Japan Diary Page


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!

April 1998

April 1st, 1998 Wednesday (Baka no Hi)

I decided to give special attention to North West Kyoto, namely the Takao region, which I heard was tucked away in the mountains and I thought free of tourist crowds. The walk took about an hour, mostly all uphill, to a small town, with houses hanging on the cliffs overlooking a small river. Clouds were dark, rain fell a little.

Some people were milling around the three temples I came to see. What I did see was surpurb, interesting, very old styles. Some of the buildings were 500, 600, 700 years old. Trees in all directions, and no constant noise of motor traffic like in central Kyoto to disturb the tranquility.

I visited a sumi artist, who chatted with me, overlooking the cherry blossoms, with the window open so we could enjoy the patter of rain and burbling of the stream. She talked of visiting America, and how she made the (terrible) discovery that American rice is actually better tasting!

I walked back, soaked in mist that turned to pouring rain. My route took me along the river, wedged between untouched hills.

April 2nd, 1998 Thursday

I called Hitomi last night to wish her a happy birthday. I also extended my stay so I had this day also to explore.

Mostly, I spent the day walking. I walked so much I ached. I saw so much, maybe I spent too little time looking. There were a few breaks in my temple tour, for example I stopped at another modern art museum, featuring modern sumi works by one artist.

Sumi art is hard to understand without seeing it. It fills the page, but the empty space is not wasted. A region is completely blank, but your eye gets drawn there. The work is seemingly transparent, and floats around the page. But, there is a lot to be done in this style. Sometimes works are done in one minute with a thick brush, other times maybe days. Or, some of the works I would expect would take days, like six painted sliding doors covered with a face of a dragon.

I stopped by a restaurant, called "Knuckle's Eatery", which had an upper-class diner feeling, and ate foods which I miss and can't get in Japan. Like laughsania, and cheesecake.

I saw many, many temples. Beautiful gardens, etc. Mostly I regret seeing so many, though I only looked at about five or six different ones, my memory of them runs together.

One temple ground had a teahouse covered in gold leaf, I didn't think it was very tasteful. Another contained a famous raked rock garden, and another six tiny gardens, each with of different themes. Old, old rooms, many beautiful small rooms with sumi art or calligraphy.

April 3rd, 1998 Friday

I planned to be back in Sendai on Saturday, hopefully to get my room and scholarship. My money was pretty much gone.

I had a hell of a train ride to Tokyo, spending an hour on the wrong line on a crowded two car "train-bus" to nowhere, which meant when I finally figured out I was going the wrong way, I got to Ikebukuro finally around 8:30. I was in a very bad mood since I made that mistake. Also, hungry enough I spend well over a thousand yen at Mos Burger.

Ikebukuro is like a "pocket" community (coincidentally, "fukuro" means bag), around the station there are small streets, few cars, and really only one main road out of there. There is a park where street performers play, I enjoyed a very sweet-sounding singer (male) who entertained just a few people around him.

Some businessmen decided to be strange. In suits and ties, they started chanting and hopping around in a circle, swinging briefcases and acting maybe a little drunk. I walked back laughing to the Kimi.

The Kimi Ryokan is where all the gaijin come and stay. Either to make their big business move, or for travel, or as they wait to get apartments, or as they wait to move into a "gaijin house". I was too tired to socialize much, but there were a few interesting characters, some playing chess and trying to teach swear words to a giggly Chinese male.

April 4rd, 1998 Saturday

Another f'ckin day on the trains. No disasters, just waiting at lonely train stations, watching with envy the shinkansen zip by.

I got back to Sendai, and it was like walking back to Winter Hell. There was some snow on the ground, though not freezing cold, I thought back to days on tatami, shivering in bed until my body warmed up. I wouldn't want to do that again.

I lost my ticket at the train station, so I had to sneak out, flashing an invalid ticket. If I was caught, I'd probably be sent to security, maybe to pay a fine I had no money for. Ha-ha, I was lucky.

On the phone I discovered the office was closed on Saturdays and I would not receive my key. Though, I knew they couldn't deny me a key, I knew how to get what I needed from the polite manager Sato. I was happy to be back!

April 5th, 1998 Sunday

I was pretty short of money, though I got my scholarship on Monday, so I wasn't too worried. Also, I was going to get my paycheck from work, looking forward a little indiscretional spending, my first opportunity in over three months.

Moving in was pretty much done, I went to the library since the lab was closed. A quiet day, trying to forget trains and go back to feelings of home.

April 6th, 1998 Monday

Far from the latest "big surprise", but probably one that had me in the biggest panic since two days ago. I skipped breakfast and went to get my money, though what I got was just my grades, and no money! Not for another three weeks, and I had just about 1000 yen, which is about $7.70 these days.

Sure I had some food, I had credit, and access to my US account, mostly gone thanks to my trip. Should I beg, Jesus F'Christ I was fucking tired of not having enough money to really eat well, my stomach did ache, I decided to give in and ask my parents for help.

Help would come easy, though I felt bad to ask for it. Oh, well.

I got ahold of Hitomi, she came and sat through a card game. She speaks almost no English (what does come out is a cute little girl voice "I speak no English"), and really felt odd being invited into someone's room. We spoke for about two hours, she framed my postcard I sent her. I felt maybe a little sorry for talking too much about her in this Diary, she probably finds this a bit more than embarrassing.

April 7th, 1998 Tuesday

I went to the lab, typed a pathetic e-mail to Dad and Tim. I had work, and a paycheck to look forward to. Mom seemed sort of angry I sent one "shitty little postcard." Sheesh, excuse me!

In the final analysis, I should have not moved out. I got to share a nice place with a wacko German girl, who had her few good moments, but didn't really want to live with me. I ended up spending a lot of money to stay at a nicer place, but probably too expensive for my small scholarship.

Food is expensive, meat more so. For example, 250 grams of meat, enough for one person, can cost around 300 yen for chicken, around 400 for beef. Cheese is sold in slices like velveeta, and tastes pretty bad. There is no peanut or other nut butters. I need a lot of fatty foods this time of year, so mostly I eat stir fry or oily curries.

Overweight people are somewhat rare in Japan, but more and more are getting fat from fast food. Too many young people smoke, and eat at McDonald's.

So anyway, I probably spent at least 1,000yen on food, even if I don't go out. That's about $8.50 a day.

Back to my day: I worked, went home and ate.

April 8th, 1998 Wednesday

I called Tim, it's okay I will survive. I got email from Dad and Tim too.

I took a placement test for Japanese.

Why must I take a placement test, when I am able to pick the classes I feel most comfortable with? I hate Universities for having things like that, they value a test score over one's own common sense. Even students who finished their last Japanese classes about a month ago, at this same University, in the same program were made to show up.

There's a lot of clubs and "circles" (require less commitment) at Tohoku University. I was considering the Yacht club, cycle racing club, or possibly the anime circle. But, I have no time, with classes, research, arubaito, and homework.

I will look at cherry blossoms with my lab next week, and probably get drunk, in the spirit of the season.

Yes, speaking of drinking, they have poker games almost every night these days. Not for a lot of money, but in the neighborhood of a night if you lose. Though, compared to most entertainment in Japan, it's cheap.

April 9th, 1998 Thursday

I had work, it rained, and I got soaked going both ways cycling. I was soaked and dirty pretty much all day long.

I've come down with a slight fever, and some sort of nasty cold. Shawn was nice enough to give me some pills to take, though they had a load of caffeine in them, not what I should have taken right before bed. I guess enough stress and bodily abuse would do that to anyone.

April 10th, 1998 Friday

There was a short orientation session in the morning for two of the new students: Paula and Dave. Dave's an American who's going to get himself into a lot of trouble with girls, I gave him some valuable advice.

I worked in the evening at Berlitz, teaching a "charter lesson". Alvin walked with me to some sort of liquor import company, and I gave an enthusiastic lesson to a group of three happy businessmen. I set them into role plays, we were all laughing.

Hitomi came over and we watched a video. She says she doesn't like being teased on my web page. Hmm, I am probably guilty of teasing everyone. These entries will get short as I expect I'll be busy in the months to come.

April 10th, 1998 Saturday

Antoine, one of the people only staying five months, had a "Sayonara Party" with food and drink. I hadn't much sleep the previous night, so I spent most of the day in bed. I got up to go a few hours before 7:00pm.

The party was quite well done. I was very surprised to see some Japanese guests, including laboratory members and professors, as well as Ms. Chiba and her boyfriend. There were four large table arrangements, about thirty people. Most of these attended an "after party party", where we fit about twenty in a single International House Room. I felt quite sick, I left sort of early around 1:00am.

