l33tminion: (Junpei)
We're back!

Actually, we were back last week, but I haven't gotten around to sitting down and writing a post. Getting back to work was interesting. My new workplace at the expanded Google Cambridge office is pretty great.

Our return trip wasn't so bad, jet-lag-wise, though the long day of travel Sunday was pretty hard (5 hours of sleep, wake up at 4AM, then 28.5 hours awake with only intermittent naps on plane and train before bed at 8:30PM).

And the trip was awesome! We stayed in a little inn (Tama Ryokan in Shinjuku) and took in many of the sights of the city. We viewed the night skyline and several fireworks shows from the top of Tokyo Skytree. We saw the start of the summer festival in Chiba City, and the giant shrine at Narita. We had the chance to visit my host-mom and see some of my old haunts from study away (though the university was apparently closed at the time). We ate lots of great street food, amazing pastry and coffee at cute cafes, elaborate desserts, fancy sushi (near Tokyo's famous fish market) and convenient sushi (at Genki Sushi, where orders are placed on a touch-screen display and whisked to your seat via trays on a magnetic rail), and delicious grilled eel.

We took a day-trip to Hakone, visiting the teahouse at Amazake Chaya and taking sightseeing ferry across Lake Ashi, but unfortunately arriving at Owakudani a bit too late to do anything aside from take a quick look at the view and immediately catch the last ropeway car out. But still had an amazing evening at the Hakone Yuryo hot springs (arriving just in time to stay out of a dramatic thunderstorm), with its beautiful baths and a restaurant with charcoal hearths set into the center of the tables and the most delicious roasted fish I've ever had.

We ventured out to Itabashi to seek out the izakaya of a famous Iranian-Japanese portrait artist, only to find the shop closed, the owner out of town for a television appearance. But we found a lovely izakaya around the corner, Izakaya Hanami, an exceptionally clean (hard to find non-smoking izakayas), pretty, and welcoming shop that was clearly a labor of love for the proprietors, Mr. and Mrs. Tadashi. The shop was decorated with model trains and train photographs taken by Mr. Tadashi, a train enthusiast and former railroad engineer. The proprietors and all the regulars were very kind to us wayward tourists and were very patient with my limited Japanese.

The only downsides to the trip were the weather (unusually hot and humid, not cooling down until close to the end of the trip) and that I came down with a throat infection in the middle of it (requiring a trip to the doctor, made me glad that Google provides really top-of-the-line trip insurance for its employees). Nothing that could really mar a great vacation.

It was wonderful for us to be able to take some time together without any worries about chores or work (for the most part, Julie managed to call in to at least one meeting).

Since getting back, I've set up at my new office, started in on post-wedding chores, and done a bit of cooking (our vegetable deliveries resumed on Friday, and earlier in the week I made madeleines).
l33tminion: (Chaos)
l33tminion: (Kano)
l33tminion: (Train)
I'm all packed, save for a few last-second items.

It's going to be a long, strange day tomorrow. Last flight, I had a long day where it got to be tomorrow without ever being night. This flight, I'll have an accelerated night without it ever being tomorrow.

Only a year ago, if you had asked me whether I'd be studying away, I'd have said no. How very strange that seems now...
l33tminion: (Error)
Hanging out at the IES Tokyo Center for the last time. On the wall, the motto of IES is posted, which seems to me as good a motto as any:
一期一会、一日一善 ("ichigo ichie, ichinichi ichizen; "treasure every encounter, for it will never recur; do one good deed every day")

The "Four Rules" (which I can't seem to resist mentally translating into /b/-speak) are also posted all over, too:
1. Express your appreciation (needs moar arigatou!)
2. Sit back and observe Japanese way of doing things (LURK MOAR)
3. Keep promises (because anonymous never forgives)
4. Be a good diplomat (anonymous delivers)

I'm done with class now. Can't believe I'm heading home tomorrow. 帰りたいか、帰りたくないか? About going home, I have mixed feelings. There are a lot of things I'm going to miss about this place (Kanda students, my host family, Japanese food, the trains), but I miss home, too. I'm glad the semester is over, though. Ironically, I could use a vacation.
l33tminion: (Japanese!)
Japanese sign translations use some of the oddest English words sometimes. I saw a sign on a crepes stand today that used the word "hither". While I guess ここ, そこ, and あそこ (koko, soko, and asoko) could be accurately translated as "hither", "thither", and "yon", that's not the wording I would choose.

