Just another day with 3310…

Yet another roommate field trip! This time the crew was Jenay, Karoline, Nana, and me. The event: Kurama no Himatsuri – Kurama Fire Festival on Thursday, October 22nd.

We started from our apartment at around 3:30 p.m., which was half an hour earlier than planned. It was a good thing we decided to leave early because when we got to Demachiyanagi (the last stop on the green line), the train station was packed.

From Demachiyanagi we went to Kurama, which is at the other end of the red line. Wonderful. Well, at least we all got some study time out of it. 3 of the four of us had Japanese speaking tests the next day at around 9 a.m., so going out the night before until really late seemed like an amazing idea of course.

About 45 minutes or a little less than that, we arrived at Kurama. Once we got out of the station, we followed the huge crowd to a long hill with some sort of shrine at the top. This road was lined with unlit torches that looked like baskets with chopped wood in them:

So we were pushed into a little niche behind a not-yet-lit torch while listening to the guards yelling something like “Please keep moving up hill. The fire will be hot and dangerous”… or… something… The whole yelling at the same time on megaphones wasn’t really effective. As we were standing and waiting for the festival to begin (because we honestly had no idea what was going on), a man that was standing behind our group started talking to us randomly. I’m not sure what he was talking about because I was concentration on how not hungry I wanted to be. In the meantime, Jenay decided that she wanted to go to the bathroom, so she shoved her way down the hill away from us. We were left standing there, still puzzled as to the goings on around us. Jenay then texted me saying that she had a better view from where she was and that she probably wouldn’t come back up the hill, so we decided to join her. When we tried to move only 5 feet ahead of us, we were immediately stopped by the current of people heading in the opposite direction as we were. The random guy standing behind us actually offered to lead us down the hill. His creepy behavior actually motivated us to shove through the crowd. Little did I know, the man was actually following behind our little line and apparently we lost him along the way, though I’m not sure where or when since I didn’t know he was following us to begin with.
After plowing our way down the hill, we made it to an area that wasn’t as packed. We stayed there for a little while to watch as families carried torches on their shoulders and yelled at each other in a call-and-answer type fashion. It surprised me that even little children were carrying torches that were bigger than them. There were actually groups of children carrying their own torches without the supervision of an adult. But the overflow of people and constant yelling of the guards quickly trumped all thoughts of a tipping torch and panicking children, and we were swiftly corralled to the other side of the road.

Karoline, Nana, and I went back to the train station to try and meet Jenay. After what felt like a really long time that included many a text message and phone call, we finally met back up with Jenay and she finally could go to the bathroom. After she came out, we decided to go around the other side of the station instead of going back the way we came. So we went down another hill and walked downhill past houses with a torch out front. When we thought that there was nothing else to see, we ended up stumbling upon some men getting ready to light then carry torches that were about 3 meters, about 10 feet, tall.

We got our fill of giant torches and fire and decided to walk back up the mountain. At this point we were also tired and hungry, so our stomachs drove us to walk back uphill. After expressing a certain interest for ramen noodles, we tried to return to an area where we thought sold this delicious soup.

This ramen isn’t the best ever, but it’s still ramen and super delicious. 
This picture was taken at Hirakata Park on Oct. 25, 2009 :]

On our way up to the train station, we passed a stand that sold sausages and we contemplated buying some then and there sure to our hunger. But we decided to press onward and we were almost at the station when a guard stopped us and told us we were not allowed to pass. He also said that in order to go back to the station, we had to go back down to where the tons of people were and push our way through them. Fantastic. It made no sense to us since we were essentially at the station already when he told us to turn around and go the other way. 
Once again we had to go against the current, which basically meant taking advantage of our gaijin (foreigner) status to push through the crowd. We tried our best to say, “gomennasai” (sorry) and “sumimasen” (excuse me) as much as possible, with little to no response from the stagnant crowd. It wasn’t an easy trek, but we finally made it to the station, found out the restaurant was closed, and ended up going to a gift shop instead. We then had to wait in a line that zig-zagged past a huge face with a giant nose about 10 times before we could get on the train. 
 
When in line, there was a group of boys that flaunted their delicious hamburgers and snacks every time we passed them. Ok, so they didn’t flaunt their sandwiches at us, but we were so hungry that the mere sight of food triggered reactions of complaints of hunger.
I’m not sure how much time passed until we got on board a very crowded train car. When we finally got on, our struggle wasn’t over yet! Not only did we have to endure a 30-40 minute train ride, but we had to do it standing up. Now what may seem like a trifling experience is actually a very enduring one because after hours of walking up and down and uphill and being hungry, the ride seemed like it took forever. We were at stop E17 and needed to make it to stop E1. At each stop, we wished that some people would get off the train, but that wished was unanswered. If anything, more people got on. The reason being that E1 (Demachiyanagi) connected to other lines, so everyone stayed on the train. So we played human bumper cars for a little while as we swayed with each turn, only supported by the foot, leg, or body of the people standing against us. 
When we finally made it to Demachiyanagi and boarded the green line to Hirakatashi, we were more than thankful that we could sit down in an uncrowded train car. During the ride, we studied some Japanese, but mostly checked our keitai (cellphones) for text messages.

