Thursday, May 29, 2008

Things the Japanese Do that We Do in America

Sort of related to my last post...

Things the Japanese Do that We Do in America

1. Goof off on YouTube

I'm in a different computer lab today, as the one in the library was full. I suppose since this isn't the *library*, no one feels obligated to study or look busy. Right now I'm sitting next to two super-kakkoii Nihonjin boys enjoying human stupidity recorded and uploaded to the internet. My peripheral vision doesn't allow me to see exactly what they're viewing, but they were giggling about something funny. I heard, "I like this part, watch!" and a muted fit of laughter. "Suge!"

I wonder if they have Japanese text speak equivalent to American netspeak (LOL, ROFL, OMG, WTF, etc.)...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Things I Wish We'd Do in America

I have a mid-term tomorrow, so of *course* I'm not going to study. Okay, I will after I make the first two points I have in my head right now.

Things the Japanese Do that I Wish We Did in America

1. Discourage huge monstrosities of baby strollers

During my long winter break in Hawaii, I worked at a restaurant as a hostess. Every shift I'd have to seat a party that had a baby stroller, and they would OMG ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO KEEP THE STROLLER WITH THEM. They would always be the biggest, most irritating strollers -- the ones as big as grocery store carts that have the car seat built into them with the basket crap underneath to keep your shoplifted merchandise baby materials in. (Side rant: If you can afford that kind of stroller, you can afford a babysitter for a few hours.)


They come way worse than this. (Image found on Google)

In Japan, I have yet to see one of these things. Most of the time I see mom or dad carrying the baby strapped to their torso with a Baby Bjorn and carrying a baby bag that, while not small, certainly isn't the humongous duffel bag a football player would use to lug around their safety gear. If I see strollers, they're very small and basic. I assume parents prefer these things because most use the train system to get around. I feel bad wearing my backpack some days, so I can't imagine bringing some gargantuan American stroller on a train.

Also, I'm not sure what they do to their kids, but I am really not bothered by them here. In Hawaii I usually avoid babies/mothers/small children on TheBus, but kids here are very well-behaved. I can count the number of crying babies and toddler meltdowns I've heard on one hand.

2. Require proof of an available parking space to buy a car

Earlier this week, sensei told us that the government requires proof of available parking before you can buy a car. If you can't provide proof, the police will come knocking on your door and make sure you provide proof. There's only so much space in such a densely populated city like Tokyo, so parking has to be regulated.


Not my photo, but an example of a typical sight in my neighborhood. (Image found on Google)

I realize that many factors in the US don't allow for such a law (US public transportation is crap, what government agency would *actually* enforce parking laws to this extent, Americans are lazy, etc.), but it's nice to dream.

OKAY I'LL GO STUDY NOW.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

So many snacks!

If there is one thing that I know I'll miss about Japan when I go back, it would be the awesomeness of Japanese junk food. Over the last two weeks or so, I've been trying all the different flavors of Pocky, Pretz, and Kit-Kat that I can find that do not look absolutely repulsive.

Green Tea Kit-Kat: I enjoyed it, despite the dipped-in-snot look. I didn't notice any big taste differences between any of the Kit-Kats, but I suppose this one is the least sweet. Japanese McDonald's Green Tea and Oreo McFlurry tastes more like green tea than this.







Azuki Bean Kit-Kat: Good, but tasted mostly like white chocolate. The outside has little bits of red bean sprinkled on top.



Banana Kit-Kat: These don't come in bars like the other two flavors I tried, but rather in little bite-size pieces. SUPER SWEET and kind of like a banana milkshake. I can only find them at the 7-11 at school so I think they're phasing them out.



Strawberry Pocky: This isn't the typical strawberry frosting pocky you'd find at Shirokiya -- according to the box, this Pocky has 28% kaniku (fruit flesh) in the frosting. It's about 150yen for a box that has four packages of five sticks. Sweet and a little tangy but I don't like paying that much for 20 pocky sticks.



Brazilian Pudding Pocky: I have no idea what "Brazilian Pudding" is really supposed to taste like, but it's okay. I thought it was like banana flavored frosting with stripes of chocolate frosting? I have no idea. Pretty packaging, though.



