Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eventually - yuku yuku wa(行く行くは)

I guess I want to devote this post to explain what kind of language Japanese is and what I am up against as a student of Japanese. Probably later, I'll talk about how do I personally try to learn Japanese.

The key to pronouncing Japanese are these rules:

a = 'ah' as in father
i = 'ee' as in knee
u = 'oo' as in rue
e = 'eh' as in get
o = 'oh' as in no

All the consonents are basically pronounced the same in English you just have to remember to keep the vowel sounds like the chart about.

Reading Japanese itself has four scripts. What I just wrote in quotation marks is romanized or phonetically written in the English alphabet for most people or especially foreigners to read. This is called Romaji.

The second script is called "Hiragana." This is one of the first scripts children in Japan learn how to read in write. There are about a hundred of them. Hiragana has soft looking characters and I think it is very beautiful to write. One distinction about Hiragana is that it used to write native Japanese words.

Romanji: Kore wa hiragana desu.
Hiragana: これ は ひらがな です。

The third script is called "Katakana." Japanese children learn this along side hiragana. Katakana is used to write foreign or borrowed words that are not native to the Japanese language like non-native Japanese people names and foreign products. More on that later... Katakana also looks more angular than hiragana. Katakana and hiragana together are refered to as "kana."

There is a chart for kana but you can google it to see what the alphabet looks like. I'm not sure how to explain it but the Japanese alphabet have a consonant and vowel that make one sound and letter.

a i u e o ka ki ku ke ko sa shi su se so etc...

あ い う え お か き く け こ さ し す せ そ etc...

       ア イ ウ エ オ カ キ ク ケ コ サ シ ス セ ソ etc..

Romanji: Kore wa katakana desu.
Hiragana: これ は かたかな です。
Katakana: コレ ハ カタカナ デス。

The last and most diffcult part of reading Japanese is Kanji. The different between Chinese and Japanese characters is that in Chinese for one character there is a set and constant sound for a single kanji. The tones make each sound distinct. In Japanese a character has basically three kinds of readings and mulitple ways of pronouncing it that really depends on if it is combined or not.

Ex. Romanji: nihon, Hiragana: にほん, Katakana: ニホン, Kanji: 日本
Meaning: Japan

Japan imported Chinese characters in their own language back in the day but they also tried to make the sounds more Japanese in order to make them distinct. Writing Japanese is a combination of Kana and Kanji.

The first character for Japan is 日 and the meaning is basically sun or day.
This character has an originally modified Japanese-style Chinese reading called on-yomi (音読み.) This is usally written in katakana in dictionaries to emphasize the foriegn origin. The on yomi for this character is (nichi) or (jitsu.)

The native Japanese reading is called kun-yomi (.) In dictionaries these readings are written in hiragana. For this character the kun-yomi are (hi,) (-bi,) and (-ka.)

The third and most confusing reading is called nanori which is a special reading only used for names. I've seen kanji with more than ten different ways to read it for names. (a, aki, iru, ku, kusa, kou, tachi, ni-, nit-, nitsu, he... so...eleven other ways to read this kanji)

How to read kanji really depends on the combination. If a character is by itself then it is read kun-yomi but if it used in combonation then it is one of the on-yomi readings. In the case of the kanji 日本 the first chacter is pronounced 'ni' and the second is 'hon' both are on-yomi readings. Sometimes the rules don't make sense and there are so many exceptions. Like the kanji for Nihon. Why isn't it nichihon? jitsuhon? Ni isn't a common reading for this kanji (only from the nanori reading) and it used only in combination with Nihon. Doushite? Why? Trying to ask a Japanese person about this is usless. I've tried.

To be fluent you need to learn over 2,000 joyo kanji or education kanji. Japanese people learn kanji everyday from 1st to 6th grade through rote memorization. Over 20,000 kanji actually exist but with multiple readings and combinations...I'll stick to 2,000. I think I can read over 200...I'm not sure actually. I need to take a test later to figure out. Recognizing the meaning of kanji is easy but reading is quite difficult. It's a challenge I'm willing to take.