Also, Japanese 7-11 ATMs now accept foreign bank cards.

In more relevant news, my finals are done, and they all went well. I had time today to help with a few research projects, too, with was interesting and profitable. I've given thank-you gifts to my language exchange partners, and much of my end-of-semester cleaning and packing has been completed. The Sayonara Party is tomorrow, I return home the day after tomorrow... only two nights left in this country.
l33tminion: (Bookhead (Nagi))
I spent today book-shopping. Traded in my old books at Good Day Books, although they wouldn't take three of them (had copies already). Went to ABC in Roppongi to spend some book vouchers I got for helping with kanji learning research. Asked the ABC Outlet Store whether they bought used books; they don't, but the storekeep suggested The Blue Parrot Bookshop, near Takadanobaba. The fact that "near Takadanobaba" is awfully vague directions didn't deter me from going there and looking. I found it eventually, sold my last three books, and bought one more.

As far as I can tell, The Blue Parrot offers a little less in trade than Good Day Books, but their selection is still good and their prices are significantly lower. Also, you can sell books for cash (they'll offer you only a fraction of the trade value, but it's still a plus to have the option, IMO). Wish I'd discovered them earlier.

Update: Also wish I'd found this Ask MetaFilter post on English-language Tokyo bookstores earlier. Found it when I was looking for ABC's website.
l33tminion: (Train)
My last weekend in Japan...

Friday was my kanji final. Yesterday, wrote my other final paper (for sociolinguistics). Today, went to a festival in Narita (forgot my camera, unfortunately) and had a totally awesome sushi dinner at a fairly fancy place (also in Narita) with my host family. What a great birthday gift (my birthday is on Tuesday, can't believe I'm almost 21). Tomorrow, I have my final for kaiwa. Tuesday and Thursday I have my final for Japanese class. Need to go to the bookstore one last time on Wednesday, to start packing by Thursday, to cancel my rail pass on Friday. The farewell party is Friday afternoon.

Update: Corrected error, my Japanese final is Tuesday and Thursday, not Thursday and Friday.
l33tminion: (L33t zombie)
One class down, four to go (three final tests, one paper). Blah.

I spent all of Saturday writing my paper for marketing, then went to Harajuku with Vito on Sunday. We played through the whole of Time Crisis 4 in an arcade, which probably cost a bit over $20 in continues between the two of us. Was fun, though.

I got feedback on my kaiwa speech today. That went pretty well. One of the visitors complemented my pronunciation, another commented on my heavy American accent. So I'll call that a draw. :-P

I know a little over 200 kanji now, but my recall isn't as good as it could be. I'll have to review all of those after I get home.
l33tminion: (HHGTG Stub)
The thing that most surprises me about Kanda is how much it reminds me of Olin. It's surprising because there are some pretty glaring differences. Kanda has an entirely different academic focus, 10 times the students, a far higher percentage of female students. But a lot of things strike me as similar: The incredible academic enthusiasm of the students, the awesome, friendly people, the holistic, interdisciplinary, grounded academic approach (the last applies a bit more to Kanda natives than international students, I think). The one drawback is that in many ways Kanda is different from the rest of Japan (less shy (I think), much more enthusiastic about English, perhaps somewhat more openminded and knowledgeable about other cultures). Overall, I love Kanda, but I wonder how different my experience would have been if I'd chosen a different program and ended up at a different school.
l33tminion: (Default)
Thursday: Reentry workshop, which was pretty useless. I am expecting reentry culture shock to be a bit worse than my adjustment on arriving here, though...

