Japan Diary Page

August 1998

August 1st, 1998 Saturday

I worked, and then we were supposed to meet. She left, since I was ten minutes late. I couldn't get a hold of her, since her Cell Phone was fucked up and she wasn't home. After an hour, I stormed back home, called her again, she eventually called me back and we met. Cell phones are fairly cheap to buy, and cheap to use, since people who call them get charged, not the owner. So, it costs about 50 yen a minute to talk to her from a pay phone, and when the connection starts going bad, my money is wasting away.

We settled on watching a video. I thought it'd be funny to rent a porn video, since I never have, and I always joke about her being some closet pervert, but she won't admit it. The regular movie was interesting, but I thought it would be even more interesting to see her reaction to an X-rated tape.

Anyway, I had her help me pick it out. It was either the Cos-Play one or the cute girl. Yeah, she was a cute girl, but it said things like: Lost virginity, age 16; number of sex partners, 15. They had some stupid interviews to fill time. And of course the usual content. Hitomi said, if they had something than, her getting screwed by another musculey creep, it might have been more interesting.

August 2nd, 1998 Sunday

The weather was lousy, though about eight of us got together to play frisbee beside the river. We played games in the mud, which was okay, except the dirt often got in your face. I prepared a salad, and the other guys prepared meat for our barbecue. As it turned out, there were about twenty or so people, many of them friend's of friends, which I was pleasantly surprise to see. We It was the usual mess of getting a fire going to cook, and it was well after dark, under the bridge, before things got going.

There is nothing comparable to the juicy taste of flame-broiled meat, and nothing goes quite as well with it as a cold beer. After stuffing ourselves with burgers, a few musicians, who brought along their guitars and singing voices shared some good tunes.

Among this party, was a girl, part of this family living in Sendai, and no doubt could speak both English and Japanese. She also seemed quite ambitious about learning everything, including German, because she admires Asuka from Evangelion.

August 4th, 1998 Tuesday

All of the JYE people (minus two who had left early to continue their romance) participated in the graduate ceremony, or I suppose what should be called the completion program, of our program. It was just like opening ceremonies, the same staff, the same food, the same goofy speeches we've come to expect from our peers.

Everyone got hugs and stuff, and maybe there was a tear shed in the group. Jason wrote an eight sentence report about what he did all year, which was basically "I spent my time boxing, and really didn't do much since I went the wrong University for my research." Sang Bae looked distraught over his presentation, his TA is apparently a demanding perfectionist. Robert was sleeping while awake. Shawn was buzzed from drinking eight hours with his lab, and spent the previous two hours sleeping in his lab room. Some in his group were mooning and flashing the camera, others were passed out.

Paula had her hands near or on her boyfriend the whole time. I wondered what Mattias was thinking about, because he always looks like he has something on his mind. Sung Min got up too early. David, somehow mature but immature, was passive. The other Koreans, who knows?

Stanley and I went to the lab.

August 5th, 1998 Wednesday

Tanabata, which technically should be in July not August, but is held in August for commercial reasons, means two things: Fireworks and things that look like giant wind-socks. The "things that look like giant wind-socks" goes on a bit, and I'll talk about that tomorrow.

The fireworks meant serious crowds. The festivals around this time of the year attract people from all over Japan. Some people spent a few weeks traveling so they can visit the summer festivals in Tohoku. Apparently, Tanabata is the most boring, which sort of fits with Sendai perfectly. Also, the "wind-socks" are ugly, which fits in with the kinds of girls you see in Sendai. (There are exceptions, such as my girlfriend, of course.)

The fireworks I was forced to miss, because of work. I could see them outside my window from Berlitz, about half of the display blocked by Ichi-Yon-Ichi (a department store). I was supposed to be doing a lesson, not watching outside.

I got to see people leaving, it was like someone stepped on an ant farm, people were scurrying around carrying bits of food, and in queues going to all directions. There's nothing like having a bicycle to get around town in, though of course the festivities bring out the worst in drivers.

At the dorm, more people were preparing to leave. I bought gifts for people, just inexpensive items I got at Animate. Maybe it wasn't done, but I suppose I was the only one to get gifts for anybody.