Romanji: Kore wa kanji desu
Hiragana: これ は かんじ です。
Katakana: コレ ハ カンジ デス。
Kanji: これ は 漢字 です。

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My favorite things part 2 - konomumono (好むもの)

In Japanese there are multiple ways of reading Kanji. Konomu is a different (less commonly used) pronunciation of the kanji 'to like.'

Number 5: Cellphone Accessories

I also stole this idea also from my Gaidaisei Kyoto Tour Guide. My host family gave me a house key and I the last thing I want to do is lose it. I had a false alarm when I thought I lost my card key to my dorm room during orientation. Rather than to repeat that stress, I decided to attach the key on this cute key holder I bought at a hyakuenya ($1.00 shop) to my cell phone. I had to have some kind of charm one it first before I could attach the key. I got this charm from my speaking partner as Omiyage (souvenir) from Niigata ken. She is from Ishikawa but spent some time in Niigata taking the driver's test. For those who can't see, its hello kitty in a pear (nashi) costume. It's 'le leciter' or something like that and apparently it is famous product of Niigata. I wish I could get rid of the bell but I don't want to damange a gift from my speaking partner.

Number 6: Japanese Calligraphy pen

I have a very strict teacher for reading and writing Japanese. The proper stroke is really important for her. It is hard to understand stroke order of a kanji through a pen or mechanical pencil. In class one day, my teacher made us use something called a calligraphy pen to write our wishes on a strip of paper. I fell in love with using the pen. I always wanted to do Shodo or Japanese calligraphy but I don't have the time or energy to prepare the ink and clean the brush. Thanks to the pen I understand stroke order of kanji a lot better. I feel calm everytime I use the calligraphy pen. I'm trying to improve my Japanese handwriting. Below is a picture of the ways you can write my name. Bibari is how a Japanese person would pronounce my name. It think it is cute. One of my Japanese friends helped me create a kanji name (on the left.) 美 or bi means 'beautiful,' 場 or ba means 'place, location,' and 理 or ri means 'reason.' This is pushing it but the meaning is the "The beautiful place of reason." It makes no sense at all but I learned some Japanese names are like that. Translating my last name was impossible so to have a truly Japanese name I would need to marry a Japanese person.

Number 7: My Nintendo DS, kanji sonomama rabuki jiten, doubutsu no mori

For many people they can't live without their Keitai or cellphone but as a ryugakusei (international student) I can't live without my DS or more specifically 'Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten' (漢字そのまま楽引辞典.) To awkwardly translate the title would be like 'Kanki now is fun dictionary.' Rakubiki ( 楽引)isn't really a word. I think the writers made up the meaning so its hard to translate. From the kanji the first one means fun and the second one means full...so pulling fun. Anyways, it is uses the touch screen capability of the DS and helps people look up the meaning of Kanji in English. One you figure out how to use it, it is extremely useful if you are thinking about becoming fluent or proficient in Japanese. Originally, the software was designed for Japanese students learning English. So the dictionary actually pronounces words in English and some kanji have Japanese only definitions. It fits my needs well enough. I can unlock the secret meaning of menus and signs now:) Later I'll explain how Japanese characters are different from Chinese charaters.

The DS I actually bought used at a Japanese, second hand bookstore chain name 'Book Off' or 'Book-ya' in some places for 14,500 yen or $145.00. For a used DS that is pretty expensive by US standards. I wanted to get the DS i or the latest version of the DS but it is regional...meaning I can't use it outside of Japan unlike the previous DS versions. It is in pretty good condition. I originally just bought it for the dictionary because buying an actual denki jisho or electronic dictionary is very expensive at around 30,000 yen or $300.00 and with no Kanji writing capability. Also all the menu options of a denki jisho are in Japanese so...useless for me.

