Saturday, April 30, 2011

It Has Been 12 Days...

     Sorry about that, everyone. The lack of writing is a result of my laziness, I guess. Though, I have been quite busy and occupied. I will need to expand upon that this weekend, in greater detail. For now, however, I am getting ready for Aiki Budo. It is not quite Aikido, but it is a wonderful way to expand my Aiki knowledge, along with a wonderful way to meet great people. More on that soon. Promise.

     I'll give you a photo in the meantime.


     Hope everyone is enjoying themselves, and I'll post more soon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Views on Japan

I stumbled upon this article earlier today. Perhaps it provides some insight to the future possibilities of Japan. Though, keep in mind, it is only an opinion piece... Much like my own writing. Click the title of the article below to go to the original source. Hope you enjoy.

The sun will rise again in Japan
The 1995 Kobe earthquake created destruction, along with consumer demand, and this latest disaster will be similar.

In Japan, memorial services for the dead are normally held 49 days after their passing. The bereaved mourn throughout this period.

The number of victims of the earthquake and tsunami that assaulted the Tohoku region of northeast Japan has now reached around 30,000, if those who are still missing are included.

This was the largest natural disaster to strike Japan in its history, and the entire nation has been in mourning.

Throughout this period, television stations, in response to viewers' feelings, have refrained from showing frivolous programs and gaudy commercials.

Many of the hanami events, for celebrating the annual eruption of cherry blossoms, a much-loved activity for us Japanese, have been cancelleded.

Music and sporting events, along with town gatherings, have also been cancelled or postponed. 

No Clever Title

     It has been nearly a week since my last post. A lot has happened (including me being lazy).I'm fairly certain that I have my chosen classes figured out. I'm not happy that some of courses I wanted to take will conflict with others I have to take, but there is always a way to learn what I want. In addition to school news, I have been allowed wonderful opportunities in making new friends. Friends that can help me with my Japanese. One of my bigger fears, before coming to Japan, was that I would be stuck making friends that only speak English, and that I would not be able (or be forced) to use my Japanese. Most thankfully, that is not the case.

     My current class schedule is as follows:

Period I
Period II
Period III
Period IV
Period V
Comprehensive Japanese Japanese Reading
Comprehensive Japanese Kanji Intro to Japanese Music: Shakuhachi
Comprehensive Japanese Japanese Listening Culture Clashes
Comprehensive Japanese Kanji Traditional Performing Arts of Japan
Comprehensive Japanese Japanese Conversation Cultural/Social Culture of the Japanese

     Perhaps it is not the most intensive schedule, while considering only meeting once a week, but the intensity of the language lessons might balance that out.

     I was disappointed not being able to take the Judo class (along with "Modern and Contemporary Cultures of Japan"). I am investigating whether or not I can make room for the Judo club activities, along with my Aikido desires. The biggest difficulties with participating in any extra activities is that I do not possess the free flowing funds to just "do it." I need to balance my costs, daily, to hope that I can continue doing all the fun things I want to here. The costs of food, is rather high, but I have begun to discover secrets to make yen last longer. For instance, I discovered a little convenience store on Gakugei campus (with help from a classmate from my Japanese language classes) that have bento style lunches for under 400 yen. Before, I would purchase half the amount of food in these lunches for twice the price. I have also been eating a good deal of ramen. Something I suppose a college student can never truly escape. Although, the ramen here is much more filling, and better in many regards (or, perhaps that is an unconscious bias — regardless I enjoy it).

     Other costs, not entirely anticipated, include buying books for classes, a sort of safety deposit on my room, and a new backpack (mine ripped, literally, in half). Also, to cut down on the amount I would bring with to Japan, I forgo bringing dishes, kettle, massive amounts of clothes, an umbrella, and various other things like soap and toothpaste that I knew I could just purchase in Japan. Plus, I tried to budget for my Aikido expenses, but did not consider the extremity of transportation costs, or time involved. Much rethinking, and budgeting is being done.