Spicy Chicken Beer Pretz and Endoumame Pretz: Awful. At first I kind of liked the Beer Pretz (it says "Spicy Chicken" in the little flame part), but after three sticks it started tasting like burnt popcorn. I have not had them with beer though, so maybe I will in the future. I didn't even have a full stick of the other flavor before I decided it was simply disgusting.



Galbo Mini: I was hungry before class and these strawberry frosting covered chocolate cookie things looked interesting. Really, they're just gross. The cookie was bitter and stuck to the roof of my mouth, and the strawberry frosting was too tart.



Midterms are fast approaching, and I have no idea what's going on in my political science class. I think it might have to do with the fact that a lot of my notes look like this:



Sorry if there are swear words or anything. Ashlie and I always sit at the back of the class, and those three guys I drew (very badly) are usually somewhere around us. There are five or six of them and they sleep, read books, or whisper in a polite Japanese manner as to not disturb anyone around them. Last class two of them were speaking Japanese, but somewhere in the Japanese I heard an exasperated swear word in English ("[Long string of Japanese]... F***!!!"). Bilingual fluency at its best.

I'll soon be at the half-way mark for my study abroad term. Two months left to master some Japanese!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

15 minute rule

We're in the middle of a typhoon here in Tokyo, which means lots of wind and rain and bad things. I was tempted to stay home all day because it is that awful outside, but I dragged myself to the train station. While I was on the Yamanote line, the train reports said there were about four lines delayed or completely stopped because of rain (the characters used actually said "BIG RAIN").

My first class every morning is Japanese language. Half the class didn't show up today, and sensei didn't make an appearance either. In America we have the 15-minute rule: students have to wait 15 minutes for a professor, seated and prepared to learn, and if the prof doesn't show up class is canceled.

God bless Japan, because they use that rule here as well.

But I'm still stuck at Jouichi until 1230 because I've got one more class.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm a terrible blogger

Five days and no new posts? For shame!

This past weekend wasn't incredibly interesting or blog-worthy. I studied, went clubbing, ate food. I should have gone to Asakusa for their big matsuri (festival), but I didn't. I'm told I missed out on a real-life yakuza gang, sleeve tattoos and all, carrying a shrine.

I'm working on a bigger project. In the meantime, here's an assortment of things I've been meaning to post but haven't.



Acerola is some kind of melon? I have not had this drink, but it is more common than Sprite. Shoutout to Mr. Robert Rose, who was fairly amused by acerola flavored Hi-Chew a few years ago.








Many university students carry their books in these plastic sleeve things. You put your loose papers and folders in it, fold it over, and look cool. To me, part of the appeal is that you show off what school you go to, like with university hoodies. I know all the big name schools sell these things -- I've seen sleeves from Keio, a few women's colleges, and Tokyo University. EDIT: Sophia is known for over-achiever girls, so I suppose that's what I'm showing off when I carry around my pink sleeve.



These guys are so kakkoii (cool) it hurts. Please note the upturned elf-style toes on that guy's boots.

SOON -- a real post. Hopefully.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mini-Post 2

Since I began taking the train regularly, I notice that the JR Chuo line is frequently delayed. It was pretty bad this morning and quite a number of my classmates came in late or didn't show up at all. It's not the worst thing in the world for us if the train is late -- you go to the customer service desk and they give you a little square piece of paper saying the train was late, thus you were late for whatever you had to go do.

Anyway before class started, sensei was making small talk with us in Japanese. I'm not sure if anyone else noticed, but I swear I heard her say something like, "Lots of people commit suicide on the Chuo line, huh?"

My face was something like o_0;

Because train delays are *always* due to suicides. I hope not.


