Diary from Japan


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Hey!  How are you doing?  My name is Allan Noble, and this is my diary.  Here you can read the exciting adventures of a wayfaring student!  Seriously, this is the diary of my trip to Japan, which lasted from March to July 2005.  I hope you find it interesting.  Please email me any questions or suggestions at noblem@uwa.edu. Peace!
   
   

January 2, 2006 –– Goodbye…

November 25, 2005
Finale
~ They are after me. I can feel them breathing down my neck, beady eyes boring into my head as their long, grasping fingers reach for me. If I am caught, there will be no mercy. I will cease to exist; only this entry will bear mute witness to the fact there ever was a person called Allan Noble, the “Wandering Student.” Hmmph. Why did I ever pick that as a nickname. Why did I ever go to Japan to begin with? If only I hadn’t, if only I had never set foot on that foreign shore - I would never have met him.
~ To everyone who kept up with my diary entries, thanks. And… forgive me for failing you. I have fallen too far behind my entries to catch up. All I can do in the little time remaining me is provide an overview of my last days in Japan. I’ll try to tell you about all the interesting things either by summary or by lifting short passages from my diary. My last entry was June 19, so let’s start there.

July 27, 2005
As the chapter comes to a close
My Nostos…
Otosan wouldn’t drive me to the airport, instead he put me on a (nice) bus and sent me off. I ate my last bento and my last melon bread on the trip up. Sniff… A hot girl noticed my Sophia shirt, we talked on the way up. She went to Ichigaya too. After an almost 3 hour bus ride, we finally got to the airport. We had our passports checked before we even got off the bus. Isn’t that overkill? I bid the hot girl adieu and got the (thankfully) complimentary luggage cart (Chicago was complimentary too, Atlanta wasn’t but it didn’t matter then.) My luggage was big and heavy so I almost died in gratitude. Bought some mocchi in the duty free shops for my family to try. The plane trip was the longest of my life, 10½ hours! Not too bad though. I watched “Sahara,” slept, and read a Stephen King book. I hadn’t realized it was the one I had halfway read on my New York trip, the book of novellas that included “The Langoliers.” Funny, huh? I had been dreading customs at O’Hare, but they just waved me through. They wouldn’t let me keep the hoozuki seeds I was bringing for my mamaw though. Trouble for nothing. Even more trouble was when the next security point thought the flask in my carry on looked suspicious, they kept re-running it and then finally searched it by hand, making me re-pack it. With all this going on, “by the time I got into the terminal it was 5 minutes until the plane boarded. I almost ran to the gate, stopping only to be scalped by a money changer. She took about 10 cents on the dollar, plus a $3 charge! Finally I get to the “Now Boarding” plane, rush up to the uniformed guy, and ask him where I board. ‘Ok,’ he says, ‘The plane just got here.’ Stupid O’Hare! We don’t board until our departure time, and we leave 30 minutes late, but the flight is still listed as ‘On time!” The 2½ hour flight wasn’t bad, but when we are almost at Atlanta we find out there is a lightening storm over Atlanta, and we that have been place in a holding pattern. When they started talking about redirecting us to Raleigh, I started getting worried. My family is waiting in Atlanta! Thankfully, they take us out of the holding pattern and we land, 45 minutes late. “It was a teary reunion indeed when I met my family again. And there was a weird guy behind us laughing at it. Quite disturbing. But it was great to see them all again. Scott, and Ryan in particular, had sprouted up. Even the airport loosing some of my luggage didn’t put a damper on it. We left the airport, and I said I wanted IHOP. I haven’t had a decent American breakfast in months. Had to look a little, but we found one. Got the funnel cakes meal with 2 eggs, hashbrowns, sausage, bacon, ham, and 2 fruit-covered funnel cakes. It was amazingly good, even though I didn’t finish it. Wow.” The five hour drive home wasn’t that bad, I slept a good bit. But imagine my surprise when I came home to find a shiny red Mustang GT waiting for me. Unbelievable. Actually I wrote here, “Freaking cool!” I love passing in it. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night, so I went through four months of mail and other stuff. Mom fixed breakfast, nice and big and real Southern food.
~ “And so another chapter in my life has ended. It was a real roller coaster ride, with more ups than downs. And if I gained nothing else, I gained the confidence to go adventuring by myself. Thank you, Lord, for this amazing opportunity. Until next time, peace out! Allan
~Chapter Fin ~

July 26, 2005
Last Full Day in Japan
“This is the end, ad finem, the time has come, standing on my last legs, memories forgotten, listening to the sad songs play. Tomorrow I leave. I have been looking forwards to this day for a while. But now that I am about to go, my mood is melancholic. Maybe because I just finished reading a sad Bleach volume.

July 24, 2005
Things You Can Do in Tokyo You Can’t Do in Thomasville
Okasan left today to be with her daughter and new granddaughter. No goodbye at the bus stop for me. Anyway, I went to a cos-play con this morning. Some of the costumes were truly awesome. And there was a huge vendor area the size of a warehouse, with rows of doujinshi, some cool, some disturbing. I bought some cool pins though. I decided to stop at the Panasonic center, had some cool things. Then I went to Shinjuku to find Golden Gai, this cool tiny area with lots of bars. The guidebook sent me the wrong way, but a policeman showed me the right way. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was the cool area I found behind the shrine when I had showed up on the wrong day for the flea market. Alex and all had been running around trying to find it, and I found it without meaning to! I heard some English voices coming out of a place called “Nelson’s Bar,” so I went there and got a buy one get one free special. From $12 drinks to $2.50! I had also heard of an all you could eat shabu shabu (where you boil your own food) place in nearby Kabuki-Cho that didn’t charge much, so I headed there next. But it was closed, the lights were off, and caution tape was over the elevator exit. Dang! But I wandered around for a while and found another place that was even cheaper! It was sooo good!

July 23, 2005
Enoshima
I went to Enoshima island today, near Kamakura. It was so beautiful! Enoshima means “picturesque” in Japanese. I got to walk along the rocky shores and see lots of cool stuff, like tidal pools, lots of sea lice, and rocks with so many mussels the rocks look carpeted. There was one real cool spring someone had put a stone box around. And lots of crabs! I caught one and it caught me, then I amused myself by trying to catch them with sticks as chopsticks. After I bored of that, I started walking around the island. Had to do a little rock climbing to do it. But it was worth it, especially when I walked/climbed to the place where everyone else paid a boat to bring them to. Then I went in a pretty cool cave, then up some steps to some temples. I stopped to eat some Ramen, the owner (?) was really impressed that I spoke Japanese. There was a bell near the top of the island with a fence covered in padlocks (to symbolize lasting love), that was cool. Bought a straw-type hat from a shop, I really liked it and was glad they had it in my size. Then took the luxury train back to Shinjuku. Again, I couldn’t stand to stop sightseeing, so I decided to find a place where I could see the city lights. My guidebook suggested a bar at the top of a hotel (45th floor). Thus I came to the nicest bar I have ever been to (on a short list) and bought my most expensive drink, at $12. But the view was awesome, the service great, and there was even live entertainment. To top it all off, on the other side of the bar you could see fireworks going off.

July 22, 2005
Thank you dinner
I wanted to thank my host family for taking care of me, so I decided to cook for them the most Southern special dinner I could, a fish fry. I fixed coleslaw, baked beans, hush puppies, French fries, and fried fish (aji). My host mom helped some (preparing those fish was a big thing) and I surprised her several times, like with the amount of oil needed. All in all, it took all afternoon and was a big hit. Oh, and they liked their presents.

July 21, 2005
Errands. And Gospel?
Spent all morning trying to sell my school books. Finally the shop I originally intended to sell my books at opened, they ripped me off pretty bad. I got some cash and some store credit for my books. I wanted to get “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which was on the ¥980 rack, but “the woman tried to charge me ¥1960! ‘It was on the ¥980 rack,’ says I. ‘But it has two discs, so it is ¥1960,’ says she. ‘Then I only want to buy 1 DVD,’ I exclaimed! I didn’t want the bloody extras DVD anyway. This request surprised her so much she almost did it. It would have been really funny if she had sold me one DVD; no one would have bought just the extras DVD. Finally I just picked up another movie I had thought about, ‘Basic.’ Still, of all the nerve…” Afterwards I went to Tokyo Tower, the tallest tower in the world at 333 meters (the Eiffel tower is 320). Very nice view, not great visibility (again). There were outside stairs that you could walk down from the lower observatory, I walked down them. That was nice. Later on, I met Jason in Shinjuku and we went to Nakano to see the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (my host sister had given them to me). I was really excited until I found out it was the Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers (so only ten people instead of 100+) and they were singing mostly praise and worship, which just seemed wrong for some reason. Me and Jason split up, and I started looking around Shinjuku for dried red beans, since I am cooking tomorrow. “Thus began my wild search in Shinjuku for beans. 30 min, nothing. Most of the stores were closed by then. Managed to find sweetened beans, that is useless. Went to Lumine 2, an apparently not evil depato.” Finally, at the top floor, I found a bean soup mix with the beans separate from the spices. Yes!

July 20, 2005
School has finished!
Ate really good Indian curry at a place called Ajanta, and saw the best Engrish ever. It was so good, I ran to a conveni to buy batteries for my camera. On the box of a delivery motorcycle was one word, “RAPEED.”

July 17, 2005
Hannabi
“I’ll tell you one thing about Japan, it has a lot of people in it.” After church I went to an Italian restaurant called Café Michelangelo. Let’s just say I was impressed enough to write a page on it. Then to Yokohama and the Ramen Stadium! The admission was cheap, but they said I was expected to buy at least one bowl of Ramen. “Right…” Anyway, the main draw was “A full scale reproduction of a section of an old Japanese neighborhood, complete with neon signs powered by old electric boxes, movie ads for yesteryear, and lots of Ramen shops. With very long lines.” I decided to skip the Ramen and instead got a “bubble ice cream,” ice cream stuck in a balloon. Got a map and found out about a cool sounding Chinese theme building. It had lots of cool Chinese things, a recreation of old Shanghai, a live performer playing a two stringed (pushed together) instrument (biwa?), and lots of food places. Got a huge manju, very good. Back outside, got some more manju for a picnic supper, and out to the harbor where the hannabi (fireworks viewing) was going to be held. “Half of Tokyo must have shown up for this. People everywhere!” I finally found a spot in the veritable sea of people, stretched out and read my book for an hour. Unfortunately, it turned out the fireworks were behind a tree from where I was. And I was so proud of my spot. Fortunately, I moved away from the tree and some Japanese teenagers let me sit on a corner of their mat. Yay! “The fireworks were amazing, lasting over an hour and shooting off more than 7,000. They even had some that exploded in the shape of flowers, cats, hearts, spirals (naruto!), and my favorite, spirals!” As awesome as the fireworks were, the mass Exodus was terrible. Everywhere were rivers of people, and I got stuck on a narrow land bridge for thirty minutes. We kept stopping and going, because there was a stoplight on the other end. “Insane, and completely irritating.” So I was extra happy when the Coke I bought out of the vending machine was hot and spewed.

July 16, 2005
Shopping and a Aoyoma Stroll
I did the rest of my souvenir shopping today, and bought myself a cool yukata. Otosan was with me part of the day, he bought me lunch at a Shakey’s Pizza. We had an interesting conversation about him growing up during the occupation. Afterwards I wandered around Aoyama and down Omotesando, the “Champs-Ulysses” of Tokyo. I bought some cornmeal at the Kinokuniya grocery store. I am still astounded I had to go to a foreign foods store for cornmeal! Oh, they also had mint-flavored water, which I bought and found I liked it.

July 15, 2005
Finale
"Today was the last day of class!” Finally did our musical in “Topics in Theatre.” If you count out the extremely embarrassing time I forgot what the next verse was in me and La’s “Anything you can do I can do better,” it went really well. The teacher loved it, and in my defense I had the hard, proactive part of the song. Later that night, CIEE threw a really nice going away party. Even had waiters and a drink bar thing. Class!

July 13, 2005
Paper Lanterns
“Brightly glows / the paper lantern / set on fire.” Today I went to the lantern festival at Yaskuni Jinja. This was my favorite festival I went to while in Japan. There were thousands of lanterns, some of which had some high quality paintings on them. “But what immediately attracted my attention was the live entertainment. There was an old guy singing Enka, followed by two women doing an intricately choreographed fan dance. But then some louder music caught my ear. It is amazing how good someone hitting a brass plate/pan sounds. It was a whole troupe of dancers, 3 shamisen players/chanters, an chanter with a two tier umbrella, and 2 people with flags. They proceeded to dance, chant, and sing. Extremely cool. Jason (a fellow student) had decided to meet me there, so after the opening ceremony we started looking around. The huge, half-mile (?) avenue was completely lined with stalls and two huge walls of lanterns. “There were even more stalls than Asakusa and with more varieties. There was also a cool haunted house right out of a Japanese high school festival, complete with 2 old women barking up the attraction, banging gongs over people’s heads and dropping ghosts on them. And motorized moving scary things. We both agreed we had to come back. Then we went over to the moat to watch Toro Nagashi, a sending of lanterns down a water source to guide the dead. Imagine my surprise when I found out we could get in a boat and participate!” They gave us some blank lanterns to write on and stuck us in a boat. I had a lot of fun rowing around the lake, and it was simply amazing when everyone lit their lanterns and floated them out on the water. Sitting in a boat, floating on the Imperial Moat, surrounded by several hundred gently glowing lanterns, evoked a feeling hard to describe. Let’s just say it was incredibly cool. (On the other hand, the sparklers they gave us sucked the big one.) “Then we went back to the matsuri, which was in full swing at this point. There were thousands (I don’t believe I exaggerate on the ‘s’) of people there! The view down the avenue was a sight to behold, all the lanterns lit, great tori arches, stalls, spotlights playing in the smoke from the vendors, lots of people (many of whom were in yukata), and dancers around the statue. One of the coolest things I have ever seen!” Of course, we had to sample the festival foods. I tried the takoyaki, a wheat roll thing filled with greens, and a cheap but good chicken breast. “I amused a Japanese woman by saying ‘Ats ats ats!’ (‘Hot hot hot!’) when she handed me the wheat roll thing. Next, the haunted house. It felt like I was part of a Japanese high school festival with all the teenagers and the screaming, and that was awesome.” It was your normal haunted house with flying heads and lots of people in masks and sheets. “One of the masked figures was pressed up against the wall, and when he leaped out I tried to stare him down! He just gently patted my shoulder and led me into the next area. If that ain’t Japanese I don’t know what is. There were several more of these figures running around. When one ran through a curtain I started screaming, and he stumbled through another curtain looking scared. Cool. There was a little Japanese girl (about 19) later on that was hanging back, didn’t want to go on, so I yelled near her and she ran! And of course, I saved my best screams for when we exited.

July 10, 2005
Hard Rocks and Ground Cherries
Church, then quite a while looking for a Mexican restaurant recommended in “Metropolis” (A mag in English about Tokyo.) I finally found it only to find it was only open for supper. “Pissed and starving,” I wandered around looking for some good non-Japanese food. Eventually I decide to take the subway to Ueno and eat at the Hard Rock Café. The music selection was more soft rock and it wasn’t loud enough (it was drowned out by crowd noise!), but the burger was pretty good. Went in a big toy store and bought some Advent Children posters “Then to Asakusa for the Ground Cherry market. Again, Asakusa was flooded with people. Thousands coming and going. There were rows upon rows of vendors selling wind chimes and ground cherries. Ground Cherries, or Hoozuki in Japanese, are these bright red pods that look like peppers, peel away the outside and in the center is a little red tomato thing.” Okasan later showed me how to make a noise maker with the center, it was hard and we both failed. I showed them some pictures my Mom sent me, they loved them, so beautiful! They said “my mailbox looked like a Japanese lantern cause of it standing alone with the vines creeping up it. And they said Tannon looked like Bill Gates!

July 9, 2005
Amusement Park?
Bleh, my memories of this day aren’t too good. I spent too much money, the park didn’t have many rides (I finished it in two hours, even with no lines), it was raining, and I got depressed. The only cool thing was I didn’t have to wait in line for the one roller coaster.

July 7,2005
Fuji-San!
The group before me had wanted to go to Fuji-San today but canceled, so the minshuku owner gave me the very complicated and exacting directions instead. Thanks be to God in the highest! Also, I had to hit the buses just right (time-wise) and I did. Thanks be to God in the highest! When I got to Fuji-San (cloudy, of course) “I went to the bathroom guarded by a guy rattling a tin cup for ¥100 donations to use the bathroom (actually he directed people toward the donation box). Sensing the injustice of ambushing people for money as they exited a bathroom, I put in a ¥10 so he could hear the clink.” Then I was jumped by an old woman who ran the first souvenir shop. I hate hard sells, so I went to the next shop where there was a very nice woman who spoke some English. I bought a bell I had been wanting, and she told me about an overlook on the side trail. “The trail was definitely off the beaten path, a narrow little thing winding around and over big tree roots.” When I got there, the clouds parted a little, but I still couldn’t see too far. But what was really cool was the small Jizo shrine and its accompanying piles of rocks. At first I thought the piles were graves, but then I remembered about children’s purgatory. To make a long story short, each rock you pile reduces a child’s time in purgatory. Then I went back to the second shop for lunch. The Engrish menu was very amusing, one entry was “ONIGIRI = food which grasped rice in a triangle and put on the dried seaweed.” I ordered curry rice (food which hung curry on the rice), it was real good. The nice woman said I could have an ice cream for free, but I had already set my mind on a more expensive sweet bean soup, and she said okay. “After I ate the disgusting salty pickles, I drank the hot soup and it was perfect. There was a block of mocchi floating in it that was a challenge to eat with chopsticks.” Then I headed up the side of Fuji-San. I knew I was on the difficult side of the slope, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount or the size of the rocks on the trail. I climbed for thirty minutes, then headed down. About the time I got to the bus stop the clouds broke. Fuji-San! “I was afraid I was going to go all the way here without seeing it. Was only a very brief window though, by the time I went 50 yards for a pic with no trees it was covered again. Thanks Lord.” Waiting on the bus, I decided to give granny some business and bought a coke from her vending machine. She had jacked the price up 50%... Not even the Expo did that! I took the bus back down, and in Gotemba I noticed the next highway bus came in 40 minutes. What I didn’t notice right away was that the bus only ran twice a day. Definitely was thanking the Lord that I only had to wait 40 minutes.

July 6, 2005
Hakone!
My time in Japan was rapidly running out, so I decided to take one more big trip. I went to Hakone, a mountain park near Fuji and Tokyo. It was a long train ride. “After a point almost everyone got off and I had a car all to myself! And the scenery was beautiful, even with the rain and the clouds. Actually, the rain probably added to the mystique. And almost sheer mountains going up and covered with trees!” Soon I transferred to a little two car tram, I rode it up the mountain as it passed through stone tunnels and by flowers all a-bloom. And when the trees broke the view was magnificent. Almost as interesting were the switchbacks, where the tram would stop, and then start going the other direction! Finally I made it to the open-air sculpture museum. That was really cool, breathtaking views and awesome art. It would have been even cooler if the sky wasn’t overcast and I could have seen farther though. There was also this cool hedgemaze thing and an outdoor footbath with hot flowing water. But my first stop was their buffet restaurant. I was the only person there, so “for the first and possibly last time ever, I got to deflower a virgin buffet.” After looking at all the sculptures, I had to hurry on so I could see everything but not miss the last boat. Got in a cable car; it was too cloudy to see much but when I crested Owakudani valley the clouds disappeared and I could see the hell-holes (sulphur gas and steam vents). “One cool thing at Owakudani was that the fountain for cleansing yourself in front of the small shrine was a sulphur water spring. You got the dipper, dipped the water out of the sulphur incrusted stone basin next to the Buddha changing colours (from the sulphur), and cleansed yourself with the hot water.” You could walk real close to the hell-holes, and you could buy eggs that were boiled in the sulphur water and had turned black. (I didn’t). I rode this cool pirate-looking boat across the late, and wandered around the area. There were a few temples (one had a beautiful tori arch in the water) and a section of the old Tokaido highway which was lined with huge cedars. I had a nice picnic on a small pier under the aforementioned arch, and I finally tried a One-cup sake, the cheapest sake around that you see at all festivities. Not too bad. I had to call the minshuku (Japanese B&B) for directions, they told me the wrong &*@% bus! Finally got there, went to bed fairly soon thereafter.

July 4, 2005
4th of  July
“To celebrate the fourth of July, I went to McDonalds. Closest I could get to American food.”

July 2, 2005
Otaku-la and Tokyo Spa
I went to an anime lover’s paradise and a spa today. “I stopped in an arcade to play Pop’n Music, like DDR but with 5 to 9 buttons you had to hit instead.” Much Fun. “Nakano Broadway… was so awesome, the first actual mall I have found in Japan, with lots of privately run shops instead of store shops. And a very large amount of shops selling toys, anime, figurines, manga, posters, and all sorts of cooly cool geekdom.” Like heaven. I finally bought some gacha-pon, little toys from toy dispensers that are so much cooler than the ones in front of Walmart. I spent hours exploring that mall. Afterwards I went to Shinjuku to try out the Finlando Sauna. It turned out to be in the arcade building the manga club took me the first time. Silly me, I had noticed that Finlando Sauna was there but thought it was part of a chain. There were saunas and showers and a massive Jacuzzi and TV and couches and a nap room and a small restaurant. I tried out all the amenities, was given a pair of underwear by possibly a yakuza (gangster), and ate a chicken meal in said underwear (and a yukata top). Then I was massaged by a masseur (her and all the other masseurs laughed and said I was cute because I had been carrying around a pillow I didn’t know how to get rid of). Then a short nap and to home.

June 29, 2005
Adequacy is beneath me
I had wanted to make sure that I would get an A in my Japanese Lit, so I had agreed to do a presentation in class for extra credit. I wasn’t going to be in class the day we went over the author of the presentation, but I figured it would be okay since he already gave me permission to miss that day, but I decided I had better make sure. Of course, the teacher had forgotten about me asking off, then he started adding things to my presentation while telling me to half the time to five minutes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he told me after class that “he didn’t want me to get the impression that the extra credit would get me an A. There are a lot of really good people in the class, intimating that I wasn’t one of them. The he said I should aim for a B. He was afraid I would try for an A and get a C. Not just on the final, he didn’t think I could get an A on the whole class. It is a real good thing I am so slow on things like this because the more I thought about it the more thoroughly I was insulted. I finally figured out the problem, I had wandered on my midterm thanks to my question reading and my refusal to enter into the sophistry and literary b.s. that flies around his classroom. That kind of stuff just makes my brain go numb. Urgh.”

June 26, 2005
Doko Square Einix?
“Snake has nothing on my stealth infiltration skills!” Today I infiltrated the headquarters of Square Einix. It took quite a bit of walking to find the building, which was a like 20 story office building. I snuck in the side entrance and ate at the Excelsior, then ducked into the stair well and started up, checking the directory on every floor. Finally, on the sixth floor I found ‘Sukuwea Ennakusu, Square Einix.’ I took a picture and ran.

June 25, 2005
Mt. Hiking!
I found out there was a mountain at the end of my train line, so I take the thirty-ish minute trip to spend the day climbing it. Idyllic mountain scenery, all green and pretty. Ate sweet katsudon at a literally mom and pop place, a real greasy spoon. “First thing I see coming out of the station is a building called ‘The Trick Art Museum.’ A sucker for anything novel, I headed straight there after I finished eating. As I approached, I noticed the building has scaffolding on part of it and people working on it, so I was afraid it was closed. But as I got close, I noticed the people didn’t move. They were just pictures…” The whole museum was about different kinds of trick art (duh), like pictures that looked 3D when you closed one eye or other perspective tricks. It was real cool. After I finished there, I started climbing the mountain. Man! It was steep going! I am pretty certain some of the slopes were above 45 degrees. I didn’t know they made hills like that anymore. I was very proud of myself for making it to the top. There was almost no view from the top, but there were some temples that were interesting, particularly a tengu (a mythical creature) temple. I met another gaijin on the way down and we had a good time talking.