One day, I was very frustrated and I just needed something mindless to do. I decided to splurge on a game. So I bought "Doubutsu no Mori" or Animal Forest to translate directly. In the English speaking world the name is known as Animal Crossing. I used to play this on the GameCube for hours so I know the basic mechanics of the game but play in Japanese is a challenge. In Japan the game is considered a kid's game. So I figure the words must be easier for a child to understand. If anyone had ever played the sims...doubutsu no mori is just like that. You create a character and the whole point of the game is to live your life and try to make money. All the characters in the game are personified animals and so they act like people but still have animal like charcteristics. The game has a lot of kiddy language so I would not learn Japanese from it but it does get you used to reading plain speech in Japanese and Kanji recognition.

Number 8: Milk Tea

I'm not understand why this is very popular but it is. Milk Tea is something you will always find in Konbinis (Convenience stores) and vending machines in Japan. You can even buy it hot. It can come in a cup or a can. It is very sweet but I really like it. It is very easy to make and I think this is one addiction I'll bring back home.

Number 9: My new bag

I love bags. I think a lot of girls have obsessions with shoes but bags are my thing. The problem is that I'm extremely picky. I want something durable, stylish, and yet functional. Frankly, you really don't see people wear backpacks in Japan especially the big bulky, sport ones. Those make you really stand out. Anyways, I had a really nice bag I bought from Macy's about three years ago but now it is falling apart. I need to start investing in a decent wardrobe for a professional career and that include accessories too...or that is what I told myself when I spent 60,000 yen or $60 on a bag. -_-

I always get dark colored everything so I convinced myself to get a bright beige color because I'm still young and happy. The bag has no brand name scribbled all over it which is a major plus in my book. It can also convert to be a messenger or shoulder bag. One thing that I really, really like is that it is strong and big enough to hold a laptop especially one as massive as my Dell Inspiron E1505.

Number 10: Coin Purses

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Engrish Part 3

Presenting engrish part 3.

In this Japanese movie called ("A Cheerful Gang Turns the Earth") there was this one scene were this old man was painting the billboard while listening on some criminals' conversations. While he was painting he was distracted and put an 'H' instead of an 'E.' Later in the movie they corrected the sign to say 'Peace' not 'Peach.'

(Bring on the peaches!)

While wandering the Western Houses section of Kobe, I found this sign.

(This describes my life...)

I found this sign in the Osaka subway system. To put some context, during orientation of Kansai Gaidai they told us if we are underground during an earthquake we should "put a bag over our heads." Some of my friends thought they meant the plastic grocery bags and what if our bags have really heavy books...how will that save us?

Anyways the sign says in Japanese "tenraku toki ha, hoomu shita ni hinanshite kudasai." The direct translation would be "When there is a (earthquake) fall please take refuge under the platform." This is probably not as funny but I had to pause at the words "accidental fall."

(No commento)

High Field Mountain - Kouyasan (高野山)

The final haruyasumi trip was to Kouyasan. Again, I had no idea about this place before going there. My friend found it in his guide book and it looked like an interesting place to go. To start off, Kouyasan was the furthest I have gone so far in Japan which is the Wakayama Prefecture. We had to take the Nankai line from Osaka to get there. As for train tickets go, Kouyasan was the most expensive I had ever bought in Japan.

(Japanese train tickets are cool because they have kanji and a magnectic strip on the back)

On the way to Kouyasan, I was getting a crash course about the place. Kouyasan is considered one of the sacred mountains of Japan because it has a lot of shrines, temples, and graves. It is also one of the United Nations World Heritage Sites. From Osaka it took about 2 hours to get to Wakayama. Our destination was located into the rural part of Japan and so one the way there we saw some beautiful countryside views. I was really impressed by the mountains. They were so beautiful. Included in our train ticket was a cable car up to the mountain.

(I took this to get to Kouyasan...there was nothing much to see on the way or down)

I read on Wiki that Kouyasan is acutally a bunch of hills but whatever. What surprised me the most was despite the name, Kouyasan is an actual town embedded in a mountain/hill. Getting around was very easy. They already developed a bus route to take tourists to all the famous places and for $8 you could have unlimited use of the bus system. I'm glad we got the pass. Normally, a single one way bus fare in Japan would start at $2.20. Little fees like that really add up.

