Andreas’s Japan journeys

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Kurisumasu supeshialu!

Filed under: My blog — Andreas @ 4:09 pm

So I could not stay away from the updating anyway. But I have good reasons, for how can I enjoy my christmas without telling everyone about the things that belong to christmas in Japan. First off, there’s the semester-is-at-end celebration. After receiving our grades (I got straight A’s all through. Reading, writing, listening, talking, attendence and the overall grade \(^-^)/ ) we head for the bar called Zig-Zag. It is owned and run by the school’s Declan and it’s located inside the school campus… No I’m not kidding, really! Declan was even behind the bar yesterday night serving his students drinks. Just imagine this happening in Sweden. The ministry of education would probably die of a heart attack, which would probably be a good thing… What raised the weirdness-factor during the night is that my kanji teacher came to drink with us. My homeroom teacher didn’t come, she went out with some own friends to drink until she dropped. I just have to ask her for a duel next semester or somethings. She’s a pretty heavy drinker according to her colleagues, and she can hold her own pretty long.

But besides the drinking in a bar which isn’t very special for Japan, two other things happened to me that makes this christmas pretty special compared to my Swedish ones. Major earthquakes that I could (finally?) feel, and karaoke! First one was when I was going to sleep. Two powerful shocks make the paper walls in my room shake like crazy. I thought they would break. The second one came the morning after during breakfast. It was even more powerful. The news reported the earthquakes about 30 minutes later and it had measured about 3 I think on the scale. I don’t know if anything serious happened to anyone, but the trains were delayed by 6 minutes, and in Japan after an earthquake that is concidered really long.

Then we have the nice thing called karaoke. I’ve tried some crappy Russian machine back during high school and recently also the Singstar on Ps2, but nothing can beat real Japanese karaoke. Sound isolated room, sing all you want during the whole night, we started at 12.15, got out at 4.15, free drinks as much as you like, I took it easy with lots of water, but some of the other guys sure did not… And of course; the price. 200 SEK ca for the whole thing per head, and then you’ve got literally tens of thousands of songs from the 40s to the very latest j-pop single released last week. It was crazy. I tried to get some X-Japan songs to come true, but alas, the only one that I could sing to was Stab me in the back as it has English lyrics. The other two I tried had kanji so I could sing the hiragana and then sit quiet for about 30 seconds… But to compare the Singstar that you must first pay 2000 for a Ps2 for and then the game for what 400, and then you get like 15 songs… I’m not too fond of singing, but in a group in a karaoke bar, it sure beat the hell out of that Sony.

Concerning christmas I’m not going to celebrate it in the ordinary way this time. My host family does not celebrate christmas, only New Year, and so I will enjoy myself with some movies I’ve rented instead. It’s amazing how cheap the rental in Japan is. I got 4 movies for 80 SEK. Now in Sweden, I’d probably have to pay about 120 for the same amount of movies, and 40 here and there might not sound much, however, concidering in Sweden that’s for 1 day and in Japan I get it for 7 days, it does make a hell of a difference. I don’t know how, but in Japan everything is so cheap! Perhaps I’m gonna have to eat those words once I take my trip to Tokyo, but for now here in Okazaki, I’m saving myself a fortune. Had I bought everything I have in Sweden, I’d prolly be broke and homeless by now.

– – –

Today’s word is OshougatsuNew Year’s Eve

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Homestay package II

Filed under: My blog — Andreas @ 4:23 pm

After this update I will not be updating any more until after New Year’s Eve most likely as I will be busy with my final exam and some nice holiday travelling to Tokyo and Nagoya. MERI KURISUMASU at you all for this year.

The doubutsu gang 15/12

It’s been almost three weeks since my last update, mainly because I’ve been so busy studying I haven’t really had the time to write anything, and also because nothing really special has happened to me recently. Until today… I had a very strange day today, but luckily nothing happened. Imagine yourself being stuck in Japan, you’re on your way to school and suddenly there are truckloads of cars where there usually are no cars, and no students as far as your eyes can see where there usually are about 50 of them at the time you ride along the street all other mornings. Alright, so I didn’t really wanna get hit by the crazy drivers (especially after the Declan telling me that Okazaki has the highest death toll compared to the rest of Japan when it comes to traffic accidents. Needless to say, Okazakian residents suck at handling their cars. I see one new newsflash every week about a student getting killed on their way to school by some driver who went against red light). But since there are no cars on the road in the morning, and every other cyclist is going on the road instead of the sidewalk reserved for both pedestrians and cyclists, I also ride on the road. Today however, I did not. I almost crashed because of that choice, ironically.

