Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year

First of all, Happy New Year everyone!

Today Jordan and I went to Shimokitazawa for a lot of shopping. It was fun, though very long. Honestly we probably should have left a tad later, and I should dressed a tad heavier, but it was definitely enjoyable. Unfortunately we did not find the second half of the area until rather late, when we were cold and tired and lots of shops were closing, so we didn't really see everything. A reason to go back, I guess? Some highlights: There were lots of ponchos, that were awesome. There were some cool jackets, including a Korean one that was red, had a tiger on the back, and a zip-down hoodie. Like, the hood had a zipper in the middle. It was really weird. In a store there was a random Fender Stratocaster just hanging out, possibly for sale. There was a golf magazine in a convenient store with a japanese man dressed in 70s Britt-punk attire. We got a free tea tasting that was absolutely delicious (I will maybe pick some up when I'm closer to going home). Lots and lots of animal-socks -- with eyes and mouths and such. Really delicious looking waffles...that we didn't eat! Much more!

Afterwards we went to Yoyogi Kouen (Park) to celebrate the New Year. There was a standard festival with expensive food (500 for an anman! Ridiculous!) And some sort of music thing - basically large screen with a New Year's concert showing. We walked around a bit, Jordan realized how close we were to a fashion district which we then explored, and then we went back so as to avoid getting stranded by metro. It was nice, but I was just inside and non-attentive when the year changed...which doesn't really bug me. We almost ended up on a bus tonight, so it is better than nothing! Also Gen gave me a rather sweet card, so I kind of feel like a jerk now. Oh well, I will probably pick him up a little something in Hokkaido, I guess?

Tomorrow, around 10pm, we will board our bus for Aomori, then take a ferry to Hakodate for our trip. So I think I'll just relax and maybe do some work tomorrow, but for the two days following I will be in Hokkaidoi! It should be lots of fun, and will hopefully include some hiking, a castle visit, an onsen, and maybe some soup curry and dairy products. Also -- snow! I am rather excited.

Another note: Jordan also keeps a blog and is somewhat better at writing than me. Her post on yesterday had a bit more detail and wonderment in it, so I would recommend reading it. If nothing else, it will provide a different perspective on what I say. Honestly, it will likely give a more complete story to events we mutually experience. Read it!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Day

Today has started out pretty good and continued that way pretty much unhindered until this moment.

I woke up feeling pretty decent, took care of some things, packed some stuff up, and headed out to get breakfast. I got some Yakitori (Grilled Chicken, typically with Salt or Teriyaki) from a rather nice and casual Japanese vendor I have never seen before. He had no problems asking if I was a Gaijin and chatting with me about it, then dropped in that I looked "cool," asked what it meant and put in some guesses. He gave me a 10Yen/Yakitori, and was generally jovial. The experience has been with me all day and rose my spirits in a pretty good way.

I got a good amount of reading done on the train to Narita, and the scenery was beautiful. It took longer than expected, so I didn't have to wait very long for Jordan, who of course was delight to see (especially after last week's error). On the way back a Canadian guy, Michael, started chatting with us. Seems like a nice guy, he's apparently here for a year working as a chef in a Roppongi Gentlemen's club named Tetra. Interesting guy, most Westerners kind of just glare at each other or ignore each other when they see other Westerners they don't know, but he opted to talk to us. I would like to meet him again, at some point.

There were some issues in getting into Jordan's home for the month...the key left in the mailbox got pushed all the way in, but we eventually got it out. The area her apartment is in is not the best, but the apartment itself is rather nice. We walked around a bit, she bought some magazines, we got some delicious bento, and we made friend with a local drunk man. Basically, after peeing on some street, he ran up to us and decided that we were shy/indecisive about entering a ramen shop (we were just trying to translate the menu) - so he told us he was friends with the owner and basically convinced us to enter. The shop owner was pretty displeased and told us they were closing, so we left...only to meet that man again a few minutes later on a different road. Very odd.

