Friday, December 16, 2011

Trip to Tokyo(東京)・Nagoya(名古屋)

This is the unofficial schedule that I made for Andrea and I when we are in Japan:

December 31st:
Arrive at the airport; take the complimentary bus to our hotel
Settle in and go out for the night and celebrate the New Year

January 1st:
Check out and head to Tokyo
Check in at the new hostel
Go have fun shopping/checking out temples (maybe with friends)
Eat conveyor belt sushi
Go to Tokyo Tower at dusk?

January 2nd:
More shopping
Eat dinner with a Japanese friend
See the famous intersection?

January 3rd:
Go to Ghibli museum with a friend and her party
Head to Nagoya
Have fun in Sakae (栄え); eat at Sweets Paradise (dessert buffet); go up on Nagoya tower; ride Ferris wheel

January 4th:
Visit Nanzan University (南山大学)
Visit some shops I know (possibly buy a kimono)
Go to Nagoya castle
Eat at MOUNTAIN - a famous restaurant near my dorm

January 5th:
Last minute shopping/sight seeing

Sign Shock 2011 (Deaf concert)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privledge to go to a deaf concert.  What is a deaf concert?  It is a concert where the performers are either deaf or know sign language, so while they sing they also sign.  That way, both the hearing and the deaf can enjoy the music.  Many of the band members were deaf, so to see them be in rhythm and even be able to sing even though they cannot hear was amazing.  I was really moved when I was there.  I also had the chance to see the deaf community in Nagoya, which was really cool.

What was really cool was seeing the audience.  It was a diverse crowd - from toddlers to elderly folk.  Deaf and hearing all squished together (apparently over 300 people came).  At first, I was wondering how the toddlers could stand the noise without crying.  It was a 'rock' concert, but regardless the music was booming at the beginning from the bass and drums.  However, the toddlers were listening and not making any noise.  That was really surprising, until I realized that they were deaf as well!  One was even communicating with her mother in sign language, while the mother responded back in Japanese.  It was sort of heart warming to see the kids even being brought to a community event, and being exposed to the 'deaf' culture, instead of being kept at home away from sign language.

I hope I can attend more events that are for the deaf, or are related to deaf studies.  I find it really fascinating, the lifestyle and deaf culture.


On a side note: I'm really excited to meeting you all in Hong Kong!  It has been a long time - over 8 years - since I smelled the Hong Kong's city air, saw its' palm trees, or been with everyone over there.  I'm really excited!  Thank you so much for letting me and Andrea come over!  It'll be my first Christmas without mom or dad, so it'll definitely be a new experience for me!

One of my friends from my dorm who goes to school in Canada is also going to Hong Kong to visit relatives.  He and I would like to hang out one day; I hope we can find the time!

When I come, be prepared for a lot of gifts - my large suitcase will mostly be filled souveniors (お土産).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Day (感謝祭)

Just a random note, but the day before Thanksgiving was also labor appreciation day (like labor day), or 勤労感謝の日.

As expected, there was no big celebration for Thanksgiving.  However, at Nanzan's World Plaza they did have a lot of information about the holiday, as well as a small craft for people who came in.  Really simple - you just had to write down what you were thankful for - but since you had to write in any other language but Japanese . . . some people struggled.

My dorm mates and I went out for KFC that night.  In a lot of Japanese people's mind, the connect KFC with Western holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I guess it's because it's not as common as McDonald's.  It could also be the fact that it's the only Western fastfood chain that serves chicken drumsticks, which is the closest thing we have here to turkey.  Yes, they don't sell turkey's at all here; if you want one, you have to import one through an independent supplier ahead of time.  ALTHOUGH, I did hear that the sports bar in Sakae was giving out turkey (it's called Shooters), but my dorm doesn't go out to places like that really.

Last night, I made apple pie with my dorm mates as well!  ^__^  Like always, it took me way too much time to make it.  We had problems with the dough (it wouldn't stick together), but the end results were fine!  Just wished we added more sugar to the dough or something to make it less bland.  >_<  I'll definitely remember next time to put in more butter and sugar and roll it out thinner.

So yes, that was my Thanksgiving celebration in a nutshell.  Like I said before, Thanksgiving is more of a historical American/Canadian holiday than a world-wide celebration.  I do hope you all are having a wonderful feast at home!  I wish I could taste Andrea's mashed potatoes and all of your delicious food!  My friend's homemade sweet mashed potatoes were fine . . . but it's just not the same.  >__<  ^__^

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S.  For everyone: if there's something you would like me to buy for you in Japan, please tell me!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ise Jingu (伊勢神宮)

Today, I went on a school trip to Ise Grand Shrine today.  The weather was horrid - it was raining all day and after maybe 10 or 15 minutes outside my shoes were already soaked through.

