Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Type of Pilgrimage

First up: yeah, I'm about to do National Novel Writing Month, and I still have a lot of stuff from the Tokyo trip that I haven't yet fully translated/played with... so from here until probably December at least, I doubt I'll have the time to translate my blog posts. They'll only be in English for a while.

So I'm back in Kyoto. Tokyo was fun, but I couldn't stay there forever. I'd buy too many things.

Anyway, yesterday I went with a friend to... well, I can't really call it a pilgrimage, but it's kind of similar... maybe. You see, on Google Maps there is a map of locations that look similar to scenes from anime or games. So one of the things I've been doing in Japan is going to some of these places. (For example, Moriguchi City station.)

Yesterday, we headed off to Kobe in search of a number of those different places. We met at Kyoto Station and very rapidly discovered that the JR trains are really expensive. 1050 yen out to Kobe, no thank you. Certainly not when the Hankyu line costs 600 and goes to the exact same place. Even if you have to start from Kyoto Station and pay 210 to go to the Hankyu station at Shijo, it's still cheaper.

On our way to Kobe, though, we stopped at a station called Nishinomiya-kitaguchi (which would translate roughly as Western Shrine, North Entrance), where there were a few Haruhi places. Having not watched Haruhi in a while, I didn't really know what I was looking for, and the map was a little hard to read. We didn't get lost, but we kept having no idea whether we had found a point or not.

This was also when we got lunch. Japan is awesome when it comes to food... where else can you buy an actual decent lunch at a convenience store? (Yay for bento!)

Eventually, we got back on the train and headed for Sannomiya Station. And by that I mean Hankyu Sannomiya Station. There are three of them: JR, Hankyu, and Hanshin. Okay, they're all right next to one another, but still.

The biggest attraction for me here was also the easiest to find: the Kobe Great Bridge. At first it wasn't really recognizable, but once we had crossed it and turned around, it became really obvious. I will get pictures up eventually... I forgot my camera, so I have to wait for my friend to send me the pictures he took.

... I know, I know, I'm a very strange person. Next time I go to Kobe, I'll actually explore the usual tourist places and the like, I swear. Right after I stop in Nishinomiya again... there's still a lot of Haruhi places that I haven't been to yet...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Field of Autumn Leaves

Pretty much since I got to Japan, there’s been one thing that I absolutely wanted to do: go to Akihabara. And now? Now I have. I will say this: I’m glad I chose to study abroad in Kyoto. Because if I had gone to a program in Tokyo, I would be going to Akihabara every day, and probably would have run out of money within a week.


Along Chuo-dori, the main street, there are at least five arcades. I have been inside three different ones, although really the differences are minor. I did finally get to play F-Zero AX, on a machine that I found in Akihabara. I did not know before that the seat would move, for that game... I was kind of wondering why there was a seat belt on the machine.


And that same arcade had the Star Wars Trilogy arcade machine, Time Crisis 4, and Bonds of the Battlefield. If the first two weren’t horribly overpriced, I might play them... but really, 100 yen for a game that costs a quarter in the U.S.?


As for Bonds of the Battlefield... the Internet lies. According to information I found on the Internet, you needed 8000 pilot points before you would be promoted to... Private again? E-2, whatever that is in the Army. (Can’t believe I’ve forgotten...) And yet, somehow, I was promoted again today... I don’t even have three thousand, much less eight!


Oh, and in one of the other arcades, I got to battle someone at DDR. My status as unconquerable DDR master remains intact... well, among my friends, anyway.


And there are uncountable masses of game/computer stores. There's the one store, Sofmap, that has a main branch, and then four or five more stores (all within five minutes' walk of the main branch) that sell just games, or just music, or just computers... it's ridiculous.


We've also discovered new trading card games. I suppose that my friend and I are compelled to buy stuff related to our favorite games/anime. He bought Touhou trading cards, and I bought Nanoha ones. (Well, and some Fate/stay night and Key... but mostly Nanoha.) Sadly, they're from different games, so we can't play one another.