Saturday: Trip to Hakone. Not terribly exciting, but very relaxing. Fairly fancy Japanese-style lunch, quick walk around Hakone Checkpoint (historical site), and then rode the ropeway to a mountainside sulfurous hot-spring. Ate a lot of ice cream and some onsen tamago (hot-spring eggs; also called kuro tamago, since the eggs turn black from the minerals in the spring water). Hanging out with friends was fun, and I'm glad I didn't spend all weekend at home.

Today: Had a lot of work to get done, but got very little done. Had a hard time concentrating. Fortunately, I'm ready for my presentation in marketing class tomorrow, although I should probably run through the slides one more time.
l33tminion: (Default)
The upside to all of yesterday's drama was I got a good night's sleep, and felt refreshed this morning. In the afternoon, I had a marketing class field study at Kokuyo, which was nifty. After dinner, I enjoyed watching Pressure Study (a rather strange Japanese quiz show) with Kyoko-san, with us both trying to guess the answers and translating words from English to Japanese and vice-versa. I definitely did a better job with Japanese than I have in the past few days, so that's a step up, too.

As far as airing my drama on LJ goes... thanks for listening to my ranting, if you did, and sorry for bothering you with my problems, if you were.

Speech!

Jun. 16th, 2007 03:13 pm
l33tminion: (Japanese!)
Lovely weather this weekend. Too bad I have so much homework.

Speaking of which, I have to write a speech (in Japanese, obviously) for kaiwa class, on the topic of 日本の[something or other]. The speech is supposed to end up 3-4 minutes in length. I'm going to write about 日本の食べ物 (nihon-no tabemono; Japanese food). Posting my (very) rough draft here in the hopes that my sempai will mercifully help me with grammar and vocab (I'm trying to use quite a bit that I don't really know...).

English: Because of its varied and interesting flavors, Japanese food is wonderful. It has been influenced by Japanese culture and the cuisine of various other countries. Some of my favorite foods are udon and gyuudon (beef on rice). I like udon because it is tasty and cheap. There is an udon shop at the Carrefour near KUIS, so I often eat lunch there. What I most often order is called "kama-tama-udon", a food made with udon, egg, and onion, which only costs 330 yen. I like gyuudon because it's fast (to make) and convenient. You usually order from a vending machine, hand in the ticket, then get your gyuudon a little while later. I like gyuudon served with egg and kimchee, I usually mix them together. However, be careful. If you eat too much kimchee, it's too spicy.

Japanese: たようでおもしろい味があるから、日本の食べ物はすばらしいですね。 日本のぶんかと色々な国の料理にえいきょうされました。 私の好物はうどんや牛丼ですよ。 安くて美味しいので、うどんが好きです。 神田外語大学のそばのカレフールにうどん屋があるから、ひるごはんをそこでよく食べます。 一番よくちゅうもんするのは「釜玉うどん」と言ううどんとねぎと玉子の料理ですが、330円だけですよ。 牛丼はつくるの早くて便利です。 いつも、じどうはんばいきでちゅうもんして、きっぷを出して、短時間で牛丼を持ちますね。 たまごとキムチがある牛丼は大好きですが、よくまぜました。 でも、気をつけて。 キムチを食べすぎると、もっとからいですよ。

I'll be editing this as I work on it.
l33tminion: (Wings)
I could have stayed home and worked today, but I decided I needed a break, so I went into town and wandered around Ueno and Akihabara. It was fun. I had lunch in a pash cafe [sic] (unfortunately smoky, but the pasta was good and the waitresses were friendly), did a decent job of conversing in Japanese, bought an extremely tasty pastry from some merchants with a sales pitch the likes of which I haven't seen since I was in Israel (for those who haven't been, Israeli merchants tend to have a sales style grey area between pressure sales and outright molestation), played some arcade games (including the Half Life 2 arcade version), found a little RC car racetrack (ラジコン天国) on the sixth floor of some random building, watched the crowds, read on the train.
l33tminion: (Default)
Tuesday: Talked about "foreigner talk" in sociolinguistics class. Among other features, English speakers are a lot more casual and use a lot less grammar when talking to English learners, whereas Japanese speakers do the opposite (more grammar, more polite wording). Japanese learners also tend to use more grammar than necessary (trying to include all the particles, for example), as we need to practice our grammar and don't know what to leave out. This explains the common, somewhat backhanded compliment 「あー、きれい日本語ですね」 (ah, kirei nihongo desu-ne; "ah, that's beautiful Japanese, isn't it?").