These are the running shoes I bought in the states, by the way, and already they are falling apart despite their steep price and promise.  >_< 

But anyways, the Shrine itself was beautiful.  It's history is well rooted in Japanese history and Shinto tradition.  This is the shrine that is rebuilt every 20 years to the exact measurements of the original.  Pictures weren't allowed at the actual shrine, but we could take pictures everywhere else.  However, looking with my own eyes at the shrine was a nice experience.

The rain, however, was the biggest concern of the day.  It prevented us from really exploring the area.  For the rest of the time I was there, I shopped a bit with my friend and had a nice lunch at a restaurant.  While I was shopping though, the wind picked up even more so the conditions were more like a typhoon.  It was so strong that the umbrella I just bought earlier that day broke.  T__T

So, just a quick update on life, to tell you all I'm alive.  ^_^  And that I'm very excited for upcoming trip in December!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Asuke and いなご

Yesterday, I went to Asuke again, but this time with a Japanese friend, her family, and another international student.

This season is the time of changing color of the leaves (紅葉).  It's a super famous and popular time of the year, because the trees are so beautiful.  There are even magazines that highlights the best places to see this, and Asuke is one of the best around Nagoya.  Right now, it's a little early to visit, but I heard that in about 2 weeks the place will be swarming with people.

Asuke is also famous for it's small traditional village where you can see artisans at work.  They make everything by themselves using old methods, which gives their products a different feel than the ones you can buy at the store.  In fact, some things you can't buy at a store either, which adds to the handmade item's value.

There was actually once famous workshop - I forget the name but I think it was the blacksmith's shop.  It's where they make knives or other sharp objects.  That place was visited by many famous people, including a band named EXILE and the Emperor himself.  I know this because I've seen the autographs and the pictures - it was pretty awesome when we found that out.

The most interesting fact I learned though was how the people in the area used to get their calcium in the old times.  My friend's mother explained it to me: apparently it was very hard for the people there in the old times to get calcium.  One of the ways they could easily get it though was by eating inago (いなご).  Depending on the person/dictionary you use, it's either a baby grasshopper or locust.  Anyways, as a souvenier, I bought my dorm a box of these insects covered in some kind of sauce and cooked.

Surprising, some of my dorm mates ate them, and some even were okay with the taste!  O_O  I was super surprised.  However, they only ate maybe a fifth of the box, and even our hungry neighborhood cat ran away from the box once I brought it out.  :-P

Kyoto trip

This week I had no school because of Nanzan University's cultural festival.  However, instead of attending that festival I went to Kyoto with two other international students!  ^_^

The main reason why I went on the trip was to actually see 2 of my friends from OSU - I made plans to meet up with them during the trip.  I also really wanted to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the main shrine for the kitsune god and well known for it's "1000 red gates".  Pictures are online on facebook, but it really is an amazing place.  It's only a little far from Kyoto's main downtown area, but you feel completely isolated from the rest of the world.  Walking up the mountain a bit through the red gates was a really relaxing time for me and my friends, but once we realized that we only hiked a fourth of the way up and that we had another 2 hours to go, we called it quits and went back to our hostel.

The hostel was another new experience for me.  When I was searching for places to stay, hostels were the cheapest places to stay in, even you had to share a room.  However, it worked out fine - the place we stayed at was very clean and nice, and the staff were very welcoming and accommodating.  My friends and I could lock up our stuff if we wanted to, and we had separate bunk beds.  Yes, we slept in the same room as strangers, but we rarely saw any of them.  Plus, in the common areas we got to hang out with other tourists and have a great time with them as well!  So I would definitely say staying at a NICE hostel is a great experience, and something to not be afraid of.

The sights around Kyoto were really beautiful, but the one drawback was transportation.  I realized during my last full day there that the buses are a lot more convenient to travel to historical sites, but it still takes a while to wait for one.  Taxis are too expensive to take as well, at least for all of my friends.  However, the journey to somewhere can be exciting as well, just because it's a new city with different people.  Traveling time was also my time to talk with the friends I haven't seen in a while, and catch up with them.

So even though I didn't get to see all the sites I wanted to, I still had a great time there.

I'm still planning on going one day though.  I really can just take a one day trip to Kyoto, which is what a couple of my dorm mates did actually instead of a 4day and 3 night trip like I did with my friends.  :-P  Plus, it can be cheap, depending on how you get there.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Update on everything

Hello everyone!  I'm sorry for the lack of blogs lately.  I've been so busy with school and having fun here I've forgotten about my blog.  Let me give you a run down of how I'm doing here:

My daily routine at school is like this:
9:00 : leave for class
9:20 - 11:05/12:35 : Japanese language class
After that, depending on the day I either have a Fieldwork Research Methods class, an intermediate Translation class, or Japanese Culture.

