Saturday, June 26, 2010

Kurama's got nothing on this: sushi-themed post

Here is our lunch from today, delicious hot sandwiches! (hoto sando, as they are called in Japan :D). They had tomato, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, ham, mayonaise, and lettuce in them. I ate waaay too much but it was so good. I was surprised that we ate a hot food on such a hot day but they turned on the air conditioning for lunch.

Today's faux pas check: In order to buy the food for lunch, Namiko-san and I went to the grocery store right next to our apartment building. We couldn't find protein bars like I wanted or any Mexican food for the tacos I'm going to make for the family tomorrow. More on that shortly. :D But we were waiting in line and I saw a pretty box with a sparkly butterfly on it, and it said, "Glamorous Butterfly" with no other description. I said, "What is this?" and before Namiko could explain, I picked it up. She started laughing. I flipped the box over and saw a diagram of a condom and I was like ohhhhhh I see now. :D I tried to read some of the katakana but then I put it back down. :)

After lunch, we journeyed to an Aeon store in a huge mall to try to find some Mexican food, haha. None of the store employees in any of the stores knew what a tortilla was, even though it is a word in Japanese. :) And refried beans were NOWHERE, haha. Eventually we found a foreign goods store that had flour tortillas (not corn like I usually use) and black beans (not refried like I usually use). We also found El Paso salsa. :) I hope I can make these tacos taste good!!

We went to Kurazushi, the famous sushi restaurant that we saw on tv the other night! As you can maybe see from this picture, the wait for a table (without a reservation) is 135 minutes!!! I'm glad we had a reservation. It's not an unusually expensive store; every sushi plate is $1 only. But it's a very popular restaurant. We had to drive 20 minutes or so to get there. On the way there, we watched game shows in the car (there is a built-in tv right next to the driver's wheel!). The show was pretty funny because it was basically these comedians wandering through the wilderness of Japan  in order to hold scary wild animals, bugs, snakes, and lizards only to get bitten while the others laughed at them.

(Tangent, but speaking of animals: last night I saw a cute mouse in Shibuya and a bat in the iris garden eating mosquitoes. :D)

 Here's part of the waiting room. Ouch. 

Mmm, look at all of that sushi!

Next comes a sushi photo parade!! These pictures are actually a little hard for me to look at because I'm so, so, so full right now that I don't want to see any more food. :) I ate almost all of these, but sometimes I took pictures of the sushi my family was eating and of the sushi on the conveyor belt.

My favorite: salmon nigiri!

Shrimp with avocado, mayonaisse, and onions
Pineapple, yummmm

Raw eggs and raw fish. :)

Ikura (salmon eggs) and their mom

Marinated fishy steak, tuna salad and cucumbers

Can't remember the name but it was  great. :D And REALLY REALLY GOOD cooked salmon.

Sea urchins!

Real crab on the right and hard-boiled eggs on the left.

My dessert: mango sherbet, whipped cream, and some kind of gel that was really good.

One cool thing about this restaurant is that they play a lottery game for every few plates that you submit into their plate-return-drop thing. So we ate a TON of plates of sushi, I think 35 in total, and Takumi got to win some little prizes if the lottery game was won. I think Tomoaki-san might have eaten two extra plates of sushi just so Takumi could see if he would win again (and he did). :) The prizes were buttons.

There's Takumi's banana-chocolate pudding dessert. In the bottom left corner, you can see the cups for green tea. I have really wanted some of that green tea powder so I can make green tea whenever I want it in my apartment next year. All you need to do is mix it with water. Namiko surprised me by buying some for me while she was paying for the bill tonight!!! Green tea forever!!! :D :D

It rained a little today but it is still so hot. Time for another cold shower, a little more homework, and then sleeeeeep. I am going to Ueno tomorrow with Rika, a Japanese student who contacted me through the Kanda University Language Buddies system. :D I hope she's nice! (I'm sure she is.)

