It's amazing how integrated politeness is in this culture, and mannerisms in this language. If you say any random phrase in the language, you probably included a "please" or "I apologize" or something like that in with it. One of the first things they told us when we came here was "forget what your parents said about not talking to strangers". There are no "strangers" here, you can talk to anyone on the street as if you knew them personally... Japan is the closest thing to a Utopia I've ever seen.

June 30th

Mitsuda house

The train was packed more than usual today. You don't know the meaning of "awkward" until you find yourself smashed up against an old lady on a running train.

Our classroom moved back to the skyscraper today (it's been in the other office next door since monday). Bryce never showed up, I hope he's alright. In class, we finally started studying something I don't already know much about, the "-te form" of verbs.

For lunch I had what turned out to be a packaged white bread kiwi, melon, and whipped cream sandwich with the crusts cut off. I also got to try some of Danielle's blue mint chocolate chip ice cream. Jennifer also managed to dump some soy sauce, guess I'm a trendsetter. Oops.

After school, Kage, Victoria, and I stopped in Ikebukuro again, and went to the manga store. After spending some time looking around (and discovering that there was more than one floor), I got around to translating the name of the store. "Ikebukuro Adult Comic Store". That kind of explains their rather wide library. The top two floors were evidently the interesting ones, but I couldn't work up the lack of integrity to visit them. Denis would kill to be in this place...

I watched a Doraimon ("Dry-mon") special today... interesting show. If only television content was like this in the states, it might be worth the space an antennae takes up. The show was funny, but the punch at the end was hilarious... Take and Hide could have been put up against Celeste as far as gas levels go.

Cripes... time's been moving like lighting for me. Only by thinking of how far away the WCF is can I slow it down to any reasonable rate, and even that technique is going to stop working fairly soon. Germany or Argentina? As much as I like Kahn, I'd love to see Argentina take home a cup. Find out in the morning, bed now.

June 29th

Mitsuda house

We had a new teacher in class today. I'm not sure why, but she seemed to strike an unagreeable chord with some of the kids, namely Eric. Seemed to work out ok, though.

During lunch, me, Victoria, Kage, and Bryce wandered Nishi-Shinjuku looking for a place to eat. Ryan tagged along some of the way, too. We found lots of places that cost a little too much, including a Denny's that had prices threefold of what they are in the states. We ended up just getting sandwiches from a convenience store, but the walk was nice. After we got back, Emma managed to dump a thing of milk all over her lap and the floor. All in good humor, but I'm glad to not be the only klutz around.

We wrote up some basic interview questions in japanese, then invaded the LABO work floor to interview a poor unsuspecting japanese LABO worker. Mine went pretty smoothly, but I didn't ask terribly confusing questions. Tim asked a girl to elope with him... she said "no" in english, and proceeded to look very busy on her computer.

Kage finished the drawing of Hinata, it looks really awesome. I wish I could draw that well... she can draw well beyond a professional level, even quickly and while paying attention in class. I wish I was that talented, at something at least...

On the way home, some of us stopped by Odakyu for a while. I bought a deck of Bleach cards and what I thought was a Naruto card box. Turns out it's the world's smallest display binder... you know how there are standard ones that display 9 cards a page? Then there are the ones that have 4 cards a page. This one has... 1 card a page, for 60 leaves. Pretty cool.

The train ride home was nice... I took the same line as Victoria and Kage, and we even got on early enough to get seats. I made the transfer at Omiya with less then 10 seconds to spare, the closest I've run for any train I've ridden so far. Hope I don't get closer then that. Bed now.

June 28th

Mitsuda house

I got to school today, and the teacher opened some hidden classroom through a dank corridor... made me think of hogwarts or something. After normal classes, we had a Calligraphy master come and teach us how to correctly write our favorite kanji. I chose 碁, "go" (as in, igo). Turns out that making the strokes is quite an art, there are lots of little twists and stuff you have to do. You can't mess up anywhere in a 15 stroke kanji, cause you don't erase ink. I went through five or so tries, but I finally got one that the teacher complimented me on. I was pretty proud of that.

Kage is working on a picture of Hinata for me, it looks really awesome so far. I can't wait to see it when it's finished.

