Monday, December 28, 2009

100th post :)

Apparently this is my 100th post on this blog.

Yay! Okay.

So, for the first time in about two years, my favorite band L'Arc~en~Ciel is releasing something new. The new single is called 'BLESS,' but I'm actually more excited about their alter ego band's release, which is Route 666 2010!!! Route 666 is one of my favorite songs, so I'm pretty excited. I hope they've been able to make a great remake...P'UNK~EN~CIEL's been going a bit downhill lately. Their last good song (to me, at least) was I Wish 2007, but DUNE 2008...let's not talk about that XD

In other Laruku news, I was wondering about this before, but after checking it's certain. I don't follow Laruku like I used to so I'm kind of late...tetsu has changed his stage name to 'tetsuya'.

...

I don't know why he did. 'tetsu' is shorter and kind of more youthful. I guess since my favorite bouncy bass player is 40 now he thought he should change his name :/ It's kind of weird because for almost 20 years, all of his fans have known him and loved him as 'tetsu'. I guess we can still call him 'tet-chan.' I mean, hyde is still hyde and we KNOW that's not his real name!

TETSU69, tetsu, tetsuya, TETSUYA...no matter what his name is, I hope he will always be the same no matter what. I hope his wife didn't put him up to the name change...I can imagine the little brat--err, lady telling him "Only I get to call you 'tetsu'! Everyone else has to call you something else!" Haha...I'm kidding. I hope they're still [happily] married.

JACK IN THE BOX 2009 was on Sunday. I looked at the report and was kind of sad that I couldn't be there. As you might know, I went to JACK IN THE BOX 2008 last year and had a great time there. The great thing about JITB is that it changes every year, so even though I couldn't go this year, I'm still happy about last year's. 2008 had all four members of Laruku (even though they weren't playing together) and I unexpectedly saw Miyavi and T.M.Revolution. Of course 2009's must have been really awesome as well. Who knows, maybe I'll be there in 2010.

EDIT: I should say that "BLESS" is their first in over a year, but not two years. I was thinking about "DRINK IT DOWN" but I completely forgot about "NEXUS 4/SHINE"! I loved being able to see them on the MUSIC STATION Super Live last year on TV...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jisho.org Sentence examples

Whenever I'm working on something Japanese-related (which is all the time) I use jisho.org to look up words I don't know. It uses the same database as the famous Jim Breen's WWWJDIC, but the interface is more user-friendly. Every once in a while I look up example sentences for certain words and a peculiar example comes up.

The example sentence of the day is this:

米消費者団体がRealPlayerを「バッドウェアと認定している。
American consumer group identifies RealPlayer as 'badware'.

The translations aren't always 100% accurate; neither are the original Japanese sentences. But it's amusing to find such examples in the dictionary, as if we would really use them in real life. Who knows, maybe someone will find themselves in a conversation with a Japanese person about RealPlayer.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Comment Denied.

I woke up this morning to find an inappropriately judgmental, offensive and really amusing comment pending approval on my blog. Twice, by two different IDs.

It kinda went down like this:

"I don't know you, never met you but I'm going to judge you anyway."
"Host clubs are dumb and you're an idiot."
"Hosts probably hate you."
"HAI GAIZ, IF YOU WANNA HEAR ABOUT HOW HOST CLUBS SUCK, EMAIL ME AT IAMDOUCHEBAG@DOUCHEBAGCENTRAL.COM"

The poor thing even tried to comment with two different IDs, first with an AOL ID and then thinking that his/her Blogger ID would be able to bypass comment approval.

Then of course, I got my e-mail notification so I could reject both of them.

But this douch--err, person, is right about one thing: Hosts clubs can be dangerous. Some hosts will try and do whatever they can to make you believe they're in love with you. But guess what else? It's no secret that pursuing relationships with them is pretty much no good. If you spend $5,000 in one night, no one *made* you do that. It's a question of self-control.

That being said, never ever go to a host club alone for the first time.

Like I said in my last post, anyone who has questions can ask me. I'm not going to tell you "OMG YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GO IT'S LIKE SO FUN AND YOU'LL FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A BOYFRIEND!!!!111" I can't control who goes and who doesn't, but I'm going to give a fair and honest account about my experience and what I know.

If you go to a host club and spend all your money there and go broke, don't come back blaming me. Hosts can't force you to do anything, it's your choice. It takes a lot of logic, self-control, and background knowledge. I'll provide a link to this post in all my other posts about host clubs, but I'm NOT going to say "Yeah hosts are bad people and it's totally their fault for the money that customers spend! And oh yeah customers are stupid!" That's not why I researched the topic at Rikkyo.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yes, I'm still interested in host clubs.

I'm writing a paper for my computer science class about the Internet's impact on my field of study, which of course is Japanese. I started talking about how Facebook and AIM helped me get in contact with some people that were able to help me, so I figured I'd make a short post right now.

If you happen to come across this post and have a question about host clubs, don't be afraid to contact me (no asking "What's a host club" or anything like that--you can look that up yourself). I'm sure there must be a lot of people out there who are looking for some insight, just like I was when I started researching host clubs last year. Since I'm not living in Japan right now I won't be able to accompany anyone to a shop, but I can at least suggest a few places and offer some tips and information.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

President Obama and The Custom of Bowing

If you've been up-to-date with recent news about President Obama's recent tour through Asia, you're probably aware of the uproar from conservatives in the U.S. about his gesture to the Japanese Emperor Akihito and Mistress Michiko. That is, his deep bow accompanied by a handshake.

According to former Vice President Dick Cheney, Obama's gesture was unnecessary and represented a "sign of weakness," as if the President was recognizing some kind of inferiority to the Land of the Rising Sun.

I mean really, that's not necessarily untrue. The US Dollar-Japanese Yen exchange rate is down the drain for us. Japan makes better electronics, have an overall healthier population, better customer service...I could go on and on.

But that's not the point.

Anyone who knows anything about Japanese culture would realize that a bow is NOT a sign of weakness. It is a sign of respect and a display of humility. It's a formal way of greeting someone.

The President was on Japanese soil, in the Emperor's country. The Emperor is the (supposed) highest authority of Japan. NOT bowing is like walking into someone else's house with your muddy shoes on and not saying any more than a short 'hi'.

Anyone who says that bowing is a sign of weakness, just try going to meet the Japanese Emperor and just shaking his hand like he's your American colleague. Either the Emperor will think you're rude, or he'll wave it off as you being an 'ignorant gaijin.' No doubt you'll be sneered at by some Japanese who feel as though you've done the equivalent of spitting in their face.

For President Obama's case, not only was bowing a way of respecting the Emperor and humbling himself, it was a way of respecting another culture. Some Republicans like Cheney have the ignorant mindset that the United States "bows to no one" because we have too much pride to humble ourselves. They might even be stuck on those movies where the subordinates get on their knees, stretch out their arms, and go "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" which is a completely different scenario.

So for all of you who are slamming Obama for simply observing protocol, get a clue and try learning a thing or two about Japanese customs. Just because we are the United States of America does NOT mean we are superior to anyone else. That's an old conservative mindset that does not belong in the 21st century, a time where the United States is so far from being #1 that we really don't have any business waving our pride around anyway. Being a "proud American" gives you no incentive to ignore culture and customs while in foreign countries.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Photoshoot and Updates on Life

  • My friend Belle and I did a photoshoot last week. The photos came out great, and thanks to her I have a couple of photographers who have contacted me to get some work done.
  • I recorded another video as a re-submission for avex Star Search 2009.
  • I'm using what I've learned in my Computer Science class (and what I already know) to design a website for myself as an online résumé for the entertainment industry.
  • I've been doing Wii Fit Plus regularly, weighing in at an average of 113 pounds and doing 30-minute workouts everyday (except maybe one or two days when I'm extremely busy).
After finishing my midterms this week I'm feeling really refreshed and ready to start the second half of the semester. Things are really looking positive and God has really blessed me all this time, so I'm looking forward to what may be coming up in the future.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

JET, avex, and my future.

For the first time, I finally feel like the road to my future is getting narrower and narrower. Throughout school I took small steps. I wasn't one of those kids who had childhood dreams of becoming a doctor or a lawyer. I just did well in school because I was supposed to.

