Is the Pen Mightier Than the Sword? I Don’t Know, But There be Ninjas…

Look, don’t ask about the title, I’m in a weird place today. xD

After that looooong post, I figured I should write just a real short one.  This is just so I can put up a few pictures from school.  I recently finished my Kendo class (it only lasted for half the semester) so we all took pictures together with our swords.  It was silly, but fun.  And the instructor was awesome and hilarious; he would always put English in his sentences (he taught us almost entirely in Japanese), but he would use it in the funniest way.  In Japanese, the way you make almost anything a verb is to add “suru” to it.  (It’s like adding “-ed” to anything in English; just read this: https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1443:_Language_Nerd).  So he would say “hit suru” or “swing suru” to make those words verbs in Japanese even though they are already verbs in English xp.

 

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Also, on a random side-note.  In Kendo, when you strike at someone’s head, you shout “MEN!!!” (which means something totally different in Japanese, but we would giggle when the teacher would say in very deliberate English: “I am now going to teach you how to strike a men.”) Luke (the guy next to me in the picture) and Austin (the guy with white hair) liked teasing the other guy in the class when they were sparring with him by saying “I like!” when he was about to strike. xD  The look on his face when he realized what had just happened was priceless.

Nothin’ But the Rain

Okaaaay, remember how I was going in order with all these posts?  Yeah, not doing that anymore.  I’ve given up on writing everything I’ve wanted to right up until now.  I’m just going to skip ahead to when I went to Yakushima (about two weeks ago) and go from there.  I’ll go back and write the stuff I did before that later, but I’m so far behind now that I feel like I’ll never catch up. xp

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Anyway, so Yakushima (屋久島).  Yakushima is an island off the southern coast of Japan that is a world heritage site.  It has one of the most beautiful forests in the world and it was the inspiration for the setting of the Japanese animated film Princess Mononoke. I’d wanted to go there since I decided I was going to Japan, but I wasn’t sure when I’d get the chance to go, but then one of the girls in my program (Sarah) said she was going there in November, but she’s only in Japanese level 1, so booking tickets for things (the websites are entirely in Japanese) and actually getting there was going to be difficult seeing as she can barely speak any Japanese.  Therefore, Gen and I decided to go with her.  We planned everything ourselves, booked the bus tickets to Kagoshima (a city on the southern tip of Kyuushuu), booked the ferry tickets from Kagoshima to Yakushima, and booked hostel rooms.  We went from the 13th of November to the 15th. We left on Friday afternoon after classes, rode the bus for 5 hours to Kagoshima and crashed at our hostel there (I just want to point out though that our bus was like 20 minutes late, so we thought we’d missed it, but there were these two little old ladies at the stop who apparently sold tickets who told us which bus was ours and when it was coming.  Poor Sarah had no idea what they were talking about…)

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Once in Kagoshima, we explored around a bit to find some food and then went back to our hostel….much wetter than when we left. (Did I mention it was raining in Kagoshima?).

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We stayed up late watching stupid comedy stand-up stuff on Gen’s tablet and then went to bed. Sarah and I were sleeping in a dorm with several other women (at least two of whom were from Spain.  I assumed as much since they were speaking Spanish, but I asked to be sure).  Everything was good…until about 6:50 am….when there was an earthquake.  I’ve never experienced an earthquake before.  I thought Sarah was shaking my bunk to wake me up.  Then everyone in the dorm started saying “Jishin? Jishin!” (Earthquake) and getting out of bed.  It wasn’t really that bad, but by that point Sarah and I were already up, so we headed downstairs to the common room to watch the news.  Gen and the rest of the boys in his dorm apparently just completely ignored the quake and rolled over to go back to sleep because he wandered down about an hour later.  We were watching the news and all they were talking about was the earthquake though….And all our friends from Nagasaki were bombarding us with messages on facebook asking if we were okay since we were near the epicenter.

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(This picture is of the news that morning talking about the earthquake)

Needless to say, we were fine.

We headed out to catch our ferry at 7:45.  (I was particularly proud of myself for remembering how to say “Where does the ferry depart from?” in Japanese xp).  We got on the ferry and rode that for about 2 hours.  I think normally it might have made me sick, but it was a jetfoil, so it felt more like an airplane than a boat.

By the time we arrived in Yakushima, it was about 10:30, so we started trying to find a bus to take us to the trail head…but it had already left at 10:20.  (It was raining this whole time, so the three of us were already wearing our ponchos and other rain gear).  We went ahead and found the hostel we were staying at that night even though we couldn’t check in yet just so we’d know where it was, but I figured while we were there we might as well ask the staff if they knew if there was another bus or taxis or something.  So, we went in and I asked this nice old man at the entrance about the buses and showed him where we wanted to go on our map.  He said the next bus wasn’t until 1, so I asked about taxis and he asked if I wanted him to call one up for us.  After that, he asked where we were staying and we said “here,” which surprised him, but since we were staying there anyway he let us drop off our bigger bags and let Sarah borrow some rain pants and a waterproof coat.  (Seriously, I have never met such nice people as I have met in Japan) .