 Japanese class itself is a bit different from my Japanese class at OSU.  For one thing, I feel like I can talk a little bit more in class here than over there.  There's also much more discussion, because the teachers has us compare Japan with other countries.  However, there are times when class becomes really boring for me, and I lose my concentration.  Mostly, those are the times when we are going over the chapter reading, and our teacher is asking us questions like, "What is the subject?" and "What is the predicate" over and over again for each sentence.  Other than that, I like class a lot!

My other classes in themselves are fairly easy, but they can be time consuming.  Fieldwork in particular is taking up a lot of time, because I am doing a research project in that class.  That is why I'm learning Japanese sign language (日本手話).  In my Japanese class, I also have a small research project.  With another classmate, I'm going to interview a very old kimono cloth shop.  Besides making the interview questions, I haven't done much for that though.

After class, I do a variety of things.  Sometimes I go to a place called "Japan Plaza", where people can only speak in Japanese in there.  A lot of exchange students and native speakers go there to meet each with each other, or receive help on homework.  It's really fun - because everyone is really eager to talk to each other.  There is another place called "World Plaza", where people can speak anything BUT English.  However, even though this place is bigger and more popular, it's much stricter (if you speak in Japanese twice, you get kicked out).  I haven't gone in here yet, but I want to one day.

For the most part, my classes end so late that I just end up going back to my dorm for the night.  Over there I usually eat and hang out with my roommates downstairs, or watch a movie with them.  On days when I end class early, usually I hang out with a friend or two.  Sometimes we go shopping in Sakae (栄え), or chill at a cafe (喫茶店), or go exploring.

Like today, I went with a roommate to find a golf range (he loves golf and has been trying to find one for a while).  Once we did find it, he taught me how to play golf and we swung a few balls for a while.  It was really relaxing and a very different environment than what I was used to; only the elderly were there.  Afterwards, we went to a French cafe, where we chilled and ate a lot of sweets.  By the way, if you ever come to Japan, please make sure to go to their cafes and try their cakes - they're way better than the ones in America.  Maybe compared to Hong Kong cafes they're similar . . . but anyways, they're really good despite their slightly expensive price.

Next week I'll be going on a small trip with a friend or two to Kyoto!  We have an idea of what sights we want to see, but basically I just have a list of things to do once we get there.  If there's anything that people want from over there, please tell me!  Because I probably won't have another chance to visit there again until after winter break!

And since it is night time over here: おやすみなさい(Good night).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Matsuri (祭り)

Today, I went to a festival in a small village named Tarui.  It was the start of many new experiences, like buying my first JR ticket by myself.  Already, that was a huge challenge for me, because all I knew was my train was at platform 6, it would cost me 950 yen, and that I was going to Tarui.  However, because Tarui is such a small and far village from Nagoya, the random stranger I asked for help didn't know how to help me and had to take me to a station personnel.  Since I was in a rush because my train was leaving any moment, I was doing my best to talk on the phone with my teacher and talk to the station personnel.  In the end, I had to take the next train by myself, and spent even more time trying to figure out which station I had to transfer at.  However, I somehow made it, and met up with my teacher, who got a cab for us to get to the festival grounds.

The festival itself was really cool to watch.  It seemed like the typical small-town festival.  The grounds seemed to be like a school, because there was a long building behind the main area, and a playground off to the side.  Strings of white lanterns were hanging and they were all leading to a central pole.  When I got there, there was already a couple older couples sitting around the pavillion, and kids playing on the playgrounds.  No one really meandered around the middle of the grounds, where the performance would take place.  Immediately, a festival worker greeted my teacher and I and gave us a pamphlet explaining (in Japanese) the whole festival.  Later on, we were joined by the rest of my class who got their earlier and took a taxi tour of the village.

It was celebrating a time a long time ago when the village prayed to their local gods for rain (which our teacher said was an unusual time, since it was the harvesting season and you normally wouldn't want rain), and the gods walked down and granted them their wish.  So, every year they put on a show using taiko drums and small gongs.

The performers (all male), dance around and form a circle while carrying these huge drums all by themselves.  They balance these instruments on their thighs.  Plus, there are other men who also dance to form a circle holding these poles with red and white pom pom looking things.  It's like a mop, but made of paper.  The whole time, my whole class couldn't figure out what it meant until the very end when someone told us it's to represent clouds.  However, their performance was very synchronized - all their arm movements as they played their drums were almost all together.  In the background, you could hear the men on top of a higher platform singing some folk song, and the annoying clanging of the gongs in rhythm with the drums and the singing.

Between each song (about 5 minutes or so), the drummers, pole holders, and gong clangers would switch.  During this break, they would also change their outfits, for each role had a different outfit to wear.  The pole holders wore (what I think are called hakama) huge dark navy baggy pants, the basic uniform (a yukata) and tied some sort of red ribbon around their back.  The drummers wore just the yukatas and a huge straw hat with a pink flower ontop, and the gong clangers wore the yukatas with a helmet on top.