April 11th, 1998 Sunday

I may have gotten invited to go to Yamadera with Antoine, but I was probably in bed or out. I've been feeling better and worse off and on. I found out I pay for rent before the end of the month, and before my scholarship, so I'm glad mom put in .

I went to the lab, work was nil. They didn't buy a C compiler for my workstation, and there's no X Server. I watched baseball on TV. There's a lot of gaijin in the Japan Leagues.

April 12th, 1998 Monday

I haven't made up my mind about which classes to take. There are a lot of specialty Japanese classes, such as writing, reading, speaking, grammar, and kanji. I don't imagine spending having much time for all of those. Most of the classes are fairly easy.

April 12th, 1998 Tuesday

Somewhat an unofficial day off for me. I went to HANAMI (flower watching) with my research group and drank and ate. I've been sick, goddamn it, my nose explodes yellow goo when I go cycling. Everyone introduced themselves, including myself. Everyone in the lab is keen on baseball this spring.

I went to work, changed my clothes but noticed my white shirt was trashed from being in my bag in the rain. Just did laundry three days ago and never got to wear it. My lessons were various quality, I'm still not too keen on group lessons.

I got a call from Reto and Michaela, and since I was sick, they offered to make me some lemon tea. I don't want any more to do with them, why do they want to still be friends?

April 15th, 1998 Wednesday

More classes, more work.

April 16th, 1998 Thursday

I invited Hitomi over again, I cooked dinner which turned out well of course. I got her sick, not a surprise when I think back to last Friday, so she didn't want anything to do with me physically, not even a kiss. Next time I'll be careful about spreading viruses to my girlfriend.

April 17th, 1998 Friday

I had a bit of class. I'm trying to memorize kanji, but they don't stick too well in my head. Looks like I got Stanley coughing too. I work tomorrow in the morning.

April 18th, 1998 Saturday

Well, it turned out to be casual day, and I was the only one dressed up. The "Half Moon Building" has curved windows throughout, the nicest being the one at the end, a semicircular room overlooking the park and street.

I also found out I'm supposed to teach ten lessons in one day on Tuesday. Usually after just four I'm ready to collapse.

I went out to zazen again. I felt a bit tense, and suddenly all that went away. Like someone hit the relax button. I forgot how long an hour and half can be on your butt.

I called Hitomi for the heck of it. Looks like she's planning to be alone tomorrow. I also talked about my roommate, trying to explain why Anton called her "a fucking bitch who uses people."

April 19th, 1998 Sunday

I spent the whole day dealing with laundry. It was probably the worst laundry day I've ever had. First, I put money in the wrong machine, so then I had to get change (walk to the convenience store), I finally started the load and it came out damp not washed, and the second time it was soaking wet.

So, I hug it out to dry, and the laundry stands kept falling over in the wind, one of them actually snapped because it was rusted. I decided to put it in my room, but then I soaked the floor, got it dirty, and was forced to watch the heater as my sheets dried.

As it turned out, some pieces of laundry still had powder caked on, my sheets having fallen from the stands had gotten sandy, and one of two shirts I for work seems permanently dirty. I did call Hitomi yesterday, she called me today. She sounds pretty sick on the phone. Her sister is getting married at age 30, Hitomi is going with some of her family to the marriage ceremony in Australia. She explains, it's cheaper if you can find an excuse not to invite the whole family. The groom isn't Australian. I ought to ask about him -- Hitomi and her sister sound like best friends, maybe it is going to mean loosing a good friend?

Though, I suspect men and women in Japan, even young people these days, leave separate social lives. It's something I wouldn't be comfortable with. It seems like Hitomi doesn't want anything to do with my friends and I don't seem to get invited to meet hers. I probably won't see much of her this week or next.

April 20th, 1998 Monday

Well, looks like I'm getting back into the swing of school. My writing skills in Japanese leave something to be desired, I seem to come off as a idiot when I write more than occasionally. Language was always a bit of a weak point for me, I still have yet to master the English language, and even when speaking I make dumb mistakes if I'm not careful.

Speaking of weak points, we're starting baseball practice for the lab baseball team. Sigh, I feel like one of the worst players. Makes me think I should have did more sports in high school -- but it wasn't like I really felt right playing with a bunch of rude jerks.

I spent time with Stanley during lunch, he seemed hopelessly depressed about having to return to America. I do too feel sad about returning. I hope people are eagerly awaiting my return, otherwise I'll feel strongly encouraged to live here. In any case, I might just end up back at Berlitz during next summer, or at the latest after graduation, doing something here for a year. I feel like things are just getting going, with just five months left I wonder how I'm going to be leaving things.

Some of my "goals" have been whittled down. I still would like to do a bike trip in Hokkaido, though if alone I would have no great enthusiasm and make the trip short. My quest to conquer Japanese is going well, once my vocabulary and kanji skills improve some more I'll be able to listen to (almost) anything, read (almost) anything and speak to anyone about (almost) anything. From there, I can just learn on my own.

April 21th, 1998 Tuesday

I had lessons all day at Berlitz. Everyone's swamped with work, even our dear president was stuck with teaching more than a few lessons himself. I got to have a paid lunch with two "intensive" students, who spoke Japanese to one another until I really had to tell them to stop it. In the afternoon, I taught a "double-lesson" (two instructors with one student) with a Swedish lady who's probably about my mom's age.

April 22th, 1998 Wednesday

I worked a bit more in the evening, spent some time in the lab, all sorts of typical stuff. Hitomi is going away to Australia this Saturday for about two weeks. Sigh. We were really are on the phone for about an hour and half. That's actually fairly serious money in Japan, if you're on the phone every night. Sigh.

April 23th, 1998 Thursday

I had a full schedule of work, and I got more money at the bank. I've withdrawn about 40,000 yen, close to with the exchange rate now. I am kind of reluctant to take out a lot, since I need some of that later...

April 24nd, 1998 Friday

Hitomi and I were talking from 11:00pm, until when the sun came up on Saturday. I enjoyed the peaceful blue of predawn on my way home, the light drizzle of rain, and the rare near-silence of Sendai. I wished she was in my arms, her hair coated with beads of water.

April 25nd, 1998 Saturday

Of course I got a call from Mom and Tim, they always pick the worst time, when I've only slept for a few hours. Ariel is welcome to share a room with someone at the dorm if she comes. Also, I'm fairly annoyed that my car isn't "running" or something else Alsia wouldn't explain. I guess that was a pretty good excuse to get a truck for Eric.

Now, I hardly know what's going on with those two, since I said less than a few words over the last six months, but it sounds mighty rotten Eric would be getting a new truck after Alsia goes to debtors anonymous, and after certain financial troubles.

Looks like the waters are pretty rough around Steel Silhouettes still. Ariel has her boyfriend who's going back to his country. Who knows what they thought when I said I had a girlfriend. These phone calls leave me with more questions than answers.

April 28th, 1998 Tuesday

Antoine was leaving the next day to Tokyo, we all got our scholarship money this morning, and so everyone agreed it was good time for a party. Reservations were made at a drinking restaurant in Kokubunchou, for about an hour of "all you could drink." His friends from school and the dorm were all invited. It was going to be a surprise party, though since he was about forty minutes late, I guess everyone else was more surprised when he showed up than he was.

I paid 3500 yen for this, and for some food which was elegant but not much. The place was nice, sure, but a group of rowdy drunk businessmen kind of ruined the atmosphere. We also had to eat, and I paid about 1000 yen for McDonald's, and ended up IN the bathroom for about ten minutes saying I wouldn't eat at McD's again.

David, our all-American hero, went to put the moves on Sou Youn, one of the oddest Korean girls I've known. Koreans are strange. She's very quiet, overly self-conscience, and beautiful, though she's about as boring as a rock to me. Why David is interested in her body perhaps is understandable, because from what I hear he's interested in anything Asian and female, but he's going after someone not interested in him! There went his scholarship for this month.

We crammed about 30 people into a Karaoke room. Half had a chance to sing, there were three or four people picking out Japanese songs only they knew, four or five didn't really sing or knew the songs they chose, the rest had a fair chance at the mike, and I felt like going home.

All parties have the hour or so of chatter before everyone finally says goodbye. I had a word with Jessica, she was going to Sweden to get surgery, since the Japanese doctors seemed quite casual after having found a tumor near one of her ovaries.

April 29th, 1998 Wednesday

I had a bit of a headache, thanks to last night. I spent most of the day trying to read, or study, or go out but I wasn't interested in anything.

April 30th, 1998 Thursday

I met Michaela, and I got the feeling I didn't ever want to see her after today. We had fun talking, but it was like my feelings about her floated to the surface like dead bodies on the river. I bought two expensive shirts and a tie for work, which I hope will fit me, though they are a tad smaller than my others.

