Monday, November 29, 2004

I think it was something i ate

When i got home from uni today at about 6, i was feeling extremely tired and lethargic. To the point of me lying on my bed for the next 3 and half hours, and not being bothered to even wash the dishes after i ate dinner. The day wasn't any longer than normal either - had class in the morning, one afternoon class and then the usual conversation partner meeting. Which is why I have come to the conclusion that it must have been something i ate (yep super detective skills there)...

Breakfast was instant noodles - which is a bit out of the ordinary - because i forgot to buy bread (dammit i just realised i forgot to buy bread today too lol). But i think the culprit is the katsu-kare (pork cutlet curry rice) i had for lunch today. Now that i think about it, I sort of do feel quite tired in the afternoons after eating that. Although previously i've been putting it down more to lack of sleep and just taking naps... Anyway, i am going to try not eating it for a while to see if it makes a difference lol.

And that concludes my most useless post to date. Stay tuned :)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Sleepy Sunday

I slept in till midday today. I set my alarm for 10am, but i wasn't really intending to get up by then any way. I just didn't want to wake up and discover it was 5pm in the evening :)

I tried to make some chips again today since i've had these potatoes sitting in my cupboard for quite a while now. I decided to boil them first so that i wouldn't have to fry them so long to cook the things. Only problem was i got a bit sidetracked doing some revision while i was doing that - so when i went to turn off the stove, the potatoes look more like mush than anything else. For anybody who's tried deep frying mush before, you'll know it doesn't work too well :)

In the end though, they turned out okay. They tasted kind of like ... crispy mashed potato ... (okay well it was crispy mashed potato). But what didn't turn out okay was the pot. That was quite black and needed a lot of scrubbing and hot water to get it clean. Ah the joys of cooking.

That's about the most interesting thing i did all day i think. So far (it's 9.13pm now) i haven't even left my room so there's not a whole lot else to write about unfortunately... Till then~

Procrastination is bad

I've come to realise that the more time i spend in my room, the less i seem to get done. After doing kanji revision for about 5 hours last night, tonight i managed to do nothing but sit around and make myself dinner. I didn't even have a nap to waste time - i just sat around reading things on the net and listening to various music clips from the HMV japan site.

I was expecting the kanji tests today to be quite difficult (they were meant to be revision tests of everything from chapter 1-6) but somehow it turned out quite straight forward (i.e. it took under 10 minutes to finish). I was a bit peeved that i spent so much time learning everything last night... But i guess it does feels good to think i know a few more kanji after all that study. It's getting a bit frustrating being almost illiterate here since there are so many kanji characters i just don't know...

Since being at school means no fun pictures, i'll just show you all the stuff i bought at Akihabara the other day:



I still haven't tried connecting the dvd drive; but there isn't really much point at the moment as i don't have any dvds/cds to play hehe. The wireless router is nice though because it means i can really carry my computer all over the place and still have access to the internet - i can still connect to it (barely) from downstairs in the lounge... Considering i'm up on 3rd floor that's not too bad an effort.

Anyway i'm going to ATTEMPT to do something productive with what's left of my night~

Friday, November 26, 2004

Back to school

Mita-sai officially ended for me today with my economics class this afternoon. I can't really complain though since most people actually had to start yesterday (but since i have a day off on Thursdays normally, i had an extra day holiday).

Looks like the workload is going to start picking up as we come towards the end of the semester here. I need to start thinking about choosing a topic for my term paper... Before i know it January will be here and all the final assessments will be going on at once.

After class today i had an interesting talk with Jakob about language - his major is some sort of linguistics field so it was quite interesting. Have you ever thought why in English we say "I go" and "you go" but "(s)he goes"? Apparently it's because of English was originally a Germanic language - where morphology (changing the stem/base of a word) gives the majority of meaning. Modern English however takes most of its meaning from syntax (to the average English speaker saying "(s)he go to school at 9 o clock" makes perfect sense; it just sounds funny). The poor people trying to learn English as a second/third language must think it's really weird. I guess i shouldn't complain about having a hard time with Japanese hehe.

Anyway speaking of learning, i have two kanji tests tomorrow which i need to study for... And since i don't have much else to say i'll leave it there~

Mt Fuji? Not quite...

Home at last. Just had my shower and now it’s time to try to update this blog. Had a looong day today. Where?

Fujikyu Entrance


I got up today at 5.30am to get ready because our bus left from Shinjuku station at 7.40. I was quite amazed that I actually managed to wake up considering how much walking I did yesterday up in the mountains. Despite that, I somehow didn’t leave my room until about 6.30 so I missed the train I was meant to catch to Shinjuku… Not a good thing to do that early in the morning; the next train was fifteen minutes later. That cut it really fine – because I only arrived at Shinjuku at about 7.30 and I didn’t know where I was meant to go.

Luckily Simone and Seong were there already so they picked up my ticket for me – all that was left to do was get to the bus terminal. That turned however out to be a bit of a disaster. We were meant to meet at the ‘west exit’ of the station, but what I didn’t realize was we were talking about the west exit of two different stations (I was at the JR west exit; they came out the Shinjuku Subway west exit I think). Since I was late though, the two of them had gone to the terminal already and were giving me directions as if I was coming from the same exit as them. Needless to say I got quite confused, but luckily the security guards here seem to double as information/direction helpers. After running across a couple of 5 lane roads I found the bus with about 30 seconds to spare before departure. Good start to the day huh?

