October 27th, 2008

Early on Sunday morning, G2, B, N, and I assembled at Tenjin Station and hopped on a 2.5 hour bus ride to Nagasaki. It started raining as soon as the bus drove out.

It continued to rain as we reached Nagasaki. We were dropped off of the JR station and we proceeded to walk along the Nakashima river until we reached Spectacles Bridge, the oldest stone bridge in Japan. Afterwards we went to eat Champon, a noodle soup with origins in China. It is famous in Nagasaki. We then went to the Sou-fuku temple, a Chinese-built temple from the 1600’s. Then, it was time to take the tram to Nagasaki Peace Park. There were a lot of school trips there, as well as several Japanese tours. The sky was very dark and it was cold and wet, making the park quite depressing.

After visiting the hypocenter where the bomb exploded, we walked a few hundred meters to the Atomic Bomb Museum. It was really well put together, and there was an endless supply of materials - interviews, pictures, artifacts. I think anyone who visits will be impacted.

We stopped by the one-legged torii, which used to be a temple arch; half was blown away from the atomic blast.

It stopped raining a bit but it was getting dark by then. We went back to the station. I wolfed down a donut and a burger (I was very cold and my pants/shoes were soaked by this point). We went back and arrived in Fukuoka near 10pm.

Nagasaki was interesting, but I would recommend anyone who goes to go on a sunnier day.


Today I tried to limit my calories but I had this wonderful idea to compare Sagar indian restarant to Nanak. I still prefer Nanak although it seems that all GenkiJACS students like Sagar hahaha. The おすすめ set comes with: a huge slab of naan, a piece of tandoori chicken, a shish kebab (made of tofu), vegetable curry, shrimp curry, dessert, lassi, and salad for 1500yen, which is a bit too expensive, eh? But it’s super filling. I was eating alone but N coincidentally walked in (he was going to go wallclimbing but it was closed today).

Anyway, I am buying these calorie bars called Calorie Mate which are 100kcal a bar. They are supposed to magically make you feel full. I’m not sure if they are working too well. But they must be better than eating 600kcal breakfasts, right? (Yeah I’m trying to work on not to binge for dinner)

Not Much Sleep

October 26th, 2008

Hmm… I can’t recall what happened on Thursday… but it was raining quite a lot.

Friday, which was yesterday. There was a GenkiJACS party at an Izakaya, an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink affair. Some people got quite drunk. They kept bringing endless plates of food, such as takoyaki, fried rice, tonkatsu, and other izakaya deep-fried food, which I didn’t stop eating. Afterwards, Canadian guy, B, G2, N, N’s Japanese friend and her friend, and I went to a karaoke bar, which was again nomi-hodai. We sang 2 hours and when I tried to ask for more time they say no, so we all disappointedly left. We ended up at Three Kings British pub, getting more alcohol and junk food. Then by 2 am they were closing so we went to the usual hangout, Small Spaces (they know us by now). I was still sadly sober (a little high, but not too much) but others were quite happy. I think it was the fact I ate so much izakaya food that nothing really hit. We talked a lot more nonsense the rest of the night, and those times are always fun :D N and I once again took the cab home and was in bed by 4.30am.

I woke up at 10am and guilted myself to go to the gym. It was super busy at today, with billions of kids running everywhere. I didn’t get to exercise much because I was on a very tight schedule. I couldn’t  even run much because I got a huge stitch on my side halfway :( Behh. By 12.45, I was out of there.

On the way to Tenjin Station, I was stopped by a girl who is one of those who stand around the station and promote their company. She was blabbing and I said something unintelligable about being in a hurry and she asked, 韓国人ですか and I said カナダ人 and she said ‘OH I am learning English!’. And we chatted for a few minutes before I escaped (though she said to come back and say hi whenever I’m there… which I am every day.. must be rough to have a job like that). But I think that was pretty cool. Usually when they realize I’m not Japanese they apologize and run away.
I met up with another Mixi person today. A guy! He looks a lot younger than his age, I think, hahaha. He lived in the States for quite a few years so I was able to blab away in English, though I think he was trying to push me to speak Japanese. He is a IT network engineer! I think it was quite easy to talk to him, although there were some silences… He took me to a really nice western restaurant in the southern ward, maybe 15 minutes walk from Tenjin. I had eggplant/beef spaghetti, but the best part was the dessert he recommended… it was apple pie. The pie was very fluffy powdered pastry with warm caramel apples inside… rich ice cream on top… Mmmmmm… Soooo good. He treated me too :D