I  unfortunately lost a 2010 scheduling book I got in my Japanese Class's Christmas had all the subway maps and I was thinking about using it as a kind of journal/diary. Might use losing it as an excuse to buy one, though I don't know how long I would be able to keep that up, or even what sort of journal I would want to keep. I just feel I should take to writing things more immediately. I kind of want to practice writing very openly about myself and my thoughts, so it would be great practice. I also want a Kanji Notebook, to write down kanji I don't know to look up later, as a learning tool. So I could always combine both goals into one general notebook...we'll see what happens.

Other things, Ben and Mom both called a few minutes of each other when I was at Jordan's pad. It was rather odd. The Bento shop by Jordan's place is way better than any I've been to before (which is only really 2 or 3, if you don't count konbini and supermarket bentos). I may end up meeting family in the Caribbean or something over my two month break (Exciting!). Jordan and I exchanged gifts, she got me the book I've been pining for for months now (Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent), and I gave her the Tokyo Jihen single she was asking for. Related not, Julianne apparently got me something...I am really curious to see what. Tomorrow Jordan and I will go to Shimokitazawa (full of thrift shops, I went a month or so ago and got cool pants and a jacket), and who knows for New Year's eve. I am hoping some people will join at some point, but it seems a bit late and no one's really interested. Should still be fun! Also, the bus for Hokkaido leaves the next day!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Illuminations and the first Holiday

So before I say anything else, I think I am going to stop uploading pictures here. It's a rather enormous hassle and has kept me from posting anything a number of times. Eventually I will make all of my pictures available, but probably that will wait until I'm back in the US. I would prefer this being a picture blog, but it's clear that it is not something I am capable of doing. When I post pictures expect them to be on my facebook, or on my deviant art until I am back in the US, working on a real computer.

That said, I have been up to a lot. A little after my last post I went to see the Illumination in Roppongi with my friend Rike. I sort of invited myself and feel she may have been happier on her own, but it was still rather nice and very pretty. We also stopped and tried some hand-made donuts, which were pretty tasty (but rather pricey! Oh well, it is Roppongi).

I also had a lovely Channukah, and even celebrated twice -- both times at Ben's place. I have been there rather often, it seems. His host mother is an excellent host (as is his host sister), and an even better cook. Though, the second time we celebrated Ben did most of the cooking (I was surprised at how good all of the things he made were), though I brought some latkahs (both sweet potato and normal), which were a success, and his host mother provided us angel-food cake for desert. A very nice holiday indeed!

The very next day I ended up going back for a house party hosted by his host sister. Lots of good food, and lots of Japanese conversation. I managed to look introspective enough that the party-goers assumed I was better at Japanese than Ben and Laur, which was rather hilarious. I guess it is all about confidence and appearance.

My Festivus was pretty good too -- I spoke to the guys and shared my grievances over Skype. I also posted on the blog. It's been a while since I plugged Procrast-Nation, but it is worth checking out. They just hit 500 posts (mine was 501)! Though, if you just wanna check out mine it is titled "The Body, the Spirit, and Perception" and is a preliminary reflection on Lynn Hunt's book while I was still reading it. It is somewhat unrefined, so please be gentle.

Other than that, I have been reading some good books (Lynn Hunt, "Inventing Human Rights: A History," Patti Smith, "The Coral Sea," Suetonius, "The Twelve Caesars"), watching some good/awful tv and movies (Strangers with Candy, Merlin, even Star Trek, A Home at the End of the World, If the World were Mine), and generally having a good time despite the various essays I am working on. I have also gone on plenty of trips around Tokyo - which is making me like the city a good deal more.

Some places I went:
Keio University and surrounding area, very nice, very pretty campus!
Walking tour to Nakano Broadway -- seedy area! But it was nice to revisit, even briefly. I got Seta something as a thanks for the hat she gave me! Also found a good Bubble Tea shop, finally!
Walking tour to Square-Enix store/Yoyogi - lots of fun to revisit, and not that far! The store hasn't changed much, still way too pricey for me, but I am happy I went.
Walking tour to Rainbow Bridge -- oh man this was a full day! I got to see so much, I really loved it! The city is really big, and rather hard to maneuver, but this was definitely worthwhile and I definitely plan to do this again, earlier in the day, so I can get to Odaiba! I was very upset to find the Rainbow Bridge closed for pedestrians when I got there. Oh well...
Shiodome Pokemon Center -- with Laur, pretty cool. A full Pokemon Center is not much more than the one near my hotel 3 years it was not too exciting, but was fun.

