Saturday, April 28, 2012

True facts are true

KIM and LOUKI have just finished showing DANA a bunch of random clips from The Big Bang Theory.
KIM: So, what do you think?
DANA: I think Tech House is nerdier.
DANA: It's true.
KIM: I think you haven't seen enough of the show.
DANA: I think you haven't met Tech House.
KIM: ...okay, yeah, but this show is written for normal people.  I can't understand super nerdy things.
DANA: This is why there is not a TV show about Tech House.  Even nerds wouldn't understand it.

In other news, due to a totally random conversation with Louki and Grace, I am trying to figure out if it would be possible to combine peanut butter and chocolate decadence cake, because APPARENTLY no one has ever successfully done this before (that I can tell, by means of my INTERNET POWERS).  HMMMM, if I substitute peanut butter for some of the butter...actually, it'll probably just make the world explode.  HMMM.  The pondering continues.

On a final note, the weather is GORGEOUS outside, but the BUGS have started coming out.  Japanese bugs, by the way, are the most terrifying things in the world.  Bees are about three times as big as they should be and are RED and FREAK ME OUT.  Also, this thing flew up my skirt today and I freaked out and it turned to be a queen ant that was the size of a yellow jacket.  AHHHHHHHH.  NOT COOL.  NOT COOL AT ALL.

Short posts are short.

Friday, April 27, 2012

All kaiten sushi all the time

I am so bad at updating.  SO BAD.  Part of the problem is that I've been going out/actually talking to people in the evenings, so instead of writing my blog posts after dinner, I come home exhausted, talk to Nick for a little bit, and then fall asleep.  The dangers of having friends!

Anyway, here are the answers from the super short words challenge!

1. pasokon = personal computer (paasonaru konpyuuta)
2. rimokon = remote control (rimooto kontorooraa)
3. meruado = mail address (meeru adoresu)
4. kaanabi = car navigation system, aka GPS (kaa nabigeeshon)
5. santora = sound track (saundo torakku)
6. furima = free market (furii maaketto)
7. kopipe = copy and paste (kopii ando peesuto)
8. ama = amateur (amachua), which is the opposite of puro (pro, short for professional)
9. infure = inflation (infureeshon)
10. shinse = synthesizer (shinsesaizaa)

...the highest anyone scored (that they told me; I dunno, maybe someone got all of them but was super secret about it) was a 2.
Say it with me:
Perhaps I have been in Japan too long, but a lot of these seemed pretty intuitively obvious to me!  (Well, not kopipe* and santora and shinse.  I got shinse after I thought about it, though.)  I have probably just been in Japan too long, you guys.  Probably.

Let's see.  What has happened since the last time I updated?

Monday was Louki's birthday, and I made her a cake, because it was either that or read stuff for class.  Anyway, it turns out that some people think being able to bake a cake is impressive?  I dunno.
Also, somewhere in the middle there I discovered that Grace is a brony which means that OUR BRONY LEAGUE IS NOW AT THREE.  We are UNSTOPPABLE.
Anyway, a bunch of people went out to a kaiten sushi** place, which was really good AND really cheap!  And I ate a bunch of saba (mackerel), because I am into saba.
Then, when we came back, it turned out that basically the entire dorm was waiting to sing "Happy Birthday" to Louki.  It was exciting!

Almost immediately after that we all trooped up to Ashley's room to wish HER happy birthday at midnight.  And I wanted to play her the ponies happy birthday song, but then I realized it was from an episode she hadn't seen yet and I was sad.

