Monday, January 31, 2005

Cooking

Woke up at 3 something this afternoon. I was actually intending to go to bed early last night - but I got hungry and ended up going to get food at about 3am. Then since i didn't feel like sleeping straight after i somehow ended up playing starcraft until the early hours of the morning...

Anyway, the only interesting thing i've done today is some cooking, so that's what this post is going to be about. Thanks to Ez for giving me the idea of trying to cook something interesting using everything i had at my disposal, i set about making myself some dinner. Ingredients i can remember at the moment: salt, sugar, pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chilli and chilli powder, garlic and butter.

Step 1: Heat butter and garlic and add chicken (medium heat)


I think what happened next was the garlic started burning so i just added some water. And must have decided that it was a good time to put in the chilli and chilli powder too.


Leave to simmer for a while. Add water as necessary.


More simmering


Add soy sauce. Oh and i think in one of those previous simmering pictures i added the oyster sauce too. Hmmm great recipe this is turning out to be.


Serve with some (non-salty) stuff like rice and scrambled eggs.


And just in case you were wondering, against all odds it actually tasted quite good... Till next time.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Lounge-ing

It’s 3.42am in the morning and I’m sitting down here in the lounge with Kris and Cheh… I think I really need to try to get back into some sort of a regular sleeping pattern. For the last couple of hours we’ve been amusing ourselves with a mix of Warcraft III, Starcraft and some random music DVD that Ben bought. Everybody since has gone to bed except the three of us though. Today was generally a rather unproductive day – but it was nice to just be able to spend some time reading and having a break from everything. I’m still trying to work out whether I’m actually looking forward to coming home or not… I keep telling myself that I’m not and that I want to stay here – but then every now and then I get a little nagging feeling that it would be nice to be home too.

Hongo-san was down in the lounge a bit earlier telling us about how he’s going off to visit Asakusa tomorrow. It’s his first time going there, which I thought was quite funny. He’s been in Tokyo since September last year and has seen almost none of Tokyo in that time – by the sounds of things he doesn’t like the popular tourist kind of places because they’re all too crowded here. Speaking of traveling, by the looks of things at the moment, I will be staying put here in Tokyo until I leave. Everybody’s been telling me to go visit Kansai but I actually sat down and really thought about it the other night, and came to the realization that if I went, that would be the only reason I was going – not because I actually wanted to see it myself. Every time I go out here I realize there’s still so much of Tokyo I haven’t seen, let alone explored, yet – which I think would be a real shame seeing as I’ve been here for the last four and a half months…

Saturday, January 29, 2005

合コン

I'm getting really good at waking up at 2pm without an alarm... I think today is the fourth day in a row i've managed to do it. Anyway, last night i went out to a kind of 合コン(arranged group meeting session) in Shinjuku. Matthias and his friend Yuki organised it i think. In the end (after Ben pulled out due to still not having completed his homework!~) there was 4 guys and 3 girls who came. We somehow decided to have mexican food for dinner - and went to a mexican style izakaya somewhere in kabukichou. On the way i found this sign which i thought was quite amusing:



It was a bit weird at the izakaya because i couldn't remember anybody's name properly and like ... i couldn't hear what was being said down the other end of the table. After that we spent a little while trying to decide between playing pool or going to karaoke. The 飲み放題 (all you can drink alcohol) at karaoke eventually swayed us and off we went.

This is Norika, Kumiko and myself in the place


I don't think any of the girls had been to karaoke with foreigners before and they were all really shocked at how うまい(good) Matthias was. Although, come to think of it, so was i when i first heard him sing in Japanese. It's quite amazing how well he can remember the lyrics ~

Matthias, Ace and Miguel


In all we had a good mix of english songs picked mainly by Miguel, modern Japanese pop courtesy of Matthias, and some older なつかしい stuff by the gals.

Miguel, Yuki and Kumiko


I think Norika has had some sort of proper singing training because she had a really good voice... Almost put Matthias to shame. But then Matthias probably knows more jpop than all of them put together ... :)

Everyone but me.


Despite the abundance of alcohol we all seemed to be pretty sober when we came out still ...
Here's the last shot of the night just outside the karaoke place


Hopefully will have a chance to meet up with them all again. After exchanging some phone numbers and stuff we made it to the station and i somehow managed to get the last train home...

This is what i see when i walk to Hiyoshi station from the dorm (i took it walking home *from* Hiyoshi station however).. I had to rest my camera on post to do it - but i think it captures the really eerie feeling u get when u walk around there when there's nobody else around


This is Yagami river which is about 50 metres from the dorm. Really nice place to just stand and think. There's just something about the sound of rushing water...


