Dec 19, 2013

And Life Goes On

Life back State-side has been quite boring.  I'm trying not to let this blog go to the wayside, yet I'm finding that I just don't really have anything too exciting to post about.

Got a job at a local Japanese/Asian food supermarket.  Was told it was a part-time job (i.e. less than 30 hours), but have actually been working at least 30 hours a week.  Which is fine, it's not like I have anything else to do really, and I do need the money.

Was going to Kaiwa Table (student group for Japanese and American students/non-students to go and make friends and conversation partners) just for the social aspect and to get some Japanese practice in.  One Wednesday in November I went, met a couple peeps, and we've pretty much been hanging out every day since then.  We just really clicked, and have gotten to be pretty close.  They're good kids, and as luck would have it they're from Kyoto and will be going back around the same time as me, so that'll be nice that we won't have to say any sad farewells.  

What else....  Yuu came for a short visit the last weekend of November, which was really much-needed for the both of us.  It was a short three days, especially because I had to work, but it was still nice to get to see each other.  Granted Tokyo and Kyoto are far, but it's not like there's and entire ocean and a 12-hour 1000-dollar flight separating us, so I'm really looking forward to being back in Japan.

December 1st was the JLPT.  I hadn't initially planned to take it this year, but decided to apply last-minute to try again for N2.  Didn't feel like it was really any easier than last year, but at least this year there was a clock in the room so I was able to time myself properly and actually finish the test.  Since I failed by such a small margin last year, I feel like at least this year I have a little better chance.  We'll see come February.

Other than that, life is pretty much just work and hanging out with my little buddies.  In between that I've been taking some trips to Pike Place Market when I can, because while it's so cliche I just really enjoy the atmosphere of that place.  

So now I leave you with some pictures from the past couple months.


My bed buddy at my dad's
Voodoo Donuts, Portland
Gas Works Park
Reuniting with friend SW
Beautiful Seattle sunset
Autumn colors
Spontaneous trip to Leavenworth
King Street Station
Hidden sign in alleyway
Alleyway in Pioneer Square
The Dinosaurs
The infamous Gum Wall
Amazing sunset over the Market
<3

Rainy night at the Market
Cool Akira sticker on a punched-in newspaper vending machine at my bus stop
Rare winter view of Mt. Rainier

Oct 18, 2013

Reverse Culture-Shock

Been back in the States for a few weeks now.  First visited my dad down in Vancouver (Washington, not Canada), and my little sister had come up for the week too.

Now I'm settled in my room that I'm renting in a large shared house.  My room is nice and big and quiet, but the shared kitchen is kinda grody so I'm glad I brought my own cookware and dishes.  And I also have my own little counter and sink in my room so I can wash my dishes in my own clean sink with my own clean sponge. 

Lots of job applications but no solid offers yet.  Hoping that either of the interviews on Sunday or Tuesday leads to something.  I kinda miss working and having steady income...
Nothing else to report really, except that it's really weird being back and I'm looking forward to heading back to Japan.  Maybe I'll make a list of things that I miss about Japan (or really, a list of things that annoy me about being here, haha).

Oh, I did get my videos up of my, Roomie's, and Yuu's trip to Kyoto and Kagoshima.  Any new video I post shows up in the sidebar, but I'll post them here too.





Sep 30, 2013

hisashiburi ni BESTIES!

We had a grand reunion the weekend before- J came up to visit from Osaka, and the three of us (S, J, and I) were reunited for the first time in about a year and a half.  (We were pretty much inseparable during our university days)
He took the night bus, and we met him at my station at 7am Saturday morning.  We decided to go somewhere for breakfast and decided on Denny's.
If you're in Japan don't ever opt for breakfast at Denny's- you'll be extremely disappointed.  To me, Denny's always equated breakfast foods, but not here.  After 10 minutes of trying to decide what we would settle for, we finally decided to leave and go to the McDonald's next door.  They at least had pancakes, sausages, and hash browns.  And orange juice..

Later on we played some home-made Scattergories before going to have lunch at my favorite omu-raisu (rice omelet) place, then getting ready for the going-away party.
Quite a few people ended up showing up throughout the night.  There were more drinks and food than we knew what to do with.  We played Jenga and a few rounds of very inappropriate Mad Libs.  I was surprised with a DVD of good bye/good luck videos from some of my friends, and also a stuffed Doraemon which everyone who showed up signed for me.  I know such awesome people!  *sniff*

Sunday we ventured out to Kamakura for a beach picnic.  We brought lots of onigiri, leftover chips and drinks from the party, apples, kimchi cucumbers, green bean and carrot salad, and kushi dango for dessert.  I think we had initially only intended to play in the water up to our waists, but it wasn't cold at all, and we were just having so much fun we ended up diving head-first into waves, body surfing, and just generally being little kids at the beach on a Sunday afternoon.  :D  It had been years since I'd been to the beach, and it was just as fun as I'd remembered.
S had to leave after that to go meet her boy for their anniversary celebrations, but the rest of us went to see the Daibutsu/Big Buddha of Kamakura, then stopped in Yokohama's Chinatown on the way home for some delicious Chinese foods and more sweets.


