The only time I have been to Odaiba was for a few hours to pop into Comiket. I’m planning on returning again during my stay though. : )
The only time I have been to Odaiba was for a few hours to pop into Comiket. I’m planning on returning again during my stay though. : )
Today was a very special day: I went to go do “Hatsumode”, a prayer for the New Year, with the Morinagas at Meiji Jingu shrine.
This is one of the most famous shrines in Japan and on New Years Day, it can attract hundreds of thousands of visitors (I heard from Mr. Morinaga that this year 3 million peopleattended!). It’s within fairly easy access, being beside the Harajuku train station. If you’re ever in the area, I highly suggest going to check this place out.
Giant “torii” gates mark the entrance to the shrine. You pass through several of them on the way down the path to the main gate. These torii expose the natural wood, but I’m sure many more people are familiar with the red variety:
Now, I’d love to study some Japanese religion next semester, but my knowledge about Shintoism is very vague. Apparently, they act as the border between our world and the “spirit” world—the shrine grounds are a sacred place where the spirits can gather.
On our way down the hill, we saw a huge wall of sake and wine casks. I love the covers on the sake ones! ;;
There was another surprise waiting for us: a menagerie of beautiful ice sculptures! There was some sort of competition between workplaces and the result was dozens of these. This one is a “kirin”—a magical dragon-unicorn beast from China adapted into Japanese myth. The Japanese also use the word “kirin” for “giraffe”.
A dolphin with very intricately-carved holes in its body. It has won second place in the competition.
A still life of a table, pears, and a bird in a bird cage.
Two carp. These two were HUGE.
A fairy and harp.
A violinist and cherub.
This deer father and son won first place. Look at all the intricate detail on the buck!!
This is a “raijin”, a Japanese god of thunder. They can produce storms by pounding on their drums.
Before the entrance to the main gate, there is an area to purify yourself before walking onto the grounds. You stand in line and go up to a fountain area where you scoop up the water in wooden ladles. You’re supposed to wash your hands and mouth with the water before going into the shrine.
Here’s the south gate. Everything was dressed up for the new year.
It is the Year of the Snake.
When we walked inside, there was a big commotion with people parting to form a road. Naturally, that can only mean one thing: there’s somebody important coming to visit. I managed to catch wind of who it was.
Japan’s prime minister, read: “PRESIDENT”, Abe (ah-bay).
What a once in a lifetime opportunity!!! This was a great snapshot taken with Chihiro’s phone—he addresses the crowds with photogenic waves. He was coming to pray at the shrine and there were loads of media representatives there to film the ceremony that the high priests did. There were way too many people for me to get a good look at what was going on, but he eventually ducked down a stairwell and disappeared into the shrine with a gaggle of onlookers following him.
The Morinagas and I stayed on the main grounds and waited in line to perform the Hatsumode ritual. Here’s how it goes…
It was a refreshing experience to be able to participate in something so revered.
On our way out of the shrine, we stopped to do “omikuji”, a fortune for the new year. You pay a small fee to shake a cylindrical box with sticks inside, then you turn it upside down to allow one of them to slip out and you read the number to the keeper. They will give you a slip of paper with a fortune on it in exchange. I got the number 14, which had a somewhat cautionary message. Roughly translated, it said something along the lines of not trying so hard to avoid your mistakes, because they are inevitable in life. You should keep the paper that your receive with your fortune. It’s printed on really nice paper and it’s supposed to be your fortune for the year.
Next, we went to buy omamori, little charms of protection. I see a lot of people with these little silk bags attached to their phones, backpacks, and purses. There are several different kinds that serve different purposes: charms to promote good health, charms to bring luck to business, charms to protect family…I got “gakugyojoju”, a charm to bring luck to school endeavors. It looks like the pink one in this photo.
On our return back toward the station, we passed by another contest—watermelon carving. It’s not only impressive how detailed the carvings are, but it’s important to remember that watermelons are extremely costly in Japan, some of which can easily run over $100 equivalent.
We were all pretty hungry, so we walked down Harajuku’s streets in search of a place for lunch. It turns out that there’s pretty good places down some of the alleyways, so we ducked into an extremely nice, traditional donburi restaurant. Donburi specializes on variations of rice bowls—I got oyakodon, which is chicken and egg on rice. It has the symbolic meaning of a chicken family: the baby being the egg and the chicken being the mother. Trust me, it’s not as morbid as it sounds! It’s quite delicious, although I had doubts about the raw egg placed on top. Raw egg is common to see in Japanese restaurants, but don’t worry, it’s safe to eat in this way because the heat from the dish below it usually does the cooking for it.