August 6th, 1998 Thursday

At the lab, a few people were looking into foreign student programs at Universities in America. Nitou had the desperate look. He asked me about home stays, I of course explained they are hard to get and maybe expensive. He lamented that most of the programs wouldn't teach him English if he wasn't in an all English environment.

Tanabata was a bit of disappointment. During the three days of Tanabata paper wind-socks are hung, and people admire them and spend money. Different companies and organizations make them and put them around Ichibancho (the main street of Sendai). To me, they look like decoration you'd see around a used-car dealership. Or, decorations seen outside of pachinko parlors. Hitomi and I took a look. She said, "I told you it was boring!", and we had dinner. She asked me, why do people want to study in America? "People want to study English, right?" Hmm.

August 8th, 1998 Saturday

Lame meeting with Hitomi. Gosh darn it.

Hitomi has been going on trips, doing her Tour Guide job, which sounds like "fun" -- though I don't know what she likes about taking a bus to Tokyo Disneyland and waiting in the parking lot. She says she sneaks out and does things during the day.

Well, so what was so lame about meeting her? I wanted to see her, of course I wanted to have so fun this day. Though, she wanted to go home, and I wasn't about to suggest much, since I didn't feel like drinking or karaoke.

August 12th, 1998 Wednesday

Wednesday more than made up for Saturday. I knew the right thing to do was plan a day, rather than ask the question "what should we do?" to someone who didn't want to plan... I prepared dinner, we went out to the river, and had fireworks of course.

Yeah, we even did the "kiddy fireworks", though I suppose there is something to be said about anything if your girlfriend likes it. The river gives opportunities for romance, but also a good opportunity to feed the mosquitos.

August 14th, 1998 Friday

Getting up at 4:00am or so to bike to the station wasn't easy. The station is sure full of a lot of clowns around 5:00. There was a guy with a towel wrapped around his head like the Sheik of Baghdad, wearing Adidas black pants halfway pulled down, showing off his drawers, and preying on some girls. He was kind of the gansta-wannabe, though the girls looked like hookers, so I guess it was fine. Anyway, he tried for the pity approach, "I don't have a job, I don't go to school, etc."

Hitomi eventually arrived. I was worried about falling asleep and getting sexually molested. We got on the train, and I tried to either keep talking or go to sleep, though neither was easy. Hitomi informed me the ugliest girls are found in: Sendai, Nagoya, and Mito. Mito was along the way, so I poked my head out the window, but of course I couldn't decide. "It's common knowledge" she says. Six hours later in Ueno, we arrived. She and I trekked around town looking for the Hotel. For all the jokes about her not knowing North from South, it really is true. I would have navigated myself, but I figured let the Japanese girl who's lived in Japan her whole life tell me where to go. So, about an hour and a half later, we got to the hotel, had lunch, and by the time we got to Comike, it's already over!

The ride over was quite interesting. There is a private rail company that operates its own train service to "Rainbow Island". Rainbow Island is in fact an artificially created island, which if you could see from above, resembles a rectangle that someone cut up with scissors. The whole island is of course flat. There is something very odd about it. There is a copy of the Statue of Liberty stuck in the park like a lawn ornament. Near the water is some sort of artificial beach, though who would swim in Tokyo Bay? The rest of the island is taken up by haphazard construction, some parts are nothing but warehouses, next door to these are huge black-mirrored futuristic office buildings, many patches of ground are empty, and others are littered with construction projects.

There was something pretty amazing about the whole place -- "Big Sight" (no not a spelling mistake) is fucking big. They say that over 100,000 people per day visit the market, which is 300,000 visitors in three days, who come to buy, to sell, to dress up, meet people, etc. I swore I've never seen more people in my entire life in one place, then again, I haven't ever been to a rock concert either. I wouldn't be surprised if it were one of the biggest conventions in Japan, it is supposedly the biggest comic book market in the world. (At least in number of vendors)

About 6,000 different vendors (tables, not people), made up of clubs (or circles as you would say in Japanese), private individuals, and famous artists, come to sell every day. The guidebook is 1,400 pages long. The guidebook entries consist of one image, usually a cover image or character face, sometimes a description of services, goods, or others if they aren't selling comic books. The vendors are organized by genre, each day different vendors come.