May 1998

May 1st, 1998 Friday

I taught some of the guys English who work at Jardine's Wine and Spirits again. I got talked into teaching a single, forty minute 8:30 lesson the next day. I could have screamed, but it was a girl who talked me into it.

Samantha, she's a thirty year-old women who's probably been to Japan four or five times, was there to thank me for taking it from her, promising me beer or something. Who can argue with that?

May 2nd, 1998 Saturday

I played Ultimate Frisbee with some of the dorm people. I enjoyed it, though the violent wind made for a few wild throws.

I was invited to share dinner with some friends, and I found out everyone was coming to my room, to use my kitchen. I heard "we'll meet at 7:30 in the lobby" for going out to shop for ingredients, and instead of 7:30, Robert in fact meant 6:30. I was in my undies reading when people came knocking on my door at 7:00.

Dinner was good, I was naturally happy to help eat and do dishes. Henry shared a few off-color jokes, and the rest of us talked politics and life until about midnight.

May 3rd, 1998 Sunday

I spent most of the day writing letters and studying.

Hitomi called and said she was back from Australia, now in Aomori visiting her parents. She said she exercised a lot, roller blading, walking, etc., and the wedding was fun. I said I missed her, and she laughed saying it was only a week.

She called back after a few minutes and said she'd be bringing me anime videos she had kept at home, from when she was living with her parents. I look forward to that evening when we can watch a little Bubblegum Crisis together. BGC is the one anime that every fan agrees is a classic.

It's Golden Week, so no school for the next few days. I went to rent a video, I thought once or twice to get a ettchi video, though it was Forrest Gump I picked up instead. Maybe I was a bit disappointed with Forrest Gump, it was certainly entertaining, but it didn't have much more than entertainment.

May 4rd, 1998 Monday

My daily laziness has been increasing, so I decided to take a bike ride to the ocean. I went further than just the coast, I rode and rode hard for about six hours. I went through a tunnel underneath the airport one time, tailgated by a semi, and a line of about twenty cars. It was dark, loud, and I had the feeling I'd get munched, spit out, and forgotten if I make any mistakes... After eating and reading, I collapsed in bed exhausted.

May 5th, 1998 Tuesday

I decided to go to the computer lab. My legs still ache.

May 6th, 1998 Wednesday

A bit of school. Hitomi came back so I did the usual talk on the phone for two hours thing. Sigh, it's not like she voluntarily helps me with my Japanese, but won't help even if I ask! I suppose she has a bit of a grudge since I won't speak to her in English. Add on that I tease her and she never seems to understand.

I tried to get to the bottom of things I talked about before she left. But, as usual things got muddled, the language barrier doesn't help when you're explaining things you don't know the vocabulary for. The latest unsettling claim is that I like her because she fulfills my "prerequisites" for a girlfriend.

On Friday, Yumiko (the one I put to tears) and Hitomi will gather with me and Shawn for dinner. So, let's see what happens.

May 7th, 1998 Thursday

Yes, and as the world turns, I get a postcard from her, from when she was in Australia. I don't know why, but she wrote it in formal speech. I don't understand Japanese anymore thanks to her.

Well, I wonder what was on my mind as I hit the open door of a truck on the way to school. In addition to what I think is a fine souvenir to take back to America, I'll be having fun answering the question "why I hit my head" for several months. Simple, I stepped into some mud, stepped aside and found my face in the sheet metal.

It bled, was deep, hurt, and I felt a little bit stupid. I haven't hurt myself on my bike yet, I haven't broken bones, gotten seriously ill, etc., but fell on my face one time and knocked into a door. Bad luck? Stupidity?

May 8th, 1998 Friday

Well, dinner plans worked out. Yumiko and Hitomi showed up late, since they were quite confused about the roads. The party turned into a lot of interesting conversation. At first, everyone was teasing me. Especially since I got a nice couple bandages put on my forehead. But, Master Tim has taught me well. I had everyone switch to teasing Hitomi. Since Shawn was talking with me, Hitomi and Yumiko had their own little conversation.

May 9th, 1998 Saturday

I spent most of the day with Hitomi at her place. I was advised not to go outside, since the doctor said sunlight might not be good for having my cut heal without scaring. That's okay. We watched Bubblegum Crisis. We walked to the store, made lunch together. She showed me pictures of her sister's wedding. This was probably one of the best lazy days I've ever had.

Though, after the day ended, I was very tired, and the medicine I was given, antibiotics, really offended my stomach, so I went home achey. And sad, would I see her next week?

May 10th, 1998 Sunday

I woke up in the afternoon, played frisbee. I also shared dinner and chatted with friends.

May 11th, 1998 Monday

I had an appointment for 9:00 at the hospital, which meant I spent all morning there, until almost 12:00. I hate the Japanese medical system, I hate waiting. I got to miss all my classes, I guess that was okay, so I went to the Lab.

I saw Hitomi in the evening. I really hate Japanese indirectness, she seems the best at it. Of course she probably hates my directness and sarcasm, and being teased. She doesn't want to help my Japanese, but I found out she was a Japanese language teacher and did training the previous year!

Well, I was mad about something. I'm not exactly sure now what I was mad about. I suppose a combination of things: Trying to communicate with my fucked-up Japanese, dealing with the ambiguous messages and lack of communication from Hitomi, trying to understand Hitomi's behavior towards me, and trying to be patient.

May 12th, 1998 Tuesday

Hitomi wrote me an email. Here is a translation: (Japanese is hard to translate, since the grammar puts things in different order.)

You torment me, and you're always strong, eh? But, because I'm always meek, there are times I envy you. When I'm in front of people, if I can't be meek, I sometimes act opposite to my feelings, those times perhaps you can't understand me.

I'm tired so I'm going to bed. Goodnight.

I get the feeling this woman is tormenting me too.

May 14th, 1998 Thursday

I've had enough of the nuttiness of Japanese women. Or, so I was thinking the last few days. Hitomi and I meet, and well I get mad because she's slippery, she'll try every way to say what she really means before she comes out and says it. Even then, it's like she's not really happy unless we follow the Unspoken Rules of Japanese Communication which is to have a conversation about something completely different than what you are really talking about.

Well, with all the Japanese songs and dramas full of people saying "I love you" or "I want to be with you", you'd think the people themselves wouldn't be too shy about saying the same things. I mean, not only do they not act like how they are on TV (okay, no big surprise), if you used the same sort of speech style, everyone would laugh. I'm talking about the normal, average-joe looking actor.

I was more than curious as to what the email meant, and I was angry that she'd claim I was torturing her when in fact she was obviously torturing me. How much Japanese misdirection and confusion can one American guy take? If you take the average confusion a man usually gets from a girl and double it, you go mad.

Generally, it was clear I liked her, and she liked me. Duh. But, why was she chasing after me? I'm one to make the famous main characters of Kimagure Orange Road and Maison Ikkoku look like players. Well, all I got was some spoken-under-her-breath replies, smiles, and evasion, but I was happy.

As for the weekend, Hitomi informed me she was going to be with Yumiko on Sunday. I had thought it'd be good to go to Matsushima and spend the night. The main problem with being the one to arrange things is the other person often can't go. But what usually happens is the other person makes helpful suggestions. Not her. I get a reply, "sorry I can't go...have fun at Matsushima [without me]" as if I'd seriously spend the whole day and evening by myself at an expensive hotel.

Of course, asking her what she wants to do earns me a blank look. So, I ask the usual twenty-one questions, "Is it a restaurant, store, or park?" "Is it in Japan?" "Is it in Miyagi?" "Is in Sendai-shi?" ...

May 15th, 1998 Friday

Samantha offered to take me out for two beers this time, for taking classes she didn't want to teach. Well, she did take me out for two beers this evening, though they ended up being a few more, and I was a bit tipsy on my way home. Mr. Sasaki, our humble host and secretary of Berlitz came along and he got really weird after he had a few whiskeys. I was a happy guy, since Samantha paid for dinner along with everything else.

I called Hitomi when I returned about 11:00, the plans are to bicycle to Sakunami in the morning. Haha. It's like 30 kilometers away, how's she going to do that on her "shopping bike?"

May 16th, 1998 Saturday

In the morning, we met and she had a flat tire. I quickly figured out it was a bad valve, which was easily replaced for 100 yen. But then of course I was giving second thoughts as Hitomi, bless her beautiful body, couldn't go very fast. I was aching, my arms were anyway, since my frame isn't designed for a slow pace.

