Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Floating Gazebo that was really beautiful in the setting sun.
The bamboo forest I had wanted to see so badly! :D
My weekend in the Kansai area started out with waking up at 6am in order to make it into Kochi Station and get on the Kochi-Osaka high way bus at 8:50. The bus took 5 hours to get to Osaka station (got there at 1:50 aprox) and met with my Tokyo orientation roomy Julienne for a bit at HEP5. We ate the most fantastic parfaits... none of that fake crap. These had real cake and ice cream in them.
At five she had to head to a concert, so I headed my way over to Kyoto to chill with Kai (who had orientation that day). We walked around Kyoto, looking for food and shopping a little. We had the most amazing (but EXPENSIVE) yakiniku.

The next morning we went to Nara, and apparently they were prepping for a little festival. After seeing the various shrines and playing with the deer, we went to watch some dancing and eat festival food. It was a pretty chill night, and i was exhausted so we got a movie and watched DROP (about middle school drop-outs in a gang).

Sunday we got up earlier and went to meet Makoto in Kyoto. I wanted to see a bamboo forest I had seen in a shojyo manga so we took a train to Arashiyama and walked through the forest. It was really cool and refreshing in the forest compared to the unbearable heat outside of it. Next, we went to Gion and walked around until finding my FAVORITE izakaya from my study-abroad time... Torikizoku. Everything chicken, and everything 280 yen. Once home, we watched Kung fu Hustle (finally got around to seeing it!).

Monday was an odd day. After leaving Kai's, I headed off to Hirakata to surprise visit my Host Family. They weren't home and I figured they'd gone shopping because their bikes weren't there, but the car was. I gave myself a time limit (only 45 min of waiting before I'd leave). It was 5 to 11am when one of my Host mom's friends drove by, recognized me, and told me they had moved to Kagoshima. She then went on to take me out to lunch and back to her house for a tea ceremony. It was such an odd occurance... and I totally remembered her from last year. One night we had gone over to her house for dinner. I remembered because the little girl (who was adorable and talkative) was the fattest baby when I was there and didn't do anything but eat and scream. She was so fat looking I had wanted to punt her back then... but she was very adorable now. I could only imagine how cute Nansei must be now that he can properly talk!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Karaoke time~
Wow, I've been busy and unmotivated to write in here. I have to remind myself this is a good place to just write down a recap of things that have happened so I can keep a hold of them even once I'm gone.

This last week was pretty decent. Bee went on her trip to Taiwan and so the office was pretty quiet and boring... I did battle with my Supervisor over internet websites that brought me to tears on a number of occasions (which got us back amazon, gmail, and part of FB back to the office). Other than trying to stave off boredom by studying and watching HIMYM, I was bought a bunch of "Kochi Fighting Dogs" paraphernalia by the office men.

Starting Thursday at 11AM, I was picked up by Ang, Steph, and Em and brought to Kochi City for a few days of AMAZING orientation. <3 Orientation started off pretty generally. We learned about saftey, laws, driving, ect... also went over the Nankai Jishin that's due to hit in the next 50 years (which will completely submerge Aki under a tsunami). It was nice meeting some new people and seeing people I hadn't seen since Tokyo Orientation. At night, we all went to a Beer Garden on the roof of this hotel and got all-you-can-eat/drink for 3 hours. Oh man... greasy food and as much beer as I could drink. It was fun, to say the least. After the beer garden, a huge chunk of us (30ish?) went to the afterparty and went Karaoke-ing. We ended up at this place called Kapara (after about an hour of shuffling around Hirome and a lot of tugging drunkards around). Kapara had a room for us that spanned two stories, and was honestly the swankiest karaoke room I've ever seen. Beer, umeshu and chips kept coming to the room for over two hours (only 2000 yen!!!) and everyone was so out-of-it the singing was honestly just a scream fest by the end (but I still got to sing a few of my favorites with Sea and others). At one point, 4 or 5 people started playing Jan-Ken-Strip... until it was announced over the speakers and they rushed to get their shirts back on....