I'm starting to come up with some kind of plan. Originally, I was going to apply for JET and also do this talent search for avex and see how that goes. But after attending a small meeting and learning more about JET's application process and departure dates, I'm reconsidering it. The departure date for those accepted into the program is weeks earlier than I expected. Not only that, but if I do well in the auditions with avex AND get accepted by JET, I'll have to drop JET. Should something come up and I can't proceed with avex, I won't be able to apply for JET until 2011 (according to JET's rules).

So what I might have to do is pass up applying for JET this year, and try to pursue something with avex or Sony Music Japan. While I'm auditioning for them, I can look for a different job, either in the U.S. or one that starts later in the fall.

The other issue is the departure date for JET. Should I be accepted, I will have to depart for Japan on July 31st. That happens to be both the Saturday of Otakon and my dad's birthday (which I missed last year being in Japan). Of course, for the sake of my future I would have no choice but to miss these events, but it really forces me to think about other options. I was really set on making a costume for Otakon, volunteering there, and not having my dad drive me to the airport on his birthday. (What a terrible birthday present that would be!)

To be honest, JET was never my first option; it was simply the easiest thing to do following graduation while I figured out what I wanted to do. But now I know what I want to do. In fact, I've known what I wanted to do for a long time, I was just to afraid to pursue it.

Trying to get into the music business is risky. It could take years to finally land a contract, or I may live my entire life never reaching my goal. But after receiving so many words on encouragement from my friends and family, I think this is really what I want to do.

All I need is some support, prayer, and some time to practice.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ooh, a new blog idea.

When I have time, I think I'll write a short tutorial on using Ticket Pia and Lawson Ticket to buy tickets for shows and concerts in Japan :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Monday...ehh.

Instead of slacking off, spending my entire weekend gorogoro-ing (that's 'loafing around') and playing Warriors Orochi 2 on the XBox360 with my brother until it was time to do my homework at the last minute, I decided to get some work done with the minimum amount of play. (I had to play WO2 for two hours on Sunday, otherwise I would've died of boredom while holed up in my room reading Japanese articles.)

I feel good about myself not procrastinating for once. But on the flipside, I feel tired and stressed and a little sad, though probably not as tired and stressed than if I did all my work at the last minute. I hate the idea of having so much work to do. Homework does not necessarily mean learning.

But it's not even the fact that I don't enjoy my assignments. I'd enjoy them a lot if I didn't have so much of it, and if I still had enough leisure time. Weekends are not an excuse for teachers to overload their students with work.

I suppose I should enjoy it as much as I can, because I'm guessing next semester will be even more boring.

I should finish reading this article for my Newspaper Japanese class. I've only read half but I already know I'm more prepared than at least half of the class.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Prez came to my school yesterday.

Healthcare Reform stuff. I didn't go. "Aww why not?"

Because 1) My professor didn't tell the class until 6 yesterday morning that class was cancelled, 2) I had work to catch up on, and 3) because that was my only class of the day, it enabled me to stay home. And so I did, because I REALLY needed the rest. I wish I could have Thursdays off every week.

Nothing special has been going on lately. My classes are okay, but I'm a little bitter about the fact that I have each class every other day, and that my homework load takes up all of my time, leaving no room for anything else but the minimum amount of sleep. I'm back to feeling tired all the time.

Anyway, I hope to have some more advice posts written soon, I still don't seem to have a lot of readers besides the ones who read via Facebook. If anyone has any questions about my visit I'd be happy to answer. My Japanese pragmatics class is full of opportunities to talk about my experiences, and every day I realize that my host club experiences have been extremely useful. No joke. I never thought I could learn so much in such an environment.

EDIT: My friend Talia is continuing the UM-Japan Exchange legacy at Aoyama Gakuin University, and she's documenting her study abroad for the 2009-2010 school year. Be sure to check out her blog: http://talia-in-japan.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

I'll be celebrating my Labor Day by doing all the homework I put off until today.

I got through my first week of school without committing some type of Japanese suicide (i.e. jumping in front of a train). I'm not really excited for this semester. I think I might have senioritis already. I'm in that "I hate school, I'm so sick of it" phase. Perhaps it's because I only JUST finished my last semester in July, instead of May like I usually do.

Once upon a time I had a website going, but I got rid of it. It had all of my old artwork and stuff, but these days it's not really worth keeping up. I have a site for everything important to me: deviantART for artwork; Last.fm for music; Facebook for friends; and of course, this blog for blogging.

My dad has been nagging me about this unpaid internship at JICC...The application deadline is December 1st but he's bugging me now, of course. I've been in a crabby mood lately, and I don't see it getting much better since I'm back to my "Here's all this work to do, it's due in two days" schedule. I liked Japanese class scheduling, where I only had each class once a week. It was a lot less stressful.

Monday, August 31, 2009

One Day Down...Many More to Go

Today was my first day of class at UM since sophomore year. It was a busy day, from the time I woke up at 5:30 to getting home at 6:30. Yep, that's what my life was like before Japan, and the way it will be until I graduate.

I missed the bus I wanted to catch because it showed up early...so I went back home and waited for the next one, which showed up late. I ended up missing my transfer and took the next bus at New Carrollton, which was 40 minutes later. Once the bus finally reached campus, there was tons of traffic trying to get in. I ended up 10 minutes late to my Professional Writing class, but fortunately it wasn't a big deal.

I'm not even going to talk about my History class because it was boring. But I noticed something interesting: The TA for my History discussion ensured us that our class was going to be the most interesting class this semester, but I couldn't wait to get out...History is my least favorite subject. On the other hand, the professor for my Web Programming class told us that we would probably be really bored with his class, yet he's a really funny, enthusiastic, and overall a seemingly great professor; I think this is going to be an interesting class. I also happen to have some experience with web design and even know a little bit about computer networking, so a lot of the material shouldn't be too much of a problem.

But onto the point of this blog. I do feel like a foreigner on this campus. It's like starting over because it's been so long since I was last here. And since I'm a senior, that means my stay at UM will be just as long as my year at Rikkyo. There's no reason to try too hard to adjust.

I will say, everyone on campus looks so...boring. T-shirts, flip-flops, shorts, sandals, sneakers, hoodies...I miss Tokyo fashion. Everyone was interesting to look at and I could always get great fashion ideas. But not on this campus. Maybe I'll be the one to set the example.

...

I want to go back to Japan.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reverse Culture Shock

When I actually stop to think about where I am, I still feel strange. I'm at home, in my bedroom--the same bedroom I had lived in for about 10 years. It doesn't feel completely foreign to me after being away for 11 months, but at the same time I don't feel 100% comfortable in it.

I've been going out a lot lately, almost everyday. I've been seeing friends that have missed me while I was gone. If this was like a 3-week visit back home and I was returning to Japan for school again, going out all the time wouldn't be a problem for me. But I realize that I'm back here for months, maybe even years. Do I really need to go out every night? It's not the same as when I was abroad...I knew I was only there for a limited time so I took many opportunities to go out. But now I'm back in Maryland, where I have lived all my life.

A webpage that I read about Reverse Culture Shock noted that someone who has been abroad may have a hard time dealing with the fact that their home country has indeed changed since they left. But not for me. From what I see, little things have changed here and there, but for the most part everything has stayed the same...and that's what I'm struggling with. It still takes about 90 minutes to get to College Park (where my school is) on a Saturday. Cell phones and cell phone plans are still ridiculously expensive.

I'm trying to get through it by enjoying things I didn't have in Japan. On Wednesday I had Chipotle for the first time in ages. I had also gone to Five Guys, and enjoyed my mom's home cooking as well. But in the back of my mind, I'm still wondering when...or if I'll be able to go back. Aren't my friends and family good enough? I wonder how many people's feelings I've hurt by saying, "I love life in Japan, I want to go back."

Friday, August 28, 2009

DC Nightlife...sort of.

Last night I went out with my best friend and her buddies. We were supposed to be going to a goth club in dc, and of course I had no trouble dressing the part.

The only problem was that we didn't check all the details beforehand, so we figured out that the club is 21+ only. That kind of annoyed me, but it can't be helped. I still despise the fact that the drinking age here is so high.

So the four of us were all dressed up and didn't go to the club. We just had a night out in Dupont Circle, which I remembered was D.C.'s gay district. This is comparable to Japan's Ni-Chome, next to Kabukicho. We turned a lot of heads with our outfits.

Finding a place to eat wasn't easy. Most places were closed, of course. It was only around 11 p.m. I also realized that some of the clubs in D.C. are only open until 2 in the morning. 2?!?! That's it? In Japan, clubs and bars typically close around 5 or 6 in the morning, just in time for the first morning trains.