At least not with our cards. He bought enough Touhou cards to make two decks, so we played a game. I'm sure we ignored half the rules of the game, and neither of us had any strategy to speak of. It was kinda silly.


So yes, I'm vastly enjoying my time here in Tokyo.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome to Tokyo!

The day started at 9:30ish, when I met a friend at Kyoto Station. Twelve minutes later, we were on the Nozomi number 116 super-express train to Tokyo. (Side note: while "super-express" is still used in English, the equivalent Japanese "chotokkyu" isn't really used anymore.) This was my first time on the shinkansen, and it was certainly awesome.


The Nozomi ("nozomi" means "desire" in Japanese) shinkansen only makes three stops between Kyoto and Tokyo. So we were in Tokyo by 12:15, about two and a half hours after the train left Kyoto. It really didn't feel like we were going all that fast... but clearly we were. I mean, 500 kilometers in two and a half hours... that's an average speed of 125 miles an hour, which is a lot faster than the other option, the bus. (Airlines are too annoying.)


Once we got off at Tokyo station, we proceeded to get horribly lost. Somehow, despite Google Maps having the right address, it sent us off into Chiyoda ward, when our hotel was in Sumida ward. The difference? At least a mile, if not two. Oh, and different wards in Tokyo might as well be different cities. So yeah... very, very lost.


Thankfully, the police officers that we asked pointed us in the right direction, and we had time to spare. So it didn't ruin the trip or anything. Our hotel is nice... kind of expensive, but I don't mind. And it's literally right next to a train station, so it's very convenient.


Hmm, what should I do next... of course. Did I mention that the Akihabara station is literally two stops away?


Friday, October 22, 2010

One Week's Activities

This last week has just been pure chaos. Every day, there was something going on. So, the highlights...


Tuesday was a day for teaching English. Well, that and a trip to the arcade... yeah, I spent too much time in the arcade this last week. Anyway, I went back to Rakuto Middle School for another day of helping to teach English. This time, it was just me. Since I had to do everything, I wonder if maybe I'm not quite energetic enough to really be a good teacher... oh well, I have time (and the chance) to practice, right?


After that, I was planning to meet my language exchange partner late in the day for dinner. Since I had time to kill, I went to the arcade and played another round or two of the Gundam game. It's addictive, and expensive to boot... which means whoever made that game is certainly good at their job.


Anyway, my language partner. He's a student from Kyodai who wants to learn English... our conversations are interesting, to say the least. His English pronunciation needs a little work, but I feel like he has a better grasp of vocabulary than I do... We met at a McDonalds at the intersection of Imadegawa and Kawaramachi streets; I tried their teriyaki burger. It was okay, I suppose.


Oh, and on the subject of "interesting conversations"... somehow a discussion on environmental problems turned into power sources, and from there into nuclear weapons. To be fair, he brought up the atomic bomb first... but how am I supposed to answer "we've had a nuclear weapon used on us"?


His topic was better than mine... I wanted to talk about Japanese schools and universities, but realized in short order that I didn't have all that many things to ask about. So that was also awkward, although for a different reason. I did learn that in Japanese universities, students will refer to themselves as fifth or even sixth year students if they end up repeating their senior year. Don't American universities kick you out if you have to repeat a year more than once?


That was it for Tuesday... on Wednesday, I got sick. Ugh. Just a cold, but I felt kind of off all day... and then on Thursday I was completely out of it. It didn't help that I had to wait for my class at 5 in the evening. Both days were interesting... I went to a fire festival on Wednesday and worked on plans for fall break on Thursday. But I also went to bed about as early as I could manage both nights, which worked out to around 10. I don't think I've gone to bed around 10 since high school.


Thankfully, I felt a little better today. Which was good because I had two midterms to take. Japanese came first, and actually wasn't all that hard. There were a few questions that I just didn't answer, but on the whole it was fine. The other midterm was my Japanese Religions midterm, and that... I don't know. Maybe. I probably wasn't detailed enough, but I wrote all I could.


