Friday, August 6, 2010

New Blog!

So I have finally started my new blog for my upcoming semester at Kansai Gaidai. No posts as of right now, but I will be getting on that soon. This is for you Geetz!

Monday, September 7, 2009



みんなさん!ごめんなさい! (Minna San! Gomen nasai!) So sorry everyone! I kept on meaning to update but never was able to muster up the energy. The whole blogging thing got really old. But never fear! I am... here...

Sorry again, that was lame. Anyway I'll do my best to remember the details.

My first full day in Kyoto I was super tired. I didn't get up until like 10. I figured I'd get food somewhere out so I left without breakfast. I hopped on the same bus I had taken from the train station to the Inn which was heading for Kinkakuji michi, or Kinkakuji shrine. A 20-30 minute ride later I was blindly following the crowds towards what I figured was the shrine.

Let me tell you, it is weird, in a good and bad way to travel alone. I could do anything I wanted, and was sort of adrift, but I didn't have anyone to take my picture at places or to consult with. I suggest trying it at some point.

So I arrived at the shrine, paid the 800 yen fee (about 8 dollars) and headed in. The shrine is known as the Golden Pavilion. It is literally this gorgeous little building (three levels) with the top two levels covered in gold leaf. There were facts about it like it was burnt down by a 'discontented priest' sometime during the Tokugawa Shogunate and rebuilt later, but I don't remember most of them.

There was a path to walk, with little mini shrines around and bells you could ring and stuff. It was all very nice and peaceful. Even the shops selling overpriced souvenirs at the end.

There, I experienced my first Japanese Fanta. It was a small can of orange flavored Fanta drink, but it was deceptively special. It had jelly in it. Yes jelly. It was *awesome*. I wish we were as cool here in America. But no. So I shook it up a bit, and drank the wonderful mixture of carbonated drink and jelly with glee. My only regret is not trying it earlier.

After that, I decided it being lunchtime, that real food was in order. I found a conveniently labeled cafe that sold "LUNCH" and "COFFEE". It seemed like a safe bet. So I entered and sat down, there being another foreign (but not American) family eating, which I entertained myself with observing subtly. I had nothing interesting to note about them though.

After a delicious bowl of temura udon noodles, I headed out again. I had nothing else planned to do (that was how unmotivated I was) so I decided to walk back instead of taking the bus. Just to see everything slower and closer. It was a straight shot on one road so I knew I wouldn't get lost.

It ended taking forEVER but it was worth it. I kept checking the bus stops along the way to make sure that the 205 bus took the route I was walking to be sure.

My adventures along the way found me several things. Three more shrines, a store where I bought a small towel having forgotten to bring one, a vending machine where I bought a water bottle, the first street-car I'd seen in Japan, lots of cool buildings, and hot hot heat marked my trip.

When I finally got back to the Inn (after between a 1 1/2-2 hr trip) I basically just took a shower (wonderful shower it was) and collapsed on my bed to chill. I especially liked when the inn owner turned on the wireless. For dinner, I decided to do it differently (also I didn't feel like finding a restaurant) so I went to the supaa (supermarket) for a sandwich. As a treat to myself however, I stopped at a bakery and got a slice of cake. とてもおおいしかったです! Totemo ooishikatta desu! It was very delicious!

Then came sleep. The next day was only a little more interesting. I headed out to Gion, the location of the most famous festival in Japan. I missed it by a few weeks, but I just wanted to be there.

I found the bus, and got off at the bus stop, and found (surprise, surprise) a shrine. I forget the name of it, but I wandered on site of course and entertained my eyes for a bit. I headed out to find food/shop. I didn't end up buying much of anything, because it was all very upscale and expensive.

I did stop at a restaurant and had my very first okinomiyaki. Okinomiyaki is like a pizza/omelet/pancake thingy. It seemed to be an egg omelet, but with a slightly pancake like consistency, and inside there were all sorts of toppings with a sauce on top. I don't have a clue what was inside that thing, and I don't think I want to know, but it was okay.

I wandered a lot and took many pictures. I even found yet another shrine on one street. It was really small and cute. Such is Japan.

I then hopped on a bus headed for Kyoto station, because I needed to stop at the post office there to cash in some travelers checks. I had a hard time finding it so I asked at an info desk and was pointed in the right direction. I found it with ease then and waited in line for my turn. Cashed the checks and got on yet another bus back to the inn.

