Japan Diary Page

Introduction

Check back weekly, print out and pass on when possible!

I'd suggest using frames to view these pages, since you'll more easily navigate back and forth, as well as one month is loaded, and is easier to print out.

I'll add in graphics later, perhaps. I'm taking pictures of things, though I am a terrible photographer. Or, often I forget my camera so of course I never get the pictures I want. The sections here change every so often, as well as I like to correct mistakes if I see them in earlier entries. Language purists beware -- I make a lot of errors!

January 1998

January 1st, 1998 Thursday (New Year's)

What a great way to start the New Year's, knowing that you've lost your keys (somehow, even though you never took them out of wherever the heck you kept them), and then you have to figure how the hell you're opening a lock designed to keep thieves from opening. I blame this on my father, partially, for giving me genes that cause me to loose important things.

I just found out I was invited to a New Year's lunch at Hiroko's house. It was about ten courses of traditional food. For which I thank her, it certainly was a cheerful event after having to stay home by myself on New Year's Eve knowing I lost my keys. Stanley and I were invited, and this girl Dana came (see the People section). I was still dealing with a sore back and shoulders.

Hiroko's son was there, a good looking guy who smokes, sort of surprising since he didn't seem like the smoker type to me. He at least had enough courtesy to walk into the kitchen first before lighting up.

Afterwards, I went to Hachiman Shrine with Dana, near where she lives. I talked with her, maybe she likes me, I exchanged phone numbers, and I should meet her sometime. Shrines are where people go to celebrate New Year's Day. People pray and buy merchandise, like good luck charms and fortunes.

I spent the rest of the day tracking down my disappearing keys and also watching New Year's television, which in Japan is quite good. There was the Crayon Shin Chan special. "Shinnosuke", called "Shin-chan" by his parents, is a unbelievably funny five-year-old. He often drops his pants to show off his penis (sorta like I did sometimes ^^;), and draws a little elephant around it, calling it "Zou-san" (meaning elephant in Japanese,) and is often singing along and dances.

January 2nd, 1998 Friday

Everything is still closed in all of Sendai, except for a few stores which have the big sales downtown.

My favorite anime show on TV, Kodomo no Omocha was not recorded completely, and I was very mad, though with VCRs I notice it happens quite readily. I will want the LDs anyway.

I had rented anime, watched this. Also, went walking around town, and also called some people up asking where my keys were. I felt sort of strange calling up people, when I had no clue about if or where I lost them.

Byorn left this morning, sort of a relief, I like the guy, but since he never speaks, he often creates a conversational black hole.

I talked on the phone for about half an hour with Hanae, who I will see next week. She wants to go to the University of Washington, she says her SAT score of 950 isn't very good -- like hell I thought. I'll admit, her English isn't so hot, but it is a lot better than my sloppy Japanese.

January 3rd, 1998 Saturday

Found out it'll be about 2,000 yen to get my lock off. Also met my next conversation partner, and she... Let's say I won't see her again, the odds are about one in ten she'll call me again, I made her almost as uncomfortable as the previous one.

So, "what did you do to the poor girl?" It seems to me, I have to be a servant and entertainer for people who sorta kinda want to learn English. I only heard about three sentences out of her in English. After a completely boring hour over coffee, I decided to try dinner with her, afterwards feeling frustrated, I pretty much told her I gave up trying to teach her English. So, what do these girls want? Most of my conversation partners don't actually want to practice English, though this partner was unforgivable boring. Perhaps I should do some pre-screening first.

January 4th, 1998 Sunday

Spent today in bed, reading, and eventually made it to school to read and write my email and diary.

I got a package from Kevin and Ian, with a card from Bernetta (Ian's mom). It's nice to hear from them! Including some beautiful pictures, is a tape -- which I haven't heard yet since I don't really have a tape player. I'll get around to hooking up my funky tape deck I'm borrowing for practicing Japanese to my stereo system.

Yes, I look forward to hearing it. I'll write some sort of review, since I know how Ian likes reading reviews.

Tim thought my Christmas letter sounded depressed, well, they were all pretty much like that! I'm okay, really, just that particular afternoon I wasn't in a cheery mood.

I don't ever expect to get any real work done in the lab, maybe I'll actually finish my first project sometime. I'll get my lock cut tomorrow, and prepare for Matsushima on Wednesday or Thursday.

January 5th, 1998 Monday

I took care of the bicycle problem, I spent about a hour looking for the place on foot where I heard it could be done, it was on some obscure street I had come across going downtown one time, and I had the feeling I forgot where it was. I had asked several other places, which told me it was "muri" (impossible). Afterwards, instead of a heavy U-lock, I bought a thick wire-style lock, about two feet long. I took one key of the two, put it on my keychain (my Steel Silhouettes fish of course), wrote on my address (you shouldn't write your address on your keys, that I heard in the US, since someone could rob you and sneak into your house, but this is Japan, remember?) and I wrote my phone number.

I watched Menantai Conan (Future Boy Conan), which turned out to be an interesting two-hour movie on TV. This is probably the number one manga and anime show, it seems like detective shows are a big thing, on NHK (the public TV channel, like PBS), there is Sherlock Holmes. One of the other top shows is a mystery show as well, which is animated in more of the "adult style", and is actually quite good.

The movie had a bit less to do with figuring out who did what, until the end, most of it had to do with finding and disabling bombs. It was a bit like "Speed" and "Die Hard 3", with more story.

January 6th, 1998 Tuesday

I got my scholarship, I went sort of early since I was meeting Hanae in the afternoon. I also strolled around downtown, though there isn't much to look at, bought a map book at least for my bike trip. Snow has been coming down pretty hard, but not sticking yet, so perhaps biking wouldn't be too smart.

I met a Korean classmate on the bus, he confessed to getting drunk last night with his girlfriend who was going back to Korea this day. A lot of people pay 1,000yen ( or so) for all you can drink for an hour, loading up on cheap whiskey and beer. It seems like senseless entertainment, I have no plans to go.

Hanae was late, and I was somewhat concerned she may have called, and I was gone. She was dressed up quite lovely, with a pack of donuts for me. Back at the ranch, Michaela's been blasting Bob Dylan music (which is starting to grate on me a bit, Bob needs to come up with a wider variety of tunes), but I got Hanae sitting down and talking. Michaela seems to take over the conversation, since her Japanese is better than mine, and I don't mind listening, but isn't she my guest? Anyway, at least I hear the truth, as surprising as it may seem, Michaela isn't the only one with a 30 year old boyfriend. It's apparently a big secret, Hanae's boyfriend is in the Japan Defense Force, she sneaks around with him once a month or so. Michaela seemed to think this was a pretty hot idea (she prefers older guys, remember?), but all I wanted to exclaim (in the spirit of Charlie Brown) "GOOD GRIEF!"

I got to see some pictures of him too, he's definitely 30 years old, maybe older. Oh well, the conversation was pretty good, I found out a lot about her, probably thanks to the presence of Michaela. We made dinner (quite good), and Hanae ran off at about 7:00, a bit early and abrupt I thought, though I know I'll see her again.

Made reservations to stay at Matsushima, got a video, met Henry (who wants to go to Matsushima, but not when I want to), realize I'd better change my reservations, watched the video, read, and went to bed.

January 7th, 1998 Wednesday

I was caught in a snowball fight on the way to school. It's definitely too snowy for a bike trip, so I'll concede and go with Henry on Saturday or Sunday. Michaela is going to Kyoto (bless her heart, she gets to stay with friends) for a week and then Tokyo another.

I'll have my chance some other time.

January 8th, 1998 Thursday

Talk to Henry, I'm not going on a bike trip. And if it's by myself, forget it. Snow still is a problem, I don't like falling on my ass.

January 9th, 1998 Friday

Went to the International Center, they have a library, and I got some books, from the Wheel of Time series. The Wheel of Time doesn't have terribly remarkable writing, but Robert Jordan really captures the excitement of adventure. I watched Kodomo no Omocha, and worked on translating some Japanese. I cannot read many Kanji, so it means a lot of time flipping through Kanji dictionaries.

Anyway, I stayed up reading. House to myself, snow outside, music on, and a good book. But, I cannot help feel a little bored.

January 10th, 1998 Saturday

Did what I did yesterday, read and not much else.

In the evening I realized I was supposed to teach English. It was okay, though Yuriko SATO gave me notes on how to teach the lesson, I pretty much did it improtu. The kids act like they're scared to talk, and this is supposed to be conversational English! Well, they pay me anyway. I'm as nice as I can be, though I still feel like I'm picking on them when I ask them to speak.

January 11th, 1998 Sunday

Went to the computer lab. Tomorrow school starts again, I still have that feeling of dread I always get when vacations end, I've had that feeling for as long as I remember. I actually am looking forward to starting school again. It is good to become social and occupied again.

I'm trying my "anime club" thing again, this time on Sunday instead of Thursday nights. It doesn't cost me much to try -- even trying to save a failure is good practice in life.

January 12th, 1998 Monday

I read over my previous entries in my diary for this month. I haven't been making too many errors, mostly I have been leaving words out or explanations. I made corrections and clarifications, mainly because I'm pretty embarrassed how sloppy my writing has become. I quickly spell-checked last year's entries, though it gets caught on every Japanese word I put it, and it takes forever.

Wasn't I promised work last year around October? I need to call everyone again and ask. This weekend I'm going skiing, which I found out today (okay, I forgot I signed up and then got the invitation to go). I have about a zillion words to study for Japanese class, which isn't too bad but they are easy to get confused. Grammar is easy, speaking and listening isn't hard if you have a vocabulary to work with -- it just takes practice absorbing words that all sound the same or ARE the same. Kaeru: exchange (or return home), kasu: lend, karu: borrow, kakaru: amount it takes, kaesu: refund, etc. And the kanji are all different.

January 13th, 1998 Tuesday

I missed Biology class, and was late to Material Engineering, which was moved to another building. Snow, lots and lots of it. I was home reading most of the rest of the day, also I worked on my Japanese.

It was tonight that Michaela came back, which was a bit of a surprise, since she was supposed to be back in another week. I quickly cleaned up a bit of my mess around the place, since it was fairly bad, and I was out of my bath by the time she came by around 11:00. She doesn't like me going in first, probably because I do "shed" a bit of hair.

January 14th, 1998 Wednesday

Michaela was amazingly rude this morning. Since it was messy (dishes in sink, garbage not taken out, "piss in the toilet", living room not swept), and it was her day of returning, she got quite mad at me. I don't remember her words exactly, but something like "you don't have any respect for this house [or me...]", fuming about a mess in a way that no one, even my mom has done. Part of her argument was that "[I] had a lot of time to clean up." I suppose it would have been alright if she didn't have to come up with reasons why I had made her angry -- acting is if I spit in her face, and telling me I was wanting to -- is a bit of a jump in logic.