Also today: the Festival of the Ages, Jidai Matsuri. One of Kyoto's biggest festivals (alongside the Gion Festival), the Festival of the Ages features a procession of people dressed in historical costumes, from the time of Heian-kyo's founding up to the Meiji Restoration. About the only word that suffices to describe this particular festival would be "awesome".


The costumes were beyond description. Actually, I went a little early with some classmates, because the teacher of our Kyoto history class wanted us to interview some of the participants in the parade. So we got a close look at the costumes. And we interviewed people. Mostly Meiji-era heroes, like Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro.


So yeah, it's been a crazy week. And things aren't going to change, because this weekend will top everything I've yet done in Japan. You see, fall break is starting; I have all of next week off. But I've been to Osaka twice, climbed Mt. Hiei, gone to Okayama Prefecture, seen the Jidai Matsuri... what could possibly top that?


Next up: Tokyo.


Saturday, October 16, 2010


It has been one hell of an interesting week.


So on Thursday, I went to help teach English at Rakuto Middle School for the first time. Generally, Japanese are viewed as obedient, quiet people, right? Well, either that's just a facade, or I've found the one middle school that has all of the excitable students. I mean, seriously... the first question I was asked was "Do you have girlfriend?"

木曜日には、洛東中学校に英語の授業のアシスタントをしに行った。アメリカ人にとって、日本人は素直で、おとなしい人だけど...まあ、これはまねだけか、洛東は一つだけの元気な学生がいる中学校だ。初めての質問は「Do you have girlfriend?」だ!

What's more, the teacher didn't seem to be overly worried with discipline. I have to imagine that anyone who talked out of turn so much in an American school would have gotten punishment of some kind. Perhaps some measure of excitement is to be expected, considering they had a foreign student as an English teaching assistant.


I'm looking forward to this all the more. It really was fun to go in and help with the English class, and next week I get to go by myself... this time I went with a friend, so yeah.


Friday... well. So there was a party scheduled for 6:30 in the evening, but my classes were over by 3. Three hours of free time, weekend starting... off to the arcade! First up was another round of DDR, because I will never get tired of DDR. I did much better this time, although still not as good as I would like. Then again, anything other than perfection is "not as good as I would like", so perhaps my goal is a little unreasonable.


Then I went upstairs to the Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield machines. I am such a coward sometimes... I just stood in front of the machines for a good fifteen minutes doing nothing, pretty much. Okay, I was watching two Japanese people playing, but really, watching it isn't that interesting.


Finally, I started playing, and in short order was taking out enemies left and right. I finally got promoted! Well, okay, I'm still only a Private (I was a Civilian...), but it's still a promotion, right? Next time I play, I can elect to go for a real battle rather than a training match against AIs. That should be fun.


Although right after I got promoted... well, while I was updating my pilot card, these two Japanese girls actually asked if they could borrow my card and have a go at it. They were kinda lucky... I still had the option to do training, which they kinda needed. I tried to explain the controls, but my Japanese is still not that good. All the same, they did surprisingly well. And you get to do two battles each time you play, but they were done after one, so I got a free battle!


It's a good thing too... Bonds of the Battlefield is expensive. I mean, Japanese arcades usually operate on 100-yen coins, so already it costs five times as much as an American arcade. What's worse, Bonds of the Battlefield wants five of those, usually. Even at the arcade that I went to, where it's only 400 yen, each play costs five dollars.


And that wasn't even the end of the day... I believe I said "party" earlier? Nearly seventy people, KCJS students and students from Doshisha and Kyodai, got together to have fun. And of those, nearly half went to this "Sweets of Ninja" buffet-style restaurant for a late dinner and a lot of cake. The staff there were dressed like ninjas... it was actually kinda cool.

