Japan Time

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"dare to show the darkest days that even when it's raining, you know where it's daytime..."

When I came to Japan in 2005, it was at the three week period in my semester stay that homesickness hit me and my fellow Americans. It hit us hard. I think it was at that point that reality set in - this was not a vacation, this was our life for the rest of the semester.
As I was preparing for my second (longer) stay in Japan, I figured that this time around, the homesickness would hit me at three months.

I was right.

Today I teared up mulitple times at work, frustrated with the language barrier and the fast pace of my job, with all that is required of me and all that I still don't know how to do.
I miss the States. And my friends. American food. The studio. My old apartment. My Jeep. Not needing a translator everywhere I go (including work).

Yep. Homesickness has definitely set in. The three month slump is upon me.

So, I'm keeping busy. I bought a chair and bookshelf for my little apartment and rearranged things:

I am watching one of my and Dave's favorite shows, Mystery Science Theater 3000. We used to watch it whenever we caught it on Comedy Central. Here is the best of three episodes I've watched recently, Prince of Space (which is a Japanese movie), Night of the Blood Beast, and Space Mutiny:

"A rare Godzilla-free day."

So, that's that. Homesickness. A part of the experience...but it still sucks.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Mawidge...mawidge is what brings us together today. That bwessed awangement - that dweam within a dweam."

At work today, somehow everything came back to marriage:

Second Lesson of the Day: Giving suggestions (you could..., why don't you..., etc.)
Task: I read a goal from my Teacher's Guide and the student had to respond with a suggestion.

Me: I want to retire at 50.
Male student: You should get married.

His explanation (pretty much verbatim): In Japan, when a woman gets married, she quits work and stays at home.

Third Lesson of the Day: Summarizing an article (this is a fairly advanced conversation class)
Task: Find an article and write a summary. Present the summary in class.

Male Student (with two kids and a third on the way): (gives summary of an article about "house husbands" in Tokyo - men who do 70 minutes of housework everyday)
Me: So, do you do housework at home?
Male Student: No.
Me and Female Student: No?!
Female Student: Do you wash the dishes?
Male Student: Well, I bought a dishwasher...

Let's just say that both my students AND I learned a lot today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"into a place where thoughts can bloom..."

I met Chris and Nozomi at Jen's going away party in Fujieda in November. They live in Kanazawa, about four hours north of Shizuoka and are getting married in September. Since Jen's party, we've been e-mailing back and forth about photography since Chris is a bit of a photog himself. This week they are in Fujieda visiting Nozomi's family and making preparations for the big day.

me and Nozomi

On Saturday I met up with them, along with some other people for drinks and karaoke:

Nozomi, me, and our waitress

Chris and Rob at the karaoke bar

crazy gaijin and our Japanese cohorts
On Monday, my day off, Nozomi went shopping with her mom for her mother-of-the-bride dress and Chris and I went on a biking adventure around Fuijeda:

We encountered a lot of shrines before we got to Rengeji-ike Park, a park I have been hearing about since I moved to Fujieda. It has beautiful wisteria (the official flower of Fujieda) blooms in the spring, a pond, and lots of other things to see:

bamboo trees

a great view of Fujieda from Rengeji

After our bike ride, we met up with Nozomi for coffee and later watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Mystery Science Theater 3000 at my apartment. A good day!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Just a little different than Michigan.

On the news tonight:
Today brought the first snowfall of the year and in Tokyo, there's two centimeters of snow piled on the ground.

That's right.
Two centimeters piled on the ground.

Break out those snow plows.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

my current listen-on-repeat-for-hours-on-end song...