I was torn between wanting to punch her in the face for being such a fucking idiot (briefly satisfying), and asking her why the hell she is a fucking idiot nicely (decidedly correct, but probably unsatisfying). I decided to wait to see if she brought it up again, hopefully apologizing, if not I would. Right then, I told her I didn't want to hear about it, I wasn't about to talk, which would inevitably escalate things.

Well, of course she did talk to me. I went over to the dorm to talk to Shawn, about this weekend (I was supposedly hosting a party on Friday), and of course Michaela. Also I played ping-pong, which I'm middle-of-the-road ability-wise. Pretty much decided then, to wait until tomorrow, since I wanted to play the rational side of resolution, not the bitter, angry side.

I acted quite "soft", since if I acted angry about what she said, she'd think I was angry for being told I was messy. Now I know better to keep it clean. But, even that will not be enough to prevent the next argument which will eventually hit -- one picks his fights well.

But, actually (if you don't count these few times), we get along well. It's just conflict makes for a good diary entry.

January 15th, 1998 Thursday

Day off, so lots of being lazy. Walked to the video store, met Stanley, picked out videos together since it is cheap to rent four. Actually, none of them I really wanted to see badly, but that's life. I actually invited Stanley over (with his two bags of Ramen -- who bought an MD player recently?), since he and I obviously didn't have plans that day. We watched Jerry McGuire, about a baseball agent -- but it was more of a love story, and as that, didn't quite make sense. The implication being that money was the only way a relationship could cement itself.

Snow was about 30 centimeters deep.

January 16th, 1998 Friday

I get scared in class today, since I realize the semester is nearing the end and I have not retained much of what was taught since October. I do have to deal with having different professors in some classes every other week. Some of the lecturers were quite incomprehensible.

Telling myself it doesn't matter is no comfort. I feel vaguely responsible for learning the material, even if it wasn't taught very well.

The evening was exciting at least. I watched another movie, The Juror?, about a juror scared by a sick-o mobster at a mob trial. I didn't feel like there was much point to it all after the n-th threat by him. I felt like the mom should have been killed, she was unlikeable and foolish.

Eventually the "gang" came over for cards, which was a lively evening of poker playing, drinking, and loosing a lot of money. We played "Swedish" and "Norwegian" poker, plus when a lot of people left, another game which is like "Hearts" and "Oh Hell!" but has this rule to screw one person, usually the last person to bid. You bid how many tricks you plan to take, and the last person to bid must make the total of all bids not match the number of total tricks that game. This means one person will always lose a round.

January 17th, 1998 Saturday

Mom called today, about 10:30, right before I had to leave to teach Japanese. Nice to hear from them, it sounds to me like mom doesn't read this diary, though Tim certainly does -- yes, thank you for my Christmas gifts. I probably would have preferred money instead of just clothing, since I already have a lot of clothing, but there was actually a lot of nice looking things.

Ariel, do write you barnacle, enjoy your Marmalade Boy lifestyle (teenage angst and all). Mom, send me money, hehe. Tim, do take a business trip to Hong Kong, but stop by Tokyo with me.

I went downtown to meet my conversation partners, who took me into a photo booth, called PURIKURA (purinta kurabu, print club). Some of you may be getting one on a postcard or other piece of mail. Find its description in "topics". I had a bit of food over talking about various things to them in Japanese. I plan to meet them next time at MosBurger, and do KARAOKE, hopefully with some songs in Japanese I learn.

Andre came by to visit, he's back from Germany, and we all had dinner together (Michaela made it, telling me "I'd rather be alone in the kitchen", ), drank some hot sake, and played pool. Billiards is a great game, even though it was my second or third time, I did pretty well. The key is to be careful and deliberate.

They had got a video, though it was already about 2:00, so I wasn't going to watch it with them.

January 18th, 1998 Sunday

Ouch, up at 7:00 for my ski trip. The bus to pick us up was of course late. It was also raining that day, things did not bode well.

Though it rained and it was my first time really downhill skiing, it was very fun -- the Lion's Club is unbelievably generous. We got transportation, ski rental, lift pass, lunch, a night at the lodge, and banquet food and drink, plus karaoke.

I did learn how to get down the hill without falling once, though it feels like staring Death in the eye when I look down.

January 19th, 1998 Monday

In the morning, with 5 hours of sleep, we all stumble into class. Almost all of us were tired, so it was a bit of a struggle throughout 3 hours of Japanese class. I went to the Library to use the computers, also went to a travel agency since I will be going to Osaka for a homestay for two weeks.

Where's Michaela? I think she went to Tokyo again. I tried watching the live-action Disney 101 Dalmations, though it seemed completely predictable and boring. "Joe! Joe! Joe!"

January 20th, 1998 Tuesday

Got an offer from Mattias, since his fiance is coming in March for two months(!?) he needs a place to have her and be with her. He suggested trading places, and he would pay both rent at the dorm and my place. First I need to know from Michaela. Since I will be going away, it is not unreasonable to choose this offer, and having a bit more money in that time for trips would be good.

Also I will be going on a ski trip in February, 22-24th, about 30,000yen.

January 21st, 1998 Wednesday

Actually, looks like I also have a ski trip from 20th to the 22nd, but for only 2,000yen, but cross country skiing. I also spent some time talking with Stanley about what to do. It seems our two week homestay might turn into a one month adventure. My main concern, however, is that since I do have a job (or will be securing it after my training), they probably don't want me gone a month, especially after I just got there.

Furthermore, how much of Stanley could I take?

January 22nd, 1998 Thursday

As the world turns: I heard screaming and breaking things this morning. It's my day off so I spend a bit of it reading. I also talked to Mattias, who says he'll plan on traveling in March, so I guess I can't give away my room for a lot of money. Maybe in April.

January 23th, 1998 Friday

I've been busy in the lab. One computer has 512MB, a pretty freak'n fast machine. So, yes, I have been working on coding, and my project, however I will either have to start from scratch in Java (since the source code looks like monkeys at their typewriters), or just use "pray nothing breaks" when I use it.

Yes, Mr. Nemoto spends a ton of hardware. Looks like a few new monitors and disk drives today. I'm still using a pretty run down box, but it has a huge monitor. Maybe 21" or so. And my lab is infested with Otaku. They have Ryo-oh-ki wallpaper on their computer backgrounds and Aeka scrolling screen savers. I would be just as guilty if I put up my own pics, except I merely have a 256 color display.

...Mr. Kato just a second ago tried to explain the programs, I am going to settle for "cut-n-paste", a port to Java that hopefully will work and I won't have to debug.

Okay, so I stayed up until 1:00am at the lab. It looks like my port is mostly done.

January 24th, 1998 Saturday

Apparently Michaela and Reto are going off for sushi fish. I have not a lot of interest in their party, which I imagine will be Andres talking German with Reto and Michaela a lot of the time.

I give myself one slap on the head for not going back earlier last night, it's not so smart to cram so much programming in one shot. It just feels like I ought to work hard to get something done. Apparently I was invited for pool (billiards, not the swimming pool), last night, and was not around for it. Sucks. I called Mattias, and tried half heartly to invite him to my house on Sunday.

I studied Japanese for about three hours. There is a lot for me to still cover.

Ah, I went to the temple in the evening again. It was bitter cold, and I was shivering as I got up from the tatami. An hour and a half is a bit much, but for some reason it gets easier and easier, like time hardly passes anymore. I had my Japanese lesson in the evening, and probably shocked (and annoyed) the mother that I did not prepare anything for the class. Apparently, she assumes I spend hours at home writing things down.

The party, well, it was not so interesting for me. I knew I'd be the odd one out. The sushi wasn't what I expected, and I regret having much -- sushi isn't really proper meal. I tried drinking a bit, though I don't think I got affected much, mostly tired.

January 25th, 1998 Sunday

Call it the question of the week. I start work in about a week, and I wonder if I will start at all. The question is, will I take a month off to travel, thereby loosing (probably) my employment and money, which I would like to have for my month off, or just two weeks, and I would be loosing my chance to travel.

Ah, easy answer, I'll just say I won't or can't do it. The only few chances I get will disappear if I don't grab them. Just I am a bit sore that what I worked to get is something I will have to throw away.

I cleaned house, and also went to the lab until late. Throwing away day old fish seemed to make Michaela mad. Sunday night anime wasn't.

January 26th, 1998 Monday

I planned to be at the lab until about 5:00, it looks like it's 2 hours to 5:00, well, actually the OTHER 5. I suppose I've taken to liking the lab a lot, since it gets me away from the house.

I'll not go to school tomorrow. I need my sleep, and those classes are not important. I have missed only one class the whole time in Japan, I feel okay with that.

January 27th, 1998 Tuesday

Stretching out of bed around 12:00, I planned to make the most of my day, and I went to get books to read.

The weather in Sendai, or at least the effects of the weather in Sendai, stink. We get loads of snow, it melts, it freezes, we get more snow, it gets warm, it freezes, it's windy, it's sunny, it's cloudy -- but always there's some dangerous conditions to be aware of. In any case, it means I'm car fodder if I slip. Taxi drivers are the worst, whipping around traffic like they were delivering soon-to-be mothers to hospitals. Motor scooters add to the mania, as they skirt around waiting traffic.

So, just to let you readers know to plan my funeral early. Or, set aside time to visit me in the intensive care unit where you'll have fun stuffing sour patch kids down a feeding tube.

That was a joke.

January 28th, 1998 Wednesday

Japanese class comes to mind. I started my first day of training at Berlitz, which turns out to be a kind of place I wasn't really expecting. I eventually made up my mind as I left that I would like to work there. Alvin Frazier will get a spot in my People section, he's the owner as well as the trainer.

The "method" as everyone refers to it (even using quotes in conversation), consists of three parts, and it is an accelerated learning style which forces the student to talk more than half the time. I'm being trained by video, until I get to practice more the following days.

January 29th, 1998 Thursday

Day off for school, more training.

January 30th, 1998 Friday

School, training, and I got to go out with some of my new coworkers. Makudonarudo (McDonald's) no less, and I figured out most of the psychology of the group. They're not terribly interesting, but I hope to have fun with them.

I bought few CDs, especially since I was going to have girls over in the evening, and I didn't plan on getting "the look" if I played anime soundtracks. "SHOKKU DATTA" (I was shocked) I could have sworn I was being hooked up that evening, Tomoe and Junko brought a friend from school. I think they expected me to have invited my friends, though it was probably both too early and too late, (6:00am, no one home, and Friday when people have plans usually.) It took two hours to make Tempura for about six, even with two pans.

We played cards, including Crazy 8's, where I made up rules which caused the game to run on until they decided to leave(!) around 10:30.

January 31st, 1998 Saturday

Training in the morning, and plus I was meeting two more girls around 4:00. I parked my bike in one of their designated parking garages for bicycles, but as it turned out later, they close at 9:30.