 Finally, Hirakatashi! We got off the train and ran to the nearest convenient store to buy nothing other than FOOD!! Onigiri and some kind of meat bum. Yummmm! We enjoyed our food as we walked to our bicycles. We had to bike home from Hirakatashi, which is a 10-20 minute bike ride depending on which direction you go. On the way to Hirakatashi there is a lovely hill that bikers can fly down beside traffic. On the way back home, the lovely hill turns into a long hill of death and only taunts the tired people unmotivated to climb it. After the big hill is a clean ride back to the Seminar Houses.
We made it back, tired as ever, but satisfied at our adventure for the day and ready to take on the next roommate field trip.

October 25, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Roommate Fieldtrip! YAY!

Aright, so I’m skipping ahead a couple weekends, but I figured I should blog about today/yesterday since it’s fresh in my mind, and for some reason I’m feeling especially motivated right now.

Saturday, October 10th, as in 1 hour and 24 minutes ago (according to the current time). Go!:

First thing is that I wake up around 9 a.m. to get a head start on the day. Some of the flatmates, as in Jenay, Karoline, Lain, and Maiko, decided weeks ago that we wanted to go to Osaka this weekend because apparently there was some sort of Pokemon party of the Pokemon center. Being the subtle otakus that we are, we ended up making a Floor 3, Unit 1 field trip.

11:00 a.m.- Ikimashita (we went)! We decided to bike to Hirakata-shi because later on that day, aka that evening we were planning on going to Ringo for karaoke. Not just any kind of karaoke, but inexpensive, 8 hours karaoke. That’s right. You read that correctly. Anyways, our mission for the morning was to get to the Osaka aquarium AND to climb the smallest mountain in Japan (because we wanted to see what qualifies as being a small mountain).

Maiko (one of our Nihonjin- Japanese- flatmates) was our guide for the day and successful brought us to each place we wanted to go. We were very enthusiastic because our day was planned out so well and exited the train with a child-like excitement. Before we went to climb this mountain, we stopped at a Lawson’s because we were super hungry. After we bought the necessary food items to keep us energized during our adventure, we made our way to Japan’s smallest mountain. On the way we decided that after everything we said we would have a tiny celebration and yell out the word “YAY!” So the next 10 minutes of our walk was, “We’re going to the aquarium… YAY… We’re going to Japan’s smallest mountain… YAY… It’s such a beautiful day today… YAY…” and other random phrases along those lines. We were walking and walking and in the distance saw a really pretty and very big ferris wheel. We arrived in front of the big ferris wheel, which is located near a park that houses the smallest mountain in Japan. We looked at the park and saw a hill, eyes gaping in disbelief, “This can’t be the smallest mountain in Japan, it’s a hill…” was all we could fathom. To our satisfaction, Maiko told us that it wasn’t the smallest mountain in Japan, and that the actual smallest mountain in Japan was on the other side of the park. So we enthusiastically pressed onward and upward, looking for a mountain-like, well, mountain. Not sure what to expect and not knowing what we were looking for, we glanced around curiously. We then saw a monument that stood only meters away from the large hill that we thought was the mountain. Maiko ran to a sign opposite from us and announced that this mountain, which was in a depression lower than the large hill and did not look anything like a mountain, was the smallest mountain in Japan. HA…. HA…. HA…. HA. I cannot put our disappointment into words. It was so disappointing that all I could do was laugh my butt off and watch as the group collectively and immediately decided to leave and go to the aquarium.

Still excited about the aquarium, we went through the routine of saying “Yay” after everything. We also got our picture taken in front of the aquarium and then finally entered. The entire aquarium was build around a huge tank that is about 6 floors high and I’m not even sure how wide. This huge tank housed a whale shark, which reminded me of the humungous fish in Miyazaki’s “Ponyo”. Seriously, Miyazaki has a great imagination and all, but he was definitely inspired by the weird sea creatures of Japan. They were big and creepy. The aquarium was definitely interesting and I saw everything from confused-looking penguins to dolphins being fed. We also took a tourist picture, which Maiko will hopefully upload on her Facebook. Overall, the experience was a lot of fun, and no amount of words can ever do justice to it.

