Archive for March, 2009

Matthew’s Mama in Japan 2

Sunday, March 15th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Note from Matthew: This was actually written Saturday night, so it references some of the same stuff as the previous entry.

Hi! Carole from Japan. This morning we got up and had breakfast in the hotel dining room-a nice combination of Japanese and western food. First we went to the Sensoji Temple. It’s a really cool and quite large temple in the middle of Tokyo. There is a huge archway at the entrance with a very large-maybe 20 foot- lantern hanging down. On the way down the walkway to the actual temple is a huge shopping area of many “streets”. We only did one street-very long. I bought some souvenirs and some papers for scrapbooking. The temple itself had much incense and many people lighting incense for prayers…also buying good luck charms.Then we went to the Tokyo Tower. It looks much like the Eiffel Tower but in red. We rode up to the top and you could see 360 degrees around the city. It was very beautiful up there. We are back at the hotel now and have ordered pizza.

Matthew’s Mama in Japan

Saturday, March 14th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Hi! Carole from Japan. Matthew and I met with ease. That 14 hour plane ride was really something. However, the food on Asiana Airlines was really wonderful. I met a couple of very nice Japanese ladies in the Korean airport. Retired grandmothers – we had much in common. Matthew and I rode several different trains. The last one was the bullet train to Tokyo. Two hours on the train. We found our hotel – lovely, big city hotel… It should be- $150 per night. We went out and got something to eat…rice with spiced beef and onions…very good…Gyuudon. Then just came back to the hotel and went to bed. I slept all night, even though my body clock said it was daytime at home. We had my big suitcase shipped from the local convenience store – strange, but it works. We ate breakfast in the hotel – nice mixture of Japanese and western foods.

Asuke, Part 6: Asuke Village & Finale

Friday, March 13th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Continuation; 3rd post today. If you haven’t read the other two, please go back and read them first… unless you don’t want to!

February 27th, 2009: Day 7 of Asuke
Today was a fun day. We stared off eating breakfast with the Kuratas, after which we headed to the Tourism Assc. From there we went to Asuke Yashiki, where we spent most of the day. We made sandals out of hay. which turned out rather well, and then I made some more postcards. We left there around 3pm (I think…) and went to the blacksmith, which Adam had requested to visit. He got to help make the head of a kama, which was pretty cool. Me, Thompson-sensei, Mike, James, and Daniel (again, I think…) went to the bookstore/cafe we’d visited before and had a nice, long conversation. Thompson-sensei described the Business Japanese class to us, which made me want to take it quite a bit.
From there, we headed over to Asuke Village where we’d be staying the night. It’s really cool; the buildings are like what a small family home would’ve been like. We ate dinner barbecue-style — it was awesome — and had a lot of fun.
I got to play Suzuki-san in Go finally. It turns out he’s a 3 dan. He pretty much destroyed me — really bad — with a 3 stone handicap. We were able to play again later with a 4 stone handicap, and it ended up at B54-W73. Still a loss, but not a horrible one. All in all, a great night.

February 28th, 2009: Day 8 of Asuke
Well it’s the end of our next-to-last real day here. Everybody is tired and starting to get irritable, but it was a good day despite that.
We started off the day with a late breakfast — I (and apparently everyone else) forgot to set an alarm. Then we went to the bus at 9am and went to Kaji-san’s place to open the kiln and see the charcoal. After that we made bamboo dishes and ate lunch with them. It was sweet. After that we went up to a shrine in the middle of the mountains. It was really cool. We went back after a while and utilized the ashi-buro [Note: a hot-spring type bath for your feet].
When we finally returned home I played two games of Go with Suzuki-san. I lost both, but they were close, and I was very happy about the outcome. Result #1: B73-W79. Result #2: B81-W88. He complimented me afterward and encouraged me to keep playing, saying that I could reach shodan [Note: 1 dan] by August if I tried. He also invited me to come stay at his house sometime. I wonder, was he serious? [Note: it turns out, he was, as he invited me several more times after this entry, and mentioned it to several other people as well]. To Do: find a place in Kasugai to play Go. [Note: More or less done. Today I went with Mark to the Japanese Go Association in Nagoya... it was a lot of fun, but expensive. There are a couple closer places I've found since then, too.]