The comike is dominated by females, I'd say about 70%. This is not a fact, but I wasn't going to count. There were many high school groups, college groups, and in some cases dads and moms. Some serious folk brought books to read, and didn't seem interested if you wanted to talk to them or not.

The biggest genres are sexually-related. Most of the females were selling of course romance, most of it homosexual romances with characters from their favorite manga, anime, or story. A few of them seemed not at all bothered about sex stories with 13-year old boys. I didn't venture to look, though maybe Tim would have.

The guys had their rorikon (Lolita Complex) sale, of course I bought a few to sneak across the border. They have very questionable taste. Most of them are Doujinshi (same-character stories), which means twelve-year-old Pretty Sammy has sex with fourteen-year-old Sailor Moon. They are just drawings, so don't worry readers! Most of the naughty stuff is pretty damn good, so I bought a lot.

Aside from the standard "yaoi" and "lolicon" , there was a huge variety of content. Parodies, guides, and character goods, such as stationary, folders, posters, were also sold. Original stories, religious works, non-fiction stories, stories about cats, travel guides, historical fiction, etc., were being sold too. Upstairs was a huge room for commercial companies. Remember that comike is mostly non-commercial, that is groups or individuals write and publish their own work. Most of the comic books come as A4 or B5 size, with beautiful covers, excellent binding, and a price tag to match... They cost about 1,000yen for about forty pages, though where else in the world can you buy "homemade" manga.

Famous folk were lined up around the three main rooms. Lines were formed behind them, and though I got a few, mostly it wasn't worth waiting in the herd. The people at front of the line were people standing and reading, and why the hell should I wait twenty minutes for people to buy or not?

Back to Friday -- I got the catalog from some guy, apparently the guides are often used once and tossed out. It wasn't used at all, what a deal, a free 1600yen guide. Also, I got to scare him with my Japanese. Gaijin at comike!? Speaks Japanese?

I was a bit worn out. Since the line back to town was down from the station almost down to the Big Site, I thought we would have a helluva wait. Instead, there was a ferry service in operation, so we got on the boat, being outside was better than getting squished on the way back like sardines.

Somewhat unimaginable, the day wasn't over, and Hitomi and I went to look at the few but somewhat interesting tourist spots in Tokyo. There are none really. I've been at a loss to way anyone would want to live in Tokyo, unless you consider bars and metropolitan shopping a large part of your life.

Back at the ranch, I had to eat, I was almost ready to eat Hitomi, though instead I had yakiniku. The last time was during the ski trip, (see other entry), it was the same grill and raw meat plate. Some lady comes by and lights a natural gas stove under the table. Friday night meant of course rude Businessmen, who are loud and stupid when drunk, and the rest of mindlessly ignore them. I was ready to yell at the idiots, though I knew the right thing as a gaijin was to not press the law.

Oh, the waitress was cute. Someone Hitomi didn't think so, and said I was only interested in one thing, and how disappointed she is, etc. I tried to understand it, but, "ah ferget it."

August 16th, 1998 Saturday

More comike, see above.

After Comic Market, it was the usual get-on-get-off type of evening. I mean, trains and subways. The hotel room was reserved as two twin beds. I dropped off my Doujinshi, and she and I headed for dinner.

I figured we'd end up in some odd, expensive restaurant, and visit some clubs. She doesn't want to dance. Nor was I intending on having her sit and watch me have fun. I did decide on dinner in a hotdog-stand-like bar-restaurant parked on the street, with a cranky Australian who was selling Fish and Chips. I watched many gaijin walk by, and a few stepped in to say hello. I was of course talking Japanese to my girlfriend the whole time, and maybe the gaijin knew I was talking about him.

There is something strange, though, about knowing Japanese better than another gaijin in Japan. It could be compared to the feeling you might get around illiterates, people existing in a society where they are constantly functionally handicapped. Though, I am by no means perfect yet, but I can function a lot better than the average gaijin, and in some ways that is embarrassing.