Afterward we looked at some high-class homestyle stores and walked back to Tenjin. We went to a expensive chocolate cafe, where they serve REALLY $$$ chocolate… yikes… a single piece was around 300-400yen.  I decided to take the bill this time and the two of us having coffee plus 2 pieces of chocolate costed 3000yen :o Wooowwwww

It was around 5 by then so we said goodbye and I went to meet up with G2 in Tower Records. I ended up buying Shimizu Shota’s Home single because I have been madly obsessed with that song since… when was it, March of this year? We went window shopping for about an hour, mostly in the Solaria department store, but we didn’t buy anything. We met up with N after, and we all walked to Canal City (20 minute walk from Tenjin station) to eat kaiten-sushi. I was positively stuffed by this point but still managed to eat 1000 yen worth.. :P (Actually what I liked the most was the pineapple for dessert).

I finally found the toy that lets you sing karaoke with a mike in the toy section of Bic Camera (ok… I keep spelling this store wrong). It is 9800 yen!!! WTF!!! It was kind of crappy too, from what I saw of the demo. So I guess I don’t need to want to buy it so much anymore. :P As some of you may recall, I kept on saying I wanted one a few years ago.

Busted Ipod >:(

October 22nd, 2008

Let’s start out with the fact that my ipod battery is BUSTED which seems to be the fate of all my ipod stuff. I’m not sure how I’m going to survive without my 80 gigs of music for the next while :( BOOOOO!!!

As per usual, I went to the gym. I gained something like 3 pounds since the last time I went… so it’s been a dessert buffet, indian dinner, big Japanese dinner, and much more… yikes yikes yikes どうしよう:( So this week, I am trying to cut lunch (except fruit) and and all snacking after dinner. It will work until the weekend, hahaha.

Speaking of which, N told me where to get fruit. I’ve been buying apples from a small fruit stall about 10 minutes walk from the school. The owners are an older couple and really gruff. I hand the fruit over, the guy inspects it (I dont’ know why) ‘100 yen’. I hand money, and he hands me back the apple, the end. The apples are giant here though, and very sweet :D

By the way, I am not sure if it’s just Fukuoka or many other cities as well, but most bentos come with calorie information, which is REALLY helpful. A bento with rice, some fried pork, vegetables, and egg is about 600-700 calories. Most normal-sized bentos are 500-800. Onigiri is around 200-250. They go for about 300-600 yen…very cheap (if only fruits were cheaper, huh).

I went to eat omuraisu for dinner today with N and G2. The dinner set comes with chicken ceaser salad, hokkaido corn soup, and omuraisu of your choice (I picked normal ketchup). Mmmmmm… But what I am really missing is steak!!

I met the girl at the dorm this evening, the one whom I was supposed to help. It turns out she wanted me to help her prepare for an English interview for an internship position in China. So I looked at her Japanese response and then her English response and tried to fix things. It made me realize how difficult it is to master professional speaking in a foreign language. By all means, the sentences she wrote were fine, but they are far for business-professional. I didn’t change them to be professional either, because in English we add a lot of unnecessary adjectives and fluffy stuff to make ourselves sound like we know what we’re talking about in the corporate world. So I hope her interviewer will be forgiving (if they deviate from the script it will probably be all over). The girl is actually the most popular girl in the dorm though, so maybe I got plus points overall? She told me she had never been able to communicate with a foreign student as she had with me though, which sort of boosted my confidence :D Though it got me thinking that I will probably need a few more years before I would be brave enough to take an interview in Japanese.

