Saturday, June 12, 2010

Another day in Harajuku and Shibuya, but totally different!!

This morning, my host family was so kind to drop me off at the Toyocho station so I could meet up with Saaya, Yuwa's and my friend who I hadn't met until today! She and I took the trains to Otemachi station and walked all around. She showed me her university, which was really pretty. Then we saw the United Nations University building and a farmers' market right in front of it! So we went there, checked out the neat items and got some free samples, and then walked to Shibuya. It was a tough walk to be in the hot sun for so long. But the buildings were so neat! My host family has noticed that I am easily entranced by Tokyo's buildings, so they checked out some building books from the library to show to me. :D I was happy to see that! Anyway, these cool buildings are in Otemachi and Shibuya:

The United Nations University building and farmers' market

I don't know why but I love skinny buildings. Maybe because it emphasizes how tight space is here, and yet so many people can live together and work together with high efficiency and relative harmony.


Saaya took me to a famous inexpensive store, and I bought two fabulous dresses! I tried to buy a vest but the biggest size they had was still for very skinny Japanese girls. :)

In Yoyogi Park, an extremely famous and beautiful area of Tokyo, there was a huge garage sale, perhaps the biggest one I've ever seen. It was crazy because my Japanese teacher told me that there were no garage sales in Japan. But she also told me there were no hugs in Japan. :) I looked up the "free markets" as they are called (which I think might be the Japanese way of saying "flea market", because things aren't quite free) and it said that there are approximately 800 shops in this location's garage sale. I bought a Japanese-style skirt and tube top for $1.50 each!! They are too cool. This is my kind of shopping. There was a shirt that said, "I <3 Vagina" and another that said, "STFU". I tried to explain the meaning to the mini-sale owners and they hid the shirts, haha. Most of the sellers were very young people, in their 20s or 30s. They promoted their wares but did not ever pressure me into buying anything like in America. I love Japanese manners!

Saaya's friend joined us for about an hour or so, and I felt so bad for him because he was wearing a suit and jacket in the incredible heat! I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless top, yet I was sweating and uncomfortable. But he ate delicious sushi with us and we went to a fun store called Hands. In this store, you could buy funny gifts, strange food (I'm looking at you, Steven), and other neat things. I had a great time looking at the stickers and their English translations. Here are a few.


We all ate sushi together. I'm quite shocked at the fact that sushi is somewhat uncommon in Tokyo. Much more common are soba and ramen shops. But there are still sushi shops for me. :)

Saaya's friend had to leave, so she and I walked to a gorgeous temple in Harajuku. It was surrounded by a beautiful, quiet forest that was delightfully cool compared to the outside heat. There were a lot of people speaking in English there. Saaya showed me how to wash my hands and mouth before entering the temple, and how to say a prayer.

People could buy a wooden panel and write their wishes/prayers to get them answered by the kami-sama. All of the prayers for a year are hung up and then later they are taken inside the temple. You can click on the picture to see the wishes up close. Some little kids wished for Legos and some adults wished for health, marriage, money, or other things. I enjoyed reading the Spanish ones and explaining their meanings to Saaya. It reminded me that I can understand a lot more Spanish than Japanese.

We came across some young people giving free hugs, just like in America! Of course we hugged them all.

Harajuku was so crowded today, even more than last night. Despite that, I ran into Erica and Sachi, my classmates at KUIS. Crazy!

Saaya showed me a 100-en ($1) store in Harajuku, and I bought myself a pair of lovely chopsticks. :D

In Harajuku, Saaya and I bought their famous crepes! Mine had ice cream, strawberries, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream in it. Soooo good.

I feel like I walked 20 miles today, and in fact, it's probably that I did. My feet hurt so much even though I was wearing my comfy sneakers the whole time. I don't know how Saaya could do it in her fancy shoes.

I noticed on the trains that all Japanese women wear either fancy shoes with heels or very stylish sneakers. But I have examined the fancy shoe-people because they catch my eye and their feet do not look like happy feet. I saw a woman whose face looked like she was 25, in the prime of her life, but her feet looked like those of a 70-year-old, with varicose veins and very old-looking skin. She was wearing adorable shoes, but maybe they were wrecking her feet. Today I saw more women with huge blisters and calluses on their feet, and also really expensive-looking shoes. Maybe that's why my feet are generally blemish-free; I wear sneakers almost all the time.