August 17th, 1998 Sunday

The clock/radio/whatever stand between our beds went off at 7:00am this morning. I was still surprised to see Hitomi sleeping with her Yukata on, while the alarm wailed for about thirty seconds. I thought I'd rather not wake up to breakfast, though often getting my girlfriend up leads to interesting surprises. I slept, she slept.

Akasaka has its own Starbucks coffee house, which I was glad to bring Hitomi to, since Doutor's and Mr. Donuts coffee is terrible. Your average Seattlite would feel right at home, the building design, espresso machines, music, coffee aroma, etc., is a carbon copy of any of the thousand or so shops in the 'states. Additionally, there were a couple of gaijin reading the newspaper with their latte and scones, just to make me feel a little more at home.

Having received our daily recommended allowance of caffeine, we boarded the subway, and popped our heads out around 11:00, into a 35 degree oven and into a crowd of fashion-conscience high school girls. Harajuku is catered to young shoppers, young people, and to the people who like them young. The crowding boarders on insane, there are endless streets of shoppers poring in and out of used clothing stores, sports clothing stores, department stores, jeans stores, jewelry stores, food and drink stands, black people and Israelis peddling cheap silver nick-knacks, used and new CD stores; over the din of normal conversation is heard Beetles and J-Pop, jerks yelling into their PHS and Cell Phones, shop owners chanting "irrashiamase" to no one.

Having quickly experienced the bazaar of the bizarre, Hitomi and I got onto Shibuya, where I snapped a picture of Hatchiko. The heat wasn't making me happy, not especially nice with all the luggage I was carrying, and the suggestion of shopping wasn't provocative -- I wanted to go on to Comike again.

In any case, the districts of Tokyo all look the same to me, mostly everywhere you see ugly concrete buildings and the tight/cramped appearance of anywhere I've been in Japan.

Following Comike, which turned out pretty good the last day, we raced to the train at around 4:00PM. Japanese Rail (JR) schedules and schedule books aren't easy to use, and if not careful, you can get screwed. But we didn't, even if I had to stand for two hours. I also got a few looks, since I was lugging around some anime-stuff.

At around dinner time, we hadn't had dinner, so the usual cranky BS-chit-chat occurred, and made everyone mad. Train stations usually sell some sort of food, but they are always the one the train doesn't stop at. I got teary-eyed about my "horrible" Japanese, which isn't so bad, but hunger is always an emotional time for me. I'm bordering on fluent, just gotta practice more! (Actually, English wasn't ever my strong suit either.)

After getting off the train, and heading for dinner, the terrible feeling of motion sickness combined with a stomach ache from eating "station food" came. Luckily she nor I threw up. I was staggering to the trains once again, and got lost on my way home.

August 18th, 1998 Monday

I slept in a bit. I woke up muttering Japanese to myself, I wonder if I've made some sort of mental transition to the language yet.

I went downtown and looked at portable computers. Fourteen inch screens for laptops can now be bought for the most expensive model. Though, two months ago I was thinking of getting the best model Sony makes (Vaio). Either I'll buy it or decide to wait until I get back.

So, I went to work to say I came back early. I ran into the secretary, busy copying things off for the lessons today. I'm interested in either buying or copying the main (teacher's) textbook, mainly for Hitomi, since I think they are probably the best materials to teach with. Though, I think there are a lot of rules about their materials, since of course they are the foundation of the "Berlitz Method".

Of course, speaking of Hitomi, it seems fairly likely she'll be coming next year, for three months, to live with me. I'll most likely be living at home, though I know it won't be a problem with Mom and Tim. It seems fairly odd, now that I've been away for about ten months, that I'd be inviting my girlfriend who I've known for eight months, and who is 24 years old, to live with my and my family.

In any case, it will work out fine, regardless of the fact that she's as old as my married sister, or that she doesn't even know enough English to function very well. I haven't even asked Mom or Tim about it -- though it is more at the conceptual point, we're both serious about it. I feel fairly certain now that she and I will at least be "going out" for a bit longer...

Which sort of brings me back to Berlitz, where Yuki (the secretary) asked me why I wasn't living with her at her place.