Speaking of which, when the taxi arrived, the driver (his name was Seiji Jingushi) helped us put our backpacks and wet ponchos in the trunk and then I got in the front with him while Sarah and Gen sat in the back.  About 5 minutes into the drive, the driver asked me if I spoke Japanese.  I explained that we were all exchange students so we could speak to an extent and so we proceeded to have a lovely conversation and he explained some interesting things about the island (he was from Yakushima originally and had lived there his whole life).  He even stopped to show us the wildlife a couple of times.  We saw these two monkeys on the side of the road, but as soon as we stopped to look at them they started getting busy….so the driver said “Ararararara!” and drove on (it was hilarious; I love how Japanese people do that xD).  Once we actually got to the “park” entrance, we paid the driver, but then he actually parked, got out of his car, and walked us over to the information booth, explaining how much everything was, where the bathrooms were, and which paths he recommended we go on (it was still pouring rain, so he pointed out which paths were probably closed due to flooding).  He seemed really worried about us since I could speak okay, but I couldn’t read a lot of the kanji on the signs (neither Gen nor Sarah had spoken at all…).  He also gave me the time for the last bus off the mountain (all the trails start waaaay up on one of the mountains on the island) and his phone number just in case we missed the last one and got stranded.  I was so touched he was so worried about us.

 

After that, he drove back down and we started up one of the trails (I didn’t put my poncho back on because it was pretty warm with all the exercise…I eventually took off my jacket, too, but the hat Kaori-neesan lent me for the trip was super nice for keeping the rain out of my eyes)….but about half an hour up that trail, we found that it was closed due to flooding (the driver had warned us that it might be, but we wanted to try anyway).  So we headed back down and started up a different one.  I can’t even properly describe how beautiful Yakushima is.  Even in the pouring rain, I was having a blast.  Gen looked like he wanted to die though.

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After a while, the path we were going up looked more like a stream than a hiking trail.

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We did get to see a lot of really cool trees and stuff though.  The whole place was beautiful even though it was raining and covered in fog. We ran into a bunch of Japanese tourists on the way up and down, too, so I got to speak a decent amount of Japanese as well.  I love surprising people with my Japanese.  Once I told anyone that I’m an exchange student, we launch into awesome conversations (“where in Japan are you staying?  How long are you staying?  How long have you been studying?  Why do you like Japan?  Your Japanese is so good.”  I’m pretty sure that last part is a lie though. xp  It’s just because I’m the first foreigner they’ve met who can say more than “Konnichiwa”)

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(I have a lot more pictures, but half of them are sideways and I don’t want to fix them right now, ugh…)

Oh, and I also did……this:

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(Yes, that’s my thermos, and yes, I drank that.  I actually refilled it three times…What?  We were hot and dehydrated. Mom and Dad were kinda O.O though…xp)

We actually started hiking at about 11am and made it back in time to catch the last bus at 4:30, so I think we did pretty well.

This is us after the hike.  I asked one of the Japanese tourists who was also waiting for the bus to take our picture (I changed shirts…into one that was only damp, not soaking wet):

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(It also turned out that split three ways, the taxi was cheaper than the bus.  How often can you say that?)

We got back to our hostel and crashed, hanging all our soaking wet stuff all over the room to dry and eating convenience store food in our room.  Gen taught Sarah and I how to play a Chinese card game (I don’t remember what it was called though…)

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The next morning, we got back on the ferry (shown in the picture above) and headed back to Kagoshima, where we spent about 4 hours (and had some of the most amaaaazing ramen) until the bus for Nagasaki came.  While we were waiting for the bus, we saw a store with all the mascots of Kagoshima on the windows.  It was adorable:

IMG_1307They’re all pigs and they all represent different parts of Kagoshima’s culture (a famous university, famous hot springs, sake, fish, beaches, pottery, food, a space program [notice the pig riding a rocket], and bamboo).  If you spend any amount of time in Japan, you’ll see mascots EVERYWHERE.  There are mascots for schools, police stations, prefectures, cities, stores, construction companies, hospitals, etc.  I actually bought a little key chain of the food pig mascot for Kagoshima as a souvenir (this isn’t the key chain, obviously, but the key chain I have is of the pink pig in this picture):

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It was completely exhausting, but I had a blast.  Onward, TO ADVENTURE!

