Saturday, April 30, 2011

Too lazy to blog

I thought I would put up some journal entries I had to write for english that sort of deal with what happened surrounding the earthquake and going to Okinawa and everything. I had to write Haiku with them too... so don't laugh at my failed attempts at haiku please...

Haiku entry #1
The day we heard that we would be going to Okinawa, I spent my whole way home trying to think of how to tell my host parents. I wanted them to understand how important they are to me, and how much I appreciate all that they've done. I wanted them to know that if I thought that it was actually dangerous here, I wouldn't leave them behind; I would take them with me to somewhere safe. When I got home, my host dad had already heard, and he said that I could go upstairs to pack. My host mom came in while I was packing. She asked me if my mom wanted me to go back to America. I said no. She asked if I wanted to go back to America. I said no, I want to stay here. At this my host mom started to cry, and I soon did as well. And with those few words our feelings were understood.

Without explaining,
the cherry blossoms will wilt--
but spring understands

Haiku entry #2
When I came back to school after spring break, I noticed for the first time the sakura trees just outside. Although sakura stand out so much in all their beauty during spring, during any other season they just blend in with the other trees. So much so that I was completely unaware that there were any sakura trees near the school.
A quarter of our class left before break ended--before the sakura bloomed. I came back from break to a bigger and emptier school.

Sakura in bloom--
brilliant impermanence
I might not have known

Saturday, February 26, 2011


okay, so I have been really busy recently, and haven't blogged in FOREVER. But I'm doing something different this time, I'm actually going to catch up! I have 8 things to blog about (we have done a lot recently) and I will do quite a few of them in video blogs to save myself some time.

Anyway, this blog is about the holiday Setsubun, which takes place on February 3 (yeah, I'm really late...)
Sooo, setsubun is to celebrate the old/Chinese new year. The whole idea of setsubun in Japan is about keeping out demons, and bringing in fortune.
We were told that Masumida shrine is known to have a large celebration for setsubun. so after english, since Candace and I have a free period then, we decided to ride our bikes down to the shrine to check it out. We were beyond confused. As we got there, there was a very large herd of people leaving the shrine, so we thought it was over, but we went on ahead and went in anyways.
There was a large raised platform in the middle in front of the shrine, and still more people crowded around it. We saw Iida Guuji up on the platform, as well as our Aikido teacher, another guy from our Aikido class, and a bunch of priests. After waiting for a while, someone said something over the speaker, and everyone started to crowd toward the raised platform. Eventually, the people on the platform started to throw little paper bags (presumably filled with beans) at the crowd. Candace and I sort of wanted to catch one, but were way too frightened of the intensity some of these people were putting into their bean catching. Most of the attendants were well beyond 40, and we were easily the youngest people there, excluding the very young children. Even so, these people went crazy to get the beans. Some people were holding up bags for more effective bean catching. When we were leaving, we saw an old lady carrying a giant bag of caught beans on her back. During the bean catching, Candace and I were standing in the back (we were a little scared to try to work our way through the crowd) so if any packs of beans managed to get back to us, the people around us were quick to spring into catching action. There was one pack that came and sort of hit my arm, and then went to the ground, but before I could even start to go for it, there were 5 people on the ground trying to get it. Needless to say, we left beanless.
That night, I was told to eat 18 beans. 17 for each year I've been living, and an extra one. My host mom had to eat 63? I think? and she said it hurt her stomach. And then we went around to every entrance to the house to throw beans. throw beans once outside and say "oni wa soto" throw beans outside again and say "oni wa soto" throw beans inside and say "fuku wa uchi" and then quickly close the door, so as not to let the oni in. "oni wa soto" is demons out. "fuku wa uchi" is fortune in.
Also, my friends told me the next day that their families told them that the tradition was to not speak during dinner. I was not told of this tradition, but it was definitely silent at my dinner table. I was also told that they all ate rolls of sushi, like the roll before it's cut, so it's big and cylindrical, facing southeast (I think? maybe it was northeast?). anyway, I saw that my host parents had two of those rolls, but I didn't see them eat them. I couldn't eat them, because of the fishy/eggy content, probably.