After lunch, we walked down the street again and saw this robotic dog “drinking” from its bowl.
Mr. Morinaga took us on a long walk through the city, passing by his old high school and a giant sports stadium.
We passed by a giant park. I love how this street was filled with families and children. It’s so rare to see family life in Japan because of how busy life is for everyone who works, but fathers were pitching baseballs to their sons and mothers were flying kites with their daughters all along this street. It made me realize that no matter how many miles from America I am, I can always find parallels to it everywhere I look.
A pair of kirins were there to protect the park. :)
We ended up walking all the way from Harajuku Station to Shinanomachi Station. It was such a pleasant and beautiful day and I am so blessed to have gotten to spend it with the Morinaga family.
We stopped for one last indulgence in a sweets shop attached to the station called Sembikiya. They sell quality fruits in a neighboring store, but they are very pricey. We each chose a dessert—Hikaru and Chihiro opted for ice cream sundaes while the Morinaga couple and I chose cakes. I got an “American-style” pound cake that had vanilla ice cream inside and whipped cream and blueberry sauce (with blueberries!) drizzled on top. It was swimming in a bowl of sweet milk, which made it all the more delicious.
Before we knew it, the afternoon had flown by and it was time for us to head back to our homes. I presented them with a few gifts: Sophia merchandise for the kids and gourmet donuts for the whole family to share.
It was a good day.
I’m writing an outline for one of my research papers as I type this, but I wanted to let y’all know I’ll probably be back on schedule for reals tomorrow afternoon, barring any large homework assignments. Thank you for sticking with me :) ))
The video from my video project.
久しぶり！It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?
A number of factors delayed my adventures to such an extent. The weeks before winter vacation were wrought with many tests and projects and I was scrambling to get everything done. And, by the time break actually happened, I found myself a bit busier than I expected. Now, I’ve been sick since New Year’s—a fantastic start to 2013, right?
So here is a sort of summative recap of the things worth mentioning that have happened to me over the past MONTH.
I can’t recall if I ever spoke about it on the blog yet, but I was assigned a video project with my two other fellow American classmates to explore Yotsuya and present a series of locations under a theme to the class. We ended up doing a parody of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (admittedly, we had to MAJOR explain the premise of this parody because otherwise it might’ve looked a tad disrespectful to do “places to explore when you’re skipping class”). It’s called “The Day Bevo Skipped” and it’s about Bevo, my school’s longhorn mascot, forgetting he has a test and so he goes around Yotsuya to different places to relax. I will translate and upload the video here later. :) It was done in puppet style and was very fun to make and, when the class voted for the best project, my group won first again! Very exciting!
The last thing we did in Japanese class before going on break was examine a children’s story called “Bonolon” about an ogre who befriends a cowardly prince. It’s apparently a 7-11 owned line and every so often they publish a new story in the magazine. As a class, we were asked to write a story with a moral in groups and, because I really hope to publish a children’s book someday in the near future, I was really excited for this opportunity (probably more than anyone else in the class, admittedly so). My group is going to be writing a tale about the unexpected friendship between a mouse and a snake in a world where they are supposed to be enemies. I’m excited to write and draw everything out!
We had a fire and earthquake drill at the dorm and I got to use a fire extinguisher for the first time. That was quite fun. I also got to experience what a category 7 earthquake feels like in an earthquake simulator…I can’t say that was as enjoyable. The most I’ve ever felt while here was enough to rattle some of the stuff on my shelves, and that’s about it. I certainly hope it stays that way.
Speaking of, we’ve had a couple earthquakes since then. There was one particular Friday where a smaller one woke me up at about 5:30 AM and then, 12 hours later, the largest one I’d felt happened in the afternoon while I was out in the city. I came home to several Facebook messages asking if I was all right, which I was, but I had been under an awning at the time and was a little wary of if it would fall or not.
Sophia invited the exchange students to a pre-vacation Christmas party and so many of us showed up that the refreshments were devastated in less than a half hour. The Sophian choir sung beautiful carols and we were all blessed by the members of the staff. One of the things the pastor said struck me in particular: “You can choose to be a mirror or a candle in life: you can either choose to reflect light in the world or create it yourself”. Such powerful, inspirational words.