 

I’ve Always Had a Hard Time Getting Up When it’s Dark Outside…

So, funny way to start this story: on the day in question, everybody told me that I would be going fishing with Takumi-kun and Kaori-neesan.  So, I was told that I needed to wake up at 5:30 so I could eat breakfast, get dressed and be ready to go by 6:15.  So, I set an alarm and woke up at 5:30, but everyone seemed surprised when I came downstairs at about 5:40…(I had wondered why okaasan hadn’t come to check if I was awake…)  Apparently, the weather was too bad, so they weren’t going.  Instead, they decided to go to the aquarium in Sasebo(don’t ask me why…).

 

So Kaori-neesan, Takumi-kun, Kaori-neesan’s friend (I thought he was Takumi-kun’s dad at first, but apparently not) and I all got in the car and went to Sasebo. The friend (I actually forgot his name, whoops…) would sometimes talk to me, but he seemed to get frustrated that I couldn’t understand, so he would say things to Kaori-neesan who would simplify it for me. (About half the time, I understood him fine anyway, but oh well…) We actually arrived before the aquarium opened, so we just hung around there for about twenty minutes, then we went in.  It felt very much like any aquarium in America, except, of course, for the fact that almost none of the exhibits had any English written on them.

 

Now, normally, this would have just been another aquarium and I had just been to the penguin one, so I wasn’t particularly interested, but Takumi-kun is actually studying to be a marine biologist (researcher? I’m not sure what it translates to…).  He’s still in high school, but his high school specializes in marine research.  He does a lot of diving off the coast for schoolwork and they raise fish at his school, too.  So, Takumi-kun knew a lot about all the things we were looking at and sometimes he would describe what was special about the fish to me (he’s usually fairly quiet around me, probably because he’s not sure how much of what he says I can understand…but anyway, he was actually pretty talkative on this day).

 

(This is a picture of Takumi-kun, but you can’t really see him at all;  I just told Okaasan that I’d found the ghost of the aquarium xp)

 

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We fed some of the fish, got to touch some starfish and sea slugs and stuff in a big tank, and then we went out to watch the dolphin show they were having.  We actually stood on the roof of the building to watch the show because the lower floors were too crowded, but Nagasaki people are weak to the cold, so I stood on the windiest side because everyone got cold up there but me. =p

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After the show, we went back inside and they had a booth where you can extract your own pearls from oysters (they give you a knife and stuff to do it).  Takumi-kun and I went and did it together and because both of the pearls we got were about the same size and color, he said that I should have his and I could make earrings or something out of them for myself.  (He’s usually really shy, but he can be super sweet sometimes).

 

After that we went and grabbed some lunch and headed home.  They dropped me off to meet Gen down by Dejima and that was the end of our little adventure.  It was very low-key, but I still had fun and got to know more of my host family a little better. =)

And They Never Listen to Us…

Alrighty, back on writing these things….as they get more and more vague because so much time has passed.  Oh well, here we go!

So, at the beginning of October (I know, I know…) there was a three-day festival called Okunchi on the 7th, 8th, and 9th (if you want to look it up, it would be “the Kunchi festival”).  It’s one of Nagasaki’s most famous festivals; it starts and ends at Suwa Shrine and it used to be a sort of harvest festival.  The first day of the festival, the god(s) cross over where the spirit world and the physical world are closest in Nagasaki (the shrine) and then he(she/it/they…look I don’t know, ‘kay?) is carried down to Dejima wharf. (So that day, a large procession of people carries a large float down to Dejima)  The second day, the god(s) is blessing the weather, crops, etc. and the third day they carry the god(s) back to the shrine to cross back over.  That’s the explanation I got anyway.  The reason it’s so vague is that there is no plurals or gender in Japanese….and my host mom gave me this explanation…and she speaks absolutely no English whatsoever.

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So, most of Okunchi was during my school week, so I couldn’t go, but after school on Friday, I arranged to meet up with a bunch of people to go see the festival.  I was with the Chinese students I had met up with before as well as a couple of extra American students and a Korean student who is in my Japanese 4 class (his name is Hyok and he’s often my partner in class :)).  We met up with Niisan at the bus stop near my place and got on the streetcar together to go see the festival.  Honestly, I think most of the cool stuff was pretty much over by the time we went, but the fact that we all went together made it pretty fun.  We saw one performance and then wandered off to find street food…aaaaand subsequently lost half the group in the crowd.  Woops.