After school, Victoria, Kage, and I stopped at Ikebukuro to look for an anime store. We didn't find the one we came for, but we found a few other stores, and a few movie theaters I'm going to have to come back to. The first store had a few cool things, but it seemed mostly just Shojo and Yaoi, not really my tastes. The second place was a normal bookstore with a manga floor... They had Azumanga Daioh 1, 3, and 4, but not 2, so I just ended up getting the first one. They also had the last two Spiral books, so now I have the whole series... I think Take's already read them all, he goes through them faster than Clayton. I also got what I thought was a new issue of Famitsu, but it turned out to be the same one I already had. Why can't they just put accurate dates on the things instead of dating them three weeks ahead or whatever? Sheesh. I guess Bryce or Tim is going to get a nice present tomorrow.

When I got back to Hasuda, I went with Mayumi to pick up Take and Hide from their Labo group. We kinda got trapped there for like an hour due to a thunderstorm, so I got to to some activities with them. They have this huge library of "american" nursery rhymes that they sing, but almost none of them I know. A few ring a bell for the tune, but not the words... there was one that I could swear was lifted from "Magical Treavor", but was about a wall or something. I also read them some books (The Hungary Caterpillar and it's sequel, some cricket book) which went over well. Tatsuke brought out some Dual Master cards, and we played with those a bit. Dual Masters seemed to be a very refined form of MTG, with some very interesting fixes. In fact, I believe it's developed by the same R&D team that does Magic. If only the flavor premise wasn't so YGO level crappy.

Watched Naruto after dinner. They ended the current filler arc, but it looks like they've got more in store for us judging by the preview. Muchly Bedtime.

June 27th

Mitsuda house

Today was fairly productive... We had a crash course in common verbs. We got to play a kind of game involving about 50 or so cards depicting various actions. We spread them out on the table between the group, and sensei called out a verb, and the first person to find it got to keep it. I lost pretty badly, but only cause I was playing martyr and researching the verb for everyone else on the fly. At least I learned a lot.

At lunch, I went out to the noodle shop across the street I'd been meaning to visit. The system was kinda interesting... They had a vending machine in the front, and you bought your ticket from that and gave it directly to the cook. They didn't offer just the noodles by themselves, so I got it with a Croquette rice bowl. Turned out that particular croquette was a fish one, but I still got to eat the rice, and the udon was really good.

After lunch, we got to do a few more verb games, one of them being charades. That was fun, it was kind of interesting when everyone knew exactly what they meant, but no one could say it in japanese. After we got out, I went straight to the train station with Victoria (stopping at Odakyu for some Naruto cards), and took the first train out. Mayumi wanted me back by 5, though I never figured out why... I think she just wanted a chance to leave me with Take and Hide so she could go for a walk.

Apparently the tuesday LABO party was cancelled this week for some reason, so I didn't get to see Nana. Oh well. There wasn't a Bleach, either, another stupid special is coming up.

June 26th

Mitsuda house

Instead of doing class today, everyone got to go to Harajuku for practical japanese speaking and a little shopping. I took a bunch of photos on the trip, I wonder if any of them turned out ok.

The store we went to was a toy store called "Kiddy Land". We had a kind of japanese scavenger hunt, looking for things in the store and recording kanji. After finishing that, we got some time to shop for ourselves. The prices were pretty high, so I ended up just getting a couple of Naruto gashapon. That was fun... there was a particular one I wanted (hinata), and another one that went with it (neji). I bought one and got Naruto... then Jennifer got Neji, so I traded her... then I got one more, and it was Hinata! It was really exiting, like beating a one armed bandit, you had to be there.

After that, we went back to LABO and finished. I couldn't come home until six because no one was home, so I went shopping with Kage and Victoria for an hour or so. I bought a little tatami mat and a cool fan with a slipcase. Then we took the train home together.

It's kind of a unique experience, walking through public in japan. I'm always wearing a neon orange or tie-die t-shirt, my yellow hat, and sometimes a yellow Volvic the size of a golf ball is hanging off my ear. I also tend to be openly exited or happy about something at any given time, especially when I'm with friends. This, coupled with the fact that I'm not exactly short, tan, or hairless, means I kind of stand out in a crowd. Drab grey and monotone colors seem to be in fashion or something as well, here.

