Posts filed under ‘Japan’

Last Japan Post. Also, Tom Selleck.

So friends, a little less than two months after my return to America and in the middle of the night, I decide to write my last blog post on my adventures in Japan.  A month after that, I actually finish said blog post.  Sorry it took so long, but be grateful that it’s even coming at all.  I was planning on it when I got home, but I got hit with a major bout of Post-Project Depression.  I decided to finish it BECAUSE I MISS MY PROJECT BUDDIES! 😦

I left off with Disney Sea, which was AWESOME.  The week after that was our last week on campus, which was more emotional than I thought it would be, but I’ll get to that later.  We had our American Sayonara Party, which was basically where we dressed up in the most “American” way possible and had a lot of fun games.  I played Apples to Apples Japanese edition, but I don’t think the students really understood the concept of picking the opposite of the adjective because it’s funny (or maybe I wasn’t getting it…).  Either way, I think everyone had a lot of fun.  We had a dance contest and pie eating contest, neither of which I think the students had really seen before, so there were a lot of laughs to be had.

Apples to Apples Japanese cards!  They had English, but if you turn them upside, they have it in Japanese.  Lovely!

Apples to Apples Japanese cards! They had English, but if you turn them upside, they have it in Japanese. Lovely!

We had a costume contest.  I'm sad because I'm not American enough.

We had a costume contest. I'm sad because I'm not American enough.

Pie eating contest!

Pie eating contest!

Normally in projects, the group goes on a mid-project retreat to recuperate after challenge week, but that didn’t work out this year.  Instead, we went on an end-project retreat to Hakone, a town near Tokyo famous for its onsen, or natural hot springs.  Heather and Gen were being very hush-hush about it beforehand and keeping it a secret, but one of the Student Impact leaders accidentally let it slip to me at the Sayonara Party.  I liked the idea of being surprised, but this time I didn’t mind being spoiled since I was so excited that I had actually heard of Hakone before in my Japanese class.

The ride over there was one of the times I least appreciated bringing two bags.  Lugging all of that all over the trains and up hills and on buses was MISERABLE.  UGH, I don’t know how my project buddies put up with me.  We finally made it to our little hotel, which was an experience in itself.  THERE ARE BETTER THINGS TO FILL YOUR PILLOWS WITH THAN BEANS, JAPAN! The rooms had three small beds and complimentary slippers (you still take your shoes off entering the room).  There were hall restrooms and showers as well as the hotel’s private hot spring.

Ah, the hot spring.  It was basically like a jacuzzi, but the water is pumped from an actual hot spring, so it’s naturally heated.  OK, the way this works is that in this particular hotel (and I would assume most places), there were separate hot springs for men and women, mainly because clothing was prohibited.  That’s right, they had signs in English and Japanese specifically saying do not wear underwear, do not wear a bathing suit, do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Knowing this made me extremely uncomfortable to say the least, but I decided that this was an experience that I wasn’t going to pass up.  Besides, it was girl bonding time.

Entering the female half, there’s a room with shelves with baskets on them for you to put your clothes as well as mirrors and stools to blow dry your hair.  You had to get undressed there and walk stark naked across the room ,which I was expecting to feel like an AWKWARD WALK OF SHAAAAAAME, but it felt a little better when you see that everyone else is as naked as you are and thus isn’t really looking at you that hard.  Still, it was probably the easiest time in my life to make eye contact.

Before getting into the onsen, you have to wash yourself off.  Yep, before taking a bath, you take a shower.  That’s because for the Japanese, bathing is for enjoyment, so you get clean beforehand.  They have this little shower nozzles along the wall in a row, and you sit on stools while you wash.  After that we enjoyed a lovely hot bath.

Our trip to Hakone was a great way to end the project.  We took a gondola ride (not boats) through the mountains, getting a great view of the strip mining, and then we got to ride on a pirate ship.  Yes, that’s right, a tourist pirate ship.  We sailed across a lake where we could have seen Mount Fuji had it not been so cloudy.  For most of the afternoon we explored a shrine and nature walk that was nearby.  It was pretty cool, very relaxing.

See?  This kind of gondola.

See? This kind of gondola.

Japanese pirate ship.  Looks remarkably like Western pirate ships.

Japanese pirate ship. Looks remarkably like Western pirate ships.

So the Japanese write down prayers and....you know what, I don't really know what this is.  I just thought it looked cool and took a pretty awesome picture.

So the Japanese write down prayers and....you know what, I don't really know what this is. I just thought it looked cool and took a pretty awesome picture.

Fuji-chan!  Japan's famous mountain in cuddly stuffed animal form!  The best souvenir ever!  This is probably the most Asian picture I've taken so far.

Fuji-chan! Japan's famous mountain in cuddly stuffed form! This is probably the most Asian picture I've taken so far.

Another sweet outing was to Yunessun, a hot springs resort.  This one was divided into a swimsuit section and naked section, so yeah, we only went to the former.  What made this fun was that there were all different kinds of scented baths.  There was a wine-scented one, green tea-scented one, and, my personal favorite, a coffee-scented one.  It was a resort, so they also had massages and, to my delight, foot rubs.  One particularly interesting attraction was a Turkish foot bath.  In case you don’t know what that is, it’s where you stick your feet in a bath, hence the name, and little fish eat the dead skin off your feet.

After this lovely excursion we flew back to America, but at the airport the security stopped us in the airport for a “random security check.”  Yeah, uh huh, right, you just managed to “randomly” check the group of foreigners with a samurai sword.  They totally thought we were terrorists. We ended up leaving at five in the afternoon and arriving at ten in the morning the same day, so we stayed up at least forty hours, some were awake longer (those lovely ones who had the bright idea of staying up all night the night before).  It was kind of funny, considering it was the first time I had ever stayed up all night.  I remember thinking, “This isn’t that bad.”  Though, that turns out that I’m missing some pretty big chunks of my memory from that day, so yeah, I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

The sunrise was worth staying up the entire plane ride.

The sunrise was worth staying up the entire plane ride.

After debriefing we had some very tearful goodbyes, but a good number of us went to Disneyland in California.  Now all I have to do is go to Paris and my Disney World Tour will be complete.  The trip to Disneyland was a bittersweet experience.  It was mainly fun (DUH, it’s freaking Disneyland), but there was this sad undertone during it all for me.  I had already left some of my friends, and I really didn’t like the idea of leaving the next day.

But we all had a blast, and it was super awesome fun.  I even got a button for it being my first time there, so that was great.  I will treasure it always.  I got to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean ride for the first time, which was really fun.  Turns out there is one in Florida, I didn’t know that….Now I just have the burning question in my mind of which Splash Mountain is bigger?  Because in my mind the one in Disney World is bigger, but I can’t decide whether that’s because I was so small when I went there last or because it really is bigger.  I bet they’re the same height.

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Doo dah doo dah.

Doo dah doo dah.

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So then I went back home and it was great to see the family but boring because there weren’t any people there.  Back at school it’s a little better because I have the roomies and mah gal pals.  I WANNA MOVE TO CALIIIIIIFOOOORRRNIIIIAAAA!!!!  Or Michigan.  No, Michigan can get really cold, you guys will just have to visit.

Anyway, that’s all for now.  I might update this blog with any random stuff, but that’s a big maybe.  I’m not really that interesting when I’m not in a foreign country.  That said, take care.  Tom Selleck says don’t get swine flu.

Tom Selleck....

Tom Selleck....

....he keep you best.

....he keep you best.

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September 30, 2009 at 7:35 AM 6 comments

Traci’s blog has got it going on

So this past week has been a really tiring one.  It was challenge week, like I mentioned in my last post, and I didn’t get enough sleep.  Hey, I’m probably only in Tokyo with these awesome people once, so I don’t really mind losing a little sleep.  On Family Night we wanted to make sure that we did something relaxing, so we bought some ice cream and toppings, and everyone made their own sundaes.  Afterward we played Settlers and Mafia (or Yakuza, since we’re in Japan), and I got the furthest as mafia that I’ve ever gotten.  I usually get pegged as mafia right away since I’m a horrible liar, but it helps that these people have never played with me before.  I also saw how ridiculous good Heather, Gen, and Amy were at this game, and as I was sitting right in between the three of them, it became a good excuse for why I was so nervous.  I wasn’t lying when I said that mafia or not, I was really afraid that any sudden move I made would be noticed and interpreted as a sign of guilt, so that got me to the last round.  I couldn’t convince them to kill Kimi instead of me, but I was really happy to make it that far anyway.  I played Settlers with the team on Thursday, and apparently even though I’m really bad at it, I’m really cute when I’m losing, so at least if I can’t win I can make them feel guilty about beating me.

