Friday, March 19, 2010

The Journey of the Fellowship of Oita

Spring Trip

2/25 The Tell-Tale Alarm

We left with all our luggage and walked to the station, getting on a train and then heading to Beppu, which is only about 13 minutes or so from Oita. From there we took a bus at the station. The bus dropped us within sight of the ferry and we walked over to it and after checking in at the front counter, we boarded the ship.

The room we got had 36 people total and we were only ¼ of that in number ( our 9 members we eventually started to call “The Fellowship”). The room was mostly populated with old men who looked as though they had seen better days and a younger couple. At first the boat was kind of cool we thought. There were many tyes of vending machines, entertainment and even an onboard onsen which most of us tried out. It was cool to be sitting in a nice warm bath and looking out at the darkness of the sea. However as Time to sleep approached, the appeal wore off.

For Eva and Zach, because of their sea sickness had very quickly had enough of the boat. Trying to sleep in a cramped, very hot, noisy bed where the floor is constantly moving back and forth is very hard to do. I got no sleep but tried my hand at it twice, totaling more than four hours of me closing my eyes and hoping for the best. I got fed up with it around 4:30am and walked out to the lobby and listened to music, trying to sleep in the significantly more comfortable benches of the lounge and fight off my own pangs of nausea from the sea which had not hit till 2am or so. I waited till around 5:30 when the rest of my friends came out, pissed , having been woken up, or at least annoyed by the alarms. 3 went off and one kept going off because its attendant hadn’t bothered to pay attention to it or turn off snooze. It seemed snooze was right, at least for him, because he slept right through it.

The last hour was spent waiting and eating breakfast. We couldn’t be happier than when we got off that FUCKING boat.

2/26 Geriatric Alley

When we got to the Hostel at 9am, half of us went straight to bed till 1pm or so, the others went venturing around the hostel in search of something to do. They stumbled around, and found what we called Geriatric Alley.

Essentially, it’s a long path, flanked with shops on either side for a long way down, evidentially part of a shopping arcade. The people of this alley were all, sickly, creepy old men, with rasping voices akin to the walking dead. You had everything from old Ojiisan with Mohawks drinking hard alcohol and smoking ( bare in mind its not even 10am yet), to old withered shells of people that were still somehow walking under their own power. It was scary and as we walked around the area near our hostel later that day, we realized that the whole area was basically akin to that alley. What luck. What Irony, a YOUTH Hostel in a place that seemed closer to death than what one would assume youth to be.

We decided to skip out of the area, called Doubutsuen mae ( Animal Park front), and went into the city to Namba Parks, and wandered around the huge shopping building and found dinner for later that night, which we reserved. We were hungry though, and went to find food. Some of us ended up at a bagel café and we ate there. If this were the states, a bagel place wouldn’t be all that surprising or exciting, but since we haven’t seen a bagel since we came to Japan, it was very exciting to us.

After food we went down a popular thoroughfare and ended up going near the famed crab street full of shopping arcades and many big name shops. It was raining , but it didn’t deter us from exploring around. We saw many amazing buildings and cool architecture of the surrounding area. The number of shops was a little overwhelming , but it was really fun. We even stumbled into an army surplus store with and uncomfortably well stocked store of nazi memorabilia. We were a little perturbed.

When it turned 8:30, we turned around and went back to eat oysters and Gumbo and Namba City Tower. Even though we reserved we still had to wait 15 minutes to get it. The food was good, but very expensive and not up to the price of the food as far as taste I felt, but the gumbo wa good. I even had some nice wine that was very crisp and helped me forget the long wait for dinner we had in store. When we concluded we headed back, got some conbini food and went to sleep. We tried to watch TV , but the only interesting thing was the porn channel, and we tried not to get drawn into that as best we could.

2/27 Mikans and Plums

The first day in Osaka was really good, but the second was markedly better. We ate breakfast at a little hole in the wall place near Osaka Castle. The shop owner was so nice he gave us an entire bag of good mikans, for free. WE ended up eating them all during that day, although it traded hands between people until it ended up in my backpack. They weren’t even my mikans but I ended upo caring them around all day.

After breakfast, and Zach beating John to a pul with the bag of mikans ( pun), we got to the castle, and were assailed very quickly by a small women with too much energy for her to know what to do with. She offered to take us around the castle and give us a tour ( all in japanese of course), and Eva, Nora and I accepted. We walked all around and learned a lot actually, and she stayed with us to the castle tower itself. At that point we climbed up the castle and after looking at a few of the levels we got to the top and saw a breathtaking view. You could see Osaka sprawl forward on all sides, and you couldn’t see the end. The size of this city, finally dawned on us who had climbed the tower.

After the tower we went to the nearby plum tree garden that was in bloom, and we had lunch among the blooming flowers of purple , pink and white. It was really cool.
From there we got a little lost in the Nearby Park and then got on a subway and headed to AmeMura, a place famed for its trendy youth, and crazy fashions and stores. There we went walking about looking at what was available. After some food, I went with Eva and Nora as they searched for shoes, and I later regretted it, learning how girls (cough) Nora (cough) (cough) can literally take forever to find shoes….. DAMN.

After Finding the itls shoes we went back to the hostel, made some cheap food and then rested for that nights clubbing. We left around 10pm or so and got to the club at 11ish. The club itself was very cool with one big room as a joint bar and table area to sit and then the dance nroom, also big, next to it. The music and effects were great and those who came drank, smoked ( for those that smoke tobacco) and danced for a long while, until 2 or 3. We ended up leaving around then and hitting up a McDonalds for some late night food. Not bad for being up almost 20 hours, we got a lot done.

2/28 Revisiting the Crab

A great day, me and Eva woke up around 1pm, and went walking to find a 7-11. We did and in the process found a very nice Supermarket near the hostel along with a bento restaurant, where we ate lunch for very cheap. The location was seedy though with more porno and sex shops thatn I thought would be found in one place outside a red light district.

We got on the train into Namba City around 3pm and got to the station. We started off wanting to see a 3d IMAX ocean movie, but founf out it wasn’t 3D, and so we instead found a imported food shop, where Ebva and I bought many hard to find items for later consumption.

After shopping, and a quick coffee, we went out down the crab street again, and found a great takoyaki restaurant near the Giant Robot Crab. The food was cheap and very good. From the food we moved off and wanderd about the shops and found many a strange sight, along with gifts for friends which we picked up along the way. We decided to get back around 8pm or so and ate more cheap noodles at the hostel.

The next day was slotted to go out of the city, so we needed to rest if we were to wake up early.


We had to wake up really early to get to Nara. We arrived there at about 9am, and stayed for 3 hours or so. We wondered over to Todaiji Temple ( Know for the largest sitting wooden Buddha in the World), and found deer on the way over.

The deer are what most people had been looking for ward to see in Nara, but it didn’t take long for that to change. The reason for the change being, they look cute alriht; until you have food. Once we got deer crackers, they all came swiftly down upon us. They all jockied for a position nearest to the hand wit food. They also began ramming their heads into the body the hand belonged too until they got fed. Naturally this led to both funny and unpleasant situations for everyone. The people in my group also learned the most famous trait of the Nara deer: eating. Now I don’t mean the crackers or any type of sensible food, but clothes, maps, keychains, purses, etc. More than one person had to quickly withdraw their things before the deer seized them.

When we decided to escape the deer we walked off to the temple. The temple was huge, Gigantic Buddha in the middle and a number of other gods and deities around besides. In the back, there is a pillar of wood with a hole carved into it, big enough for a slender man to squeeze through. It is called Buddhas Belly Butoon ( yea, I don’t know why kits called that either). It is said that if you manage to squeeze through you’ll be granted good luck for a year. Everyone but Zach and Nora tried there hand at it, including me. I got stuck toward the end, my hips and thighs anchoring me to a spot, whrr ei could not get my arms down to brace myself and push out of the hole. So locals from about and everyone lauging tried to help some. I saw quickly that and elderly man pulling at me from the front toward him, and two older ladies molesting my rear on the back and pulling me towards THEM wasn’t going to free me. So I called for Zack, and after one tug I was free.I wonder if that good luck still counts?

