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紅葉 – Autumn colours

Whew so it’s been like a month. Whoops. So i’m gonna back track to autumn and talk about the Japanese obsession with 紅葉(koyo) – the autumn leaves changing colour. A phenomenon i don’t much care about in England except to vaguely appreciate the pretty autumness of it all. But in Japan, oh ho no, they go bat-shit crazy about it all. People flock from all round the country to go and see some pretty autumn leaves.

In my case i went to osaka with TRUSS (language group) and climbed up, a very crowed, hill to go leaf spotting.

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There you could buy fried Maple leaves. Yes leaves. They tastes fine but i think that’s down the amount of sugar they put in XD

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Next on the list was Kyoto. Chloe, Kristen and I wanted to catch the end of the brief 2 weeks of leaves changing and go to 清水寺(kiyomizudera) temple; which means clear/pure water. Which a famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto where legend has it that if you jump from the 13m stage your wish will be granted. A practice that’s now prohibited. Naturally.

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This is the love rock (i have no idea what it’s actual name is. But there’s a similar one about 10 feet away and it’s said that it you close your eyes and can get from one to the other without obstruction your love with last forever.

And although it was so crowded it was beautiful and so many people were wearing pretty kimonos.

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…others were wearing heels..on a mountain. We judged them.

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We also had the best crepes ever on the way back

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六甲祭

So over the weekend was the Kobe university festival. Basically all japanese university’s (and schools i think) have these festivals and i have to say i had SO.MUCH.FUN. It was basically a weekend full of a lot of stalls selling different types of food, run by the various circles/societies. Also everyone here seems to be in one kind of band or another so there was a constant stream of music wherever you went. The were also some performances, though unfortunately i didn’t get to see any (apart from so frickin amazing joint jump rope skipping performers).

Now i really want to get out more and join some university societies so i’d previously emailed the head of the calligraphy(書道shodo) society (who actually turned out to be my japanese friend’s 先輩 -senpai-senior in her part time job) who had said of course we could come along and try. Because his name was ichimura he said to call him icchi, though he spelt it ‘itchy’ ..i don’t think he knew the english meaning of that word but he was super nice. He first off talked about the club and showed us some of the scrolls that the members had done and boy were they amazing. Next he drew a character as an example for us and it was just…professional, like wow. It was kinda embarrassing to try and follow it ^^; but we all sat down and had a go, hands shaking all the while, but i loved it and he was so welcoming, which really helped as it was a little bit intimidating considering all the members are japanese T^T.

We 3 then spent the rest of the day wondering around. Because we are foreigners we attracted a LOT of attention so we were constantly bombarded with people wanting to try out their english and trying to get us to come to their stall.               Although that kind of attention was quite nice and we did feel quite famous by the end of the day, after we’d eaten at like 6 stalls and were stuffed we then had to start awkwardly refusing people’s invitations to their stalls and for anyone who hasn’t turned down a japanese person before, it’s a little bit heart-breaking ;__;

On sunday i went back to the festival, but this time to work. The IC Cafe which is for international students and japanese students interested in other countries/languages was selling わらびもち(warabi mochi) which i really don’t know how to describe but it’s like wobbly, rice flour jelly goo which you put matcha power and various sauces on and tastes way better than this sounds i promise!

Unfortunately it rained the whole day so people were tending towards hot food so with our best 頑張ろう(ganbaro -try our best) faces we went out into the crowd and yelled for 4 hours; and the five of us, soaked through, had a ball i can assure you. Ryota was the only japanese so he was would teach a kansai ben phrase (kansai ben is the regional dialogue, i’ll probably do a post about this at some point) every few minutes which we would yell out into the crowd, much to the amusement of the other students.

For the benefit of other japanese language students here’s some examples:

そこのイケメンのお兄さん、わらびもちを買うへん? = そこのイケメンのお兄さん、わらびもちを買わない?
soko no ikemen no oniisan, warabi mochi o kauhen?
not sure how to translate but something like, Hey cutie how about buying some warabi mochi?

めっちゃうまいで = とてもおいしいよ
metcha umaide
It’s soo delicious!

ほんまやで = 本当だよ
honmayade
It’s true!

お腹が減ってるやろ?お見通しやで! = お腹がすいた? お見通しだよ!
onaka ga heteruyaro? omitoshiyade
Are you hungry?? I bet you are!