(The bus pass for Kouyasan)

We really had no real destination we wanted to go to in Kouyasan. My friends and I decided to go to the furthest point and work our way back to the station. So the first place we went was called Kobo Daishi Mausoleum (弘法大師)(Kanji for mausoleam later.) In the guide it said that it was biggest graveyard on Kouyasan. We spent about three hours walking around there it was one of the most surreal yet beautiful places I have ever been. I felt like I was in a Hayao Miyazaki movie. There were so many statues and grave markers. I didn't know this at the time but we passed by the grave of Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) a famous war lord during the Sengoku period which was a crazy fun time in Japanese history (full of war.)

Also while we were there, we saw lots of families cleaning graves. I told my okaasan about this and she said it was ”春分” or shunbun. It is the official say of spring and within the week Japanese families go clean the graves of their ancestors or family members. They also give offerings to their deceased. I realized after the trip that walking towards Okunoin (the most sacred placed on Kouyasan) it was the newer to ancient graves.

One of the most memorable parts of the trip happened early on while we were in Kobo Daishi. Among the newer graves we passed by this one that had three red buttons on it and kanji we could not read. It was weird to see something like that on a grave and on Japan's most sacred mountain of all places. We were really curious what would happen. I honestly was expecting an alarm and half expecting a light show. My friend decided to press it. We were not expecting loud militaristic music to start playing.

Anyways, Kobo Daishi felt like an endless maze. There were many hidden paths and so many things to see. A lot of the older graves were covered in moss and interesting statues. The trees here were so tall. It really created such a mystic atmosphere. At Okunoin, the most sacred temple, you were not allowed to take photos in the area. We were able to enter the buliding and witness a buddhist service. Outside of the temple were these mountains of monk statues. I have no idea what it means (I wish I did) but it was so interesting.

(A pyramid of monk statues wearing red or colorful bibs)

The picture below was another highlight. My friends and I thought it was a grave for Panasonic's kashain (company employees.)

(So...only Panasonic CEOs can go to Nirvana?)

After Kobo Daishi, there was a lot of walking involved and eating. Our next major destination was Daimon gate which was the official enterance to Kouyasan. The gate is immense. I really liked the scary statues. If anyone has ever played Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne they will understand what I mean. By this time I was officially freezing but going there was well worth it.

(I'm trying to have a stare down and I manage to turn the poor thing into stone.)

Near by was the place you can apparently get your wishes granted but the view next to the shrine was more interesting for me.


While wondering away from Daimon gate we stumbled on shrine after shrine. The biggest and coolest one was Danjo Garan. In the pavillion there were also three really impressive bulidings. They are the next two photos down.

(All three buliding were in one courtyard)

The last major highlight of our trip was the big statue near the station. It was the first one we saw one our way to the mountain. I'm not sure what it or who it is.

(Kobo Daishi had a lot of status like this)
Across from the giant statue was Nyonindou mae. Back in the day, women were not allowed to set foot on Kouyasan. The were only allowed to this point and it is nowhere near the graves or temples. If they really, really wanted to go. They had to go through this long, roundabout, and hellish path to get there. I heard that they started to let women enter Kouyasan in the 1970's. So in late protest, my friend and I decided to show off our women power pride by standing next the gate taking a picture of us and the kanji Nyonindou.

(Tis bittersweet...)

We left the mountain quite early because it was getting ridiculously cold and we had a long commute in front of us. Looking back, I experienced many things that I could not express. I wish I knew about the significance of the places I was seeing before I got there. It is really a unbelievely beautiful place to visit. Peaceful and pure...the shopkeepers don't harass you to buy something nor do you see people panhandling on the streets. The view of the landscape was something I only saw in movies before I went to Kouyasan. The highlight of my time in Japan so far besides skiing.