これは終わりじゃない。先、「パーティー」と言ったね。70人ぐらい、KCJSの学生と同志社と京大の学生は来た。そして、「Sweets of Ninja」と言う食べ放題のレストランに行って、たくさんケーキと晩ご飯を食べた。レストランの人は忍者みたいな服を着ている...かっこいいね。

And now, I have anime to watch this weekend.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Synchronicity lyrics

So, who thought I had forgotten about this?

Synchronicity (Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations OP)

Artist: Yui Makino

Writer/Composer/Arranger: Yuki Kajiura



To where does this warmth go?
If tomorrow dawns, it will vanish...
If our heartbeats’ rhythm matches,
then we can descend into the same depths...


Always and forever together with you,
no matter where you have lost your way...


While we drifted amidst the darkness,
just like the innocent young bird, we received wings.
You hide your sadness behind a smile,
and with a blade of ice
expose your heart,
embracing it always...


To where are you going alone?
Turning back will only bring fear...
The shape of your heart, the color of loneliness,
surely, they are similar to the truth...


But someday, certainly, within our transience,
we have our eyes fixed on a place to return to...


Within this darkness, no matter how long we are apart,
the unbreakable bonds between our hearts will call us.
I understand that you smile even in sad times.
I want to warm your cold finger
with my tears...

この胸を晒して 抱きしめる

While we drifted amidst the darkness,
just like the innocent young bird, we received wings.
You hide your sadness with a smile,
and with a blade of ice
expose your heart, embracing it...
Together, always...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Osaka Redux

Yes, I went to Osaka again today. And it was absolutely a good idea. Even if I did get five hours of sleep last night. I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to watch the first episode of A Certain Magical Index 2, and then woke up at 7:30 to have breakfast and go out to meet my friends in Osaka. Apparently I looked really tired, but I didn't feel it for some reason...


So anyway, I took the Keihan main line again, this time all the way to its terminal station, Yadoyabashi.  From there, I walked to Hankyu Umeda station to meet my friends, who ended up being kinda late... But no matter. Because then, we went to a Pokemon store in Osaka. That was amazing. Only the Nintendo store in New York City can compare to this. I went a little nuts, I admit... bought three cell phone straps and five little Pokemon figurines. Oh well, it didn't cost all that much.


From there, we hiked our way back to the Umeda subway station and made our way to Nanba. Our destination, Dotonbori, our goal... well, we didn't really have one. Of course, I wanted to track down an arcade, and that I did. We found two, in fact.


The first was early in the day. Sadly, there was no Dance Dance Revolution machine in sight. There was, however, fun to be had. First came an interesting little game by the name of Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield. (link to Wikipedia) It's a multiplayer battle game where people can side with either the Earth Federation or the Principality of Zeon and engage in large-scale battles.


... Here, let's just let the pictures that one of my friends took explain.


Basically, it's awesome. Understand? Okay. Moving on.


There was also that drum/taiko game that every anime fan probably remembers from Lucky Star (that's where I saw it first, anyway). It's called Taiko Master. (again, Wikipedia) Since I have a ridiculously good sense of rhythm, I'm not half bad at it. My arms hurt like all get out by the time I was done with that game, though.


So once I was done being a geek, we moved on. Lunch was ramen, and really good too; I don't do ramen that often, but I actually kinda liked it this time. Other than that, there was a lot of random exploring of the city...


Oh wait, arcade number 2. I don't think I've ever seen an arcade six stories tall before. And the billboard marking its location was visible from practically two blocks away. Needless to say, I had high hopes...


Oh yeah. It's been a while.


I promptly got on the pad and commenced with the making a fool of myself. Seriously, Only My Railgun was a 9 (on the new difficulty scale that runs from 1 to 20); how did I get a C? I've forgotten my second song, but Saber Wing in the third slot went no better. Damn it all... why is it that I fail so miserably every time I play DDR in an arcade?

僕は早くDDRをして、バカな業績を始まる。まったくもう...only my railgunと言う曲は、9だから、どうやってCがとった?僕の二番目と三番目の曲は同じく。しまった...なぜDDRはアーケードでするたびに、悪くなる?