June 19, 2005
Church and Concert
~It is now 11:18, and I really want to go to bed. 6:30 is going to come way too early.
~ Met Daniel and Chris at Shibuya to go to Church this morning. Daniel’s train turned around on him at Shinjuku, so he was late. Then we get on the express I didn’t even know they had, miss our stop, and had to go back. Finally we get to church, 45 min. late.
~ Then Daniel leaves, and me and Chris go to Shinjuku for lunch cause Chris wanted kaiten zushi (sushi on a conveyor belt). We get to the place, and then Chris decides he don’t want it after all... So we end up at Chinese place, through the wonder of miscommunication I order one thing of dofu moba (?) to split. It was very small and very expensive so I immediately left afterwards and went to Lotteria for a burger.
~ Then we mostly wandered Shinjuku. I finally convinced Chris to tachiyomi, so I get to read Adolf (half of one). I also got to play Guitar Mania, was cool. Then we went to the live joint, nice place, even had ½ scale tables and chairs. But the bands sucked hard. Wasn’t even rock bands, emo-trance-junk-stuff. Even a stupid DJ! Most of the bands were mostly instrumental. The worst thing was I liked the only-decent pre-opener best! At least they sang, even if they were mostly soft-rock. And some of the guitarists were real hacks. There weren’t many people there on this Sunday night even, and a huge empty place was in front of the stage, the bands were so pitiful. It burns me up there were 2 other joints nearby, I picked this one cause the website had good pics. The last band was rock at least, and real interesting cause they had an electric cello. But the other bands had killed me and these guys were only decent (or less) so we left halfway through. Allan

June 18, 2005
Mrs. Gore/Beth
~ One of my grandmother’s fellow employees is here in Japan, so my grandmother thought it would be a good idea to if I showed her around Tokyo. The woman’s name was Beth Gore, and she was in Japan because the Japanese government randomly picked some teachers to show Japan to. And get a full paid trip.
~ Yadda, yada, I get to the station. I walk in the direction of the hotel, pass it, and have to come back. I missed it because that particular station took me to the back buildings of the hotel. I have to go in the banquet building, through a corridor, and take several more twists and turns before I make it to the lobby. Not too hard to find Mrs. Gore, who said Beth was good when I asked (Grammar Daemon!). She was sitting by herself and guessed it was me as I stared at her. She was about 44, a little on the heavy side, but we hit it off pretty well. She even liked my sense of humor. And later in the day she was good enough to say how much she liked my tour as I betrayed my wavering confidence. “So how is it,” etc.
~ So let’s see how much justice I can conjure up for this very interesting day. Took the Ginza to Asakusa, told her how she should go to Tsukiji tomorrow, she waits until I finish to tell me she went this morning… Ah, well. So I showed her around Asakusa, turned out she had did most of her shopping already. But she really seemed to enjoy seeing such a big temple, and there was a monkey trainer in one area and she got to use a squatty potty for the first time (I have so far managed to avoid using one of these and intend to go on avoiding them). We also got the maccha bean paste donut, hot! For lunch we had ramune and okonomiyaki. I hadn’t thought that she might not be chopstick skilled, and okonomiyaki is a little difficult if you are not skilled. Oh well.
~ ADD, I saw a new transformers series this morn. Apparently it has anime fighting styles, alternate dimensions, shadow beast things, and a Naruto wannabe. WTH?
~ After struggling with cruddy Tokyo 4 Free directions, I found the Asakusa Kannon Onsen. Beth was kinda hesitant, said she never would have planned it herself, but really enjoyed it. Now friends, this onsen is old. Ivy on the outside walls, etc, etc, must have been about fifty years old. So here’s what you do. Go in, pay your fees and the deposit on the (small) towel, stick your shoes in the locker, withdraw the square of wood with the slits cut in the back for the key, then turn around the corner and see the swinging doored co-ed bathroom, the brown with age bambi kiddy ride, and the old skate rink looking signs and wall divisions. Then, into the appropriate gender side. Strip among the old farts in the dressing room (also obviously old) with the window loopholes open to the street, and then step into the bath area. Very large and open, high ceiling, low faucets on the walls, and a topless mermaid mural along the dividing wall. Go to the faucets, one is for hot and one is cold, both have lever operated valves; then clean yourself. Then go into the 113˚F water, several sharp intakes of air. Stay in until you can heat your heart beat, then go out, use only the cold faucet, dump the water on your head, one very sharp intake of breath. Back in the tub. Repeat as necessary. Then go back in the dressing room, sit under the ceiling fan and be peaceful. The obvious age of the place was the coolest thing. Afterwards, I sat in the lobby and drank a skinny Sweat while I waited for Beth. While I waited, a small parade with different drums and flutes came by, I used the onsen’s geta and watched. I got handed a flyer, but it was still cool.
~ After Beth came out we went to Ueno-Koen. Along the way I had her try Calpis and Pocky. I just gave her all sorts of things she could say she done tried. In Ueno, we kinda just wandered around, looked at some of the shrines in it. In one you could pay a small fee and walk around and then in it. A fact that the other nearby group of gaijin missed. Ah ha, I laugh at them. Then I tried to find another temple I had heard of, but the T4F guidebook just said it was across from another temple. Well, I found the other temple, but Jomyoin was not anywhere in sight. I asked a Japanese guy where it was, but he was a tourist too, and was thoroughly amused by trying to help us. Then he asked a woman and her dog where it was (that is, he asked after trying to help us find a temple not on his map for ten minutes [GD!]) and she led us to it. Cool. Jomyoin’s claim to fame is 48,900 statues of Jizo, all lined up back to back in rows. It was like being in a graveyard with only markers and no graves. Definitely worth seeing.
~ Oh yeah, sometime around this time we got ice cream. It was homemade and extremely good, particularly the strawberry milk flavor. I told her to get maccha flavor, she said it was okay, but she did another thing unique to Japan, I say to justify myself.
~ Must have felt more like writing than I thought. Anyway, after that we took the subway to find a tempura place, the only restaurant in my Little Adventures guidebook. Since it was the only restaurant to have a chapter by itself in that book, I figured it would be great. After wandering around and finally orienting myself to the map, I had no problem finding it. A bigger problem was Beth doesn’t like seafood and that was all they had. But she said shrimp was okay, so I ordered her a prawn tempura-don. Oh my snakes and garters, that was the best tempura ever. My bowl was two prawns, whitefish fillet and scallops. So very good. The fact that I was eating in a small, 75 year old tempura restaurant that survived the bombing didn’t hurt. But thankfully, Beth paid the bill. Apparently quality costs.
~ Then one street over to Yoshiwara, the city’s old licensed quarter and the subject of several of the stories in my Japanese Lit class. Didn’t see too much, I think I just hit the outskirts, but Beth didn’t seem to comfortable, so we went ahead and headed home. Hope I can remember to tell the teacher I went to the Yoshiwara.
~ We pretty much just split up at the station. There you have it. I wanted to play some Melty Blood tonight, still haven’t installed it, but I am about to go to sleep. Allan

June 17, 2005
F. +2 and Manga Club
~ So, how would you rather deal with a crowd? Would you rather be able to consciously produce potent flatulence in a crowded area so everyone avoids you, or rather be able to immediately find an open seat in any situation?
~ Brekkie, Jap class, commie attack. Today we did our piece for topics in theatre. It was a two person piece called F. +2. It was about two gas station attendants with a superficial friendship, I was the black hearted senpai (senior) that spouted non-sequiters (my favorite) and tried to act both philosophical and friendly. It was only about 10 minutes long, but it went smoothly, a few lines skipped but no stalls (unlike the play following us that actually had to be prompted). The audience got a kick out of it, even laughed.
~ I went back to that bento place with the buffet (Ala carte, actually) and actually ordered this time. Got a great bento with a hot fresh tonkatsu, pepper and onion pork, and lotta rice. Took it to the one secluded place on campus (amazing that it exists on such a small campus, is only a screen of bushes off the main path) and ate. Extremely nice.
~ Then to Brit Lit, then the computer lab. Printed out the children’s song “Momotaro-san” to memorize, as well as other stuff. Went to the manga club room, browsed some really cool Guilty Gear manga before we left for the meeting. At the meeting they just talked about projects, so I talked to another Brian called Bryan. He told me how he sucked and how everyone had picked on him as a kid. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get involved, but eventually I did and tried to give him what advice, etc that I could.

June 16, 2005
Forgotten Entry
~ Yeah! Nausicaä was so awesome!!!!!
~ “But I was born young, and I grew up with little experience of the world.” = Joyce Cary
~ I wrote all the above on the 16th, and then forgot to write anymore in it. I remember making a stand against tyranny in my Japanese class, that is, as soon as I finished the test I grabbed my book bag and ran as the teacher called to my back. Afterwards I worked in the computer lab, Mickey D’s, Japanese Lit. A woman was in my seat and didn’t move when I asked. Upset me some. Then tachiyomimashita the last volume of Nausicaä, as stated above it was awesome.
~ I think there was something else interesting, but I can’t remember it. Allan

June 15, 2005
Taiko!
~ (In a sing-song voice) “So Allan, why weren’t you in Japanese Class this morning?” “Because I wasn’t there.”
~ Actually I didn’t go because it was my only class and I wanted to sleep halfway late. And I did, all the way to 8:00. Yay!
~ Then I went to Yotsuya so I wouldn’t run into my Japanese teacher this time, surfed the net and worked on a paper. At lunch I got pretty good tasting soup that was entirely water and some not very good inky dinky sandoicchi-s. But hey, it was cheap.
~ At one me and the rest of the CIEE folks went to a taiko (drum) concert. I had the misfortune of sitting in front of the CIEE director so I couldn’t take pictures when the people ahead of me did. Rather unfortunately, this was a modern instead of a traditional performance, so instead of ten people hitting the drums in perfect sync there was one guy hitting several drums. Don’t get me wrong, he was great, but he lacked the power of a group of players. I thought the revolving stage was more interesting, since it revolved in the dark and I was pondering how they moved the drums (men in black suits?). They did do some cool things with their lighting. Then intermission, the souvenir shop was double what it should be and a small piece of cake was ¥700! After the intermission was a girl with a flute and a less energetic drummer. I followed the examples of several other students and started slipping off to sleep in the warm theatre.
~ Matt O’Casio had suggested beforehand that we do something afterhand, but everyone was sleepy and backed out. So instead I went back to Kinokuniya and tachiyomi-ed another Nausicaä. Only one left! Allan

August 31, 2005
Announcement
It was as I had feared. Now that I am back at school I am so busy doing other things I haven't transcribed many entries. The consequences of being easily amused. As a bribe, go over to the picture section. I went through all the pictures I took in Japan, and selected the ones I thought were the best, 109 in all. Maybe that will keep you busy long enough for me to make my escape.

August 2, 2005
Announcement
Home again, home again, jiggedy jig. That’s right folks, I am back in the States! And I can say that I am really happy to be back. So I will soon be caught up with posting my diary? Sad to say, I still hate transcribing my entries. But I will try to catch up. Maybe it will not be so crazy for me now that I am home. Thank you for all your patience, and please enjoy the biggest update yet!

