話すテスト:余波 | Speaking test: the aftermath


Today's speaking test wasn't great but it wasn't that bad either, I think. I'll definitely pass it, even though I didn't use all of the new grammar that I was supposed to. I don't like situations where I have to speak using a certain subset of what I've learned. It's awkward. Today's test was with Arai-sensei, and because the final test of the previous term was with her and I performed terribly, I had to make sure that this one went well.



相談している | In talks


Right now, I'm sitting in Yamasa's computer room IM'ing my parents via Skype. We're discussing possibilities for extending my stay past September. It's tough. But though I was in a questionable mood earlier, I got to talk with friend of mine just now who got me in a brighter mood. Thanks, Yotsuba-chan.



Today, I obtained a digital camera, borrowed from a friend! I was a photographer in America for about three years and I really miss taking photographs all the time. Expect to see more in the way of visuals here, folks. (And those who know me, watch out for the real me to appear behind this camera. Bwah-ha-ha!)



二番目学期の一番目成績など | First grades of the second term, etc.


I got the results of my first test of the new term. My listening comprehension test score was 33 out of 40 (81.5%) and my writing test score was 97 out of 100 (97%, duh). The listening test was a bit of a disappointment but it wasn't so bad. Originally, my writing test score was 96 but the grading sensei made a slight oversight and so I got an extra point.


The speaking test, the one I'm worried about, is Monday. I'm concerned about it, since my conversation ability isn't particularly strong, but as long as I don't overworry, I'll probably be fine.


(Oy.) After class ended today, I chatted with Aritaki-sensei for the first time. I think she understands students' issues pretty well. When I was studying Japanese on my own in America, I learned to conjugate verbs from their base dictionary forms, but our textbook, Minna no Nihongo, teaches conjugation from the "-masu" forms, which I find more difficult, slow, and awkward.


I plan to head to bed early tonight.


I'm making rice right now. I haven't eaten yet today. Yup, I'm in a state of non-eatingness!


Tomorrow, four of my classmates are climbing Mount Fuji by means of a Yamasa weekend trip. Pretty cool. Of course, I don't have money for such a trip, but also, climbing it would be a bit of a hassle, I think. I have mixed feelings about it. But everyone says that you should climb it at least once.


Soon, my friend Roger will be returning to America. (Well, he's not really American citizen, I think. Whatever the case, it's there he's going.) It's disappointing but there's no choice, of course.


Lately, I've been talking to my friends in America about the manga series Naruto. It really is well written, I've found—moreso than I thought.


Well, I need to eat soon.












Everybody loves graphs

I've taken the liberty of constructing a chart that I think represents my Japanese skills as they stand right now. I measured according to the level that I believe I should be at at this level of study (Minna no Nihongo II, lesson 31). Obviously, I particularly fall short on the aural and vocal sections of the chart, but overall I don't think it so bad.

My biggest problem is that I'm harder on myself sometimes than anyone else could possibly be. I tend to hold myself to unrealistic expectations only to inevitably be disappointed in myself. I'm working on keeping this in check. I'm too uptight. I need to relax. So that's what I'm doing. And thus far, I seem to be meeting with success.











気分が悪い! | I feel terrible!


I've felt like crap so far this week. I've got no energy and my head (I almost typed "atama") ain't so good. But we've got our first test of the term Thursday. It's a bit of a pickle. (英語がわからない人へ:「pickle」は日本語で「ピクルス」で、時々意味は「ピンチ」の同じだ。この文は「ちょっとピンチだ」という意味がある。) Sorry, I was explaining my use of "pickle" for some reason. Anyway, after I got out of school, I went to Yoshinoya with a friend, came home and used my computer for a while, and then took a nap at about six. I thought I'd feel better after the nap, but not quite. So now I'm cooking rice and will soon eat dinner.

Tonight, I think I'll stay up late, as I have the strange idea that this will help the situation since I believe the source of the problem to be sleep-issue–related. I have got to start feeling better before the test.


10:18 PM. もう元気になっていると思う。 I'm already starting to feel a lot better. 僕が作ったぎょうざを食べたんだ。 I ate gyoza that I made. 今インターネットでスーパー戦隊がよくわかった。面白いな。 I've been doing some reading about Japan's long-running "Super Sentai" series. Interesting stuff. Much bigger than I thought. YouTubeで『恐竜戦隊ジュウレンジャー』を見ているよ。 I've been watching Zyuranger episodes on YouTube. Rita's a lot more likeable and sympathetic and things make a lot more sense in this show, though I'm pretty shocked that Goldar doesn't talk at all.

Wednesday, 6:47 PM. Well, my plan worked. I stayed up until past four in the morning and have felt just fine today. Thank goodness. I'm pretty much as ready as I'm going to be for my test tomorrow. きのう午前4時に寝たから、体は元気になった。少し変だけど気分がよくなったから、問題がないと思う。明日のテストについて、大丈夫だと思う!ハハハー!


Energy levels in the orange

Man, am I tired. Today wasn't a particularly great day for me performance-wise because of this, though things picked up toward the end of the day. I was late for class for the first time today as well. (Baaad.) But today was this term's first kanji class and it went very well.

There are a number of summer festival–related events coming up that I'm participating in, but I'll have to describe them later. Well, one of them is helping to carry a portable shrine on the fourth of next month (much like the current second photo on the left on Yamasa's home page). Should be something. And on the fifth, I'll finally get to see Okazaki's famous fireworks.