There is some serious partyin’ going on here.
Santa and Rudolph even showed up!
And I got to try on a kimono! :)
Afterwards, I went with a group of friends back to Shinjuku (it’s on the way home anyway) and we went to see the lights and eat donuts.
They had the CUTEST little snowman donut!! ;A;
The holidays are truly my favorite time of year because of the electrifying spirit in the air, which seems to have taken root overseas as well. However, Christmas is strictly commercial in Japan as Christianity (and religion in general) is not a strong part of this society and so you won’t find much of any formal Christian services here. If you do attend Sophia University, they of course have mass because it is Catholic.
Unfortunately, a few days later, I was riding the train and I saw news of the shootings in Connecticut. I was deeply saddened by this tragedy, as I have worked with children of that age before and want to devote my life to teaching in the classroom. It was such a horrible, unspeakable evil that was done on that fateful morning. I decided to show my support by snapping a photo with condolences and posting it on the Sandy Hook Facebook page.
I hope nothing like that will ever happen again.
In other news, I discovered the /secret train/.
Because I needed to go to school a bit earlier for project meetups, I realized that at Seijogakuenmae Station, there is a train that runs between 7:05 and 7:11 AM that is NOT posted on the timetable and it arrives completely empty. During this rush hour period, it’s almost impossible to get a seat, but if you catch this “secret train”, you have a pretty good shot of nabbing one! The only downside is, everyone seems to already know about this secret, so chances are, you’re not going to be the only one waiting around. It’s almost worth it in my opinion to leave home a tad earlier just to get that seat.
Maggie and I hung out a lot during break. Mainly eating sweets. : P
We like to go to Baskin Robbins!!
One day, when I wasn’t feeling well, she brought me dinner and a cute reindeer nut cream cupcake!
On Christmas Eve, I Skyped with my family for early holiday celebrations. They had sent me a box loaded with goodies from the States a few weeks prior (my favorite organic peanut butter from the grocery store, macaroni and cheese, Dove chocolate—things you can’t get here!), the most special being a brand new stocking my mom had sewed for me.
I love owls. They are my favorite animal. :) I had forgotten that before I left, my mom and I had went to JoAnne Fabrics and picked out this fabric! It was that much greater of a surprise to find it tucked away among all my food.
I waited until I Skyped with them so I could open it live. Inside was an iTunes giftcard, a BIG Reeses peanut butter tree, some hair ties, and the Brave movie!! I didn’t expect to get anything for Christmas (just being here is enough!) so it was a treat.
Christmas Day, my 100th day abroad, was a bit harder to take. It’s such a family-oriented holiday…but I had made plans with a few people from the dormitory to have a small party among friends. Haha, about that…! We originally intended to have six people or so, but somebody made a Facebook invite and we were VERY surprised to see more than twenty people show up!! We moved our party to the cafeteria and everyone cooked food to share in what turned out to be a massive buffet-style dinner. It seemed like most of the people who were living at the dorm came to celebrate, and people brought many different types of food from all over the world! One of the most interesting things I tried was avocado juice from Morocco. It was pretty good! Think fruit smoothie but with more of a vegetable taste.
I cooked a bunch of pasta and bought premium tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.
There was a white elephant gift exchange too. I wanted to buy something someone could use, so I bought a funny hand towel from Akihabara. I happened to get Rex’s gift, which was a small package of Godiva chocolates! Yum!
A few days later, I went with Ernie and Rex to Tokyo DisneySea. I had been to DisneySea two years ago with the Morinaga family, but of course there’s always a fun time to be had at Disney! We woke up early and took the almost two hour commute to the park, arriving right before lunchtime.
We got lucky and managed to catch Chip in the entrance! The mascots are especially difficult to socialize with in the Japan parks as there’s always a massive line to meet them and they don’t usually appear in the park at any other time and place—your best bet is in the morning right at opening.
The scenery from the front of the park is beautiful. The volcano actually smokes, and the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride cuts right through it. The lake is central to the park and several times a day, a show happens on the water. When I came two years ago in the summer, they had a water show called “Mickey’s Cool Service” that sprayed the audience with cold water.
Ah yes, the infamous Tower of Terror. It’s supposedly just like the one at every Disney park, but I feel like this one is a lot more frightening for some reason. We took a FastPass ticket for the ride and returned at about 3 PM to bypass the line—FastPass is a great idea for rides that are popular, but in both parks, you’ll have to go right to the popular rides first thing in the morning to nab passes because they will sell out very fast. This time, we got placed in one of the front rows: row 666 to be precise. ICK. Even though I know exactly how the ride ticks, the drops still scare the bejeezus outta me and I was clinging to poor Rex the entire time.
