Friday, August 31, 2012

Earth Shaking

The other day I was awaken in the middle of the night with an earthquake (it registered at 5.7).  As I watched the ceiling shake above me and felt the building sway (I am on the nine floor) I listened carefully for sounds, the noises that accompany such phenomena.  Aside from the clatter of dishes, it was almost eerily quiet, as the entire city pitched and swayed when the waves rolled under it.  A few minutes after the earthquake an ambulance's sirens pierced the air and I realized that somehow, it was the sounds of distress that I had been expecting during the earthquake.  Instead, it was almost as though the world held its breath.  In fact, when I woke up the next morning, I wasn't entirely sure that I didn't just dream it.

I think I expected that the damage from the earthquake and tsunami would be blatant when I first got here.  But looking around the city, it all felt, well, like a normal city.  People would tell me stories that showed it was still a very vivid memory in everyone's minds but to me, the "fresh off the boat" foreigner who hadn't seen what it was before, it all felt very distant.

As I've gotten to know this city and this prefecture in the past two months, my eyes have become more discerning to the marks of a disaster.  Everything was affected.  Even the people and places that were left virtually untouched were still affected. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Astronauts

Dear World,

How did we lose both Sally Ride and Neil Armstrong in one summer?  I am very sad about this.

Love,
Me

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Double Take

Notice something wrong with this picture?


Walking past the store for the second time in one night, I was intrigued by the hiragana and was thinking about it and what yoshinoya could mean in  Japanese when it occurred to me that something was not quite Right about the English.

I had to stare at it for a full three or four seconds before I figured it out.  "I dare say, I think that word is spelled wrong."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Random

When someone asks me if I speak Japanese, should I just say 'no' rather than 'a little'?  The moment I say a little and hold up my fingers indicating the smallest little bit, they break out the full-on complicated Japanese sentences that require a coherent answer.  The response they get instead is me blinking in shock while crickets chirp in the background.


The other day at a celebratory birthday lunch for a friend of the sister missionaries, this friend started talking about how people aged 30 to 50 are middle aged.  I started laughing but wanted him to continue.  One of the sisters spoke up though and told him that I was 30 and then he got very embarrassed and refused to continue his thought further.


I was in the lab on Friday night/morning until 2:30 am watching a demonstration of a technique created and implemented by the graduating PhD student.  It was a fascinating demonstration but I'm really left wondering: Do these people never sleep?


Today, I spent 10 hours running experiments with Kitashima-san at Katahira Campus.  We spent four hours running experiments, and then four more hours rerunning the experiments because we had set up our motor wrong.  (The last two hours were spent trying to make up for lost time by actually running something new for the first time all day) Oops.  Needless to say, it was a long ten hours.


Katahira Campus is one of my favorite parts of Tohoku University.  I told that to Katashima-san today and she admitted that most of the campus had to be rebuilt because of the damage from the earthquakes.  What I thought were old buildings were actually new.

This past week I met a Japanese kid whose name is Yuu (it sounds like the English 'you') and a Chinese kid whose Japanese name is Boku (which means 'me').  This means, when they introduced themselves in their non-native languages they are saying the following (respectively).  "Hi, I'm Yuu (you)."  "Hi, I'm me."


The other day I was determined to find a new running route so I took the bus up through Aoba Mountain and on up to Yagiyama Mountain.  I ran for twenty minutes, walked for twenty minutes.  Then I stopped and rewarded myself with two ice cream bars.  After that, I felt guilty and pretty lost so I ran for an hour until I found myself in a part of Sendai I had never been to before.  I ended up far enough away from home with sore legs that I rode the train home.  Rather than get my road-weary legs home, I hobbled around downtown Sendai for an hour looking for the latest publication of the Goethe Magazine that Hasebe-san was supposed to make an appearance in.  (I'm the worst fangirl ever as in I've done so little fangirling since I got to Japan that I figured I owed him this much).  That ended unsuccessfully so I finally went home.  The end.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Honor to Us All

Omiai: Japanese custom in which unattached individuals are introduced to each other to consider the possibility of marriage. (definition courtesy of Wiktionary)