I felt happy today that I could carry on basically a six-hour conversation with Saaya in Japanese. :) Although it's becoming much more difficult for me to remember specific Spanish or English words! Tonight I was explaining some difficult English word meanings to Namiko-san, and I spent a good five minutes of hard thinking trying to remember the English word "metaphor." I even know the word in Japanese for it! And it's a word I use on a regular basis in the US. Oh well. :)

Dinner tonight was very delicious. I love fish!!

Namiko-san bought me the most beautiful outfit from India today. I was so surprised!! I also didn't know that one could buy Indian clothing in Japan, but maybe you can buy anything here. :)

After dinner Taku-chan and I played Pokemon while Namiko-san and Tomoaki-san watched. It was a lot of fun! But I am not very good at Wii Pokemon Stadium (which now has 500 Pokemon!!) in Japanese. I lost the semi-final round.

Once again, I am incredibly weary even though I returned home at about 6pm. It's midnight now... I could not be more tired!! I leave you with this hilarious shirt that I saw today. And look, next to it is naked Lady Gaga!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Harajuku and Shibuya!

Last night I went to bed at midnight, so getting up at 6:40am was really difficult. I was tired during class, so I couldn't concentrate in the latter half. I managed to get a 16/17 on my quiz, though! I'm totally exhausted right now so I hope this blog makes some sense.

There were Japanese people handing out Japanese bibles at the Kaihin-makuhari station this morning. It was very strange to see it in Japanese.

Robert, Ethan, and I decided to meet up with Nami, my Japanese student e-pal, in Harajuku. :) The train ride from Kaihin-makuhari to Tokyo station and then to Harajuku was a lot longer than I expected! It took about an hour or a little longer, because we missed one of the trains. Luckily, another one came in five minutes, as often happens in Tokyo. :) The ride was difficult because it was all new scenery to me; I haven't ridden any trains other than the ones that go to and from Toyocho and Kaihin-makuhari. We passed a huge ferris wheel, a modern windmill and solar panels, and Tokyo Disneyland on the way there.

We shopped around for furugi, or second-hand clothes, in Harajuku, which is known for its clothing and inexpensive items. However, furugi was generally $20 at the cheapest, and sometimes much more expensive. I was extremely surprised. The really cheap stuff (like a plain white shirt for $3) was not good at all. We saw some Vanderbilt and Texas shirts, though, haha. Those were in the lame pile; the cool Japanese-looking clothes were much more expensive. The used clothing stores had chandeliers on their ceilings. It did not look like a Goodwill to me. :) They had a lot of dresses and shirts that I really want, but I have such a limited amount of money that I'm not sure if I can buy them. Here are Ethan, Nami, and Robaato in Harajuku. I'll have to take a picture later of the more famous/interesting street in Harajuku.

There is a famous crepe dessert in Harajuku. I hope I will buy it soon!

We saw a dog that had a heart-shaped pattern on its back. I couldn't get a good picture but here is one. Hahaha.

We saw a condom store in Harajuku! It was called Condomania. Of course I had to photograph it.

We walked to Shibuya and saw the most incredible thing: an intersection that absolutely FLOODS with people every time the traffic lights allow them to cross! Nami said that more than 1,000 people cross the intersection, once every two minutes, and the flow of human traffic never stops no matter what time of day or night. I took some videos of it because it was just incredible. We also experienced the crossing firsthand, which was scary! My video of the intersection, as seen from a 2nd floor Starbucks.

Here are more epic pictures from Shibuya, not in chronological order as you can see by the sky. :)

We saw a black rapper in Shibuya!! He was asking people to listen to his music and then handing out CDs. That was pretty cool of him. :) His Japanese was good!

My dinner was really good but small. I love sushi but I would have rather eaten Namiko-san's delicious cooking. :) This is tuna sashimi.

After dinner, we went to Book-Off, a discount media store. I bought three manga books, one of which will probably be for John Michael. :) They were quite inexpensive (~$3.50) compared to American-bought manga, which can be $10 or much more. However, Japanese DVDs, even normal ones like Percy the Lightning Thief or something, were $40 or more! CDs are like $30. It was so hard to believe!