Oh my god. The entrance to this ride is TERRIFYING.
Two years ago, the Toy Story section to the park didn’t exist. It’s a fairly recent addition and according to Ernie, no matter what time you try to visit this ride, it’s never shorter than a 4 hour wait. It’s like the Buzz Lightyear ride in California where you shoot things, but it’s in 3D. Still, it doesn’t sound worth the wait so we never braved the line.
It was a clear enough day to see Mt. Fuji from the park!! Clear winter days are supposedly the best times to catch a glimpse of the mighty mountain from Tokyo.
Stormrider is one of my favorite rides in the park and is by far the greatest piece of virtual reality I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. The story (written on signs in English as it is explained by a cast member in Japanese) is that it is a time where stopping hurricanes is now possible via a bomb-like object that specialized pilots drop inside the “eye” of the storm. You enter a theater room that acts as the plane and it is SUPER COOL how they made it feel so realistic. IT’S LIKE YOU’RE REALLY PILOTING AN AIRCRAFT.
We met this cute duck outside the ride. :]
The Indiana Jones rides are pretty flipping sweet. The first one is a mini-coaster modeled off the California ride where you follow Indy on an adventure inside a temple. The second is a roller coaster (this picture) that goes outside and has a full loop-de-loop! We didn’t have time to ride that one, but two years ago I -reluctantly- rode it and ended up really enjoying it.
There’s a new flying carpet ride in the Arabian section of the park. It’s pretty much like Dumbo where you and your friends ride in a carpet that you can control the height of.
Sinbad is right next door. It’s a great place to get some air-conditioning in the summer, being a ride resembling Small World where you ride in a boat through a story animated by robotic puppets. The music is actually FANTASTIC, so I do recommend giving it a try, even if you can’t understand Japanese.
There’s a food court in Arabia where you can get several different types of curry. I have to be extremely careful, as I am very sensitive to spices, but I got the mild beef curry (“amakuchi” is “mild” in Japanese) and it’s not spicy at all! I’m glad to say I never ended up reacting to it later on as well. It was DELICIOUS, and I also got naan bread and rice on the side. Dip the bread in the curry and pour the extra curry on the rice and it’s a match made in heaven.
I thought I’d revisit this camel. Two years is quite a while to go without saying ‘hello’.
There was a wonderful magic show on the lake mid-afternoon that Ernie recommended, and it was BEAUTIFUL! It centered around the Disney characters and their interaction with the world of the fantastic, and floats of all sorts of mythical creatures appeared! It was truly wonderful.
Afterwards, we decided to ride Journey to the Center of the Earth. This was the one ride I had never gotten the opportunity to go on during my first time here. It was a good wait—just shy of two hours—but well worth it. I do suggest bringing your iPod or handheld game system, if you’ve got one. I keep forgetting, but it’s very handy to pass the time.
Journey’s a roller coaster ride that takes a leisurely stroll deep underground and suddenly SPEEDS UP as you try to escape the heat of the core, blasting you outside to a wonderful view of the park. You’re up pretty high and the drop that follows is deep, but that’s what makes it unexpectedly fun, right?
There was some spare time, so we went on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a slower-paced ride where you control a submersible and a search light. It’s made to feel like you’re underwater.
By the time we came out, the sun was setting. Another gorgeous view of Mt. Fuji.
Ernie wanted to see a night show, so we had a little while before that was to begin. We went to Ariel’s land, where the rides are kind of geared toward younger children (nonetheless still fun), but there is a REALLY great theater in the back where a Cirque du Soleil-esque show plays. The person who played Ariel was very talented, as she basically had to have the upper body strength of Superman to stay suspended in the air during the entire 30-minute duration. The puppets are so whimsical too!
While I don’t have pictures of the night lake show, it’s called “Fantasmic!” and it’s common through every Disney park. Ernie claims that this show differs greatly from its counterparts in California and Florida, so I’ll take it word on it. It’s basically a show involving projections from several Disney movies and a giant Maleficent dragon makes an appearance too. It was just as great, if not better than, the first show we had seen that day.
