jueves, 27 de diciembre de 2007

終わり The End

So that's it. That's where it ends. Last Friday I took my final 日本語 exam, ate lunch, and headed out to my final farewell party. All of my friends were there. My host mom was there too! With mixed breaths of sorrow and joy being exhaled by everyone. I said a final farewell to two of my professors, who in turn wished me luck in my endeavors. "Surely you intend to continue?" "Yes, I do." I sincerely replied. I had some great professors at Nanzan, one not so great professor too...but that is to be expected. One student gave a farewell speech and thanked his professors and host parents, at this I too turned to Wakae and thanked her for such a wonderful semester. When his speech ended the food was served. I hardly ate but instead spent these few minutes running around to all of my friends to say goodbye and get one final picture with them before they disappeared into the foggy mist of my past. There were so many people! I would head over to one person, snap a picture together, and then turn immediately to another friend to my left.
At the end of all of this I changed clothes. I had been wearing a suit to the event as a kind of parting formality (my host mom saw this and thus came to the event in her kimono!) and it did not suit my evening plans. I disgracefully burdened my kimono-clad host mom with my backpack and turned back around to one last night on the town with my friends. I met up with Keiko, Natsumi, and Mohawk Mike before walking briskly towards Club ID. We talked about the semester, Mike commented on how this was the first time that we had hung out together, and took time to notice the gigantic crowd that just happened to be following us. That was strange...It was a pleasant walk and I enjoyed the conversation, but Keiko had to leave us for someone else and left me, Mike, and Natsumi to run to make the 8:00 entrance time (after which the entrance fee climbed from 0 to 10 dollars.) We arrived in 栄, put our stuff in a locker, and made it just in time. I had plans to go to Kanayama later that night so it made sense that we had arrived so early.
At first there was no one there, just a few of the foreign students and some locals (and this really creepy masked figure). We talked for a bit, watched Mike and Paris mix it up a bit on the dance floor, and drank. I talked to Ryan a bit, another friend from Nanzan, about dances: it was really no fun when there was no girl that would dance with any guy...but especially girls that knew how to dance, to which he pointed out these two girls that were dancing incredibly well. Ha! Good luck man, that's a dream.
One or two drinks, and an hour or so later I was out on the dance floor with both of them.

All through the night though, and even before the dance had started, the only person that I had desired to dance with that night was Natsumi. So I saved my the last dance for her, and what a dance it was. So the night turned into all that I had hoped it would: one final, incredible, parting event. We all stopped early (11pm) and headed out. I said my final goodbyes to my friends (Mike and I made up a song about portapoties...), Tosh (Mack) turned up for a final goodbye too, and jumped on the subway and headed out to 金山 to accomplish a small dream that had bubbled up in my emotions over the past 4 months: to join in with the local artists with a small performance of a song on the cold sidewalk in front of the train station. I always stopped by to hear them play. Their music always ended my weekend follies in a way that I loved. They calmed my nerves and inspired my creativity. I listened to countless artists there, made some of them my friends, and only hoped one day to join them. That day was this night. I wrote up my carol and sang it to my one listener. Into the cold winter sky, with my lonely sheet of paper, I sang:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

I finished up, folded and tucked the paper into my pocket, and rushed into the station in order to catch the last train home to Owari-Ichinomiya 尾張一宮. I boarded at around 11:50....

...and woke up around 1:00AM. Yeah, I slept on the train. Big mistake #1 that night. I had woken up in a city called Gifu, 岐阜, in another prefecture. With no way of taking the train back ( I had ridden the last train there), and only about $40 left in my pocket, I decided that staying in a Manga cafe was probably my best option. So I asked around in some of the 7-11s and 99shops but it turns out that Gifu has no Manga cafes. However, one kind soul pointed me in the right direction towards the closest one and I hoofed it....