Anyway, at the end of the week we had this party called Discover Friends, and I’d say it was a pretty big success.  I think everyone mostly enjoyed themselves, and we got to learn a lot about some Japanese students.  The girls we invited came up to us afterward and asked us when we were going to be on campus and were really eager to meet us again, so I was really happy about that.  We actually found out that one of the students Amy met at ICU came to Christ last week.  Awesome!

This weekend I was really looking forward to being a tourist and going shopping for souvenirs, and what better place to do that than Harajuku?  Harajuku is another Japanese shopping district that’s pretty popular with tourists, young people, and cosplayers.  Cosplay is when people dress up as anime characters, and if you don’t know what anime is, I suggest you check wikipedia because you’re a little behind on the times.  Sometimes they have gatherings of cosplayers, but sadly we only saw a few, which made my inner nerd a little sad.  That’s OK, though, because my inner tourist was made very happy on Saturday.

I think I was just expecting too much from Tokyo, because I just can’t get a big city vibe from it.  I think I was just expecting most of it to be like Time Square with big buildings and bright lights everywhere you look, but so far the closest I’ve seen to that is Shibuya, which admittedly is fairly big.  Harajuku did have some decently sized buildings, but it was still not what I was expecting.  I don’t want to give the impression that it isn’t big, I just think I haven’t been to the biggest parts of Tokyo.  I keep seeing huge buildings off in the distance.  Still, Harajuku was pretty dang sweet.

One of the main shopping streets of Harajuku.  The shops here weren't huge, but they were pretty interesting.

One of the main shopping streets of Harajuku. The shops here weren't huge, but they were pretty interesting.

Two of Amy’s friends who are studying abroad in Japan, Heather and Spencer, came with us, and they gave us some pretty scary advice beforehand.  They said that Japanese shops in Harajuku hired Nigerians to hustle foreigners into their shops.  They basically intimidate you into shopping there, and the best you can do if you see some big, scary black men hanging outside of a store, do not make eye contact.  DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT.  Well, we did see some big, scary black men, but they fortunately didn’t bother us or from I saw anyone else.  They looked cranky to me, so maybe they don’t like strongarming people into stores anymore than I like being strongarmed into stores.  It’s kind of a crappy job in my opinion, and I doubt they liked it very much either.

We found a lot of interesting shops along Harajuku’s main road.  There was a three-story 100 yen store, from which I bought an adorable cow piggy bank that I named MouMou-chan.  From there we kind of drifted in and out of stores, and I bought some random things like a class that’s shaped like a Coca-Cola can, a cell phone strap with Coca-Cola in Japanese written on it as well as the kanji for Harajuku, and the smallest Coke can I’ve ever seen (it was a Coke-themed shop, OK?).  I didn’t buy much in these shops mainly because Kimi, who had been to Harajuku before, had found some awesome stores for which I was already saving my money.  There were crepes stands everywhere, which was kind of weird but I guess part of Harajuku’s charm.

Why crepes, Japan?  I'm sure their answer is, "Why not?"

Why crepes, Japan? I'm sure their answer is, "Why not?"

We also saw another example of Japan’s obsession with brand names.  I feel like I’ve said this before, but Japanese people love brand name items, from Coach to Krispey Kreme donuts.  We saw a pretty extreme example.  A Forever 21 had opened in Harajuku I don’t know how long ago, but it was fairly recent, and the number of people there was staggering.  The line looked like it was a two hour wait, and there were security guards regulating how many people could go in at a time.  It was ridiculous.

All these people were here for one store.  It was crazy.

All these people were here for one store. It was crazy.

Down the street the line is still going.  Hey there, Joe.

Down the street the line is still going. Hey there, Joe.

At that point I was happy but at the same time kind of bummed because we hadn’t found the shops that I had really come to see:  the Hello Kitty store and the Oriental Bazaar.  Despite my prior heartbreak in discovering that Hello Kitty actually originated from Taiwan, not Japan, I still really wanted to go there, and the Oriental Bazaar sounded like the perfect place to buy authentically made in China Japanese gifts.  I knew that Kimi was planning on coming back later since she was meeting a friend in Shibuya that day, so I could just come with her another time, but still, I really wanted to find them.  Fortunately when our group met up, most people weren’t quite ready to leave yet either, and another part of the group had already found the Oriental Bazaar, so we split up again.  They pointed us in the right direction, and we were on our way.

They had KITTENS on the street.  KITTENS!  I squeeled quite loudly.

They had KITTENS on the street. KITTENS! I squeeled quite loudly.

On the way there, I noticed a shop called Kiddy Land, which I had been keeping an eye out for.  Kimi had mentioned that the Hello Kitty store was Kitty Land, or at least I thought that’s what she had said, but d’s and t’s are sometimes hard to distinguish, especially when it would make since for a Hello Kitty-themed store to be called Kitty Land.  I decided to try this store anyway, and low and behold, the Kitty store was on the second floor.  It was glorious.  They had Hello Kitty cell phone charms of any kind you can imagine, from authentic Japanese kimono-wearing kitty, to lolita kitty, to punk rocker chick kitty (I got that one :D).  I also got a cute little cut with sushi and the names of sushi on it in English and Japanese with Kitty wrapped in the sushi (morbid, maybe.  Cute, definitely).  I might have to go back there.  It was a pretty big toy store, and there was a place called Snoopy Town on the third floor, but I didn’t want to hold everyone up anymore, so I decided to hold off browsing through there.  The Japanese don’t give a crap about Charlie Brown or Linus, they freakin’ love Snoopy.  I’ve seen him a lot of other places too, this was just the culmination of Snoopiness in Japan.

A welcome sight.

A welcome sight.

You too can have your very own Hello Kitty robot for the low cost of 90,000 yen!

You too can have your very own Hello Kitty robot for the low cost of 90,000 yen!

We eventually moved on to the oriental bazaar, which turned out to have a great selection and pretty reasonable prices.  I finally got some souvenirs I had been waiting to get for my family as well as some stuff for me.  My favorite has to be this wonderful piece of Japanese attire.

Ta da!

Ta da!

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This is a yukata, which is basically what people back home will think is a kimono unless I tell them otherwise.  The main difference between this and a kimono is that this is mainly worn in the summer as a kimono is actually several layers thick, and  kimonos are much more expensive.  I decided to get this and a fan for myself, and the yukata was really well-priced, only about $40.  I was so excited to get it.  If you hear about some nut walking around in a weird bathrobe back in Johnsonville in about a month, just know that will be me.  So far I still need a few nicknacks for my friends as well as a souvenir for Granddaddy, who is unreasonably difficult to shop for.  Granddaddy, if you’re reading this, what could I get you that you’d like from Japan?  I’m stumped.  I know, I’ll get you a Pokemon stuffed animal 😀

The only thing I still haven’t found for myself that I really wanted is a wall scroll with Japanese calligraphy on it.  Most of the wall scrolls I’ve seen have famous Japanese paintings on them, which are great but not exactly what I wanted.  I’ll keep looking, I have time.  I ended up spending more than $100 that day, but I’d say everything I bought was worth it.  At the end Amy found some of the best Ingrish I’ve seen so far.  Ingrish is basically a mixture of Japanese and English, or basically what we like to call it when Japanese people speak English very, very badly.  It’s really funny how in America, we wear Chinese and Japanese symbols without even knowing what they mean, yet here, they essentially do the same thing with English.  Just in case you’re looking for these to make sense, they don’t, which is what makes them so awesome.

Friendly.  One can never be satisfied with performance.

Friendly. One can never be satisfied with performance.