Of course, by the time the show was over, we hadn’t eaten for hours, so we headed to dinner back in the area of the volcano. This place is called Vulcania, and it specializes in mainly Chinese-style dishes. I had the vinegar chicken with a dumpling soup, and it was DIVINE!!!
I couldn’t help but bring home this cute Stitch poncho. :)
Later that weekend, I got invited to go to Comiket with Liz and her friend Sam who was visiting from America. Let me tell you: they don’t call it the biggest anime convention on the planet for nothing!
We arrived at like…1 in the afternoon too: fairly late considering the place closes at 4 PM. There was STILL a sea of people filtering in!
We are not even in the building yet.
Okay. Now we’re in the building. But, this is only the EAST WING?!
Oh my God.
Yeah. Like Liz said…in order to even FIND anything specific at Comiket, you really need to purchase the 2000Y guidebook, but it covers all three days and is organized by artist/circle.
Comiket is basically a biannual get-together of people who self-publish mangas, called “doujin”, but it has since exploded into a massive anime gathering with big businesses and hundreds of cosplayers in attendance. I’ve heard that close to half a million people visit on any given day.
There are dozens of these warehouse-style rooms where HUNDREDS of booths are set up with manga creators. An entire floor was practically devoted to a newer anime, “Tiger and Bunny”. They also were by far some of the most popular characters in cosplay—tied only with the sheer volume of Madoka Magica cosplayers.
There are also a good number of Touhou cosplayers. Comiket is designated as THE place to be if you’re a fan of Touhou, and Sunday was pretty much entirely dedicated to it. I unfortunately did not attend on Sunday, but I would have loved to go (especially if I had brought my Shikieiki cosplay :[ ). Speaking of Touhou…
The Goodsmile company, makers of the popular Nendoroid figures, has unveiled their newest additions to their Touhou figures: Mokou and Alice! to be released later this year.
Oh yeah, I also caught a glimpse of Jack Sparrow wandering the hallway.
If you’re a fan of anime/manga, I HIGHLY suggest going to Comiket if you’re in town. It’s the place fans dream of going to, and it’s well worth braving the massive ocean of people just to get a peek at exclusive merchandise. I personally only bought a single thing (a Charlotte pin) but had I had more than a couple hours to hang around, I’m sure I’d have come home with more. A word to the wise though: make sure you leave at least a half hour before everyone else, or you’re going to be held up in major train traffic.
I said I couldn’t go to Comiket that Sunday, because I was to go with Liz and Sam to meet some very awesome Homestuck fans! After brandishing our godtier hoods (Liz as the Hero of Heart, Sam as the Hero of Doom, and myself as the Hero of Hope) we took the train to Iidabashi along with Liz’s Japanese friend Marina to go to a sweets shop she recommended.
I actually hadn’t had lunch yet, so I had a wonderful rice dish with chicken and peas…’w’
Afterwards, we said goodbye to Marina and went to Takadanobaba to meet up with Yoru and Mihira for a round of karaoke and dinner! We went to a place called カラオケ館, an extremely popular karaoke chain that has buildings pretty much everywhere.
It’s distinguished by its blue and red motif and neon lights. For the five of us, it ran about 1000Y for an hour and a half, and you can purchase drinks and food on the side for pretty cheap. The room we got was SPECTACULAR too!!
Now, this was my first time doing karaoke and I don’t think I am that great of a singer, but that’s really not the point! It’s a fun time to be had among friends, especially singing songs you love. This particular joint has a wide selection of songs—not just Japanese! We sang “How Do I Live” and “Gangnam Style” (well, I tried, but Sam was the only one who knew Korean so I just tried to read the katakana lyrics as they sped across the screen).
OMG they had all of the Claris and Kalafina!!! We sung the Madoka Magica opening.
We went to dinner down the street at a pretty good Italian restaurant. Gah, I wish I remember the name, it was delicious…! :( I had a white pizza with garlic bread!
New Year’s Eve was the very next day, and I had the pleasure of doing the countdown with my dad and my grandparents over Skype. It was kind of a surreal experience.
…aaaaand the next day I fell terribly, terribly ill.