In English, this is often translated as "arranged marriage".  Not really the kind where you meet on your wedding day.  Not even the kind where you meet and say, 'yes' or 'no' to marriage.  Then again, it's more than a blind date.  This is more than a, "Oh, hey, you should meet my friend and we can 'hang out' and you can tell me if you might like him'".  I would call it more like "arranged courting" (courting in the old-fashioned this is intending to lead to a marriage way)  

In Japan there are two main ways to get married: omiai (arranged match) and rennai (love match or someone you pick for yourself without help of matchmaker/parents/third cousins twice removed/well-meaning random ladies you barely know).  According to one source, omiai were the main method for couples to get married during the Meiji and Edo Eras.  Nowadays they are not unheard of (my source tells me that about 30% of marriages are still omiai) but rennai are obviously the mainstream.

Why, you may ask, do you even know what an omiai is?  It's definitely not something you will find in any Japanese 101 textbook (especially since the textbook I'm in, the first date was a complete failure) or any "guide to Japanese culture".

Funny story.  Last Sunday, after church, a kind sister came up to me and asked me if I wanted to attend a "free discussion with her on the old Japanese customs of marriage".  This was the sister that I went to the art museum with so I assumed it was another intellectual excursion out but this time it was FREE.  I nodded, especially since marriage customs in any culture fascinate me.

So this sister takes me into an empty room in the church and starts to tell me a story about a Japanese family she knows in America and about the problems the sons are having in finding suitable wives.  She tells me how the mother had recruited her to help find a wife for the oldest son.  Her first few attempts at finding Japanese girls were bungling failures due to Japanese boyfriends and the insistence that the girl make the first move.  (Apparently in Japan, men always make the first move)  At some point during this story, it dawns on me that she is telling me all of this because she intends for me to be the next match for this son.  And I'm not entirely sure whether or not to be horrified or flattered.  I just stare at her as her story moves from enough English for me to get the gist to complete Japanese.  I nod dumbly and say the appropriate fillers, "Hai....so desu ne....hai....wakarimashita..."

Don't worry; this story gets better.  Not only does this Japanese family live in America but what luck!  they happen to come from the same state of Virginia.  And as fate would have it, I in fact know this family.  I am good friends with this family's second son.  The longer the story goes and the more the woman's plans about me going on a "relaxing outing just the three of you" (the oldest son, second son and myself-- hahahaha), the more I've decided that this is all just a really good joke and I can't wait to get home and tell my friend.

I get home and tell the friend.  He writes back, laughing over it and we both marvel that his mother has gone to such lengths in Japan to find his older brother a wife when his older brother had absolutely NO IDEA about it at all.  We decide he should tell his older brother at some point at least and leave it at that.  You know, one of those, "Oh, hey, bro, so our mom did this kind of hilarious thing..."

A few days later, I go to the church to meet the missionaries and this sister intercepts me to talk for another several minutes, in very hushed tones.  She's decided that rather than me just email the second son and tell him about the prospect, she should be the one to write him and ask for a proper introduction to his older brother - the Japanese way of doing things.

So I write back to my friend, "Looks like you're going to get an email asking for proper introductions."  He writes back, "Do you really want to go through with this?  It's up to you but I feel like if we don't, we'll offend our elders."  He and I are starting to wonder if somehow this isn't turning into something real.

It might be a really good time to tell his brother.  It might be a really good time to decide if I'm okay with omiai.  

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Yesterday, I went to my first baseball game in Japan.  Resolved: It will not be my last.

Getting there was an adventure.  I was running late so I just grabbed my wallet and the tickets and left, completely leaving my map behind.  Since I have run to Kleenex Miyagi Stadium multiple times, I figured that I didn't need my map...until I got the train station and realized that knowing how to get there on foot and by train were two different matters.

Then I saw a father and son (both adults) wearing baseball jerseys march onto the train platform I was waiting at and I followed them onto the correct train and from the train to the stadium.  I'm sure the son gave me weird looks multiple times since I just always happened to be right behind him but trying to appear as nonchalant as possible in the process.

