Saturday, February 26, 2005
Anyway that’s kind of boring – there’s been so much happening the last few days time has really been flying even faster than normal. It still hasn’t quite hit me that I’m at the end of my exchange in fact. Since I don’t know where I left off blogging, let me start with the most recent stuff and work backwards.
Yesterday I set my records for farewells in one day. I had five of them. First was the badminton crew. After scrambling around a little in the morning trying to stuff more things into my suitcase, I sort of half ran to Hiyoshi to see my Keio Badminton friends for the last time while on exchange. I was about fifteen minutes late so I missed the warm up stuff as usual – which was a bit of a shame since I couldn’t even stay for the entire training session. Almost everybody was there and up to their normal antics. I think I’m gonna miss Japanese-style badminton training when I get home. There’s so much more team-spirit there; shouts of ‘ファイトー’ fill the gymnasium and are answered by everybody pretty regularly throughout the training regardless of what we’re doing…
Sakane Me and Hirota
I left them as many key rings as I had left (which unfortunately turned out to be one too few for the people there) and a small farewell message on the whiteboard thinking to make a quiet exit since they were all busy in the middle of another drill when it was time for me to leave. I was really touched that they all stopped mid way through and gathered to see me off though. Felt like something out of one those funny Japanese dramas where one member of the class is leaving and the whole class stands there and waves to them as they walk off. Which is what they did for me hehe~! Anyway, my badminton experience in Japan will be one of my most treasured memories.
Normally everyone is like the left half of this pic actually hehe
Next I headed off to Harajuku to meet up with Min-Kyung. I found her and her friend there dressed as Japanese High School Girls. Cute huh.
Turned out they’d just bought the stuff the day before; and what better place to wear it out than trendy Harajuku? The three of us decided to go have a drink and some cake (despite Min-Kyung’s insistence that she was really on a diet but had earned the cake by walking around a lot that day) at the café right opposite the station.
Was a really nice place – had a view of the station, cool modern looking décor, yummy cakes and two cute Japanese school girls ;) ~ We were actually waiting for Min-Chae (who I hadn’t seen for like … yonks) to come and he took his time getting there. But that was good because it gave us a bit more time to chat in the café. By the time he finally arrived it was almost time for me to meet up with Jerry who was in Omotesando (café-rich district right next to Harajuku). That was my second farewell for the day.
Jerry and his friend were chilling in one of the numerous cafés in Omotesando and I think had managed to exhaust the tea-section of the drinks menu there. His friend was having some sort of ‘herb’ tea which looked suspiciously like hot water when I got there. We must have spent quite a long time chatting there – because I ordered and finished some bad tasting almond-flavoured drink long before we left. And I was drinking that s-l-o-w-l-y. If anything, on this exchange I think I’ve learnt that drinking large quantities of bad tasting things quickly doesn’t help you feel any better for drinking it. I still remember how hard it was to keep all that straight sho-chu down… Anyway that’s a bit unrelated. Because the three of us weren’t in any particular hurry, when it was nearing the time for me to meet up with Ben and the rest of the regular Keio exchange crew we decided that we would walk to Shibuya instead of hopping on a train. It was then that I realized how little of Tokyo I really knew – catching trains around everywhere really makes you take for granted the way things are connected there. Think of it a bit like how most people have on idea where things are relatively until they start driving themselves around. The walk through Omotesando to Shibuya – short as it was – gave me a little bit of a sense of where things were. I think if (when) I go back I will try to walk around a bit more.
Jerry's friend, Jerry and Me
Thankfully Jerry waited around with me at Hachiko when we got there. We were there on time and waited for about 15 minutes before I started thinking it was a bit strange for everybody to be this late. It turned out that the time we were meant to meet had been changed from 7.30 to 8.00 or something – but of course nobody had contacted me because I had no phone… I guess late is better than never though and eventually people did turn up. We ended up having some 回転寿司 (rotating conveyor belt sushi) for dinner. The combination of not having had a proper meal all day and having to wait about 20 minutes for a seat, I managed to stuff myself a bit too full of fish there. We went out to an izakaya nearby afterwards where there were some nibbles which sated my hunger for something not-raw-fish thankfully. Although I have a feeling beer also helps with that problem.