September 2, 2005
Hey folks, got a real treat now. I wrote this article while it was still in Japan, but it came too late to get it in the UWA paper. Figured it would be a shame if no one got to read it, so here it is!
~~~~~
Allan Noble
April 25, 2005

The Narrow Road East:
The language barrier

Howdy Folks! It’s me again, the wandering student from places far away. Have you ever tried to communicate an idea to someone and the thick-brained person just couldn’t get it? Well imagine if the person speaks another language. Makes it even more complicated, doesn’t it? I have been dealing with exactly this for the past month.
The language barrier can be a major, well, barrier. For instance, let’s assume that, like I did, you try to sign up for some service or club. For me to be able to use an internet café’s computers, I had to sign up for a membership. Not only did the only Japanese-speaking clerk have to have my full personal information, she also insisted on telling me all the amenities that I would receive and attempting to make sure I understood her. Next imagine that someone serves you an exciting new dish. The dish is mainly exciting because you are not sure whether or not you will survive the task of eating it. Fearful for your life, you ask your host what the mass in the bowl is. To which your host promptly replies in Japanese and broken English something along the lines of “black taste.” (I really did have some ramen that my host said was called “kuro aji,” black taste ramen. It was actually pretty good.) Finally, the language barrier really screws you over when you are lost. For those of you caught up on my online diary at http://studyabroad.uwa.edu, bear me out, I know you have heard this story already. About two weeks into my stay at Japan, I get really really lost. I ended up heading out from a church and randomly trying to find the next station instead of backtracking to the one I came from. I ended up walking so far and making enough turns that I didn’t even know how to get back. So I asked someone in my broken Japanese where the station was. To which she promptly answered in perfect Japanese… well I still don’t know what she said. I ended up going in the direction she pointed, walking about 20 minutes, and arriving back at the woman who gave me directions. I ended up taking the bus.
But don’t get me wrong, the language barrier can work in your favor too. For instance, you don’t have to worry about getting in an argument with anyone, and if someone tries to chew you out it is real easy to ignore them. One time a little old Japanese woman started fussing at me because I was about to throw trash in a can she was about to change. Of course I didn’t know this, so I just stood there with my dumb foreigner face while she railed on. Eventually she just gave up and took the garbage out of my hands. Also, not speaking Japanese gives me freedom to do what a Japanese person can’t do. “What, the sign says no pictures? I didn’t know that!” or “Stay off the grass? What sign where?” Not speaking Japanese is really convenient in that regard.
So what can you do to cope with the language barrier? You could learn Japanese. But that is a lot of work. You could carry around a phrase book, but that can be a real pain too. Let me tell you what I do. First off, you learn about 10 words in Japanese, and whenever you need to communicate you repeat combinations of those words over and over in the hope that eventually they will get the idea you are trying to communicate. Mix this in with a lot of pointing, gesturing, and facial expressions. Circus training really helps here. Or you can do it the easy way, and find someone who speaks Japanese and English and attach yourself to them like a leech to a lovehandle. This is really effective, and doing this was the only way I was able to get a cell phone. Props to Tadau (for the cell phone, etc), and to Brian (for translating all the anime circle meetings.
And that’s that in a nutshell. Keep at it, and maybe you will make some friends. Like the goofballs I met.


June 14, 2005
Approx 43 days
~ Is there any difference between a person’s reaction to a real snub and an imagined snub?
~ My host mom overslept today, so I tried to make breakfast. I had never cooked oatmeal on the stove before so first I had too little water and then too much. I had to pour my oatmeal into a strainer. Plus all this made me late for class.
~ In theatre class we tried to do our one and only dress rehearsal. But the student director still kept interrupting us, so I finally had to ask him to be quiet. The production is Friday, and the lack of practice worries me.
~ I had asked Daniel to wait on me for lunch, he didn’t but instead fell asleep. So he still ended up available for lunch, and after an awkward conversation while he was still asleep, we went into the caf. Which was a mistake. Their food was not good and I got no respect. No one laughed at my jokes, actually one girl said she didn’t care, and Brian was mostly disgusted. Daniel was still out of it, but mostly okay. (Oh, did I mention the theatre teacher didn’t seem very interested in talking to me too? And she thought I didn’t know my lines, ‘cause Friday she kept stopping me and breaking my thought train, then jumping in with my lines when I didn’t start back fast enough when she finished!)
~ And in Brit Lit the same teacher gave away the end of the book I was reading. Aargh!
~ I looked some more at that minshuku in Hakone. Then I helped Dr. Boyd with some stuff and then went to Shinjuku. I bought a train pass to Hakone for 7-6 (July sixth), and then Takashimaya de Nausicaä o tachiyomimashita. Allan

June 13, 2005
Teach us to count the days.
~ I was afraid the Japanese oatmeal box would be a problem. My host mom fixed oatmeal spaghetti. With sugar.
~ Pitiful noodle breakfast. Doesn’t sound like I am to be satisfied at brekkie, does it? (Read that grammar as you may.) Stopped by a bakery for a pastry, also got a milk tea. Japanese class. Then computer. Did some stuff, found a lot of live houses in Shinjuku. Waited longer than I should have for Tarik to finish, and we ate at the brick arch place. Avoided the noodles, got my first tempura-don. Pretty good, but the tempura was soggy. He left me early to get to a class he was late for, and I soon after passed him as he was talking to a girl. >~<
~ I asked Tadau to look at the bands and see if he knew them. All no names. But we found 3 lives in the same block, and me and supposedly Chris are supposed to go Sunday. I also got a letter from Mom, and it had my Certs powerful mints in them. I was so happy! And the poem almost made me tear up.
~ Japanese Lit, then computer again. Found a cheap minshuku (B and B) in Hakone, then read Death Note. Grabbed a roll thing at Lawson’s, ate my salad and ignored the spaghetti when I got home at 8:00. Practiced Aruceid’s physical combos (‘cause the keyboard is too dodgy for special moves) on Melty Blood, did my core course 2 page assignment, and cut Riley Armstrong’s “Sleep” into a file that might fit on my cell phone. 186 kb. (I later found out it fit on the phone but the file type was wrong.) Allan

June 12, 2005
Mysterious Ways
~ Have you ever heard of a song called “Concrete Angel?”
~ It was hot today. Quite hot, actually, and it was hot even before I woke up this morning at 8:00. Had agreed to take Daniel to church with me, and we planned to go to the 3:00 service. Why so late? Because he walked the Yamanote line last night with his dorm and was going to sleep this morn. He sent me a bloody e-mail at 4:00 in the morning to tell me that he will e-mail me if he manages to wake up. It wouldn’t have been that bad, but the e-mail made the phone vibrate on the wood counter and woke me up!
~ Washed clothes, ate breakfast, left at 10:00. Went to a shrine near Shibuya for a flea market. (Actually the first Shrine I went to for a flea market way long ago.) There was a decent amount of interesting things, even an ancient Japanese combination lock. Let me ask you, what is better, old cotton or new silk? I bought Mom’s souvenir today, an antique silk kimono undergarment. It was a little stained when I closely inspected it, but still nice. Then I needed a sash, and after another seller figured out what I wanted, he produced a thin tie-dyed (kinda) one that was cool. But he wanted as much for the sash as I had just paid for the kimono layer, so I offered him half. He didn’t want to move, so I hemmed and hawed told him I only paid that much for the kimono layer, and just as I was walking away he took my offer. Yay!
~ Then I went to Harajuku and back down Takemeshita Street (where me and Daniel went down). I had been told of a good gyro place, found it, but two doors down was an Italian Viking restaurant. Ponder on that a moment… For whatever reason Japan calls buffets Vikings, so it was an Italian buffet. I went down under the street to the restaurant. It was like being back in the live joint, with venting pipes running along the wall and cool American rock music playing, but bigger, brighter, cleaner. The pasta was great, especially the pizza ravioli and even what I think was ketchup pasta was pretty good. The cherry tomato pizza wasn’t all that good (think it was the cheese) and that was the only type of pizza they had.
~ Then I started calling Daniel to make sure he was awake. I called maybe 6 times and he never answered. He didn’t meet me at Shibuya or otherwise contact me either. I re-arranged my entire day for him and the blighter sleeps in! I went on ahead to church and really enjoyed the service. Since Daniel wasn’t there, I decided to get him a copy of the sermon notes, which led me to get a map to the church for him, which led me to get a Japanese copy of the Jesus video to show my host parents. And of course, none of this would have happened if Daniel had showed up. Surely the Lord works in mysterious ways. I am probably going to show the video tonight at supper when I have a captive audience. Will let you know how it goes.
~ It didn’t go. Otosan said he wasn’t real interested and set it off to the side. Like he did with the tract. But I found out the funny black guy’s name was Bobby Ologun. Anyway. Allan

June 11, 2005
Kawagoe!
~ Today I went to Kawagoe. Why? Because it is like 3 stops from my house!
~ I left about 10, caught the train and shortly arrived in Kawagoe. Took a short walk and went to Kitain Temple. I went in the back so it was all quiet and nice. But that didn’t last, soon I got to more people. And as the day wore on and the rain slacked off, more and more people showed up. There was a kinda museum set up in one of the shrine buildings, and I got to walk all through it, even over a wooden bridge connecting that building and the main hall. Had a very nice bathroom, clean, modern, looking out on one of the rock gardens, and best of all, deserted. In another area of the temples was an area with 540 statues of the disciples of Buddha, all doing something different with different faces. Real cool. One statue was reading a book, another seemed to be eating ice cream, yet another bared his chest to show the woman on his heart.
~ Heading towards my next stop, I took my lunch in a soba shop. I ate cold soba for the first time. It came out on top of a bamboo mat in a lacquer tray. You get some noodles, dip them in the provided sauce, and slurp them up. As the place specialized in this, it was really good. And I even knew to ask for the water the noodles had been cooked in to pour in my dipping broth at the end. Oishi! (Delicious!)
~ Then I went to an old warehouse district. By old I mean several hundred years, and in the traditional style. The walls are like four feet thick, even the shutters are like this, so fire won’t penetrate. The area was okay, found a ¥1000 shop and bought a cool door curtain.
~ Next was candy alley, an alley full of shops selling candy and small toys. And one roasted cucumber dealer? It was pretty cool, ‘cept it was short. I bought some little cake things, a jello drink thing, and something I thought was dried figs (someone had let me try them before and they were good) but was some weird sugary candy that is hard to describe. Nice to suck on though.
~ Then I went to the City Museum. They had an inside table on the other side of a window between me and a bamboo filled courtyard, and at that table I read and recouped a while. The museum was okay, a little small, but okay. On the other hand, the family that had kids running around, writing in their breath on the display cases, and banging the clickety buttons for the TVs. I almost told them “Dame! Shizuka!” (Stop it! Quiet!). (ADD = Too many Japanese people can’t keep their hands to themselves. 200 year old chest, they have to touch it and make sure it is real. Dame!)
~ Then I went in the “Castle.” That didn’t take long at all. Then I caught the bus to the station, then from there to home. Got back at 5:00, Okasan didn’t come in ‘till later and didn’t realize I was there, so I didn’t get supper until 8:00. Oh well. Allan

June 10, 2005
Qwerty
~ If I go crazy, will you still call me Superman?
~ Half a bowl of oatmeal for brekkie. Ignored the rest. Theatre class. Lunch from conveni. After Brit Lit I asked Dr. Boyd to help me buy a concert ticket from a Japanese website, but they were sold out. Went to Yotsuya. Downloaded a Melty Blood demo, extremely awesome. Late for manga club along with other guy, found them in caf. They were just doing the book layout, ate and left. Then went to Kinokuniya again, Nausicaä 4. Also really cool. Came home and played Melty Blood. Nice. Allan


June 9, 2005
Calpis Tea
~ Currently reading Ian Rankin’s “Black and Blue.”
~ Breakfast where I had to pick the ham and cheese off the fried tofu. In Japanese class I did what I had been telling the other classmates I would do. I finished the test, went out to stretch and took my backpack with me.
~ After much deliberation Chris decided to go with me to Yaskuni Jinja. We bought bread, cheese, tuna in olive oil and the big cheap cokes. Add in the mustard I had been toting in my bag and we had a really nice lunch. (Chris made fun of me saying, “Where are the picnic tables at?” He pointed out that I mysteriously ended the sentence with a preposition, I replied it was Southern dialect and asked him “What kind of fool do you take me for?”)
~ On the way to the computer lab I ran into Anna and we talked for a while. Then Yamamura-san came and joined the conversation, which was cool.
~ I made a B- on my Japanese Lit exam, but since I didn’t realize what the focus of the first essay question (of 2) was until way too late, it was okay.
~ Then I went to Akhihabara with Brian and Daniel. Cool Beans! Went in the Laox Hobby shop I have been meaning to look in. Found the first manga of Melty Blood/Tsukihime, bought it. Also other cool things in the store. Followed them around a bit more, then left for home. Didn’t get home and eat until like 8:30.
~ To tide me over I bought some Calpis in a weird bottle. Turned out to be Calpis mixed with tea. I actually liked it, kinda fruity and light but with an unfortunate aftertaste. Allan


June 8, 2005
Elementary school.
~ I was supposed to be taking a nap right now. But I couldn’t. At least I will be able to get to sleep on time tonight.
~ Breakfast, Japanese class, I got a candle stuck up my nose while it  was still lit. Killed time in the computer room, then went on a CIEE field trip to a top ranking public elementary school.
~ It was definitely an interesting experience. We walked in through the heavy iron gates into a large courtyard. Now let’s first thing banish the idea of stately grounds, grass, and shiny stuff. The school was old and in the middle of Tokyo, and a public school. Which is not to say it wasn’t nice, the building was large and they even had a (currently dry) swimming pool. They take us to the one nice tatami mat room in the school, and press us into service passing out food bowls (for ourselves only) assembly line style, which was kinda funny. Lunch was about a cup of good Brunswick stew, a thick piece of toast with sugar cooked mysteriously atop it, a few pickled vegetables, and about a half pint of milk. Let’s just say I ate real slow and saved the milk for last. They gave me another cup of stew and it was just enough to keep me from being hungry.
~ They led us outside to meet the kids that would show us around school. I had three R’s, Ryu, Ryohei, and Reina, two boys and a girl. (They had made me a really cool place mat with origami and a pink washi [handmade paper] nametag that was there when we ate.) So, they showed me around the school. Their were these envelopes I had to pick with the locations in English inside them. One time they were supposed to take me to their classroom and they took me to the kitchen! The art room was really cool, apparently they had a famous art teacher and they had even made things like people statues made from boards. I had said the best way this trip would be cool is if I could find something anime-ish, and I found that in the roof. It was a large, open area with free access from the stairs, just like in anime, even with the box building over the stairs.
~ To the actual children, the girl Reina just kinda did her own thing, hopping down the stairs and “skating” in the hall. Ryu was the one I liked best, the leader but also the one playing around the most. But he also seemed to be the senpai (senior), particularly to the younger kid, Ryohei. Ryohei seemed either to be about a year younger, and maybe something else. He kept talking to me in Japanese, not expecting an answer, and Ryu chastened him for it. Ryohei also had to take it slow on the stairs and fell a few times… I am still uncertain about it.
~ Then we went to the gym and played a bit. They beat me running but I thrashed them on running backwards.  Then me and Ryu played tag, experience made it kinda easy. And long arms.
~ There was a small recorder concert, beautiful in its simplicity. Then they all sang “Sakura Sakura,” also beautiful. Then we parted ways. We participated in tea ceremony next. I did it in the 3½ sips this time. The principal talked way too long afterward.
~ On the way back I followed Yamamura-san and Kato-san ‘cause I thought they were going to a JR station. Actually they were going for a taxi but the station was nearby anyway. Allan

June 7, 2005
Daniel!
~ Gaah! My eyes are so heavy they are trying to fall out of my sockets!
~ Read my Japanese Lit, then theatre class where the director kept stopping me and breaking me out of character, lunch. I went with some guys to this nearby Thai place. Good food, good prices. Brit Lit, almost fell asleep in class so I hid my face with my fan and closed my eyes until I woke up.
~ After class, I talked to Daniel downstairs and he said he wanted to do something this evening. So I took care of a few things and we left for Harajuku. Along the way I found out Daniel was a Christian, and he is entertained by my sense of humor. Yay!!! We get to the main drag and it is lined with “cool” stores, mostly like punk and American and slacker (?) clothes. There is also a lot of used clothes stores. Daniel got himself a rather nice old leather jacket for about $70, a good price.
~ We ate at a restaurant called Jonathan’s, where I got a BLT with ham instead of bacon, and only about 10 french fries! On the upside, the food was really good, and they had an unlimited drink bar.
~ Then to Kinokuniya bookstore for him to get a Japanese version of Harry Potter, and then we went our separate ways. I was sad. Oh, but he is going to church with me Saturday. Allan

June 6, 2005
Jap Lit midterm.
~ Nothing frosts my butt like a snow cone about this high and Henry Harrison!” “Let’s leave now. I have everything we’ll need in my pants.” Leslie Neilson is such a good actor!
~ Breakfast, Japanese class (people are slowly disappearing). Computer lab. For lunch I went to a sushi place and got a really good charashi-sushi for a good price. The entire restaurant laughed at the difficulties me and the waitress had once. Then I went to a hyaku-en store and bought a folding fan to play with. The DVD showed some cool ways the old Japanese used fans. Then I studied for the test.
~ The test was pretty easy, even though some of the “questions” were merely a listing of topics to talk about. Afterwords, I celebrated by reading vol. 3 of Deathnote.
~ At supper I surprised Otosan with my knowledge of Japanese Lit. He said understanding haikai was hard. After dinner, a Leslie Neilson movie came on, in English! It was really funny, and I really enjoyed watching it. Now I know where Tannon’s “How dare you” quote is from.
~ They were giving away books at the library, so I got Grisham’s Last Juror and 2 books by Ian Rankin, one of which I am about to read a little of before sleeping. Allan

June 5, 2005
Tachiyomi
~From my Japanese Lit notes, “Amy bites cars, / David eradicates French gunners, / Helda ignores Jim.”
~ Brekkie, church. Was a little late cause I got the times mixed up. Since Dr. Boyd had recommended Bella Bella Pizza, I went there for lunch. I couldn’t understand the strange Japanese pizzas (what the heck is a margarita pizza?), so I asked the waitress to get me the most delicious one. In accordance with Murphy’s law, I got the one with the mostly raw egg on top. It actually tasted good, particularly the few bits with the herb mayonnaise, but the crust was intolerably soggy and it wasn’t near enough food. I ended up going in a conveni for ice cream, so I would feel full. (ADD, the restaurant had no toilet, you had to leave, walk forever, and then use the mall’s.)
~ After that I went back to Kinokuniya and engaged in one of my favorite Japanese pastimes, tachiyomi. This art form consists of going to the bookstore, easing a volume off the shelf, and standing there reading the whole thing. Tachiyomi literally means standing reading, and it is a whole lot cheaper than buying the book/manga.
~ So after reading vol. 2&3 of Nausicaä, I went home, did laundry, and studied for the Japanese Lit exam tomorrow. After supper, I watched a DVD I borrowed of “Kyogen of Errors” and made an MP3 of the song in it. Allan

June 4, 2005
Yokohama!
~ I don’t normally have a feeling of belonging in Japan. But after visiting the Foreigners’ Cemetery, seeing crosses instead of grave markers and the Virgin Mary instead of Buddha, after reading the memorials in English, after thinking of all the gaijin who lived and died in Japan, I had a sense of kinship fill me.
~ Slept ‘till 8, more pancakes with no syrup (this time the “sausage” one had mustard in it). I took my trench coat since I was afraid the ocean would make Yokohama cold as well as rainy. (I ended up using the thing only once, it was a real burden until I figured out how to stick it between the inner and outer parts of my bag.)
~ Got to Yokohama, bought my bus parts, and went to Sebien Gardens. It was a large garden with really old buildings transplanted in it. It was really awesome! First things first, by that time I was ready for lunch. I had the remains of last night’s supper with me, so I perched on a old retaining wall and ate up. Very nice. A one-eyed cat I nicknamed “mate” came along and watched me eat. We eventually reached a mutual agreement, I gave him the sardine tin and he cleaned it out so no sardine juice got in my bag. (He even saw me off!)
~ The two coolest things in the gardens were this: a really old farmhouse of a rich man you could go in and explore. It even had old teapots and farming stuff and straw raincoats, and they had a fire going in one room, and you could even go look around the attic. I absolutely loved it! Second, I climbed up all these step old steps to a big pagoda, the oldest in the region, but then I went up some more steps and through some bamboo to this really nice observation thing, so I just sat there for a while and looked over the trees at the water (and industrial plants).
~ Then I took the bus to a shopping street to go to the Foreigners’ Cemetery (hereafter known as FC). There were some interesting shops, like the imported goods store, but eventually I found out I had went the wrong way and had to turn around. I pretty quickly found the way to the FC, but I had to take a tall curvy hill up. As I passed the C, it was nice to actually see crosses in a c. When I got to the entrance, I found I actually couldn’t go in and look around, but there was a nice view over it and a memorial. Requiescat in pace.
~ Then I went to Harbor View Park. On the same hill as FC, the view was terrific. I sat on a bench on the observatory platform where I ate a doughnut and contemplated the asses of the people in front of me.
~ Next I went to this cool “We carry everything” store. You would never believe what was looping in one section of the store. Mia Hee, Mia Ha, Mia Haha! Numa numa A, Numa numa numa A! Then I went to China Town, the reason I wanted to go to Yokohama to begin with. And the Lord sent me with perfect timing, ‘cause just as I arrived a lot of firecrackers went off and 2 two-person papier-mâché and cloth lions came out. And just as I walked by, the really loud drums started and I jumped a foot! The performance was really cool, and the performers in the suits jumped on their shoulders for the lion to stand, and then got on these tall poles and started jumping from pole to pole. Really fun.
~ Most of the restaurants were really expensive (actually, “China Town” was mostly restaurants). Then out of the blue I met some fellow CIEE students, they suggested a restraint and suggested I get mabu-dofu (?), a fried tofu stew with pork and chili paste. It looks absolutely disgusting, so I have been avoiding eating it. But I remembered Dr. Slimp had recommended it, so I tried it. It was incredibly good! And it was tofu! The waitress talked to me a bit (you use chopsticks well!) and so did the owner who spoke some English. They were nice. They gave me a business card and told me to tell my friends.
~ For souvenirs I bought a cool papier-mâché mask, and a hand-operated clipper. Now I don’t have to worry about trimming my goatee! Allan

June 3, 2005
Letters!
~ Do you know what is amazingly cool/funny? MxPx singing “Barbie Girl!” I let Stephanie hear it and she almost died laughing.
~ I had four letters and my Issetan newsletter waiting for me in the mailbox. I was so happy!
~ Breakfast, boring Japanese class, another explosion. For Theatre practice, there was some line practice, and a good amount of movie conversation. Went to the caf, saw they had a new meal at the ticket machine, Chikin Saree I read. Oh, chicken salad! So I ordered it and got curry rice with a stingy three little chicken lumps. I was extremely confused until I figured out I had mistaken the letter for “ka” for the letter for “sa.” I took it upstairs to class so I could help Fatemeh study. 30 minutes later a horde of people came in and started eating. Then they got louder and louder until I couldn’t stand it anymore and had to whip around and tell them to be quiet.
~ The Brit Lit midterm was pretty straight forward and easy. Afterward I went to the computer room. Dr. Boyd lent me the “Kyogen of Errors” DVD, so I downloaded a sound recorder so I can get the Ya Ya Koshi Ya song. Also got some MP3s, studied for my Japanese Lit test, and read vol 2 of “Death Note.” Reading the manga was real nice.
~ By that time it was like 6:30, so I called Okasan and told her I wouldn’t make it to supper. I went walkabout and got some food before returning to campus to use their table for a picnic. I had some awesome bread, really good sardines (at ¥120 a can they should be), brown coarse mustard, and ume chu-hi. I really enjoyed myself, and still have some left. Allan

June 2, 2005
Manga!
~ If you took away a fly’s wings would it be called a walk?
~ Breakfast, annoying Japanese class, explosion. After that I went to Yotsuya and checked out a book I will need for my Brit Lit midterm tomorrow. (I still can’t believe it is open book and open note.) Then I ate lunch at the second of Yotsuya’s 3 cafeterias. It had a bakery in it. So I ate baked goods and a small salad for lunch. My favorite baked good was a roll with a hashbrown patty on top.
~ Then computer lab. Looked up the fox god, called a kitsune in Japanese. Related to the god of wealth and harvests, kitsune appears to have a lot to do with business. I still think it has something to do with cleverness, too.
~ I found a site with scanlations of “Death Note,” and spent an hour reading that. It was pretty cool. Then I transcribed an entry and went back to school. I showed Mrs. Boyd the “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” flash and she got a kick out of it. She was surprised to find it was a Beetles’ song.
~ Japanese Lit class. I got the teacher to say he would do a wordbank for ID, which is the easiest way possible.
~ Feeling restless, I stopped on my way home in Shinjuku. Went to the Kinokuniya bookstore and read the first manga of Nausicaä. Really good. They also had other mangas I wanted to read, like Hellsing 6, but I didn’t have time. Dad had asked for a book of Japanese stories, but I saw a book of Sazae-san and thought he would like that too, so I bought it. And read it on the way home. Allan

June 1, 2005
Ghibli!
~ Totoro to-toro, totoro to-toro! Repeat ad infinitum.
~ Today was a Ghibli day! But to start with breakfast. Yesterday evening I bought a box of Quaker non-instant oatmeal with mushrooms… Actually it was just plain oats, the mushrooms on the front of the box was a serving suggestion. Bleh! Even though she had never seen oatmeal before and had trouble grasping the premise, Okasan did a good job of cooking it. I.e. I had a really nice breakfast, particularly since I also had a donut and no wretched egg.
~ Now that I have filled up a third of a page with breakfast… The second part of my Japanese exam was harder, but a lot of the difficulty was writing the answer. Since “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Breaking the Habit,” and “Late Again” sometimes go through my head, I had to listen to these before I went to