I went to the supaa again for dinner (uninspired I know but I figured I'd have a great last dinner the next day in Narita). My treat then were a bunch of grapes. I LOVE Japanese fruit. The grapes were these delicious tiny purple thick skinned grapes that you squeeze out of the skins into your mouth. It was far too much for one person (three bunches was the minimum you could buy) but I desperately wanted them and figured I'd make a friend at the inn and share them or something.

In the end, I didn't make a friend and ended up stuffing myself silly with those things. It was a good day. Sleep came again, and the next morning I was off.

The shinkansen (bullet train) left around 11:00 and I arrived 1:30ish, having bought a sandwich for the trip. I ended up at Tokyo station where I purchased a ticket on the Narita Express to the Narita airport where the owner of the Narita Airport Hostel would pick me up. The trip was another hour or so, I called the hostel and got picked up about 20 minutes later.

The hostel was small and in the middle of nowhere. Small, I was used to, but the middle of nowhere, that was new to me in Japan. Everywhere I had stayed before was packed close together with bikes everywhere and stores and restaurants all over. This little building had some other buildings around, but not close together and there was one 7-11 down the street. Imagine my disappointment upon realizing that my last dinner in Japan would be food from 7-11.

Regardless, I explored around a little on the bike provided by the hostel and enjoyed myself. I was a little surprised at the lack of bikes being ridden out there, but I suppose it was more common to ride cars out there, just like in the suburbs of America taking a bike would be less practical.

I spent some time that evening talking to my Dad on AIM, and slept yet again. My morning started earlyish, as I took a brief shower and caught a ride once again back to the airport.

I got my suitcase no problems (the kuroneko delivery service was a wonderful idea) and got my ticket no problem as well. The whole trip was basically no problem. Security seems the same as in America, and I ate something (I forget what) and shopped around a little to get rid of the last of my yen.

Got to the gate exactly when they started boarding (I knew what time I needed to be there so I wasn't just cutting it short) and settled in for the long haul. Once again I experienced the long miserable trip, watched "I Love You Man" and "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Star Trek" (again) and some other stuff. You know a trip is miserable when you don't even feel like watching movies you enjoy. I couldn't sleep for the life of me though.

We got in about 20 minutes late (we were supposed to be in by 3pm), then took another 20 minutes to taxi into the gate, then the bags took at least 30 minutes and then I was out! Free in America (oh yeah and security too but that was easy peasy).

I met up with my parents, we got to the car, and headed out to our friends the Tillman's house. They had invited us to dinner as they were only about 30 minutes from the airport. We had a lovely dinner (hamburgers! I love America) and chatted for a bit. By the end I was barely conscious. I was all out of whack sleep-wise. I slept hard on the 2 hour trip home and woke up only long enough to change and pass out in my wonderful, wonderful bed.

The next morning, and for several mornings after that, I was physically incapable of sleeping past 7:30. I kept passing out around 9-10pm too. It was weird. Fortunately I had time to acclimate peacefully. My parents held a lovely party with my family where I got to talk about myself for the entire evening (and goodness knows I love to do that as this blog evidences) and eat delicious grilled chicken. I'm making myself hungry...

Anyway, to (briefly) wrap it up, the trip was amazing. I loved (almost) every moment. Even the bad ones though are treasured memories that I will look forward to thinking and talking about for the rest of my life. I will hopefully have a chance to go there again, as a student would be best, and I know that given this first wonderful experience, I will be able to manage it just fine, if not better.

Plainly put, I can't wait.

Finally, さようなら!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I actually made it!

こんばんわ。(konbanwa = good evening)

Big developments yo!

I’m in Kyoto man. It’s pretty cool that I made it. But hey some of you didn’t know I was coming here! Let me give you the low down.

Starting Monday, I began getting anxious about how I would spend my last, class-free days here. There were a few friends staying ‘til the 18th, but they apparently were just staying in their dorms in Kichijoji (the town next over). I would have had to get a hotel or something, which is lame because I’ve been there for 6 weeks already.

There was no choice for me but to set out alone. One person. ひとり。

I picked Kyoto, because of its historical relevance and its relatively close proximity to Tokyo. So the next few days I spent about an hour and a half a day in the library on my computer researching options. It was scary without Dad for help (I just remembered that I did mention some of this in my blog before but I don’t care and don’t feel like rewriting what I’ve written. Consider this a refresher), but I pushed on because I just didn’t have the time for extensive email tag across the world.

I went ahead and booked a room at the Orange Inn in Kyoto (where I am sitting right now) in a 6 woman dorm. That was the only way to get affordable lodgings. Anyway, I’m staying here from tonight (the 15th) ‘til the morning of the 18th. I will then head back out for Tokyo where I have booked a room at the Narita Airport Hostel (convenient neh?) and sleep the night before leaving the next airport for the states.