A good Friday and excellent night in Chiba, Mikata, and Shibuya :)

Class today was a-okay. I got compliments from everyone on my outfit, even the people in my class who I thought didn't like me at all. I made some ridiculous mistakes on my quizzes today, but that was because I was REALLY tired. Then we practiced giving our surveys to our classmates. Mine is about what people do on trains, what actions by other people they think are annoying on trains, and how long they have to commute. I'm really interested in that sort of thing. :)
After class, we all went to Mikata to see the Ghibli Museum, which displays some of the art and technology used by Hayao Miyazaki, the creator and artist of the most famous Japanese anime movies like Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro. There wasn't a whole lot in the museum but it was a really neat building and a fun experience to see. We got to watch a 10-minute short film by Miyazaki and see some previews of upcoming films he has worked on, like Anne of Green Gables (he did the background scenery). I liked seeing the animation process and looking at a bunch of the art drafts hanging up on the wall.

There was a huge, fuzzy catbus for the kids to play on. :) It was covered in adorable Japanese babies, haha. There were a ton of Americans or otherwise English-speaking anime fans at the museum. I enjoy watching anime but some of those people were straight-up nerdy to the max! The gift shop was cool but everything was ridiculously expensive.

I wished that I had seen more of Miyazaki's movies before going to the museum. I have seen parts of Totoro and Spirited Away, but I would like to see them in full. The only one I've seen in full is Howl's Moving Castle, twice.

The people in our class who really love anime were expected to stay in the museum until we absolutely had to go, but actually they peaced out early and were not seen again. So Aratake-sensei walked the rest of us to the Mikata station. Aratake-sensei and Wong-san went home but the rest of us went to Shibuya to party. We had dinner (see below). I ended up eating the same thing for dinner as I did for lunch, but it was so delicious that I didn't mind at all. :D It was pork with rice and seaweed. The dinner version came with fish, miso soup, and veggies, mmm.

After dinner, people couldn't decide where to go. Laura and I weren't too concerned about drinking but a number of other people wanted to go to a nomihodai (all-you-can-drink bar) before doing anything else. But no one could decide where to go and Laura and I didn't want to pay $20 or $30 to go somewhere and not drink anything/much. So Yutaro, our friend from Kanda University, gave us a map to a club that was having a special: 1000 yen entry for dancing. So Robert, Ethan, Laura, and I all headed there. Unfortunately, Laura had to leave really soon because her host family wanted her home by 11pm. :( So Robert, Ethan, and I tried to follow the map to the club!

Here is the map to the club we were heading towards, but it turned out there were almost  no people in there. Then again, it was 9:30pm. :) When we stopped by later at 11pm, it was full. But we had to catch the last trains home before midnight. That's probably the only thing I don't like about the trains here; they stop too early! I got home by midnight with plenty of time, but Ethan had to call a taxi because his monorail stopped at like 11pm or something. He got most of the way there, but the last fourth or third of the journey cost him $30 via taxi!! It's cheaper to stay in a manga cafe or karakoe bar than to take a taxi all the way home for most people. If Ethan had had to take a taxi all the way from Shibuya, it could have been $100 or maybe even more. Much better to stay overnight in a private room in a manga cafe. :)

Anyway, we wandered around the streets looking at other clubs and considering what to do. Robert got some beer from a convenience store (haha) and I got a protein jello drink that was hilarious in texture. 

We saw legit love hotels in small alleys in Shibuya near the clubs!!! Look at the front window of this one. It's advertising S&M devices and costumes, haha. That ended the debate over whether this was actually a love hotel or just a cheap hotel in a creepy alley.

The sign on the door was so funny! We saw two couples go into this hotel. :)

Here's the one next to it, Hotel Casanova! So colorful. The best part is the vertical sign that says, "Short time, 2000yen (about $20) 2 hours!" There was another sign that had different prices for 120 minutes or 140 minutes, haha.