~ The Ghibli museum! For those of you not in the know, Ghibli is a top rate animation studio in Japan, and the most famous. The top man’s name is Miyazaki, and he did “Princess Mononoke,” and “Spirited Away,” among others. I bought a ham sandwich and a ¥100 bag of Doritos taco chips and eat them as I wait in line for the museum bus. It was so nice to have Doritos again. I ended up being an hour early for my 2:00 ticket time, so I wandered the nearby park for a while.
~ In retrospect, it is hard to give the museum a rating. There were a few cool things, but there just wasn’t enough stuff. I took my time and only spent 2 hours. And the ticket was $10. Some of the architecture and layout was cool, but except for a spiral staircase thing it wasn’t too impressive. There were only 2 really cool things, models that spun around really fast with a strobe that made them look like they were moving, and a recreation of the director’s work place, complete with original art and storyboards, piles of books, and candy wrappers. Their was a museum-only short film, but I watched it through the exit door windows so I could keep my cool ticket with the “Spirited Away” film strip. The film was crudely animated in comparison to his movies, a short little nothing piece about magically going to the ocean and catching a whale.
~ I stopped in at a Barber‘s salon place on the way back. The Lord blessed me ‘cause the barber spoke some English. He was good too, used nothing but scissors and a comb. Thought I was getting an amazingly good price of ¥500, but that was just the added shampoo price.
~ When I got back, I rented “My Neighbor Totoro.” It is apparently the movie that made Ghibli famous, and it was really nice. Allan

May 31, 2005

~ You know how you can be having a good day, and then for absolutely no discernible reason your breathing tightens, your heart drops, and the food is being eaten only for the sake of eating it? This happened to me this evening. Actually, I think the reason was reading e-mails from home made me homesick and then I started thinking about all the work left for me to do.
~ Last night I told Okasan “no egg,” so I got tofu instead. I need to go buy cereal or something… In Japanese class I had the first part of my midterm. Was okay.
~ Everything else is boring, except I was told today to have my lines memorized by Friday, smack in the middle of midterms. Allan
P.S. I love Jesus!

May 30, 2005
Saizerya and UniQlo
~ Have you ever heard of a song called “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer?” It is a twisted song about a serial killer clanging people with a silver hammer, and is by the Beatles!
~ Very little to report. But I bet I can still fill most of this page. Sigh. I really did feel like I might puke when I stuffed a third of that egg in my mouth and I tried to choke it down.
~ For lunch me and Chris went for a walk in the rain to the same Saizerya I went to Fri. Before I left, I dropped off my backpack at my Japanese Lit teacher’s office. Very nice of him. Anyway, I really enjoyed talking to Chris along the way. I really enjoyed my meal, and Chris said he did too.
~After class, I went to another UniQlo I found out about in Shinjuku. They had a good bit more stuff than the station one in Tokyo eki. I found a really cool shirt with a manga on the front of a son knocking his dad out, an explanation on the back about the Japanese practice of it. But they only had one shirt left, and it was a large. So no go. There was another shirt that said “House is tree” and a cool Ramune shirt, but I settled on a greenish shirt with a silhouette of flower petals falling and a man with a rickshaw. It looks just like something from the stencil dyeing exhibit I just went to. Allan

May 29, 2005
New Church.
~ This is a plug for The Dream of Water by Kyoko Mori. It is an extremely good book about an expatriated Japanese who returns home after fleeing a bad family situation. Read it if you can.
~ I went to a new church that was supposed to be closer than the one in Shibuya. I think I saved 30 minutes but spent more money getting there. Anyway, I get to their little room in a “Culture Center,” and out of fifteen people I was the only gaijin. The service was in Japanese and so were the hymns. As you could imagine, this was quite a new experience (especially the hymns)! But the American pastor had English sermon notes and a Hawaiian couple came in that I could talk to. It was funny though because I really felt like the minority! Overall a pleasant experience and the hearty tea afterwards even had noodles!
~ I am fixing Thai curry for my host family tonight. (Remember I bought curry and coconut milk when I went to Ikebukero with Chris?). Unless something weird happens, assume everyone liked it. Allan

May 28, 2005
Shitamachi Graveyard Zone
~ I went to a part of old Tokyo today, a part that avoided the bombs of WWII. There were so many graveyards!
~ Again following my awesome guidebook, “39 Little Adventures in Tokyo,” I started in Sendagi in a little park. It encircled a pond that had lots of turtles and a small shrine thing. I liked it, partially because of its compactness. Except the mean Japanese water fountain that shoots straight up got me wet!
~ Then on to an old-style shopping street. I bought some baru (fishcake balls) and ate them as I strolled down the street, watching the people go by. Finally I came to another suggested shop that sold tea. Upon entering I was given a cup of tea and looked around. The guidebook said there was a small garden out the back. I waited until the mean man moved, and then went out there. I was then called in by a seemingly amused shopkeeper. Apparently some things have changed in the seven years since the book was written. I shake my fist in their general direction. I had already decided I wanted to buy some tea, so I bought some kagome (?), a green tea made from the stems of the leaves, and supposed to have a gentle flavor. I was surprised to see other gaijin in the shop, but everything was explained when I saw they had the same guidebook. We both got a good laugh out of it.
~ (ADD, I saw the Viewtiful Joe anime this morning. It was really cool, esp. Joe.)
~ More shops, then a kinda interesting temple with a kinda interesting graveyard. While there I met another gaijin couple. Smiling, I asked them if they had a guidebook. They didn’t, some Japanese friends told them about it. They also suggested I go down the street to this shrine and go to this museum I was already going to.
~ I went to the shrine, and I liked it. (Speaking of which, that area has about as many shrines as Asakusa and even more graveyards.) There was an overlook over the railroad station at the shrine that was cool too.
~ Back on the guidebook track, I went down this covered arcade alley. It was very interesting, particularly since people had their washing machines in the streets and were washing clothes. Is that what is called showing the whole neighborhood your dirty laundry?
~ The almighty guidebook suggested eating at a curry place where they grow their own spices, but the prices started at ¥1500, and went up from there. So I ate at a little mom and pop (literally) ramen place. I got miso ramen. It was the best I have yet had! And it didn’t even have the best sauce. Probably it was so good because the old man made sure it was right, I saw him tasting the broth.
~ Then I went on to the Asakura Choso museum. It is the house of a famous sculptor. The sculptures were interesting, but the house and the rock and water garden were so much cooler. The garden was in the middle of the house, like a Spanish house with the rooms encircling the courtyard. There were trees, big stones, flowers, coi – it was like having a pond in your house! In one place, water welled out of a pool in a rock and dripped off the moss into the water. Cool! The house was nice too. The large room at the top was called the morning sun room, and as I sat and contemplated I could see, rising over the buildings, a billboard for Hotel Sunny. Ironic?
~ Next stop was a paper shop, where I re-met the first group of gaijin. But they were in the wrong shop! I however, found the right shop. I am so smart and full of worldly wisdom. And then I botched the directions and got lost. It took me thirty minutes to find the ice cream shop the almighty guidebook mentioned, and when I did it was on the wrong side of the street! The guidebook made me lost! In actuality, I had went down the wrong street, which is why I had to take a left instead of a right.
~ Anyway, at the ice cream place I ordered the couple’s ice cream, a scoop of azuki (bean) and a scoop of vanilla. Both were homemade and very good. The beans had a kinda cleansing, earthy taste to it. It tasted like beans too.
~ So when I became straightened out I was on the last leg of my trip. I stopped at a Japanese color dealer to buy some pigments. I get a moderately priced grey. I want to ask her what the pigments are from, but I can only manage “What is this?” She looks at me with surprise, mouth gaping open, not believing I am buying something I don’t know what it is. I could hear her thinking what a stupid tourist I am. Finally I get across to her what I mean, and find out the expensive stuff is made from rocks and plants, what I bought was man-made. Oh well.
~ I was tired, so I decided not to take the possibly long walk the almighty guidebook has set for me. I started following the signs for one station, wander around, end up back in front of the museum, and made it to another station entirely. But I happened on an art gallery I saw in “Tokyo for Free” and “Metropolis.” It was Scai the Bathouse, and had some small, interesting picture and video pieces. Guess it worked out.
~ McDonalds was supper. This time they tricked me into a ¥200 fries.
~ My host family loved the ocha (tea) I bought. Not very bitter. Allan

May 27, 2005
Night City walk.
~ With these changes in attitudes, changes in latitudes, nothing remains quite the same. With all of my running and all of my cunning, if I couldn’t laugh I would go insane.
~ Breakfast, etc. One day I will retch up that egg. Japanese class. Before Topics in Theatre I ran to buy lunch. Passed about 3 of my classmates and had to explain why I would be late. Went to a bakery named, oddly enough, “The Little Mermaid.” Bought a baguette and some cheese. I wanted to buy an apple but it was ¥200! I go to class, me and two other guys go through the lines. After we finish, I start eating (and share some). Then the teacher decides to call us, and I tell her we are eating, so she laughs and calls another group. Cool teacher.
~ After Brit lit she also laughingly complained about these “scrappy pieces of paper” I keep “balancing miraculously” on her door’s letter slot. In response, I tell her “semper ubi sub ubi.” It takes her a little while to get it, then she drops her head and groans/laughs.
~ To then Yotsuya. Turned in my piece for the manga club, get my intro book (I’m first!), talked to Brian, left. Started walking down Shinjuku-dori, the road in front of Yotsuya, to find someplace to eat. Explored some interesting side streets, and just when I was getting really hungry and almost ready to debase myself to Yoshinoya, I spotted a Saizerya’s. A Godsend! I went in and ordered doria (rice in a cream sauce with cheese and marinara baked on top) and a ham pizza. Since the water was broke (it was funny watching the Japanese customers poke and prod it), I got free Coke! After eating, I walked all the way to Shinjuku at a quick pace, jamming on the perfect walking music, Jimmy Buffet. It took about 25 minutes. Allan


May 26, 2005
Spam Sushi!
~ Lemon cheesecake Pocky is so good!
~ My Japanese teacher didn’t say anything about yesterday. Instead, she gave me yesterday’s homework and an absence form. Taking my cue from Bartleby the scrivener, on the reason for absence form I wrote “I prefer not to say.”
~ For lunch I bought another katsu-don and ate it in Yaskuni Jinja. Nice. Oh, the to-go place was selling spam sushi! No lie.
~ I checked out a book called “Dreams of Water,” about an expatriated Japanese paying her home a return visit. Seems real good.
~ I shared with my Japanese Lit teacher the only Latin I know, “semper ubi sub ubi” (always where under where). He smiled and said I was incorrigible. (Thanx Dr. Slimp!)
~ TV was interesting tonight. First I saw a Japanese “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” complete with “Final Answer” in English. Then I saw a commercial with an instrumental version of the Muppet’s “Manah Manah” song playing. Finally, there was a really interesting show about a black guy’s life living on potatoes. His name was Bobby, and the actor was incredibly funny, top notch, and apparently ex-military ‘cause he was really in shape. I burst out laughing several times. And was really surprised to see who appeared to be Bernie Mac show up. Oh, and the subtitles for gaijin laughing are in katakana. Allan


May 24, 2005
(Spoiled) Hooky Day!
~ Today was a very interesting day.
~ Ok, here is the deal. I only had 2 classes today, my Japanese class and a lecture on Japanese education for my CIEE core class. I was interested in neither one of these classes and neither transferred so this grade doesn’t count. Which made this a perfect day to play hooky and skip.
~ In celebration of this, I slept until 9:00, and left about 10:00 for a leisurely day of sightseeing. First off, the National Museum of Modern Arts Craft Gallery. If you remember, I got a free ticket to a museum from Issetan, and this was it. So I had a nice stroll through Kitanomaru park to the all brick museum. Inside was pretty nice, both the building and the pieces. As I entered, I was thinking how nice, cool, and smart it would be if they had free lockers so I could stash my bag, and they did! Anyway, the pieces centered around stencil dyeing (which is exactly what it sounds like).
~ I got through there fairly quickly, so I decided to give the nearby Science Museum a look. Since it was 12ish, I was hungry, and since I was in a park and didn’t know where the next food would be, I decided to eat in the caf under the museum. And that is where I bought the worst meal I have had in Japan. I saw a pretty good looking rice bowl I wanted to get, but when I entered I found 3 different caf lines, so I queued up in a line randomly cause the sign outside didn’t say who sold it. And the woman couldn’t understand what I wanted, so I just pointed to a pictured that looked close to what I wanted. It ended up being udon (noodles). My stomach lurched when she broke the barely-boiled egg into the bowl. I start eating it and the udon is tough and chewy cause it was undercooked and the egg I had to eat around jiggled menacingly. The only way I was able to eat it was I mixed in some onion and wasabi (which will kill any taste), and because I was really hungry. Oh, it was ¥650!
~ Deciding that they had enough of my money, I left. I wandered down a ways, over the moat and through a wooden gate in the palace wall. I looked around a little, lay under a tree and watched the clouds for a while, tried to find a wood-ant free zone, and then got a phone call. It was Mrs. Yamamura asking why I wasn’t at the lecture. I said I went to a museum, but I would be there soon. One time it sucks to be likeable, if she hadn’t been worried about me she wouldn’t have called. Sigh.
~ Thusly I hurried back. On the way I passed my Japanese teacher, she said “Hi” much to my dismay but I ignored her. All in all, I was only about 30 – 45 minutes late. But I started thinking about passing the teacher, and I ended up writing an apology note. After an un-enlightening lecture, I asked Kato-san what she thought about the note. She said it would be a nice gesture, but shouldn’t be necessary ‘cause my teacher should know my character. Then I reminded her we didn’t get along, so I did just end up leaving it in her box, for better or for worse. I also asked Kato-san to apologize to Yamamura-san for me, and got directions to Yaskuni Jinja.
~ Yaskuni Jinja is the shrine of Peace to All Nations (I think). It is also a memorial to Japanese war dead. This includes people who died in Japanese wars of aggression, so some easily offended countries don’t like it. I though, really enjoyed it. Particularly the long, wide avenue leading up to it, with two huge tori arches. The grounds were cool, even had a pond in the back with stepping stones and stone slab bridges. Also on the grounds was a war museum (Japan’s oldest museum) with all sorts of cool things like swords, guns, and a human guided torpedo. Very cool. Of course, some of the propaganda was so outlandish as to be funny, like Roosevelt (?) planning before he was even President to involve Japan in a war, and the Rape of Nanking being called The China Incident.
~ And then I went home. Allan


May 24, 2005
Ho Hum.
~ I struggle with forward motion.
~ Accidentally slept ‘till 7:30, had to rush out of the house. Took my breakfast wrapped in foil, 4 small onigiri. Ate them at Takadanobaba an hour later. They weren’t very good, even the best sauce only made them edible.
~ Etc, etc. Started actual dialogue in Theatre. Lunch from conveni, when I asked Brian if he would keep me company while I ate he started making excuses. So I just left. In Brit lit the presentation went real smooth, but we went on too long, almost an hour. Someone expanded their part.
~ That’s about it. Got a letter from my mom, which I really liked.
~ Actually, that’s not it. I wrote a thank you letter to the host of the party Sat, and everyone seems impressed. The dude told Nubia, his host daughter, to tell me, and Okasan also heard about it and told me he said thanks. And when my host dad commented on my good manners, I was able to introduce the subject of religion. Allan


May 23, 2005
2 month anniversary!
~ I have been in Japan 2 months and four days now. I am counting the days, only about 64 more!
~ Breakfast, toast was nice, choked down egg. Japanese class was mostly okay. Except we have an oral test coming up, and I ended up writing the test script by myself because the woman was not there, then after I turn it in she writes a brand new one because mine is “too short.” But hers is a little shorter than mine, it’s just double-spaced! And copied almost exactly out of the book. She even screwed up and got our roles switched once. And she put it in hiragana and katakana so I have to translate it!
~ Then computer lab, etc. Lunch at McDonalds, talked to a guy named Dan there. He saw the theatre piece Friday, and we met. Enjoyed talking about the food situation here.
~ After that, I took the play we will be doing part of outside and read it. Some of the parts were funny. A guy nearby was playing a flute-thing and I thanked him for the background music. Then lit class. Afterwards, I helped a girl study for lit, and then talked for a while with Alex and Tadou. Except for me grabbing half a sandwich to tide me over (It was 6:15, but I don’t want to make a habit of this) on the way home, that’s it. Allan


May 22, 2005
Sanja Matsuri!
~ What is more amazing than a gaijin? A gaijin in traditional Japanese garb!
~ Decent fried rice breakfast. Left at 8:30 for church. Service was fine. Interesting anecdote about bring the only gaijin in town, going to the grocery store and people looking inside your basket to see what you bought.
~ Then to Asakusa for the festival. I went back down the shop lined street. I bought a handkerchief with the subway lines on it (the sample was in English, but the one she sold me in the paper package was in Japanese!), and I finally found the woven wicker hat I have been looking for. I bought it and wore it the rest of the day, and between that hat and the happi I was wearing I got plenty of stares. And 2 Japanese people took my picture! I also had one tourist couple ask me where I bought it, after they made sure I speak English. Then they continued walking away from the store. But I am going to use my hat as a rain hat.
~ I spotted Chris in the crowd and bodily ran into him twice and he never looked at me. Another group of tourists said I was a “pushy fellow” and I had to explain that I knew him. I ended up having to shout his name at him before he noticed me. I found out he had already been there and was leaving, which sucked.
~ So I explored by myself. There was no concert, but there was a mass of stalls, less midways than the Kanja matsuri, but more food. I got this really good fried bread and meat thing called a shaapen, and a gyro. Then I checked out the omikoshi. I was a little wary about trying my hand at it again after last time. Eventually I grabbed the end of it and held it up. Then a Japanese guy told me to use my shoulder and shoved me under it! I did okay for a while, but then the bobbing picked up and started banging my shoulder again.
~ After that I went back to Ueno station, and looked a little at Ueno park. It was real big, and pretty nice. But I didn’t want to walk too much or go to the museums, and there was a fair amount of people, so I got up on this little hill area and finished reading the book I borrowed. And watched the huge crow with the big beak raid the trash can. After seeing them in person, I can see why so much scary stuff is done about them. Then I left, and in the station there was a shop called “The American Pharmacy.” They had the Andes mints I have been wanting, so I bought a pack.
~ Now I am heading home. I want a milkshake or something. Allan


May 21, 2005
CIEE BBQ!
~ CIEE had a BBQ today! I had been looking forward a little to it because of the chance to eat real American food again, baked beans, potato salad, BBQ chicken. Yay! Unfortunately my hopes were dashed on the cruel rocks of reality.
~ Bleh breakfast, left with Okasan about 8:20. From Tokyo station took the bus north about an hour. We went into a town that made me feel homesick. A straight, tree lined main road, with buildings that were actually spaced out made me think of a beach town, Gulf shores or something. I wish I lived there instead of Tokyo.
~ The place we had the picnic at was so cool. It was a like 200 year old Japanese farmhouse and big! I thought it was a shrine first, especially since it was walled in and the wall had the cool shingled roof. Their was a fair amount of trees and bushes around, and I was taken on a tour of the inside, which was also real cool. The only disturbing thing was when the host swatted me on the butt. I was told this was not uncommon, butt…
~ The food was traditional Japanese party food, so my hopes were dashed, but it was still really nice. I helped move the tables and chairs under the tree. I had yakisoba, plain onigiri (rice ball), good hamburger patties, and yakitori.
~ ADD, Kato-san (CIEE assistant director) told me Hino (the annoying Japanese teacher) had came to talk to her about me. Kato-san was afraid I wasn’t feeling well. When I told her I was fine we just didn’t get along well, a wave of understanding showed on her face. On retrospect, she probably remembered how this teacher always gets bad reviews. So she just said something about Japanese people. I now dislike this teacher even more.
~ After eating, they had some entertainments for us. First I got to wear a cool yukata (although it was awkward going behind a screen and removing my pants). I also finally go to do tea ceremony, which was really cool after the screaming brat shut up. Some parents… Anyway, I had to whip the tea myself, and everyone was real impressed that I whipped it up, and not just stirred it. But I have had to do that in cooking before, so it wasn’t my first time. Finally, they let us do some calligraphy and taped it to a bamboo stick mat. When I got home I sewed the paper on and hung it up. Oh yeah, the kanji I wrote can mean wakaru, “understand,” or kai “answer.” I think.
~ I had had my fill socializing, plus there was nothing left to do, so I left my host mom there (at her okay) and took the bus back. I had seen a cheap shirt store Yamamura-san and friends had told me about (UniQlo), so I went in a bought a shirt. It was ¥790, fit okay, and was designed by a student in Donghua U, Shanghai. And I loved the design.
~ Supper was chirashi-zushi (rice bowl with sushi toppings), one of my favorite dishes. Although I was thinking it was like a sashimi-don to begin with. Allan


May 20, 2005
Theatre play thing!
~ Viewtiful Joe coming out! I have decided I will no longer do the daily Japanese homework, in an attempt to stay sane.
~ Another unenjoyable breakfast. I wrote a trifle on the board before class and the teacher questioned everyone who did it, and made me erase it. But I made her hand me the eraser and just swiped over it once, not quite a victory.
~ We finally performed the theatre piece all the way through. It consists of a pedestrian scene (me!), someone getting killed, sushi (me!), interrogation, thieves fighting in a art gallery, a factory making butter a prisoner uses to escape, people blowing in the wind, and a pizza and baby delivery (also me!). It was a lot of scenes real fast. We taped it, and it was pretty okay.
~ Then I had a torii-don (chicken bowl) for lunch while we talked with my Brit. Lit. presentation Tuesday. Then a boring Brit. Lit. with a flawed presentation. Thought up 2 song lyric lines, not sure what to do with them. Rock the dawn / All fall down. (In hindsight these are terrible.)
~ Then I went to Yotsuya, stayed in the computer room for a while. Now going home. Allan


Mar 19, 2005
Untitled
~ What’s the saddest thing? The children on the food wrapper being happy when you are not.
~ Breakfast sucked this morning, cold scrambled eggs with fish and fishbone, a side of boiled greens, and an orange thing that was bitter and tough. On the way to college I bought a kinda chocolate almond pastry thing and some milk tea.
~ The teacher asked me before class if I understood what we had been doing. I said I was working on it, but actually I had figured out some grammar rules by myself so I can do it fine on paper. She also completely dismissed a kanji question I had.
~ For lunch me and a guy whose name I forget was going to go to Matsuya but I had screwed up the directions so we went to Yotsuya to eat. I had a good set meal. Then I found a place between 2 buildings and practiced my speech. Unfortunately I disturbed someone because I saw them close the window.
~ One of the Engrish phrases I took a picture of in Kyoto was on the Engrish.com site!
~ Then Japanese Lit. class where I almost fell asleep. Helped Arisa a little with her presentation, and went home. Allan


March 18, 2005
long-work-at-computer day.
~ Today, I mostly just worked at the computer.
~ Breakfast, etc. Thought about pretending to eat and then go to Mr. Donuts for breakfast, but she made some fried potatoes and that made the egg edible. Japanese class was the same, but I am beginning to care less and less.
~ For lunch I was going to go to Curry King but then I went walkabout. Found a lot of eating establishments and even a little park near the station. (Wish I knew that the times I ate in front of the conveni or under the overhang of a building.) Finally I decided on a rather large katsu-don for ¥500 in a cool to-go bowl. I like. Then stopped at a small grocery store and was surprised to find they sold some American products. They also had 20oz Coke cans for ¥100, ¥20 cheaper than the vending machine. I then consumed all this in the park. I enjoyed myself immensely.
~ Then I visited Dr. Mary Boyd (my Theatre and British Lit. teacher), and had a very nice talk with her. I told her how much I enjoyed the play too (the one I saw last night; it was for Topics in Theatre). We talked about other stuff as well, including the sometimes necessity of just skimming a work. Very cool teacher.
~ Next I worked from approx 2:00 to 5:30 I had to do as part of a group. My part had to be about 10 min long, so that is a lot of info.
~ Finally home, stopping at the hyaku-en for magnesium batteries and chocolate chip raisin cookies. Allan


May 17, 2005
Yaya koshiya
~ Ya-ya-koshi-ya. Ya-ya-koshi-ya! Ya-ya-koshi-ya!!!
~ How complicated! Today I went to see “Kyogen of Errors,” an adaptation of kyogen (Japanese farce) to Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors.”
~ Everything today started pretty much the same. I went to a German pub-restaurant right by the college for lunch. I paid a decent price for too little food, mostly bread and sausage, but the drink was included in the price and the atmosphere was nice.
~ Class, computer room, etc, until I left for the play. I had directions to the stop, and I get there fine. but what I didn’t realize is I didn’t know where the building was. Finally I found it, scarfed a rather lousy 7/11 meal, and went in.
~ I am tired enough right now to be writing cross-eyed, so I don’t know if I can give the really cool play justice. (ADD I wish I had my car so at least I would be in control of my long commute.) To begin with, I had a stage left balcony seat, and was positioned so it felt like I was in a box seat. Then all the actors were in black hoods and masks and interacting with or bothering the audience, which was cool. Then the play started.
~ It was a lot like the book, but their were some stylistic things done with the masks and little tricks and movement and it all combined for a great show. There was even singing of sorts (Japanese sorts), and chant and all. Ya-ya-koshi-ya! My powers of description fail to give it justice or say how much I enjoyed it. The man actor was good, but the famous funny sidekick (Nomura Mansai) was the best. Allan


May 16, 2005
Edo Museum
~ Today I went to school and to a museum where they had full scale replicas of Edo period houses!