I met her at the station. It was supposed to be two I was going to talk with.

I think I covered the full range of "going out" activities: First coffee, video arcades, pachinko (yeah! I lost 1,000 Yen in a mindless game), Mos Burger (aka Kid Valley of Japan), and finally two hours of Karaoke. We planned on one hour, Karaoke goes by really fast, you can sing each about six or seven songs.

I tried some songs that were: Too hard to sing (my range is not so hot), and some I couldn't read always Japanese. Being the typical Japanese woman (how old? secret...) she is, she sang very well, though her pronunciation in English was sometimes grating. As Alvin (at Berlitz) calls it, "katakana English", where they substitute an English word with Japanese-style syllables, and it sounds choppy. "McDonald's" has three syllables, but Maku-donarudo has six. It often confuses the music too.

Atsuko paid for my taxi back when I realized I had my bike stuck in their stupid parking garage. Note: Supposedly you're not allowed to leave your bike on the street around the station, they often take bikes away, though you can see hundreds locked up all around all day where they don't want them. Since I thought I'd be a good citizen for once, I'd pay the 50 Yen for the garage and come back later. Isn't 9:30 a bit EARLY to close a parking lot? BAKABAKABAKABAKABAKA.

February 1998

February 1st, 1998 Sunday

I don't really like Bill Clinton, but it's not fair for one man's career to go down in flames because of some woman. Who in their right mind would be interested in a poofy-cheeked politician from Arkansas? Al Gore might be a robot, but he has good looks.

Anime club, supposedly tonight. I'll get things I want to watch just in case no one cares to show up. Spent today mostly catching up on emails and this, as well as taking care of my bicycle problem.

February 3rd, 1998 Tuesday

Spent some time at the lab, came home, did my usual routine. I was looking forward to a nice peaceful evening, instead though I got probably the biggest surprise of my Japan trip.

Michaela, god bless her heart, told me she wanted me out of the house by the end of the month, or as soon as possible. I'm relentlessly civil, and calm these days -- although yelling at her and storming out of the room would have been more satisfying, I thought it best to play it nice. Frankly, I knew all along she didn't like me anymore, for whatever reason. Her boyfriend, my interests, my personality, looks, etc. It's beyond speculation.

Her reason for wanting me out, if I could really explain it as well as she did, was that I was too young, and the age difference makes it (me) undesirable. She said, laughing, "what was I thinking ... a twenty year old?"

Now, honestly I had enough of her treating me like a pest, so moving out isn't so bad perhaps. But, I don't like being treated poorly and then asked to leave. What kind of options Michaela gave me:

  • Moving back to the International House, where I started (ideal option, except see tomorrow's entry)
  • Moving into another dormitory. I have no idea if this is possible or not. Most of these have large stipulations.
  • Moving into an apartment. Expensive, I cannot afford the cost of moving in, as well as I would not be able to stay six months, for a standard short contract.
  • Staying where I live now. I'd rather return to the 'states than be with her any longer.

    February 4th, 1998 Wednesday

    Actually, I've been in decent spirits since yesterday. It is simply a matter of getting back into the International House. However, I found out the deadline for applying was February 1st, additionally I can only move in during April, and I was asked to leave in March. Also, since I had already lived there, I am given low priority for moving back.

    Shawn suggested being vindictive during lunch. I suggested no, let things rest. I can possibly get by the bureaucratic BS by getting my professor to pressure them to let me in. I will find out in the next few days what will happen. I pretty much made it clear I needed out of my current house immediately. If I cannot get back in, what will I do!?

    I will have to come home and face her again. "Put on a happy face!" Hopefully, she will do her best to avoid me, and I will try to avoid her. There are only three things I need to do to move out:

  • Take all my stuff, and half of the shared stuff to a new place. Depending on where this may be, it could take only a few hours.
  • Get my forwarding address changed at the post office.
  • Settle finances, and the phone in a fair manner.

    Ignoring her and never talking to her again is number four, but that will come naturally.

    By the way, I have work tomorrow, first day.

    February 5th, 1998 Thursday

    Work went alright. I actually taught better than I expected, it is a matter of simply smoothing out my presentation and responses. I went to work from the lab, and was there about 2 hours early.

    February 6th, 1998 Friday

    Snow falling, melting, falling, icing, etc. From what people say, it's bad weather, even for Sendai. Entirely too dangerous for bicycling at night, where only the slight reflection of black ice can be seen, even though I seem to end up trying to get home on my racing bike with no lights.

    I spent the last evening talking with Hitomi and trying to figure out if I could invite them to play cards, a favorite activity of the Europeans, though "no" seemed to be the eventual answer. Shawn, in his extreme generosity, bought a case of beer (Yebisu, which is my favorite Japanese beer, no doubt), and I guess it'd be fun to get halfway drunk. Certainly after dealing with Michaela, I'd like to escape a bit of the simmering anger.

    February 7th, 1998 Saturday

    Apparently, the YMCA has been interested in having me for dinner, and I haven't been able to communicate with them. I would like to volunteer again, or at least meet Hanae, who if you recall, wants to attend the UW, though has a 30 year old boyfriend, who couldn't be her father, but might do as an uncle.

    Michaela has put me in a piss-poor mood, and though I wouldn't mind wiping her ugly smilies off her face, I seem to be just as friendly back. I've been someone panicked, certainly after realizing that maybe I will have to spend the rest of my time in Japan with this person, and she goes on as if nothing had happened.

    Tim suggests I might not seek revenge (as I suggested in email), that wasn't really what I had in mind, merely I wanted most of my money back that I invested in the place when I moved out. I suppose it depends on personal interpretation, could this be considered a breech of contract, and I'm entitled to whatever the hell I spent at the start?

    Whatever lamenting I did this day, I still had a good time. I met Hitomi and Yumiko (with Yumi, who could only stay for a few hours) at Doutor's. It's supposedly like a gourmet coffee house, though they have industrial machines, not espresso makers.

    Next I needed to eat, since I was feeling quite light-headed, a combination of a thrilling bike ride, coffee, and talking in Japanese for a few hours. Mos Burgers, where I had a "ROOSU" (Roast) burger. Incidentally, that's how I pronounce my last name, so I put the whole staff in laughter trying to explain it to them, "why I wanted a Ross burger".

    Afterwards, two hours of Karaoke, and I noticed my voice has improved. I got to sing a lot of "anime" music songs, and some of the girls knew a few. It helps my Japanese.

    February 8th, 1998 Sunday

    Oh, a final tomorrow, and I get to study. So, it was pretty much "stay at home and practice" Japanese day. My Japanese is "more advanced" than what's in the books, but there's a difference between speaking so someone can understand, and speaking correctly.

    Dad called, bless him. He said he remembers having to deal with my situation more than once. Carolyn's place first, the "double-wide" trailer next, the house with the Romanians, etc. He also pointed out that it wasn't his fault I lost my keys. That was a joke, but uh, maybe I need to use more smilies ^^;

    Hey Ariel, it's your brother, and I'd like to talk to your boy-friend, and at least embarrass him a whole lot, though I bet Tim takes care of that.

    February 9th, 1998 Monday

    Final! And I finish before anyone else, climb around on the roof ledge outside and make funny faces at the people still working. I spent the evening preparing for another final tomorrow, for which I am surely going to screw up.

    February 10, 1998 Tuesday

    I screwed up.

    I certainly didn't have to, the test was fairly easy, and all I had to know were some easy examples. I'll probably pass, though it won't be a grade to be happy about.

    Also, I met Stanley and he and I looked into travel arrangements. I confess, I won't be able to afford going one month without my scholarship payment, Stanley insists we leave on the first, and our money can only be obtained on the fifth. Perhaps I can get someone else to deposit the money for me.

    I went to Tokyu Hotel, in celebration of the returning foreign students. Lots of whiskey and beer, though I skipped these since I had work this evening.

    Work was interesting, I feel a lot better about my ability to teach, since I have warmed up to the "Berlitz method." Alvin said it'd be all right for me to take some time off, more than two weeks like I said.

    Happiness, though there remains one problem: Moving out.

    February 11th, 1998 Wednesday

    I have to think of plans for this weekend. I'm also doing a budget for my trip, and there isn't much of a chance in hell of paying for it if I leave the first, not the fifth, or I can do it if someone can pick up my scholarship for me and deposit it. Stanley has this swell idea he can just use a credit card, though in Japan you can use it only at a few places. It's a "cash" society, I have only used credit once. It is not unusual for me to have about on hand, since also the banks are open only during the middle of the day.

    I've been moving steadily through the Wheel of Time series, I'm on book number four. I've been watching movies sporadically, I've been watching a little bit of anime, though I have to deal with Reto (Valdo, Adolph) and Michaela (Mickey, Helga) yapping most of the time. Reto likes to jump rope inside on tatami, and that can be felt throughout the house. (My stereo is guilty of that too, but at least it has musical a beat.)

    As for cleanliness, I seem to be a scapegoat, though they are very guilty of leaving rotting, dropped food on the floor, and it looks like the bathroom walls (as in the bath room, not where the toliet is), has turned black from mildew, since they never have the fan on and they keep the door shut when heating the water. They also leave counters dirty and food out, though it's cold enough it shouldn't matter. The rice cooker is always left dirty, and the lid at the top is never cleaned. Often, gritty rice that Michaela didn't put enough water in is left. Milk that I buy is taken into their rooms for tea and left there during the day.

    I hope to be out before cockroaches make their return. So, I may not be their roommate much longer, and the cockroaches won't have my TV and VCR to watch movies with.

    February 12th, 1998 Thursday

    I slept in late, I sort of had plans to study today, though I mostly read and listened to music.

    Yes, I even got a glimpse of the Olympics, it looks like they're putting in more and more "new" sports. Snowboarding is a new "game", though god only knows how it was legitimized. As for skateboarding, skateboarding is a sport for street trash -- but snowboarding is for kids who can afford to use the ski lifts. Snowboarding is what cool Japanese kids do these days, it drives us skiers crazy to share the same slopes with 'em.

    I'm not very interested in the 'games, simply because I lack much of the competitive interest a lot of people have. People root for their own country, I suppose, though you know America has a big advange considering its eligible population. I am perhaps more interested in seeing people try new techniques, and bring innovative methods into a sport.

    I'll stand behind people who don't take this sort of thing so seriously. People sweat blood and tears over winning a metal, and I like the guy who just knows his stuff, comes in casually with a smile on his face, and beats the whiney loosers.

    Some of the people in the dorm plan to go to Nagano, which seems to be somewhat a waste of money. I'd rather go to a sumo tournament or kendo match. Even Japanese style baseball seems worth experiencing in the stadium, according to some people I've talked to, the group dynamics are quite different and more interesting than in the West.