After the temple, we sped back to the train station, hopped on a train and went on to Kyoto. There we met up with Ryousuke ( whom many of us who were on the Fukuoka trip affectionately call “ Gackt”). He took us to a nice sushi restaurant where we all ate some very good food. During lunch Ryousuke wanted to knoew where we would like to go, so we talked awhile with him and decided to go to the following places: Ginkaku-ji, Kiyomizudera and then Gion. The first two are a Temple and a Shrine respectively, and my pictures will speak louder on the experience. Gion though was interesting. It was here, from out of a Geisha house, 2 Geisha appeared and got into a taxi. It was only the second time I have ever seen Geisha, and it was also in Kyoto. By the time we were in Gion though it was getting late, the rain was picking up and we were hungry, so Ryousuke took us to get some dinner. We went to eat at a very nice place that specialized in grilled eel. SO we each ordered some and enjoyed a very tender and delicious meat. Although a little pricey, I could see why it was so popular in Japan.

When we finished it was almost 8pm so we went back to the Station and bid Ryousue goodbye at the bus stop, and then headed on our way. We go back to Osaka around 9:30. We were all exhausted but had to pack for the next days long , long journey, to Tokyo.

3/2 The Long and Uncomfortable Road

Waking up early when you know you wont go anywhere but plant your ass on trains for 11 hours is not much motivation to wake up. Eva anmd I had to wake up with time to hit up Family Mart for food and then take our luggae from the Hostel in Doubutsuen-Mae to The JR Station and Hop on our first train of the day on our journey to Tokyo. The day was filled with a mix of short and long transfers and train rides to match. The total time was from 9am until 8:30pm.

On the trains we ate when we could ( those of us who had bought food ahead of time) and did our best to kill time. It wasn’t easy. The constant transfers mixed with the uncomfortable seats made sleep a near impossibility except for a few like Jesse who always seem to be able to sleep. 11+ hours passed by and we finally arrived in Tokyo, and Shinsaibashi station. From there we took the Ginza subway line toi Asakusa and by that time we were all a bit cranky.

Eva and I were trying to meet our friend Mai at the station. Unfortunately, because of a mix up of directions on our part, poor Mai ( and us for that matter) ended up at two opposite sides of the station. So after a few stubborn minutes of our friends wishing to shiver with us in the cold, we beckoned them onto the Hostel as Eva and I waited. We appreciated the sentiment , btu didn’t want them to freeze on account of our business. It took about a half hour to find Mai. With her after some hurried greetings, we took of for the hostel, using Matt’s verbal directions via cellphone. Getting there, Eva and I got our key, and climbed 3 flights of stairs ( it was the comical ending to a day filled with stairs at damn near every station). After dropping our stuff we went off with Mai in Asakusa in search of food and ended up eating at a Turkish restaurant with amazing pita bread wraps, exotic drinks and very delicious hookah which we all, save Matt and John partook of in varying quantities. After dinner we split ways with Mai and headed back to the hostel to rest.

As we sat , or atleast some of us sat, in the common room, we met another Eva, from Germany. Through her we learned had we paid but 10$ more we could have gotten our own room to sleep in on the ferry and a much healthier start.

-sigh- just our luck right?

3/3 Moe, Moe GYUU!!

Waking again early, before 9, we left around 9:30 and got a quick conbini breakfast before heading off to Shibuya.

After a 30 min subway ride we made it and once we reached the main crossing street that is so famous and well known, we split off to go find our own things to do. After a little while me and Eva went off looking for fun things and ended up going to a few random places. The first of which was ABC mart, a popular shoe store in Japan. I went in originally just for fun, but when I found they had my shoe size ( the first time EVER) I was excited and after some searching got some awesome vans, which I wore home. From there we wandered around and then ate at a Sahkeys pizza for lunch. We ate our fill at the super cheap lunch special of 850 yen ( like $9.35) for all you could eat. Eva and I made sure we did.

After lunch we wandered more, meeting up with Jesse and learning the group extended the time it wanted t stay in Shibuya for 2 more hours so we went off again and Eva and I wandered around more stores and through back allesy, finding some interesting sites along the way. I got a new shirt and Eva got some socks for very cheap. All and All it was pretty fun. We even went into the guys side of the famed Shibuya 109 store and inside Eva and and I got a clear impression of what the guys liked to dress like who were in that store: Girly men. They tried to dress tough with spikes and chains and leather etc, but the way it looked and the way to skinny boys that wore the clothes just ended up making them look funny. Japan, for the most partm still needs to learn how to dress and act tough in a more convincing manner.

When we met again at 4pm we moved as a group to the station and went one stop down to Akihabara. Our first objective was to find a maid café ( obviously, lol) and with Eva and my friend’s recommendation we went to one of the highly acclaimed ones in the Area. After 2o mins of waiting, they miraculously fit all 9 of us. We stayed there for nearly 2 hours drinking and laughing and enjoying the spectacle and experience of it all. Some of the finer notes were the group rock-paper-scissors, Enchanting our drinks with love and then finally getting our picture with our choice of the maids ( for a little more of course). The people watching wasn’t bad either, for there were some interesting foolsk about in there; the term “good, bad and ugly” comes to mind. It was fun and we all seemed to enjoy ourselves, except for Mina and Zach until he drinken his gin to calm his frazzled nerves and marred pride. When we finished we spent the rest of our time in Akihabara ooking for electronmic goods. I bought a modest pair of over-ear head phones while others bought ipods ( one bought 2) and new DS ii’s. After this most people seemed less willing to spend more money. We went back to the Hostel and made cheap noodles and rested, trying to forget the money spend ( especially the ones who bought the ipods and DS’s). We went to bed after midnight and prepared to wake up again around 8am or so.

3/ 4 Old Friends in New Places

We set off for Ahkihabara later than we had intended, and spent only 30 mins or so in Meijijingu Shrine. Mike met up with some of his friends and when we went down Takeshita Dori we went our separate ways without him. We got back to Harajuku and split off again. Eva and myself went down the main drag, checked out the random shops and people and then looped back after awhile and went down the true main street of Harajuku, not Takeshita dori. Down there we found the snoopy store and milled about a littlew and then met back up with people. After deciding buying the Ghibli Museum tickets, which were slotted for 2pm and later, was not a god idea we split off into 2 groups, one bound for Shinjuku and the pother stayed in Harajuku. Those of us in Harajuku went looking for food but soon found all the places to be full. So 3 more split from our group to go to Shinjuku and Eva and myself were left to pour own devices. We eventually found a back alley restaurant with a nice veranda and decent food selection. We ate some taco rice and waited for our friend Mai to call. When she did we went off to Shinjuku and our true adventure began…

Upon entering the station and soon after leaving the ticket turnstile Eva and I got spectacularly lost and frustrated for 45 minutes trying to find Mai. Again, a communication error had split us and the fact Shinjuku is the biggest god damn station I Have ever seen or ever hope to see. Period. The station is set up in such a way , that if you come out the wrong exit, the only way around to the right one is walking outside the station to get to the right one. And with 4 large department stores that comfortable fit in the station, you kinda get an idea of its scope.

When Mai did find us, Eva and I were very tired, very suddenly too, and we wished to sit down with her in a café. After a bit of a walk we found one with space and we sat, drinking coffee and talking with mai for an hour and a half or so. When we finished we went off to a game arcade, took some puri kura and then played some random arcade games. It was fun, and I learned Mai is surprisingly good at Taiko Drum Master. We did some more wandering with Mai then went back to the hostel to quickly change and get ready for that night of clubbing. When we finished dressing we had a few spare minutes before we had to go, so we watched the telling of two men, an eel and a restaurant owner, and their retelling was very animated, the English translation of Japanese wood block theatre, which was a unexpected and pleasant surprise. We had to soon leave and once again, the night was raining. Just DAMN.

When we got to Roppongi we moved our way passed the all the advertisers for the various clubs and got to th club where the Hungarians had a friend, called Club New Lex. Their friend,, Agnes is a journalist at a magazine going on 2 years, and through her work she has met a lot of people and was not only to get us into the club for a discount but also, gave us multiple free drink and food tokens during the course of the night. Its definitely the nicest club I had been in with its pricey menu, walls dripping with celebrities who took pictures with the owner to the clientele. Those of whom included models from various countries; I guess it was a slow night for the club if all they had were models and then our group (laughs). The music and effects were great an the drinks were mixed very well. Part way in the night, as Eva sat tired near the door , she watched model come in and out of a back room frequently. Upon their leaving the room they were rubbing their noses and sniffing. Gee, wonder what they were doing (sarcastic eye roll). Around 2:30 or so Eva and I left and got back to the hostel via taxi. We got to bed around 3 or so and went to sleep, tired and glad for the soft beds.