~ Breakfast, etc. The house has no soundproofing so a funky sounding car or something woke me up last night. Japanese class was okay until we got to the “te” form of verbs, when the teacher stopped explaining and just conjugated verbs. After class, Chris invited me on a field trip his class was having. We weren’t supposed to be there until 1:10. And we both decided Ruth was really rude, because she snubbed both of us. He had asked when she was leaving for the field trip so he didn’t have to go alone, but she just walked off. I have just been having nothing to do with her, but Chris was shocked. (And later on Tarik and Matt talked about how rude she was, never returning hellos and the like.)
~ After a short computer session, me, Kate, and Chris went for food. I went to the grocery and got a hotdog and a pizza tortilla thing (yum!) and then to Mickey D’s for fries. These we ate on the subway (Kate-less). At the transfer stop we met Ruth and two others. Who acted as if we didn’t exist. So while they ran around lost, we went straight where we should go. Moral Superiority wins again.
~ The museum was real interesting, it had about 5 buildings, and a small waterfront you could explore. I really liked it, particularly the straw raincoats, bathroom, and fish drying. Then back to school for class and now to home. Allan


May 15, 2005
Sumo!
~ I’m a full-fledged sumo wrestler wannabe! Even if you keep on making fun of me, but you know that’s all I ever wannabe!
~ Today I got to see sumo! Yay!
~ I slept ‘till 8:30 and for breakfast I had kinda pizza on toast. It was nice because I had to toast it so it was hot, but I am afraid the small amount of tomato sauce was ketchup. I went to church, which went well. Then I left to meet Alex at sumo.
~ At 1:30 I met Alex and his friend Mark. It was really easy to find the sumo place. Went in, watched a few minor league matches, bought a bento, and continued watching. Eventually the big guys came up. All and all very enjoyable and relaxing, chilling and talking between matches, being thrilled during them.
~ Okay, so I gave you that brief overview so I could dedicate a part to how sumo is. First, they are all calm and peaceful, performing their rituals. Then they start staring each other off, trying to psyche their opponent out. They will retreat to their corner for water and salt to throw, get back in their stance and look like they are ready to go, then back off again. The fight can’t start unless both of them have their hands on the floor and one starts forward. But when they finally start, they are Vicious! First, they move really fast and they wail on each other with slaps. Oftentimes when a wrestler is thrown from the ring he flies out a few feet before landing in the audience. I mean these people really go at it. Particularly cool to watch are the throws and reversals. The coolest thing I saw was when a sumo pushed to the edge of the ring flipped his opponent out of it. There was also gaijin sumo (gaijin = not Japanese) and this showboat sumo. And the head sumo, the Yokozuna. The former two had a lot of people who circled the ring with ads. Allan
P.S. I am glad I didn’t get the box seats. They were just all these sectioned out squares with butt cushions on the floor, all jammed together. Looked uncomfortable.


May 14, 2005
Kanja Festival
~ You know what really sucks? Going into a fast food place to use the restroom, walking past all the cashiers saying welcome and waiting to take your order, finally making it to the one bathroom, only to find it occupied. Indefinitely. Actually, some people must go there to die.
~ Okay, I went to the Kanja Festival today. This is a little like Mardi Gras. It is when all the local gods are taken out in omikoshi (portable shrines) for a stroll around the neighborhood, joy is had, and sake is drunk. I left the house about 8 and got to the shrine about 10, when the vendors were just setting up. I watched one dude make cotton candy. It was cool cause he caught it as it floated up instead of just sticking the cone in it. Then I wandered around to where a taiko drum concert was starting. As much a choreographed dance as a concert, it was really cool. One of the drums was about 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and had to be played sideways on a big stand. It was real cool.
~ I watched about 2 troupes perform and then it started looking the same. So I left and looked at the vendors. I watched one dude make takoyaki for a while. This is a ball of batter and filling, but what is so interesting is the pan is full of half sphere indentions, so they cook half the ball and then turn it over to make the other half. I bought a chocolate covered banana and the dude gave me another one free! I think he liked seeing a gaijin in a happi (traditional festival coat I got in Asakusa). Actually, only the people working/performing at the shrine had happi on. And some old people. Guess modern Japanese don’t think it is important anymore. I also checked out the midway games. Japan has some really cool prizes. Airguns, video games, and even PSPs! I tried my hand at one and won a cheap Frisbee (I later gave it to Otosan for his grandkids).
~ Then I wandered back to the taiko concert and saw a really cool thing. One troupe made mocchi (traditional rice cakes made by pounding cooked rice) to the accompaniment of taiko and a vocalist. The vocalist sang, shouted commands, and joked (kinda like a line dance caller). All the hammers pounding the rice was cool to watch. Most impressive was when the water dude, who had been adding water to the rice and kneading it between breaks, began working while the hammers hit. He was gambling with life and limb as he alternated his movements with the hammers.

May 13, 2005
Chicken Nugget Salad.
~ I really had to go deep for today’s title. I feel much better today, just a little under the weather, not sucky.
~ Went to sleep at 9:00 last night and put my blindfold on when the light woke me up, so I slept all the way to 6:30. (The gray hours of morning come early here, and the giant screens let a lot of light in when you are sleeping lightly.
~ Breakfast, etc, Japanese test. Was kinda easy except for the grammar construction they didn’t teach us. Topics in Theatre was also okay.
~ I decided this morning I needed more fiber in my diet (apparently rice doesn’t count) so I wanted to get a salad. To be precious, I wanted a chicken tender salad like O’Charley’s. Since I haven’t seen any O’Charley’s yet and I don’t know any restaurants that would serve this decidedly un-Japanese dish, I went to a conveni and bought a salad and bread (which ended up having pockets of ham and mayo in it. Weird, huh?) Then I went to the bento place and got some chicken nuggets, took it back to the caf, and ate it.
~ Bad when the most interesting thing is lunch, ain’t it? Brit Lit was okay, I had to leave the class and blow my nose because I felt I was about to suffocate on my own snot. Now I am on the train home, listening to Flogging Molly. When I get there I will wash clothes, read lit, and hopefully HunterXHunter too. Allan


May 12, 2005
Stupid Depato!
~ Life’s gonna suck when you grow up.
~ Yep, I feel bad. My eyes burn, my head pounds, I didn’t get to sleep well last night, and I woke up at 5:30. My watched stopped working and I am really sick of Japanese class, sick of my Japanese teacher, and sick of these societal quirks I keep banging my head into!
~ Let me give you an example of how much I dislike my Jap teacher. I was amusing myself at the beginning of class by lip-syncing a song. The teacher asked what I was doing but I kept on. Since I wasn’t actually singing, she convinced herself I had lost my voice, and I played along for a while. The class got a laugh out of it, but in retrospect I wasn’t exactly respecting authority placed over me. Weighty moral dilemma.
~ A little after class, I went to Shinjuku to eat at Wendys and find a watch. I spent 30 minutes looking for the Wendys because in my directions I had wrote the wrong gate. Finally I found it and the dude tricked me into a supersize. Was really good, couldn’t even eat it all. (Maybe cause I was sick.)
~ Then 2 depatos (dept store, kinda more like a mall). I now utterly hate these. Nothing but high cost clothes pretty much. No Sears, etc, anything like that. I searched the whole building and saw maybe 4 watches. The other one had no watches in the men’s section, had to go to the jewelry department where just $100 and up watches. Total waste of time.
~ When I got back I asked Yamamura-san if there was anything like a Walmarts and she said no. But Kate told me about an electronics shop in Shinjuku with watches. Mr. Do-it-now went right after class. I got a Casio like I wanted for $20. (ADD, when I asked Yamamura-san about cheap watches cause all the depato start at $100, the girl asked if you could get watches for under $100. I couldn’t contain my surprise.) Allan


May 11, 2005
Pop Culture!
~ Whats the point of not conforming if you have to change yourself?
~ Getting up at 6:30 sucks. Having an egg for breakfast everyday and it always being cold sucks. Going down a narrow flight of stairs when you are still asleep sucks too.
~ Yep, that’s most of my morning. I’ve taken care of the wine, now on to the cheese. Jap class was same old same old. The teacher told us Japan has no word for they, which is hard to understand. When I tried to ask her how you say, like, “the people,” she completely failed to understand. Then computer lab, lunch, and on to a lecture done by CIEE.
~ The lecture was on popular culture, and was very interesting. It went from how pop culture came into existence and ended with Japanese pop culture and subcultures. There was this one girl that annoyed me to no end ‘cause she couldn’t understand how Hello Kitty could be more popular than Barbie and continually interrupted the lecture to bring her argument back up. After the lecture I got to talk to the speaker a while and that was way cool.
~ I rode on the rapid express for the first time today. It was so nice, only made 2 or 3 stops before Shintokorozawa. Something really cool was I got to use the Japanese I was learning. I asked a dude, “Kono densha wa Shintokorozawa e ikimasu ka,” which means, “Does this train go to Shintokorozawa?”
~ When I got back, I took my pants to a seamstress cause Okasan’s stitching (from when I ripped them at Nikko) were pulling. Also went to BookOff and bought a 105 Yen Glay cd.


May 10, 2005
HO-hum.
~ Dinosaurs will Die!
~ Woke up, etc, breakfast. Commute. Ho-hum. Japanese class, took a quiz, did good. Did okay on the lesson until the teacher sped up. Drank a cuppa tea with specks in the bottom. Theatre class. Told my teacher I drank all the specks. Haha. Lunch was meat filled steamed buns and cold greasy noodles. Almost fell asleep in Brit Lit.
~ Then I went to the computer lab, where I proceeded to brutally kill the next two hours. I was looking for a way to install programs without administrator level access. The only thing I found was how to hack the administrator account and other network hacking, which was too dishonest for me and way too much trouble just to install a P2P. I did get Warez to install though, but it couldn’t connect. One cool thing was I downloaded a NoFx song from Purevolume and possibly a DVD ripper from another site. (It wasn’t.)
~ I then left Ichigaya. I met up with Alex, and since I wanted to walk we went to Yotsuya. Along the way we talked, including how this feels like a vacation. So it sucks we have to do schoolwork and I think the vacation has lasted too long.
~ And the Lord blessed me by giving me a seat on the train right off. Allan


May 9, 2005
Stupid Network.
~ I got a phone call from someone today. Who I don’t know.
~ Missed the 7:50 express and was slightly late to school today. After class I went to Yotsuya campus. I had noticed before they had cable hookup for lap tops, thus the cable I bought Saturday. So I humped my new laptop in my backpack up there and plugged in. I had to get a passing American student get a computer tech to help me. Turns out first I had to use a proxy server, then sign into a website. Then the window I signed in from would work, but only that window. I couldn’t open in a new window or open a new internet explorer. Plus, the thing sucked on opening things, and since I had to sign in my P2P wouldn’t work. Insert various expletives here. At least I won’t have to hump my laptop around anymore.
~ For lunch I ate some weird tomato bean pork curry looking stuff. The name started with hash. Hashish? (I later found out it was hayashi.)
~ Midway through Japanese Lit, I lost my pen. The teacher had been saying unimportant stuff, so I clipped it to my notebook like I usually do. Or so I thought. But when I started looking, I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t on my notebook, in my bag, or on the floor. “Someone must have swiped my pen!” Then I felt something sticking my arm. I had stuck my pen in my rolled up sleeves ‘cause I was bored. Silly me.
~ My lunch was actually kinda light, so by 5:00 I was starving. I went in a conveni and got my first cup noodle in Japan. I got curry flavor! It was really good, even had dried potatoes and beef. But it spoiled my supper more than I expected. Allan


May 8, 2005
Free Comic Book Day!
~ Mia Hee, Mia ha, Mia hee, mia HaHa! Numa numa A, numa numa numa A!
~ I meant to sleep until 9 but I woke up at 8. Doesn’t that suck? So breakfast, left for church. Since I was early, I looked around Shibuya about 30 minutes. Found a cool arcade and ate a good (but not piping hot as advertised) cream puff.
~ Then church! I showed up right at the end of service and an usher closed the door in my face right as I started asking where a bathroom was. So I found it on my own. Service was okay.
~ Then back to Shibuya. I had the address of a shop giving away free comics. I headed off in the direction I thought it was, found the right neighborhood, and couldn’t find it. So I stopped at a 1st Kitchen for lunch. While I was eating, the English speaking cashier came in to wipe tables and I asked where the shop was. Turns out it was all the way on the other side of the tracks. But she was real nice, drew me a map and everything.
~ Thanks to her, I had no difficulty getting to the place. I got a free copy of the first Ducktales and of the first Batman (reprints of course). Except it wasn’t a first copy of Batman, but of The Batman strikes, and it sucked. Ducktales was real cool though. The store also had a lot of cool figurines and also American comics. I spent a little time reading some of them. There was even a Metal Gear Solid comic with dialogue straight from the game. They were also showing trailers for movies. One for Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” came on and it reminded me I wanted to see it. There was another trailer for a cool looking movie called “Sin City.” Bruce Willis is in it, it is taken from a comic book, and it seems to do some cool things with black and white enhanced with color. Allan


May 7, 2005
Shinjuku and Akhihabara
~ Golden Week and one day of school has kinda thrown my weekend off.
~ Do you remember the lunch I bought on the ride back on the Shinkansen? Well, I was going to take it as a bento for lunch today, but my host mom was afraid it would spoil. But it has only been like 5 days! So she heated it up and served it for breakfast. Go fig.
~ Went to Takashimaya department store in Shinjuku to see this cool expo I saw advertised on the train. Turned out to be an exhibit about an Expo instead. The 1970 Osaka World Expo. Had some half way interesting stuff, but was rather smallish and cost me ¥700. But I watched some cool old news footage stuff in a little theatre. Most of it was about the Expo, but one was about Japan in general. They filmed a place that had an all you could eat for ¥100 special, with a whole lot of people.
~ For lunch I wanted burgers, but not Mickey D’s! I looked for the Wendy’s I ate at when I first got here, and finally found it. (On retrospect it is amazing I stumbled onto it that first day.) It was real cool cause I had a window seat on the second floor, and they were playing rock. Actually, they played a cool ska punk song when I came in. But the burgers weren’t as good as in the US, no lettuce.
~ Then I went to Akhihabara, where I quickly found an Ethernet cable for cheap. One of the duty-free stores had the PSP value pack for ¥23,619, and I was tempted. Found another store that sold American import games (for like $70!). Also found a warren of shops like I imagined Akhihabara would be. I had been looking for a fan, and I found one I liked, but the dude refused to give me even a ¥200 discount. So instead I bought a crepe cone filled with ice cream, bananas, and corn flakes in the bottom. (In retrospect it was a good thing I didn’t buy the fan, ‘cause my host family had one they are now letting me use.) Allan


May 6, 2005
Stuff and more Stuff
~ Thought something interesting this evening, but I can’t think of it.
~ Breakfast, commute, yada yada. Had another Japanese test. Left for the bathroom, since I dislike the teacher I took a very long time coming back (I.e. stood in the hall and talked). She has the gall to start new grammar in the 15 minutes between the end of the test and class.
~ Theatre class was so so. Played death in a minute, where everyone must die in a minute. Very cool, but only one guy besides me knew how to do it. Then worked on pizza/baby delivery skit, but the chemistry wasn’t there.
~ Lunch was noodles and gyuudon. Brit lit was okay, one of the guys doing the reading botched it in more than one way. Next computer lab, then anime circle.
~ The anime circle was such a waste of time. Most of the time was spent talking (in Japanese) about an art book they were doing. Then they had us draw a pic of a dude, and as my first portrait it sucked. Then all the pics were held in front of the room and examined, in Japanese. Only at the end did we get a five min art lesson. Also, Brian who had a cold and felt bad, cussed me because he didn’t appreciate my sense of humor!
~ So I wasted my time, had everyone see one of my shortcomings, and was cussed. Suffice it to say I was in a foul mood, particularly when all the English-speaking peoples bowed out of eating with me. Instead of taking the nearby train, I walked double-time back to Ichigaya to release some steam. Supper was bad, sandwiches from a conveni.


May 5, 2005
Howl’s Castle and Culinary Disaster
~ My host mom has been on an island mountain climbing trip the last two days. She brought me some milk crackers and a ceramic bell as omiyage (souvenirs). I was touched.
~ My first interesting thing today was I went to a Japanese movie theatre. It was on the top floor of a department store here in ShinTokorozawa. The tickets were ¥1,500 with a student discount. I thought they were ¥1,000. Either way no more movies for me. To get to the point (yes, please!), I watched the brand new Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli film, “Howl’s Moving Castle.” I really enjoyed it, a very good movie. And it didn’t even suck so much that it was all in Japanese. There is one magic spell in there that looks like a FF super spell.
~ In the evening I washed clothes and took a nap. Then went to buy some things. Apparently Japanese people don’t use stick deodorant, ‘cause all I could find was roll-on and spray. Was gonna fix spaghetti ala carbonara for supper, so I need sausage. I found some, and the dude specifically told me it was pork sausage.
~ I get back and start cooking. Disaster 1, the “pork sausage” is pre-cooked summer sausage bologna stuff. Very little taste, and produces no grease, which is the main flavoring of spaghetti ala carbonara. 2nd prob, I went to roast some garlic cloves to spread on bread, but had to use toaster oven with 1 setting, Hot. So they burn. Lastly, Otosan decides to go for a walk while I cook so stuff gets cold, etc. Quite unsatisfactory. Allan


May 4, 2005
Ikebukuro and Chris
~ I think I may change my favorite phrase from "daijoobu desu" to "only in Japan" cause of all the weirdness.
~ Today me and Chris went to Ikebukuro. I met him in the station and we walked to Sunshine City, a department store etc. On the way there, he confided in me that he only had 280 yen. SO before we could no anything we had to find an atm. Finally he found one, and for some reason the Post Office was open which kinda sucked cause I had a letter I needed to send off.
~ After that we went in the building and straight to Namja Town, a food amusement park place. It had gyoza (fried Japanese dumplings) stadium and an ice cream area and a pastry area. There was also a haunted area and a castle area and a war area that were filled with gimmicky little amusements. Chris put his head over a barrel and stuck his finger in the hole and jumped a foot back when a burst of air hit his face. There was also a hall of mirrors, my 2nd one and Chris's first. He could hardly control himself with excitement. Another real cool thing was I ate Turkish ice cream. This stuff is incredibly thick and the dude selling it was a real showman. He picked up the ice cream with a rod, stuck a cone on it, and spun it around. And when he handed it to you, he flipped it around upside down right before you grabbed it so it looked like it fell. I really enjoyed myself.
~ So then we went to a world market and I got some Thai curry to fix my host family. We also found some cool anime stores that sold merchandise too. Then we went to Shinjuku to meet some of his friends. We karaoked and I sung "Cartoon Heroes" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," which was really fun! But I bowed out from going to a bar and drinking. Instead I went to a KFC for supper. It kinda just sucked. The biscuit was nothing more than a roll, the chicken was soggy with grease, and there was no salt! How can you not have salt in a fried chicken place! To top it all off, for what I got it was expensive. I filed a complaint card before I left. Allan


May 3, 2005
Jonas
~ Today the previous home stay student came and collected his junk.
~ Breakfast was real good, pancakes folded over bananas or sausage. But I was disappointed to they had no syrup. Then I transcribed my diary until lunch, which is when Jonas showed up. If I hadn't researched Japan a bit I would have been vaguely insulted how much more they seemed to like Jonas than me. They rolled out all the stops, even had sushi.
~ So after he had got his stuff and left, I continued transcribing my diary, and later went out for a snack at Mr. Donut and to buy an envelope and a t-shirt at the Hyaku-en store. The LL shirt was, as I feared, about the size of a large. Now I have to figure out what to do with the thing. Handkerchief?
~ Supper was fried rice, stir fry stuff, and sashimi. Was good. Allan


May 2, 2005
Kyoto Day 2!
~ You know what I really miss? Talking in English with people who know me.
~ So... Woke up this morning at 8ish, ate my pastries, drank my green tea, and watched Japanese T.V. Checked out about 9ish? Then to Kyoto station to stash my bag and get my bus pass.
~ On to Nijo Castle! I caught my bus right as it arrived. Everything was going smashingly until the bus driver decided not to stop at the right stop. I tried to get off at the red light so I wouldn't go to far past my stop, but even though I asked the jerk of a driver twice he just waved me off. I ended up having to walk back instead of bring dropped off right in front.
~ Nijo Castle was really cool. You could actually walk around inside of it. Some of the rooms were huge! One really cool thing was the nightingale floors, floors that squeaked. A lot. What kind of engineering does it take to make squeaking floors? The gardens and the grounds were nice too. When I think of a garden, I think of nicely manicured lawns, and they had them. Along with water and lots of interesting rocks.
~ Next was the Museum of Kyoto. Along the way, I stopped at another circle dot and got the bebendon. Now I know that tomatoey stuff was kimchi. Then I started looking for the museum, and again it took me a while to find it. But I found a cool musical instrument toy I bought.
~ When I got to the museum, a cool English speaking volunteer showed me around the main exhibit. She was real nice, and we talked about more than just the exhibit. The exhibit was about the history of Kyoto, and the coolest things were the models and the holograms. Then she had to go, and I started looking around for myself. I found out the new exhibit was about the human body, the large annex with all the craft artifacts was under repair, and the theatre where they show old movies was closed Mondays. Dang!
~ So I went back to Kyoto station. As I was hungry, I got some Mr. Donuts and some Cafe Le Monde hot chocolate and enjoyed them on a balcony overlooking the crowd. Then I went to the sky park on the roof and looked out. Then to the bottom floor of Issetan for a lunch to take on the train. I got four of the large steamed buns from 551 Horai and 4 inari-zushi from another place. I am on the Shinkansen now and about to eat them, so maybe in a little while I will tell you how they were.
~ They were extremely good. Actually, it turned out I had bought too many. After offering the dude beside me some of the food twice, he decided to strike up conversation with me. I was thus denied being able to eat one more bun, and he talked more than I wanted to, but he was pretty interesting. He was from Brazil and worked in Kyoto. He was going to Tokyo to visit his family. So it was interesting. And he told me I could get off a station early and be ok. And the rest of my food now sits in the fridge for another meal. Allan


May 1st, 2005
Kyoto!
~ I can now say I jumped off the Kiyomizu Pavilion.
~ ♪ I am unstoppable, I am the cannonball! ♪ I have done so much today I hardly know where to start. Guess I’ll start where I always do, waking up. I woke up at 8:00 and showered. I had to shave, and the hotel had provided a razor but no shaving cream. What do I do? I thought about what some of the old-timers in the movies did, so I took a bar of soap and lathered up my face. It actually worked real well. Then I left for my great day of exploring Kyoto. I was really hoping to stop at a Denny’s or something for breakfast but none appeared on the subway between the hotel and Kyoto Station. (Btw, the reason I couldn’t find the Karasuma subway line last night is because it was simply labeled “subway.”) Not wanting to waste time, I buy my bus pass and grab the bus to Kiyomizu temple, my favorite temple of the day.
~ I get there and start looking for food, but there is none. So I climb up this huge, steeply inclined hill to the temple, then immediately climbed part way down another road parallel to the first one. Found a candy shop giving away cups of green tea and Japanese candy samples which I took moderate advantage of. Then I went into a souvenir shop and up a flight of stairs and into a restaurant. They definitely weren’t expecting customers yet, cause I surprised 4 waitresses in street clothes wrapping something. When they got the idea that I wasn’t lost but wanted to eat, they seated me in the tatami area. First customer of the day! I ordered the tamago-don (egg and rice bowl). Very good food, good service, nice atmosphere, and pretty dishes.
~ Thus energized, I was ready to explore Kiyomizu shrine. It is positioned on the edges of a valley, so it has a great view. You can walk around the edges and into the valley. From one side you can see a solitary pagoda rising out of the trees, and from the pagoda you can see the mass of people in the main hall. Oh yeah, did I mention it started to rain? It was nice at this point because it was light and warm, but closer to the end it kinda just sucked.
~ Anyway, I walked all over these cool paths, and then down into the valley to where this spring fell out of these three gutters and into a pool. Everyone was lined up to drink the magic water, so I did too. Even bought the cool ¥200 holy water cup.
~Composed at a much later date:
“Kiyomizu”
Three clear streams
falling parallel
splash splash splash.
~ Then back to the bus stop to Heian shrine. The bus stopped right in front of the Kyoto museum of modern art, so I bought the cheap ticket for the temp exhibit and looked around. The temp exhibit was textiles, which was boring. But on the 4th floor they had no division between the temp and the permanent collection, so I wandered in without knowing. Some of the stuff in there was pretty cool. Something I thought was really interesting was all the letters and numbers and punctuation made by photographing up to 4 dogs. From a distance it just looked like a somewhat cursive font.
~ Next, Heian shrine, of which the only real impressive thing was how big the courtyard was. I went into the garden, which was also very big but failed to impress. I think I didn’t like it because it was all flat and the path was plain dirt. (I.e. insufficient landscaping and manicuring.) 2 cool things was I set on a big rock a little ways in the woods and listened to water fall, and the big stepping stones across the lake. Pond.
~ By this time I was quite hungry, so I bought some bread, smeared it with the rest of the PB I bought way ago and had been lugging around, and ate it in shrine. I composed this prose: As I sit between two trees, I lean against the wall and think, “Shrines are such wonderful places to eat.” This was later transformed into haiku:
Sitting between stones,
I lean on the wall, thinking,
“Eating at shrines rocks.”
~ Then I went to the nearby Kyoto Crafts hall, which had traditional Japanese goods. Not much stuff I hadn’t already seen. There was this one really abrasive character that made me realize how annoying Americans can be. He even spoke to the English speaking clerk real slow and in simple sentences.
~ So I left there and took the wrong bus. It took me at least an hour to sort that out. I actually ended up taking about the longest way possible to get to my next stop. Along the way I met some French people who were equally lost. and I started telling them about Tsukiji but had to run to catch the bus.
