Thursday, December 17, 2009


Well, my sister finally got in and we went to the Ghibli Museum, but I wanted to blog real quick about at thing I went to the other day with a friend called Borochi. Borochi is a super huge, super huge flea market held at the Kamimachi stop in Setagaya-ku and it's held only twice a year: Dec. 15-16 and Jan. 15-16 and people come from miles and miles around to go to it, from sun up to sun down and later. There are high school bands that play and march down the street, and lots and lots of food stalls ranging from yakisoba to takoyaki to regional stuff from as far off as, I believe, Okinawa. You can find anything from kimonos, to pottery to mounted tiger's heads, turtles and household shrines. I would encourage people to go if they have a chance, but warn you to go early (like 9 or 10 am), as the street soon becomes so packed that you're floating along in a sea of people, unable to get out. It's like a busy Shinjuku train, but you can find some really cool stuff!

Live going in Japan

So, instead of blogging about different stuff that I haven't blogged about before, like me going to a soiree (if that's how you spell it), last weekend, I'm going to bore you yet again with my concert-going experience. I won't bore you with the details in full, but last night was Alice Nine's last live of 2009, White Period II at Shinkiba. In following the band's request that everyone where white (as it was the theme), I don't think I saw a single person there who didn't have white on, so that was so awesome. The band opened with a cover of The Beatles' song "All You Need is Love," then did a lot of their lesser known/rarely played live songs. They did another few covers, one of some Japanese song, and then that song that goes, "You're just too good to be true...Can't take my eyes off of you..." Anyways. And Shou sang Silent Night (in Japanese), Saga played an acoustic version of either Armor Ring or Mugen no Hana (can't remember) on the guitar, they all came down to the edge of the extended stage (where I was) and played a song after having a little talk session and everyone hugging everyone. It was all a lot of fun, though they did play a lot of their heavier songs (or maybe it just seemed that way since I had a moshing lunatic beside me). But anyways, it was nice and long and wonderful, and got me to thinking up a list of things to know when you go to a Visual Kei (or perhaps any) concert in Japan.
Things to Know:
1. Even when tickets are for standing room only, it's no use showing up early, because they let people in one at a time according to the number on their ticket (learned this out the hard way by showing up crazy early for a concert). Thus, you might want to know what your ticket's number sounds like in Japanese when you go.
2. The concert will always, without fail, start late. How late, however, changes, ranging from 10-30 min. or so.
3. When you buy merchandise, they won't give you a bag to put it in, so either bring your own, or buy one there (which is probably why they don't give you one: to make more money)
4. At the door, you are expected to pay a mandatory $5.00, that is 500 Yen fee for a drink ticket, which you then can exchange at the bar for whatever is on their list (though the most popular drink is probably water bottles)
5. Almost all songs have accompanying hand movements that coordinate with the rhythm, and which can be quite disconcerting the first few times you go to a live, but which you gradually pick up on as you gain more experience.
6. Rather than clapping (though sometimes you do), or trying to grab the singers on stage, fans show their love by stretching their arms out in a hand gesture which is supposed to simulate a sakura bud blossoming.

To be sure, there are other things that I've forgotten, as I'm in a flurry right now, but I suppose I can always add them later. Suffice it to say, it has been a learning experience, as has everything else here. You probably won't hear from me for a few days, since my family is coming to visit, but I'll post again when I can!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Tis the Season!

Hello there everyone! Well, now that we're a fair way into December, I'm into the Xmas spirit. I've got two playlists on my Ipod, one entirely of Asian (Japanese, Korean and Chinese) Xmas songs, and then the other all those old English classics. I did find a bargain of an artificial tree at a place called Nitori, and for $10, just had to buy it. As you'll see in the pic, everything I needed to trim the tree came with it, and it comes up past my knee, so it's sizable. Quite a bargain. People have started selling their New Years wreaths, and these mochi (both fake and real rice cakes) on pedastals which, I'm told, you offer to the Shinto god for New Years, and then get to eat seven days after. Also, they have special bentoes they eat, where every type of food has a meaning (luck having children, luck getting money, luck in studies, etc.). I've also been doing some shopping for the ingredients I need to make a Christmas Cake, and you would not believe how difficult it is to find cake/icing ingredients. Most supermarkets have a small section where they do have baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, crepe mix, sponge cake mix, sprinkles and sliced almonds and nuts. What is interesting, however, is that these sections, while having mixes, do not actually have flour. Oh no, they don't. And I'm dubious that this country even has powdered sugar. I've looked at four or five different places and can't find it anywhere, which makes my icing plan quite difficult. We'll see how this all plays out, shall we?

In other news, me and my host family took a quick drive around town tonight to see some of the lights. We went through Aoyama, to the OmoteSando street, which was very lovely, and back through Shibuya home, which was jam-packed with people. I'm also told that Roppongi, Midtown, Futako-Tamagawa and of course Ebisu, are other great spots for light-viewing, so I'll be going there soon, and I'll be sure to take lots of pictures. Well, I've uploaded a few pictures of the lights that were in Akasaka, which was where me and my friend Katy went to see a VK concert last week. Gorgeous, aren't they? Well, talk to you guys later, and Happy Early Holidays!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Itaewon Murders

Hey there everyone! Not much new to report, I don't think, but I wanted to suggest a movie for anyone interested, and I'll blub about movie tickets/movie theaters here in Japan. But first of all, my movie recommendation of the month. I just watched a Korean film (something I do in moderation), called The Case of Itaewon Homicide, which is a movie about a true story from the late 90s where two Korean-Americans, in the Itaewon area of Seoul, Korea, were accused of brutally murdering an innocent Korean guy. Both of the guys maintained that the other did it, and the movie follows the examination and trial of the murder case. Now that, in and of itself, doesn't sound so thrilling, but the movie was quite well done (though the English wasn't 100%), and it's easily the best Asian movie I've seen in months. I'll attach the trailer, though it isn't subbed, so, watch it if you get a chance.

Secondly, I wanted to talk about the experience of going to the movies here in Japan. First of all, one should come knowing that going to the movie theater is an expensive luxury, as one adult ticket costs $20 (more if it's 3D). But, that being said, the theaters give you lots of chances to save a buck, which is nice. Every month, on the first of the month, tickets are $10. Also, if you're a woman, every Wednesday, tickets are $10. Many theaters also have 'couples days', 'senior days,' 'senior couple days,' and other special days for card holders. Movie theaters here have concession stands, like back home, which sell fountain drinks and popcorn, but often have other selections like Haagen-Daaz ice cream stands, croissant sets, etc. depending on the theater. Also, all theaters I've seen sell merchandise specific to the movies out at the time. This merchandise almost always consists of a pamphlet/photobook, a cell phone strap, stickers, folders and a variety of other things depending on the movie. Also, the merchandise here is not the same as stuff you find in the states. For instance, New Moon just came out here and there is a wider selection of merchandise (and a better selection, if you ask me), which you can conveniently buy whenever you come out of the movie. The movie theater itself, at least the one I go to, has things called double seats, which are very like loveseats, and you buy tickets for the special, and they cost a bit more. There are also special reclining chairs that cost more, but which are much nicer. Outside, there are cushions of two sizes for you to choose from in case your seat isn't comfortable enough. And, the theater I go to has assigned seating, so when you purchase the ticket the attendant will ask if you want middle or back, then show you seats on a diagram which you can approve or not until you get ones you're satisfied with. Even so, not every cinema operates like this. The movie theater I speak of is a plush one, part of a chain called 109 Cinemas, owned by the 109 corporation. The other theater I went to didn't have assigned seating and didn't have cushions, but was otherwise more or less the same. Of course, as in America, they have previous, warnings not to smoke or talk and turn off your cell phone, and then a rather ridiculous anti-piracy video, which I'm sure is rather threatening if you can understand it. But anyways, I've found the movies to be a welcome escape when I get overwhelmed by the Japan-ness of Japan, and go more than I thought I would (even if most movies are in Japanese). Another interesting thing to note, before I sign off, is that kids' movies (like Disney and Pixar) are always dubbed in Japanese (since, like me, the little kids can't read kanji), and of course the Japanese films are in Japanese, but American live action films are often in English with subtitles, though on TV they are often dubbed. Anways, I guess that's all for now. Talk to you all later!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Not Much Going On

Heya there everyone! So, as the title suggests, there's not much going on over my way right now. After the fun-filled weekend last weekend, I finally got a chance to rest and catch up on homework, but naturally, I didn't catch up on homework, or really rest. I started a new drama you see, a Taiwanese one called Bump Off Lover, and it's a murder mystery and I'm hooked. I've been staying up 'til all hours of the night watching it, so I'm sleep deprived and behind, but oh well. The heck with it I say! I'm two eps from the end, and hopefully I'll finish it tonight. Oh, and as you can see, I sort of changed the blog's layout for the season. Just wanted to make it a little more festive. Hope you guys like.

In other news, in class yesterday we watched an entire 30 min. program about chopsticks and I learned that 40% of the world eats with their hands, 30% with spoons and forks, and the other 30% with chopsticks. I was astounded that chopsticks are equal with forks. So, I was supposed to go out to Disney Sea today, but that plan didn't work out, so I've got class and errands. I am going to a indie VK band's concert tomorrow with Katy (the band is The Kiddie), and I'm rather excited about that. It should be lots of fun. They were the openers for Alice Nine at that concert a few weekends ago. I also ordered my Xmas cake from the local bakery. It's square with chestnuts flavoring and has a santa and a choo-choo train on it amid other baubles. I'll take pictures when we get it. It appears that somehow I've got myself roped into making my host family's Christmas Cake. Great, no pressure there!