March 1st, 2009: 9th (final) day of Asuke
Well, our last full day in Asuke has come and gone, and it has left me wanting more — but in a good way. The slow pace of life in Asuke compared with the bigger cities is rather refreshing. The skeptic inside me wonders just how much of it was put together specifically for our visit, however.
I learned a lot, I think, and it was a great experience. Hopefully as the days go on, what exactly I learned will become more clear.
Oh yeah, I played Suzuki-san in Go again after the farewell party. We were both exhausted. I resigned about 30 moves into the game. [Note: it was that bad.]

Well, that’s all for Asuke. Later on I might post the reflective essay I wrote about the trip, but for now, it’s 4am and I need to sleep — my mom gets here in 7 hours! Good night!

Asuke, Part 5: The Kurata Family

Friday, March 13th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

This is the second post so far today; if you didn’t see the previous one, make sure to read it first! Anyway, continuing where we left off…

February 25th, 2009: Day 5 of Asuke
Today we started the day off with a nice breakfast at Fujitani-sensei’s house. They liked our gifts, which was good. Fujitani-sensei took us to the Tourism Assc. and we said goodbye. Our first activity of the day was sumiyaki [Note: making charcoal]. We went and saw the kiln and then helped load it up. After that we went to Asuke Yashiki and I got umemitsu [Note: some kind of plum] juice. It was really good. Once Thompson-sensei came in, we had a lot of awesome conversation about Japanese ambiguity, relational structures, and other stuff. I loved it and wish I could do it more often. Seriously. Dinner at our new house was nice. It was Dad, Mom, daughter [Note: probably in her 30s], 5 friends, and us. The conversation was like watching a Japanese comedy show.

February 26th, 2009: Day 6 of Asuke
Today we ate breakfast, didn’t talk much, and went over to the Tourism Assc. with Kurata-san. First we went to the middle school and participated in an English class with the first graders [Note: middle school first graders, so the equivalent of American seventh graders]. It was relatively fun. The kids knew a surprising amount of English, but my group was a bit shy. After the school, we went to Hyakunenso [Note: a very nice hotel in Asuke, pretty much run by the Tourism Assc.] and had a very good lunch and finally an interesting tour of the place. At last we went back to the Tourism Assc. until Kurata-san came to pick us up. We went back to the house and had dinner, this time with 5 gusts again. They seem to entertain quite a bit. One of the guests was an elementary schooler that didn’t say one word to us the entire time she was there — unless you count shouting “Goodbye!” after she was already outside with the door shut behind her. Te conversation tonight got more and more difficult as the night went on — as the guests got more and more drunk. I was able to learn a bit more about Mikawa-ben [Note: the local dialect of Japanese]. Now me and Mark are in our beds, but they’re still just out there talking loudly (it’s next door, too) [Note: paper doors. they keep sound out well. this is sarcasm.]

More coming in a moment, woo!

Asuke, Part 4: The Fujitanis

Friday, March 13th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Finally, the continuation of the Asuke story. I plan on posting the rest of it up tonight, so stay tuned.

February 23rd, 2009: Day 3 of Asuke
Today we went to two elementary schools. Okura and Mikura if I remember correctly. They were very small. At the first one there were only 23 students. We split up into groups and did different things. My group played fruits basket [Note: a Japanese childrens game] and then jumped rope. [Note: Amazingly exciting isn't it?] My team got 2nd place. At the second school there were about 60-something students. Me and Leneskie were with the 7 4th graders, and participated in class with them. They were having Japanese class, and discussing a story called Gon-gitsune [Note: Gon the Fox]. It was a lot of fun and very interesting. After the schools, we went to Heishouji Temple and learned about, then practiced, Zazen. It was very interesting. The bell they use and the beginning and end [Note: of meditation] probably causes brainwave entrainment. After that we finally returned to the Tourism Assc. and were picked up by our 2nd host, Fujitani-sensei. His house in in the mountains completely separate from everything. We practiced gold and table tennis, then had temaki-zushi for dinner [Note: self-rolled sushi]. It was all very nice. After dinner, he gave us shodo [Note: calligraphy] lessons. It was frustrating because I suck (a lot) at it.