Friday, December 31, 2010

お正月 (New Year)


So yesterday was New Year's Eve. And before I begin, I feel that I should point out that New Year's here is sort of a big deal. My host parents did not understand why Americans make such a big deal out of Christmas, and they kept asking me questions about American New Year. I tried to tell them that basically people just party New Year's eve, and then sleep in on New Year's. They're favorite question was "Is there anything special Americans eat on New Year's?"
Anyway, so in Japan, on New Year's eve, there is a program called Kouhaku. It is very popular, most people watch it. It started at 7:45, and went up until 11:45~ish. So in Kouhaku, there are two teams, the red team are the girls, the white team are the boys, and each team is made up of famous singers. Each team's members perform, and at the end, a vote decides the winning team. The leaders of each team are the emcees. The leader of the red team was Nao Matsushita, who is a pianist. The leader of the white team was Arashi (*_*). My goodness, I could talk about Kouhaku forever, because I watched the entire thing.... but I won't say everything I want to, because that would just be boring. I will, however, say that I had no idea Enka was still so popular! I'd say about half of the program was Enka singing. (for those of you who don't know what enka is, I'm not sure how to explain it, so you should look it up on youtube or something. It is old people music). In addition, I was extremely happy with both Arashi and AKB48's performances. And Ohno as Kaibutsu-kun. (I died. I love Kaibutsu-kun!) I watched the whole thing in the tatami room under the Kotatsu with my host mom. My host dad got drunk, as is the custom anywhere on new year's eve. He was watching TV in the other room, because he said he didn't want to watch people sing. Even so, he would come into our room periodically carrying his sake, and some food, and he would offer me food, and then start singing and dancing along to the music he didn't know. It was ridiculous. My host mom was like "you're eating too much and drinking too much!" and "You are so loud/annoying, go back into the other room and watch your tv!" And then he would turn to me and be like "did you hear what she just said?" and I would point to the tv, and say "Arashi" or something like that. My host dad also kept trying to point to Nino because he knows that Nino is my favorite member of Arashi, but he could never get it right. He was like "they all look the same!" lol.
Oh, also, we took a break in the middle of koukaku to eat new year's soba. I think it's a little different from normal soba in that the noodles are longer, to represent longevity, people eat this on new year's eve.
Anyway, after Kouhaku ended, my host mom and I walked to the neighborhood shrine. On the way there we heard the ringing of temple bells. On New Year at temples, a bell is rung 108 times for humans' 108 desires. Also, when it turned midnight we saw some fireworks go off, but we couldn't see them very well. When we got to the shrine, there was a long line, but my host mom said it wasn't as crowded as she thought it would be. There were bonfire things to light the way, and provide warmth. There was what looked like a very large wreath made of brown, dried plants of some sort, and one had to walk through it to get to the shrine. My host mom kept trying to explain to me what we had to do when we got to this thing, but eventually gave up, and just told me to follow her. She told me to make sure I stepped over the bottom with my left foot first, and then we turned left, went through the loop again (again stepping with the left foot first) and then went right. We made this figure 8 three times, and then proceeded forward in the line. When we finally got to the shriney shrine, we did the usual shriney stuff. Throw in a 50 yen coin, bow twice, clap twice, pray, bow again. Then we went around the line to this tent thing, where they were giving away amazake and I think sake also. My host mom had to explain to me like 20 times that there wasn't any alcohol in amazake. She was like "yes, there is sake in the name, but that's just because it's made of the same stuff, kids drink this stuff! Taiki and Miyu love it!" It was really lumpy though, and also really sweet. I only drank about half of mine. After that, we went home, and went to sleep.
I was so upset when I was woken up this morning at 9:00, and called down to eat an unappetizing breakfast... My host parents explained to me that everything eaten on oshougatsu has a meaning. I had soup with mochi in it (forget what it's called) and black beans for breakfast, and we had to eat them with special new year's wooden chopsticks. After my host sister and her gang came over, we had a tea time, and ate the manju my host mom had bought for today (pictured at left). Aren't they cute? Myself not being much a fan of the squishy desserts (or squishy foods in general) I was not so much looking forward to the manju, but it was actually really delicious!
For lunch they pulled out the osechi ryouri, which is always eaten on new year's. My host mom told me that back in the day, all shops and everything would be closed on new year's so people would have to get their food ready ahead of time, which is why they made osechi ryouri. Nowadays, she explained, there are convenience stores, so it's not as important, but most people still do it out of tradition. Of course, there isn't much I can eat, and nothing I will eat in these boxes, but they are still pretty. I just didn't eat much today. My host mom bought this set for about (13,000 yen), and all of the food in this set as well represents something, it came with a booklet for those who don't know what everything represents (which I would guess is everybody, because my host parents kept consulting the booklet).
After lunch, my host mom, host sister, Taiki, Miyu, and I went to karaoke. It was my first time, and it was a lot of fun. Of course, my host sister is an actual singer, and my host mom is good too, so it was kind of embarrassing singing in front of them. But they kept singing kids songs for Taiki and Miyu, so it was a lot of fun.
Oh, I forgot to mention Otoshidama! Otoshidama are gifts given at New Year's, well, they used to be toys and stuff, but now it's just money. In this picture are the Otoshidama I got, the one on the left is from my host sister and her husband, and the one on the right is from my host parents.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Clean Start and a Sweet Ending

