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Back Home

Hey, sorry for the long hiatus. The end of my time in Japan was pretty busy, and once I was back home I was kind of too sad/lazy to write anything. But now I’m finally moved in to my new TH (Terrace House, where the seniors at Vassar College live) with four of my friends, and I’m ready to write about it. This will likely be my last post on this blog, since I started it for the purpose of recording my time in Japan, and now that I’m back, it doesn’t really serve much purpose anymore.

Being back is definitely weird. I mean, it wasn’t as bad as everyone warned me, no reverse culture shock or anything. Everything’s pretty much the way I left it. My hometown hasn’t changed that much. The people haven’t changed that much. It’s really just me who’s changed, hopefully for the better. I think I’ve become much more independent and sure of myself. And I don’t really take as much shit from people as I used to. I think that’s because everyone I met in Japan was so nice, and I guess I wasn’t all that used to that in America. As much I love my friends here, some of them can be real assholes, and I often find myself questioning why I’m even friends with them in the first place.

Another thing is that it’s just so much more boring being home than being in Japan. Specifically, Tokyo. I’m sure it would be boring if I had gone to the countryside of Japan, but in Tokyo there’s never a lack of things to do. And even if most of the time I was just out drinking with friends, it was always fun. Being part of a club where everyone is so friendly and just want to have a great time was amazing. You don’t really get that in American colleges.

I am glad I got to see my family. They’ve changed too, and it was kind of weird to see that. You kind of expect your family to always be the same, but if you don’t see them for a year they’ll be a lot different. And not always in ways that you like.

I’m happy to be in a house with my friends at Vassar, rather than at a dorm. It’s nice having the freedom to cook and eat what you want, instead of paying $13 to eat crappy cafeteria food. I’m definitely going to have to learn how to cook though.

I miss my friends from Japan, but I’ll see them again soon enough. I’m trying to convince Jon, Vageesha, and Shiori (she’s studying abroad in Indiana) to come visit me in NY. And I’ll be back in Japan eventually, either for work or on a fellowship or something. I went to a meeting about fellowship opportunities, and it kind of made me want to go to Japan for a year and write a novel or something. It wouldn’t be the same as it was last year, but it would be nice.

I’m so busy now, with four hard classes, a senior project, work, and just day-to-day living. I don’t really have time anymore for video games or writing or anything, which kind of sucks. But it’ll be good, too. At the end of the year I can be proud of all that I’ve done (hopefully). And perhaps all that work will lead to landing my dream job as a video game designer. We’ll see.

So yeah. This may be the end of this blog, unless I do end up getting a fellowship and spending another year in Japan, in which case I might start up again. But if not, thank you for following my posts and hearing what I have to say. It’s been a roller coaster of a year, but it’s also been one of the best years of my life so far, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store. I won’t say sayonara, because that means goodbye forever; instead I’ll just say matane (see you again)!

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View From Tokyo Tower
Pictures

House Party, All-Night Karaoke, Erika in Tokyo, Jon Leaves

Finally done with classes! We graduated from SILS and have the certificates to prove it.

Erika’s in Tokyo! It’s only for a few days, and she actually left today, but it was nice to see her. The day she came, we went to see fireworks in Sumidagawa, which is apparently the biggest fireworks event in Tokyo. My host dad wasn’t lying when he said it would be crowded–there were so many people we could barely get through, and we weren’t able to get to a place where we could clearly see them, but we got a decent enough view. It was really nice to wear yukata with Erika and my friends. (Finally, it had been a dream of mine for a while haha.)

 

The next day my host family had a house party, and I got to invite Jon, Vageesha, and Shiori. Like last time, Nami-san’s dad chopped up fish and we got to eat it fresh, and he brought his guitar and played it while we sang along. I got the drunkest I’ve been in a while, and made a right fool of myself, but it was a ton of fun. At least, for me–I’m not sure if my friends had fun or not because they didn’t get that drunk, though when I asked them later they said they enjoyed watching me being stupid.

On Monday, I got lunch with Erika with this really oshare (cool, fashionable) cafe, which was half-flower shop, so it had a really cool atmosphere. Then we found a place in the grass in Yoyogi Park and lay down for a few hours, stealing kisses while no one was looking and falling asleep snuggled next to each other. It’s a memory that I think will last with me for a long time.

