Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 05 – Which, if any, Japanese mannerisms or expressions have you adopted?

I feel rather embarrassed admitting how many Japanese words and mannerisms I have ended up inserting into my everyday vocab/behavior.... Though, in my defense, I end up interacting with other people more in Japanese than in English so, how can things not slip in? Most of my friends are Japanese, and if they aren't Japanese, they can speak it extremely well. When my foreign friends and Japanese friends mix, all speaking is done in Japanese because that way, everyone can understand each other. Anyway, excuses aside, the things I use the most on a day to day basis.

1. Bowing on the phone
One of those funny things I started doing and didn't notice until a friend commented on it. I was calling my office to ask for a favor, and the friend I was with started laughing at me because as I said "thank you" etc, I started bowing as if I was talking to my supervisor directly.

2. Unko-suwari
Unko-suwari basically means "poop sitting" and is termed this way because it's the way you squat over a Japanese style toilet. Like many of my friends sit when waiting outside a venue for the next band to start, it's an easy pose to take when you're smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. I just find it comfortable so I often take this position to talk to them or drink my own beer when waiting.

3. Kousoku, uchiawase, enkai, undoukai
Even when talking to non-Japanese-speaking friends, these words often come slipping out with absolutely no barrier. They are words I use all the time and sometimes saying their English equivalent would take longer or not hold the same meaning. Luckily, once you've worked in Japan for awhile, a number of these words become familiar to you, whether you speak Japanese or not.

kousoku: highway (here in Kochi, I need to take the highway if I want to get out of the prefecture quickly)
uchiawase: business meeting (used when meeting with teachers about lesson plans)
enkai: drinking party
undoukai: sports day

4. kankei nai
For whatever reason I felt like "kankei nai" needed it's own explanation.  The phrase means "no relation" and in my opinion, it is the best descriptive phrase when talking about Japan (so very many things are kankei nai here). Because of this, I end up using it a lot while speaking Japanese and a lot while speaking English because, "it has absolutely no relation" is longer and doesn't hold the same weight to me as "kankei nai" does.

5. Gestures
Just like a true Japanese, I have found that I picked up the "shark hand" move for cutting through a crowd of people, the "come here" gesture that looks like I'm shooing someone away, covering my mouth when I laugh, and pointing at my nose when referring to myself. There is truly no reason that I picked these up other than studying Japanese and the culture for far too long now.... However, I think I picked up the "shark hand" gesture and held onto it because of the sign language club I was taking part in last year. Holding up your hand so that it makes a T with your face means "excuse me/sorry" in sign language, and I've always been one to remember physical movements better then verbal phrases.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome to my world, Shinji

Weird effect added by the iphone.... it's just a black guitar with a red polka dotted strap.
Shinji the Squier Jagmaster came into my world Friday evening at approximately 7:30 PM....  I could not be prouder. :) But seriously, I was counting down the minutes until pay day when I could get my hands on a brand new ~guitar~ Up until now, I've been borrowing a friend's crappy electric that's way heavier then it should be and has thicker strings than I ideally want to play.... so the moment I was able to whip this guy out and start playing, it felt like pressing on air (especially to my poor calloused fingers). I got to play him for the first time in the studio on Sunday afternoon! Three hours of band practice later and I think I got the hang of how to play him. Plus! We have a really cool new song that Atsushi taught us (which brings the number to 4 completed songs) and I can't wait to get some lyrics written as well! This will be the first song I get to sing in Japanese. Quite excited. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 04 – What’s your favorite place that’s not in any of the guidebooks/lists of places to visit?

My favorite place that would never be in any guide book is a little place called "Chaotic Noise." Chaotic Noise is the name of a record shop/live house situated in the main shopping arcade of Kochi city called Obiyamachi. The shop changed locations back in August to a more central location in this main shopping strip, and since that time I've only been twice. Being the music-enthusiast that I am, I go to a lot of live houses around Shikoku. I've been to about 8 different ones within the four prefectures that span this island, which I feel is a lot considering the time it takes to drive between the major cities on this island. There are some that I like better than Chaotic Noise because of the music-scene in that particular city (Kochi hosts more hard-core shows at the venues I frequent, and I like indi/melodic punk better). However, none hold the same type of emotions and memories that Chaotic Noise does for me.