The next day I had penmanship, and one of the women who I haven't seen in almost five months was there.  It turns out that she injured her knee and was bedridden for a while, which is (obviously) why she wasn't coming to class, but it's great that she's able to get up and walk around again!  Also, she was shocked to see me, because apparently Nakano-san had told her that I had gone back to America...and failed to tell her that I was coming back.  OOPS.
But anyway!  It was a pretty good class!  I actually did some pretty okay penmanship and was super proud of myself until Nakano-san, 15 minutes before the end of class, handed me a string of about 20 incredibly difficult kanji and told me to try it "as a challenge." was pretty bad.  I shall take pictures and put them up here at some point.  Prepare your eyeballs.
Also, people in penmanship class have realized that actually maybe I kind of know something about Japanese religion, because:
A. I can understand the weird, obscure Shinto terms Nakano-san uses
B. I got into HARVARD, so clearly I must be kind of okay
C. Nakano-san was describing an amacha*** ritual, and I correctly identified it as being created by Gedatsu-kai,****
D. I knew what Gedatsu-kai was (I just read a book on it...)
E. I know the difference between Amaterasu-oomikami and Amaterasu-no-mikoto (one is from the Nihon Shoki and the other is from the Kojiki).
It's amusing, because a couple of new women have started coming, and Nakano-san keeps introducing me as knowing "all this random stuff even I don't know about Shinto."  Ahahahaha, what.

That evening I had Japanese class, where we finished reading a mystery novella we started a couple of weeks ago.  In the end, it turned out that the person I suspected from the beginning did it, and when we were just reaching the climax, our teacher asked if anyone knew who had done it, and I said I did, and she was SHOCKED OH MY GOODNESS.  It was kind of obvious, though.  If you're going to include a character and not have him/her DO anything, OBVIOUSLY HE/SHE DID IT.  Especially if it's a novella.

Wednesday I went out to Toyota City to interview Aoyama-san, the priest who the Yamaguchis (my host family in Tochigi) introduced me to.  He answered negative to almost all of my questions, which is interesting, but not entirely unexpected.  Anyway, I got some good information out of it, so now I just have to write it up into my paper.  I've been trying to work on my paper a little bit each day, but that's not actually how I work on papers, so it's more like on Wednesday I worked on my paper for a couple of hours and doubled the word count and I haven't touched it since then.  Oh well.  It'll get done.

Thursday I had Japanese class, where we were learning kanji compounds with two or more readings/meanings.  For example, 心中 can mean "in [someone's] heart" (しんちゅう) or it can mean "a love suicide" (しんじゅう).  They are pretty different words!
After class I went out with a bunch of other foreign students to kaiten sushi AGAIN, because we are all about kaiten sushi.

And now it is Friday and I am writing this in the afternoon so that I don't forget in the evening.  GENIUS.

Next week is Golden Week, which is a week with a million holidays in it, so everybody goes traveling.  Everybody except me, that is.  I don't really have any plans.  Maybe I'll figure something out or maybe I'll just bum around or maybe I'll go on a day trip somewhere.  WE SHALL SEE.  On the other hand, we have to finish a draft of the handbook by Monday, so maybe I'll just work on that...

*Which may be my new favorite word.  It just sounds so perky!

**Rotating sushi.  It's where the sushi is on a conveyor belt or in sushi boats.  People are always shocked when I say that we have kaiten sushi in the US.

***Sweet tea.

****As it turns out, Nakano-san belongs to a more Shinto-centric spin-off of Gedatsu-kai called Kamunagara-no-michi (which is the old reading for the word "Shinto," by the way!).  I need to find infos on it, basically.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sometimes stuff is problematic

So apparently nobody can figure out the shortened words.  Here, have some hints:
pasokon, meruado, and kopipe are all words having to do with computers
kaanabi and rimokon are both electronics
furima and infure are words you will most commonly hear in economics
shinse and santora both have to do with music
ama is the opposite of puro
YAY, now you will definitely be able to figure them out, right?  Right?  Right?

Other exciting news!  On Friday night we had our dorm's dance party, which went better than the Halloween party, but has convinced me that even if I have friends at them, I am just not into parties!
Additionally, I discovered that when I put on a dress, dudes apparently become really interested in flirting with me.  It's awkward, 'cause some of them were dudes who have never bothered to talk to me before and suddenly they were all, "Man, you are HAWT in a dress," and then ogled me awkwardly, and I was all, "OH MAN, IS THAT SOMEONE WHO DESPERATELY NEEDS MY HELP FAR ACROSS THE ROOM I GOTTA GO."  On the other hand, I had a bunch of actually good/interesting conversations with people who had things to remark on other than my hawtness in a dress/lack of hawtness the rest of the time.