Big Buddha in Kamakura

Monday we went to Asakusa so J could see Kaminarimon and the Sensoji temple, but the Kaminarimon lantern was unfortunately taken somewhere for refurbishing (?) and we just got to look at a giant sign with a picture of it instead.  Poor J was disappointed, as it seems it is his luck that whenever he goes to see some famous landmark it is under construction.  We did have fun looking at all the gift shops around Sensoji and eating ningyo-yaki and age-manju... sooo good!

A picture I took of Kaminari-mon a couple years ago
 
S met up with us a little later and we had some lunch, wandered around, and took purikura together before J had to catch a shinkansen back to Osaka, and Roomie and I had to make it back for a good-bye dinner with some work people.  The dinner was at the Korean restaurant owned by the father of one of the little girls at the daycare.  Her mom showed up with her in tow, and they gifted me with a cute little drawstring bag with my first initial on it, and a bejeweled eye mask for the airplane.  M-sensei, my lady boss, gave me a huge bag of gifts- a ton of socks (she always gave me a hard time about wearing thread-bare sock and socks with holes in them), a nice pass case for my train pass, and a photo album she put together herself with pictures of all of my babies, and a picture of each of my coworkers and a little message from them.  Brought a little tear to my eye it did, and I'm so glad now that I have pictures of each of my kiddos so I can show everyone just how cute they are.

(Sorry, not pictures of my babies..)
Our lovely purikura
"It looks good on me"

Sep 20, 2013

August Catch-up

Just got back the other day from a nice little trip through Kyoto (京都) and Kagoshima (鹿児島), but more on that later as I just wanna do a quick little update for August.

Though I've forgotten most of what happened last month already!

Well, luckily Roomie writes down a lot of what we do on her calender, so if I can just decode it...

Ah, looks like a fireworks festival the first Saturday of the month- the Ichikawa Fireworks Festival (市川花火大会).  Roomie, Ash, Yuu, and a couple old friends (we'll call them Aya and HS) from UW all went.  Wore our yukata/jinbei, brought lots of snacks and drinks, enjoyed the not-too-hot evening by the river, then came back home to play with sparklers and stuff on our balcony.

Look, got my hurr all did up and everything!

The sunset, and the crowds waiting

video

The following weekend was a surprise party for HS.  Lots of food and drinks and fun again.  And some crazy dancing.

Sunday the 25th Roomie and I met up with Gaki-chan, Ma-chan, and S for some delicious Korean foods and crazy mango creme-filled taiyaki in Kichijoji (吉祥寺; the restaurant is 韓味楽, decent priced and soooo good, definitely recommend going during lunch time), followed by the big festival in Azabu-juban (麻布十番祭り).








Other than that, August was mostly just work, a couple other random outings with Roomie, a few dates here and there with the Boy..
Mmhm.  You know, same-old same-old.

And now I'm at the final countdown- only a week or so before I leave and it still really hasn't hit me.  And I still have so much left to do.  Why am I sitting here writing silly blog posts??
Oh that's right.  Yes, I don't mean to brag but I happen to be an expert procrastinator.
I'll get this post up so I can go procrastinate some more.  :D

Sep 11, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

It's been more than a month since my last entry; I didn't even post once during the month of August.  I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've skipped a month since I've started this blog.
Oh well, there's a first time for everything..

Today was my last day of work at the daycare.  

Been there for more than 2 years.
Had to say good-bye to my Yama-chan on Monday, as he didn't come yesterday or today..

Those who know me personally already know my plans, but just for those of you who don't-
I'm heading back to the States September 29th, and will be there for about 6 months.
Of course I'm coming back to Japan, but this time with a student visa.
I just got tired of the whole English-teaching thing.  It's never what I wanted to do, and if I'm going to improve and get myself out of the business, I decided I'd better go back and study the language some more.
So, that's what I'm doing!

I'm excited to go back.. it's been 2 and 1/2 years since I left Seattle and I miss it.
But...
I'm as equally nervous about it all too.
And I hate moving.  :p

Well, more on the past month later.  A lot has happened.
But for now, I gotta grab my bags and run out the door.  Gotta catch my night bus down to Kyoto, then off to Kagoshima on Friday!  Adventures, adventures.

