Thursday, March 31, 2011


I have returned home, and then headed back to Brandeis. I'm sitting here in my new room as I type this... my last post of the Study Abroad Chronicle.


It's been quite a year. From the good times, the friends I made, the things I learned, the places I saw... and the bad with them, the failures, the mistakes. The fun I had going to karaoke with friends, and the shock of seeing news of the earthquake. The excitement with which I set foot on Japanese soil, and the frustration of being forced to return home.


I've tried to convey here on this blog what it's been like, and yet I know I've barely scratched the surface. Words aren't enough to truly explain how I've changed, or what studying abroad has been like for me. It's been an irreplaceable experience, that's for sure. I am a different person now than I was last summer, when I wrote my introduction.


And yet, what's different...? I'm not sure if I know. I mean, I know more Japanese. I'm more confident using Japanese. That's obvious. I've learned something from the classes that I took.


Other than that, though, I don't think I can properly put it into words. All I can say, I guess, is that I'm really glad I was able to go to Japan. I really wish I could have stayed longer. And I know I'll be going back there one day.


So then, what happens to this blog? Well, as far as the story is concerned, this is The End. I'm not going to be writing about going to Japanese classes at Brandeis and sending homework to my professors via email. Some of my assignments will show up here in some form (a friend and I are making a video, I'm working on a translation), and I'll probably start another blog at some point (relating to my translations), but that's it.


Even without that, though... even if this blog's purpose has been fulfilled, to call it the end... And that brings me back to the title of this post, which I left untranslated. Mostly because, as a title, it's hard to translate. But the concept isn't difficult.


This isn't the end. I won't ever forget the time I spent in Japan. I'll have this experience for the rest of my life. And even after the last page of the book, the story continues. It won't continue here, no, but somewhere...


This isn't anything like The End. Until the next time we meet, everyone...


Sunday, March 27, 2011

En Route

Well, I'm writing this from San Francisco International Airport, so yeah. They have free WiFi.


So on the flight from Kansai, let's see... I wrote some fanfiction, finally got around to listening to Nanoha StrikerS Sound Stage X, listened to Vocaloids music (again), ate dinner and breakfast...


What didn't I do...? Oh yeah. Sleep. According to my watch, it's 4 in the morning over in Japan. I should feel tired. Why don't I feel tired?


Friday, March 25, 2011

The Final Night

Within 24 hours, I will be on a flight back to the United States.


If there is an upside to all of this, it's that leaving soon is a fantastic excuse for parties and missing homework. KCJS had a farewell party on Wednesday, and aside from our professors repeating the "mild sense of disappointment" thing that set me off earlier, it was good. There was food, and pictures, and reminiscing about the sixty thousand yen I've spent on a certain Gundam arcade game (totally worth it), and all sorts of other conversations.


Plus, I've been to karaoke twice over these past two weeks. Rather than the massive parties with beer everywhere that have characterized my earlier karaoke experiences, these were much smaller affairs with a few close friends, a lot of good songs, and no alcohol in sight. And although I never thought I could like karaoke any more than I already did, well...


Of course, it's not all fun and games. There's that little thing known as "packing" that's getting in the way, now that it's coming down to the wire. After devoting two packages to stuff that will be shipped home, I think I'll manage, somehow. Of course, I won't see any of that stuff for three weeks, which is why I didn't put anything I'll need soon in there. (I hope.)


... I think that's it. Not much to say about these last few days. The post office will come and pick up my packages tomorrow morning around 10, and the MK Skygate Shuttle will be here around 12:15. Tomorrow, I return to the United States.


And now, I can think of only one way to express my feelings. You see, it's not that I'll come again to Japan one day. Rather...


Someday, surely, I will come back.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Sharing Thoughts

Go read this.


I've had a link to that blog on my sidebar pretty much since I knew it existed. It's the work of one of my classmates here at KCJS. And now, she's put this feeling into words better than I ever could.


When I first learned that I had been accepted into KCJS, I was happy. It sounds like such a simple thing, and yet that doesn't suffice to describe it. I was looking forward to coming to Kyoto with all my heart. Hell, I started this blog in June, remember? I needed to do something with all that excitement.