...hours, and half a wine bottle, later, I arrived back in my own prefecture and within a couple kilometers ( I thought) of my city. Unfortunately, Ichinomiya is HUGE. It was 3:30AM and I was tired so I grabbed a taxi. It cost me just about the rest of my cash to get the ride home. Nice. Glad I got the taxi though, it turned out that I was still a ways from my destination. You think that's where it ends? Think again. Remember I have to ride a bike to get home? Yeah, that was my final task. For about 20 minutes at around 4:00AM on my last night in Japan I rode by poor ass back to my host family's house. Exhausted and smelly, I decided that the best thing to do was to pack. (?) I packed for an hour before heading to bed around 5AM.
Lucky for me I got to sleep in...until 8AM. Some of my host family (host aunt & cousins) had come over to say goodbye to me that day so I had to get up early to eat breakfast with them. Meh! I felt great. It was strange to pack that day...there was a feeling about the family of denial or a desire to ignore the fact that I was departing that day.
With all my bags packed and the picture frame with me and my host parents together placed on the table in my room for when they arrived back home, we headed out to the airport. It was a strange goodbye really, there was very little talk about what I would be doing after I arrived home, very little talk about the past few months. The focus was on the here and now. We grabbed my last meal, 海老フライ, one or two other souvenirs, and started making our way to the gate. It was a strange goodbye. I turned to the group behind me: Wakae, Rieko, Kento, Satsuki, and two of their cousins had all come to see me off. I waved goodbye, not knowing how to really part ways with them after having lived together for 4 months, learning, trying together... but I still didn't expect it at all. Japanese people are so reserved with their emotions, and she is old and traditional, but still she started to tear up. Right before my eyes I could see her experienced eyes swell with tears before she did the one thing that she knew how to do to show her appreciation with the relationship we had: she reached out her hand to shake mine. Looking down at her hand, the hand that had done so much for me, everyday, and I began to tear up too. So I hugged her. Then I turned to all my siblings and cousins, said goodbye to them in turn, and turned around to face my gate. They all stayed and waved to me as I wound my way slowly through the line, and I waved back...in a sad, slow wave. The kind of wave that you give to someone who you might never see again.
But, I'm going back someday.

A few flights, astrange navy dude (MEXT), and this man with the HEAVIEST Minnesota accent I have EVER heard later, and I was home.

Home, to my family. Home, to snow. Home, so far away from Japan.

It is strange to write this, look at my souvenirs, talk about my experiences in Japan, and only have memories of Japan to recall now...none to be made anymore.

I hope you all had a good time with my entries. Some of them were more boring than the others but all of them made up a little part of my life. There were so many other things that happened in my day-to-day that I didn't write down, so many things that one can only experience for themselves because they are just so unique and indescribable. They are feelings of discovery, distance, discontent, comradeship, cautiousness, new self, an awareness of differences in human paths, and an awareness of the similarities of human goals.
I lived in Japan for 4 months, hardly a long time, but I learned more about the culture and day-to-day lifestyle of the Japanese people than I ever though I would in those 4 short months. I made some lifelong friends in Japan over those 4 short months. And over those 4 short months I didn't lose my desire to return someday to the 美しい東国島、日本。

The Pictures:
1) A view from a hill of a suburb looking through a pole holding up a clock. The city that is framed in the pole is none other than Nagoya.
2) I took so long taking the first picture that my friends walked ahead of me and had to call me on. Gonna miss em.
3) My host dad and I at one of our last meals together, Suki-yaki. Suki-yaki is truly a delicious meal and I highly recommend it. Sauteed meats, veggies, and tofu in a soy/sake mix, and then dipped in a raw egg and served with rice and a cup of green tea.
4) Me and my friend Yuka and her friend.
5) Me and my spanish-speaking friends! Masahiro, Maki, Satomi and Sayako!

