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Published: March 29th 2006
A favorite pastime of many Japanese, not us!
Before coming to Japan my winters consisted of few rainy days, snow once every seven years, and flip flops. I mean, in SUNNY California especially in the the northern, valley, snow was considered a special treat. Upon coming to Japan, I now know what seasons really are. From the first snow during the first week in December, until this PAST TUESDAY (March 28...are you kidding me!) I now have decent idea of what it is to live in snow! In a place where central heating is scarce and I have paper walls, I am ready for this winter business to be over (that is until next year, as many of you know or don't know, I am staying a second year in Japan!) As the temperatures dropped and the days were shorter it was no longer as much fun to go outside and that cabin fever started to set in. This blog is just to update everyone on what the heck I have done to entertain myself over the past 3 months, post Thailand. Of course I have blogged about my incredible experiences in Hokkaido and the Hadaka Matsuri, but indeed my winter has been so much more! As always never
Pachinko was enough, time for the arcade
a dull moment. Instead of spending 18 bucks on one lousy movie we got a little more creative. When boredom strikes, thats when Lisa and I REALLY start to make things interesting! It has been a lot of nights out (the infamous nomihodais), birthdays, food, visitors, and always a lot of fun.
So here are a list of things to do in the winter
1. Midyear Conferences
Whenver you put 100+ gaijin together in Hiroshima it equals trouble! I even managed to get the JETs to fold 1000 paper cranes to be put in the Peace Park...a future blog to follow (I have a few more to fold!). If midyear conference was that much fun, I am rather excited for the recontracting conference with all of the western Japan JETs who are planning to be around next year! At midyear I was also reunited with the Taiko Group that I got to play with earlier that year when they performed at our conference. Surprisingly the main guy remembered me.
January was also an exceptionally warm month. Of course, the one weekend I planned on going skiing it RAINS all over
the prefecture! So, not to waste a perfectly good afternoon, Lisa and I put our heads together and came up with the idea to get drunk in the afternoon and go try ou Pachinko. Ever since coming to Japan I wanted to try out this Pachinko gig, as so many Japanese people are obsessed with it. I don't understand it. Even now...still don't...those drinks on the bus into the city made us lose interest rather quickly! So to my understanding Pachinko looks like gambling, but isn't since gambling is illegal (I think) and you play to win all these tiny little balls. The more you get the more credit you get and then you can trade it in for a Hello Kitty Lunch Box or Pokemon Stuffed Animal, you know, the essential things you need in life ;-). We were proud of ourselves because we actually made it into the Pachinko parlor! After that we proceeded to a big arcade to make some friends, went to dinner and made some more friends, and of course, like most nights, ended up at the bar. I am sure Lisa and I got a few chin chins in there as well.
Our KombiniMake New Friends
So this is a great photo for many reasons. This is the kombini on the main street that we always by booze from. It has some sentimental value. In addition, Bill's last name is Lawson...and gotta love the genki j-peeps
It has been confirmed ithat ndeed I have a sign on my forehead that screams TALK TO ME, not matter what country I travel to. All my life I have the most random people come talk to me. It was fine in college since I was a tour guide. This trait carries on into Japan. One day in the Peace Park a random guy took photos of us followed by an hour long conversation, then a man with incessant snot wanted to try out his English with us, then a drunk man on a bicycle decided to tell us his woes in life. Or, another way to make new friends is to 'chase them down.' You see, it always seems that whenever we all go out, we take the most random photos with Japanese people. We started to see a pattern...they were not at all intrigued with us until we were intrigued with them. A few smiles and little j-talk later, we have new friends and a great photo to prove it! I swear Japanese people are like attractions at amusement parks- so many different/interesting/crazy people walking around...always makes for a good time.
One of the greatest photos of Japan. Bound to find drunk groups of business men wandering the streets of Japan...plenty to 'chase down'
Who doesn't love birthdays? They always consist of a lot of great food, and if you invite the right Japanese people, a delicious cake! Who would have ever thought Japan would have such good cake! Brian's was at the end of January and mine was February, followed by Bill's in March.