So I had my rooms, which was important because the affordable ones were already almost full. Now I had to worry about transportation and my luggage.

I looked up all sorts of information on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and decided I wanted to take a Hikari train (the 2nd fastest of three the others being Nozomi and Kodama) so that I could leave in the morning from Mitaka and get here at the decided check in time of 2pm. After checking the times and train numbers obsessively, I finally got to a train station where I could buy the tickets and stop worrying about it. (Charlene Anju and I went to Shinjuku for dinner Friday night as a celebratory thing and a “we’ve taken the train though Shinjuku dozens of times now but never actually left the station before” kind of thing. More on that and my last days of classes later).

They were a little expensive, but worth it to know that it was possible to go now. The only concern left was my luggage. I did NOT want to carry my ginormous everything-I-needed-for-a-whole-month suitcase all the way to Kyoto, leave it in a potentially unsecure room and then all the way back. It was also not an option to leave it at the Kuzuhara’s because I would have then needed to on the 18th get to Tokyo around 2pm, go to Mitaka (hour and 15 min train) then aaaaall the way back to Narita (another 3 hours) so get to mu hostel. Not gonna happen. Fortunately, Kuzuhara-san came to my rescue.

She accepted my request to send my luggage to the airport for me while I was in Kyoto. This is common in Japan, as so many people use public transit, getting luggage to the airport is difficult. So she will send my bag in the next couple of days, I will call her for the confirmation number, then I will use that number to claim my bag at the airport on the 19th.

This is exciting! Everything is actually working out! Now all I have to do is figure out how I will spend my time here in Kyoto…

Ok observations so far. It seems dirtier and smaller and older than Tokyo. I will reserve judgments for now though, as I have only seen a small part where my cheap little hostel is located. The owner of the hostel is very nice. He speaks English very well, but offered to try speaking Japanese instead when I told him about my studying. There is wifi available only from 5pm to 11am so I’m writing this in a word doc now and will post it later.

I guess when I get hungry I’ll ask him where I should go to eat. I have a few hours to do stuff, but I’m so tired after that last bit of running all out this week that I don’t really feel like it. I have all of tomorrow and Monday to explore. That’s good enough for me.

Yeah so this last week.

I think I mentioned the Isakaya in my last post so I’ll skip it. What’d I do Tuesday? Meh, I’ll try to remember…

Wednesday was study for huge ugly final exam day. Thursday was big ugly final day. After big ugly final, I went to the library for more Kyoto prep and general internet chilling (I desperately needed it). I also spent time rehearsing a speech I had written and would read in class Friday, and also finishing up my translation of the theme song from Miyazaki’s new film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea that was my project for the class (I don’t think it was graded though…)(ps - if you watch Ponyo which I highly suggest, do NOT under any circumstances listen to the American remix of the theme song. It will break your heart into little pieces and make you lose all faith in Disney)

Friday after class we had a lovely farewell party. There was great food and it was great to be able to say goodbye to everyone in other classes too. There are a few I will really miss, but fortunately two of those (Andrew and Eric) go to Toronto, so maybe I could visit them sometime or meet up for dinner or something. The end was all so very sudden. I was so busy this week that I didn’t think about the fact that these people I had gotten to know would soon be scattered around to world. It was surreal to say the least.

Then, Charlene and I chilled in her dorm ‘til we (and Anju) ready to leave. As mentioned before we went to Shinjuku where she and I bought train tickets (Charlene was getting tickets to the airport), and started to wander. We eventually found building with different restaurants on different floors, picked one that looked decent and reasonably priced and headed up. It was very good. Ironically it turned out to be the same restaurant that Charlene had eaten at with her family her very first night in Japan. Now it was her last.

We then wandered back in the direction of the, wait for it… KRISPY KREAME that we passed earlier. Yes, it’s in Japan too. Anju wanted to get some for the dorm and I just wanted one so we got in line.

Delicious pasties in tow, we headed back to ICU and got there by 8:15 (not bad if I do say so myself). I was home by 8:30 and started to continue my packing. I took a break to email my parents, found my Dad on AIM, chatted with them, updating them on my plans, and such forth. Then more packing and sleep. The AM came loud and obnoxious as always, as I stumbled downstairs, showered and back upstairs to finish packing and cleaning. I ate breakfast real quick, got a couple pictures of my host family (I didn’t forget! Yay!) and brought my suitcase downstairs and vacuumed the room. I then struck out, accompanied by Yumiko for the bus station. I got there in time for the 8:21 bus, and said my last goodbye to anyone I knew in Japan.