Speaking of her body, this is odd. I don't know of American women do it, but Hitomi said to me, she likes admiring other women's bodies. She says to other women, "oh I like your legs," or "wow, your chest is big." Not only that, she often then she asks to touch their legs or chests. I told her, men usually don't ask to touch a man's large penis or muscular chests.

May 17th, 1998 Sunday

I thought it was lame that Hitomi left in the middle of the night.

I played frisbee in the afternoon, and things were as usual.

May 18th, 1998 Monday

Nothing particularly remarkable about today, except I hit a girl walking across the street with my bicycle. No injuries, just I bent my wheel fairly badly. It'll have to be replaced. I spent about twenty minutes getting talked at by an annoying Japanese guy who wanted to arrange something between me and the girl I hit. Both of us just stared at him, he should have gone away eventually on his own, though I told him I had errands.

The girl I hit wasn't too upset, though she might have hit her head a little bit. Well, I had just wrecked a pair of slacks and an expensive wheel, though I wasn't about to claim damages, since I figure it was probably more my fault. As I best recall, she was sitting in the middle of the street, and I hit her as she got up.

So, I ended up late for work. I also had to take in a tape recorder and tape my lesson.

May 19th, 1998 Tuesday

I had someone look at the bicycle, yes, a new wheel is necessary, which will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000Y for purchase and installation. Bicycle wheels must be hand built and tuned precisely. Probably the spokes will be replaced.

Yes, I was late yesterday, and Mr. Fraiser wanted to let me know. He was either in a bad mood, or maybe he thought my lesson wasn't so good. Though, frankly I'm fed up he only gives me a few lessons a week.

May 20th, 1998 Wednesday

I had the sudden urge to eat ice cream with Hitomi. They call Baskin'Robbins "satiiwan aisukuriimu" (31 ice cream), though I decided on Mos Burger since they're open a lot later. I also found it interesting that Michaela got a new roommate, which confirms the theory she's a fucking bitch.

May 21st, 1998 Thursday

Wakey, wakey. I spent a lot of time studying Japanese every day, though the more I study the less it all wants to stick in my head. There is some sort of law of diminishing returns at work, but I still manage to memorize about forty kanji a week.

May 22nd, 1998 Friday

I practiced baseball after school. Mostly, just tossing the ball around, though before the sun went down we practiced catching flyballs and passing. I hardly have any interest in the game, though I try to make a showing now and then. Being with my research group makes me feel lonely. I really don't know why I have spent so much time with them, though I have barely touched on any of the work they do.

May 23rd, 1998 Saturday

It always feels like a sunny day when I'm with Hitomi, even when it's not. It's been raining lately, though it was quite clear outside, and hot. Sendai's rainy season is suppose to just be starting.

So, it made a good day for a hike. I picked out Mount Omoshiro (meaning "interesting" in English), though I had a feeling it wasn't going to be any more interesting than the average hike in Washington. From the map, it looked like most of the view would be closed down ski lifts and "joe hills." Since it was close to the train station, we could easily get it.

Well, as for the "joe view" which was to be expected, it was at least worth it for the exercise and to be with her. And as Hitomi has said, and was confirmed at the top, hiking is a sport mainly done by retired people and grade school children. I refused to believe, even now I think it's hardly fair, it wasn't a terribly difficult hike, but something is wrong with a group of smoking, beer guzzling grey-haired wrinkly grampas meeting you at the top. Hiking, as a "serious sport" sort of loses its youth image.

Over lunch, I tried grabbing some pictures of Hitomi, who wiggled away from the camera. Talk about ungrateful! I was trying to capture the moment and she said no way. Well, I admit being sweaty and dirty wasn't part of the moment I wanted on film, but I got it anyway. There will be better times for pictures.

On the way down, I stole as many kisses as I could between catching my breath and sputtering Japanese conversation to Hitomi. There were a few grandmas, and a husband/wife pair, where the wife had the expression of a cat forced to take a bath. There were some gaijin along the way back, who evidentially had come a long way to "experience Japan" and ended up going instead for a "joe hike" and probably made the mistake of visiting Sendai. I had that uncomfortable feeling again, that feeling I get when tourist-gaijin are in the vicinity. As if they were a bunch of smelly, ugly, big-nosed freaks who might do something embarrassing and disturb the social harmony, and somehow I'd be looked down upon by association. Maybe Hitomi wonders how I'll stand it going back to America.

May 24th, 1998 Sunday

I played frisbee with the guys in the rain. For about two hours. I don't know why my team always lost.

May 25th, 1998 Monday

I'm in a bit of a panic over a presentation I'll be giving in July. I will be presenting some sort of summary of my research, which has been pretty much nil, perhaps in Japanese. I did say I would try in Japanese, but it is one thing to have a conversation in Japanese, another to be in front of an audience by yourself talking in a language you don't know too darn well. And heck, even in English I don't like to give presentations.

So, I've been in the lab, diddling with my damn program. It doesn't do what I want. I've decided to come up with another technique, so sophisticated and original, even I don't know about it yet.

Seriously, though, I need to get cracking. I decided to stick with segmentation as a project. And my method of segmentation will hopefully be so complicated, everyone will respect me even if it doesn't work right.

May 26th, 1998 Tuesday

I spent the day at work and studying Japanese. I'm getting nearer to the point where I can read a lot of kanji, though it will be a while until I master them all. I figure, learning and mastering Japanese is my goal now, it's the one thing I'm determined to do. Everything else in my future is yet to be decided.

Hitomi called me to see if I was okay. Which was nice, but she really didn't cheer me up. Kind of like, "gee that's too bad, but then again, you're going back in a few months, gee that's pretty soon, eh?" She'd laugh too. Oh well, not much wrong with a dose of cold reality.

May 27th, 1998 Wednesday

I just spelled checked this file, I misspelled Wednesday almost every time I wrote it.

I'll be going to the laboratory every day until I get it done. Hitomi is busy with her work, and I need to see her or I'll die.

I did batting practice, although I won't be playing baseball since I haven't practiced, and certainly don't have the experience yet. Batting practice gave me a chance to talk to Aoki, my tutor, and I get the feeling he'll help me a bit with my project. I feel like crap so I'm going home.

May 28th, 1998 Thursday

Well, I didn't go to the lab this day, since I was running errands and plus I had work. The solution to my research is giving me grief trying to solve, I decided to let my thoughts settle.


May 29th, 1998 Friday

The fun continues. It rained, and I was running more errands. I received 30,000 yen worth of bus cards which I can't sell. They say "RYUUGAKUSEISENYOU" (only for foreign students) and their letter said if you sold them you'd get busted. I ended up late for class, in my work clothes soaked. And somehow, I was late to work. Of course, the bright end to this day was meeting Hitomi for dinner. Even still, I ended up going to a restaurant which was terrible.

May 30th, 1998 Saturday

What a good day for shopping, or so I thought. Again, meeting Hitomi in the morning, I tried to make this day a "lazy day." And, even after years of similar experiences shopping, found out that shopping is not much fun at all. Even in the Japanese shops, even in the anime shop Hitomi showed me, I was in no mood to buy anything. Neither was she.

Fine with me. I went to her house and slept.

May 31st, 1998 Sunday

Breakfast with Hitomi. Frisbee. Gyouza. Goodnight.

No, that's not all. It's been eight months since arriving in Japan. And in fact, this diary is eight months old as well. Looking at the calendar, I have another four months or less left. I'm sad, I'm improving my Japanese every day, every day I love Hitomi more and more, and every day I enjoy the new things Japan has to offer.

That is probably why I didn't tell anyone about my birthday on Friday. Yes, everyone didn't know, and of course I felt on one hand anxious to tell, but I felt pretty depressed, and the only people I really wanted to be close with were my friends and girlfriend on my birthday. So, I decided to keep it to myself.

June 1998

June 1st, 1998 Monday

Good grief, I was at the bank for forty minutes just to pay one stinking bill for 850 lousy yen. I hate Japanese banks.

Back in the lab, I study until I cannot study any longer. Stanley and I talked over lunch over the crunch to get the project done by next month. Perhaps I don't really have to finish it, but...

June 3rd, 1998 Wednesday

I went back to the lab to work. Everytime I get in front of the computer I try and find something else to do. Well, I called Hitomi and she and I talked until I wanted to cry. She has a mean streak, though maybe I just can't tell when she's joking or not. She put me in a perfect mood for getting my work done.

I called her back around 12:00, she sounds so sweet when sleepy. We talked, though I didn't seem to know what to say. I kind of decided that e-mail would be better, or at least when I was more awake.

June 4th, 1998 Thursday

Dad called, thanks dad! I was in a rotten mood, and it seemed to go away. Yeah, so what if all he said was "take care of yourself" and "happy birthday", though most importantly that it's not the end of the world if my project doesn't work out. Yes, and I do bitch a bit in my diary, though it's just a reflection of my bad attitude.