I actually encountered two school girls walking and I came up from behind, ringing my bell like crazy (I went down a slope) and I could not get out of the way since I rode on the sidewalk. But the girl in front of me wouldn’t move! Panic panic pniac. She actually did move when I was like half a meter away, and I skidded on the stones avoiding her. Yey, I’m such a great cyclist I can do that stuff. Onward I went and got to school alright. Only to actually do crash with another cyclist during lunch… But it wasn’t my fault, honestly!

After crashing I got in to the porn rest- I mean obento restaurant. Bought some roosu katsu. While waiting, you’re invited to read some porn. I didn’t, but I had to accuse my friend that that’s the only reason he wants to buy obento at that place. and he agreed that that was the case, naturally. Actually, there was a guy who *did* pick up the magazines and mechanically went through them all while waiting. You think Japan is strange? You have no idea… Especially when all the clerks are girls. At least the guy had the two of us to hide behind while reading.

I lost in jan-ken-pon (sten sax påse) yesterday too. Three times. I lust for revenge on Monday. The guy cleverly avoided me the whole day so I could not issue a challenge. So now I’m the bad-boy in school. I’ve got animal written on my hand. I just need to show my fist and they know I’m the leader of the pack. Only problem there’s only one member in my bad-boy gang so far. I’d better recruit some in the neighbourhood. Soon I’ll have my own criminal empire of school boy delinquents.

My school mark is pretty much finished, now it just has to be produced. It’s a bit expensive, but I’m getting 5 and it’s a nice design with some nice gold and red, so I guess that’s why I have to pay through my nose. I’m getting it after Christmas. The school administration is excited about seeing what design I created, so I guess I’m going to their office first thing after the mark is done.

Tonight in about 6 hours we’re going to try the Brazilian pizza restaurant again. We’ve been informed that it opens at 8:30 in the evening. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a restaurant that opens at that time. Sheesh, these foreign people you know…

That about sums up my day. All I need to do now is wait for the Brazilian pizza. I hope it doesn’t have fish on it…

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Today’s word is kedamonobeast

The land of reverse 18/12

Japan is a strange country. Everything in Japan is cheap except for CDs and Brazilian pizza. A tip, if you come to Japan, never eat Brazilian pizza. Never. You’ll be paying through your nose for pizza that is at best edible. The pizza back in Sweden is soo much better, and it costs 1/3 of the Brazilian ones. We bought one pizza for 3000, that is 180 kronor. And it was just the same size, didn’t taste special, there were no special stuff on it, and for some reason, they have the guts to demand 3000. I could’ve bought a CD for that! Geez, these foreign people you know…

One thing that is the opposite is the Wii. It is sooo cheap over here that I cannot believe it. After talking to a friend about it he told me Wii was 3300 in Sweden. I had to check it up, and while it was a bit of a modified truth (if you bought the pack one with 2 games) it did cost 3250. Thing is I don’t want one of those games (some skateboarding game). So if I buy the pack with only one game it’s 2800. Still quite a lot, because I want a second game (Zelda) and that’s another 600. So it still gets to 3400 in Sweden which is unacceptable since Nintendo said that Wii was going to be really cheap to compete with the PS3 and X360. So what the hell is wrong with people in Sweden buying it for 3000 then?

If I buy Wii in Japan, the console is 1600 without anything to it. If I then add 800 to a total of 2400, I suddenly have Wii Sports and Zelda, the two games I want, and I still pay 1000 less than in Sweden. Somehow I must buy the stuff in Japan. Only two problems arise now; the games are in Japanese… ok I’m studying Japanese, but it will be difficult to understand I think. Zelda at least which has information. Sports is just smash and win. The second problem is I don’t know if the console will work with my Swedish TV. Can I buy an adapter, a new cord or something? If now I’m screwed. This calls for an investigation.