After a while of listening to the awful noise (because even though the drumming was good, the gong clanging was not), some of us ventured towards the food stalls to eat some barbequed squid, sugar candy, corn dogs, and takoyaki.  There were also small games for children to play, and other stalls a little away selling cotton candy and festival masks.  It's there that some of us also got a chance to talk to a local - an old man who was interested in seeing so many foreigners at a festival like this.  That's where we learned the meaning of the festival, among other things.

After the festival, our teacher told us that we were all invited to travel back with one of the taiko drums to its' shrine where it would be put away.  All the drums actually stay in a shrine or a certain place for the year, only to be taken out for the festival (I think).  It was a special honor, so we all went and had a small demonstration done for us.  After that, 3 of us were even able to try it out.  Traditionally, girls cannot participate in the event, but one of the girls in my group got to try on the taiko drum.  We saw quickly why girls aren't allowed to participate - she couldn't hold the drum at all and one of the men had to help her.

All in all, it was amazing little town.  On our way back to the station, we passed another small shrine.  It was really cool to see a different side of Japan - the more rural and traditional part of it.  The town is really different from the big cities like Nagoya and Tokyo.  My teacher told us that these towns are usually in charge of the forest upkeep, which is a huge problem for Japan, and other important duties.  So, a lot of towns have these kinds of responsibilities that makes it possible for the whole community to stick together.

Next week, I'll be attending another festival that celebrates men.  It's one of the biggest festivals around here, so I'm looking forward to it.  The week after is Nagoya festival, which is another huge festival that most people around here are looking forward to.  One thing I'm learning about Japan is that there seems to be always festivals going on.  It might be because of the good weather - I doubt they'll be any once the cold really comes in.  Already, people are complaining about how cold it is . . . and it's only like 25 degrees Celsius, which is around what 70 degrees Fahrenheit?

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Last night I was invited by a Japanese friend to go to an onsen.  For those who don't know what that is, it's like a public bathhouse, but has natural hot springs.  I went with a very diverse group of girls: my Japanese friend and her father, and 2 exchange students (one from France and the other from Jordan).  My friend's father picked us up at the train station and had to drive us up the mountains to get there.  I was super surprised on the way there; the road was so narrow that I thought it was a one way, but I realized that they had mirrors at each turn to let the drive know when another car was coming!  And when a car was coming, one car would just go to the side a bit and let the other car pass by . . . somehow.  We were on a freakin' mountain, so I was getting a bit scared whenever we turned.  @_@

Once we got there though, it was so beautiful.  The hot spring is a pretty famous one around Nagoya - it's called Sanage Onsen (猿投温泉).  There's a hotel also at the location, but it was way to expensive for us to stay there.  We were surrounded by trees - it really felt like nice to be in that kind of atmosphere.

When we entered through the genkan, there were bags for us to place our shoes in (in traditional places in Japan, there's a special entryway where you take off your shoes, and sometimes there's slippers for you to wear).  After receiving our locker keys and towels, we went into our sex-segregated locker rooms to change out of our clothes and walk - nude - across the locker room into the bath (お風呂).  Even though I have done this before when I went to Japan in high school, it was still a bit embarrassing to be naked in front of my friends.

However, once inside the bath, I didn't feel embarrassed at all, because EVERYONE was naked.  I don't know, the uncomfortable feeling just went away quickly.  We all sat together in a line and began washing our hair and body.  You're not allow to enter the bath without doing that first, to make sure you're all clean.  After all, you're sharing the bath with a bunch of people.  There were a couple different kinds of shampoo and rinse (conditioner) to choose from, and the body wash could be used as a makeup remover as well.  We all lathered up our small tower so we could soap up our bodies really well.  Side note: I noticed A BUNCH of my hair falling out as I was trying to wash my hair and then put it up so I could soap up my neck without getting it in my hair.

So after washing ourselves, we finally stepped into the water.  It felt SUPER NICE - warm, but not too hot.  Although I guess for the other exchange students, it was hard to get used to it at first, but we all quickly exclaimed how nice it felt being in the water.  It took all the stress from the week away.  I'm not sure how long we stayed in there, but it felt like a pretty long time.  There was an outside bath as well, and so after a while we went into there.  Already, after getting up I was feeling a bit dizzy (like I didn't drink enough water), but I still could get up fine and walk up the stairs.

The outside bath was smaller than the one inside, but it was definitely more beautiful.  It was also pretty cool to look up and see some constellations.  However, there was this huge tower right in front of us that sort of ruined view, but mostly we all enjoyed being inside the outside bath.  Us four talked about various things, but everyone else was pretty much silently enjoying their bath.  Some kids would kind of yell and have fun, but it seemed like a lot of people just sat in the bath quietly and enjoyed it by their selves.