3/5 The Back Alleys

We woke up at noon and left at 2ish. It was later than we wanted, but we just didn’t care. What the hell right? It was our own day anyway. So when we got to Shibuya we went wandering down a random side street and kept walking. We found, after not too long a good place for lunch where the portions were generous, prices moderate and the food very good. I got some curry and Eva got some Gyuu-don. Were cheap dates usually, and this was no exception. Having finished our food we went off wandering about the streets and hills finding all kinds of Tokyo that you never hear about or see usually. It was fun. We eventually had to turn back when it got dark, and we ate at a place named to be the best burger in Tokyo. We didn’t go there for the burgers however, we came for the Buffalo wings, and hats what also kept us longer. They were very good. I even tried a few of the available hot sauces and found 2 that were my match if not too intense for even me. It was humbling and exciting to think about. Having finished we went back home and got our food at the supermarket for the next days long trip to Hrioshima. The rest of the night was spent packing and trying to rest, we only got 2 hours at most though, because we had to wake at 4am.

3/6 The Longest Day and Longest Trains

We woke at 4am, left at 4:20am, and got to the station around 5am. We left on our first train around 5:30am and were on trains all day until 16 hours. It was the worst kind of déjà vu, only much much worse. When we finally got to Hiroshima at 8:30pm that night, we were a new kind of tired only heard about in stories or experienced by people under extreme conditions. No sleep could be obtained on the train, which is saying something about the comfort of the trains we took. When we got there that night, we made food bought out of a local supermarket and did little else but eat and have some small talk with the travelers that had been at the hostel longer than us. We went to bed at midnight-ish and got ready for the next day.

3/7 From Death to Deer

The first stop of the morning was breakfast. We had agreed to leave at 10 ish but unfortunately no food places seemd to open up earlier than 11am except the conbini and the local supermarket, so some made breakfast from the supermarket and others of us went to a bakery we eventually found, and we ate there. Having eaten we went off to the peace park and then to the A-Bomb m Museum and Dome.

Not much to say about both of them except they were sad as hell and made the mood very somber in the group. For lunch after that sad affair we walked by a group of protestors protesting American Military in Japan and found an building with 3 entire floors devoted to Okonomiyaki that I had been to on previous trips to Hiroshima. The food was good and cheap, but the selection of restaurants was too hard for some people to choose for longer than I expected.

From the food we got on a train and went off to Miyajima island, which took an hour by trolley and took a ferry to the island itself. Upon the island lays the famed floating shrine. It looks like it is floating when the tide it high. We arrived there when the tide was out, so we were able to walk right up to it. We all wandered a bit around the island, taking pictures here and there, playing with the deer and I took tsome time to collect a few shells with Eva. Whe it got dark and the shops started to close, Eva and I left with the others back to the city. We had dinner in a little Italian restaurant that was cheap, and I would finds out why it was so later.

From dinner we split off and Eva, Nora, Mina and myself went to an arcade to play games and try our hand at the UFO catchers. We together, Mina, myself and Eva spending out the ass for a Alpaca Stuffed animal. We were all relieved to finally win it , and the girls cried out with both delight and defiance. We wandered home after that through the park and got drinks at the supermarket. I got 2 large cans of beer and over the next 2 hours drank them in the lobby with some friends and other travelers. That was the end of the fun part of the trip.

3/8 Where am I? Hell. How do I feel? Shitty. What can I Do? Nothing.

From 2:30am until 5 or 6 I got up more than once to throw up. My old foe of food poisoning was back, and with a vengeance. This time he brought his buddy alcohol and together they proceeded to kick my ass in new and exciting ways for 4 hours or more till I was beyond empty. People later described it as this ( I was loud enough apparently to be heard by most of the floor, but I really didn’t give a shit at the time).

1st time: AHAHA! Jari drank too much, that sucks, AHAHA!
2nd time: Ah.ha, hes still at it, sucks for him.
3rd time: Ha…ha…. Ok that’s gotta be the last time
4th time: Damn that dude is FUCKED up
Every time after:… is he ok?....

SO, in the morning I managed to get up and get to the train, with help from mostly Eva and a few of our friends that had a few hand. The 10 hours+ of train rides were hell. I drifted in and out of sleep, consciousness, nausea and even managed to throw up on the train once. Awesome.

When we finally got back to Oita, I dropped my shit off, showered, threw up again and passed out for 16 hours from 8pm until noon the next day. I kicked food poisoning’s ass again…. But damn its always a hard fight. Why is it the last two times I get it, I have to be traveling in an uncomfortably cramped space that jostles about violently like a car or train for 4 hours or more? There is some sick fuck in this Universe and he/she is laughing there ass off…

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When will the craving be satisfied?!?!

Here I am, finally!
Right now we're on spring break, which seems so long to the point where i wish school would start up again. oh well ! I've been keeping myself busy with studying and translating this new cookbook i bought that focuses on starting yourself with a "Happy Breakfast"... or should I say a customized breakfast according to how you're feeling when you wake up! I love it! After I translate the recipes i'll try them out and have Jari taste test them... I'm sure he won't mind. ;)

The thing that has been on my mind though is "American food"... you know, the greasy, but OH so delicious food that when you bit into it puts a greasy gloss on your lip. Damn, i'm drooling even thinking about it... you really can't find or make yourself here either. and yes i know your thinking i'm crazy being a 20 minute walk from McDonald's, but i can assure you that a McDonald's fix does not satisfy my need.

Have i ever mentioned what a "Japanese pizza" is? It's surely the pizza to confuse all foreigners that remotely know what pizza should be, "Japanese pizza" breaks all those boundaries and can often make people say, "omg, are you sure it can still be a pizza????". Were talking cream sauce with corn, yes i said corn, tuna, cheese, and to top it all off..... Mayonnaise! It's surprisingly good i hear, but i'm still a bit skeptical about it... hehe...

Food seems to always work it's way into this blog, but on another note i'm pretty happy about spring coming! It's finally bearable to be in my room with the heater off and just have a blanket, and toe socks! warm and toasty. My room has also been a complete mess, as Jari would probably say, " your room just looks like a munchy room would look like". I have to keep this promise to myself to keep my room clean, and get in the habit of doing so because I'll be having a roomie soon, and i want to keep that room as clean as possible. I know i can do it, i've done it before! ;)

Well this seems like a good note to end on,

Eat wonderfully delicious american food for me!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Party Before the Storm: Days 80-96

Day 84 (12/19/09): Christmas Party

It being December and all, those of us at the kaikan decided to have a get together and celebrate the holiday together. We decided to do the party a week before because many of us the were going to be involved would be involved traveling around on Christmas, so a week earlier was best for most people. The party was a potluck and secret Santa mix.
Two weeks before I took down a list of people who wanted to join in, then wrote up names on pieces of paper and threw them in Zach’s traveling hat. After everyone selected a name, we went off and got appropriate gifts for our selected person. On the day of the Party we all brought at least 10$ of food or drink with us so we could feast. We did indeed feast, many types of food were brought: Nora, Ami and Mina made Hungarian pancakes, Zach bought oranges and chocolate, Matt boiled up some edamame and brought a Christmas cake, Seulgi brought Wine, Ashley brought mini cakes, Eva and I brought fried chicken and everyone else brought a random assortment of snacks and drinks. The party was supposed to start at 6pm, but got off around 7:00. It all worked out though, because we had a lot of fun. We ate a lot of food and then open up our gifts. We all got really good gifts, and it was really fun to celebrate the holiday with friends. Being alone would have sucked majorly.
The rest of the night we talked and drank, Charlotte playing DJ as we all danced. Mina got overly excited (as usual) and wanted to be DJ too, taking up the mantle after charlotte left around 9:30. I had Jesse’s dice, so we ended up playing 7, 11 or doubles. We played in the lobby and Hoon’s room till 2 in the morning and called it a night. It’s funny how we always seem to hang out en masse in small spaces with alcohol. Sometimes the most memorable moments in your life involve beer, dice and close friends.