On the way home, I got lost in Tokyo Station. XD It's enormous!!! Eventually I figured out that I had to walk through this ominous hallway to get to a completely different station to get on a completely different set of trains (metro vs. trains). Some people stopped to help me out because I had a sad face on. I eventually found my way with the help of a nice older man, and then I called Namiko-san to tell her I was on my way. She and Tomoaki-san decided to pick me up from Toyocho station in the car, although  it wasn't necessary and I said so. It was nice to get a ride, though. :)

Tomorrow I am going to Shibuya/Harajuku again with Saaya! :D I am very excited to see it again, because today there was so much to see that I felt a little rushed.

On Sunday, my host family is taking me to an arcade with Taku-chan. :) That will be a lot of fun! I hope I don't spend all of my money.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chocopan, Shodo, and Japanese Ultimate Frisbee

Today was a great day but I am SO SO SO TIRED. I had my new class with Aratake-sensei today; it was good. I learned some new rules about particles. Hooray for grammar! Soon we will have to do a research, interview, and presentation project, all in Japanese.

During the 10-minute break, I ate CHOCOPAN (chocolate bread). Mmm, oishii. :)

Today we had a shodo (Japanese calligraphy) lesson after class. I thought it would be so easy to paint Japanese characters in a pretty way but actually it was extremely difficult. I enjoyed the learning experience but my lack of skills was a little disheartening.

After class and shodo, Ethan, Robaato-san, Sachi-san, and I went to the KUIS library. Take a look at this fantabulous building. We climbed up to the roof and took lots of pictures, then went inside to study. Sachi-san went home. :(

The men and I bought macha (green tea) bubble tea with milk (the Japanese call it "tapioca juice") and did homework together. We also made new friends up there when I asked someone if they knew where the bathroom was. They wanted to practice English and speak in Japanese. :D Sooo many new Japanese friends!

The most fun part of today came at the end. I was about to walk to the station at around 6pm so I could get home by around 7 or 7:15. As I was leaving the library, I passed the sports fields, like this one on the right. Immediately to the left of that field was another with people playing Ultimate Frisbee!! I haven't played that since high school, and it looked like so much fun. They didn't seem to be an intense team because there were college, high school, and elementary school students all playing on various teams. There was even an American from North Carolina there! He couldn't speak much Japanese, haha.

So I was looking at them longingly and one of the students asked in half-Japanese, half-English if I wanted to play. I did! So I did. :D I was wearing my nice clothes today for the shodo activity after class, but I played anyway. It was SO SO SO SO much fun and I made like 20 new friends. :D I even scored a few goals! I found out that the group meets every Thursday at 5pm so I'm going to go again next week. It was a really good time, because the players weren't too serious and we all dropped the frisbee sometimes. :) There were two very young kids and we passed the frisbee to them too, even though they rarely caught it. :) But one time, the little girl scored a goal!!

Anyway, it was so fun that it got dark before I realized I should go home. So I called Namiko-san and apologized in Japanese for the fact that I would be a little late for dinner. But she said it was fine, because she was also running late. Thankfully, after walking for ~40 minutes and taking three trains, I arrived home before dinner at ~8:20 and there was even time for me to help with the salad. :) The food was soooo good but I ate it before I could take a picture.

Faux pas check:
1. Today we did shodo, or Japanese calligraphy. Being the genius that I am, I just looked in a kanji book and picked out one that I thought was pretty, and it means "to float". I showed it to Shiho and she wouldn't stop laughing or telling me what it meant other than float. She said, "It fits you perfectly!" and I was like omg. Tell me what it means. Apparently the kanji for float is part of the word for "cheating" or infidelity/extramarital affairs. My face was like, "WOT. No way. I have to pick a different kanji!!!!" But when I told the teachers, they said that it was a perfectly good kanji as long as it didn't have "ki" after it, which together means cheating. It is found in many Japanese poems. They also told me that it would be impossible to change kanjis. :( So, I made my shodo with floating/cheating. Oh fail. I think it's a nice kanji and I like to float in the water!