Since so many places were already closed, we went to this bookstore that had a [very expensive] cafe. We ordered one meal and two desserts to share between the four of us. Everything was needlessly and ridiculously overpriced, but it was still good. It was strange to see for the past few days how prices have changed in America. Everything is so expensive, just like it was in Japan.

Of course I prefer Tokyo nightlife compared to D.C., but being with friends and being dressed up in goth and punk clothing for apparently no reason made it fun ^_^

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tips for Packing: Before the Trip

A friend of mine who is leaving Japan to come back to the U.S. VERY soon is having a crazy time trying to get everything packed in time for her departure. It reminded me that I should probably write a few tips about preparing for a year-long study abroad in Japan, at least in terms of transferring goods, whether it's by suitcase, takkyuubin, or ship via the post office. This will be the first part of a series of blog posts I will be writing about transporting goods overseas.

Part 1: Before going abroad
Packing to leave was pretty easy for me. I ended up with two suitcases and a carry-on, all with some extra space. Most of the stuff in my suitcases were clothes and shoes, and then a few knick-knacks here and there (a flat iron for my hair, some basic hygiene products, for example). Here are a few tips about taking stuff to Japan.

1. Use Space Bags, or some other type of vacuum-seal bag. My mom gave me a box of these life-savers to help me pack my clothes into my suitcases. It's amazing to see the difference in size once you pack in some clothes, seal the bag, and then start vacuuming the air out. My suitcases didn't have the slightest evidence of bulge by the time I was done. Packing to come back home was a different story...^_^; If you don't have time or money to buy Space bags, you could also use a lot of Ziploc bags; just sit on them or flatten them with heavy objects to force the air out. Space bags are basically oversized Ziploc bags, just with the one-way valve for vacuuming. I used both, the Space Bags for the clothing and the Ziploc bags for socks and underwear.

2. Don't try to take all of your clothes, shoes, purses, etc. Fortunately, because I wasn't too into fashion before I left, I hardly had any shoes or purses that I wanted to take with me to Japan. In addition to the purse I had with me on the plane, I took about three extra bags: One bag meant for school and two extra purses, both made of fabric so they could be flattened more effectively compared to a leather bag. As for shoes, I brought two pairs of boots, a pair of flats, and the tennis shoes on my feet.

Keep in mind that in Japan (or wherever you go), there will probably be plenty of opportunities to acquire new things, clothing included. This is where that little extra space and the Space Bags come in handy. Even I had to ship stuff home, throw stuff away, and fight to get my suitcases closed in the end. But if you take a limited amount of clothes from the beginning, it'll save you at least a little bit of trouble.

3. Keep in mind any luggage weight or size guidelines set by your airline. I was lucky that my larger of the two suitcases I brought was just barely under the weight limit, otherwise I would have had to pay a fee. Both of my suitcases were the lightweight, semi-soft type. You can read this guide from Overstock.com about different types of luggage.

4. Include a change of clothes in your carry-on. You never know what could happen before arriving to your destination--especially if you have a flight with one or more stops--or even after you arrive. I wrote last September about how I almost missed my flight from LAX to Narita because my first flight from Dulles was late. If I had missed my flight, they would have provided a hotel room for me, so I would have needed the change of clothes for the next day. But the other reason the clothes came in handy was because I didn't have my luggage for one night after I arrived at my dorm (which I'll write about in a future post). I had orientation at Rikkyo the very next day, so I changed into my sleep clothes for the night and then wore my extra clothes to school the next day.

5. Don't take all of your language-learning materials. If you are going to continue your foreign language studies while you are abroad, it won't be necessary to take all of your notes and textbooks. I took two books and a couple of notes with me to Japan, and I didn't use them even once while I was there. The Japanese language classes at Rikkyo taught me way more than I expected, and I collected a lot of notes from those classes to bring home. Learning a language is more than just studying it, but using it as well. As long as you put in effort to immerse yourself in the culture and everyday situations, you won't need to take all of the study material, not even to cram on the plane before your language placement test the next morning ^_^

This post came out a little shorter than I thought, but this is all I could think of in two days. These are just some key points that came up during my own experience, so hopefully they will be of some help to anyone who plans to study abroad. My next blog post about packing will provide some insight on shipping things home in the middle of your stay, to avoid crowding out those tiny dorms and doing everything at the last minute. Happy packing!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Business as usual.

This morning I had a dentist appointment. My mom left just a little earlier to go to the Korean Embassy.

It was my regular checkup and cleaning at the dentist's office, 1 year and a week after my last one. Unlike a lot of people, I actually like going to the dentist, as long as it's just for cleaning. I'm not too thrilled about fillings and stuff, but I don't find it scary or painful either.

Everything was good and I was on my way to CVS Pharmacy (like Matsumoto Kiyoshi in Japan) to pick up some stuff when a black car drove up next to me.

"'scuse me," the voice said. I looked over, and knew exactly what was going on. The guy asked if I had a boyfriend (I said I did), and then asked if my boyfriend would let me have friends, "'cuz he wants to be my friend." I did my usual method of refusal ("I don't have a phone," blah blah blah etc.) and he finally drove off.

This is my life in Maryland, U.S.A. I liked it a lot better when the guys approaching me were spiky-haired Japanese hosts. But even in Japan I got the occasional non-Japanese guy hitting on me. It's rather annoying wherever I go.

After that I made my way to CVS. I was very disappointed. Stuff in America is just as expensive as it is in Japan now! At least facial cleansers and shampoos. Maybe I just don't remember it being so expensive because I didn't shop on my own as often as I did in Japan. Not only that but I couldn't find two of the products that I wanted to buy...I don't know if they were discontinued or just not there. Maybe I need to start ordering all my stuff online or something.

Customer service was not there, as usual. In Japan, if there is even one person waiting behind another at the register, a worker immediately opens up another register to serve people as quickly as possible. No, not at CVS. The lady at the front had a cart full of stuff and it was taking a little longer than usual to finish up. Another employee (could have been the manager) was doing nothing important except restocking a single box of candy right in front of the register, as two of us waited behind the lady at the only register open. I wasn't in a hurry or anything, but it reminded me of how exceptional Japanese customer service is.

This isn't a "I hate America" or "I'm a Japanophile" thing. I just think that the U.S. has gotten so absorbed in the "It's all about me and money" craze, and I've come to realize that we have this habit of giving people as little as possible (except for when it comes to food). This goes along with my complaint about cell phone technology here.

Speaking of which, I recently checked out a sample plan on AT&T Wireless. With a free phone, the minimum monthly fee to have anything close to what I had with au by KDDI in Japan was $59.99, tax not included. I normally paid about $30-$40 for the same thing and more with au.

On the bright side, at least I can watch Maury on hulu now.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Japanese Cell Phones

A reader recently commented on my blog and asked for some information about cell phones in Japan, so I'll write what I know. I wrote back in September about the cell phone that I picked up from Bic Camera shortly after my arrival in Japan. Japan has three major cell phone services: NTT Docomo, Softbank, and au by KDDI. At the recommendation of a regular student at Rikkyo, I got au, which I will also recommend to anyone that is going to get a cell phone in Japan. Each service has their pros and cons, though:
  • If I'm not mistaken, Docomo is the most widely used service among people in Japan. They have pretty nice cell phone models as well. However, it is also the most expensive. I don't know much more than that, since most of my fellow international students either got Softbank or au.

  • Softbank is probably the cheapest (especially with the student discount), and also has nice models available. The iPhone is also available through this service, but I highly recommend that you DON'T get it. A friend of mine knows someone who has one, and it's--for lack of a better word--crap compared to the usual Japanese phones. You have to download your mail manually, and it's VERY slow to do so. The iPhone is so unpopular in Japan that at one point they were having a campaign offering it as one of the free phones that you can get with a 2-year contract.

    One advantage is that many of the Softbank phones have an English option available, so if you know very little to no Japanese, that won't be a problem. A disadvantage is that Softbank's reception isn't all that great. Once I was in a restaurant in Sunshine City with some friends, and all but two of us had lost reception. Needless to say, the two of us who still had even the minimal reception didn't have Softbank.