June 5th, 1998 Friday

Happy birthday to me! Yeah, and I was at school until 6:00. I had a small party with Hitomi, Stanley, and some of Hitomi's friends. I felt a bit bad about getting drunk (a little), but since I was 21 it seemed excusable. Hitomi gave me some beautiful "lose socks" with glue, so I can dress like a Japanese high-school girl. Where's my skirt?

I also got a cake and a card, though I wonder what Hitomi means in the second half, "I L... Y.."? Well, she says Yumi wrote that part, who knows if she really meant it.

June 6th, 1998 Saturday

Mom and Ariel talked to me in the morning. I probably babbled a bit too much, I usually do at that hour. I opened a package they sent, Ariel wrote a card, I got some shorts and shirts. Ariel seems to be trying to do everything again, this time she wants to work at a museum for kids.

I crawled into work in the morning to find out I don't have any classes. Some idiot (Mr. Fraiser, my boss) makes the schedule, and changes it the day before. I have some strange expectation once he puts in it that I have classes on Thursday, since I arrange my weekend on that fact, on Friday I don't want it changed.

There's a good side, yeah I saw Hitomi again and we did the usual Saturday night thing. She and I were both tired, we didn't do much after dinner.

June 7th, 1998 Sunday

I played frisbee for three hours. Florian said there was an "informal tournament" for ultimate frisbee in Sapporo in July. Not a bad idea for a trip in the summer, though I'll have to work on my skills.

June 8th, 1998 Monday

I got mail from Adam Spitzer, he apparently read all of my diary. He has his own diary on his home page, which I read all of. It was a bit of a shock, having some stranger find and look through my diary, though he says to have found it through a search engine quite by accident.

His diary seems a bit more interesting than mine. But then again, it's more of a travel diary, at this point I've pretty much seen everything in Sendai and everything interesting to me about the Japanese. I can't write every day about every new thing here. Some of his impressions about Japan and the Japanese also seem a bit different. Probably because of the regional differences, and partially since Osaka is such a more interesting city.

Yeah, Sendai is boring, shucks. I go to school and study. Yadda yadda. Well, I have my kanji flashcards and Hitomi.

I was approached by my tutor today about my project. Well, I did get a bit of help. I'll finish it this week, and hopefully next week start on my paper. If I have time, I'll build a neural network for combining segments.

June 9th, 1998 Tuesday

I was at the lab until 6:00am. So I slept, worked, and studied. Aoki helps me with my project, though it doesn't seem to work right. Well, if it works or if it doesn't, it's all the same to me.

June 10th, 1998 Wednesday

I worked in the lab, worked, and went home early. Hitomi and I talked about her friend Yumiko, who I never fail to upset when I'm around her. She's the one who cried for about an hour in front of me. Hitomi doesn't know why I don't like her, and I don't either -- I better watch what I do say to her best friend.

On Friday, Hitomi and I will meet. I suggested she come to my laboratory, though it's quite boring here even with the fast Internet connection. I suggested going out, though that's boring and expensive. So, we're faced with another night of meeting at each other's place, cooking, watching a video, talking, etc. I perfect suggestion, now that I think about it.

June 11th, 1998 Thursday

I spend 12 hours in the lab, and most of it not working on my project. No, I did work on it a bit, just it's such an unsatisfying problem. It even gets Aoki a little nervous. I asked for help, I'll spend next week getting it to work too. Then one week for results, another for my presentation.

I also wrote an essay for applying to the Computer Science department at the UW. I wrote a couple, though each of them sounded like I wasn't interested at all in the program. For example: Looking over my transcripts from the past few years, I don't see much of what I've really accomplished. My grades for the most part have been so-so. You might notice during Autumn 1996 I wasn't attending school --

June 12th, 1998 Friday

I met Hitomi downtown. I was sitting in a pack of guys smoking cigarettes and girls in sailor uniforms. With my face in my kanji cards, Hitomi couldn't find me. I enjoyed sushi on a conveyor belt. It wasn't too tasty, and I had a funny feeling in my gut after I went home. Both of us were tired, I was hoping to spend more time together, it was Friday, but I went home and slept.

June 13th, 1998 Saturday

I was working in the morning. I didn't sleep more than usual, but ended up a minute late in the door. People panicked a bit, so I missed my first lesson that day since another teacher was available then to fill my spot.

I saw Hitomi for lunch, worked, then met Hitomi at the subway station. It's funny, that there's hardly any room in the kitchen for two people. I miss the kitchen back home, where everyone in the family could be talking and annoying mom. I did get a few words in, and told her to cook certain ways, even if I didn't know better.

June 14th, 1998 Sunday

Hitomi refuses to own a proper spatula, and doesn't have butter or oil, so why the hell did I try cooking fried eggs? There are some things that just cannot be done.

It was raining like crazy, and I was inside reading after I got home. I couldn't keep my eyes open.

June 15th, 1998 Monday

Since it was a holiday, I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, eating, studying, running errands. The sun refuses to come out, and I had a bad feeling about washing my sheets. Things are also getting moldy -- my cutting board was fuzzy so I tossed it out. I got a letter from my grandparents, it was the usual sort of news. It was about as personal as a newspaper article.

Tim has funny ideas about Hitomi. So do I. She has funny ideas about me too. I'm lamenting returning to America, she thinks I'm talking about how much I'm looking forward to leaving her.

June 16th, 1998 Tuesday

Stanley told me yesterday wasn't a holiday -- and so consequently, I've been kicked out of Japanese Grammar class. The teacher's a dick, and I hated the class anyway. I was however sad to miss kanji class.

Kato-sensei told me my project was good enough. I'm calling it quits for the moment on my project. I can't see anything good about screwing with the same code. It's on to writing a decent report.

June 17th, 1998 Wednesday

Jessica stopped by to film me for Antoine's birthday. She and I talked, most people are returning in August, middle or early. Some are staying until September. It might be pretty lonely without anyone else. I will work, that will keep me happy.

The more time I spend on the phone with Hitomi, the less anything makes sense to the both of us. She said she didn't want to see me this week since I was a insensitive jerk, though I know I was just the opposite. I ought to shut my mouth more like the rest of the Japanese, instead of putting my foot in it.

June 18th, 1998 Thursday

I'm becoming less and less crazy about my project, though luckily I'm getting work done on the report. The report should work out fine and dandy.

June 19th, 1998 Friday

The World Cup is probably the most talked about event at the dorm. Or at least the most heard about around 4:00am in the morning. Since most of the countries of the people at the International House correspond to a team in the championship, everyone is finding a reason to tune into the game. I don't get bugged with Brazilians screaming at the top of their lungs in the middle of the night, though Stanley looks like he could use some sleep.

This night, we were drinking in Bartek's room, who came up with dinner (pancakes with various fillings) and caught a broadcast of an English movie on TV. Well, we all did go to bed early, since everyone else was doing their partying all week. (lie) Hitomi and I talked as usual, which was for about two hours.

June 20th, 1998 Saturday

I taught English in the morning, and met Hitomi in the afternoon. In the neighboring park where I met her, there were gathered the strangest bunch of uglies ever to crawl out of the cracks. There was a purple sports car with the front raised up about two feet, inside very deeply suntanned girls in platform high-heels (two inch soles in the front, raised six inches in the back), with light pink lipstick, bleached and henna-ed hair, tight skirts, thick make-up, and push-up bras.

Lately people have been watching the World Cup. For better or worse, I've been trying to learn just what soccer is.

Although I don't want any part in endorsing what basically is patriotic insanity, since everyone else was getting together for drinking, I had to watch the World Cup. Hitomi finally came along to one of the gaijin get-togethers, though there were a group of Japanese girls and guys from the University. Where they come from, who they were, I don't know -- somehow about fourteen people were packed in a room about 8' by 14'.

June 21st, 1998 Sunday

Hitomi left in the night, so I slept in and played frisbee in the afternoon. There was talk about going to Sapporo for playing in a small "friendly" tournament. It better be friendly, we're terrible players. The weather is also playing tricks on us. If you don't pay much attention, it could be cold, hot, rainy, or windy -- and not preparing means a lot suffering.

June 22nd, 1998 Monday

Talk with the boss... Alvin kept me late, and I was worried. Apparently it has happened a few times -- some customers have been complaining about me. Well, coming from him it sounded like I got angry at someone or whatever -- even though I have always been pleasant and kind. As it turned out, I have been a little silly a few times, and once I bothered a girl who was having a hard time understanding. I promised higher professionalism in the future.