I can look at anyone on the street, and see them immediately focus on something else, with that "mustn't... stare... and... laugh..." kind of look. Sometimes I can get in a smile and nod before they can look away, and then they usually smile and nod back. I can also reliably trigger a gaggle of excited whispers whenever I do that to a random group of schoolgirls (they're not a myth, they're everywhere). It's really great, in a whole kind of being in the center of attention way. In the US, I was special, just like everyone else. Here, I'm actually an individual, it's awesome. I've already gotten used to it... it's going to be way more of a culture shock going home than it was coming here.

I don't know what any of that meant, but I'd say this entry is sufficiently padded.

...a buck for a little can of tea or pop is considered cheap. Or 17000円 for a used PS2 looks like a steal. They're not kidding when they say that Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world to live in. And you know why it's also one of the most populated? It's totally worth it. Quite a small price to get into heaven, if you think about it.

June 25th

Mitsuda house

Today, we got to go to the Anime Museum that I forwent in favor of the tea ceremony. We stopped at a Japanese spaghetti shop on the way for lunch... it really is a different experience when you eat it with chopsticks, but it was delicious all the same. Ryan was there with me, Mayumi, and Take at the museum. It was pretty cool... they had a little history area, showing the different eras of anime. There's the prehistoric times of Astro Boy and Lupin III, the BC 70s and early 80s of numerous mecha anime which no one cares about (Before Cordell), the New Testament of anime with stuff like Totoro and Evangelion, and the modern era of GitS2 and TVtokyo fodder like Bleach and Naruto.

They had animator's desks set up, so you could see what they looked like. I think those were real proofs on the desks, too. They had a room full of posters, and computers set up with a guide to putting together your own Astro Boy. They had an anime library with a bunch of DVD players set up, so people could come in and watch stuff communally. They had a big screening room, but it wasn't being used when we were there. They had a an old multi-ton cel camera, the thing looked like a freaking oil rig it was so big. They even had a little studio where you could make your own animation. You got a clipboard and paper, and you could clip the previous frame of your animation underneath so it would be consistent. I made a little 14 frame animation, but when we finally put it together, I had drawn too small on the paper for it to be very visible. Oh well.

After that, we visited a big temple across the street. It had an alter kind of place where you could put in five yen and pray for a wish. I put in 50 yen, and prayed that my money would last until I got home. I also met the guard lions (I think they were lions), あ(A) is on the left facing out, and ん (N) is on the right. Explains the kana on the gates of konoha, I'd been wondering about that for a while.

After we got home, we got to go out for sushi for dinner! It was just like one of those boat sushi restaurants in the US, only twice as big, and not full of barbaric americans trying to figure out how to eat the stuff. They had tea powder at the table, and a little spigot for hot water. They had more vegetarian stuff on the rounds then I thought they would... this eggplant wasabi stuff kinda like tomago sushi, a toasted slice of corn off the cob squirted with butter and on rice thing, and a kind of creamed corn sushi. All this plus a couple basic sushis like the cucumber stuff, something similar to the cucumber stuff that I wasn't exactly sure what it was, and the ever-yummy inari.

After we got home, we watched something on TV that involved these guys scuba diving in the Philippines. They collected some namako (sea slugs), and observed with stereotypical japanese "whooah!"s as the namako spouted holes and drained body fluids and guts like punctured water balloons. The namako then dried up and dissolved in their hands like corn starch and water. Julia would have barfed.

Nighty night.

June 24th

Mitsuda house

It's saturday, so there's no class today. After we got up and had breakfast, we all went down to a gianormous used goods store, with an unimaginably large selection of manga, anime, games, apparel, and god knows what else. I could spend days searching that place, finding something I want to buy every few seconds. It was almost like eBay in a warehouse. The best part was that everything was pretty cheap, some stuff irresistibly so. The worst part was forgetting my money, but Mayumi covered for me. I bought a bunch of manga, including all but two volumes of Spiral. I managed to leave behind an Azumanga Daioh GBA game, but only because it was like 2500 yen and it just looked like a kind of poker variation.

I'm no fan of Sony, but being in Japan without a PS2 is like being at the seminar without your duck. The game selection on the playstation isn't very impressive in the US, but... here, pick something, anything. There's a PS2 game of it. Naruto? Of course. Evangelion? More than one. Bleach? Yep. Stag beetles fighting each other in rock paper scissors? Sheesh, be more creative. There are games being released for the platform at a rate of like 30 a week, for five years.

