Sunday, July 22, 2007

Saigo no Toki 最後の時

I just saw a gokiburi (cockroach) in the kitchen..... perfect time for me to leave. :P

I saw my best Japanese friends today (LEFT)-- it was hard to say goodbye. But I say "ja mata" (see you later), instead of "sayonara" (farewell/goodbye).

Had dinner with the host family at a Korean restaurant in Jiyuugaoka, a fancy upscale neighborhood, maybe like 23rd street?

I'm nearly all packed! I'll see you all soon!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Kitanomaru Park: Hanging Out

After the reception, we went for one last group outing to Kitanomaru park, near the Imperial Palace.

LEFT: me by the hefty gates guarding the Imperial Palace gardens

Graduation Ceremony

So we had a little graduation ceremony at school for all the exchange students. Afterward, the Gonin from Oregon and our Pakistani friends all posed for one last shot in front of the library. (LEFT)

After receiving beautiful certificates (prettier than my high school diploma) and having an akward "when-do-I-bow" issue, the reception was really nice. I got to see all my foreign friends!

LEFT: me and the host family! Aren't we cute?!!
BELOW: host dad talking in Chinese to my Chinese friend!

LEFT: my Japanese teacher, and classmates
BELOW: more Japanese class friends, from Hungary and the US

Graduation Reception Continued

LEFT: me and my Pakistani friends in beautiful Yukata- they look so pretty!!!

BELOW: me and a friend from the WIC circle/club. He is wearing the school's uniform, which he says cost about 40,000 yen (little less than $400). I gave him the English name, "Ted".

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kuzukiri: a new favorite dessert

We had a splendid "summer dessert" called Kuzukiri くずきり which is made from kanten (a gelatin made from sea vegetables). It comes in a plastic tube and you squeeze it out from the slotted/grid side, much like playdough, to make little noodle-like strands.

It also comes with a sweet liquid (either kuromitsu or clear sweet sauce, depending on variety) and then a topping (either matcha or sweet red beans). DELICIOUS!

LEFT: before eating with host family, upper right bowl is host dads, it looks architectural!!
BELOW: Kuromitsu and adzuki

BELOW: matcha

Tokyo Stock Exchange 東京証券取引所

So I went to the Tokyo Stock Exchange... on the basis of "why not". I don't really know why, but I expected to see something exciting. However, they replaced the trading floor with a computer system several years ago, and now it is just a few computers in a fancy room with a few employees calmly glancing at screens, while the computers do all the work.

I was told the Tokyo market works differently than other markets because it is a pure auction- computers matching buy and sell orders.

Most interestingly, the stock market has a LUNCH BREAK!! They are only open like 4 hours a day, but of course trading can happen outside those hours when a computer system monitors trades (instead of the calm people in the pictures).

Hanging out mischief

So some friends and decided to go out in the rain and hang out...

We went to Ueno for some shopping/browsing, and saw the Suica Penguin (LEFT) in the station! He is sooo cute!

Just to be stupid gaijin on the train, we all three whipped out our cameras and took mad pictures for a few minutes and then put cameras away... here is my best shot from inside the train on JR Yamanote.

Japan has this funny "manners campaign" or something... they have hilarious signs here and there.... click on the pic (LEFT) to see it up close and read the descriptions accompanying the diagrams!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Earthquake 地震

This morning I felt a small earthquake- my house shook for like 2minutes! Tokyo only felt a little bit of it, apparently it was a 6.6 in Niigata, which is up North somewhere.

We just get through a typhoon, and then have an earthquake! Wow.

Check out the news:

Saturday, July 14, 2007


There is a BIG typhoon here in Japan... not bad in Tokyo, we just have a lot of rain. But the news says the winds were at 216 km per hour, the video/pictures are crazy! Reminds me of the news of Hurricane Katrina. And, the typhoon canceled Hanabi (fireworks)! I was planning on going to Yokohama today for the fireworks, but not anymore!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Roppongi 六本木: Mori Art and Midtown

I had been wanting to see the Mori Art Center in Roppongi for quite a while, and easily persuaded my host dad to go with me. The exhibit was AWESOME: about the artist/architect LeCorbusier. We spent probably 2 hours in the exhibit, seeing architectural models, diagrams, paintings, furniture, a model car, and even experiencing some architecture in life size models of his "modular apartments". Absolutely fantastic... and reminded me of the architect-hero in Ayn Rand's Fountainhead, in the way that his buildings were designed around man's proportions (LeCorbusier had an elaborate system) and for maximum efficiency, especially in housing projects/apartments. LeCorbusier also did urban planning, and designed some fabulous looking churches... very modern.

Link to Mori Art Center's page on the exhibit

Admission to the museum also grants permission to "Tokyo City View" (like so many other Tokyo "views") on the 53rd floor of the Mori tower. However, being situated in Roppongi gave a vastly different look than say the Tocho in Shinjuku or the Tokyo Tower near Tokyo Station. We saw the Aoyama Park 青山公園 and several parks.

Host dad had to run errands, so my friend L joined me and we wandered around another of my favorite places, Tokyo Midtown. I really like this sculpture out front (LEFT).

I also like the basement food courts in Midtown, and the Preece Supermarket that sells all sorts of imported things... like German sparking Cassis fruit wine! (LEFT, a tribute to Gramma's Thanksgiving picture!)

Kimono and Haori 私の着物とはおり

Just to give y'all a better look... this is my newest fancy outfit! The blue part is the kimono, showing the crane on the sleeve. The orange/pink color is the new coat (haori) that I bought for less than $10! It perfectly matches my obi (sash) and is beautifully embroidered with metallic thread!

I can't wait to wear this to the symphony or something!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Weekend Sampou

Another blissful Sunday hanging out with M. We went to Hibiya park, which actually had roses!!!
And a fountain, and an amphitheater... reminded me of my hometown!