The back of the above shirt.  FINE STRIKES BACK.  Mans affluence.  Quality evolution theory.

The back of the above shirt. FINE STRIKES BACK. Mans affluence. Quality evolution theory.

DISCOVERY OF FUTURE SOUND.  I am astified just listening.  There are some sounds only I can perceive.  Sound can change history.  High clarity.

DISCOVERY OF FUTURE SOUND. I am astified just listening. There are some sounds only I can perceive. Sound can change history. High clarity.

When we got back, some of the group decided to go out and get some takeout and bring it back to eat together since most restaurants just don’t have room for so many people all at one table, and on the way there I saw the most glorious sight I’ve seen since I came to Japan.  I finally found it. Holy frick, it was a JAPANESE BASSET HOUND.  IN KOENJI, WHERE I LIVE.  HALLELUJAH! I hyperventilated a little bit.  In case you don’t know, Toni and I love Basset Hounds and will one day own one ourselves.  Everyone time one of us sights one, we have to immediately tell the other.  I’ve been on the lookout for one ever since I came here, and after seeing mainly weenie dogs and chihuahuas in tutus, I was beginning to lose hope.  Then God saw fit to bless me with its presence.  I was so happy.  Some of my teammates saw it again on the way back and told me, and I think I scared them a little bit with my reaction.  I pretty much mugged Emily for her camera (GIVE ME YOUR CAMERA!  GIVE IT TO ME NOW!), and I ran off in its direction.  I didn’t get a decent picure of it, only a blurry shot of its butt walking away, and I wanted to keep the Japanese collateral damage to a minimum since most of the people around me, including my American teammates, probably thought I was a nut squeeling and having a panic attack over a dog.  I didn’t want to add stalking to the list by following them down the street, so I left in hopes that I’ll see him again.  I will see him again.  He lives in Koenji, it’s going to happen.

After that the night continued as the day had, in awesomeness.  We hung out in one of the guys rooms and ate, and then some of us watched Muppet Treasure Island, a superb comedy, while others played Settlers, a board game that for some reason I was the only one who had never heard about it.  After the movie I joined in for two games (it’s actually really fun, if you like strategy).  I lost both, but that’s OK, because I’m learning something new every game.  It’s only a matter of time before my inevitable victory.

That’s it for now.  This week we’re having a surprise for family night which I don’t want to reveal just in case any of my teammates is reading, and on Saturday we’re finally going to TOKYO DISNEYLAND!  Expect pictures.  I’m also making a video blog with all the videos I’ve been taking since WordPress is a stinky poo poo face for not letting me upload videos.  I’ll link to it here when I have some videos up.  Sayonara!

Stop killing whales, Japan!

June 14, 2009 at 4:45 PM 1 comment

When I think of something clever to title this, I’ll notify you.

So this weekend we decided it would be a fantastic idea to get up at 4:30 AM to go to the biggest fish market in the world.  My heart dropped so much when it heard that time I thought it would fall out of my chest, but I’m a good sport.  I don’t want to waste any of my tourist time in Japan, so I agreed and tried to go to bed early (about 10:30 PM lol).  The next morning I somehow was able to get up.  It rained all the way to the fish market and back.

It was already lively when we got there, which was the entire point of getting up so early.  They apparently are preparing things at that time, so we got to see some living fish.  Ok, I have to say, being a mouth-breather is the best advice I can give anyone who visits this place.  Obviously, the fish smell isn’t pleasant, though maybe I got used to it because it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Oh hey there, Mr. Octopus.

Oh hey there, Mr. Octopus.

This crab was absolutely gigantic and still alive.  I really wanted to touch it even though I understand that this would be the worst idea ever.  I do that sometimes, stick my fingers in places I know there's a high probablity that they will be bitten or pinched.  I don't know why.  On the bright side, logic prevailed this day.

This crab was absolutely gigantic and still alive. I really wanted to touch it even though I understand that this would be the worst idea ever. I do that sometimes, stick my fingers in places I know there's a high probablity that they will be bitten or pinched. I don't know why. On the bright side, logic prevailed this day.

It was…interesting, though I wouldn’t advise staying there for more than an hour.  It was fun seeing fish bigger than I had ever seen before and a live octopus and things like that, but getting up that early is just such a tiring thing that it began to be a lot less fun the longer we stayed.  It kind of started getting repetitive.  You see one dead fish, you’ve seen them all.  Ok, that’s not quite true, but it’s how I felt.  I think I was just really, really tired and irritable.

I love animals, and I also love eating them.  However, I'm not exactly clamoring for sushi after watching some fish be gutted alive.

I love animals, and I also love eating them. However, I'm not exactly clamoring for sushi after watching some fish be gutted alive.

Giant frozen fish.  They were almost as big as me.

Giant frozen fish. They were almost as big as me.

I did get to see the dark side of Japan’s fishing industry though.  Japan is almost making many whale species go extinct because they’re just so dang tasty (REALLY tasty according to Gen).  It was sad but really interesting to see whale meat.  It looked a lot like beef, which I guess makes sense considering that it’s a mammal.  I’ll let you decide.

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Cannibal/suicidal whales are not cute under any circumstances, Japan.

Cannibal/suicidal whales are not cute under any circumstances, Japan.

After going back to the apartments, I chatted with Toni on facebook for a while (best part of my day) before sleeping until noon.  Then we decided to go to a park in Koenji.  I honestly preferred to go shopping, but I’m really glad I ended up going there.  It was so relaxing just to hang out somewhere nice and tranquil.  There was a street band made up of two playing violins, a cello, and a clarinet.  They played classical music as well as classic Disney songs, giving us great joy.  We found an open space of grass to play soccer, throw frisbee, and play volleyball, but I must admit, most of the time I was rather distracted.  This is apparently where people took their dogs to play, and THEY WERE SO CUTE.  I wanted to steal one.  Also, if you think that American girls who dress their little doggies in clothes are dumb, then Japan will severely irritate you.  I’ve seen more dogs wearing people outfits than I’ve ever seen before in my entire life, and I’ve even seen a doggie clothing store.  I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem to be something that my pets ever enjoyed when I did this when I was little, but what do I know.  Maybe Fluffy didn’t like it because  I made him wear a diaper and bonnet.

I really liked the koi fish in the pond.  Some were huge, and sometimes they would open their mouths at us like those fish you see at Broadway at the Beach.  It reminded me of home.

I really liked the koi fish in the pond. Some were huge, and sometimes they would open their mouths at us like those fish you see at Broadway at the Beach. It reminded me of home.

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They were so awesome to watch.  I even got some video, but unfortunately the only way to put it on wordpress would be to put it up on youtube or another video hosting site.  I think blogger hosts videos, so I might just make a blog just for videos and link it back here.

They were so awesome to watch. I even got some video, but unfortunately the only way to put it on wordpress would be to put it up on youtube or another video hosting site. I think blogger hosts videos, so I might just make a blog just for videos and link it back here.

JAPANESE GUY WITH AN AFRO OMG

JAPANESE GUY WITH AN AFRO OMG

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Irish Wolfhound?  Seriously, that thing came up above that dude's waist.  We also saw a plethora of weenie dogs, terriers, and even a Dalmation.  Sadly, no Japanese Basset Hounds have been sighted.  Will continue my search.

Irish Wolfhound? Seriously, that thing came up above that dude's waist. We also saw a plethora of weenie dogs, terriers, and even a Dalmation. Sadly, no Japanese Basset Hounds have been sighted. Will continue my search.

This week is challenge week, which is when we try to push our spiritually limits.  We stay on campus for an extra hour a day, and we set personal goals for ourselves and God.  One personal goal, one goal for God to show His power should He choose, and one in which we set the number of gospel presentations we want to try to have this week.  I don’t really like putting numbers on things like that mainly because they’re out of my control, since it’s not like I was holding back from sharing the gospel if I had the opportunity before, but I can understand why they did it.  It’s not like we’re punished or that even anyone else will know if we don’t make our goal, it’s just to push us out of our comfort zone, I think, and make us grow spiritually and maybe even more comfortable with doing it.  It’s succeeded in that already, I think.  I actually was able to initiate a conversation with someone, which is NOT something I’m comfortable with doing.  Unfortunately, two days have already passed on campus and I haven’t had a single gospel presentation, but I’m not feeling too bummed about it.  God will provide opportunities in His own time.