Wow...what a break. I got no homework done and Japanese midterms coming up ;_;

Saturday, March 21, 2009

God's Door - Kobe (神戸)

The second place I went to was Kobe. I really didn't know much about the city before I went there. My friend thought it would be a good to go. For some basic information, Kobe is a major city in the Hyogo Prefecture which is in the Kansai region of Japan. Back in the day, it was an important port city with a lot of foreign influence. Kobe also was devastated by an earthquake in the 1990s.

Okay, for the Kobe trip I had to wake up really early to go. We had to go to Osaka and take the Hankyu Line to Kobe. So what I figured out about the train system in Japan is that every area has a separate line and that they do not work together. The JR line is the only line that goes across Japan but it is very expensive. The line I use to go around where I live is called Keihan. So from Hirakata to Osaka my friend and I took the Keihan train to Osaka. Unfortunately, we went during rush hour. I have experienced crowded buses before in Japan but not trains. It was a Japanese experience because I saw men with white gloves ready to push people in trains in order to fit. I really don't the proper etiquette in kind of situation so I just stood awkwardly somewhere. Anyways, once we got to Osaka we took the scenic route through the heart of Osaka to our next station with the Hankyu line.

(Hankyu Station in Osaka)

It was a really nice trip because the weather and the train wasn't crowded like it was to Osaka. I really felt like I was in some kind of anime because of the sunlight peering in the train and the scenery. Once we got to Kobe it was a different feel that Osaka. Kobe isn't as crowded as Osaka and it feels more peaceful too. I took this picture but it is too small for people to see not only the city but the mountains in the back too. You honestly don't see places like this often. One of the things that really surprise people once to they come to Japan is the lack of public parks, benches, and trash cans.

(A Kobe intersection: for a Japanese city it has pretty wide roads)

One of the first things we wandered in to from the Kobe station on our way to the port was the Kobe Earthquake Memorial. It looked like a regular park but it has some very beautiful memorial sites. One of the most impressive one was this water one pictured below. You could actually go below the structure and see all the names of the people who died (in Kanji mainly.) The water's reflection created a melancholy atmosphere but it was still worth it to be there.

(One of the many memorial sites at the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Site)

After the memorial park, we finally got to the port side. We ended up first in the industrial section first but next to it was the recreation section called Merikan park. The recreation section has a lot of random attractions like Kobe tower, a pirate ship, and this random giant fish statue. One really nice theme to Kobe is the importance of water. You could see artificial but nicely constructed mini streams in the memorial park and in Merikan park as well. Merikan park faces towards the sea too so it was a lovely view walking around.

(Huge random fish in Merikan Park, Kobe)

So from the port, my friend and I started to walk to the mountains. Along the way we wanted to see the Western houses because they are apparently famous. That area was interesting to see. There were a lot of European style buildings in that area. Although I never been to Italy, I felt like I was in a section of Rome. My friend surmised that the reason why that area was famous because Kobe was on of the first placed that opened up to foreigners. Eventually, some rich foreigners decided to build their houses in Kobe. Actually, my friend and I didn't go in any of the houses. We thought it was pointless because we could see the same style of houses in our respective countries. But, we did find a shrine embedded in the neighborhood among the western houses. It was on a hill so at the top we could see the entire city and the tops of the houses below.
After that diversion, we proceed to the lift that would take us to the top of Mt. Rokko. At the top of the mountain was a herb park. As we meandered down the mountain through the herb park we eventually saw the sun set. It took awhile but we go to see the city of Kobe light up while walking down the rest of the mountain. We could have taked the lift back down but we wanted to walk because we are crazy tourists. Walking down was steep and dark but well worth it for the view. Haha...I kept thinking about all the horror movies I saw in my life at that time.

(My camera does not do Kobe's city lights justice.)