Oh, on a totally unrelated note, several days ago, Ashley recognized my dorky Hitchhiker's shirt for what it is,* which led to SO MUCH GEEKY BONDING, as if we weren't already buddies because of our shared bronyism** and disturbing enthusiasm for Gurren Lagann (it is the best and if you disagree YOU ARE WRONG).

In other news, I have begun to realize exactly how right Alyssa's Law of Anthropology is.  Alyssa (who is the anthropologist Fulbrighter in Fukuoka) was saying at the conference that anthropologists like to spend a lot of time talking about how "problematic" everything is.  And recently I've been doing a lot of reading that has driven that point home.  Of course, sometimes labeling something as problematic makes sense, especially if it's a translated word.  For example, could you call a kami a god?  Maybe.  But that could be, ahem, problematic, because it might make your readers think that you're talking about the Western concept, with the gods existing in a different world/level than humanity.  It gets even more complicated when you're using words that also exist in Chinese, or words that exist across cultures, like "Buddha."  In Japanese, there's a phrase "to become a buddha," which is basically synonymous with "to die."  Except that's not how becoming a Buddha works in any other kind of Buddhism.  So it's pretty understandable if you have to put a disclaimer on that sort of thing.
...and then there are people who think pretty much everything is problematic.  This especially becomes a problem when you're talking about Shinto between 1868 and 1945, because everybody argues over whether it was a state cult or not and whether it was a religion or not and whether it was a state teaching or not and whether etc. etc. etc.  And it's fine to recognize that there's a lot of debate surrounding a lot of terms, but apparently some people feel the need to write a disclaimer EVERY.  TIME.  THE TERM.  APPEARS.  Yes, I got it the first time!  It's problematic!  I know!

On a final note, I asked Itou-san about finding a female priest who went through seminary as a college student (because both she and Nakano-san did the crazy summer crash courses), and she is amazing and knows a bunch of people and said she would introduce me and YES.  SO EXCITED.

...and on an actually final note, people have found my blog through the keywords "euphemisms for chest hair."

*So many people have told me that my "whale shirt" is "cute," and then I wait for them to continue and they just stop there and I am sad.

**Season 2 ended today and it was amazing and I just, wow, you guys, wow.
[obligatory spazzing]
Ahahaha, you probably all think I'm insane but I DON'T CARE BECAUSE PONIES.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Come at me, disasters

I'm pretty bad at updating, 'cause I have too much going on in my life or whatever.  EXCUSES.

Let's see if I can quickly recap what's been going on in my life.

Tuesday morning was the monthly festival (tsukinamisai) at Susanoo Shrine.  I hadn't been able to go for the past three months because of one thing or another (well, graduate school application deadline, food poisoning, and being in Tokyo respectively), so it was nice to see everyone again.  I...hadn't forgotten everything either!  And I got to fold paper for the offering trays and apparently was proclaimed a genius because even though I was shown how to fold the paper from the bottom corner up, I was able to make the exact same shape from the top corner down.  Um.  I'd call that basic spatial awareness, not genius, but whatever.
Also, Nakano-san offered to take me to a fire purification festival that's performed at Misogi Shrine, about 3 hours by car from Nagoya.  It's very unusual, because most fire purification ceremonies are performed at temples, not shrines.  Her husband works at the shrine, and she apparently goes up there a fair amount, so she offered to take me the next time she goes up.  Pretty exciting!

Tuesday evening I had Japanese class, where we read about how people are giving their children ridiculously difficult to read names.  This won't mean anything to anyone who doesn't speak Japanese, but some names in the article included: 結愛(ゆあ), 明日(ともろう), 笑(えりく), 香魚(かな), 夢紅(むく), and, my personal favorite, 響(りずむ).  WHO THE HECK NAMES THEIR KID THAT?  That's just cruel.