These festivals seem to me a perfect example of the japanese spirit. Everyone worked so hard together and took so much pride in what they were doing, that it didn’t matter that it rained and everyone was damp and cold because they created such a great atmosphere.

Now girls i briefly want to introduce, should any of you plan a trip to Japan, something you will unfortunately undoubtably come across…This monstrosity:

Believe it or not ladies and gentlemen, this is in fact a women’s toilet, and is also the reason i wait resolutely beside the one door that says  洋 (yo – western). There is something so degrading about crouching down on the floor to pee,  an action that i associate as being a last resort, like when you’re stuck camping in the middle of nowhere and have no choice but to dash off to the bushes whilst everyone else pretends not to listen. I’m pretty sure only japanese people have the innate ability and leg strength to use these and why on earth they still have them mingled in with these:

..is beyond me. The above toilet comes complete with an array of buttons that control the strength of jets of water should you want to..clean yourself. They also have heat seats; though i find this super creepy as it feels like your sitting in the last person’s arse warmth >_<. So girls (and guys?? i don’t know what their bathroom is like but i imagine it’s not so much of a problem) i’m sorry to say that if you take a trip to Japan, at some stage or another the Japanese style loo may be your only option. Good luck.
..Moving on. Last week we had our health checks. Now fair enough if they want to check that no one has any horrifically contagious diseases (though i’m pretty sure you wouldn’t get into the country if you did) but the extent that we were poked and prodded and examined was, to be frank, ridiculous. The day started by peeing into your own origami cup at home as they wanted you to bring in a urine sample. They also asked that you filled out and brought a questionnaire they had given us complete with questions like “do you blush easily?” “do you feel nervous about your future?” “are you healthy?” …yeah. We arrived at the university hospital around 10:30 and had to wait in line for about 20 mins before filling out some forms and the madness began.
First they wanted to check you’d had the MMR jab. Fine. Next they took your height and weight on some fancy machine. Okay. Then we were told to go upstairs where we discovered a whole corridor of tests we had to go through. Girls and boys split off and you could choose which order you did your tests in. Me and some friends went for our xray first. Yep, that’s right XRAY. We were given basket and asked to remove the garments under our t-shirts, went outside behind some curtains and into some rickety old caravan where one by one we were pushed up against a panel in a tiny booth as they took the xray. We then marched back into the hospital to redress over our tiny little yellow basket.
Urine sample line was the shortest so we went there next where they emptied it out onto some tissue paper and gave you a stamp depending on the result…i got (土) ..i have no idea what that means but judging by the amount of coffee i’d drank that morning it probably meant i was dehydrated.
Then we went to get electro cardiograms???…maybe, i wasn’t sure..something to do with your heart beat and guess what, out came the baskets again and there was a distinct concentration camp feel about being shoved around half-dressed, having people yank you t-shirt up to stick those weird dr sticky pads on your chest.
Next we went to get our blood pressure taken. Mine was fine, my friend got such a high result the little old ladies got startled and started talking about how she should be dead with that reading…luckily it was just the machine playing up.
Next was eyes where instead of the usual look at the letters test we had to play a sort of game where you had to spot where the gap in the circle was move the joystick in that direction.
At this point we thought we were done and could escape only to be told we’d missed a room and had to traipse back to get our general checkup done where they listened to our heartbeat and felt our necks.
Before finally escaping we were given a little sticker for our students cards and a lovely little leaflet on AIDS. Joy. After feeling vaguely violated we all went and binged on food at the uni’s cafeteria.

It’s not all scarring experiences here however as over the weekend we went to OSAKA! Now having been there the last time i was in japan i was already exciting because i love this city. Actually love it. The people are so 元気 (genki -energetic/lively) and have the weirdest fashion sense. Firstly we met up with my friend from Sheffield who is studying at Osaka university and from there we went to アメリカ村(america mura-village). We first got okonomiyaki, which i think i’ve talked about before, but its like a savoury pancake and with low expectations i ordered the spicy one, and it was actually spicy *A* not just yucky wasabi poo.