And lastly I just want to say to my dear friends who are reading and who I've been neglecting (you know who you are), that I'm sorry I fail to e-mail you and keep in touch. Yes, I fail. I'll understand if you hate me, but I hope you won't. Just know that I love you still and miss talking to you and I haven't forgotten about you even 1%.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Thanksgiving

Happy belated Turkey day to all you Yankees out there. So, as the Japanese don't celebrate the landing of the pilgrims in America (can't understand why not), I was forced to create my own festive atmosphere here, having to fight off impending gloom over spending a very American holiday surrounded by not-American-people. As a result, and to right off the aforementioned gloom, I took a trip out to Grandberry Mall, bought some cups I've been eyeing since I got here, two magazines and then, to be actually somewhat festive, went to see Disney's "A Christmas Carol" in 3D. I would very eagerly recommend that everyone see it, preferrably in 3D, though I will admit it is too scary for small children or people with heart conditions. I really enjoyed it and for 97 min. I was almost able to believe in the possibility of an American Christmas (or at least to be reminded that there are people out there who know how to celebrate it right). Oh the wreaths, the carolers, the chestnuts on the open fire. Reminds me of home. As you can see, I'm wishing I got to spend the holiday back in the ole U S of A. But really, the movie was very good, very close to the original story and super awesome in 3D. The only damper on the experience was the fact that instead of getting to hear Jim Carrey, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth and Gary Oldman, I had to hear gruff-voiced Japanese men dubbing over it. Oh yes, it was all in Japanese. Luckily I know the story well enough that I could more or less tune them out (as I am wont to do when my brain gets tired). Well anyways, I hope you are all having a fantabulous holiday, eating all the turkey your heart desires and pumpkin pie too. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


So, this past weekend I did many exciting things: went to Kyoto, went to Kamakura, went to an Alice Nine concert. I figure, since I blurb so often on alice nine, I'll save that long-winded tale of awesomeness for my family, but instead I'll tell you about my trip to Kyoto, as it probably would draw more interest from most of you reading. Well, we went first to a temple in an area called Arashiyama, which is said to be beautiful because of it’s maple trees. You see, now is supposed to be the season for the leaves to turn, though unfortunately, when we went, they had yet to do so. Even so, the temple was quite impressive, and the street leading up to it quite fun. The street embodied my vision of Kyoto, with shops selling fans and traditional Japanese street vendor snacks, with kimono shops and other such things (unfortunately, because my host parents are Japanese, they don’t have any interest in looking at such goods, so the shopping aspect of our trip was kept at a minimum until the end). The temple was extremely large, its overhanging balcony being quite famous for some reason or other that I couldn’t quite pick out (unless that it was simply made of wood, without the use of iron nails or bolts). I think the temple was called something like Mizuko or something similar, which is a word for a type of Buddha or doll or something. You can see how much I know about Buddhism. It also harbors the 11 face Buddha, which has, I think, 11 heads rather than 11 faces, and real Buddhist monks in their black robes (I saw one meditating up in the woods on the side of the mountain). The leaves, for the most part, hadn’t turned yet, but there were a few pretty trees, and once one disentangled themselves from the crowd (field trips galore), it was actually quite magnificently beautiful, just like a post card.
When our time was nearly up, we popped in to a store where I got a cream puff filled with green tea soft serve ice cream (green tea soft serve is wildly popular here), and tried a type of sweet thing that is famous and particular to Kyoto. It looks the consistency of a thin, see-through crepe, though it is made of mochi (rice pounded to be sort of sticky and chewy), and the inside is usually Adzuki beans, though there is strawberry filling and others too, and it’s dusted with something like cinnamon. It was quite delicious. (Oh, also, Kyoto is famous for some kind of special blotting paper for your skin). Anywho, we piled back into the bus (I hit my head on the ceiling), and we took off on a 30 min. or so drive to the next temple, which was situated beside a row of large hills, next to a river. The temple itself, we didn’t go see, but rather crossed the river and looked at the scenery, watching as an unfortunate couple in a rowboat got stuck halfway out, waiting for someone to come rescue them. Dodging the young, handsome men urging you to let you drive them around in their rickshaw (all rickshaw drivers are skinny, tall, handsome young men never older than about 25), my host mother took be down to the river edge and told me of how she and my host dad had secreted away to this very spot before they were married for a romantic weekend, then asked me not to tell the kids, as it was a secret even from them. Of course, this prompted me to ask the question that you, mom, have wanted to know for some while: How did you and my host dad meet? Of course, considering their highly traditional family backgrounds, I’d automatically assumed that it had been arranged, but it seems that while she was in Tokyo for college, they first met by chance at a Disco, then bothered their friends into giving them a formal introduction later. (Motown and the Supremes are particular favorites of theirs, as the dad told me while he showed me his secret storehouse of old records; my host mom is going to some old singer’s concert next month [maybe Earth, Wind and Fire?]). After admiring the scenery a while, we popped into a large, bustling restaurant specializing for the bus tours (we got coupons), and I got to eat at my first short table on a tatami mat (had to take off my shoes too). I was told that Kyoto is so hot in the summer and so cold in the winter that it’s not a place people particularly want to live, and that the food is rather unremarkable save for their tofu, so of course, we had tofu for lunch. To be more descriptive, there were little petri dish sized plates of various pickled vegetables, then a bowl of soba noodles, sea weed and tofu in a cool, mildly flavored broth, and then another bowl with a plop of tofu and a spoon (you put a little salt on it and eat it plain). While it’s not my favorite thing I’ve eaten here, it’s most certainly not the worst. Then after lunch my host mother more or less forced me to go to the bathroom (even though I didn’t need to), as she’s taken it as her personal mission (after urgings from her sister, whom I met only once), to protect the health of my bladder (she is under the impression that I don’t go to the bathroom enough, though when you’re drinking from orange juice sized glasses, you’re not really dumping too much in the tank).
We strolled around that area for a little bit longer, not paying to get into the biggest temple, but skirting around the little walkways around it to see the pretty trees inside. Then we piled back in the bus and took off again for another 30 min. drive, and by that point I was so tired that I feared nodding off and honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it through the last two stops. We drove past some magnificent looking temples/shrines, and past a place called a Rock Garden, which was mostly a sea of statues and large, plain rocks like you’d see in a gorge. Our third stop was at The Golden Pavilion, which is a structure surrounded on all sides by a lake, where some bigwig samurai or other lived on the first and second floors (the first is wood and the top two are made entirely of gold, inside and out), and the top floor is supposedly Buddha’s room. It had the most beautiful trees, with leaves falling all around, and when the sun hit it just right it was quite an astonishing site. My host mom bought some green tea chocolates here and then we piled back into the bus for our final stop. The last place we went was a shrine, whereas all before had been temples. And it was pretty cool (my favorite place of the four). When you walk into the main entrance, you’re looking over a large open courtyard of gravel almost half a football field wide I’d say, just like you see in all those movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Then, beyond is the building, a bright orange color, and inside, of course a shrine. Then, being part of a tour, we got to go through a side door to the pathways beyond, leading past a lovely pond to an even larger pond, perhaps one might even call it a lake, where there was a traditional two story building sitting on the water, and a covered, ornamental bridge that was just begging to have pictures taken of it. I also forgot to mention that all along the step-stone path, or rather, all above it, were cherry trees and cherry blossom trees, though all of course bare (though you could see the little stems hanging down from the branches on the cherry trees. And this more or less concluded the bus tour.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Hey everyone! I know it's been a while since I posted, and I promise to make a big post for you all either today or tomorrow. I've had one busy weekend, going to Kyoto, Kamakura and, most importantly of all ... an alice nine concert. Oh yes. Indeed I did. And it was ... amazing. No words can describe. But I'll post all about it soon. Sorry for the long period of silence!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Maid Cafe

For some reason, my host mom got it into her head that I had my heart set on going to a maid café, though why I don’t have a clue, and she was determined that the three of us to go. When we got off at Ueno, my luck struck again and we were just in time for the last song in a special performance of those Urhu instruments (is that what they’re called? Those things like sitars/guitars with 3 strings). A teacher and his teenage students, all decked out in their old-timey outfits, played a quite long song, which was nice, and then we set out again. I found out that the Ueno station is monstrously large, quite intimidating, and that at the Akihabara station, it’s almost impossible to find your way out. It also became readily apparent that my host mom has never been to Akihabara, as she got us lost three times just in the station. Luckily for us, there were maid waiting on the street when we got outside (in the drizzly weather), handing out flyers for their various cafes (Japan lives on their flyers). We took the first one handed to us and tried to figure out directions from the tiny map on the back of the flyer, but failing that, we walked another block and found a different maid from a different store handing out flyers for her shop. Tired of walking around aimlessly, my host mom asked if it was okay for women to go into a maid café (they are typically for otaku [gaming and anime nerds, guys], but she assured us in her cutesy voice that women also go and that we will become princesses when we walk inside. So, with that reassurance and feeling a little silly, we asked her to lead the way, following behind her cat ears and the little costume cat tail that wagged behind her from underneath her maid skirt. Along the way we saw almost nothing but pachinko parlors and electronics stores. I counted more than one shop that exclusively sold cables/wires, with spools of them hanging from the ceiling. I suppose you could find anything you needed there, if you knew what you were looking for. Surprisingly, we saw few anime stores, though I’m sure that’s simply because we either weren’t looking, or weren’t in the right area of Akihabara. And, much to my surprise, the shoppers we passed weren’t as nerdy, ‘live-in-my-parents’-basement’ as I thought they would be.