~ Next I go to Gion, the nightlife/geisha district. I had to look for a little bit, but found it okay. But before I went in, I had to eat. So while I looked at this street lined with shops I was looking for a good place to eat. Just as I was thinking how I would like to eat these dumplings I saw at Roppongi Hills, I got a flyer for a dimsum restaurant. I follow the girl that was handing out the flyers, and order the $15 set. The service was awesome, real friendly, bend over backwards, but the servings really sucked. I was expecting silver dollar dumplings, I got quarters. All told, 4 dimsum, 2 goyza (Japanese fried dumpling), some excellent rice and meat steamed in lotus leaves, and heavenly mango pudding. I drank a lot of water to kill my appetite. Btw the English menu had so many mistakes I didn’t even bother taking a picture.
~ Then I go into the geisha street with all the wood houses, but it disappointed me because these big electric signs hung over parts of the street and cars kept coming in and out, so the atmosphere was ruined. Dejected, I caught the bus back home.
~ At least, I though I did. I actually proceeded to get lost yet again. I actually think I came within a few hundred yards of the hotel once, but then went the wrong way. I ended up having to go all the way back to Kyoto Station and taking the subway back.
~ Then I went to the conveni for pastries for breakfast and a burger for now. Am about to soak in the tub as I conclude this, my longest diary entry yet.


April 30, 2005
Golden Week Start! Expo Go!
~ I went to the 2005 World Fair today!
~ So, woke up at 5:30 this morning, fixed myself some not very good baked egg/frittata thing, and left for the Shinkansen train at Tokyo station. The Shinkansen travels at approximately 160 mph, so it is The way to travel. It has tons of legroom and even coat hooks, but rather narrow seats. So I go from Tokyo to Nagoya, then hop on a local train and eat my lunch. This consisted of 2 decent hotdogs and a really good banana flavored melon bread I snagged from a kiosk. The trip was nice, but when I got to the station I had to stash my bag but I didn’t have enough change and the lockers were filling fast. But 2 different people helped me out with the money. Thanks guys. And God.
~ Then I got on the linimo, Japanese’s (the worlds?) first working mag lev train. Rode it for about 5 minutes to the Expo. Now everyone had told me that the security check took like an hour to get through, but when I got there almost no one was there. It gave me a forboding feeling. I got in in about 5 minutes. I think it was because it was lunchtime.
~ That means I have exactly 6 hours to see what I can of the Expo. It is a wonderful day, a little warm but with a stiff breeze to cool it down. The first thing I see is the Hitachi building, which had a canyon cut through it and water cascading down. Trés cool. I found out the wait for the Toyota building was an hour like for tickets, so I hiked over to the Toshiba-Mitsui pavilion. I waited like 1 ½ hour and got to do something really cool. (ADD, the vending machine prices were the same as outside the park. They didn’t jack them up. Unbelievable!) See, they scan your face and map it on to one of the cg actors in the movie. It even talks and has facial expressions. I was one of the guardians (soldiers) in the movie. Actually, I was the lead guardian, and had a really cool voice actor! What was also cool is when you and some other ships combine in the movie. The curtain pulls back and you can see the rest of the audience. Then when you reach Earth the movie screens slide down and you can see the other audiences across from you. Segei!
~ Then I took A cool gondola ride to an annex grounds. During one point they make the window opaque to “protect the neighbor’s privacy.” The annex was less crowded than the main grounds, with lots of cool wood architecture. I heard someone masterfully playing the saw, and a cowbell chorus. Then I wandered to the Aichi pavilion and they had to make a special exit for me when I found out the theatre was wildlife footage and opera. Then I ended up in one of Japan’s pavilions and saw a live show. They kept making me move before the show ‘cause they were afraid I might be in the way, and that annoyed me but when the actor sprinted down the stairs and around the stage, I figured out why they were so worried. The drama was sound and movement based, with a lot of running and synchronized speaking and moving. It may not sound like much, but believe me, it was awesome. As I exited I saw huge stacks of beeswax bricks. Actually, I could smell them before I could see them. Then outside the pavilion was a whole lot of pinwheels blowing in the wind, which was cool.
~ Then I got to make a necklace out of paper and weave some on a loom. Then I took the fuel cell bus back to the entrance and left. Right in front of the linimo I remembered I had to get my bag. I went halfway back down before realizing that it was at the next stop. So I had to wait in the line I had earlier avoided. I felt like such an idiot.
~ So I go to the next stop, grab my bag, and go. I was really afraid I would be late for my 7:24 train, but I made it on time. I even had time to buy a bento before getting on the train. The other two people in the row I was sitting in were from America, so it was the white American row. I talked to them for a while, the ate my supper. It wasn’t really that good. And I completely ignored the boiled egg in the plastic bag.
~ I got to Kyoto, couldn’t find the right subway line, and had to walk a pretty good ways to get to the hotel. It is okay, a little old but well maintained. Time to go sleepy bye. Allan


April 29, 2005
Vive Life!
~ Yay! Golden Week started today!
~ So… woke up at 5:45 this morn because of early dawn and ambulance (?) siren (I fell asleep to an ambulance siren too), took care of some business, and went back to sleep until 8. Then I got up, performed my morning rituals, washed clothes and hung them up (since I won’t be here Sun), and left. First stop, the JTB (travel agency) in Takadanobaba to see if I could get my expo ticket refunded. (I feel better about the price since the ticket was included). But they were closed. I saw the Shakey’s pizza (founded in Boston) that I was looking for a few days ago. $10 for a buffet, good pizza, a big water glass, country music, and even curry (which I didn’t eat). I thoroughly enjoyed my self. I also found a used English bookstore there in Takadanobaba. Prices were $5-6 a book, decent, but I am about to drop a lot of money on this weekend.
~ So then I went to Super Creators arena 2! in Roppongi Hills. It was rather disappointing, a fairly small area full of artists selling rather un-inspired stuff. They did have a live painting though. I watched one couple paint a picture of two bears humping and a kid riding one bear. Kinda eclectic. I liked the bears faces, but then the girl changed one of them and made it look stupid. And they stenciled in half a headphone that didn’t connect to the other side of the head, so it floated! Bugged me every time I looked at it. But it was cool watching them paint. But the DJ was really annoying, he kept repeating these loud high pitched sounds. I ended up having to use earplugs
~ I looked around a bit more in Roppongi Hills, but the only real cool thing was the architecture. Someone had told me to go to the top of the tower for the view, but I would have had to pay to get in the museum too, so I went to the top of the Hyatt hotel and looked out instead.
~ At supper Okasan complimented me on my chopstick etiquette ‘cause I used the other end to pick up food off the serving plate. He said that most Japanese youth don’t even know they are supposed to do that. Allan


April 28, 2005
Jump!
~ I wish I had a milkshake about now.
~ Got kinda aggravated in Japanese 1. Again. Heard the dude from Venezuela talking about a bad Mexican restaurant he had went to, so I said “Forgive me for my ignorance, but is Venezuelan food like Mexican food?” They both speak Spanish, right? To which he replied “That is the most insulting thing I have ever heard.” I tried to apologize and ask my question differently but he wouldn’t hear any of it. I didn’t know what to do… But after class he almost (did?) apologized and tried to answer my question. So that turned out alright. What didn’t turn out alright was when I was trying to get the teacher to explain why too different characters meant the same thing, one of the girls behind me whispered for me to shut up. I ignored it, but the more I thought about it the madder I got. A slacker telling me to be quiet! And someone stupid enough to not realize I was killing class time.
~ Ok, happier matters. I ate a chicken and rice bowl at the caf with Kate, which was not as good as Yotsuya. Me and Alex bought the sumo tickets with Tadau’s help. We opted for the $50 seats instead of the $100 box since neither of us was probably going to spend the whole day. Tadau also helped me buy an Expo ticket (world's fair). He wasn’t sure that he was getting the right ticket, so he said I should get my host family to help me. But I knew that was a bad idea so I told him to go ahead. After getting the tix, I got on the internet so I could make line skip reservations, but they were booked out for a month. Got my train tix in too. Which included an Expo ticket. Aargh!
~ Me, Alex, Tadau, and Alex’s friend went to Tokyo City, a shopping complex-type place. We went to a Shonen Jump store and got a pin of Itachi. I ate a Big Mac at Mickey D’s. It is about a dollar cheaper than the states. Anyway, I had a good time. Allan

Announcement:  New pictures up in Photo Section!

April 27, 2005
Kyoto and Expo / Is a go!
~ My Theatre teacher stopped me as I walked across campus and asked me if I often had headaches. Caught completely off guard, I answered “No” and then asked her why she asked. She told me I had a high center and that she said she heard people with high centers tended to have headaches because of the chi flowing in their heads and raising up. But I probably didn’t have that problem because the chi flowed so freely through the top of my head, into a strong and clear vortex. She said she saw all this when I was on stage. Think of it what you will, I felt flattered, if at a loss for words.
~ I don’t really like the second teacher for Japanese 1. She aggravates me in several ways. She has ignored questions, subtlety embarrassed and belittled students, and generally acts fake. And condescending. And she ain’t that smart, cause she has trouble wrapping her mind around questions we try to ask her. And I don’t like her.
~ Found out my re-re-booking went through, I am now on for 1 day at the Expo and 2 nights at Kyoto. But they pulled some used car salesman’s tricks with the price I don’t like (I finally figured out the price was reckoned with two people in a room). Since I needed to know what to do in Kyoto, I borrowed a guidebook from Yamamura-san. It was one of those “I don’t normally do this so don’t tell anyone you got it form me” type arrangements so I am very grateful. BTW the book is Frommer’s Japan.
~ For lunch I was kinda craving fried chicken, so I went to a grocery store and brought it back to the caf so I could take advantage of their tables and free water. I also had garlic bread and good Japanese potato salad. All cold, but still nice.
~ Borrowed Comedy of Errors since I might be watching a play based on it.   Allan


April 26, 2005
So much to do.
~ The first thing that happened to me today was the clothes rack falling down in middle of the night. I managed to catch it as it fell, but God must have woke me up. And it is a good thing I caught it cause if I hadn’t it would have fell straight on my head.
~ Nothing that interesting happened after that. Not until theatre that is. We did some movement practices and pretended to be sushi. I didn’t really enjoy that very much cause the people kept arguing instead of picking something and sticking with it. They eventually decided on making a mouth. Made me lay on the floor and do sit-ups for the  mouth moving (didn’t happen). My sain and exty te’s m euet Im not druised. I was almost asleep for that last sentence and I have no clue what I wrote. But a man yelled and that woke me up. Back on track, at the end of the period the factory groups from Friday came up one at a time to show what they had done. One of the girls from our group came up with another group and did a skit. And then proceeded to do the skit our group came up with Fri. I was so mad! First, she was stealing the groups work. Second, she was breaking up our group and left us with no skit to do. I thought we were going to be called on next with nothing prepared. So I asked her in my “I’m mad enough I better speak softly voice” what was going on. She didn’t really answer me, but finished the skit. Afterwards she told me something about the groups splitting up and the skits carrying over. Apparently this happened after class Friday. So I went for a walk and decided either way I shouldn’t have stopped the skit. So I went back and apologized. She said it was no big deal, and she understood why I did it. So it is pax.
~ I had one of those white steamed buns I have been meaning to try. It was like hot bread filled with pizza stuff!   Allan 


April 25, 2005
Monday!
~I think this will be a real short entry.
~ Lemme see. Got the score back on my Japanese test today. Made a 98. Found out Hong Kong wouldn’t work out, so I requested to book for the Kyoto trip. Here’s praying. Told Chris about the sumo tickets, and he said he wanted to do it with me but Alex decided he would do it and I asked Alex first. So Chris has to find someone to go in on the sumo tickets with him. I felt bad but he said  it was okay because now he knows about it.
~ Except for working/playing in the computer lab, that is about it. Except Okasan said my Dad looked like Clark Gable. What?    Allan 


April 24, 2005
I miss Dilbert
~ I miss Dilbert. It was my favorite comic and I used to have it delivered everyday to my e-mail.
~ Slept, woke up, got ready, ate left. Realized it was about my 1 month anniversary for being in Japan. Only 3 (gasp!) to go. Also realized that I would have to kill about an hour if I went to the 11:30 service, so went to the 10:00 service 30 min late. Service was okay, applying God’s word and small groups.
~ After that I went to Shibuya to find a pizza place (Shakey’s) I had no idea where was. Quickly gave up on that, but I found an interesting shop that picked out the 4 best products in different categories and sold them. Found some circa WWII type fruit drops in a tin box. I thought it was really cool because it is the same kind of candy as in “Grave of the Fireflies.” However most of the coolness was taken away when I found a picture from the movie on the back. (Has this ever happened to you? Made an exciting discovery just to find out everyone already knows about it?) After debate resolved by a coin flip, I bought the tin.
~ So I get to Shinjuku and follow the signs to Isetan. But the signs run out and I end up lost and in Yoyogi, a whole different neighborhood! But I just turned around and only lost about 30 min. To kill time on the way back and cause I was hungry, I bought lunch and ate it on the way back. And I hope the Japanese choke on it! (It is considered rude to walk and eat, a societal convention that aggravates me to no end.)
~ I get to Isetan and watch a really cool street performer. He juggles, acts, and does comedy. He popped a glove by putting it over his head and nose. He juggled balls, knives apples (which he took bites out of as he juggled), torches, blocks, and rode a 5 foot unicycle, etc. Real cool.
~ Then I made it to the flea market at the shrine. It had very few vendors, but some cool stuff. Unfortunately, most of them were selling antiques with a price to match. That was kinda disappointing.
~ So I went back to Isetan, saw their new art displays (one was an artist who did slightly surreal children-type wood block prints with bright colors that I really liked. Big breath.) Then I went to this Edo craft fair type thing. It was all hand made old style crafts. I really liked the wind up dolls with wood gears. They were about 1 ½ feet tall, and when you put a bowl in their hands they moved around. Another real cool thing was a knives demonstration where the man laid a piece of paper on the table, ran the knife across and it cut it. Then I am now going home. Gotta do my laundry.    Allan  
P.S. Okasan fixed what amounted to bacon for my supper and I fried an egg in the grease for her. It was kinda funny cause she had never seen an egg cooked like that before and was watching real intently. She really liked my “Alabama egg” too.


April 23, 2005
Asakusa
~ Today I went to Asakusa, where people say the spirit of downtown Tokyo still lives.
~ Woke up at 6:00 again this morning, but went back to sleep until 8:00. Ate, got ready, etc, and left about 9:00. Then the long commute to Asakusa.
~ I got to Asakusa, and as I was using my Fodor’s guide book, went straight to the Thunder God gate of Sensoji temple. It was huge, with statues of the thunder god and the wind god set into it. It also had a giant red paper lantern suspended from it. After this gate was a narrow street with lots of little shops that were selling everything from kimonos to mocchi to paper fans to Gundam action figures. I loved all the old style goods. In one stall I bought a candy that tasted like peanut brittle but was more crunchy than hard, and in another I bought a freshly fried donut hole type thing filled with sweet bean paste. It was really good!
~ Then I went through an even bigger gate onto the temple grounds proper. The main hall was huge and there was a pagoda about six stories tall. At this point the guidebook told me to turn left and go to a 2-story modern building so I could get a ticket for a really cool garden. I looked all over the temple grounds for the next hour and never did find that place. I was rather aggravated by this.
~ Something that lifted my spirits rather considerably was a whole line of food stalls that looked like they belonged at a festival. They had all kinds of traditional festival foods like roasted corn and yakitori, and even corn dogs! So I grabbed a ramune from one stall and an okonomiyaki from another. Okonomiyaki is most easily compared to a pancake, but a pancake made out of cabbage and noodles stuck together with an egg and flour batter. This one also had other things, including a piece of bacon on top. Yum! I really enjoyed getting to sit in the sun and eat Japanese good times food. (Oh yah I met someone from Ichigaya campus who invited me to go on this tour with them but it is a good thing I didn’t cause I knew they didn’t see near as much as I did. Lesson learned.)
~ After a hard battle, I gave up on the garden and continued on my tour. The next stop was a place that sold all kinds of traditional Japanese clothes. But what I was really interested in was a happi, a traditional coat worn at festivals. The Kanda and Sanja festivals are next month, so I wanted to be able to fit in and maybe carry a shrine. I got a black happi with lots of white chains running across it and a red belt with a white chain. On the back of the happi was the word “matsuri” (festival) in red.
~ So I continue down the street and see an American couple leaving the garden Fodor’s talked about. So, old task incomplete, I run up to them to ask them where they got their ticket, only to find out they had just been turned away. Bummer.
~ After that nothing else much happened until I got to Kappabashi. Kappabashi is the restaurant supply street. Anything and everything you would want for a restaurant is there. But the only thing that really interested me was the fake food for displaying in front of the shops and the coffee shop supply shop where all the pots looked like chemistry lab equipment.
~ I went halfway down the street and took a right. After looking around a little, I found the kappa shrine. (A kappa is a Japanese water demon. It can be helpful or harmful. It looks like a humanoid turtle, with a ring of hair on his head.) The shrine was totally small and totally empty. By that time I was rather tired, so this was nice. Paid my respects, noted the cucumber someone had left for the kappas, and looked through an adjacent graveyard. Then I sat on the stairs to the shrine, ate some of my candy, and mused.
~ After a while, I left and, following the guidebook’s instructions, headed back to the station. And then got lost. I’m not real sure how, it should have been simple to get back. Fortunately for me, this time I remembered my cell phone had a map and GPS function, so I managed to find a station after a lot of walking.
~ Then I went home, okasan got a real kick out of the happi, and soaked in the ofuro. And that’s that. Allan


April 22, 2005
Black Ramen
~ www.newgrounds.com “Ramen Flash”!
~ Lemme see… woke up at 6:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep. So breakfast, etc, school. Lunch was too expensive bento. I was with some people who wanted to eat in a sunny place on campus. But all the sunny places were taken. Then they started talking with other people and trying to decide what to do and generally killing time. So I left them, walked a bit, and sat on a 2 foot wall of an office building in front of the school and ate.
~ Then class, computer lab, and went to the anime circle. Met 2 new people on the way, Marty and Stephanie. At the anime circle they mostly just talked about stuff for the club to do. No one really (well, except Marty and maybe Stephanie) liked my doodle intro page. Did find out a site for cell phone ring tones though.
~ It was still early so I went with the group to Shinjuku to go to an art store and eat. The art store was cool, but I only saw one floor ‘cause I didn’t want to be left behind. We stayed in that one floor way too long though. Then I was ready to just stop at a conveni for supper and go home. But they told me they would pay for mine, and since I’m not one to pass up a free meal, I decided to tag along. So we get to the bar (in kabuki-cho of course) and there is a one hour wait. So I go with the people to get Ramen. Dude leads us to an empty restaurant (which worried me) and I waited until everyone else had ordered before I shelled out my own cash and buy a black taste ramen. Free indeed. It turned out to be really good though, soup and noodles with greasy cream that didn’t blend. It was fascinating watching it move around in the bowl.
~ What is today’s moral? Go ahead and do what I want to do. I should have looked at all the art store, grabbed a sandwich and went home. Allan


April 20, 2005
Die, another Day.
~ The evil pepper Pringles rings were hot!
~ I killed another day! Pretty much nothing worth writing about happened, but I am going to try.
~ Got up on time today. Breakfast was rushed, but I had this good noodle in cream sauce soup. Japanese 1 was uninspiring. I ate by myself at Mos Burger. A group of CIEE students came in a little after me, and we ended up both ignoring each other. I found out they had a special in May for the sumo tourney where you could get a box for 2 for $184. That splits into $92 a piece. This is a good price for box seats. Also found out Chris’s friend in Nagoya was going to Hong Kong for Golden Week, and I was invited. He said $500, but that sounds too good to be true.
~ Then Japanese lit, which was ok. Afterwards I stopped at a conveni and got these hot chip things with an evil pepper on the bag. I thought they were real tame at first, tasted like Pringles, but it is the kind of hot that builds up. And I couldn’t get at my milk tea until I was finished cause I was standing on the train. Heh! Allan


April 19, 2005
Kamakura
~ I should try to make this quick (‘cause it is late). Riiight.
~ Nothing really interesting happened until we left for Kamakura. (ADD = Jim said I did an amazing job on the reading yesterday. He also said that I didn’t seem like the type though.) So we take this long train ride to Kamakura, a former capitol of Japan and a seaside town. It was raining the whole time we were there. But in thinned out the crowds and the water running down channels and splashing on leaves gave it this mystic surreal quality that was cool.
~ Oh, back to somewhat chronological order. We got at the station and were greeted by the same guide as at Nikko. Can we not ditch this woman? We go to the first shrine, and there is this long avenue leading up to it. I bought my first candy apple ever. The coating was real hard so I had trouble eating it, but I really liked it. But there was someone selling candied grapes too…
~ So we sped through that shrine and went on to the next one, which had the Buddha of stillborn children and the bodhisattva of mercy, Kannon. This was my favorite, with lots of little paths and waterfalls. There was a great vantage point where you could look out over the town at the sea. There was also a really cool cave you could go into. Then we went to the Great Buddha (along the way I finally got my Ramune). The great Buddha is 37 feet tall, and if you look behind it you can see Great Buddha’s Great Booty. While I was there I bought a kamikaze juku (cram) headband and a mirror for Okasan and a dessert for Otosan. It was jello with beans and black sugar syrup, which the Russian girl Kate (who rode on the train back to Tokyo with me) called the slime box. Oh, we stopped at an ice cream place selling sweet potato ice cream.
~ For supper I bought a crusty loaf of French bread and some gruyere cheese and ate it at an ice cream sitting area. Allan


April 19, 2005
Drama and Evil Ice cream
~ Message in a bottle, message in a bottle!  I am still tired from last night.
~ I did use my cell phone as an alarm clock today, and that worked a lot better. I actually did ok on my Japanese quiz too. So fast fwd. to my topics in theatre class. I really like that class. We played a game where one person makes eye contact with another and that person had to make a noise, etc. Then we had people progressively add sounds to a whole. E.g., one person said beep over and over, the next person said ohm, until everyone was making a noise. It was like “The system, is down dadalumpdump.” The first time I did “Oh-kay” and next I did “Doo wop diddy… diddy day.” We also did skits about receiving presents. We did one in front of the group where I was a grandpa giving a super Ferrari to my grandson who then shoots a person with the laser and then runs over them. Everyone liked it.
~ Then in Brit Lit we had a dramatic reading of Portrait of the Artist. It was Christmas dinner, and I was the father. The meal turns into a big politics battle. But everyone liked it.
~ Okay, I bet you want to know about the Evil Ice Cream. Well, on the way back to the house I went to this store amusement place. I found an ice cream vending machine for 110 yen, a fair price. But the machine didn’t take bills and I didn’t have any big coins. So I ask two different shops to make change and they refuse. So I stick a bill in a ticket machine and hit the cancel button in the hope it would spit out change. Instead it eats my bill! An attendant comes out with another bill and I have to take it from him before he sticks it in another machine. I end up having to go buy some stuff I needed to get the change. When I finally get my ice cream I get green tea flavor, which doesn’t taste very good to begin with but gets better the more you eat. So that was nice.


April 18, 2005
Concert!
~ I have so far been through a small glass of Coke, a Daikara, the rest of my water, and a Dydo grape thing.
~ Turned off my alarm clock and kept sleeping again. Maybe I should go back to using my cell phone. Anyway, I rushed, got ready, and made my 7:50 train. Then Japanese class, then computer lab and requested JTB to book my Expo tickets, then lunch. Me and Chris walked a long way in an area with no restaurants for a ways. We ended up at a circle dot (Matsuya) and I had a beef patty set meal. After that, I transcribed diary entries and asked my Japanese Lit teacher if I could leave 15 min early, since the website Chris found said 5:00. He said yes.
~ So I got to the live joint and found out Chris had looked at the wrong venue. This live started at 7:00. So I got a ticket and killed 2 hours. Found a cool figurine store. Used the free drink ticket I got last time to get a coke in this cool underground drinks and snacks place. Also got 2 small curry patties. Very good.
~ At 7 o’clock I go back and see they are sold out. I try to call Chris to tell him not to come, but he was in class and not answering. Oh well. So I go down this narrow flight of stairs into the basement of a building. It is dark and smoky and at the center of attention is a drum set and 3 mikes. So I wander around, meet 2 of the guys from Leather Face, and get their autographs (on what I later find out to be my drink ticket. Oops.) Then everyone starts standing and waiting for it too start.
~ The first band up was a decently good Japanese band called “I excuse.” The crowd was real subdued for a while and then gradually started moshing. That was so awesome! The Crowd surging all around you, then packed tighter than sardines, smiling faces all around you united in celebrating. Plenty of crowd surfing too. Leather Face was okay, actually they were good just not very fast. Got tired near the end thought. Met a guy called Alex who was pretty cool.
~ Except for being real thirsty, that’s pretty much it. Except for the dude who accosted me in the train station. the dialogue went sometin like this”
Dude (smiling winningly): “I’m from New York. Where are you from?”
Allan (glances down at yoga books in his hand): “Alabama and I’m not interested.”
Dude: “Interested in what?”
Allan (keeps walking): “…”
Dude: “Are you interested in being happy?”
Allan: “Already am.”
The Dude then walked away to find a new target. On retrospect I should have started evangelizing.


April 17, 2005
Church and Smoke