Ben, Francis, Sayaka and Myself
The night was a nice farewell I thought – and turned out to be the last time out with some people for not only me but also my fellow Melbourne Uni buddy Catherine (who left a couple of days after I did). I rather unfortunately had to excuse myself from the party a little early because I still hadn’t finished packing at the time. A number of hugs, handshakes and promises to keep in touch later Ben and I were on the express train back to Shinkawasaki…
At the door ... the human traffic jam
Arhhhhh it’s so late and I need to sleep. I really need to try to get back into normal sleeping habits here. I will post the rest later… Apologies for taking so long to update this. I will finish it. Eventually :)
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Since i'm tired and i want this to be a quick post i'll be dodge (yes, that's Australian english for all you foreigners ~) and use point-form.
Today i managed to:
1) Post about 10kg of books home
2) Pay my outstanding rent for the dorm
3) Close my bank account
4) Change a whole heap of Australian dollars for Bernard (couldn't find a place despite looking for a long time the other day)
5) Tell Bernard and Cameron that i'd meet them at carriage no. 7 but then wait in the wrong place at the platform and not get onto the same train
5) Still meet up with the two of them thanks to Sohei, and visit Kamakura - the Daibutsu (big buddha) and the money washing shrine
6) Go to Yokohama for Okonomiyaki and then for a walk towards Minato Mirai
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Friday, February 11, 2005
In more mundance news, i got myself a empty cardboard box to use for posting my books home. What still surprises me is the level of service that is just taken for granted here. When i asked the guy for a spare box he went off and opened a box of things just so i could have one. Anyway it's a little bit big but i guess i can always put more stuff in there. I'm wondering how much it's going to cost to actually send the thing though ...
Atmosphere was a bit subdued tonight for some reason - although there were still some rather funny bits and pieces. Matthias' "becoming manly in japanese" story (told in German, translated into English by ben and then Japanese by Jun) was quite funny ... basically he started saying things like "gomen na" instead of "gomen ne" (both mean sorry, the first is more masculine sounding). Unfortunately that kind of carried over into some other things and he sent some msg saying "kuru na" instead of "kuru ne" - which completely reverses the meaning from "come won't you?" to "don't come" :P Anyway i think it was more funny because of the running translations being done on the side of the telling...
Me Miguel and Matthias
After a bit more chatting, a couple more drinks it suddenly occurred to us that it was 12 midnight and that we needed to decide if we were going home or not. A bit of dawdling on our way out didn't leave us much spare time at all - and nobody seemed particularly interested in deciding what we were doing quickly. We got a nice surprise when we got outside though. It was snowing!~ A lot more than that other day when it was just turning into sloshy rain... So now i can say i've seen snow in tokyo too. In the end we decided that we would try to go out another day (fingers crossed i actually have another chance to meet up with them again) and somehow managed to get on the last train back... I haven't been that squashed on a train for a while. I wasn't really standing for the first 10 minutes - i was lying on somebody. And then there were people lying on me. That all changed of course when the doors opened next to us - the poor girl who was kind of squished next to me basically fell out of the train without the door to support her lol~ She wasn't hurt luckily though. Anyway i guess that it was an interesting (if not so comfortable) ride home at least hehe.
Sayaka, Jun, Ben and Fabian
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Once we'd sorted that out we went over to the Maru no uchi Building where you can go up to the 35th floor for a nice view. It was really overcast today so the view wasn't so great however...
Here's the four of them up there
After seeing Bernard and Cameron off to the station, Sohei and I went to have lunch at an Indonesian style restaurant in the Maru building. Was a really nice place (decor and food-wise) and since it was lunch time it wasn't too expensive either.
Here's my indonesian dry chicken curry ~ *tummy rumbles*
Went to the book store after that - grabbed one book recommended by Sohei and a small collection of famous Japanese story summaries. Hopefully i will have enough motivation to read them this semester. I came back to the dorm after that since it wasn't until about 6.30 that i was meant to be meeting people for dinner in Shibuya.