After the aquarium, we hit the gift shop and blew our moneys on amazing plush animals, plush purses, and postcards. I love gift shops. They are so bad, but so great at the same time. So after squealing over cute toys and what not that we wished we could buy, we went to find a place to do purikura. Unfortunately, the place that Maiko knew of in the mall closed down, so we headed towards the LARGEST GIANT FERRIS WHEEL in Japan! YAY! We wanted to get into a purple car, but ended up in a green one, which was perfectly fine and inevitably exactly the same as any other color (whoda thunk it?) Since my camera ran out of batteries, I had to use my cell phone camera. Oddly enough it took better pictures than my actual camera. So after an unknown amount of time and debating wßhether or not we were going to get off the LARGEST GIANT FERRIS WHEEL we actually did get off and went to our next destination for the day: POKEMON CENTER! YAY! BUT WAIT! Onaka ga suitaaaaaaaa!! (I’m hungryyyyyyyy!!) Therefore, FOOD! YAY! So the hunt for food ensued. We went to the mall and ate in the food court. I had the udon seto: Udon (type of noodle), tonkatsu (pork), and gohan (rice). Wonderful and oishii (delicious) and wonderful. :] Okay, now POKEMON CENTER! YAY!

The walk wasn’t very long, especially since Maiko-sensei did such a fantastic job at navigating. We made it to the supposed Pokemon party, BUT! (DUN DUN DUNNNNNN) when we entered, there was no party to be seen!!! Clearly a marketing trap (either that or poor translation of the flyer…Nah). Once we got our fix of Pokemon merchandise, we headed back to the train station to catch the next train back to Hirakata-shi.

Once in Hirakata-shi we walked to Ring, an inexpensive karaoke place- 800 yen (around $8.00) for 8 hours of karaoke. 8 hours of karaoke sounded incredibly intimidating, and we planned on staying just for a couple of hours. The room that we stayed in was smoky and little. We were a bit disappointed and debated getting a bigger room. However, our ideas were trumped once someone put a song on the screen: “Sakuranbo” by Ai Otsuka. I was only able to sing about 2 lines accurately. During the rest of the song, I could only pretend to know the kanji (complicated Japanese characters, that are basically taken from the Chinese language). Other songs began to appear on the screen and soon we were dancing and clapping to every song that people were choosing, whether we knew it or not. I’m really glad that Maiko (Japanese flatmate), Nana (Japanese flatmate), and Karoline (Norwegian flatmate) can sing Japanese songs. Jenay (Florida roommate), Lain (North Carolina flatmate), and I covered the English songs. It was a decent music selection for what ended up being a 5 hour time period.

After 5 hours we decided that it was probably time to go home, so we went back to our bikes, formed a parade from unit 3310 and hiked our bikes and tired bums up the giant hill that leads back to Kansai Gaidai and eventually our neighborhood Katahoko.

October 23, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

JAPANIC ATTACK! DOWN!

Sooo JaPanic Attack! has been suspended by the wonders of WordPress. THEREFORE, I had to make another blog called, get ready kids: Gomenasorry!

It’s updated weekly, but since it’s brand-spankin’-new, I have to upload all my old posts and such.

October 20, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Man vs. Machine

In the most basic way possible, Pachinko is a gambling game that involves a machine, pegs inside the machine, and little balls that ultimately decide where your money goes: Into your pocket or into the machine.

Pachinko Sign

Like casinos, time spent in these centres guarantees a lighter wallet and sensation in your ears similar to walking out of a club after a few hours. I can only vouch for the experience of being inside a centre, but not actually playing the game. Most people I have talked to were just as intrigued as I am about the sexual advertisements, bright lights, and even Engrish signs outside the Pachinko buildings.

Pachinko Engrish

Pachinko Woman

However, lack of funds and general college life has hindered us from actually playing. But what makes these places so popular? When I think about gambling of this sort, I immediately think of Mohegan Sun, a casino in the New England area, and Las Vegas. I suppose the difference is that Pachinko is everywhere. Namco City in Osaka houses many Pachinko centres; it seemed like there was one at every entrance.

People seem to be able to nonchalantly walk in, give it a go, and go home. Whereas in casinos, people plan out vacations or short holidays just to spend time in the casino or any resort around it. The idea of sitting glaze-eyed watching little balls claim the fate of my money seems like a poor alternative to sitting at home and staring blankly at my television. Then again, if I had sufficient funds, I might be motivated to try and it makes me wonder why I would be, moreover why would the public be? I suppose the reason for me to go in would be because it is something I have never tried before, a reason that would not apply to most Japanese people. There is also the chance to become even slightly richer is a tempting offer on the horizon, a sentiment that college-aged people and older seem to feel as well when stepping into these Pachinko palaces.