    February 13th, 1998 Friday

    Today is Friday the 13th, though this is Japan and they aren't suspicious like we are. The weather has noticably gotten clearer and warm. I walked around in a short sleeved shirt, though most everyone else is still wrapped in their heavy jackets.

    I got some interesting mail from Bert and Ian. It seems like my diary has been passed around. It isn't great writing, and it isn't that interesting, but thanks for reading anyway. Ian has been quite busy with his girlfriend, though it sounds to me like things are coming apart. Bert, the head editor of Men's Magazine, had a few things to say about "keeping the peace" at home. Women, ugh. I found out today that my final exam will be next week for my Material Science class. I pray I don't screw up, I haven't done any more than sit, listen, and scribble, for fifteen weeks.

    I spent forever at the lab, until about 1:00am again, on my project, which has gotten quite, uh, dirty. Handwritten characters, especially Japanese ones, are so completely diverse, and the writing styles as well as the different kinds of writing tools (thick brushes, pens, etc.) make it impossible to develop any sort of coherent system. I want to give up. When I make one change to the program to get it to detect overlapped characters, for instance, other files stop working. It feels like I'm just messing with parameters, but there isn't any solid solution. Argh, thousands of lines of code, but for what?

    I better know about going back to the dorm soon. Professor Nemoto actually came by around 10:00 to say hello and see how the process was going. I suppose most of the reason I have been going to the lab is to avoid my roommate, things will go back to normal soon I hope. Never seeing her again almost seems fine to me.

    Toshi took me in his car to the bank so I could transfer money, additionally I talked to him about the research student ski trip, though I have been having second thoughts since it will eat a lot of money, but I have a tough time making solid friendships sitting in front of my computer, so why not give it a try?

    February 14th, 1998 Saturday

    Valentine's Day, is there love in the air? Is it colder than usual?

    I showed up late at Shawn's door, but he was in the middle of changing, later saying out of all black, in observance for Valentine's Day he said. The plan was to meet Hitomi and Yumiko that evening around 6:00. This was of course nothing "romantic" for any of us, just a pleasant night out.

    Cards at the cafe, dinner (but pleasantly good), and karaoke again, but heck, it's not like there is much else to do. I suppose going out drinking and possibly going to a strip bar would have been a welcome change, but... Are there other choice of venues in Sendai? As for dance places, there is always "Bar Isn't It?", which has killer smoke, shitty music, and crowded up to your ears -- or since this is Japan, up to my shoulders.

    Shawn is nearing 27 years old, and I sometimes think he's a bit old to be hanging around with young people like me. But, he's working on his second bachelor's degree, so I suppose he shares a similar life. Perhaps we are somewhat socially balanced, though his experiences outnumber mine. He considers himself a bit of a loner, but so am I. He's also a pretty good singer, he said "your singing was scary" ... I'm not exactly sure what THAT means. Sure, my singing wasn't so hot, it's just one of those off days I thought. ^^;

    Speaking of "what that means", Hitomi has been tracking my diary, and although she claims to dislike English (she was supposedly pursuaded by her friend Yumiko to try meeting a conversation partner), her reading comprehension is good, and brought up several things I've written here. Good enough to understand when I'm talking about other girls. She seems to be giving me a lot of encouragement to go out with other girls.

    February 15th, 1998 Sunday

    Stanely came by, and I suggested we leave on the fifth of March, after I get my scholorship money. Well, perhaps Okinawa may have to canceled, in favor of a more leisurely adventure in the shorter time span. He suggested using credit, but I have never borrowed against money I don't have.

    I've been brooding about things, and really felt like escaping the house (which is icy, but also has an oppressive feeling for me these days), so I saw Hitomi (again) around 9:00 in the evening until 1:00 or later. I was sitting out in the cold air after the coffee shop closed, and we managed to talk for a long, long time.

    I have been putting my foot in my mouth lately, and speaking Japanese the whole evening didn't help. The whole chat was a bit of a guilty confessional about my life and dreams and failures, but it helps to have one of those now and then. I got to know a bit more about her, her family and lifestyle.

    I also found out about otaku-type interests in the area. (Refer to this month's topic for information about "otaku", or at least my interpretation of them.) Hitomi named two schools with sailor-fuku type uniforms, and explained "phone clubs" (somewhat like a home delivery female service) that businesses men can call when lonely for a date and more. Also there are various bars that have COSUPUREE (CosPlay, or Costume "playing") stripper girls from various animations and video games that get undressed.

    I was feeling a bit cruncy when she suggested I might want to seriously try some of these SAABISU businesses (Service, see this month's topic again), so I think "what's one time going to mean?" No, I don't want a lot of "service" (sexual attention), just a good story to tell. I kind of wish Tim was around, Tim doesn't like smoky strip-joints, but the Japanese have an interesting twist on it -- nice girls, cute kinky themes, nothing threatening, and fairly safe.

    I opened the package from Mom and Tim the other day, letters and a bit of clothing for work. Thanks Ariel for writing, though your handwriting stinks worse than mine. Oh you!

    February 16th, 1998 Monday

    I should just tell Stanely "no!" to leaving early for our trip in March.

    A policeman came to the house this morning to find out who lived there. Real jerk until Micheala smoothed him over. Cops are such wimps in Japan. And emergency services drive slower than the speed limit, which everyone ignores -- I haven't been in a car without a radar detector yet.

    February 17th, 1998 Tuesday

    Stanely and I went to buy tickets and find out about the ferries. We'll be spending most of our time in Okinawa, though we can spend a bit of time on the way back in places like Hiroshima, Osaka, and Tokyo.

    February 18th, 1998 Wednesday

    Taught an English lesson out of one of the business suppliments, it is harder to teach material out of these than it is the main textbook since a lot of the words are very specialized. For example the word "balance" is hard to explain. And "curriculum vitae" I had no idea how to explain it. The material is boring, so I have no good idea how to teach it.

    February 19th, 1998 Thursday

    I got a letter from Uncle Phil. He was in Japan, long ago in Hokkaido. He has an interest in Japanese home contruction and gardens, though in Hokkaido it is too cold for much of a garden. Japanese culture he says is influencing us, which I agree with -- and I'm happy about.

    For the Japanese it's hip to use English, and now MTV is using Japanese in ads and bands use Katakana for art. Disney is going to start releasing anime to the states, which will perhaps create an even bigger a market here for Japanese anime and manga.

    February 20th, 1998 Friday

    I was off on a ski trip! I skipped my final exam to go!

    Training was my chance to prove I don't know how to ski. I could never get the goddamn snowplow to work effectively, even though I surely had a grasp of it the last time I was downhill skiing. The snow was shitty so I wasn't about to really beat myself up about it.

    Afterwards was lunch, and then off to the "scenic tour", which turned out to be mostly waiting around in a fairly pretty forest with colorful lakes, but even still I didn't take many pictures. Anton, the tall guy from Holland, gets his picture taken with strangers everywhere he goes. He said at the Olympic games, girls came up to him and got their picture taken with him, just because he's a foreigner. Everyone whined about having to wait during the course, imagine fifty people waiting for the next guy to go down the hill.

    I fell a whole lot, it was pretty embarassing.

    Dinner was in the cafeteria, pretty much standard Japanese fare. After dinner there were games in the gym. Easy games, like rock/paper/scissors, but a good chance for us to run around and be silly.

    There was a sort of party in the lunchroom again. Lots of snack foods and beer and sake. I sort of liked this one girl Ayako, who was a volunteer and we chatted. I asked her age, and told her mine, she was shocked! Others around the table were asked to guess my age and they said from 25-35. I was asked to stand in front of a group of 100-150 and talk Japanese, which I did fairly well, though it was after about 5-6 glasses of beer and some sake, essentially forced on me without asking. :)

    Afterwards I headed upstairs, but the party was essentially over, but it was important to finish off the liquor. Japanese guys are so much into impressing each other, and having a foreigner meant they wanted to meet the cool guy, and show him off. They told me I was really cool and should have a girlfriend.

    February 21st, 1998 Saturday

    There was a practice ski course, which was more like a track than real "cross country" stuff, though it had a nice hill at the end to scale and go down.

    No drinking in the evening after dinner, no party, really not much going on except Origami. And they didn't even teach folding a simple crane! I did my usual figures, though most people were impressed, I was not having a very nice time since I was so tired. Some people were having a "picnic" in the room next door, though I figured I'd stay out since I had nothing to contribute.

    I watched some of the Olympics and headed off to play cards. Stanley came too, and we did the game that was like "Oh Hell" but Swedish or something. I was going to head off to bed but I was talked into drinking with these adult Japanese guys. I seem to get the most talk out of adult men and young girls. I've been speaking Japanese the whole weekend so I got pretty strong and confident. I claim I can't talk, but the others say I speak great, especially for just half a year in Japan. I've noticed my ability comes and goes depending on my condition.

    February 22nd, 1998 Sunday

    Getting up early and eating breakfast is hard, since your stomache never gets up if you don't want to. I felt a bit ill, especially since Japanese food can be a bit too exotic for me. Even the smell of nuttou makes me queasy. Do they feed you nuttou in hell?

    We had the last course, which was a bit challanging, since the snow was ice. Just standing up caused you to fall down if you weren't too careful. We were asked casually to ski down a quite steep, icy ski slope, though it was a bit like asking someone to jump in a pool of nails.

    I made it back, though, and I suppose the reward was our chance at driving one of their snowmobiles. They are a lot of fun, but dangerous and noisy. Stanely almost tipped it over with me in the back.

    On the way back, everyone was exhausted, and I tried to sleep. We stopped several times, and I sang some Japanese songs I didn't know on the bus in front of everyone. There was a mountain I think deserves a place in Kevin's mountain picture collection, called ChichiKubi, which means Nipple mountain (Chichi is Breast, Kubi is tip), it was a huge white mound, except at the top was a dark protrusion.

    I went out to see Hitomi and Yumiko, though I was very tired I ought to have went home instead to rest. Hitomi's place was a bit far away, and I was sort of shocked to see it. Maybe it is because I she's quite poor, and she doesn't spend money on a good place. If I lived there, I'd become clinically depressed. The Japanese build the smallest and ugliest apartments.

    The whole apartment was about the size of my dorm at the International House, though a bit bigger to accomodate a toliet and bath. When you enter, the kitchen is in front of you, and there is a narrow passage for one person. Past this is a door for a tiny toliet and bath, and then a bed and dresser, and it opens up a bit more for the living room.

    She says she cleans quite often, though I think the problem is she has too much junk. I'd decorate the space with a few framed posters, and put in some nice lighting, not the ugly sterile florescent lighting that makes your skin look nasty, but a warm yellow lamp. Your home environment has a lot to do with your mental health, and perhaps it is worth investing in it. I yearn for my room back home simply because it is very pleasant. The Japanese are too used to the ugliness of their schools and apartments to seem to want to have anything better, which is a shame.