~ I keep thinking about putting song lyrics here and worrying about repeating the song.
~ ADD, the manga club is putting together a book of sketches introducing the new members, so I went ahead and did my intro page today. Since I can’t draw well, I just filled a page with doodles and words and things. It is extremely busy, but I always like that kind of pic ‘cause it holds your attention.
~ Well, went to Tokyo Baptist Church again. Service was fine, I kinda liked this pastor. The sermon was about the church being a community, so it was okay. I left a little early because I had to meet Okasan at 1:30 in another part of Tokyo (service 11:30 to 1:00). I got a corn dog (yum!) and sushi plate at the conveni and ate it on the train.
~ So I met Okasan and went to Mejiro U. for this festival thing. There was some food and booths and even a place where you could be blindfolded and led around by a seeing eye dog. Cool. So Okasan introduced me to 3 exchange students and their host moms. Then we all went to participate in Kohdo.
~ Kohdo is a ritual involving incense. A small cup filled with ground pond lily seeds (the almighty guide book says this is for their odorlessness and pinkish color) and a small piece of hot wood is passed around to smell. After smelling all of the incense, a kind of matching game is played and you have to match the scents and write your answers on a piece of paper. I was really enjoying this until it came time to answer. I had no idea the format of the questions and no one to tell me. This really aggravated me to because I felt I knew the answers and not the questions! I still got 2 out of 4 right anyway by writing random answers.
~ So by then everything was closing down, but I wanted to get a water balloon on a rubber band (surely a precursor to the water yoyo) before I left. One of the other students said they would wait for me. So I ran off and found out they were closed. When I came back, everyone had left me. After 15 minutes of upset waiting, Otosan called. Okasan was waiting at the station. Still upset, I told him to tell her to go on, but he said she would wait on me. So she went back with me, and made me miss the express train because while I ran down the escalator, she calmly rode it down. Allan


April 16, 2005
So what do I do now?
~ Another long day of touristing. At least the train ain’t crowded.
~ So… got up this morning at 8:00 and immediately started washing clothes. I had decided to visit 2 flea markets today, and I managed to leave about 10.
~ The first flea market was in a shrine in a burg near Harajuku. On the way I find… Snoopy Town! It was a fairly big shop that sold only Peanuts merchandise. Now I don’t know about you, but Peanuts was an important part of my childhood. So I started looking around. The first thing I saw was the entire cast of Peanuts in Japanese garb. I also saw Snoopy mints, bean cakes, cereal, and ramen. As a kid, my favorite Snoopy persona was Joe Cool. But all the merchandise was either too expensive or wrong. The big thing was a lot of them had him with glasses but no letterman jacket/sweater thing. Or w/o the crooked smile I forgot he had. Finally I found a cool pin done by Schulz himself and bought it. It was so incredibly cool.
~ So I go to the shrine and guess what? No flea market. There was a Shinto wedding that was real cool. (And the Shrine was cool.) So I go to the Shinjuku shrine flea market. Again, nothing. Seems in a moment of wishful thinking I changed the day from Sun to Sat.
~ So what do I do now? It is only like 1:30. I bought a bento on the steps of the shrine and ate it. Nice. Then I went to Issetan, a huge department store kinda like Saks 5th Ave. Too many clothes though. I entertained myself for a while, saw some cool music boxes with cylinders that move to extend play time, and joined their international club and got free tickets to Tokyo museum of modern Art. I stayed there until 5:00.
~ So what do I do now? I can’t go back ‘cause I told Otosan “no dinner”. I just started walking, and ended up back in Kabuki-cho. So I looked around there. Went into an arcade and beat Melty Blood on one coin with Shiki. Then went to McDonalds for the 100 yen fish sandwiches. (A kinda funny story, I rather dislike McDonalds for several reasons and don’t eat there back in the states. But since I am in Japan and that is the only commonly available American food, I don’t hesitate to eat there.) Now I am headed home. Allan


April 15, 2005
Anime circle
~ Seems like my days don’t really start until after 12.
~ I need and alarm clock with a snooze alarm. ‘Cause for whatever reason I didn’t get up until 7:15. That left me 30 minutes to get everything ready and go…
~ Topics in Theatre was really cool. Me and a girl made sushi together. I was the rice and she was the fish on top. (Remember why a lot of guys get into acting?) We also played a game where people alternated saying words to make sentences. It was really fun.
~ Lunch was at a Japanese restaurant. Ok. British Lit was OK too, we did a sntram of consciousness exercise where we had to write down everything we were thinking, which was interesting. After that, I started researching tours and hotels. I am going to be better off taking a JR tour. The Strike Anywhere concert was sold out, but Chris said he would go to Leather Face. And found a cool band called Brahman (almost like the cool rock manga) that is playing in July.
~ So then I went to Yotsuya for the anime club meeting. I knew the building name, but not where it was. So after asking many people and getting sent in the wrong direction, I finally found the building. I even asked a girl and she said it was the right building. I didn’t see them on B1 like they said, so I figured I would go down. Little did I know I was soon to enter the Resident Evil elevator.
~ So I go down the stairs. On B2 the door is locked, on B3 the door leads outside, but the door on B4 is open. As I enter the floor, I notice that none of the lights are turned on. This must be the wrong floor. I see an elevator, so I decided to use it to get back up to B1. Thus I entered the Resident Evil elevator.
~ I go in, and hit B1. Nothing happens. I accidentally hit B2, and end up in office space. I figure, Hey, this’ll do. I’ll just take the stairs up. But the stairs are locked. Oookay… Back to the Elevator. This time I figure I will just go to 1 and then go down. No. I try 2. Nothing. I start mashing buttons furiously. 3 lights up, and guess what? When I get there, more offices and another locked flight of stairs. Screw it, I’ll just backtrack (I hate backtracking) and go back down to B4. Guess again buster. The elevator refused to go back down to B4. Aargh! So I go back to the office area and ask them how to leave. They told me to go outside and go all the way back to the front. I muttered a silent curse at the elevator as I passed it.
~ I then proceeded back to B1 where I opened every single door and found 3 classes and nothing else. I finally asked the guard and he told me that the building was across the street. So I arrive at the meeting 30 minutes late to find everyone had left. I decided to go eat and come back later in the hopes that they would come back. I went to the caf and got a good chicken bowl and took it outside. It was real nice out, and I got out a book for Brit Lit and started reading. It was really nice, particularly since someone with an acoustic guitar was playing nearby. Almost idyllic.
~ This time when I go to the club room, someone is there. Brian also shows up, and we all go to a Japanese style drinking joint in Shinjuku. It was cool cause there was a hole sat in the floor for your legs. I had about 2 white Russians, munchies, and interesting conversations. Then we went to an arcade section in Shinjuku, but I had to go since it was 10:00. I wanted make sure I could get back to this cool section of town, so I found out what area we were in. It was Kabuki-cho, one of the areas CIEE had warned us about. Allan


April 14, 2005
Big Plans

A long trip
that I have taken
creates debt.

In the new subway
I look around in despair.
Where is the trash can?

~ For some reason I have started worrying that all I will do now is school work and nothing cool. So I decided to fix that.
~ Hmm… pretty much routine up to lunch. That’s when I met Chris the first time for lunch. Actually, I met him about 45 min earlier at the computer lab, but we didn’t introduce ourselves at that point. If you will remember, Chris is the guy who e-mailed me before I went to Japan. We went to a really good curry place where I got an omelet stuffed with rice and curry on the side (which was actually really good), and just talked.
~ After that I read my Lit and got a magazine that talked about current events. I found out when the festivals were, the sumo championship in May, and flea markets, and concerts. I found out I just missed a Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra concert, but there is a Strike Anywhere concert Fri and Sat and someone else told me that a Brit band called Leather Face was playing Mon.
~ I also told Mrs. Yamamura about the package tour JR was offering, World fair and a night in Kyoto. But I wanted to be 2 days at the World fair, so she told me a travel place in Shinjuku to try.
~ As Mr. Do-it-now, I went straight to the place in Shinjuku. Where I found out that they don’t do JR. Great. On the way back to the station, I found a punk music store, which was pretty cool. The dude told me how to get to the venue where Leather Face will play. It was one of those underground places like in the movies. Now I must decide between Strike Anywhere, Leather Face, or saving my money and going to none.
~ Grabbed a snack at 7/11. I have been wanting Ramune (Old fashioned Japanese soda sealed with a marble. Tastes a little like Sprite and bubblegum, and is incredibly carbonated.) but haven’t been able to find any. But I bought a Mitsuya cider and it is real close to it. It makes a loud pop when you open it. And I ate a hoagie full of noodles. Yum. Allan.


April 13, 2005
Pressing on
~ Man, the pineapple smoothie at the Juicer Bar in Takadanobaba was so good!
~ Another ho-hum day of school. I found out that if I take the 7:50 Express I will get to class 5-10 minutes early, so that is perfect! Unfortunately, I have to get up at 6:30 to do this. (I know, I know, it takes me a while to get out of bed and get ready.) I so didn’t want to get up this morning.
~ I took forever on the quiz this morning, and they expect us to learn another 15+ hiragana again overnight. I have decided I am quite glad this class doesn’t transfer. (I later found out I did pretty well.)
~ After class I did computer, and ate lunch at a place called Bit Café. Had forgettable mushroom spaghetti (more undercooked than al dente, and stupid canned mushrooms again!), and a slightly good tiny Caesar salad thing. Only 480 yen though. But I immediately went to the 7/11 and got an ice cream cone so I wouldn’t feel hungry.
~ Then went to the stupid core class where I had to listen to people talk about their homestays for 2 hours! Then they forced us to go to Yotsuya campus for a library tour. They showed us how to use the search engine for an hour. I hate that! Then they toured us through part of the library (which I had already seen). The only new thing I learned was the self check-out system.
~ Then I pretty much just went home. Allan


April 12, 2005
2nd day of Classes
~ Albinoblacksheep and Newgrounds.com plug.
~ Caught the 7:50 train this morn and had plenty of time. Breakfast was curry patty and an egg (yum), raisin toast and butter, and fruit (including yucky grapefruit) with yogurt (yum) and sugar (yuck). ADD I had to commune with nature this morning at 4 o’ freaking clock. And coming back up the stairs I fell and made an awful noise.
~ I was chilling, listening to my MP3 CD player and left my suede jacket on the train this morn. It was hot, I put it on the luggage rack while standing, and then forgot about it when I sat down cause I was carrying my backpack. I didn’t even realize it until I got to Ichigaya. I asked Yamamura-san and she said to check lost and found.
~ Japan 1 is starting to make me wonder if I am capable of doing it. We are moving pretty fast. We have to memorize 15+ hiragana (Japanese syllabic alphabet) overnight.
~ I got my books for the class from the dude, and my lunch stipend and travel re-imbursement, and then went with Anna to get lunch. We went to the caf style pay-by-the-pound place, and took it back to a classroom to eat. It was pretty good, but not warm enough.
~ My other two classes for the day were Topics in Theatre, and 20th Century British Lit. The teacher seemed pretty cool, a Japanese woman with a British accent. Topics in Theatre will be a cool class, hands on and we do some short plays.
~ I had a pretty good time of it, but I managed to get my jacket back. Had to go to 3 different places and two different stations. But I am praising the Lord I got it back. Also bought a knife in the 100 yen store at the second station. Allan


April 11, 2005
First day of classes
~ Today class started. And I found out where lalilulelo came from.
~ I was so anxious to get to class early that I left about 20 min. early and didn’t even eat all my breakfast. (ADD got a seat right off on the train home.) Got to Japanese class fairly early and got a good seat. The first teacher (of 2) seemed okay. Class was stuff I already knew, but I have vocab to memorize. I hate rote memorization. I found out the books (5) for that class alone would be like $150! But saw a notice of a dude selling 3 of the books for $35. Awesome! (I called him and he ended up being like 20ft. away from me.)
~ Then me, Brian, and 2 others went to Yotsuya (Sophia main campus) to eat. It was cheap, but didn’t taste too good. Then I hit the computer lab and checked my e-mail. There was an e-mail saying CIEE wanted a Hanami picture, so I waited ten minutes in the cold and the rain for no one. I later learned they cancelled it w/o notice.
~ Then I bummed around Ichigaya until my next class, Jap. Lit. 2. I got there early to get a good seat, and it is a good thing I did. The class got FULL. It was a small class, and people were standing out in the hall. When the teacher finally came they moved us to a bigger room (the teacher was shocked to have so many people) and we still didn’t have enough seats. And then I surprised the teacher by asking for the ISBN and embarrassed him by asking him if it would be cheaper to buy the book at the publisher in Jinbocho. I apologized later, and he seemed okay.
~ I grabbed a curry patty in bread with mayo and mustard 4 snack. It was soo good!
Allan


April 10, 2005
Hanami and curry
~ Don’t fell like writing. So here’s the lowdown. Got up at 7:00 so I could wash clothes before leaving for Hanami at 10:00. But we didn’t leave until 12:30.
~ My host family’s other daughter, husband, and young child met us and we went to a park about 10 min away. It was a big park. Lunch was good, pickled vegetables, fruit, and charashi-zushi (sushi rice with veggies and meat mixed in). It is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. After lunch, I took a walk. Along the way I saw a traditional lion dance with masked figures with long hair, a garden, an airplane museum, lots of sakura (cherry trees), and a cotton candy seller who spoke good English. I bought a big bag of cotton candy for 300 yen and shared it with everyone.
~ When I came back, I ran to the store and came back and fixed curry and a fruit salad (cukes, oranges, apples, and a little white onion tossed with vinaigrette). I received many compliments, and the curry bowl was scooped clean. Then the daughter and husband brought out special spring mocchi. It was flavored with a special kind of flower. Tasted a little like green tea. Good, so far as mocchi goes. Allan


April 9, 2005
Fish and Sony
~ When I told my host mom I was going to Tsukiji fishmarket by myself, she was really surprised. In fact, she said it was amazing! I tried to tell her I'm used to going off on my own, but I don't think she understood.
~ I woke up at 4:00 in the bloody morning to got to Tsukiji (and I didn't sleep well.) Tsukiji is the biggest fishmarket in Japan if not the world. 1/18th if all the fish consumed in the world, about 2,500 tons per day, goes through Tsukiji.
~ The train station was so empty when I got there... although there were a few people catching the 4:58 train. Had my cookie-roll and milk tea bought at the conveni for breakfast.
~ Several lines changes later and about 6:30ish, I arrived at Tsukiji station. Met a couple from Amsterdam that was going the same way, so I tagged along. After we got there, the almighty guidebook said the tuna auction was over but a vegetable auction would soon start. I had to ask about 10 different people to find out where it was. On the way we found a section with HUGE frozen tuna sitting on the concrete. ADD, they had knives as big as katanas for cutting the slightly thawed fish, and band saws for the frozen fish. When I got to the veggie auction, there weren't that many bidders, but the auctioneers were hilarious. Ich! Hyaack!!! One guy sounded like he was either dying or doing the sound effects for an anime fight scene.
~ So after that I went to the fish market proper. I have never seen so many alive, dead, and almost dead fish for sale. I saw huge oysters, barrels of squirming little eels, bug eyed fishies, and lobsters in sawdust. I saw oysters expertly shucked, live squid weighed, and live fish turned into dead fish and prepped in two easy movements, one chop to the head, one chop to the tail. I almost got ran over by trucks, forklifts, giant scooter things, and sledges with two wheels. I went over pavement and cobblestones, under bridges, and beside decrepit old buildings. And this was all before 8:00.
~ After this, the guidebook suggested sushi for breakfast at the best restaurant, Sushidai. It suggested I order the top dish for 2,500 yen (a little steep). Unfortunately, the guide book was written in 1992. And since then, Sushidai has become famous all over Japan. @#%! So I wait in line for literally an hour and a half. When I finally get in, I'm seated at a small stool in front of the counter. The Japanese guy beside me could speak English, and he told me the set menu was now 3,000 yen, so I decided to order al a carte. The dude started helping me decide, then he started ordering for me. Since I had no idea what the prices were, I started getting really anxious after the 4th piece of sushi and the bowl of miso, so I repeatedly told him I was done until he got the point. The price for eating at what many consider the best sushi place in Japan... 1,800 yen. That's 300 yen apiece for the sushi and apparently 400 yen for the miso. And to add another twist to the screw, as I left Tsukiji I saw a sign at a nice place offering 50yen sushi. Unbelievable...
~ P.S. I got flapjack, flounder, and two types of sea urchin.
~ I don't want to write anymore since I have to transcribe it, but this is only my day up to about 10:15.
~ So after that I headed up Hanami-dori into Ginza. My objective, the Sony building. I got there 20 min before the 11:00 opening time, and waited in line (again) to enter. Except the line was for concert tickets. Anyway. I still got in at 11:00. First step, 6th floor, Playstation. I got to play a Gundam game, crappy Saint Seiya fighter, Lumines, Ape Escape, Tekken 5 (Brian Fury still rocks!), One piece, and DBZ3. Then I found out there was a area where you could request games and play them, which was so incredibly cool. I played Kuon for a while, and I could tell it was a great game. But that genre (survival horror) is too hard to play when you can't understand what they are saying. (Btw they had RE Outbreak 2 but no Timesplitters 2. Or 3.) Then it was 2:00, I was starving, and after dropping 1,800 yen for breakfast, I wanted cheap. Cheap in Ginza can be hard to find. I couldn't find a conveni, so I went in the subway station and looked. I found a place called Country First Kitchen, which had good food cheap. I got two bacon and egg hamburgers for 600 yen.
~ Then back up the Sony building, floor by floor. They were showcasing a real cool MP3 player, listened to music for a while. Then tested home entertainment. Then back to PS2. Played gunslinger girl (way to long tutorial) and Einhander. Einhander was real fun.
~ Then I headed back home, but I had found out there was a sento (public bath) in the neighborhood of one of my stations, so I went out looking for it. Who wouldn't want a shower and a soak after a day like mine? After finally, (30 min) finding it, it was closed... But when I got home I had a soak in the mini hot tub, so daijobu desu. (It's okay.) Allan G'night!


April 8, 2005
Anime Hanami
~ ♪Possessions never meant anything to me, I'm not crazy. Well that's not true I've got a bed, and a guitar and a dog named Bob that ♪
~ So, slept a little late until Okasan woke me up because she was afraid I would miss the trip that was re-scheduled. So after sorting that out I ate breakfast, and then mostly played on the computer all morning. Okasan didn't come back from work until about 12:30, and since I wanted to leave about 1:00, I went for lunch at a pizza place she had pointed out. I got a personal foccacia and a personal mushroom pizza. Their personal size is thin crust and less toppings than Pizza Hut, but bigger at about 6 in. The foccacia was great, I salted it and it tasted like a soft pretzel. The crust and cheese and sauce was good on the pizza, but the mushrooms were canned :( Anyway, guess how much it cost? 500 yen!
~ So, then I went back to Yotsuya campus to meet the anime circle for hanami. Hanami is when you have a picnic under beautiful blossoming cherry trees. They are like trees with huge pink clouds anchored to them. As the petals fall softly around you, you eat, talk, and drink with your buds. The cherry tree only blooms for about 3 days out of the entire year, so it is a big deal in Japan. Anyway, I had a blast. I ate dried squid, cookies, yakitori, cheese pieces. The atmosphere was really festive. Another foreign student named Brian was there and we hit it off pretty well. All told there was about 20 people that came and went. Very festive.
~ Then I hit the computer room and am currently going home. Plan to go to Tsukiji and Ginza tomorrow, got to get to sleep early. Allan


April 7, 2005
Jinbocho!
~ Wow, between the excitement of the day and my mild case of allergies, I feel kinda sucky!
~ So I wake up this morning at 7:00, turned off my clock, and became unconscious until 8 (it's a wonder I woke up). So I rushed my shower, scarfed some food (it was so nice to have jam on my toast), and headed out.
~ And I ended up being about 45 minutes early for my academic advisement session. (ADD I found out my Japanese class is at 9:15, which SUCKS!) So I found a bank and cashed some travelers checks, and turned in my travel reimbursement form to CIEE. Then a short session with my academic advisor, which was a complete waste of time except for me finding out Sophia needed a computer tech.
~ Then an awesome thing, the computer room! I got to catch up on albinoblacksheep, do e-mails, and print stuff for free!
~ A quick lunch at Yoshinoya (circle dot was better) and on to Jinbocho, the book district. It took me a good while to get oriented to my guidebook, but I made it to 3 of the stores they recommended. Some of the stores they suggested were awesome, books stacked to the ceiling, right out of a movie. It made me think of R.O.D. In one store I bought a whole book of Monet postcards for 105 yen, and in another I got a cool mag about Tokyo in English and Japanese.
~I was so tired by the time I got to the last store. But it was cool. Marble floors, a sweeping staircase, and, as the guidebook said, "Mozart tinkled in the background." :) They had a cool study/sitting area, but the clerk made me get out. Jerk. Allan


April 6, 2005
~ Didn't do much today. Mostly just stayed home and did stuff on the computer. Wrote a new article for the newspaper, made my resume, transcribed some diary entries. Breakfast was boring, lunch was lacking...
~ At 3:00 I decided to go out. There is a whole lot of stuff in this tiny burg. Even found a Pizza Hut! Prices were steep though, like $25 to $35 dollars for a LARGE.. They sold some weird stuff too, like curry, curry potato pizza, french fries, and mashed chestnuts pie. WTH?
~ Found a small LAOX electronics store (like Akhibara) and bought an electric razor for $15. The dude gave me a $2 discount when I showed him my student ID. I found a big jar of strawberry jam at a decent price, which was real nice. Now I can have jelly with my toast.


April 5, 2005
Main Campus Yotsuya.
~ Today I went to the main campus of Sophia, Yotsuya college. And got mobbed, jumped, etc.
~ Barely got out of bed this morning. Alarm clock went off at 6:30 this morn. I am still trying to figure out how long I need to allow to get to campus. Anyway, for about the 5th time I had an egg on toast and a side. Salad and mini hotdogs today... So I left and barely caught the 8:03 express. 'Cept the express kept stopping between stations for fairly long periods, so it wasn't very express.
~ At Ichigaya I got to hear Sophia representatives talk a boring talk. But I did get my ID card, so that was nice. Then me and Tarik (guy from Jamaica) went to the AU store and got our student discounts for the cell phone. Then we ate at a restaurant where a bowl of soba (noodles) and a katsudon (rice bowl with pork cutlet) was only 680 yen. Cool.
~ Then we went to the main Campus, where all the clubs were looking for fresh blood. People kept trying to give me a flyer, engage me in conversation, and deliver spiels. Mostly I just said no and walked away. I knew what I wanted, a videogame club. Since there wasn't one (go fig.), I settled for 2nd best, a manga club that played games and watched anime. Then I watched some awesome street performances by some of the clubs. The break dancing was awesome. Then I looked around campus. It was big, with a lot of multistory buildings clustered together (although the grounds were relatively tiny). The library alone was 8 stories, with even multimedia rooms. I watched part of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." Then got my computer ID, saw the cafeteria, school store and barber, and went to a international student reception where they had good food. And when I came back, my host mom helped me get my commuter pass. So glad. Allan


April 4, 2005
Dr. Slater
~ Since the ride home is pretty much the end of the day's events, and since it is a rather long ride, I think I will try getting in the habit of writing it now. Even though it is only 2:00, probably not much else will happen today.
~ So... got up, ate breakfast (for about the 5th day this has been an egg on toast, miso soup, and sometimes a side. I really need some jelly and cheese. It was raining, so I wore my super cooly cool trench coat. It worked so well. :)
~ I got to Sophia and listened this Anthropologist/Academic Advisor (Alliterations!) called Dr. Slater talk about culture and academics. He made it decently interesting. One student claimed he wasn't ethnocentric at all, and then couldn't defend his claim, so he started spouting generalities about greater bonds and "something" (his words). Anyway.
~ So then me and Alex and Tadau went and ate at Mos Burger. I wanted to try something new, but Tadau had not been there. Now I am going home. Maybe look in some local shops, transcribe some diary entries and hit the internet cafe. Allan
~ P.S. Found out there is a place teaching English conversation not 5 minutes from my house. Said I could send in a resume, but I have to re-make it since I left it at home. Great opportunity though.


April 3,2005
Churchy!
~ Today I went to church. And not much else.
~ After a breakfast, I had a one and a half hour commuted to the same church as last Sunday. I signed up at the visitors booth and got a tract, a devotional, pen, and bookmark. So that was cool. (I quickly ditched the bag so to try and avoid visitor status. Made me stand up during service anyway.)
~ So service starts, and I'm really digging the music, especially since they actually had a small orchestra to go along with the choir, complete with guitar. The sermon didn't really seem to fit the verse, but that was okay. I've been in enough sermons like that. Just as he starts wandering and I start fighting to stay awake, he springs the trap and reveals the real point to his sermon. He was starting a building program, so the whole sermon was about fundraising! You would probably be surprised how angry and disappointed this made me. My first sermon here in Japan, came all the way out here, just to here the dude surprise his congregation to get money. The key word is surprise, 'cause it seemed like a normal sermon. He could have had the decency to mention it at the beginning of the service. I was so disgusted.
~ But the person beside me was as conversational English teacher, which is what I want to do for cash. I got to talk to her and get some advice. And the pastor that "preached" is going on a 5 or 6 month sabbatical, so maybe his replacement will be worth listening to.
~ Then I went to Shibuya. There was a giant food store in the station, so I bought some stuff and ate it on some steps. Went to arcade and hung out. Played Melty Blood and found a character a little like Chip. Allan


April 2, 2005
Anime Con.
~ Writing on the subway, writing on the subway.
~ So today I went to the Tokyo International Anime Fair. Yay! I got up this morning about 7, tried to shower but didn’t cause no hot water (apparently, the tub had to be activated for hot water… weird). Followed the directions Mrs. Yamamura gave me, and after an expensive and twisty monorail ride, I arrived. Only to be confronted by a huge line. I don’t exaggerate to say the line was at least 1/3 of a mile long. And after I had been in the line for a while, I found out I had to buy a ticket first (I actually could have bought one at the end of the line). They sent me way inside the building to buy the thing too. So instead of walking back all the way to the end of the line outside, I cut in line.