August 18th, 1998 Tuesday

Elias is coming home September 21, 1998! Mark your calendar, prepared to be disappointed from receiving no coming-home gift!

Well, so I am getting a ticket to return in the morning on the 21st. Four more weeks of Japan, and it is getting

August 19th, 1998 Wednesday

Somewhat accidentally, I left my teacher's textbook in my bag after work and walked home with.

Taking the book home or copying it is a no-no, but I planned on copying it anyway. I met Hitomi for dinner, and we went to a restaurant which seems to serve to only 20-year olds. (Restaurants are very age-oriented. There is a restaurant guide I saw recently, and it has age statistics and sex percentages for every restaurant. Also, if it is a "couple's restaurant" or "family restaurant" or "business restaurant.") She told me that all the copy marts are closed in the evening, so we'd have to use a copy machine at a combini.

Well, after finishing the food (too salty), Hitomi went home by the subway. Her bicycle was stolen last weekend. It's lame how many people get bicycles stolen. I always lock mine to something, most people simply lock the wheel to the frame. I'm not sure why they steal them -- they go after the typical "two-wheeled shopping cart" bicycles. Most of the "shopping cart" bicycles are clumsy, heavy, dangerous, inefficient, but amazingly 30,000 yen or more.

August 20th, 1998 Thursday

Day at the lab, the life of Elias.

August 21st, 1998 Friday

Kissing at the train station. Why transportation in Sendai is a bad thing.

August 22nd, 1998 Saturday

August 23rd, 1998 Sunday

My memory is bad, what the heck did I do this weekend?

Today, I met Anton, who just got back from Mongolia the night before. I had a chat and planned on talking to him later. Hitomi suggested I go to the Sendai Comic Market (at "Miyagi MESSA", I have no idea what "MESSA" means, neither does my Japanese dictionary). I grabbed some cash (20,000yen), got on the bus, and waited in line.

Things didn't look so good on the outside. Most everyone was female, but I thought there OUGHT to be something for guys. Actually, about 90% of them were girls, high school or college girls. The clubs and sellers were probably 95% female as well. So, it was the "gaijin" and 5,000 giggly comic fanatics selling shojo romance, yaoi (male gay romance/porn), and cute humor stories about Pokemon and "Let's Go!" Quite a few of them were dressed up, quite a few cute girls in pretty revealing outfits. There was a guy dressed up like a popular Japanese singer who wears shiny pink and a girly face. I didn't see any guys buy anything, and I went home empty handed. (Should have brought a camera!)

Anton and I had dinner together. I got some of the "shouchuu" out (hard liquor made from potatoes and rice), and must have been a little sloshed, since I talked almost nonstop from about 7:00pm to midnight. But, that's good, I slept well, got up and went to work the next day.

August 26th, 1998 Wednesday

Okonomiyaki means "what you like fried" -- it is basically a pizza with meat, veggies, cheese or whatever cooked on a grill. There is a restaurant that serves this dish "Osaka style" in Sendai. The table is part grill, where people bring food out and cook in front of you. Okonomiyaki is usually seasoned with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce.

It's funny some of the reactions people have; a "giant gaijin" and a small Japanese girl going out to dinner. People usually just talk to Hitomi, but I get my word in. Usually a surprise look or reaction follows when the come face to face with someone who can speak Japanese.

August 27th, 1998 Thursday

Tempura and visiting the remaining Dutch.

Since Anton and Paula are moving out in a week and they had cleaned their rooms, they decided to fry tempura in my room. Not a bad thing, really, I do love tempura. We were three people, which means one person short for any interesting card games. I put in some anime and we had fun watching, though probably some of the jokes were lost on them.

They went back early, and we had a short night.

August 30th, 1998 Saturday

Hitomi finally had the nerve to spend the night. It was fun sneaking her into the men's showers.

August 30th, 1998 Sunday

Mega Para. The quest for the holy beer.

August 31st, 1998 Monday

Ouch.