Wednesday: Had lunch with Vito at 日本のデニーズ, which is a bout a billion times better than American Denny's. (Actually, Japanese Denny's is owned by an entirely different company which bought the rights to the Denny's branding. That company in turn is owned by 7&i Holdings, which owns 7/11.) In the afternoon, I went to the national museum of Japanese History in Sakura (fairly close to my host family's home). The museum was quite interesting and definately worth the time, even though one of the museum's five galleries is currently closed for renovations.

Thursday: In the afternoon, there was a guest lecture at the IES center on Japanese popular culture, given by a neo-Marxist, anti-technology reactionary, otaku woman who's working as a professor (teaching English?) at some other university in Tokyo.

Friday was uneventful, so that's about it. This weekend, I have a ton of Japanese studying to do, and I need to make more progress on my project for marketing class (on McDonald's Japan).
l33tminion: (Default)
Today, for marketing class, we went to visit the headquarters of Avex in Harajuku (unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home, so I have no pictures from the field trip). We watched a promotional video, talked to their representative about Avex marketing strategy, then recorded some karaoke in their practice studio (which is equipped with a fairly awesome karaoke setup, the better to impress visitors with). This means that I can (sort of) legitimately claim that I recorded at Avex, and also that pictures of me looking silly mid-karaoke will undoubtedly be appearing on Facebook any moment now.
l33tminion: (Japanese!)
今日じしんがあった、でもみじかくて強くなかった。 そとはいいてんきだから、ごごは外で勉強した。 勉強の間に順天堂大学から音楽を聞こえできた。 そして勉強を終わって、順天堂大学へさんぽに行きました。 一見、今日は順天堂大学のはだかまつりの中だ。 (カメラをうちでわすれちゃった。) ぜんぶよかった日。

(日本語の先輩: しっぱいがあったら教えてください。)

Translation:

I'm Writing This Post in Japanese

Today, there was an earthquake, but it was short and weak. The weather was good, so I studied outside in the afternoon. While I was studying, I heard music coming from Juntendo University, so I finished studying and took a walk to Juntendo University. Apparently, today is the middle of Juntendo University's Hadaka Matsuri [apparently, this festival was held on June 11 last year; note also that the running around half-naked carrying a shrine part doesn't happen until the last day of Juntendo's festival (tomorrow)]. (Unfortunately, I left my camera at home.) All in all, a good day.

(To my seniors in Japanese: If I made mistakes, please teach me.)

[Note: I wasn't sure if I should write journal posts in plain or polite form, but I decided to use plain form because (among other reasons) I need more practice with it.]
l33tminion: (Default)
Today was an odd but busy day. I woke up, ate breakfast, missed the bus twice, took the train to Ebisu, bought books, ate lunch at the aptly-named Bagel&Bagel, spent an excessive amount of time hanging out in Roppongi (for no reason in particular), encountered another discount English-language bookstore and bought a few more books, saw Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and practiced kanji at a cafe.

POTC3 was quite a bit darker than the previous movies in the series (it starts with mass hangings and doesn't bring in the swashbuckling dark humor until quite a bit later). Some of the camera work on the fight scenes seemed sloppy, made it really hard to tell what was going on. On the other hand, the rest of the technical stuff is as well done as before (or better), the pace is good, the dialog is witty, and Jack is several hundred percent more insane. Overall, very awesome. (I was a bit annoyed by the unnecessary (but very brief) epilogue tacked on after the credits, though. Normally, that positioning would make it less annoying, but the theater in Roppongi Hills apparently doesn't bring up the lights until the whole movie is over, credits and all.)