The trip down to 富士急 (Fuji-Kyu) took about an hour and 50 minutes end to end. Beautiful 青空 (blue skies) and clear crisp air down there was a nice change from the congestion of Tokyo. Also, since it was just a regular weekday the amusement park was quite empty meaning less queues and more rides for us. The first ride we went on also turned out to be the best. It was called “Fuji-Yama” – and boasts some record for being the tallest (or was it fastest? or longest? Hmm I really can’t remember) rollercoaster in the world. Well at least I think it was for a little while – I doubt you can hold a record like that for very long. In any case, it was basically your standard go-up and then go-down roller coaster (no loops or anything…). But what made it really fun was the ‘go up’ part was really high – like 80 metres or so. Meaning the slope down was really steep, and went for aaages. The first time on it, I was so unprepared I stopped breathing at that first drop. And just when I was about to recover, there was a second, and then a third. You really feel like you are going to fall out of your seat. Gives you the biggest adrenalin rush though.


That's the first up-and-down of Fujiyama...


We went on a couple of other miscellaneous spinning rides after that. With the sky so blue though I think it kind of took some of the fun out of the rides which flung you around upside down. I seriously had no idea of which way I was pointing – or if I was even really spinning around – because all I could see was blue half the time. There wasn’t even any clouds to judge by. But I’d take that any day over a cloudy day down there – since it was clear, Fuji-san makes the place look almost like a postcard. It’s this huge snow-capped mountain just hanging in the background the whole time. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t come out very well on the little digi-cams we had; I think you need a proper SLR to take those long range shots.

There was a splash-down kind of ride down one end of the park which we ended up at after that. Seong didn’t want to get wet, so only Simone and I went. It’s more wet than your average water-rollercoaster I think though. Before you get on, it is highly recommended to buy a 100-yen disposable raincoat. After riding it I understand why.


If you can't make it out, the sign reads 'No Shampoo'... I think if i had some i could have had a pretty good shower though


I managed to tear the hood on my rain coat, so when we hit the water I got all wet from the head down. It luckily didn’t take too long to get dry after that though. Roller coasters act surprisingly well as clothes dryers when it’s a clear day~ Anyway the other highlight of the theme park was this really fast ride called ドンドンパ (Don-don-Pa). Lining up was incredibly annoying though because they had speakers all along the queue playing ドンドンパ (don-dOn-PA!) over and over. When you are standing there for 30 minutes it starts to grate. I pity the people who come when the park is busy and you need to line up for 2 and a half hours.

What made this ride special was it shoots you from 0-170km in about 1.5 seconds or something. After that it’s a pretty standard-fare coaster, but it does have a 90 degree vertical up and down which adds a bit of fun to the ride. It’s all over extremely quickly, but I must say that take of really looks like you’re entering warp-speed from some sort of sci-fi movie. Everything just goes blurry.


The 90 degree drop of Don-don-pa


Had some food after that because Seong and Simone had been out since about 5.30am at the fish market (I went the other day so I didn’t bother going there) and were getting really hungry by then. That kind of limited our ride selection for a bit – but was okay because we ended up going ice skating. Yep, there’s an outdoor ice-skating rink. I think that it’s actually a pool which they freeze over during the winter. After not having skated/bladed for a long time it felt really weird out there. But after a little while on the ice it turned out to be a lot of fun. Fell over a couple of times which hurt a bit though.

Fun on the ice


Seong and me...


Self portrait skills


Ran out of ideas after not being able to skate backwards, so I decided to just see how far I could slide on the ice. On my bum. That got me quite wet. Seong tried it too…

Evidence


We had to walk around for a bit so that we could dry after that. And even after a walk through the haunted house, a ride on the ferris-wheel and some ice-cream the two of us were still kind of damp. It was getting quite late by then though, so we had one last ride on Fuji-yama and wound up the day with a ride on the merry-go-round and then some go-carts which are so slow that you can’t actually overtake anybody. All in all, we all had an extremely good time.

Leaving Fujikyu


At Shinjuku station the three of us had dinner in a place nearby before heading for home – which is why I’m back so late. And now I think I better stop writing before I waste the whole night… Laters all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Autumn in Japan

I didn't get enough sleep last night again (sorry for not posting too!) and i have to get up extremely early tomorrow so this post is going to just be full of pictures.

To cut a long story short: today I went with some people from my class to a mountain to the south-west of Tokyo (i think it's south-west) called Takao-san. It was about an hour from Shinjuku station so it's not really that far away. We walked up and back down the mountain, and took lots of photos on the way ~ The weather was perfect and the autumn leaves (紅葉) were extremely pretty. Anyway i'll update properly tomorrow. Good luck to everybody who's still studying for exams~!

The last stop on the line - and our destination: Takaosan guchieki


One of the many photos i took of the beautiful autumn leaves up there


There were lots of little shrines too


This was a shot of the sky from near the peak


Us on the way down (from top left: Ben, Yuki, Hyun-Jung; Me; and Rim in the front)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Tsukiji-Shijou (Fish Market)

I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed this morning at 7am to get ready to go down to visit Tokyo's fish market with Ben. I didn't sleep until after 3am last night because of the fact I only woke up at 3pm that afternoon...

Getting to the fish market took about 15 minutes walking from Shimbashi station. The place was bustling with activity even though we only got there about 9.45 or so. (The lonely planet guide book recommends you just arrive before 10am to make sure you don't miss out on all the action... but i think the place is probably already starting to wind down by then)

The place really is big for a place that just sells fish. We walked for about half an hour in a straight line before we got from one end of the place to the other. But then again, we were stopping to look at things quite frequently so i'm not really sure how long the place was. I think we foreigners were probably as interesting to the stall owners as the hundreds of types of seafood were to us. One of the stall owners actually came up to us and was so shocked that we actually understood some Japanese hehe. Anyway, on to the photos.

At the fish market


These are the biggest prawns i've ever seen (to get some idea, those little looking prawns behind are actually about the length of my hand)


And some pretty huge octopus tentacles too


When we'd completed our walk down one of the many aisles, we had all seen about as much as we wanted to and decided to start looking for somewhere to get some of the fresh seafood onto a plate and into our stomachs. On the way out I found out what they do to the live fish that haven't been sold. They take them out of the water and cut them in half. Cool huh. Poor fishies. Not that getting cut into slices for sushi while you are still alive is any better i suppose.