I got to Mitaka station and then Tokyo station in no time, actually by 9:30. My Shinkansen didn’t leave ‘til 11:03 so I chilled in a waiting area and bought a bento box lunch for the train. Finally I was on the train, and played my gameboy for a bit, ate and then napped a little, making sure to be aware of where I was so as not to miss my stop. I will note here that I was sitting next to a cute couple with a baby young enough to still be breastfeeding.

All of the sudden I was in Kyoto (though the trip was two and a half hours) and getting off the train. I asked a security guard where the bus station was. I asked in Japanese and got an answer in English. That always happens. When I speak English because I don’t know enough Japanese they answer in Japanese. When I can speak Japanese they answer in English. I guess there’s nothing to do but to learn more Japanese so I can speak it all of the time.

Anyway, found the bus station all right, got to my bus stop, got on the bus, got off the bus, walked about 20 feet in the wrong direction, corrected myself, headed in the right direction, turned and found myself face to face with the Orange Inn.

Aaand Safe!


Ps – sorry for the stream of consciousness format of this post. Hopefully you get the idea.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dinner and a movie

So I haven't don much since my last post, but I wanted to promote the music video I made combining Coldplay's "Life in Technicolor" with videos I took at Tokyo Sea Life Park. I'm really proud of it so check it out. As for yesterday, I had class and then after chilled out/studied in the library.

The plan was to go to dinner at an Isakaya or bar that serves food as well, so I took off with Charlene and met our friend Anju there. I didn't have anything alcoholic, because I'm not a drinker, but I did have a bunch of awesome food. You order little bits of things one or two at a time. I had a caesar salad (my first in Japan and the best salad period I've had here yet), a few skewers with either chicken or beef or something, a cheese croquet thing, a piece of the sashimi plate the others ordered, and I think that's it. I took pictures of everything, and they should appear eventually.

So anyway, the rest of the week is going to be pretty ugly. I have lots to do for tomorrow and especially Thursday when I have my final. Then on Friday, I have to read a speech I will write before then (though most of it has been written over the course of the class), which I will have to have practiced to almost memorization.

At the same time I will have to figure out exactly when I am doing, where I am going and if I am going with anyone after class ends on Friday. I get kicked out of the house on Saturday, and my plane leaves on Wednesday the 19th. I have some friends staying til the 18th, but they are staying in their dorm here, and not traveling like I want to. I think I might go it alone, as scary as that is. My parents have offered to help make arrangements and that is a huge comfort, but still...

I shall think on this more, and do some research I guess. Though this is a very difficult thing for me, even more so than coming here, because I don't actually have a plan, and eveything is up in the air. I'll feel better when I have it figured out, but I have a lot of work to do as well...

Ugh. Anyway, back to the point of this post, check out my fish video!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sushi, Gundams, and hundreds of fish


Ok so I’m officially recovered from Fuji-san. Actually I could claim that by about Friday, maybe Thursday. It was a pretty intense couple of days though. Especially during zori making because it was so difficult to get up and sit down while crouched over making the shoes. I’m pretty sure I covered all of that in my last post though.

Wednesday, I didn’t really do anything that I recall. Though the days are all blending together and I’m tired so I very well could have done something very fun for all I would remember. Was that Shibuya day? Yes, it was, I remember now. Charlene, Leslie and I headed to Shibuya for sushi at this conveyor belt restaurant. Totemo oishikata desu! (it was very delicious – in past tense!). After, Leslie headed home, and Charlene and I explored. We checked out Loft, a big department store that had all sorts of random awesome stuff. I got little gifts for Mom and Zack. I bet you can’t wait until I come home now huh? We then wandered, stopping at random stores. We went to a book store that had a whole floor dedicated to manga, with people lining the aisles reading them right there. Too bad it was all in Japanese… There was an awesome secondhand store, shoe stores, hat stores, everything.

We headed home relatively early though. It is important to note that whenever you see movies that take place in Tokyo, you almost always see one particular crossing that has thousands of people crossing it everyday. Well, guess who’s been there and crossed it in Shibuya? Yeah, etc. We then headed home.

Thursday was a little more relaxed. I had a test on Friday so I couldn’t do much, but Charlene and I went to Musashi-sakai station to do some brief shopping at the デパート (depaato or department store) and then headed back to her dorm to do some group studying. I was home by 6:10, and chilled/studied more. So much studying in my life! Is this really summer? Wait, yes, it’s extremely hot. Definitely summer.