  • AU (which is normally typed 'au' but I'll capitalize it for easy reading) is the service that I chose, and I was very happy with it. Depending on the plan you get, you may be able to get a student discount (my plan wasn't eligible because it was too cheap). At the time they were doing a 10,000 yen ($100) cashback campaign as well, which was good. AU's reception is VERY good and I've rarely had a problem with it outside of the subway (no one gets good reception on Oedo Line >_<). My bill was about $30-$40/month on average, the highest being about $60 when I used the internet and e-mailed a lot. One disadvantage is that AU doesn't have as much of a variety when it comes to phone models, and most of them don't have English. Since my reading skills are moderate I didn't have a problem with it. However, if you only plan on calling people and sending e-mails, the functions are pretty straightforward. I even learned a lot of Kanji trying to figure out how to do certain things. Overall I was happy with AU, and whenever I return to Japan I'll be sure to sign up with them again. Cancelling my contract before I went home took less than 5 minutes, it was pretty amazing.
Specifically if you're going to Rikkyo, there will be plenty of people from IFL who can help you get a phone. Make sure you take some of your important documents that you received when you got your letter of acceptance. If I can remember correctly, one of the papers was a blue certificate of admission, which you will need in case you apply for a student discount.

Next, some general information about Japanese cell phone culture. In Japan, cellphones heavily outweigh other types of networking and communication. It's not unusual for a Japanese person not to own a computer, and instead do all of their web surfing by phone. Wi-fi hotspots also aren't quite as common as they are in the States; in fact, Rikkyo's campus just got Wi-fi this past semester. Being able to check my e-mail on my phone was really helpful when the Internet was down at my dorm for about a week.

One cell phone function you will inevitably learn when you make friends in Japan is 赤外線 ('sekigaisen', or infrared). Infrared is how Japanese people exchange contact information. This used to be a feature on Nokia phones back in the U.S., but apparently people here find it easier to read out their entire phone number. But the other reason we do this in the U.S. is because we use our phone number for both calling and text messaging, whereas in Japan, phone numbers are for calls and then there are mobile e-mail addresses for written messages. Instead of copying both a phone number and an e-mail by hand, Japanese people use infrared to exchange all of the info at once. You can also add info such as your birthday, alternate addresses and phone numbers, and even blood type to your profile so that it is exchanged when you use infrared. (I still have my old Nokia 6102i with infrared, and apparently I can exchange information with my Japanese phone...not that it really helps, but it's kinda cool.)

The last major feature I'll mention is 絵文字 ('emoji'), which are what we call 'emoticons'. Japan is very big on animation, and there's no exception when it comes to sending e-mails. If you really want to get into the Japanese texting culture, it would be good to learn what the different emoji mean, because there are so many of them! Pretty much any message you receive from a Japanese person (especially from girls) will have an emoji instead of a regular punctuation at the end of the sentence. I got used to it very quickly, and now I feel awkward when I type messages on my U.S. phone without any cute emoji (the American emoticons are pretty bland and even ugly). Emoji are very important when it comes to conveying feelings through e-mails and blogging, so be sure to keep an eye out for them!

There's more to Japanese phones, of course. But if you're going to Japan soon I'll leave the rest for you to discover when you get your very own phone. I wish American phones were this great, but as always technology here lags way behind that of Japan. That's all for now, and enjoy your Japanese phone ^_^ If you have any questions, you are always free to leave a comment or e-mail me.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It'll start coming back to me soon.

I caught a cold on the flight home a few days ago. My throat really hurts, and now my nose is stuffy. This house is so cold.

I went out with friends twice this week. I was happy to see everyone again, but I feel like it hasn't been that long since I last saw them anyway, so I didn't feel different. I don't feel different being here because I'm still trying to remember everything that happened while I was in Japan.

My best friend was driving me home this morning around 3 a.m., and when I check my phone I realize that I have messages and missed calls. My parents. They were checking up on me, apparently. This was one of the things that I wasn't looking forward to coming back. Compared to life by myself in Tokyo, living here with my parents in a suburb where driving is the primary mode of transportation is like living in a cage. I have to get used to calling my parents again when I'm out late or something, which of course I never had to do for the 11 months before. If I want to go somewhere, I can't leave whenever I want and hop on the next train like I used to; I have to look at the bus schedule and see when the next bus is coming. They only come around every thirty minutes. Not only that, but the buses around the neighborhood don't run between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., so going out in the middle of the day is out of the question.

Sounds ridiculous, right? But this is what everyday life is for me at home. It's easy to see why living in Japan was so much easier for me. I was so stressed here. I told this to all of the hosts that asked why I didn't like Maryland compared to Tokyo: my life in Maryland is nothing but going to class and coming home. Sure, most of my days were like that during my two semesters at Rikkyo too, but at least I had the choice of going out, especially on the weekends.

The regular bus here that runs on weekdays don't run on Saturdays. Nothing runs on Sundays. Last train home left Ikebukuro at around 12:45a.m., while the last bus to get home from New Carrollton (on weekdays) is at 7:15p.m.

"That's why you need to learn to drive," people tell me. You don't understand how much I loathe the idea of driving. For me, there's no freedom in driving. It's not like hopping on a train and going joy-riding to see where it takes you. If I want to drive, I need to know where I want to go. If I want to drive, I need to have a car. Cars are very expensive. Maintenance is expensive. I constantly hear my friends complain about the next stupid thing that happened with their car, or how they have to buy gas for it all the time, or how they almost got into an accident because of some idiot on the road. If I want to drive, I have to focus on the road. I don't want to talk to people while I'm driving. Or eat while driving. I can't play Nintendo DS while I'm driving.

It's absolutely absurd how American transportation revolves around cars. When GM came crashing down, they got bailed out by the government. Meanwhile, one train collides into another on the Red Line in D.C., and we learn later in the news that Metro's equipment was long overdue for maintenance, which probably wasn't done because they don't have a lot of money.

What has the U.S. government done for public transportation? Nothing, when you put it side-to-side with the car companies. What good does do other than "create jobs," when these days everyone buys Japanese and German cars anyway?

I'm not trying to sound anti-American or a pro-Japanese freak. I look at things for what they are. A lot of people who have never had experience overseas don't understand that the United States is very far behind when it comes to innovation. Everything here is about money, money, money. Oh well, at least we've got great computers. Japan doesn't need them because they have awesome phones. And robots.

On the bright side, I had a huge lemon-filled doughnut yesterday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm back. In the U.S., that is.

I woke up a few hours ago (4 a.m. Eastern Time) with a sore throat. I was in my soft, comfy bed, not realizing how good it would feel after sleeping on a futon for 11 months. I took some ibuprofen and then woke up again around 1 p.m. to eat.

My flight home didn't feel so long. It was an evening flight, 11 hours to Minneapolis/St. Paul and then about 2 hours to Baltimore. I slept and listened to classical music on the first flight, which I must say was a great idea because classical music is so soothing.

Once I got to Minneapolis, I remembered two things I hated about the United States. One was from looking at the rip-off soda and snack machines. At Narita Airport in Japan, everything is just about the same price. The other thing was that I had forgotten to exchange my money before I left. Currently $1 is about 96 or 97 yen, which is a good thing coming back from Japan. When I find the foreign exchange service in the U.S. airport, I see the rates and I couldn't believe it. They buy at 108 yen. So if I exchanged 30,000 yen, I'd only be getting about $276. If I exchanged in Japan, I'd have gotten around $310. See that huge difference? U.S. services are rip-offs...

So what did I do? I kept my precious yen. It's going in a safe place for when I return to Japan, whenever that will be. What an efficient way of saving money, seeing that I can't use it here. I went to an ATM and pulled out $40 just in case I needed it.

I guess I'm going to keep this blog, and I'm not going to change the name of it. 'Gaijin,' if you remember, means 'outsider' in Japanese. Even though I'm a U.S. citizen, right now I still feel like a gaijin. For the past 11 months I was surrounded by Japanese people, hearing the Japanese language, using Japanese services, and so on. I got so used to it. Tokyo became my home. Now everything has changed. I feel strange speaking English to people I don't know, and seeing Americans everywhere. There are no schoolgirls and school boys in uniforms, no Japanese salarymen, old women and men on the train. My yen is completely useless and I have to get used to using American money now. My Japanese cellphone is useless here, and I have to go back to my Nokia, with a battery that can't even last that long without charging it once a day. Last bus going home from New Carrollton is at 7:15 p.m., and if I miss it, I can't go to a manga cafe or all-night karaoke, because there are none here. My next two semesters will be about going to school and coming home, just the way it was before I went to Japan.

No host clubs. Even if there were host clubs here, they wouldn't be filled with Japanese people anyway.