Here are some follow up links if you are still eager to learn about this gambling game:

Dan Reed’s “A little about the machines, and who makes (made) them”

“Pachinko Nation” by David Plotz

October 19, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

My Neighborhood Katahoko

In a small area with narrow streets, Japanese families, and stray cats are three dormitories that house many-an-international student. Though supposedly studious people, we international students come off as fairly rambunctious at times as our alcoholic antics and bike brigades are imminent incidences around the neighborhood Katahoko.

While traveling down a “short-cut” consisting of narrow, supposedly two-way streets (that really only have the capacity to let through one vehicle and not even a bike at a time), we international students pass a lot of houses lined with plants and even fewer houses lined with water bottles.

Cat Water Bottles

I did not know the significance of these water bottles. The questions to be posed were: What caused these people to use water bottles? I thought perhaps they were to collect water and in times of desperation, families would boil the water and drink it. This problem and solution reminded me of what my grandparents do at their house in the Philippines, collecting water in buckets, bottles, and big tanks during the rainy season to have water during the drought, so I did not further question the existence of these mysterious water containers.

Later on, I found out that these water bottles were not to collect water whenever it rained, but rather to scare away cats. The reason being that the cats would see their reflections in the water and it would frighten them. Therefore, the cats would run away rather than lurk around the houses. I found that I am not alone in wondering why people use these water bottles. Through Darren Barefoot‘s blog, I read that cats are not the only animal people are trying to repel. Equally as annoying are dogs, apparently, because they tend to go to the bathroom on posts and walls. I am not sure if I fully believe that these water bottles can keep dogs away since dogs are territory-markers and will mark just about everything.

Cat in Kyoto

Whatever the reason, the use of these water bottles seemed like an old wives’ tale and a superstition. I was pleasantly surprised mostly because using water bottles is a rather old-fashioned tactic even in the hustle, bustle of a very technologically savvy Japan.

October 19, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Early Impression of Japan

Pre-arrival to Japan, I used to think that Japanese shrines were places of worship. When I thought “shrines” I thought of a placid, even solemn place where people walked around in a collective state of awe. A place where the spirits resided and left their residue on those who rang bells, prayed, and left little messages- possibly a note to a loved one or maybe a wish for prosperity- on thin, white rice-colored pieces of parchment.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

These days, shrines and temples now house those who not only wish for prosperity, but also live out their wish of gaining prosperity: Shop keepers. On a very atsui (hot) day during orientation week, a large amount of gaijin signed up for the Kyoto tour. Since there were so many gaijin, the huge group was broken up into little groups with a random amount of Japanese speaking partners. After the introductions, small talk, and train ride, our group arrived in Kyoto and walked to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. I was ready to see the temple and walk on a path where many people paying their respect to whatever transcendent being they wished. The whole process of entering the temple, washing the hands and cleaning the mouth seemed like a very serious ritual, so I was enthusiastic to have a go at it.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

I suppose I had a highly romanticized view on shrines because after that small ritual, we entered the beginning of what seemed like a huge shopping district. However, there were people ringing bells and partaking in spiritual rituals, even though not even fifteen away there was a shop taking advantage of tourists and the full wallets. The juxtaposition definitely left me a bit disappointed. My disappointment did not go unnoticed and a few of my group members let me know that most shrines have become tourist attractions, which then caused the creation and arrival of small shops. These shops do sell objects that somehow relate to the shrine-experience. For example, we found many fortune and talisman shops on our winding way up the mountain.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the somewhat peaceful walk up even though it was infiltrated by the squeals of hopeful girls receiving positive fortunes.

October 19, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

October 19, 2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

For weekly updates…

Hey all,

If you like checking up on this blog and have noticed that I’m failing at keeping it up-to-date, fear not. I have an academic blog that you can also check out that gets updated weekly. Though it’s an academic blog, as in my professor reads the posts and comments on them, the observations are just as sincere as they would be on this blog.

As for this blog, it will be kept alive! More than one post a month is definitely a goal.

That’s it for now!

Check out: JaPanic Attack!