    Dinner was fairly good, but a bit odd, and I suspect it is because neither Yumiko nor Hitomi really know how to cook. I wasn't my normal goofy self, but somewhat soft and serious, though I managed to really offend Yumiko. When I saw her softly crying, and looking away it was the first time I gave thought that something was maybe wrong. And really I immediately thought it was something wrong with her, and nothing I said. Certainly it was nothing unusual, I mearly said that most Japanese's English was fairly bad and _maybe_ I said hers wasn't so good either.

    But she cried and cried, and eventually left, though before saying she was horrible or maybe I was horrible. The situation was fairly useless, it was one of those "you made me feel bad, so you're a shithead" kind of deals. She said my Japanese was bad, though I really have no clue half the time if my pronounciation is right. I suspect it is okay.

    I sat with Hitomi for a few hours talking, though it was pretty clear to me I didn't do anything wrong, and maybe I just screwed my relationship with Hitomi since I really pissed off her best friend. It was a bit like crying over spilled milk to me after she left, and I wanted to just shove the event away. I kind of went into an explaination as to why I am fairly direct and honest, probably just how I was raised. I don't have enough knowledge about Yumiko's life or past to especially answer the question why she's especially sensitive or whatever.

    As for Hitomi, she'd probably never be my girlfriend, since she probably wants me with another girl. I'm not exactly sure. She's nice and cute, round face and big eyes, though maybe too short, she's about to my middle of my chest. I'd probably be better off with other girls, since she's older and to be honest I think her standard of living is fairly shitty. Though that's from my standard, she's happy it seems.

    I was back home around 12:00, and met some German girls who spoke perfect English (to my relief, it wasn't like some discussions where I get ignored half the time), it sort of answered my question that people can learn to speak correctly a foreign language. We talked about Japan, and I went to bed.

    February 23rd, 1998 Monday

    I wasn't in bed very long, though, since I was suppose to be off skiing. Everyone else was late, and had brought skiis, which gave me pause. It certainly gave me further worries when I realized that 3 days of rentals would be 18,000Y (OH SHIT), along with the other expenses (19,000Y for the Inn, plus 6,000Y for the lift, plus more for lunch food), which meant around 45,000Y in the end, about half of what I receive from my scholorship to live off of each month.

    I call my homestay program, since they may have misplaced my money I sent them, and my boss, since I was suppose to work this evening, but of course had to cancel. (Sweat bead)

    On the slopes, I realize I forgot everything I learned last time I was skiing, and make a big mess. I felt like throwing up and running back to Sendai. It was sort of funny at first, but then it was seriously painful and troublesome. See the February topic "yabai!"

    Going home was a bit of a relief, though I had made it from beginner to low-intermediate in about a day. Dinner, onsen, and of course lots of drinking and eating snacks.

    February 24th, 1998 Tuesday

    Waking up vaguely sick, and maybe a little cloudy in the head from all the drinking, I really didn't want any more to do with skiing. But I persevered, and it really "clicked" this day. Although it felt like my left knee was battered and bruised, too sore to comfortably move on, I got the parallel pattern down okay, and had a good time.

    Kamiya-san, my overly quiet and strangely fairly cute / strangely appealling male companion, was with me the whole time as we explored the various slopes. The poor guy always seems to be the subordinate, even with me. He can ski about, or better than I, though who knows who has more experience.

    I suppose a lot of what made me dislike the trip at first was that I didn't have anyone to talk to, though I know enough Japanese to make conversation, there wasn't a way to really put my words in to the group. They did not talk to me much, but they certainly talked a lot about me. They were all very impressed how well I learned skiing in only a few days.

    We went to the onsen, and I had a bit of fun goofing around. I especially liked it, since it was outside, and there was a view of an waterfall. I treked out naked in the snow to get a better view. :)

    February 25th, 1998 Wednesday

    I can go down a hill without stopping, and I keep my skis parrallel most of the time. No falling, just attacking the hill! It's great, the fear of injury has been replaced with intense excitement. Though, the next time I see the slope, I'll probably have to spend a bit of time "remembering" the method. Ah well, but it's easy once you know, eh?

    Of course now that I'm done with the ski trip, I really don't want to stop. But, everything does come to an end. We had lunch at a place with a gas grill in the table, where you cook your own food. I sort of noticed that my wallet was getting empty.

    Got back, talked to Hitomi on the phone, so I guess I'll see her tomorrow.

    February 26th, 1998 Thursday

    Alvin called, he wanted to make sure I came in on Friday, and that I was "in" the company -- since I suppose I'm going parttime in April, five days a week of lessons.

    I went to school, and worked in the lab. Met Hitomi at the Int' Center, and she tried to sell me on getting another conversation partner, though I'm leaving in March. We talked and stuff. She's 23 not 25, and says she doesn't have many girlfriends. She's definitely not a lesbian, and she does hate her apartment.

    February 27th, 1998 Friday

    Final exam in the morning, and it was easy except for one question, which sort of was a pretty big surprise. And I just had to scratch my head and tell why I couldn't answer it.

    I went to work early, Alvin was going to help me, but was "sick", so I goofed around for two hours. I got paid, though only for three lessons during the previous pay period.

    February 28th, 1998 Saturday

    I could be loosing my bed. Michaela said end of the month, but, ah, it's the end of the month and she hasn't said anything about moving out. I've been trying to find out what's been going on at the dorms and with the managers.

    I took a shower at the dorm, and walked about in sandals (though it was about 50 degrees outside) downtown among the vegetable markets along the streets by the station. I was intending to find a particular shop (anime), but mainly just enjoyed a stroll by myself. I saw a few interesting used CD/LD shops, which I may return to once I start earning some money.

    Upon returning home, I found I was invited to take part in a dinner with friends of the Europeans and later karaoke. Also, a lot of wine and beer to try. It was a splendid meal, and I would have enjoyed the event more if I could get my roommate out of my head.

    Thanks for reading this month's adventures. Yes, I often make corrections, so if you think it didn't make sense the first time, look back in a few weeks. -- Elias

  • March 1998

    March 1st, 1998 Sunday

    Michaela seemed overly concered I was not home very often anymore. She seemed like she had something to say or some need to visit me, which just caused me to quickly agree, and decide that tonight and tomorrow I will be gone. I'm not a coward, just trying to buy time until I can move out.

    March 2nd, 1998 Monday

    Such a wonderful sunny day. Warm breeze, blue sky, and I'm...

    Movin' ... movin' ... movin' OUT!

    Hotel reservations and all must be done soon. I haven't decided where to put my stuff, but it's a wonderful life, without the rooooooommate.

    March 3rd, 1998 Tuesday

    I met Hitomi again. She says maybe I can't get along with Japanese because I say and do the wrong things, and may never find out until it is too late. She points out I can be awfully rude, and of course it'd be impolite for others to point it out. Well, as for my homestay, it looks like I'll be farming, up at 6:00am and to bed at an early 1:00am. Yeehaw.

    I have to cart my crud to Shawn's room tomorrow, by taxi and hand probably.

    March 4th, 1998 Wednesday

    You'll be staring at this last entry until April 10th or so.

    My new address is listed at the start. Use my old phone number for now.

    I'll take notes as I go on my journey, since it will be probably the biggest one I've ever gone on in my life :) and I'm already looking forward to the next one.

    March 5th - Thursday

    (Begin notes)

    I'm embarking on a month long trip, and the following thoughts are on my mind:

    I'm going to get lost. I'm going to loose my money. I'm going to hate it. I'm going to have a good time.

    Stanley and I, after finally moving the last of my things over to Shawn's place, took a bus to Katahira, and we picked up our scholorship money. Then, hurrying over to the bus for the ferry, I realized I had not bought any food for the ferry, though I felt fairly certain I could buy some beforehand.

    This was not the case, I was going to have to buy some on the ferry. Stanely and I found our rooms, well, it was actually a big central room for everyone to share. We got the cheap tickets, and that meant just a pillow that looked like a brick and a blanket along with a few square feet of crash space.

    There were movies to watch, and plenty of time to spend studying and reading. But since I had very little food, I was hungry and couldn't spend the time enjoying, I spent it anticipating our arrival in Nagoya.

    I spent a long time in the bath, deep in thought about myself. It was dreamy, alone in a tub overlooking twilight water stretching to frighting infinity. I was staring at something worse than death it seemed.

    Stanley and I went to a concert, where a Japanese man and woman performed opera music over the rumble over the huge engines. They talked more than play, which is typical for Japanese.

    March 6th Friday

    Off the ferry at last, we had to figure out the trains to Osaka during the morning rush to work, asking at every opportunity that we were in fact on the right train. We were successful at last, though it was decided to go to Osaka first, then return in the evening to Kyoto. Stanley brought so much luggage that walking around Kyoto was impossible.

    On the trains, I wrote and read a lot. I sort of gave up on a love letter to Hitomi, it really sounded strange.

    Time to spend in Kyoto grew short, as of course finding our Youth Hostel took twice as long as expected, and this and that had to be done before our expedition. So, in the end we arrived back in Kyoto around 5:00, exactly when everything was closing.

    There are a few differences between Stanley and I. Stanley really isn't interested in the same things I like looking at. He says he doesn't understand why people like parks so much, or why temples and shrines are so interesting to people. I suppose he's not one to spend his weekend exploring art galleries or walking through a garden. Stanley is still a lot of fun to be with, he's really a nice guy, but it's hard to be friends with people who are of a different mindset.

    I hate to admit that I didn't see much of anything in Kyoto, though I did visit a few temples during sunset. All gates were shut. My favorite sight was actually the new train station there.

    The youth hostel in Osaka was actually a section of a sports stadium. Stanley and I enthusiastically agreed to go someplace and get temporary female attention. Stanley calls me "alien" and calls our trip "Alien 5".

    March 7th - Saturday

    Yesterday was a bit of a bust, though with the whole day now, we could now finally see Osaka. By bicycle, we went through town. Our main stop was Osaka castle, though we stopped at a cool amusement part, with a rollercoster going through and over a large building! And -- get your cameras out -- I got to see a village of bums outside the Osaka zoo near the freeway.

    Osaka-jo was nice, though I've already seen my share of castles in Japan. It was full of a number of tourists, some foreigners too. Foreigners look like such clumsy dorks, when they're around I want to run away. I don't want to be thought of as some ignorant tourist, I want to be thought of as Japanese native!

    Oh, the ferry for Okinawa was to leave at 7:45. Stanley and I bought some onigiri (rice balls with meat or veggies) for our two night, three day journey. Looking for a place to eat, and eating took some time, though we had over an hour by the time we left to walk a block to the subway and get off at the ferry terminal.

    I wasn't sure where exactly the ferry terminal was, I blindly relied on Stanley's instinct to bring us to the right place. When we found the ferry terminal, it was 7:15, and the ship wasn't at the dock! And after quickly checking at the port office, we both found out that Osaka has quite a number of ferry docks, ours being the furthest from us.

