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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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Real Last Day at Airinkan, and Nara

Today was a pretty full day, where I actually did quite a lot, for once. I got up early to meet Sam to go to the day center, to give this guy a mix CD I had made for him as a thank-you for the two CDs of classic rock he had given me, as well as to pick up my shoes which I had forgotten, and to just show Sam around and introduce him to everyone. It was nice seeing everyone again, and it felt almost like I had never left. I may not miss it that much now, but I think I will someday.

After that we met up with Noah, got some really good ramen in this part of Kyoto Station I had never even been to before, and then took a train to Nara. It really made me realize that I had barely scratched the surface of what Kyoto has to offer in my month here, and I sort of feel like I wasted it doing nothing. But at least I did get to see the major sights, and go to Nara today.

Anyway, after a relatively long train ride, we made it to Nara, which is beautiful, by the way. The main attraction, though, is the hordes of deer that inhabit the area. We bought some crackers specially made for them and fed them to the deer, which were pretty aggressive. These deer are pretty different from the deer I’m used to on the East Coast–their fur is darker and seems more wild, and they aren’t really afraid of humans at all, they just come right up to you expecting food. I almost got into some kind of dangerous situations, what with them surrounding me and bumping me and nipping at my legs, but it was all really fun. In fact I kind of wanted to do it again haha, but Noah and Sam were kind of over it. I think I sort of became a scene, as the gaijin (foreigner) being attacked by deer, so a bunch of people took pictures of me haha.

Then we went onward to the Daibutsu, which is similar to the one in Kamakura, but inside a huge temple. And when I say huge, I mean huge. This was definitely the biggest temple I’ve ever seen. The Daibutsu is apparently bigger than the one in Kamakura, too. Needless to say, pretty awesome. I definitely want to go back to Nara, maybe on my trip with Vageesha and Jon.

We had to sort of rush back because Noah was going to meet up with Kayla and their friend to have dinner, so Sam and I went to this place called Donguri near the station, which is a chain of okonomiyaki places. Okonomiyaki is this sort of egg-like thing with sauce and vegetables mixed into it, really really good. We were amazed by how nice the place was. To get to the tables, you walk across this floor of glass, underneath which are these nice-looking white stones, and then you get your own little room closed off from the other diners. Really really nice, and good food for the prices. Personally I prefer when you aren’t in a closed-off room–I like drunkenly talking to the groups next to me–but it was really good talking to Sam, which I had really never done before then. Truthfully, during the trip today it was a lot of Noah and Sam talking, sounding pretty intelligent, and me feeling not-very-smart and not wanting to embarrass myself. But when I talked to Sam, it was perfectly natural and fun. Well, maybe that was because of the great beer, but still.

Anyway, that’s all for today. Enjoy some photos and music.

I’ve been into The Field lately–they have a lot of long, chill songs. This one’s a cover of a Beck song that I love.

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Kinkakuji

I’m feeling a bit better now, so I promise no more sad stuff on this blog! My time in Kyoto is coming to a close soon, and I’m kinda disappointed in myself for not visiting more shrines and temples. There are apparently over 2,000 in total, and I’ve seen maybe three, though they were definitely three big ones. The third one is Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion) which I saw a few days ago with Noah. After reading Yukio Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, a classic Japanese novel about the monk who burned down the temple in 1950, I was excited to follow in the main character’s footsteps and see with my own eyes the beautiful temple that he raved about. When I actually saw it, though, it was kind of a letdown. First off, it’s not that big. And maybe it was because it was cloudy that day, but it wasn’t as pretty as I expected it to be. Only the top two floors were golden, actually–I guess they were redone after the tragic burning–but for some reason the bottom floor was kinda bad-looking. It looked good in the pictures I took, though haha. There wasn’t much else to do–you see the temple and then you leave–so Noah and I went to a nearby area with a bunch of old shrines, hoping to find this famous Zen rock garden. We didn’t find it, but we did go into a couple of the shrines, which weren’t all that interesting to be honest. But we topped it off with kaiten-zushi, which made up for it haha.

Sam, the other foreign exchange student in our program who is doing the same Kyoto program that me and Kayla have been doing the past month, but starting in a few days, just got to Kyoto. We met up with him at Starbucks and told him a bit about the two places he’ll be working at. We also planned out some stuff to do tomorrow: Sam and I are gonna go to the day center, so I can get my shoes that I forgot and give this guy a mix CD, and also to show Sam around. Then afterwards we’re gonna meet up with Noah and go to Nara, and probably get attacked by deer haha.

That’s all for today. Here are some pictures from Kinkakuji:

Here’s the second single off Coldplay’s upcoming album, another very low-key song. I’m liking this direction.

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