~ The con was way different from American cons. No dealers, no real panels, no game room. Only 2 theatres. Instead, it was more like E3, with people showcasing their wares. Tons of free stuff and booth babes too. The best booth babes (alliteration strikes again) were the 2 that played me on Erementar Gerad, a 3d fighting game (for those of you out there wondering, they wore red coveralls). Played a little Bleach on PSP, kinda disappointing. Played (I think) 1 game of Naruto3 against an idiot woman who kept using same super moves over and over (paused gameplay with move move.)
~ I got to watch 1 anime, a subtitled movie called Nitaboh that was about the founder of Tsugaru (DDR!) Shamisen style (a Japanese musical instrument). I really liked the movie and the music was awesome. Oh, Lunch was AMPM (convenience store).
~ Supper was Pb spread with chopsticks on bread Took subway back, only 50yen cheaper. Faster though. Allan

April 1, 2005
Test and a Lecture

~ My host family’s host burned down, I found out I have Sudden Instant Death Syndrome, and the Yakuza killed me. No one, not even my fellow American students, even mentioned April fools.
~ ADD, it is really weird to watch Diagnoses Murder and hear Dick Van Dyke speaking in Japanese. And the voice actor really doesn’t do him justice. Dick Van Dyke had a way of turning his voice to fit his facial expression, particularly when he looks bemused, that the voice actor don’t replicate. Anyway.
~ Slept fairly late today. My commute was only 68 minutes today, cause I caught the express. So I had time to look around Ichigaya. I found a Sony building with cool PS2 cardboard standups, but didn’t get pass the lobby. Also found another ¥100 store. Got a spring out laundry hamper.
~ At 11:45 had to take an oral Japanese test. It was recorded, and way beyond my level, so I just checked out the course schedule. There were only 4 lit classes. 4. And only one was one I wanted to take. (I later found out that ine of the lit teachers was on sabbatical.)
~ Then me and Alex went to Mos burger. Got 2 of the small burgers. Had to go in the women’s bathroom (it was one person) because someone died (figuratively speaking) in the men’s. And I really want to steal a Mos Burger coaster. But I have decided that I won’t.
~ Then to Meiji University to hear a professor speak on politics and economics. Meiji U. is in a building 23 floors high. Never seen that before. Prof. started and ended pretty good, but in middle I lost my attention totally and picked out my courses.
~ Afterwards, Todou and the gang went out to celebrate his 21st by getting hammered, while I started out toward Jinbo-cho, the used book district. I passed quite a lot of snowboard shops. Jinbo-cho was too far away, and it was getting late, so I went home. Allan

March 31, 2005
Free day

~ Today was a free day. Here’s what I did.
~ Was going to sleep late today, but the sun coming in through the huge screens woke me up about 6:30.  So I dug out my blindfold and put it on. Got back up about 8 something, and had spaghetti for breakfast. The rest of my morning I washed clothes and transcribed my diary. 3 whole entries! Washing clothes was weird, because you let them wash in one side, moved them to a spinner to get rid of excess water, then put them back in the other side to rinse, then back in the spinner. And you put the water in with a hose. Then you use the original solar powered dryer.
~ At 12:30 my okasan (host mom) took me on a little tour of the neighboring supermarkets. I found out you could buy a ¥610 water jug with free re-fills, so I bought one. Nice. Then went to get my gaijin (alien) card. We had to run around a bit to find a machine to take the pictures, and on the way found a Mt. Dew vending machine. Awesome! Old timey can.
~ When we came back, I went to an internet café I found today. ¥500 for an hour in a nice computer cubicle, free drinks, lots of manga to browse, and DVDs to watch.
~ Then looked in a DVD rental place, and another ¥100 place. Got my alarm clock and inflatable neck pillow.
~ After dinner, went to the grocery store for snacks. And went in this awesome bookstore called BookOff. Manga for ¥100. CDs for ¥250. Volumes 1-9 of GTO only ¥400, volumes 1-15 of 3x3 Eyes for ¥500. I can’t begin to describe how much I wish I could read Japanese. Oh, and bought vol. 1 of Bobobobo. Allan

March 30, 2005
Nikko, day 2.

~ I was so absorbed in my Stephen King book that I got spooked and thought I missed my station. When I asked a duck dude that worked there about where to go he sent me on the wrong train. Took me a while to fix that mess.
~ Woke up at 6:30 and went to the onsen. I showered and shaved there too (weird not having shaving cream). Then soaked for about an hour (had to keep getting in and out cause the water was so hot). I was the only one there too. I still had some time before breakfast, so I took a walk outside in the hotel’s geta and yukata. (Geta = wooden sandles with 2 crosspieces on the bottom to walk on. Yukata = traditional robe. This one also had a jacket that went with it.) I found a fox shrine stuck right by the parking lot. I had been looking for one since he is the deity of cunning. Didn’t pay my respects, cause he is not just the deity of the good kind of cunning. I was the first person to breakfast, most of the other students were still hung over. They threw a party in the room next door last night. But I slept great! The earplugs helped.
~ Then we went up the mountain where it was snowing. We stopped at a beautiful lake, and I plunged one leg all the way up to the hip in a snow bank, then tore my pants getting out. I had to wear them like that all the way to the next stop, where I ran in the restroom to patch them up. Lucky I had a sewing kit handy. But my needle broke when I was trying to break the thread! (Okasan later fixed them for me.)
~ All told we looked at a lake, a small waterfall and a big waterfall. Lunch was katsu-curei, which is a pork cutlet, curry, and rice. A mom and pop place without pop, she had to turn people away because she was the only one working. But it was sooo good! Allan

March 29, 2005
Nikko!

~ Today I went to Nikko, a shrine, park, tourist attraction place.
~ I had to be at Ichigaya station at 9:30, so I set my alarm for 6:30 and left at 7:45. I got to Ichigaya at 9:00, so I found out about how long my commute is. Then I met up with some friends and killed time. Then there was a 3 hour bus ride to Nikko. The scenery was beautiful, but the guide talked too much. (Esp. when I was trying to read my paperback.) We stopped at a rest stop for lunch, and I got a curry patty, a sweet bean paste filled bun, and a hotdog baked in a bun with ketchup. Very good. ( ADD = I love Japanese bakeries. Great food at a reasonable price.)
~ When we got to Nikko, some snow drifts were still on the ground. It was cold. The shrines were beautiful, but the guide talked too much history and moved too slow. We had to keep stopping and waiting for her. Some of the gates in particular were amazing. I got a cool safety traffic charm with a bell and a coin with the Tokugawa insignia, three hollyhock leaves. One room we went to was that of the weeping dragon, clap your hands under the mouth and it echoes.
~ Then we went to the Hotel. Traditional Japanese rooms, 4 people, futons not beds. Tatami mat floor. Then I went to the onsen, hot tub. What an experience, communal to the max. First you strip, then sit on a stool in front of everyone to shower. Then into the hot tub. Some Japanese teenagers came in. They were really cool. I could follow some of the conversation. The only bad thing was the one closest to me forgot the towel to cover his nether regions.
~ That was followed by a 16 dish dinner (traditional), and a quiz game where the host screwed us over. Now I’m gonna read my paperback. Allan

Another Announcement.
Hey again folks. Sorry again for not keeping this current. Eventually I hope to get a routine going so this won’t happen. Right now my life is nothing like routine. I get my computer PIN and student ID tomorrow, but I don’t know when the actual labs open.

Anyway, the important thing is while I can read my UWA mail, outlook refuses to send mail here from Japan. But yahoo seems to work okay. My yahoo address is dixielander@yahoo.com. If anyone has sent me e-mail and not been answered, look for an answer from that address. Or re-send me the e-mail. Oh, and y’all please e-mail so I can know if I am even getting read. Particularly I am eager for mails from certain faculty members, so I know they know my diary is up. Thanks a bunch folks. This is Allan Noble, signing OUT!


March 28, 2005
Late.

~ I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say “hello” “goodbye” I’m late I’m late I’m late!
~ Today was the day of the scavenger hunt. It started out with a stupid bird waking me up at 5:30 AM. But this was no ordinary stupid bird, oh nooo. This stupid bird squealed like a stuck pig.
~ I had to be at the college at 10:15, so I made sure to leave 2 hours early. So even though I tried a new route on the train lines and I had to backtrack a little, I made it to the area where my college was on time. And then couldn’t find the college. And no one answered my phone calls. Finally I realized a handbook I had might have a map, and it did. I showed a policeman the map and he sent me the wrong way. Finally I found the school, like 20 min late.
~ So I get in my group, and the first thing they do is figure out where everything is. I found out that one of the items was only like a ten minute walk away, but they said lets do the far away stuff first and then come back. Stupid.
~ So we go to Shinjuku Station. Again there is something close, but the group decided to do the far thing first. This is also where we lost one of our people. So we go on top of a skyscraper to take pictures of a park, but it is overcast so we take pictures of the park instead. And the lost team member caught back up to us.
~ So we go back to Shinjuku Station and go to the wrong exit for the close thing. So all my teammates give up and we go off a ways for food. But lunch was good, classic Japanese food. Even had a dish called yan that was like poi. Everyone else had sake, but since one bottle was $20 and there was 2 bottles to be shared, and since I knew I would only drink like one cup, I opted for water and saved my $7.
~ After that we went to Shibuya. At 3:00 we stumbled on a karaoke bar that was on the list. Unfortunately Mike, a Japanese-American, knew that a lot of karaoke bars are called bars ‘cause you can get an all you can drink package with the karaoke. The other group members were more interested in the all you can drink than the karaoke, so we got an hour for the drinks. I figured they would leave after 45 min, and we would only be a little late for our 4:00 deadline. So I got a White Russian (was good) and sang “You give love a bad name” and “Kung Fu fighting.” Then they decided to forget the scavenger hunt and ordered another hour. But I try to keep my obligations, so I left them. I ended up getting back about 30 min late. Twice late in the same day. Dang!
~ Well after that I mostly just turned in the stuff and went home. (One other guy from the group showed up after me.) Okasan (host mother) fixed some really good spaghetti. Allan


March 27, 2005
Lost on Easter.

~ I just realized how much it sucks that I didn’t get to celebrate Easter in the traditional way. I am lonely and I have realized I am going to burn out if I keep at the pace I am going. World’s smallest violin, right?
~ Lemme see… I left this morning for Tokyo Baptist church. The directions were a bit complicated, but thanks to the almighty guidebook I got to the church right on time. Only to find that they had moved their services to a bigger building. Since I had had to walk a ways from the station, I decided to keep walking and make it to the next station. Major mistake #1. I never did find another station. I finally asked someone for directions. But there was a major language barrier. I went in the direction I think she said, made some turns, went through a seedy, falling down section, and finally ended up at a station for a completely different line. (Used the seedy back escalator too.) All the directions were in Japanese, so I didn’t know where the line went. So I followed a map in the station to what looked like the station for another line. Major mistake #2. (And I had told myself that if I found a train I would take it and be unlost.) Instead of another station I ended up back at the same woman who directed me. She almost fell out of her seat laughing.
~ Then she told me to catch a bus which never came. I started backtracking (I really hate backtracking, which is what got me in this mess). I found what looked like a station, but was a pedestrian tunnel under the road. I was very disappointed. Finally I found a bus, and had not the right coins for the fare, so while I tried to figure out what to do the driver got annoyed and waved me on without paying. And then I get off with all the people at Showa Joshidai, which was like a theatre place. Posh Posh. So I grabbed another bus, and rode it for about 25 min to the nearest station. (Found a Hyaku-en [~$1] store and bought 2 glasses.) By the time I got to Shinjuku, I was starving and it was too late to go to church…
~ So I had burgers at Mickey D’s and dessert at Mister Donut, and headed out to go to a big bookstore in Shinjuku. They had a foreign section, but a lot of the foreign books were in Japanese. I got to read Shaman King 5 though, and that was real cool. Then, even though I was tired (pushing myself) I went up to the roof (elevator was amazingly packed) and looked out. The view was amazing, and there is a huge park in Shinjuku. I think I will get my commuter route through Shinjuku so I can go there free.
~ It was a long trip home folks. Now I gotta transcribe my diary, so I can maybe send it tomorrow. If I can find a place to send it. It will be so much easier when I can get to the school’s computers. Also tomorrow, Scavenger Hunt! Allan


March 26, 2005
Akihabara!

~ It’s late, so I’m gonna make this short.
~ I met Alex and Todau in Akihabara station (I had to call Todau on a public phone to find the exit). I didn’t shave this morning, cause the wattage was too low and my electric shaver stopped when it touched my face (ADD, gotta write it now or I will forget). Instead of telling you all the things we did in Akihabara, let me just say it was geek paradise. I loved it! Books, comics, games, anime, electronics! It was crazy! So segei (cool)! High points were a cool anime called Kurodokuro, a PSP bleach game, and a fighting game called Melty Blood.
~ Then lunch at Excelsior Café (Excelsior is my motto). Then to Kanda Myojin shrine. The back entrance was jammed between 2 brick buildings. Then to an old Confusican school, to Nikolai Cathedral, to a snow board seller district near Jimbo-cho. I found an awesome Yakuza café shirt that was knocking Starbucks and had a skull. Then Shinjuku and got my phone. Found a very narrow covered alley with lots of little dives. It was beyond cool looking. Only Japanese there. Had yaksoba, fried noodles. Then back to host home.
~Oh and got my adapter for computer at Laox in Akhabara. And also went to a art gallery that had works by the Final fantasy artist. Allan.


March 25, 2005
Host Family!

~ Errata: Itchy Hungry in my March 19 entry should have been Itchy Tasty.
~ I am so tired right now that I could fall asleep as I write. Well, lets start at the beginning.
~Woke up again at 6:30 (besides at 12:00 when my roomie came in and flooded my room with light and the 4:30 call of the wild). When I woke I showered and packed, found Alex in the lobby, and went looking for a place for breakfast. (I am so tired I am not even focusing my eyes as I write this.) We found an awesome shop and got a big bowl of rice with pork and soft fried egg and tomato paste and stuff. It was oishi (delicious)! And you had to order your food in a machine that gives you a ticket to give to the cook. When we went back to the lobby I used Alex’s Mac to check my e-mail. I found out that my rushed e-mail from yahoo failed to go through, so I sent another.
~ Then we checked out of the hotel and went to more classes for orientation. Todou and Alex’s schedule didn’t parallel mine since they live in dorms, so I told them to meet me at Akhihabara (the electronics district) tomorrow at 10:00. But after they left I thought I might need to go out with my host family or something. So I left them a note and hurried to Shinjuku to get a phone.
~ And ended up just eating at Wendys and eating a phone looking at pachinko parlors. But I heard I need my gaijin card for the phone anyway.
~ At 3:15 I met my host mother. She is about 50 and real nice. Speaks very little English. So I followed her back to her house, about an hour away. It’s small, I sleep on a futon, the bathroom is scary, the shower is worse (it opens into the laundry room). I’d continue, but I am tired. The dad was cool, spoke a good bit of English, company makes large displays and small models. Supper was cold tempura. Called Todau on a payphone, we are on for tomorrow. Sleep now. Allan.

   
March 24, 2005
Announcement

Hey folks, try to stick with us. I got no steady internet until school starts when I can get at their computer labs. And it takes me about 15-30 minutes to transcribe a journal entry ( big entries, slow typer). Time I don’t really have. I would have posted more if they were transcribed. But I know at least one person has been eagerly checking my posts, so I wanted to at least get you to the hotel. Peace out!
Allan

Tokyo! Busy Sightsee go!

~ I keep getting hungry after eating traditional Japanese. They give you a wide variety of things to eat, but it don’t stick. I will be hungry 30 min. after eating.
~ Oh kay! Woke up this morning at 6:15. Scott the year long student said I would be up at 4:30. In your face! But I did wake up several times because I almost fell off the bed. I pulled the huge quilt of the bed this morning, so maybe that won’t happen again. The elevator is so cool here. It has stars in the ceiling that turn on and off, and music, and really clean mirrors near the roof that makes the stars go on for a while! And touch sensitive buttons.
~~Continued at 9:30 that night, sipping green tea and writing journal.
~ Now that the day is over, lets see if I can write this Not ADD style. So, after I woke up this morning, I took my computer downstairs. it still didn’t work. Then some fellow students came down, and we all went to eat at a place called Mos Burger. I think it is called Mos Burger because of all the shredded lettuce heaped on it. I got a really good teriyaki burger.
~After that, I stopped in at a 7-11. Tres cool! I bought a small notebook and a Shonen Jump. For those of you not in the know, Shonen Jump is a comic digest the size of a telephone book that is only 380 yen. And it had an add for a FFVII prequel where you play as Zack! Then saw someone repelling off the building to wash windows (no harness, just a seat attached to a rope!), weird Japanese kids shows, and tried to write while my roommate tried to strike up conversation.
~FYI, 1 yen equals about 1 cent.
~Then we all walked to Ichigaya Campus. This where we will have all our classes. Ichigaya is also the name of the area we are in. We had FYI classes on different things. Found out I could get a good deal on a text message phone. Lunch was obento, traditional box lunches. It was good, but the BBQ butter beans and the umiboshi plum with an unforeseen pit was odd. Then more classes. One of the girls was wearing a Flogging Molly t-shirt. Her name is Anna, and we talked for a while. We met for class about 9:30, and let out about 3:30. I spent the time looking around. Found a cool store with cds for 300 yen. Got a J rock compilation with cool anime chick on the front. Hooked up with Alex, Todau, and went to a bar. Ordered tea, got unsweet ice tea? Which cost freaking 270 yen! I figured it would be like, 100 yen. I felt ripped. BTW, I am listening to the above mentioned cd now. Is pretty good.
~ After that we went to an old looking restaurant in Ginza where they brought out batter dipped fried food food on skewers 1 at a time. Very very good. Then went on a night city tour, and went to a Toyota Showcase. Had giant ferris wheel. Would have rode, but 700 yen and no one to ride it with. Besides cars, they had cool products. Had an awesome paper cutter. Weird pen with big loop stuck on the side. Had a real cool arcade. Sucked bad at Pachinko. Rushed, so didn’t take time to figure out how to play. Anyway. Then went to small place where great view of Tokyo skyline. Also cool shops, music place was neat. Recognized Millencolin. Weird window display of mannequins with pants around ankles. Came back, wrote this. Very sleepy, about to crash (after I look at my Shonen Jump a little.) Allan


March 23, 2005
Finally There.

~Finally there! At the Green Palace Hotel in Tokyo.
~Anyway, the flight was mostly uneventful. The food was a lot better than the croissant and baked egg breakfast. I got there safe, went through customs real easy (they didn’t even ask me if I wanted to declare anything. But what a line!) Then I met the program people and had to wait a while to leave. While waiting, I found they had Calorie Mate in the Vending machines! I thought it was so cool that MGS3 had not made it up. And I changed my money. A funny thing that happened was Ruth asked me to change in some money for her, so I just added it to mine, forgetting about the rate difference. And the dude had already counted it so he couldn’t (wouldn’t?) change it . Anyway.
~Next was an hour and a half bus ride through the rain. I found out my host family lives far away, consists of an elderly man and woman, and was probably fairly affluent. Then I was so tired I lost consciousness (figuratively speaking).
~The hotel is really nice. 2 beds, fridge, ironing thing, toilet with bidet, hot water maker, etc. My roommate is Jim, cool guy. My computer refuses to pick up their wireless and none of the plugs are three prong. So I have to either find an adapter or a pair of pliers to yank out the 3rd prong. Complimentary yukata (robe style pajamas) was nice.
~After getting to the hotel, me and some others went through the cold rain to a Ramen shop. It was weird sitting at a table with complete strangers. But the ramen was good.
~Back to the room, showered, bed. The room was too warm and I kept trying to fall off the bed, but I slept well until 6:30.
~Oh, before I went to sleep, I used the 100yen for ten minute internet terminal to e-mail my folks, but it wouldn’t send from Outlook. So I went to Yahoo, and then I found out that I had 50 sec left. My whole e-mail to my folks was “There. Bye. Timed.” :p
Allan


March 22, 2005
Kamikaze!

~I’m going in (1 2 3 and 4!) like a Kamikaze (Like Geronimo). A leap of faith, and I finally feel alive. 3 2 1 I’m going in!
~Monday, Whatever the heck time it is. Actually, it is 11:00 San Francisco time and I just transferred to my 2 story airplane that will take me to Tokyo, and the seats are smaller than the last plane. But allow me to back up a little.
~We (Mom, Dad, 2 bros.) left the house at Monday, 10:00, headed for Atlanta. I don’t believe I slept more than an hour the entire way. At 12 we got a donut, at 4 we ate at a cruddy Waffle House. We then ended up at the airport about 3 hours early. After killing a lot of time, I left for my gate, but my parents had to stop at a security checkpoint. They couldn’t even watch my plane fly away. I felt sorry for my Mom.
~The plane ride was mostly uneventful. But the events left made me uncomfortable. My constant traveling companion, intestinal distress, companioned me most of the flight. I tried to sleep but slept little and fitfully. They showed Ladder 49 and The Incredibles, neither of which I cared much about. Breakfast was a day old nuked croissant, a baked egg, and token ham and cheese on it. Blech. Did I mention the flight was 5 hours long? The only high note was the 2 sweet old ladies who were my bench mates. They were going to Beijing on a Yangtze river cruise. I wanna be that active when I get old.
~I just found out that the 5 hour flight really shortened this one. Only 10 hours instead of the 14 I was afraid of. And I currently have no seat mates. Yay!
~Anyway, upon arrival I grabbed a cup of kinda disappointing low-fat :( yogurt and ran. But I think it helped my stomach. Actually that is one reason I got it. So I got through the international security check and started looking for customs. When I finally found out that customs was outside, it was too late to go back out to register my laptop. But the ticket agent said it should not be a problem.
~I know have a seat mate, a fiftyish lady who is nice. But we still have a seat between us, which is real nice.
~It rained in Atlanta, it rained in San Fran, and now I hear it is rainy in Tokyo. Geesh! But at least there is always sun above the clouds. Very bright sun.
Allan


March 20, 2005
Lazy Day :)

Heh... Lazy Day. Outside of finishing packing this morning (and dealing with my Mom fussing about my dingy socks), I ain’t done much. I mostly played videogames with my bros. Found out you could play 2 player in DMC3 when second player controls your doppleganger. (To all the non-geeks and non-gamers out there, I apologize for speaking of things which you have no understanding. Also, I love in-jokes and obtuse(?) references, like the Resident Evil reference in my last entry. And the captivity narrative of Mrs. Rowlandson in my first entry. My diary, my rules. Anyway.) Had a great going away grill-out lunch my Mom fixed. Just finished watching 3 eps. Of D.N.Angel. They finally almost resolved the love triangle that has been going on the last 15+ eps. Now I feel lonely... Anyway :) Now I guess I check my e-mail and send in my diary. The next few days will be hectic, so I don’t know when I will get to send in any more diary entries. Stick with us, and keep coming back. Allan.


March 19, 2005
Packing! :(

I have spent almost all day packing. It is now 9:00 and I still have a bag left. But everything is all set to go in it.
Since not much happened today, I’ll do 2 quick intros to characters. Chris Quackenbush, a guy attending the same college (Sophia) as me. He e-mailed me out of the blue, seeking someone to buddy up with. We had some exchanges via e-mail, and am waiting to meet in Sophia to see how we get along.
Ruth Chiu, a student in the same program and on the same flight as me. We plan to meet at the terminal in San Fran.
Itchy hungry. Or hungry tired. So time to play some Devil may Cry 3 and eat Reeses Pieces... with Peanuts!


March 18, 2005
Shopping!

Yay! Day two of my awesome diary. And I am already dreading having to transcribe this and send it out over my low speed internet connection,
Well, as the title might suggest, today was a shopping day. My mom had decided that I needed some more short sleeve shirts. We left the house about 11:00, headed towards town. First Stop, the bank. I needed to get some travelers checks to carry my money to Japan. They didn’t have enough hundreds, so I got some there and then went to another branch of the bank. Where the woman wanted to charge me for the checks I had just got for free. I was upset, and so was my Mom. So we went back to the first bank and got the rest in $50s.
After that we went to Pizza Inn for a salad and some pizza. Mom only really enjoyed the salad and chocolate chip pizza, but I enjoyed it all.
Then we went to Jackson for shopping. We went to Moore’s and I got a cheap red pullover and some t-shirt and some Chaps (RL) Jeans that Mom said was baggy in the butt. Then to Family Dollar where they had no good shirts. (Surprise Surprise.) Besides clothes I was also looking for vitamins and facial soap. They had some face soap but Mom said it was too expensive, So then we got some more expensive soap at Walmart. After Family Dollar we went to AJ’s where I got a $2 Little Shop of Horrors DVD. Yay! Then Fashion Outlet, where they had Ralph Lauren and Hilfiger shirts at a good price. But all the good designs weren’t in my size. So we went to Walmart & got 3 Puritan shirts. Thanks Mom. Allan.


March 17, 2005
Kick Off!

~Yay! Today I kick off my diary! Well, I was supposed to start about 2 days ago, but it will be okay. I am so excited! Only like five more days and I will be riding that big bird in the sky to a foreign land.
~Since all I have done so far today (it is about 2:30) is sleep ‘till noon, eat, and find my credit card pin (I thought I was going to Japan with no emergency money supply), I guess I will tell you about how I intend to do this diary. Each entry will be more or less one handwritten page in this awesome moleskine hardback journal with the elastic fastener and envelope in the back. I am handwriting it because handwritten is so much cooler. And this notebook is more portable than a computer (even though Mamaw bought me a cooly-cool laptop for this trip.) The format is supposed to be daily, but we don’t live in an ideal world. I might skip some days, and then make up for it by a long entry. Since I have to write it, transcribe it, and then send it to Christi to post, there will be lag time. As an aside, This Is Not A Weblog. It is a hardcopy diary posted on a website. I thought about saying journal instead of diary because of gender associations, but I kept saying diary, so diary it is. Lastly, I wanna keep my secrets secret, but a good diary/travelogue has to be juicy. So I will try to compromise. Oh, and in the style of Mrs. Rowlandson, there is sure to be a-lot about food. Allan.

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Last updated: 04/08/05.