I was expecting the place to smell quite badly considering how much fish there was lying around, but surprisingly it didn't. What was bad though, was the place we went to eat some sushi did smell kind of fishy. Let's just hope that wasn't because the fish they were using was going off...

Having fresh sushi there i suppose was nice, but honestly, i don't particularly find it much better than the supermarket sushi i can buy every day on the way home. Still, it's part of the experience.

Walking back to the station took a bit longer than getting there because we'd gone on a bit of a detour to get to a sushi place. We passed a (the?) Nissan office though, and they had a skyline on display which i thought some of you might like to have a look at:

The Japanese Nissan Skyline



Rear view


It looks quite similar to their luxury sedan here which i forgot the name of now (but was on display right next to the skyline).... Oh and according to an article in the paper, that new luxury sedan has this new automatic distance control thing which works even at low speeds. So you can just leave it to control the car when you're stuck in a traffic jam without having to pedal :)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Many meetings

Saturday was day two of Tokyo Sightseeing for me. I got to Shinjuku station (and actually found the West exit) to meet Hanson at about 9.30am. Our first stop for the day was actually my university. As you might remember, I have a break for the next couple of days because of this thing called 'Mita-Sai' (Mita Festival) - and all the stalls and performances all occur IN the university.

When we got there, i couldn't recognise the place. It looks so different with hundreds of stalls and people running around everywhere. Most of the stalls were selling various kinds of food - ranging from takoyaki (cooked octopus balls) to chocolate bananas to waffles. Actually speaking of waffles, there was a funny club which seemed to consist of only girls wearing black t-shirts with "Heartful Waffles" written in bright pink on the front and back. I don't think i managed to get a photo of them unfortunately :(

Enthusiasm for cash? Some of the antics the clubs/stalls got up to at Mita Sai to encourage people to buy things


Hanson and his mum didn't seem to find the festival terribly interesting, but for all the effort everyone had put in i thought i'd try at least one or two things. After sitting down to have some okonomiyaki (japanese pancake thing), i ran into Hiro who was actually helping sell this Japanese dessert/sweet called 'mochi'. I bought a pack of that to try too.

We caught a taxi to Tokyo tower which only took about 5 minutes. It's much closer to my university than i realised. It was a nice view from up there - but Tokyo's skyline is really not all that inspiring i suppose. It kind of just stretches on and on and on...

The view from Tokyo Tower. Beautiful day too.


I took photos from every side up there (i think) but i won't bore you by posting them up here because honestly, they all sort of look the same~ :) After walking around the place a couple of times, i found this interesting sign:




But it's a pretty neat idea


And look who I ran into at Tokyo Tower!~


Yep, that's Mui! How's that for chance? While Hanson's mother was wondering around the tower, she ran into a family friend from Melbourne who happened to be doing some sightseeing in Tokyo. Then two minutes later, from around the corner comes their daughter, Monique. I'm not sure who was more shocked when we realised, Mui, her mum, or me.

Turns out her dad's got some work to do for a few days in a place down near Mt Fuji, and Mui and mum came along for a short holiday. Seeing as they didn't have any plans for the day, they came along with us to eat lunch and have a look around Tokyo.

We had lunch in some place near Shimbashi station which served some tasty lunch sets ranging from sashimi rice sets to tempura. Somehow one of the waiters could sort of speak cantonese too! We went to Odaiba (a new-ish area around Tokyo bay) next to have a wonder around. Of course we ended up inside a shopping mall for at least half the time, but there was lots to do even in there. I found another Sony showroom while the rest of them were buying snoopy products from 'Snoopy World' - and they had Aibo on display again. Only this time, it was like a whole display room for Aibo. And there were sony reps there to explain everything (one of them even spoke English pretty well!).

Speaking of dogs, the other thing that you notice about Odaiba is there seem to be a lot of people taking theirs for walks there. The vast majority of them are small tiny toy dogs, and a lot of them have jackets and other clothes on too hehe. But it was nice to see so many of them wondering around the place (or even just being carried around the place in specially made handbags).

When we finally got out of the shopping complex bit and took a stroll outside, we were greeted by a really nice cool breeze (which soon became a little bit too cold) and some great views of Tokyo from across the water. We also found this.

Japan's version


At night apparently it gets really pretty around there now, because they have all the Christmas lights up. While we were having some afternoon tea/coffee/cake the lights on Rainbow bridge did start to come on which really made it feel like the perfect tourist spot. Unfortunately, with the sun setting it also got a good deal colder too which sort of ruined that image a little.

While we were originally going to eat dinner in Odaiba, after afternoon tea it was only about 5pm so we decided to head back to central Tokyo find somewhere to eat. I took everybody to have a look at Shibuya which was as usual crammed full of people. I think it wasn't quite the scene the parents were after hehe. We had dinner in a comfortable little udon shop - although because i actually spent about 20 minutes walking around trying to find Kris and Rui, my dinner wasn't quite as comfortable in my stomach (i ate my udon and curry rice in about 5 minutes flat).

Said goodbye to people after dinner (both Hanson and Mui and parents headed off out of Tokyo this morning) and met up with Kris, Rui and Martin for some drinks. Both Mui and Hanson were going to come too, but in the end Mui decided that she wouldn't. She didn't know how to get back to her hotel so I was going to have to take her - and since the last train stops at around midnight that wouldn't leave a lot of time to do anything (would need to leave time to get to Mui's hotel from Shibuya, and then get back to Shinagawa before my line stopped running). Hanson did come along - but after drinks at the izakaya and 30 minutes of pool it was time to make for the last train. Seeing as the night was still pretty young, we decided that we'd continue but back at the dorm (instead of out in Shibuya). Hanson had to go back since he had an early start this morning.