September 1998

September 1st, 1998 Tuesday

I was delighted, however somewhat surprised, to get a call from Hitomi when I was working in the lab. It was "movie day" at Toei -- 1000 Yen, what a deal! -- for a double feature anime showing. "Slayers Gorgeous" followed by "Nadescio the Movie". The movie theater had Japanese-sized seating so it wasn't a comfortable three-hours. But, I got to laugh and enjoy something that I would like to see popular in American movie theaters, some fun and interesting animation from Japan.

Though, admittedly it captured mostly the male university student crowd than anyone in the mainstream. It was unusually quiet for a university audience. I laughed, and didn't hear anyone else. Maybe it is rude to laugh out loud or something.

The movies themselves, I wouldn't recommend unless you understand Japanese. Slayers was funny. Nadescio is a anime-fied Star Trek, though much more technologically rich. It was about an attack by some Buddhist-cult guys. They spent some of the story, just the last Star Trek, getting the crew back together. There was considerable story involving the past of the crew which I couldn't follow -- rats, gotta rent the video series!

Oh, in other news, I got word from Tim I was rejected from entering the Computer Science Program at the University of Washington. Well, of course I don't know why. I'm not sure what to do. Enter a different department? Study Japanese instead? A CS degree isn't exactly a big deal to me, but if I'm going to spend two more years studying something, it better be in something I'm interested in.

First lessons with Hitomi.

September 2nd, 1998 Wendesday

Tim's been talking about the Y2k apocalypse, a crash of the world economy due to computers, software, and machines failing to understand the dates of the next millennium. He's going to buy land and set up camp there. There could be a lot of problems, and I'm not really sure what'alls going to happen. I'd certainly like to think nothing that bad will happen.

Tim wrote and said the CS department strongly recommends I consider other departments, such as: EE, Computational Science, Business, or Statistics. Statistics? Business? Should I become a pointy-haired manager?

Lost ten days!

September 12nd, 1998 Saturday

Hitomi was playing with a friend, so I'm not sure what I did instead the whole day. I often thought how she would miss me when I leave.

September 13th, 1998 Sunday

It is somewhat mandatory that people living in Sendai, go to Matsushima, which is one of the "three sights" of Japan. I love seeing nature, I have started loving it more since I've been living in a city in Japan, and its nearly 100% concrete environment. Matsushima had the trees, the water of the ocean, pretty rocks -- but also the Joes, tourist buses, guides with megaphones, toll booths, food stands, junky gift shops, and more Joes, and especially lots of old Joes.

There is a bridge called Wakarebashi, supposedly if you walk across, you'll break up with your girlfriend. I suggested crossing multiple times. There's also a print-club (purikura) machine which prints out photographs with the message (in Japanese): "Couples who cross, it's bad!" Anyway, I look forward to seeing what happens.

On the island, I talked programming with Hitomi. I decided to teach her perl, which is probably the easiest to write in and most powerful language per line. She's interested in web pages, so I thought I'd get her started.

There was a lot of nice stuff, but it was like nature in a disco. I wanted to say shut-up and turn off the damn music. Yes, there was music, on this tourist boat. You pay 1,800yen to ride on a boat for 40 minutes, get blasted with a recorded Japanese tourist speaking extra-annoyingly polite Japanese over the roar of the engines, and petrochemicals mixed with cigarette smoke.

Sailboats and other non-motor craft are probably the only respectable way to sight-see nature on the water. Though, even if you aren't making the noise, it seems like someone else supplies it anyway. I haven't seen those jet-ski things yet, however.

Hitomi can't swim.

Afterwards, there was a temple where lots of tourists go and look at things. It was nice, except again, the tourist groups with flags and megaphones. There was a lot of old things in a museum too.

September 14th, 1998 Monday

I mailed a bunch of packages, the total cost was about 25,000yen. This included a stereo system, VCR, box of doujinshi, and posters. Some of these went off to Alsia and Ian, since I figure I can avoid customs charges by shipping as "gifts." Apparently, there is a limit by post to yourself, which I didn't pass, but might pass when the "gifts" show up at those places. I may end up paying custom fees anyway.

I also have been working on my resume. It's pretty much like the old one, with some small changes here and there. I bet I'll want to work when I get back. I'll have to figure out my school schedule. I still have no idea what my work or studies will be.