After class, we had a nomikai with the foreign freshmen and Tuesday sensei*.  It was pretty fun, although it quickly degenerated to learning swear words in foreign languages.  I know now some swear words in Chinese!  Yay?  Also, one of the freshmen is Mexican, and was trying to teach everyone cusses in Spanish, but finally one of the Chinese boys asked, "Can't you cuss at people without involving their parents?"  Ahahaha, it's kind of true.

Anyway, Wednesday morning I had penmanship class, where, funnily enough, we had a long discussion about people naming their children ridiculous things.
Also, I practiced writing this:

I hope you are super impressed by that heart radical.  It took me...FOREVER.

Anyway, Wednesday afternoon everyone in the dorm had a mandatory disaster drill, because, you know, almost all the foreign students are leaving in a month and it would really suck if a disaster occurred in the next month and they didn't know how to deal with it.  Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh.  Anyway, you would think that a disaster drill would only take...oh, an hour, right?  I mean, there are only so many disasters that can occur.  We aren't near active volcanoes or anything...  But, no, it took 3 hours.  THREE.  HOURS.  Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

After that everyone wanted to throw themselves out of windows, but we couldn't find any appropriate windows so instead a bunch of us went to all-you-can-eat pizza again (and I, once again, failed at eating pizza but ate a million pounds of eggplant pasta; it was AMAZING).

Today I had Japanese class in the evening, and we learned some crazy shortened words.  In Japanese, a lot of borrowed words are simply too long to use in daily speech (plus, Japanese is all about making words shorter than they already are), so words get shortened.  Like air conditioner becomes eakon.  And Starbucks becomes sutaba.  See how many of these words you can figure out (all of them are shortened forms of commonly used English words or phrases**):
1. pasokon
2. rimokon
3. meruado
4. kaanabi
5. santora
6. furima
7. kopipe
8. ama
9. infure
10. shinse
Hint: 1-7 are two or more words mashed into one, while 8-10 is a single word which has had the second half chopped off.
If you speak Japanese and can figure out 9 OR if you don't speak Japanese*** and can figure out 6...I'll give you a prize or something, I guess.  OH MAN, PRESSURE'S ON NOW.  It should be noted that we have a native speaker tutor in our class, and she couldn't figure out some of these.  So they're not easy.  And, no, it won't work to put them through Google translate.  You have to think about it.  You can work in teams if you want, just as long as you are working as a team, not just mooching off some poor soul.

So, yeah, that's what I've been up to!

*Although now I guess he's We Don't Take Class with You sensei.  IT'S SO CONFUSING.  Monday sensei is now Thursday sensei and Thursday sensei is Tuesday sensei.  I don't know what to believe.

**I could have thrown in some German to be a jerk, but I'm not a jerk.  Aren't you happy I'm not a jerk?

***For those of you who want to try this but don't speak Japanese, all vowels are pronounced like in Spanish.  R is pronounced like a cross between an L and an R and is used for either sound in English.  A double A is pronounced like a normal A, just twice the length.  Everything else should be intuitively obvious.

Monday, April 16, 2012

ER adventures and handbooking

On Saturday, I got to experience the Japanese health care system by sitting in an ER for three hours.  It was approximately as exciting as expected.  Basically, my roommate Grace wasn't feeling so great, so I went to the ER at the local hospital with her.  Although the people in the study abroad office had told me that the local hospital had English translators, we didn't wind up with one.  The doctor did put all the medical terms he was using into a Japanese-English online medical dictionary, but, while I don't know what 気胸 means (other than that it clearly involves air and chests), I don't really know what pneumothorax is either.  Fortunately, my electronic dictionary* includes an English medical dictionary, so we were able to look up the terms we didn't already know, and discovered that they thought that Grace might have a collapsed lung.  Three x-rays later, they decided that she didn't actually have a collapsed lung and sent her home with an anti-inflammatory, which apparently worked, so I dunno what was up.
Anyway, it was way faster than an American ER, involved a whole lot less randomly sitting around waiting for results (we only had to wait about half an hour for the x-ray results), and was a lot less expensive than an American ER would be, because the national health insurance pays for 70% of all costs.  THANK YOU, JAPANESE HEALTH INSURANCE SYSTEM.