At that point, with my arms sore from taiko games and my legs sore from DDR, I figured it was about time to cut my losses and head home. But there will be more Osaka in the future. I've finally found some really good arcades, after all.


Doshisha University

Finally I have decent pictures of the university where I'm studying abroad. Only took me, what, a month?


This is pretty much the center of Doshisha. I took this picture at 8:30 in the morning, but had I taken it in the middle of the day, there would be teeming masses of students lining this boulevard.


And the building where KCJS is housed. In fact...


... we're so important, we get a sign.
(It's not visible in the last picture; it's hidden behind the pillar with "Fusokan" on it.)


The same building.


The entrance to the campus on Karasuma street. It's the best way to get to Imadegawa Station on the Karasuma subway line, so it's my preferred route into campus.


There's this cute little park or something next to Fusokan. There's even a pond with koi in it!


And finally, the most important building on campus. The basement of the Meitokukan is home to the cafeteria, you see. That, and a convenience store, and a campus bookstore-like place... really, the Meitokukan is awesome.


So yeah, this is where I'm studying abroad.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Japanese Schools

All KCJS students have to do this thing called a "Community Involvement Project", which is basically an internship. The point of it is to give us more experience in actually using Japanese in conversation, especially honorific and humble language, since a workplace is filled with "keigo", as it's often called. Really, my Japanese class could be the worst in the world, and I'd still be learning Japanese because of all of these special activities. And it isn't, it's pretty good.


Since I've been considering becoming a teacher sometime in the future, I chose to help teach English at a school in Kyoto. So on Monday, one of our Japanese teachers took myself and two others to Rakuto Middle School, out in Kyoto's Higashiyama ward. We met with the school's principal and two of the teachers to work out the details. Since I wasn't the only one there, I didn't have to talk all that much... I'm still as quiet a person as always. 


Basically, once a week I'll go and assist the English teacher there with class. My first time is next Thursday, the 14th. That time, I'm going with one of the other two people that are also doing this, but occasionally one of us will go there by themselves. My first time for that is the Thursday after next, the 21st. I'm looking forward to it!


Then again, in some sense we've already started. On Wednesday, the three of us went to Rakuto's sports festival, kind of like the field day that a lot of American elementary schools have. And we introduced ourselves there in front of the entire school and some of the parents to boot. That introduction was a little harder than most.


On the up side, we got to participate in a tug-of-war, the PTA against the 3rd-year students. We were on the PTA team, which won. Twice. Yeah, that was satisfying. Although according to one of the teachers, the PTA team wins every year. Sadly, we left shortly after. I would have liked to stay, but I had to go deal with some homework that necessitated going to a museum in the city.


And that isn't even it... on Friday I went to Momoyama Middle School in southern Kyoto, Fushimi ward. Apparently, at Momoyama, there's an English club of sorts, and I can go and chat with the students there. It's a different kind of activity, so yeah. That won't start until November, since I do have Rakuto stuff to do.


Finally, my CIP activities can begin, and I can go see Japanese schools in action... this will be fun.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcome to Okayama Prefecture

So this last weekend was one hell of an interesting one. Every year, KCJS students go off on a trip to... pretty much somewhere other than Kyoto. Okayama Prefecture seems to be a popular destination, considering that they went there last year too. My hosts in Okayama Prefecture had a picture of some of last year’s Brandeis students at a festival that’s held every year around this time.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Two caveats: one, as you may have noticed, this post will be the one exception to my posting in English and Japanese. I do not have the time to do my actual Japanese homework and translate a post of this length. Second, since I didn’t really have an Internet connection there, I had to merely write this post day by day, and now I’m posting it all at once. So this is going to be very long. Prepare yourselves!


We left Kyoto at nine in the morning. We gathered at Doshisha and were loaded onto two buses, one heading up into the mountains and one (the one I was on) making for the coastline.

Japanese highways are really not that much different from American ones. I mean, there’s the whole “drive on the left side of the road” thing, but that’s about the only difference. The highway did have a lot of tunnels though. I suppose that’s to be expected in a country with so many mountains.