Look at this crazy cat!! I thought it wasn't real because of the tongue thing, but he turned all the way around, still with tongue out. :) So hilarious! It was in the front of a store next to the standing bar that we ended up entering after some debate. My feet were killing me so I didn't really want to continue standing, but the people in the standing bar looked so cool. They were all around age 30 or 40 but were so friendly, calling us to come in. Robert didn't want to go in there because the only woman was like 45 or 50 years old, but I said, "Just one drink!" and Ethan backed me up. :) Turns out it was the most awesome part of the whole evening! The standing bar was very small, about the size of a large dorm room, and everyone stood around the counter in a triangle shape. Everyone chatted with each other and with the older owners of the store. It was a great time! My Japanese skills proved very effective here. :D One of the men was so excited to see us Americans that he bought us all a drink and some squid! 

I ordered whiskey with tea because I had seen that in another bar, and apparently I said the word for the wrong kind of tea because everyone said, "HEEEEYYYYYYYY????" (which is what Japanese people say when they are surprised/shocked/impressed). Everyone laughed and tried to explain what was wrong with my order but then the owners ended up making it the way I had mistakenly said. :D It was green tea with whiskey instead of whatever it is usually supposed to be plus whiskey. I liked it, though! 

Here is the friendly guy who bought us food and drinks the bar! He was really friendly and so funny. You can see a mug of orange juice on the table, haha. He bought it for Robert because Robert didn't want to drink more beer in case he had difficulty getting home. You can't really see my Japanese outfit from here because I took my jacket off, but I'll post a picture later.

This man was quite drunk and extremely nice! He even looked up the time of the last train to Toyocho for me on his iPhone, so I would surely not be stuck away from home. He also ordered a green tea because he said he was getting too drunk and needed something plain. 

Check out all the food at the standing bar! Japanese people usually eat some small foods that we would consider appetizers with their alcohol. There were pieces of dried fish, kim chi, vegetables, potatoes, squid, eggs, and edamame. The man in the blue shirt said, "Please, let me buy you one of these services!" Service is the name for food that goes with your drink, I believe. So I picked squid because it looked the most unique out of all of the foods. :D

Here is the dried squid we got. :D It was really good but so chewy. I made the mistake of pouring some soy sauce on it; the soy sauce was actually supposed to go on the white stuff, which is a shredded/mashed vegetable (possibly radish or onion). Everyone in the standing bar was like NO NO NO don't do that!! Hahaha. So I gave the soy sauce to the man in the blue shirt and he showed us how it was done. :D After we ate the squid, the men in the standing bar reminded us that we should hurry to catch the last few trains home. All of the other businessmen were leaving too. They asked us to please come back soon and I really think we will.  The next time my friends and I go to Shibuya, I believe we are going to stay in a cheap hotel or manga cafe. Ethan really wants to stay in a love hotel. ;) 

When I got home at 12, I ended up having fun chatting online until 3am, aaaahhh so late for such a busy day. But it was a really great night!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ultimate!! And excellent Japanese game show videos

So, today was another very long class day starting at 9pm. It was supposed to end at 4:40 but we got to leave at 1:30!! Nice. :D I was so ready to leave class. It's unfortunate but several of my American classmates actually do make an impact on whether or not I want to go home. That's so strange because I'm seriously thinking about moving to Tokyo someday after I graduate college, even if just for a year or two, because the people, language, and culture are so great. It's easy to make Japanese friends, everyone is usually so helpful and courteous, and the language never ceases to fascinate me.

I don't want to go into it, but sometimes I daydream about being in an 8-person Japanese class like mine except everyone gets along, or everyone wants to have fun together, or even where the people could be as cool as on my dogsledding trip. I never wanted to leave those friends, and I still consider them close even though I haven't seen any of them in more than 2 years. (Samantha even rubbed life back into my freezing feet one night!) Or the leadership camps I've been to, where everyone is motivated, bright, and friendly; I always think of them in a positive light and want to see them again but can't. These people, on the other hand, go to UNC. Gamanshiyou...(let's tolerate!) Anyway, here is a picture of several of my dogsledding friends and me so this doesn't become a giant wall of text. Good times, those. :)

After a tiring day, Sachi and I wandered around Kanda University looking for ice cream. We found a lot and she bought an ice-cream-filled waffle but I bought some sweet curry rice instead. :D Then I bought yogurt too, mm. It was just like the yogurt I have at my host family's house except in a bigger container!