Other exciting things that have been going on?  UMMMMMM, I have been doing the reading for my religious history class, which actually isn't too hard, except for the parts where they quote Meiji Restoration proclamations, and then I have absolutely no idea what's going on.  Well, at least I can read enough to get the general gist of what's going on, but they use so many words that aren't in my dictionary (either Japanese-English or Japanese-Japanese), that it's impossible to get everything.

Something I forgot to mention before is that all this year's Fulbrighters have to write a handbook for next year's Fulbrighters.  We...didn't actually know about this until the mid-year conference, and it's due at the end of May, so it's been kind of a scramble.  I wound up as the editor-like-person-position-job-thing, because apparently I am doomed to forever wind up in a position of evil power.

Also, I called to set up an interview and the priest I was calling had forgotten that I existed.  Super awkward.  It was a conversation fraught with awkward pauses until he remembered who I was and that my host family in Tochigi had introduced us. SUPER AWKWARD.  But I have a tentative interview set up for the 25th, so YAY.

On a final note, I just discovered that "Washington, D.C." in Japanese is コロンビア特別区, or "the special ward of Columbia."  HA.

*which I love madly and would marry so hard.  LET'S HAVE BABIES, DENSHI JISHO.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kojiki (part four)

Kojiki (part four): Susanoo actually does something kind of useful for once

Previously on the Kojiki, Susanoo got thrown out for being a poop-flinging jerk.

There's then a chapter which probably was just randomly thrown into the Kojiki.  It's the killing-the-food-kami story I wrote about here, except instead of Tsukiyomi doing the killing, it's Susanoo.  Basically, Susanoo showed up at Ukemochinokami's house, asked for food, and Ukemochinokami started pulling food out of her nose, mouth, and rectum.  Yum.  Susanoo was pretty understandably grossed out and stabbed her.  Her corpse then turned into various kinds of food, which one of the kami took and used as seeds.
The Tsukiyomi version of the story, by the way, is the one which appears in the Nihon Shoki.  Some scholars believe that Susanoo wasn't actually involved in the original story, but the author decided to make him the one to kill Ukemochinokami in order to reinforce his violent and dangerous nature.  There's actually a version of the story where nobody gets killed, and the food-producing kami just dies of old age!  But dying quietly of old age is so BORING compared to STABBING, and also doesn't involve pulling food out of one's rectum.

So, anyway, once Susanoo was done senselessly killing people, he descended to Izumo.  Yes, that Izumo.  He saw a chopstick floating down the river, and figured that there must be people upstream, so he went to look for them.  Sure enough, he found an old woman and an old man with a young woman.  All of them were crying.
Susanoo asked what was wrong, and the old guy replied that he used to have eight daughters, but the eight-tailed* dragon, whose name was Yamato no Orochi,**  had come every year to eat one of them, and now he was down to the last one.
Susanoo then asked what the dragon looked like, because apparently "eight-tailed" wasn't sufficiently descriptive.
The old man then gave a description, which involved a lot of renditions of "eight" (the dragon has eight tails and eight heads and spans eight valleys AND eight mountain peaks).
Then Susanoo asked, "Will you give me your daughter?"
The old man answered, "Awed as I am, I do not know your name."
And Susanoo replied that he was Amaterasu's brother, conveniently leaving out the whole part where she threw him out and kind of disowned him.
And apparently this was good enough for the old man, 'cause he gave Susanoo his daughter...who Susanoo then turned into a hair comb and inserted into his hair bunch.
UH.  Right-o.
So then Susanoo told the old man and old woman to distill "thick wine of eight-fold brewings," which is apparently a special kind of wine that is used in religious ceremonies.  He then told them to build a fence with eight openings in it, and place a barrel of the wine at each of the doors and wait.
You probably already know where this is going.
So they did as Susanoo said, and the dragon showed up and drank from the barrels and got drunk and passed out.  And then Susanoo hacked the dragon into pieces with his sword, and the river flowed red with the dragon's blood!  But when he cut the dragon's middle tail, his sword broke.  He inspected the tail and discovered that there was a sword inside the tail.  He took the sword and presented it to Amaterasu, which, if you think about it, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, since he just got thrown out for flinging poop around her house.  Some scholars think the whole bit with him presenting the sword to Amaterasu is just tacked on to the regular story, but nobody really knows!  Anyway, the sword was Kusanagi, which doesn't mean anything to most of you, but will become important later!

