Sunday, July 24, 2011

Catchin' Up #1

Hey everyone, I have a backlog of about two weeks worth of pictures.  I will probably be posting most of them over the next couple of days (haha! - if I have that much time).  I will also likely date the posts to when the pictures were taken, so just be aware that I haven't (yet) found a way to go back in time - I'm just messing with Blogger.

Here are some links to the old-new/new-old posts!

Kabuki Day
Engrish #1 - Some Laughs in Shinjuku
In and Around Ikebukuro
A Day in Sunshine City 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Still Alive (#1)

Hello dear readers!

Well, if there are any of you, I just figured I'd let you know that I'm still alive.  No, I haven't yet choked on Miso Soup or died as a result of underdone Sushi; in fact, the food here is amazing.  Just sayin'.

I will keep this post brief, as it is almost 2:00 (that's AM for my 12-hour clock friends) and I haven't the will nor the patience to put together a proper post.  However, I thought I would share a little something with you guys.

On Friday of last week, one of my teachers, Okada-sensei (岡田先生), pulled me aside between classes to talk with me.  He spoke to me only in Japanese, which I often fail to understand completely.  He was saying something about the school's speech contest, and how he thought I would do a good job at it.  I was surprised - I looked at him and said 「本当に?」 (hontō ni), which basically means "Are you serious?"  Still, at this point, I thought he was telling me that he was just considering me, and that he was going to think about it.

So I went back to class at the end of the break.  I took a seat at my desk, only to hear Okada-sensei ask me to stand up, at which point he announced to the class that I would representing our class by writing a speech for the school's speech contest.  I'm sure the look of shock and horror on my face spoke volumes to the rest of the class - I often feel as though I am the weakest Japanese-speaker in my group.  Nevertheless, Okada-sensei was adamant that I would be presenting.  So, on top of my regular homework, I have to write a speech - in a language I can barely speak - about what the future means to me, and how I think we can make it better.

Yeah - I have my work cut out for me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kabuki Day

One of the main components of my school's (KCP) programme is the Saturday "Culture Classes".  The first of such Culture Classes was an outing to a Kabuki show.  More on the Kabuki in a second, but first, some irrelevant, funny pictures.

The night before the Kabuki, some friends and I were trying to find a place for supper.  We ended up stumbling upon this: Freshness Burger.  Their fries were amazing, but the burger itself was so-so... Also, they charged an extra 110¥ for a slice of cheese.  That's like $1.33.

Before we went to the play, we attended a lecture.  The lecture was supposed to be about Kabuki and Japanese traditional arts.  We were also supposed to have the story of the play explained to us, since the play was, naturally, presented in Japanese.  Instead, we met a very kindly old man who told us a thousand and one stories, none of which related to Kabuki.

He told us about the current Emperor, about how he met his wife playing tennis, and about how he was the first Emperor to marry for love, not for duty.  He told us of WWII, about Hiro-Hito and Tōjō, and about how he was 11 when the first Americans landed in Japan.  He told us that he drinks at least one Coca-Cola every day, and that, when he was younger and played baseball, he would sometimes have a bottle of Coke after every inning.  Needless to say, it was vastly entertaining.

Then we had a lunch break, and I found this in one of the vending machines.

It tasted awful, by the way. ōū¥

Before the play started, I decided to go to the bathroom.  I found this:

And then I elected to find a different bathroom.

Kabuki is a somewhat ancient form of Japanese theatre, dating back to 17th century Ōsaka.  While it was originally performed by women, it quickly became a male-only art.  Still today, only men act in Kabuki - as such, some very pretty men make themselves up as women to perform.  This is a man.

 This is the curtain for the stage.  It's a woven tapestry.  I was impressed.

Another thing that hasn't changed about Kabuki: it is still performed in a 17th century Ōsaka-based dialect of Japanese.  As such, virtually no one can understand what is being saidYeah.

The decor and the costumes are very impressive.  The acting is very expressive, as much of the story is supposed to be conveyed through exaggerated facial expressions and slow, flowing movements.  Live music accompanies every scene, with traditional stringed instruments, wood blocks and loud, almost-sung narration helping tell the story.

Unfortunately, the combination of dissonant chords, low-action theatre and not being able to understand tends to make people sleepy...  Not to mention the super comfortable seats...  Everyone around me - Japanese or not - fell asleep at some point during the presentation.  I think the only people who didn't were this old Japanese couple sitting next to me, and I'm sure he only stayed awake because she would have scolded him if he slept.

So yeah!  That was my day at Kabuki!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Engrish #1 - Some Laughs in Shinjuku

Expect this series to run throughout my stay here: posts of me pointing out funny attempts at English made by Japanese people.  I promise I'm not making (too much) fun of them.


I think the only price that would truly make me happy would be 0¥...  Also, I should point this out: there are vending machines EVERYWHERE in Tokyo.  Almost every single street corner has a vending machine.  Some even vend beer.  Yeah - cold beer from a vending machine.

I've noticed a lot of French in Tokyo - it's not all bad.  I'm surprised someone here was able to get a sign-maker to get those accents up there.  Also, I have no clue how a Japanese person would pronounce this restaurant's name.