Little "hallway" outside the basement venue where everyone goes to smoke between bands.
Friends from a band called "Parkmates"
Firstly, Chaotic Noise was the first live house I ever went to in Japan. I've been to this country four times and I had never been to a live-venue before last year. Secondly, it's the place that really marked the beginning of something new and special to me. I've always loved music, been to plenty of shows and concerts in the US and have always played instruments my entire life. I've played the piano since I was three years old and during middle school and high school I played clarinet in band class. I search out new music constantly, and love singing along to my favorites anywhere I am, but especially the car. My car in either country (America and Japan) is my singing-safe-haven.

The sign they put out in the street. When it's out, you know what's goin down.
The old venue smooshed a live house with a record shop so, needless to say, it was crowded.
However, going to Chaotic Noise for the first time back in September of 2010 with my good friend Matto was the beginning of something for me. It sounds really lame to say, but going to that first live show changed my life a little. I can say without hesitation that my life would be quite different right now if I had never started going to shows at Chaotic Noise. The type of friends that I've been able to make, the trips I've taken, the slump I had at the beginning of the year, the late nights out, the band I was a part of and the new one that has just started... All of these things and more were only possible/happened because I started going to live shows at this venue.

Crowd surfing on a bass case. People like to stand on things and play music here in Kochi.
Actually, when looking through the photos I wanted to use for this post, I noticed that more than half of the people I took pictures of that were at the first show I went to are now friends of mine/we've had a few good chats by now. Bands that I was unsure about back then, I'm a huge fan of now (it always takes me two listens to give my initial like/dislike status). People that I was nervous to talk to back then, I can easily joke around with/have been on a road trip with/gotten drunk with/slept on someone's floor with after a show. While the place and people may change, what I appreciate about the original "Chaotic Noise" and what it means to me will always stay important and be a place I think fondly of when I'm no longer in Kochi.

A UK band came to the new Chaotic Noise about two weeks ago.
The new venue is a split basement place with a hall in between the live house and record shop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 03 – Most interesting person you met.

Enjoying her first American-style party at my house.
It took me awhile to decide on who I wanted to feature as my "most interesting person" because I think that the lines between "most interesting" and "weirdest" have started to blur a little after being here this long. If this was a "who's the weirdest person I met" post, I could have easily come up with more than five answers. However! Since this is interesting I'm going to go with my dear friend Yukiko!

I met Yukiko in April of this year at the city office's huge "kangeikai" or welcome party. Nearly 100 of us stuffed into one of the dozens of banquet halls of the Tamai Hotel (the tallest, most penis-shaped building in Aki) to say "Howdy" to the new city office workers, and "Adios" to the ones who had served their time. The whole ritual of switching out public service workers come April 1st is an interesting and confusing ceremony that I'd like to elaborate on, but will do so in a future post.

Yukiko just happened to sit next to me at party. Just a few days earlier she had done her self introduction to our office and came to occupy the desk diagonal to mine in the island-formation I occupy in the BOE office (we have three "islands" of desks). She looked young, seemed relatively nice, and was surprisingly chatty for a new-comer to our office. I wasn't skeptical of her sincerity, but ever since a few unfortunate incidents have happened with information privacy in my office, I tend to keep to myself and wait for after-office times to get to know someone better. We finally got a chance to talk during this party and ever since she has held a place as one of my best friends.

Yukiko, master takoyaki maker
While Yukiko is 30 and coming to the time where most Japanese girls think they all need to "settle down," she was surprisingly relaxed about the whole thing and not ashamed to be single. I've met so many girls out here in the countryside that think they are doomed to be alone their whole lives at the mere age of 23! Along with that, she had majored in English in college, is one of the few adults I've met in Kochi that has gone to college out of the prefecture (in Kyoto), is widely traveled and has an extremely open mind when it comes to people, the world, and how we all fit in it together. When we hang out, together or with other people, we never run out of things to talk about. She loves hearing other people's opinions, has strong opinions of her own, and loves learning new concepts and English words (although she doesn't speak English very well, her writing capabilities are awesome so I love teaching her words like "hipster" "fratboy" and "silver fox"). She's also the most amazing "translator" for some of my heavily-tosaben-accented friends (she'll take something Nat-chan says and turn it into standardized Japanese hehe) and is just a blast to be around! I'm so glad I met her and although she is also only a one-year-contracted worker, I hope we can continue to hang out past this coming April~
We were Yosakoi "partners" this year, which meant that when we all paraded around, we stood next to each other in rows.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Ever since I studied abroad at Kansai Gaidai back in my junior year of college, I have tried to sign up for Mixi. For one reason or another, I've never been able to do it until recently. I think it was because at one point, Mixi required a cell-phone e-mail address from a Japanese phone and not until a year ago did I finally have that... Even while I studied abroad, I couldn't use my cell-phone e-mail because the pay-as-you-go softbank phone didn't have proper internet to play with on it. :P

Anyway, behold! Mixi! Does that link even work? Either way... I am having issues understanding exactly how to find people to friend and such, so, if you have a Mixi account, let's be friends! :) My profile name is: インディ

Day 02 – Describe your neighborhood in Japan.