In the children's version of the Kojiki I'm reading, Susanoo then pulls out all his body hair and throws it into the wind, where it turns into a bunch of different kinds of trees!
If you were wondering, his butt hair turns into maki, which my dictionary informs me means "yew plum pines."
He then announces what each of the trees will be used for!  The butt-hair trees are supposed to be used for making things for living in this world, which I guess means implements for daily use?
Then Susanoo pulls out his hair comb and announces that it will be his wife, and the hair comb turns back into a lady.  And apparently the lady is so calm and nice that she stops Susanoo from being such a hot-headed poop-flinger, which I guess is a good thing!

Note that none of this section is actually in the original Kojiki, which continues the story this way:
Susanoo picked a place in Izumo to build his wedding palace, and apparently was so thrilled with building his palace that he decided to sing.
I bet you didn't think this was a musical, huh?
Anyway, his song is about how he's going to have a many-fenced palace and live in it with his wife.  That is literally the entire song.
So then he called over the old man and asked him to be his headman, and then commenced procreation with his wife...who, by the way, in this text, is still a comb.  Oops.
And then there's a full page listing all his descendants and that's the end of the chapter!

On a final semi-related note, Jason, who was my classmate at Brown AND on CLS and is now working as a CIR in Shimane Prefecture, went to see a kagura performance of the tale of Susanoo and Yamata no Orochi.  You can click here for a picture.

Next time: Ookuninushi discovers that if you tick off your bros, they may kill you...a lot.

*It's worth noting, once again, that "eight" may actually mean "a lot" in this context.

**If you've ever seen or read Naruto, Orochimaru is based off of Yamato no Orochi.

Monday, April 9, 2012

All sakura all the time

Hey, guys!  Not many words in this update, but there are a lot of pictures!  I decided to be a super responsible student and put aside my reading for class in favor of going down to Mizuho Undoujo Higashi (MiZUho UnDOUjo HiGAshi) to take some pictures of sakura!  And I took a lot of pictures.  A LOT of pictures.
If you haven't been sakura'd out, Sara has pictures of sakura here, here, and here.

Anyway, have some sakura!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

In which I revel in sakura and cultural ambassador the heck out of everybody

Yesterday I went with a bunch of other girls from the dorm to all you can eat pizza, which was exciting because I had exactly one piece of pizza.  It was goat cheese and honey pizza, which was...interesting? It was better than normal pizza, but not something that I would go out of my way to eat again.  BUT there was also all you can eat salad and pasta and dessert so it wasn't like my money went to waste.
And then seven of us crammed into a purikura booth, because unless someone gets an elbow in the eye, it's not an authentic purikura experience.  Also, I ate Kim's head.  It was great.

Today I went out to dinner with Ton-chan, Shou-chan, and Kocchan as a "congrats on entering graduate school/getting a job" party.  We went to a Chinese restaurant (which Shou-chan says is the best Chinese restaurant in Nagoya) because Ton-chan really wanted to eat Peking duck for some reason?

(This is what Peking duck looks like, by the way.  Ton-chan took a picture when it came, which is good, because it vaporized pretty much instantly.)

I think this is the second or third time in my life I have ever eaten duck.  It was pretty good!  But the crazy giant gyoza were better.  They were like GIANT GYOZA POCKETS.  OM NOM NOM.  Also, apparently coconut milk is a totally acceptable adult drink and is also delicious?  I am very okay with this.