October 7, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Only one month later…

Silver Week: Sunday
OSAKA! I choose YOU!
            Today was amazing. A few days ago, Kaitlin, Lain and I decided that we wanted to go to Osaka and find the infamous Pokemon Center located there.
The day started off at mediocre because I ended up paying 280 yen over on the bus to Hirakata because I’m basically ignorant to the formalities of obtaining change on public transportation. Then, when we went inside the train station and bought a ticket, I thought I lost my ticket about 2 minutes later and it was only after a minor influx of annoyance that I found the ticket and we were on our way.
After successfully switching trains from the Keihan line to the Osaka Loop, a bit of confusion set in when we realized we didn’t know what stop we wanted to get off at… and we were already on the train… moving in a direction we didn’t know whether or not was correct. No matter, we ended up getting off a stop early, waited for the next train to come, then squished our way in for a short ride to Osaka center.
We thought that the trains were confusing, but the exits to the station were just as bad. Lain had been to Osaka before and so we relied on her good memory and sense of direction to get us to where we needed to go. Unfortunately, I thought the north gate seemed like a nice place to go, and steered the group in the wrong direction (haha whoops). Backtrack #1 of the day: We went back to the station and decided to head out another gate. We were incorrect yet again, however decided that since we were going to spend a day in Osaka, we might as well just look around. Lain also recognized the area a little bit and so we figured we were on the right track.
We walked and walked and realized that we had no idea where we were, so I reverted to a game that my friend Emily Ramlow likes to play called: “Left, Right”. Essentially, you go down a road and when you get to an intersection or fork or any kind of path that splits into multiple parts, you ask the group “Left? Right?”. Whatever direction they choose is the direction you all go. Oh it’s definitely a fun game. Especially when you don’t know where it is you’re going.
Left: We headed left at a huge intersection. While we were walking I looked up at the skyscrapers and saw two huge construction cranes sitting on top. It was amusing for me, so I had to pose the question, “How did they get up there?!” A question to which we had the theory: A helicopter probably dropped them off. Dang it, Japan and your innovative ways. As we walked down and admired the building, we came to what looked like an alley filled with restaurants. We found out that it was actually an alley filled with restaurants that attached to many of passages lined with restaurants, pachinko, and 100 yen shops.
We played some “Left, Right” in there and the whole thing seems to be a blur, but we ended up getting out of that shopping area and into a similar one. In this shopping spot, we found an arcade that had a photo booth to do Purikura because we’re gaijin and think we’re cool haha. So we went to go to Purikura, but only after we spent a few hundred yen trying to get toys we really don’t need out of the crane machine game.
Purikura is a lot of fun. We didn’t really know how difficult it was to decorate those pictures because the Japanese girls usually did it for us. Unfortunately, I didn’t send any of the pictures to my phone, but we did print them out and now they’re stickers ON my phone. :] After finally finishing Purikura, we left the arcade and wandered to another part of the shopping area where we found a pet shop!
This pet shop had a number of dogs, a few birds, a few bunnies, and one monkey. They were all super cute! There was a little play pen in the middle of the store where some dogs were sleeping or trying to get the attention of a passerby. These dogs felt super grody, but were really, really cute. It was really sad though because some of the dogs looked so ill. :[ I wish I could just take them home!
On a less depressing note, in the back of the store, among parrots, parakeets, and bunnies, was a MONKEY. Yes. A monkey that was a curious little bugger. It grabbed my camera a couple of times, but I thought it was amusing because- I mean come on- it’s a monkey. After satisfying my “being amused by a monkey” quota, I went back to the puppies because I’m a sucker for them and I can’t help it. At PetCo and PetSmart in the States, I would blow air through the cracks of cages and window cases to see how the animals react. Most of the time, birds just moved away or stayed put; ferrets don’t care; and dogs react. It seemed like these puppies were so excited to see a human other than the workers at the shop. I felt soooo bad when they came up to the window and pawed at the glass! Wah wah wah. I know. I can’t help it…