We managed to think we were right on time for the last train home, but when we got to Shinagawa station, we found out that we weren't. Luckily, there was another line home that got us back (in a more round-about way) by about 1am though. We bought some more beer from the convenience store while we were walking back, and spent the rest of the night in Kris' room talking.

By about 6am everyone was getting tired and hungry - so after a quick trip to the convenience store to get some food, Rui and Martin headed off home and I went off to get some sleep.

Since waking up today, i have done the laundry and cleaned up my room a little bit. Now i think i better get started catching up on all my reading!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Sightseeing around Tokyo

Yep, i spent today actually going around Tokyo like a tourist today. I did spend about half an hour walking lost around Shinjuku trying to find Hanson's hotel this morning though. Luckily, after he called me for about the 5th time i actually realised my phone was ringing and got some help. In the end Hanson and his mother came and found me instead. Good tour guide I was turning out to be :)

We went to Ueno first to have a look at the big park there. Which, upon arriving, i realised i actually HAVE visited before. The weather was quite spotty today though so the umbrellas wer out in full force unfortunately. Not quite optimal weather for a stroll in the park, but it was nice none the less. Stopped by at Tokyo National Museum too (it's in Ueno park - or at least right next to it). There was a display called "Treasures of Ancient China" which we spent about an hour or two at. It's amazing what the Chinese had in the way of sculptures and tools back in 2000 B.C - they had cool looking axes and spoons and things (and wine warmers!~). The exhibition ranged from back then till i think about maybe 6th or 7th century A.D; so there was lots of buddhist artwork/sculptures to look at too.

By the time we came out of there we were feeling a little hungry so we hopped back on the train and continued on our way around the Yamanote line (that's like the city loop around Tokyo) till we got to Akihabara (Electric Town). We picked randomly picked some restaurant from it's sign outside to have lunch at, and then wandered around there for about 2 hours. Was tempted to get a DVD drive for my laptop, but i decided to hold off at least until the new model comes out.

Next stop was Ginza. Had a bit of trouble trying to get there since i couldn't remember how to get there (because there's no 'Ginza' station on the JR line hehe). After finally giving up and going to ask the grumpy looking station assistant, it actually turned out to be quite close by. In Ginza we had a drink and decided to pay the Sony display building a visit.

Blue lights in the Sony building


Aibo!~ this is the latest version, it's quite cool ... it can see colour and everything. And you can pet it! :)


Afterwards, we sort of aimlessly walked around amongst all the expensive designer label stuff until our feet got quite sore. We took a rest on some seats in some store nearby for about 30 minutes till we felt like walking a bit more. Had dinner in some random place nearby - was like an izakaya-ish sort of environment. BUT they had an english menu which was nice~ We got to try all sorts of assorted things ranging from tenpura to oyster-nabe (hot pot). As is the case with most places everything came in small serves meaning you can try a lot of different things. It was very reasonably priced (especially considering it's mainroad Ginza), coming to only a bit over 2000 yen a head.

Here's a nice shot of the lights that are up (i'm assuming for Christmas) around the place.

Ginza by night


We were actually planning to go have a look at Shibuya and Roppongi after dinner, but i decided that i should probably get some rest (i didn't sleep much last night), and also work out what to do with ourselves tomorrow. I'm thinking Tokyo tower, Odaiba and maybe a quick tour of my uni... But in any case we shall find out tomorrow i suppose~

Friday, November 19, 2004

Mita-Sai is here

Monday:
Went to school, went along to Simone and Asli’s conversation partner meeting again. We went to the Excelsior Café near the train station this time. Most of the time was spent learning apparently ‘useful’ words in Japanese. Simone and Asli had their notepads out most of the time writing down everything. Somehow we got onto the topic of 変態・スケベ・チカン (perverts and weird people on the trains) though – and it sounds like a fairly common problem here in Japan. My friend Ji-Hee was there and said she’s unfortunately met a few of them on the crowded trains to and from her place. Both the conversation partner’s have also had similar experiences when they were in high school…

Tuesday:
Only had class in periods one and two. Class was entirely dedicated to speeches though so it was quite fun since you just have to sit and listen and ask a few questions. Had lunch at a tempura place near campus (it’s almost a fast-food chain – you can get take away tempura too). It was good none the less – and only cost like 500 yen for the meal! After that I went straight home to learn my speech for Wednesday class. Probably spent about one hour altogether doing it with all the procrastinating, and then headed off to badminton training. Training was easier than normal because they had a tournament on Wednesday. I broke the strings on my second racket unfortunately however… Afterwards I went with some of them to eat some dinner – and I finally got to try this Chinese place they always go to (since we got there before they closed this time). I had some spicy fried chicken with rice and cold udon set. If you have never tried cold udon I highly recommend it – although I’m not too sure how easy it is to get outside of Japan.

Wednesday:
Gave my speech in class. Was pretty bad I thought since the topic I’d chosen was originally for an essay – and I had no idea we were meant to use it for a speech later. If you’re wondering my topic was the ‘Bionic Ear’ – go look it up in google if you don’t know what it is. The two other people from Australia in my class talked about the Sydney Opera House and koalas hehe. Anyway I tried my best to explain as many of the weird words I used – but I still think a lot of people didn’t understand much which made it a bit boring. I was extremely tired after class finished since I managed to go to bed at about 3am on Tuesday because I was looking for pictures to use for the presentation. BUT, I finally decided that I would take a trip to Yokohama to the badminton store so I could get my two rackets restrung. So with the help of some directions from Kogai-kun (badminton friend), I made it to the shop and got it done. I helped Kris (he lives opposite me in the room opposite me) get a racket there too since he’s been just borrowing people’s rackets at the badminton club that he’s been frequenting so far. While we were waiting for his new racket to get strung, we found a place to eat where I tried this variation on maguro-don (tuna-sashimi on a bowl of rice basically) which was called マグロ利久丼 (maguro-rikyuudon – at least I think that’s how you say it) which was really good. Kris had some eel thing which I can’t remember the name of.