I know I put a lot of effort in my teaching, and Alvin knows that too. I had never realized how easily, as Alvin puts it "sheep," which run away when you say "boo." Work is about customers first, not service. I was fairly upset, he also said that another employee said I should be fired.

June 23rd, 1998 Tuesday

I meet with Hitomi again. What's our uncertain future?

June 24th, 1998 Wednesday

The professor came by and sat down, and said "boo", I almost ran away. He said he wanted me to be prepared, and acted like he didn't trust me. I will be prepared, I will be giving a presentation in Japanese. Haha.

Usually on Wednesdays, most of the foreign students are having lunch in the cafeteria. It is very loud and busy around 12:30, so I can't hear the other end of the conversation at a single table. Mostly dirty jokes and funny stories are shared. It seems like more than a few people are going through serious girlfriend withdraw.

June 27th, 1998 Saturday

Hitomi has her time of the month, I want to scream.

Actually, she's pleasant even still, what a remarkable girl!

June 28th, 1998 Sunday

Rains like hell. Frisbee canceled since the field was a puddle.

June 30th, 1998 Tuesday

It was payday at Berlitz, although happy to see some more money, other than being shorted lessons (I only taught 36 in four weeks, while I wanted at least 10 a week), I was shorted 10,000yen. Running out the door from the center on a "charter lesson" to NTT, I signed a form saying it was all there. Hah, not quite.

Considering everyone counts money two or three times, whenever the amount is over 1,000yen, I found it unbelievable that they wouldn't be careful about it.

July 1998

July 1st, 1998 Monday

I did get my money back. Somehow, going to Berlitz in the middle of my day gave credit to my story.

I've been busy with my project. I have the results, the code, the report written in English. My last goal is of course putting it all into Japanese and presenting it in Japanese. I'm a bit uneasy about the presentation. With only seven minutes to present about one years worth of work, I'll have to cut, edit, slice and dice.

The presentation was pushed back a few days, so there is less sweat and tears now.

July 2th, 1998 Thursday

I wrote Alsia a letter for her birthday, though it turned out to be completely depressing. I kind of went crazy with it, I don't know if I'll mail it -- does she care? Happy Birthday Alsia.

July 3th, 1998 Friday

I saw Hitomi, she's working Saturday, I'm sorry she can't come to the 4th of July party.

July 4th, 1998 Saturday

It's the Fourth of July. It's time to act like Americans and do the requisite things: Drinking beer, playing with explosives, oogling girls, watching sports, and eating charred slabs of meat over a grill.

Actually, most of those things did not happen this night, Shawn bought a ton of meat and fried some burgers, I brought a pretty nice salad, there was a ton of beer, etc. It was pretty much just another party. Oh, of course fireworks off the roof, which caused the guard to come up and yell at us. People with any sense went down and we continued the party elsewhere.

July 5th, 1998 Sunday

Temples and things. Hitomi came by and we went to two temples (actually a shrine and a temple), which she hasn't seen yet, though of course I've been to more than few times. It was a remarkably beautiful day, and what better way to spend it with a beautiful girl?

It was refreshing to be outside and sober, and soba noodles cooked just right for lunch finished it off. Hitomi has been pushing too hard with work, and her part-time job. Yeah, and I'm working hard so when it comes to seeing her on the weekend it'd be nice to spend it doing things together. I get depressed about only a few more months together -- many days, but few weekends.

After frisbee in the burning sun, well, Hitomi went home and I had some watermelon with a few of the dorm folk. Lately, the plans for going to Sapporo were being solidified.

Bartek, Anton, and I had gyoza served by our favorite greasy pan place. Maruzen(?) serves the best fried gyoza, made by a grumpy bald dude who seems to cook them all in the same unwashed black set of iron pans. We took them back to the dorm, munching out on the roof outside Bartek's room.

Shawn and Florian came back and we set off a bunch of fireworks outside. Setting off fireworks reminds me of La Push and my time with Jeremy on the beach. The lowly gravel roads around the dorm don't compare.

July 7th, 1998 Tuesday

There are two main electronics stores in Sendai, Yodobashi Camera and Sakura-ya, each of them pretty much selling things at the same price, and offer comparable service, etc. However, Yodobashi is the only place with a sizable anime LD & CD collection. I like to go there and drool at all the toys that won't ever be available in the 'states... I found out recently you can order any music CD or anime LD or whatever -- and get 10% off, so I'm both happy and worried I'll spend all my money.

Well, I picked up a couple CDs, and left the store... On the way back, along Aoba street (the one with all the big trees along the sides), I stopped on my bicycle at the intersection. Some stupid jerk pulls out of 77-Bank (the largest in Sendai), hits his horn, drives next to me, and starts yelling in Japanese. I usually give these sorts of people the finger and a couple of curses in Japanese and they leave me alone. No, he had the nerve to respond and tell me to get the fuck off the road you stupid bicyclist, and I decided he's looking for a fight, so I shut up pretty quick. He was pretty threatening, I pulled up further into the intersection to get away, but he honked and pulled right up again.

Male instinct said to get him pissed and kick his ass, how dare this prick threaten me with his car and self-righteous attitude. He might have been a short, stupid-looking goon, but may have also been some sort of Yakuza. He was in the left lane, and had to turn, so I decided to wait. Something told me if I only waited a minute for the light, if I put up with this angry asshole until then, I'd live longer.

On the way to the International Center I went muttering, thinking of better curses and rude remarks in Japanese to use next time I had the chance.

July 8th, 1998 Wednesday

It was raining cats and dogs and also cows and sheep, which it does during the rainy season in Sendai. Soaked and bitter, I went home to change into dry clothes for work (slacks, shirt, and tie), grabbed an umbrella and went on my way. The rain stopped, having finally taken an umbrella, so I took it down and let it hang from my handlebars.

Shortly thereafter, I was on the road wet and cursing, with an umbrella stuck in my wheel and several spokes wrenched out. After work, I talked to Hitomi at MosBurger (dinner, yum.) She must think I'm some uncoordinated doofus, dangerous to myself and others, some sort of accident magnet, and prone to breaking valuables. I try to explain only recently have I been this stupid, but will she believe it?

Translation of the material in my report continues -- I'd try explaining computer terminology and data structures and design ideas in Japanese and she stares patiently. How frustrating! She did catch on, and so the report is finished.

July 10th, 1998 Friday

I turned in a paper about my project. This was supposedly some sort of abstract, so I turned in one titled "A Segmentation Method for Japanese Address Recognition", as well as I showed my report to my tutor.

Went out, all-you-can (or shouldn't) drink and eat at a Brazilian restaurant at the top of a building. Hitomi and I were alone, how romantic especially with the band playing the Macarena with drunk businessmen on stage. Jogged around in my sandals while Hitomi tried to keep up with me on her bicycle.

July 11th, 1998 Saturday

Back at home, slightly out of it from the previous night, I got a somewhat angry call from Aoki, which meant I had to go back to the lab. As I popped in around 3pm, he explained that my abstract wasn't very good at all. And then I worked on it until very late.

I was fairly frustrated, though what else can you do but listen to your tutor? He did help a bit, and I guess I did understand eventually what an abstract meant -- not 250 words but basically a full report which fits on a page.

July 12th, 1998 Sunday

OHPs are "overhead projector" sheets, which the Japanese create to base their presentations on. I came in early to make about seven of these, of course just to have Aoki say they weren't very good at all, and then again I worked until very late.

July 13th, 1998 Monday

More work on my presentation. Aoki tried to convince me to do my presentation in Japanese, and having had my project presentation, my report edited, having worked long and hard for about a month, I decided not to. I was up until 1:00am, and we called it a day.

July 14th, 1998 Tuesday

Lab presentation. Which I wasn't nervous about, and although people didn't understand it completely since it was in English, I had the beautiful OHPs and abstract for people to look at.

Professor Nemoto gave me help with the content, Aoki and I worked on it after the other students gave presentations. I didn't follow much of what other people were presenting, mainly they were talking about network management using a lot of math proofs, one student Nitou talked about network hacking and security which was the most interesting of the group. I was giving presentations with other graduate students, so I felt pretty special.

July 15th, 1998 Wednesday

More preparation for my presentation on Friday.

July 16th, 1998 Thursday

Wish me luck, my presentation tomorrow.

July 17th, 1998 Friday

I woke up before noon, did errands, got packed, checked everything and everywhere twice, but didn't clean my room, walked to work, noticed I wasn't dressed up right, ate quickly, looked for food for dinner on the ferry, and met Aoki before my presentation.