Day 88:いっしょうに花火を見たいです( I want to watch the fireworks with you)

In Japan Christmas Eve is Considered a big and important date night ( much like Valentines Day in the U.S.). On this holiday, instead of being with family and eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival, you go on a romantic date with your boyfriend/girlfriend and do romantic couple type of stuff. So Eva and I decided to try that out and planned a romantic evening.
With our friend Jon and his girlfriend Nozomi, and his friend John ( Ironic right?) and his fiancé Narumi to watch the fireworks in Beppu over the Bay. That night is the 2nd of two nights of fireworks; the first is for everyone and the 2nd is geared toward couples. Eva and I decided to definitely go the 2nd night and so off we went. We got to the station, bought the train tickets (which were selling out very fast) and got on the train. The station has never been so crowded before; full of couples everywhere. This holiday was obviously a couples holiday, even before we got to the event itself.
After arriving in Beppu we followed the set path to the show, and found a seat on the beach to watch. After a short wait of 15 mins or so, the fireworks began and they were beautiful. They were even better than the ones I usually see at the A’s fireworks games. A huge barge sat out in the bay, and from it, the fireworks blasted forth. The music was pretty good too despite the Dj’s incessant talking between each set of 2 songs. I guess he was trying to show off his English speaking skillz, but I wasn’t much impressed. The show lasted about 45 minutes or so, and then, the couples on the beach, we together moved as a great wave out from the beach and into the city for dinner.
John and reserved a Korean Barbeque place for diner and it was great; lots of delicious meat and chanpo. We ate in the warmth of our table side grill and talked for a couple hours. After, we were all very full and went back home to dream of sugarplums and sleigh bells. On the way back, there were a number of very…. interestingly dressed youths acting in all sorts of ways that were strange and rude. Eva, Myself and the other couples couldn’t help but stare at them a bit in wonder and mild amusement.

Day 90 (12/26/09): Fat Man’s Plane and the Pilgrimage of Drinking

5am is an ungodly time that should be reclassified as ‘night’ rather than ‘morning’. It was a little before then I had to wake up, dress and grab my luggage. It was the day we were going to Okinawa and the day began earlier than the sun. When I got to Eva’s room at 5:10 she was still asleep, having slept through her alarm. Thankfully after I woke her up, she moved quickly if not in a deep mental fog and we left. She had been woken up by her noisy and annoying neighbors above her again, and was even sleepier than she needed to be. Me almost door bell ditched them but thought better of it, it was too early to give a damn. After 15 mins of walking we got to the bus stop and in no time at all got onto the 6am bus to Fukuoka.
Fukuoka takes about 2 1/2 hours by bus, and when we arrived there in the, the sun was just coming up. Arriving at Fukuoka, we got on the subway to the airport, got our tickets, checked in our baggage and waited an hour for the plane. Eva and I were really hungry after we got through security and so we went for some breakfast. We found a place that served udon noodles and we each got a bowl. The noodles weren’t enough though and we ended up getting coke and ice cream floats. We were hungry, so hungry and eating some bizarre things before 10 am. When we go on the plane, the longest part of the trip began.
The plane was only going to take 2 hours to get to Okinawa, but the man in front of Eva was hell bent on making it seem longer. He was the 2nd fattest man I have seen in Japan and he damn near took up two seats himself. The poor girl next to him look on warily and avoided eye contact. He on the other hand had no problem staring at her up and down as though she were some sandwich he wished to eat. Speaking of food, fatty brought smelly food on the plane which made Eva and my hunger pangs live anew. Afdter the plane took off and fatty had eaten his fill the sleeping began. Now, you would think asleep, he would annoy us less. Far from it because he snored like a dump truck ran into a brick wall. He also snored and tipped over to the right, nearly with his head on the young girl’s shoulder. It took not 10 mins for her to run to a vacant seat to escape the man. Eva and I however, were not as fortunate. He snored the ENTIRE flight!!!
2 hours.

When we arrived in Okinawa, we found Nicky and his parents they took us and our luggage to their car and we began our Okinawan vacation!
The first objective was lunch, and so we went off to eat a Traditional Okinawan set; Souki and Goiya. Souki is a udon which is has pork. The pork is stewed for more then 24 hours which makes it so soft and sweet, you can eat the bone, which is soft enough to chew. Goiya is Okinawa bitter melon with a mix of spam and egg and is much better than you may think. Lunch was great with Nicky and his family, Okinawa was getting off to a good start.
After lunch, we went to a historical sight, the Old Naval outpost in Okinawa during the War. We walked around the tunnels and into the various rooms, including one full of shrapnel and bullet holes where the officers had committed suicide with grenades and handguns. It was both Haunting and incredibly interesting. From there we went to the cliff side memorial, where, on big polished walls of marble, the names of the American soldiers and Okinawa citizens who died on Okinawa were written. There were about 6-10 thousand foreign names written and over a million Okinawan citizens. The sheer number of names was daunting to think about. The other thing about the site too was, it was on the cliff many people jumped to their death to avoid their American Aggressors. There are also many caves on the cliff sides that are closed off to the public where archeologists are still finding ghosts from the War. From there we went to a Okinawa Glass Blowing Area where they make all types of high Quality Okinawan Glass. It was really cool, they even had glow in the dark glass which was the most surprising. Me and Eva both got a glass in the Famous Okinawan glass color of Red.
As the sun set, we went off to International street where Eva, Nicky and I wandered around a bit. Eva and I bought some souvenirs and walked around looking at all the light and shops. It was too much to see in one night. After an hour or so, we met back up with Nicky’s parents and went off to their home to drop off our things. When we arrived me and Eva became aware of one reality when you stay in someone’s home; separate beds. Nicky’s mom was so nervous about it, she had me and Nicky sleep in one room on separate futons and Eva by herself in another room. A little shocking, but reality of life.
After a little food prepared by Mrs. Bayani , we went off for a night of parting. We drove to a Karaoke. We were met by over 10 Japanese people of all ages who greeted us with joyful cheers and shouts. We met everyone and ordered some food and drink and a night of singing and drinking began. Among us was a professional singer and friend of the family. He was very talented musically and was even putting out records, attaining some amount of Fame on Okinawa. With him, me and Eva sang some songs, and our group with us was loud and enthusiastic, singing and clapping along with us. It was probably the most fun I have ever had at karaoke. During the singing I tried a few mugs of the Okinawan famous beer, Orion and it was really good. I also had some awamori, which, is sweeter and stronger than sake, and before I knew it , I was hit hard by the Awamori, and drunk. I had been given a beer mug of it, half water and half awamori and it was powerfully delicious. After 3 hours or so at Karaoke we went over to a local bar where we continued to eat and drink. The guy who owned the bar and his wife did some music with a friend of their and they played a medley of tunes. We eventually went back around 2am and slept off the alcohol. The other however, were still partying as we left, I salute them and their endless stamina.

Day 91: JESUS, that’s a big crab!!!!

We were awaken the next day at 9am by Nicky’s mom. She woke us with the opening of blinds and very cheerful saying “Ohaiyo”. She answered and allowed no questions: we were waking up, end of discussion. So I got up and took the first shower, and dressed, and as I waited for Eva and Nicky, I experienced something I had missed; American TV. I watched Animal planet with Nicky’s dad, it was really nice to watch TV in my language for a change. When everyone was ready we went off fro breakfast, at A&W. Eva and I were really excited, we had root beer for the first time in awhile. It was delicious. I had Chili Cheese curly fries and a Burger. It tasted just like home. It was strange for breakfast perhaps, but me and Eva were thrilled. After breakfast we hopped in the car and drove up the coast for an hour a half to the Chimamura Aquarium, the largest Aquarium in Japan. It was gorgeous. So many different tanks, full of many different animals I could barely contain my excitement. I took a lot of viedo of the creatures there, and hope to put it online (eventually). There were deep sea fish the blinked, Giant lobsters and Crabs bigger than dogs and even a massive tank filled with some of the largest ocean creatures. In that center tank were giant manta rays, a lot of different sharks and other types of rays, but amazingly they also had 3 whale sharks. THREE. And each was about 30-40 feet long. It was an awesome sight to behold.
After the Aquarium we went of to lunch for another famous Okinwan dish: Taco Rice. Taco Rice, as you can imagine has rice, then lettuce, Taco meat, tomatoes, cheese and salsa. It’s really good and I was surprised to find its very popular in Okinawa. When we finished lunch we drove to the giant American Shopping mall where Nicky’s parents dropped Eva, Nicky and me. We took purikura, wandered around and Eva and I even rode the giant Ferris wheel. It was pretty cool. It was definitely the biggest Ferris wheel I have ever been on.
For dinner we went to a big buffet place where Nicky had invited a lot of his friends so we could have dinner, drink and talk. The food was great and so were the drinks it was really fun.Only 2 people showed up however, because everyone was either out of the country or busy at work. One of the 2 that showed up spoke English really well but she was incredibly cold and unfriendly. So Me and Eva spent the evening talking to Nicky and the other friend, Yuenosuke. After awhile when Nicky’s parents went home, we went to Karaoke nearby and met another of Nicky’s friends who came along. We sang karaoke till 2am and drove back home in yuenosuke’s pimped out car. It had 4 TV’s, LED lights, curtains, carpeting and leather. It was pretty cool, but Eva and I wondered how he drove with all the lights and distractions…. . Eva, Nicky and I stayed up till 3am talking and eventually passed out.