When I got the stadium, I found that my seat was taken...by a family.  The wife immediately tapped her husband on the shoulder and told him to move but I quickly told them it was fine and scuttled past them into what I presume were their original seats.  In any case, no one asked me to move and sitting next to this little family was preferable to sitting by myself.  The family was very nice to me and their adorable son didn't care if I spoke Japanese or not - as long as I showed the appropriate amount of enthusiasm at how cute he was.  (Believe me - there was no lack of that)

Baseball is such a funny sport because in so many ways, it is so American.  Sitting in my seat, checking the scoreboard for the inning, and then looking at the count board to check the balls and strikes and outs, I felt right at home.  I knew exactly how to watch the game and what to look for.  When a player went up to bat, I would read his stats and know what to expect.  The stands were full of baseball jerseys and families and diehard fans and little league baseball teams all out for a great evening.  Hawkers moved through the stands selling snacks and drinks and beer.  It was America's pastime all over again.

However, there were lots of bits of Japanese culture thrown in too.  For one, there were cheers for every single player and not just cheers but songs.  There was a whole fan section who all dress up and have banners and signs and drums even and spend the entire game leading the rest of the crowd in the chants.  (The opposing team had a fan section too.  They had a lot of songs with the words "Lalalalala" in it and there was a lot of jumping up and down from them.  I found myself continually laughing at them)  The most notable player's cheer was for Teppei.  He's so famous that he has only one name and Teppei is what goes on the back of his jersey.  When he went up to bat, all of these banners with his name appeared and everyone just yelled, "TEPPEI" in ten or twenty second intervals.  Later, they broke into the chants and the songs but that first time, it was simply that call.  It was impressive.

Baseball teams also have their own fights songs.  During what should have been the seventh inning stretch, we all stood up and sang (with gusto) the Rakuten Eagles Fight song.  Baseball players are very quick to pass balls to the crowd.  At one point, a ball was hit along the baseline and when the ballboy sprinted to go fetch, he found that Teppei had jogged over and picked it up.  The ballboy looked at him expectantly and Teppei turned instead to the crowds and tossed it to them, much to their delight.  The ballboy just shrugged like he had guessed that would happen and sprinted back.  Everything really was quite delightful.  It made me realize how the Japanese had taken a sport and truly made it their own.  Part of me wished we could import some of it back to the States since I have so many friends who think baseball games are boring and this game was pretty much anything but.

With all of the cheers, it took me a while to notice though the lack of Americanness in the cheers.  No, "Hey batter batter..." calls or insulting jeers to the ump.  There was also a decidedly large lack of the organ and the wave.  And let's not forget the Take Me Out to the Ball Game song.  Makino-san himself is sad about that.  He dreams of the day when he can go to an American baseball game and stand and sing that song during the seventh inning stretch.  Honestly, it's an awesome tradition.  I don't blame him for his dream.

The game!  Yes, there was a game.  It was exciting.  We were leading by 3 when I got there and went up another run to make it 4-0.  Then top of the eighth, the other team got a run.  Top of the ninth, they got two more and with runners on base, it looked like we might have to go into the bottom ninth to pull it out.  However, our pitcher struck the last guy out and that was the game.  We won!
This is the view from my seat, with a dinky phone camera, not zoomed in.  So yes, awesome seats. 

This was the cheering section for our team.

The scoreboard.  Kleenex Stadium.  

The cheering section for the opposing team, the Marines.

Teppei! in the outfield

The infield

After the game, everyone stayed around while they interviewed the best hitter and the best pitcher from the game.  It was actually really hilarious and the more senior player (the hitter on the left) kept teasing the younger player and making everyone laugh.  I looked it up later - the younger player was only 18.  No wonder he looked so "deer in headlight"y.  

The young pitcher, Katama

The interviewing, with cheerleaders who told you when to applaud.

The stars of the night making their way around the stadium to shake hands and throw out autographed baseballs.   

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Humbled

A student sat me down today and told me how things work among Japanese students in Japan.  Turns out I've been doing it all wrong and my time is quickly coming to a close.

I just wish I had known earlier.  One thought is that there was no way I could have known.  The other thought is how could I have not known?

Life is hard.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why So Good?

My playlist lately:

Drive By - Train

I listen to this song while I'm doing manual labor in the lab.  It's catchy and I don't mind putting it on repeat.

We are Never Ever Getting Back Together - Taylor Swift

Thanks to Johnny Glass, I listened to this out of curiosity and it seemed to stick, although I'm not entirely sure how much I really like this song.