Appeasement Through Indian Food

October 20th, 2008

Yesterday I had to wake up early to get my hair done at 9. I got the same thing done, which is quite rare since I like changing my hairstyle a lot, but I think I’m quite happy with what I have currently. I thanked my stylist for the postcard he sent a while back, and he said he liked writing letters as a hobby, and that he would send me one again. So this time I will for sure send a reply back. Maybe I can convince him that my Japanese is not as terribly broken as when I am talking to him. The salon was full of old ladies again, which I think is a shame in a way because pretty much all they want are permed short hair, and the stylists there are much more creative than that.

I went to Daiso to buy a few more card packs for my Kanji. Then went home and attempted to study for a bit (that plan fell when I fell asleep in the school cafeteria). I decided I wanted to go shopping. So off I went with N to Tenjin Core. I actually found nothing I wanted to buy (or stuff I wanted but would cost $300 for the entire outfit). G2 joined us later on. I got really hungry and we tried to go to the ramen-booth place but there was a line. And G2 didn’t want omellette rice or Indian :( But we ended up going to the Japanese restaurant my mixi friend introduced me to last week at Solaria department store.

G2 and N were going to go to the bar afterwards but I was too sleepy and grumpy (for not being able to buy anything) so I left and studied the rest of the night. YEY!

Today was a quite normal day. After school we went to starbucks a bit to study and after that N and I went to Nanuk Indian restaurant for dinner. Mmmmmm. I even ordered extra naan mmmmm!! We then went to Mandarake (couldn’t find anything) and then went home. At the dorm, the dorm keepers asked me to practice English with one of the students who is training to be a flight counter clerk. So I’ll be meeting with her on Wednesday evening. Hopefully I have nothing else on that day. My schedule is getting a bit warped!! I think so far we are planning to get quote on quote “pissed drunk” on Friday, on Sunday I’m meeting with a Mixi person, and on Monday as well… I think…
Both my feet are swollen and itchy because some stupid kind of insect has been biting me!!! It happened in the school cafeteria yesterday. I was studying and all of the sudden I felt pain in both my feet and then I saw something flying around. Now I have 4 bites on both feet :(

Dessert Buffet

October 18th, 2008

On Saturday I began by going to the gym. There were groups of guys there doing weightlifting. They always make grunts of effort and pain when they left and it makes me wonder if it’s really worth it for them :P

I met up with some people from school afterwards for dessert buffet at the Nishitetsu Grand Hotel. It is a two-week event special buffet. We had to wait around 45 minutes for a seat. I grabbed like ten slices of cake on my first go. Bad mistake, probably!!! I could feel the sugar saturating in my throat by the time I got to the last piece. There were quite a lot of choices - chocolate cake, caramel cake, apple cake, melon cake, shortcake, chocolate roll cake, caramelized apple, etc. In my rush I forgot to take any pictures. Nevertheless, I got full super fast. The entire thing was 2000 yen. Everyone else with me ate a huge amount; I was really surprised!

After that, I went to Starbucks to meet up with G2, P, and N. Then we went to Small Spaces (I think we all like that place quiet a lot) for food. I actually could stomach a curry :P We stayed there and chatted and I left around 10.30.

So I’ve been living here a month now, and here are some things about the language I have learned:
1. As a foreigner you don’t really have to worry about when to say こんにちは (konnichiwa)、おはようございます (ohayou gozaimasu)、or こんばんは (konbanwa). Some textbooks say there are certain times during the day you should say it, like, no konnichiha before 11. That’s not true. I’ve heard a lot of Japanese people say whichever greeting they want (within reasonable time overlaps, of course).

2. As a foreigner try to say お願いします (onegai shimasu) whenever you are requesting someone (like a shop person) to do something instead of saying はい (hai). I’ve realized I’ve been saying hai a lot simply because I don’t get what they’re asking and pretend I know what they’re talking about. But if you know what they’re talking about, like them asking ‘Shall I heat this up for you?’ or ‘Would you like another drink?’, saying ‘yes, please’ instead of ‘yup’ is a lot better, isn’t it?