Stayed around chatting in the dorm when i got back until quite late again... Now maybe i should go make myself some food...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Sukiyaki and Game centres

Last night I had yet another farewell kind of gathering. This time it was for Simone because she's heading off to Hokkaido and then HK so i might not see her before i leave. We took some sticker photos at a random place in Shibuya which were good except for the fact that we didn't print the right number out for all of us... For dinner, we went back to the sukiyaki/shabushabu place that we went to for a class dinner a few months back. Unfortunately for Simone and Asli, the hot guy wasn't working, but the food was really good. Considering it's an all you can eat place the quality of the meat and vegies is really nice. And you even get unlimited all you can eat rice too ehhe :) Ahh bliss.

Ben Simone and I


Well okay maybe i should retract that comment about eating as much as you can:
"All you can eat" Matthias


I'm not quite sure how much of that face is a pose, and how much is real. Now that i think about it, he was complaining about dying if he ate one more bite...

Miguel and Asli


After the dinner, the six of us (Miguel, Asli, Matthias, Simone, Ben and Me) went next door to another game centre where we spent the next hour or so playing DDR, drum mania and other various things. Ben found this samurai style thing where you get to swing a sword around too. You probably need to see the video clips to understand - but it was a really cool game ~ New theory: the Japanese are all slim and fit because their video games make them MOVE.

At the game-centre


We actually ended up visiting quite a few different game centres because Matthias really wanted to play some air hockey, and the place we were in at first only had one broken table.. Eventually we wondered into a sega world or something and found a table though. But not before i found this:

FINALLY...


Yep it's a game where you can win schoolgirl uniforms


Yeah so i still have not been able to find those fabled underwear vending machines, but this is the closest thing yet.

The air hockey games were quite fun. The table is one of those ones that likes to spit out 3 pucks at once to make things a bit more chaotic. When i played half the things were flying off the table. Still, lots of fun, despite giving me a couple of sore fingers.

Air hockey team two...


Anyway got home at a respectable 1am or so, and sat in the lounge having a chat to Cheh who was once again playing starcraft down there instead of studying for his finals. I think he finishes tomorrow so after that i'm guessing we'll all be going out drinking/eating a lot more. I wish i'd been hanging in the lounge a bit more often before now though - i think a few people have actually already disappeared back home without me even getting a chance to say bye :(

Thursday, January 27, 2005

More Farewells

Last night we had our final 2F gathering at a place called 'Oriental Kitchen' in Ikebukuro. I was originally a bit worried about meeting up with everybody since there was actually two different 'east exits' at Ikebukuro station - but only one or two people actually went to the wrong one.

Simone found the place on the net somewhere, and when we were talking about it after class it turned out that Yuki had actually been there once before and recommended it. The food was basically chinese - ranging from sweet and sour pork and fried rice to things like pigs trotters and those soy-sauce egg things. Overall it was really good - or maybe it's just because i haven't had any 'chinese' food for so long... There was a nice selection of desserts and pastries and stuff too. Oh and did i mention it was a buffet style/all you can eat place :). The best thing about it though, was probably the price. For an all you can eat/drink (albeit, non-alcoholic drinks) place it was very reasonably priced.

Chan, Simone, Asli and Yuki



Fabian, Me and Aya



Christina, Ben, Sandy and Hyun-Jung


Tina and I


The class seems to have really bonded over the last couple of months - despite being somewhat stand-offish in the beginning. Even those less talkative people all seem to be really comfortable around everybody now. It was really sad to think that i might not get a chance to see a lot of them again - quite a few people are heading off either home or travelling in the next few days and i will be back home by the time they get back. As most likely the last time we gathered together as a class though, it was a great night out.

Thanks guys for such a memorable semester together, I will miss everybody heaps!

The 2004 Fall Semester 2F Class! (well most of us)


After dinner, we all sort of dawdled to the station and stood around trying to decide where to go/what to do next. Unfortunately the longer we stood around, the more people decided that they needed to go home and in the end only four of us: Ben, Fabian, Aya and myself stopped over in Shibuya to have a drink. Ben took us to a place he'd been before which was a nice chill cafe sort of place which served assorted finger food and drinks. Not ten minutes after we got there, Aaron and Sayaka came wondering in from wherever they'd been which was a pleasant surprise... We had a good chat for a while, and even took some sticker photos on the way home. Unfortunately all of us were a bit unco in pressing the buttons and we ended up getting two copies of the same picture each instead of 4 different ones. Makes you realise how talented all those Japanese highschool girls really are...