This...  Yeah.  I just really don't know.  There's no word in Japanese (that I or my dictionary know of) with this spelling, and Emoto doesn't really mean anything in English...  Just plain strange, especially since this was a stationary/office supplies store...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In and around Ikebukuro

So the part of Tokyo where I'm staying is called Ikebukuro (池袋).  I may have mentioned this before, but I'm too lazy to go check previous blog posts to see if I have.  Anyway, I was walking around Ikebukuro and took a few pictures.  Enjoy!

So this is one of the shops near the supermarket.  I can't say I know why it's called "Small Shop" - from outside, nothing seemed particularly small about it...

This is one of the parks near the dorm.  It was kind of interesting to note that kids in Japan play on essentially identical playgrounds to those in Canada.

So, something I should mention: people in Japan - or at least in Tokyo - don't usually have clothes dryers: they just dry everything outside.  Like this...

Or this...


I also found this car dealership as I was walking around.  Blogger isn't the best at accurately displaying photographs in-post, but if you click on the picture, you should be able to notice the name of the dealership, above Tokyo Toyota.  I thought it was cute.

And then there's... This picture.  I have no clue why I took it, or what it's really of.  This is just the view from one of the street corners near the dorm.  Also, my phone's camera is really bad with lighting changes, so no, the sky didn't actually look like that.  Sorry.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

First Few Days - Shinjuku

So the school I'm attending is located in Shinjuku, one of the larger districts of Tokyo.  I can't say I know the place VERY well now, but I have walked around a bit and taken a few pictures.  Here are some of them.

I always see this on my way to school.  I have no way of knowing what kind of "Special Weapons and Tactics" are used in this office, but yeah...

This is the area in and around Shinjuku Station.  All the buildings are multiple storeys high - none of this regular-sized business.  Also, Japan drives on the "wrong" side of the road...

So this is a shop called Don Quixote (ドン キホーテ) after the character from Miguel de Cervantes's novel.  Somehow, they took a guy who fought windmills and made him the namesake of a Wal-Mart type shop.  You can buy everything from clothes to small household appliances to cell phones here.  And apparently, it's open 24/7.  The aisles tend to be so crowded that it can be difficult for two people to go in opposite directions. And you can find REALLY strange things here.  Speaking of cell phones...

...this was the display at the Don Quixote where I bought my cell phone.  None (or very little) of this smartphone business here: most people still have flip-phones like this one:
Which is the phone I purchased.  7700¥ got me this phone, a 3000¥ prepaid card and a charger (which is obviously sold separately).  Those of you know might know something about computer may have noticed the front-facing camera.  Yeah - this flip-phone has a front-facing camera.

Then it was time for a mandatory stop at one of the local arcades.  Actually, arcades are everywhere in Japan - every mall-type place has one.  Unfortunately, you won't get a very good sense of it from the picture, but the place reeked of young male and was deafeningly loud.

Yes, in Japan, Hello Kitty is a big enough deal that Swarovski is in on it.

The amount of hilarious English in Japan is definitely well-known, and quite laughable.  But there's also a good deal of hilarious French.  This place is a tea shop...
EDIT: Apparently this is a legitimate tea company based out of Paris.  Who would have guessed...

Okay, so that's it for now.  I might have another post on the way, with pictures from a visit to Sunshine City (サンシャイン シティ).  We'll see!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Day in Sunshine City

Here are some pictures from a day at Sunshine City!

So, Sunshine City (サンシャイン シティ) is this rather large mall district in Ikebukuro.  It's centred along one street, on either side of which tall buildings are filled with everything from used book stores (Book-Off is what they call them here), arcades, traditional Japanese restaurants, and a Denny's.

Yeah, Denny's.  I forgot to take a picture from the outside, sorry.  Still, Denny's!  In Japan!  They even served Pink Lemonade.  However, their take on the hamburger is kinda different: no buns, just rice.  Here's another example.

Yeah, and those are their french fries.  Still no buns, though.

I found this at the Book-Off - check out the name of the pink CD.  Hey, at least they know it's a mistake they make.

I think my motto during my stay is going to be "They do things differently in Japan."  This is just one example - found this at the local supermarket (スーパ).

Finally, I saw this guy on my way home.  Thought he was worth a picture or two.

More coming soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chasing the Sun

Somewhere over America (I suspect), I got bored and decided to write something that some equally bored people might read.

I really do have no idea where we are, because the in-flight "Entertainment System" seems to be failing.  And it seems that, since the pilot isn't a computer sciencetist, his only recourse is to continually reboot the system, with no useful results, as one might expect.  In any case, they're running Linux.  I blame Javeed entirely for this failure.
Thankfully I have my reliable Thinkpad.

The view from up here is really impressive.  I really wish I knew what we were flying over...

Oh, and the title of this post?  It occured to me that flying west is essentially chasing after the Sun.  That might be deep in some cheesy sort of way, which I tend to be good at.

EDIT: The "Entertainment System" is back on - thx jvd.  Seems we were flying over the Great Lakes, so maybe that was the 1000 Islands area.  Looked really pretty.  Also, D.C., wanna try some left-foot braking?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Uh oh...

Now, see, the problem is that I've told some of you that this place exists, so you're going to expect me to have written stuff.  Sorry to disappoint - I've been too busy doing nothing for the past few months, and this hasn't been very high on the list of priorities.

Maybe this will change given that I AM LEAVING TOMORROW...!!!