This morning when I woke up, thanks to my dream, I thought I was back in America. At first I was kind of happy to get to see my friends and family and everyone again, but then I felt really sad, and really upset, and I didn't want to leave Japan yet! So I opened my eyes, saw that I was still in Japan, and felt really silly. I then laid in bed for a while, not wanting to get up, and then my host mom came to get me up at about 8 to make sure I could eat breakfast and take my medicine on time. During breakfast she said that we were going to clean my room afterwards. So after breakfast, we came upstairs, and she vacuumed, and put my blankets outside, and changed my sheets, and I cleaned up all of my crud, and organized everything. My desk is finally clean again, and I can actually use it (even though sitting up for too long hurts my back...). After cleaning my host mom brought me some ocha(tea) and chocolates.
After that, I worked on some make-up work, and then stopped to video chat with Morgan, Priscilla, and Carsen. They went to a Mcdonald's to get internet to talk to me. <3 As I was showing them my bathroom, my host mom came home from the super market, and I tried to leave the bathroom with my laptop as subtly as possible. My host mom later came up to my room to bring the blankets back inside, and I asked her if she wanted to meet my friends, but she said something like: no, I'm only here to clean. But she eventually leaned over my shoulder to talk to them. She told them how I am sick, and they put on their best concerned faces. Lots of awkward fun! After she left, we continued talking, and somehow we started talking about food, and someone thought that I wasn't eating much at each meal. So I explained how I have breakfast at around 8, then lunch at about 12, then a snack at 3, then dinner at 6, and another snack after my bath. Carsen laughed when I said bath, so I had to explain to her how in Japan people shower, and scrub themselves clean, and then take baths. So then, of course, I had to show them our bath, so I took them downstairs, and showed them the shower/bath room. We then ran into my host mom again, so I explained that they wanted to see a Japanese bath. I started pointing the camera at the tatami room, where buchan (the cat) was. My host mom picked up buchan, and introduced him to my friends, saying that he is 85 years old, and she closed the door to the tatami room, saying that it was too messy. I then had to get off the computer to go eat lunch (which today was inari zushi and tempura, two of my favorite foods). After lunch I did some more homework.
At about 5:40 my host parents called me downstairs, and Akiko-san (my host mom's bffl) was there, and she had a christmas gift for me! I thanked her a lot, and she told me how worried my host mom is because my fever won't go down, and she told me to get better. I got a really cute purin and cookies :) At about 6, my host parents called me down for dinner. We had cheese fondue, and it was like a party. My host mom kept saying that because it's christmas time, chocolate fondue would have been better, but my host dad and I assured her that the cheese was delicious, and it was! during dinner, my host dad started talking about sake again. He is really disappointed that I refuse to drink any, even though my host mom keeps reminding him that it's illegal. haha. Today he told me to come back here when I'm 21 so that we can drink together. Then he showed me his sake, and I don't know if other people knew this already, but I sure didn't. On celebratory occasions, this kind of sake is brought out, and it has gold in it. Lots of little gold leaf pieces floating around in it. Like real gold. I kept asking my host parents "real gold?" and when they said yes, I asked "why?" I think my host mom said something about it being good for your body or something... I don't really know...
After dinner I ate my purin, I felt a little bad about it, because my host parents didn't get any... but they had some other dessert. And my purin was dericious!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Excuses and Blood

Explanation for my lack of blogging: I'm really sorry that I haven't been blogging at all recently... It is really difficult to blog every day because of all of my homework, and more recently because of my illness. After the Korea trip, I thought I would do a video blog about it, because I didn't want to write it all out, but before I got around to doing it, I lost my voice, and couldn't do it. My voice is mostly back to normal now, and I might still do a video blog of the Korea trip, if I can still remember what happened. And then there was that other trip that I promised blogs about forever ago, I honestly don't know if I'll ever get around to that, but I'll try, because I think it might be worth reading/hearing.