Ben and I stopped off by Yagami river on the way home and sat around there for a bit. It's really nice out here near the dorm because it's so quiet. It's quite a different feeling from the busy rush of Shibuya and other entertainment districts which we tend to frequent. By the time i got myself to bed it was closer to 3am which meant i didn't get out of bed till about midday... I should go finish off tidying up my room~

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

End of Semester

“I’m sitting in the lounge at the moment with some of the other guys. Aaron is quite drunk. He’s just walked himself through the river near our place and is trying to convince the rest of us to come cross with him. He’s quite convinced that it’s quite an uplifting experience at the moment. To me it just looks like he’s made the carpet quite wet.” – that’s what I wrote out last night but didn’t get a chance to post. I was up way too late last night and having nothing pressing to do this morning, I only just got up. There’s nothing like having cereal at 3pm because you can’t be bothered to go out to find something else to eat hehe.

Yesterday was our last day of tests. We took some random photos when we finished but after standing around for a bit as we tend to do, I went to Shibuya with Matthias, Simone and Grace (one of Simone’s friends) to have lunch.

Random Group Photo (Asho, Matthias, Ben, Francis, Carol)


We went to a really nice sushi place and had – you guessed it – assorted kinds of sushi.

Grace and Matthias at the sushi place

Simone and I

Yum...


It was really good - some of the best sushi i've had here, and it was filling too! Possibly a little on the pricey side but still it was definitely worth it. However... See that prawn/shrimp in the middle of the plate? Well it looks really nice and tasty until you remove the head. This is what was inside:

It looks even worse if you look closely :)


I’ve never seen a prawn brain still intact like that before. But it wasn’t the most appetizing thing in the world, especially when it just sort of burst and turned into mush when I tried to move the prawn. And no, I didn’t eat it. After that the four of us went and took some sticker photos (I think that’s the first time I’ve actually taken a sticker photo in Japan… but meh, not exactly an incredibly different experience if truth be told) before I went off with Matthias to get some music while Simone and Grace went shopping somewhere else. I’m not sure how, but Matthias and I ended up playing table tennis at the local table tennis centre after that. Was quite fun – it’s been a while since I’ve played, but Matthias was about ten times too good for me… After that I was about ready to go home and just nap – but I thought that seeing we’d just finished the semester, I shouldn’t be home sleeping. Instead I followed Matthias to Willing Setagaya (the dorm in Sangenjaya) and spent the next couple of hours there trying to play the ‘train game’ for PSone. Basically you are driving one of the trains in Japan, and all you have to do is accelerate and brake. It is incredibly difficult though. You have to arrive on schedule to the second, not break the speed limits, and actually stop at the right place at the station so people can get on and off. Even Matthias can’t do the second level.

The PSone eventually stopped working for some reason, and by then it was about time to go back to Shibuya for dinner. Souhei’s friend Philip from the Netherlands is here in Japan at the moment and Souhei very kindly invited us to eat okonomiyaki (Japanese style pancakes) with them. At first I thought how can I possibly be full from a dinner consisting of one pancake. I was pleasantly mistaken however. Those things were huge. And really tasty too ~

This is how they make them


My chicken and cheese okonomiyaki


Souhei, Maki, Philip, Me and Simone (and Grace is taking the photo)


Sat around chatting for quite a while, but eventually headed home to the dorm where I found quite a few people hanging out in the lounge. The little episode I wrote about at the top with Aaron happened sometime after that – but what I didn’t get a chance to write was that Ben actually eventually gave up and went with Aaron to walk through the Yagami river near the dorm. They both came back quite wet…

P.S. Being here in Japan has improved my conversational Japanese somewhat I’m sure. But obviously it would have improved a lot more if I was doing home-stay with a Japanese family and had to speak it all the time at home. I don’t know if I’d rather have done that or not though now – living in a dorm full of exchange students is a pretty interesting experience too. And it’s not like we don’t speak Japanese at all here – there are a fair number of people with whom the only language we have in common is Japanese…

Monday, January 24, 2005

Almost done!

I have one more day of "school" (well tests) before i'm done!~ Today i had my presentation thing which was pretty relaxed. Just basically said my 2 minute speech, then had a chat to Kato sensei for the next 15 minutes. Mostly about stuff not related to my speech haha.