Jul 31, 2013

Sumidagawa Fireworks APOCALYPSE! And hide Museum.

When I found out that the hide Museum was being temporarily re-opened (it was initially open in Yokosuka, Japan from 2000 to 2005) I knew I had to go.  I was crushed when I found out they were closing the original museum back in 2005 and didn't think I'd ever get a chance to see it.  BUT luck was on my side.  Ash agreed to join me last Saturday on my pilgrimage to respect The Man- The Man who was (and is) a huge musical influence to many, who wrote such awesome amazing songs as "Dice", and who may have been part of the main reason I almost always had pink in my hair.  Until work no longer allowed it, that is....

Dice- the first song of his I fell in love with


If you had any qualms about my pink hair, parents, it's him you have to blame


The museum was a bit smaller than I expected, but filled with greatness nonetheless.  So many of the outfits he wore for photo shoots and shows; memorabilia; personal items like his contacts prescriptions and fake nails (ew?); handwritten lyrics, notes, and doodles by him; his many many guitars (including the famous yellow hearts one you see in the picture above)...  And at the end you were seen off by a life-size replica of him, made with such intricate detail that if you looked close enough you could see each individual eyebrow hair and even the fine hair over his face.  If cameras had been allowed I would've taken a picture.

I didn't buy any souvenirs, as the ticket stub and memories were enough for me.

After the museum, we met up with Roomie at Asakusa Station and decided to rent a karaoke room so we could change into our yukata (summer kimono) while we waited for Yuu.  When he showed up, we walked around trying to find a place to eat, ended up over at the Solamachi shopping area around Sky Tree (after stopping by this awesome park to slide down the really long roller slide, which was really fun but made me feel like I got rug burn on my butt), then headed back to the river to try to get a decent spot to watch the fireworks for the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival. You should read about it, it's got quite a history.  And as the article says nearly a million people show up for it annually so it's a bit of a madhouse.

The spot we ended up getting was worthless as the buildings blocked our view.  However, when the fireworks started, they started taking groups of people across the bridge so everyone would have a chance to see them.  Our plan was to cross over the blue bridge, find S who was meeting us there after she got off work, then cross back over on the red bridge to see the fireworks being set off further down the river.  The bridges become one-way for pedestrians during the event, so if you cross over and then want to get back to the other side, you have to walk over to the next bridge.  However, just as our group started getting led across, a crazy typhoon-like storm blew in, complete with thunder and lightning and wind and torrential downpour.  We did get to see some pretty cool fireworks up-close as we were crossing, but by the time we had reached the other side they had cancelled the rest of the show.

We had already gotten completely soaked during our short walk across the bridge- umbrellas worthless against the wind- and had to tread through the flooded streets and sidewalks along with hoards of others trying to make it back to the main area of Asakusa.  We finally met up with S, and tried to decide what to do from there.  The station was so packed, the lines of people were gushing up the stairs and out of the station and down the street.  There were police officers shouting that the crowds were so bad they didn't know how long of a wait it would be to get on the train, and were suggesting people to walk "about 20 minutes" down the road to Ueno Station.  We took the suggestion and herded off with tons of other displaced, soggy people.  The streets were still barricaded off, police were running around trying to direct the crowds, trampled mushy trash littered the street, people were still huddled and taking shelter under store awnings...  It was like a scene from some doomsday/apocalypse/disaster movie.
The "20-minute walk" was more like 40, but when we reached Ueno we all went to grab some food before we parted ways.

I think it was a first for me to really want a nice hot shower in the summer, but ohhh it felt so good to take one when Roomie and I finally reached home!  A bit disappointed we didn't get to see more of the fireworks show, we at least have our amazing story of survival to tell instead.  And there's always next year. :)

Jul 22, 2013

Cheerblasting Mt. Fuji

Saturday the 13th, I was up at 8am (after going to bed at 2am) to finish the last of my packing for Mt. Fuji!
Roomie and I headed off to meet up with Ash and Yuu and to go pick up our rental car.  After some more last minute shopping/food run we were off!

There are a couple different trails you can take up Mt. Fuji, and we decided on the Subashiri Route.  We parked our car at the parking they have near the base of the mountain and took the shuttle bus up to the 5th Station (五合目), which is where most people begin their hike.

Mowgli along for the ride, at the sign for the 5th Station!


Back when we were so full of life, so full of hope...
It was raining a bit for a good part of the first half of our hike.

Nice view, maybe an hour into the climb.