They also had tons of stuff for consoles I thought I knew the libraries of cover to cover. Turns out there's a Lupin III game on GC, cheap too... And a HnG game for it, I might have to pick it up. They even had Eternal Arcadia Legends in stock, how am I not supposed to buy that? The otaku is me is fighting pretty hard with my wallet, and to my dismay I think the former is winning. And this is just the tip of the iceberg if Akihabara is half what it's cracked up to be.

After dragging me away from the Bandai Heaven, the Mitsudas took me out to a buffet restaurant. That was pretty fun, they had lots of different stuff from spaghetti to make-it-yourself ramen. The most interesting stuff was Dango, the stuff Anko always eats. It's like eating gelatinous flour. Not bad, but kinda blandish.

Then we went out to a Hina doll museum after that, because the town we happened to be in is famous for them. They had dolls hundreds of years old, and all of them looked oddly unique. They were all designed pretty much the same, so I think the uniqueness was because they all had different facial structures. I managed to get a few really good photos of them. Then Tokio pointed out that the sign in the photos said "no photos please" in japanese, so I'm not going to post them.

After we got home, we took Buru out for a walk down to the park. We brought a soccer ball, and we played with a team of Take's friends who had just finished soccer practice. Those kids aren't nearly as fast and skilled as I am, but all of them versus me was a little much... they knew how to pass well enough. After that, Take, Hide, and I played with the ball on a hill for a while, then went home.

At dinner, we had tempura. I'm told that it's very hard to make at home, especially the Shiso leaf ones that Mayumi made, so props to her. It was delicious, too! Also... did you know it's very bad manners to put soy sauce directly on rice? You're only supposed to use it as kind of a dipping sauce. Tokio nicely explained this to me, and that they have other things you can put on rice directly, such as sesame seeds or ground dry umeboshi. After promptly (and accidentally) dumping the umeboshi all over the floor, I ate the rest of dinner with the best manners possible.

This is the third food spilling mess I've made in a week, and if I don't want to go for the record, I think I could really use some of this sleep stuff. Goodnight.

June 23rd

Mitsuda house

I managed to dump a bowl of soba sauce all over myself at lunch today. I need to stop staying up so late working on this journal...

Paulo and his sister both wore their Brasil jerseys today. I swear, that kid must have balls of steel walking around Tokyo like that, after what Brazil did to Japan this morning. Japan even had a lead early on in the game, but put down their hardest defeat yet.

Today we learned (again) how to buy things and ask more questions. Then we got to go out into Shinjuku and buy whatever the teacher had on whim when assigning us. I had to find two apples and a pamphlet for a local shopping center, and my partner Drew had to find a B5 40 page notebook. We searched the whole center looking for a pamphlet, but it was only when we gave up and left that we noticed them right at the entrance. We found the other stuff pretty easily.

After class, a few of us went down to Odakyu again. Everyone but Victoria and I had to leave pretty soon, so we just kinda hung out looking through the music and DVDs and anime swag. I bought a couple of "bit art" things, kinda like LEGO pegs, you stick them into a little board to make video game sprites. So far I've made Mario, a mushroom, and a fire flower with the help of Take. I also bought a new Famitsu and a new DS game, JSS, but I haven't really gotten a chance to see them yet. I'm gonna go do that now, and then go to bed.

June 22nd

Mitsuda house

Tea ceremony today! We left the LABO classroom just after we arrived, and took the train to somewhere in west Tokyo. There were seven of us in my group. After getting lost on the way there, we got to the tea master's house. The tea ceremony is very spiritual, so we were all on our highest japanese politeness setting (really freaking polite, and as quiet as the calm before the apocalypse). Once we were briefed on how to not bring locusts upon ourselves throughout the ceremony (don't cross the black line, don't turn your back to the eldest in the room, stuff like that), we began. The first thing you'll notice about a tea ceremony is that it... goes... really... Not in of itself a bad thing, until the second thing you notice kicks in- sitting in Seiza position for longer than a couple minutes is a freaking art. Unless you do it just right, it cuts off the circulation to your legs and dislocates your knees. I don't imagine weighing 230+ lbs helps anything, either.

The ceremony was just over an hour long, and by the time I got up, I didn't think I'd ever want to bend my knees again. It was quite educational, though, from a historical perspective. I'm glad I went, but I wouldn't jump up to do it again.

After the ceremony, we went out to a japanese burger place for lunch. The had rice burgers, which turned out to be regular burgurs on these rice bun thingies. I had a melon soda, a salad, and a couple of fries. After that, we visited a hyakuen store, basically a japanese dollar store. I couldn't decide whether to buy the yellow reflective tape or the orange neon tape, so I got an umbrella instead.