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But at the stalls, each of the people in our remaining group bought something different and we all shared; it was delicious.  However (funny story time incoming…), when I was buying my food (I bought grilled squid) Gen was helping me decide what to get and the old lady at the stall looked at me expectantly and asked if my boyfriend (Gen) and I were going to eat what I was buying together.  (I just want to point out that this is the first Japanese person I’ve talked to who didn’t seem surprised that I understood her and responded in Japanese)  I tried to explain that Gen and I were just friends…at which point she winked at him and said 「でも、かれしになりたいやろう?」 (Demo, kareshi ni naritai yarou?) which means: “But, you want to be her boyfriend, right?”  *sigh*  And he of course said no, but the old lady thought she had us all figured out and kept giving me this knowing look.  As we were leaving, she said we should come back once we had started dating.  xD

(By the way, this seems to be a common thing that happens to us a lot.  Since Gen is Asian, when people see us together, they assume I’m either his foreign girlfriend or wife.  Sooo…it’s hilarious to see the looks on people’s faces when I speak Japanese instead of him.  My Japanese is significantly better, so I usually do the talking xp)

They Never Tell You the Whole Truth…

So, today I met up with some friends to go to karaoke. After the school festival (yes, I know I haven’t talked about that yet, so this is out of order, but I just HAD to share this story while it’s fresh in my mind xp), I went home to change and eat dinner, then I headed out to meet everyone at Hamanomachi (a large mall in downtown Nagasaki). There were seven of us this time: me, Gen, Max, Luke, Cat, Nathaniel, and Shinji (he’s a Japanese student, but he spent time studying in Canada, so his English is REALLY good). Anyway, we all met up and started heading towards the karaoke place (as usual, Luke was trying his best to irk Max with bad British accents, mixing up British cultural references and complimenting the French xD). We sang for a while and it was tons of fun, but I had to leave early to meet my curfew.

As I was leaving the karaoke place, I saw a streetcar pulled up at the station, but I couldn’t see which line it was, so I poked my head in to ask the driver. I asked him “Which color line is this?” He said, “white” so I stepped on, but then he said “Where are you headed?” I said “Ohashi” and he waved his hand like he was saying no, so I backed out of the car, but then he looked confused and beckoned me in. O.o

I sat on the bench right behind the driver, but when I looked up at the people across from me, I saw Neesan sitting there next to a man in a suit. She waved at me and he patted the seat next to his, so I moved there. Apparently, Neesan had heard me talking to the driver, but she couldn’t see me, so she was trying to crane her head to get a good angle to see me and when he asked her what she was doing she said she thought she’d heard her family’s homestay student and he was like “What, where, who?” So when I sat down, he beckoned me over. This lovely gentleman’s name was Ichinose Makoto. He is Neesan’s coworker. We introduced ourselves and then he complimented my Japanese and we had a short talk about Japanese and English (he kept inserting English into his sentences, so I asked if he could speak English and he said it was too hard, so no). Then he started saying “Well, I’m from the Philippines; I came here, by myself, in a row boat.” O.o

I asked him to confirm his name for me since I wasn’t sure if I’d remembered it correctly and he said (in English) “Just call me MAC!” very enthusiastically (needless to say, I was confused but laughing at the same time). When I didn’t respond because I was laughing too hard, he elaborated that his first name was Makoto, so Mac should be his nickname in English (I said I would call him Mac-san, Neesan said I should call him Mac-chan, to which he immediately protested). As we approached his stop he said, “Well, I need to return home now, to the Philippines. I’ll swim there from here; hopefully I’ll get there by morning.”
(Neesan was laughing throughout this whole conversation, so I guessed it was probably a joke from the start. He said everything with such a serious face though that I couldn’t be sure :p)

Anyway, when we got home, Neesan told Okaasan about this whole conversation and then said that he’s the same at work. If they get a person who comes into the office (Neesan works in real estate) from Korea or China, he’ll say something like, “Oh yes, I’m Korean, too. These Japanese people are real weird aren’t they?” Once, after he did that, Neesan asked him if he’d ever been to Korea; he said “Nope.” xD

He may be one of the funniest people I’ve met in a long time. It’s rare to find someone who can make such outrageous jokes with such a straight face.

(Just to keep things in order, this happened today, October 31st.  I’ll get back to the stuff that happened a couple of weeks ago in my next post =p)

You Have that Vacant Look in Your Eyes that Says, “Hold my Head to Your Ear; You will Hear the Sea”

I know what you’re all thinking, and YES, I am perfectly capable of making jokes about my own lack of intelligence from time to time without outside help (I’m looking at you, Rachel -.-)

So, no pictures for this post really (just a street/bridge…because reasons); this is just an update on my boring school and stuff. =p

I took a butt-ton (yes, that’s a real word…now…..don’t criticize me, I’m an English major, we make up real words all the time) of classes my first week because the way the class registering system works here, you just attend all the classes you might-maybe-sort of want to take and then you just start dropping classes from there.  Now I’m doing 16 credit-hours a week.