Stuffed, we went onto the shops and there are so many cool little boutiques/hippy shops and unlike Kobe shopping which is more like fashionable frilly expensive stuff it was a much cooler student fashion. AND there are two giant H&M’s side by side in the main street! We of course also went the famous part with the giant Glico man ^^ though i don’t really have that many pictures sorry! Though it’s only about £5 return and a half an hour train journey there so i imagine there will be many trips back in the near future.

 

And hey guess what else we did

 

..i have no idea why these have come out sideways *shrugs*

There was some drinking after that before we piled back onto the train and eventually made it back to the dorm. Big thanks to nicks home stay mother who was kind enough to come pick us up when we missed the last bus ^^;

十月

Wow, ok so it’s been like a month. MY BAD. But there has been so much to do, so the following post will be a vague play-by-play of everything i can remember, in little to no detail due to my lack of being organised and not writing things down.

05/10/12

As part of my course I have to pick at least one other class that’s not my language class; though it doesn’t actually matter if I pass this class or not. Some of them looked really interesting eg, calligraphy, Japanese folklore, traditional history…none of which I could find and am pretty sure they are spring semester courses *sigh* So a lot of the exchange students and I decided to take one of the recommended classes for us ‘Japanese communication.’ I was a little wary because this was a recommended class so I thought It might be a little boring but it was actually really fun. We first spent 10 minutes walking round the class introducing ourselves and giving our names out, I had been late so had rushed there and was a sweaty mess so not sure I made a good impression XD. Me and another Japanese guy collected the most names and so the teacher tested us on the names we’d collected D:> luckily whenever she called a name out the person would turn round and stare at me, so I could take a pretty good guess. After that one by one the teacher paired a foreign student with a Japanese and asked them to conduct an interview IN FRONT OF THE CLASS …we ran out of time before me and Chloe got our turn luckily.

06/10/12

Today one of the Japanese students (who had actually done his year abroad in Manchester, and discovered, much to his dismay, the Manchester accent) invited us to explore some of Kobe. So we met them at the station and went down into Sannomiya. From there we looked at the shops and walked down into the huge china town 南京町 (Nankin-machi) they have in kobe (the biggest in Japan). There, there were basically a lot of stalls selling buns. Sweet delicious buns. Me and Chloe tried a 豚まん(buta man) which is a kind of sweet dough filled with pork; which resulted in us becoming slightly addicted and as they sell them in most コンビに (konbini – convenience stores) a lot of money gets spent on them.

After that we slowly meandered our way down to harbour land. This is the edge of Kobe where the harbour is so there are LOTS of photo opportunities. We were going to go on the ferris wheel but it was a little bit expensive so we went up Kobe tower. This is Kobe’s, much smaller *cough*andwaaycheaper*cough* version of the Tokyo skytree. But the views were amazing.


And of course we ended the day by piling into a tiny purikura booth.

Then came the day of the dreaded placement test. I’m doing the integrated japanese course which means i can pick any lessons i want but first everyone has to take a grammar, reading, listening test to find out their ability level; you can also take a kanji and conversation test if you want to take those classes. ..It went, fine i guess. Grammar was easily the worst. The conversation part was actually kinda fun. You go in one by one and sit across from a smiley japanese lady who asks you progressively more difficult questions. I kinda took the conversation into my own hands to avoid the questions by going off on a prepared rant about england the second she asked where i was from. Though because of that she asked me to do a roleplay in keigo (honorific form) where i had to ring my boss and explain when i was ill….i had literally no clue how to do this so i made it up. This concluded with her saying はい、ありがとうございます。ベッキー電話の会話は難しいね (ok thank you. telephone conversations are hard eh?) T^T Nevermind.

…After the first week of classes these tests seemed rather redundant. I was basically advised to do either intermediate or upper intermediate and so wanting the challenge me and my friends tried upper intermediate classes. Where the teachers seemed shocked that there were so many of us and so tested us again or tried to scare us into moving down a level; where the classes were just as full. This happened mainly due to the fact that this year Kobe uni has the most foreign students it’s ever had ( a whole 230 out of like 10000) and NONE of the teachers talk to each other apparently as every class we went to had the same reaction. Just another example of an expectation of japan that was not met. Japan can safely cross ‘organised’ off it’s resume.

Though perhaps the view from the 留学生センター(exchange students centre) makes up for it.

Oji zoo

Oji zoo is relatively nearby to our dorm and TRUSS (i forget what this actually stands for, but its a student exchange program…thing) organised a day trip there for the students where we were split into groups and went off exploring.