Went to the library to study after with Simone - and amazingly i did work for the next two hours or so~! Well that was probably mainly because we were in the non-talking study area and had somebody sitting in between us ... Went and had dinner near uni after at some place that i think we agreed was called Oodoya (kanji is 大戸屋 - but we're always so lost when it comes to actually being able to say it properly...). I made sure the ppl in there knew i was foreign by reading pretty much every kanji i said wrong (not intentionally of course). Had some kimchi pork rice thing and some maccha icecream for dessert! One of the dialogues that we did in my speech class actually came in handy too so i could tell them to gimme ice cream AFTER i ate hehe.

Anyway, sorry for the lack of interesting stuff today. Will try to get some pix for next post. Till then~

別れパーティー

The fact that I’m leaving is starting to sink in now. I mean, of course I’ve known that I’d have to start getting my phone contract cancelled, my bank account closed, and all the rest, but it’s having to say goodbye to all the people I’ve met here that’s going to be the hardest. Being at the 別れパーティ (farewell party) last night kind of hammered the point home though I think. Okay, I’ll stop being morose now.

Saturday started off with the first of our final ‘exams’ at 9.30am. That was done by about 10.30 and we stood around chatting until it was time for lunch. After sorting out the needs of my stomach, I came home to have a nap before the party. I’m starting to really enjoy napping. Always makes you feel fresh at about 8-9pm at night ~ I got up about 5 minutes before my alarm went off again too. It’s been happening more and more lately too. Anyway I started cooking pretty much straight after I got up, but ended up having to stop half way through to go get Matthias, Miguel, Simone and Jun from the station. I made that Indian curry I bought at the supermarket the other day:


Ingredients


Curry!


There was generally less food and less people at the farewell party than at the Christmas party about a month back, but it was still pretty lively. We amused ourselves in various ways without running out of alcohol until almost 9 o clock…

This was the photo of the night (Ben left, Matthias Right). Great face Ben haha!


The 2F contingent (plus Aaron's fingers above Simone's head)


Chilling...


After that Ben and Aaron went off to find some more alcohol at the local convenience store, which kept us going for quite a while. I think we hung around until about 1 or 2am in the lounge before deciding to go to karaoke down the road. People were starting to get quite tired by this stage, as can probably be seen in the following photo. Despite this, we all made a fair bit of noise screaming whatever songs or bits of songs that we thought we knew and had a good time :P

Karaoke ... check out the sleeping people!


And weren't we happy we survived the night...


Today, I got up at about 12.30pm and went off to the Starbucks at Shinagawa Station to study. Well actually the main reason was to share photos with Simone (who I might not see again after this week *sniffles* …). I’m not quite sure how long we were there, but it got dark before we did any homework. Actually we didn’t do any homework there at all I don’t think. Was fun looking back at some of the photos from a few months back when we all had just arrived here in Japan. Some people look sooo different now somehow. Had a good laugh at a lot of the photos from last night’s party too … I’m gonna miss having my study buddy when I go home… Speaking of study, I think I better go get some done before my test tomorrow.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Midnight snacks

Well last night after finishing my essay i really wasn't in the mood to do anything very study related so i found Kris and went to the lounge for some Starcraft. Cheh was down there too and we played for a couple of hours. Jakob eventually finished his essay and came down too. Now as you may know, strenuous activity like moving a mouse around for a few hours can work out quite an appetite; and at about 12.30am enough of us decided that we were hungry to go out to find something to eat.

Destination: the yaki niku place in Hiyoshi (which as usual i have forgotten the name of already). I didn't know there was anything open that late anywhere near the dorm but i guess i was wrong. Kou and Chou were getting impatient with how long it was taking Kris and I to beat Jakob and Cheh in our starcraft match, and ended up leaving first (how's that for a confusing sentence?). We actually didn't take much longer, so Kris and I, thinking we'd try to catch up, went running (literally) after them at about 1am in the morning. Funnily enough, we didn't seem them on the way there, and when we got to the restaurant they hadn't actually arrived yet. Found out after that they walked a different (more round about) way.

We let Chou do all the ordering and he got us a really nice selection of different things to eat. The only thing i can remember was the tongue thing which came first - which like everything else was really good. We were there until about 3am or so and the place still had a fair number of ppl in there. Apparently it's normally a lot more packed - but seeing as it was a Thursday night last night's crowd was still not bad for a supper at 1am effort.

Kris and Kou at the yaki niku place


Me and Chou


A few beers, and some maccha ice cream later, we were back at the lounge where we found Cheh *still* playing starcraft. He was actually meant to be studying i think. I think i went to bed at about 4am. Or maybe later.