For now, though, I need to head home and relax. I'm laying low tonight.





Oh, I speak English too, don't I?

Greetings. Have I been neglecting my English-only speakers? Hm. I only know of two, and they're friends on vacation, so ...

This week was quite good. We encountered some difficult and awkward grammatical constructions but I've been able to manage them so far. Everyday, I've been staying late at school to make sure that I'm in good shape. Next week, we have our first big test. In truth, I'm not really worried. I think that I'll be just fine—especially since I don't think there's a speaking test. Some of the vocabulary, though, I need to be sure to work on.

My four sensei—Hikosaka-sensei, Arai-sensei, Aritaki-sensei, and Hada-sensei—are all fantastic and the classes have been very interesting. I don't have Sano-sensei this time around, but we see each at least a couple of times per week, so it's all right. Tateishi-sensei is taking a few months off for health reasons. I need to ask about her next week.

My fellow classmates are great. After the original M class, I was worried that my next class would, you know, suck. But they don't. I am pleased. I've been visiting L class next door to check up on the rest of my old classmates and have met a couple of interesting folks in that class as well.

You know what I hate? I can't stand the people at concerts that yell at the performer. Right now, I'm listening to a Noriko Sakai live concert and morons just keep yelling "Noriko! Norikooo!" "I love you!" "Noriko!!!" It's just so ridiculous.

Here's an amusing typo I made just a few minutes ago in a chat session:

Actually, I have to leave soon to eat myelf.

Obviously, I mistyped that. I left out a space.






① 音楽を聞きながら、テレビを見る。それに、音楽を聞きながら、勉強する。
② 音楽を聞きながら、テレビを見る。それに、勉強する。





もうすぐ電車で岡崎のレストランへ友達と晩ごはんを食べに行く。実はこんなお金がないけど、友達の誕生日だから行ってあげる。(友達の二ヶ月ごろ前のアドバイスはまだいい:「Don't eat too much.」いつも同じだな。)それに、もうつかれたよ。











Conversation growth

After class yesterday, I attended the conversation class that I attend every Monday afternoon. There were a number of new volunteers there and I ended up speaking with a kind upper–middle-aged gentleman by the name of Ootake-san.

This ended up being the best conversation I've had there yet. For one, Ootake-san's way to speaking was perfect for me: it was not too fast but not too slow, it was clear, and he wasn't using a heavy Kansei dialect.

On top of that, I was in rare form. My conversation abilities sprouted in a way that they rarely have before, if they actually have. I felt comfortable and as result, I was speaking more smoothly and with better intontation (more naturally) than ever before.

Ootake-san and I spoke for over an hour about many, many things. Without posting too much of this life history, he's always resided in Aichi and has, except for when he was in college, always lived in Okazaki. He's married with three grown sons and will soon be leaving to teach Japanese in China. (Figures. But he'll be leaving in September, which is when I'm slated to leave too, at least.) We talked about our own histories, earthquakes and earthquake safety, differences between our countries, my future, my parents, types of Japanese literature, and so on. It was pretty much hands down the best conversation that I've had yet.

I was on fire.

I've since cooled down some, but I'm riding the wave from that high. My confidence in my abilities has grown some. I now realize—really realize—that it's not always my own failings that cause a conversation to go badly. Sometimes it's mostly the other person. Sure, it's easy to say "duh," but even know I'd say I "knew" that, I hadn't taken it to heart.

Another thing that I've taken from this is that I've got to get more Japanese conversation in my daily life, like becoming friends with some of the locals. You can't become an expert swordsperson by learning sword techniques and practicing them a couple of times a week!













ほかのヤマサの女の人の社員はアイスキャンディーをくれたよ。(アメリカで「popsicle」だけど、イギリスで「ice lolly」だ。)さむくて、おいしかったよ!僕はうれしかった。もう一本、おねがいします。アイスキャンディーをもらうために毎土曜日学校で勉強に行きたくなった。もう2本をいただけませんか~(ワーッ!ハートが出た!はずかしい・・・。)





Brazilian currency is inherently authentic

One of my classmates' hobbies is collecting the currency of various nations. She pulled out her wallet and showed us some of the bills she had. One of these was Brazilian and, to my delight, had "REAL" printed in large letters on it. I thought that was just hilarious—'a fantastic counterfeiting countermeasure, that,' I joked. But Brazil's currency is indeed called the real. (Of course, it's pronounced differently than the English word.) Just one of those interesting cross-language amusements.

Of course, Wikipedia still provides the section header entitled "Commemorative versions of the one real coin." Sounds like a Lord of the Rings item.

"You shall not cash!"

Close call and 誕生日食事

This morning, I attempted to surprise someone I know with something that could be called a favor and, apparently, almost caused that friend a small personal catastrophe in the process. Even though I wasn't really in the wrong, and some quick thinking on my part salvaged the situation quite well, I felt kind of bad about it. It was just a surprise factor that was wholly unexpected. It was a close call but I was told that everything's okay and the possible crisis was averted. Man. ("Boy, you try to do something nice and it just blows up in your face," I said. "That's it—I'm never doing anything nice for anyone again.") My friend could have become quite cross with me but didn't and handled the situation quite admirably and was straightforward and honest about everything. And, no, no further details are forthcoming. (Them's the breaks!)