Our maid took us up a few flights of stairs (every floor of that building had a different maid café in it), and while the shop itself wasn’t quite what I’d expected (having seen Akihabara@deep), it was still cutesy and seemed to fit. It was quite small really, the size of our kitchen perhaps. In the middle was a bar shaped like a thin U, with open space in the middle for the waitresses to move in and out to the kitchen, and around the U were red, sparkly stools; hanging above were pink, frilly curtains. Toward the window was a mock stage and a few raised, small tables, which is where we sat, with adds plastered on the walls and windows listing off the maids working their with their names and pictures (which you could buy for $3.00). Also hanging were ads for their various services and events (you can pay $5 to have them play a card game with you), and an ad for their CD (oh yes, everyone here has a CD). Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to take pictures in the shop of anything except your food, but I suppose they don’t want a lot of creepos taking their pictures, and I can respect that. When we were seated, they set a time ($6 for 1 hr.), and our maid took us to our table and blew magic into the clear candleholder she was holding, and the candle instantly came alight, whereafter she assured us that we had just become princesses and that we no longer had to worry about the troubles of the outside world. We promptly ordered our drinks (I got a cutesy parfait while my host mom and her friend got iced coffee), and looked around at the few tenants within. There was a fairly otaku looking fellow in one corner, a very young, sleek businessman minding his own business and reading something on his cell phone at the bar, and then beside us, a group of four teenage boys. When the drinks came, we all had to sing a song with our maid, making a heart shape with our hands, chanting ‘moe’ (means cute/sexy/cool in nerd-speak), then shooting off an imaginary gun and blowing on the imaginary smoking barrel. Of course, this was all done amid laughter. The maid were very nice and quite inquisitive about me, asking questions and chatting in their cutest baby-voice. When asked why the menu was in ‘riimin’ instead of ‘yen’ for the currency, it was explained to stand for dreamin, as the shop was called MaiDreamin’. That also, gave us a good laugh. When we were done with our drinks (mine looked better than it tasted), my host mom encouraged me to foot over another $5 to take a photo with a maid and after getting a promise that we would all do it together, I agreed. As I mentioned, on the wall is a chart of all the maids with their pictures (two dressed as Ikemen boys [Takarazuka strikes again!]), and you can choose which you want to take a picture with. Not being a guy, I couldn’t care less which girl it was, and so when our maid/waitress asked who I wanted (she wasn’t quite so pretty as the other two), she was both surprised and elated when I designated her. We all got together in a group on the stage while the girl dressed as a young man got the camera ready, and we were told to pose making kitty paws and instead of saying cheese, to say ‘nya nya’ which is ‘meow meow’ in Japanese. More laughter ensued while she took the Polaroid and drew cutesy stuff around the edges and the four boys beside us got up, adorned Pooh hats and bunny ears and took a picture with their maid as well. After we got our photo, we felt it was time to leave, and so our maid took up the candle, told us that it was now time to leave our safe haven and go back out into the real world, and then magically blew the candle out. As we left the bubblegum pink room, we passed a guy going in who was dressed like a wannabe Yakuza, with a long leather jacket and hair done up like a guy from Grease. The maid didn’t bat an eyelash as she ushered him warmly inside. The impression I took away from the maid café was more or less of it being a cheaper, more innocent version of a hostess club. Here's the link for the one we went to:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Johnny's Stores

Hey there everyone! It's getting kind of late here and I still have homework, so this post won't be very long, but I thought I should post a description of what I affectionately term the "Johnnys Stores" of Harajuku. If you come to Japan and no any idols, be they singers or actors or talents or whatever, I encourage you to at least go in one of these places, these 'Johnny Stores,' just for the experience. The only place I've found them is in the Takeshita Street of Harajuku (directly in front of the station). Typically these stores are either on the second floor or the basement of other shops, and they are so particular, you know you've found one the second you see the sign, simply because you look up and see Arashi's faces, or Yamapi's face, Tohoshinki, even X-Japan's Hide, staring down at you from mini posters, trying to coax you inside. I've been in two of these said shops, one actually strictly being a Johnnys shop, where in glass cases, are goods categorized by band, starting from the earlier Tokio, SMAP, and Kinki Kids, making their way around to KATTUN and Hey!Say!Jump, with all the Johnnys boys being represented in some capacity. That store actually had gift bags with the bands names on them, phone straps, DVDs and CDs of course, and pictures, as well as photo books and random other merchandise. The second I went into was far more enthralling and far more bizarre. You go down a flight of dangerously steep stairs to a basement, and as soon as you walk in, you are bombarded with faces of all kinds. From floor to ceiling, the shop (about the size of a large master bathroom), is completely covered with 4x6 candid photos of Japanese and Korean idols. I instantly found my way to the Jrock section where I found an alice nine fan I wanted, then made my way around the rest of the shop. The Johnnys bands were clustered together of course, the Jrockers together, the Korean corner (Ryu Siwon, Bae Yong Joon, DBSK, etc.), and then other idols and talents as well. From the ceiling are hanging fans with various boys' faces on them, and on the pillars at various places, hang laminated mini-posters the size of a large place mat that are hanging on a metal chain like keys on a keychain. What made the place even more interesting, is how you buy things. First of all, everything was REALLY cheap, with a fan being about $4, and the mini posters being about the same, whereas a regular picture might cost a dollar or so. Once you've found something you like, you take a pen and a blank slip of paper hanging in baskets around the edge of the room, and you find the code on whatever it is you're wanting to buy (usually written across the middle of it in permanent marker. You write all the codes down on the slip of paper, then proceed to the back of the store where there is a tiny hole cut out of the wall of pictures, about the size of a microwave, and easy to miss. You hand your slip of paper to the lady beyond (she can't see you, you can't see her), and she goes to look up your stuff. While she's bagging it, she calls out the total and you put your money in the tray in the window and take your stuff. All very anonymous. I, of course, got an armband, a fan and two posters of Alice Nine, and I know that I'll eventually be going back for more. Anyways, that's all for now. I'll post again as soon as I can!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The School Fest and the Sea

Hello everyone! Sorry it's been a while since I put anything up on here, but you know how school can be sometimes, especially when they even book up your weekends (argh!). So this past weekend was our college's school festival, which was an experience, I guess. To be quite honest, it was a bit lacking compared to the festival I'd pictured in my imagination, but I'm at least glad I went. The festival itself consisted of about 8 or 10 food stalls, all manned by different clubs at the school, a stage where they had a clown, a dating game show sort of thing, and a dancing group from the college who call themselves The Shakeys (my friend Harumi is one of them). There was also a flea market (which consisted of one table of used shirts for sale), a nail salon (which consisted of one table where a lady had brought out all her personal nail polishes and would paint your nails for $5), a bubble area and a balloon game for kids, and a deceptive, darkened hallway that I expected to be a homemade haunted house, but was, in fact, nothing but a darkened hallway. Me and one of the other exchange girls, Katy, went and watched the clown, pretended to help at the flea market, watched the Shakeys and ate and talked up on the roof for a while and then finally left. One thing that was a bit unexpected was the number of guys at the festival, both as spectators and as helpers. It would appear that an all boys school was enlisted to help out, so they were doing all the grunt work while the girls made cotton candy. And of course, my school being the 'princess' school where all the pretty rich girls go, there were lots of guys who came buy to look around. As far as the food, which was more or less the main thing at the festival, they had hot dogs (which I tried, hoping for a taste from home and being sorely disappointed with a weiner with no flavor), yakitori (like chicken kabobs), pork kimchi, tako-something (octopus squashed between to wafers, takoyaki (fried octopus balls similar to hushpuppies), cotton candy and a very suspicious booth decorated with American newspapers and pictures of Obama that I wasn't sure what they served (I thing egg with something). So, that was that.

In other news, my host brother took me and his girlfriend and my host dog, Machi, to this Seaside park way the heck out by Odaiba in the bay and I got to see the sea. Thus, the word of the day is Umi (sea). At the park, despite it being a weekday, there were men fishing, lots of young families with their kids, a bunch of skateboarders (they had a special section of the park), and a few couples. More numerous than anything though, were people with their dogs. Because Machi loves me best (or so I'm told), I was brought along to try to keep him calm in the car, and the park has a special dog park within it where you sign a waiver and then you let your dog loose inside to run and frolic as he likes. However. Machi is a bit of a scaredy cat and would follow one step behind me wherever I went, so to get any exercise in him, I had to run around too. When he was feeling especially brave, he would crawl in between my legs and bark at other dogs. It was a lot of fun though, watching all the different kinds of dogs having a good old time. Once that was over and we were cold (it's cold here now, btw), we walked to the other end of the park and onto the beach to show Machi the sea for the first time. He didn't see what all the hoopla was about, I don't think. After that, we all piled back in the car and my host brother took us home a different way, I think to give me a good tour of the city, because we drove beside the Odaiba ferris wheel, right by the Fuji TV building, took the Rainbow Bridge directly to Tokyo Tower, then veered towards Roppongi Hills (which is right next to the TV Asahi studio), and then back to Shibuya from there. It was also my host mom's birthday and we had a nice cake and tea with her when we got home. So anyways, I suppose that's all the news to report for now. I'm still wanting to strangle my school people and am working hard to let all the piddly little crap they do to make my life heck, go. So, we'll see about that. Tomorrow I think I'm going to some island called Enoshima with a friend from school. So, I'll have to let you know how that turns out. I'll upload some pictures to my photobucket tonight so you'll have something new to peruse. Talk to you cats later!