When I first got to Kyoto, everything was new and different, yet everything was the same. Daily life is daily life, no matter where you might go. And yet... there was "とまれ" painted on the (much narrower) roads, rather than "STOP", there were the school uniforms everywhere, there was the easily-recognizable chime of the school bell that sounds the same no matter where you go... Things I had seen in anime, but now I was living in that world.


When the first semester ended, I realized I hadn't really suffered from homesickness at all. I love the United States, I would proudly use the word "patriot" to describe myself... and yet, I didn't miss it. Somewhere along the line, I had come to love this new country, and my life in it, almost as much.


And now, I'm being forced to return home.


"Disappointment" is indeed the wrong word. There's no one word, not in Japanese and certainly not in English, that could possibly suffice. Perhaps what I have written, what my classmate wrote, comes close to expressing something that truly cannot be put into words...


And while it is true that this cannot compare to the hardships of those in Tokyo or Touhoku, I am in complete agreement with my classmate on this: dismissing it is damn near unforgivable.


Saturday, March 19, 2011


The final day of classes is now March 23rd, and I will be required to move out of my homestay by March 26th.

I don't understand this at all. There is absolutely no reason for anyone here in Kyoto to be evacuated. And yet, we're being told to leave. Sure, it's only a 'suggestion'... one backed up by the removal of our places to stay in Japan, and the cessation of all classes. Really, do they think we're morons? They might as well hand down a direct order and have done with it!

I should have seen this coming though. Really, it started with the Department of Defense. They ordered their personnel not to travel to Japan. Never mind that Okinawa (to take one example) is completely unaffected by the earthquake or the nuclear plant, it's part of Japan. The State Department travel warning also suggests that U.S. citizens not travel to Japan, and advises those in the country already to consider leaving.

The worst part is, it wouldn't even have been all that hard for them to actually do it right. Here, let me take a shot: "We strongly urge U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the Kanto and Touhoku regions of Japan, including Tokyo and areas north. U.S. citizens in those areas should consider departing immediately." Rather, though, the State Department and Department of Defense elected to go with a policy that shows a staggering lack of information or care on basic geography, and now Columbia and KCJS are doing the same.

Japan's reaction to this disaster has been exemplary. In the face of one of the most powerful earthquakes ever, the country took action immediately, in accordance with the preparations that have been carefully laid over years of having to deal with exactly this kind of disaster. In the face of something that human engineering simply cannot stand up to without damage, the workers at Fukushima Dai-ichi have been working tirelessly to limit the damage as best they can.

And perhaps most importantly, the citizens have not been panicking. Surely, if anyone should be worried, it would be people in Kyoto, in Nagoya... and yet, people on the other side of the entire world are panicking! In New York City, in Washington D.C., people with no informed knowledge of the situation here in Kyoto, with no understanding of climate patterns or nuclear physics or basic geography, have decided that people in Kyoto, in Hiroshima, in Okinawa are in danger and should leave.

I don't understand.

Daughter of Evil Lyrics

Somehow, it's always the evil characters that capture my attention. Not really sure why.


Daughter of Evil

Lyrics/Composition/Arrangement: mothy (Evil P)

Vocal: Rin Kagamine



Once upon a time,
there was a evil, unjust kingdom,
and at its head,
a fourteen-year-old princess.


Luxurious and gorgeous furnishings,
a servant whose face resembled hers,
a favorite horse named Josephine,
everything was all hers.


If money starts to run low,
squeeze more out of the ignorant peasants;
anyone who disagrees with me
is to be purged!

"Now, kneel before me!"

悪の華 可憐に咲く
嗚呼 養分となり朽ちていく

The evil flower blooms beautifully,
shaded in brilliant color.
The surrounding pitiful weeds
can just become nourishment and rot away.


The tyrannical princess fell in love
with a blue-haired person across the sea,
but in a neighboring country, he
was instantly taken with a green-haired girl.


Mad with jealousy, the princess
one day called her ministers to her.
In a soft voice she told them,
"That green land is to be reduced to ruins."


Countless houses were burned to the ground,
countless lives were erased.
The lamentations of the suffering people
failed to reach the princess.