If I'm hungry and want to go to a 'convenience store', I'd have to go to the nearby CVS instead, because American convenience stores aren't nearly as convenient in location as they are in Japan. What's more, I can't buy my tuna mayo onigiri, because there are none here.

I feel like a gaijin in my own country. I'll just have to get used to it. My friends can try and help me, I suppose. I can't say I 'miss' Japan, because right now I don't know how to feel. I just feel strange. I feel like this past year was just a long dream. But it wasn't. I have all of the clothes I bought in Harajuku. I have the collection of CDs I bought from BOOK-OFF. I have a stack of business cards from the hosts I met. It all really happened.

Tokyo is my second home now. One day I'll go back.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Goodbye...for now

It's been almost exactly 11 months since I set foot in Japan. I still remember my flight here and my first night in the dorm like it was only a few days ago.

It hasn't hit me yet that my life is about to change again in just a few hours. Right now I'm just trying to make sure things go smoothly. I have two very full suitcases and a bass guitar to take back to the States. I'm looking around my room and I'm surprised at how I managed to clear everything out. I hardly remember doing it because the last few nights have been all about the host clubs. I admit, the host club is probably the most enjoyable and most unexpected experience that I've had during my time here. I learned a lot about hosts and about myself as well. I'm really sad that I won't be able to go to a host club for quite a while.

No more all-night karaoke, no more shopping in Harajuku, no more purikura, no more e-mails from hosts asking me to visit them again. I adjusted to life in Japan so easily because I have so much freedom here. I don't know if I'll cry when I get on the plane, but I know it's going to be hard to leave. I miss my family and friends of course, I just don't miss American life.

While I was walking around Kabukicho last night, I decided that Japan was indeed my second home. I know this isn't over, and that I'll be back, somehow. I'll get a job here, I'll save money to take a vacation...anything just to come back.

Coming back from two host clubs last night, I only got about 2 hours of sleep so I'm going to take a really short nap now. I pray that I have a safe trip home.

I think I'll write more after I return to the U.S., just so I can tell everyone about my re-adjustment and any additional thoughts about my year of studying abroad.

For now, I'll write again once I come back.

A Return to the Host Club Scene, Part 3

This is the third and not-so-final part of my host club-hopping adventure. Part 2 is here.

In my last post I wrote about the shop that I chose to leave unnamed, and how my friend's designate invited us out to karaoke and talked with the boss about giving us a discount: 5000 yen for free time and unlimited drinks, even though it was our second visit to the club. Kenisha couldn't go but my other friend and I ended up going. While I'm getting ready to go out, guess who e-mails me? The host from United Prince who stood me up the night before. He apologized and said that he got stuck cleaning up and that he couldn't use his phone, thus why it never rang when I tried to call. Okay, so maybe he did get stuck cleaning. That's not his fault--it's part of his job, after all. But what bothered me was that he couldn't think to contact me ASAP, i.e. as soon as he finished work. That's not asking for much, especially since it was thanks to him that I was stuck in Shinjuku until dawn.

He asked if I could come to the shop again. Since it was Tuesday, it was supposed to be really cheap, and he said he's be able to take me out to karaoke afterwards. I wasn't all that mad at him, but I still couldn't go, because I had plans to stay at the other shop that night. Too bad, I guess.

My friend and I arrived in Kabukicho, ate, took some purikura and then headed to the shop. It was really busy that night, but we didn't mind, since we were able to entertain ourselves while our hosts were away. My friend's host is a real sweetheart; he doesn't look or seem like a typical host at all. He has a calm, older brother-like nature. It's also pretty interesting that he's originally from Hokkaido and used to be a fisherman ^_^

My host was pretty giddy almost the entire night. I thought he was drunk when we got there but I think he was just being hyper because that's his personality. My friend and I had been at the shop for about 10 or 15 minutes before he was finally available to come to our table. I must say that out of all the hosts I've chosen, none of them flirted with me like he did. But it was in a really playful way that I knew he was just being a host. I was rather surprised because he kept holding my hands, making kissy faces at me and kept spoiling me. He asked me what kind of food I liked in Japan, and I told him that I liked karaage (Chinese/Japanese-style fried chicken nuggets). Then he said, "I'll be right back," and about 5 minutes later came back with karaage from the convenience store! (How he managed to sneak out in the first place, I have no idea.) He also showed me some yo-yo tricks (nearly hit me in the face when the yo-yo flew off of his hand) and then gave me the yo-yo as a gift.

"When you go back home, you're not going to forget us, right?" he asked me and my friend. It was sweet of him. I couldn't understand why he and my friend's host were putting in so much effort for us, even though we didn't have much money.

My host continued to show me cute little magic tricks and flatter me constantly. He even said I looked like Beyonce, lol. My friend and I thought that taking pictures of the hosts might not be okay, but when my friend asked my host to take a picture of the two of us, my host wanted us to take pictures of the hosts at the shop as well. (I won't post the photos for privacy reasons, of course.)

After four hours at the club, it was time to go since the shop was closing for the night. Our hosts escorted us to the elevator and said they'd let us know when they were done cleaning up, which was estimated to be around 2:00am. While we waited for them, my friend and I went to McDonald's to eat and chill for a little bit. When it was close to 2 we went back to the convenience store next to the shop to wait a little longer.

30 minutes later I was getting concerned. I didn't want to get stood up again, not after I did the night before. I got my friend to call her host and he said they'd be done soon. I was a little bit annoyed, and was explaining to my friend that when I see them I'm going to be a little bit mad at them. But when they came into the store at 3 I completely disregarded their lateness and smiled ^_^;

While my friend's host went to buy something, my host went outside and motioned for me to come outside and wait with him. "You're late," I said in Japanese. "Gomen ne," he answered with a cute little pouting face. They were no longer wearing their suits, and instead were dressed in casual clothing. They looked really nice, especially my friend's host since he didn't really look like a host to begin with.

We picked up some food from McDonald's and then headed to a karaoke place. My friend wanted me to sing Nakashima Mika's 'Glamorous Sky' so I could 'Wow the crowd' as I supposedly do when I sing that song. It was really fun, and in a way a dream come true, because I never thought that I'd be able to do 'after' with a host. My host was occassionally nodding off, which I thought was really cute. He and my friend's host worked really hard that night, after all. We sang the rest of the night away until 5 in the morning, and then our hosts walked us to the station.

And that was my fifth all-nighter in a row. My friend and I went home very happy, and it was by far the best host experience I ever had.

So that concludes my story about my host club-hopping. Since then I've been to several other host clubs, designating and telling them all that I'm going home but that I'll be back next year.

I'm not sure if I've stated this, but I'm going home tomorrow, August 11th. If I have time I'll write one last post before I leave, but if not, I'll say now that these were probably the best 11 months I've had in my life. It was a dream come true, but unfortunately it must come to an end. I haven't decided what to do with this blog once I return to the States, but I'll figure something out.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Return to the Host Club Scene, Part 2

Here's Part 2 of my return to Kabukicho for host club-hopping. The first blog is here.

So about two weeks ago (July 20th) I went to two host clubs after many months of...well, not going. Sorry about the misleading time stamp for that post, by the way; it's timestamped at July 22nd and I mentioned another night in Kabukicho later, but that actually happened the next week, not the next day. (I wrote the last blog on the 22nd and posted it on the 28th, but the timestamp wasn't updated, bascially.) So to clarify: I went to two host clubs--Egoist and Ability--on July 20th. Now I'll be writing about my next visits: United Prince and a club I will leave unnamed.

On Monday night we go to United Prince, and it was so much fun! It was maybe 2 or 3 times bigger than a standard club, and the cast was great to talk to. Two of the hosts arrived at our table and made us drink glass after glass of the drinks we ordered (milk tea and orange juice) because it was 'all you can drink.' It was really fun and very amusing. I ended up having to go to the bathroom twice though. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, someone ordered a champagne call! The champagne call at United Prince is amazing, it's accompanied by a short para-para dance routine and Eurobeat music--so organized! The host that I picked was pretty cool too; he invited me to karaoke with him after he finished work, but that didn't quite happen...more about that a little later.

The night wasn't over yet. After leaving United Prince, there was a switch-up of friends. The friend that went with me to Egoist and Ability last week showed up in Shinjuku, and we managed to run into Kenisha and two of her friends. Eventually three of us go into another 初回無料 host club (which I will leave unnamed for certain reasons). Of course after being at United Prince, coming to a smaller club was a bit of a downgrade. But it's not about the size of the club, it's about the hosts that we were going to meet that night.