The famous Anpan man

Group 8! We got cookies for filling out our questionnaire (not as a prize…everyone got one)

 After some internet research a few of us gathered to try out a British pub called the Hobgoblin downtown. It’s right across from the station but was up about 7 floors so it took us a little while to find ^^; The owner had actually studied at Sheffield uni! Small world.

Although this was delicious and oh so 懐かしい (natsukashii – nostalgic) i’m not in a rush to pay 900円 (bout £7.50) for a pint of cider again T^T

A trip to the nearby Awaji island had been arranged by our tutors so we caught a coach from ridiculous o’clock on saturday. For some reason the island is famous for onion so EVERYTHING was onion themed. My friend even tried onion ice cream…it’s kinda like vanilla with an onion-y aftertaste…yum.


While there we had the privilege to not only watch the most amazing puppet show i have ever seen, but also go back stage and try the puppets ourselves. I have to admit i wasn’t really interested beforehand but as soon as one of the puppeteer came out to explain how the dolls worked everyone was enthralled. They just completely brought them to life with the most delicate of touches. As opposed to being on strings there were about three people all in black operating legs, arms etc. I wish i could have videoed it. The play they put on was….something about 2 samurai’s but it was all in old japanese so even the japanese students didn’t understand it. The puppets were accompanied by shamisen music and the storyteller who made the most inhuman, possessed by the devil noises i think i’ve ever heard.

After that we made a very short stop at a ‘science museum’ and watched the most fascinating film on the tide that’s under the bridge to the island. Well, i say fascinating in perhaps the same way that watching paint dry  has a certain morbid fascination.

We were then led to some decrepid building in a secluded spot, though no one really knew why, either due to us not listening or we hadn’t actually been told; we just knew there was a vague promise of a BBQ on horizon. But as we took off our shoes and slowly filed into the empty building to huddle together upstairs there was a faint ominous feeling that this was the start of some strange onion orientated horror film. It turns out, a couple of the Japanese students had just gone to buy the food and we had to wait for them. Still nothing like a sense of the dramatic to liven up the day.

Because leaving food/drink is a big no no in japan, at the end of the evening we were told we could take what we like. Naturally everyone rushed to stock up on alcohol…this led to a very drunken coach ride home.

In other news, i regret my previous decision to take Japanese communication. I only understand about 50% of that class which might have been ok if the other foreign students weren’t so freakin ペラペラ (perapera – fluent). I just try to sit next to my japanese friends and ask them what the hell is going on T^T

Having heard from other Sheffield friends i heard that basically you’d be a little bit ahead of your course and would be studying pretty easy grammar, at least at the beginning, i wasn’t really prepared for the actuality in Kobe. Perhaps because you have the chance to pick your own classes here it’s slightly different but the gap between intermediate and upper intermediate is just huge. I’m mostly in intermediate classes but some are stupidly easy but the level above it just too high ¬_¬

Kyoto

Last weekend i went to visit a few of my Sheffield friends that are currently studying in Ritsumeikan university in Kyoto. Kobe is pretty conveniently placed in that Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya, Kamakura etc are all relatively nearby and so it’s not too expensive to go sightseeing. We mainly went shopping and looked around some temples. We ended up next to the 鴨川 (Kamo-gawa) which is a river where all the couples and young people hang out. It was so good to see friendly faces again 🙂

The mandatory purikura

飲み会・飲み放題・食べ放題 (Drinking party. All you can eat. All you can drink)

Sooo, we wanted to go drinking. So our lovely japanese friends arranged a night for us ^^ Where we went to an 居酒屋 (izakaya – pub) There were about 20 of us so we had a ‘room’ to ourselves. I put that in quotation marks because although it has a sliding door, it’s more like just a section of the place. As it was all you can eat and drink i’m sure you can imagine what the rest of the night was like..

チーズたこ焼き

ぶどうサワー

Nick was vaguely horrified to find his ice cream had cornflakes in; though judging by how much cereal costs here it’s probably seen as a luxury item.

and of course, some less successful purikura

You can not fit 20 people into one of those booths.