Originally, over half my classes were taught in Japanese, but in two of them, the teachers talked so fast, had such bad handwriting and such thick accents that I could barely understand a third of what they said, so I dropped them (those classes were “Japanese Literature” [日本文学] and “Nagasaki and the World” [長崎と世界]).  Now I’m taking Martial Arts, Japanese 4, Japanese Film, Kanji 3, Japanese Contemporary Literature, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), Seminar in Japanese Studies, and “Japanese Culture” [日本文化].  Out of those…Martial Arts, Japanese 4, Kanji 3, and Japanese Culture are taught in Japanese, so I think it’s about half (feels like more though because I have Japanese 4, 4 days a week).

Thankfully, talking to my host family for hours and hours every night has improved my Japanese tremendously (especially listening), so classes taught in Japanese aren’t too hard.  The only one that’s kind of hard to understand is the “Japanese Culture” class because it’s a class for the NICS students; you know, the students who are like all in Japanese 6 and above.  I’m the only white person in that class, so I get singled out…a lot.  Gen is American, too, but since he isn’t white, he doesn’t stick out. I ratted him out to the teacher though xp.  The teacher was talking about the seasons and the beauty of the Sakura blossoms and stuff, so he asked me if I’d ever been to New York.  I said I hadn’t, but then I pointed over at Gen and pointedly said, “SO, you’re from California, right?  Have YOU ever been to New York?”  He said “no” and gave me a glare that could have wilted freshly cut flowers. xD

So, yeah, class is class basically wherever you go.  I wake up, ride the bus to school and sit in classes for a few hours.  My college here is more like a high school than a college though.  There’s only one building (technically there are three, but one is a tiny building for clubs and one is the gym, so I’m not sure they really count) and a bell rings at the beginning and end of each period through the speakers.

The food in the cafeteria is actually pretty great, but I’m so stuffed from Okaasan’s breakfasts that I’m usually not hungry for lunch.  I just hang out in the cafeteria during my free periods since it’s practically deserted if it isn’t lunchtime.  Otherwise, I hang out at the big table in the lounge since that’s where all of us pasty white people (mostly) gather to freak out about the homework we didn’t do and/or watch youtube videos together (today was Dylan Moran comedy shows and Weird Al Yankovic music videos, but it varies xD).

There are four floors to my school (good thing I’m in shape from all of Nagasaki’s hills) and all of my classes are on the second or fourth floor (the third floor is just teacher’s offices).

But yeah, I go to class five days a week and have a decent amount of homework though nothing like the piles I got back home.  In the evenings, I chat with my host family and they all gather around to help me with my homework (apparently watching me suck at grammar is very entertaining; for example, one of the problems I was given said [in Japanese] “Judging by Mr. Yamada’s dirty clothes, he probably_____” and I said “he probably didn’t go home” which made everyone dissolve into laughter for a good five minutes; when they could finally talk again, they said “maybe, but it’s really rude to say something like that!”  oops xD)

On weekends I tag along with my host family on trips or plan hiking trips and stuff like that with Gen or some of the other exchange students.  Oooor I grab my laptop and go sit in the park to watch anime and stuff.

Aaaaaaaand that’s basically my life right now.  Not super exciting, but at least I feel at home here. =)

Love you guys! ❤

If You See Something THIS Big with Eight Legs Coming Your Way, Let Me Know. I Have to Kill it Before it Develops Language Skills

This is another quick post about something I’ve become almost paranoid about.

Spiders.  Everywhere.  HUGE honkin’ spiders with multi-colored bodies splayed in bushes, hanging over walkways, strung on giant webs five feet across between trees and street lamps.

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(yeah, this is a close up of the featured picture.  They build webs between buildings and power lines.  I mean, what the hell?)

I swear I see a dozen of these things everyday, unless I stay inside, where there are only mosquitoes, beetles, and wolf spiders.  O.O

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(I walked through one of these webs on accident while I was hiking today…luckily no one was home; I completely freaked out though.  Gen thought it was hilarious, of course)

Honestly, I have never gone somewhere with so many bugs in my life.  There are bees and wasps and flies, too, but the things that really bug me (heh) are the HUGE spiders.  I don’t know if they’re poisonous and frankly I’m too afraid to ask because if they are, I’ll never sleep again. O.O

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They’re about an inch and a half across with black and yellow bodies and super long creepy legs.  I’m not usually afraid of spiders, but if one falls on me I’m going to scream and throw it at whichever friend is closest.  If you bump one of their webs, they scurry to the place you bumped within like half a second.  It’s freaking terrifying.