That night I did all-night karaoke with my circle, The Lit Soc. I forget if I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s a circle where we write short stories and share them with each other. We put together a magazine of our stories and it came out really good! Anyway, I hadn’t done karaoke in a while so it was really fun. I had thought that doing all-night karaoke would tire me out, and it did by the end, but surprisingly it felt like we didn’t have enough time to sing all the songs we wanted to. I did manage to get in a few Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and some golden oldies for good measure, though.

Yesterday I had dinner with Erika’s dad in Shibuya at this hidden, really good izakaya-type place. I really like Erika’s dad–he’s so casual, chill, and friendly. I’m glad my girlfriend’s dad isn’t like the stereotypical, strict dad who hates his daughter’s boyfriend. After that, Erika and I climbed Tokyo Tower, which had a beautiful view of the Tokyo skyline. It made me realize how much I’m going to miss this city. Being up so high, looking over my favorite city, with my favorite person in the world, made me the happiest I’ve been in a while.

Today Jon went home to LA. I accompanied him to the airport with Vageesha and Shiori. It wasn’t as sad and didn’t feel like the end for me, since I’ll be going to LA before going back to NY, but seeing how shaken Vageesha and Shiori were after we said goodbye made it start to sink in. I dunno if it’s gonna hit me until I’m on the plane going home. I’ll probably end up sobbing onto the person sitting next to me.

 

Selfie At Narita Airport

Selfie at Narita Airport.

Anyway, that’s all for now. 4 days remain.

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Farewell Party

Hi guys, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry I haven’t written anything lately, I guess I’ve been too busy/lazy. But it’s almost 10 at night and tomorrow I have pretty much nothing to do so I figured I might as well stay up to write. So much has happened that it would take too long to talk about it all, so I’ll limit it to the recent Farewell Party that Niji no Kai had about a week ago.

First of all, I can’t even believe that it’s already getting to be the time for farewells. It doesn’t really feel like I’m leaving soon. Nothing’s really changed, except I have final tests/presentations for class, and everyone keeps saying how sad it’ll be when I leave. I can’t believe it’s already been nearly a year since I came to Japan. To think that I had originally wanted to do just half a year… There have definitely been some rough times this year, but overall it was an incredible, unforgettable experience that I’m so glad I got to have, and I’m so glad I decided to do a full year. I would never have been able to make such good friends as I have now.

So this farewell party was in honor of all the foreign exchange students that will be leaving soon. There were two parts: the first was at Waseda’s cafeteria, which Niji no Kai reserved for the party; the second was in Shinjuku, at the same place where we had the Christmas Party. The first part was from like 7-9, and had a pretty calm atmosphere, just members of Niji no Kai standing around tables, drinking and talking. I hung out with my usual friends and met another person who will be studying abroad in America next year (Earlham College in Indiana, the same place where my Japanese friends Shiori and Kotaro will be studying). There was also a video shown of a bunch of the Japanese members of Niji saying their goodbyes to the foreign exchange students and telling us how happy they were to have met us. It was really sweet.

The next part was the part that my Japanese friends told me had been sort of like a club last year. It went until 4 in the morning, so this was basically the “real” party. People gave performances on stage, which were mostly pretty happy, upbeat things like dancing or that cup-stacking game. But for the last act, Vageesha, our friend Julie, and I (we had decided that day) played a song. First, Vageesha gave this heart-wrenching speech about how Niji was like family to him, which made more than one person in the crowd start bawling. Then we played the song “Into the West” (you know, the last song from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King) with Vageesha on guitar and Julie and I singing. Ever since I sang “Twist and Shout” at the Niji Live (oh that’s right, I didn’t blog about that! I sang some Beatles songs with some of my Niji friends at this mini-concert thing we put on. It was the first time I had ever sang in front of anyone, so I was incredibly nervous, but it was the most fun I’d had in a while and I realized I wanted to keep doing it) I had wanted to sing more, so I was happy to do this slower, sadder song. It was amazing–before we went on, everyone was in a pretty good mood, pumped-up from the other performances. But after we went on, everyone was sobbing. I’m glad we got to do that, because after all, it’s a farewell party, and people need to be crying! I actually cried my eyes out with Vageesha (Jon fell asleep) which I hadn’t expected at all. I never cry in front of other people, but with all these great people who I can proudly call my friends around me, I couldn’t help but let it all out. These are some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had, and I can’t believe I only met them less than a year ago.

I’m sad to be leaving, but I’m also kind of relieved, to be honest. A year is still a long time, and I’ve begun to miss my life back home. I miss being around my family, my dog, my old friends. I miss having my own space, that I can really call mine. And of course I miss not having to use Japanese all the time.