We didn't have to go back to LABO, so we just went straight home from there. I stopped at an apartment store on the way back, but ended up not getting anything. They had a version of my soccer ball puzzle, only even bigger than a real ball! They had ones of globes, too, even one of a celestial globe. The big ones were expensive, though, like 5000~7000 yen.

I've been thinking about getting a japanese DVD player so I can get some of these japanese DVDs, but they're really expensive. I might end up just getting a japanese PS2 instead, that way I would be able to play PS2 games as well as anime DVDs. Maybe just before I come home, when my budget is a little clearer.

After I got back to Hasuda station, Mayumi took me shopping. I got a rice bowl, a soup bowl, and chopsticks (you have personal dishes in Japan). After that, Hide and I hung out in a bookstore while Mayumi got groceries. Clayton would have loved to be in this place, they had complete series of all his favorite mangas, and they were all only 300~400 yen. I bought a few of them, but couldn't find any Azumanga or Spiral stuff. I'll try a used bookstore later, Mayumi said they were even cheaper there, and you can find rare stuff.

We had pizza for dinner tonight! The crust was store bought, but was passable... the cheese, however, was way better then whatever we have back in KC! I'm not sure if I was off my palette or what, but I need to find out what kind it was sometime, maybe even figure out how to get some to Bill.

We watched Pokemon after dinner, it's still really popular here. It was simple enough for me to watch and understand, so I enjoyed it. After that, I sat down with my new DAQ manga and my little magic C-3P0 and read a bit, and now it's time for bed. Nemuke.

June 21st

Mistuda house

I rode in to Shinjuku by myself today. When I first got on the train, it was cramped as it always is. After Omiya station, however, I got the true japanese subway experience. I was so sardined I couldn't breath, much less move. They had guys in uniform outside the train, packing people in and trying to get the doors closed, almost like trying to close an overfilled suitcase. I suppose I had better get used to this.

I didn't learn a whole lot of new stuff in class today, and neither did most of the rest of the class, I think. We must be going though this review for the benefit of those who hadn't studied before coming to japan. Oh well. At least I'm learning stuff at an incredible rate with this kanji jusho thing... being able to read japanese is really useful towards learning it. Also, a lot of the kids in class I were being noisy in the Kanji class today, so I missed a lot of what was being said... I kinda wish they'd enforce their behavior guidelines a little more.

I bought a Soba bento for lunch from the conbini, today. Inside was a bunch of noodles and a few packages with japanese writing all over them. One was the sauce, one was wasabi, and apparently another one was an ice pack, not food. Thanks for catching that, Ryan. Soba is good, especially on warm days.

On the way back to the station, Ryan, Victoria, Tim and I stopped at the ODAKYU department store. Ryan had to leave pretty quick, but the rest of us got to stick around and ogle all the goodies... I bought a spherical jigsaw puzzle of a soccer ball, and two Famitsu magazines (finally found it!). We were looking at a bank of gashapon machines, and I was thinking about getting a particular naruto one. Went away for a little while, and when I came back, the one I wanted to get had been changed to some other thing... guess they rotate them regularly or something. Oh well.

I got back to Hasuda about half an hour earlier then I thought I would, so no one was home. Gave me some time to sit down on the porch and read Famitsu... it's a little different from magazines in the US. Let me put it this way; Denis would get over the culture shock pretty fast.

I've almost gotten used to this taking your shower before dinner thing. Today though, I was the first one in the shower. Japanese water heaters are different from gas ones, they're electric realtime heaters. This means that there's a little control panel in the bathroom, covered in kanji-marked buttons. It took me a few tries (all of them, actually), to get the thing on, and I pushed some emergency call button in the process. I didn't know what it was, though, so I was kinda surprised when Hide got sent in to check on me. Yeah.

I watched Naruto on TV this evening, and BLEACH yesterday. It's kinda different not having the subtitles, but for the most part I don't really need them any more for stuff as simple as bleach and naruto.


I hate money. I wish I could personally dispose of all the money in the world.

At that shop right over there.

June 20th

Mitsuda house

About 5 minutes after I got up this morning, the house started shaking around, almost as if there was a strong wind. Turns out it was an earthquake, but it didn't seem to scathe anyone in the family, they kinda went "so what?"