Tough, you think you've got the stuff
You're telling me and anyone
You're hard enough
You don't have to put up a fight
You don't have to always be right
Let me take some of the punches for you tonight

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don't have to go it alone

And it's you when I look in the mirror
And it's you when I don't pick up the phone
Sometimes you can't make it on your own

We fight all the time
You and I... that's alright
We're the same soul
I don't need... I don't need to hear you say
That if we weren't so alike
You'd like me a whole lot more

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don't have to go it alone

And it's you when I look in the mirror
And it's you when I don't pick up the phone
Sometimes you can't make it on your own

I know that we don't talk
I'm sick of it all
Can you hear me when I sing, you're the reason I sing
You're the reason why the opera is in me
Where are we now?
I've still got to let you know
A house doesn't make a home
Don't leave me here alone

And it's you when I look in the mirror
And it's you that makes it hard to let go
Sometimes you can't make it on your own
Sometimes you can't make it
The best you can do is to fake it
Sometimes you can't make it on your own

Friday, January 2, 2009

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu! (Happy New Year!)

Sorry that you all couldn't see my Christmas video. Apparently I am not YouTube savvy.

I had a wonderful visit with the Nishimuras (the family that took care of us when I came to Japan in 2005) in Chiba for the New Year. Here's the recap:

Took the local train to Shizuoka station and then the express bus to Tokyo. With the help of Keiko, my former host sister, I changed local trains at a few stations (getting lost along the way in true Bri-style) and finally arrived at Inzai Makinohara station - the very station that Laura, Kris, Mallory and I used to depart from for all our adventures. Minako, my other former host sister, picked me up at the station and we headed to Big Hop - the new shopping mall in Inzai (by the way, Inzai is growing and growing! When we were there, it was a small city with lots of fields and one mall. Now, I hardly recognize it. Apparently, it's the second fastest growing city in Chiba). Anywho, after Big Hop, we went to the parents' house (Dr. Shin and Keiko-sensei) for nabe.

(Big Hop - complete with Ferris Wheel)

(Me and Minako)

It was so good to see everyone at Dr. Shin and Keiko-sensei's house! Majelyn and her two kids (she was pregnant with her first one when we left), Keiko and Shuichi and their daughter (she was born about a year after we left), Minako, Dr. Shin, and Keiko-sensei. They took such good care of us when we were in Japan before and seeing them again was like seeing family.
After dinner, Keiko and I headed to a spa for a professional massage (my first ever). It was awesome. Minako wasn't feeling well, so I spent the night in her apartment by myself and she stayed at the kindergarten - she had to be there early for a fire inspection anyway.

(the view from Minako's apartment)


Minako, feeling much better, picked me up at her apartment and we went to the kindergarten to make omochi.

(Inzai Shion Kindergarten - our home away from home for three months)

for omochi, start with regular sticky rice...

then, pound the bejezus out of it

until it looks like this.

add natto, radish, or other japanese condiments and enjoy.

Yui-chan, Keiko and Shuichi's daughter

Nozomo-chan, Majelyn and Naoshi's son

After omochi, Majelyn and I tried some calligraphy with the help of Keiko-sensei:

this is mine...it says "faith"

Minako and I went to Katsuko-sensei's (she works at the kindergarten) house where there were many church members gathered for some karaoke fun.


Minako and I went shopping at the mall across from the church (where we used to go grocery shopping every week in 2005) and then we met up with the Tan-sans...our adopted Japanese grandparents! In 2005, the Tan-sans invited us over for dinner and taught us how to make Japanese food like curry and gyoza. When they heard I was back in Chiba, they asked me to come over for dinner and spend the night for New Year's. They're still as awesome as ever.

Mr. Tan, Mrs. Tan, and Mrs. Tan's sister

In Japan, the New Year is a time for family, not parties and drinking like the States. So, the Tan-sans' family came over (two sons, their wives, and two grandkids). We had yakiniku - which was awesome. They can't speak English very well, so there wasn't much talking, but it was still wonderful to see them again.

In the morning, we had a traditional Japanese New Year's meal: zoni soup and a lot of seafood. It was strange eating crab legs and shrimp at 9 am, but hey - I love those things, so who cares?

Then, it was off to church for a New Year's Day service.

me and osuka-sensei, one of the teachers at the kindergarten

naomi-chan, majelyn and naoshi's daughter

Then, after church, I had lunch at the Nishimuras' and then I headed back to Tokyo station to catch the bus back to Shizuoka.


Now I have a few days to relax until it's back to work on Tuesday - hooray!