(Oh, I also forgot to mention that I went to Futako-Tamagawa [a stop on my train line] on my birthday where I proceeded to fall into a mud puddle and make a fool of myself. Even so, it was an utterly beautiful place, on the Tamagawa river, and no doubt you've seen it in tons of Jdramas, usually when to people are riding a bike at sunset by the river. I've uploaded pictures of that too)

Friday, October 30, 2009

V-Rock Fest '09 Day 2!!!

Well, let’s see, where did I last leave off? I think I got through the first day of my V-Rock Fest, right? So then, I suppose for continuity, I’ll start this e-mail with the second day. Well, truth is, I’d set my clock so I would get up in time to take the hour ride over there and be at the place with about 30 min. of cushion time before the first band started (of course they would put a band I want to see first!), but unfortunately, the fatigue and hairspray of the night before kept me glued to my pillow a half an hour after the alarm went off. So, rather than waste time dolling myself up for a dark concert hall, I sort of tried to attempt to get a brush halfway through my hair, through on a longsleeved shirt and vest (I’d wisened up from the day before), and headed out, and quite luckily, I got there in time and walked right in and they started. The first band was Kagrra, and they really put on a good show. Because their style is traditional with fans and kimonos, the lightshow made them look even more awesome; I was rather crestfallen to find out later that at their merchandise booth they didn’t actually sell fans with the logo on it (and why they don’t, I can’t understand since that’s their symbol and all their human fans bring fans with them to the concert). Oh well. I can’t remember who all I saw after that (I’d have to look at my booklet), but I bought some merchandise and then, despite the fact that I’d expected it to be a boring day (most of the bands were little name, independent groups), I think the second day was actually more fun than the first. Part of it probably was the fact that I didn’t have to stand around for 2 and a half hours for it to start, so it seemed to move faster. The only downside was that there were a lot of screaming/loud bands, which isn’t my style at all. But I did get to see Kra, (adorable with his little scarf and hat and corderoy jacket), Ayabie (who seemed to get along real well together), Duel Jewel (by far the most fun band to watch, full of energy and laughs), Daizystripper (fun in a nutball sort of way), Angelo (very aging rockstar) and then other bands I don’t care about like Sadie (screamer), D (crazy red eyes and black leather), Plastic Tree (the only person there on drugs), some Japanese lady I wasn’t keen on, and some really old fellow with long, princess-y hair that more or less only played guitar, despite having four other guitarists with him; he changed guitars every time and each was gaudier than the last (like the Liborache of guitars). I did sort of see Vidoll, though I was farther away and somewhat tired by that point. And, oh my gosh, I saw LM.C, the band that I was supposed to get to see in Texas (the ones I actually WENT to Texas to see), and who couldn’t make it because of swine flu. So I got to see them and they were…amazing. I mean, amazing. Fun and wacky and totally wonderful and energetic and I hope I get to go to a real concert of theirs. I mean, the lights dimmed and the ‘We will, we will rock you’ song started, done in lamb ‘baa’s, and then their mascot guy, with the silvery skullish mask thing came out on those bouncy stilts, and everyone filed out and they sang Oh My Juliet. And Aiji looked crazy awesome and played crazy awesome. I mean, anyone who can play Fur Elise on his electric guitar, wins in my book. They sang Oh My Juliet and Funny Fantom and something else that I can’t remember the name of where everyone on stage got a searchlight and they dimmed the big lights and everyone was moving around on stage with their flashlights. They sang about five songs and closed with Rock the LM.C (of course). While Maya was running around singing, the skull mascot guy was bouncing around on his stilts, the crew was inflating a twenty foot tall rabbit balloon (like their logo), and Aiji was standing all cool center stage while more crew members stood behind him on either side waving mock Japanese flags of black and red. It was truly freaking awesome! So, that was my favorite part of day two. After LM.C, I immediately went over to the other stage and plotted out my spot for The Gazette (they were playing last), even though it was over two hours before they came on, and it was a good thing I did, because the place filled up in no time. The only thing that kept anyone away was the fact that Versailles was playing in the other room. So I stood around for…ever, until finally a bunch of red lights started flashing over the audience, and the red “The Gazette” banner was lit up on the stage and one by one, amid gutteral growls (something that is particular to Gazette fans to imitate that growly scream Ruki does I guess) Kai came out with his fake dread locks or whatever their supposed to be, and then Uruha (looking good but not as good as I’d expected; much more manly), then Reita and Aoi (who looked a lot cooler than I’d expected; he cut an amazing silhouette when they lit the stage up behind him red), and finally the most popular of all, Ruki, came out with his weird neck makeup thing that he does, and his hair crimped, wearing an inverted version of what Shou had worn the day before. And then, without any further ado, they started in on Filth in the Beauty (the only song I actually wanted to see). Now, The Gazette is loud, and their fans like to headbang, and I do not like to headbang, which presents a problem. I’d been very tempted to leave early, but had vowed to stay because I would never get another chance to see them live (I certainly wouldn’t go to a full concert), so I did stay, but about halfway through, when I was past ready to bug out, I glanced behind me to see hundreds upon hundreds of people and no way out. So I stayed. It wouldn’t have really been so bad except, I don’t really know any Gazette songs but three, and they only played one of those, and with everyone packed in like sardines, especially jumping around and slinging their hair around, it was hot. It was beyond hot. The entire two days I had been warm, but I hadn’t sweat. I was sweating. I mean, I was finally glad to be tall so that I could at least get some air. The Gazette was the only band that had people actually passing out. I mean, it was the same temperature as the bathroom is when you’ve taken a steamy shower, before you give up and open the door to let air in. For two hours. They played longer than anyone else, and they came back for an encore. On the upside, they were really good, and very kakkoii (cool) and Ruki was less grrr than I’d expected him to be. So anyways, after that we all filed out (at least it wasn’t raining this time), and as is usual in Japan, all along the walk back, the path was lined with guys giving out tissue packets and pamphlets (though different than usual was that they were all young guys in independent jrock bands giving out pamphlets for their bands. And then I got in the train with everyone else and made my way back home, exhausted. But it was so much fun! And though it's the wrong day, here's the comment part of Alice Nine's performance:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

V-Rock Fest '09!!!

So, first of all, I apologize for not posting in a while. I keep meaning to do it, but then I get busy with teh tons of books my professors are giving me, or trying to get yet more money issues worked out over here. Btw, if you bring a money order, have someone else fill it ALL out from your US (or wherever) address to you Japanese address. If you fill this info out, they won't cash you international postal money order. So, that's good to know. I also learned how to buy tickets from the ticket machine at the Lawson's convenience store. There was a step by step guide I found on one of their sites that shows you exactly what to push, though it's all in Japanese. If you're coming over here and need help, just PM me. Anywho, so yes, today was the first day of my 2 day Visual Kei Rock Festival. Very exiting. I started out small, watching a small indie band called Toon Factory, then SuG on one of the minor stages in a different hall, then quickly perused what little merchandise they had (I could only see stuff that said VROCK FEST on it, not band merchandise), and then I went into the main hall where they have to huge stages set up, side by side. I got in the fairly empty area for Kra, and watched the other stage diagonally while Penicillin rocked out in that old rock star fashion. Then Kra came on and played about 6 songs/30 min., playing harder songs that I thought they would. After that, I fought my way over to the stage on the right, where hours from then, I would get to watch alice nine. What surprised me is that people didn't really pack in ahead of time, and they aren't all trying to weasel their way up front. Everyone at the concert today just came up to the back of the mass and was content where they were, and didn't really get close to each other either.

I have to say that one thing that was hard to get used to, was the hand movements. I mean, I'd heard that the Japanese rock people did this, and thought I knew enough to get by, but let me tell you, there's a lot of pressure with all the frickin' hand movements the fans do at practically every chord change in the song. Sometimes the band will show you what to do (I now know what Shou's doing in the concerts; before I thought he was just flailing around). Anyways, I watched Jealkb on my stage, watched D diagonally and was overpowered by the loudness. I also saw Angelo diagonally (quite good, and he tried to pass all the members off as 26, though they're well over that). Oh, and diagonally I saw Plastic Tree, whose singer was the only one there who was on drugs, which I guess isn't to bad, when you've got that many bands. He was flailing around and didn't know what he was talking about, and playing with some umbrella, but that's what that band is about I guess, so whatever. Their music was good though. On the stage I was at, I watched, like I said, Jealkb, and then Breakerz (with Daigo, a TV talent). He was actually rather charming indeed, and apologized for being the only band not 'Visual Kei' at the Visual Kei concert, but insisted that he'd put on some eyeliner for the occasion, and had the camera man zoom in to show it. His songs were, naturally, a little more poppy, but it was fun, and he actually taught the audience a dance before hand, so I wasn't fumbling around, watching the people beside me to figure out what to do. Of course, the reason I watched Breakerz, was not for Daigo, but for Akihide, the guitarist, who is also the guitarist for Acid Black Cherry. I secretly have a crush on him, as he reminds me in the face of a younger Hyde, from L'arc en Ciel. He and Daigo were singing a part together when Daigo laid a big wet one on him and everyone laughed. So, that was entertaining and they really seemed happy to be there. After that, was Alice Nine...