We ended our day in Kobe's Chinatown for dinner. This section of Kobe was lit up with red lanterns. There are four gates that surround this section too but I liked the white gate the best. Chinatown was also the first time I was harassed in Japan. Since I apparently look Japanese, this Chinese women starts talking to me in mainly Chinese and scattered Japanese words. She was trying to get me to eat at her resteraunt. It was bit of a surreal moment because she was following us and I barely understood anything she said except for the Japanese parts. We manage to escape her and get in a fairly cheap but tasty Chinese resteraunt.

(You can see the red lanterns lit up and one of the gates leading into Kobe's Chinatown)

Kobe is a relatively small but peaceful city. Unlike like any typical Japanese city, Kobe has an abundance of natural attractions (the port, parks, and mountains.) My friends who went to Tokyo for Spring Break said that they couldn't see the sky or a park. Anyways, my next post will be about my final day trip Kouyasan.

Random: I bought an "I love Osaka" shirt in Kobe of all places. Osaka is written in Kanji. Yay!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Great Hill - oosaka -大阪

For haruyasumi (Spring Break) I went on a series of day trips all over the Kansai region. I went with two friends K and S. 16th was the trip to Osaka. The main highlight of this trip was visiting all the major attractions in Namba, Den Den town, Osaka Castle, and Umeda.

One of the most iconic parts of Namba which is the major shopping districts of Osaka is the Glico man advertisement. Namba is basically a long and huge street full of various shops. You really get a sense of the Japanese fashion sense walking through there. There were some very well-known and expensive brand name shops in there too. I felt poor looking at the stuff inside. But anyways, I had fun walking through the crowds and window shopping.

One of the highlights of the day was the crepes. We got our crepes from a stand called 'Ojisan' inside Namba. Crepe is basically a french pancake with cream and fruit. I got イスチョコバナナ crepe or Chocolate Banana Ice Cream crepe. I heart crepes. I always wondered why they are not popular in the US.
So yeah we mainly spend the day walking all over the Osaka shopping district because it is basically endless. We some how ended in the sketchier part of Osaka with the porn shops and girl lounges. On the way there we saw ads for Host Clubs. Osaka is known for its Host Clubs. For those who don't know Host Clubs are were girls go and pay to talk to cute guys. The hosts are considered very fashionable and hot. I think they are pretty effeminate. If you ever want to catch a glimpse of them in the flesh head outside of Osaka Station at night. You will see them outside trying to get girls to come to their club.

After Namba we decided to check out the infamous den den town. Den Den town is really called Nipponbashi but anyways it is the electronics shopping district also filled with otaku like things. I didn't take any pictures mainly because I forgot and also it would be a bit embarassing. I was fine with the electronics shops but when we got to the otaku section it got a bit weird. We passed by maid cafes and cosplay shops. That didn't bother me but in the video game, manga, and anime shops every other thing I saw was a cutesy half naked girl. Den-den town shops do no attempt to hid the hentai and porn. It was really strange because when I went up to the second floor of a shop trying to look for my friends I thought I stepped into the adults only floor. Awkward...but I found them and we went on our merry way.

Osakajou or Osaka Castle was the main purpose of our trip. K went to Osaka Castle prior to our day trip and he was able to see all the peach blossoms in bloom in front of the castle. When we went they were all dead. But anyways, we took a nice, long walk around the castle. It was amazing to see it light up. Unfortunately, the entire interior of Osaka Castle was overly renovated so it does not look like a castle on the inside anymore. It also doesn't help that it was rebuilt so many times because it burnt to the ground twice.

To end the day we ended up in Yodobashi-Umeda to go eat. We went to a pan Asian restaurant that served us ishiyaki. While reading the kanji we felt really dumb because we didn't know what that meant. Apparently, ishiyaki just means it was cooked inside a stone bowl. I had ramen ishiyaki and it was spicy and delicious.

And below was one of the most interesting photos I took so far in Osaka. Walking back from Osaka Castle we passed by another bridge. The street across the bridge was brightly lit with blue lights. I thought that it was very cool also the sign was a nice effect.

Next is Kobe.