The presentations were good, many professors came and went depending on the student at the time. We had only ten minutes each, but many went over that limit. The Korean students, even the ones not so good in Japanese, gave presentations in Japanese -- and answered questions in Japanese. I was glad to hear about other people's projects, but then again, what do you really understand, and how do you understand the importance of work done in other fields?

I received much praise, even though I screwed up a few words here and there, not because I was nervous necessarily but because I worried about the time limit. People understood it, even people like Ms. Chiba (an assistant for professors who run the JYE program), and people in the fields of chemistry, etc.

Lessee if I remember. Mattias and David gave talks about image reconstruction methods. Jessica talked about simulations on humans using flashing colors at various frequencies and measuring physical effects -- as sort of a research to find out just how the anime Pokemon affected children with seizures last year.

The other students work I didn't follow too well. Material science, biology, and chemistry research was presented.

Afterwards, we gathered our bags, got on the bus, and traveled to downtown, to get on another bus. It was quite the weekend to travel, because of the holiday on Monday ("Sea Day") and the summer season, people were cramming on the buses. Some people didn't make it on the bus to the ferry, but it was nobody I knew. The ferry was quite full too. On the ferry, the "2nd class" people sleep in group rooms, on the floor. Groups of people were here and there, drinking, being loud, etc. Us gaijin played cards, had a beer, talked, gambled, etc.

July 18th, 1998 Saturday

Out of the ferry, on the bus, and finally in the city of Sapporo, we met Dan, who arranged the trip with Florian, our frisbee group leader. Sapporo is quite lovely, with green hills all around, green in the city, and a cool breeze with dry heat.

We finally had a chance to toss the disc around, this time on green grass not weedy dirt, and met the teams from around the area. There was: "Shichifukujin" (seven lucky gods), "Bears" from some senmon college (two year specialty school), "Hokudai" from Hokkaido University, and "Kurohashi" (black chopsticks) from Tohokudaigaku Kokusaidkouryuukaikan (the International House of Tohoku University). The four teams mixed up, we played intense games where we mixed members from all teams.

The others were quite good, some people with many years of experience. The "Seven Lucky Gods" were half gaijin, with some of them around their 30s or 40s, most of them with around five or ten years worth of Ultimate Frisbee experience. Many of our players expectations lowered, these people were incredibly good! Mike from New York, one of the older frisbee players, let David and I stay at his place during the weekend. Jeremy, another gaijin from Australia, let Mattias stay at his place. Mike's an odd guy with an odd accent, he does some sort of editing business, and has been living in Sapporo for five years as manager of the apartment building he's living in.

He's a funny guy, worth visiting if I go back to Sapporo.

We decided to go out for dinner, and had Thai food (sort of my choice), but there wasn't very much food. The place was sort of like a hastily constructed shack, with a ribbed metal roof, sprayed with a layer of insulation probably as an afterthought. It got me thinking how nice I'd be once I can come back to the 'states and eat a lot of Thai food.

Then, beer at the "Gaijin Bar". The cute Japanese girl (who sort of reminded me of Hitomi without brains), had pretty good English. She explained the bar was crowded since there was a wedding reception, some guy just married a Japanese girl, though he hadn't much money and lamely said "someday, I'll take her around the world."

July 19th, 1998 Sunday

The day of the tournament. David and I awoke early, crawled out of futon, into the shower, on the subway and by car to the field. "Duke", Japanese guy who's real name I forgot, took us in his Jeep or Sports wagon or something, saying his wife let him use the car.

Well, it was a hell of a tournament. The first game, we lost 18 to nothing, sort of humbling, though they were supposedly the best team there. And then we lost the next game, though we probably had a bit of a chance. Then the last game too, but these WERE the "Seven Lucky Gods."

As for the games, having only a few months experience, and no tournament experience yet, the results weren't surprising. We scored, and had a good time.

Afterwards, there was time for more playing. This was, of course, when I played the best and scored a few goals. It is quite a feeling to chase after something flying through the air, catch up to it, see your opponents leap after it, and have it in your hands in the end.

My legs were quite sore, but luckily we got to go to the onsen, for 4000yen, an hour of bathing, and two hours of all-you-can drink. Yes, the onsen was quite remarkable -- one of the outside baths was green, because various plant oils and extracts were added to make it healthy and supposedly help cure ailments.

I went into it, enjoyed the fragrance, and shortly got out -- as I started feeling irritation below, what ended up feeling like "spicy testicles." It was terrible, the itching and burning -- other people were complaining, I wonder why any customers would try that bath twice. I luckily found relief with a wash and a dip in the cold bath.

From the cold bath, I went into the sauna and met Florian, our coach, or at least he's the organizer and founder of the team. He complimented me specifically on my playing during the mixed- team play, and said I played "very good." I sort of though I did a lot better, mostly because I wasn't under any stress and felt confident with a lot of the best players around me.

On the second floor, players from all teams gathered and started eating and drinking. Part way through, of course there was a sort of re-cap of the day, feedback from the team leaders about each game, and prizes awarded to various people. Emi (the Japanese girlfriend of Florian) got the Most Valuable Player award.

During the award ceremony, a frisbee was passed around and filled with beer. In the game of Ultimate Frisbee, people holding the frisbee must throw it to another player within ten seconds, likewise, people had empty the frisbee of beer within that time.

The party ended quickly afterwards, as the manager decided we were drinking too much (there were a lot of gaijin), and said no more. Kind of a lie to call it "all you can drink" for two hours, charge a lot, and shut it down on short notice. People were insufficiently satisfied at that party, and it was on to bar number two. This place also served plenty of food, and drinks were fairly cheap. It had more of the friendly atmosphere of employees being friendly with customers, and customers being friendly with each other. Adding to this was the musician doing old-western melodies on the Koto, and a rock (cover) band playing good guitar.

Goodbyes, once again, as things wound down, a smaller group of us moved to the nearby park. The park is a strip of smaller green areas, quite a few of them covered by beer gardens, play-grounds, and fountains.

At one of the beer gardens, about four or five people were throwing the frisbee in the dark, across the street, etc. Sang Bae (Korean lunatic, our coach), and I peed beside the stage, as a guard wandered by. Sang Bae must of had a short talk, my favorite, explaining as badly as we can in Japanese we don't understand Japanese.

I headed home with drunk Mike. He pointed out the people with expensive cars cruising around. Supposedly it is quite easy to pick up girls with those. It happens all the time...

Mike has a lot of stories to tell about Japan. One was about a Japanese lady he was dating, who he invited over to his place for dinner. After a very good meal, he said, she simply asked him "suru?". Which means, "do?", and even though Americans do often leave the subject and object in conversation, the Japanese are even worse about it, and often I wonder if Hitomi is talking about me or herself.

After scratching his head, Mike did figure it out. I'll leave it up to the reader to figure it out too.

July 20th, 1998 Monday

David and I got up at 10:00am, went to the park near Mike's place, said goodbye to Mike (who was hung-over and ready to crawl back into bed), and Peter (smart-ass, even in the morning), and met the rest of our group at the University. Hokkaido University has a beautiful campus, which looked to be mostly greenery, trees, and grassy areas, unlike Tohoku U, which is mostly pavement and ugly concrete buildings.

Though, instead of a walk on campus, our group headed back down to downtown and the park from the previous night. Most of us were too tired, and frankly not interested, to try and see everything in Sapporo before four o'clock before the bus.

It was beautiful, even though hot, the air wasn't wet and the wind was pleasantly cool. Sapporo has much better weather (except I suppose for the winter months), there is much more green area (parks, untouched mountains, trees on the streets), less "Joes", though enough public transportation, buses, etc., so people don't need cars. Rent is cheaper. The number one city in Japan for living looks like Sapporo.

The ride to the ferry was okay, though I was next to Robert and his stinky feet.

Jessica's birthday was that day, unfortunately a party is hard to hold on a ferry, so there was no ice cream, only cake. I went to bed early...

July 21th, 1998 Tuesday

We got back before lunch, so I went back to the lab. It was not so fun to get back to Sendai, not so soon!

July 22th, 1998 Wednesday

I ended up failing the test (well, I answered about half the questions right), for my listening class. I felt sick that morning, so I'm not terribly bothered by it. In any case, my grades won't be transferring anyway, so I figure passing is all I need.

I saw Hitomi after work. She's quite pretty in a bit of make-up, some pretty clothes, and her hair tidied-up, it's too bad she won't let me even kiss her in public, though I snatch a few kisses anyway if no one is around. We had okonomiyaki, sort of like a veggie pancake with meat and veggies inside, and mayonnaise and barbecue sauce on the top.

Hitomi and I talked a little bit about "the future," and although she's looking into it a bit more, I'm pretty sure she said it would be quite a while before she'd be working or staying in a foreign country. Crap.