On Sunday I'm going to visit Noritake, the oldest pottery-maker in Japan, I believe. It's part of the local cross-cultural circle here in Okazaki.

Other than that ... I'm still tired. Utterly exhausted.




An exercise in cheesiness: Go, Go, ZyuRangers!

My plan to nap went unfilled. I lay in bed for over an hour without a shred of sleep, though I think that I came close enough to not be sleepy enough to sleep now. But once I shower, I think I'll be able to snooze. Nothing like that "clean feeling" to make one able to sleep. Or maybe that's just me.

Through an arcane path of events that I really don't recall, I ended up looking into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers this evening. I actually watched the show for a while when it first come on in the early '90s, back in the days of Tiny Toon Adventures. It was good, cheesy fun. I was surprised to learn that Thuy Trang, who played Trini, the Yellow Ranger, died in a car accident a while back.

So anyway, this led me to read about Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger, the show from which the American series was derived. Some of the differences, as one can imagine, are pronounced. For one, five "teenagers with attitude" (that have an abject lack of attitude) weren't summoned, but instead five ancient warriors from long-gone civilizations were revived from stasis. These guys are far cooler than the decidedly attitude-bereft American teenagers ever were. Except maybe for Tommy. (I mean, come on ... Tommy was the man. Apparently, he's gone on to become a legend within the Power Ranger series.) But apparently, the original Japanese sixth ranger might have been even radder than Tommy, the way Wikipedia describes it:
He was resurrected by Gnome's grandson and attacked the ZyuRangers. Geki soon learned that Burai was his older brother, the son of the Black Knight. Burai was about 8 years old when Geki was born. Their father, the Black Knight, was a prideful man who showed utter disrespect to his monarch, Yamato King. The childless King, rather than executing him, penalized the Knight with his younger son, Geki, adopting the boy as his heir. The Black Knight was unable to come to terms with this loss and led a rebellion to take back Geki only to be killed in a duel by the Yamato King. Burai, witnessing his father's death, swore revenge by stealing the Yamato Kingdom’s Dragon Armor treasure and vowed to kill his younger brother. Burai eventually made peace with Geki and joined the team, helping every once and awhile. It turned out that Burai's life was limited; his sleep chamber had caved in and crushed him, but the Dinosaur Gods had brought him back to life because his Guardian Beast Dragon Caesar would be needed by the Zyuranger [...]. When he eventually died, he passed to Geki his Zyusouken (to summon Dragon Caesar) and the Dragon Armor. In the finale, Burai's spirit appeared before the ZyuRangers to tell them that the Guardian Beasts were in Bandora's Magic Realm.
Personally, I don't think even Tommy can compete with that.

My curiosity piqued—I'm pretty interested in how American series I know were changed from their original Japanese versions—I found the first and second episodes of the series posted at YouTube. Right now, I've only seen the first. There are no subtitles, but of course, it's quite easy to follow what's happening regardless. It's odd seeing the bad guys looking exactly the same but the good guys being completely different. Until they transform, of course. (Looking at some of the things they do, I can't help but think that there were some serious tongue-in-cheek vibes going.)

Anyway, excuse my nostalgic rambling on such a ridiculous topic. See what happens I can't sleep? People suffer.

Heh heh. "Radder."

I'm having a lot of fun watching clips of this show. Man, Burai's so bad that in his first encounter with the Rangers, he barged into the MegaZord, dragged all five Rangers out of it, and then beat them until their transformations wore off. And he'd only just come out of stasis. "All right! A new Ranger ally!" indeed.







What I was trying to say is that, sometimes, Japanese's potential verbs (e.g., "can eat") can sound kind of reminiscent of Scooby-Doo's call. In the picture, he's saying "taberareruuu!" which means "can eat." Come on—certainly you can see it.

The rest of this was just about the class events of the day. We met Aritaki-sensei for the first time and she was quite likeable. She said that one of our sensei is quite good at kendo, so we'll be asking about that tomorrow.

I was also saying that I'm tired, so I'm going to nap for a bit.










Nothing, I say! | ありません!

A couple of nights ago, my Internet connection died while I was instant messaging with the classmate that returned to Taiwan and with Mikawa Ossan. It was dead all night and hasn't been right since. I was pretty upset about the timing of it, but oh well, right. It's been frustrating. But class has been going well.




Yesterday, my new sensei, Hada-sensei asked us what our favorite Japanese word (or, ostensibly) phrase was. I couldn't think of anything, so after some thinking I said what I said in the picture above: "Besides studying Japanese, there's nothing!" In the picture, Hada-sensei is saying that I'm a bit strange. Which is true, of course.

I want to draw pictures to upload to the Web, but I don't have a scanner or a fancy Wacom tablet, so I'm just using MS Paint right now to emphasize the cheapness of it all. I think I'd like to continue doing this, for I find it interesting.


Well, gotta run to class!



I just realized something! While writing my most recent entry, I mentioned that I couldn't remember Hikosaka-sensei's name. Well, I went to Hikone Castle yesterday and both words use the same kanji (彦) for "hiko." Ha! What a great and absurdly convenient mnemonic.


The return to homework, books, and dirty looks | 夏休みじゃなくて、夏学期!