I leave Japan on August 3 (less than two weeks from now…) but before then, I plan on doing plenty with my friends. Who knows when I’ll see them again. So for now, no tears. I’m going to enjoy the rest of my time here to the fullest.

I’ll leave you with the song we sang at the party. It’s so symbolic of our leaving–we’re literally going into the west–and I feel like I’m just going to play it on repeat on the plane home. Anyway, enjoy, and until next time!

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Weekend in Kyoto

Hisashiburi! (It’s been a while!) Sorry for keeping you waiting, I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats. It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing, just that I’ve been too busy/lazy to update the blog. Too much has happened to cover in one post, so I’ll just talk about this weekend.

On Saturday after Japanese class I took a shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto to visit Erika, my girlfriend, who is there studying Japanese as part of a program at Doshisha University. Super expensive, but it was either that or skip class again to take a bus, which I don’t think my grades can afford. We made kimchi, meat, and rice at her apartment for dinner, like we had done a year before at her house in LA. Again, really good.

On Sunday we took a trip to Osaka, where Erika had planned lots of things for us to do. First we went up Umeda Sky Building (which was the second time for me–the first time I went with Jon and Vageesha) and did some couple-y things like look out at the view at the top. After that we went to Dotonburi, which is probably the most famous place in Osaka, with the iconic Glico marathon man and the giant mechanical crab. It’s right on the river and has lots of really good restaurants. We had some kushikatsu for lunch, which is basically just different fried meats on sticks. Really good though.

I don’t remember if this was before or after that, but in any event we also went to Spa World, which is basically this huge ryokan theme park. It’s a hotel with a lot of cool onsen, and the men and women’s onsen each have a different theme. This month, the men’s theme was European, and the women’s was Asian. There was a cool fountain with movie posters for this movie about a Roman guy who travels to the future in a bath and wakes up in different baths in present-day Japan. I actually saw it and it was pretty hilarious. It’s called Thermae Romae if you’re interested. There was also this one bath that was made to look like you’re in a cave. Probably the coolest ryokan I’ve ever been to.

Then we tried looking for love hotels because we had wanted to ever since learning about them, and heard that a bunch of interestingly-themed love hotels were in Osaka. But to our disappointment, none of the ones we had seen on the Internet were anything like that in reality. They were all just regular hotel rooms, nothing special. Even one we went into, the picture outside showed a classroom, but when we went inside the room it was just a plain old hotel room. Luckily we were able to get our money back though. One funny moment happened when we went into Hotel Cosmo, and at the same time we went in another woman happened to come in too, and when the lady behind the counter saw us all come in at the same time she asked if all three of us would be using a room. Lol.

After our failed love hotel experience, we called it quits and went back to Dotonburi to get some of Osaka’s famous okonomiyaki for dinner. A nice way to end the night. But the best part was, when we were about to buy our tickets back to Kyoto, this group of girls offered us their 1-day pass that lets you take unlimited train rides around the Kansai area, since it was getting late and they wouldn’t need them anymore. So we rode back for free!

On Monday I skipped my classes (they weren’t all that important) and spent another day with Erika. We first went to Doshisha, where we ate lunch at the cafeteria with two of her friends. Then Erika showed me around campus. It’s a beautiful campus, way nicer than Waseda’s. I walked back to Erika’s apartment alone while she had an interview with one of the people in her program. I went through the Imperial Palace garden, which actually wasn’t all that great, just really big.

After that we went to Bamboo Forest, which is this super pretty path through–what else?–a bamboo forest! On the way there we made a wrong turn and a scene practically out of a Miyazaki film arose before us: this old lady was standing on the balcony on the second floor of her house, yelling “No no no, dame (bad, no good)” saying we couldn’t go through there, and that it was the other way. She seemed pretty pissed, I guess because so many tourists always walk by her house. But then her nice old husband (probably?) came out and told us how to get there. We also encountered several other people who for some reason seemed annoyed at us, including a bunch of Chinese tour groups, one who stared at us the whole time and seemed to be close to threatening me at one point. I really have no idea why any of that happened.

But it wasn’t enough to ruin the mood–we went ahead to this river where we watched boats peacefully float by. It was a pretty nice time. I’m really glad I got to spend the weekend with her. It helps to bring back what being together was like last year. I just wish I had more time with her. Oh well, the year is almost over, and soon we’ll both be back at Vassar. Only a couple more months!