September 15th, 1998 Tuesday

I made bus reservations. I figured it would be the cheapest, and easiest, though spending the night on the bus isn't easy for someone my size. Hitomi suggested we go to an anime movie, Stryker (I forgot the spelling, but you say it like that), by the same guy who did Akira. It was either this or join the old fogies at the museum.

Not surprisingly, the animation was excellent, the action excellent, and music and character designs were top notch. The dialogue I had a hard time following, it was written with your harder-than-average Japanese. So, I didn't follow the background plot. Hitomi didn't know who or what Stryker was. The idea was the manufacture of superhumans, designed for killing. Along the way some twisted characters pop up, with various personality disorders. A psychotic grade schooler eventually gets the idea to become god, and the world kind of goes through an apocalypse.

It was the gory, violent, butt kicking action that really pumps the testosterone in us guys. Hitomi didn't like it that much. I look forward to the theatrical release in the US, which I'm sure it will make. Americans identify anime with this sort of specific genre.

September 16th, 1998 Wendesday

I'm becoming increasingly restless and bored, I was hoping I'd get some classes from Berlitz these last few weeks. Surprisingly, I got a lesson at NTT. Out of eight students, two showed up. The other teacher's class of eight or so was all absent. NTT is the one that pays for the classes, not the students, so I suppose attendance is voluntary.

September 17th, 1998 Thursday

I've been putting my room back in order. Hitomi took some stuff. I made her agree to pass off my rice cooker to Peter, I thought it would be good for her to meet some other gaijin. Not only that, she needs to learn English, and I bet he needs to learn some Japanese.

September 18th, 1998 Friday

I've been doing loads of laundry, and have realized most of my stuffs been trashed. Even still, I have a hell of a pile of clothes. I stuffed all I could in my bag -- it was over 35 kilos, or over the maximum limit for one piece -- and 7-11 shipped it.

This was my moving out day. The usual packing and cleaning and throwing everything out. I found an empty closet and stashed away all my stuff I couldn't take with me. Somewhere in closet A314 there's a pair of geta, a futon, and a set of kitchen supplies.

The geta were too small. They're a lot of fun, and I become even taller when I wear them. I hope Peter from the UW, who's picking up my stuff, will find a use for them.

I asked my boss for my paycheck -- of course he said no. I sort of like Alvin, but for some reason he's a bastard to everyone and everyone hates him. Maybe because he didn't fire me when I scared some of the customers. I also asked for my money from the bank, they wouldn't give me my last 248yen since I wasn't carrying my bank book. Ah well, wait for twenty minutes, and they say you're not following the proper procedures, there's nothing like Japanese service.

I sat in the bike shop two waiting for them to say they could deliver it on Monday. The bike shop owners are interesting. A man and his wife run the shop. They are the only ones who sell "real cycles", out of the shops I've seen in Sendai. They often travel to America. Their son was a foreign student in Utah, and I talked to him in English about Mormons. The mother showed me fliers for a "learn English in America" program in Renton. Looked to me like a house in the woods near Lake Youngs, not too far from Dad's old place.

I left, and went to the party. The party was interesting, a lot of the students were there. We sung horrible karaoke, which was okay since I had about four or five gin limes and an uncountable amount of beer. Samantha, now the "head teacher", told me I lack love handles. Well, a lot of things happened but I think they were best forgotten.

Somehow I got my drunk ass on and off the subway. The way to Hitomi's place is fairly indirect. I wonder how I found it, I wonder how Hitomi carried my luggage inside.

September 19th, 1998 Saturday

I woke up with a hangover. And a sore throat. Hitomi couldn't sleep since I was snoring so loud -- she put blankets on me because she though I was cold, but if I'm hot, I snore even louder. I made progress out the house around 1:00PM, I intended to spend every yen of my Sakura Point Card (16,300yen or so), which I got from buying my computer.

Hitomi went to get my jacket from the dry cleaners. I spent about an hour staring at the watches. I decided on a "Spoon", apparently very popular with the Japanese about a year ago. This was before Casio "G-Shock" watches were selling like crazy. The rest of it went to buying an anime game, called Kakyuusei (Under-level students, Freshmen?), the goal is to of course undress and have sex with them. Anyway, should be popular with the guys back home.