This morning, I got to school at about 8:30 and looked at the class assignments posted on the wall and discovered that I have "graduated" from class M to class K! This is, indeed, a true Level Up.

Unfortunately, though, they split my classmates and me in half. The ten people from last quarter's class M who progressed were split into two classes, K and L. So there are 10 people in my new class and half of them are from my old class M. Fortunately, most of the rest of my classmates are right next door, so it's not difficult to talk with them.

Class L got Oyaizu-sensei as their tannin-sensei, but we have Arai-sensei teaching us a couple of times per week. My new tannin-sensei, Hikosaka-sensei (whose name I'm having a lot of trouble remembering, for some reason), seems quite nice and capable, though. So who needs Oyaizu-sensei! (Just kidding, just kidding! Come to think of it, I think that Hikosaka-sensei is the sensei that Oyaizu-sensei pointed me out to the other day, which would explain that, I think.) My new classmates all seem to be good folks, fortunately, so that's one concern that I can toss out. (There's someone from Mongolia, of all places. Interesting.)

Today, as expected, was almost entirely introductions and reviews. But we began studying the glut of vocabulary of lesson 26, the first lesson in my new book, and we have homework to do tonight as well. Playtime's over, peoples.

After class, I went with a friend (チューさん) to the "Let's Speak Japanese with Japanese People!" weekly conversation practice, which also resumed today. For reasons I'm unable to fathom, I expected it to resume next Monday. Good thing I ran into someone who set me straight.

So then, I'm optimistic about this next three months. I'm going to have to work harder to keep up this time around. I think I'll be better able to pace myself this time around too. I performed very well today too. Here's hoping that the next three months will be even more awesome than the first three.





Mikawa Ossan spouts off! | 三河おっさんが話し始める!

Ring the bells and bang the drums, for Mikawa Ossan has a weblog! It shall undoubtedly prove to be quite interesting; and furthermore, reading it will be great practice for me! Check it out!



Yamasa quarter 2 begins | ヤマサ二番目の四半期が始まる

Well, despite a great trip to the Gifu Prefecture today, I don't have time to write about it right now. That's because tomorrow is the first day of my second quarter at The Yamasa Institute.

Tomorrow morning, I'll find out what my class assignment is, what classroom I'll be in (I'm hoping for a corner room with lots of windows again), who my sensei will be (rumors indicate that my head sensei will remain Oyaizu-sensei, at least), and who my classmates will be (rumors indicate that my previous classmates and I will be pretty well separated, unfortunately). I was tired for most of the day today, so I'm going to be sure to head to bed early tonight. I might even eat a well-balanced breakfast in the morning. (Riiight.)

I'm actually fairly anxious about it all. I hope things go my way as I step into Minna no Nihongo II.




Hikone Castle and Azuchi Castle | 彦根城と安土城

Today, Mikawa Ossan drove Roger and me to four great places in the Shiga Prefecture. Despite the awesomeness of the day, time is, unfortunately, short so this won't be too long of an entry.

This morning, we set out at seven in the morning. I hadn't gotten enough sleep, so I was really groggy and in a bit of mood. (Those of you who know me know how I get.) But we headed out to Shiga, even though I sleep a good chunk of the way.

First we visited Hikone Castle in Hikone City. When we got there, we met a lively older gentlemen and his (silent) wife. It was his last time visiting, he told us (or rather, he told Mikawa Ossan, who could actually understand him), because he was 80 and he'd be too old to come next year. (Not very optimistic, said Roger.) As for the castle, the stairs were numerous and the steepest I've ever climbed. A bit unnerving, that last detail.

Next was the Azuchi Castle ruins and the Azuchi Castle museum, which included a recreation of the top part of the castle. We climbed about five times the amount of stairs at the ruins and then got stuck in the rain for several minutes. (Rain. "Let's wait for it to clear up." More rain. "Hmm. A bit longer." Torrent. "Just a biiit longer, now ..." All surrounding ambient air replaced with water. "Hm." Mere rain. "Now!!") At the museum, I splurged and bought the small whatchamacallit that you see pictured on the right. (だれかが教えてくれない?)

On the way out of town, we stopped at a small and quiet but very interesting shrine (whose name none of us could remember). Apparently, it's had experience with Japanese royalty. We (meaning Mikawa Ossan) spoke to the gentleman in charge for several minutes and we (Mikawa Ossan, and Roger and I via Mikawa Ossan) learned interesting things.

Kanji success of the day: 「八日市駅」, correctly read at "youka-ichi-eki." (The Kanji Man caaan.)






Visiting the sea at Gamagori once more

Mikawa Ossan discovered that the mammoth exhibit that we planned to see tomorrow has, actually, been over for a month. So ... that's most certainly that.

Still, he, Roger, and I decided to hang out today and because Mikawa Ossan felt the desire to see the sea—and of course I had no problem with this idea—we headed to Gamagori. This was my second trip there with Mikawa Ossan, but was Roger's first time there. We toured the island shrine and walked around on the beach. There were nowhere near as many people as there were when I first came during the clam-dig event.

After this, we ate at a Yoshinoya-like restaurant named Sugita (I think) in Gamagori, where I ate a small (namimori) bowl of gyuudon, the food staple which I've become known for in my days in M class. As we were leaving, Roger asked what the most well-known food in Texas was. I dunno. Barbeque? I then said that it was children—specifically bad children. "Whoa," said Mikawa Ossan, "that sounds like 'A Modest Proposal'!" I gleeful replied, "Yes! We took him up on his offer."