Also note to any foreigners coming to japan, you’ll prolly have to do your research if you want to go out drinking or take a japanese person as sometimes its actually quite hard to find places because everything is built up in Japan so you’ll probably have to go to the fourth floor of some nondescript building that will open out into a bar/restaurant.

Just a point of interest. These are the パイ山(pai yama) by Sannomiya station. Named as such because パイ (pai) comes from おっぱい (oppai – boobs) and 山 (yama) means mountain. So effectively i can now say i’ve sat on Kobe’s boob. These concrete mounds are where various bands play and young people hang out at night.

01/10/12

Today was probably the longest day of my life. We needed to meet our Japanese guides at Rokko station (六甲駅) by 9 o’clock so Chloe and i decided to leave the hotel around 7 so we had about an hour and a half spare to get lost. Lugging tons of heavy suitcases through Japanese train stations is not fun I can tell you. There’s a constant stream of people going through the ticket gates so moving horizontally across the station is practically impossible without bumping into someone. But after asking (in Sannomiya of course) we actually managed to make it there with about an hour to spare so we were able to eat. At around 8:40 we started to see Gaijin (foreigners ) collecting at the ticket barrier so we went over to join them. At 9 we were led from the station and caught a bus that went steadily further and further up the mountain and went we got off, there was a lovely gigantic hill to climb with all our heavy luggage

*accurate drawing

At the end of this we were all seriously huffing and puffing. But just think how fit we’ll all be by the end of the year! T^T

Finally we arrived at Kokui Dormitory (国維寮) where we dumped our stuff in one of the meeting rooms and then slowly one by one were given millions of forms and signed, filled out and looked over room registration forms, university registration forms, and a huge information pack about how to separate your rubbish and what days to put it out on (this is waay more complicated than England and I still have no idea how to do it). Eventually we got our room keys and put away most of our stuff. I was in a different part than Chloe so afterwards a Japanese girl took me to a smaller room and left with some old Japanese man. Who took my photo for their records and gradually a couple more people turned up while he was talking to me. He then gave a very long explanation about following the rules in the dorm, taking your shoes off when you enter your room, and following the rubbish rules . This was all super-fast and only in Japanese so I only caught about half of it but the main thing I gathered from him is if you have a question/problem, ask me…I’ve a feeling he’ll know me very well by the end of the year.
We then filed back onto the bus and went to register our arrival at the Kobe prefectural office (? Or something like that) this was rather like a depressing visit to Argos, but with a lot more paperwork, constantly waiting for your number to be called before filling out other forms for health insurance etc. THEN it was about 1ish and everyone was so hungry. The Japanese discussed where to eat and what was nearby …and we ended up in KFC. Though I did have melon soda with my meal so it does count as slightly Japanese right? Right?! Having eaten we all felt a little better.
However we then embarked on another form filling trip, this time it was to open a bank account where they sat us down and talked us through the forms…as for how to use the account or transfer money, I have no idea…worry about that later. Then another bus to buy bedding etc and food stuffs. By this point it was about 6 o’clock, I’d been up for 12 hours, I hate shopping and the whole day had been just so overwhelming I just wanted to go back and sleep.
I seriously cannot thank the Japanese student volunteers that helped us today enough; without them I seriously doubt I would have been able to do any of the necessary thing or have a clue where I was going to if you ever see this blog, THANK YOU.

…I also dread to think how much I spent today. My poor wallet TAT

Here’s the view from my room.


I basically have my very own teeny tiny flat complete with everything I need *cough*exceptamicrowave*cough* Bathroom, sink, cooker, fridge, bed desk, storage. Thing one part the average westerner may not know about is the 玄関 (Genkan) which a small space by the door where you take off your shoes before entering the room. Most Japanese houses and even some restaurants will have this space.

 

02/10/12

Campus tour day. I hadn’t even left my room and I could tell it was going to be a melt your face off day. This might have been ok except Japanese people apparently don’t sweat, so you stick out even more as the SWEATY weird foreigner.

Some of my other dorm mates and i walked down the mountain (really i should say hill, but mountain sounds more dramatic) to the station where we were met by the japanese tutors who took us back up the hill (though to a different part) up to the university and showed us round. Kobe uni is huge, so it’s gonna take some getting used to. Though there’s an amazing view from the international student centre.