After Karaoke, we all stumbled our way over to Van Burger... which was just about everyone's last stop for the night. It was really gross.... I don't know why I got that burger. I think that it might have been good if it hadn't had SOOO much mayo on it... but he literally POURED the mayo onto that burger. Needless to say, the next day most of us were pretty hungover. We struggled through some more useful information, ate the most amazing pizza I've ever tasted in Japan, and had a scavenger hunt! Most people didn't like it... but I had fun. My team of 4 won (we won cute little cat towels) and I got to know the main part of Kochi City a LOT better because of it. After orientation was over, me and Sea got a hotel room at "The Los Inn" and went to dinner with everyone at an Indian Restaurant in Hirome (DELICIOUS) and soon were on our way with the pub crawl. Honestly, the crawl wasn't the best... I wasn't expecting the prices after being fed so much beer and liqueur for so cheap up until then, but we got to see the location of 4 other bars (including this REALLY cool one that was down a sketchy alley) and went to TWO clubs. The first, Love Jamaica was boring due to the nature of Reggae music... but the second club was FANTASTIC. Exactly what I wanted from the night. Me and Sea ran to a combini and chugged some cheap drinks to finish the night off (2:30 AM).

The next morning we got up at 9AM in order to get to the SPORTS day happening in Josei Koen from 10AM. I got to play rugby and soccer for 4 hours and then chill at home. Sunday was another sports day, and I got to (sorely) play ultimate frisbee and due the most intense yoga I've ever been involved in. I almost died slipping on my mat I was so sweaty! After which, of course, we ate a CHAMPION dinner of yakiniku (to DIE for).

In addition to getting internet Monday evening and FINALLY doing something in my job..... I'd say it was a fantstic weekend. :D Looking forward to Osaka this next weekend~

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yosakoi in the City

The BAMF Kokusai Team at Manga Koshien posing with Ryoma.
The finished product.
On Wednesday, a bunch of us went to Kochi City to see the Yosakoi festival. Yosakoi is a whole-country-famous dancing style that uses a simple melody and wooden noise-makers called "naruko." The original dance and festival came from Kochi, but a lot of cities all around Japan celebrate Yosakoi as well as practice and perform the dances in their own communities. Most dance groups tend to leave out the more traditional dance movements and go for modern, flashy dances in bright costumes. Thousands of teams from all around Japan come to Kochi during the four days that Yosakoi is held every year (always at the beginning of August) to perform and compete for "best dance group." The music is amazing, and a lot of groups decide to take segments of the original Yosakoi song, and modernize it with techno, house, or some other style of music. With each group comes not only dancers, original dances and music, but also a large wooden truck used to amplify the music out into the streets. It is quite the dance party.

Since it was raining this year, we all decided to sit in this really long strip of mall (which amplified the sound and made it impossible to hear yourself think). I couldn't believe how long and how many dancers had come to Kochi for this festival! I think I heard that 2000 groups came to dance and that the parade went from 11AM until 10PM. Crazy.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Busy Weekend...

I'm going to say the weekend started Friday, when me, Bee, and the one lady in our office that speaks English really well (Kataoka) went out to buy essentials for my apartment. Among those essentials was definitely a bug bomb... After the buying of things like extra drawers, touch lights, cups and bowls, etc... we all went to this absolutely amazing looking cave. When you walked through the cave, you came out on the other side into what seemed like another world. It was amazing... the trees caught the light so perfectly, and there was no sign of buildings or other people (except for the few statues that sat around near the rock walls). After going to the cave, the three of us went back to my apartment to set off the bug bomb. You add water to a canister and it smokes the entire house up, killing EVERY bug in the house at the moment (and I bet it could kill a person...).

When I got back after work that day, I tried to go around and open windows, and get my fan out to clear the air... but that stuff makes you choke. It closed up my throat and I had to keep running outside to cough before I could ran back in and open anything else up. Because my house was inhabitable, I went over to the shiyakushou early to wait for Mai and Yuki. Friday night was the Yosakoi dancer's otsukare party after all. We all ended up going over to Pieno, and for 3000 yen, got to eat and drink as much as you wanted for about 4 hours. It was a ridiculously fun night in which I got to dance to "Age Age Every Night" AND "UFO", as well as sing all my favorite songs. I was really happy I wasn't the only one singing for once. :) I was also told I was cute by kurukuru head and given his number (so we could go drinking together, apparently).