After this, we visited a shoe store (so Mikawa Ossan could get some sandals) and saw some very amusing bad English on some sandals. We then stopped at a strange store named Bulldog that sold some very usual items, including hats with fake hair attached (I was told that I looked surprisingly good in one of them) and squishy flesh-colored balls with nipples protruding from them. (Strange seeing that kind of thing in a store that kids also frequent.)

After this, we returned to my place and spoke for a long time about international relations between east Asian countries, culture clashes, differing cultural value systems, Asian history, and all manner of such things. Take my word for it—it was fascinating.

But there's no time to dwell on today. While the mammoth exhibit turned out to be a wash, we three are getting together to drive to see Azuchi Castle (安土城) near Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. We're leaving tomorrow at seven in the morning, so I need to get to bed with the quickness. Class resumes Monday morning, so we can't be out late.

Tanabata | 七夕

I hear that today (which is now yesterday) is (which is now "was") Tanabata. I wonder if there are any events going on in Okazaki.



Perhaps a bit of catching up to do

I'm pleased to report that I'm feeling much better today. Many thanks to the well-wishers. I wasn't ill in the sense of a virus, but instead I fell victim to my irregular sleeping and eating habits of late. I rectified the issue and, as a result, feel much better.

I'm sorry for the radio silence of the past day or so, but my mission for the day yesterday—and part of my mission to improve both my physical and mental well-being—was to get out of my apartment. I've spent a bit too much of this break in front of this monitor and not enough in front of books—Japanese books, that is.

So let's go.


A financial transfer that I'd been waiting on had been deposited into my American bank account, so my first goal was to head to the nearby post office in order to make use of their ATMs. I decide to walk because the weather was excellent and I didn't want the trip to end too quickly. Everything at the post office went smoothly.

Next on my agenda was breakfast. I wanted to eat out but didn't know where to go outside of Yoshinoya (too far away to walk there and not in the mood for it), Bikkuri Donkey (not in the mood), or McDonald's (ditto). So I decided to traverse the neighborhood in a direction I'd never been in and see what I could drum up. But I returned home to get my bike first, as it was warming up. While I was there, I cut my hair, took a shower, and changed into nice clothes. I was lookin' good, too. From zero to hero, just like that.

I found nothing that I felt comfortable with in the neighborhood—whether I'd be able to order properly was a concern, and I determined this by certain visual cues—so I headed down Highway 48 to the west. I rode for several kilometers. I stopped in front of one quiet-looking restaurant and was looking at the signs when a lady come out and say that the restaurant would open "from tomorrow." (I don't know if she meant that it was a new restaurant or that yesterday was the restaurant's yasumi, but it was sufficient enough for me to continue, wondering if I'd ever find a decent place.

I finally came across a Gusto. Mikawa Ossan and I had eaten at one before, so I was even reasonably familiar with it. After a few minutes of indecision and worrying about being able to handle my business, I decided to enter. Worst case scenario, I'll point at the pictues of what I want, I thought.

After a brief wait, I was given a table in the non-smoking section (which I asked for, thank you very much) and offered a menu. I couldn't make out too much of the menu, but there sure were some purty-lookin' pictures what needed some pointin', so once I had my nerves together, I pushed the "call waitress" button.

I pointed and told her that I wanted this hamburger meal, #1. (I avoided Bikkuri Donkey only to end up ordering the same type of food. Nice.) Then ... then she asked me something. I couldn't make it out. She repeated herself, pointing at some other pictures beside the one that I'd pointed at. These pictures were variations of the set meal that I had pointed at first. I tried to ask for the first one again and she asked the same question again. Okay. How about #2, one of the ones she'd pointed at? The same question. And she didn't seem to be simplifying it at all—just repeating herself, like I'll magically understand.

I had no idea what was happening, people nearby were staring, and it was lunchtime and this waitress probably wanted to wring my neck. I dropped down to the next section on the menu and tried ordering the nice-looking meal in that picture. She asked some other question, then, which I tried answering but didn't understand too well. But she took the order and that was that.

It was terrible. Just terrible.

But from there on out, everything was smooth (largely because I didn't have to speak or try to understand anyone, of course). I saw there studying and eating my meal, using the chopsticks instead of the spoon that I was also offered. I should start eating with chopsticks at home too—it'd be too practice. The rest of the trip was unremarkable. I was pretty frustrated about the ordering process, but them's the breaks when you're studying a new language and you're trying to communicate with someone who can only speak with you using forms of that language that you've yet to study.

After leaving Gusto, and feeling pretty good, I took my time returning to my neighborhood. I stopped at a dollar store and looked around for a minutes. (I didn't get any kind of "Irasshaimase!" from the lady in there, and it felt odd.) My next stop was a used CD and DVD store. I still haven't seen the original Ghost in the Shell and I also rented it, but I wasn't sure if I'd have region issues with the disc or not, so decided against it.

