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!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mini-Post 3

I found a long-lost gem on my phone. My international politics prof was discussing the USSR and communism and Marx and Lenin and whatever, and he thought it would be appropriate to sing the communist anthem. I think. It's only 15 seconds and you have to turn up your volume pretty loud, but it's something:

video

If it doesn't play... well I really have no idea how to fix that. You can see that one guy in the front going, "What the hell is going on?" Wait I take that back, he's Japanese so he's going, "Nande???"

McDonald's got rid of the Katsu Cheese Burger(!) and replaced it with the Mega Tamago (egg). It's like a Mega Mac, but the top beef patty has been magically turned into Egg McMuffin egg bit. Are Japanese consumers that bored that new items have to be introduced so often? I wish I could have taken an advertising course while here, but they're all taught in Japanese. Sad.

Disneyland in like 16 hours!!! Yay!!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Let's play catch-up

This post shall hopefully make up for the dust gathering around this site -- it's been almost a week since I last wrote about my adventures!

So my dear friend Brian was in Tokyo last weekend. He and his buddies had already done all kinds of cultural nonsense, so we went clubbing one night and hit up an izakaya called The Lockup the next. It's a theme izakaya, made to look like a jail that Dr. Frankenstein would manage. About an hour after we sat down, they killed the lights, played "scary" music, and monsters came around banging our doors and making a fuss. I'll have to go again when Dan comes.


They make the wait staff wear jail uniforms. Cute.




The big beaker is Calpis soda, and the little tubes have orange juice, grapefruit juice,
melon liquor, and the last two I forget.







YAY PURIKURA!!!

I found Sprite Zero at the cafeteria combini last week! You can't see it, but under the "NEW!" banner in the top left corner it says, "Sexier than water." Yeah, okay. I just want to be refreshed and possibly entertained by some 90's rappers in a commercial.


Where are Redman and Method Man when you need them?

Look at what my phone can do! PICTURE FRAMES! So fun.



And finally, I succumbed to all the McDonald's advertisements on the train and had a Cheese Katsu Burger. The official Japanese website has the nice professional photos not taken by a keitai. Despite my initial hesitation of mixing katsu sauce and cheese, it was quite delicious. It would probably do well in Hawaii, since we like that kind of stuff. Next I'm gonna try the Shaka Shaka Chicken off the 100Yen menu.




Cheese in the middle!


"Saku saku" on the outside, blah blah blah I forget and I can't make it out from the picture.

Prof. Anno mentioned in politics today that the Japanese currently pay about 170yen for a liter of gas. Let's see if the journalism major can do some basic math:

1 US gallon = 3.8 liters
Current exchange rate is about $1 = 100yen

$1.70 x 3.8 = $6.46

Thus, the Japanese are paying almost $6.50 for a gallon of gas. Makes that $4 you're paying in America seem like a steal, doesn't it?

I'm in the middle of midterms and there's a typhoon going on outside, so there is nothing going on. This weekend, however, will be filled with debauchery and Mickey Mouse and gaijin-smashing because my dear friend John is in Japan. Hopefully Tokyo Disneyland will still be fun in spite of the crap weather we're having.