The next morning, I had to wake up at 6 in order to get over to Kochi City's Culport building for the Manga Koshien. I brought along the other new Aki ALT Em, and we got to chat on the train as I nearly fell asleep. The Manga Koshien was surprisingly more important and more fun than I had expected (although I had missed an amazing sounding beach party with the other eastsiders in order to go to it..). It had high school manga clubs coming from all over Japan (friggin HOKKAIDO too!) to compete in this competition in which as a team, you draw one large page of a manga together. The theme was "friend of justice" and so MXX came up with the idea of Lady Justice and her having a seeing eye dog, since justice is blind. We also made a cute pun with the actual Japanese for the theme (made it in to Justice's way of seeing instead of friend). At the end, they made us get up on stage and be interviewed by the hosts of the show, say our favorite manga, and tell how we know eachother (I also got filmed at one point for a CM for a tv station in which I got to say "ki ni naru").

After the manga koshien, I decided to go to Susaki with Em and MXX to see some fireworks with the others (BAD IDEA). It was a horrid decision but made for a funny story later on. It didn't take long to get there, but the beach had soooo many bugs and fleas, a wall of rain attacked us in the middle of the fireworks show, the car was 45 min from where we sat for the fireworks, and it took us an hour to go a mile to the highway. It was infuriating... but after, when we got back to Aki, I got to hang out with the other east siders, go to Scotland's and drink until 5AM, and crash on the floor with everyone else. It was a nice reward after a shitty night. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The downfall of Humidity...

I think I figured out why I'm feeling so odd recently.

I put on a pair of pants yesterday, pants that just a WEEK ago were fine fitting, and found out that they were TIGHT. Like... tighter than just-washed-and-not-yet-stretched-out tight. That's when it dawned on me. I haven't gained weight (i've eaten less and ran more every day than I was before coming here)... I've just expanded because of the heat and humidity. That's what happens every time I go to Florida too. My shoes would feel tighter because I would swell a little form the heat. This must be it, because I didn't have this feeling in Tokyo at all, and Tokyo is about our Latitude (Chicago's), while I assume Shikoku is more like Florida's.... I'm hoping this settles down a little over the next few weeks... I hate feeling this awfully fat and bloated without DOING anything.

Yesterday was fun. We had our first "Japanese Class" at Steph's house, which I think will become our weekly study nihongo, eat some food, and play boredgames night. :) I love having things to do during the week~

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beer and Crab Cakes

Yesterday was rather uneventful on the working front. The only thing I found out was that I have now unfortunately lost my internet because Pred just cut his off (since he's leaving in two days).

I did, however, get to go to a lovely Izakaya dinner with surrounding area people. :) Me, Bee, Pred, The Bison, Jar, Ang, Pete, Ireland, Scotland, and Steph (I must say, I've gotten pretty good at the name game, hehe) all got to hang out, drink beer, chat, and eat some rather delicious but expensive Izakaya food. We even got our own little room way in the back.

My favorite foods were the crab cakes and the raw tuna covered in tomato sauce and onions (I was shocked at how delicious that was), followed by the fried tuna (I've never eaten tuna THAT cooked before). We all talked about how boring working can be, exchanged stories about looking up various animal penises on wikipiedea, looked at PICTURES of weird animal penises, and other such oddities of life in Japan. Another thing I guess I never realized until yesterday was.... there really ISN'T any grass around here. Just rice paddies. NO grass. ANYWHERE. So weird.... and slightly depressing. Where do kids go to play?

Anyway... just waiting for my gaijin card so I can go off and try and lease a car or buy a scooter and finally be able to take a good look at this place. :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

More Matsuri To Come

My "boyfriend" lookin' sexy hitting the Taiko drums on the left. hahaha :3
The lanterns with Aki's pride....eggplant.
One of the other dancing teams.
Sunday morning started off with a lovely girly shopping trip to Kochi city's AEON shopping center with Bee and Steph Seeing that we were all desperately in need of some work clothing, we all started off in Uniqlo, which ended up being about half of our trip. Just like me, the other two are obsessed with clothing and honestly... we probably shouldn't shop together because we are all too enabling for eachother's weaknesses. Hahahahaa. After too much shopping, we stopped for some bubble tea (mediocre...) and a quick stop at the foreign foods store, where I was able to pick up some actual CHEAP pasta, some tomato sauce, cheese, and sausage!