But I did breakdown and buy one gem, thereby fulfilling one of my smaller goals of the trip. The CD was MISIA's "Mother Father Brother Sister." This album and Kohmi Hirose's "THE BEST Love Winters" were the first two Japanese pop albums I'd ever heard and they still remain among my very favorites today. I've been wanting these for a while, so now I'm halfway there. I looked for that Kohmi Hirose album, but no luck. But I bought MISIA's CD used, in great condition, for 150 yen. That's currently about USD$1.30! Freakin' awesome. (I have uploaded the first track of the album, an all-strings overture, that you too may experience the type of music that sets my heart aflame. The strings, people, the strings ... Most of the album is not like this, though—it's more good R&B-tinged J-Pop.)

So after this, I rode to Yamasa to buy the textbooks for my next three months of study, the Minna no Nihongo II set, of which I've heard ominous rumblings. (The building looks even more under construction than before, as they've covered up the scaffolding with a nearly-opaque covering.) You buy the book on the first floor and actually pick them up on the second floor, but I didn't know this and did some unnecessary travelling; yet I soon held, in my own hands, my own copies of the books.

I sat on the second floor in front of the sensei's office (this area overlooks the first floor and is a nice place to sit) and looked through the English translation book, since there's not much I could do with the Japanese at this point. I look over the vocabulary and grammar points. The truth is, I don't think that it looked all that difficult. Not easy, but certainly not the thorn-filled obstacle course that I expected. Time will tell, though.

I sat there looking through the book for a little while. (There was one big, ominous surprise that I found: I thought that I knew something, what with learning "ageru," "morau," and "kureru," but that, apparently, was only half of the battle.) Then I continued my review of the first Minna no Nihongo I books once again. I got to see Oyaizu-sensei, Sano-sensei, and even Kurumiya-sensei, which was nice.

I sat there for a while. A couple of sensei asked if I was okay studying there on that bench, and I said that I was fine and asked if studying there was all right. Yes, yes, it is! they said. Okay then. The first floor classrooms are just too classroomy sometimes. (I could search for better adjectives, but that sums it up pretty well.)

Interestingly, at one point, many of the sensei started leaving their office. I saw Oyaizu-sensei walking with another male sensei. When he saw me, Oyaizu-sensei indicates toward me and says, in Japanese, "That's Jonathan." The other sensei nodded in understanding. Well, the question then becomes, "Am I famous or infamous?" All in all, it was pretty funny. I'm sure you can imagine the confused amusement on my face, those of you who know what I look like.

I think that's about all that happened yesterday. I soon returned home, cooked dinner, masochistically suffered through the stupidest filler episode of Naruto yet (the latest manga shall apply the salve to my self-inflicted wounds), and went to bed.

But the thing is, after yesterday, there was a little thing called "today."



So. This morning I awoke and cooked a nice breakfast of rice, beef, and cheesy topping—a meal that should, from here on out, be referred to as "the norm." I decided to ride my bike to the small riverside bench where I saw that kingfisher the other day. On the way there, I ran into a classmate who was going shopping with her younger sister. We talked for a few minutes and then I continued on, lest I bore her with my endless drivel.

I studied for a while in peace until the mosquitoes arrived a good two hours sooner than they had the other day, so I went to Yamasa and studied there in one of the first-floor classrooms. I was alone and had the lights off because I was sitting in front of a large window that provided just enough illumination to see. I like sitting in the dark. It's relaxing.

Then Hiroe-sensei (I think he's the lead AIJP sensei) and Sano-sensei suddenly came by and flipped on the light. I'm not too sure that they even saw me at first. They apparently didn't need to the use the room, though, so it was all right. (I think they were assigning classes to rooms. That room is the new B class. I wish I'd thought to explore the building for K and L classes, as one of those is most likely to be where I'll be placed on Monday.) I went ahead and left the light on.

Suddenly Roger appears. Aoi Hall was closing so he couldn't study there, and his dormmates were throwing a party, so I came to the Yamasa II building. Thus, we studied together for a while. At 6:30, we left and left to the large two-story McDonald's near our place. It was my first time eating in.

From there, we returned to my apartment and talked for a while. We're pretty much the same age and are in the similar positions in our lives, and we see eye to eye on a surprising number of things in terms of goals, relationships, Japan, and such. I'd like to think that I'm a good guy. As such, I shall deem him a Good Guy.

I suspect that there are certain details that I'm forgetting, but I'll fill them in if they come to me. I think Roger, Mikawa Ossan, and I are still planning to visit the museum in Toyohashi on Sunday. I invited another Yamasa student to join us via e-mail but there's yet been any word. In fact, there have been a few classmates that seem to have fallen off the face of the earth as well. What's up with folks that don't check their e-mail, man? (Or perhaps they just secretly despise me. That would explain the horse head that I received via UPS with a note that said "We despise you! Regards, the classmates that despise you, who are the despisee. (P.S. See you Monday! ♥♥♥)" now wouldn't it?)


Not feeling too well | あまり元気じゃない

I woke up from a nap several minutes ago and I'm feeling pretty ill right now. And I can't try to sleep it off yet because I'm not sleepy. I'd better cook some dinner or something ... I hope I feel better tomorrow.



Daily report from the underground

After wasting too much time around the house this morning (and a bit of this afternoon), I headed to Yoshinoya for a very late breakfast. It seems that 1:30 in the afternoon is a pretty good time to go because I was the only customer when I arrived. Sweeeet.