Anyways, we were a little bit depressed at the sight of those puppies, so we ended up leaving and after another round of “Left, Right’ we found the exit to the place. The area is called Namco Center and right across the street was a huge ferris wheel. YES. Lain recognized the place and we decided to pursue our original plan: Find the Pokemon Center! Off we went into another alley in the direction of the ferris wheel.
This path led us past restaurants, more shop and restaurants that tempted us to go in and purchase everything. We finally found our way to the mall where Lain realized where we were. Kaitlin and I were then led successfully to the Pokemon Center Osaka!! Since the day had been going really well and we realized a long time before that we would be satisfied even if we didn’t see the Pokemon Center, we decided to eat before going inside. The place to eat: MOS Hamburger. At first, I was a little wary on eating fast food since I hadn’t been feeling too well the entire week, but then for no logical reason other than the fact that I was hungry, I decided what the hell and got a burger anyways. It’s a good thing I had because it turns out MOS hamburgers are nothing short of very delicious!
So we inhaled these magical burgers, sat and digested, and finally made our way to the Pokemon Center. At first, I was just excited because of the anticipation. After I entered my inner otaku became super giddy at the sight of plush Pikachus and Pokemon phone charms. The place was super crowded and even looking at an item for more than 10 seconds granted a dirty look from surrounding clientale. After moseying around the store for an amount of time I don’t remember, I decided I should probably pay for my Evee keychain, pokeball (yes, that’s right DDave, if you’re reading this, I made sure to get you a pokeball), and super cute Pikachu plush.
While I waited for my friends Lain and Kaitlin to follow suit, I stood patiently by the door, watching excited kids and, oddly enough, just as excited adults get shamelessly and loudly greeted at the entrance. Then, I heard it… “PIIIIIKACHUUU”… the sound of little children calling for an animated pocket monster grabbed my attention. Once again, “PIIIIIKAAAAACHUUUU!!”… and all of a sudden, a giant Pikachu (giant, being a relative terms since this Pikachu was Asian-sized; therefore around 5 feet to 5 foot 5 inches) comes bounding out to the sounds of pleased children and a general Japanese onomatopoeia  of surprise, “Ehhhhhhhhhh!!” I was completely and utterly surprised and satisfied at this event and couldn’t be happier to witness it.
Lain and Kaitlin finally came outside and we decided that our day was over, so we should probably head back to Katahoko. On our way back, we stopped at a crepe shop and we each got something different: Kaitlin got a crepe, Lain got tea with tapioca, and I got a mango ice cream. Oishii desu yo! :] We then circled the area about twice, tried to find our way back, got lost a few times, and eventually asked for directions to find the Osaka railway.
Success. We found the railway, got on the correct train this time, and enjoyed the relaxing wait for our stop, Hirakata-shi. From there were took a bus back, and while we were waiting, we sat down on a bench. I saw two elderly people a man and a woman out of the corner of my eye, and as a reflex jumped up and asked them if they wanted to sit down. They gladly accepted the gesture and told us we could sit down next to them. We said it was ok, and stood until the bus came. To our surprise, the Nihonjin man greatly appreciated our random act of kindness and once we were all settled on the bus, he threw a package of these cracker-type things to Lain and gestured that we were to share it. We were tickled to death and couldn’t stop saying “Arigatou gozaimasu!” Halfway through the ride, and after a lot of giggling, the man got our attention once again by handing Kaitlin more food. This time they were some kind of puffed rice type of thing (sorry I don’t know how to describe them) that had a slight taste of ginger. Again, we were struck with gratitude. So Lain drew a picture of the man and of herself, then told us to draw ourselves as well. Since Kaitlin and I both knew we’d fail at it, we just decided to write “thank you”. I wrote it in romaji and in Spanish! Had to. When it was our stop, we handed him the little note, gave a deep bow and a very sincere “domo arigatou gozaimasu”. We all walked back to Sem House 3, laughing at the best parts of the day and even how we got lost. We were all extremely satisfied at the adventure we had and made sure that we would do it again one day.
All in all, the day couldn’t have turned out any better. :] 