Because the standing room area things mostly empties out after every performance, I managed to get almost to the front bar, but as time drew closer, I depated on trying to get through the special line that lets you go up to the very front of the stage, and after about 10 min. of debating, I bit the bullet and went over to the guy with the Staff shirt on, and he let me through to the crowd at the front of the stage. And then Alice Nine came out. And they were amazing. There was a slight Microphone mishap at the beginning, but Hiroto (sporting a bleached hair style I don't love), took centerstage while the Crew worked on show, and then everything went smooth. They looked amazing, just like they do in the pictures (so did SuG); just gorgeous. Shou was in a sparkly red shirt with scarf covered by a sparkly black jacket; Nao was in Red, but never really got any limelight; Tora was looking spiffy in dark gray pants and a dark greenish/grayish jacket; Saga was in a black shirt, some weird Hammer black pants and a white leather jacket with his hair teased out a mile, and Hiroto was in hot pink pants and a white vest (I think). They first played The Beautiful Name, then went into Rainbows, then some song which I know, but the name of which I've forgotten, then their old classic, Shunkashutou, then GGG (can't remember the full title off hand; three words starting with G), which was the head banging song, then finished with something Shichigatsu Nanoka (again, can't remember all of the long title off hand), which we got to sing along with. They were amazing live, as good as on the CD, and Shou was all smiles, and everything was great. After watching them, I filed back into the regular standing area to wait for Abingdon Boys School (watched Plastic Tree diagonally), and then finally ABS came on, and much to my surprise, they put on the best show of all (minus A9, of course), and it was PACKED with people, both sides brimming more than they had for anyone else, which I hadn't expected at all. Their stage set up was cute; follwoing the english theme, the stand/step thing for TM (the vocalist), was fashioned like a Mini Cooper, complete with working headlights that were part of the light show. TM turned out to be a good MC too, quite charming and friendly, and he spoke in the most formal language, which was strange I thought. I knew most of their songs, but by the end of their set (they'd started late and ran long), I was about ready to go. Starving, thirsty, with a headache and a backache, all I wanted to do was go home, but I pushed myself to go outside where, according to a map, there were more goods to be had. When I'd seen earlier in the day that there was no band merchandise, suffice it to say, I was a bit disappointed, but as I trudged out from the oven-like, smoky sauna (the air was a hazy gray inside), and into the rainy outdoors, I found a line of stalls, all with a band name on the top, where you could buy their stuff. I, of course, opted for alice nine, and bought a hoodie, a phone strap and a water bottle thing, all vastly overpriced. I debated over getting an Abingdon Boys School towel or something, but eventually realized I'd spent too much on the alice nine stuff already, so I didn't get anything else. Well, that's the news for now. Tomorrow is round two and another really long day because they've put the bands I most want to see as first and last, so there's no skipping out on Marilyn Manson tomorrow. Well, again, sorry it's taken so long for me to post, and sorry I don't have any pics (they won't let you take them inside). Talk to you again soon!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Late Post

Hey everyone! Sorry it's been a while since I posted, but I've been busy. The one bit of good news that I can offer is that finally, at long last, my trials and tribulations with the banking situation have come to an end. I do still have my bank account with the Post Office (which my scholarship goes into, because it's from the Japanese government), but as I had suspected, the Post Office Bank (aka the JP Post), does NOT accept international transfers/wires. So, that sucks. My advisor at the school went with me to Mitsubishi UFJ, whom she had called a week ago and who had told her I could make an account without living here six months. After a sizeable blowout between them and my advisor, we stormed out in a rage and next went to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., which gave me an account without batting an eyelash. With them, the only time the 6 month rule entered into account, was that I can't do online banking or use convenience store ATMs until I've been here six months, but I still have an account. And just FYI, to wire money you need the banks name, address (not the corporate address), a SWIFT code, a BIC number (I think it's called), and your name and account #. So, that was an ordeal.

In other news, I went with a friend to a local talent show, which turned out to be the place to be on Saturday nights for the older crowd. Even so, there was an amateur magician, an accordian player, and a bunch of Rokugo (traditional storytelling comedy) people there, though I hardly understood one word of the Rokugo. Afterwards, my friend and I went to the Setagaya park and watched some guys playing baseball, cheered for them until her team (the blue team) won, and then listened behind some bushes to two guys playing guitar and singing. It was a lot of fun, but it's starting to get chilly here, so I hope I have enough sweaters. Btw, there's a FrancFranc store in Shibuya that is a must see. They have such awesome homewares and stuff. It was really cool and I highly recommend visiting, just to browse. Well, I'm off. Oguri Shun's new drama, 'Tokyo Dogs' starts soon and I want to be sure to catch it. Talk to you guys later!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Frickin' Bank Problems

So, I'm having some more frickin' bank problems. It would appear that you cannot wire money into a Postal bank account. I'm not 100% sure on that, but I'll find out tomorrow and I'll let you guys all know. In other news, I went to the Ramen Museum, which was much more fun than one would think, as it was a complex set up and decorated like the 1940s backstreets of Tokyo, complete with air raid sirens that go off at certain intervals, and they have delicious ramen of all different sorts. I even tried Curry flavored ramune (like a soda), and it wasn't terrible.

Also, we had a get together at the school where we all helped handmake soba noodles, and a rather dashing young soba master let me roll and cut my own soba, and I didn't do half bad. My only regret that day was not dressing up, so I was stalking around like a lumberjack, looking like a troll. Even so, fun times and I made a few Japanese friends (one of whom works at Disney Sea!). Anyways, after this I'm going to upload some Soba-making pics, and I'll talk to you cats later!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wife and Mother for a Day

Well, today was rather eventful because me, my host brother and my host mom took the two neighbor kids to Disney Sea today. That handsome young chap in the picture with me there, is my host brother. It's not a very flattering picture because, like a dumbass, I forgot to put the flash back to manual, so our faces are smeared everywhere. Well anyways, because he and I had the kids all day, and since we are similar in age, it only follows to any onlookers that we are a married couple taking our kids out (which a nice lady from the neighborhood/friend of my host mom pointed out when she asked him if this was his family). But, I have to admit, having random strangers think that Taka is my husband and the adorable twins with us were mine is a major compliment. I must be getting towards those dreaded childbearing years, because I was actually not minding taking little kids around a very packed Disneyland.

Anywho...So in Tokyo there is Disney Land (Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, princesses, etc) and then there is Disney Sea, which is where we went. Within, as go the Disney parks, there are different little worlds. There is a place like New York, with a broadway play house for shoes, and a New York deli and department store where you can get Duffy (a stuffed bear only to be found at Disney Sea; he is their trademark). There is the Tower of Terror, which has a different backstory than ours, a huge ocean liner that seemed full sized to me, which I think harbors a stage as well as a restaurant, there's a section that looks like Cape Cod (just like it), then there's Indy land (Indiana Jones), and then Little Mermaid Lagoon (with a good-sized castle built like Triton's in the film), Arabian Nights (or whatever it's called; it's Alladin's world), and then a 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea place which is where the Volcano is, and in the middle is the huge, open lake where they have the light show, similar to the open water in Epcot, but smaller. Because it's getting near to Halloween, the place was decked out with pumpkins and masks and all sorts of Halloween decorations. When you're there, you have to get a stuffed Duffy bear, because if you don't, you're not one of the cool kids. Everyone has them. The merchandise is all uber cute compared to what I'm used to, but true to form, very little, if any, is of the princesses. The big characters here are Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Goofy and Stitch. If those aren't your favorites, be prepared for a bit of a let down (merchandise wise). Word to the wise, Fast Pass the Journey to the Center of the Earth or the Indy Jones ride, because if you don't, you'll be in line for at least two hours (literally). One thing is, I expected lines, but we only found one that was under an hour, and that was a kiddy coaster. So, be prepared to wait. One thing is, in Japan, you get in a hurry to wait. Well, that's all for now. I put a new folder up on my photobucket for today's trip. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