The great thing about Challenge Week is that our team has really been even more intentional about encouraging each other and building each other up.  People have been really making sure to tell each other their strengths and traits about them that they love.  Apparently, I’m a very sweet person.  It’s the accent, peeps.  No one can resist a Southern Belle.  It’s been fun for me to encourage people in that way though because that’s normally how I try to show I care anyway.  I like specific compliments that show that you’re really paying attention and getting to know them personally.  I’m not always as open with people as I know I should be, for stupid reasons.  What person would be angry if I complimented them?  Yet I still have a hard time getting these things out in the open sometimes, but with everyone doing it, it makes me a little more confident.

Lastly, it was my turn to buy toilet paper this week, and the result was glorious.  I saw this in passing one day and decided to bless my teammates with it.  Hello Kitty toilet paper is awesome enough by itself, but upon opening it we came to realize that it also SMELLS LIKE STRAWBERRY.  Strawberry-smelling Hello Kitty toilet paper.  Best invention to come out of Japan so far.

I think that’s all for right now.  Intriguingly short blog post, but I guess it’s refreshing compared to how long the others are.  Hope everyone is having a wonderful week.  One last thing.  Could everyone pray for my friend Allison?  Her family is going through a really hard time right now.  See you next post!

EDIT:  My sister thought this was worthy to be included.

It's SUPPOSEDLY me as an anteater....on FIRE....but it really looks more like an elepant.

It's SUPPOSEDLY me as an anteater....on FIRE....but it really looks more like an elepant.

June 9, 2009 at 11:31 PM 7 comments

You’re from the future? Well that’s brilliant! Do they still have sandwiches there?

So yeah, updating frequently isn’t happening.  I just usually don’t end up updating in my free time.  Anyway…

We went to the Imperial Palace and Asakusa this weekend.  The palace was nice, but they don’t let you inside but maybe like what, twice a year?  So yeah, there were pretty gates and a few buildings and stuff, but I think we had more fun taking this awesome picture where we were all standing on these metal posts with different poses.  Andrew set the camera on timer and sprinted, and the resulting picture was actually pretty good.

This is our fearless leader Gen.  He's a sea lion.  No, I'm not going to explain the actual reason he's posing this way.

This is our fearless leader Gen. He's a sea lion.

I really don't like that wordpress automatically rotates my tall images.  I guess you'll just have to tilt your head to the left and pretend like you're looking at something really intriguing.

I really don't like that wordpress automatically rotates my tall images. I guess you'll just have to tilt your head to the left and pretend like you're looking at something really intriguing.

Sorry about the little bit of stomach flab showing there.  Other than that it was a great jumping picture at the gate.

Sorry about the little bit of stomach flab showing there. Other than that it was a great jumping picture at the gate.

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Asakusa was very touristy.  There were lots of normal shops and restaurants, but on the stretch of road leading up to the temple, all of the little booths turned into major tourist shops.  You know, with little trinkets and things that you just know are meant to be sold to tourists and foreigners.  It was decently fun, and I was able to get a few souvenirs for the family.  I really need to make a list for all the people I want to buy for.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t spend all my time worrying about what I’m going to buy for who, but don’t worry, I’m not.  I don’t really get that much time to shop, and I have just as much fun buying gifts for other people as I do for myself, so….yeah, this is my way of enjoying myself.  I managed to find something I actually didn’t think I was going to find that Toni specifically requested, an “I love Tokyo” t-shirt with the kanji letters.  AWESOME.

This is Matt and Emily.  Along with Kimi, we ate in a Japanese restaurant in Asakusa that had the option of dining tradiation.  In other words, you basically sit on the floor at this extremely short table.  Our legs, feet, and bottoms were going numb and different times.

This is Matt and Emily. Along with Kimi, we ate in a Japanese restaurant in Asakusa that had the option of dining tradiation. In other words, you basically sit on the floor at this extremely short table. Our legs, feet, and bottoms were going numb and different times.

Asakusa is famous for this big, Buddhist temple and such, and admittedly, the architecture of the buildings were pretty impressive.  Outside, there are these big pots that people burn incense in, and breathing the smoke supposedly cures unwellness and illness and whatnot.  Um….chyeah, I didn’t breath the smoke.  Inside people would throw money into these big….I don’t know what else to call them but big metal boxes with bars over them.  It was pretty dark inside, and some people were lighting candles and putting them in this cabinet thing….I know the basic tenets of Buddhism, but I don’t really know the practices, so I’m not sure what it was about.  We didn’t stay there long, it was really kind of sad.  Not only was it obvious idol worship, but the Japanese people don’t really believe in anything spiritual in their praying, it’s just tradition and maybe a hope, not an expectation, that something will happen.  There were a lot of people there that day, and I think someone suggested that maybe it was because Tokyo is a candidate city for the 2016 Olympics.  It would make sense seeing how big of a deal it is here.  There are flags everywhere with that on it.

The tourist shops leading up to the temple.

The tourist shops leading up to the temple.

IMG_1718

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Just so you know, that isn't a swastika on the pot.  It's a Buddhist character meaning "life", and the Nazis actually took this symbol and flipped it backwards.  Twisted.

Just so you know, that isn't a swastika on the pot. It's a Buddhist character meaning "life", and the Nazis actually took this symbol and flipped it backwards. Twisted.

Anyway, better than the temple, better than the tourist shops, better than the pictures, was the SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM WE DISCOVERED!  Oh, joy.  Matt and I had gotten some inside information from some students at ICU that there was a booth near the temple that supposedly served the wackiest yet tastiest flavors of soft serve that you’ve ever heard of, and we found it.  They weren’t kidding.  There was sesame flavored ice cream, which I got (DELISH), as well as purple sweet potato (actually tasted like sweet potato apparently), rose (tasted just like how a rose smelled), green tea and milk, as well as a bunch of other flavors I can’t remember.  They had boring old chocolate and chocolate vanilla swirl, but when you have flavors like a purple sweet potato, how can you NOT try it?

The menu.  SO GOOD!

The menu. SO GOOD!

Me and my sesame ice cream.  Never has something so drab-looking tasted so good.

Me and my sesame ice cream. Never has something so drab-looking tasted so good.

 We ended up tasting all the flavors off each others cones.  Completely unsanitary, yes, but on the bright side, we're all still relatively healthy, so I guess none of us was sick that day.

We ended up tasting all the flavors off each others cones because we love each other THAT MUCH. Completely unsanitary, yes, but on the bright side, we're all still relatively healthy, so I guess none of us was sick that day.

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to go back to ICU.  There was a misunderstanding with the administration.  In other words, we were kind of kicked off.  Before anyone gets the wrong idea, we weren’t being super pushy and passing out booklets and stuff like that, we really weren’t doing anything wrong.  We were just talking with students, and half the time I’d say we didn’t delve too far into spiritual stuff.  The administration is just being super paranoid.  It’s a sad irony that a school that bears Christ’s name no longer allows him in, but I know God has a plan in it.

We did get invited to ICU High School though, since it’s Christianity week, and we got to speak for a high school class and ask them their thoughts.  The teacher hadn’t told them that we were coming, just that there would be a surprise in class, so it was kind of funny when we walked in and a lot of people (chattering away, just like in American high school) just stopped and made what I call the “stereotypical Japanese surprised noise.”  It’s basically just going “Eeeeeeeeehhhhhh????!!!!!!!” in probably the most animated, Japanese way you can think of.  I know that’s not a good description, but maybe I’ll make a video of myself doing it later.  We split up into groups, and people were kind of shy and didn’t really want to respond, at least not in my group.

I tried talking to them about other things, and they really liked my pictures of home that I brought with me, but I probably should have mentioned Christ a little more.  There wasn’t much excuse for it since it actually was a Bible class and I could at least ask what they were studying now and what they thought of it, but it’s a learning process I guess.  I think my biggest problem was that I didn’t allow silences.  In America they’re really awkward, and they kind of are in Japan too, but it could also just mean that they were thinking.  Bleh, anyway, I’m going back tomorrow, and we’re starting an English picnic on Tuesdays that’s worked pretty well in the past, so hopefully it will again.

