Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Japan: Electric-City


No pictures for this day. What this day basically consisted of was getting acquainted with getting to/around TiTech (Tokyo Institute of Technology) and doing random stuff like finding the computer lab/getting access. We also continued classes, although we basically only had Technical Japanese left. After class, I decided I wanted to see how well I could find myself around a new city alone (seeing as how I'd have to do it anyway within a matter of weeks). With this in mind, I took the daunting task of navigating Tokyo's metro system. I made my way to あきはばら (Akihabara), which is Tokyo's electric city. I don't know how to describe Akihabara if you don't know of it, but I guess it's every geek's dream, no matter what you enjoy. Video games, Anime, electronics of any variety; you can find it all at Akiba. It's also the place to go if you want to see Japanese maids around every corner or maid cafes. After eating quite a delicious *yaki* meal (Okonomiyaki, takoyaki, yakisoba set), I made my way back to the Youth Center feeling quite confident in my ability to navigate a new city.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Japan: City Rife


After spending the night before doing laundry (stupid dryers didn't work at all) and then packing, I woke up and carried my bags down to the lobby to meet up with a bunch of sleepy LBATers. Another rainy day awaited us as we took our Mega-Taxis to the airport. Of course, Noriko was there to see me off on another tear-filled farewell. Unfortunately, Andy had apparently shipped his ticket to Tokyo... to Tokyo so Masuda-sensei had to help him sort things out. After an uneventful plane ride, we arrived at the hustle and bustle known as Tokyo.

Once we got to Tokyo we were immediately whisked off to a smatter of sight-seeing. The first place we went to was a nice park. It was pretty wide and had a lot to see (including a very smelly place that was supposed to be water). Also had a wicked looking old tree. Quite an interesting park because surrounding it, you could see the tall buildings that define a large city like Tokyo.

Andy and Sara had the wrong time that we were supposed to meet at the bus though, so they were late and we had to rush to get to lunch in time (lunch was on a boat called バンデアン (vingt-et-un [21 in French]). This was a nice little 2-hour lunch/cruise around Tokyo bay. The food was really good and pretty westernized, so it was a nice change from the 和食 (Japanese food) we'd become so accustomed to. After lunch, we wandered around the ship taking pictures and just enjoying the scenery. Unfortunately, it started to rain a little bit, but it never got too bad.

We left the port and went to our next destination, the temple at あさくさ (Asakusa). This is a particularly well-known temple in Tokyo that I hear gets crazy mad around まつり (festivals) or special events like New Years. I can believe it. I've got a picture of what it's like to walk around the shops around Asakusa that I'll post later. In any case, on this particular day, it was dreary and raining, but there were still a good deal of people around.

After leaving Asakusa, we arrived at the place we would be staying during our duration in Tokyo: The National Olympics Memorial Youth Center by 代々木公園 (Yoyogi Park). The place is nice and dirt-cheap. Not nearly as nice as the Seminar House in Fukuoka though. We didn't get any people to take care of our linens or anything and the bath time is shared by everyone in the center rather than just the LBATers. In addition, they had this insane habit of kicking us out of our rooms and making us move time and time again. For instance, we had to vacate our rooms only 2 days after we arrived. The reason for this is because there's so much demand for the rooms there.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Japan: I do a due adieu to Fukuoka


After the stressful morning of presentations (Business Japanese is done! Hurray!), we had a nice relaxing "attack the paper" session. That's right! Caligraphy... Before we began, the professor showed us how it was done. He showed us various techniques, including the beautiful light / heavy strokes to the almost scary "paper attacking" mode. It was very beautiful and inspired us all to do our best. Ours weren't nearly as good, but it was still fun and stress-relieving. I wrote 福岡 (Fukuoka) on my fan as a souvenir (kinda lame I know). They also gave us the brushes we used as souvenirs! And of course the newspaper we used to wrap them up in...


So, on this day, Gretchen and I went to check out this nice garden by the Seminar House. It was so beautiful and peaceful. I'm not even going to write about it; I'm just going to post a bunch of pictures. Enjoy.


So on one day, we also made our very own 判子 (hanko), which is the official stamp that Japanese use instead of signing official documents. My kanji is an old character and it means to conquer. The sound of it makes the first "kuh" sound of Christopher. The process of actually making the hanko was a lot of work; literally scraping out the kanji from a piece of stone (maybe marble?).


This was our last full day in Fukuoka. Final exams and other fun school stuff. This day was also the day I participated in Masuda-sensei's research again, by having my revisit with Hikaru-san. It had been 3 weeks since we our last conversation was recorded, but it started out the same way (Hey, this feels like we're on the Radio). It was amazing to experience how much my Japanese had improved over such a little time. Hikaru-san said I spoke much more fluidly (not fluently) and my pauses were few and far in between.

Sara and I didn't have enough time to go all the way back to the Seminar House and back before the Fukuoka Daigaku closing ceremony, so we just went to the building and she napped while I played my DS until the party started. The party was great (although we all kinda fell apart without Nacky-sensei there to help us sing 明日がある (a song called There is a Tomorrow) and pretty sad. I got a birthday card signed by everyone and Noriko actually cried because we were leaving. I didn't realized our presence had touched her so much. She asked what time our flight was leaving in the morning to see us off, but I told her that she didn't have to come since it was so early and she had classes in the morning.

After the party, we did what was the only natural next step... Karaoke! Loads of fun for all and great memories to be made before leaving Fukuoka.