Anyway, Friday was epic day one of this weekend. We had some stress to release after the test (which went all right I think) so Charlene organized a trip to Odaiba, a small island across the rainbow bridge near Tokyo Tower. Last minute, Anna decided to join us so we waited up for her and were off.

We bussed, trained and then monorailed our way over (the monorail was awesome btdubbs. I got mad pics. Sorry for my slang but I shant change a thing about it) and were soon at our destination. We basically wandered aimlessly around the island, taking pictures, before reaching one of our checkpoints. Odaiba is known for the large Gundam figure featured there. The thing is huge! It was so awesome. There were food vendors around and a nice beach and a huge robot, just chilling. Every half hour, music would play as it lit up, spewed smoke and moved its head around. Needless to say I have a a lot of pictures and a few videos. I find videos to be the best way to document my stay here. Unfortunately they take forever to upload, so I will wait until I get home and have the time to upload some of them. I’ll get into that later though.

So we wandered more, and continued, and it rained so we took shelter. There was a small mall like thing we ducking into and we ended up checking out the Toys R Us. Yeah that was there. I caved and bought a Full Metal Alchemist puzzle. I can’t wait to get home and start assembling it! Anna got kids chopsticks and the Hungry Caterpillar in Japanese for her little nephew.

We decided to head to our last destination, the onsen there. As mentioned before an onsen is a bath where women and men (separately of course) bathe together. All in the nude of course. It was less awkward the second time around, and we lounged around enjoying the hot water. Also, we were given yukata’s to wear (like robes) and there was a little shopping area to explore. No one was wearing shoes, but the floor was very clean. It was inside, but decorated to look like it were outside. It was really cool. There were little restaurants, and games to play. We got some pictures taken in a photo booth (those things are CRAZY complicated in Japan. The photos are time of course, but you choose backgrounds quickly too and then you can draw on the pictures with a bajillion different marks, also limited time, and you have to pick the pictures you want to choose etc. Needless to say, my first few attempts at getting it right had failed due to the rapid fire Japanese instructions. I will get it right though!) and then it was time to leave.

We didn’t realize how late it had gotten. It was already 10:30 and I had told Kuzuhara-san I’d be home before midnight. It was going to take a least an hour and a half to get back to Musashi-sakai, where we’d have to walk another 45 minutes to get back to ICU as the busses had stopped. It then took 10 minutes to walk to the dorm where I had left my bike and I was home by 1:00am. I managed to call home before then to explain and apologize, so it was ok, but stressful. We apparently had gotten the very last bus (whew!) and were crammed in like sardines with the other Japanese. Not fun, but all a part of living in Japan.

I went to sleep soon after. This morning, I got up at 7:30, and left home at about 8:15 to meet Charlene and Anna for our next big adventure. We bussed to Musashi-sakai, and took the train all the way to Tokyo station, where we transferred to the line that would take us to… *drumroll*… the Tokyo Sea Life Park! It was a nice, but affordable aquarium. It was unfortunately agonizingly close to Disney Sea and Disney Land Tokyo, but that’s neither here nor there.

The aquarium was great! We saw all sorts of sakana (fish) and penguins and, well, more sakana. I took videos and pictures and my goal is (providing I can figure out the software) is to make a music video out of it. Maybe later though… We fulfilled Charlene’s long time dream of riding on what may be the largest ferris wheel in Japan, or at least Tokyo. It was a great ride with a wonderful view. Then, Anna and I were really tired and kinda wanted to bail on Charlene after, but I decided against it. Anna took off (she’s staying in Japan all year, she has time to see it all) and Charlene and I headed for Tokyo Tower.

The trip was short, back to Tokyo station then on another line whose name I’ve forgotten to a station near the tower. We walked over and gaped at its size. Tokyo tower looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower, but is apparently like 13 feet taller or something stupid like that. It was brilliant though. We took the elevator up and spent an hour or so on the upper part of the main deck just looking and taking pictures (or Charlene was as my camera had pooped out on me – again). Then we went to the lower level and got to stand on a clear piece of glass where you could look down to the ground. Charlene was a little scared due to her fear of heights (but today was tall things day Charlene!) but she braved it out and got a picture.

We went down to the bottom for a quick dinner and headed out (we were sure to be much earlier today so we could catch the bus to ICU). The trip was easy and I was at ICU by 8:45, with my bike to ride downhill home and the south gate still open. Now I’m here, typing this. I’ll post it tomorrow though, and the pics might take a while. I need to sort through them as I’m sure I took at least 200. Ugh. Later. I must sleep now.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fuji-san or bust


Finally it happened. The Mt. Fuji trip (or Fuji-san as I will refer to it).