The mountains to the north of us.
The Ocean to our south.

Welcome to Aki-shi! Aki is a small city an hour east of Kochi City (biggest city in the prefecture) and has about 20,000 people living in it. It sits right against the ocean, in front of the mountains, and has 6 stops on the Gomen-Nahari train line. Aki is made up of a number of different sub-villages that decided to combine to be one large city within the last 10 years. All of the schools in Aki are named after the area that they reside in but there's about 15-20 sub-villages within the city limits. (Everything on the English wikipedia was written by me on a boring day at work, so I am the self proclaimed internet-expert of this city, heh~)

Yosakoi festival in Aki

Hanshin tiger's game
Aki is well known for producing eggplant, being the birthplace of Iwasaki Yatarou (the founder of The Mitsubishi Company), having the Hanshin Tiger's training camp, and making a dish called "chirimendon" which is rice covered in green onions, thinned soy sauce, and the tiny tiny dried fish with forever-glaring eyes.

This is Yatarou. :D
I live right by the main train station, behind the fire station, and within spitting distance of four different clinics (foot, general, eye, teeth) and a really delicious bakery. Yum~

View from my front door, 2nd floor.
There is also a really cool cave in the sub-village Ioki. It honestly looks like you've just stepped into Jurassic Park or something. You can't hear the noises of the highway anymore and it's just gorgeous and green.

Among the many different festivals that happen in Aki, my favorites are the Annual Yosakoi festival and candle festival. Yosakoi is Kochi Prefecture's famous dance-festival that happens for a week every year in the city. The Aki-version happens a week prior to the bigger festival on a Sunday where they set up the usual festival booths and have teams dance in this large "city square" area. The candle festival is a night festival set up in order to celebrate Iwasaki Yatarou's birthday. People parade into the area in front of the station with candles, hand-made candles sit all around the parking lot, musical groups perform, and all the local restaurants have food booths, selling things like cheese cake and hot wine. It's near Christmas time, so a lot of the surrounding houses have "illuminations" set up, and a few of the trains are decked out in snowflake lights as well. And that is Aki-shi! Although it's a little too country-side for my taste.. it has its fun things, its beautiful things, and of course, some of my best friends :)

Handmade candles and illuminations in the background.

Majority of Aki is just rice....

We have two sake companies in the city. One of them is De-'s company (this is one of their products, shaped like Ryoma).

Two gorgeous rivers run through the city too. The Ioki River and the Aki River.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 01 – A picture of you “in Japan”. (doing or wearing something “Japanese”)

I chose this picture because it was the first time since coming to Japan (this time around) that I actually felt like I should be here. I felt like I fit in, that I had some really AWESOME friends right in town with me, and felt like Aki-shi was home rather than a cage. While I know my future lies elsewhere, in a bigger city somewhere in the world... because of these friends and good memories, Aki-shi will always hold a special place in my heart.

Also, what's more Japanese (or Kochi-esque) than spending five hours at an izakaya drinking, eating, and laughing with fun people? Nothing, I think. :)


Speaking of friends, I went on a pseudo-date yesterday with the goofy one in the above picture (with the blue towel). I say pseudo-date, because it definitely had the makings/shell of a date, while not feeling terribly date-ish/being called a date etc. He picked me up at 6:30 and we drove to the city, ate kaitensushi (which he paid for) then drove up to the top of this mountain called "Godaisan" and looked out at the city and lights from the look-out point. It was a gorgeous night, though cloudy, and the temperature was perfect. We chatted the whole night about random shit, and there was no awkward pauses, silences, or anything weird. It was really pleasant. :) Whether he thinks it was a date or not is unknown to me, but it was a fun night with a friend and I got a free dinner out of it (score!).