Day 96 (1/1/2010): Winter is too cold for New Years

After surviving our crazy New Years, me and Eva went over to Saori’s house for some customary Japanese food and traditions. We ate some mochi miso for lunch and talked with Chiemi and Papa. After lunch the girls went back to put on their kimonos and I sat with Papa and we watched the Finals of Japanese Soccer, Nagoya versus Osaka. After 2 hours the girls emerged pretty and dressed up. Eva was really really cute in her Kimono!
So we go on our jackets and scarves, the girls had small blankets and we went to the local shrine and waited. After 45 minutes in the cold, we got to the front and made our New Year’s wishes. It was fun, despite the cold. When we got back we had traditional New Years food which is an assortment of many yummy things, and I tried all of them. It was really good and it made me really happy. Eva and I were very full by the end of the night

Monday, December 7, 2009

Days 57-71 in Summary

Strangelove of Joyful Tomoka (Day 60) 11/26/09

The first midterm of the semester began at 9am in the morning; and it was kanji. Good Greif. It was ok, as hard as I expected it, and studying till 2am the night before with Eva was very helpful. Unfortunately for us, Takehara sensei decided to put random vocabulary on the test we barely even covered in the last 5 minutes of class the week before. Other than that it went well (I ended up getting a B!). From class Eva and I went with Jesse, Riika and LuLu to AmPm, our normal place to go Thursday. We have been going so often now, that we are on first name and talking basis with the staff who work there. We go there a lot it seems… . For my globalization class we were treated to an excellent movie, “Dr. Strangelove”, which I had not seen before. It was great, and is now one more Stanley Kubreck (did I spell that right?) film that I have managed to see. It was awesome. From Dr. Strangelove and class Eva, Me and some of our friends went off to surprise one our tutors, Tomoka. Plans changed many times before during the day. It became complex, far more complex than we had planned on, but whatever, we were determined to surprise Tomoka. So when we got back to Oita station we walked a bout 20 mins or so to Joyfull, the local “Denny’s”-esque family restaurant chain. There with friends we ate food and talked and I gotta say the food was a bit sad. Having eaten there for the 3rd time by this point, the food seems to get worse over time somehow, which for me, doesn’t bode well. After Joyfull we brought Tomoka back to the Kaikan and in the lobby we surprised her with cards, gifts and a cake from Ashley. She was really happy, moved to tears even (she said it was her first surprise party). It was fun, sitting there hanging out with friends and celebrating Little Tomoka’s 19th birthday. After sitting in the lobby for awhile, playing cards and trading music with Tomoka we parted ways and some people walked Tomoka back to the station, helping her carry the numerous bags she had received.

Get Lost in the City to Find Music (Day 61) 11/27/09

After Nanri’s class Friday we all rushed off excitedly to Oita station, because we were leaving for Fukuoka for Sumo. We had planned this awhile back, and now we were finally going. We were all excited, talking about what we’d do once we got there. Eva and my friends Ryousuke and Hide were going to meet us in Fukuoka and take us clubbing so wee were excited to see them again. When we got back to the station we grabbed our money, our snacks for the bus and at 4:40 we boarded and headed off to Fukuoka, 2 and a half hours away. The bus we sat on had lots of leg room, a bathroom, T.V. screens and comfy seats. It was the cheapest and nicest way I have travelled in awhile. With us were Fabian, Marion, Quinn, Mina, Riika, Jesse, Ashley, Charlotte, Nora, Gerard and Seulgi. The others, John, Zack, Mike, and Matt were going to meet us the next day. We got into Fukuoka around 7pm that night we wandered around the bus terminal looking for where Hide and Ryosuke were. While trying to find them, we realized Ashley and Riika got off at the wrong stop so they went to the subway to go find their hotel, while Seulgi and charlotte took a taxi to their Korean hotel. Having temporarily solved those problems the rest of us not Korean or lost, headed off to our Hostel close by. It was clean and cheap (only 30$ a night) so we were happy. We dropped off our things, got ready for the evening and went to the station to wait for others. When we got there, after 45mins of waiting we finally got everyone but Gerard ( who had come on a later bus and got off at the wrong station, but decided the hour long walk from his station was do-able) and went to dinner. We had a Fukuoka specialty called Motsu-nabe*. It was really good, and we all had a lot of beer. At the end of the meal we lamented at the high cost of the meal, which Hide and Ryosuke had not mentioned, so we foreigners lamented the loss of our money. Having paid our do’s we went with a slightly drunk Ryosuke as he zigzagged us on foot around the city to the club we were going to. It took an hour of walking and by the time we got there we were a bit tired and miffed; until we got into the club. It was really cool, 2 free drinks for the guys with the entrance fee and the girls could drink as much as they wanted. The club had huge sound, lots of lights and even a fog machine that would go off based on the music. It was a great time dancing, and the DJ could really spin some good dance music. We ended up staying at the club from about 11:30pm until 5am in the morning. I drank a lot more and danced and we all danced and partied through the evening. It was awesome. Abiding a few creepy guys it was a fun time

*Motsu nabe is a hot pot with locally grown Fukuoka vegetables and meat, with noodles added the simmers over a fire in a large wok. It’s VERY, VERY good.

Rest, Recover, Party and Repeat (Day 62)

At 10am I woke up with a pounding headache. The price of partying was steep indeed. We all had to clear out of the Hostel by 11am so we showered and brushed our teeth packed and stumbled about while doing so. 4 ½ of sleep + hangover = shitty. Having cleared out, we headed to Mos Burger for some food and somewhere to sit. I sat there eating only half my food and feeling dizzy, so I asked for some water, multiple times and was kindly helped out by the people there. We sat in Mos burger till 2:30 at first waiting for friends and then just finishing the recovery from our evening. We headed off to sumo, feeling lot better and when we got there ( after waiting some time to help mike find a way in, having left his ticket back in Oita) we sat down in our seat. Our seats were toward the top of the stadium, far from the stage, but as far as we were concerned we could see everything pretty well, so the seats were just fine (if not a bit uncomfortable). So for the next 2 ½ hours we watched sumo and it was pretty cool. There was a lot of ritual between each match but the sumo itself was really cool. There were definitely some gnarly take-downs we saw. We left a little early because some people wanted to catch their bus to Nagasaki and the rest of us wanted to get back to Oita. So we split off, got some food for the bus and headed back to Oita. At 10pm we got back and went to drop off our things in the kaikan. We got ready and left for yet another night of clubbing. Eva, Jesse, Nora and myself were invited to the PEI pub for drinks and dancing. Even though we were really tired, we felt obligated to go, because Hide and Ryosuke were only in town for a short while. So we got to the club and at first Eva wasn’t feeling her best so we took some time outside to give her some fresh air. Minami, Jesse and Jun came outside to check on us and after awhile we went back in. Inside we danced and drank a little. During our time there, there was a 30 minute window for free drinks, so some people took advantage of that boon. Jun was shit-faced drunk and dancing strange and getting way to close for talking, but we all thought it was kinda funny, till he started to throw up. He passed out a bit, head sagging over a bucket. We were worried, and had to help him down the stairs. Albert, our friend from the Marshall islands, held Jun up and guided him SLOWLY down the stairs as I slowly backed down the stairs with a bucket pointed at Jun’s head. It was slow going, Jun had no strength to help out at all. It wasn’t just Jun though, thankfully, some other people were pretty sick and even Ryosuke threw up in the club. I was glad I had not drunk anywhere near as many as they had. Hide looked ok but he stumbled at the slightest touch so we knew he was gone also. We got Jun, Ryousuke, Hide, and poor Jesse who had to babysit them into a taxi and off to their apartment. Eva and I just walked home feeling relieved we hadn’t got the trashed. It had been a long, long day.