5. Learn to cook Japanese Food
So after months of dining out/invited over for dinner by your JTE its time to start getting these recipes passed on to you. Lisa has a teacher who is famous for her mochi. She invited Lisa one day to come help her make it and of course, as her partner in crime, was allowed to come along. We went to make mochi (pounded rice cakes), but also managed to learn how to make Zansai Soup (mochi and red bean soup), and mixed veggie tempura. That's the best part of the Japanese...they never stop feeding you! Wouldn't want the white girls to get skinny or anything! To traditionally make mochi you are supposed to pound it over and over again. This lady had an actually pounding machine to speed up the process...thank good to bc we made
We Don't Even Know
So why oh why would a kombini in the bar district sell these? Man, the things you find in the middle of the night...
a bunch of mochi. If had to pound it all by hand it would have take weeks!
I was lucky enough to get to go with my friend Kazu, who indeed I do love dearly, but definitely knows how to pull a scam at a ski mountain. I got to go snowboarding for $20!!! I will leave Kazu's money saving tactics a secret for now...quite ingenious and so un-Japanese, yet so Kazu. I think hanging out wtih the JETs has worn off on him a bit too much :-).
7. Graduate from High School
Unlike American schools that finish in May/June, the end of the Japanese High School Year is the middle of March. At this time, students also find out if they get into the colleges they want to. If you go to shrines many students have gone and tied wishes to branches and strings at the temple, hoping the gods/nature will help them get into their desired school. Mid-March I also go to experience my first graduation at Kabe Koko. Very unlike the American ceremonies. No caps and gowns, no beach balls or tortillas flying through the air. It was
I'm gonna pop a....
Manga porn and daikons...more kombini treasures!
all rather serious. The third year students and their homeroom teachers all wore corsages to identify them. The ceremony involved a lot of bows, and a lot of serious talking. My graduation also caused quite a stir as one teacher refused to stand during the Japanese National Anthem bc she disagreed with the lyrics referring to Japan's imperial motives- which has caused quite a stir at school and throughout Hiroshima. Kabe's getting put on the map. After the ceremony everyone hugs and cries and gets all emotional. Its almost like if you DON'T cry something is wrong with you. I also felt like a celebrity as many students want to take photos with me. I better watch out bc some of those cute third grade boys are now of age and will be out at the same places I am. An unnamed source said "Make sure I don't make out with one of your students next year..."
With graduation comes end of the year/farewell parties. Mine was kind of a bore, especially because all the homeroom teachers got up and acted like they had one an oscar or something. Yet I did have fun
Stirling in from of the 'wish board'
with Kamura-sensei. Kamura means crown, so I call him the king, in reference to Elvis...mind you this guy is like 70. Also my favorite Japanese friend is moving to Tokyo to be a flight attendant so we have a great going away party for her.
9. St Patricks Day!
Yes not a very big holiday in Japan, but we still managed to wear green and celebrated. My efforts to drink green beer failed due to my inability to find green food coloring. Next Year!
Jeff had some friends visit from college. Also Lisa's friend Logan was visiting from Australia. Whenever there is visitors we have to show them a good time! Misha's KONBANWA will forever be ringing through my ears. Once again, through Jeff's 2 friends who are on a trek from Japan to Spain..proves that Berkeley is going to take over the world. Go Bears.
11. Become Artistic
So as JETs we have quite a bit of our time....too much. If you are bored definitely check ou this video, the ALT rap. or the cartoon on my blog that someone drew which perfectly encompasses some of the
We look like Kokiburi! (cockroaches)
men on JET. The alt rap (dozo yoroshiko onegaishimaus...kinda catchy!) http://japanese.libsyn.com/media/japanese/altrapmusicvideo.m4v
It's Japan, there will always be some festival or something famous going on. We managed to go to an oyster festival and hit up a samurai parade.
So if you get bored ever in Japan... here are some great new things to do in Japan during the winter months! Parts of winter were hard and it was hard to stay genki, but due to my great friends here I managed to be somewhat genki. Now I am ready for my parents to come, the beautiful cherry blossoms, and soon enough for those beer gardens to open up...man I really do enjoy living in Japan.
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