To add to the good news, I’ve spoken to my host family and school and I can stay until the end of March here, so another 3 months of ready breakfast and cold rooms, Japanese conversations about fat food, toilets and alcohol, and of course, a limited access to Internet again. I can’t wait!*thumbs up*

Today’s word is hantainoopposite

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Homestay package 1

Filed under: My blog — Andreas @ 7:57 pm

So I’ve been without Internet for the past week and have not been able to update the blog. Don’t fear though. It didn’t mean I stopped writing. As I am borrowing the Internet for tonight, and then disconnecting myself again, I am posting a batch of the updates I’ve written so far in my new home. Enjoy!

…And into the lair 27/11

Wow. That’s the first word that comes out of my mouth for each room we walk through when shown the house I’m going to live in. It’s really amazing how they can mix a style used for hundreds of years with the new high tech society in which Japan is most likely the leading nation. We are walking on wooden floors and tatami mats, while at the same time passing by the automated toilet, the probably equally high tech bathroom, and then into the kitchen (which is not as high tech as the rest ok I’ll give you that, but at least it’s better than boiling water outside and then bring inside).

I’ve got my own room, as in the deal. It can be shut with a pair of shoji, sliding doors. And I’ve got my own terasse. Talk about major kakkoiiness. I’ve taken some photos of my room, together with some other pictures of the house. It’s very large for a Japanese house, but only one floor (still like most Japanese houses) which the Okasan seemed to complain about. Ok so it is still very narrow, especially the corridors, but compared to the rooms I’ve seen at Yamasa, I’m very pleased. I’d say my room is about the same size as my last room at Yamasa. However, I won’t have it all by myself. There is a huge piano occupying 1/4 of the room. I’m putting my bags underneath it so I don’t waste the space that is already taken.

room6.JPGroom5.JPGroom4.JPGroom3.JPGroom2.JPGroom1.JPG

Another thing about the house is that I will not have Internet to my own computer, unless I move it to the computer room. (Might do that if I can get the family’s permission to use the Internet on my own computer as well, however, I doubt they have a router). Therefore I have to use their computer when using Skype (which I have been given permission to do as many times as I like. That was probably only a polite answer, so I’m going to explain once more to the family that I’m calling another Skype user which means
the cost is 0.) Lots of parenthesises don’t you agree? This Internet business means I will not be able to update my blog, or come online on MSN unless it is fixed. We’ll see how it goes, the man of the house hasn’t returned yet.

So what about the family then instead of the house. So far as I’m writing this I’ve only to meet with the Okasan, and she seems nice enough. She studies English twice a month, so when I don’t understand something we try to talk in a mixed Japanese/English lingua franca and so far we’ve been successful I think. She is a shufu, a house wife, meaning she’s entertaining herself while her husband is away to work. At home she has tons of paintings all over the house, but that is a past career. At the moment, she’s taken up pottery instead. Quite the artists’ house I’ve come to (the piano is for the son, who’s studying music in London I think). EDIT – Chigaimasu. Wasn’t music apparently, it was just plain English.

In my room there is a temple (fine fine, it’s a shrine…). Both of them are atheists (strange sight in Japan), but they still have the shrine with (I don’t know whose, probaly the husband’s since the wife becomes a part of the husband’s family when they marry, and thus the mother-in-law is her real mother) the parents. Since they are atheists, I don’t have to be afraid that I must move or anything as I might have had to do in another family if the shrine had been in my bedroom. Now all I have to think about is cleaning my futon away every morning so I can use the room.

I think I am going to enjoy tomorrow when I can explore more of the house, and especially the garden which seems to be very nice. It is already dark and it is only six o’ clock, but I guess that’s what I should expect in the end of November. What is still strange is how warm it is here in Japan. It is about 15 degrees C during the day, and only during mornings can you feel a slight chill. It is very nice, especially comparing to Sweden at this time a year. No warmth in the morning, but during the day instead. I’m at school during the day! What’s the point… Oh well, here in Japan it is nice and warm so I shouldn’t complain about things that I’m not experiencing. Now I’m going to focus on my homestay! *thumbs up*

– – –

Today’s word is kenshuuseiintern

Video Japan VII 29/11

Now I have met with the father as well, and he proved to be hospitable as well. We sat a long time into the night, discussing everything imaginable. In Japanese. And English. The ammount they can comprehend that is. I am hoping that this experience will prove to be a useful one for my studies. It is obvious that the family wants to try their English on me, but for the most time they speak Japanese at first. It is not the first time they are acting host family, and are aware that the students from Yamasa coming are there first and foremost to learn their language, not to teach them English.