We almost didn’t make it back to the shop in time to pick up our rackets – since we both didn’t look at the time while we were having dinner. They were still open when we got there though so it was okay. After we went looking for a game arcade, but didn’t find one which had anything we felt like playing. We did find this weird multiplayer card game though. It seemed to be a bit like magic the gathering – where you buy booster packs and things, and there’s different sorts of cards that you use. But the catch is, you play with the cards at this arcade-machine thing. You actually insert them in, and I suppose when there’s other people there they insert theirs. And there’s a screen – so while there was nobody playing it at the time, I’m guessing that there’ll be some sort of animated thing happening there when you’re creatures fight with each other…. Quite interesting I thought.

I took a few photos outside for everyone to have a look at too:

Outside Yokohama station at night


Another random shot


A side street in Yokohama somewhere


Enough random photos yet?


Thursday:
I woke up at 4pm. That’s definitely the longest sleep in I’ve had since I’ve arrived. I guess all the days of having 3 or 4 hours sleep finally caught up with me. Today was the first day of the Mita Festival break so I made the most of it. Although, come to think of it, I normally don’t have class on Thursdays anyway. I have until next Thursday off from class - and a lot of my friends have all disappeared off to various parts of Japan (and a couple off to Korea) for the week. I however will be staying here in Tokyo to hopefully get a look at the place a bit better. Oh, and Hanson is here for 4 days as well - so i'll be meeting up with him tomorrow for some sightseeing too i think.

As for today, I pretty much just had time to roll out of bed and make myself some instant noodles before it was time to go to badminton again. Training is back to being really hard – I didn’t even try to do the shuttle run with the rest of them tonight – was starting to hurt too much just doing the multi-feed. Went to eat with them after again – I think I probably learn as much Japanese at badminton training as I do in class. The listening practice is really good – I think I’m slowly starting to understand more and more of the conversations now… Hopefully I’ll actually start to understand all of it before I leave hehe. Anyway that brings me right up to now as I sit here typing this blog. Till next time.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

What can you buy with one hundred yen?

Most of today i spent doing homework. It takes me so long to go through one Japanese newspaper article it's quite frustrating. I did eventually get through the two i had, but afterwards i really didn't have enough motivation left to do much else.

As a result, i spent the next few hours reading my ebook until dinner time. Tonight, three of us from the dorm went out to eat at a place not too far from here. Ben felt like exploring the neighbourhood a little; i didn't particularly feel like cooking; and Kris had managed to go the whole day without eating anything (well, he only got up at about 4pm apparently so that wasn't such a great feat i suppose).

It was a little yaki-niku place (you have a little grill thing in front of you where you cook the meat). Kris and I just tried various kinds of marinated meats that didn't look too strange, while Ben had some veggie stir-fry thing and then some eel combination dish with rice. All in all it was quite a good meal, but more expensive than was expected too (we ended up paying about 2000 yen each).

On the way home we found something interesting though. As we were walking past the second hand store that's near our dorm, we noticed a new basket full of stuffed toys. At first we thought they were only 100 yen each - and Kris found a cool looking Pikachu to buy. When we looked at the sign properly though, it turns out it was actually 詰め放題 (or stuff as much as you can into one bag and it will cost you 100 yen). Sooooo we got a few other miscellaneous things too :)

What was more interesting though, was while Kris and I were rummaging through the pile of Hello Kitty dolls and other weird Japanese characters, Ben found a chair on sale. The price? 100 yen. None of us could really believe it - it's really quite a nice chair. We decided that for the good of all the people living in our dorm, we'd buy it and put it in the lounge downstairs ~ I think that's probably the best 100 yen any of us has spent in Japan so far.

Without further ado, here is the chair that cost 100 yen (and some of the soft toys we got too...)


Anyway, that's enough procrastinating for one night i think~ Homework time :(


P.S As for prices and stuff here, the 'melty kiss' chocolates i got the other day were about 260 yen for the pack (only about 65g net weight tho); and the all you can eat shabu-shabu that other night came to about 3000 yen per head. How much you spend here really varies quite a lot on where you go, but the all you can eat and drink for 3000 yen is probably about as cheap as that comes. You can certainly get a meal that will keep you full (if not so drunk) for a lot less though.

Oops i forgot to blog again

I've been sitting here for the past 30 minutes trying to work out what some japanese word means and i just realised that i haven't posted a blog for today (or yesterday come to think of it).

Friday:
Not much interesting happened yesterday that i can remember. I think i just got up late and went to class. Oh yeah and i finally got my Keio computer account set up so that i can use the printing facilities and stuff at uni. The way it works here is that you just need a login so you can use the computers, and then to print you need to buy a 'print card'. After you click 'print', you pop over to the printer which has it's own little LCD touchscreen thing and type your username in, and insert your print card there... Quite interesting, but quite complicated when all the instructions are in japanese and you have no idea what you're doing :P

Saturday:
Class this morning. Man it's hard getting up at 7am on a Saturday. I'm still not quite used to it. My afternoon newspaper class got cancelled yet again, which means i think we've missed 3 (or maybe it's 4) lessons now - that's about half of them. Because of that, we had a bit more time for lunch so we decided to visit one of the eating places just outside the uni (instead of the school caf which is getting a little bit boring). It was called マグロ市場 (Maguro Ichiba - Tuna City i suppose in English), and they sell various kinds of seafood-don (rice) dishes. All of us had マグロ丼 (maguro-don) which is the middle/stomach area of the tuna (i think it's there... it's really dark red, soft meat) with rice. Oh the tuna is raw too. So it's kind of like having sushi, but with more rice :)

The food there is pretty average ... but it's really cheap - it only cost me 600 yen for my マグロ丼(大盛) (large serve maguro-don). Normally maguro is quite expensive. Also there's a Keio student discount there (i guess they must have a lot of Keio customers) - so we all got free miso soup hehe.