    Jumping in a taxi, at speeds faster than legal, encouring the driver to run red lights, watching the fee rise and rise, while we watched every second tick by, we thought, "were we going to miss the ferry and face the consequences?"

    At around 7:45, we arrived, watching the steps to the ferry being brought up from the dock. I was loosing my cool, I knew I'd probably try to swim to it if they didn't let me on. They did let us on, Stanely and I acting with all the grace of panicked idiots.

    Inside, reality hit us again like cold water, our beds were small bunks in a windowless room that reeked of old food, full of ugly old men, and so hot and humid, it felt like a swamp in the middle of August. I slept hot naked, hearing someone or something stirring below my bunk, hidden behind a dirty yellow curtain.

    March 8th - Sunday

    Passing my time in bed, the sheets already dirty with sweat, littered with my stuff scattered about, I tried sleeping and reading. Three times around 8:00, a unenthusiastic girl announced breakfast for those who would dare try the cuisine. Few did.

    I attempted to make company with some of the passengers, and made friends with several girls eating oranges in the vending machine room. A highschool group from Osaka, just having graduated, made the unfortunate decision to board the "ferry from hell". Stanley's favorite phrases for our trip: "smells like shit", "looks like shit", and of course "this is hell".

    It was worthwhile company, we enjoyed talking to each other, Stanley, the girls and I laughed our heads off. We got some miso soup from them Stanley said "tastes like shit", and polietly excused ourselves to dump in it the sink. Maki, the apparent leader of the group, couldn't stop from saying I was handsome, and she had that starry-eyed look everytime I stared at her.

    March 9th - Monday

    Arrival! Yatta, we're out of hell! It was humid and hot in Okinawa, we walked with our luggage to the bus stop, got on a crammed bus, and arrived at the Youth Hostel at last. Putting our stuff in lockers, we went off on bicycle on a tour of the lower southern half of the island.

    Okinawa has that look of a tropical paradise, with the worst looks of Japanese cement block architecture, lots of hastily installed utility poles, and pedestrian overpasses. The southern half is mostly sugar cane fields as we found out. There is a nice scatter of beaches and rock formations once you get past the roads that follow the coast. We biked with our shirts off, which I regretted later, when my skin turned out to be quite burnable.

    Stanley doesn't like bicycling much, and couldn't really keep up. We managed a mostly comprehensive look at the coast, I tried to swim, but time was disappearing. On the way back, during rush hour, Stanley was hit by a car. From then on, along the sidewalk we went, and got back around sunset.

    March 10th, 1998 Tuesday

    We got in contact with Maki -- luckily almost every young person owns a cellular or PHS phone which is comparable to the cost of using a regular phone at home. She's a bit of a balloon brain, it took awhile to arrange a meeting.

    We saw the local castle attraction, though 1,000 yen to take a peek inside a newly reconstructed castle compound seemed a bit like a waste. Everything in Okinawa was bombed to rubble, though since everything looks like such crap, maybe they ought to bomb it again.

    The main shopping street, Kokusaidohri is full of the same shops repeated over and over again: Steak houses, fast food, omiyage (tourist trap) shops, army surplus at designer clothing prices, video arcades -- along the straight mile of road, you'd almost think you're travelling in a circle.

    Maki, Asami (Asaboo), Kana, and Hatchi (nickname) went with us to a Thai restaurant with glacial service. Having ordered and arrived at about 7:30, we left around 9:30, just finishing our last dish. There was one frantic person in the whole place, cooking, serving, and doing dishes for about ten or twenty customers. Damn, I miss Thai food.

    March 11th, 1998 Wednesday

    It was our last reserved day at the Youth Hostel, and we planned on going up to the northeren one, though I couldn't get in touch with them, the number was apparently disconnected. Asking the manager in the YH office, he explained "tenjou o ochita", meaning the roof collasped so we wouldn't want to go there.

    I suggested we try the other YH at the other side of Naha, it was cheaper, and besides I thought we could only spend three nights at one YH. We spent about three hours walking across town with our luggage to find out, as Stanley said "this place is hell". We retreated, after I pretty much insulted the manager in Japanese, and asked for our rooms back.

    In the evening we met the girls again, they came to the YH to play cards, an unfortunate waste of time since the game was sufficiently distracting we didn't talk much. I miss Battlelords! They took their bath. They said their hotel doesn't even have a bath, which I found hard to believe possible in Japan. Ariel, you'd eat your heart out if you came to Japan, always a hot, clean bath at every hotel.

    A couple from Switzerland, on a six month tour by bicycle talked to me in the YH lobby. Travel is cheap in Japan by bicycle of course, and it helps to also have friends to stay with like they did in the big cities. I didn't inquire about their careers, though they seemed to have enough money to travel comfortably enough. Their next stop is Taiwan, by ferry from Okinawa just a few days.

    March 12th, 1998 Thursday

    Maki and the girls were leaving this day, so we met one last time, had lunch and went to Karaoke.

    When they started singing the opening to Sailor Moon and the 70's Cutie Honey I didn't feel so stupid singing my favorite anime songs. Most anime songs are mainstream pop tunes anyway, like for instance Pocket Monster, one of the most popular kid's anime has about five or six "popular" songs, by the most popular current bands in Japan.

    The girls were with us until 4:00, and then we had the place to ourselves. Stanley and I were on a roll! It was a lot of fun, if you dance and act like idiot idol stars with the music. After they left, Stanley and I sang for about four hours, since we were given special deal, we could sing until 8:00 for 3,000 yen, since we divided the cost at the start, that meant I paid only about 500 yen.

    March 13th, 1998 Friday

    Stanley and I decided to join a tour. We looked at rental cars and they were too expensive for what we thought was worth, six hours costing about , the tour was around and would take us around to different places as well as pay our admission to various places.

    The bus tour started out as a rehash of what we both saw previously, plus we had to wait for people and listen to a Japanese girl with caked on makeup talk nonstop. We saw a lot of tourist swarmed beaches, had a very small lunch, but there were a few highlights

    One was the Zoo at the NW peninsula, where they have daily marine shows like Sea World for free. The tour, however, was scheduled so I had to miss half of the performace. The botanical gardens were another highlight.

    There is a lot of service men in Okinawa, they are quite easy to spot, usual a head over all the other Japanese, and they of course have shaved heads. Personally, I'm no fan of military men, I agree they should shut down military bases on the island -- what use are they except for training now? In Okinawa city they have a seperate village surrounded by a fence and "patrolled by a dog team" which seems ridiculously paranoid.

    A lot of American fast food joints and places to serve the military are in Okinawa city. There is even a mall, is one of the things I don't miss about America.

    People were sleeping almost the whole time on the bus. I wonder if people in Japan travel to different places just to sleep. Returning home at about 8:00, Stanley and I went to our usual restaurant, the same place we've been going all week except for Monday and Tuesday.

    The weather cleared up, it was raining the last few days, though still quite cool. Tomorrow, we were headed to another island!

    March 14th, 1998 Saturday

    I forget what island exactly, but it was worth the ticket and hour there. Stanley said "since you're an alien", people picked us up and gave us rides. My first time hitch-hiking! The beach was wonderful, lots of rocks and I swam among clumps of coral.

    March 15th, 1998 Sunday

    We spent the morning packing, getting ready to go, swearing we wouldn't make the same mistake with the ferry, we'll take the bus and have plenty of time, etc., even still we ended up in a taxi, though at least half an hour early this time.

    The ferry was fairly horrible, we were in a common room like the first time, but the floor was thin carpet over sheet metal flooring. They left the lights on all night, I woke and meditated a few times to relax, I was quite nauseous until I got up in the morning.

    March 16th, 1996 Monday

    Homestays are always a treat, though we were shown a video before meeting our host parents that I think was meant to scare us. We got to watch a virgin-to-Japan try to communicate, get up at 6:00 to milk the cows, work the fields all day, drop her chopsticks, etc. Then we were told not to call our families or friends, disable your portable phones, don't take any money, and especially don't run away. I'm serious, that's what they said. Stanley and I joked that we sold ourselves into slavery, but I didn't worry, since I found out I'd be part of a middle class family, which probably doesn't have much to do with farming.

    The homestay actually was going to take place in outlying rural communities, not Kagoshima itself, even though it is called the Kagoshima homestay program. There were about 100 participants in the program, all students.

    My host mom runs a Juku, or cram school (they advertise them as 'private schools'), where Japanese who we all know don't study enough as it is, go to school from 8:00 to 10:30. My host dad works for the government, but is actually more of a "agent", who looks for performers to come to the island to play in their auditorium.

    I was tired, essentially missing a night's sleep on another "ferry from hell". Two men came over in the evening, one is a bee carrier, the other is some sort of tea farmer. Shochu is a special local kind alcohol served around Kagoshima, drunk hot, and they made sure I got plenty of it.

    The house looks just like a typical Western style house in the suburbs, though with a few Japanese touches, like a tatami room where I went to sleep. I slept away from the younger boy, since I snore quite a bit.

    Mayumi (I call her Okaasan, or mom), has two sons, Yoosuke, and an older one (name here) who's off at some sort of boarding school. It's my home away from home, I suppose I'm a bit relieved more than happy. I was looking forward to homecooked meals and laundry service!

    I got on the Internet briefly, I can write in my diary at home. Tim commented on my Diary, I may make it private, since I suppose it's quite raw -- not what I want everyone to go and read. Also, it is often just a rough draft, I write once, and don't even look back on what I've written.

    March 17th, Tuesday

    I went to a middle school graduation. Pretty boring, typical ceremony. Though something happened at the end, since everyone started to cry and one girl even fainted!

    I met the town mayor ("chuuchuu", heheh), who looks about 95. I didn't listen too much, it was all in Japanese and boring. I was paying more attention to my stomach. Nice guy, kind of scary looking. There was another guy, Nakada, who had brown teeth he tried to hide when talking.

    Upon return, I got to show off my lack of skill in Basketball and Soccer to Yoosuke's friends.

    Juku started about 8:00. I tried out teaching English to second-year students, and I realized I have nothing to teach them. They learn grammar rules, how to read, and that's the extent of their English education, no conversation, no listing skills. I know how to teach conversation and speaking, one on one or to a small group, kind of the opposite teaching approach. I pretty much just entertained them, answered questions, made the girls squirm, and had lots of fun.

    It looked like one girl was shaking when I asked her to go to the front of the class and write on the board, woohoo! Together, the class made a haiku -- I asked people questions and I put it together on the chalk board. Embarassing people is fun, I guess I can't wait to be a parent and what every parent likes to do -- humilate their kids!