This shop has a VERY small cast--in fact, between the three of us, we only met four hosts! I wasn't too sure if I had taken a liking to any one of them yet. But I was very pleased that the hosts did their best to please us. I was more comfortable with them than I was with the hosts at United Prince--the Japanese they used with us was slower and simpler, but not too simple as if we were still new to the language. Many of the hosts at United Prince talked really fast and it was hard to follow sometimes.

The shop has a chef, which explained the delicious looking snack that was served. It was really good too, and it probably helped since a few moments later we got tequila shots! At the time the club was having a "free tequila" promotion for first-time customers. By this point I was really impressed. I didn't quite understand all the effort they put in for us, but perhaps it was because the shop wasn't too busy because of bad weather. Either way, I had a much better time there than I expected.

Eventually it was after midnight, and our time was up. We chose our hosts and they had even invited us for karaoke, but my friends had to go home and I had other plans (karaoke with another host, as I mentioned before). On the way out to the elevator, my designate seemed really excited about the fact that I chose him. He even put his arm around me and gave me a squeeze on the shoulder, with the cutest of smiles on his face.

"If I have money, I'll come to the shop again," I told him in Japanese. It was my obligatory phrase that I felt I had to say to each host I designate (I actually had no intention on returning). But his response was really unexpected: He shook his head as if to say, "No, it's okay."

Huh?

No host has ever told me that, for obvious reasons. I expected a, "Sure!" or a, "Yes, by all means! I had a lot of fun!" But this host, by whom I was entertained for absolutely free, actually refused. It was very sweet.

Later that night I went up to the station with my friends to see them off, and then went back to Kabukicho to wait for my host from United Prince. He told me he should be done at 1, so I had about 45 minutes to wait. 15 minutes before the hour, he sent me a message asking if I was still in Shinjuku. I replied right away, saying that I was. After that...nothing. I sent him another message about 20 minutes later, asking if he was done yet. Nothing. I figured maybe he had to work a little overtime, so I decided to go up the convenience store near United Prince to wait for him. Around 2:00, the host that my friend picked (we'll call him Tezuka) came into the convenience store and said hello to me. I told Tezuka I was waiting for my host, and from there we talked for a little bit. He tried calling him several times and suggested I do the same, but to no avail. He told me later that he was waiting for another customer, but that he would wait with me for a while. I watched as he called his customer to tell him what was going on.

Everything that happened that night left an impression on me. Tezuka's customer showed up, and he explained to her that they would wait for a few minutes to see if my host would show up or at least answer his phone. I was afraid to look at the customer, but looked at her face for just a split second. She wasn't a hostess, but looked more like a normal girl. Who knows what kind of work she did though. In the next few minutes I found out what kind of customer she really was. A number of times she tried to get up and leave, and I could sense that she was annoyed. Tezuka grabbed her and asked her to wait for just a little bit. I felt bad taking up their time, so I told Tezuka that they could go, and that I would wait inside the convenience store a little longer. He asked, "Will you be okay?" and said "I think so." They left, and by that time it was about 2:30am. "She's one of those customers," I thought. A customer who demands her host's attention and expects him to be punctual and perfect at all times.

After they left, I called my host several times. The problem was that his phone wasn't even ringing, which meant it was turned off or had no reception. When I was at the shop I remembered that the reception was really bad--I never had that problem at any other club. At 3:00 I gave up and went to McDonald's, ordered a hamburger, ate and took a nap. My host never called. At 5:00 I set out to take the first train home.

I went to sleep, woke up a few hours later, and tried calling again. His phone rang, but he didn't answer. "What in the world is going on," I thought. I wasn't angry or anything, I just wanted to know what was up. Later that day, I get a message from the friend with whom I went to Egoist, Ability, and then the unamed club. She said that the her host from the unnamed club called her last night and asked if we could all do karaoke together, but she had to explain that she already went home on the last train and that I was out doing something else. But apparently they talked to their boss, and he agreed to let us have "free time" and all-you-can-drink at the club for only 5000 yen! I was so excited that I couldn't write an e-mail and had to call my friend back. This was going to be my fifth all-nighter in a row!

I'll tell you more about the rest of that day later, right now I've got some errands to run and one last visit in Akihabara...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Major Update

I apologize for not updating soon enough. The internet at my dorm has been down since last Thursday, so I've been unable to check my mail, blog, update Facebook, etc. Here's an update starting from about one and a half weeks ago...

On Wednesday (July 22nd) I went out with Kelley and a few others for okonomiyaki in Sunshine City and then purikura. It was Kelley's last purikura before going home :( But I'll be seeing her back in the U.S. really soon!

On Friday (July 24th) there was a party at the dorm. I thought it was just some other exchange students coming but an army of Japanese boys showed up as well! Needless to say I was not disappointed >.> We had a lot of fun, and afterwards we all did all-night karaoke. That was the start of a five-day all-nighter marathon...

...because on Saturday I went to a nightclub in Roppongi. I was expecting the same old packed dance floor and a smokescreen of cigarette smoke, but it was actually very different. Feria isn't your party-hard, getting-totally-wasted type of club. It's formal, and has a high-class type of atmosphere. I didn't even dance, I ended up sitting outside on these comfortable cushions until the morning because I was so sleepy from the night before.

I intended to go to church on Sunday, but I overslept by two hours, waking up at around 1:30pm. So I decided to relax and wait until 7 to go downstairs and have steak with the dorm manager and some friends. (The steak was AMAZING.) Afterwards some of us went to a nearby bar to have some drinks. I'm not a beer person, so I ordered a cassis orange and then a Blue Hawaii. I know next to nothing about cocktails and that kind of stuff, so the Blue Hawaii's sour taste surprised me. After coming back we hung out until I decided to go to sleep at around 2am. I had to get up at a reasonable hour on Monday so I could take another friend to a host club, which will be in my next blog update...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Return to the Host Club Scene, Part 1

Last Monday, a friend and I went to Kabukicho. She wanted me to take her to a host club, and of course I was happy to do so. We left at around 5:30 in the evening, and the weather was absolutely terrible, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing...it meant that there were less customers.

First we walked around a bit, and collected plenty of flyers from different hosts. The first-time prices weren't bad, certainly better than the one for the first host club I went to back in January (called 'Secret'). We decided to go to Egoist, which has a "free first-time" deal.

A host escorted us to a seat and we were given the "boy menu," which is a photo album of hosts at the club. This never happened at Secret, possibly because it was busy then. My friend and I picked which ones we wanted, but we thought that we were stuck with them as a permanent "shimei," or "designated host." We found out at the end of our time that picking from the boy menu just means that we were choosing which host we definitely wanted to meet that night, so we were still able to meet several more hosts.

The hosts I met at Egoist weren't quite as good as the ones at Secret. A few of them seemed a bit awkward, even taking their eyes off of me to take a drink, which showed me that they were somewhat nervous. I can't blame them, I guess, but in order to be nominated, a host has to do his very best to stand out.

One host got my attention, and he happened to be the one I asked to see. When I looked at the menu, I wasn't sure if I wanted to pick him, because his photo was kind of dark (in a mysterious kind of way) so I couldn't see his face clearly. My friend told me to pick him anyway, so I did. When he finally arrived, at first I didn't recognize him because he had dark hair and glasses:




When I received his business card, I realized that he was the one I wanted to meet. I felt very relaxed with him. He asked me why I liked Japanese guys, and about dating and approaching people, to which I answered that I was kind of shy, and he said that he was pretty shy too. I wasn't sure about that before, but I could tell that he has a very calm and quiet nature, which I really liked. I do like funny and outgoing hosts, but there was something mysterious and unique about this guy...not to mention that he wore glasses, which made him look extra cute :)

The next club I went to is called 'Ability.' It's a fairly new club with a pretty small cast. First time was also free there. I didn't meet as many people, and my friend and I actually ended up talking to two of the hosts for a while before switching. At one point we even had up to four hosts gathered at our table, probably because the club was so empty that night.

The first two we talked to were cool. One was funny but not really good looking, and the other was somewhat good-looking, but somewhat of the silent type. They could have been a manzai duo (comedy duo). But I really enjoyed this club because they let me sing karaoke! I was surprised I would even be allowed to, but I guess since there was only one other customer there on that rainy Monday, there was no reason to object.