The End of the World with Dice (Day 63)

Sunday came and we slept. I slept till noon and felt great. That night after much needed grocery shopping Eva and I went off with Jesse, Minami, Albert, and Kame to go watch a movie and eat at Ethnic Bros. for some bomb ass Mexican food. They were full however so we settled on a small and hidden Izakaya where we ate random drinking snacks and beer until the movie. We ran out of the Izakaya and got to the movie. We watched 2012 with popcorn ( the movies and food were actually a bit cheaper here in Oita than back in the States). The movie was mediocre with its only saving grace the stunning CGI. After the movie we headed ot another Izakaya to continue our night. There we got delcious food for cheap and the drink as much as you want was cheap also, only 1-12$ for an hour and a half. So we enjoyed ourselves eating and drinking. By drinking I mean play an awesome drinking game involving dice. Its called 7-11 or doubles and its definitely the best drinking game I have ever played. It was amazingly fun. We cleared out of the Izakaya at midnight and went back home. We are definitely doing that again!

Christian Martyr on the Mountain (Day 67) 12/2/09

This whole week felt like it started early, every day. Today we had a field trip to Tsukumi, Kamae and Saiki. This trip started when the bus left at 8:50am in the morning, which is way too damn early but what choice did we have? The first stop was a t a memorial for the Christian martyrs at the beginning of the Edo period. The shogun had ordered all foreign Christians to leave and the citizens/ foreigners that refused to convert were slaughtered. This memorial was to honor those 30,000 some odd people that had been killed in the onslaught. A bit morbid for the morning but it did catch our attention. From there we went to Tsukumi to visit the grave of Ohtomo Sorin, and Japanese man who was Christian and supported the underground Christian movement during the Edo anti-christian period. We walked around the mountain, visiting both the real and fake graves ( yes, there’s a fake one, to throw off the former anti-Christian regime). The mountain was really pretty, full of autumn colors and grand vistas. We left Tsukumi and after an hour we arrived in Kamae for a seafood lunch. Kamae is famous in the region for its seafood so we were taken to an esteemed seafood restaurant in the area. I chose the fish sashimi and it was very savory and delicious. A lot of people had opted ofr the beef which I thought was funny considering where we were. After lunch we went to Saiki to visit the castle ruins on top of the mountain. A lot of us chose to take the scenic route up the mountain. While gorgeous and awe inspiring as the nature was, we climbed up outcropping roots, uneven patches of rock and a very wild and steep natural staircase to the top of the mountain. At the top, the tower ruins stood along with a nearly 360 degree view of the surrounding land, and even the sea. It was amazing, a very beautiful sight to behold. We took the easier root down the mountain and by the time we got to the bus, many people were pretty tired. We got back to the Kaikan at about 4:30 and we split off for a nap before dinner. At around 6, we went off together, a group of 14 of us to Ethnic Bros, and were lucky enough to get in. We had our food and fun and talked about the day, which had been, besides tiring, a lot of fun.

Teacher’s doing Karoke (Day 71) 12/6/09

A lot of people are in Okinawa now. Eva and I went to go check out the food floors of the large department store Tokiwa and had fun food shopping around all the different yummy looking things. That evening we went with the Ando’s again and we had delicious dinner, a make your own sushi meal, and talked about many things, in Japanese of course. After dinner Eva and I gave our 2nd English lesson to both Chiemi and some of her friends and family. We had doubled the class size since last time so Eva and I must have been doing well. It was a lot of fun, teaching them English for 2 hours or so, the only trouble being pronouncing certain words. Chiemi and Papa drove us back around 9:30pm and we rested a bit till 10:30. At 10:30 we met Seulgi, Nora, Koji outside with Charlotte. With Charlotte her younger sister from Korea, Alex, had come to visit her and we met her for the first time. She is very nice and speaks really good English, like her sister. We headed off together for some Karaoke on the bottom floor of Parco. We stayed there for 3 hours singing and having fun and got back around 3am. It was fun meeting Charlotte’s sister and singing, even if there were only 6 of us.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Days 42-56 in Summary

I’ve done a lot here during my stay in Japan, and it has taken me time to realize this. The significance of this realization is that I cannot possibly keep up with describing everyday with any sort of efficiency, especially considering my long hours mostly devoted to school. So the following, and from here on out will be a summary of events with the occasional recreation on those days more interesting. I’m hoping this format will be both more concise and enjoyable to read and easier for me to write.

APU Barbeque (Day 42) 11/06/2009

A number of us went to the APU ( Asian Pacific University) Barbeque. APu is a large international University in the town of Beppu, right next to Oita City. The point of the BBQ was to plant sakura trees in the morning along the coast, then enjoy BBQ and entertainment afterward. We from the Kaikan and Oita University opted for later arrival and ended up enjoying the BBQ and the finished product. We were not inclined to wake up at 7am or earlier on a Sunday to plant trees. This seemed somehow not…. Fun. But we got to the BBQ and paid our dues and ate delicious BBQ and rice balls. After we left the BBQ at 3ish we went to Beppu and wandered around a bit, ending up in the red light district with its conveniently located shrine. To quote Zack and Mike “ Go enjoy your sins on this side of the street and pray for your eternal soul on the other”. A little unsettling but we had fun. When we returned to the kaikan we watched Zombie Land, which I have got to say, is a pretty kick ass zombie film; just the right mix of scary/gore and comedy.

Field Trip to: Sapporo Forest Brewery, Mameta-Machi for lunch, The “Old Town” section of Hita and Sarayama for Ontayaki Pottery (Day 43)

The bus left at 8:55 and arrived a full ten minutes earlier than planned. Regardless the teachers acted as if it were the last chopper out of Saigon, and stressed us out with “ Were leaving soon, Hurry! We will leave without you if you don’t hurry!”. Complete Bullshit. I managed to break my skull candy ear buds on a seat as I rushed to grab a jacket. That was the shittiest start to a field trip I can remember. We left 5 minutes late. Damn Kumamoto and her lies to hell. We arrived at the brewery on time and after a short tour were allowed to drink up to 3 beers on the house ( non-alcoholic beverages were also available). So we had 25 minutes to enjoy the beer, and me along with many of the foreigners decided to utilize our time and drink a shit load. I ended up having 4 ½ because two of the girls didn’t like their beer. Their loss, and my gain. Even the teachers drank. It was hands down the coolest field trip ever by this point. So , rather liquered up, we took a short ride over to a buffet style restaurant with delicious food and drinks. We ate and were merry, slowly coming down from our beer euphoria. After lunch we headed to Old Hita for a short walk, where I got a local flavor of Ramune, Fuji Apple, which was really good. From Hita we tarveled for a half an hour or so up the near by mountain to Sarayama for pottery. This tiny village, famous for its pottery is gorgeous and absolutely pristine. The pottery was only a distraction compared to the gorgeous nature as far as I was concerned. After Sarayama we returned to the Kaikan bys bus, most people falling asleep on the way. That night while eating chicken nuggets and fries ( me and Eva cooked them ourselves) we watched my new TV. A cheap steal at 60$ and shaped like a box of French fries, complete with realistic feeling fries. I found it at the local electronics store while in pursuit of new earphones. Life is funny sometimes…

Joyfull (Day 46)

After class our Intercultural Communication Teacher, Nagaike Sensei took us to Joyfull. Joyfull is famous in Oita and is most similar to an American Denny’s except the food is higher quality, its half Japanese style of food and for 2$ you can get as many free refills as you want. Nagaike sensei treated us and paid for our dinners; all 13 or of us. It was fun and a little unusual to be on such and even level with a teacher, but we all enjoyed it as we listened to her unique perspective of Japanese behaviors over our warm plates of food.