     I need to be leaving for school soon, so I will cut this short. But, there is more to come. I feel like I am finally settling in. Which is good, though I wonder, in the back of my head, "What next?"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Classes Have Begun

     It has been a few days, but the time has come to update, accordingly. Classes have started here for me. And, although not too difficult (yet, I imagine) the structure and experiences are ever so complicated. As of now I have only taken my Japanese language courses. A majority of the other courses meet only once a week, and in some cases less frequently than that. Classes that I am planning to take at this time, in addition to Japanese language, conversation and kanji, are as follows: "Traditional Performing Arts of Japan," "Cross-Cultural Ideas," "Culture Clashes," "Cultural Social Psychology of the Japanese," and "Introduction to Japanese Music: Playing Shakuhachi."

     I might also look into taking a field course, "Geography of Japan: Historical Landscape of Yokohama and Kamakura, in Kanagawa Prefecture." This field course appears to basically be a series of field trips around the area. History and travel both work for me. I am somewhat saddened that I cannot take a Judo class being offered, or a modern/contemporary culture class, due to my Japanese language studies. But, the overall reason for my trip is to strengthen my Japanese speaking ability.

     My walk to the Gakugei campus takes roughly 30 minutes, and affords a very beautiful series of views. I'll work at taking and posting more photos of the changing scenery here. Speaking of which, in Japan it is the time associated with cherry blossoms. Many trees are in bloom and as summer approaches, they are dropping cherry blossom petals, almost a reminder of fallen snow. On the "PHOTOS" page I have included a handful of images of the cherry blossoms, or sakura. The sakura shape is very distinct, and has become, to a certain degree, an identity for Japanese beauty, and certainly a symbolic concept.

Sakura no Hanami

     On this past Saturday, I went to a hanami,  or "flower viewing" party. Deep down, I know the flower viewing was important, but people here at the Hitotsubashi Village really enjoy partying. I was able to speak a great deal with other students from all over Asia (Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, China and of course, Japan). The best part being, sometimes the only common language we would have would be Japanese. And, with any party, drinks were provided. And, with drinks, I become much more talkative. It was a good time that ended with me sleeping really hard and resting well through the night (of my own accord, in my own bed... thank you).

     The most difficult part about living in Japan, currently, is that I want to eat something from every shop I walk past, and stop in for a treat at every convenience store. I could spend my entire time here eating. The difficult part arises when I realize that I have no where near that kind of money. We'll see how things play out, but I'm sure that learning how to cook traditional Japanese food will remain a priority. In fact, I think they have a club for that...

     For now, I need to return to studying, responding to emails, and working out time slots for practicing Aikido. Perhaps I mentioned it, but TGU has an Aikido club, although of a slightly different style. I plan to investigate. Also, there is a local dojo (that is not an hour away like Hombu is, sadly) that I would like to learn more about. I'm thinking that when I find a place for Aikido practice, I will make a tab at the top of the page for "AIKIDO" so as not to bore some of you non-practioners with my aiki-lingo.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Kids Are All Right In Tokyo

     I want everyone to know that I, along with almost everyone else in Japan (certainly in Tokyo), am perfectly safe after the most recent earthquake. In all honesty, I barely noticed it at first. Below is an excerpt from the Japan Times explaining the situation, and the return to normality. Feel free to ask any questions though! I have other updates about my time here in the works, but I felt this held some precedent, insuring that people did not worry about us here in Japan. Enjoy, and be empowered by knowledge.
Friday, April 8, 2011
M7.4 quake jolts Miyagi Pref., vicinity; tsunami warning lifted
A strong quake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.4 jolted on Thursday evening Japan's Miyagi Prefecture and its vicinity but no major troubles were reported at nuclear facilities in the areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake, including the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power station.
The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning immediately after the 11:32 p.m. quake, whose seismic center was off Miyagi Prefecture at a depth of some 40 kilometers, but it was lifted shortly before 1 a.m. Friday.