I took a seat and was offered a glass of water. Mikawa Ossan and I were discussing this the other night, how foreigners are sometimes given slightly different treatment than Japanese people. It's difficult sometimes for service people because they want to give good service but in the case of foreigners, it's often difficult to tell whether, using this case an example, the customer would prefer tea (the Japanese way of things) or water (the foreign way, I suppose). Some foreigners who live here resent being treated differently.

Now, me, I didn't mind that she gave me water but I actually did want some tea. (Lo and behold, it's actually growing on me.) Another gentlemen who entered the restaurant right after me got tea, so I decided to go ahead and ask for tea as well. ("Ocha onegaishimasu.") The waitress immediately brought tea and said, "Shitsurei shimashita," which is a way to acknolwedging a discourtesy. "Daijoubu desu yo!" I said. Like I said, I wasn't upset and I didn't feel that she'd done me wrong. I just wanted tea. She was a nice girl.

After breakfast, I explored the surrounding area and found a small semi-secluded area beside a lake. I sat on one of the benches and studied there until exactly 4:30 PM, when the mosquitoes apparently clocked into work. While I was there, I was kept company for a while by an interesting little bird with a brown belly, blue back, and long beak that occasionally bobbed in such a way that it looked like it had the hiccups. I wonder what kind of bird it was ... And I'm surprised that there aren't any squirrels at all around here. Seriously, not a one.

From here, I rode my bike pretty far to the south on 248. The best part of the trip was being surrounded by these bright green rice (I assume) fields with a great view of the nearby mountains. Gorgeous. There's also a recycle shop down there that I want to visit. (It was closed.)

So I rode my bike home, chatted with my parents for the first time in several days, and am about to shower and hit and hay. (It's actually 1:00 AM right now.)


Thoughts about the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995

I've been reading a little about the Great Hanshin earthquake that occurred in Kobe in 1995, the "costliest natural disaster to befall any one country." I started at JRef forum member Dutch Baka's new website, Kobe City-Info and, from there, have been reading about it at Wikipedia.

I was quite surprised to read that the earthquake only lasted 20 seconds. I've never lived in an earthquake-prone area until now and I'm not too knowledgeable about some details like that. That was undoubtedly the longest 20 seconds of many folks' lives. And, of course, the last seconds of thousands of people's lives. That's no way to go. But then, there aren't a plethora of good ways to "go," now are there?

Glen S. Fukushima, former Director for Japanese Affairs in the Office of the United States Trade Representative, wrote an interesting article entitled "The Great Hanshin Earthquake" that addresses the failings and missteps that exacerbated the severity of the damage and the difficulty of the relief efforts. But the nation seems to have learned much from the disaster, at least. So have individuals: "However, citizens' groups have taken up the bulk of disaster planning, partly out of distrust for the government still held after the disaster in Kobe." (For the record, I believe the nearest earthquake evacation center is Minami Kouen here in Okazaki.)

Wikipedia states that the "[m]ajor plates involved in this earthquake were the Filipino Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The earthquake was triggered when there was a plate movement of 50km." That sounds like a lot of movement, but from an earthwide perspective, it's really not. Which demonstrates the relative insignificance of humanity.

Dutch Baka was kind enough to point me to some video footage regarding the earthquake at YouTube. Many thanks. I found the most captivating videos to be that the gentleman in front of his house wondering if his family was alive and the short clip of a room when the quake began, but most were mesmerizing. Later, I found an interesting convenience store earthquake video and a montage of earthquake footage.

Lazy Monday | 休みの月曜日

Once again, it's Monday and there's no school. I had an opportunity to chat with my friends back in America for some time today. It's tough to do that due to the fourteen-hour time zone difference, but this summer break of mine has been fairly good for that.


It's cloudy outside but not hot or raining. And I'm getting a bit sleepy. Man, I'm not going to do anything today, am I? That's no good.


But maybe one day of rest ...


The meeting of the goodfellows

Today turned out to be pretty fantastic, overall. I shall divide the events that I'll relate into two parts: the barbeque with Mikawa Ossan that I mentioned in the previous post and the rest of the day hanging with Mikawa Ossan and Roger.

The Barbeque

It barely rained today. Stupid weather forecast. But I'm glad that it didn't rain because Mikawa Ossan and I were able to go to the barbeque today. It was at the house of a gentleman who lives near Minami Kouen. We expected only a few people to show up, including a couple of Yamasa students, but there were over a dozen folks there. There were several Yamasa students, but they were all upper-level students from the SILAC program, which meets in the building across the street which I never to go, so I didn't know any of them. I was the least skilled with Japanese, so I felt a bit self-conscious about that for a while (I actually drank a beer—and I don't like beer), but everyone was quite nice and put up with my bad nihongo. There was one ex-Yamasa student who likes anime, especially Naruto. She and I didn't get much of a chance to talk, though. A lot of English was spoken too, though, as at least one attendee didn't speak any Japanese.

In fact, at one juncture, I was asked to speak English with a trio of middle-aged ladies. It seems that they have studied a bit of English and wanted to try it out. It was my first time being recruited for my English ability and I was game for it. As I sat down in a chair on the patio, I realized that it felt kind of like an eikaiwa lesson. It seemed like it would be good practice and, indeed, it was a pleasant experience. We ended up speaking some Japanese too, which I was happy about. (I learned a new word, too: 一人子 ("hitorikko"), meaning "only child.") All three ladies were pretty cool, I think. At the end of our ten-minute (or so) discussion, one of the ladies introduced her daughter whose studying French, and we spoke one-on-one for a few minutes. She'll be studying in France for a while soon.