Monkey Mountain and Sea Egg ( Day 47)

A group of us left in the late Morning for Beppu with two places in mind to see; Mt. Takasaki and Umi-tamago. The reason is because some of us had to do research for our upcoming presentations in class, so we needed pictures and info. So we got on a Bus in Beppu and arrived at Mt. Takasaki in about 15 minutes. At the entrance to the Mountain Park, you have the option to pay a dollar more to ride the monorail up the mountain to the monkeys. Assuming it would be toward the top, this seemed very cheap and a good deal indeed. What a rip off, it was only a 5 minute walk from the entrance to the “top” where the monkeys were. LAME! Anyway, the monkeys were really cute and adorable (most of the time, if they weren’t Shitting, Fighting or Fucking). We got to even see feeding time and watched the 700 some odd monkeys of the 1700 on the mountain that frequent the human visiting area feed en masse. It was really fun! After ward we walked down from the mountain and took an extra 5 minutes upon reaching the gate to reach Umi-tamago ( they are on opposite sides of the street from one another). Umi-tamago is a large, egg-shaped Aquarium in Beppu that’s right on the bay. It has a huge selection of fish and animals including; 10+ types of sharks, giant manta rays, Twilight zone fish, otters, dolphins, penguins, pelicans, sloths etc. I have only touched the surface of this very large catalog the Aquarium possesses. There also extremely well trained walruses that can blow kisses, do sit up and give you a high five among other things. It was a lot of fun to see all the fish and sea life and I plan on going back again, but with a charged camera battery and video camera. After Umi-tamago we stopped in a Department store quickly for an amazing ice cream flavor (Fuji Apple) and then went off to Meiji sushi to celebrate our friend, Nora, and her performance downtown that day.

由布院、Totoro’s Home Town ( Day 48)

We went with the Ando’s for what we thought was a day of hot springs and food. It turned out to be a bit different than we thought. We drove to the woody town of Yufuin, nestled between mountains on all sides. Its gorgeous and as me Eva and I found out, the town the inspired the setting for Tonari no Totoro. They even had a large Ghibli shop where many cool things from all the Ghibli movies were. I got a kodama key chain, after years of searching I finally found one ^_^ . For lunch we went to a nice restaurant and had amazing omu rice*. After lunch and wandering around a bit, the Ando’s brought us to a small Tea house tucked in the back of Yufuin and we enjoyed a very rare tea ceremony that is only practiced in THAT tea house; no where else. Its famous in Beppu and definitely unique. I liked it, even having to eat the tea leaves at the end with soy sauce. Eva and Chiemi found it to bitter, but I liked. After tea we got in the car and drove to Beppu. We drove up to a little onsen on one of the nearby mountains and enjoyed the hot springs. I was able to experience, an outdoor onsen, a Japanese sauna, which uses bamboo as floor boards to create a healing aroma, and the indoor natural bath, which was about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a little hot at first but I felt so much better after the bath. Having finished the onsen, we drove to a Udon shop for dinner where I ate Kim-chi Udon with a side of Steak over rice. I ate it all and it was absolutely delicious. It was a little unexpected but a very fun day.

*Omu Rice is short for “Omelet Rice”. Its when you cook an omelet to the point its semi solid, throw cooked rice in the center and flip it cooking the rice and omelet together. Its simple to make and really good

Always Sunny in Japan (Day 50)

In the afternoon our friend Jesse, and one of the tutors, Erika Yamamoto came back to the Kaikan. Jesse worked on our joint Grammar and discourse presentation for awhile and then we met up again with Erika, who was hanging out with mike at the time. Erika is a really outgoing and friendly person. She is well versed in English and thrives with people from other places. Some us decided that when she came over, we would share with her an American Cultural experience not to be missed; Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It was her first time watching, and we decided we would give Erika the gift of laughter for helping us out. She really seemed to enjoy it, despite the colloquial slang (she said she could only understand half of it, but loved it anyway). For those that know the show we showed her “The Gang Gets Invincible” and then “Hundred Dollar Baby”.

SPICE (Day 54)

After class we went looking for winter clothes and found some at Uniqlo. Eva, Matt, Mike and I were hungry after though, so we went to go have food and decided on SPICE. SPICE is a restaurant the specializes in Omu Rice and Curry. So we all sat down and looked around, taking it in. The music played was Jazz (refreshing I must say) and the décor was subdued and mostly woody and dark colors. It was a very chill atmosphere. We all ordered and enjoyed the food, which only took about 15 minutes or so. I got the Mozzarella Cheese Omu Rice, Eva got the Tomato Sauce Omu Rice and Matt got the Cheese Curry. All wee excellent and only 500-800 yen for a large plate. It was Super good and Eva and I will definitely return!

Hips Don’t Lie (Day 56) 11/20/2009

After school we purchased our bus tickets for Fukuoka and the upcoming Sumo match and went home to prepare for the evening. That evening, there would be Latin dance, and I would see myself vicariously dragged into it. We all left together at 8:30 in front of the Kaikan and walked to the small club in the back of the local shopping arcade. Before we arrived Eva broke her heel walking on flat ground, right in front of a Walgreens-type of store. How strange to break your shoe right in front of a store that may have the glue to fix it. It didn’t however and luckily for Eva, Mina brought an extra pair of shoes which Eva borrowed and the night was still on. When we arrived, the DJ for the club was the salsa teacher from the Latin dance classes offered to International students. The reason for the ‘Latin Night’ made a little more sense now. So as we wee the first to arrive, we cashed in our free drink tickets and started to drink and prepare for the dancing. I stuck with coke, feeling I would need all my dexterity for this evening, Eva had that “ I REALLY wanna dance!” look in her eye. So I prepared for the coming storm. The other started to arrive by 9:30 and in a half hour the place was full. It took awhile but Eva eventually got me on the dance floor where I put all I had in trying to keep in time with the beat and move my feet. I somehow managed. I even danced with some of our other friends who seemed to have a lot of fun, despite my inexperience. It was actually pretty fun, Eva was proud, and I felt a bit strange but happy I had pushed myself to do it. Whatever, I can get my hips to move now, say the girls, so I’m happy about that. Abiding a few detours, we made it back home in one piece and went to sleep.

Bamboo Lanterns before the Ruins (Day 57)

We gather around 1:30pm and picked up snacks and drinks at the local Conbini for our trip. We were going to Takeda-Machi to view the Bamboo Lantern Festival. When we got on the train at the station it was only an hour and a half trip. During the train ride we munched on our snacks and talked, meanwhile enjoying the breath taking fall colors of the local flora. When we arrived we could see the unlit bamboo lanterns littering the streets and shops windows, in preparation for the evenings festivities. The first thing we wanted to do before the festival was head up to The Ruins of Oka Castle and take in the view. Along the way we passed a candle shop with both beer and coffee candles. I was tempted to buy either one or both but resisted the urge. We also got to participate in lighting some of the bamboo lanterns near the edge of town, part of a large display leading to the castle. We started to light them just fine when an older gentlemen toward the center of the display, winding its way up the stairs, knocked over a couple and like dominos, many fell in kind down the steps. Amid the great crescendo of hollow wood on stone we got out of the way of the deluge. After they had settled down, we offered our help and got the lanterns at least standing back up. We walked through a few tunnels and then up the mountain gradually as it got darker. We got to the castle at dusk and walked up and around through it as the lights dimmed. It was gorgeous, with large stone parapets and towers over grown with moss and standing as sentinels of a long ago past. Around and inside the castle ruins is a large and beautiful collection of Maple leaves all colors of Orange and red seemed to be represented. From the top of the ruins, you can see all of Takeda and beyond and at sunset it will take your breath away. Went it got dark we trudged back down the mountain and walked around the town, enjoying the numerous large and small lantern displays as we searched for food. We came upon a large open area crammed with shops and tables under canopies. Here we had dinner and we employed a little trick to ensure we could taste a little of everything. We each took turns going out and buying two servings of something delicious and bringing it back to share. We ended up having hot dogs on a sticks, roasted pork on a stick, rolled cabbage, karage, grilled rice balls, yakitori, yakisoba, sweet sugar bread, French fries, takoyaki and a lot of Tea. The tea was all free and I had many warm cups of Kabosu* tea. Having eaten our fill, we got out into the town on the way back to the station. Along the way, a number of us, myself included bought our own bamboo lanterns. A real authentic piece of the festival, and only 500 yen! At the train station we left for home, with half of us falling asleep on the way back. When we got back to the Kaikan we separated and slept. It had been a long and wonderful day.

*Kabosu is a locally grown lime, its bitter like lemon, but not as intense. It is renowned for its uses in tea, sweet food and as an ingredient in many local dishes. When its green it is sour and used in tea and food, but when it ripens to yellow it is used in candy and cakes and can be eaten also. Its sour but not to sour and also sweet. In other words its really delicious!

Days 36-41

Day 36

The Festival came early. We arrived at 9am and it started an hour later. Good thing to; it took about that amount of time to set up. We got the signs hanging, ingredients cut and set up and plugged in our portable cookers to await the coming customers. But as luck would have it, shortly after 10 am, it begins to rain. In the words of Charlie Brown, “UGGHH!”. It was a cold long day.