A Japanese gospel choir especially for Christianity Week.  It's doubtful that any of these students were Christians, but it was still uplifting to hear them sing "Hareruyah."  I have a video that I'll eventually figure out how to post at some point.

A Japanese gospel choir especially for Christianity Week. It's doubtful that any of these students were Christians, but it was still uplifting to hear them sing "Hareruyah." I have a video that I'll eventually figure out how to post at some point.

OH YEAH!!!  I almost forgot!  We saw our first student come to Christ this week!  I think it was at Hitotsubashi with the other campus team.  Joe just went out with one of the Japanese Campus Crusade/Student Impact members, and I can’t remember all the details, but they pretty much just ended up explaining everything to him and he said he wanted it.  We have a new brother in Christ, everyone!  Awesome possum 😀

The group I’m in plans family night, which is a time when we all get together and have fun bonding time, so we decided this week that we were going to see a movie.  Up, the new Pixar movie, was our first choice, but apparently it doesn’t come out in Japan until December, so we decided to go see Star Trek.  A few people had already seen it, but they liked it enough so that they didn’t mind seeing again (Kyle was delighted to see it twice.  Trekkie :P).  The Japanese movie theater was pretty interesting itself.  I was kind of proud of my Japanese-savvy-self and how I managed to find the movie times and what theater to go to all by myself, and I also managed to find it on google maps.  Unfortunately finding directions is a foreign language in itself to me, so Kylan had to help out there.  We got turned around a little bit when we arrived in Shinjuku (big city Tokyo, very pretty at night btw), but we found our way there pretty quickly.

We bought tickets on the ninth floor of the building, and our theater was on the thirteenth floor.  It had assigned seats (omg weird, right?!), but since we bought tickets together we sat together.  I snuck some snacks in, just like in America!  Seriously, I keep being even more amazed at the similarities in life in the two countries more than the differences XD.  There were some of the weirdest mini cartoons before the movie.  Even our fluent Japanese speakers didn’t even really understand what was going on and they freaking understand the language, so just imagine most of us listening to what to us is gibberish and watching these characters, a few of which were for some reason shaped like eggs, get into these wacky situations.  There was one part where they ended up changing costumes every scene, and somehow a camel got involved.  Don’t ask, I really can’t explain, just know that it’s one of those things that all you can say about it is Japan is freaking weird sometimes.  It’s not cultural differences, just plain weird.

The movie was AWESOME.  I won’t say it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen, but it was enough to get me interested in Star Trek, and if I weren’t completely broke after I get back from this, I’d say buying some seasons of old Star Trek would be in order.  I’ve always been a Star Wars fan, and it was really fun from that angle to see the differences between the two.  There were some things I liked better, some not, but that’s to be expected.  Anyway, enough with my nerding out, just know Dad, we’re going to go see it again when we get back.  I want to see what you think of it.

It was in English with Japanese subtitles, and I kind of forgot that I was in Japan for a little while until I went outside and thought, “Woah.  There’s a bunch of Asians out here.”  I used the bathroom before we left, and I finally ran into super toilet.  I call it super toilet because that’s what it is, it’s a technologically advanced toilet for the modern, Japanese movie-goer.  It had a lot of buttons that I actually didn’t feel the need to push since they were in English and I already know what would happen.  Well, see for yourself.

Looks like a normal toilet, right?  DON'T BE FOOLED!

Looks like a normal toilet, right? DON'T BE FOOLED!

Bidet to you, sir.  I have no desire to shoot water up my butt, arigatou very much.

Bidet to you, sir. I have no desire to shoot water up my butt, arigatou very much.

After the movie I finally had one of the experiences I’ve been anticipating:  the fail train experience.  If you didn’t see the video I linked in one of my past posts, you need to see it in this post to get what I’m talking back.  Japan takes, “It’s alright, we can fit one more person” to a whole new level.  We didn’t actually have people working there just to push people in like in the video, but we didn’t have to because people squished.  When we thought that there was just no more room we got pushed in a few more feet.  Yeah, let’s just say we were pretty cozy with the other passengers.  You would think being so smooshed with everyone else would make it impossible to fall over, but it unfortunately wasn’t the case.  There wasn’t enough room to reach up for a handle, so you basically just fell and had people fall on you.  Well, fall maybe isn’t the right word.  It was more like we leaned dramatically on each other.  The proximity with everyone might have bothered us had we not been so busy laughing.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but this post is long enough as it is, so I’ll leave you with some fun random tidbits about Japan.

1) You should have an open mind when it comes to food, though I think I’ve been a little too open-minded.  I ended up picking up a rice ball with cod eggs in the middle the other day and since then I’ve been a little more conservative with what I try.  Let’s just say it’s a good thing that I can pretty much live off of rice, since it comes with about anything you order (though they don’t like to put salt on it, but I”ve been sticking it to the man and doing it anyway when I’m at the apartment).

2) There are a lot more smokers in Japan.  It’s quite common, and it puzzles me.  At first I just wasn’t sure if it stuck out to me because I wasn’t expecting it, but there’s no real denying it.  It’s really weird.

3) In case I didn’t mention this before, but not only do we remove our shoes when we enter a house, but also there are complimentary slippers and bathroom slippers.  My main point is that there are normal house slippers, but if you need to go to the bathroom, you take them off and put on a special pair that’s in the bathroom and only to be worn in the bathroom.  You wouldn’t want to drag uncleanness all over the rest of the house, now would you?

I guess that’s it.  Live long and prosper, my friends.  Live long and prosper.

livelong

June 4, 2009 at 11:29 PM 1 comment

So let’s just say that I have a lot to say

I’ve never felt so intrusive for just existing.

You know how I said Japan was quiet?  Well it turns out that being culturally sensitive in that way is pretty much impossible for Americans unless you don’t talk at all.  Apparently, they already think that we’re going to be loud, which isn’t so much of a generalization but a fact.  It’s not that Americans talk too much, but we talk loudly, at least compared to Japanese people.  The Japanese talk just above a whisper, they’re very soft-spoken.  Us…..yeah, not so much.  So we’re loud by default.  It’s not that we don’t try, but effort can only get you so far.  We’re improving as we grow more conscious of it, but it’s still hard to restrain yourself when you have 17 people in one apartment playing Signs.

I don’t mean to say that all things in Japan are quiet.  There are certain things in Japan that are very loud, namely the crows.  And Pachinko parlors.  But mainly crows since I’m not supposed to have been in one of those.  Japan seriously has Godzilla crows, I swear.  They’re maybe twice as big and loud as American crows, and forget roosters, their cawing is what wakes you up in the morning.  McDonald’s isn’t what I call loud, but it’s noisier than most other restaurants, which is the exact reason I’ve staked it out as my spot.  They wanted us to find a place to have a “date night with Jesus”, where we basically pray, read the Bible, and spiritually recharge as well as maybe get to know the locals, and I’ve picked McDonald’s.  It’s just loud enough so that I can finally hear myself think.  I don’t want to say that the silence is all bad, since it’s not like I have noisy neighbors to keep me up until all hours of the night.  I just don’t like having to constantly worry about the slightest noise making me the noisy neighbor.

This picture doesn't really show how small that drink was.  It was so cute and tiny!  It was even smaller a kid's meal cup in the US.  The sausage biscuit was amazing though.  I like going out for American food.

This picture doesn't really show how small that drink was. It was so cute and tiny! It was even smaller a kid's meal cup in the US. The sausage biscuit was amazing though. I like going out for American food.

On Monday, we had an interesting adventure in Shibuya, a shopping district.  We split up into teams of four and were basically thrown into the deep end on a scavenger hunt.  We started in Mitaka outside the Student Impact (Japanese Campus Crusade) building, and we were given instructions but then left to determine what trains to ride and how to get there on our own.  We eventually made it there, but I think we spent a couple hundred more yen than we needed to switching trains.  Whatever, we were learning.  We actually ran into someone from Mississippi in the train station who had been living there for two years (still had a Southern accent, though), and he gave us directions, but we were so anxious that we messed up and switched trains before we were supposed to.  Apparently, at the end when Gen was giving us the best directions, the Mississippian knew what he was talking about.  Oops.