Anyways, sorry for the long post. I’ll try to write more often from now on!

Edit: It’s called kushikatsu, not koshikatsu, which apparently means fried back. Ew.

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Shinkan Gasshuku

Wow, that was fun. Two nights, three days at a retreat with 150 members of Niji no Kai, Shinkan Gasshuku is probably the biggest event of the year. It’s meant to introduce the incoming freshmen to the club in a big way. Basically, we drink a lot. Though other than that, there were several very interesting things, the most interesting one being when Taigo, the president this year, had to go around the room, naming everyone’s name, where they come from, the school they go to, and what department they’re in. He remembered all 150 of them. It was the most incredible, intense thing I’ve ever witnessed. Everyone was completely silent for forty-five minutes. Apparently every president has to do that, and they study for about two months beforehand. I asked what happens if you mess up and forget one, and the answer was simple: you don’t mess up. Wow, Japan, you take your clubs seriously.

The drinking party was so much fun, even though it was an all-nighter and I was exhausted by the end of it and we had to get up really early the next day to take the bus and I felt like I was going to throw up the whole way home. Even so, I’m really glad I went. I met so many new people and became better friends with the ones I already have. I’m really glad I’m in this circle, they’re starting to really feel like my family. It’s finally hitting me that I have less than three months until I go home.

Speaking of family, lately I really haven’t wanted to be home with my host family. Every night, my host dad argues with his father, trying to get him to leave the house and live on his own. He also argues with Nami-san a lot, and treats her pretty badly. Not to mention he’s drunk all the time. I used to feel bad about not being home, but now I don’t really want to be. I just feel bad for Nami-san and Ryo.

Anyway, that’s all for now. See ya around.

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I’m Back!

Sorry for the very long hiatus! I’ve been pretty busy, what with classes starting up again, stuff in my personal life, and just hanging out with my friends and host family, so I haven’t really had time for blogging. And when I do have free time, I’m usually too tired to blog and I just want to watch Mad Men or something. But Golden Week starts today, and I have some time before I have to go to a barbecue, so I figured I might as well catch you all up! (Golden Week is a week-long holiday in Japan where (almost) everyone gets off work and school, though apparently my host family doesn’t.)

Actually, it’s not entirely true that I haven’t been blogging–I’m contributing to a blog for my college, which I do every two weeks or so, so I’ve actually written a couple of blog posts in the time between my last one on this blog and now. Rather than re-write them here, which would make for a very long post, I’ll just post links to them:

4/19: Spring Semester Begins/Kanamara Matsuri

4/29: Spring Retreat

Since my last post, not a whole lot has happened (it’s only been two days, after all) though I’ve been spending more time with my host family, and the big drama happening now is that my host parents want Tatsuo-san (the grandpa) to move out and live in a one-room apartment. It’s apparently too hard living with him. It’s Akio-san’s father, and Akio-san really hates him, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me. I think it has something to do with his childhood, and how Tatsuo-san wasn’t always around, instead choosing to travel around the world and spend all his money, leaving Akio-san to sort of clean up the mess and get the family company in order. Also, Tatsuo-san is very forgetful, being in his 80s, so Akio-san will tell Tatsuo-san something and he’ll forget minutes later, which drives Akio-san crazy. To me, the forgetfulness is something that comes with old age and I don’t think you should hold it against the person. Tatsuo-san is a very gentle, kind person, even in the face of Akio-san yelling at him. But I guess I could understand why he would want him to move out, though I really don’t think he’ll be able to survive on his own. He can barely function here, with his family living right downstairs. They’re apparently going to do a trial run for about a week and see how he does.

This being Golden Week, everyone’s making travel plans, and as for me, I’m going to this event that my circle, Niji no Kai, is putting on, called Shinkan Gasshuku, which is basically a two-night retreat/drinking fest. I’m super excited, because pretty much all of my friends are going to be there, as well as lots of people I don’t know. This is supposed to be the biggest, most fun event of the year, so I’ll update afterward on how it went!

Anyway, that’s all for now. Oh, and if you didn’t read the two above blog posts, the one thing you should know is I SHOOK KYARY PAMYU PAMYU’S HAND. She had a free concert promoting her new single and if you bought her CD you got to shake her hand, and, well, I couldn’t pass that up! Happiest moment of my life. (It’s all downhill from here haha.)

Here’s the video of her new single, and in typical Kyary fashion, it’s quite weird:

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