*side note: The cafeteria food was cheap and really nice but it’s quite intimidating when there’s a few hundred Japanese students in there staring at you T^T

There was an ebb and flow of Japanese and foreign students in the group depending on where the needed to go or what they needed to do so it was a little hard to remember names etc

I once again have to thank the Japanese students who must have been bored out of their minds trailing after us shopping (I sure was) and it took us 2 hours to get phones because there were so many of us. While there I saw the rudest person I’ve seen so far in Japan, some dolled up primadonna with claw nails and sky-high heels, flapping around her number card, huffing an puffing at the lady behind the counter who had already asked her about ten times politely to wait. Personally I thought she deserved a slap.
All in all it was a much less stressful day. But i hate shopping, so it wasn’t exactly funfunfun.

03/10/12

University orientation meeting. First off me and my dorm mates ran to go and sign up for internet (after 3 days we were desperate XD). This procedure was pretty simple, just filling out the forms but the guy from the company, bless him, was trying hard to find english words for us and at one point wrote down our internet would be connected from ’16:00 ocrock’ …my and Chloe had to stop ourselves from bursting out laughing. We then made our way to uni, this time instead of going down an up the hill we went straight across. much simpler, but still took around 40 minutes.

While there we had an introductory meeting where we were given another shed load of paper about classes,  rules etc and then each of us in turn had to 自己紹介(jikoshoukai – self introduction) in Japanese which was..terrifying but luckily i was one of the last one’s so i could copy some of the others XD The tutors that had been showing us around the past 2 days then formally introduced themselves (me instantly forgetting their names the second after the said them) before we all got lunch together. This was super nice of them and all the Japanese students made an effort to make sure no one was on their own, they were constantly reintroducing themselves.  A lot of people still hadn’t done their bank stuff etc so gradually left till there were only about 10 or so of us left so we moved next door to the IC Cafe (Holla to all my fellow Sheffield students) which is where foreign students and Japanese interested in foreign countries/people etc gather. And again there was an ebb and flow of new Japanese students who introduced themselves. By about 3:30 we left to go back to the door as we were tired the internet would be connected in our rooms from 4.

My plan tomorrow is, for the first time since arriving, to LIE IN

疲れた~

 

Tokyo – Kobe (finally)

Glad I didn’t give up on meat as shabushabu is glorious

Thursday – After yesterday’s stressful trip into Tokyo I decided to chill out for the day and to be honest, I think I really needed it. By the evening I was in a much better mood and felt a lot more relaxed and that night we went out to the restaurant where Nobuyo works to have しゃぶしゃぶ (side note: I once again got lost, missed the bus to go see her…this is becoming a habit).

The restaurant was really traditional, the staff even wore kimonos! Shabushabu is a kind of cook yourself meal where you have a basin of boiling water, and very thin strips of beef??? And various other ingredient s that you cook in the basin. And man was it delicious. The sauces especially, one was a sesame seed sauce (tastes a bit like peanut butter) and the other was a type of vinegar.

I, as a foreigner, was obviously the entertainment for the night. We were in a private room but every 5 minutes the door would slide open and another member of staff would introduce themselves and make some comment about my hair. The boss even popped his head round the door at one point and gave us some beer!  …It’s a shame me and Nobuyo both hate beer really.  BUT when it came to selecting an ice cream flavour (I picked matcha tea) they gave us one of everything! Score!

Friday – I went back to Tokyo, this time with Nobuyo. We first went to (now for a lot of this post I’ve forgotten the actual names of places so..sorry) a market, I wanna say it’s in a place called ikkeiji..*shrug* anyway there we had some sushi for lunch. However I didn’t realise that wasabi had been secretly hidden in every bit and got a bit of a shock when I put a whole one in my mouth. I then had to pick apart every piece and scrape out the wasabi because I just couldn’t stomach it and although I asked Nobuyo if this was rude and she said no, I’m pretty sure it’s not polite. Oh well.

It seems that no matter how many millions of people live in Tokyo or how big it is, it is still possible to bump into a Sheffield student; which we did in a rather surreal chance meeting near Shinjuku station.

At Shinjuku station we met up with Jenny and Tom; because we arranged to meet at the place we found each other last time it was a lot simpler. First on the list of things to do プリクラ(purikura) which is basically taking pictures in a photo booth and then doodling all over them. Also, if you ever wanted to look like a model purikura is the thing for you! So we went to find a ゲーセー(geisei game centre which is basically an arcade and for 400 yen we made cutsie poses. After you take the pictures you move to the outside of the booth where you can draw on them, add badly phrased English stamps etc and finally get them printed. If you have a Japanese phone you can also get the pictures sent there.