In anycase, i couldn't get up properly this morning - i don't even remember waking up to turn off the two alarms i set. I somehow woke myself up about 10 minutes before i was meant to be out of my room though so i still made it to uni on time to meet Simone for lunch.

Went to the cafe by uni to study for a couple of hours after that - where we as usual did a lot more talking than studying but i guess it's no worse than what i would have been doing if i just stayed home (i.e. sleeping). After that i went to class to hand in my term paper; which actually took quite a while because Ichikawa sensei wanted to talk to everybody a little bit about what they wrote on etc etc. Oh also, he took a photo of everyone (just in case we get famous hehe) during the interview. Which gave me a good idea since i happened to have my camera with me - i took a photo with him lol:

Ichikawa sensei and me


Anyway since then, i've done pretty much nothing productive. Trying to work up some motivation to get started on my study for the test tomorrow. Will probably happen within the next hour or so i'm hoping... or maybe not.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Don't you just love the feeling

... when you finish a long essay? Well i haven't *quite* finished mine just yet, but i'm about 99% of the way there. Just a bit more drafting needed before i can print it out and hand it in tomorrow. Maybe even a graph or two.

Last night i stayed up till about 4am sort of half-heartedlywriting - but when you write for like 8 hours, even if you don't fully concentrate you still get a fair bit done. Having MSN running on the side of an essay may not be the best thing for inspiring deep and meaningful analysis, but at least it's a good cure for the boredom and frustration that can set in when you're up that late working.

Today i had to go in to school just to hand in my homework for the newspaper class. And do a survey about the quality of teaching. That was quite a waste of time just because it takes me about an hour to commute each way. It gave me an excuse to go to the supermarket at least - and i bought some meat and indian (apparently indian) curry powder for the party on saturday. Just like last time we're meant to bring food for 3-4 people - and not really trusting myself to try to make something from scratch i decided to make another curry~

Here's my random photos of the day to keep all you picture people happy:

Shinkawasaki Mitsui Building - The Entrance


That's just office buildings and stuff i think, but there are some eating places (fast food) and small shops down on the ground level. I had to walk past it to get to the supermarket ...

Next to the building...


As you can see, it was actually cloudy today. It was for some reason not very cold though - i didn't need a scarf for a change. Anyway this photo just reminded me of a pleasant observation about 'public space in Tokyo' that i'd sort of forgotten about since i got here. For all you claustrophobic people out there who are scared of coming to Tokyo because it's all small and cramped ... you're probably going to have a near death experience every morning on the train (actually that's an idea, i think i'll try to take a photo next time i'm in a crowded train). But apart from that, Tokyo has a surprisingly large amount of wide open space areas for all the talk of it being a cramped city. There might be a lot of people, but it doesn't feel uncomfortable walking around in a lot of the places because there's actually a lot of empty space too. The exceptions would be when you go to Shibuya/Shinjuku and walk between all those huge high rise buildings. But even in Shinjuku there are parks and areas similar to the one up there in the photo.

Anyway i'm going to go back to enjoying my feeling of satisfaction at having (almost) finished this essay.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Grammar tests and stuff

Well today was my last day of the Japanese language classes at Keio!~ Didn't quite feel like the last day though - because we still have next week together for the "exams", which are actually just like tests as we've been having all semester but i'm not complaining. Someone remind me to get a group shot of my class sometime please~

Today's class was fun because we actually didn't just recite stuff from a tape and read the book. We had (or tried to have) a free sort of discussion in groups - and then had to present back to class as you'll see below:

Presentation time ...


What happens when you let students write on the board (i wonder if anyone can work out what our discussion topic was from looking at the Chinese/Japanese/English/French on the board)


And well, it was more interesting than a regular class, but i guess it was still class:
How amazingly enthusiastic can you get?


The teacher during the presentations was sitting right in front of me, which turned out to be a good thing because it meant she was almost always looking the other way - giving me plenty of chances to take photos haha :)

Tina and I after class


The grammar 'exam' today was a little bit harder than expected - probably because i only studied for about one hour for it. I think i managed to guess most of the bits i didn't know though~ Good thing was we could leave as soon as we finished the thing, so my normally one and half hour class was only a bit longer than 45 minutes. I found Simone sitting around afterwards (studying apparently) and took some more random photos. As you can see the sky is blue and clear as usual, despite the fact that it's quite cold... I think that's probably the weirdest thing about the weather here - it's almost always really cloud-free, unless we have a typhoon.

Anyway this is a shot while i was sitting outside the library


Asli, Simone and Me (conversation partner group! - minus the conversation partners haha)