Background info! Fuji-san is 3,776 meters tall (12,388 ft). There are 10 stations in all, the 10th being the summit. It is a straight shot up from the 5th station, the path zigzagging up the slope to make it climbable.

I had a lot of prep work. I got some gloves and a headlamp and full rain gear (jacket and pants), water, snacks, etc. Kuzuhara-san also lent me a sweater which I was immensely grateful for.

We met at ICU Saturday morning at 7:45. I had left the house early so as to grab a sandwich from the 711 for lunch that day. We got onto the bus at 8 and left at 8:15. About 2 hours later we stopped at a rest stop. I got this grilled chicken that was pretty good. Also some chocolate. I felt that I would need chocolate on this trip.

We loaded back on and by about noon, we had reached the 5th station where we would begin our ascent. We chilled out and explored the area for an hour and a half. There were restaurants, souvenirs, and other tourist things. It was beautiful sometimes, and clouds kept drifting by and enveloping us in fog. It was bizarre being so high up but on flat ground like that. (Pics on flickr already).

At 1:30 we started. Saturday was the easy stuff. An hour and a half to the 6th station and about 2-3 hours to the 5th. I get a little fuzzy on the actual times. We arrived around 5:30 at 7th station where we would rest at a mountain hut we had paid for. 6:00 found us eating beef curry (the Japanese just LOVE curry! none of it spicy though so that's ok), then taking pictures of the brief break in the coulds, going to the bathroom and falling asleep in the very cramped sleeping area.

At 9:30 everyone started getting up and 10:30 we all had our gear on, headlamps shining and raring to go. There were SO MANY PEOPLE. The guide guessed there were 5000 people climbing Fuji that day. The goal was to see the sunrise from the top (sunrise at 4:30am), and that seemed to be everyones goal. As such, there was actual people traffic along the way. The climb itself was extremely difficult, but every time you started getting somewhere, there was a line of people blocking your way.

I get even fuzzier on times at this point because it was pitch black, I was tired, cold, and miserable. Also anxious to get up in time. about 2 hours after we left the hut we hit the beginning of 8th station. An hour after that we hit the end of 8th station (two huts with a good distance between them). Then there was another 15-20 minutes before we hit the end of the end of 8th station (to give you an idea of how irritated I was).

An hour or so after that we hit the 8.5 station. By now, Vivian, Evan and I had completely left the main group, just barreling ahead to reach the top. I had already decided that at the guides pace, they would not get there in time, and we decided to go it alone. Alone meaning with each other and surrounded by hundreds of Japanese.

At 9th station, we met a group of three other ICU students who had gone ahead and were waiting to see if everyone else would catch up. It was now about 3:40am (holy smokes) and the sky was beginning to lighten. Therefore we were beginning to panic. The sign said it would take a half hour to reach the top, but given previous experience we knew that was impossible given the crowds.

We gave up waiting at 3:50 and headed out again, this time in our merry group of six (hey my favorite number!). We were getting more tired and worried as time passed. The crowds grew thicker and slower as well. We decided that in this one case in Japan, that we would not worry so much about being polite. Not to say we shoved our way to the top, but I might have cut off a couple hikers. We also clambered up the rocks and dirt surrounding the path and generally acted like gaijin (kind of rude word for foreigner). We called it a 'Gaijin Smash' (it had previously existed, we didn't make that up). So we Gaijin Smashed our way up the mountain.

Gosh darn it if we didn't make it up in time too. It was awesome but in a very tired subdued way when we reached the top (where it was snowing a bit) by 4:30 exactly. And wouldn't you know it, but right when the sunrise was getting spectacular, a huge cloud came by and rain started that would last the rest of the day. This is rather remeniscent of my Mt. Marcy hike...

So we watched the fog get brighter from the safety of a small open restaurant (kind of like a huge leanto given that one wall was almost completely open). A couple of the others got hot sweet sake to toast and another hot milk, but I opted to go drinkless.

We chilled and waited there as others from the group trickled in. I dozed of sitting there. At one point I tryed exploring but it was too cold, wet and I was too tired. There also wasn't that much to see. Some restaurants, souvenir stands, vending machines (of course!) and fog. Not to mention oodles of people.

At about 6:15am we all started to get ready to descend. Impatient to be off the stupid mountain and warm again, some of us took off. We knew where to meet and when, so we departed in small groups of two or three (any more and it was difficult keep track of everyone).