Afterwards i just came home, and had a chat with Hongo-san (the Plume IS housekeeper person...). For some reason i find his japanese really hard to understand :( I can still guess about 50% of what he means usually though hehe ~ When i finally got back to my room, i decided to read for a little while - which turned out to be a bad idea because as usual i fell asleep (and didn't set an alarm to wake myself up) .... Sooooo i think i will probably be up late tonight.

Friday, November 12, 2004

An Eventful Thursday

Today I slept in till about 1.30 in the afternoon. I think that’s the longest sleep I’ve had in about two months. Anyway it was nice to wake up because I actually didn’t feel like sleeping anymore and not because I had to go to uni. I finally decided to take a trip to the hairdresser too… I went to some place that I pass everyday on my way to the station. It’s just a small men’s barber shop run by a husband and wife. Afterwards because there was nobody else there, I stayed around for a bit of a chat which was fun. As usual they first thought I was Japanese until I said that I was an exchange student. Then of course they thought I was a Chinese exchange student until I explained that I’m actually from Australia hehe.

On the way back, I stopped off at the convenience store to get something to eat seeing as I hadn’t had a bite since I got up (which wasn’t all that long ago I guess). Also since winter is just around the corner, the new winter season foods have all come out. In Japan it’s not only the fruits and veggies that change with the season. Things like special seasonal drinks/chips/chocolates also come out. I picked up a box of ‘Meltykiss’ chocolates (and as for the flavour, yep you guessed it, green tea flavour again) there which are really nice. They ‘melt in your mouth like a snowflake’ – at least according to the box…


I spent the next hour or so doing some reading for my economics class tomorrow – and I even managed to write a short summary/commentary on an article. Tonight there was our 2F-class dinner thing happening too – which started at 6.45 in Shibuya (sniff no badminton training for me…). The reason? A few of us have been sort of feeling that our class has been a bit divided between the English-speaking people and the non-English speaking (mainly Chinese-speaking) people. So big thanks go to Fabien (for realizing and deciding to do something about it) and Simone (for actually organizing the whole thing).

We went to a 食べ放題・飲み放題 (all you can eat/drink) Shabu-shabu/Sukiyaki place. The atmosphere was quite nice there and after a bit of confusion over where everyone was meant to sit. Ben is vegetarian which meant that people sharing the hot pot with him wouldn’t be able to cook meat in it. Problem was solved when we realized that Sandy was also vegetarian – and there happened to be one hot pot at the end of the table for just two people! I think everyone had a pretty good time generally – and it was good to finally sort of get to know some of the other people from class who I see in class everyday. It was funny trying to speak to everybody because for a change, we all had to pretty much solely use Japanese…


Sukiyaki here we go...


Yuki and Ben


Sandy and Me


Gray Simone and Yuki


Me, Hyun-Jung, Aya and Simone (plus lots of smoke)


There was a cute waiter working at the place too, who kindly let the girls take about twenty photos with him. He could say a few words in English and his pronunciation was so good we actually all thought at first that he could speak fluently… Anyway he was a good sport but I’m sure must have been thinking that we were all quite weird by the end of the night.

The girls and the waiter


Afterwards, karaoke was the planned destination – but we didn’t exactly hurry getting there which meant we ended up not having as much time there as we might have liked. Not everybody came to karaoke either – as it was a little on the late side and I suppose not everybody in the class fancied taking their chances catching the last train home. Everyone who came definitely had fun though – even if it was a bit hard to find songs that everybody knew.


Another thing I found out tonight was that from Shibuya, I can come home late on weekdays by the Tokyuu Touyoko Sen because the last train running home is at 12:17 or something (and it goes all the way to Hiyoshi meaning no line change which I normally need to do if I take my normal line home)~! Also, I can go OUT to Shibuya late – the last train departs from Hiyoshi to Shibuya at something like 12.30am… Will have to find an excuse to try that sometime I think. And that’s all from me for now. Till next time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I need more sleep...

Well the reason i haven't posted anything up here for a few days is because time keeps slipping away somehow. It always seems to be 2am before i know it. At least tonight i'm planning to have a nice long rest since i don't have any class tomorrow.

I spent Sunday at home studying i think. Oh yeah that's right, there was another dormitory 'party' on Sunday night. The quotation marks are because it was a Sunday night, so not that many people turned up, and after the food got packed up everyone just disappeared. I wasn't actually intending to go originally, but when dinner time came around and i still hadn't bothered to cook anything i decided that it'd be easier just to go down to the lounge and eat. It turned out we were having shabu-shabu (well i think it was meant to be shabu-shabu) and we had three nabe (hot plates with a bowl on top; like steam-boat things) to cook everything with. For some reason though, two of the three were filled with this ultra-hot soup that nobody could eat. After they diluted it with about 2 kettles of water, most people still didn't want to eat it... In the end, i think there was too many people and too little food. And not enough beer either. I was still quite hungry afterwards and ended up going to the convenience store to grab a bento box...