This crosswalk was amazing.  There were probably hundreds of people walking in about five different directions.

In Shibuya, we had to ask Japanese people for directions, and I have to say, the range of reactions was very informative.  The people most likely to talk to us were either young people or security guards.  Older people either just ignored us or didn’t speak English.  Security guards didn’t usually speak English either, but they had handy maps to point to.  The younger people weren’t necessarily more likely to know English, but they were usually pretty helpful anyway.

Usually, being the key word.  One of our groups asked a group of Japanese teenage girls how to get somewhere, and even though they didn’t speak English, though Jeremy’s limited Japanese they managed to get the point across.  Then they pretty much called them stupid foreigners to their faces.  Granted, they were talking to each other in Japanese, but they said it right in front of them…when Jeremy had just spoken to them in Japanese.  Uh….doh?  Anyway, other than that it was a really fun trip.  It was our first experience with “big city Tokyo”, but I’ll go more into that later.

We also discovered the glory that is a Puricura Booth.  The entry on the scavenger hunt list was to find out what it was and bring back a souvenir, so naturally I thought it was some weird form of shopping stand.  Well, we asked this guy in a store, and he starts laughing.  He doesn’t speak any English, so he actually goes as far as to walk out of the store and down the street to point out where one is for us.  The place was an arcade, and my Japanese skills actually came in handy reading a sign that pointed us to them.  It turns out that Puricura Booths are like American photo booths, except ten times more awesome.  A guy there helped us step by step in how to use them, but what you do is that you select cutesy/weird/cartoony backgrounds, and the computer makes it look like they’re behind you.  Then, you go to a separate booth, and you get to draw on and put little pictures and all kinds of ridiculousness on you and your picture.  The only problem is that you take like six pictures but don’t get to choose which ones you get more copies of.  Some you get two, others you get one, but it’s all random.  Anyway, it was still glorious.

Sorry these are so blurry, but the actual pictures are really very small, so this is about the best I could do.  Hopefully you'll still be able to see how hilariously awesome they are.

Sorry these are so blurry, but the actual pictures are really very small, so this is about the best I could do. Hopefully you'll still be able to see how hilariously awesome they are.

On Tuesday we started visiting campuses.  We split into two teams, and one went to Hitotsubashi, and my team, Team 2, went to ICU, International Christian University.  Very few of the students are actually Christian, but it’s a relatively Christian-friendly campus.  There’s a chapel, and I want to say that a class or two on Christianity is required.  At least two English’s are required, anyway, which helped a lot in talking to the students.  We even met a few students the first day, Kanako, Mayu, and Ami.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I just came to find out that Ami only just became a Christian last week.  Isn’t that amazing?  God’s putting people in our path already.  Amy, a girl in our group, randomly met Mayu again on Thursday, and she actually seemed really interested and brought a friend with her.

Matt, Gen, and Tim walking into ICU.

Matt, Gen, and Tim walking into ICU.

On Wednesday we went to DaiGai (Tokyo University for Foreign Studies), and we have to be a little more careful there.  Student Impact has been kicked out before when they were handing out flyers, so now we’re deliberately trying to not attract attention.  The reason they kicked them out wasn’t because they were doing anything bad, but apparently some cults had been doing the same thing, so we’re trying to keep a low profile and separate ourselves from that.  The day we went there was actually a boat rowing competition for the Freshman and the classes were canceled, so most of the students weren’t there.  We still met a few, Kazuki and Sho.  Even better, an interesting story happened.

My campus team.  Though I look a bit chubby in this picture.  Got to lay off the Japanese sweets.

My campus team. Though I look a bit chubby in this picture. Got to lay off the Japanese sweets.

So we’ve got some crazy amazing things going down in Japan, spiritually speaking, or at least they seem amazing to me.  Matt, the guy leader of my campus group, during his quiet time before leaving for DaiGai, was praying, and he suddenly had an image of a girl with a red purse flash into his head.  Now, he had heard of similar things happening to people before, like he mentioned that someone had seen a black woman crying in their head before coming across one, but anyway, he took note of it and mentioned it to Emily, our girl leader, telling her to watch out for it.

On campus, Emily and Sammy are together (we go out in pairs), and a group of students walks by, and Emily feels led to talk to them.  It turns out that only one of them can speak English, and get this, she’s a girl with a red shopping bag.  She apparently was really interested in what we had to say, and she’s coming to the Student Impact meeting tomorrow.  Praise God!

Random picture of GaiDai.  It's pretty green.

Random picture of GaiDai. It's pretty green.

We went to a Student Impact meeting on Thursday evening, and I must say that it truly is a spiritual thing to worship in Japanese.  I was excited because I could read enough to sing most of it, though I had to concentrate so hard on just reading it that I was probably tone deaf and killing poor Taketo beside me.  Nousuke was the speaker, we met him at DaiGai the day before.  He likes board games, even though he says that Japanese teenagers don’t quite get what’s so fun about them.  That’s OK, because he’s decided to start a board game revolution.

Say hi to Nosuke!  Or Nousuke, I'm not sure of the romanization of his name...anyway, here he is!

Say hi to Nosuke! Or Nousuke, I'm not sure of the romanization of his name...anyway, here he is!

Someone drew this before we got there.  I felt a bit of nerdy pride in that I knew who this anime character was.  It's cool to like anime/manga in Japan.

Someone drew this before we got there. I felt a bit of nerdy pride in that I knew who this anime character was. It's cool to like anime/manga in Japan.

Anyway, we met a lot of fun people there, and we got some bilingual New Testaments with the English and Japanese side by side.  It’s really neat and also doesn’t cost Student Impact anything, so at the end I’m going to pilfer one for myself.  I also took the manga story of Jesus (that’s right, comic book messiah).  It’s hilariously adorable yet not sacrilegious, though I do find the subtitle to be a little ridiculous (See below).  Unfortunately, that isn’t free, so I took it with the intent of giving it away and returning it if I don’t, but until that time, I’m going to enjoy it.

MANGA MESSIAH!  Subtitle:  Has he come to save the world or destroy it?  DUN DUN DUUUUUUUNN!!!

MANGA MESSIAH! Subtitle: Has he come to save the world or destroy it? DUN DUN DUUUUUUUNN!!!

This is the most adorable depiction of the Parable of the Sower that I've ever seen.

This is the most adorable depiction of the Parable of the Sower that I've ever seen.

Billingual Bibles.  Well, New Testaments actually.  The one on the right has both the English and Japanese texts right beside each other, and the one of the left has only Japanese.  They're really cool.

Billingual Bibles. Well, New Testaments actually. The one on the right has both the English and Japanese texts right beside each other, and the one of the left has only Japanese. They're really cool.

The team is still getting along great as we get to know each other.  The girls and I have started a “Quote Wall” where we write any funny phrase or quote that the team comes up with on a post-it note and put it up, and we’ve already got a decent number.  One of them comes from a situation that happened at ICU on Thursday.  Mayu, the girl that Amy met on Tuesday and again that day randomly, had brought a friend over named Kazu.  Now, he was a pretty quiet reserved guy, not saying very much at all in the conversation.  The talk turned to Amy saying that she knew ballroom dance (I think), and Yukiko, a Student Impact leader with us, told her to show everyone.  Amy did, and Kazu decided to try out a phrase that some of his American friends had taught him when he was in the States:  (edited version, apparently the original is too profane/uncomfortable to be repeated) “Dang, girl, you so fine you blow my mind!”  Everyone burst out laughing, and the poor guy said, “What is it?  Is it romantic?”  Unfortunately, as hilarious as this was, it kind of made it impossible to get his email address without sending the wrong message.

ICU has a tea house on the corner of its campus.  It's pretty old, I think it once belonged to a samurai or something.  This isn't its original location.  It was dismantled, brought to ICU, and reassembled.

ICU has a tea house on the corner of its campus. It's pretty old, I think it once belonged to a samurai or something. This isn't its original location. It was dismantled, brought to ICU, and reassembled.