Tonight we had a special reason for going out tho - Japan vs North Korea World Cup Qualifying! We had booked seats at the sports bar we went to so we were perfectly placed right in front of one of the huge plasma TVs:
The atmosphere in there was really cool. It was packed from the door in almost to the point of not being able to walk to the bar. And everyone (with the exception of Tony) was cheering for Japan. Very very lucky to have seats to go back to. Moral of the story: if you want to go to a sports bar when Japan is playing anything, book in advance.
Tony, Sousuke, Akari, Sung and Kanako
Yuka and Megumi playing with my camera...
Foster and Tony
This is Yuka posing with Tony's jacket. The jacket looks better on her.
As for the actual match, it was about as good as you could ask for. I think North Korea was lacking a bit of match practice from the way they kept making mistakes - but Japan wasn't able to take advantage of them making it a very tight game. Japan scored in the first couple of minutes from a nice free kick just outside the box - and the score stayed like that until the middle of the second half. Then N.Korea pulled off this awesome goal from a quick counter-attack... Needless to say that created quite a stir in the very pro-japanese crowd.
The score stayed tied at 1-1 until extra time when there were quite a lot of chances on both sides as things started to get desperate. In the 92nd minute or so N.Korea's defense finally showed up its weakness though with Japan taking the opportunity of a loose ball in the box. Japan 2. N.Korea 1. That definitely raised the noise level up a notch - and it gave us cheaper beer for the next half hour too.
Oh I should say something about the place we went too. It was a sports bar owned by this Canadian guy who's lived in Japan for 17 years. Everyone there seems to speak perfect english and really good Japanese as well (one of the waiters was Japanese but born in the states for example). And they were all really friendly too - and by the end that waiter was drinking with us. If i had more time here i think i'd definitely go back there...
Now to make this post even longer the night wasn't quite over after that. We decided to stay out until morning at karaoke somewhere in Shibuya. That was all fine and good until half the people at midnight suddenly decided that they'd rather go home and disappeared. That left Sung, Me, Akari and Kanako... And Kanako couldn't get home - her last train was at 11 something but since we were saying we'd stay out until morning she hadn't gone to catch it. Soooo, we went clubbing instead.
Sung and I decided that we'd go get some alcohol (and some food) first - and somehow managed to finish a bottle of whisky and some chuu hai (sweet mixed drinks) in about 20 minutes. Still i don't think i was that drunk after that... Club Vuenos was playing Hip Hop tonight and there were quite a few live performances which weren't bad at all. Being a wednesday night though - the atmosphere in there wasn't really happening until quite late :(
Sung, Akari and Myself
Ohhhh and i almost forgot. There were quite a lot of female dance acts too which i took a fair few photos and movies of - but i don't think i should post them up here ;) ... Once things livened up a bit we all had a good time i think - until the two girls got too exhausted (well particularly Akari who was wearing heels). Ended up somehow talking to some Japanese dude in there who was really drunk. I think ppl are easier to understand when they are drunk because they speak slowly hehe. Anyway eventually we decided it was time to go so we grabbed out stuff and headed off for home. Made it back to the dorm in good time since i now know to take the Toyoku line instead of the Yokosuka line - so i was back home by about 6.30 this morning. So much for getting back into a normal sleeping pattern.
Last shot at the club
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
We spent the afternoon wondering around Akihbara - the multitudes of shops full of electronics and anime provided ample entertainment for quite a few hours. We stopped by for lunch at the trusty Japanese fastfood chain Mos Burger:
After deciding that we'd had just about enough bright lights and walking around electric city - we thought maybe a change of scene would be good and we headed off to Sensouji (the big temple at Asakusa).
Here's Simon, Bernard and Cameron at the Asakusa subway station
Unfortunately, the shrine isn't so fun in the rain we found out first hand. However we did get to take a photo for a couple of cute japanese girls which almost made up for it ~ :P ... Afterwards since we had a bit more time we thought we'd take a walk to the Asahi factory. Unfortunately it was either closed, or we were just at the wrong place... We did find the Giant Golden Turd Building though (no i don't know the proper name for it - but i thought that it was actually the beer factory)...