lunes, 17 de diciembre de 2007


Tuesday. I woke up this morning nice and late, no worries. I had to get to school sometime because I am going to meet up with Keiko for lunch. Right now I`m in the World Plaza which is where I intend to stay until it closes around 6 or until Guy, Wakana, and her friend and I all decide to go to out to eat. I really want to go to Kanayama with them. With less than a week to gom my schedule has become a little packed: Today, lunch w/Keiko, study for my Culture exam tomorrow, dinner with the others, go home and study. Tomorrow, come to school and finish studying, take test, hang out with Jin. Thursday Guy has something planned and I think he intends for it to take up the entire day (not sure). However, my host family is preparing a すき焼き feast for Thursday so I cannot be out past dinner time. I heard that yaki-niku is really delicious and they kept telling me that there was no way I could return home without first having tried Suki-Yaki.
A couple things. Japanese peeps are really confused about relationships. I mean the couple kind of relationships. There is no mutual understanding of what a relationship should be. The guys are extra-shy and almost devoid of a libido. The women are all dressed up for a party (Halloween parties in some cases) and are doing almost everything they can to get a boyfriend but they don`t make too much effort with actual action to initiate some kind of action. Then again, as for me, there is this kind of awe and fear of the foreigner that they cannot get over no matter what. Therefore it is/has been especially tough for me to read what is going on in their minds when I talk to them.
There are always many other things that I want to talk about(little nuances of the Japanese culture) but I always forget them when I come to write on this blog. So while I`m at lunch...I`ll think about it again!

Lemon Water

sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2007


So I left at 4:20~ish today to go to Kanayama to hear the bands play (that's what the pictures are of: same band, different members). I know that I am one to be late to almost everything and I'll call my choir director Mr.Voss (who would purposely tell me call times were 5 minutes ahead of what they really were just to get me to show up on time),to vouch for me, but today things got really out of hand. I left at about 4:25 (5 minutes after I had intended to leave, not surprising, and headed to the station. Now at the station something unprecedented happened: the train was late! The train was a full, not 10, but 15 分 late! I had expected to meet someone around 5:00 but with the whole train thing...I didn't show up until about 5:25. WHAT A MESS! The band was cool but the night was 寒い and I was all alone. I had invited others to come but no one wanted to. Kanayama is by far the coolest place to be I think. It has a lot of really hip places, a nice little mall, and bands are playing there all the time. I mean, granted they are amateur local bands but still, that makes it all that easier to have a one-on-one chat with the artists! So I listened to that until 6, dallied around until 6:15 and then hopped on the subway to go to Nagoya...and that's when trouble stuck again. There is a movie theater in Nagoya and that is where I was going to go watch a movie with some other buds tonight. Nagoya is really big though so I had asked before hand where the theater was and I was told that it was in the building to the right when looking at the station...yeah it wasn't. Turns out it was on the opposite side of the street and the other side of the station. So...in other words it was in the building to the right, when looking AWAY from the 駅. Nice. Luckily the group that I was going to meet up with was there waiting for me (somewhat impatiently) at 6:50 and yelled out to me. Fortunately I was wearing clothing that would make me easily identifiable in a crowd.
The movie was cool: Will Smith beating up zombies, not bad. It was strange though because the new dude friend, Ryo, actually got sick to the stomach while watching the movie because he thought it was too intense. I thought I was squeamish! This guy actually threw up because of some blood on screen...and it wasn't even that bad. Natsumi, Rodney, and I all thought it was intense but not that bad really.
Oh I totally forgot! I tried using that Tide-to-Go stuff on my sleeve today and it totally stunk up my clothing! I mean it smelled like barf. Someone had basically thrown up on my sleeve but had bizarrely cleaned my clothes instead of soiling them. Bleah! I am never using that again! So that left me really self-conscious of my smell all night. After the movie we went to a place called the Hub but it was REALLY crowded so we headed out and made our way to a different bar. We didn't stay long though and the crowd was really lame. Seriously, no one was throwing me a bone. I was trying to talk talk talk about any subject to see if someone would take it and run with it but no one did. No one showed any 興味 in being there let alone talking. I mean, I even resorted to telling them stories about how I went to Europe. I feel weird talking about it to other people because it makes me feel like I am bragging, そしてそれが大きらいなんだ. So I talked a bit about Ireland (there was a glimpse of interest there as I mentioned 遅 and it's relation to Ireland), the Czech Republic, and Germany. There was also a tiny bit of amusement at the Bier Garten but no real comments or any related stories.
In the end Rodney had to leave a little early( he was so lame tonight) and once Natsumi started yawning I decided that it was time for her, me , and Ryo to go too. It was about 10:30 or so. I headed out to Kanayama again as I usually do anyway. I listened to this girl that I had gotten to know last week. ギターを弾いた. A few of her friends were there and we all listened. I had brought my top and some cookies so I threw the top and shared some cookies. Almost unanimously, my favorite part of Japan so far has been my 金山夜. Listening to the local nobody trying their best to stand out a little bit. I guess that in a country that is so focused on being a group, Kanayama station is a strange individualistic outlet. It is a chance for new acquaintances, fun stories, and songs in Japanese. Of course, just being a 外人 draws its stares!
I also decided that I pay way too much attention to girls. I am so driven by getting to know one just for the chance that I forget to enjoy that more important, fleeting, experience around me. Maybe it's not something that I should be blaming myself for...
Lastly, I still want this cool pair of shoes really badly but they are crazy 高い.