Monday ... um ... i had a test (which was why i was studying sunday) which was pretty standard. I've figured out how to do really well on the tests now; you just have to memorise the passages so you can recite it. So yeah test marks have been good lately. I met up with Chieko for lunch - and as usual she brought a new friend. I keep forgetting everybody's names. But it's okay so far because the same people haven't come twice yet hehe. On monday Chieko's friend gave me a name card (like a business card, with her uni faculty/phone number/email etc on it) so at least i have it written down this time. We didn't talk very much because we all had class in period 3... Well, we thought we had class at least. We found out our class was cancelled as we were half way up the stairs (it's on the fifth floor so it's a bit of a hike...!~) from one of the other students on their way down. Spent the next hour or so doing homework, and then met up with Simone/Asli's language partners. I was planning to go home to get some rest, but I was walking around with Kris at the time who wanted to have some more Japanese practice. We ended up staying and talking for about 2 and a half hours... Monday is turning into my speaking practice day. Even the elective class i have on Monday is a speaking/presentation subject.

I can't remember anything interesting from Tuesday's classes. I only have 2 periods though which i quite like. Had lunch with Yuki, Miguel and Matthias. Ben was there too, and Kris came later so in the end there was a lot of us. People only had class in 4th period so we all sat in the cafeteria until then. Matthias is so funny because he keeps on making up words, or at least weird sentences (in english AND japanese)... I think he's translating stuff from German but i'm not sure~

I went to training yesterday (tuesday) too. Another Keio OB (old boy) came along and helped with the drills and stuff. We ended up training a lot harder than usual - or maybe i was just already exhausted from lack of rest. In any case i had to stop training because i was having real problems breathing and my legs were about to collapse from under me after doing three sets of the shuttle run (it's like that "murder" exercise where you sprint up and back... but we have to pick up a shuttle each time). After training i went to eat with the guys, and we went to this fish place. I had a 中マグロ定食 (maguro-tuna set meal) which was reallly nice. The wasabi was a really bright green which looked kind of unnatural though hehe. I should go try more of the different Japanese cuisine i think - i'm eating way to much bento and Keio cafeteria food. Oh and what was nice was the OB paid for everybody too. But that's like the custom here that's pretty firmly engrained in the culture i think - nobody was particularly surprised...

Today, i actually came straight home after classes finished. I was seriously struggling to stay awake in class this morning, and i'm feeling quite drained now. I think i should stop blogging since i really have nothing interesting to say, and maybe start doing some homework or something...

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Friday Night Live

Sorry about not posting yesterday – got home late and spend the rest of the night studying… Which turned out to be a bit of a waste of time seeing as one of the tests we were meant to have was ‘cancelled’. Or rather, the teacher just forgot about it, so she gave it to us as homework hehe.

Yesterday after school I went to a live (concert) – Mas’s group (Rasputin) and about 4 other punk-rock bands were performing at this place called Tau Kitchen in Shibuya. I missed his last live because I didn’t realize it was on until the day – and then I had all this homework to catch up on. Yesterday though the turn out was quite good. In all, there was about six of us Keio exchange students who went. I think there was also three other exchange students there from other universities, but I didn’t get to meet them. What was a bit funny was we made up about half the crowd. There wasn’t really that many people apart from ourselves and the members of the other bands who weren’t performing. The place was nice and cosy though, so it didn’t feel like it was empty or anything though.

Entry cost 2,100 yen, which is not toooo bad considering it does include one free drink. The first thing I noticed when we went in, was how loud they were playing. The actual place was two levels – the entrance (ground level) was where the bar and some seats/couches are. Downstairs in the basement was the performance area. When the door opened to the basement, it was LOUD standing upstairs. When we went down, I could feel the air blowing out of the speakers – like it was loud to the point of the sound distorting. But I think it was my eardrums that couldn’t keep up with the volume as opposed to the speakers. In any case I don’t think going to these sorts of concerts is terribly good for your ears.

The music was all pretty heavy, but I liked Mas’s group the best. The rest of the exchangees seemed to prefer the first group that performed. Maybe I’m just biased. Mas's group, Rasputin, sang about 50% in english. Both Mas and his other vocalist are very fluent in english (they both went to one of Keio's campuses in the US) so it was pretty cool. I took quite a few videos on my digi-cam which are too big to post up here. But they show the atmosphere a lot better than the photos. I’ll pop a couple of pics up here anyway though:


This is one of the earlier groups who performed


This is Rasputin, there's two vocalists/guitarists and one drummer (who you can't see in any of the pictures because of the place i was standing hehe)



This is Mas



This is the co-vocalist/guitarist. I don't know his name~


After getting home and studying all my kanji for a couple of hours, I managed to only get about 4 hours sleep so I was quite tired at school today. Having the kanji test cancelled didn't make me feel terribly great either lol. I came straight home, despite there being free entrance for students to this near art museum in Ueno. Ben (who had the same newspaper reading class as me this afternoon) went along afterwards, but only got there at 4:30 which was thirty minutes before they closed. I on the other hand, took a nap for a couple of hours. I somehow managed to do the washing in between getting home and waking up from my nap though. Thank goodness for washing machines.

I made chicken curry for dinner tonight! Turned out quite okay, but I think I should only have used about half the curry ‘block’ that I did (the curry just comes in these blocks instead of powder for some reason). I now have enough left over for lunch and probably afternoon tea tomorrow~ At least I suppose it will save me some effort cooking.

Anyway that’s all from me for now!

Friday, November 05, 2004

One day rest

Today i spent the day at home. Which was good because i actually got some homework done. I still have a fair bit that needs doing though - so hopefully tomorrow morning i won't wake up too late.

Don't have much to write, so i'll just post up some pictures of the shoes i got yesterday.







I went to badminton training today (for the first time in a week, since training was off on Tuesday). We haven't trained that hard for quite a while. But it definitely makes it feel good now when i can just stretch my legs out and relax. If I don't go out on Saturday, i think i might try to go to training again...