We managed to walk through the filiming of some random commercial on the bridge on the way there i think. Took us a while to work out why there were just people spaced along the bridge in twos standing there not moving. And i got told off for taking photos of it (I have a movie of it though muahaha... I will have to ask friends if it ever appears as an ad here after i go). After that, we took the subway all the way from Asakusa to Shibuya. That's one end of the subway to the other - about 30 mins or so stopping all stations.
Had a good wonder around the back streets in Shibuya and i even found a couple of places i don't think i've seen before in Love Hotel Hill. I think if you wanna see a variety of different Japanese (albeit imitated) architecture styles, that's the place to go - it's got everything from Indian to Mediterranean looking buildings there. We stopped by a couple more game centres and miscellaneous shops that grabbed our attention before going to Momo's Paradise for some sukiyaki.
Oh and did i mention it was Bernard's 21st birthday today? Cheers!
And for those of you who care: no, the hot guy wasn't working. I'm really starting to think that after our first class gathering there he might no longer be employed there :) Dinner was extremely heavy as usual - being all you can eat - but i think it was a nice change for Cameron and Bernard who've not tried sukiyaki before.
Bernard and I
And as you can see here, Cameron was quite pleased to have so much food. Or rather, so much meat.
In other unrelated news, while in Akihabara i finally got myself one of those kanji recognition dictionaries so that i might inspire myself to actually read some Japanese things when i get back!
And last but not least, Happy 20th Birthday Ez ~! (it's 11.59pm 08.02.05 right now so i *just* made it!~) hehehe.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
The costumes and stuff are really traditional Japanese kimono style... As as for the music, it's quite sparse - consisting of like maybe one or two shamisens (these japanese lute things) and a tsuzumi (the japanese drum that goes "pon" in the very japanese sort of way). Which in a way is good - because it lets you hear the actors i suppose.
Ben and I got english headset things which told us what was going on - i'm glad we did because i don't think i would have understood more than ten percent of what was being said. A lot of it is very old japanese or else in a different dialect. The session we attended went from 4.30 till 8.30 so if you don't understand it's gonna be pretty tough to sit there wide awake :) There were intermissions between plays of course (we saw a total of three) but the combination of dim lighting, lack of sound a lot of the time and a lack of understanding will go a long way towards putting most ppl into dreamland i think :)
I don't know if i'd say i really like kabuki after having gone ... but it's worth doing at least once i think. It was quite interesting just seeing what traditional japanese theatre over here is like. It's very much an older-person activity. Other than ourselves, I saw about 3 other people under 40 there i think. In fact, Kyoko (one of Ben's Japanese friends from Keio) who came with us was also there for the first time. Still - if you're into Japanese culture it's one of the most 'Japanese' things to go and see...
Monday, February 07, 2005
As for the restaurant, it seriously looked like that place in Kill Bill one where they the girl slaughters everybody ... Alas there was no sword fighting tonight. We did manage to order a huge-ass looking pitcher of beer though. It wasn't really that big in the end - i think it filled up about four of those glasses you can see next to it.
Reason for dinner was meant to be (yet another) farewell. For Rol-Rol-Carol this time who's actually going to be in Japan for a bit longer but will be busy with family and Chinese new year for most of the rest of her time here... For me i guess it was a bit different since like - Sydney isn't all that far from Melbourne so i'm sure we'll meet up again. But still, the feeling that "tonight will be a very natsukashii memory in 6 months time" was pretty evident i thought.
Here's Jerry, Tony and Carol looking rather studious with her glasses (apparently she accidentally sent all her contact lenses home in a box - oops):
Sung took quite a liking to the 'studious/intelligent' look too. Don't know if he pulled it off too well in this shot though. Doesn't look like he can see much like that...
Met a new Japanese friend tonight too - Nanako-chan who's sitting on the left in the shot below (who somehow seems to know all the rest of the bunch except for me...) And she speaks good english! Apparently she's coming to Australia later on this year for work so maybe we can meet up again. Next to her is Foster and Megumi:
For dinner i had a 鴨セイリそば (i hope that's what it's called - it's duck served with cold soba). First time in aages since i've had cold soba. Didn't disappoint. I can't remember what other ppl got, but everybody was quite satisfied with what they ordered too i think. After dinner we headed down the road to a nearby eating/drinking/pub kind of place which had a rather cool sign at the entrance...