心醉心碎 - William Wei (This roughly translates to Head over Heels, Heartbroken but I wish I could find a better word to describe being absolutely in love with someone that is similar to the way it works in Chinese)

I adore this song but mostly I adore William Wei.  How is this man so awesome?  How is he not in my family?

Let Go - Magic Power
"Let Go, Let go of your memories, Let go of the world; it will stay just as it is.  There is enough of fortune and enough of scenery but only after you let go will it all become clear."

Magic Power is a hit/miss kind of group for me but I keep tabs on them because when they get a hit, the message of their music just amazes me.  This is one of those songs.  It came at a good time for me since I spend way too much of my time by myself and I do have quite the vivid imagination.

The Beginning - One OK Rock
Now that I'm in Japan, I like to see what is "popular" in my area.  This song came up last week and I ignored it and chose the vids about Shinji Kagawa instead.  But then I saw this group in the music store last night so I thought I'd give them a try.  These kids have a great sound.  I also really like their song C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h.  I have no idea what that means so don't ask.

Let it Be - The Beatles
 
The awesome always-plays-Beatles-songs restaurant somewhat near my house was playing this song so I sat down and listened to the entire song and even sang along.  No one even gave me a second glance.

If you listen to this playlist, you go through the whole gambit of a happy relationship that gets complicated, ends and then the aftermath of picking up the pieces and learning to start again.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fail Proof

I've been noticing this shirt for a while now (or some blue, red, white, sometimes even black variation thereof).  This is no ordinary striped shirt.  I have decided that it looks good on every single man I have seen in it.  Do they have this shirt in the US?  And if so, why aren't more men wearing it? 

In order to look for the picture below, I tried lots of different searches - "Well dressed asian man" "Japanese fashion" (this one actually yielded pictures of Japanese men - three of whom were wearing the shirt)  but the winning search was actually "horizontal striped shirt that all Japanese men wear"

Google ftw!
Source: Rakuten

Of a Saturday

Yesterday, I went and explored the ruins of Taga Castle.  I started out at one side of the castle and made my wall all around the perimeter of the castle walls and the castle itself and on out to the outward walls and gates.  It took me about three hours to do so which didn't seem like a long time but in retrospect, was.  So that gives you an idea about how extensive the area is that I covered.  

Apparently a lot of the castle itself was sacked and burned, rebuilt and then destroyed in a tsunami in 869.    

The ruins that we see aren't really much of ruins as much as filled in concrete and big wooden stubs of logs put in places where the pillar holes were so that we can see understand how the castle was laid out without actually rebuilding the entire thing.  (This is due to research from archaeologists and they always show images from the digs themselves next to every "ruin")  It's kind of an interesting way to examine ruins.  It was also pretty cool because the ruins are among the normal homes and farms of people in the area.  So you walk along these paths to the various parts of the ruins but run into people working in their rice paddies.  
Not actually part of the castle.  It was a random little shrine I stopped at first. 

This is from one of the gatehouse areas.  I took a picture of the rice paddies nearby.  

The castle grounds themselves.  This is from the edge where the walls were.  (You can see the raised earth)  

Castle wall foundation (not sure if this is real or recreated)

This is a model of the castle with the castle ruins behind it so you have an idea of what it looked like.  

The steps to the castle - or what's left of them?

One of the paths to the outward walls of the fortress


Between outlooks for the outward wall, there is a rather steep incline.  Rather than risk going down and up on the path, I just took the well-traveled and paved path.  

These flowers were beautiful and this picture doesn't do it justice.  

I think this is original.  Here is a stone road that was built in the Heian Period (794 to 1185) that runs along one of the north walls.  (There were several north walls that I assume depend on the castle boundaries of the given era) I assume it's original because it's unlikely this road would have been destroyed by a tsunami and that's a lot of work to recreate a road (laying all those stones) when you aren't bothering to rebuild the castle itself.  

After I wandered back into town, I ran into three middle schoolers who were excited to talk to an American but our communication was very poor.  All I got out of it was that the boy played center back on his soccer team at Northeast Junior High and he likes punk music and one of the girls like BIGBANG.  I'm not sure what they figured out about me besides the fact that I am indeed an American and I was looking for the train station.  