2. The shodo teacher, who is old and very, very famous in the shodo realm, asked us if we wanted to see him draw any other kanjis. I asked for kao (face) because I think it looks beautiful. Some other people asked for things but then there was silence. I thought it would be rude if no one wanted to see any more kanjis, and I really wanted to see midori (green), so I asked to see it. But a lot of people in the room looked at me like I was being demanding for asking to see two kanjis. :/ Then after that was done, one of our instructors asked if anyone wanted to see any more kanjis and made a hand gesture that means "no more, don't ask for any more!" I felt bad. :/

Let's have some more photos of the KUIS library. The architecture on the inside is even cooler, but I didn't photograph it today. But the first floor is a fantastic study place, and the second floor is for practicing languages other than English. There are large areas designed like buildings from each country, so that the Chinese-practicing area looks like a temple, and the Spanish area looks like an adobe house, and the Hindi-area looks like Indian architecture, etc. It's very elaborate! Anyway, here is more of the outside. This is the view from the roof. There are four floors and the third and fourth both have roof gardens! SUGOI. There are stairs to go from the field all the way to the top of the library using just the outside. It's so cool.

I'd better go see if I remembered to do all of my homework... I am so, so tired. Next time I will try to get home earlier than 8pm!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A lovely and tiring day :)

Today, my host mom made me my first ever obento!! It was a beautifully-packed lunch but I forgot to take a picture of it. This could be because I was so hungry in the morning that I ate half of it in the Nishi-funabashi station while I waited for my train to Kaihin-makuhari. Japanese people looked at me funny but I didn't care; the obento was so good.

On the Kainhin-makuhari train, I experience my first REAL "manindensha" (jam-packed train). There were so many people on it that I couldn't move my arms from where they were. When the train jerked to one side, people just smushed whoever was on the edges (like me!). It was extremely easy to see how a chikan could get away with groping someone without the person (or other people) even knowing. I have been lucky so far to only be on one manindensha, because I've seen other trains, mostly the ones going to Tokyo in the morning and away from it in the evening, that just look horrendous to be on. Despite the fact that my personal space was quite violated and I was touching and being touched on all sides, it was funny that I found myself thinking, "I bet we could fit a few more people on this train, because there's still room for me to inhale deeply!"

We got yesterday's quizzes back today and I got a 96%. :D

The best part of today came after class, when Ethan Fujita-san, Erica, and I went to the SALC (Self-Access Learning Center) where Japanese students go to learn English. We all filled out Language Exchange ads about ourselves so that other people could email/meet us and practice Japanese with us. I wrote mine in Japanese. :D At the bottom of each one is a series of tabs with my name and SALC ID, so people can tear it off and get my email address from the front desk. Usually it takes days for people to take the tabs. The SALC people hung my ad up with the others and 30-40 minutes later, when I came back, all of my little tabs were gone except for one! I'm so popular! :D In the photo, mine is the one at the top with only one left.

In the SALC there is an English conversation area with fluffy couches, so I went over there to see if people would like to go hang out with us at the mall. I figured we could speak some Japanese and some English and have an overall great time. So I picked the people who looked like they weren't studying, but just enjoying talking. There were six girls all in a circle. (Ethan and Erica were hiding because they were embarrassed at talking to strangers. But guess who is not! It's me. :D) I told the girls in slow English that I wanted to meet new friends and go to LaLaPort, the mall in Minami-funabashi, which is conveniently on my way home. They said they wanted to join me! But they couldn't because they had more classes that day. But then a guy, Ken, came over and he wanted to go to LaLaPort with us. :D We spoke in English for awhile to the girls and exchanged contact information, then said goodbye. On our way out, I saw my language buddy ad and was very excited. There were Japanese girls reading them at the time, and we invited them to come to LaLaPort. They said yes! :D So we all (me, Ethan, Erica, Ken, Mari, and Saori) rode the train together and went to LaLaPort to shop. :) Tanoshikatta!

The other Japanese college friends I met today are Aiko, Mami, Tomoyo, Miyuka, Yumi, and Sayaka. :D They all gave me their email addresses and phone numbers. Apparently Japanese students all have email on their phones. I don't!