Descending was just as miserable. It was steep and I had to dig my heels in to kind of skate/surf down the mountian. It was easier and less painful for me to go fast, though if Mom had been watching she would have been horrified. I suppose I could have hit a rock wrong and rolled my ankle but I was extremely focused and paying attention to where my feet were all the time. Not to mention my wonderful balance. It was very fast going as a result.

I didn't take pictures because it was raining and I couldn't be bothered. It was pretty straightforward. Zigzag lines of people as far as the eye could see and farther. We arrived at the meeting point at 5th station at 9:30 (what took us 6-8 hours up took 3-4 down) and Vivian and I (we had paired up) went to the bathroom and changed our pants (I think I ruined my favorite sweatpants because they were the only ones I had with me here) and other various wet things.

The others started to trickle in again, and we tried to sit at one of the tables to wait. After a while we ewre kicked out for not having a reservation, making us mad at the tour guides for telling us to meet somewhere we couldn't stay. After many miscommunications and time consuming delays, we all ended up on the bus again by about 11-12:00. Now we were headed to our reward, the onsen.

An onsen is a hot spring bath, where girls and boys bathe separately. They have to, because everyone is nekkers. As in, nude, no clothes or bathing suits. Well, when in Rome.

So we awkwardly entered the lockers, showered and got in, just chilling in the hot water enjoying the warm clean feeling after the hike. When satisfied I got out and met some others. We got lunch by purchasing these tickets for our meals from a machine and then bringing it to a window where we got the food. I got Yamanaka soba, which was soup with soba noodles, some fried onion stuff, and a bunch of other veggies and other delicious things. Question: Sarah, do you eat a lot of soup based meals while eating out in Japan? Answer: Yes, I don't really know why. Probably because I tend to know what it is on the menu and know it's a safe bet.

We got on the bus at about 2:30, stopped at a rest stop again (different this time) and were at ICU by 6:30ish. Most everyone slept most of the trip. I quicly grabbed my stuff and took off. I had to walk the longish miserable slightly rainy walk home still.

I got home by about 6:45, and started to sort out my wet gear and dirty clothes. I took a shower (because I was already gross and sweaty again) and washed my socks and pants by hand at the same time because they were so abysmally dirty.

We ate a delicious dinner and I pretty much went straight to bed. I had had to study this weekend for a vocab quiz, but I was incapable of really studying and decided to let this one go. They're only worth 10 points anyway. I ended up getting about 4 right, though most of the other Fuji-san hikers also did poorly. Two didn't even show up for class.

So yeah. That was Fuji-san. Some closing thoughts on that, it is important to note that Fuji-san is completely unlike any mountain I have ever traversed. There were no trees beyond the 6th station, it was steep all the time. For a while at first it was scary too because the edge dropped off into nothingness, but we got over that quickly. I've never hiked in the fog like that, or at night. Especially for that long. And I have never encountered so many people while hiking before. It was incredible and miserable. Hooray I did it. Never Again. Ever.

The guide said as we were getting off the bus at ICU "Please do not hate Mt. Fuji". Just because of that I will not hate Mt. Fuji. But only by a little bit. Also important to mention, I walk like an old person because my legs have not stopped hurting since. I am convinced they will never stop hurting.

That being said, I did cool stuff Monday and today too. We had the last cultural event, zori making. Zori are sandles made from this rope stuff and cloth. Like thick soft woven flip flops. I'm going to keep this short...

There were a bunch of ladies to help us and I made mine dark blue and this whiteish light blue. There were cool patterns on the cloth too. It took a few hours total, though maybe less, because I had to wait for directions for the next step often.

We stopped without finishing at 4:30 Monday, and continued today. I finished up quickly and had my one-on-one with Kojima-sensei. We had a lovely chat about Fuji-san, though most of it was in broken Japanese.

I went to the library for a while then home, chilled/studied, dinner and now I'm updating. I knew I couldn't put it off longer, as my parents at least are anxious to hear about all of this. Now however, I am off to bed. 'Tis late and I have another vocab quiz tomorrow. Sigh. We have a 2 chapter test friday and one more chapter to cover next week before our final exam. This is extremely stressful. Fuji-san didn't help either. Stupid mountian. Must. Not. Hate!



Thursday, July 30, 2009

Week 4. Already?


Ok, so its already week 4, and almost not even that anymore. Goodness gracious me! This week has been reletively low key (compared to action packed week 2) but still fun. Monday I went to the library to study and talk to Chris Morrison on AIM (Hi Chris!). Unfortunately it started raining before I left. So I waited as long as I could until I deemed it to be the lightest rain it would be. I attempted to ride my bike and hold my umbrella, but my umbrella was too light and kept getting blown around, not to mention the hole biking with only one hand thing. So I succumbed to having wet clothing when I get home. No big deal, I just changed. Fortunately my backpack is water resistant, and all my stuff was unharmed.