Me and Tom then played a game called 太鼓の達人(taiko no tatsujin) which is a bit like dance dance revolution except you’re banging Taiko drums instead.
Food time came and I wanted お好み焼き(okonomiyaki) so we wondered around till we found somewhere that did it. Okonomiyaki is basically a savoury pancake with various fillings that you pick off the menu and (this is the fun part) cook yourself on a grill in the middle of the table, then cover with sauce and mayo. Nom.


By the time we finished it was dark and it was time for karaoke – 飲み放題 (nomi houdai all you can drink) The greatest invention ever by the Japanese. We had to go to a few places to find a price we were willing to pay because it was a Friday night in the middle of Tokyo. Nobuyo, unlike a normal Japanese person, or a british one for that matter! Managed to haggle the price down even further.  So we spent the evening getting progressively more drunk (梅酒umeshu – which is delicious by the way) and singing louder and louder.

Spent a lot of time doing this one ^^;

And stumbling home at 11ish we said goodbye (me and Nobuyo had to get the last bus back to Tsukuba) I probably won’t see them now until the spring unless I go up at Christmas.

So I spent my final night at Nobuyo’s before catching the bus back to Tokyo and boarding the shinkansen (bullet train) to Kobe.

And did Becky get lost? Why of course she did. Why break the habit of a lifetime. I managed to make it to Sannomiya station in Kobe, but Sannomiya, like Shinjuku, was horrifically big with no useful signs anywhere. In the end I actually left the station and got a taxi to the hotel because screw you sannonmiya. Screw. You.

I met up with my fellow Sheffield university student Chloe at the hotel and after a nights rest we went shopping. First we went to Harbour Island where you can see the sea. Though we forgot in Japan sore tend to open and close later so a lot of places weren’t actually open till 10/11 ish. We also took a trip to the dreaded Sannomiya station because there’s a huge shopping centre nearby; but with someone else, without all of your luggage it wasn’t so bad. My favourite store was definitely Junkudo, which is 5 glorious floors of books *A* And we found a whole room full of purikura

! By this time the predicted typhoon had reached Kobe and we had to fight our way back to the hotel through what can only be described as bullet rain and tornado winds. Hilarious but terrifying. It been so strange speaking English for 2 days or so and I’ve missed speaking Japanese. The less I speak it, the less confident I become. But tomorrow we move into our dorm and I’m actually looking forward to just doing nothing for a while and having my own space to relax in.

久しぶり

So i was on my way from Saitama to Tsukuba, i only had to get 2 trains and buy a ticket in the 10 minutes i had to change between the two, how hard can that be? I’m obviously not good at this independent thing  (-__-;)

I left on the right train but during the changeover but while changing over, again, i couldn’t find the right station or where to buy a ticket. 15 minutes later and after asking around i got my ticket and was on the right platform..5 minutes after my train had left. Luckily if you miss your train in Japan, another one is usually along in the next few minutes よかった!..though the train i got on stopped 5 stops before my stop and everyone had to get off…i then had to get ANOTHER train, but it was fine in the end and waiting for me at Tsukuba Station was a friend i hadn’t seen in over a year ^^. Nobuyo had done her year abroad at Sheffield university when i was in first year and i was so excited to see her!


That evening she took me to an 居酒屋(izakaya) which is like a japanese version of a pub.

The next day after a rather stressful trip into tokyo (shinjuku station is just the worst thing ever) though i did get to meet my friends from Sheffield there ^^, Nobuyo held a Takoyaki party for me with 2 of her friends who had studied abroad in america. However, because i been speaking english all day (for the first time since arriving in Japan!) conversation was a little difficult.

Before i came to Japan i had decided, after 6 years of only eating fish, that i would eat meat because i wanted the full japanese experience. And after eating it for about a week now i come to the realisation that..i..don’t really like it ^^; and it’s made me kinda sick as my stomach isn’t used to it. But i will persevere and hopefully i’ll find something i like.

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22-year-old Chicagoan teaching English in Busan, South Korea