So, hey there everyone. I can't really remember the last time I posted, but I hope it hasn't been that long. I went out to Tower Records today, and they have an entire floor of books in English of all sorts (Twilight, Water for Elephants, Philosophy books, Sports books, everything just like an American book store). And what's better is that they have a sizeable selection of books written by Japanese people that have been translated into English. While I was there, I got a book for school and this other book that just had me cracking up because it's so absolutely true. It's called, "You know you've been in Japan too long..." So, one that had me busting a gut was, "You know you've been in Japan too long when you started gawking at other gaijin (foreigners)," and it's so true. I mean, I've done that. So, in other news, I'm going to Disney Sea tomorrow, since it's some sort of holiday and I have the day off. Btw, if you ever want to see foreigners, just go to Shibuya after 10. You're almost hard put to find a Japanese person on the streets at that hour, but there are more than enough foreigners, me included. So, I found out that Kagrra, one of the Jrock bands I like, is going to have a small performance at Tower Records next month. I'll have to look into that and see if you need a ticket to go. I found a lot of CDs I wanted, but didn't buy any because they're all so freaking expensive. You're hard put to find a CD under 30 bucks here. So, suffice it to say, I didn't buy anything but the books. I was impressed with their selection of Visual Kei music. Compared to HMV's one, tiny corner shelf, Tower Records had a whole section on the second floor, with concerts and CDs and flyers promoting new CDs, and a really spiffy display for The Gazette's new CD down on the main floor. So anywho, that's all for now I suppose. Talk to you later

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Typhoon No. 18

In other news, today was the biggest, strongest typhoon in this, the Heisei era, and it was so bad that I actually got off school for it. The only thing was, it really wasn't that bad at all. I was expecting it to be like Florida in a Hurricane outside, but it was more like the wind on the cliffs in Ireland. Sure, it was blustery, and could make you veer one way or the other if it really tried, but it didn't rain for long, and mostly it was just kind of windy for a few hours and then around two, everything calmed down and it was the most gorgeous day ever. I have to say, I was disappointed. I was expecting something spectacular after all the big talk before hand, the warnings and worried faces. I've driven through worse weather. At its worst, it knocked a few signs and a few bikes over

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Edo, Meiji, and Fashion Street

So, you shall never guess who I saw today as my small field trip party finished our fabulous lunch of 'Chakko Nabe,' which is the dish sumo wrestlers eat every day, in a shop that is owned by a retired sumo wrestler. Yes, it tasted mostly of chicken soup with cabbage in it, with a side of eggplant and rice and it truly was delicious, and worth every cent of the $8.20 I paid for it. But first, let me preface the following encounter with the fact that we'd tried to go to the one, the older one, across the street but were sent away to the one we ended up going to, though it was lunch time and the place seemed entirely empty, though I thought I'd caught a whiff of English being mumbled inside. So, after paying our small bill, we all piled out into the rainy street and saw that a heavy set man and a second man carrying a very large, very expensive camera, were just coming out of the restaurant opposite. We all gathered together on our side of the street to oogle and gape at the camera, and finally, when we'd seen enough, we turned to leave. It was only as I cast a lazy, backwards glance that I noticed that, in fact, the heavyset man with the cameraman was in fact our very own Travel Channel Star, Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmer.

A few days ago, we went to the Meiji Jingu, aka the Meiji Shrine and Harajuku. As we got off the subway and started to cross the bridge to the shrine (where all the cosplay people supposedly hang out, though it was a disappointment again at this time, and it was 2PM), there was what looked to be a Visual Kei street band just finished with their concert. I was sad I missed it, was all good, because my host family took me through the shrine and explained a few things to me as best they can. It was a special day too. I forget the name in Japanese, but the signs in English said Thanks Dolls Festival Day, and my host mom explained that, rather than throwing old, beloved stuffed animals or dolls away, on this day, people from all around bring their dolls/toys there (pay a fee I'm sure), and line them up together along the front corners of the inner courtyard of the Shrine; then, they offer thanks to the god, I think, for the doll (for being a loyal friend I guess). My host mom was too creeped out to go near them, but my dad took me over and we looked, and there were all kinds: Hello Kitty, expensive-looking geisha dolls, those wish face things, regular kid's dolls. Quite a sight. Also, there were three weddings going on while we were there, and we got to see the procession of one of them. Evidentally, the close relations of the bride, for the wedding, wear these long black kimonos with either a koi fish, or a dragon or some golden design on them, and of course the bride wears a white kimono with this weird pocket thing that goes over her head, and her makeup is done like a geisha's, and the groom wears a certain traditional black and gray kimono-outfit thing with a fuzzy white ball on the front. Evidentally, when 'Erika-sama', aka Erika Sawajiri, aka the girl from 1 Liter of Tears, got married, she got married at the Meiji Shrine. She's been on the news a lot lately because her company nulled her contract, supposedly over questions of drugs, though she's been a bit of a bi-atch to the media all along, so she's always been a thorn in their side. But, anyways, I also found out that there's a thing that when boys are 3, 5 and 7 years old, and when girls are 3 and 7 (I think it is), they dress up in a certain kimono outfit and go to a shrine and there's a ceremony. Dunno why though.

So, after we went to the Meiji Shrine, we backtracked and my host mom wanted to go to some of the big, popular stores. I don't have the faintest clue why, but yet again this time, when I went with them, the place was PACKED. I mean, it was nuts. It was all I could do to keep up with them in the crowd (and that's saying something, seeing as I'm like, a foot taller than everyone else). We went to Kitson, which is the newest brand, and the one my host mom most wanted to see, but it was packed and crazy expensive, so we left fairly quickly. We went next to H&M, which was even more packed, but a much larger store. And then we went to Forever 21, and you've never seen real madness until you've seen that place. For anyone who even remotely likes to shop, I suggest you try this 'shopping in a popular Harajuku store' thing at least once. It is an experience.

Also, worthy of mention...if you're into Japanese TV and stuff, some places to go are FujiTV studios in Odaiba, NHK studios which is on the main road in Shibuya (the road on the right of the Starbucks at the crosswalk), Ameba (the online music site), which is located on the right side of the Omote-Sando in Harajuku (they sometimes have guests), and J-Wave radio, which is in the fifth floor (I think) of the HMV store in Shibuya, same street as above. If I find anywhere else, I'll put that up. NHK is big for kids' shows and jidaigeki (period dramas), but I HIGHLY recommend FujiTV's place. It was a lot of fun when I went.

Oh, we also went to the Edo museum today, as a field trip, but I'd say, unless you really love Japanese history, it's a pass. I mean, it was really neat to see, but I wouldn't have gone that far out of my way to see it. It does cost, and most of the explanations are only in Japanese (only the labels are in English). I forgot to mention that Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge were lit up the Olympic colors the other day, when the city still hadn't been decided, so, that was cool. I've uploaded some more pics in the general First Few Days file, so check those out when you can. Well then, talk to everyone later!

Friday, October 2, 2009


Hello everyone! Well, I've just gotten through my first three days of 'school,' though really all we've done so far was orientation, but still, it's tuckered me out. I won't recount the full thing in detail (especially since we hit a rough patch on day two), but overall, I've survived, got a basic outline of my classes, and am more than ready to get this beast underway. As it happens, I'm going to be taking three Japanese classes (the Japanese language), one about Japan and the world, a Comparative Culture class, a Regional Sociology class, and two independent study classes, so that should be interesting. We got our full tour of the library and I've already managed to check a few books out, we got a tour of the healthcare center/nurse's office, where I got a free thermometer (score!), and then we got a self defense class, where we learned how to assault perverts, should we be accosted by any, getting to practice on each other. Also, we had our opening ceremony, which we managed to be one minute late for, and got our sweaty pictures taken about a hundred times with various members of the faculty, though we did get three very nice bentos out of it (complete with sliced duck). But, more than all the school crap, what was really fun was getting to hang out with my fellow whiteys and explore the Grandberry Mall by the station, and the 109 movie theater, and best of all, the Tokyu Supermarket, which is the size of a home depot and has every kind of food or kitchen ware you could ever even imagine needing. That place has been a real exercise in restraint for me, because I still have food in my apartment, but everytime we go, I want to buy more (they have purple sweet potatoes roasting before you on a grill that you can just pick up and eat!). I've managed to skate by without spending too much, but I've learned that, contrary to everything I believed, I have fallen in love with Natto (the fermented beans). They were the highlight of my lunch today (which is saying something, since I bought fried beef and mashed potato pancakes). After this hard, albeit short week, I took last night off, having myself a pretty dessert I'd bought, some irish coffee (homemade), and watched a movie, which was so nice.