So after a while outside, we went back to the inside one and tried out the part of the bath that had water jets.  In summary, was pretty awesome because they weren't too strong - just right.  :)  By then though, everyone was getting dizzy and so we left after almost an hour of being inside the hotsprings.  :)

After leaving the bath, we put on yukatas and took pictures.  Of course, we couldn't take them right inside the locker, but because we were wearing only our yukatas (traditionally, I don't think you wear anything underneath your yukata), we all sat in a small area with chairs.  There, a friendly grandma took our group pictures, and we even got to talk to her a bit (since she traveled a lot, and really liked talking).  So we sat out there for like 30 minutes before changing and then heading down with my friend's father to buy some omiyage (souvenirs) for our host families/dorms.

From there, we then went to my friend's house, where her mom prepared a huge spread of food for us.  Since everyone lived in a host family, I guess they were already used to this kind of food, but it was my first time eating such a spread so I was super happy.  I definitely made sure to enjoy every dish.  It was soooo yummmy!  Definitely better than the food I've been making at the dorm or the food I ate when I went out with friends.  The food didn't even stop there - afterwards the family also shared grapes and ice cream with us.

It may not come to a surprise for some of you, but one small culture shock for us international students is that Japanese peopele don't eat the peels of grapes.  Instead, they pop the grape inside their mouth and (I think) suck on it until all that's left is the peel and seeds.  Then, they spit it out and place it in a bowl.  O_O  I was trying all night to get the technique down.  We tried asking our Japanese friend why they don't eat it, but she didn't know and that she has always done that.  My friend from Jordon ate it whole, and explained that she thinks it's because the peels are a bit bitter.

The family's hospitality was really great though.  The parents gave up their room for the night for the four of us to sleep together, which we were all surprised and like, "No, it's okay!  We can sleep in our friend's and her sister's room!"  But then they said it was okay, and that there's another room (sort of like their traditional room with tatami mats) that they would sleep in.  We were all still amazed at their generosity, to give up their room and lay down a bunch of futons for us.

The next morning, we had breakfast at around 10:30, and then the family took us to a nearby shopping center/mall.  On one of the levels, they had a little market where they were selling food from Hokkaido.  It was a huge, and at each little stand there was something to sample like cheesecake, fish eggs, or ramen.  One could really just have a lunch of samples over there.  After that, the four of us and my Japanese's friends little sister went to Starbucks to do some homework and chill for an hour or 2.  Once we were tired of doing that, we went to almost each level to shop around.  Compared to the prices in Sakae, this shopping mall was way cheaper.  Leggings and stockings were only like $4 a pair, and for 3 it was around $11 (which is way cheaper than in America, right?).  There was also an arcade on one of the floors, where we did purikura (the asian photobooths), which was a blast as well.

I felt so blessed by this family, who was really generous in everything (free trip to the onsen, free food, etc.).  During breakfast, we all even talked about how we wanted to go to Kyoto, so the parents actually started to plan a trip for us!  They brought out pamphlets of famous sites and started to talk when we should leave, and if we should stop by Nara too, etc.  All of us exchange students were just blown away by everything they did for us.  Our gifts to them seem small in comparison to what they gave us.

Japan is really a country of generosity and kindness.  Shop keepers are always super helpful and friendly, no matter what.  Even if the customers ignored their greetings (which is normal here), the shop keepers do their best at their job.  People will wait until they can go by you instead of asking you to move.  Construction workers will acknowledge you when you pass by on the road, lifting their arms to tell you you can walk by.  It's such a hospitable place to live in.  :)  My french friend said it's so different than in big French cities, where everyone is a bit rude and she feels a bit oppressed by it.  I can now see the appeal of living in Japan - the service here is definitely the best!  As a common saying goes, "the customer is god".  Shop keepers and service men are taught to please the customer, even if they're just looking or whatever.

On a different topic: today I played with Japanese sparklers with my dorm mates.  They're different from the American ones - more delicate looking.  Later tonight we also killed a freakin' HUGE spider.  It was definitely bigger than anything I've seen in the states - even at the zoo.  Its' legs were super long - it made it look bigger than my head!  All of us international students were freaking out, but the Japanese students were completely fine.  Apparently, they're used to seeing spiders that big.  >__<  Definitely a big shock, because the Japanese people I know from high school were too scared to step into the reptile exhibit at the zoo, but these Japanese people aren't scared of snakes, lizards, or spiders!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


This morning, a roommate and I went to church.  He was the one who found it and was interested at first to go - the Mustard Seed Church.  Their website was very clear on what they were about and where they were.  We were both really grateful that they had video directions of how to get to the place.  :)

The church is a young plant - I heard it was only a couple years old.  The meet at a dance studio in Tsurumai.  Inside the studio looked like something out of a movie - the studio itself was elevated a bit so you had to step up to it from the entrance way.  Shoes at the entrance way were being scattered a bit from the children running around with the parents.  On the right there was a cubby area to put your bags in, and chairs around the back for people to sit and chat.  In front of the studio was where the band set up their equipment, as well as dividers to block the mirrors (just so the audience didn't have to look at their faces during the sermon).  Two roles of chairs could probably sit about 40 people - the average number of people who show up.  On the left next to the staircase leading up to a small second landing was a vending machine . . . And on the second landing was a small area to sit and eat snacks.