Faux pas/cultural failure check:
1. I decided to try the various buttons on the toilet today when I got home from school. It was quite interesting! I tried the bum-washer first, and it shot a strong stream of water right at my butt! I wasn't sitting back quite far enough, so it hit my back and went everywhere, hahaha. I had to clean up water later. Then I tried the bidet function, which shoots a stream of water at the lady parts. Both things were so interesting. Maybe I'll try them more often. :)
2. I asked a Japanese man if I could pet his dog, and he said yes in Japanese. He asked me where I came from, but I didn't understand so I asked him to please repeat himself. Then I said, "Oh, yes, I came from Toyocho station, right over there!" But then his facial expression was very amused so I was like, "Oh wait, I came from America! Yes, from America." :) He was very kind and we talked about dogs.
3. In the LaLaPort mall, an Indian guy handed me a brochure for his Indian restaurant and I was like WOAH WOAH you are an Indian! My American friend is Indian too and there are so few Indians in Japan! And his attitude was like.......don't talk to me, just eat at my restaurant. I was simultaneously disappointed and amused. I haven't seen any Ecuadorians, Jews, or New Yorkers yet.

LaLaPort had even more buttons on their toilets than I'm used to. The "toilet flush sound" button made not only a water-flowing sound but also birds and a man speaking in Japanese. It was the #1 most interesting toilet sound combination. So of course I took a picture of the toilet. Look at all those buttons!

After shopping at LaLaPort, I took the train home. But I stopped at a SEIYU 24/7 grocery store to see if I could find more chocolate alcohol (which I saw at the AEON yesterday for ~$5 but did not buy for some reason). But I became very suspicious of the store because I think it is a Walmart In Disguise. They have Great Value items, which I believe is a Walmart-specific brand. Also, they don't serve any alcohol, which sounds like a Walmart thing to do. I can't think of any store in Japan that doesn't serve alcohol; even the convenience stores and vending machines have it! So I was wary in that store. An internet search confirmed my suspicions: SEIYU is the sneaky Walmart subsidiary in Japan. I can't stand Walmart one bit, and I hate their sneakiness. I remember in Mexico City they went by "Superama" (which I'm guessing is short for "super ama de casa" or "super-housewife"). Gross.

The only cool thing in there was that they had entire fishes for sale. I felt bad for the fishes but I really wanted to eat them.

Today I tried umeboshi, a pickled plum that my host mom makes. It takes an entire year to pickle them. But I did not like it. ;) Namiko-san said that of her four exchange students, only one has liked umeboshi.

The end, for today. :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


For breakfast, my host mom made me onigiri with tuna in the middle!!!!!!!!!!! It was the most delicious thing ever, and certainly the most delicious sushi I've ever had. I was going to save the two pieces for lunch but instead I ate them before and during class. :D They were big! I wasn't hungry during class. :)

Class today was nice again, but I did get frustrated when my classmates would answer the questions I was asking to the teacher. I find that very annoying, especially when my classmates use English and I was hoping to hear the explanation in Japanese from my teacher. I don't have too much homework but it is a lot of memorization.

This is my lunch. Mmmmm. I believe the white container on the right is pudding, but it might have been yogurt. It was somewhat milky in consistency and taste, but good. I can't tell if it's healthy or not, though. But if anyone tells you that Japanese portions are small, they are lying. I am always stuffed here, and some people on the trip, me included, sometimes have difficulty finishing our meals.

Today I used a Japanese squatting toilet for the first time! It was delightful. Much like peeing in the wilderness, except this time toilet paper was provided! Hooray!

It was cloudy today and rained for the first time since I've been here. The rainy season starts soon if not today; it rains every day for about a month, haha. Tomorrow's weather calls for rain too. My umbrella is small!!

After class, Robaato-san and I went to the mall because everyone else is lame and went home or did homework instead of having fun. Robaato-san knows where it's at. Anyway, we went to an arcade and he played a fun drumming game. I was going to try a game but I couldn't decide which one. Then he went looking for folders so I followed. We saw gay erotic manga in the grocery store, that was really cool.