February 24th, 2009: Day 4 of Asuke
Today me and Mark woke to a traditional Japanese breakfast — much better than the ones we get at the dorm. From there, we went to the Tourism Assc. We had a meeting about Japan’s forest and stuff that I 70% understood, but even understanding, it was pretty boring. But I was able to hold out and managed to stay awake — so did everybody else except one person. After that ordeal, we went into the forest to cut down trees. I was okay — it’s not like I haven’t cut trees down before. It was pretty fun, though. Being able to see your accomplishments like that is nice. We then went back to the place where the meeting earlier had been held. (Before this, I managed to procure two lengths of bamboo for walking stiks while my mom is here). We talked for a while until we went back to the Tourism Assc. We went home with Fujitani-sensei, and he informed us that we’d be going to an onsen [Note: hot spring] after a brief stop at the house. We did that, and I had my first experience with a Japanese public bath. It went surprisingly well. The place we went was called Sasayuri no Yu [Note: Literally "Hot water of the Lily"]. It was pretty nice, and very relaxing. After that, we went home and ate dinner. Fujitani-sensei let us know that he wouldn’t be at the farewell party, so we offered to sing the song we’d be singing at the party. We did so, and it turned out relatively well. Now we’re going to bed. Good night!

Another post to follow shortly.

Asuke, Part 3: Ochiai-san’s House

Sunday, March 8th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In case you didn’t notice, right before this I posted another entry, Part 2 in this Asuke series. So if you didn’t see it, make sure you check it out before this one. Moving on, the first two parts each covered 3 days each, but from here on out they’ll be covering two days each, because a) my entries got longer as time went on in the trip, and b) each different homestay was 2 nights, and it’s convenient if each part goes along with a different homestay.

Saturday, February 21st, 2009: Arrival, Day 1 of Asuke
Well, we got to Asuke today. It was a lot closer than I thought it was — which isn’t to say it was close. We walked around the town, and I bought some maccha [Note: green tea powder] that was really good. Later on we went to the welcoming ceremony. The fish they had was… odd. I didn’t really like it. [Note: It was a small fish called Aya, salted and grilled (whole) on a spit. Most of the people there ate everything but the bones, and some ate those too.] Other than that, everything was pretty good. Our first homestay is with Ochiai-san (at least, I think that’s right) [Note: It is.] We think he really wanted to drink with us, so it’s unfortunate that he goe me… Noticed something interesting: Ochiai-san empties the hot water from the bath between people. Maybe he’s just doing it because we’re here? [Note: In a Japanese-style bath, you wash yourself and then get in the bath; the bath isn't for washing, just relaxing. As such, it is normal for an entire family to use the same bath water, one right after the other, because refilling it takes time and is wasteful.]

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009: Day 2 of Asuke
Today was our first full day in Asuke. We got to the Tourism Association around 8:45, but had to wait a while before everyone got there. Oh yeah, and our breakfast was really good. First we made [Note: painted] postcard, which turned out surprisingly well. Then we made Mochibana. [Note: Colored mochi (gummy rice paste) stuck onto little tree branches... maybe I can post pictures later; this is apparently something even most Japanese people don't know of] After that we went to Asuke Castle, which was cool. Even though I passed the 2kyu JLPT, I’m glad Thompson-sensei is around, because I understood very little of what the guy at the castle told us — maybe 20%. After that we had lunch, sukiyaki, which was very good. Then we did a tea ceremony, and finally had free time from 3 to 4:30. Me and Mike ended up following Big Mountain [Note: an employee of the Tourism Assc. named Oyama (which literally means 'Big Mountain') who I'm now friends with. The name 'Big Mountain' was given to him by the head of the Tourism Assc.] around anyway — which turned out to be rather interesting. Finally we went to a cafe hidden away in a back alley and had a good conversation with Thompson-sensei, whom we’d met up with, before returning to the Tourism Association. We met up with Ochiai-san and he took us out to eat sushi in Toyota with his family — his son, his son’s wife, their two kids; his daughter, her husband, and their two kids. The meal was really good, but probably really expensive, maybe over 30,000yen [Note: $300]. I played Go with Ochiai-san. He said he hadn’t played in 23 years, and I beat him pretty easily with a 9 stone handicap, but he made a lot of surprisingly insightful moves.

And that’s the end of Part 3. Stay tuned in the near future for Part 4: Fujitani-sensei’s House.

Asuke, Part 2: Prior to Departure (B-side)

Sunday, March 8th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

So, sorry it took me so long to get this up… I think I’m going to type up the rest of the Asuke trip here tonight, if I have time. Anyway, on to the main event…!

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009: 3 days prior to departure
Well, Thompson-sensei will be here later tonight. Tomorrow is the first day of orientation. It still seems like just another class explaining just another trip, though. I don’t think I’ll really get the difference until I get there. Today, though, I held a conversation with the parents of some children at the English school where I’ve been helping out this week for a full hour. It really made me a lot more confident in my Japanese ability. And oh yeah — I passed the 2kyu JLPT!!! That definitely helps my self-confidence, too — something which is going to be necessary on this trip, I think. I’m looking forward to ending the wait and just going.