We drove through Himeji City on the way... it saddens me to realize that the White Heron Castle, Himeji Castle, is undergoing renovations, and will be for years. I wanted to see that castle... *sigh*

We got lunch on the way, and arrived in Asakuchi City around 1:30 in the afternoon. I didn’t think this would be all that special, but apparently it was... there was a welcome ceremony with all sorts of Asakuchi City people making speeches. In Japanese of course. And we met our hosts for the next three days too. My hosts were really nice people; I would have been perfectly happy staying with them for a lot more than just three days.

Once the speeches were over, we all went over to a nearby school, Konkou Academy, and were given a tour of the school. Words cannot describe how awesome this was. My host family and I were one of the first to get there, so while we were waiting, I had some of the Japanese students peering out the windows at myself and one of the other KCJS students to arrive early. I love being a source of amusement for Japanese students...

Once everyone had arrived, the school’s band put on a quick little concert as their welcoming ceremony. It was really wonderful; music is one of the things I have a soft spot for, so yeah. After that, we were taken over to see some of the other club activities... first was some martial art whose name I honestly do not remember. All the same, those wrist holds and takedowns looked absolutely painful. I am very, very glad I didn’t volunteer to participate in that.

Then we watched the judo club at their work. Which was mostly grabbing their opponents’ clothing and trying to trip or throw him. This... also looked painful. At least for kendo, which came after that, they got to wear armor of a sort. Of course, when you’re using a wooden sword as a weapon and striking at the head, without armor you’d be killing people. So yeah.

The kendo was also awesome because after the two club members demonstrated their abilities, the instructor offered to let us take a wooden sword and try some of the attacks ourselves. That was awesome. Probably the most fun I’ve had here in Japan yet.

Finally, we participated in a tea ceremony, courtesy of Konkou Academy’s tea ceremony club. With twelve people, it was a little cramped and a little rushed... but then again, the snacks and tea are delicious, so I’m not going to begrudge any chance to participate in a tea ceremony. The Japanese guy sitting next to me seemed surprised when I said I liked the tea... I don’t think he was expecting that.

With that, our tour of Konkou Academy was over, unfortunately. It was ridiculously fun. Okayama Prefecture knows how to make people feel welcome, that’s for sure. I wonder if I’ll ever have a chance to go back there, sometime...

Well, after that my hosts drove me to the coastline. Asakuchi is right on the Seto Inland Sea, and there was a breeze coming in off the sea. It felt great... I really don’t go to the coast often enough, especially considering my home is really close to the ocean. (Well, the Chesapeake Bay. To be precise.)

I met my hosts’ grandchildren, who are (in the true style of kids everywhere) overly energetic. They somewhat awkwardly greeted me in English... it was so cute! They live with their parents, not with my hosts, so we didn’t have long to chat, but I kicked a soccer ball around a little and played some baseball too.

Finally, we made it back to my hosts’ home and had a relaxing evening... dinner was good (nabemono... look it up), and then I showed my hosts where I was from on Google Maps while we were all relaxing in front of the TV.

And this was just one day! If the rest of the weekend is this much fun...


“If the rest of the weekend is this much fun” indeed. Holy damn.

The day’s activities started at 10 with a trip to Ryūnan Nursery School in Asakuchi, where one of my hosts’ grandkids goes. They had me sit up front and field some questions about myself, both from the teachers and the kids. I ended up singing the first part of the opening theme to Space Battleship Yamato, somehow.

We then moved on to coloring these little paper doll elephants, and then had them fight each other, sumo-style. That was... interesting. It’s hard to describe. I didn’t win all that often, not that I minded.

Then came lunch. I don’t even remember what we ate for lunch. Rice was involved, and I’m pretty sure there was miso soup too... but this is Japan, practically every meal has those.

Before I left the nursery school, the kids gave me a little card and a paper necklace to thank me for coming... to repeat myself from yesterday, it was so cute! Even though it’s exhausting to hang out with little kids, it was so much fun!