Thursday, April 7, 2011



     Another view from my room looking northeast. It was a very nice, and clear day. I understand that Wisconsin has experienced some rainy weather. I'm sure it'll be here as well, soon enough...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Less Than Sunny, Sunday

     Things here have been wonderfully busy, with a dash of lazy. It has been a few days since the last update, and with that time, I have learned more about my neighborhood (by getting lost in it) and learned more about my current university. Adventures have been had, indeed. As mentioned, I discovered the location of TGU with relative ease on Saturday. On Sunday, I returned to the campus to attempt to properly locate the proper buildings. That Sunday, absolutely no luck. There are 3 or 4 entrance I now know of, while only one "main" gate entrance. However, this last Sunday had some sort of event taking place that confused my understanding of TGU building placements. I've since learned (in TGU orientations on Wednesday morning) that the campus also contains a middle/high school as well. I believe that the events on Sunday were school related in regard to the younger students. In the end, I still wandered the campus, with no clear direction, and before long, ventured back home… ish.
     I figured an attempt at a different way home, in hopes of seeing more of the city of Kodaira, would do me well. I walked west of the university grounds, and then south. At some point I found myself at Kokubunji Station. I explored the station, and its nine floors of shopping. Not really much for me to want to buy, but I think I like some of the items for sale at UNIQLO. I would say that UNIQLO is almost like a Japanese H&M meets Target. It was fairly affordable, and worth revisiting.
     At about this point, on Sunday, I was reasonably hungry. After touring the food court level of the station, I opted to leave the station and find a cheaper noodle place. I was soon in an awesome little udon shop. I really had wanted udon to be the first thing I ate in Japan, but I hadn't been so lucky. This shop made up for it. I ordered kitsune udon (sometimes referred to as fox udon) and purchased a side of tempura squash. Absolutely delicious!
     Re-energized, I set off to officially return home. The route proved... far longer than anticipated. Truthfully, I was completely lost, in the worst way. Well, not the worst, really. I was not so lost that I was ready to panic and be forced to use my Japanese (the little I could have used to discover proper direction back), but enough to be completely unsure of exactly where I was. I mean, I knew I was in Japan still. Fairly certain I hadn't walked out of Kokubunji or Kodaira. Though, looking at a map now, I was just over-exaggerating my trip home. I walked a very large circle, walking beyond the Hitotsubashi Village about a kilometer or so. I probably returned home about 6:00 pm, after leaving that morning around 9:00 am. It was a good day, providing a great excuse to go to bed early.

     Monday was spent discovering (using the internet, not my feet) places in my neighborhood to shop for inexpensive food. I discovered, within a 10 minute walk, a very nice Lawson 100 store, where much of the items for sale are 100 yen. This doesn't always prove to be a deal, but often times it can. These item are usually items sold in smaller sizes. I am happy to know its location, and plan to return.
     After the walk to the convenience store, I rested a bit, talked with some of you back in the States, and set forth for a Hitotsubashi orientation in the village Plaza building. After the orientation, which detailed living in the village community, cell phone companies, net providers and a Japanese police representative talked with all us. Informative, too informative. I feel that I have been inundated with too much, too fast. To relax my brain, I looked up Aikido dojos in the area.

     Aikido in Japan is going to be, well, not so much as difficult, as much as expensive and trickier than expected. Hombu Dojo is in Shinjuku (a neighborhood of Japan). While not impossible to get to, it is further than I had anticipated. To travel from my university to Hombu would require multiple trains (multiple option on top of that) and a good deal of time walking. I am not opposed to walking (yet), but the commute to Hombu Dojo from my dorm would be about an hour and a half, open way. I need to look into other options, maybe closer. Hombu is still a treat to look forward to, though! More Aikido news to come, without a doubt. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New friends... Maps... and Walking

     So, I walked today. A lot. It was nice out though, all things considered. Plus, I learned the location of the university (on my own). Right! I have yet to explain where I am at this time. I had some time away from the internet. Actually, the how I am connected now might change in the next few days, but until then, I will be using the web.
     After I left the Narita Tobu Hotel, I returned to Narita Airport to wait for the delegation/collectors from Tokyo Gakugei University. The hotel required that I check out by 11:00 am, and the representative from TGU were not to be picking us up until 2:30 pm. With the gap of time I was expecting a boring wait. Luckily, after looking around at Narita, and then returning to the arrival gates, I noticed a sign that read, "東京学芸大学 — Tokyo Gakugei Daigaku." As it turned out, TGU was there, and shortly after I boarded the bus to travel to the dormitories.