3. I am always confused when to use polite/casual form with other people. I asked N’s friend the other day. She said when you are first meeting someone, polite form usual lasts for 2-3 minutes. Then, you can start speaking casual. I asked why sometimes people switch in the middle of a conversation, and she said it is for emphasis. I’m still a little bit confused about that. I wonder if they are unconscious of it. For me, it’s simply a case of my mouth slipping before my brain thinks about the form.

4. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments about my lack of accent. :D Yay! (does it cover up my lack of conversational skills?) So, to impress Japanese, it is important to work on your accent and tone, because I know a lot of people who have great command of vocabulary and grammar, but have a heavy foreigner accent. The best way is to listen to a lot of things and repeat it back in the same tone. Maybe Chinese people have an easier time because they are used to tones..?

Fishing for Dinner

October 18th, 2008

Let me turn back time again and talk about Thrusday and Friday. On Thursday I went to the gym after class and had dinner with G2 afterwards. We had ramen and some dessert afterwards. We actually went to the dreaded mega-ice cream place again but I ordered a frozen yoghurt this time so it was all good.

On Friday I had my exam class with the teacher who is charge of organizing these exam classes. She agreed that one hour isn’t enough time to study things so she said she will try to put me and P into a more advanced conversation class. I’m not really sure that will help. In any case, I can never find time to study these days!!! Time is moving by so fast. When I do find time to study it’s in the early hours of night like 12-2 am, and by that time I’m zoned out. Too bad there is no Starbucks in Ijiri… that would be an ideal place to study, I think. All the Starbucks in Tenjin are very loud and very busy.

I signed up for a student dinner event this day, which is going to a restaurant called Zaou. It is a place where you can fish for your dinner. Depending on the species of fish you catch, the price goes up or down. We went as a group of about 15 people. Most people got to fish something. I caught a cheaper variety of fish. It was actually very easy, because they cage these easy fish and the pole is hooked, and not a lure/bait kind. So you wave the hook under a fish and pull very quickly, and you’ve caught it.

They prepare your catch in a variety of ways, like steaming, frying, sashimi, etc. After you eat the flesh, they fry the bones so you can eat all of it (mmm fish head). The sashimi wasn’t too tasty, I thought, but the steamed was very good. We ended up paying around 3000 yen per person.

We left at around 9. G2, P, and I went to the purikura, since P was asking about it earlier, as she had never gone. Afterwards, G2, N, P, and I went to Small Spaces, which is the bar we visited earlier this holiday weekend. I think they remembered us. We had coffee and beer. N brought along his two Japanese friends and we had fun! N and I ended up missing the last train home so it was taxi for us again.

I’ll end with expressing gratitude at how polite the people in this city are. People in Fukuoka are so nice. From the security guard to opens the door and says good night when we leave the department store after dinner, to the people on Mixi I meet, everyone is nothing but nice. It really helps you feel at home.
I am going to try linking a picture. This gives me bad memories of my 4th year engineering project. Hahahaha.

Another Mixi Meeting!

October 15th, 2008

Yesterday nothing too much happened so I don’t think I’ll write about it. I think I already forgot! It was G’s last day and we went to Starbucks for a while and that’s about all I remember. And before he left he gave me his leftover toilet paper which is quite awesome… I hope I can pan out my stuff to people when I leave too.
Today a new classmate joined our level in Japanese. She is a girl from Poland and very pretty and nice! She is sooo good at Kanji. The first hour of lesson, the teacher gave us a bunch of kanji vocabulary as a test. P knew every single one… I knew maybe about 25%. My jaw was on the floor. She is actually going to be taking exam course with me next week, even though she won’t be taking it this year. I asked her if she would take it for me hahaha… In a way I’m kind of glad she is higher because then I can be the one slowing the class down (at my own pace) but in a way not so much because that one hour a day one-on-one with a teacher is very valuable time.

After class G2, N, and I went to the bookstore. I got some exam workbooks which I’ll hopefully take a look at tonight… My teacher recommended some books to me earlier today but they were out of stock and too difficult (it had level 1 as well) so I just randomly grabbed some workbooks. After that we went to Canal City so that G2 and I could buy Lion King musical tickets. We got tickets for the ground floor (but in the far half) for 11000 yen. The show is for the end of the month. I’ve never seen it so I’m looking forward to it!