I might go to mass tomorrow.

viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2007

Felt Like ND

What a long week that was! With multiple written exams, a paper due in my Business class, and an oral exam, I was really tired out this week. I've spent a lot of time in the world plaza. The days here are not nearly as cold as they look back home where the thermometer reads in the 20s. Here I can wear a couple shirts and a scarf and I'm ok. I've become a little pessimistic at times, just a mixture of feeling really. I am psyched to be finishing up the semester and going home, but I am not excited at the idea of forgetting so much Japanese within the first couple weeks of being home (which will undoubtedly happen). There are so many friends here that I want to spend more time with but I will not be able to. Sometimes I think about how much closer I could get to my host family with another 5 months. In either case, I am returning home for the holidays.
Last wednesday I layed around the World Plaza at Nanzan, watched Cinderella actually, before heading out to a place callde SushiRo. SushiRo is the cheapest sushi you will ever find in Japan. Every plate is about 99cents and consists of one to 4 pieces depending on the size of the cut of fish that you get. The sushi they say is low grade and the rice is rolled by a machine but I didn't care. They tasted great and I ate about 10plates until I could eat no more. I ate sea urchin for the first time at SushiRo...it was kind of like a goo and not very delicious...so I don't think that i'll eat that ever again. I went with Guy, Naoki, and Nagisa to SushiRo and then Guy and I walked around the town for about an hour after the other two went home. It was a cool conversation and I hope that I have others like it. After that he caught his last bus home and I hopped on a train home. Of course, I stopped at Kanayama before going home. I just really really enjoy Kanayama at night because of all the artists and kids that come out to sing and perform there. It seems that they continue throughout the year and all though the week too because they are still there at this time of the year. It's always a relaxing time.
Today i want to go back to Kanayama to catch some other named bands that will be playing at 5pm at Kanayama Ashita (tomorrow) plaza. After that, I'm going to head over to Nagoya where I will be watching "I am Legend" (just came out here yesterday) with my friends. Speakin of friends, I was not able to meet up with Jin the other day. I thought he was going to meet me at school but he thought that I wa going to meet him at Kanayama. He waited till 7...I went to SushiRo. Other new odd friends include this dude named Ryo who dresses like a pro and speaks spanish pretty well but is absurdly silent and a little creepy after a while. But he's coming to the movies with us today, at least you don't have to talk there hahaha. This will be my first time at a Japanese movie theater so I'll let you know what it's like. I kindof want to do a lot with my remaining time here but...time is limited. After the movie I'll either go to a bar called The Hub or to club ID.
Oh yeah, yesterday I decided to go over to a friends apartment to see what it was like. As far as dinner goes it was the worst decision that I have ever made, I just ate about a dozen gyoza and that was it (besides these sweet, poop-shaped, styrofoam logs) We played SuperSmashBros. and then went to a batting cage where we saw this 14 year old just dominating his cage like a pro, hitting "home runs" every other shot. I, on the other hand, missed 3/4 of my 50 tries, and hit only one home run. It was cool though because it was packed, I really got a feel for how much the Japanese love their baseball.
I'm on the 10th One Piece book now, I think it might be the last one that I read here before leaving (I'm going to try really hard to get to the 11th one!) My mom here made another hat for me (how?) I'm really missing the snow. It's very strange to even think that Christmas is what? only 10, 11 days away? I seem to have lost track of time with the lack of snow here and the general loss of meaning that Christmas has over here. I can't wait to get home, drink some egg-nog, listen to christmas music and watch christmas movies, and cuddle up on the couch! Oh, and insulation in the walls, I'm definitely looking forward to that.
Tomorrow I'm going to write my paper for my history class. With that finished I will have finished half of my finale exams for this year (Business & History). I still have a Japanese Culture and of course 日本語 to go.
With that, until next time!