I spent some time this morning studying kanji strokes with Mayumi and Tokio. "今朝地震がありました" is "there was an earthquake this morning," by the way. Me and Mayumi were joined by Iida-san for the train trip to Shinjuku. At class we did some more introductions, introducing out families, and we also studied some basic referral (kore, sore, are). For lunch I went down to the convenience store at the base of the building, where they sold lots of different food. I bought some inari, some potato stick things, some little chocolate filled donut things, and some ice cream in a toothpaste tube. Victoria opted to buy the latest volume of Naruto, 30 something, I think. I looked for a famitsu weekly, but couldn't find it.

After classes, Ryan and I stopped by in the biggest department store you've ever seen, though it looked no bigger than a radioshack from outside. We searched four floors for the "terebi gamisu", confusing directions every step of the way. By the time we found it there wasn't much time to look around, so we got what we came for and left. I got this sweeeet little kanji japanese/english dictionary for DS... it can do everything short of telepathy concerning translation, and I'm doubtful it's short of even that.

See an unfamiliar kanji, write said kanji on DS, understand kanji. It's got idioms and quizzes and voice pronunciation and everything. This thing is awesome.

After walking home and eating dinner, I went to a teen LABO group at Hana's house. There were like five people there, and we had a great time. The only one who fluently spoke english (other than Hana's mom) was Nana-san, a senior getting ready for entrance exams. She was pretty cool... I almost got her to juggle, but she found three balls a little intimidating to concentrate with. The DSictionary was a hit, it was useful for translating words that they or I didn't know when they came up in conversation. Hana's mom drove me and Nana home at like almost 11... and right now it's two hours past my bedtime. I'm out.

June 19th

MItsuda house

Today was the first day of classes at the Nihongo Institute. I went in this morning with Mayumi on the train, to learn the route. It's about a 40 minute train ride, with ~15 minute walks at both ends. LABO is located up on the 13th floor of an office skyscraper, both the offices and the classrooms.

For lunch, Ryan and... wow, I really do need to work on these name things... dragged me out through Shinjuku to find a place to eat. We wandered back and forth through several blocks and buildings, while he and she couldn't agree which way to go... we eventually found a place where we could all wanted to eat, a Starbucks five or six blocks from LABO. They actually make drinkable coffee at Starbucks in japan, and the service is really nice as well. We headed back the LABO building to eat, and then found another Starbucks and a McDonalds in the building's food court. We ate our lunch from Starbucks #1 at Starbucks #2, and Bobby-er, Ryan, bought some fries as well. I paid Holly back her 110¥ for the Fonta, too.

After class, Mayumi took me home on a different line, so I could see how they both worked. We had some yummy sesame-rice stuff for dinner, though Tokio couldn't eat because he had to stay at work late.

I'm learning more kanji left and right, it seems to be going a lot faster than I thought it would. An important one is 止, it means "stop". Useful for stop signs (they're triangle here, not octagonal), and that button on the toilet that makes it quit trying to "clean" you.

It occurs to me that I haven't yet introduced the Mitsuda family or any of my friends yet. Mitsuda Tokio is the dad, he's an electric engineer at Xerox japan. He's also the only one in the family who speaks fluent english, if not a little broken. Mitsuda Mayumi is the mom, she's a good cook and is very nice. I know enough japanese to be able to communicate with her, most of the time. Mitsuda Takehide (Take) is the 10 year old, and my host brother. He doesn't know any english, but he likes to play with me all the same. He's good at monologuing in context about stuff we play with, I've learnt a fair amount from that. Mitsuda Hidetaka is the 6 year old, and he's still learning japanese.

Boru is the dog, an 8 month old Shiba inu with the markings of an Australian shepherd. He likes me when he's in a good mood, but usually he treats me as though he's never seen me before. I've made plenty of friends at LABO, but I don't think I remember all their names. Nick is a cool guy. He knows probably the most japanese out of any of us, but he's kind of quiet for someone who talks a lot. Ryan is the youngest in the group, but he's done the program before and knows a lot about it. Emily likes to steal my hat, but I don't think she likes me too much. more friends include Victoria, Alex, Eric, Holly, and a few more who I kinda forgot. Anyways, that's the rundown as far as I can remember.