    March 18th, Wednesday

    I went to a museum with Stanley, and looked at old guns, this island was the first trading site the Portugese landed at where they brought guns to the Japanese. (Tanegashima Island)

    The local Soroptimist Society (SOROPUCHIMISUTO) invited the four gaijin who are doing homestays on Tanegashima to a lunch and tea ceremony.

    Taiko concert by the Kodoh group. Probably the biggest concert ever held on the island. Took place in the new auditorium where otoosan works, and I suppose anyone who could come did come. It was of course very musical, both having the energy of a battle and a ballet, both intense energy and grace. There was a variety of types of instruments, songs both traditional and new, females and males. There were some singers, bell players, dancers. A 2000lb drum was brought out at the end, wheeled on the stage and pounded by sweaty, shirtless men. A procession of performers who built on the rhythm followed.

    Juku today was a third-year class, older students, they seemed to talk more easily, and were less shy. One guy didn't want to shut up, and I was happy, he sat in the front making jokes, so I didn't have to. I'll come up with some lesson plan for next time.

    I showed okaasan the Internet, though I always have the problem of what to show people on the 'net. I kind of went here and there, it was aimless surfing, though she enjoyed trying to read some of my diary. The Steel Silhouette's page needs an update, it's been almost two years since any new information's been added!

    March 19th, Thursday

    Helped take down a large sign advertising Kodo, went to otousan's office. Otousan needs a bigger hard drive for his laptop, except it's an old one and might need a special one. Otousan showed off the facilities in the Colina building.

    It was my first day helping with the bees, the beekeeper, and risking life and death holding boxes of bees full of (according to Otousan) around 40,000 bees each. I borrowed enough clothes to be somewhat safe, but even with the net on my head I had a couple good entry points for angry bees. I carried smaller boxes with just 10,000 bees at first, while bees were flying all over the place, some angry ones still trying to get inside the closed boxes.

    March 20th, Friday

    I went to one Chuugaku (middleschool) where I had a chance to scare and amaze everyone with my gaijin super powers. It was fun talking to the kids, though they hardly even speak a peep of English. I also tried volleyball during P.E., and my height may have made up for my lack of skill.

    I sweated like a pig, which kind of sucked, since I didn't put on deordorant earlier, and that may have frightened the kids a bit more later on. In the second year class, I was almost frustrated enough to walk out, when I would ask a kid about three times slowly "is this a bird?" and they'd stare at me for about thirty seconds and try to look away.

    One of the native English English teachers nearly got in a big argument with one of the Japanese English teachers about asking a woman's age. I am not surprised six years of learning English teaches kids anything when 1) the teachers barely or incorrectly speak the language 2) the kids never speak the language 3) and people are taught the attitude if they make any sort of mistake, they're being rude or they are terrible.

    Lunch was good, all the girls went into giggling groups and talked to Stanley and I. During lunch, a beautiful quiet girl, who looked and behaved almost exactly like Rei Ayanami (most popular anime girl), sat across from me -- actually all the boys were paired with girls during lunch. I tried being friendly, which just scared her more, she'd shy away with putting her hand over her mouth, I'd hear a muffed giggle, and her cheeks would dimple just perfectly. Ahh!

    After returning, more beekeeping. Two trucks, one large flatbad, countless boxes of bees to load and unload. One of the motherfuckers got in my shirt, and I got this big welt - they called it "hareta", or "it swelled". "Hareta" has another meaning "sunshine"... Everyone was so happy when I told them, they said it must have been a wonderful experience. Okaasan said that people often pay to be stung by beekeepers, I was getting a favor for free!

    March 21st, Saturday

    Today we had an outing, we gaijin and families went together on a rented bus around various places on the island. The first stop was a pottery shop, where I and everyone else got to try making something out of clay. I got to use a potters wheel, and made a small vase.

    The next stop was for lunch at Colina (Otoosan's work), then the space center. They launch rockets about once or twice a year. We went to a beach area, though it was overcast, the beach was quite beautiful.

    Birthday party for the beekeeper in the evening. I got to sing Happy Birthday in English. Lots of sushi, beer, wine, and shochu.

    I played Dark Forces on the N64, don't buy it Ian! Really easy, the play control is fairly slow, and the graphics are worse than on the Playstation. Yoosuke has all three systems: Famicon, Super Famicon, and Nintendo 64. I saw him playing Area 88, called UN Squadron in the US, since the Americans feel obligated of changing every goddamn Japanese game name into something else.

    March 22nd, Sunday

    There was a group of children going to a homestay and we gaijin were there to help. We tried origami, we we asked questions. A old guy lectured for about an hour, as Stanley and I tried to keep from bursting out laughing, goofing off the whole time. The old guy said some offhand comment like Japanese food is the best in the world, just like you'd say the said the sky's blue.

    Okaasan, leading the homestay program, asked everyone to practice eating with a fork and knife before leaving.

    They tried to teach the kids the song "You are my sunshine", not only are they singing some idiot American song, their pronounciation will probably cause everyone to hide their heads, if they can't keep from laughing.

    	  Yuu Aru Mai Sanshainu - BAI IRAIASU ROSU
    

    Yuu aru mai sanshainu, mai onri sansainu, yuu makku mi happi uen sukaizu aru guree, yuu nebaa nou diaru hau matchu ai rabu yuu, puriizu donatu teeku mai sanshainu auee!

    Why not just sing a popular Japanese song? Japanese popular music, sure a lot of it sucks (though so does most American popular music), but they still have a lot of really nice tunes. It'd go over better than some mutated 'merican sappy love song.

    We all practiced a "group dance" to some J-Pop, that might be more of a hit. My theory is that Americans are interested in Japanese culture, maybe not to the extent that I am, but look at what Americans are buying. It was hibachis, Japanese gardens, now Sanrio, Tamagotchi, and Disney plans to sell anime. Japanese look to the West, and maybe we're starting to look to the East.

    Beekeeping. Not much to do, just a small truckload here and there. Chi-san (a gaijin from Taiwan) was with us, and helped out. The beekeeper forgot the kugi (nails) and I have no idea what he did, but I was happily waiting in the car, looking at tons of excited bees piling up outside of open boxes, some angry ones flying at the windshield.

    It was getting dark, and I had the feeling people were waiting for us back home to start the party. If the goal of a Japanese party isn't clear to my readers, I'll say it again -- make yourself and everyone else drink. Though, try to have as much fun before you can before you pass out at the end.

    Stanley says "beer is my life now" -- he says the Japanese have forced him to drink, now he's figured out how to make other people drink too. The party was fun, a good way to get to know the families. I was exhausted as well as buzzed, most of the men were worse, the women were off talking amongst themselves and had mearly sweets and green tea. Someone had to drive the men home I guess.

    March 23, 1998 Monday

    I'm working really hard at work, typing in my diary, practicing my origami, reading, watching the clock for lunch to start... Sort of like Starwave, except at Starwave I wrote lots of poliet email and code in my spare time. That was a joke.

    March 24, 1998 Tuesday

    A day off, and I'm already back drinking! One of those businessmen hangouts this time. There was hardly any breathable air, since two of the guys smoked, and maybe that was why I was already quite dizzy from a single beer! It didn't end there, when I was too nauseous to stand for very long, we did Karaoke, and I grunted out the words quite unintelligibly.

    Oh well, got to talk to a guy named George (not his real spelling, but the same name) and some other friends of Stanley's host father. We quietly ate everything in sight. The night was quite embarassing, next time I will be more careful. March 25, 1998 Wednesday

    Okaasan and I went shopping here and there. These days I spend with a book or studying Japanese vocabulary. I offer no help with meal planning, since never offered my real mom any help either.

    She treated me to a badly needed haircut, everyone was in awe, what a cute gaijin!

    Tako-yaki isn't Mexican food, it's fried octopus balls, always severed with mayonnaise on top. Not much octopus to them, mostly dough. There are carts all over Japan that sell just this particular food.

    In the afternoon, one of Japan's most popular sports (among the 65 and older crowd) is Gate Ball, and I had the opportunity to face off with some of the local old farts. They had the decided advantage, knowing the rules, and not telling me how to play. They speak in a regional dialect, so I couldn't follow it, and Yoosuke (who doesn't say half a word to me, in any language) didn't feel like asking them how to play either.

    March 26th, 1998 Thursday

    Yet again, a chance to meet the local girl population -- at least girls this time were above the legal age of 14. Hehe. Stanley was in a group with just highschool girls, and he asked important questions about the color of their underwear. I found it more interesting to be in a group with almost all guys, who of course said almost less than nothing. I'd speak, and they'd blankly stare, and it would seem somehow all the sound out of my mouth stopped before it reached their ears.

    Tomoko, the only girl, was kind enough to polietly listen -- I would often ramble on in Japanese, and who knows what sense I was making, but I knew she at least was interested to hear me. I learned little, though I wasn't that curious to begin with. The most interesting tidbit was that H.S. students, at least on Tanegashima, couldn't get arubaito, or part time jobs.

    Yoosuke occational tries to come out and be friendly to me. I admit to being a bit scary, he's much younger and at that age I really wanted nothing to do with anyone in college, or even high school. Yoosuke owns: Famicon, Super Famicon, and Nintendo 64 -- the three main game systems. He still plays this old shot-em-up game, Area 88 (based on an anime of the same name, or was it done the otherway around I'm not sure), which is probably one of Kevin and Ian's favorite games for the Super.

    He and I played together for a bit, taking it in good humor when I kept wasting his lives in under 30 seconds. Maybe he saw it his duty to be poliet to this older stranger even if I was screwing up his game.

    March 27th, 1998 Friday

    Welcome to the rice patties, Elias!

    It was my first time, and I made the most of bending over and planting little seedlings of rice, barefoot in thick mud, for about the whole day. It was the whole family's duty, even old grandma was there to stoop and fill in spots where the rice planting machine left bare spots.

    Rain, wind, and dirt I took in good humor. It wasn't as hard as they claimed, just very tiring. We planted four medium sized fields. Maybe I got funny looks when I sang "I'm singing in the rain!" in my polypropelene tights, hopping around the mud. I didn't notice.

    In the evening, it was a bit of a feast for us all, though I wonder how much money you can make off just four rice fields, and why they bother when they both have regular jobs. Maybe it's rice just for the family, I forgot to ask.

    This was my last night, so I got maybe a special dinner. All dinners seemed quite elaborate. We talked of things ending, and maybe it was a little sad since two weeks came and went. The fall of cherry blossoms in the wind.

    March 28th, 1998 Saturday This may have been my last day, but I still had a bit of things scheduled. First was farm work, then fishing.

    I caught about ten fish, Stanley a few, and of course the "experienced fisherman" who used two reels at a time only got three. I often think there is not a lot of skill involved, just patience and luck.

    Too bad there wasn't any sashimi for me, I quickly went home and got in the car for the ferry. Staying another week would have been fine by me. We gave each other empty promises to write and keep in touch. I would like to go back, I would like to see them again, someday. Okaasan didn't come see me off, maybe the cool stillness in the air was also sadness.