Your Face Just Broke the Language Barrier

One lovely weekend at the end of September, Okaasan asked if I wanted to come with the family to go….somewhere.  (She said where we were going, but my Japanese wasn’t good enough yet to keep up with her super fast Japanese).  So naturally, I said, “Sure!”

I turned out that we were going to Saikai Bridge (西海橋) out by Sasebo.  In the morning, Kaori and Miho came over (with Shiho, Miho’s precocious 1 year-old daughter) and we all got in Miho’s car to drive to the bridge.  I sat with Miho in the front while Okaasan and Kaori attempted to entertain Shiho in the backseat for the hour-long drive.

Once we got there, apparently Shiho had managed to tire herself out, so Okaasan stayed in the car to nap with Shiho while Kaori, Miho, and I set out to see the bridge.  In truth, there are two bridges. One of them is old and the other is new; usually they are both open, but Kaori told me that if a typhoon is coming in, the old bridge is closed because they’re worried about how stable it is under those conditions.

We walked on the underpass of the new bridge for a while and I took some pictures of the scenery.  Kaori said that the area around the bridges is absolutely stunning in spring because all the trees around the water are cherry trees and when they bloom all around the bay, the flowers fill the air and are reflected in the water. All the same, the view when we went was lovely:

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After we had walked around for a bit, we headed back toward the car, but apparently we had another stop to make.  Right next to the bridge, there was a marketplace called Toto Ichiba (“ichiba” means market) which sold tons of fish and related products.  In a small arcade right next to it there was a crane game…for live lobsters. O.o  I saw an old man playing it and he and his wife invited me over to watch while they tried to catch one.

Then we went inside the market and Okaasan met us in there with Shiho.  (Okaasan usually carries Shiho on her back; there’s a special name for that kind of carry in Japanese, but I can’t remember it at the moment…)  We walked around and Miho and Kaori were naming all the different kinds of fish for me while Okaasan tried to pick out some good fish to buy for dinners the following week.  Kaori took Shiho and we walked over to see these live clams that were sitting in a deep tray of water.  If you stuck your finger in the clams’ mouths just enough to tickle it and pulled back out really quick, it would snap shut, spitting out a jet of water.  Kaori and I played at this for a while, but then a clam spit on Shiho and she was NOT having it.  xD  (Kaori has a fantastic sense of humor, by the way, as do most of the people in my host family =p)

When we met back up with Okaasan, we ran into some other foreigners, so I said hi.  Apparently, they were from the military base in Sasebo.  Okaasan didn’t really understand anything they said, so I translated for her and she laughed and greeted them in Japanese.  They all looked at me like I had grown a third arm.  “You can speak Japanese?!” they exclaimed.  Seeing as we are in Japan, I’m not sure why that was such a shock, but apparently they couldn’t speak any Japanese, so I explained that I was an exchange student and the Okaasan was my host mom.  (I just seem to be in a never ending cycle of explaining that; Japanese people are like, “Oh my god, a foreigner is using real words?  How strange!” and other foreigners are like “Oh my god, you speak the language of the country we are both currently in?  How strange!” -.-)

Anyway, so we got back in the car and stopped off at a couple of other places to pick up fresh vegetables and a snack (Taiyaki, basically a fat waffle stuffed with sweet goodness, and it was amaaaaazing) and then we went home.  Sorted!  (sorry, I had the urge to say that.  I must be hanging around Max [the British exchange student] too much….)

All You Can Do Now is Wait and Hope You Didn’t Make any Mistakes…

Just a quick post on something I forgot to mention.

The morning of the day I went out to see Nagasaki with Niisan, I spent about 2 hours making Ohagi with Okaasan.  Apparently, in September, there’s a day when you’re supposed to honor your ancestors with gifts, one of the traditional ones is Ohagi.  Ohagi is a sweet treat made by wrapping sweet red bean paste around very soft cooked rice.

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(The very lovely older lady in the picture is Okaasan.  Niisan took the picture on his phone; we asked if he wanted to help, but he said he’d rather be the cameraman xp)

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The rice was really hot and making the Ohagi was kinda hard at first, but I got the hang of it.  After we had finished off the last of the rice, we packed the Ohagi into pretty boxes to go to the temple (only the pretty ones though; the ugly ones, aka the ones I made xD, we got to eat).

You Seek Meaning? Then Listen to the Music, Not the Song

Second post today, woo!  At this rate, I’ll catch up to the present….sometime next year….oh dear….

On my Unzen trip post, I mentioned that I had gotten to know a few of the Chinese students.  After we got back, a bunch of us decided to go out and explore Nagasaki together.  It was sooo much fun!

