Monday, July 23, 2007

What I'll miss about my life in Japan

This is a list I've been compiling for a while. I might add some more in the next week or so if I get access to the internet again.

my friends!
100yen stores
my bike
road mirrors around nearly all corners
black sesame ice cream
Lawson giant corn
efficient, clean, reliable public transportation
no tipping
quality service
squat toilets
Japanese pine trees

odor of burning garbage/plants
cigarette smoke in nearly all public places
smell of squat toilets
changing my shoes all the time
weather reports without radar
tv shows watching people eat delicious food
3.7% milk

Japanese fashion
Japanese mullet
manga and anime
how no one gets warts from onsen visits
why no one dies in the electric buzz tub in onsens
why it isn't instinctual for most Japanese people to just repeat what s/he just said slower when I haven't quite caught what they said right away (they either give up without any attempt at repeating or repeat it just as fast as the first time they said it)

using my credit card
furniture in general
skim milk
hearty, healthy sandwiches
movie theater popcorn
mac n cheese
turkey burgers
buffalo burgers
lean steak
fresh delicious corn on the cob

I'm planning on writing about any culture shock that I have when I get back, as well as commiseration over things I miss about Japan. So this is not the end of my blog! I'll write about the bullfights I watch tomorrow and my trip to Sydney too. Sayonara, for now.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Farewell Parties

I've been to about seven get-togethers that would constitute as farewell parties by Japanese standards. Getting together with two people for dinner after school is still considered a party here. Many of my Japanese friends and colleagues have never had Mexican food, so I suggested the Mexican restaurant in Naruto for more than half of these parties. Everyone liked the food, and I enjoyed their company. I received many really nice presents such as geta (traditional Japanese sandals), indigo dyed coasters, washi (handmade paper, a t-shirt, and a piece of Otaniyaki pottery.

Two of my schools held farewell ceremonies with the students. My favorite school had an entire assembly just to say goodbye to me. It was really sweet. The principal and student leader made speeches, and then I gave a speech in both English and Japanese. Then the students presented two presents to me, geta (traditional Japanese sandals) and a laminated calender decorated by all the students! They had a professional photographer come to school and take a photo of the entire school with me in the middle. They're going to send me the picture once I'm home. I was really touched by all the hoopla.

Another school included me in their closing ceremony before summer vacation. Those students gave me an indigo dyed fan.

And of course the board of education threw a party too. It was the biggest one, and the most fun!
Here I am with my lovely supervisor.This is a family that I've become really good friends with. Here we are after dinner and my last trip to an onsen.
This is silly, but I said goodbye to my plants too. My friend Christine who is staying another year is going to take care of them now.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Last weekend a huge typhoon whipped through Japan, hitting the southern section the hardest. It rained the entire week beforehand, soaking me on my way to and from work. Apparently a few teachers were required by law to stay at school overnight just in case the neighborhood had to evacuate their homes and relocate to the school.

My friends and I escaped on an overnight bus to Tokyo for a three day weekend. The bus was ten times better than overnight bus trips I've been on in the US. There were two aisles on the bus, so each of the three seats in each row were separated. There was a foot rest, fold out desk, drink holder, light, and far reclining for each seat.
Once we got to Tokyo in the early morning the next day, we stopped by the Tsukiji Market, a gigantic fish market. It was really dangerous to walk around because there were so many guys driving trucks and carts as fast as possible. I don't understand why it's open to the public. We were able to eat some delicious sushi at a nearby restaurant though.
This guy is sawing cubes of frozen fish.

During the weekend we ate some delicious food: fresh sushi, cheese tofu, avocado tofu, other delicious tofu, Thai food (with the best crab I've ever eaten!), Mexican food (at a restaurant that didn't have any form of beans other than chili beans!?), Indian curry, tempura, soba, and fresh fruit smoothies. We ate a few of our meals with some of my friends who currently live in Tokyo. It was really nice to catch up with them!

We went shopping in Ginza, Harajuku, Asakusa, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. My favorite store was Itoya, a 9 floor stationery and supply store in Ginza. They actually annexed two shops around the corner too. I could spend hours in those stores. Anyways, while we were shopping in one of the department stores we saw peaches on sale for $12 each!

And of course we partied in Roppongi:
It rained a lot on Saturday while the typhoon was headed towards us, but by mid Saturday and all day Monday, the weather was pretty nice. I think the typhoon weakened by the time it reached us.

On Monday morning, the earthquake happened in Niigata Prefecture
(about 350km north of Tokyo), on the other side of Honshu Island. I was sitting at our hostel's computer when it happened. I felt like I was swaying back and forth, but I couldn't see anything else moving so my perception seemed really off. I asked another guest if they could feel it and they could, so I knew I wasn't losing my mind or getting lightheaded or something. The swaying wasn't continuous, but the random spurts that I could sense went on for two or three minutes! Quite a weird sensation to experience. Once I realized what was going on I worried that either it would get a lot worse really quickly or something really terrible was happening far away. Turns out it was the latter, as you've all heard about in the news. One of my Japanese friends told me that the same area had an earthquake about three years ago. Japan is earthquake-prone, so the cities are set up a little differently and the buildings have been built to withstand some shaking. All the Japanese cities that I've been to are not centralized with a large downtown area with tons of skyscrapers like all the US cities. Everything is pretty spread out.

I still haven't caught up on my sleep since we got back, so I'm staying in this weekend to rest and pack before my next three weeks of traveling start up. My internet service ends on Monday night, so if you want to call me before I leave, call me this weekend! I have a lot on my mind, so check for a lot of updates this weekend.