We ordered a strawberry margarita in a huge jug (that rivalled the beer we had at the restaurant) - and some miscellaneous buffalo wings/nachos etc. The buffalo wings came as a dish of 20 pieces. But of course, being japanese style they were incredibly small (like i'm talking each piece was like 5cm long). That wasn't such a bad thing since most of us were reasonably full from dinner i guess. But still. Not what u'd want to be ordering when you're hungry.
We had to scramble a bit to make it back (since we weren't in Shibuya it took that little bit longer to get to the station) and for a bit i thought it was going to be an all night out effort - which would actually have fitted right in with my sleeping schedule at the moment - but in the end we made it there in time... And now ... i'm hungry again ... hmmmm.
Oh and in other news, I went to proper badminton training for the first time in 2 months or so today. It was the first training session of this year and i think everybody found it pretty tough - myself included. Coach told us off for having bad attitudes - "i can understand today, but if you want to do that at next training, you're better off not coming"... Good to hit a shuttle again though. There's just something about exercise where you push yourself till you're exhausted ... It's something I've been missing for a while without even realising.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
At about 9 o clock Kris and I started rounding up some people to come along to karaoke from the dorm. That involves mainly knocking randomly on doors of ppl we think we know... Names still aren't sticking very well for me. In the end there was six of us: Rim, Leo, Jakob, Kris, Go plus myself...
We had a bit of indecision over the place we go to - but thanks to Go we ended up finding this little place that was really cheap (like 300 yen per person/hr) and that let u bring in whatever you like. Sooo we headed off to the conbini to get our supply of drinks and stuff - but when we got to the karaoke place we were told that there was no rooms left. Since Go had called up just before though - and it was kind of a mistake on their part - they gave us the massive party room for really cheap (like 400 yen a head/hr)! I think that place is meant to seat like 30 ppl - it was pretty huge. This is one corner:
I didn't really take a shot looking the other way - but there was like a little bar and toilet and stuff in there too... Anyway the two hours of karaoke in the big room went by really quickly and before long the phone was ringing to tell us we had to go. The girls wanted to head home, but the four of us were still up for a bit more singing - so we moved next door into a smaller room and kept going for another hour.
Sound was somehow better in there - despite the smaller speakers. I guess that's the advantage of enclosed spaces.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Aaron and Ben
The trouble with the 飲み放題 is it only includes beer, sours (mixed sweet drinks) and softdrinks. Although i guess you shouldn't really complain for 1000 yen.
We ordered a couple of sashimi dishes - one of which i thought was pretty cool:
That's 牛レバー刺 (raw beef liver). Served with some salt and sesame oil it's pretty good. It actually doesn't taste like much - like most other things raw - but i guess the texture might throw a few people.
I think we probably stayed there for a bit more than two hours and had a good long chat (during which time Aaron passed out and was annoyingly difficult to wake up when it was time to go). Go just graduated from Keio so he'll be going on his graduation trip pretty soon. Hopefully i'll get another chance to meet up with him before i head off... Anyway here's the last photo of the night of the four of us:
Thursday, February 03, 2005
For those of you who don't know what Ghibli is - it's the production company that has worked very closely with Hayao Miyazaki in producing most of his works. The most famous of which (at least in parts of the world outside Japan) is arguably 千と千尋の神隠し/ Spirited Away. He is also the creator of Totoro - which is a most strange creation when you think about it, but somehow turned out quite quite. If you don't know what i'm talking about go do a search in google :P
Here in Japan, at least according to most of the Japanese people i know, the most popular of Miyazaki's works is Laputa. For those of you who know it - you might recognise a familiar character in the photo below.
The museum itself was really quite a work of art itself. The whole thing at least looks like it's been built from the ground up to BE a museum for anime. The decor in there is really amazing and there's plenty of stuff to keep you entertained for a long time if you read everything. Even if you just did what we did - and walk through most of the exhibits without trying to decipher the Japanese it still takes a good two hours to get through everything. Also somehow Ghibli studios has a fairly good relationship with Pixar (apparently Ghibli provides inspiration for a lot of the Pixar people) - and there was a part of the musem dedicated to that too. In fact, part of the museum entry fare includes a short animated movie screening - which was comprised of a collection of Pixar animated films (like For The Birds which i think was a feature before Monsters Inc. back home in the cinemas)...