As some are probably wondering...I had my date wrong -- Jordan will actually be here tomorrow. It's given me a chance to do a lot of work, so it's not so bad. I'm just upset that we won't have a week where I don't have class and we will both be in Tokyo, but I do have 3 day weekends all the still not too big a deal.

Also, we have tickets and hotel set for our Hokkaido trip -- I hope to have exciting news about it soon!

P.S. I have received many fine gifts, for the holidays and will therefore only eat out until school starts again. Also I am now positive more than ever having a roommate is not something easily done for me -- I will have to pick mine very carefully when I return to the US, or find somewhere I can live by myself. The reason is sort of personal in regards to someone not myself, so I won't post it publicly.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thanksgiving / Baking / Future Plans

So I do not really have pictures today, but I do have a post! Just as good.

So I'll start with Thanksgiving -- it was a lot of fun! Ben, Laur, and I went out and got a Strawberry and Cream cake, and ate it together. Surprisingly we did it rather evenly without cutting it (I think so, anyway). It was really tasty, and a lot of fun to just sit together and chat over cake. I've never had such a small Thanksgiving, so it was really interesting. Afterwards we walked Ben most of the way home, and Laur and I went to this well-known gyoza/Chinese restaurant -- which was decently cheap and really excellent! Laur got some Peking duck, and I got Dan Dan Men/Ten Ten Mien (basically a semi-spicy Chinese Ramen). We also split some gyozas, and everything was really delicious and filling. It was a rather good holiday! I feel I should repeat that in case anyone was worried about how it would go, being away from home, especially since Halloween was not up to par.

Anyway, besides that I have been focused a lot on school and various intellectual interests. Pretty much I am reading a lot for class, and listening to a lot of philosophy/news podcasts -- which has been really nice. Beyond that, it's mid-term time, and soon it will be finals! We really only have about 3-4  weeks of class left, especially with the two week winter break coming up.

Other than that I have started baking here, which is a rather cheap way to eat filling food. I've saved up a lot of Mikan (Japanese Orange) zest, so I have made some really tasty treats. I have also been going to t.he gym pretty regularly, I have lost some weight. The gym is really obnoxious to get to  -- it is in the Student Center, and music circles (clubs) just practice their instruments in the hall, along the stair well. They are all loud, most are terrible, and are playing different pieces. It is like the worst post-modern orchestra you can imagine, and it drowns out whatever I am listening to with my obnoxiously loud headphones.

The only exciting thing that's really happened so far is that my class went on a field trip to the Ghibli Museum. I might put pictures of that later, but they sort of didn't want us taking many. Honestly it was not as cool as it should have been. It was mainly museum shops and cool architecture, basically just glitter. The best part was this short excerpt from My Neighbor, Totoro they showed everyone -- and which I could understand part of (it was mainly silent)!

For the future...tomorrow my class will be doing some sort of Taito drum lesson, which could be cool, and I think we are making Mochi on Thursday. Jordan comes to visit on the 22nd (until mid January or so), which is also my last day of class before winter break! I want to try to get her into the dorm for our Christmas party, and I totally want to make her go all sorts of places with me, but the only really big thing we're doing is a trip to Hokkaido for maybe 2 or 3 nights...though it'll take about a day to get there and a day to get back, so it'll probably be really tiring.

Other things -- I am probably going to submit pics to the AU abroad picture contest thing. Depending on how that goes I'll post my submissions here, too. Though, I should mention again that I put a good amount of pictures on my DA page at I may or may not submit something to the Philosophy department magazine thing, depends on how much time I have. I also should have a page on imdb thanks to Dan Levine and "Acquaintances," which I will plug with a link to where you can stream it when available. I also hope to do a showing of this here in Japan!

Well, hopefully I will be better at posting in the future, jaa!