Meanwhile, Shou-chan regaled us with tales of graduate student woe (she just entered the master's of Japanese education program at Nanzan).  She is convinced that I will die in September, because if Nanzan's program is this intense, Harvard's must be TWENTY TIMES AS INTENSE.  On the other hand, I'll be spending 8-12 hours a week in class, whereas she's spending 13.5 and has to do research on top of that?  Yeah, I think she's got it worse.  But hopefully she won't die, because it would be super sad if she turned into a graduate zombie!

Then we decided to go to Mizuho Undoujo Higashi (Mizuho Exercise Ground East!), the most unfortunately named subway stop ever (mostly because of how the English announcer on the train pronounces it: MiZUho UnDOUjo HiGAshi ahahaha, awkward).  But we didn't go because of its exceedingly unfortunate name!  Instead we went for SAKURA.  Yes, the sakura (cherry blossoms) have started blooming, which means that it's the season when everyone in Japan suddenly becomes excessively obsessed with flowers!  I can totally see why, since sakura are GORGEOUS and I am a fan of staring at them excessively.  Also, at MiZUho UnDOUjo HiGAshi they had lights along the river, which meant that it looked like this:

(Picture totally stolen from Kocchan.  It was also taken with her phone camera, so it's not too high quality.)

(Stolen from Ton-chan.  Because I am stealing from everyone equally!  There will most likely be more pictures later~)

And then we were talking about how not everyone in America is Christian (apparently this is very surprising to many people; WAY TO GO, AMERICA) and Mormons?*
Then suddenly we started talking about Glee?
"Hey, hey, you're American!  Have you seen Glee?"
"Yeah, I've seen part of it."
"Kurt is super cute, right?  Even though he's gay.  He's my favorite."
"He has a really nice voice."
"Hey, as an American, what do you think of him?"
"Uh...what do you mean?"
"I mean, what do you think of him being gay?"
"Uh...I dunno, I have a number of non-straight friends.**  It doesn't seem particularly unusual to me."
"REALLY?  You have gay friends?  What are they like?"
"Normal human beings?"
And then I wound up explaining about how you can be a normal human being and not be straight and also about what "genderqueer"*** and "asexual" mean and Ton-chan said, "Yeah, it seems like there are a lot more people like that in the States but it's probably just that people in Japan don't want to say anything," and I was like, "YES, YOU GET IT, OKAY, SUCCESS."
It's kind of funny how much time I spend talking to people about gender and sexuality given my research topic.  On the other hand, maybe it's not all that surprising?  I did, after all, go to Brown.  And some of my research is about gender differences.  So.

So then we ate baked sweet potatoes (because there was a random stand selling them nearby?) and Ton-chan and Kocchan took a million pictures because they actually remembered to bring cameras and Shou-chan and I made awkward sound effects at each other, which is to say that we spoke Japanese, because you can hold a conversation that's 50% sound effects, if you so desire.  Not even kidding.  I will bata bata and kotsu kotsu and bo- to suru all the days.  Well, not so much the last one, because it's the sound you make when you space out.

So, yeah!  It was pretty fun!

On a final and completely unrelated note, have a hilarious quote from the article I was reading this morning:

"Influential men in NAS [National Association of Shrines] are persuaded that the problem [of young people not buying Ise amulets, jingu taima, to enshrine in their home altars] is exacerbated by the homophone taima, which also means marijuana. One priest in Toyama found that intial interest among the young gave way to dismay on learning the taima on offer could not be smoked."

Ahahahahaha, crazy young people.

*"You know those people?  On their bikes?  They are in twos on bikes?  And they wear helmets?  And they want you to join their religion?"


***If anyone knows the proper Japanese word for this please let me know because I have had two discussions about gender identity in which this has come up now and it's really hard to keep saying, "It's like not being a lady and not being a dude except sometimes it's like being BOTH and sometimes it's like something completely unrelated; it depends on the person."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Recap: Mid-year conference, Kanda Myoujin, and Sensoji

Hey, guys.  Sorry to drop off the face of the Earth AGAIN.  The last few days I've been hit pretty hard with 時差ぼけ, which is the Japanese word for "jet lag" but literally means "time difference senility."  Not even kidding.

Anyway, I should probably update you on the last few days of my Tokyo trip, even though it was a million years ago.