Getting used to sitting crossed legged.

sábado, 8 de diciembre de 2007

Daft Punk and a Saturday night...

The coolest thing that has happened lately was the Daft Punk concert that I went to see last Thursday. Believe me though when I say that it was an ordeal to get out there. I suppose those who know me would just say,"well, yea...you got lost or something right?" because that's just what I do when I go to a foreign place (let alone a foreign country). So we, Megan and I, left right after class at 12:50 to catch a bus that was leaving at 1:25. So that's not so bad if the station is like 20 minutes away and you already bought a ticket....but when I do things like this I make sure the station is 30 minutes away and my ticket IS NOT bought. That's my way. Somehow we caught the bus right before it pulled away at 39 after. I have no idea how we got so lucky...
We arrived in Kobe about 3 hours later and then went looking for our capsule hotel before we would head out to the World Memorial Center for the concert. First we headed south instead of north before finally turning around and finding the hotel about an hour after our arrival. Unfortunately, and even you who know all about me will think that this is strangely unlucky even for me, the capsule hotel was closed down! They have a running website with pictures and accommodation information and everything; there is even a description of their sauna! In any case we were out of a bed for the night! What to do!! We must have walked around for another hour before finally, finally reaching a hotel...that wasn't really a hotel. In Japan there are these places called Manga Cafes where some lovers of manga can come relax for a few minutes or for hours at a time reading any selection from the library of books that they often carry, using the internet, watching TV, grabbing some snack from the snack bar, or just relaxing for a while.
Now after 11pm a manga cafe also has one other attractive option, which Megan and I took advantage of Thursday night, the All-Nighter. Walk in, grab a ticket and choose a booth, and it's yours until 7am when you turn in your ticket and they charge you not $30, not $20, but roughly $12 for the night! Whooooooooooooooo yeah! whadda deal! But, I'm getting ahead of myself! Let's step back to the main event: Daft Punk!
First of all, I never go to concerts. I don't really know why, it's just never really been something that I was interested in paying for. I have seen Flogging Molly but that was free with a student ID (or really cheap $10...i forget.) and I went to The Basilica Block Party but that was a generous treat from my sister. So this was an exceptional purchase on my part. The line for the concert was huge! It wrapped all the way around this MASSIVE stadium and then some. Once inside the place the immensity of the even became even more clear as thousands of fans flowed in around me. One of the 4 opening acts was playing. One opening act, Boom Boom Satellite, was especially amazing.
Then the lights dimmed and the music started and the crowd went wild! "Robot! Human! Robot! Human!" Blared in everyone's ears, the lighting illuminated the pyramid-shaped DJ booth, and two human/robot-shaped shadows emerged. It was the beginning of a very amazing night. The concert was about an hour and a half long and I took some video. I'm trying to put that online now. Some of the best parts: The fight that broke out at the beginning between the biggest Japanese dude I had ever seen and this guy that must have been hitting on the big dude's boyfriend or something; the one random Japanese friend that I made during the concert who kept telling スゲェ!; the finale and the light-up suites that they wore for it. All of it combined with the constant beats of Around the World, Technologic, and the like made coughing up the dough and skipping Friday's morning classes totally worth it.
Somehow I mustered up enough energy to go out on Friday to Mallory's host house to watch scary movie before i crawled back home to crash. Then yesterday I did this speech thing for a guy, Kenji, that invited me to talk about my experience in Japan and the contrast between Notre Dame and 南山大学。 でもちょっとつまらなかったんだ。 そだけどスピーチのおかげで料理作り方本をくれた!後、6:00に友達マキとマサヒロを八事で会いに行って全然見つけなかったので金山駅へ行って音楽を聞きたりある日会った人と話したりしました。楽しかった。 でも友達と会わなかってざんねんだ。 I got home late and went to bed.
Dad, you'll be happy to hear that I gave the fam the penny hockey game and they all really liked it. It was fun to build and even Satsuki helped! (She never wants to do anything with me! She even played a couple games with me.)