Faux pas check:
1. Today I was on the train and I wasn't holding on to anything because I was looking at a worksheet. There were no seats and it was a really packed train. The train suddenly turned and I basically fell onto this old man who was sitting down. It wasn't a delicate fall, either, so everyone looked at the dumb American girl flailing around. I apologized but he didn't say anything, so I bet he was pissed. I know I would be pissed if a foreigner fell on me. I didn't get hurt and neither did he, though, because I managed to catch myself. It was REALLY embarrassing.
2. Last night, I was taking a shower and failed to make the water anything other than freezing. So I called to Namiko-san and asked for help. The shower, like many things in Japan, has a control panel with buttons covered in kanji that I can't read, so I didn't want to press all of the buttons and explode the shower. When Namiko-san came over, I tried to say "Omizu wa tsumetai desu." (the water is cold) but instead I said, "Omizu wa tsumaranai desu." (The water is boring). I knew right away that I had said it wrong because she started laughing and so I did too. :) I believe I have that particular word for "water" incorrect too; I think that's only the kind of water that people drink.

For dinner we had amazing pork dumpling and rice. I ate probably 20 dumplings. omg, so good. Then for dessert, my host mom gave me cheese-flavored ice cream and fruity alcoholic cocktail drinks. :D I have yet to become tipsy, though.

THE APARTMENT IS FULL OF POKEMON SOUNDS because we watch Pokemon all the time. :)  Did you know that the Japanese Pokemon show is quite different from the English one? The voice actors sound completely different but also Ash's name is Satoshi. Satoshi's voice actor is female, if I understand my host mom correctly. :) Also, I believe the show here goes by the name "Poketo Monstaa". It reminds me of the good ol' days. PIKAAAA.

Monday, June 7, 2010

First day of Japanese class AND the top of Chiba!!

Today was my first day of class! I set my alarm for 6:40am but I woke up at 4:50am by myself, couldn't believe it. I have set my alarm nearly every day on this trip but I always wake up before it goes off, even if I am very tired. It's magical.

I got ready for school, ate some rice cereal, and left! I had packed my backpack the night before with all of my textbooks (just in case), tons of maps and directions in Japanese that my host parents printed out for me (so, so thankful for this!), and a few snacks/keys/moneys/my camera/etc.

I asked for directions probably 15 or 20 times this morning, haha. But my Japanese worked! I communicated and understood everything necessary, but still felt the need to double-check a few times if I was on the right train or in the right part of the station, or on the right street, haha. Japanese people are VERY accommodating. I think I say, "Ano, sumimasen..." (Um, excuse me...) about 50 times per day here. :) But people always help! And I just ask for directions, so it's not too much of an inconvenience for them, I think.

Anyways, I walked through the beautiful park on the way to Toyocho station, crossed some roads, tunnels, and bridges, and arrived ~20 minutes later at the station. The station was SO BUSY OMG, business people everywhere rushing around and it was just like highly populated Tokyo on tv. I was really grateful that I needed to travel away from the center of Tokyo, because that meant that my train was not jam-packed. All of the trains coming in to Tokyo were ridiculously full. I tried to take some photos but I didn't want the poor people on the train to feel like they were in a zoo exhibit for my photo-taking pleasure. I'm sure the manindensha (jam-packed train) was uncomfortable enough. Even so, I couldn't resist a few pictures for the sake of public knowledge aka this blog.

I switched trains at Nishi-funabashi which was a little challenging but I did it. :) Then I arrived at Kaihin Makuhari, the station in Chiba near my school. I walked to the IES Center, which was too bad because I wasn't supposed to go there at all. ;) So I left there and walked to KUIS and tried to find my classroom. I did it well from memory, I think.

Class was pretty great! My teacher on MTW is Yokono-sensei, and my teacher on TF is Aratake-sensei, from UNC. The people in my class are shy to raise their hands, which makes me sad. I'm sure sometimes they know the answer. But I can't stand 20-30 seconds of silence, so I often raise my hand. Yokono-sensei is very good at giving dramatic examples of new vocabulary, and she seems friendly and nice. :) We have a 2-chapter test every Monday and quizzes every day. Whew... tonight's homework was rather easy. We had to write two sentences using the grammar we were taught today and memorize a boatload of kanji. Fortunately, I had seen some of the kanji before and memorized them in my earlier classes. It's still a bit hard to write all of them, though! I will practice again tomorrow on the train.