Upon arrival, we were immediately welcomed warmly by various of people.  The church seems to be mainly young American families and Japanese families.  It was really amazing to talk to these people - many of them came to Japan without really studying the language before.  One woman even came - because of an internship with the church - without ever studying Japanese, and had to start right at the beginning at her Japanese language school.  Many of the American families seemed to still be at school, or recent graduate.  I dare say there was no one over 30 or something there (but I'm not the best at guessing people ages).  All the children were still very young - no one over the age of 11 in my opinion.  A couple wives were even pregnant.

It was really nice to talk to them - they all seemed to genuinely wonder who me and my friend were.  We both kept on introducing ourselves to them, explaining that we were both Chinese American or Chinese Canadian students at Nanzan University studying Japanese.  This was also the first time, I think, in Japan that I ever had some mistake me as a Japanese (but not because of my speaking skills).  Many of them, as I said before, came from America, but from what I could tell would probably move to Nagoya permanently. 

The service started late, which is normal for them because they always want to wait until most people come.  The singspiration was absolutely cool - Hillsong translated and gave them song lyrics in Japanese for them.  I was told that that is the reason why they mostly sing Hillsong songs.  Singing with everyone made me very nostalgic for 4C back in Ohio, because besides the fact that people would sing in Japanese and English, it was the same kind of worship as 4C.  Apparently many of the members of the worship team were also really good - two of the Japanese musicians were even professionals or something, one American could play almost every instrument.  During the worship, one of the interns handed me a sheet of paper with today's verses in English and Japanese.

After the singspiration, the main pastor spoke with an interpreter next to him.  His sermon today was about revenge, and he strongly focused on how it's easy to understand that we shouldn't take revenge and turn the other cheek, even help out our enemies when they need it, but it's hard to act on.  He gave many examples of how we take revenge as well, and referred to different Bible verses (without actually mentioning which verses they came from).  The interpreter did a really good job from what I could tell, although there were sometimes that he had a hard time translating (like "hinder" or some kanji).  However, that just made the sermon even more enjoyable.  No one took the mistakes seriously, and it just added to the flavor and the harmonious feeling that I had being there.

After the service, we talked to even more people.  Unlike 4C, this church didn't introduce newcomers, but people immediately came up to us to talk, knowing we were new.  Every person invited us up to eat some snacks, which we eventually did.  In the end, both me and my roommmate had a great time there, and plan on going next week as well.  :)

Even though this church is small, I have a feeling that their fellowship is strong.  They also are very loving and don't mind too much that there are some irregulars.  From what I heard, it's because people can become very busy and cannot always come to service.  However, they didn't explain this with any disapproving tone, which really appealed to me.  I'm really excited to see them next week!

On the side note - went on my first run today.  It was pretty good, but there are a ton of hills around here.  Plus, I went into a neighborhood and ALMOST got lost (I knew where I was generally, but not specifically).  However, after I ran, I felt really good and like I was getting into shape.  That's why I ask that if it's possible, you all also do your best to stay healthy!  Even a small walk around the neighborhood can be really relaxing and let you enjoy where you are.  :)  Plus, for those who are going on a very important walk (like you, mom and Andrea), think of it as training!  ^__^

I also would like to inform you all that I've registered for an introductory course on Japanese sign language through Nanzan University's extension college.  It's really easy - only meets a total of 5 times for about an hour and a half.  Recently, I've been developing an interest in the Japanese deaf community (or deaf community in general).  So, for one of my classes (Fieldwork Research Methods in Japan), my project is on Japanese Sign Language.  Wish me luck that somehow I can do it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Banks and Odori

Today, I had to go to the post office and the bank - they were probably the most challenging places to try to communicate with Japanese people.  Not that the people were not friendly, but since it was a formal and professional environment, there was even more pressure to perform well.

At the post office, I had to set up a postal savings account, which is how my scholarship (MEXT) would send me my monthly stipend.  While writing out my form, I once again made mistakes.  It may not sound like a big deal, but I heard that filling out forms in Japan can be meticulous because you have to be perfect.  People will have extra copies of a form so just in case they do make a mistake, they can toss it out and start on a new one.  However, I usually only receive one form, and I don't go slow enough to stop myself from making my silly mistakes (like putting my name in the wrong order).  Even though it's a small mistake, I think it's something that I should be able to correct while I'm here.