There was some other stuff I was thinking of buying. An Evangelion paper model kit for the computer, gives instructions on building a three-foot paper model which looks pretty damn nifty. The Nintendo 64 is around 13,000yen, the Playstation though older sells for 16,000yen, and the Saturn was selling for 19,000yen, though it has bad graphics they make Hentai games for it. My luggage was full, it would be merely asking for trouble to buy even more.

Hitomi and I went back with food from the city market. Kaki is a popular fruit around fall, an orange tomato-shaped fruit which reminds me of mango.

I checked my e-mail, I mentioned last week about wanting a party, people were wondering if I was going to show up. It would be pretty bad to miss my going away party again. I quickly called and canceled plans with Hitomi for dinner. (Sigh) But it's duty, you know.

I had a party with my research lab at a ShabuShabu restaurant. ShabuShabu (sound effect of boiling water) is similar to NabeMono (which means literally "bowl stuff"). It was done all-you-can-eat style, and I ordered oolong-cha instead of beer. Eight people came, unfortunately my tutor wasn't there. It was last-minute perhaps. I had fun, I even got a present from Kamiya. The present was a book, called "Introduction to Otakology", about otaku (see earlier diary entries). The author has a page on the Internet. The book is in Japanese, otherwise I'd recommend it to my diary readers.

Afterwards, I suggested the game center. I was tired and still a little hung over; bowling somehow didn't sound fun. The variety of video games and carnival toys (UFO catchers, prize dispensers), puts American game centers to shame. Yeah, there is Game Works in Seattle, but do they have Beat Mania? Strip Majogg? Collectible Super-Deformed anime toys?

It was goodbye to my lab.

Hitomi and I had another chat about life in Japan. I've been irritating her about things I don't like about Japan, to the point she's thinking I don't like it here. I do. My negativity had been increasing lately, to the point I've been making her think I hate the Japanese, Japan, etc. I never had a reason to complain, really. I figured out I've been bitching about Japan since I don't want her to live there. I guess I never could say it directly.

September 20th, 1998 Sunday

Well, today was my last day in Sendai. Sendai was boring the first month, and after one year, I'm more than ready to leave it. So, instead of sight-seeing, like I did last weekend, I decided to stay at Hitomi's mostly, and kiss and say goodbye.

I was expecting maybe to be a little sad, excited, or happy about going back. Perhaps all my emotions have balanced themselves out, I was feeling disturbingly neutral. Though something is churning in my stomach, my heart won't tell me what. Reality will hit me soon, maybe.

Hitomi again reaffirmed her promise to come next year. She wasn't upset about me going home, though she said she'd miss me. I think things will work out, if we can keep things going over e-mail and the occasional phone call or letter.

I ate at Mos Burger's as my "last meal in Sendai."

Hitomi made be some onigiri and an apple, like I was going off to school the next day. Our goodbyes felt empty, like there was no drama, no pause. I waved and saw her smile. I was in the bus watching her disappear and didn't know to smile or to look sad.

September 21st, 1998 Monday

Some lady's baby was crying and occasionally screaming on the bus. I couldn't sleep, the stupid seat wasn't big enough, I might have nodded off, I probably slept about two hours.

The airport is ugly and boring, but I found an electrical outlet so I can use my computer until I leave. This thing will run for about 2:30 on one charge. Kind of bad, though turning down the clockspeed will maybe add another hour. I'll have to get used to not being a "gaijin" anymore.

I found another outlet at the gate. I could use the Internet at the pay phone, ah well I can wait.

The flight over, I was dirty, smelly, unhappy. I worried about Hitomi, I worried about customs finding my laptop, I watched a movie that made me cry. I was finally going home after a year, and seeing SeaTac on the other side made me wake up from the "Japan Dream," but I wanted to sleep again.

Two people greeted me on the other side, my mother, happy to see me but with greying hair which worried me, and Tim, cheerful and jolly, which made me weary but smile.

[The End]

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