Tomorrow after class i'm going to see Mas (one of the guys i met in an Izakaya a few weeks back) perform with his band in Shibuya. Should be fun. But it means i'm going to be out most of the afternoon/night. Soooo, i really need to get off this and have a shower and get some homework done :)

Laters.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Chinatown in Japan

Being a public holiday today, I took the chance to go down to visit Yokohama’s Chinatown (中華街) with Tony, Simone, Megumi, and Foster. For once I was actually closer to the place we were going than everybody else though. We were meant to meet there at 12.30 – and I figured since the stop was actually on the line near my place, I’d just leave at about 11.45. However, by the time I got to the station, the next train was leaving at 12.20 and Chuukagai was further away than I’d anticipated. Thinking I’d be really late I messaged to tell them, but I ended up getting there before everybody else somehow. I suppose they must have underestimated how long it would take too. It was actually the very end of the line – apparently it’s a recent extension to make it more convenient to go visit china town.

Anyway it’s a pretty big place, and I don’t think we really managed to see a lot of it. This is the first gate I saw along the way:



I think it was because we got there at about 1pm that we didn’t end up really seeing much. We were more intent on finding somewhere to eat lunch than sightseeing. We found some Buddhist shrine/temple along the way which we stopped to have a look at. The whole place smelled pretty familiar with all the incense burning everywhere. I think because it was a public holiday though, the place was especially packed, which made the viewing of the little place even harder.



After the shrine we’d all lasted about as long as we could, and we started to hunt for a place to eat. *If you are about to eat dinner or something I’d suggest you not read the next bit… I will put a mark when it’s okay to read again.* Of course, along the way, our conversation turned to food, and somehow we ended up talking about eating dog… I think it must have started as a joke at Tony (who’s Korean) – but he kindly filled us in on Korean style dog eating. The dog they eat in Korea is actually specially bred as food. Or actually, it is a special breed for eating – nobody really knows what breed it is. It’s called ‘shit-breed’ in Korean, since it is a mix of a whole heap of different things which nobody knows now. It sounds like they eat them a bit like they way people eat mud crabs. That is, they eat them fresh. So, either they hang the dog up by its paws and hit it until it dies, then cook it. Or they simply put it straight into hot water and boil it alive. It’s meant to be a bit of a delicacy there (people apparently say the meat is really soft and tender), but I don’t think any of us is really game enough to try it if we go there. Even Tony refuses to touch it – which I can understand seeing as he actually has a dog as a pet. Anyway, there’s some food for thought for you all ~~

*Okay, if you stopped reading before you can start reading from here.* During our search for a place to have yum-cha I found this cool looking version of char-siew bao. In true asian style we have Panda bao!~



We all have a bit of a laugh at each other here in regards to all the stereotyping that happens. Everybody who’s Chinese have pandas for pets. The Canadians all have moose running around their yards. The Aussies all have kangaroos bouncing around the house. And the Koreans … well they just run around holding bowls of kim-chi everywhere.

The place we ended up going to served a set yum-cha sort of menu, which we all ordered. Turned out to be quite nice, because we got to try a whole lot of different dishes. Below is a picture of the first course of tofu salad thing. After that I sort of lost interest so I think that’s the only picture I can show you of lunch~



After that, being full of food, we took a walk out of china town around Yokohama bay. Oh, and before we got there, we met up with Seung too. The weather was beautiful today – much more like the Japan Autumn weather I’ve been told about – and it was really nice to see some open sea like this:



We managed to kill a few hours doing that, and actually ended up being a bit late for the movie we were meant to watch called 2046 (I think that’s it at least… it was some futuristic sounding year). It’s got a blend of Hong Kong, Chinese and Japanese people in it. Anyway for Simone that was fine because she could understand the movie straight up. For Megumi it was okay because she could read the Japanese subtitles. Foster can sort of understand Cantonese, and he can read Chinese and a fair bit of Japanese. For Tony, Seung and I though, comprehension was going to be a bit of a problem. When we got there though, the 4pm session was sold out, and the next one was at 6:45. We thought that maybe we’d just split and watch two different movies, but in the end there wasn’t really anything else on at the same time, so Seung and I just thought we’d chill for a couple of hours while the rest of them watched 2046. For some reason, Tony decided to go watch it with them too. He understood about 1% of it I think. Oh well.

Between buying the ticket and the movie, we split into two groups – Megumi and Simone went off shopping, and the guys all went to the arcade just opposite the cinemas for a bit. All the gaming places here seem to have a massive sticker photo section. Which is off-limits for guys. Unless you are with your girlfriend. Tony wanted to see what would happen if two of us guys went in holding hands, but we thought we better not. They seriously have some social problems here. I mean, at the front of the store, there’s a sign listing all the things prohibited inside, like eating, drinking, smoking and kicking the games machines. ‘Picking up’ is also up there.

And another observation for the day: Japan seriously has green-tea everything. While Seung and I were sitting in the food court, we found a place that sells green-tea bagels. I wasn’t feeling hungry at the time though, and Seung wanted a sandwich so we didn’t try it. I am still waiting to find a green-tea flavoured burger though. Oh and after I got sick of watching them all play games in the arcade, I went for a walk downstairs and bought myself a pair of sneakers. There was some 10% off thing happening, so I ended up paying 9,450 yen for the pair which is probably not that different from back in Australia. They’re Addidas white things, but I don’t have a photo of them right now so I’ll show everybody some other time.

After the rest of them came out of the movie we finished the day keeping with our theme of having ‘foreign’ food in Japan – so we went to an American-style diner for dinner. The food we ordered ranged pretty much from burgers with chips, to sandwiches with chips, to pizza. I had a BLT cheeseburger + chips + extra wedges and cheese. I am still very full. Overall I would probably say that place is about on par with TGI Friday’s back home. Speaking of which, none of us has been to one here yet. Next time we go out I think we might try to grab something there. Anyway it’s really getting late now, and I should get to bed so I can wake up and actually do some homework tomorrow~! Laters.

Oh this is just a nice shot of the Ferris-wheel from outside the place we ate.