I thought I was beginning to catch a cold on the Eve, but it woke up bright and early on the 1st with more than just a cough—my face felt like it was liquifying and I had a frightening 102 degree fever. Because most Japanese doctors and smaller hospitals are closed for the first THREE DAYS of the New Year, AKA all of the ones near the dormitory, I was out of luck. For three days, I had to fight this battle on my own: running through nearly four boxes of tissues, sleeping only an hour at a time, and growing weaker from a lack of appetite, the only nourishment from those hellish 72 hours being the Advil pills I downed religiously just to keep my fever hovering around the 99 degree mark. At one point, it spiked to 103 and I considered calling an ambulance if it was to rise any higher. The day the hospital reopened on that Friday, Feifei helped me walk the ten minutes all the way there and we waited for a good two hours before I was finally able to see a doctor. At that point, whatever nasty bug I had had died into the remnants of a stubborn infection and they gave me five different types of medication, two of which were in powder-form. Thank GOD for the insurance I was forced to buy, otherwise all the medicines and the x-ray they took would have cost a lot of money.
I had not been so sick in years. “Happy New Year” indeed.
I spent the first week back to school working on quite a few projects. I’ve got a couple final presentations and research papers to pen before school ends on the 31st, which may jeopardize any more updates for a while, although I will try to slip back into a daily schedule again. I really do apologize for how long it’s taken to update and I hope it doesn’t happen twice!!
By the way, the blog will most likely be going on hiatus come February 4th. Why is this? Well, I’m actually returning to Texas for about six weeks to visit my family and friends. It’s an unexpected turn of events; I was never supposed to go home this year, but my dad figured out splitting my business class on the return flight can give me multiple coach class tickets. I think it’s a wiser decision that way, because now I can come home and enjoy some off-time with the folks.
Until then, here’s to more adventures!
あけましておめでとうございます! Happy New Year!
There is LITERALLY no greater feeling than being off of school when the other 99% of the population is at school and/or working. Riding the trains just got so much easier!
I met up with Maggie and her friend Lilabel to go to the Pokemon Center, the official Pokemon store. I hadn’t been since the summer of 2010, right before Black and White’s release. That store holds my award for “the most crowded store on the face of the earth”. If I recall, I went on a Saturday during summertime and you literally could not move without wading through a sea of people and small children.
That’s why we strategically planned to go on a weekday, of course.
To my understanding, there are 7 Pokemon Centers in Japan. This is the Tokyo one, which you can get to via Yamanote Line’s Hamamatsucho Station.
The advertisement outside was for the new Mystery Dungeon game.
I don’t have any pictures of the interior because you really shouldn’t take photographs inside a store. Even though this place is probably used to seeing foreigners, it’s still considered somewhat rude to take pictures of merchandise. But trust me, if you look around a bit on the internet, you’ll be able to find out what it looks like inside.
What I can tell you about the merchandise is this:
Afterwards, we were hungry so we went to a cheap Italian restaurant on the bottom floor of the building. I got a margherita pizza and while it was good, it only had a few dollups of cheese on it. That’s the thing—here in Japan, cheese is really scarce. I have yet to eat a pizza that has an “acceptable” amount of cheese on it…but I guess I don’t really mind. I hear the Dominos packs it on though (and yes, they do have Dominos as well as Pizza Hut!)
Maggie and I split off with Lilabel in Shinjuku, but Maggie and I had a strange craving for ice cream. We set off to find the Coldstone Maggie had eaten at one time, which ended up being a 30 minute adventure across the city. But, we did find it (in one of the station’s department stores, no doubt). I got a delicious Oreo fudge scoop and the adorable servers asked us permission for them to sing a song to us. Of course! So, as they made our ice cream, they happily serenaded us with “Jingle Bells” and slipped in a comment about our “good Japanese” while they were at it. Seriously, you get this compliment a lot. The best thing to do is to be humble about it [i.e. まだまだ…].
I bought some Christmas gifts for my friend, who really loves Bulbasaur. :3c
And my friend who loves Scraggy.
As for myself, I bought a Pokemon Time lunch thermos and an Archen plush. Archen is so incredibly cute and doofy, I had to have him.
Slept pretty much all day (and did some homework sob…..).
My 77th day—77 is my favorite number. It would only be fitting, then, for it to be a day where I do whatever I please. B)
Was up ‘n at ‘em early today to go to the Madoka cafe one last time with a big group of friends.
Liz organized the retreat, so she came with her Japanese friend Marina while I brought Ernie and David from the dormitory. Hannah ended up being sick that day and so she couldn’t make it, but I’ll bet she was definitely there in spirit!
We met up at 10 AM outside Akihabara Station. Since it was the last weekend of the cafe, and because Madoka is so popular right now, we wanted to make sure we got a space. My experience a couple weekends prior was that if the cafe was filled, you were issued a reservation and a ticket to return at a certain time. My worry was that we wouldn’t be able to get one.
