Archive for October, 2008

Hiroshima, Day 2: Awkward?

Friday, October 24th, 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments

So it was brought to my attention last night (yeah, it’s morning here) that I still haven’t written anything more about Hiroshima. Sorry about that. So anyway, today I’ll talk about Day 2 of our trip.

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Hiroshima, Day 1: Travelling, travelling…

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments

So we’ve been back from Hiroshima for a few days, and I figured it was about time to write a little bit about the trip. To summarize it really quickly, it was totally awesome. This past weekend I saw some of the most beautiful, some of the most sad, and even some of the most encouraging things I’ve ever seen. If you ever come to Japan, I have one piece of advice: visit Hiroshima, definitely.

I’m going to tell this in a series of three posts: one for each day. Days 2 and 3 were significantly longer, since Day 1 was mostly travel, but they’re all interesting. So after this one, stay tuned for more.

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Hiroshima: Prologue

Friday, October 17th, 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments

So it’s about 9am here in Japan, and I have one class today: my tea ceremony class. If you don’t know what tea ceremony is, Wikipedia has a nice article on the subject. This is our last of two classes on this subject, where we will actually learn and get to practice the art of making Japanese tea (it’s nearly as boring as it sounds, too :P ). Then later today we leave on our trip to Hiroshima. We’ll be gone until pretty late Sunday night.

Dr. Thompson from OU got here about two weeks ago. It’s good to get to see him more often; it’s a lot of fun and it makes us all feel a little more like we’re at home here. He’s been keeping us up to date on what the plan is for Hiroshima and getting everything together for the trip. Anyway, since we’re going to be several hundred miles away for a few days, you’re not going to be able to contact me really… and I, of course, probably won’t be contacting you either.

Here’s a basic outline of the plan for the trip…

Friday: Leave on the 2pm Bus to go to Jinryo station (the closest train station). From there, take the train to Nagoya, where we board the Shinkansen. From there, take the Shinkansen to Shin-Oosaka, switch to another Shinkansen line and go to Hiroshima, where we’ll check into our hotel.

Saturday: Go to Peace Park and meet Koko, Dr. Thompson’s former babysitter and Hiroshima bomb survivor. Do various other things which I either forget or aren’t set in stone yet.

Sunday: Go to Miyajima island, climb the mountain, see monkeys, etc. Then come home the opposite of the way we came.

I’ll post about the trip more in detail when I get back. Bye!

Japanese Toilets

Sunday, October 12th, 2008 | General | 5 Comments

I haven’t written anything in a while now… I haven’t forgotten to, it’s just that nothing beyond the ordinary has really happened recently. Just daily life and nonstop, extremely exhausting study. In a normal week, I study kanji alone for at least ten or twelve hours, not counting ANY time spent in class.

But that’s entirely different from what I’m actually writing about today. My topic is something much closer to ALL our hearts: toilets. In Japan, there are primarily two types of toilets, and if you took a hint from nearly everything else in Japan and guessed Japanese-style and Western-style, then you’d be absolutely right.

“But how can this be,” you may be wondering… “A toilet is a toilet!” And that is where you would be wrong. The situation is actually a bit more complex than simply Western- and Japanese-style toilets, but I’ll begin by explaining the differences between these two major types.

Pretty self-explanatory... right?

Pretty self-explanatory... right?

One thing Japan got right when they named Western-style toilets “Western-style” is that they are, much to my relief, essentially the same in nearly every way to actual American toilets. Which is a relief. Japanese-style toilets, however, are entirely different. The picture to the left is, of course, a Japanese-style toilet. It’s pretty self-explanatory, right? If you’re having problems visualizing exactly how you’re supposed to use this toilet, I’ll tell you that Japanese-style toilets are also known as “squat toilets”. I hope that clears up any confusion; yes, it’s as bad as you feared.

Fortunately, pretty much everywhere that has Japanese-style toilets also has Western-style, though in some homes (such as the homes we’ll be doing our homestays in later on), they only have the Japanese-style. But as of yet, I have not had cause to use one of these toilets.

Are those buttons?

Are those buttons?

I’ll move on, I guess. I mentioned that the Japanese actually got Western-style toilets right, and mostly, that was true, but it needs a bit of qualification. Even when Japan gets something right, they tend to change it to make it better (at least, better in their way of thinking…). So you end up with toilets like the one to the right… Yeah, it’s pretty much a normal toilet in every way, except that it has… buttons? Whatever could you need buttons for?

It’s not exactly the most comfortable subject to talk about, so I’ll go quickly. Pressing those buttons starts and stops a spray of warm water. Yes, Japan has quite the penchant for making things better… I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, but I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out without too much trouble. I will say, though, that like any too-curious-for-his-own-good foreigner in Japan, I have pressed those buttons. It was rather… surprising.

Anyway, that’s pretty much all for now. I’m pretty much exhausted beyond belief, so I’m going to go to bed (it just hit 12:15am here). Enjoy the nightmares you’ll get from reading this! :)

Earthquakes & Onomatopoeia

Friday, October 3rd, 2008 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

So I completely forgot about this until now (goes to show how bad it was!), but on Wednesday (technically, it was still Tuesday night in the States) we experienced our first Earthquake. Or so I’m told. I was standing at the time, so I didn’t feel it at all. Only the people who were sitting down felt it. And even they only felt it because we were on the 9th floor of one of the buildings at the time… the teachers, who were on the 2nd floor at the time, were none the wiser.

All in all, it was rather anticlimactic. All of a sudden everyone was like “sugoi! jishin da!” (“awesome! it’s an earthquake!”) and I’m like, “wait what?” So it all passed rather quickly. I looked it up, and apparently the epicenter of the earthquake was out in the middle of the ocean somewhere, and by the time it reached us in Kasugai, it was pretty weak. When the teacher, Ueda-sensei, came, she was a bit surprised, since as mentioned before, she had no idea there’d been an earthquake. This led into a 15-minute lecture on what to do in case of a more serious earthquake (open a door, then hide under a desk).

During this lecture, I also learned two new Japanese onomatopoeia. The Japanese language is rife with these things, such as doki doki for a beating heart or peko peko for an empty stomach… but now I know gura gura, the sound buildings make when they sway in an earthquake, and gata gata, the sound of windows rattling (or buildings shaking very slightly like in the earthquake we were in, apparently).

All in all, it was an interesting, albeit somewhat anti-climactic. And now Oct. 1 will forever go down in history as the day of “My First Earthquake” … even though I didn’t feel it. Lame.


Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 | Uncategorized | No Comments

…It’s already October. Well, here anyway. Back in the States, it’s still Sept. 30th. But here it’s the morning of October 1st, and it feels like I’ve been here forever. But at the same time, it feels like I’ve barely been here any time at all. Which, when I actually think about it, is kind of the case. I only got here on Sept. 15th… that’s less than 3 weeks. That’s somehow amazing to me, because it really feels like I’ve been here forever. And yet when I think about it, it’s already been nearly a month, which is 1/11th of my entire time here.

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