I've decided that if I would be pretty happy living in a city the size of Tagajo (which felt smaller than Matsushima but is actually three times larger than it) if I could live near a bigger city like Sendai.  It was really quite heavenly to walk along the rice paddies and greet everyone I saw.  

Once a Runner

Now that I run on a fairly regular basis and sometimes even use the runners around me as pace setters for my runs, I feel a certain kinship with all runners.  When I see a runner, I feel the need to cheer them on in their journey and let them know that they are awesome.

This is how it has gone.

1st time: I was on a run and at this point, about 2 miles away from home when I saw a man who was running sprints on a hill.  When I got to where he was walking off his last sprint, I smiled and said, "Good running!" while giving him a thumbs up.  The man repeated it back to me, "Good.uh..running." He seemed confused, not that I was complimenting his running but I could tell from his face that he wasn't sure if this was a common greeting in America among runners or not.  (I don't know what a common greeting among runners in America is either.)

2nd time:  I had run to the grocery store and was walking my way home again, groceries in hand when I saw another runner.  Since I was still in my running clothes and so recently finished from my run, I wanted to cheer him on.  Thinking back to what I want to say in America, "Jia you!"  I decided to use the Japanese equivalent.  When he got near enough for him to hear me, I smiled and said, "Ganbatte!"  The man looked at me for a second before responding, "Hi."  I wasn't sure if it was meant to be "Hai," which means "yes" in Japanese or a simple English hello.

Those two times, it was me suddenly bursting out a phrase and the runner responding in a somewhat surprised manner.

3rd time: I was on a park path and it was ridiculously humid and hot.  A man came running towards me and he and I caught each other's eye.  He was middle aged and looking quite hot and sweaty and slightly tired.  His look seemed to say, "I'm not entirely sure why I'm out here."  I felt that I was also communicating my own thoughts, "Wow, how can you run in this heat?"  So I smiled at him, put up my fist and said clearly, "Ganbatte!"  The man's face brightened.  He smiled and then he laughed.  I laughed back.  It was our own little joke.

4th time: Yesterday, I was on a narrow path that only comfortably fit one person when I noticed an athletic man in an Argentina football jersey running towards me.  He and I looked at each other for a split second before I jumped off the path to let him know I was giving him clear space to continue his run.  I jumped off the path early enough for him to know he didn't have to move but so early that I actually had to wait for a few seconds for him to reach me and pass me.  So I smiled at him, raised my fist and said, "Ganbatte!"  The man gave me a genuine smile and said in clear English, "Thank you!"  as he kept running.

These most recent times, it's been like we're sharing in some little secret or understanding that is all our own.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Midway

Manpris?  Socks and sandals?  It's a normal thing here.  Yep, and I condone it.  In the case of manpris, I even applaud it.

There is a magazine here entitled "Fine Boys" and there is always an attractive man on the cover.

Have you ever wondered where your Cub Scout uniform disappeared to?  Japan.  Men and women alike wear those blue shirts with the American flag patch on one shoulder and the patch from the Scout council the shirt came from on the other, along with the troop number.

On the topic of other slightly misplaced usage of shirts, on a daily basis, I see men wearing shirts with "ARMY" and "US Navy" and "USMC" printed on them.  Uhhh...why?

English is pretty pervasive here and shows up on just about everything.  My favorite t-shirt: Smooth like Butter.  My favorite English misuse: Sweet lovers' new luxury to savor cakes scorched by patissiers.  (It's on a bag and they use the word 'scorch'  repeatedly.  I really have no idea how that is supposed to sound delectable)

Kids?  Adorable.  (As if that was even in question)  But they are also very independent and surprisingly self-sufficient and their parents don't have to keep them on leashes to keep them safe.

I never expected to spend half of my budget on ice cream.  It's not just me though.  Everyone buys ice cream or some kind of frozen treat quite frequently and regularly (after most meals).

I crave noodles here more than rice.  (Soba in the summer heat?  Heaven)

Everyone here is beautiful and/or handsome.

Women almost always wear heels.

During the 7th inning stretch at baseball games, people sing and dance along to the song, "YMCA".  I asked and have no idea what they did before the Village People.