After class, I did my homework in the hall while I waited for the 2nd-year IES class to get out. I have more friends in that class and my other classmates left to go do boring things or go home. I definitely didn't want to go home, since the apartment is usually empty until 7pm or so. So Robato-san (Robert) and I ate lunch in the cafeteria. We tried to find the other people but they didn't show up. Lamesauce. But our food was really cool! Here is a picture of both of our meals. Mine is the one with the giant chocolate chip bread in it. :) My plate was about $3. Nice.

Then Robato-san and I went to the SALC (Self-Access Learning Center), a language-learning center on the KUIS campus. Unfortunately, it was so fun in there that we barely got our work done. :) So after an hour of procrastinating from our homework with email and chatting with other students, we decided to go exploring outside. I got an iced coffee from the vending machines and perked up quickly! Then Robato-san indulged my fantasy of climbing to the tops of the highest buildings. It was quite exciting, although the office buildings didn't have any public viewing windows at the top. Zan nen. :(

But then I suggested we go to the top of the highest building in the area and we did! It was a hotel so I was like oooooooooo, I bet they will let us look out of the top windows. :D Turns out, the hotel had FIFTY FLOORS OH SNAP. The elevator went so fast that our ears popped. Here is a picture of the hotel from far away, which I took on my train ride home today.

When we got to the top, we discovered it was a restaurant and asked in Japanese if it would be okay to take pictures out of the window. They (hesitantly, we now know) said yes so we did. THE VIEW WAS SO COOL. I couldn't believe it, it was like my wildest Tokyo dreams coming true. I have a weird obsession with tall buildings, so this was really amazing to me. You can see the huge difference between the Chiba (today's photos) and Tokyo (yesterday's photos) cities from above. Chiba has big buildings but it is not nearly as crowded (or awesome, in my opinion) as inner Tokyo, as seen from the Tokyo Tower. It's nice that Chiba has so many parks and lots of nature, although Tokyo has its fair share of nature for such a big city. This isn't the tallest building in Tokyo, but I asked a hotel worker and it IS the tallest building in Chiba! I was so glad that I got to see it for free. :D Here are some photos of the view.

(We went to that beach the first night I was in Japan! And huge fireworks came from the Marines baseball stadium. The Japanese LOVE baseball. :D)

I saw a bug. :) All the way up there, 50 floors high! What's it doing up there?  誰も知らない。

After taking these few pictures, the owner of the restaurant got frustrated with us and asked us to leave (but in a VERY nice way, except with an angry face).  I had to ask for clarification because his Japanese was too complex (a way of being nice, I think?). We felt bad but it was strange that were were kicked out because there was no one in the restaurant; people were just cleaning the tables and such. Anyway, after that, Robato-san got on the train for his house to go do his homework, and I went to the stores to explore more. I bought some souvenirs, studied a little in the mall, and then walked to the station.

I was heading the wrong way to go to the station and a man who I had seen in the mall earlier started talking to me and asking me if I was okay. I said I was going to the station and he pointed out to me that I was going in the opposite direction (which was helpful, but I wouldn't have minded figuring it out on my own). It was very nice of him to help me but we were in a place where there were few people around and I was getting really uncomfortable with that guy. So I said, "I'm going now" and hurried towards the station. I'm sure he had nothing but good intentions but our orientation packet said that if we ever feel uncomfortable, leave immediately, even if it's rude. I feel a little bad, but I didn't want to be in an area outside the mall alone with a strange guy. Fortunately, about 40 feet from where I had been, there were lots of children, parents, and business people, so I felt safe again and got on my train. I'm sure my mom will read this and freak out but FEAR NOT. I know what to do in various situations, and Japan is incredibly safe.

My host family does laundry either once or twice every day here! But they have a small washer and it has a drying function too. It's convenient, because you just put the clothes and soap in, then let it do everything for 3  hours. Then it's all dry and ready to go. :)

Here are some pictures from yesterday that I forgot to put up. We went to Asakusa, a famous shrine and market area in old Tokyo. It was gorgeous.

I am soooooooooooo tired again. I'm always tired here, it seems. Good thing there is coffee in all of the vending machines. :) Oyasumi!