One guy at our table...truly did not belong at the host club. By that I mean he wasn't the type at ALL to be working as a host. It's the second guy like this I've seen since Secret, and this guy was even WORSE than the first one! He was extremely pale, his face seemed to be permanently stuck in a somewhat grimacing expression, and he hardly spoke. He was just all-around awkward, I'm thinking, "What in THE WORLD is he doing working at a host club?!" Needless to say, I didn't designate him. I ended up choosing the guy I picked from the boy menu:



And my friend chose the soft-spoken half of the manzai duo (I would have picked him myself if she didn't). I'm still pleased that I got to sing karaoke for a bunch of hosts! My friend said that some of the hosts were just watching in awe at me. One host-related dream come true, I guess. And absolutely free!!!

Another dream would have come true last night if something hadn't happened--or rather, hadn't not happened. Yesterday I had a unexpected night (and sunrise) in Kabukicho, which will be Part 2 of my "Host Club Hop" blogging.

Monday, July 20, 2009

IT'S A GUNDAM!!!

On Saturday I went to Odaiba to see the life-size RX-78-2 Gundam in Shiokaze Park. While doing a little research on how to get to Odaiba, I found out a little about it. It's a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, originally built for defense purposes in the 1800s, according to Wikipedia. Today it's a huge tourist attraction with a lot of shopping and entertainment centers. Even getting there is an attraction in itself--the Yurikamome is a transit service that goes over the Rainbow Bridge to the island, and the large windows allow you to see the area as you travel. Other means of transportation including taking a boat, the subway, or even walking over the bridge (which sounds somewhat appealing now that I think about it). A helpful guide on getting to Odaiba and what to see when you arrive is here.

I didn't get to do a lot that day, so I'll be going again pretty soon. For now, here are some pictures that I took, most of them being pictures of the Gundam. Thanks to my brother for telling me about this, otherwise I probably would have never known about it.




This is the Fuji TV Building. Can you imagine being able to work in a place like this everyday?


Yes, this is still Japan. They have a replica of the Statue of Liberty on this island. I've never even seen the real one with my own eyes. Behind it are the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower.


Viewing the bay while entering Shiokaze Park


And now, the Gundam:






















The Gundam actually does a little moving with his head and lighting up, which I didn't know about before. The crowd oohed and ahhed while watching it move. I wonder if Japan is counting this as a development towards building fully-functional Gundams.

The photos really aren't enough; it really is much more amazing to go and see the Gundam. It will be on display until the end of August. I'm going once more before I go back to the U.S. to take nighttime pictures, as well as to visit some other areas of the island that I didn't get to see this time around.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Few Days Left

I finished classes on Wednesday. I decided to take the rest of my week off until Monday to work on papers that I have to write for some of my classes.

Today I'll finally be going to Odaiba, the man-made island in Tokyo. The main attraction for me is the life-size RX-78 Gundam that they've built for the 30th anniversary of Gundam. I'm currently watching the news and they're talking about Odaiba right now, so I guess there's some event going on.

Since I bought my new yukata, I really want to go to a fireworks festival. That will probably happen in August.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cooking update!

Wow...I'm long overdue for a food update. I think my last post was back in January...

Here's what's been cooking for the past several months:



Chicken wrap with lettuce, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, corn, tomato and sour cream


Spaghetti with chicken and homemade white sauce


Level 3 okonomiyaki! I finally bought some appropriate toppings to improve my okonomiyaki. Includes bonito flakes, aonori, and mayonnaise





Spaghetti with onions, meat sauce, chicken and mozzarella cheese


Cheese omelette with meat sauce, hash brown and fried cinnamon apples


Pork stir-fry with broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, onions and pineapples


Chocolate-covered strawberries with sprinkles


Ramen soup with beef, wakame and egg


Fruit salad with strawberry, kiwi, peach, mandarin orange, aloe vera and nata de coco


Pork stir-fry with soba noodles topped with wakame


Omlette with chicken, cheese and mixed vegetables


Steak with green and red peppers and onions; pasta with white sauce; potato with sour cream


Scrambled egg with onions and peppers with a slice of buttered toast


Fried pork with peppers, onions and carrots over rice


Crepe with bulgogi and peppers


Spaghetti with grilled chicken, onions and peppers


My version of 'karaagedonburi': fried chicken (karaage) with shredded cabbage, soy sauce mixed with sugar and topped with mayonnaise over rice. I first had this at the cafeteria at Rikkyo. If you ever get a chance to visit the campus, be sure to visit the main cafeteria for lunch and try this!


Chicken doria


Ochazuke: rice topped with grilled salmon and wakame, with green tea poured over top. A must try!!

Since I'm nearing the end of my stay in Japan, I'm not sure if I'll have any more creations, but if I do I'll be sure to post them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finding a place to eat at Rikkyo

One thing I hate about the schedule setup at Rikkyo is how it is organized into periods--much like in high school or middle school.

I specifically don't like it because it means that EVERYONE has a break at the SAME time. Therefore, everyone has lunch at the SAME time. This makes the campus and cafeterias very crowded. It reminds me of the Baltimore Room at UMD, which would be very crowded at times. But at least if you were lucky, there would be a place to sit.

Not at the main cafeteria at Rikkyo. It's terribly full there, and pretty much doesn't clear up until lunch is about to end. Last semester I never had an issue with the crowding because I didn't have class second period, which is right before the break. I would usually go to the cafeteria right away, eat, and then leave right around lunch time.

But on Thursdays, I don't have a chance unless I were to leave my class RIGHT away. So right now I'm in the computer lab, blogging about how I have to wait until lunch break is almost over so I can go and get food...if they're still serving food after that time. I think they do...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Comments and Update

I've gotten a few comments recently from some random viewers, so I'd like to thank them for reading. It's nice to know that people learn from my blog, as I try to make it as insightful as I can.

I'm still busy with school, and as my stay here has been winding down, I admit that I'm starting to get a little lazy. I haven't had time to enjoy things that I haven't done in a long time, like watching anime. So over the past few days I've been watching Rose of Versailles, an anime from 1979 that I can easily say is a classic. My professor in my Japanese Society class recommended the historical series (specifically the manga) to the girls in the class. Not only did I get a good romance story out of it (romance is my favorite anime genre), but I learned a lot about the French Revolution as well. It easily became one of my favorite anime series. After finishing the last episode yesterday, I decided to move onto Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae, the third season of the Jigoku Shoujo series. I kind of drifted away from anime for a while, but it feels nice to get back into it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Was it the cold medicine?

I had an interesting day.

It started around 4:00 this morning, when I woke up because of this cold that I caught one or two days before. I was feeling miserable. I had this Japanese cold medicine that I picked out of this trash that some people in the dorm had thrown out a few months ago. Don't worry--this medicine was perfectly sealed, the expiration date is July 2010, and there was no strange gunk on the box. It was probably thrown out because the person was moving out and didn't want to keep every little thing.

So I took this medicine and decided I would go back to sleep. While I was sleeping, I had a strange dream...

I was with Kenisha in this large toy store...I wasn't sure if it was in the U.S. or Japan. I was looking at Rilakkuma products, when Kenisha pointed out something that I would like. I turned around and gasped--there was a huge section of Sailor Moon stuff! Everything was so different that I wanted to buy it all...I had this nostalgic feeling of when my parents and I were always on the lookout for Sailor Moon stuff.

I then looked on the top shelf, and there was a huge collection of Dynasty Warriors plushies. I got even more excited! I immediately wanted to find a Zhang He plushie and take it home with me.

Then I woke up and realized it was a dream. But it made me think of how, in the U.S., finding anime products during my childhood was so difficult. Even now you have to go to special shops to find goods for anime that isn't widely popular. In Japan, it's simple. Which leads me to my next adventure...

When I woke up, I still had a cold but I was feeling much better than before I went back to sleep. I decided to do a Google search on Dynasty Warriors plush dolls, but unfortunately none seemed to exist. Then somehow I started looking for Phoenix Wright stuff. I happened to find this page announcing new Gyakuten Saiban cellphone charms. Apparently these items went on sale in the capsule machines in late May, and it's now close to the middle of June. How did I not know about this?