Also, I don't know my area well, so I decided to take the subway just to go to the next train stop, which isn't all that far.  From there, I couldn't find the right bank to go cash my travelers checks.  A bit tired, I just went into the first bank I saw and lo and behold, they couldn't do traveler checks.  Or at least, not American ones; it was probably a local bank that wasn't used to having foreigners.  The next bank I went to was Mitsubishi (think that's the name), one of the biggest banks I've ever seen.  At both banks, I was immediately assisted, but at this one they actually could do foreign checks.  Communicating with the teller my reason of coming was easy enough, but I'm sure that if I was better at Japanese the process and conversation could've been smoother.  None the less, I'm very thankful that they could help me - my teller was very patient and easily explained each step in the process.

Tonight, I went to see the Nishikawa-ryu Odori Company perform their annual performace of Nagoya Odori.  It's a traditional Japanese dance and theatre that has been held at the same theatre since 1945.  I was supposed to go with a friend, but unfortunately she couldn't come.  While I waited for her though, I did get to observe the lobby area.  Huge barrels of what I think was rice was stacked up like blocks, and a whole bunch of flowers consisting of different types of lilies, orchids and roses bordered the lobby area.  From what I could tell, they were gifts from sponsors or other important companies.  There were also many stalls to buy omiyage (souvenirs people by for their friends, co-workers or family), try out wine or food, buy roasted chestnuts, and a concession stand on each story.  I read on a sign that a 2nd floor ticket is about 3,100 ¥ and a 1st floor ticket over 6,000¥.  O__O  I was completely floored by how many tickets Nanzan University gave out for free to us (30 tickets).  Hearing that made me want to get the most that I could from the performance.

And I'm super glad I went because it was just spectacular!  Every performer's movement was very deliberate, and there was no excess to their actions.  It was what I would say a clean performance.  The company's president also performed a lot - and you could tell that everyone was amazed by his dancing and acting abilities.  I especially noticed that basically the only prop used was a fan, and it would change from being just a fan, to a cup or whatever they needed it to be.  The audience could tell immediately what the fan was just by the way the actors and actresses moved or held it.  Of course, there were other props, especially towards the end where they did a contemporary piece (complete with falling flower petals from the ceiling, and having the performers go into the audience to make them clap their hands).  Overall, I'm super glad I came, even if my friend couldn't come.  Seeing the Nagoya Odori really topped off my night.

Afterwards as I walked back to the station, I took a couple pictures the place I was in (Sakae).  Sakae is basically the entertainment district - the place to have fun.  The train ride to and from were fine, because I checked my train map constantly to make sure I was on the right train and when my stop was coming next.  On the way back I could tell that around 8-9 o'clock is when company workers leave to go home.  Definitely the train was filled with these office workers, all looking super tired from a long day at the company or office.

I leave now, with a note that I now have a prepaid phone!  Calling me is super expensive - I only have 30 minutes of talking time for 2 months, but I have unlimited mail, so I wonder if you can send me mail at:
If not, use my e-mail!


Orientation 2

Thursday, we had an workshop about intercultural communication, and how there can be conflicts and how we could fix it.  It was really interesting to hear other people's opinions - some I have never even thought of.  The professor leading it had an easy way of explaining culture: it's like gravity (things just come together and people are drawn to be a part of a culture no matter what), cotton candy (whatever/whoever it encounters, it sticks to them), and a yardstick (it's....measurable?  I actually didn't understand this one, even though he said it was obvious).  Overall, it's super important to be aware of culture, cultural differences, and to celebrate these differences. 

I learned that making an inkan (a small customized stamp used for banking purposes) for over 100 students takes more than just a day or 2 to do - even though the university said they would be handing them out today so we could open our bank accounts, they couldn't do it in time.  It's okay though - I forgot to get the necessary documents anyways to get it.  :-P

But there were a lot of questions at today's orientation since it was over something really important.  People wanted to know if they could have someone wire money to them (yes), or if a postal savings account, which is needed for some scholarships, instead of a bank savings account would work (no).  A couple others already had an inkan made because they either made one in China, or had been in Japan before.  The advisers also went over some necessary points, such as most of Japan only accepts the original copies of documents.  Overall, a pretty important orientation.

Monday, September 5, 2011


It's been a couple days so far, and the weather has been getting cooler by each day (which is a SUPER relief).  Today was actually clear and sunny!  With the cooler weather though, the number of mosquitoes flying around have increased though.  :-/  I have bites everywhere on my arms and legs - it sucks.

This week I and the other international students here began our orientation.  Yesterday, we took our placement exam.  We first entered the building, after glancing at the seating charts, not knowing at first what they were.  However, once we entered the examination room, I, at least, quickly realized that we had assigned seats according to our student ID number that we did not know.  So, the first couple of minutes I spent trying to figure out where my seat was, and I ended up asking one of the Japanese CJS workers to direct me to my seat.  Everyone had to seat at least one seat away from each other, as expected.