And believe it or not, it’s actually begun to get a bit cold in Japan, even down south. It is about 10 degrees here now, and waking up at morning is getting more and more difficult. All you want to do is stay in bed, underneath the sheet where the warmth is. My mother was right about one single thing about Japan, and that is that their houses sure aren’t well heated. In fact, they have no radiators whatsoever. Instead, they warm their houses with sunlight and mobile gas-powered somethings.

Despite the coldness, I am getting to like it here in Japan oh so much I thought this song could describe pretty much how I feel about my current situation!

Today I also bought a mobile phone. It’s yellow. And it has a camera. But it doesn’t work. The morons at MiniStop charged me for sending a fax to Vodafone for registration of the phone to me but when I got home and the hostfamily helped me to make the necessary phone calls to register my code I was told that the fax had never been sent. Stupid hot dog-rolling broad. Here I was believing that people in Japanese shops were service-focused even towards foreigners… Instead the host family used their own fax to send it at 11:30, so I hope my phone works tomorrow.


Some crazy video. Nothing scares the Japanese police!


An even crazier video. Arnold is getting high in Japan.

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Today’s word is abezureonna – Wow, too rude to translate. Just don’t use it…

Hello or konnichiwa, dochiraga iidesuka 1/12

Ok, now it’s getting cold. I’m not kidding. I’m taking the bike for 45 minutes in 10 degrees every morning to get to school. I’m glad I took my gloves with me, cause I don’t want popsicles as hands when I arrive. The most important thing is of course that other people are also using gloves so I’m not the only geeky one to do it. *phew* Bought myself a new tie as well, a red one. The black that I had before was a 100 En one, so it broke pretty quickly, and the host family recommended that I’d get another colour, because black is almost only worn by mourning people. So I got a nice red one. I’m not sure if I want to disclose the price, it still stings in my eyes. But at least I know I got a good quality one.

When buying the tie I joined this club. The Japanese are crazy about clubs. It seems that every store has a club of its own. The membership is free (I thouroughly checked this, don’t want a bill I have to pay later on. If I get one, heads are gonna roll), and you get points for every purchase that you make. It’s probably to keep customers or something, because these points are turned into an equal amount of En, with which you reduce the price of the next item. Currently I’ve lost track of how many clubs I’m in, because I join them all, just in case I will go to them again in the future. You never know, I’m here for another 7 months. Since there is no fee I figure what the heck.

We also got a pleasant surprise with a test on Monday. Study study study will be my next game during this coming weekend. I’m sure I will pass as I’ve got over 90% on both previous tests, however, this one I am not as prepared for, because the grammar and vocabulary has siginificantly become harder. I can’t wait for Christmas holiday. Then I can repeat some of my weak points. (Thought I wanted it for the holiday itself? Hah. In Japan there is no such thing as true spare-time). Christmas Eve is a normal day, and if you’re a kid, you’re very lucky if your family has the tradition of giving presents. Don’t expect a Santa though, Pop’s working until 12 like any other day.

It is fun to see how different people become once they grow up. There’s this Scots in the class that is a bit frustrating occationally. Everything must be his way or he’ll get mad. So you’re not allowed to open the door to the classroom, because then it gets cold in there. Yeah… I’m beginning to wonder if he’s from Scotland or actully from some African country where it’s 30 degrees all year round. Everyone is sweating their ass off because the airconditioner has broken down, and even the Florida guy is taking his clothes off, but we may not open the door to let some nice fresh air (yes fresh as well as cold, the stench in the classroom is unbelievable. Since the door is never opened the air inside gets very stiff) because it’s fresh and cold. The guy’s dedication to keeping the door closed is unbelievable, he actually never leaves the classroom during breaks except for lunch when going to buy it, so that he can shout at anyone leaving the door open (accedentally, intentionally, dochiraga hmm?) when coming in. The guy’s the oldest in the class but gets very cranky when it comes to that door. I’m second youngest in the class, so I guess his words that I should grow up doesn’t only apply to me…

