list of clubs and circles on the Sophia campus was entertaining to read. The Soccer Club had a one word description for their group: "soccer." Intentional? Not sure.

I met a few new people. The Oizumi gakuen girls had a few connections to a group of gaijin boys, and we all got train passes together. We all stick out so badly, but I knew we would. Jim, one of my Creighton classmates, commented that the group of guys are the only ones on the train talking loudly and making a scene, and he feels like he gets stares.

Today we had our language placement test. I got through most of the beginner section alright, but I couldn't even read the higher level stuff so I didn't bother. Even the other Oizumi girls had a hard time with the higher level test material, and they're far more advanced than I am. Jim and I have accepted our lack of Japanese skills and look forward to 111 or 150, no transfer credit.

Later we went to Harajuku, and marveled at all the crazy things people wear and sell. I never noticed idol shops before -- shops that are completely dedicated to putting pictures of teen idols (boy bands, pop stars, etc) on stuff and selling it. Very very creepy... and all the boys look like girls. None of us bought anything! Kind of sad really. We did have lunch at a Lottier(?), a burger and fries fast food chain, and the portions were too small for some. But the fries were good and I should have had a melon soda or something.

We went back to Jouichi for the exchange student welcome party. It wasn't much, but I learned some new words from people and got to exercise what little Japanese I know. Walking through the cherry blossoms along the school road was much more interesting.

Natasha says the cherry blossoms bloom once a year, and die ten days after they open. So we're very fortunate to be able to see the trees when they're all pretty, since they won't be in about a week. I feel dumb for not being able to remember the word the Japanese use for this kind of temporary, fleeting beauty... it'll bug me until I remember.

EDIT: It's aware or awaremono. Look it up.

Tomorrow - adventures from the municipal office.