Then we went to the field outside building 3 and kicked the soccer ball around for a bit. It was difficult for her because she was wearing platform shoes, haha. And difficult for me because it was sooo hot. But then she had to go, and my friends from Ultimate Frisbee arrived. We passed the Frisbee around, then made teams when more people arrived. It was so fun!! I forgot all about my strange classmates and their myriad issues. I got so sweaty and thirsty, even though it was after 5pm and the sun was not as hot. Robaato-san played with the group but Ethan-san did homework on a picnic table. :/ Here is a photo with some of my teammates and building #3. :D

After playing, I went to the train station but missed the correct train, haha. Apparently it wasn't rush hour because it took 10-15 minutes for a new one to come along. While I waited, I noticed that the sun looked cool as it was setting, so I took that picture. I left school at 6:30pm and got home around 8pm. First order of business was a very cold shower. :D

Dinner tonight was awesome!! Yakisoba with tons of veggies and noodles.

Here are some promised videos from yesterday. I assure you, you will not be disappointed!! :D I love Japanese game shows.

This was my favorite prank they did. SO FUNNY.


Tomorrow our class is going to the famous Studio Ghibli museum. Studio Ghibli is the production company that makes the most famous anime movies from Hayao Miyazaki, like Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and most recently Ponyo. There is a new one coming out in July and I'm going to go see it!! But...I doubt I'll be able to understand it well. ;)

I've been thinking about the Japanese language and how it differs from Spanish and English. The pronunciation of Japanese and Spanish are almost exactly the same, so that's neat. Also, both Spanish and Japanese sentences flow in such a way that English ones don't. We don't realize it, but English is a rather choppy, staccato language compared to Spanish especially, but also Japanese. However, Spanish and English both use voice tone changes very often, such as in questions, that Japanese often doesn't. So in my mind, I have pictures of what I think the sounds of the three languages are like:

This is English. We use tone changes VERY frequently and our words don't all flow together. But to English-speakers, the choppiness isn't really noticeable. However, I think that might be a reason why English is so difficult for Japanese people and Spanish-speakers to learn. Also we make up words all the time.

This is Spanish. I think there are plenty of tone changes, especially with accented words and such, but the words flow very smoothly from one to the next. It's cool that I found a nice river-looking one because I've often compared listening to Spanish spoken in a calm tone to taking a nice, refreshing bath. :D

Japanese flows too, and even the written words have no spaces in them, but the tone remains about the same, even if asking a question. This isn't always the case, but you have to listen closely to see if you're hearing a question or not. There is a little bit of room for tone change. Apparently Americans speaking Japanese is funny because we always put a lot of tone changes into our Japanese.

Time to edit my class survey, print it out, and go to sleep. I wish I could watch more Japanese game shows tonight but it's already 11:15 and I resolved to go to bed early! 私は早く寝ることをしました!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kyou wa...eto...

Today's class was unremarkable. I learned things in Japanese! One neat thing from a few days ago that I learned is that when Japanese people make tally marks, such as Americans do in straight, vertical lines up to 5, the Japanese people's tally marks form the character 正. Count the strokes; there are five! It's probably easier to read that then four straight lines with a slash through them. :)

My friends and I weren't able to go to Akihabara today because we all have midterms soon (mine's on Tuesday) and it was pouring rain for most of the day. No adventures today. :( We went to the IES Center and studied, but mostly just chatted about various topics. It would be nice if we could do that in Japanese!

Here are some pictures of the view near my university once the sky cleared up, around the train station Kaihin Makuhari. See that tall hotel way in the distance? That's the one Robaato-san and I climbed all the way to the 50th floor. :D

The Technogarden buildings, which I walk through every morning and evening on my way to and from Kanda University. They are right by the station.