Thursday, February 19th, 2009: 2 days prior to departure
Well, we had our first day of orientation today. We took some quizzes on the readings and I blanked out on quite a bit of it… But I don’t think I did too poorly. We also handed in the summaries we had to write, which I think went pretty well. Hopefully, all in all, it comes out to be a good grade… Nothing extraordinary has dawned on me yet, and I’m still feeling not a whole lot of anything special about this trip.

Thursday, February 20th, 2009: 1 day prior to departure
Second day of orientation is over. It’s nearly midnight now and I just realized that I forgot to write this. I also just realized, as I’m writing this, that I haven’t packed yet… I really need to get on that. Other than that, today was a pretty normal day. Hung out, watched anime, didn’t really do much of anything special. The next ten days are going to be so packed, probably, that I won’t have the time (or, really, the means) to do anything “normal” that happens in my day.

That’s all for the pre-Asuke entries. Following soon will be the first set of actual Asuke entries.


Sunday, March 8th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

I know I promised more posts, and you’ll get them! I’ll post a lot tomorrow! In the meantime, here’s some food for thought that I’ve been mulling over…

Is the saying “It’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all” really true?
What about “Aim for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll end up among the stars.”
And finally, what about my horrible chimera of the two “It’s better to have tried something harder and failed than to have tried something easier and succeeded.”

Please post thoughts in the comments. Greatly appreciated.

More tomorrow!

Asuke, Part 1: Prior to Departure (A-side)

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Well, I’m back from Asuke. For those of you who missed the update, between February 21st and March 2nd, I was in a tiny town about an hour and a half away called Asuke for a “cultural experience” trip. Of course, I haven’t really said anything about it other than that, yet. Well, as part of the trip (and the grade), I had to keep a journal of things that happened. So, well, I’m basically just going to post my entries from that. I’ll add little notes in here and there, because the journal assumes you know basically everything I do about it and the people involved. So anyway, this is the first post in a series, so sit back and enjoy.

February 15th, 2009: 6 days prior to departure
Well, this is my first journal entry, though I’m not really certain yet what I should be writing — the reality of the Asuke trip hasn’t really hit me yet. I have to admit that I haven’t finished my readings, yet, and that may factor into this as well. Over the next few days I plan on finishing them up. I’m looking forward to the trip — not only does it mark the halfway point of my stay in Japan, but it also is going to be a lot of fun, I think. Given the history of our group so far, there will probably be some problems and drama, but even so, I’ll probably have a good time, and learn a lot, to boot.

February 16th, 2009: 5 days prior to departure
Yesterday was my birthday… it was pretty mundane. I suppose even if I was in the States, I wouldn’t have done much of anything special, but I was thinking a lot and not really doing anything, and I seem to have put off my readings again. At least I’m honest about it, I guess. I leave to go teach English for the first time in an hour and a half. But that’s all beside the point. I know I should be thinking about Asuke, but I just don’t know what to think. Even with the readings I have read telling me that this is going to be a unique experience, different than anything I’ve experienced in life, let alone Japan, my brain just goes on expecting it to be exactly the same as Kasugai. I know, rationally, that it will be very different, but I guess since I haven’t experienced it, I have nothing to relate it to in my head. Maybe it’ll hit me tomorrow. For now, my brain will just continue to see it as another trip.

February 17th, 2009: 4 days prior to depature
Today was my second day teaching English. Seems like a great idea — starting this right before Asuke — doesn’t it? Just one more distraction. Thompson-sensei gets here tomorrow night, and we’re all starting to rush around to finish up our work before Thursday. I hope I don’t inadvertently do or say anything rude while I’m in Asuke. Around here, people are pretty tolerant of the foreigners and their lack of fluency in Japanese, but I wonder how tolerant they will be in the little town of Asuke. I hope it all turns out okay… We’re hoping to take Thompson-sensei to a local okonomiyaki place on Friday — hopefully that works out too.

Well that’s all for now. It’s 6:50am here right now, and I haven’t slept yet (I was out all night at Karaoke again), and I need to get some sleep before I have to go the the above-mentioned English-teaching job at 3:30. Woo!

Anyway, it’s a bit short, but expect the next part in the series [Prior to Depature (B-side)] soon!


March 2009
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