Every music store I have been in has an unusually large jazz section, at least it seems uncharacteristically large considering it's the same size as the entirety of the rest of the American music genres.

Matsushima felt too small to me (only about 20,000 people).  Sendai is just about perfect (1 million people).  Tokyo, though, does not feel too big either (8.7 million people).

I am addicted to the Japanese language.  When I go out, I listen to it all around me and try to pick out words but mostly, just try to figure out the prosody of the language.  When I go home, I miss hearing Japanese and so I turn on the TV.

I still can't speak Japanese.  Not even a little bit.  When people talk to me in Japanese, my mind goes blank and I panic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Best Laid Plans

Often Go Awry.

Why even plan, I sometimes wonder.

This week is Obon, which is essentially the Buddhist holiday used to celebrate and worship one's ancestors.  For the students I work with, it meant four whole days off of school.  I wasn't going to take the days - I had grand plans to spend the time learning Japanese (I haven't touched it really since my sister came to visit) and to work on my Virginia research.  However, I just haven't gotten around to it.  This is how Obon has gone for me instead:

Monday:
- A subway trip up to the northern part of Sendai city.

I wandered around a bit and found the Sendai Science Museum so I stopped to investigate.   As far as museums go, this one was perfect for hands-on learning for people of all ages.  They really did a good job to include a variety of interests and levels of scientific understanding.
 Replica of the Bell X-1
 Wankel (rotary) engine
 Learn to identify rocks by their streaks
 The view of the Dainohara Park from the stairs of the Science Museum
 A walk through the park
 This is the path I was directed down to get to the Sendai Literature Museum.  The trail twisted through the woods until it reached the museum.  It was a glorious walk even if the museum was already closed  by the time I reached it. 


Tuesday:
- A short train ride over to the coastal town of Matsushima.

I had hoped to attend the fireworks here since I missed the ones for Tanabata in Sendai.  But the fireworks were not being shown until Wednesday which already had three scheduling conflicts.


Looking out at sea, you can see a number of islands.  The Matsushima area actually has a few hundred islands.  During the earthquake and tsunami, those outward islands protected Matsushima and left the town unharmed.  


 Matsushima is a sacred area.  There were a number of temple and a long time ago, I think even the rocks were cut out to provide rooms and areas for worship, which you can see behind the statue above. 
 Matsushima actually means 'Pine Tree Island' and, true to its name, there were trees everywhere.  The air smelled like salt water and pine sap.  
I love this picture of this couple even if it was accidental.  This is the path to the temples.  







Wednesday:
- Long bus ride to Shinjuku, short subway ride to Ebisu, short metro ride to Hiroo, short walk to the temple.

Practically tripping over the entry onto the subway and apologizing to all the people around me on an already crowded and full train, I looked up to see the above picture at eye level.  I smiled, "Well, hello there, Hasebe."  It was like an old friend was greeting me, except well, he didn't smile; he just smoldered. (Really, if I didn't know who it was, I don't know if I would recognize him - he doesn't quite look like himself)

 The Temple.  I participated in initiatories entirely in Japanese.  For the endowment session, I alternated between Japanese, Chinese and English.  If I am not confusing my brain, it's certainly not for lack of trying.  
House of the Lord; Holiness to the Lord

The Tokyo Temple felt like a home.  Am I allowed to say that?  When I walked into the Celestial Room, I felt like I was walking into a living room.  It was so comfortable and homey.  

I love this shot.  Kind of amazing that I managed this with a phone camera and zero editing.  

I missed the Japanese National Team game.  I missed English class and meeting Boku from Shanghai.  I missed the fireworks in Matsushima.  (you know, those scheduling conflicts?  Why all on Wednesday?)  But I still think it's been a pretty fabulous few days.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Track

Dear Red Asics Man,

I never got up the courage to say it but I think that the way you sprint is just beautiful.  I could watch you all day.  In fact, I did watch you for a while until I thought you might get freaked out by it so then I went and watched the biker coast around the bike track for a few minutes before returning.  (The biker wasn't freaked out though - he smiled at me every time he went around and even waved)  Then I ran four laps around the park and after each lap, I checked to see you still there, still working on your form and technique.  Over and over again you practiced that same two hundred meters.  Aside from telling you that the way you run is beautiful, I would like to add three other things.  (1) Ganbatte!  (2) Don't give up.  (3) You'll make it.