After that, we ended back in Tenjin. I went to meet with another Mixi friend. She is around the same age as me and homestayed in BC for a few weeks before. Actually, her English is very good; her writing even better. We spoke in English today, because I think she really wanted to practice it. We went to a place in Solaria to eat Japanese food (she used to work at the restaurant). She is a really pleasant person, very down-to-earth. I think she is similar to the other Mixi girl I met last week. We talked about jobs, overseas, and guys (I didn’t really have much to say on that hahaha) We went to a cafe nearby afterwards. She recommended this crepe cake… which is basically crepes folded in very thin layers in the shape of a cake lined with whipped cream inside (very little) and glazed in honey. It was reallly good.

By the way hahaha… I’m noticing my body getting bigger… it’s so awful… I’m really looking forward to daily workouts when I go back to Canada (it’s one of the few things I’m looking forward to).

We left Tenjin on the same train. Hopefully I can meet her again! I’m so glad all the people who contacted me on Mixi before I left Canada actually agreed to meet me :)
Oh, I finally finished the other Naono Bohra manga I bought the other week. It was soooo sweet; I was crying just looking at the artwork. いつかの秘密, it is called. Her artwork has really, really improved over the years. Ahhh, I love her so much I think I will end up buying her non-BL fantasy stuff and the stuff I already have scanslations of as well <3

Kumamoto City

October 14th, 2008

Today G2 and N and I met up early for a field trip to Kumamoto City. It was a 3300 yen trip for trip with with return by bus. The ride itself was an hour and a half. The scenery wasn’t too special, mostly suburbs and small farms scattered here and there.

We got to the city around noon. The sun was definitely stronger in Kumamoto than in Fukuoka, and the temperature seemed warmer, probably without the sea breeze. Our main target was the Kumamoto Castle, built in the 1400’s and supposedly the third most beautiful castle in Japan. The castle perimeter was huge and surrounded by a moat. Everything had been reconstructed in the early 1900’s so the actual rooms and stuff were all missing on the inside; instead, the castle had been turned into a museum. It had a lot of interesting artifacts dating from hundreds of years up until the samurai rebellion. It’s too bad that the actual rooms weren’t there though. However, one of the turrets still had rooms (but nothing in them). It’s easy to see how confusing Japanese rooms can be, like in the horror games!

Today is a holiday so there were tons of Japanese people there, coming by the busful because of tours. We stayed there for about two hours and then went to get something to eat in downtown. I also got to try a REAL taiyaki, not a microwaved one like the one they sell outside my dorm. It is basically a waffle with red bean inside :P Kumamoto is actually a pretty big city, but we didn’t have time to explore anything.

When we got back, we met up with G and went to eat Korean bi bim bap. I was soo full already from the oyako don at Kumomoto but I ate a mini bowl. Urk. Afterwards we went to a nice bar called Little Space (ummm I think) and I had a coffee there. It’s too bad G is leaving… G and G2 make a good combination hahaha. It was fun, we were mostly chatting nonsense. We left at 11 (and thusly I had no time to study all weekend… )

By the way, after the bowling incident of Friday, G2 bought me a pair of, as he said, “rescue socks” XD That reminds me of what happened in Ottawa when we tried to go bowling hahaha…

Mein Führer

October 12th, 2008

Despite the promise to myself of waking up on time, I slept in. I was at the gym by after 11. Worked out for an hour and by that time it half past 12. This weekend is a long weekend; I was told it was a sports holiday. There were a ton of schools at the gym but luckily the training room wasn’t affected.

I decided to go to Starbucks afterwards, and maybe not do the wall climbing today. N was actually going to Tenjin so we agreed to meet at Starbucks. They don’t have apple slices in Starbucks Japan :( While sipping my coffee I got a call from German girl. She was asking if anything was happening today and I said no. Then right away G2 called and invited me/us to a German movie showing with G and his girlfirned (I was kinda surprised… but decided to might as well go) So in the end we all went.