At this point, I could have spent the rest of the day doing nothing and still have had an awesome day. But that was far from it. Next came a visit to the Kamogata Machiya Park. There, I got to play with a kendama! It’s this little toy that’s a ball connected by a string to a little cross-shaped piece of wood. You hold the cross-shaped part and try to get the ball to land on the ends of the cross. For such a little thing, it is surprisingly difficult... although I was getting decently good at it by the time we left.

We also tried walking on stilts. “Tried” being the operative word. I couldn’t manage it. Pity no one had a video camera, or we’d have some interesting YouTube fodder.

There was also a koto lesson in progress when we got there... when it ended, I got a chance to play the koto myself. Now that was interesting. Having played piano in the past, rhythm wasn’t a problem, but it was still kinda hard.

Nothing else interesting really happened until dinner. Of course, dinner was a barbecue party with my hosts’ extended family, so yeah. Yakitori, crab, shrimp, sushi, onigiri... the amount of food there was just insane. Now if only they had had soda, it would have been perfect. There was plenty of beer, but they already knew that I didn’t drink (not even legal yet in Japan, much less the United States), so that wasn’t an option.

And after dinner... I believe I mentioned a festival? The Ōura Shrine Annual Autumn Festival (Shūki Reitaisai), at a shrine in Asakuchi City, would be that festival. I believe that all of the KCJS students in Asakuchi attended. And all of the guys helped with the festival.

By “helped”, I mean we helped to carry one of the portable shrines. Those things were heavy. I mean, damn, with a good thirty people all carrying it, you’d think it wouldn’t be all that bad. Oh no. I’m typing this four hours later and my back and shoulder still ache a little.

But it was still great fun. I got taiyaki for my trouble, so I was happy. Everyone (else) was drinking beer and having a great time. If there’s one thing I’m really going to miss when I have to go back to the U.S., it’s going to be the festivals. (If only for the taiyaki.)

One more day... there’s no way anything could top that Saturday, though.


Well, today was much quieter. Went on a trip to Fukuyama Castle, mostly because I admitted to my hosts yesterday that I liked castles. Like most currently in Japan, Fukyuama Castle is rebuilt... only a very few survive in their original state, and the only one that comes to mind right off is Himeji. (See above about Himeji’s current state. *sigh*)

The problem with this outing was that the museum is in Japanese. Now, I like history, and I like learning more about history... but I simply can’t translate museum signs from Japanese into English in any reasonable length of time. My translation works best when I’m sitting down in front of a computer with a good two or three hours to spare.

All the same, it was cool. Any traditional Japanese castle with tower is good in my book, and usually the museums show what they looked like back when they were built and/or at their peak. It makes me wonder how anyone ever dared to challenge them. I mean, seriously... a moat, outer wall, inner wall, built steadily higher on a hill... I guess this is why siege warfare was invented.

We also got lunch in Fukuyama Station... I got hamburger, which apparently here in Japan just means a slab of meat. Not that I minded, it was good, and it’s not like I was expecting a bun. Oh, and rice, of course. Although my rice was served on a plate for some reason... news flash, I’ve been in Japan for a month, I can use chopsticks and would like my rice in a bowl where I can actually eat it with chopsticks, thank you very much.

Finally, I got a souvenir to take back with me from Fukujima... momiji manju, these little tasty cake-like pastries with filling, shaped like autumn leaves. They’re filled with all kinds of things... this set was an assortment, with anko (red bean paste, like taiyaki... yay), green tea, chocolate, and mocha-filled ones. (Having already eaten them, considering it took me a while to write and post this... the anko-filled ones were the best. Just saying.)

That was pretty much it... by the time we returned to Okayama, it was time to leave for good. Tearful goodbyes were had (okay, not all that tearful), souvenirs and thank yous were exchanged, and we loaded up on the bus back to Kyoto.

... There’s only one weekend that could possibly top this, and that would be one spent in Tokyo. Oh wait, we have a break coming up later in October...