July 24th, 1998 Friday

Farewell party.

Mainly, it was a farewell party for Jessica, who's going home early to see her boyfriend. Jessica is a sweet Swedish girl who's not so beautiful but makes it up in attitude. I probably didn't write too much about her, and her boyfriend Antoine, however I don't know too much about their relationship other than they're in love.

So, we had tacos, though without cheese and beans. Many Japanese people I haven't seen in months showed up, live Steve who had his motorbike stolen before Christmas, and friends of Antoine...

Hitomi came as well, I admit I did tease her too much. I took her picture a few times, which made her angry. I don't yet have a good picture of her, in the meantime let me write what I think about her appearance:

The first thing I notice about Japanese girls, or I suppose girls in general, is their face and hips. And of course the balance of breasts and shoulders. Yes, Hitomi is small (150 centimeters, or about 5 feet), though her figure is quite lovely and well-proportioned. Her cheeks dimple when she smiles, she has beautiful teeth, large dark eyes, and a crown of thick short hair around cute ears and down to her eyes. Her neck is small, almost a manga-style size, there is a softness of her skin, she's thin but not skinny. She has a nice figure, though her shortness diminishes it. Hitomi is extremely huggable, I love to sit and stroke her hair with her sitting by my side.

Well, back to the party: I said goodbye to a lot of people, which is reminding me quite often about my eventual farewell I must give to my girlfriend.

July 25th, 1998 Saturday

So I see Hitomi again, and the rain pours like misery.

July 26th, 1998 Sunday

Muddy frisbee game.

This was probably one of our last games, and we played in mud, puddles, and the rain. I spent most of the time facing off with Jason -- someone who practices boxing more than he's at school -- so I found him a bit pushy. But things went well, with a score of 10 to 9, our loss.

The rainy season doesn't want to stop. Every day, it's been raining, cloudy, and if we're lucky the sun comes out and boils the earth, and we get cooked like crabs in the pot.

July 27th, 1998 Monday

Jessica is gone, but the rest of us foreign students went to Yamagata prefecture, and the other side of Japan.

In typical Japanese tourist fashion, we climbed on a bus with a tour girl in uniform (cute, everyone agreed), listen to her, until the bus stopped, and we saw something new. We visited a place that sold soft ice cream not the kind you get out of a pump, but out of normal ice creamery barrels; they had very interesting flavors: Sesame, green tea, tomato, rice, etc.

We had lunch at a place that served "wild plant" cuisine, so it was vegetarian and looked like weeds. Actually, it tasted quite good, however it wasn't very filling. There were a lot of things with wild mushrooms, sesame, vinegar, etc.

Near the Japan sea are some NEC factories, we were invited inside a conference room and introduced to the business aspect of NEC, so no one was very interested. But, they had agreed to take us into the inside of a wafer processing plant. We, and everyone in the plant, were dressed in clean plastic suits, the light was a bright sodium yellow, the air was dry and metallic.

Most of the workers were female, though it wasn't easy to tell with their uniforms. I'm guessing it isn't too much of an exciting job, checking chips, operating machines, and so on. The factory is pretty much like any factory, people do the same work day in and day out, and there isn't much hope of job advancement for the average worker drone.

Chips are made like pizza. The wafter is cut from a single crystal of silicon, polished, etc. Then, coated with photo sensitive chemicals, and an image of a layer is burned on the surface. More coatings, more cooking is done. Then, they are cut from the wafer into chips with a die cutter, tested, packaged in boxes and delivered to customers.

The tour bus took us to the hotel. As usual, the Japanese put us in rooms with people from the same country. My roommates, Stanley, Shawn, David, and I had a talk before dinner about everything. Dinner was ryokan-style, there was about 30 to 40 different foods. There were about fifteen dishes on the main table, and about ten on the auxiliary table, and they brought by another five or so dishes later on. The Japanese must like washing dishes.

We had karaoke after dinner, and no one wanted to sing. There were only about twenty different American songs, half of them I didn't know how to sing. One of the workers in the International Center who was with us sang some terrible songs, so eventually we had to put an end by singing our terrible songs.

I gave up, and finished the whiskey. Near the end things got out of hand, David sang a song to Sang Bae. Either because we don't have many girls in our group, or that they've been away so long from their girls, we have kind of a homosexual tease game going on. Like, we say how much we want Sang Bae's body, or Robert pretends he's carrying Sang Bae's child, or we complain about how much our ass hurts in the morning, etc.

So, Shawn sang a song to David like a gay guy, and David went a little further, perhaps overboard, singing "Hey Jude" as "Hey Shawn," and how much he wants to feel him between his cheeks, etc. I wonder how well the Japanese took this.

July 28th, 1998 Tuesday

We got on the bus, got off, got on, etc. It was a roasting 33 degrees Celsius. I still cannot think in metric, however that puts it around 90 degrees I'd imagine. The Japanese try to cram in ten different activities in on day, a successful vacation is one where every tourist spot on the way has been seen, and every gift store has been visited. I'd rather just do one or two planned things, and have a lot of time to just enjoy those.

Well, we got back around five and took a bus from Katahira campus. We were standing up with luggage, as usual no free seats. At a stop just beyond the University Hospital, a guy makes change to pay the bus fare from a 1000 yen bill. There is some arguing going on, the bus driver kept cool.

Suddenly, the guy gets off the bus, starts yelling at the driver, the driver had the kid's money, since he paid too much. He looked about twenty but with a grimace of anger of a temper-tantrum eight year-old, if he didn't act so immature perhaps the bus driver would have been worried. The kid throws his umbrella at the driver, a piece of paper (probably the boarding ticket), and yells obscenities in Japanese.

The driver is amazingly cool about it. He walks out of the bus, and I think he's gonna kick the shit out of the guy, but instead sets the umbrella down by the bus. We get a short explanation by the driver and he drives off.

Anton was leaving for Mongolia the next day on a trip with some biological study group, invited by a professor I suppose. The trip was for three weeks, and so the people who were leaving in that time came and said goodbye.

July 29th, 1998 Wednesday

I had a test in the morning, and failed it. Or so nearly I did, I felt sick and the Japanese part of me wasn't cooperating. I couldn't even write hiragana.

The test was like this: Our teacher had a tape recorder in front of the classroom, a copy of a copy of a tape, and the vocabulary of the tape were words I hadn't studied yet. Also, we were asked to transcribe certain parts of the tape, as well as fill in numbers on a chart.

July 30th, 1998 Thursday

I found out my going away party was scheduled today, and I had to work in the evening. I called Berlitz about five times, trying to change my schedule. Groovy. Apparently, I said I was going to go out this evening, two weeks ago, and I of course forgot. Mainly because I had no idea what kind of party they were planning.

Of course, in addition to missing my party, I had to cancel going to the "Summer Seminar" (aka Drink Fest '98), since I had work on Monday too. Though, other than looking hopelessly foolish in front of everyone, I didn't really want to go out with my lab and get smashed twice in four days.

Hitomi always says I don't have a good relationship with people in my laboratory. I admit, I haven't made any good friends here, because I really aren't working or haven't worked as hard, I'm not as dedicated, involved, interested, etc. Even though I am friendly, they are even more, but I still haven't built up a decent friendship with anyone.

Well, after this, I quietly went back to my desk, got my things, and went to work.

July 31st, 1998 Friday

The weather has been bad, though at least today it didn't rain. I spent the day running errands, and bought a pocket computer for looking up kanji. I also went shopping, bought food for dinner, including real french bread, dessert, etc.

I also got a hair cut. She likes it short because it makes me look like a cute highschool guy, so of course I got it cut fairly short.

Hitomi and I ate. I had also purchased fireworks, so we went down to the river and set them off. She was somewhat disappointed, I found out, that I didn't buy her favorites. I pretty much went for the things that are the display kind, but she wanted "hand" fireworks: Sparklers, pop guns, etc. Just how old is she? So, I kind of got annonyed when she said it wasn't very fun, and how come I didn't get many "hand" fireworks. I of course told her, I didn't play with "wan-chan" (her favorite -- a paper "doggie" on a straw you light and sparks go out...) and "sparklers" (how rude of me not to get excited)...

Well, I told her next time I'll get her those. I politely ended the conversation, shut up, and kissed her.


People I'd like to write about

  • Me - Elias Ross - I'm back in the dorm, since April. Back on track, another five months or so of Japan. Can I make it back to America?

  • Hitomi - I've pretty much decided to abandon all other girls in favor of her. If things work out, I won't need another conversation partner.

  • Tiffany - Black American girl. Paula - Dutch, new JYE girl. More people I get to know, more to follow!


April Topic


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