Today's doctor appointment: Today I went to the doctor for the third time in the last week and a half. I mostly feel fine, but my fever won't go down, so I keep having to go to the doctor so they can do more tests on me. Today's visit to the doctor was particularly miserable for two main reasons: We were there for 2 and a half hours, and I didn't go to the bathroom before we left. First we had to wait in the waiting room for about 10 minutes, then a nurse came and called us in so she could ask me questions and type them into her computer. Then we went back out into the waiting room, and waited for about an hour and a half, and then they called me in, and I waited in the hallway for another 15 minutes (sitting between two old people). Then the called me in to talk to the doctor, and he looked at my throat, felt my lymph nodes, looked in my ears, and took a swab of my throat to check for some virus. He then said he wanted to take my blood, so he sent me back over to the nurses. The nurse had a hard time finding my veins, she made me do gu pa a lot (like rock and paper in rock paper scissors). I am sure that the needle they used is much bigger than the ones used on me in America, and my arm is still sore. After that, they had me sit in a bed, putting pressure on my arm, and closed a curtain around me. I was really confused. They told me to sit there for 15 minutes while they waited for the results of the throat swab test. But I didn't know why they made me sit there, and not in the waiting room, or why I was alone on a bed, with a curtain that barely made room for my legs between it and the bed. And not 5 feet away were the nurses asking other patients questions, and typing their answers into the computer. Anyway, after those confusing 15 minutes were over, I went back to the doctor, he said that I tested negative for that virus, and he told me to come back monday for my blood test results. And then my host mom told me that I would have to miss school on monday too. After that, we went to the pharmacy next door to pick up my new medicine, and then we went home for lunch. (We left right after breakfast)

Friday, November 19, 2010

hot chocolate party

This morning was very cold. I had to wear my gloves even at osato station to keep my hands from falling off. There are already a lot of christmas decorations up in Ichinomiya around the station.
After school today, all of the Aikido people had to wait around until Aikido. We went to a circle K and bought some food, and Suet-yee had made me a bento for an after school/before Aikido snack. And then we all decided that we wanted hot chocolate, and we still had some from yesterday.* The hot chocolate wasn't very sweet though, and we didn't want to take all of the school's sugar, so we sent Lizzie to buy some sugar from the drug store across the street. She came back with a large bag of sugar, and Suet-yee made the hot chocolate for everyone. Everyone had their cups of hot chocolate in front of them, and suddenly Candace freaked out. She finally turned to Lizzie and said "you bought salt!" And we had to pour out all of the hot chocolate, and we sent Lizzie to get some sugar and redeem herself. Once it wasn't salty, it was really nice. We gave some to mr. haldeman, mizutani sensei, and the lady that cleans the school as well.
Aikido today was a lot of fun. We got sized for our dogi's, which I think we will get next week. the guy that teaches us, Masa, is so funny. The actual teacher would come and demonstrate stuff with Masa, and basically just try to put him in pain, and we would watch and laugh, and then the sensei would just walk away, and Masa would recover, turn to us, and say "did you understand?" and we would all just laugh. It was fun.
Then I went to the train station with Suet-yee, where we waited for Alex to ride the train together. We also met Javi while we were waiting. Suet-yee and I have a habit of slipping into Japanese while we're talking, which is really convenient when we don't want other SYA students to hear our conversations, but it probably isn't so great to do in public. It's also good conversational practice! Anyway, we did that while we were waiting, and I think we may have made Alex and Javi feel a little left out.
when I got home, my host mom gave me some pizza and corn soup and salad for dinner, and told me about our trip to Hiroshima. She is taking me to Hiroshima and Miyajima on december 11th and 12th, I am so excited! She also told me that in the new year, we might take a trip to Tokyo! :D
Also, while I was eating dinner, my host mom gave me a magnet frame thing that had a picture of a little western girl in it. She told me that she doesn't know what I looked like when I was young, but she thought that this picture looked like me. So she told me to take the frame as a gift if I want it, so I can show people and tell them that it's me.
As I was eating dessert, my host mom changed the channel, and found Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix playing, so we watched that. It was awesome, because I've basically memorized the movie, so I always knew what was happening/being said. I think I could probably learn a lot of Japanese this way.

*Yesterday we threw a party at the school after school. One of my friends was sort of upset about stuff at home, so we went to the drug store, intending to buy everyone ice cream to sort of cheer everyone up. When we got there, however, we decided that we might as well go all out. We bought hot chocolate, cookies, chips, and ice cream. There were only like 7 people left at the school, so it was kind of ridiculous to have that much food, but it was still awesome. This was after we played Simon says.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Imagine there's no heaven

This morning when my host dad was driving me to osato station, he asked me if I lie. I told him that I don't. And he asked me, Annie has no religion, so why? I told him that it was in order to become a good person. He told me that I am already a good person.
A couple of nights ago my host mom and I were watching TV together, the program was about that Japanese journalist who was killed in Myanmar a few years ago. There was a montage during the program put to John Lennon's Imagine. My host mom and I both sang along. Tonight too, that song was on my mind, so I listened to it a few times.
Today we had a guest speaker for our culture and society class. He is a professor at a university in Nagoya, and he came to speak to us about use of Nuclear weapons and stuff. We watched a video about Nuclear weapons, and the effects of nuclear bombs and nuclear test sights, and radiation etc. and then we had a discussion about it afterwards.
My host mom told me today that she will take me to Hiroshima on December 11th.
Just some things that have been on my mind.