Tuesday however, was a surprise awesome day. Charlene asked me during class if I wanted to go to Akihabara and I was like "heck yeah! When?" and she was like "after class." After about 2 seconds thought I agreed and it was settled. After class we headed to lunch, then each went to our individual sessions with our sensei's (which we had schedualed for that day). We then swung over to Charlenes dorm so I could drop off the heavier stuff in my bag and we were finally off. hopped on a train, transfered at Shinjuku onto the Chuo line heading for Akihabara and after about 45-60 minutes we were there.

It was pretty sweet. There were anime billboards, restaraunt ads with anime-style drawings, girls dressed up as maids promoting the bajillion maid cafes that were there (Seriously, on one small stretch of road there were three different cafes each with girls standing outside handing out ads). There were tons of interesting stores too. We first stopped at Sofmap, a huge electonics store. There were 7 levels, and we later found out that there were more than one Sofmap on that one street (we didn't have time or energy to venture much futher than what seemed to be the main drag).

We then wandered around looking for the Tokyo Anime Center which was described in Charlenes guide book. We got there and were a little dissappointed. It was a one room affair with some merchandise and statues and old pokemon stuff on display but that was it. There was however some live show going on in a sound room there. My guess is that it was either a demonstration of an anime voice acting session, a radio show (maybe with anime voice actors as guests) or some other kind of performance. They weren't dressed up or doing anything, just talking. As I was unable to understand them, we didn't hang around for long.

Next we wandered in the direction of an interesting anime merchandise store we had passed earlier. We soon found that the 7 floor format was widely used, and each floor had different stuff. There was manga, CDs, DVDs, action figures, and all sorts of other completely useless anime stuff from anime I had either heard of or not (though Gundam and especially Evengelion were everywhere. Seriously, I see figures and pictures of Rei in the most random places in Tokyo). While I was there I bought a little Full Metal Alchemist action figure (about an inch and a half tall) that was packaged in a very popular way here. There are many little series of figures in boxes that don't reveal which one you got, leaving you to pick one at random and hope that it's the figure you want or like. You can see the possible figures it could be though, they're not completely heartless. Mine ended up being a little chibi Ed with an angry face. Though if he asks, I didn't call him little, chibi, or a shrimp you can't even see with a microscope. (Anime fans should lol now).

We then ventured on, now with thoughts of dinner. We stopped at various other stores as we searched, me with a new quest. I wanted an action figure of LeLouch from Code Geass. And gosh darn it I was going to find one. Though the female characters from Code Geass seemed much more abundant. I finally found one and I think it's pretty rocking. Not too expensive either!

Finally we found a suitable eatery (I wanted to go to a ramen place specifically because I had yet to eat ramen in Japan) and took a seat. I got Chicken Teriyaki ramen (ramen with chicken teriyki in it instead of the standard extremely fatty piece of pork). It was amazing! One ittadakimasu later and I was chowing down greatfully (I was very hungry and tired). We quietly mocked a few other Americans who based off their loud conversation made it seem like they were in Japan simply to shop for stuff, paid our bill, said gochisousama deshita and departed.

We stopped at a few more stores, including this game arcade that had different levels of stuff (of course) though we only explored two. The first was entirely machines with grabbers where instead of picking things up the goal is to maneuver them into little holes. Kind of a rip off, but fun to play a bit of. Like gambling, just keep a budget and expect to lose all of your money (thanks Dad for that bit of wisdom).

It was 7:45 so we headed home (I told my host mother I'd be home by 9ish). We got back to the dorm, I got my stuff and biked leisurely down the hill home. I was in the door by 9:03.

Wednesday was also fun. I had signed up for the recent cultural activity. Rythmic Sho. Sho is the art of writing kanji, not to be mistaken for calligraphy. The point is to move your whole body and attempt to show expression in the piece. It was amazing to watch and so much fun to do! I would love it if I could get a chance to practice more and actually do it right.

We wrote the character for 'big' (大) many times, and then were encouraged to pick our favorite to do on the boards they gave us. We got to get two of them officially stamped (one of them 'big' the other one your choice). I chose for my other one 'yama' or mountain (which we had just learned in class) (山).

That lasted me a while and then I headed home for some benkyou shimasu (studying). Now I'm here, anxious about my huge test tomorrow, getting psyched up to study. Fuji-san is Saturday and Sunday!!!! I have all the details like schedule and stuff, but I'll post it tomorrow. I've got to get to work!