"Oh, it's time for afternoon tea."

悪の華 可憐に咲く
嗚呼 棘が多すぎて触れない

The evil flower blooms beautifully,
shaded in the colors of madness.
Even though it is a pretty flower,
ah, countless thorns make it impossible to touch.


Finally, people arose
who felt they had to overthrow the evil princess.
At the head of this mob
was a female knight in red armor.


As they planned, the piled-up anger
enveloped the entire country.
Endless fighting left everyone tired;
even the soldiers found they were not enemies.


Finally the palace was surrounded,
and the servants had fled.
The beautiful princess
was finally taken into custody.

「この 無礼者!」
"You ungrateful peasants!"

悪の華 可憐に咲く
嗚呼 もろくもはかなく崩れてく

The evil flower blooms beautifully,
shaded with the colors of sadness.
The princess's paradise;
fragile, transient, it crumbled to ruin.


Once upon a time,
there was a evil, unjust kingdom,
and at its head,
a fourteen-year-old princess.


The time of punishment was set at 3 in the afternoon;
the time the church bell rung.
She who was called "princess",
alone in her cell, what did she think of?


Finally the time came;
the bell rang out the end.
Ignoring the people below her,
the princess had only this to say:

"Ah, it's time for afternoon tea."

悪の華 可憐に散る
嗚呼 彼女は正に悪ノ娘

The evil flower fell beautifully,
shaded in brilliant colors.
Off in the distant future, the people would say,
ah, she was truly a daughter of evil.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sudden Interruption

While I can't find any official announcement to this effect, from what our professors have told us, the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies has been informed by Columbia University that all activities will be suspended sometime in the very near future, certainly before the semester is over. The sense I got was that we will probably not be holding classes a week from today, and will have to go home early.

Words fail me. I just... I don't know what to say.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Major Earthquake

Today, at 1446 local time, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck off the eastern coast of Japan, approximately 80 miles east of Sendai.


I am fine. Didn't even notice anything here in Kyoto. However, it's looking like there are going to be a lot of people who aren't going to be "fine". Exact casualties are difficult to pin down at this point... there are at least 200 deaths reported now, and that number will likely increase as time passes.


My heart goes out to the victims of this tragedy.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Diva of the Modern Age

Miku Hatsune is so cute!


Okay. Got that out of my system. So yesterday, there was a concert: Miku Hatsune Live Party 2011, in Tokyo. Sadly I couldn't go to the actual event itself (I'll save random trips to Tokyo for the weekends), but I was able to go to the movie theater in Kyoto and watch the concert live from afar. And I'm very glad I did.


I got to the theater around 6:45; the show was supposed to start at 7. After meeting a friend who was also going to the concert, we headed into the movie theater. We got a free little glow stick and a tote bag when we went in, because it wouldn't be a Japanese concert without glow sticks to wave around in the air. And yes, we did. The movie theater was a field of little glowy lights during the entire concert.


Why was this concert so cool, you ask? Simple. Hologram. The Vocaloids are not human beings, after all. We're referring to computer programs designed to synthesize voice, primarily for singing. I say "primarily" because Miku did greet us after her first song ("Good evening everyone!"), so she's certainly capable of "normal" speech, although it does sound a little awkward.


Of course, Japan being Japan, said computer programs are given the face and form of a 16-year-old girl with bright blue hair that's probably longer than she is tall. According to the booklet I bought at the concert, Miku is 16, is about 5'2", and weighs less than a hundred pounds.


... If they're trying to get me to see her as more "human", it's working. I mean, there's what I started this post with...


Monday, March 7, 2011

The Life of a Principality of Zeon Officer

It's been a pretty good life, lately. Well, another promotion might have something to do with that. I am now a Captain (by Navy standards, so O-6). It's a testament to how good I've gotten with Bonds of the Battlefield.


Basically, ranks are divided into three broad classes. B class is the line troops (from Civilian up to Corporal/Petty Officer), A class is the NCOs and officers (from Sergeant/Chief Petty Officer all the way to Colonel/Captain), and S class is the flag ranks. Over the half year I've been playing this game, I've managed to get myself from a rank novice all the way up to the very top of A class.