The examination instructions were given in both Japanese and English.  Our exam was very straightforward: a quick 5-6 question part on listening, and then a 4 page multiple choice test followed by a page where you had to read and answer questions about the text.  The whole test was in Japanese, but most of the instructions were written in English as well.  I have to say, I though the multiple choice section went okay, but the reading section killed me.  I gave up after spending around probably 15 minutes trying to decipher it.  Many people, including many who could even attempt the section, stayed until the very end of the time limit to finish.  Most of us though just gave up, maybe answered one or two questions concerning vocabulary, and turned it in.

Today, we received our results.  I would say I'm pleased with mine, and a little intimidated.  Not because of the grammar for my class - I know almost all of what we should know.  The kanji is another story - most of the kanji we are supposed to know, I do not.  >__<  That means I should probably study this week before classes start....and we have to take 2 more tests; one to make sure we were placed in the right level, and another if we want to go up a level.  These tests will determine if we know the grammar and kanji, so . . . need to study!

Around 11:30 orientation usually takes a break for lunch.  For now, we have two choices on where to eat: the cafeteria or convenience store (konbini).  The cafeteria is very simple: just stand in what is usually a long line and order your food after looking through the options posted on top of the cafeteria.  Compare to the konbini, it's more expensive.  However, they serve different types of udon, curry, and soba.

The konbini on the other hand is less expensive, and they too serve a range of items from sandwiches, salads, and zaru soba, but it's cold or at least room temperature.  You have to ask them to heat something up for you - they usually have a microwave - but I have seen anyone do that at the campus location at least.  What's interesting is they also serve 'American' food - things like hamburgers and what looks like a hot dog with a slightly bigger and flatter bun.

The school campus is smaller than my home campus.  However, there is a lot of trees and shrubs everywhere, which isn't what I expected on a Japanese campus.  From what I heard before, the cities where devoid of a lot of vegetation, but obviously that's not the case on my campus.  I also heard from other friends at other schools that they too have a lot trees and shrubs.  It's really refreshing just to walk around the campus, and be surrounded by the old buildings, and see the Japanese students walking around in their sports uniform or just everyday clothing.  Yesterday, during my campus tour, we passed a group of theatre members practicing a religious play.  Although I am a christian and a little fluent in Japanese, I couldn't tell what they were acting at all.  However, the tour guides couldn't help but smile a bit as they walk by, which intrigued me though I didn't press why.

The welcome party was really nice, even though I don't like crowds.  I met a lot of people, both international and Japanese.  It was really interesting to see which international student knew each other, or where from the same area, or even if someone else had something in common!  In a way, I think these little things all connected us somehow more so than the fact we were all Japanese students.

That's my update for now.  I hope that whoever reads these blogs enjoy them some what.  If not, sorry for wasting your time.  In these blogs I try to remain as objective as possible, adding as much details from what I remember.  The purpose of my blog is to make sure I write down my experiences here so I won't forget them later.  Then, I can see if I could analyze what I wrote down and see if there's anything in there I can use for a future paper about my time here.  Very vague, I know, but right now, I'm just enjoying the environment I'm in.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New beginnings

Hi everyone!

My flight to Japan was VERY eventful.  Just want to point out that it was really a surprise when I met Jason and Zoey on the plane, and our seats were even all together!  Also a surprise to see Genevieve on the plane too!

The flight wasn't too bad at all, besides the fact I got a random nosebleed due to the change in air pressure.  ^__^

Once we arrived to Nagoya, it was already dark.  Looking outside, there seems to be a lot of apartment complexes, so I assume the area will be quiet . . . besides that over 100 students live in dorms around here.  :)  As usual, the roads are narrower than the ones in America.

The dormitory I'm staying in is called Nanzan Yamazato Koryu Kaikan.  So far, it seems that only a small group of people have moved in so far - but more are to come tomorrow!  Everyone is really nice and friendly.  We all speak casually (so not what JSL prepares you for).  The Japanese people made us curry for dinner, and we all sat together and talked while we ate.  Lisa and I - the ones who just moved in that night - asked questions about various of things around the house, and Yuka explained our schedule for the next week.  It was a really pleasant atmosphere - everyone was just relaxed and open to getting to know each other.  The other international students living here come from everywhere: Holland, Korea, America . . . Lisa's from France too!  So obviously, language barriers and so Japanese is the one common language here.  English is used too, since everything's either in Japanese or English, but I have a feeling that we won't be using it that much, for obvious reasons.  :-P

I'm living in a single with A LOT  of room.  There's a ton of shelves and drawers for all my stuff.  The closet is huge - bigger than the ones I used in America.  O_O  Crazy, right?  I can fit my suitcase, all my clothes, shoes and the extra blanket I was given all in there - I could probably put everyone I brought in there actually.  ^_^ The hallway and staircase are spacious, and there's 2 baths for each floor to share.  My biggest problem so far was trying to not wet up the common bathroom (basically keeping that clean).  I have my own toilet, which I'm super grateful for!  ^__^

That's it for now.  Typhoons are coming this weekend, so I'll be staying indoors probably a lot.  ^_-