Until next time!

miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2007

well, check this out:

Yeah those should pretty much speak for themselves. Other than that, paper to write tonight, Daft Punk concert to go see/hear tomorrow.
Can't stay long....paper!


sábado, 1 de diciembre de 2007

The end of a tough week, beginning of another....

Believe it or not, the week is over. Ugh, it was not cool at all. On Monday I registered for classes. In the end that went EXTREMELY well: I was able to register for all of the classes I wanted at all the times that I had wanted! This means that I will have basically 3 days of classes a week: MWF. Tuesday and Thursday are my off days with only Glee Club in the afternoon (an exception is one half-a-semester class that I have, but that all changes come march). I'm excited for next semester because of the courses that I was able to sign up for. Most of them are geared towards my major in Finance (Investment Theory, Managerial Economics, Macroeconomic Analysis, Strategic Management, and Intro to Process Analysis) which is wonderful because I'll actually begin getting deeper and deeper into my subject of study, specialization is key nowadays. Then I have philosophy course to satisfy my second requirement: Philosophy of Religion, which should be awesome. After that all I need is to pass my entrance exam into 3rd year Japanese and that should fit snugly in my schedule, yum.
Then Thursday I had a presentation in my culture class on fish, the origins of their Kanji, and the way fish has affected Japanese culture. There was a good amount of BS in there...not going to lie. But it was really entertaining (we played Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture in the background) , but kinda goofy. The professor was laughing so hard though. We all thought that she would fall off of her chair she was leaning over so low!
Then Friday brought the final hurdle, and I think my greatest finish to a week (as far as academics go). I turned in my finished Business exam (20% of my grade) with 95% certainty in a perfect score, woot! After turning it in I started up my presentation on Japanese/Chilean business relationships. Now, even though I do not know my grade on that presentation yet, I feel that I rocked it. First of all, I had some of the audience interested, which is actually incredible considering my topic. I mean, who would be interested in Chilean/Japanese business relationships besides myself? Honestly I expected to have a snoozing class. Second, I ended perfectly at the 15 minute mark! Just one semi-rehearsal and I nailed it!
Today my host parents took me out to see a leaves changing color and then to a temple. The pictures are all from today. The festival was the , 黄葉まつり, vendors sold all of the seeds from the trees that were golden. Host mom bought me a pack to bring home. They're not all that tasty but they are very Japanese. Then I took the pictures and we headed out to 善光寺「ぜんこうじ」 where I saw the 御地蔵さん (おじぞうさん) or those little rock peeps and heaven. Oh, I forgot to mention that? Yeah, I saw heaven there, I guess you all missed out! sorry. Then the Nishizawa's bought me a little ダルマ as a memory. These are little guys with no pupils yet right, and then you make a wish on the new year and color in their left eye. Whenever your wish comes true, that's when you color in the right eye! I look forward to it. Now I'm home again and dinner is going to be late. I should probably get started on my paper due on Thursday.

I watched some of the Colbert Report today.