The cinema was at Hakata station and the movie cost 1800 yen (augghghghgh spendage!!) The movie was called Mein Fuhrer and it was German with Japanese subtitles… it is a comedy about Hitler that was released last year. Umm.. it is a movie you can skip… I felt my head was going to explode with me trying to read and listen at the same time. But I ended up napping in the middle hahaha… I didn’t really get it at all.

We went to dinner at a yatei place near Tenjin afterwards. Yatei are famous in Fukuoka and are basically food stalls that are open all late night. It’s usually stuff like ramen, yakitori, oden. Then we had crepe and then to a British pub called Morris. I’m too lazy to write details today hahaha… but after we all went home :P

感謝 (Gratitude)

October 12th, 2008

Like as said in the previous post, none of us managed to make it to the gym today. But thanks to some super-last-minute phone calls and facebook, A, N, other American (who finished this week), British guy (he is now Br), new German girl, and I managed to meet after noon in Tenjin.

Before I go any further I will share my embarrassing story. The dorm lady phoned me earlier and told me to bring the futon down to exchange the summer one to winter one. So I tear out the sheets from the mattress and run downstairs with the mattress (I was already running late because A and N were waiting for me). When I arrived at the lobby everyone laughed at me :( It turns out that a futon is not a mattress but the BLANKET! But… but… haven’t I been told since way back when what a mattress is? :( So.. back up I went with the mattress and blankets… all defeated…

So back to Tenjin. We ate at the ice cream place AGAIN. It’s getting pretty ridiculous. I think me, A and Br are getting sick of it. I seriously need to take a break from the ice cream! But while we were in Tenjin, everyone nicely followed me around while I bought some wine and cake for the party later in the evening.

Well, it wasn’t that much later. I left the group at 4pm to meet Mixi friend’s friend, who would pick me up and show me the way to the apartment. Previously, my friend described her and gave me all her friend’s contact information but I was in such a hurry this morning I forgot to bring it. Luckily, at 4pm, the friend was pacing around holding a ‘CLARICE’ sign like at the airport XD

My friend lives in the northern part of the city. I’ve never been there before. While riding the bus, I finally got to see the sea! I was pretty happy. When we went to the apartment, everyone was already there. There were 8 people in total, one guy and the rest females, Most were at least 10 years older than me.

I was afraid that no one would talk to me once they saw how bad my conversing skills are but everyone was sooo nice. My friend made a ton of food in advance which was very tasty. Everyone seems to be co-workers or associated by other people. They were very gentle- they explained to me sometimes what they were talking about and kept asking me questions. Actually, I’ve never been to a get-together where the conversation was so equalized - there was no one person dominating everything and even if one person talked more than the other, they would try to get everyone engaged.

For some reason, a lot of what I said seemed to greatly amuse them. I can’t tell if they are laughing forcefully or if it’s real ahaaaha. Because i’m pretty sure nothing I said had humorous intent.  My friend told everyone I wanted to try going to a goukon (dating party) and everyone got excited to set one up hahahaaha. I think they want to set me up too hahaha.
On the whole, I am really thankful my friend invited me (hey, it’s thanksgiving weekend isn’t it?)

I left at around 10 and they sent me off with a box of leftover dessert. My friend told the bus driver that I was a foreigner and to drop me off at the Tenjin postoffice. I was the only one on the bus. I forgot to tag a ticket (you need to do that in Fukuoka so they can give you proper change when you pay the driver after the ride). Ahhh I didn’t have any change either, so I paid 500 yen for the trip when it should’ve been 340. The driver was sooo nice. He stopped the bus (making other people mad) and spent five minutes writing me back a refund ticket. I felt so bad (because I have no idea how to cash it in either).

Some people phoned me while I was in the party. I met up with A and some other people (Br, German girl, G3 was even there) at a yatei near the station. We wandered around the park nearby (a bunch of teenagers were playing music.. this must be the mini-Harajuku) and we listened for a while. Some cute guys :) Then we went home (on the last train).