Japan 30 Day Meme

I haven't had a ton of inspiration to post anything recently, so I decided in order to start the creative juices flowing again, I was going to steal the idea of doing this 30-Day Meme over the next 30 blog posts (not one-a-day sort of thing) from Caroline Josephine's blog! :) Here are the themes I will be attempting to write about:

Day 01 – A picture of you “in Japan”. (doing or wearing something “Japanese”)
Day 02 – Describe your neighborhood in Japan.
Day 03 – Most interesting person you met.
Day 04 – What’s your favorite place that’s not in any of the guidebooks/lists of places to visit?
Day 05 – Which, if any, Japanese mannerisms or expressions have you adopted?
Day 06 – Food that you swore you would never eat but now love (or tolerate).
Day 07 – Which Japanese words do you use in English? (hanami, shinkansen, etc.)
Day 08 – Share a funny anecdote about living/working in Japan.
Day 09 – Favorite stores/shopping centers.
Day 10 – Something about Japan that sets it apart from anywhere else.
Day 11 – What did you find most overrated and underrated about Japan?
Day 12 – Describe a fail!gaijin moment. (Where you did something wrong or completely misunderstood because you couldn’t ~read the air~ or just plain had no idea what you were supposed to do because you weren’t born and raised here) Describe a gaijin!smash moment .(Where your foreignness was to your benefit)
Day 13 – Something about Japan that reminds you of home?
Day 14 – What is the hardest thing about living in Japan versus your home country?
Day 15 – Weirdest food item you’ve seen, and weirdest food item you’ve actually eaten.
Day 16 – How you realised you’d acclimated to Japan. (if you have)
Day 17 – Your karaoke top 5, your sushi top 5, your conbini top 5.
Day 18 – Post some amusing/cute/faily purikura.
Day 19 – Your favorite Japanese character(s) and Gachapon/UFO Catcher toys
Day 20 – Favorite Japanese festival or folklore.
Day 21 – Favorite and least favorite Japanese fashion trends.
Day 22 – Your favorite Japanese saying or kotowaza (proverb).
Day 23 – What is something you have/do in Japan that you wish you had/could do in your home country?
Day 24 – Your favorite Japanese slang or borrow-word (外来語), e.g. セフレ “sex friend”
Day 25 – Most interesting vending machine find.
Day 26 – What’s your favorite/least favorite train line.
Day 27 – Place you avoid going to if at all possible.
Day 28 – A picture of you looking like a weaboo/A picture of you trying to blend in and failing.
Day 29 – What’s the thing you [will] miss most about Japan when you leave (either on vacation, or move away)?
Day 30 – Did Japan meet your expectations, both good and bad? What has been the most surprising thing about Japan for you, or the thing you least expected?

Friday, October 7, 2011


I feel like a time slip has happened since I got back to Japan TWO WEEKS AGO. These two weeks have passed by really quickly... but in a good way!

Seeing my friends and family was amazing and sad all at the same time. I had to schedule myself very carefully, and I ended up not being able to see everyone as much as I wanted to... I also had to go through box upon box of junk I'd left my parents before I moved here. Clothes, weird toys and tons of school supplies that, after a year, I finally figured out I didn't need/really wanted. I ended up bringing back tons of shoes and clothes for the next year here in Kochi, and donating a TON of stuff to good will. I felt a lot better going through all those boxes and being able to get rid of stuff. It felt like a weight had been lifted from my chest because I was lightening a burden I had shoved on my parents (taking care of all that junk).

My one regret is not getting my hands on the baby grand piano that sits in my parent's living room. I've been aching to play the piano for the past year and I just.... didn't have time, between seeing people, cleaning things, and trying to spend as much time with my parents as possible (if it was up to them, I wouldn't have seen ANY of my friends.. :| but that's parents for you...).

Other than the usual work work work, me and Matto got to go to Tokushima last weekend to have our VERY FIRST PRACTICE with our new band! (not yet named) Atsushi, the drummer and singer from my FAVORITE band in Japan is drumming (I was soooo nervous playing/singing along side my not-so-famous idol crush) and Arase from HAMK is lead guitar. I'm doing vocals and guitar and Matto is doing Bass. In the three hours we practiced, we got through two songs. After, they invited us to dinner and it was really really fun~ :) These guys are soooo much more reliable, nice, and opinionated than our former bandmates. I'm sooo stoked for our next practices!!

Three day weekend ahoy! Not a busy weekend, but I do get to go to Matsuyama for some shopping and girl time~