On a completely unrelated note, there's been a big measles epidemic on college campuses around Japan recently. A lot of campuses have even shut down to contain the outbreak. KUIS has had a few cases, but they're not doing anything drastic yet, although contingency plans are in place. I'm vaccinated, but I've heard rumors that this strain isn't covered by the vaccinations given in the US. (No idea if that's accurate, though...)

I have a presentation in Kaiwa tomorrow and a kanji midterm on Friday.

Haisai!

May. 27th, 2007 11:56 pm
l33tminion: (Default)
The trip to Okinawa was a blast. Quick recap:

Wednesday: Woke up early to make it to the airport in time, went to the Okinawa Soba Museum for lunch (went back for seconds; had some traditional Okinawa soba and the awesomely named 昔ながらの大学そば (mukashi-nagara-no daigaku soba; "old school soba"; mukashi = back in the day; daigaku = college)). Afterwards, visited the Old Underground Navy Headquarters and Shuri castle. The hotel we stayed at was awesome, traditional Japanese style rooms with futons and tatami-flooring and an awesome view of the beach below. Only downside was that the hotel had no internet access.

Thursday: Saw (and participated in) some Okinawan glass making, ate goya (healthy, strange-tasting Okinawan vegetable) ice-cream, then went to Ocean Expo park. Took lots of pictures at the awesome aquarium and saw the dolphin show.

Friday: Okinawa World, a walk through some caves, beni-imo (purple sweet potato) and satoukibi (sugarcane) ice-cream, traditional drums and dancing, bought some gifts including an extremely overpriced CD of traditional Okinawan music (which turned out to be a big disapointment, although my other purchases were worth in). After that, tour of a brown sugar factory and a short walk around Manzamo Cliff. Back at the hotel, there was a lesson in how to play the sanshin (Okinawan three-stringed guitar); I didn't feel like actively participating in that, so I ducked out midway through and got some rest before dinner. Dinner was yakiniku (meat and vegetables fried on flat grills built into the tables), which was awesome.

Saturday: Shopping on Kokusai St. (touristy / international area). Lunch at Sam's Anchor Inn, a Japanese-American style steakhouse, which was a totally awesome meal. Soup, salad, then potatoes, steak, and vegetables, cooked yakiniku style by a chef at the table, coconut custard served on a seashell for desert. The presentation was incredible and the food tasted awesome. After that, we went to the airport to head home. Our flight was canceled due to mechanical problems, but we were put on another flight only an hour later, and they gave us food vouchers, which paid for a nice snack. After arriving in Tokyo, I decided to take the Tokyo Monorail (nifty) towards home. At the end of the line, I stopped at the bookstore in the station and ended up spending somewhat more than I meant to on new books. I changed trains to JR, took that a few stops to Ueno, had dinner at a 牛丼 (gyūdon; beef served on rice) place there, 牛丼, egg, miso soup, and spicy kimchee. Then I took the evening-liner (comfortable super-express train) back home.

Since then, I've been recovering from internet withdrawal and studying the material I should have reviewed more over the trip. There are a lot of midterms coming up this week...
l33tminion: (L33t zombie)
Today was a rather lousy day. I had a test in kaiwa, did all right on the listening but totally screwed up the conversation part. Definitely didn't practice enough. Conversation teaches you how hard a language is... up the speed a bit and everything you learned has a tendency to get lost in the wake. I also missed taking a kanji test that I need to take today on account of missing the next kanji class on Friday (due to being away in Okinawa with the IESers). I'll have to track down Inaba-sensei and apologize tomorrow.

Also, a random political snippet: Ohio 17th district congressman Tim Ryan is trying to live for a week on only food stamps (a week's worth is $21 of food). On the fifth day, he gets most of his remaining food (jars of peanut butter and jelly) confiscated by the TSA. Not sure what to facepalm about first...
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