Unfortunately, after a quick lunch of too greasy food and a little more shopping on my part, we had to rush back to Aki so that I could dance in the big festival for the night.... which was AMAZING. Saturday's dancing had only produced about 5 different groups, including our own. However, tonight's festival consisted of at least 10/15 groups from all over, as well as tons of delicious matsuri food and silly games. I gave into temptation and bought a doraemon cup to fill with juice and had some delicious yakisoba. After my group performed, the three of us walked around looking at food and toys and eating our dinners on the beach as the sunset. It was honestly an un-real moment.

After dinner, we were joined by our co-worker Nat-chan and her boy-friend and two friends. They paid ridiculous amounts of money letting us play the silly matsuri games and feeding us hotdogs, french fries, and sake. Once it got dark, all of us walked to the beach where they had set-up a picnic blanket, and sat around eating and talking as the fireworks went off in the background. That was seriously the funniest conversation I've had in a long time. Broken english combined with tosa-ben is near impossible to understand, so all of us had a good laugh every time there was a silly miscommunication (ex: hard boy). Shu-chan was hell bent on using only english, and tomoyo was sooo super genki and spunky... it was adorable every time she got excited, she'd squeak and make cute noises. Nat-chan and Ryoku-chan were way calmer and cool, but we all had a good time making them pretend to be drugstore workers helping american customers who didn't understand Japanese find things in a "store." Apparently we're all going to make dinner together some time soon at Ryoku-chan's place. 楽しみ!

The fat blue cat was allllll mine. :D
Kakigori!!!! Which didn't have the milk topping so I didn't bother.
The gorgeous sunset over the beach near the festival and only 10 min walk from my house.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yosakoi, Yosakoi, hake yoi yoi yoi!

Us in front of the crazy van (I of course got to stand next to the cutey that is kuru kuru hair boy tomotaka)
Friday was my first enkai/welcome party (as well as Pred's going away party). Enkai's are.... an interesting phenomenon, to say the least. They gather a bunch of awkward co-workers together, liquor them up enough to gain some courage, and then set them loose, allowing for bumbling movements and lots of strange conversation. I talked with some of the most awkward men that evening.... but I had a lot of really wonderful conversations too. People were genuinely having fun talking to me.

After the initial enkai, there is a tradition of having a nijikai, or second after party. We went karaoke-ing and I was basically the only one who sang the entire time.... which was fun! But kinda lame that no one else wanted to. They all paid for us foreigners, but hardly sang. Just ate loads of food.

Yesterday (Saturday), I got to be a part of Aki-shi's Yosakoi festival. To be perfectly honest, I didn't think I was being a part of the actual FESTIVAL when I signed up. I thought we were practicing ALL DAY for the festival... but no. I got there at 10:30, 30 minutes before everyone else came to get dressed, and learned the WHOLE DANCE. Luckily, it wasn't too hard... but still. I was kinda thrown in there.

The yukata for our group (which was anyone who wanted to participate from our city office) were specialized and had tigers (for the hanshin), the Aki symbol, and eggplants, which I found really really amusing. We also had to wear these really interesting hats that were circles folded in half and kept to our heads with red ribbon. The whole thing made me nearly melt.... but it was really fun dancing around town all day, going from place to place with our crazy van and crazy band (who would change costumes randomly). We first did our rounds at retirement homes and danced for the old folks, then came back and had a curry dinner with everyone in the group. I can't believe how many people are happy that I am here and was willing to participate in the festival... so many drunk people came up to me and told me how a foreigner hasn't participated in years, and that they were so glad I chose Aki as the place I came to work at.

It was also really nice being able to meet a bunch of the younger women from the office building, as well as see that there are in fact young, attractive men in this city (and a few in our building!!).