After school today on my walk home, I noticed some girls and their mom trying to catch crabs in the riverside park. Turns out the girls go to school with Takumi so the mom guessed that I was the Moriyama's exchange student. :D We chatted for a bit and I took a picture of a red crab.

For dessert tonight, my mom bought ice cream waffles!!! I ate the Hershey one on the top. YUMMM.

Then we all watched game shows again. It was great fun! See this beautiful singer?

She's actually a man!!! :D I didn't know but the voice sounded manly. :)

I have some hilarious videos from the gameshow watching tonight, but my internet keeps cutting out. :( Maybe it's my computer. Perhaps I'll upload them tomorrow!

I haven't had any major faux pas lately that I can think of, although... today I asked a restaurant worker if they sold sushi at that restaurant, and she was like, "Eto... this is a Chinese restaurant, so no." Haha. :D 

I have gotten better with chopsticks, I think! In the US, I used to think I was hot stuff with chopsticks because I could easily eat sushi with them. But now that I'm here, I can pick up bunches of wet noodles from soba or ramen, slick/round tomatoes, and individual grains of rice. :D I can even cut meat with my chopsticks! When I first got here, I dropped my food a lot, haha. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

MULC and Japanese gameshows

Class today was rough, but not in an academic way. I have ample time to practice a new word we learned this week: gamansuru (我慢する): to be patient!!! I am not the world's most patient person, so this is a good time to learn. It would be so useful in this class, 役に立つ。。。 Gamanshiyou!!!

I promised a few weeks ago that I would show pictures of the MULC, which is the second floor of the gorgeous library. The MULC is for studying languages other than English, because English is very popular and has its own study building, the SALC. Kanda University is for international studies students, so they often learn other languages. So here are the study areas designed like different parts of the world, used for practicing other languages. I think this is a pretty cool thing to have inside your school's library. :D






Brazilian Portuguese

After class I studied a little at the SALC and then went home and did homework. I had an essay to write and a survey to create for my research project. It wasn't a very interesting day, but tomorrow I think I'll go to Akihabara with my friends and nerd it out.

Dinner tonight was excellent, as usual! Soba is such a good meal. Takumi reminded me to take a picture. :) We mixed those noodles into a cold broth, then added dried seaweed and things that reminded me of Rice Crispies but with seasoning on them. YUMMM.

After dinner, my host family loves to watch either very funny/sadistic game shows or Japanese dramas. Here is a photo of a Japanese drama that we saw tonight. I couldn't understand much of anything except that this group of guys were all close friends on a dance team and the tryouts were really stressful... and they were always there to help each other up when they fell! The background music was lovely.

I wish I had a picture of the game shows we watched last night. There was one that had quizzes about kanji, Japanese historical figures, English vocab (I was so good at that one), and the names of strange animals. It was fun for all!! Then there was a show where this group of men in business suits were locked in a sushi restaurant until they could guess which sushi were in the Top Ten (Most Popular, I think). So they were in there for like 10 hours, eating all of the sushi and trying to guess what each one's ranking was. They looked so miserable by the end!! It started at night and they ended sometime around 10 or 11am the next day! The sushi looked so good, so I asked my host mom if we could get some more sushi sometime, and she said, "Tomorrow I'll make a reservation for that place in this game show that we're watching right now!" So she did, and we're going there on Saturday!!! :D It's not a very expensive place, but she said the last time she went there, they had to wait for two hours to get a table, so they gave up. I can't wait to goooo, I love sushi so much and in Japan it tastes better. :D

I barely packed any clothes at all for this trip and yet I feel like I packed WAY too much. I have already bought 7 new articles of clothing (although some were from a Recycle Shop aka second-hand). My host family and I do laundry every day because it's a small but efficient machine that washes and dries over the course of a 3 or 4 hours all on its own. It's very convenient to do a full load every day.