First, we met up on Saturday.  I had asked a bunch of the other American students if they wanted to tag along, but they were too intimidated by the idea of spending the entire day communicating in Japanese.  Gen and I collaborated with Ryou and Ryuu to set up a time and a plan, but only they were actually successful in getting others to come. *tears*

So, on the day of the meet-up, Gen and I arrived at Sumiyoshi (a bus station near a well-known shopping district) and saw the Chinese students had already arrived.  It was Ryou, Ryuu, Ra (those were the only Chinese dudes), Cho, Han, and three other Chinese girls.

We had planned to just go see temples, but all the Chinese girls wanted to go to the Penguin Aquarium, so we all boarded the bus to go see that first.  (Yes, it really is “just” a penguin aquarium)

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Honestly, it wasn’t that impressive, but the fact that I paired up with Ryou and we spent about an hour just trying to understand the signs together made it really fun for me. (There’s nothing quite like trying to understand something written in your mutual second language that you both don’t understand…but you have to use that second language to try and understand it together because both of you don’t speak the other’s language….)

I got a great picture of Ryuu and Ryou together at the aquarium (I tried to sneak up and get a picture, but when I said “Cheese!” they were like “No, no!  Let us pose first!” xD)  (Also, I’d like to point out that there is a “No flash photography” sign in this picture…that has the flash on…*facepalm*)

(Ryuu is the tall one on the left, Ryou is on the right)

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And then we all took a picture together on the pier outside the aquarium:

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(If you’re wondering who the other white guy is, that’s Nathaniel, another American student who’s in my Japanese class.  He decided to tag along when we met up with him at the aquarium)

After we rode the bus back (each way the bus was about 35 minutes), we headed off to Sofukuji Temple.  We stopped in a few smaller temples on the way, but when we got there, we had to pay the entrance fee, then we went inside and took some pictures and stuff.  There was this really nice older Japanese lady that we talked to who wanted to know where we were all from and then she gave us directions to the next place we wanted to go.  She even took a picture of all of us together:

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After that though, Ra and three of the Chinese girls went home because they had worn impractical shoes and/or were sick of being eaten alive by mosquitoes like the rest of us.  (By this point, I was so covered in mosquito bites on my arms, legs, hands, and feet that I just didn’t care anymore).  So the rest of us continued on to Kofukuji Temple, but there was an entrance fee for that one, too, so we decided to just sit outside it and rest for a bit.

We wanted to go see Nagasaki’s night view from Mt. Inasa (it’s ranked as the 3rd best night view in the world), but it was still early, so we wandered until we found a small shrine and sat there to share whatever food we had brought with us.  For whatever reason Ryou ALWAYS has Castella in his bag (castella is essentially pound cake, but it’s something Nagasaki is famous for).  He claims that he always carries food because he’s always hungry. xp

After we ate and chatted for a bit, we decided to head for the streetcar to get to Mt. Inasa.  On the way there, we went up this hill and Ryou was like “Let’s go! Let’s go! Faster!” running ahead of everyone but then Ryuu shouted after him “The number one fastest is the number one idiot.” Ryou slowed down after that. xD

When we got to the streetcar stop, I got this great picture, which we all then used to mock Ryou as well.  (Just look at that posture xP)

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I told him he looks like he’s saying “Hey, look, I’m so cool and awesome and stuff” in this picture and he was like “WHAT?! No, no, no, why….”  xD (The pink thing is Gen using a plushy he bought to keep me from getting his picture)

So, we all got to the top of Mt. Inasa at about 5:30, but it was still too early, so we explored a bit and found out that there was a Deer exhibit and a Monkey exhibit (like zoo exhibits) near the bus station to the observation platform, so we went there first.  Ryou was like “Where are the monkeys?  I want to see the monkeys!”, but Ryuu just pointed at him and said “here.” xD  The face that Ryou made was the most hilarious thing (without any words, it said “Really?  Really, bro?”).  Then (I guess he must have seen it in a movie or something) Ryou said something that really surprised me.  In English, he said “I thought you were my brother! My heart is broken.” I thought it couldn’t get any funnier, but then Ryuu looked over at me, winked and said in English “I’m a heart-breaker.”

Oh god, I almost died laughing right there.

(I would like to point out, Ryuu actually speaks English fairly well, but Ryou doesn’t, which is what made this situation even better.  Ryou actually has asked me to help him learn English and he’ll teach me Chinese, which is going to be AWESOME….trying to learn Chinese through Japanese will be quite a trick though…=p)

Anyway, after that hilarious diversion, it was finally time to see the night view.  It wasn’t super exciting, but it was extremely beautiful.

