Nar3: Japan

The naked
Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2003 at 8:28am by Brett.
(Wednesday, October 15th, 2003 at 9:28pm Japanese Standard Time)

I was telling my friend Chad a couple nights ago about a fit I had in the public showers a couple weeks ago. Not so much a "fit" as much as sudden and acute culture shock.

I walked into the entrance to the showers and bought my ticket. I gave it to the Dirty Old Man that guards the showers and then went into the changing room. I had been pretty busy that evening, so I was getting a shower later than normal, which I had wanted to avoid because it gets so crowded.

And crowded it was.

I walked in, shut the door behind me and stopped. I nearly dropped my clothes and towel...I think I squeaked a little. There was naked everywhere. My eyes scanned the room...right to left, left to right, and then once more around for good measure. Yeup. Definitly naked. I realized I was breaking the cardinal rule of public bathing, and immediately focused my gaze to the really well-constructed floor tiles.

But the damage had been done. There was a nearly impossible number of naked people crammed into the tiny--and growing ever smaller--changing room. The thing is, I was the only one who seemed to notice the naked.

There were people sitting on the benches chatting ...(More)

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Site update and new pics
Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2003 at 10:01pm by Brett.
(Saturday, October 11th, 2003 at 11:01am Japanese Standard Time)

The until now useless links under the Students section work (for me...everyone else needs to give me their info so I can put it in there). I've added a new picture gallery. It's not using my own program, but something called Gallery. It works, so enjoy.

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Foreigners on parade!
Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2003 at 6:09am by Brett.
(Friday, October 10th, 2003 at 7:09pm Japanese Standard Time)

This week is the Tsukuba University Festival. In the grand tradition of really liking national holidays, Monday is a national holiday. The net result is that we have a 4 day weekend. Good times!

My friend Shannon and I were biking around campus to see if the festival had been set up. They were putting stuff up everywhere...stages and platforms and booths and kiosks, but the festival doesn't open until tomorrow at 11. It looks like it will be good times.

On our way home, we ran into a group of our other friends and stopped to chat. They were getting ready to practice for the parade that's on Sunday. Neither Shannon nor I particularly wanted to be in this parade thing, but...shall we say circumstances (DIRTY LIARS!) caused us to reconsider, and so we decided to go to the practice.

They weren't too keen on giving lots of information, so it was a "need-to-know" kind of thing. They told us to go to a elementary school. We knew this was a parade sponsored by TISA, and that you were supposed to be wearing clothes native to your country. The USA, being a faily new country, doesn't really have any culturally "native" clothes, so we're wearing our blue ...(More)

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Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2003 at 11:30am by Brett.
(Friday, October 10th, 2003 at 12:30am Japanese Standard Time)

Yesterday I had to give a speech in my Japanese class. In Japanese.

It wasn't too bad. I didn't get sick, I didn't loose control of any bodily functions, I didn't trip or knock things over or do anything like that. But it could have been better.

Every week in my Japanese language class we have to write an essay. From these essays, we have to prepare two and turn them into speeches. Because I chose to go so early in the trimester, I only had two speeches to choose from: "My Country's Customs (using giving and receiving verbs)" and the "If....Then" essay. (Sorry for the crap description...there's really no way to translate this into English.)

I was absent the day the "If...then" essay was assigned. I wasn't skiving classes (fun British slang!), I had a nasty headache so I went home to bed. My friends told me that I needed to write an essay giving a self introduction, and then saying "If I had a 1,000,000 yen, then I would...". So merrily I write this essay, and then turn it in. I get it back with LOADS of red marks (and a bit of green, for some reason).

Generally, you write an essay, turn it in, have it torn apart, then rewrite it with the corrections. So ...(More)

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Nihongo ga heta desu.
Posted on Tuesday, October 7th, 2003 at 4:31am by Brett.
(Tuesday, October 7th, 2003 at 5:31pm Japanese Standard Time)

Japanese is hard. It isn't hard like any romance language ever might be "hard". It's hard like trying to speak in unfactored quadratic equations is hard.

There are two theories about the origins of the Japanese language.

The first is that Japanese was originally created by the Koreans and Chinese as a form of punishment. Around 666BC, China and Korea got together and tried to figure out a way to punish the worst criminals. The solution? A cosy-looking set of islands slightly to the east to serve as a prison.

As everyone knows, evil criminals are Tricky. China and Korea knew this, and wanted to make sure they wouldn't riot and break free, so the criminals were forbidden to speak any language in which they could be understood by one another. And thus was birth of the Japanese language...