After that, we all sat a table in the house's tatami-floored washitsu (Japanese-style room). The first activity was to write one of our desires (I did two) on papers which we then tied to a tree outside. (The homeowner commented to me later on that he dislikes how traditions like this are less common than they used to be.) I was complimented on my vertical handwritten Japanese, I'd like to mention. After this, we constructed various decorations and objects out of folded paper. You know, at the time, it didn't occur to me that this was origami, but I suppose it was indeed. Mikawa Ossan and the girl that I'd spoken with outside made many fine paper sculptures. Me, not so much. (Mikawa Ossan made a boat. A seaworthy vessel! I can't compete with that, man. 「忍法!折紙の術!」) I, of course, ended up doodling a bit on some paper as well. After the paper exercises wrapped up, those of us who were still present talked for a long time as we sat on the floor around the table. It was a good time and I got my first two nigiri (rice balls) as a going-away present.

So though I was rather nervous about the event at first, it turned out to be very enjoyable and relaxing.

Enter the Three Stooges

After the barbeque, Mikawa Ossan and I picked up Roger. We just showed up as his room all sudden like, too. (Poor guy was just waking up from a nap.) Mikawa Ossan and Roger, who knew each other from the JRef Forums we all frequent (in various quantities), finally met in person. Due, essentially, to my thickheadedness, Mikawa Ossan and Roger each didn't even know that the other was so nearby, but they finally met today. (Too bad it was three weeks in to Roger's two-month stay here. Gomen!)

After introductions were made, we headed down to the Starbucks in Aeon (the local mall, essentially) and grabbed some coffee. (Well, they had coffee. Nothing for me, thanks.) After that, we wandered around the building, starting with Jusco. As we headed to Jusco, I told Mikawa Ossan that he made a mistake because, now, I'd have to play New Super Mario Bros. Which I did. (I got much farther than I did before, so I got to see a bit more of the game. Sorry, I'm just an old-school Mario fan, okay?) After that, we wandered around Jusco's electronics department for a bit and then headed out into the main mall area and back outside.

At this point, we decided to eat. Mikawa Ossan ended up taking us to a curry and rice restaurant around the area of Yoshinoya (and very close to the area of the morning's barbeque, at that). We were there for at least an hour and a half, I think, talking. We three get along very well, it turns out. We discussed many good topics, and Roger and I asked Mikawa Ossan-senpai for his sage advice on various topics of getting by in Japan. After this, we returned to my apartment and the three of us talked until past 11:00.

So today was great, I think.

Mikawa Ossan wants to visit the mammoth exhibit at the Toyohashi Museum of Natural History next Sunday (I can't find an English page about it at the moment, but this random Shizuoka blogger went and liked it) so we're planning to do that. Should be interesting.

Barbeque | バーベキュー

I'm going to a barbeque with Mikawa Ossan today. I hope that it doesn't rain. Despite the ominous forecast I posted yesterday, we've barely seen a drop, so it just might happen.









"Cap'n, he's gonna blow!"; or, why I should relax

This morning, I woke up early and tried to be productive, doing laundry and cleaning the back half of my room. (I cleaned the front half the other day.) After a while, though, I ended up engaged in the JRef chatroom (for the first time) with Mikawa Ossan, Elddonnemar, new Yamasa arrival Roger, and some other folks for some time. After that, Roger and I went to dinner together at Bikkuri Donkey. ('Always eating with other guys, never girls,' Elddonnemar gripes.)

I made a small mistake at the restaurant: I ordered the wrong size meal. I unintentionally ordered the 300g hamburg instead of the 150g that I intended to get. It wasn't a Japanese language error, per se: I was just paying so much attention to my Japanese, as I spoke it, that I wasn't thinking enough about what I was ordering. Talk about missing the forest for the trees ... I got a slightly better meal, but it cost me a good couple of bucks extra.

Which highlights one of my biggest problems with speaking Japanese: I'm too self-conscious. I'm focusing, both consciously and subconsciously, on myself and worrying overmuch about what the other person is thinking as well. A lot of folks have to deal with this, Roger said. I just need to calm the heck down, I think.

My other big problem is that I feel that I overthink my sentence construction. Granted, I'm not the quickest speaker in the world (Mikawa Ossan recently said I had a laid-back cadence to my voice, which I thought was interesting), so trying to speak in another language is going to be slower than even that. But when I'm speaking, I'm sometimes consciously playing the rules and exceptions and construction processes in my head. And then, when it starts taking longer to create the sentence than I feel it should, I get antsy, more anxious, and become even more likely to screw up.

I need to calm down.

I've been working on this lately and it's helped to some extent. I just consciously relax my mind and body and hakuna matata my way through it. Most of the time, it's not that big deal if I screw up a bit, so I might as well take it easy. I get too worked up. It's an issue of mine.

Looks like rain

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the heaviest rain that I've heard yet here in Okazaki. Looking at the forecast, it seems that this week will be pretty precipitation-heavy.

You know, though, since I've been here in Okazaki, even though it's rained a few times, I've yet to hear any thunder or see any lightning. I wonder if that will change soon.