Love,
Me


Monday, August 13, 2012

Repackage

Just about every year, Super Junior puts out a new album.  Most of the time, their title song takes a number of listen-throughs before I start to like it and much longer than that before I enjoy it.

For example, Sorry, Sorry - the song that rocketed them to an almost permanent number one spot on the Taiwan music charts since (although I'm not sure about the source of these charts) took a number of times for me to listen to it before I liked it.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the first time I listened to it, I just laughed at it.  I even went and showed it to my roommate so she could laugh at it too.  Several months later, I gave it another try and I was hooked.

About a month, however, after Super Junior releases a new album, they release a "repackage album" (I will forever feel the need to put a 'd' after "repackage").  This album includes all the songs of the original album but includes a few bonus tracks and one new featured song that gets its own music video and subsequent performances on the music shows in Korea.  I usually like those new songs the very first time I hear them.  For the third album it was Neorago, for the fourth album it was No Other (which honestly saved the whole album for me even though I now like all of it) and for the fifth album it was A-cha which the exception to this trend.  (But every rule must have its exceptions).

Surprisingly, I liked the sixth album Super Junior title track pretty quickly but true to the funny rule of repackage albums, I loved their newest featured song, Spy.  You really can't go wrong with putting those men in tuxes and having them run around stage pretending they are cool spies just adds to their appeal.  Leeteuk's hair though...


In other news, I met two men yesterday who are hitchhiking their way through Japan.  One of their summarized it as follows, "So, you're going to the country with the best public transportation in the entire world and you're going to hitchhike?"  Yep.  That's about right.

But we got to wondering - which would be safer - hitchhiking in America or Europe?  We really couldn't figure it out and decided that both were pretty risky.


Dear Self,

When you open your fridge and find that you are out of space because you have a bunch of opened but not even partially finished bottles of soda and you end up just dumping them out rather than finishing them, I think it's safe to say you're not much of a soda person.  So please, stop buying it thinking that that is what you are craving when you are hot and thirsty.  It's not.  Do yourself the favor and buy water instead.

Love,
Me

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Day at the Zoo

I took a three hour break from work today to spend two hours at the zoo and one hour walking down this enticing road.  

The zoo was an interesting experience - as is everything in Japan it seems.  

Of course there were lots of awesome animals.  I loved the elephants and the hippos and the gorilla and the Japanese pandas (so cute!).  I was pleasantly surprised to find they had a polar bear who, poor thing, was pacing around waiting for his dinner.  I just had to laugh though that some of the animals they considered worth putting in a zoo included a flock of Canada geese, a common raccoon, and a domestic horse.  I also got my first look at a real live American beaver.  

Then, there were the families.  I expected that and they did not fail to disappoint.  Lots of kids ran out exclaiming things about the animals.  I loved the little girl who dutifully followed her dad through the reptile house, asking very serious and earnest questions which he did his best to answer and the kid who toddled away from his parents only to show up at my elbow looking up at me.  I said, "Konnichiwa" but he was already gone again and his dad had to go after him.  However, one surprising family interaction I didn't expect was the families who carefully toted around their tiny babies.  Seriously, these babies couldn't have been more than six months old but their fathers carefully carried the cute things around in their arms and posed them in front of every single animal for pictures.  

Overall, though, for 400 yen, this zoo was a huge bargain and a great way to spend a few hours.  
Kirin = giraffe




Monument of Babe Ruth for hitting Japan's first home run.  The monument is located in the exact spot where the ball from the home run landed.  It turns out he actually hit two home runs in this game.   

Can you read this sign?  It says that rhinoceros is 'prayed by the carnivorous animals'.  What religious animals we have!

This little girl's arms were too short for the food to actually reach the hippo's mouth.  But he was certainly patient while she tried.  

A HUGE tortoise

This gorilla definitely has his job down pat.  He would pose for about three minutes and then change his pose and move to a different platform even to pose.  



I managed to get the tiger to look at me by purring/growling at him low in my throat.  I figured he was a hunter and so his hearing would be good enough.  It certainly attracted his attention.  

I love polar bears and always have. 

Panda - so cute.