There are "ten" stations total along the trail.  I put ten in quotes because it's not really ten.  There's 6th Station (六合目), Original 6th Station (本六合目), New 6th Station (新六合目), etc...


At the "New 6th Station"
We stopped at each for a short rest.  We didn't want to climb too fast for fear of altitude sickness.

Mowgli at the 7th Station


"Original 8th Station"
There was no picture taken at the 9th Station, for the 9th Station wasn't even really a station at all, but merely a torii gate along the trail.  That, and I was too cold and tired and miserable to be bothered with pictures anymore.

Blurry night pic, but all those lights down below are flashlights/headlamps from other climbers

Blurry pic of sunrise

Panorama of the sunrise.  Almost to the summit (we were just past the 9th Station).

We made it!  Kind of dying...


And kind of crazy!
I told myself I would probably not ever do it again, but now that I'm not feeling like death on the mountain I kinda feel like I would do it again, since now I know what to expect and can plan better!
It took about 12 hours to reach the top, and about 6 hours back down.  The way down the Subashiri Route is mostly thick loose dirt and gravel.  They say you can run down this trail (須走 [Subashiri] actually means 須 "ought"; 走 "to run"), and while it seems a bit treacherous, at parts it's better just to do it.  You fall down and bruise your butt on rocks whether you walk or run anyway..
We finally reached the 5th Station and were greeted by other hikers and by the sales guy who sold us our walking sticks the day before (you purchase these wooden hiking sticks for 800 to 1000 yen, and can get them stamped/branded at each station along the way.  A neat souvenir, and they're actually pretty helpful during the climb.)  
We took the shuttle bus back to our car before heading to lunch, then to our onsen hotel.  The onsen felt amazing, and we relaxed in the hot baths and in our room before heading out to dinner that evening.
Roomie and Ash went to sleep at a semi-decent hour, but Yuu and I stayed up.  I think we were just past that point of feeling sleepy.  Finally went to bed around 2am Monday morning.  That was about 42 hours for me, on just 6 hours of sleep.
Then!  We all woke up around 8am to head to Fuji-Q.  Last time was a bit of a bust, if you remember, but this time we were able to ride aaaall of the major coasters, and finish it off with a crazy funner-than-expected water ride and a peep inside the Evangelion exhibit, before we had to head back to Tokyo to return our car.  

And that was our insane, sleepless Fuji-filled weekend.  Work last week was a bit hard to get through, what with the sunburned nose/scalp, muscle pain ALL OVER, and sleep deprivation.  But it was quite worth it!

Jul 20, 2013

Fancy and Exciting Dinners

Getting a little behind on updates again.  Here are some pictures from the end of June.  Roomie, S, and I were invited to a very fancy dinner by one of S's old students.  She's a very nice lady and she and her husband are pretty well off, so they like spoiling us. ;)
 

megami7's Fancy dindin album on Photobucket

And then Ash just arrived at the end of June for her summer study abroad, so we met up the day after Super Fancy Din-din, for a Super Exciting Din-din at a cool jail/haunted house-themed restaurant called The Lock-Up.

They have crazy food like black spaghetti..
..and crazy drinks like this!

And here is a video I took.  You can't really see much but flashing lights and hear a bunch of screaming, but every hour in the restaurant all the lights go out and workers come out dressed as monsters and go around scaring everyone, then the waitress police women come out and "rescue" everyone and round up the monsters.  There are a few locations around Japan, and while it's not the cheapest place it's still a fun experience.
 
video

Next up: pictures and stuff from my Fuji weekend!

Jun 23, 2013

Boso Peninsula trip

I mentioned before about the trip to Chiba with some old housemates/students at the beginning of June.  Didn't have time to post pictures since I'd been keeping me and my mum busy the past couple of weeks, so here they are now.

First stop at this cool observation deck at 富津岬 (Futtsumisaki)

On the boat tour to see the tai fish (sea bream?)


Driver sporting a tai on his jacket

Neat little fishing port, though the tai are a protected fish in the area

I have a thing for old rusty buildings

Jun 19, 2013

Sai-sai-sainara, bye-bye-bye

Mum went home today, after two full weeks of almost nonstop walking, sight-seeing, bus and train rides, and eating!  Took her around my area, made a visit to my cousin's family's place on the Naval base, and did lots of touristy things around Tokyo.  Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I'll share a few and spare you a novel of all the details!

Beautiful park near my place

Temple near Tokyo Tower

The Tower itself

'Twas my first time too

Near Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa  (Which, I just found out, Senso-ji (浅草寺) and Asakusa (浅草) are written with the same kanji!  Blew my mind!  And another prime example of why kanji sucks ass to learn...)

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