I have so much stuff to talk about.  Ok, food.  I’m pretty much not going to starve in Japan because rice is served with about everything you can think of.  Today I got a curry bento box (just rice and stuff shoved in a box basically), but for lunch I had onigiri.  Onigiri is a little rice ball, often wrapped in seaweed, and it almost always has something stuffed in the middle.  Now, probably anything you can think of can be put in onigiri (Heather said she found a giant one with an entire hard-boiled egg in it once), and this makes it kind of scary when you pick one out, especially if you don’t speak Japanese.  Most of the time I can read it, but I don’t understand what it is.  The first time I had onigiri I understood enough to pick out one without anything in it (yeah, boring I know), and it was pretty good, but since I was hanging around some Japanese people on campus, I decided to be adventurous.  I had actually forgotten about the “anything can be in onigiri” thing, so I picked up one wrapped in seaweed, which is my idea of being adventurous by itself, and paid for it.

One of the girls I was sitting with leaned over and said that it was filled with “taroko,” and for a little while she struggled with what the English translation for this would be.  I think I probably would have been better off had I not known what was in it.  Taroko is cod eggs, and I sucked it up and ate it like a champion.  Honestly, it wasn’t that bad, in fact I might dare say it tasted pretty good were it not FISH EGGS.  Mind over matter just wasn’t working for me on this one.  So yeah, moral of the story, learn Japanese before coming to Japan.

See how I'm smiling?  It's because the only strange thing this onigiri has in it is tiny bits of seaweed.  It gave it a nice, salty taste, actually.

See how I'm smiling? It's because the only strange thing this onigiri has in it is tiny bits of seaweed. It gave it a nice, salty taste, actually.

I think one of my favorite things that I’ve learned about Japan is just how similar we all are.  Yes, obviously the cultures are extremely different, but that’s what makes it so fascinating that deep down, people are people, no matter where they’re from.  Teenagers and college students pal around loudly and tease each other, no matter the culture, and you don’t need a translator to figure out the general idea when a little kid is whining to his mother about something.  Actually, I was talking to two American exchange students today, and they said that Japanese students going abroad have more culture shock about the similarities between everyone than the differences.  In Japan, the cultural implication is that they are SO MUCH DIFFERENT THAN EVERYONE ELSE.  There’s probably a little bit of “we’re better than everyone else” in there too, but I think they’ve been trying to get over that since, you know, that whole World War II ethnic cleansing thing.  To travel abroad and find that people, cultural differences aside, really aren’t that much different than you is shocking to them.

I've seen little shrines like this scattered throughout Tokyo.  This one is close to where we live in Koenji.

I've seen little shrines like this scattered throughout Tokyo. This one is close to where we live in Koenji.

Something else I was amazed at about Japanese students was how far they travel.  It’s not uncommon for Japanese students to commute two hours or more, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half of it wasn’t on foot.  Our concept of walking difference is a little bit different.  20-40 minutes is reasonable walking difference….yeah, we took the bus.  Even still we have a good bit to walk.

One of the most amazing things about Tokyo is its atmosphere and size.  In most parts it definitely doesn’t come across as a small town, but it’s not like a big city either.  Most of the buildings around the places that I’ve been to aren’t exactly small, but they aren’t skyscrapers.  There’s also a lot of residential districts everywhere.  I know that greater Tokyo is going to have that big city feeling, but right now it feels like a squished up Columbia, if you understand what I mean.  Not quite big city, but definitely a decent amount of people living there.  I finally got up high at DaiGai and went out on a balcony to get a better view of the city, and it was absolutely breathtaking.  That’s what is so big about Tokyo, it’s size.  I couldn’t even see the end of all the houses.  It literally went farther than the eye could see.  I took a picture.  It was absolutely breathtaking.

Tokyo view 1

Tokyo view 2

Tokyo view 3

Tokyo view

Let’s see, what else did I want to say….oh, I’m starting to break in my feet to Japan.   Calluses are forming, and I’ve got a lot of bug bites.  Both DaiGai and ICU have a lot of green on their campuses, and there are parts where they just let the vegetation grow wild and free.  This is really pretty but unfortunately attracts a wide variety of bugs.  Japan has normal-sized tiny ants as well as monster-sized ones, and I figure it must have been one of those that bit me because I have a monster-sized bug bite on my foot.  It’s a little bigger than a quarter around and swollen up a decent amount, but I didn’t even notice it until I felt my foot start itching.  I tried to take a picture, but it’s not irritated and pink anymore so it’s kind of difficult to see.

Sorry this post was so long, but I didn’t want to miss telling anything, though I’m sure that I didn’t get everything that I originally wanted to say.  From now on I’ll try to make short ones more often, but our schedule is so busy, and we’ve still been getting over jet lag for the past week, so everyone’s been going to bed around 9:30….and waking up around 4 AM.  Obviously we would go back to sleep, but we’re finally getting a regular sleeping pattern now, so I should be able to stay awake long enough to give a concise overview, hopefully at least every other day.  Unless nothing interesting happens.  Then you might not hear from me.  Anyway, I think I’ve got all the blogs of my teammates linked to the side now.  I might write little tidbits on each of them later.

Love you all!  Thanks for reading!

One last thing.  Toni, this is for you.

Japanese adverisements.  They are awesome.

May 29, 2009 at 11:18 PM 5 comments

The Flight and First Days

So, hello from the WORLD OF TOMORROW!  Yeah, but in all seriousness, we are 13 hours ahead of you guys, so it’s most likely that my today is your tomorrow.   I have a pretty big update since this encompasses the flight and our first day, but I hope you enjoy it.  Also, happy 50th anniversary of tupperware coming to Japan.  It made the front page.  It’s what happens when your crime rates are this low, I guess.

Check out the team, yo.  Not a bad-looking group of people, if I dare say so myself.

Check out the team, yo. Not a bad-looking group of people, if I dare say so myself.

It was a long flight, about 12 hours, but it wasn’t so bad.  Maybe it was because I was prepared, and the plane itself certainly was entertaining.  There were little TV sets in the back of the seat in front of you in which you could play games, listen to music, or watch a movie, and I took full advantage of that.  I finally got to see Slumdog Millionaire (SO GOOD) and Yes Man (pretty good), and I played Sudoku a few times.  Most of the people on the plane were Japanese, including the guy next to me.  We didn’t talk much, but he seemed pretty eager to share his culture.  When they brought out the food, he made sure I put everything together correctly (there was sauce and spice for the noodles).  He also was watching when I tried to open my ice cream, probably because he had already tried to eat his, and he burst out laughing when I opened and tapped on it to find that it was frozen solid.  Otherwise, the flight was pretty uneventful and went by pretty quickly.

When we arrived, some people in medical suits (not quite hasmat, but close) came in and checked to make sure people didn’t have any symptoms of the swine flu.  I’m not really sure what they were doing since they didn’t check anyone individually and it didn’t take long, but we got off the plane pretty quickly.  The only  thing regarding the flu that we really had to take care of was fill out a form asking if we had any symptoms.  According to Japan, I’m swine flu free.  There were quite a few people on the plane wearing face masks, including the flight attendents, and there were a good number in Shinjuku station as well.  But when I was walking elsewhere, it wasn’t as common.  I honestly think that the swine flu hasn’t scared the Japanese people as much as the government’s actions might convey.  From what I understand, a lot of Japanese just do that anyway, especially during flu and cold season.  It’s just part of living so close to each other in a big city.

After we arrived in Narita Airport, we took a series of trains all the way to Tokyo.  It was…tough, to say the least.  I fell half asleep on the train, so everyone got to see my slack-jawed-mouth-wide-open look that I sport when I nap sitting up (Tim even got a picture).  The picture in the heading was taken from the train, so that’s why it’s a little blurry.  I kind of liked the little motion thing going on.  When we were going through the countryside, I noticed a few things.  One, everything was green.  Two, if the land wasn’t mountainous or a city, it was a rice field.  No joke, it seemed like every spare piece of land is devoted rice.  The Japanese grow all of their own rice, but because there’s such high demand and not that much space to grow it comparatively, rice is actually pretty dang expensive in Japan.  Go figure.  We eventually made it to Shinjuku, the largest train station in the world, and I was kind of underwhelmed.  I was expecting something like the fail train video, but it was pretty tame.  Maybe it was the time and where we were going.  Eventually we made it to Koenji, the little district of Tokyo that we’ll be living in.