Tokyo Bridge

     I was aware that the ride would be long, from the airport to the dorms in Kodaira, however, I did not expect quite that long. It took roughly two and half hours by bus. The trip was made better by the fact that there was plenty of room, and the bus afforded a good deal of leg room, along with reclining chairs.
     Upon arrival, through an interesting process, I was given direction and a guided tour. Now, I have been working on this whole "Japanese" thing for some time, and that would suggest that I should understand the language.... But, I was so lost. So much Japanese, all at once, with no clear awareness of whether or not I had understood correctly left me somewhat nervous. After being shown my room (not that bad at all) on the 8th floor, along with the shower, kitchen, laundry, etc., I went back to my room with an invitation to attend a welcoming party at 8:00 pm. First, I went out on my balcony and took in the day, and the view. I proceeded to unpack and read a multi-lingual handbook on the dormitory community. It didn't  take long for me to realize how tired I was, and I started to take a nap.

     I woke up at 7:50... Although I rushed to get ready, I arrived right on time. I was greeted by many people, all in Japanese. I think I will not be able to use my English all that much, for the best, I believe. I was treated a plate with rice and curry (with what I believe was mussels and other seafood in it). At first I basically stood in the corner, avoiding having to speak with anyone to any large degree. In all honesty, I was absolutely terrified. Everyone spoke very quickly, and with so much slang, in addition to various accents. Thankfully a few people took time with me. I was surprised at just how warm people were, and how willing/eager to meet others and introduce themselves. My only dislike of the evening was that with all the names I heard I remember maybe five of them.
     By the end of the night, after more alcohol than I had anticipated drinking, I think I made some friends. A special note, not a big fan of the Chinese liquor I was given.

Riding The Bus

     I woke up somewhat late, though I'd prefer to believe it was a result of jet-lag, not drinking. I cleaned up, and decided that I would attempt to learn my surroundings. What started as a whim turned into a very involved day. A day that ended with more than 10 km (over 6 miles) underfoot. Though I was slightly tired from the experience, I am happy to report that I located the TGU campus, as I stated at the beginning. Not only did I discover it, I was able to check and see how long it would take to walk it. Comparing that with the map (below), I have an even faster method in mind. I understand that I can take the train, but that would still involve walking to and from various stations. I figure, enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.

View My Saved Places in a larger map. Though, there might not be much to see. :)

     I hope to take more pictures soon, but with the next few days schedule unclear, I cannot guarantee much of anything. After today, however, I need some rest. With that, an update concludes. Also, please comment on any of these posts, it makes me feel good. Thanks!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Early Photos


Above, is a view from the hotel room, showing off the Narita airport, and a little forest. I'm on the 7th floor, for all that matters. In all honesty, I could get used to this kind of hotel-world-living. So far, things are working out well.


And, here is a photo of Ashley and I before I boarded the plane headed to Japan. It was nice that both Ashley and Dave (not pictured) drove me down to O'hare to see me off. Also nice, the American Airlines attendant that gave both Dave and Ashes a pass to come past security with me. That way, I wasn't waiting all alone.

Another update....

     I'm not sure if I will post this often in the future, but while I have the energy, I might as well do so now. In search of a convenience store last night, I walked a few kilometers around the hotel. Nothing. Granted, it was dark, but it didn't feel like they expected people to wander around the hotel areas. On the first floor of the hotel, there is a small gift shop. At this point, things there are too expensive, and I don't want little trinkets. Dinner eventually was bought out of a vending machine. For Japan, vending machines aren't all that bad. In fact, that is one of those things I would like to see the states addopt, vending machines with good/useful/cool stuff. I had cup noodle and juice. I am waiting to find my convenience store, for some heavier food. Perhaps some udon. I'll be sitting around for another 6 hours or so, waiting to meet up with the contacts from TGU.

     I do plan on taking photos, but while I'm still technically in transit, it does make things a little tricky. After the flight (12+ hours), and then customs and finding Pourier (the other Carthage student) arriving at the Tobu Hotel and checking in around 6:00 or 7:00 pm Japan time, I was fairly tired, as my previous post stated. I slept from roughly 8:00 pm JST to 6:00 am JST (next day). Ten hours of fantastic sleep. Now, I need some more fuel for the belly, and an opportunity to open up all my luggage. So much to move. So, with that, off I go to figure out the day.