I've managed to figure out the bathtub contraption on the wall, which up until this point has remained a mystery to me. It seems to monitor the amount of water in the bath, and plays a tune when it's done. So, that's good to know. Also, I got a bank account with the post office (JP), but for anyone planning on studying here, don't try it with the post office, as they too have the six month rule (though the fudged it for me). My recommendation would first be the Sumitomo bank, which I've heard you can get easily, without a stamp (inkan), or to buy a stamp (at a stationary store, an inkan store, or ask you school for help), and use the Mitzubishi UFJ, which should let you get an account. Anyways, somehow it sort of worked out, I think, but I'm not entirely certain. In other news, I bought some Tajomaru movie merchandise like I've been wanting, and hope to see the movie again before it goes out of theaters this Friday, though we'll see if I can. And this morning I had a political discussion with my host brother about Obama, Abortion, Bush, North Korea, the KKK (he couldn't believe it still exists), Racism/descrimination and illegal immigrants. Of course, all of this was discussed in a mixture of English and Japanese, as I'm not nearly good enough at Japanese to hold a candle to really explaining American politics to anyone in another language. The hardest thing to explain is what a redneck is. Yeah, just try it. He explained to me the relationship between Japan and North Korea, saying that he hopes someday that America will help fight N. Korea, because as it stands, N.Korea shoots missiles at Japan frequently, comes over in boats and abducts Japanese people, then takes them back to N.Korea to brainwash them or hold them as POWs, sort of, and yet Japan is still bound by the sanction (or clause or whatever) that America put on it after WWII, so it is unable to rearm itself and wage war on N. Korea, and South Korea is unwilling to help out. So anyways, it was a very interesting, very educational discussion for the both of us. Anywho, I'm going to go (I've got tea ceremony today), but I'll try to post whenever I can. TTYL!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Hey everyone. I know I haven't posted in a while (at least I don't think I have), so I'm just going to write a really quick blurb right now, before I have to leave for school. Today is the opening ceremonies, tomorrow is seminars, and Monday is when I officially start classes. Here, a light, full load is 8 classes, because classes are only once a week and usually an hour to an hour and half long. I've pretty much got my classes figured out I think, and it looks like I'm in for a lot of independent studies, which is fine I guess. Also, I went out to the mall/movie theater at the station at the school (Grandberry Mall), and looked around with my fellow yankees, and we had a grand time. I got to use my first photo machine, and while it was a tad expensive, it was a blast. I think today or tomorrow, I'm going to try to get a bank account again, but I'll keep you updated on that. Also, we went to a pet store yesterday, and I forgot to mention that here, pets are crazy, CRAZY expensive. You'll be hard put to find a dog cheaper than 800 bucks, most of them being 1000. But they are, in fact, the cutest pets in the world. I don't know why, but they are, in every way, cuter than any American pet you'll see in the states (minus my own, of course). And I was surprised to see that most people do have them, in the city as well as in the 'burbs. Anywho...I suppose that's all I've got to say at the moment, since I'm on a time schedule, but I've uploaded a few more pics (of the Ikebana exhibit and stuff), so when you have time, check that out, and I'll talk to you guys later!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Today has been a good day. I went to see Tajomaru (the new Oguri Shun movie) with my mom at a theater in Shibuya. There are only two screens in the ‘theater’ because one is on the seventh/eighth floor of a building, and the other is on the ninth/tenth floor. Tickets were, as expected, quite expensive, though I learned that on Wednesdays, if you’re a lady, you get a special discount. When you exit the elevator, they take you ticket, and there is a concession stand, though it’s nowhere near as large as what we’re used to. There’s also a case with movie goods in it (a folder, a place mat, a cell phone charm, a bookmark, a seal/picture set) for the movie, as well as a pamphlet you can buy (and I’m kicking myself for not buying one, ‘cause now I really want one). There is also a wall of leaflets that advertise the upcoming movies, detailing the cast, crew, plotline and characters. When we went in, it was built more like a small playhouse than a movie theater, with only two sections of seats that descend a slope, and then in the front is an actual small stage. The screen itself is hidden behind two rows of curtains that are pulled back when the movie begins. I thought this was cool: when the lights went down for the movie to begin, the projector showed this pot on the stage, and then confetti started flying out of it, and then that went up onto the ceiling and over our heads (all digitally), and I thought that was a pretty cool effect. Before the movie, they showed a bunch of safety commercials about being sure to install smoke detectors in your house, and also about fire extinguishers; it was a mini-lesson in fire safety. Then of course, they had the part where they say, ‘Turn off you cell phones,’ and an ad for not pirating. Then, as with American movies, they showed previews for upcoming movies. Sadly and strangely enough, none of them were for actual Japanese movies. There was one for Airbender, which is based off the kids Avatar cartoon, there was 2012 (it really did look like how the end times will be), one for The Time Traveler’s Wife, and then another one, I’ve forgotten. Then the movie started.

It was really good and I kept up better than I'd expected. In a nutshell, it's about a young nobleman who's in love with this lady, they run off, he's betrayed by a friend who's life he'd saved years ago, the girl betrays him and he assumes the name Tajomaru, which I think is the name of a famous thief, and then it's about him going back home and sorting things out, everything getting explained and him getting revenge. I actually really liked it, even if it was prone to being a little melodramatic. It had a very Hamlet feel to it, if you ask me. Well, I'm going to go. I have to go up to the school tomorrow to get my ID and other stuff, so I'll catch you cats later!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cell Phone Search and Word of the Day

The entirety of today was spent in a quest to get me a cell phone. That is why, today's Word of the Day is Keitai (kay-tah-ee), which is the shortened word for cell phone (the full word is keitai denwa). In Japan, there are three major cell phone companies: AU, Softbank, and NTT Docomo. Thank the big man upstairs, that my host brother is a good guy, and so he and his girlfriend took me out to look at how much it would cost to buy a cell phone. We tried AU first, because he thought they might have a special discount for students, but unfortunately, that wasn't the case, so we moved on to Softbank next, which was just across the street. The store was really slick looking, snazzy, and their phones are also really nice (they had a disney set of phones that I loved). Another good thing about Softbank is that they do have a 'scholarship' thing where, if you're a student you can get a way reduced price. That's great news right? I mean, five bucks a month? That's a deal. What's not so great is that those 'advisors' at my school still haven't given us a Student ID, proving that we are in fact legally going to a Japanese institution for study. Yeah, after a month of waiting, they're going to do that (as well as sign me up for classes, the syllabus of which I've yet to see), the day before school starts. Great plan, huh? And it just so happens that the student plan at Softbank ends that very freaking same day. Oh yes, Becca's infamous luck strikes again.

So we went on from there to Docomo's store, which was not nearly so snazzy looking, but which did have an hour wait, and after that wait, we got to talk to a trainee clerk, who broke down the prices on her little doodle magnet-o-pad thing, and after hearing the entire spiel, my brother, his girlfriend and I went to Denny's to have coffee and for him to explain the different packages to me (btw, Denny's here is NOTHING like the Dennys back home, though it is the same company). Anyway, so here's what was explained to me: the premium choice would be Softbank, except that the scholarship deal is more or less impossible for me to get, so there's really no difference for me there, however, if you have a Softbank plan, you have unlimited calling to other Softbank subscribers. AU was both expensive and not all that special. Docomo was good because, while the other two companies offer only two year plans, Docomo offers either a one year or a two year plan. The catch is this: if you get a one year plan, you have to pay the full price of whatever phone you pick out, whereas if you get a two year plan, you get a phone for free, but when you cancel it after one year (since I'm only here one year), you have to pay a penalty fee of about $100. This penalty fee is the same across the board for the three companies, when you void your contract. So, naturally, I was leaning towards the one year plan. The problem is that all the phones offered (at any of the stores) cost at least $200, most of them more, which then means that paying the penalty fee at the end of one year, with a two year contract, is the best deal. So, after making that decision, we went back to Docomo and talked to the girl again, and she basically broke down the prices and everything. The cheapest deal you could get was a $10 a month bill, which buys you 25 min. calling and then texting. I opted for one more step up, at $20 for 55 min. and texting, though they went up to about $60 a month. No surprise, everything here is expensive (it boggles my mind that people can actually afford to live in this country). So, as it is, I got a two year contract, which made my phone free (only selected models), and it gets me 55 min. a month of national calling, and then internet and texting, though after a certain amount of internet usage, they tack on fees, so my brother advised me to just not do it much (I think I can handle that). And no, my free phone can't cook me dinner or play 3D movies or anything, like what you expect Japanese cell phones to do, but it can do basic stuff, like I need, and that's just fine. Another thing with Docomo, is that you can opt to pay a bill, or have it charge onto your credit card, which I did. One thing to note, however, is that the first payment (today), is more expensive because you have to pay for other crap too, like a memory card that goes in your phone, etc.

I would love to tell you how to do all this stuff on your own, but I have to give a standing ovation to any foreigner who managed to get a cell phone on their own. Not only is the jargon complicated, and the concepts difficult to understand, but no one speaks any English to you, and they use the most polite form of speaking, which is more than even I can keep up with. It took us three and a half hours to get all this accomplished, and I wish I could advise any cell phone buyers better than that, but all I can say to you is, good luck! The only advice I'll offer is that you should bring your Alien Card (a must), and your passport both with you, as well as a School ID from your Japanese institution, if you have one. Alrighty then, that's all for now

Thursday, September 24, 2009

IPMO and the Alien Card

So, I went to pick up my Alien Registration Card today, as well as cash in one of my International Postal Money Orders that I brought with me. Basically, to pick up your alien card, you go back to the exact place where you filed for it, hand them your passport and say, "Pick up." Simple as that. They give you the card and you're set. The International Postal Money Order was a bit different, and I'm glad I had my host dad with me, though I think I could have figured it out regardless. We went to a rather large post office, so going to a local one may be somewhat different, and may be more difficult to manage, but basically we went in and there's a lady standing by a machine that asks you what counter you need (they have insurance, money matters, and mail). I just held up the money order and after a few seconds, she figured out my intentions, pressed a button on the machine, which churns out a ticket with a number on it, and had us wait. The green counters are the money matters counters, and when our number was up, we went to the counter and I handed over my IPMO. There was a little confusion because I hadn't endorsed it on the back, so I had to put in my current address and then sign my name, then print tiny underneath it. The main confusion came when the guy asked me, in Japanese, if I have one of their signature stamps. In Japan, rather than using signatures, everyone has a particular stamp, or seal if you will, that is small and round and ornate and serves as a signature for professional documents. I, however, do not know the word for these things, and, thinking he wanted validation that I was who I was, I pulled out my alien card, which he took appreciatively, though I don't think he needed it. Then, after another short wait, he called me back up and gave me the money. (Here, you never actually hand people money, not even at the grocery. Everywhere has a plastic tray where you lay the money down, and then they take the tray and count it after that. Slightly different). And that was it. I didn't have any problems whatsoever, and on the way back I saw a great CD store, a major department store, and got a curry bun (a fried bun filled with curry). So, that was that. Talk to you cats later!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Randomness