    I slept on the ferry -- we planned to stay up all night at the station, though in our states, that would be impossible. Exhaustion from many things, what would keep our eyelids up on the quiet hard floor? We called people, Stanley called his friend in Yokohoma where he said he was planning to stay, who of course left on vacation instead. I called Maki, one of the Okinawa girls, and she blabbed on about nothing until I got someone else on the phone to talk to. I wouldn't make much of a visit to her in Osaka.

    Junko was a girl we met during the homestay, Stanley and I hoped we could spend the night there, though our hope was quickly crushed when she acted like the invitation was never made. Japanese are very indirect, maybe it hurts people less.

    We killed time together, and sang Karaoke -- which she paid for. Stanley and our constant lament was: "We don't have any money" We did have some, just not enough, we sort of figured the return to Sendai would be more of a retreat than travel. In the bar, I pissed off the guy by putting out his cigarrette he was in the middle of, and left near the ashtray.

    I sang like a frog, I need sleep! Even though it was after 2:30am, Junko followed us in the early morning to the station to sit and talk. Stanley slept, I stayed awake, chatting with Junko -- she had that deeply interested stare the whole night. I touched her and she acted funny.

    March 29th, 1998 Sunday

    Finally, on the train. Actually, on a lot of trains. We spent the whole day, going to train to train. Time crept by, and we started to consider a night's rest again. My diary notes say "sleeping and drooling JR style".

    It was about 8:00 when we reached Hiroshima, and I decided, and maybe made Stanley agree, that was the place to stop. Assuming a particular YH was open, we stopped by and I got yelled at in Japanese and in English. So, I found a spot in the city, where a scraggled-tooth old lady treated us like 12 year-old grandchildren.

    Even though we had almost no sleep, we stayed up talking about girls. "Charity" was what Stanley said was his problem, and what I ought to avoid... He said when he was younger, he would go out with any girl who liked him, dumping of course the current girl he was with.

    March 30th, 1998 Monday

    Stanley and I wandered around Hiroshima, visiting various "famous spots", like the peace park. They had expanded it since I was there last -- I do like it, but it still has an attitude of self pity. I do not agree with war, but the Japanese were hardly victims. It would be the almost the same as having a mueseum for the killing of German civilians in WWII by the Americans.

    But, there at least is another message, that atomic weaponry is a disgusting thing. Who doesn't worry a little that a zillion nuclear warheads might rain down on our heads any minute?

    I went alone to the contemporary art museum, Stanley isn't too keen about museums, though it was free for foreign students. They were having some sort of art contest exhibition. They had a fair bit of "modern crapart", but there was actually quite a lot of thoughtful, well done pieces by Japanese contemporaries.

    The manga library was closed. This was next door to the museum. Most manga you can rent, like you would pay to rent a video to watch, but I guess you can loan for free there.

    We took a quick trip to Miyajima Island, one of "Japan's Big Three" beautiful spots, and also one of the biggest tourist traps around. I was there with George Tsutakawa, my old orchestra instructor at Garfield High School, back in 1992 or so. Seeing Miyajima brought back memories of that trip, and I remembered myself thinking back then, somehow I _would_ see Japan after I got back. And I did.

    March 31st, 1998 Tuesday

    Stanley and I split apart in the morning. I was going to take a leisurely trip to Kyoto, he wanted to make it to Yokohama by eight o'clock and he left around 5:30am. I had an easy time on the train, reading, dozing, and thinking about the lunch I didn't have time to buy.

    Kyoto has the best train station I've ever seen. Though of course the norm for a train station in Japan is to use the cheapest construction materials, and put in lots of staircases to haul your luggage up and down. Kyoto sure has lots of staircases, they actually put lots and lots of them inside to create something like "a stairway to the clouds", stairs going up about ten floors. But, it has escalators! "I'm soo happy!" (It's Stanley's line, which he uses mostly with sarcastically. Do the Japanese understand sarcasm?)

    Taking the bus to the Youth Hostel in Kyoto, I made the wrong assumption that bus 206 was the same as bus 26, since the little computer guide told me so. It meant about a two hour delay, as I asked enough questions to put me on the right bus, and had to walk a fair distance.

    Though, when walking, I asked a bus driver, walking around a bus station, where the Youth Hostel was, and he said step inside his bus, he'd take me there! My own escort, free of course.

    The Youth Hostel was home to a scattering of gaijin, some older retired men and women, and the token horde of hyperactive Japanese gradeschoolers -- which I hoped were to be locked in their rooms at night and given special medication. Sitting on trains all day somehow is completely exhausting.

    Since just diary section (Jan to Mar) is already 20,000 words, I decided to split it into another section. Until now, I've written over 40,000 words about my Japan trip. I hope there were some good words out of the 40,000.

    People

    People I've met in 1998, in Jan, Feb, Mar

    • Me - Elias Ross - A better or bitter man in 1998?

    • Dana Branzei - I envy anyone who can speak Japanese fluently, and even though she doesn't seem extremely interesting, she's certainly living in Japan like I want. Apparently, she's studying medicine (pharmacy), and has been in the country for three years. She says she wants to either work in Japan or America, not Romania where's she's originally from.

    • Alvin Frazier - Black orphan, now owner of a Berlitz school. Apparently worked at Berlitz Shinjuku, where he taught famous Japanese personalities. He "believes in the method", the proven technique of Berlitz schools, charging about 7,000 Yen per a 40 minute private lessons. My boss.

    • Atsuko - Japanese girl. Went out with her, and I should see her again, since she was generous with me.

    • Michaela (revisited) - I doubt she'll take a look in again, so maybe I can get in some more inflammatory remarks. No, I do not really like her. If I hadn't felt our relationship abandoned suddenly when I moved in, and hadn't known she was very rude, maybe I wouldn't feel so bad. We do still sort of talk, but it's more like walking on thin ice for me to talk to her. As for Reto, he's a very nice guy, but she acts like she's in charge of taking care of him. If I knew Reto apart from Michaela, maybe I would understand him better. They sometimes fight, who knows about what. Their coupling makes me queezy.

    • Hitomi - Well, I wrote a bunch of stuff about her already, and I'm not about to rewrite it here. She's a fairly short Japanese woman around age 23 (soon to be 24, on April 1st), and works (or did work) doing some sort of computer teaching. She doesn't want to follow the usual roles of the working female, who ends of being a house wife and lonely. Cute, even if she's not terribly sexy.

      The question is, what are her feelings for me? She seems to want me with someone else.

    • Yumiko - Nice, but then again, we haven't talked too much. She's good (best?) friends with Hitomi.

    • Hama - He's the guy who always asks me "how are you?" in English, kind of a weird guy when he's not trying to be. Class clown, but not clever. You'd think he cheated his way into Tohoku University.
    • Kamiya - Nice looking guy, who happens to fail miserably at being cool and on top of the rest, probably since he's a quiet nerd. Friendly to me and everyone, though obviously doesn't want any part in drinking, smoking, and joking.

    Stuff

    February Topics - ZOKUGO (Slang)

  • Yabai!

    Japanese slang is a bit different than English or probably all Western slang, in that there are no "swear words" in Japanese, and consequently using slang is not rude to just people who hear it, but to people who you say it to. For example "chikusho!" means "damn!" or I suppose "shit!", but you won't be thrown out of a classroom for saying it in Japan.

    The word for perverted has gone from "sukebe", to "hentai" (strange), to "et-chi" (the sound of the letter H in hentai), and apparently they don't use "sekkusu suru" (to have sex) anymore, just "et-chi suru," to "to do the letter H"?

    Yabai is like "the situation sucks," but more like an adjective. For example, when I kept on taking beer for 30yen (about 25 cents) a can the other day, that was "chotto yabai," since it was a little like stealing. But then, on the ski slopes, when I was falling on my ass every three feet, that was "chotto yabai", since the situation was bad. Or, leaving your wallet at home and going to the supermarket, it's "yabai!"

    Also, it's "slangy" just to change the endings of your sentances (desuyo -> yo -> zo), and there are special adjective forms (nai -> nee), as well as words which only guys can use (gohan -> meishi). Other words contract in informal speech, and certain particles can be left out.

    So, for example:

    • Very poliet: ohirogohan o itadakimashita
    • Poliet: hirogohan o tabemashita
    • Plain: hirogohan o tabeta
    • Crude: moo meishi kutta

  • The "Otaku"

    OTAKU (oh-tah-ku) is a Japanese word, meaning approximently "nerdy" and "obsessive", it refers to someone with extraodinary interest in one particular hobby. "Otaku" hobbies, for example, include sports, cars, guns, and of course anime, manga, and computers. In the case of sports and somewhat "non-nerdy" activities, a person would have to be "extraordinary" enough to memorize statistics, rosters, recent trades, and tape almost every game and watch some more than once. For "anime fans", it is mearly enough to have a poster on the wall with some character you like and you're called an "otaku" in Japan. If the average Japanese girl had a close look at my room back home, she'd probably think I was mentally ill.

    Japanese have this unanimous, understood standard of what is normal. Even "street punks" and "rebels" associate themselves with some sort of group indentity, defined by some anonymous standards. If everyone else has ripped up Levis 501's with one pocket torn off in your "group", you better find a pair real quick.

    Otaku on the other hand, exist within their own world, so following everyone else is not a concern, and although they have a common identity, they have no set standards and are thus not a "group". Japanese probably find this more frightening than anything else.

    Though, just like everyone else, there conventions, manga conventions, but these usually concern themselves with what is a mainstream medium. It is somewhat unclear why women are the majority at these events, and why people dressing up as chara (characters) of their sex and opposite sex is popular, I'll have to go and find out. Personally, I think dressing up as another personality is quite wonderful to see, much better than picking some anonymous outfit like Halloween.

  • The "Otaku" and SAABISU

    The Japanese are borrow freaks, and sometimes they borrow words for a particular use and attach additional meanings to them. Service is what they call things that is not normally included or expected for the normal price.

    For example:

    • Gas service - Okay, we've seen this in America. Though it's unsafe in Japan to pump your own gas, everyone, like me, has a 20 year old oil heater lit over tatami.

    • Supermarket service - It's a bit different. It doesn't mean someone will carry your bags out to your car, it usually is applied only to "special deals", like two-for-one specials or thrown-in stuff.

    • Bar service - Of course, depending on your venue, this can mean anything from a free drink to a lap dance.

    • Fan service - Rent any anime, and notice any special camera angles that show off breasts or panties really nicely. Or those close-ups of cool weaponry or mecha. This is fan service. Anime has some really cool camera work.

    Sometimes things you don't really want are called service, for example in the joke "Waiter, there's a fly in my soup!" , the fly would be called in Japan extra "service." Of course, it is normally a joke when this word is used this way.

    March Topic

    None

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