Talking about young people. I’m constantly being greeted with a “hello!” from elementary school kids when riding either to or home from school. It’s so funny, because the high schoolers (I pass about 200 of them on my way to school) just stare quietly at me (omg, a foreigner, his skin is different!). But the younger ones, I just have to call them knattar cause with their yellow hats they look just like knattar, they are very eager to try out probably the only word they can say properly on me when I glide past them on my luxurious bike. But instead of saying hello back, I give them a “konnichiwa”, and on more than one occation they have ran after me yelling something in Japanese that I have no idea what it means. Just today I could clearly hear “Are! Nihongo!” though. And I also made a successful short conversation this morning with one of the midori no ojiisans (pensioneers with green hats) that guide school children to safety from traffic. I’ve got to make my presence known not just by being there with white skin. I’ve got to show them that I can speak Japanese too, so today I was barely able to explain where my school was located during the 20 seconds it took for the light to turn green at the zebra crossing. I feel complete.

– – –

Today’s word is atarashiino hajimea new beginning

Would you like some fish with that? 2/12

Being in Japan means trying out Japanese things. So I went to a temple, to see how they are cared for in comparison to how people in Sweden see their church as. I first went to a buddhist temple in the vicinity. I’ve been to huge temples and castles with the school, so it was nice to see that there were temples that were (not as huge though) equally impressive just 15 minutes away by bike. At around 11 on this Saturday morning they were cleaning the temple, sweeping away the fallen leaves and making the gravel paths look nice. It just so happened that an old lady came by who prayed at the temple, and I think she said that it was OK for me to enter and have a closer look. However, with the security markings on all the doors, I wasn’t really sure if I could. Since the lady didn’t enter, I didn’t take any chances. But I still got some good pictures of both the inside and outside, since some of the doors are open, I guess for the specific purpose of looking in.

After the buddhist temple visit was over I took the bike in the other direction to the shinto temple that is located even closer, and which I go by every day on my way to school. It is located high up on a mountain, so I had to climb some stairs to get to the top. They had even put up a sign saying “danger: playing around is forbidden”. Most likely because of the steep hills and whatever ponds there were with no way up. But I wasn’t there to play, but to take pictures. I first went off on the red tori, the special temple gate that every shinto shrine has. At the top of the stairs there was another one, and once at the temple building I met another cleaning team that were burning leaves and branches that had fallen down from the surrounding trees. After I was finished taking the pictures I wanted I went and bought some ramen for lunch.

Talking about trying out Japanese things, and especially food then, I have a perfect example of a culture collision that I feel I just have to share. Yesterday’s dinner was pizza, probably because it was the last dinner that the daughter would share with us before she goes off living on her own in an apartment she recently bought. I was quite excited about trying out home-made Japanese pizza, and though it was quite good, there was one thing that I really had not expected to see on a pizza. Me and my friends still haven’t gone to the Brazilian pizza restaurant that we’ve been planning on for weeks (we’ve actually gone there but the place has been closed both times) and at that restaurant you can get pizza with ice cream on it. When I heard of it it was so far the weirdest thing to put on a pizza that I’d heard of, but not after yesterday’s dinner. Namely; I got fish on my pizza…………

Seriously, I’m not kidding. I got 2×2 cm fish cubes on my pizza slices. And I think there were crumbs of sea weed in the pizza dough (spotted some green dots when preparing them) but I cannot prove anything cause I sure couldn’t taste any. In any case, the fish was alone enough to show that the Japanese really are eating fish every day… When we were going to get “meat” for dinner some days ago, that was actually meat and fish. I’m not complaining, cause the fish does taste good (even the one on the pizza, despite the unusual use), it is just that I didn’t expect it to go this far. At least I know I’m getting smart with all that fish so my tests will go just fine.

– – –

Today’s word is bikkuri saserushocked

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