The second theory suggests that the Tower of Babble fell not because everyone started speaking different languages, but in fact that everyone started speaking Japanese and was therefore unable to understand each other without first studying their own language for years.

The whole of the Japanese language is based upon an in group / out group idea. Depending upon which group ...(More)

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Room Boredom
Posted on Sunday, October 5th, 2003 at 11:21am by Brett.
(Monday, October 6th, 2003 at 12:21am Japanese Standard Time)

Four Walls,
A Ceiling,
A Floor.

A Door that I'll go through
When schedules demand
To attend meetings
That I haven't planned.

A Window I'll look through
To see far away
Or open for night air
Or light of the day.

A Desk in the corner
A Bed by its side
Under whose covers I hide
Wondering why...right now...
There's not more

Than Four Walls,
A Ceiling,
A Floor.

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Highschool girls, karaoke, and Evil Hello Kitty
Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2003 at 10:31am by Brett.
(Friday, October 3rd, 2003 at 11:31pm Japanese Standard Time)

A couple days ago, a group of my friends and I were sitting outside in front of the International Student Center just talking. There were about 7 of us, two of which were what the Japanese consider to be "standard" American guys. That is, they were blonde haired and light eyed, and one was pretty tall. By chance, there was a tour going on for a group of about 30 highschool girls. They were the stereotypical Japanese Highschool Girls...straight from the manga and anime. They were walking past the center to another building just beyond it. One of them spotted the group of foreigners and kinda pointed. Pretty soon, we were getting staired at...which isn't really anything new.

By this point, the tour had stopped and they were straight up gawking at us. Then one brave girl took out her cell phone, and timidly took a picture. It was all over then. Every single girl there pulled out cell phones and cameras and started taking pictures. Then, one stepped forward to get a closer shot. We started posing for them, and finally one of the "American" guys went down and hugged them for a pose. It was pretty amusing. This went on about 5 minutes before the tour guide pulled them ...(More)

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One month!!!
Posted on Thursday, October 2nd, 2003 at 2:47am by Brett.
(Thursday, October 2nd, 2003 at 3:47pm Japanese Standard Time)

I've now officially been in Japan for a month! W00t! Also, I'm a card-carrying official alien in Japan now, AND I have internet in my room! Fun fun fun fun!

On the not-fun side, I completely bombed my first Japanese language test. I've yet to talk to someone who didn't fail it, so I'm not feeling too bad about it. But I did do better than I expected on my kanji test, so that's nice...

I've got to write an essay/speech to give in class next Wednesday. It'll be...urm...interesting...

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Posted on Friday, September 26th, 2003 at 4:24am by Brett.
(Friday, September 26th, 2003 at 5:24pm Japanese Standard Time)

Yikes. A magnitude 8 earthquake hit Hokkaido this morning. Hokkaido is the northern most island of Japan, and happens to be where Greg and Nick are going. They were due to arrive just this week, I think. Nice welcome...

It was nearly 5:00am when it hit, so I was asleep, but I woke up. We felt a bit of it down here, but nothing at all like what they did. There was no damage here except for a few things falling out of place. This is about the 3rd or 4th little earthquake here in two weeks. The one in Hokkaido was the strongest to hit anywhere in the world this year. Luckily, only one person has been killed.

On a brighter note, I just turned in the forms to get internet access in my dorm, so I should have a nice connection from my room by next week.

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The baths
Posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2003 at 8:54am by Brett.
(Thursday, September 25th, 2003 at 9:54pm Japanese Standard Time)

The showers here are traditional Japanese showers...for the most part. If you are not aware, the Japanese traditionally take their showers together. First you wash yourself off while sitting on a little tiny bench thing, then you hop into a swimming-pool sized bath with lots of other people and "relax". This idea didn't go over very well with me. I did it the very first night...then I discovered the wonderful western style bathrooms, and now I do a little naked dance each night when I lock myself in the private shower because of the mere fact that no one can see me. It's quite nice...

There is, however, a big communal changing room. Now, I change in the private room because...because I'm American. But everyone else using the Japanese-style showers just changes out in the open. There are exactly 3 places to look in this room: the ceiling, the floor, and anywhere someone isn't busy being naked.

Tonight, I had finished my showering (and dancing, as it were) and was leaving the private showers. The private showers connect through the changing room, which in turn connects to the other baths. I saw someone that is in my Japanese language class--an American (but from the ...(More)

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