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On our way back down at about 7:15 or so, Ryuu kept complaining about being hungry (which was kinda weird because he’d been our guide for the whole day so he seemed really mature and stuff; he was the leader because his Japanese is FAR better than the rest of ours: to put it in perspective, I’m in Japanese 4, the highest class that any of the American students got into, he’s in Japanese S, the level above Japanese 7 and he also speaks decent English; so yeah…he basically makes all of us feel stupid 90% of the time).  Anyway, so he kept saying “I’m soooooo hungry.   Sooooo hungry.”  And Ryou (finally getting a little payback) saw the vending machine for animal food by the deer exhibit and said, “Okay, you want to eat that?  You’re my brother, so I’ll buy it for you. *smirk*”  (I could listen to the two of them go at each other all day, it’s so funny)

I have to say though, it’s weird how well we all get along.  I mean, we don’t understand all of what each other says, but by paying attention to body language and mood, we all sort of understand each other and have a ton of fun.  (Although, knowing enough Japanese to understand their jokes was one of the best parts for me =D)

Moving on to day 2 (this is gonna be a long post…again…oops)

After we’d been hanging out all day the day before, I talked to Ryou on the way home and asked him about his plans for Sunday.  He said he was free and Saturday had been so much fun, so we worked it out and all met up the same time the following day for more sightseeing together.  This time, I did manage to get one of the other American students to come.  His name is Warren (he’s from Colorado, too) and I have to give him credit for having the guts to come.  He’s only in Japanese 1, so he understood very little of what everyone said all day.  Ryou and Ryuu would try to use English with him though (Ryou only knows a little English, but what he does know is hilarious).  Ryou told us that in the movie Titanic, there’s that famous line, right? “If you jump, I jump.”  He said that if they were Chinese, it would have been, “You jump, I push.”  (in English) xD

So, we met up again at Sumiyoshi and headed to Koshi-byo (the Confucian shrine in downtown Nagasaki).  Ryuu and Ryou asked if I had an interest in China; I said that I did so Ryou spent the next hour and a half explaining everything in the temple and the attached museum to me.  Not only what everything was, but also why it was important to Chinese people or history.  (There were English descriptions on things as well, but they weren’t nearly as thorough or interesting)

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For example, Ryou was explaining to me about how dragons are viewed in Chinese culture.  The different types of body parts on a Chinese dragon stand for different attributes.  They have the body of a snake, the claws of a bird, the horns of a deer, etc. and stand for bravery, wisdom, and a bunch of other things.

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I also practiced my Chinese pronunciations of things…but apparently I really really suck at Chinese, so it made Ryou cringe every time…oops.  Ryuu dropped in on us from time to time to add details, but since he was the leader (again), he would swoop off to check on the other members of our group.

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(This was Ryuu in the gift shop.  He thought he looked funny, we thought he looked like a murderer…I guess it’s open to interpretation…)

As we were coming out of the museum, Ryou spotted a calligraphy practice station (a place for tourists to try calligraphy).  He sat down and proceeded to write my name in Chinese (I think he said the pronunciation was something like “Lei Bei Ka”).  It’s SO COOL.

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Then we went over to Oura Catholic Church which honestly wasn’t very impressive.  It was just a church.

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From there, we headed over to Glover Garden.  Again, to us it wasn’t super exciting because it was just an English-style house with a big English-style garden, but it was still fun to go together.  Mostly, we had fun looking at the fish and turtles in the various ponds.

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That’s Ryou, by the way.  I asked him if he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt to look cool (honestly, WHY? It was so freaking hot that day) and he was like “WHA-?! No, no, no!”  He’s hilarious whenever I accuse him of trying to act cool.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Japanese word for “cool” is the same word as the one for “handsome.” xD

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After seeing most of the garden, we headed out to get to China town because a festival was supposed to start there at 6.  We were still a little early though, so we took the long way around and found a playground;  we all took turns showing off how well we could do flips and stuff on the bars because apparently no matter where you’re from, competition turns everyone into five-year-olds. xP  (I couldn’t kick my legs up and over the bar to do a back flip, but I could do multiple front flips, which sent the yen in my pocket flying out xD)

At 6:00, we joined the crowd in the square to watch the performances at the Chinese Festival.  It was a really cool set of performances actually.  First there were kids doing a dragon dance, then adults, then a bunch of women (mostly) came out holding a huge dragon prop to dance with, too.  It was awesome, but Ryou said it made him homesick.  (Warren helped me record a bunch of the performance, so I’ll put that up on youtube soon)

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At 7:00, we had to leave so the Chinese students could make it back to the dorms in time for dinner.  I’ve never had so much fun despite the fact that in our group we didn’t all completely understand each other.  =D

Anyway, more posts to come.  Love you guys ❤