October 7, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Remember, remember, the 6th of September… haha :]

6 September 2009
Phase 1: The Ground Attack
So let’s backtrack to the Kyoto Tour on September 4th. Firstly, the day started off normally, wake up, take a shower, say hey to the flat mates. While in the bathroom, another flat mate was there and asked me if I had any band-aids. I told her yes, so I headed back to my room to grab them. When I headed into the room, I scurried over to my backpack that resided on my chair across the room from me. When I got to the edge of the tatami mats to where our desks are located, something scurried across the floor and headed towards one of my roommate’s bed sheets there were crumpled on the floor. Much to my dismay, the scurrying little creature was a cockroach! It fled into the crevices of the sheet, and I freaked out a bit and took three giant leaps out of the room. After running into the bathroom to squeal like a little girl, I decided I should probably tell the roommates. So I went back in, and I can’t quite remember how I delivered it, but I just remember that I said there was a cockroach in Jenay’s sheets. After equipping ourselves with necessary weapons to kill the cockroach, i.e. slippers- “no not slippers, those are mine!”, so sneakers, we were at the ready to strike the cockroach after one of us lifted the sheet.
Phase 2: The Hunt
            After one of us tentatively lifted the sheet, the little beast came running out and retreated behind Jenay’s desk. We tried to look behind the desk and found that there were gaps between the drawers, so the cockroach, we decided, could be anywhere in there. We realized that no amount of tapping and searching the nooks and crannies of the desk that we could actually reach would coax the cockroach out, so we temporarily parted ways and reassured ourselves that “at least there was only one of them.”
            Phase 3: The Aerial Attack/ Battle of the Week
            I don’t remember how much time passed throughout this process, however the event did occur early morning around 7 a.m.. It’s a good thing we were still a bit jet lagged and woke up super early or else that cockroach could have crawled all over our sleeping faces. However, we were all wide-awake once the word “cockroach” was said.
            Katie and I were scanning the room when the cockroach scurried back behind my desk. Some amount of time must have gone by between this event and the battle of the week. During this time, we all rolled up our futons and blankets, put our clothes and suitcases in the closet, and hoped that the cockroach wouldn’t get into our things as we went our separate ways to get ready for the day.
            I reentered the room, as did Katie and then the magic happened. The cockroach was now calmly climbing the wall. After a bit of squealing from a communal “Ohhhhh mannnn”, and me Katie and I gathered our weapons and became battle ready. However, we didn’t have any plan of attack to get the beast off the wall and not in our faces. While keeping an eye on the beast, we shoved things away from the wall to clear the surrounding area. Then, it happened, the cockroach FLEW from one wall to the other!! SHOOOOOTTTT!! After a lot of “HOLY CRAP IT JUST FLEW! WHAT THE FRICK?!”, Katie and I focused on killing the thing.
Phase 4: A Proud Moment for 3313
At this point Jenay reentered the room, saw that it was on the wall, and found something to throw at it: Her Swine Flu masks. So I threw the box of masks at the cockroach. It then flew off the wall, flew back onto the wall and quickly scurried into the crack between Jenay’s closet door and the floor. After we made sure everyone had a sneaker and that our stuff was moved out of the way, I opened the closet door with my foot and the beast came running out. Katie was the first out of the gate to kill the beast. I, on the other hand, was yelling “I GOT YOUR BACK!” while shoving piles of things away from the cockroach’s path. As I shoved a suitcase over, I only heard screaming, a lot of sneaker-hitting-floor sounds, and then a final victory yell, signaling that we had killed the beast!
            Katie’s recollection of that part of the story was that she blacked out a bit when she actually landed my sneaker on the beast, killing it. Jenay was still screaming because she thought it was alive, and I screamed because I thought she was screaming that there was another one. However, the battle was over (assuming that there is only one of them).
            Quality bonding time at the start of an amazing day. I never want to do that AGAIN!
Gokiburi Day Part 2: Adventures in Kyoto