First we went to sushi at our favorite spot in Ginza, called Tamasushi! I saw these weird "taxis" there...

And, another trip to Asakusa!! I can't seem to help myself! They have maybe a dozen used kimono/yukata shops... I picked up another "haori" (kimono jacket) for less than $10, and bought a "himo" (belt) for my yukata/kimono that will be more comfortable than the one I have.

LEFT: M's suggestion... cool pic! The praying/paying spot at Sensouji Temple in Asakusa. Everyone throws coins in (5 yen is most lucky) and then prays.

Monday, July 9, 2007


I found the settings area (late I know!) and now ANYBODY can leave comments! Yay!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Sayonara Party さよならパーティ

My program had a Sayonara (goodbye) party, since we leave in two weeks! Wow! I decided to wear my new yukata that M gave me (thanks!!) and it looked wonderful! My host mom did practically all of the yukata-putting-on business. I was glad to have someone help me!

LEFT: me and the host fam! Aren't we cute?!!
We all gave speeches (in Japanese), so I was up late last night working on mine with M's help. My host parents gave a really nice speech about me, how they "received my energy" and enjoyed having me at their house. Shigeo had a surprise: he designed a hanko (signature stamp) for me, using old Chinese characters for my name, each with a specific meaning (I forget right now). He said that I should use the hanko when I write them letters! I was so touched I nearly cried! I will truly miss them!

LEFT: me and L, in our Yukatas before the party!

LEFT: me and our program director who has helped me *tremendously*. Not only a mentor, but a friend! We usually have lunch in her office on Mondays and tell her our stories from the week. We are very lucky to have her!

BELOW: The Go-nin 五人 who all arrived in late March! I have made some good friends! Sorry the picture is a bit blurry...

Friday, July 6, 2007

Printing Museum いんさつ博物館

My Japanese class took a field trip to a Printing Museum close to school. It was fantastic! They had a replica of the Rosetta stone, newspaper presses, and lots of printmaking tools (so you know I loved it!). They even had a couple lithography stones... so that was fun to see.

The museum was really spiffy! Lots of interactive screens, activities... I got to see a video on making Ukiyo-e, the traditional Japanese woodblock prints (link to Wikipedia article), which was fun since I have done multi-color wood block prints, so I appreciate how difficult that level of intricacy is!

LEFT: me at the printing station, putting the letter stamps together in preparation for printing! Don't you love the apron?!

Thank you to my friend R who took some lovely photos! The museum only let one person per group take photos, and R had to wear a "press" arm band! Plus she takes beautiful photographs!
BELOW: the shelves of characters/stamps... LEFT my friend L searching the stacks!

After you find the letters you want to use, then you stick them (backwards) into this metal thing (BELOW) to align them, before sticking the letters in a special inking/printing machine (LEFT). Strangely enough, the machine inks the letters from the round thing at top which is wet with ink, and then moves the ink roller out of the way to press the paper onto the wet letters. I was fascinated! So much simpler than the wood-block or lithographic printing I am used to!

LEFT: here is our Japanese class!
It was nice to get out of real class (and subsequent kanji tests) and spend the morning here!

The BALL!! Used a a symbol of the museum, it is some sort of metal in a large ball, and stamped with what looks to be ancient pictograms....? I dunno, but it is cool!

Kaiseki Ryouri 懐石料理

M took me to a VERY FANCY restaurant she used to work at in Shimbashi. The food was INCREDIBLE! We were served probably a dozen different courses, each with a hot new cup of tea. The chef even came out and asked us what we don't eat; he tailors the menu to each customer!

As you'd expect, everything was beautifully arranged on gorgeous dishes...

ABOVE: a sea-creature of some sort served in the shell, a jellied thing in the orange leaf, and a tiny shashimi with a small leaf under the transparent slice of fish.

LEFT: "eel tofu" served with a Kyoto forest vegetable (the floaty things) that were coated in a gelatin.

For desert, we were served fruit, and then a special in-house ice cream made of ume (Japanese picked plum) and shiso (a Japanese leaf used in cooking).

Yoyogi Park 代々木公園

I went to Yoyogi park with my friends M and J this past weekend! Surprisingly, it was my first time there, despite its popularity with the wakamono 若者 (young folk).

LEFT: the big fountain

Walking through the park, I was astounded when I saw two Brits that I had met in Kyoto! In a city of how-many-million, here I am on the same pathway as people I had dinner with last week!

Me and J, and me and M, by a big pretty mural!

LEFT: there are lots of "cosplay" (I think is the word?) people-- those who dress up either like maids or like anime characters... or anything really. Since Yoyogi is close to Harajuku (the young people fashion area), they seem to spill out, and I got to pose with one of the prettier of the costumed people. And by prettier, I mean, without blue hair!

BELOW: there is an odd group of middle-aged men who dress up like 1950's Elvis (?) and dance to rock music. They wear black leather pants, black leather jackets and black cowboy-ish boots... which are taped back together after the dancing tears them apart. One man (BELOW LEFT) had hair sticking straight up almost a foot above his head... I wanted a picture with him, but he was cranky that day and was tired of photos with tourists.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sensoji Temple at night

After the Taiko concert, L and I decided to go to the temple in Asakusa when there aren't the crazy crowds of gaijin everywhere.

We even talked to the kimono-shop lady, which was really fun. She was impressed that I knew a few kimono words, and taught me "himo" which are the small belts that nobody sees that holds the whole thing together. I am starting a sort of obession with kimono/yukata! So many fabrics and textures and options... and all so pretty!!! I just hope I can get away with wearing my yukata/kimono in the states... we shall see!

Sorry this pic is blurry, it is outside the temple, along the area where the touristy shops are during the day.