Monday, March 16, 2009

umeboshiyaki (梅干焼き)

This was the beginning of my haruyasumi or Spring Break. On the 14th my speaking partner Sae invited me to her place for a Takoyaki party. Takoyaki is a famous dish in the kansai region. It is a snack food that consists of dough, cabbage, eggs, and a filling. The most typical filling is octopus or tako (hence the name takoyaki.) The kanji for yaki means to bake or cook. Well since tako is too expensive Sae decided to use umeboshi instead. So it was umeboshiyaki instead of takoyaki.
(To make takoyaki you need a special pan for it. I want to see if I can buy a small one to bring home)

And the result is...
Metcha Oishikatta. It was very delicious. I ate a lot of Umeboshiyaki. I had a lot of fun that night because we played music, watched tv, and drank a bit. I met some of Sae's friends and they were really easy to talk to. I was able to practice a lot of Japanese.

I'm going to try to learn how to make takoyaki. It doesn't seem that hard. I want everyone to try it at least once. Takoyaki is one of my favorite Japanese food. Right now, I'm craving some tako/umeboshiyaki.

After the break, I'm going to teach some of my Japanese friends how to make pizza. In Japan Pizza costs as much as $45. It's ridiculous and it isn't that hard to make. I hope it works out. Later I'm going to post my haruyasumi day trips to Osaka, Kobe, and Koyasan. I have lots of pictures to post.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Favorite Things - sukimono (好き物)

Hopefully like my Engrish section, this will be an ongoing thing. I realize that once I leave Japan. There will be a lot of things that I will miss. So I want to document them visually so I can reminisce about them later. Also the Mary Poppins song "These are some of my favorite things..." got suck in my head so I thought it would be a good idea to add this section to my blog. Starting with the first five...in no particular order. These are the simple things in Japan that make me happy.

Number 1: Curry Udon (カーレウドン)

Curry Udon was a surprise to me. The lady just cooked udon, put some soup, and then some curry in it. It looks gross but is actually quite tasty. For some reason I can't finish things like Katsudon or Donburi. Its too much rice for me but noodles like Ramen, Soba, and Udon I can finish. For a while I was eating plain udon but in line with a friend I decided to try something new. Now i'm happy that I did. Oishikatta! By the way, the dessert on the right is also addictive. It is a cream puff donut that is filled with whipped cream and bananas. This is Kansai Gaidai cafe food by the way. It costs around $4.00 for the entire meal.

Number 2: Bandai Anizo Charms (アニゾ)

Once I got a phone, I realized how sad and unadorned it was. So I decided to find some cute charm to go with it. While I was in a shopping mall, I was looking at the vending machines. I saw this (look at picture above) and thought this looked very cute. When I showed Japanese people my charms they made funny faces at me and started to smile. Apparently, these charms I are like Happy Bunny. They look cute but say horribly mean things. The photo could not get the kanji or the face right. On the left the figure has two faces (evil and happy one) and the kanji in the front is kakushinhan (確信犯)which means something along the lines of "I didn't do it." The purple one has one face but it is fading away fast because of abuse. The kanji on the front says kitaihazure (期待はずれ) and in one word it means disappointment. On the back it has a printed note that says "anata ni wa gakkari desu" which translate to "you let me down." Don't know why but these make me smile. Since my kanji conprehension is terrible I will always forget how mean the words are.

Number 3: Panda Cookies(さくさくぱんだ)

Everyday in Kansai Gaidai, I always like to try new snacks to munch on. On this particular day I was craving chocolate cookies and once I saw this I could not pass this up. Too cute for words. If anyone is curious the box reads in big letters "saku saku panda." It just means "crunchy panda." My only complaint was that there were only so few cookies.

Number 4: Sweet Potato Snacks (いもけんぽ)

I had this at least twice but I know that if I was given an industrial size of this I would sit there and eat it all day. Its called imokenpo (芋けんぽ.)It is sweet potato chips glazed in something sweet. It tastes like McDonalds french fries dipped in honey. Its is a combination of sour and sweet plus its crunchy. I really liked this flavor it as a child. I'm trying not to eat this too much or else I will rot my teeth.