I'm sure you all know what a capsule machine is, but in case you don't, I'll explain. It's the machines at the supermarket that you always stared at in wonder...and then you'd go back and tug at your mom's shirt, asking if you could have a quarter to get one of those rainbow-colored bouncy balls out of the machine. When she finally gave you one, you put the quarter into the slot, turned the knob, and when you opened the door, out came the rubber ball, sometimes bouncing right onto the floor and away so you had to go catch it. (For me personally, it was those 10 cent machines that carried those cheap rings...the plastic jewels always fell out.) In Japan they have these machines, most of them carrying anime goods. They're not really found at the supermarket, but at game centers, anime goods shops such as Animate, and I even saw some at Wendy's today. The price range of the toys is usually from 100 yen to 300 yen.

So anyway, when I found out about these Phoenix Wright charms, I got excited. I HAD to figure out how to get them. I'm usually not the kind who likes to spend all this money collecting stuff. If I could, I would buy a complete set online to avoid the trouble. But before I resorted to doing that, I just wanted to go and look for this particular machine. Like the way I felt in my dream, I thought it was going to be hard and discouraging while looking all over for this machine. It was kind of like going to Toy's R Us with my dad, hoping that they would have the Sailor Moon collectable card machine waiting at the store exit.

So I checked out Animate in Ikebukuro, and there it was. That was easy. I got out my pocketbook and started popping coins in. The very first time, I popped the coins in, turned the crank, and nothing came out. Figures, I thought. I didn't want to put in another two coins and not get anything, and I also didn't want to just walk away. So I found one of the employees and explained to her that, when I put the coins in, nothing came out. She immediately went over to examine the machine, and gave me the Apollo Justice charm out of the container.

I tried it three more times. Miles Edgeworth, Phoenix Wright, and then...another Apollo Justice. Great. There are four in all, so of course I had to get three and an extra. I exchanged a 1000 yen bill so I could try a few more times.

I put the coins in, and then tried to turn the crank...and it was stuck. Stuck as if I hadn't put anything in. I didn't want to have to get the employee again, so I put in another two coins and tried again. Still wouldn't turn. I went over to the employee again, explaining to her what happened and feeling a little guilty of putting her through the trouble of having to fix the machine. In the back of my mind, I also felt a little nervous that she would think I was trying to get free prizes. But without hesitation, she went over to the machine again and opened it up.

First she gave me the Klavier Gavin charm, which was the last one I needed. Then she checked the machine, and it turns out that something was indeed stuck. Out came the four coins I had put in. She further examined the machine, messed around with a few things, and then gave me another Edgeworth charm for the second 200 yen I had spent. She explained the machine was indeed faulty, and then asked me to try one more time to make sure it operated properly. I put in another 200 yen, and out came another Apollo. I was hoping for an extra Phoenix, but oh well. I thanked the employee and went on my merry way.

1600 yen and eight charms: One Phoenix, one Gavin, three Apollos and three Edgeworths...but had I ordered them online, I would have paid the same amount for only four charms, because of shipping costs. I guess I can give the extras to friends, or do some trading. I really just want an extra Phoenix for my cell phone...the other is a collectable.

Now I should probably get some rest...I skipped my morning class but I went to my afternoon class...which was probably not a good idea in regards to my physical condition. If I'm lucky--I mean, still sick in the morning, I'll have to stay home tomorrow as well.

For a look at all the different kinds of capsule toys that are sold in Japan, here's the Gashapon official website.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Too embarrassing to call a 'date'.

So...

I had a 'date' with a Japanese person who expressed interest in me on mixi, this Japanese social networking site. He didn't look too bad in his profile picture...from the little bit of back-and-forth messaging we did, it seemed like there wasn't much we had in common. But instead of blowing him off I decided to give it a try and meet with him.

Ugh. At the station I immediately figured out who he was and from that moment was reluctant to let him find me. We met up, and he didn't even have any concrete plans..."What should we do" was said more than three times. Seriously...you want to meet with someone (i.e. go on a date) and tell them you want to show them around West Shinjuku, and then when you get there you don't know what you want to do??

So we went up to this observatory on the 45th floor of one of the skyscrapers in the Skyscraper District. It was nice, could've been better if it wasn't so foggy. As I looked out the window, he didn't even stay next to me for long before shying away and moving to another window. Hey, I wasn't disappointed...but still, the point of meeting someone is to get to know them, not to run away from them.

I don't even want to talk about the rest. In the end, we ended up meeting with Kenisha and her friends and went to the Game Center. Almost immediately, he just disappeared. I messaged him asking where he went, and he said he was on the 3rd floor. By that time Kenisha was ready to go to Shibuya, and I had already made up my mind that I had no desire to see this guy again. I told him about my plans to go to Shibuya and he gave me a "See ya," from which I could sense that he really wanted to avoid hanging out for any longer.

He goes to Toudai (Tokyo University, the top school in Japan) and studies medicine. Not to generalize, but that should've given me a clue that this guy was surely not going to be the most exciting. All the questions I planned to ask him went out the window, because frankly, nothing that I was going to find out about him would convince me to hang out with him again.

Thank goodness Kenisha was in the area though. If I ever try something like this again, I will always make sure I have a friend to call for backup.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Japanese Girls and Heels.

I should say "Japanese girls and shoes in general."

Of course I'm not talking about all Japanese girls when I say this, but...

...why is it that the vast majority of Japanese girls don't know how to walk in heels?

Yesterday I saw think girl dressed up in an elegant goth outfit leaving campus. I happened to be following behind her because I was also done with class. She wasn't fat, just a little bit on the thick side. I couldn't see her from the front, but I didn't really need to.

She could have rocked the look if it wasn't for the fact that she was walking like a duck in her platform Mary Jane shoes. Her steps were widespread, like a baby just learning to walk.

That's not the only problem I've seen with Japanese girls and the way they walk. There's the 'wobbly ankle' when any heels over 2" are worn; toes pointed in any direction but straight ahead when taking steps; and the loud scraping of heels on the ground.

HEELS AND SCRAPING DO NOT GO TOGETHER. It's like an oxymoron!

We don't have this problem in the U.S.! So why in Japan? Why are there so many girls who don't know how to walk like ladies?

The closest I could find to an answer is this article about Japanese women and bowleggedness. Then there's another page that shows pictures of women's feet while walking pigeon-toed.

I think there should be a required seminar for girls entering heel-wearing age learning how to walk properly. Bowleggedness is not an excuse for not being able to walk without scraping your heels, nor is it a valid argument for wobbly ankles. Wobbly ankles means your heels are too high. And walking in heels is only going to make things worse for your legs and feet.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm still alive.

I've been swamped with work. I'll update when there's time, I assure you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Remembering my Role

I was on my way to the 100 yen shop after class today. It was the one on the East side of Ikebukuro, the one I most frequently visit. So of course I've walked down that way many times.

But this time, something happened.

I was almost to the shop when suddenly a man approached me from the side and said in a polite tone, "Excuse me."

When I turned to look, I was a little nervous and curious about why a young police officer was trying to get my attention. Then I realized what was going on.

He asked if I was a college student. I said yes, and then he asked to see my Alien Registration Card. As I pulled it out of my wallet, I was stuck between feeling offended and wondering how he was going to react when he realized that I wasn't some suspicious gaijin trying to blow up a shopping center.

He looked at the card, to which he replied, "Oh, an American! Thank you," and handed me my card, but not before glancing at the back to make sure the city's seal was on it. I replied 'hai,' and went on my way, feeling extremely somewhat embarrassed and annoyed. I wonder if anyone else was watching, waiting to see if the little gaijin would be dragged off to the nearby police box for questioning.

But I thought about it again, trying to see it from the officer's perspective. Perhaps it was a case of non-verbal miscommunication. Today I was wearing my hat, because I didn't have time to do my hair. I was trying not to wear it too low, because I knew people might be suspicious.

I was also carrying a black file, which has my schoolwork in it. Normally I keep it in my school bag, but since I was only attending one class today, I decided to hold it in my arms. How many people walk around with a black file in their arms rather than in a bag? I had my (bright) Hello Kitty purse, which was too small for the file.

However, I think another difference between being stopped by a police officer and not being stopped lies within one other detail: My race. In other words, a woman wearing the same hat, grey jacket, pink top and white pants, and carrying the same purse and the same black file, but happened to be noticeably Japanese would probably have been able to walk by without question.

It made me think about racial minorities that are Japanese citizens. As citizens they should be treated as such, but misunderstandings still occur simple because of their appearance. It's a shame, but I wonder what can be done about it; not just in Japan, but worldwide. It's no less of a problem back in the United States, either. I can't blame the officer either; he was just doing his job.