At first business was slow, so me, Jesse and some of the tutors walked around with signs and samples of food and tried to peak some interest. This had very limited success and after two twenty minute walk around, we gave up and handed off the advertisements and sample to Tomoka and the other tutors. Surely they won’t do any worse right? Well they kicked ass, and brought in a lot of business. Were not sure how, but some of us speculate its Tomoka’s small stature and big eyes that drew all the people to us. Between her and then Rie, Ryoko and Mari yelling non stop to come try American food, we actually made a little profit off of the day.

During the festival I tried a number of foods like, a BBQ meat Onigiri ( it was Amazing!), Some Gyouza from the Chinese, Some Hot Thai soup from the Thai booth, Some German potato salad and meatballs from the Germans and some Hungarian meat and noodle soup ( cant remember the name). It was all very good, but I was unable to try out the Korean food which I had planned to do earlier.

Through the festival we all had jobs to perform; I sat at the front and sold and talked to customers, Eva controlled the grilling of sandwiches with help from whoever was able, John cut all the veggies, Zack made the PB&J’s and Nozomi did a little bit of everything. Everyone else was performing random jobs as matt surveyed us all and made sure things ran smoothly. At the end, of the festival at 4pm, the rain had stopped ( oh the friggin’ irony), and we ended up making a 40$ profit. We did ok, but still had some left over materials. The Chinese and Hungarian booths sold out and made over 80$, but the Germans barely broke even. We did ok , and were happy to not have lost money.

By 4:30 we disassembled our stand and began to take all the random food leftovers back home. We were all very tired and ended up separating and napping for awhile before dinner. We ended up spending some of our profit on Pizza and we all piled into Jon’s room to eat pizza and watch Kitchen Nightmares. By 11pm or so we were exhausted and separated to sleep off the long day.

Day 37

I woke up past 1 am and studied till the afternoon. It was nice catching up on chores and homework and taking a break from the hustle and bust;le of living abroad. In the late Afternoon I went with Eva to MaruKyou and picked up some groceries. On the way back from the store, the wind and rain started and for the rest of the night it was cold, windy and rainy. Not exactly a pleasant night. It was ok however, Eva and I watched Robot Chicken and made good food. So a pretty relaxed day in all.

Day 38

Another mostly quiet day. I slept in late and continued to study. It was Culture Day in Japan, which means we have this Tuesday off, Woot!

At 4pm Matt, myself, John, Eva and Nora went off to Oita station to find Wasada Town so we could pick up much needed things at Nitori, a big store that’s kind of like the Japanese IKEA.

When we found the right bus and got there, the first thing we headed for was food. We stumbled upon a KFC and decided to try the Japanese version of and American classic. It was definitely different, but good all the same. There was even a Colonel Sanders statue outside, fully adorned with a Santa outfit. As Zack likes to say, “This country both Amuses and terrifies me”.

Having finished KFC we went off to Nitori, but got sidetracked along the way and wandered into a pet store. Inside were a wide variety of very cute puppies and kitties along with fish, rodents, birds and my favorite, a hedgehog. I really want that damn hedgehog >_<. We stood around and looked at the animals for a half hour or so and then eventually made it to Nitori.

We all walked around and got a number of essential items. I got a large pan with a lid, a carpet roller to clean my carpet, 2 big bowls and some random stuff. John got a giant stuffed dog and rug warmer, and Nora got a carpet, chair, and a whole bunch of stuff. Eva got a dish drying rack and chair, and Matt got a carpet that he really wanted.

When we finished, we called a cab and took our things back home, happy with our purchases. Later that night after separating we checked out Johns carpet warmer and agreed it was nice ( although not as warm as you would expect). We had to go to sleep though because school begins again Wednesday.

Day 39

School again, and it was long. I had Japanese 3B, Discover Oita and Japanese Cyber Culture. It was 4 and a half hours of class, but thankfully little homework.

When we finished class some of us went over to Lotteria to pick up some warm food. I got two burgers and some fries ( the burgers here are good deal smaller than American sizes). As we walked home, Eva got a call from Chiemi and Papa. Chiemi told her that she had come to the Kaikan to drop us off some food. We were a bit surprised and I felt silly too, holding fast food with the promise of homemade food waiting only minutes away. So we told her we’d get there soon and headed off for home.

When we got back, Chiemi was in her car and she handed us homemade Karage and Kontatsu. We were excited and felt just a little guilty that the Ando’s helped us so much yet it felt like we had not gave back in kind nearly enough. So we took our food with interest and headed for my room. On the way, Eva found a package from home and we opened it while eating. The package was very strange and we both giggled a bit at some of the things inside.

John came by after we realized we couldn’t eat all the food and helped us eat some. We went to his room when we were done and studied Kanji while watching more Kitchen Nightmares. Its a strange end to a long day.

Day 40

Long day again. Once more AmPm was the light at the end of the tunnel, which is our Kanji class. By the time I got home I was exhausted and took a nap. I slept for an hour and a half, and when I woke, I felt so much better about life in general.

I managed to get my homework and stuff done before 9pm and hung out with Eva for some time. Around 11:30 we ran into matt in the entrance hall and he offered to take us to Donkey, and show us how to get their by foot. We obliged and soon after we headed off to Donkey. It is open till 3am , so we were prepared for some late night shopping.

After 30 mins or so we arrived and went around its floors exploring. I got some interesting snacks and drinks, along with a kanji practice book and a pasta strainer. Matt got an iron and Eva got some water and a random bath smelly thing, the type girls seem to like.

We finished around 1:50 am and decided we were lazy and wanted to take a taxi, so matt called one up and we went home to sleep. I got to bed around 3am, but that’s ok; class doesn’t start till 1:10pm on Friday.

Day 41

Before class at 12:30 was a mandatory meeting for the foreign students. We met and discussed a few things like a University T-shirt design and the upcoming culture fair we were expected to participate at in December. The Americans got slected to make food for the event, again. I hope it goes well.

We went to class and had a test, nothing special. After class though, a large group of us got together and went to Karaoke in downtown Oita. We sung for 4 hours and had a lot of fun, Charlotte and Ashley were great again, and Jesse and Surugi were both great too, it was their first time with us and they were really impressive! We even got Lulu to do a few Chinese songs and it was a great time. For the four hours plus all we could drink ( non-alcoholic) was only 5$! How cheap right?

After Karaoke we got really hungry so we headed over to ethnic brothers and had some great food. It was Lulu, Surugi , Tomoka, Nozomi and Mina (Japanese Mina)’s first time eating Mexican food. It was exciting to watch them eat it the first time, and they all loved it.

We stayed there eating and drinking for awhile and left around 9:30 or so. We walked back to the kaikan, playing around and laughing. When we got back, Nora, Zack and Matt headed to my room with Eva and we watched some Robot Chicken. Eva fell asleep during the 2nd episode so we decided to call the night early and headed off to sleep.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Finally an Eva Post!

Hey all! finally got the chance to relax, and write in this blog! Yay....
Anyway to make a very long saga short, Living in Oita has been a roller coaster, ups and downs and learning many valuable things, making new friends from around the world, even thought this place has it's ups and downs, i'm really beginning to enjoy it here. So in the past week i've mostly been studying, doing laundry, at school, or hanging out with the kaikan gang, :) I'm just glad that we're all are kind of like Melrose place type of community without all the bullshit, and backstabbing, It's just really nice to finally live in a place where no one wants to start anything, and just wants to get along. I'm very happy for that! :)

It's odd to also think that we have been here for such a long time, the semester is almost up?! I can't believe it.... anyway this winter Jari, the Ando Family and I are going to Okinawa, I'm really exited about it although it's going to be expensive (for me) but i'm for sure it's going to really be worth it :)

My friend Rikka and I have been freezing up here lately!! it's sooooo cold!! >< I hope that we can buy a coat soon before we turn into popsicles!!

Tonight's plan seems to be Curry Night/ Always with John, John is a pretty cool guy, very quiet, but he's like the kind of person who once you get to know him, he becomes more talkative. It's kinda scary, but sometimes Jari and I giggle about how sometimes he's really similar to me. aahaa....

Hopefully i'll remember to take some videos of my life here, i'm sure you want to see it from my point of view!! wow.... I really want to go eat an ice cream now......... nam nam nam!

Tata for now!