Sure enough, the line was long. But, we managed to get a 5-person reservation for an hour in advance!
While waiting, everyone headed downstairs to look at merchandise. Some of us bought things, but knowing full well I’d reached my spending limit for the month long ago, I refrained.
When we returned, our seat was ready…and it turns out it was the best seat in the house.
Our table was closest to Charlotte.
My seat was directly in front of her.
Once again, I ordered the Tiro Finale and the spaghetti. I decided to try and offer some of the cake to Charlotte.
And so, we bid farewell to the Madoka cafe (it began on my birthday!!). I have a feeling it will return for the release of the third movie, due out sometime next year…
Afterwards, we bumped around Akiba a bit, ducking into an arcade to take some hilarious purikura pictures. I wish I could post them here, but I don’t have a digital copy of them. :(
Liz and Marina had to split off eventually to work on schoolwork, but I stayed with the guys and we returned to Shinjuku for Yoshinoya dinner.
Down the street from Yoshinoya were “illuminations”—the Japanese notion of Christmas lights!
Most Japanese are either Shinto, Buddhist, or non-religious, but the Japanese do still seem to celebrate the spirit of Christmas and the winter season. Stores hold sales, people string up Christmas lights, and some children receive gifts, although this is mostly a New Years tradition.
Even Suica’s cute little penguin mascots were there!
The line is out the door.
Way off in the back of the street, couples lined up to have their compatibility read by this Christmas tree. The Japanese seem to be a very superstitious people…blood type, astrological sign, and the like are all extremely important. The boy placed his hand on one end of a counter and the girl did the same on the other side while the tree read their palms and glowed a color that corresponded to a chart outside.
Christmas is coming soon.
Normally, I’m not such a big fan of Japanese class on Fridays. But, today we learned how to do calisthenics with native Japanese students, so that was a very pleasant surprise.
In Japan, calisthenics is usually performed sometime during the school day, especially for younger grade levels like preschool and elementary school. It’s not only a time to gather concentration and exercise a bit, but it also helps cement the cultural value of togetherness that permeates Japanese society. All the exercises are done as a class, and, sometimes, even as an entire school.
There’s a radio broadcast every morning on NHK from 6:30-6:45 where people of Japan can rise together and do their morning exercises before heading off to work or school.
It was fun, and definitely a good way to relax with the stressful time that is Japanese class.
Theater was also very enjoyable, talking about ’80s theater in Japan. This was a time period where humor ruled and word puns, fast talking, and constant running/falling down was the “in” thing to do in a production.
We watched one particularly entertaining play reworking the concept of “Godzilla” where a woman courts “Godzilla” (who turns out to be a very polite man in a suit). Yet, the woman’s family completely disapproves, running around frantically like ants as Godzilla accidentally tears through their roof.
On my way home, I bought this little guy at the local fragrance shop by the station. Every year, my family would decorate our Christmas tree with snowmen and he will remind me of my family and help me celebrate a somewhat difficult Christmas on my own.
It’s a three day weekend. I’ll be going to the Madoka Cafe with a big group of friends to have Tiro Finale…finale.
We had the businessmen session in Japanese class today. What an intimidating experience.
Our class is normally held in a pretty cramped classroom in the 11th building, but today we got to move up to the 2nd main building on the very top floor. There are 17 floors to this building.
You could look out over the city from the windowsill and see pretty much all of Shinjuku and Yotsuya. I hadn’t brought my camera, but I do have pictures on my phone (if I can figure out how to upload them). The most beautiful point of the view was the government “greeting” building where ambassadors from abroad go. It looked like an old Victorian-era grounds for a duke. :O
When the buisnessmen filed inside, they all shared a common trait. Almost all of them were pretty old and there was only one woman among probably 40 or 50 men. Despite the changing times, sexism is unfortunately still pretty common in Japan and there isn’t much opportunity for them to rise up the corporate ladder. It’s definitely better in America, but even today I feel there’s still sexism pretty much everywhere in the world.
The businessmen were more concerned with listening to the native Japanese speak English to the non-natives, so three of them joined our table and listened to my group members speak with me in English.
At the end, the businessmen were told to give us advice for creating a “global world”, but our businessmen were more concerned with telling us stories about their son’s boarding school in America and other “okanemochi”, rich-people things.
I guess that’s okay.