So, I forgot to mention that on my Shinjuku trip, I saw my first Buddhist temple. This week is what the Japanese call Ohigan, which is the week when everyone goes to visit the graves of their ancestors, and they burn incense and bring flowers and I suppose pray for the deade. Here in Japan, they practice three different religions, typically. For births, and such ceremonies, they have the Shinto religion, for weddings the current generation typically does Christian, church weddings (though there are more traditional Shinto weddings), and then for death, they have Buddhist funerals, which is why Buddhist temples have graveyards. Here in Japan, no one is buried, but rather, everyone is cremated, so the graves are just monuments with the deceased's name on it, and there are particular rituals that go along with the funeral (the passing of bones with chopsticks, the switching of the top flap on the kimono, etc). But anyways, there is a striking difference between the looks of a temple and the looks of a shrine. For instance, a Shinto shrine usually bears the colors red and gold, and besides the main shrine, there are usually smaller shrines, either guarded by a fox, a dragon, or a dog. Shrines have the 'gates' that you've seen in my pictures, which look like open doorways of sorts, and they also have a water basin where you scoop out water to wash you hands at the outset. On the other hand, Buddhist temples seem to tend toward the more earthly tones of green and stoney grey, and the areas are decorated with stones bearing carvings of Buddha everywhere. Also, they have the graveyards, and the one I went to was very lush with greenery. So, that was interesting.

Other things I've noticed here: there is little to no celebrity news what so ever. Not that I'm particularly sad about that point, only a little surprised. The only celeb news I've heard the entire three weeks that I've been here has been about the starlet and her husband that were arrested for using hard drugs. Another thing, the mosquitoes will eat you alive. No joke. I've got more mosquito bites on me now than I think I've had in my whole life. So, that's miserable. Also, honey is ridiculously expensive. And, everyone here under 35 is goregous. I mean, gorgeous, both the guys and the girls, and so stylish too. How they even decide who to make celebrities, I'll never know, because no one is better looking that the other. I don't know if that's just because of where I am, in the city, or not, but Americans don't hold a candle to the Japanese youth right now. So, that's all for now. I've uploaded more pictures, so if you've got time, check them out, and I'll ttyl!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


So, I went to Shinjuku. I have to say, it was rather underwhelming. I didn't like it nearly so much as I like Shibuya, though it's probably at least four times the size. I'm probably not going to write much, because I didn't discover much that was particularly noteworthy except for knowing that there are some cool restaurants there somwhere. The highlight, however, was in fact going to Like An Edison, the mothership of Visual Kei CDs. It had the typical feel of a hidden indie shop, and the walls were covered with autographed pictures of bands. It was different than I'd imagined, but I loved it. Also, I discovered that Shinjuku station is freaking huge. We walked all the way around it, and it probably took a half an hour to do just that. Otherwise, there are a lot of retaurants and department stores, and other such nonsense. We did veer into Kabukicho for a second, but by daylight it was rather harmless, just a bunch of pachinko parlors and pedestrians, though I'm pretty certain I did see one host, though I didn't see any host clubs (or signs)...and believe me, I was looking. So, overall, I wasn't nearly so awed by Shinjuku as I have been by pretty much everywhere else I've been, so I doubt I'll be going there to idle away my days. Anywho, I'll post some pics soon, though I didn't take many. Catch you cats later.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taiko drums and Tea

Not too much going on yesterday. I went down at two to help my host mom with the tea ceremony stuff, but I’m ashamed to report that my pitiful, nerve-damaged feet couldn’t do it this time, and I had to stand up, which prompted them to bring me a folding chair, with unintentionally made me feel like a douche. After going through Harumi’s ceremony, my host mom went into the main tea room to assist someone else, leaving me, Harumi and this other, beautiful older lady to help teach me a few of the basics. I won’t write everything down here because it would be both confusing, and very long and boring. Basically, I learned how to bring in and unload the tea set (what order, how many inches from what to what, etc.), as well at what to say, and the very intricate and impossibly complicated method for folding and unfolding the cleaning rag. You never thought it could be so hard. When I got back to my room I had to write it all down so I’d remember (four pages). After my lesson, they gave me some treats and sent me merrily on my way.

I didn’t realize it, but today is Shibuya’s main festival day, so when I went, all but one of the main roads were closed to traffic (how they managed that, I’ll never know), and I got to see them carrying their big shrines through, though instead of just having the one big Omikoshi like we did, they had about five or six big ones, and each one was carried by a specific team of people, rather than a mish-mash of teams. The place was flooded with people, and festival volunteers were everywhere, lining the streets, young and old. I count myself especially lucky, because as I was walking down the street, I happened upon the place where they were doing a Taiko drum performance. I took some pictures and some video, though neither do it justice. The big drums were so loud that you could hear the metal gates of the building shaking with every beat, and see the windows shaking. I must have stayed there at least an hour, just watching them. They did all sorts of different performances: some mostly with clackers, some with small drums, some with large drums, some with the huge drums, some with a flutist. Only when they took a break did I finally disperse back into the crowd, and on my way back, I was tempted to have a seat and wait to see if they’d do some more, since they were still milling around, but I was afraid my body wouldn’t walk me all the way back if I waited.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Odaiba and Sumo

So, I'm sorry for not posting in a few days, but I've been busy, as I'm sure you've guessed. I got to meet the one other exchange student that's going to my college, and the day before yesterday, we went to Odaiba, which is the man-made island out in the bay southeast of here. She was so much fun to be with and I'm glad I found a fellow adventurous soul to hang out with here in one of the most amazing cities in the world. For reference, how to get to Odaiba: Get on the JR Yamanote line bound for Tokyo station and get off at the Shimbashi Station. From there, exit like you're going to the Ginza line, and you'll see signs for the Yurikamome monorail, which will take you over the bay and out to Odaiba (the trains don't run out there). Then, get off at the Odaiba Kaihenkoen exit, and to your right are the malls, amusement parks and Fuji TV, and to the left is the Ferris Wheel (105 km) and the Toyota showroom, which has cars that drive themselves on a track. We went to the dock and saw a magnificent view of Rainbow Bridge, then we took some pictures of the Statue of Liberty that they have there (the same as ours only smaller, and the back of her hair is done like a Geisha's), and then, my favorite part of the trip, we went to the Fuji TV building. You can use the magical escalator (it is steps, then straightens itself out, then goes back to steps without you having to move) to the main entrance at the top. If you pay a small fee, you can go up into the ball thing, where I believe there is a store, though I'm chep, so we didn't. They do have a store on the main level though, too, with merchandise for their various anime, variety shows and dramas (though usually just the current dramas airing), which got me all excited 'cause I'm such a drama nerd. After a purchase there, we exited on different escalators to our right, which take you down to another level, and inside are like halls of information and memorabilia about their various shows, sets for taking fan photos, and even windows where you can overlook sound stages, when they're shooting. That place was really fun, and we spent a lot of time there, and afterwards we wandered over to the left side of the Island where there is the Ferris Wheel (Hello Kitty talks to you in English), the Toyota showroom (worth a breeze through, even if you don't like cars), the Zepp Tokyo concert hall (for all your Jrock concert needs), and a freaking awesome arcade that has absolutely everything. To get back, we took a ferry ($4.60), and got to see the city by night on the top deck of the ferry. It was absolutely breathtaking, but unfortunately, my camera battery had died earlier on, so I didn't get any pics of that. The boat drops you a ways from the station, but if you follow the masses of people, you'll be alright, and you get onto the JR line to get back.

Also, yesterday I went with my host parents to a sumo match, which was quite lucky, because every year they switch where the matches take place, and they only do it for a few months every year, so I was in the right place at the right time. Just a few interesting facts: most Sumo wrestlers nowadays are Mongolian, the stage is made entirely of sand and the Shinto god supposedly resides there, so women are not allowed on stage, also because of this, the sumo wrestlers throw salt out to purify the ring every time before they enter it. Before the matches between very famous wrestlers, boys with banners will come on stage and walk around with their banners, which are actually the names of sponsors who are putting up money (usually $100 I think) for whoever wins the match, and after the match is over, the wrestlers wait in their corners for the next wrestler, and give him water to drink that supposedly passes his power onto the new guy. Anyways, you probably know what sumo looks like, so I won't go into detail, but it was actually quite fun to watch. And afterwards, I got to witness what a real busy train is like. There were so many people that there were no more handles, and you were literally standing upright thanks to everyone around you, so when you lurched because the train starts moving, you can't fall because there are so many people, there's no where to go. I'm not looking forward to ever do that again. Anyways, so that's the news of the last two days, and I'll catch up with everyone again soon. More pics uploaded on my photobucket.