Thursday, March 22 was our mid-year conference.  It was...different than expected, but it was really nice to see everyone and get to hear about what everyone's been working on.  That evening all of us except Ashley (who had other plans) went out to dinner together in Shibuya.

(We had a couple of additions, so not everyone at the table is a Fulbrighter.  Also, I stole this picture from Karen because I'm a 泥棒.)

I also had my first (non-alcoholic) cocktail!  It was lychee juice and ice cream, which is Essentially The Best!

Then we took a picture at That Random Famous Intersection in Shibuya.

Left to right:
First row: Me, Sara, Karen (who I stole this picture from too), Michele, Nellie
Second row: Alyssa, Steven, Alex

The next morning we FINALLY got a picture of all nine of us:

Left to right:
First row: Michele, me, Sara, Karen
Second row: Alyssa, Steven, Ashley, Nellie
Way in the back because he's tall or whatever: Alex

What an incredibly attractive group of people.

(Picture totally stolen from Sara.)

So then a bunch of us headed out to check out this craft shop Alyssa had found previously.  It had a bunch of nice stuff, but I didn't get anything because A. I had no room in my suitcase and B. I am a miser.  So yeah.

After that, Karen and I headed out to Kanda Myoujin, also known as the computer exorcism shrine (p.s. note that the article totally accidentally calls it a temple geez guys it's not that hard to tell them apart).

It's literally a five minute walk from Akihabara, which makes it the perfect place to pick up talismans for all your computer-protecting needs!

It was raining, thus the umbrellas and the not-so-great picture quality.

Inside the main gate was:


A touch-screen display which can tell you random information about things, like how to wash your hands!

Or how to pray!

Did I mention this is basically an electronics shrine now?

Oh man, let's check out the ema racks, you guys.

Ahahahahaha, yeah, this is a geek shrine.

"May Japan be peaceful."

"I want the drama CD.
(Either 2 or 3.)" this guy's eye melting?  Unsure.

"May I become good at drawing."

"May I also be able to have fun drawing this year!"

"May I be able to watch good anime in 2012."

"I will try my hardest to complete the game!"

"Business prosperity."

"Family safety."

This is just ADORABLE.

Then I went over to the shrine office and bought an IT情報安全守 (IT information [sic] safety omamori) which is currently installed on the THerver and also the Media PC and also somewhere else in Tech House?  I should have taken a picture, but I was distracted by other things OH WELL.

Here, have some pictures of little side shrines:

Then Karen headed back to her place (in Yokohama) and I headed to my hostel.  I met up with a couple of the other Fulbrighters for dinner, and we went out to get unagi (eel).  After that we crashed, because we were tired!

The next day, I met up with Steven to see Sensoji, which is a big temple in Asakusa.

As can be expected, it was absurdly crowded.

This is the little street of shops leading up to the temple. was still raining, because the weather does not believe in cooperating.

They also had fake sakura trees?

This is a sledge used to drag the materials for the temple, I believe.

There was a nice garden attached as well:

Then we went over to Asakusa Shrine, which is right next door.

The ground was really muddy, which made walking...exciting.

So, yeah!  Steven has a bunch more picture here, if you want to see them.

After that I headed to the airport and flew to the States, beginning a week and a half of craziness.  It was great to see a bunch of Tech Housers (and non-Tech Housers and just people in general), and I'm really sorry if I was supremely jet lagged at you at any point in time.  (I'm relatively sure that I had a couple of conversations that made NO SENSE.)  I'm not going to write up blog posts about my adventures in the States, 'cause a bunch of you were there for parts of them and also there aren't enough hours in the day.
BUT!  After touring a bunch of schools and talking to a bunch of people and doing a bunch of crazy planning, I can finally announce that I'll be a master's student at Harvard University starting in the fall.  I just submitted the online forms today, so all that's left is for me to turn in the paperwork.  Yay!

On a final note, this is the paper I made on the not-really-Nikko tour:

It's currently in Nick's possession, so you can go bother him if you want to see it for some reason.

So, yeah!