Now, I have to tell you, there are certain aspects of Japanese culture that I love, and others that I don’t appreciate as much.  My first impression of the Japanese can be summed up in one word:  efficient.  I knew that America was wasteful, but you really notice how much when you look at these guys.  They sort their trash really strictly for recycling (right now there’s just burnable and not burnable, but I think there are more), and you should see the bathroom.  The sink where you wash your hands is on the top of the toilet, so when you flush, water comes out of the faucet.  Basically, the water that you wash your hands with is used to refill the toilet for the next time you flush.

Japanese Super Toilet

Japanese Super Toilet

I guess the second word I would use to describe the Japanese would be quiet.  Jeez louis, in a city with more than 30 million people, you would never believe how quiet it is, even if it is one of the smaller districts.  You have to keep your voice down, even in your apartment.  You don’t yell in public, or in private for that matter because your fellow tenants will report you for noise violations. and most people just don’t even seem to talk that much in public besides what is mandatory.  It’s not like there aren’t conversations going on, but they’re quiet.  It’s amazing how difficult it is for Americans to be polite in this way, even when we’re trying.  Are we just unusually loud, or are they amazingly silent?  Probably some combination of the two.

The quiet thing is manageable, but I’m definitely going to have to get used to sleeping on a futon.  No, not futon in the way you’re thinking, I’m talking about a mat on the floor.  We only have one bed, and since there are six of us girls sleeping in one apartment, we’re using it as more of a couch.  Last night, it was a good thing I was exhausted and fell asleep immediately each time, because I woke up several times in the night hurting and having to change position.

Other than that, I love Japan.  It’s absolutely adorable.  The microwave sings a little jingle when it finishes, and the refrigerators are nice and Asian-sized (make of that what you will).  The Japanese shower room (separate from where the toilet is in our apartment), is pretty interesting.  In Japan, bathing is for relaxation, and you clean yourself outside of the bath before getting in to soak.  The shower is basically a room with a removable shower head to wash yourself (there’s even a stool to sit on and a bucket to pour water over yourself if you favor the more traditional way), with the bath to the side.

The kitchen.  You can't appreciate how small the fridges are in just a photo.  The counter and sink are even short.

The kitchen. You can't appreciate how small the fridges are in just a photo. The counter and sink are even short.

Japanese shower (shower head not shown)

Japanese shower (shower head not shown)

The tub

The tub

Also, something you should know is that in Japan, almost everything has a cute mascot.  Toni, I’m getting you a Suica penguin charm.  Don’t worry about what that means yet, just trust that it’s amazing.  Anyway, in our aparment, everything, from bowls and plates to our sheets, is stamped with the debonair Mr. Business.  I’m afraid I forgot to take a picture, but I’ll get one later, I’m just kind of tired right now and don’t really want to bother with uploading it.  The best I can describe is that he kind of looks like Superman.  He has a little tiny cape, the same kind of hair, and perfect teeth.  And he’s on everything.  Glory.

So far, my Japan experience is a little different from what my friends in Japanese class described.  They said that they pretty much didn’t even have much chance to speak Japanese because everyone wanted to speak to them in English.  Um…yeah….not in Koenji.  The only English I’ve heard since getting here was from my team and a nice little old man who wished us a happy birthday as we passed by (I’m guessing it was the only English he knew).  I’ve been trying to use my Japanese, but it’s been really tough.  About the most I’ve been able to get out is “sumimasen” (excuse me).  I can read a little bit, but the kanji is crippling.  It doesn’t have any yomigana, or phonetic characters to the side, which makes it about impossible for me to read.  This leads into my little adventure in trying to order lunch when you don’t know what you’re ordering.

Our big group is divided into little groups that each have a particular type of activity to plan, and I’m in the “Family Planning” group with Andrew and Sammy.  They wanted us to talk and eat lunch together, so we walked around for a good bit just taking in the shops and scenery (one shop is called “The Great White Wonder” XD) but eventually chose a sushi restaurant to go into (they’re everywhere).  Like I said, I’m not very good at reading kanji, and even if I can read something, I don’t necessarily understand what it means, so we basically just pointed to what we wanted.  Still, all I knew was that it was sushi and 500 yen (a little more than $5).  It was great, btw.  Also, it was HUGE.  I bet I got twice the amount I would have gotten in America for half the cost.

WAKE UP AMERICA!  YOU'RE GETTING RIPPED OFF ON YOUR SUSHI PRICES!

WAKE UP AMERICA! YOU'RE GETTING RIPPED OFF ON YOUR SUSHI PRICES!

I did manage to understand a little bit in passing when someone said “Tsuyu da na.”  It was actually a bit of relevant information, because he basically “it’s the rainy season, huh?”.  Like saying, “about that time of year.”  In Japan, for about three weeks, it does nothing but rain, and it’s called the “tsuyu.”  They told me it was going to be wet, but I didn’t realize it was that time.  I felt accomplished in understanding this.

Today after eating lunch we explored a little bit more.  I found a pair of boots with the Confederate flag on them, and that tripped me out.  There were tons of Pachinko parlors.  Pachinko is Japan’s way of getting around its own anti-gambling laws.  In Pachinko, you play games for these little metal balls, which you trade in for a stuffed animal or something.  Then, there is usually a place to sell the animal for cash nearby, like in an alley or something.  Shady, yes, but legal.  We ended up walking into one by accident, not really knowing what it was.  It looked so innocent!  We had no idea, I swear!  We walked in, couldn’t even hear each other talk when yelling (a conundrum, a loud Japanese place), and walked out.

Other than that, I think that’s it.  I watched a little Sumo Wrestling on the TV this afternoon, and it was pretty intense.   I have to go write a 3-minute testimony for our orientation tomorrow and then get to sleep early.  I’m not sure how much I’m going to be able to update from now on, but I’m pretty sure it will at least be once a week.  Love you guys!

P.S.  Guys, I’m going to be linking to my teammate’s blogs as I get them, so feel free to read them too if you want to get to know them and read their stories.

May 24, 2009 at 8:52 PM 9 comments

California

Hey guys!  Sorry I didn’t update immediately, but I’ve been sooooooo busy and I haven’t had Internet.  Irony, apparently I don’t have Internet in California but I will in Japan.  Anyway.

My team is AMAZING.  I know I’m in the honeymoon phase, but the communication and bond between us is pretty strong.  We only have five girls, which is really exciting because I know we’re going to get super close.  We’re all going to be in the same apartment too, so girly bonding already has and will continue to ensue.  Our leaders are awesome, our teammates are awesome, and God is awesome.  Let me explain this last particular point, even though I guess it doesn’t really require much explanation.

I came to Summer Project briefing to find that many of us weren’t quite finished raising support, and this didn’t really bother me until I found out collectively how much we were missing:  $19,000.  No, that’s not a typo, it’s NINETEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.  HOLY CRAP.  We had TWO DAYS before heading to Tokyo.  I’ll admit, I was torn.  I can’t say I was too worried that many of us wouldn’t make it.  I was sure that people would at least write personal checks to cover the cost, but I didn’t really think we would have a chance of even making a dent in this support.

Admittedly, a decent bit of the support we got in the past two days were checks that my  teammates technically already had but were made out to them rather than Campus Crusade, so they were only not counted initially.  Anyway, the big turnout?  We raised $18,000 within two days.  I repeat, holy crap.  Admittedly, not much help from me, but I pitched in where I could…..anyway, God is good!  Definitely nice to have a boost of God’s power made obvious right before heading to Japan because I know that this is going to be really tough for me.  I know that my girls and leaders are going to be pushing me towards Jesus like I never have before in such a short period of time, and that thought is exciting yet terrifying at the same time.  Mostly exciting right now though 🙂

TOKYO IS TOMORROW (TODAY FOR MOST READING ) PEOPLE!  GET PUMPED!

May 22, 2009 at 6:04 AM 1 comment


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