EDIT: Apparently, the Chuo line does indeed get the most suicides. Jim says the Chuo trains go faster and the suicide fee sent to the surviving family members is the lowest for the Tokyo train lines. The fee part kind of confuses me because the JR company that runs Chuo also runs about a dozen other lines, and I would assume that the suicide fees would be the same across all their train lines. Regardless, I think charging such fees to a grieving family comes off as incredibly inappropriate and in poor taste.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mini-Post

Juice boxes are really small in Japan. In Japanese lit, Ashlie and I were laughing at one gaijin male who was toting a small carton of chocolate milk. Most guys around campus look something like this when they sip their little juice boxes in class or at lunch:


Leather bracelets, Hello Kitty shirt, dyed hair (albeit not DBZ style), and chiisai juice box.
Brett would be chou kawaii if he came to Japan!

However, I think these are a total waste of money. They're a dollar each and I'd have to buy two to be satisfied. Thus, I usually opt for the bigger juice cartons that are really like 2.5 servings:



That is certainly worth the 150 yen.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dorm Party

Today the dorm manager and dorm mother threw a party for all the residents! I'm not sure why today was chosen, we've all lived here for over a month and it's Mother's Day but whatever. And at 1130am on a Sunday morning, most of the girls were in their pajamas.

They bought us all the junk food I've been craving -- KFC (they call it something like kenta in Japan, short for Kentucky), Pizza Hut, burgers and fries. I grabbed pizza without really looking at the toppings, and bit into tuna, corn, peppers, and some kind of ham.






Note the lack of SPRITE. I miss lemon-lime soda.

Dorm manager put out some beer and brought out some sort of mini-keg. He was a little tipsy by the time we started taking pictures. After we all had our fill of drinks and food, we played bingo! No pictures of it, but I got some sort of gift card or phone card.




The Americans and Australian in the back making a scene.


With the dorm mother.


Ashlie, Christina, me, Natasha, and Rakellie with the dorm manager.

About halfway through the fun, dorm manager decided that we should all introduce ourselves. Everyone was very pleased and/or amazed that the Americans spoke enough Japanese to do introductions. I always get big gaijin points for being from Hawaii. It turns out most of the other girls in the dorm are from Taiwan and they all speak Japanese very well. My language skills are still lacking but I feel like I can understand more, even if I can't speak well.

Friday night, I went with Jim and Kaori to an izakaya. It's a restaurant/drinking establishment where you go in with a bunch of friends, sit at a table on tatami mats (you get your own room if you book in advance), and order alcohol and pupus. The place we went to felt a bit classier than a bar, and it was certainly more relaxed than going to a restaurant since you're sitting on the floor getting tipsy. Jim and I told Kaori that when you eat in America, you go "NOM NOM NOM." It's only true in LOLcats, but it got a good reaction out of her.



Next weekend there's a big festival at Asakusa, so I might have even *more* pictures from the temple. Otherwise it looks to be a dreary, rainy week of school.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What a waste!

Ehh so I spent most of the Golden Week holiday sick as a dog. I went to Japanese class today (half the class skipped) and everyone was talking about their wonderful trips to Disneyland, Osaka, or what they did with their host families. I never fully recovered from that night of clubbing, and it all caught up to me on the weekend. Still sick, but I've taken all my American medicine.

Speaking of which, medicine is surprisingly one of the few things that I've had a problem with. In America you can get basic cold medicine at a 7-11 or grocery store, but in Japan you have to find kusuri-ya (medicine shops) in order to get anything. I guess a shop has to employ a pharmacist in order to sell meds? When I got sick at the beginning of term, I went to the kusuri-ya in Shinjuku station for some cold medicine and got some not-so-effective powder stuff. My American generic name meds work so much better.

I digress -- I did manage to make it to Odawara Castle for their annual festival. Tama met us at the train station and showed us around the town.











The castle is now a museum, but we weren't interested in paying 400 yen for admission. There was some sort of parade of samurai (it was like watching Ran in real life) and a shrine-carrying. Tama's younger brother Abe (who timidly obliged to photos with his sister's gaijin friends) helped carry the heaviest shrine, which also did the most impressive run down the main street:












video

Props to Abe and his shrine-carrying buddies. I did it once, without the three or four turns, and don't really want to do it again.

There's more to post, but I'm tired and going to bed. In the coming weeks, I hope to be meeting up with some buddies from America and RKK Yurie for adventures around the places I missed out on during holiday.