(Kana is missing from the picture… because she’s taking it…haha)
            So the day began with killing a cockroach and continued with other orientation meetings and eventually a trip to Kyoto. More than 100 international students signed up to go to Kyoto. 100 people would be too much to corral, so the Japanese Speaking Partners became leaders of each group and gave the gaijin (meaning “foreigner”) the tour of Kyoto.
            Off we went, walking to the train station in the heat and humidity. Our group of gaijin and Japanese was super fun and we had no problems striking up conversation. Some of us didn’t know very much Japanese, while the others knew a lot more. And on the other side, some of the Speaking Partners knew very little English, while others knew a lot. It was an interesting mix because the ones who couldn’t speak poorly in Japanese would have to pull over a friend to translate and the same happened with those who couldn’t speak English well. When we finally arrived at the station, the group managed to talk about different topics, from goals to famous foods from each State. Since I’m from Boston, I described lobster and clam chowder like they were foods for the gods (haha). Even though we brought up good conversation, the weather was so hot and oppressing that the thought of being in a stuffy train made me a little anxious. After buying a ticket and peering over the Japanese people to see what to do next, we moseyed our way to the train. To my surprise, they were above ground, much different from the trains in Spain (lie mainly in the plains? Haha) They were actually less ghetto than I thought they were AND had air conditioning to boot!
            After switching trains at a station I can’t remember and listening to the sound of fake birds go off at short, even intervals (we didn’t know why either), we arrived in Kyoto. I felt like a little child as I walked, followed, and looked around without watching where I was going. There was so much to see and I had no idea where we were or where we were going. When we finally arrived at the Kiyomizu temple (according to my friend Nori), the first thing to do was be a tourist and take pictures! I didn’t feel too bad because the girls in our group took lots of pictures too, making my dorky, American tourist look a little bit less out-of-place.
            We entered the shrine area and had to wash our hands and mouth in a certain way. First, grab the ladle with your right hand and wash the left, then switch and wash the right, then put the ladle back in your right hand, get water from the spout, put it in your hand, drink the water from your hand, swish it in your mouth, and spit it out into the drain area. Sorry spirits, I made a mistake (and hopefully won’t be smote for it), I actually pretended to put the water in my mouth for fear that I might die from drinking it. That’s right. I’m just that paranoid.  However, I did wash my hands and when I was finished, I passed the ladle to the next person using my right hand, which is what we’re supposed to do apparently. It was a little bit confusing, but I got it by the second try halfway up the mountain.
            I didn’t mention that this place was located on the base/ side of a mountain. It was very beautiful; home to greens, beautiful views, and small business around every corner. Shrines have become more like business these days, and though these businesses are connected to the spiritual factor of the shrines, i.e. fortunes and charms, the monetary aspect really didn’t sit well with me. I saw it as disrespectful, but then again, these businesses were probably blessed, while here I was about to be smote for not washing my mouth at the entrance!
            On the way up, we got free Japanese sweets, which were amazing and I regret not taking a picture of them! We also found lots of fun stores like a store completely dedicated to Hayao Miyazaki. It was filled with all things Totoro, Ponyo, Spirited Away, and much, much more! It was such a wonderful place that I wish I could just go back and stand in it! I also wish I had a lot of money because I would have definitely bought lots more things!! Anyways, we took lots of pictures outside of the store because there was a big wooden Totoro waiting for giddy tourists to come stand by it.
            We walked up and up and up, then eventually head down the mountain for some food, because at this point all we were saying was, “Tsukareta” (Tired), “Atsui” (Hot), and “Onaka ga suita!” (I’m hungry!).  In response to our grumbling stomachs and constant whining, the group headed into what I believe was the center of Kyoto. The gaijin (foreigners) followed the Japanese speaking partners blindly as we made our way across big intersections and crowded sidewalks. Finally, we seemed to be at the place the SPs (speaking partners) wanted to be, and we stood outside in a Japanglish nodding in some sort of agreement fest, then headed down narrows stairs into a small, basement-like restaurant. However, the smallness and dimness only added to the comfortable, laidback atmosphere, and jazz music accompanied the sound of we gaijin-folk going “Ohh, ahh” at a neat bead waterfall structure.
            After spending a good amount of time asking “What is this? Ohhh What is this??” to the speaking partners and eventually choosing something to order, the group waited anxiously for our okonomiyaki. When the food finally arrived, we gaijin watched curiously as the Japanese girls prepared their okonomiyaki. First, they put some sort of sauce on it. There was a spicy sauce and a mild sauce. I put both sauces on half-and-half, then proceeded to watch the process. Second, the girls decorated their okonomiyaki with some kind of mayonnaise. It’s actually a very artistic process and the end result was very pretty
Lastly, it was time to EAT! Oh man, I had never tried okonomiyaki before, and I’m not sure if it was because I was hungry or because the dish was actually good, but this okonomiyaki was FANTASTIC!!
            When we were finished eating, the group headed out into the busy streets of (what I think was) Kyoto center. Guided by our new Japanese friends, we moseyed along the sidewalks, searching for the train station. After successfully finding the station, buying a ticket, and eventually realizing their were seats in the isle next to the train doors, we sat and enjoyed our ride to what we thought was home.
            The group spent the ride home in two groups of four; our Japanese friends on one side, and we gaijin on the other.  Of course, we gaijin were completely confused because it seemed like we were not taking the same route back as we did to get to Kyoto. I’m not sure whether or not we asked the girls  where we were going, but I know that even if we had, the question was not answered because when we exited the train, we gaijin were still confused as to where we were located.
            Just like the rest of the day, the gaijin followed the SPs all the way to an arcade. 
Why an arcade? Because in this arcade, there was PURIKURA. Ohhhh, purikura. What a guilty pleasure. Nothing is better than multiple peace sign pictures in a photo booth with beauty lights. We were all looking pretty apprehensive as we stood outside the purikura booth, waiting for a group of giggling schoolgirls to come out, ready to add cute katakana, stars, and hearts to their photos. It was our turn next and all eight of us piled into the photo booth. After a little bit of confusion, we made silly poses and what not, exited the booth, and waited as the purikura pros dressed up our pictures with our names in katakana.
YATTA! The end products:
 
 
 
(My eyes look super anime. Just throwing that out there.)
The day was pretty much at its end, as Kaitlin and I found out by sneaking a peak at a yellow sheet that laid out the plan for the day. Too bad it was all in Japanese characters. Even so, we knew that it was time to go home. After an awkward goodbye to the SPs, the gaijin hopped on the bus that took a direct route to KG. Once at the KG stop, all the gaijin hopped off. Some of the group was smart enough to go through the school; however, Kaitlin, Noah, and I didn’t even think to check the front gate, so we walked the long route home only to eventually meet up with those who went through the KG campus.
            Our original group of four gaijin parted ways to our Seminar Houses. And with that, our day was done.
Sorry for the incredibly long, delayed post! Mata ne!

September 13, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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