Number 5: Aloe Flavored Yogurt (アロエ ヨーグルト)

I don't think I will ever get tired from eating this. Aloe yogurt has one of the most refreshing and calming tastes I have ever had. Truely one of the things that I will miss the most from Japan and from the continent of Asia. My okaasan gave me this for breaksfast and now I am addicted.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Break - haruyasumi (春休み)

Spring break just started. People are going to places like Tokyo, Nagasaki, Kyushu, and Thailand. Actually the majority of my friends are going to Tokyo. I would go to Tokyo but for some reason I don't want to go there yet. I'm using my vacation to study, take it easy, search for internships, and do some light traveling I'm going with a small group of friends to Koyasan, Kobe, and Kyoto so far. I figure that I want to do the bulk of my traveling in the later part of my stay because the weather will be nicer and my Japanese can have some time to improve.

I made a list of things I want to see and do while in Japan:

1) Mount Fuji
2) Fushimi Inari
3) Japanese Cemetery
4) Sumo
5) Takarazuka (all female performance group)
6) Kabuki
7) A Haunted House
8) A Puppet show (the Japanese word for it is escaping me) BUNRAKU!

So what have been I up to?

I forgot to write about it but awhile ago I went to Umeda, Osaka after getting my hair cute. I spent a lot of money. I bought a new bag for $60 because mine was falling apart.

I really like this new bag. I decided to go for a bright tan because I need happy colors. The bag is big and it can actually fit my laptop. It has basically what I was looking for in a bag: shoulder straps, purse strap, big pockets, lots of space, and pretty. I saw my Gaidai Kyoto Tour Guide with a similar bag and I really liked it.

I also bought clothes. I just bought whatever I liked. Once place I really like is UNIQLO because they have all solid colors and good quality. Compared to a lot of the other Japanese shops...it was pretty cheap ($10-$20 for a piece of clothing.) At the time I did not know how to ask to try on clothes. Actually I just learned it (kite mite mo ii desu ka? for further reference.) I'm trying to figure out my size in Japanese clothes. I can't think metrically. I'm too short for American clothing standards and I'm little fat for Japanese clothing standards. What to do?

The coolest thing I did in Japan so far is ride the Hep Five Feris Wheel. For $5.00 we got an awesome view of Osaka. It was a 15min ride and well worth it.

(Here is a side way view of the city. )

I wanted to see more of Osaka but we didn't have the time. So next time...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Doll Festival - hina matsuri (鄙祭り)

On March 3rd I was a princess for a day:)

Hina Matsuri is a Japanese holiday celebrating the health and good fortune of young girls. My okaasan decided to celebrate it in my honor. It was really nice of her. After reading some stuff, she really followed tradition. Girls on this day usually receive hima-ningyo or dolls but I think I'm too old for that. Anyways, I had a really nice meal instead. The family (minus otousan because he was working) made chirashizuke which is like sushi ball topped with rice vinegar, lotus root, seaweed, carrots, and sweet, pink furikake like thing. I also ate a soup full of clams and raw scallops and tuna.Whatever it was, it was delicious. I also received arare which is soy-sauce flavored crackers. It is pretty delicious hence the reason why the bag is half full in the picture.

So what I have I been up too...

Well, my social life in Japan is actually busy for the first time in my life. I'm partying and socializing more here. I lead an easy going life here. I don't know if I'll ever have an experience like this again. I'm very lucky to eat delicious homemade food everyday and not have to worry too much about money.

Oh yeah I got a haircut in Japan. I went with a friend and a Japanese friend who acted as a translator. The picture about is after when I got the haircut. You really can't tell but I reversed my haircut. Before it was long in the front and short in the back. Now it is the opposite. I want it to grow out while I am in Japan. My okaasan was really nice and helped me write directions on how to cut my hair. The guy didn't really give me what I actually wanted but whatever.(I'm in the middle.)