The way that works is detailed here, if you can read Japanese. Promotion requirements at first are simply based around pilot points, although you can get a chance to take the A class promotion test early if you're really good. In fact, I recently created a Federation pilot card, and I have already been offered that chance. I declined, because I can't play with other people in B class once I start the A class promotion test.


At any rate, promotions in A class are based around grades. Every battle is graded, from the highest grade of S down through E. S ranks are extremely rare, as you have to get through the entire battle without getting destroyed even once to get one, and of course you need to do really well on top of that. E ranks are also rare, as you need to be destroyed four or more times in one battle to justify getting one.


So for the A class, the game looks at your last ten battles, and if your grades are good enough, you can get promoted. Today, I finally managed to assemble a set of ten battles that met the frankly brutal requirements for promotion to Captain: four As, four Bs, and two Cs. (Or higher; one of those As was an S, in my case.)


It helped that the battle today was a 6v6 in Belfast, a harbor map that favors long-range nautical combat. (Some mobile suits are designed for underwater combat, although I honestly don't know what the in-game effects are.) You see, I'm actually kind of bad in smaller battles... I guess I'm better at taking advantage of a chaotic battle. And I finally had an excuse to try using my Gelgoog Marine.


It also helped that the enemy never even tried to shoot me when I played as a long-range bombardment type mobile suit the one time. Being able to destroy the enemy base without opposition is an excellent way to get an A, and the bombardment on the enemy mobile suits with cluster rounds didn't help matters. That was the S, actually.


So yeah. I can now call myself Captain Zankou of the Principality of Zeon forces. Life is good.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Fushimi Inari Shrine


Finally, I do something other than go to the arcade.

As is typical, the weather refused to cooperate. The fact that I could see snow falling when I got on the train at Kutsukawa should tell you how cold it was today. At least it was sunny when we got to the shrine itself; that and the hiking I did went a long way towards keeping the cold off.

Anyway. I went with my host mom to Fushimi Inari today. Apparently she has a friend who works at the gift shop there. In practice, that means "free stuff", and while it was a little embarrassing to be getting free stuff from someone I'd met literally a minute ago, I couldn't really get a word in edgewise to say "no thank you". Besides, the water came in handy.

You see, the actual main shrine at Fushimi Inari is at the base of a hill. I mean, it's called Mt. Inari, but it's not really a mountain. 233 meters is not worthy of being called a mountain, as far as I'm concerned. I did end up spending around an hour walking around up there, but I did a lot of looking around and praying at shrines along the way and other things that weren't "walk from point A to point B".

My host mom didn't even start up the hill. She got as far as the rear shrine before turning around. Of course, this was hardly the first time she'd been to Fushimi Inari, and the rear shrine is plenty far enough to see one of this shrine's major selling points...

 ... the Senbon Torii, one thousand of these easily-recognizable gates. (Apparently my host mom tried to count them once. Got up to around 300 before giving up.)

Frankly, after that I feel like not much happened. I mean, it's a shrine. I've been to plenty. There were the ema, the little wooden card things that you write a wish on and hang near the shrine. They were in the shape of a fox, since foxes are important at this particular shrine. You could draw to get a fortune; mine was excellent. There were protective charms; none really interested me.

There were these "Heavy-light Rock" things (Omokaru-ishi). Apparently if they feel light when you pick them up, then whatever you were praying for will be easily granted. I mean, they weren't impossibly heavy, I suppose. But now I forget what I was wishing for. Well, even if I remembered, I seriously doubt I'd share it here.

What else happened... Oh right. Cats.

So according to my host mom, people do abandon cats at shrines like this. Because they're, well, shrines, people don't just kill or chase away the strays. Divine messengers, and all that.

I of course realized none of this at the time. I was in my usual frame of mind. Which could probably be summed up as "here kitty kitty... aww cute kitty"... yeah, I have a weakness for cats. (Or there's this XKCD comic.)

It was an interesting little hike, and a cool shrine to be sure. But I worry that shrines are getting to the "seen it all before" stage. I don't know what to do about that. Other than find a few more (like, oh, Ise) just to confirm my suspicions...