Now the bad part about the museum was we weren't allowed to take photos inside. SO, i don't have much to show you except for that outside shot. However we did manage to find some weird little small hole to crawl through which led us into a weird little pink room - where we managed to take a couple of photos without getting told off. Here is mine:
I can't remember which anime these little black sooty balls are from now - but i THINK it's 千と千尋の神隠し/ spirited away
Upon leaving the museum, we somehow ended up taking a walk to try and find this boating place. After much "だいたいまっすぐに行って"ing (at the direction of our trusty navigator Matthias) I don't think we actually ended up finding it, but we did find the lake with some pretty fountains and lots of ducks in it ehhe.
Dinner was in Shibuya (again - not that i really mind ... everytime i go we seem to manage to go to a new place). Matthias took us to a Italian place - which he'd been to like 2 years ago or something. I was quite amazed he still remembered the place. I wonder if i'll remember the places i've gone in Japan in two years time...
We've gotten into this whole sticker photo thing here lately and went to take some more (at yet another place in Shibuya) after we ate. At the place, it turned out you could even borrow costumes to wear (like sailor moon looking uniforms and stuff) for that 'special' sticker photo experience. (I really wonder sometimes WHY i can't find those underwear-vending machines...)
Despite Ben's valiant attempt at persuading the dude working there to let the three of us guys try on the costumes, we ended up just having to settle for the regular sticker photos. Was good fun still. Played some more games for a little bit - where Ben once again entertained us all with his samurai skills at the samurai game, before heading for home. Today/tonight was a bit weird - because out of the five of us, three are actually leaving Japan in the next few weeks. And what's more, all three of us are back to Australia (though Carol and Yuki are both off to the warm sunshine of Sydney...) More sort of awkward farewells/goodbyes followed at the station as it finally sort of sank in that this is probably our last time altogether. Snifff.....
Us at the game-cen while Ben was busy sword fighting demons and stuff :)
Ben and I popped over to Tsutaya on the way home and grabbed two Miyazaki films to watch (inspired by the museum today) and we managed to watch Laputa when we got home. It's definitely one of those 'worth seeing' type animations in my opinion~ ...
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Just went to dinner in Shibuya with the ppl who just got back from Hokkaido (ie Simone, Carol, Tony, Eisho - Aaron went with them too, but is still in Hokkaido somewhere apparently) and a couple of other 知り合い。That's the first time i've been out of Shinkawasaki for like ... 4 days i think. Not really that long i guess - but it feels like a long time when you've had to go to school every day for the last few months. We had some sort of international fusion food place (i actually remember the name of the place tonight!~ it was called 'Whos Foods' ... there's even a website if anybody is interested, www.whosfoods.com) - not quite sure what the mixes were though. Wasn't too bad overall still though. It's weird how no matter where i go here the food seems to be pretty good... The only real complaint is that the portions are sometimes too small.
At dinner the topic of Australian english came up again (seeing as there were two Aussies at dinner to pick on haha~). I still think it's funny how the Canadian/American ppl try to imitate the ozzy accent. To me it comes out sounding very British ... but i wonder sometimes, maybe i really do sound like that. But how can these people not even know what 'heaps' means?!?... I mean come on ... a 'mozzy' is not a special type of aussie. I guess at least when i get back i'll be a lot more aware of the weird english we speak back at home haha.
I forgot to take photos there unfortunately so nothing to look at today.. :( Anyway i'm starting to get hungry ... time to look for something else to eat. Or maybe some people to go eat with. また。
Oh i almost forgot about the comments. I'm not sure if any of you have ever actually tried taking photos in the dark like me before, but they all seem to sort of turn out that weird colour. I mean in real life it's kind of just black-ish. You can see more in the photos than by standing there in real life hehe. I think all the pix i posted up were taken with 30 second exposure times.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
This is from just next to the bridge
Looking under the bridge. I love how calm the water looks in the pics. It's actually not still like that in reality...
The bridge from the other side