June 18th

Mitsuda house

I went to Take's Labo group today. It was a huge gym of about 200 people, mostly kids. There were four other exchange students there... Eric, Jennifer, and... I'm bad with names. We played a game, "what time is it, Mr. Wolf?" I got to be one of the wolves, though I didn't really know how to play. After that, we learned a dance choreography to a song, "there's a pig in the parlor" to the tune of "he's a jolly good fellow". Then, we did another one, "take this hammer, carry it to the captain". After that, they asked me and Eric to preform for everyone, him on his guitar, and me juggling. That was a success, everyone loved it... I wish I knew more tricks.

Today was interesting as far as food goes. For breakfast, we had tofu, rice, some other stuff, and nato. Nato... I'm not entirely sure what it is, and I don't thing I want to know. It seemed to be soybeans, only kinda fermented. So much so, that they looked like they were doused in honey or something. Like eating a very stringy pizza. For lunch, we had... erm... coleslaw and cheese pancakes. They were delicious. For dinner, we had kind of a rice soupy thing, with mushrooms, tomatoes, and some kind of dairy. Also, a little salad, with raw asparagus. Raw asparagus is way better than cooked, I actually liked it.

Early to rise, tomorrow, so early to bed. Japan plays Croatia in about an hour... Ikezou, Nippon!

June 17th, 2006

Mitsuda no uchi

I managed to leave a lasting impression at the orientation... I kinda knocked over Holly's Fonta soda onto the rug. Oops. Kinda locked up on the stage, while introducing myself in japanese... these rooms always look way bigger when everyone is looking at you.

The Mitsuda family is pretty cool. I met them at the orientation, and they took me out to lunch in Shinjuku. I had some really thick udon noodles (they were about as thick as a pencil), and some inari on the side. Then we went through the Tokyo subway to Hasuda. The subway is crowded... makes bart look like an Amtrak. Outside the station, I bought some pajamas at a clothes store, because I had forgotten to pack any. They say "WILD BODY" all over them.

The neighborhood here is pretty cool. The roads are all technically one lane each way, but even just one of america's SUVs wouldn't be able to navigate through them.

When we got home, I met the last member of the mitsuda family, Boru-kun the shiba inu. He didn't take very well to me, even when I gave him treats... guess I'm different than most people he's seen. He warmed up to me when I took him for a walk with Takehide and Mayumi, though.

We went to a japanese shopping center and bought groceries... the alcohol aisle was covered in endorsements from the japanese national world cup team. After that, we went upstairs to a japanese hobby shop. You know how hobby shops are little corner store sized things in the US? Here, this thing was an entire department store, almost exclusively for models of every kind. Takehide got a cool space fighter thing mass productive middle range support pod. That thing was really detailed... you build from the inside out, so the whole thing is a model, even the middle and the several layers of exterior to boot.

Mayumi made a wonderful dinner! I think it was parmesan quiche. There was also fresh baked bread from the breadmaker. After dinner, Takehide, Hidetaka and I played mario kart for a while. They were really interested in playing with the american version of the game, so I ended up playing against my own profile. By the way, will I go to hell for snaking a six year old? What about if he's snaking back at me?

Now I'm writing this, and Tokio said they have wireless internet. LABO doesn't want me to use it too much, though, so I won't... use it that much. Now it's bedtime. Oh yeah, I left out a lot of stuff, sorry. I'm tired.

June 16th, 2006

Tokyo, Olympic Memorial Hotel

Wow. I really like this 30+ hours in one day idea. There's enough time to do everything you want to do, plus enough time to sleep.

I got up this morning (technically the 15th) at 6:30am, CA time. I woke up, made sure I was really ready to go, and took the 8:15 BART with dad, for the airport. We arrived at 9:30, and approached the two fairly short United checking lines. One was labeled "First Class", and the other "1K Club". The first class ticketer directed us around the corner, to the ~500 foot economy class check-in line. The whole check-in process was nevertheless painless, but the money exchange had a ridiculously marked down rate... 103 yen to the dollar, as opposed to the actual current national rate of 114 yen (in addition to their ~$10 fee). Didn't have much choice, so I went for it.

Getting on the plane was easy, there was assigned seating. I happened to be assigned the best economy seat in the plane, 32-A on a Boeing 747-400 if you want to look up a map and see. I t was a window seat next to a nice japanese woman, who had apparently done what I'm doing, 20 years ago (only backwards). She proved a nice conversationalist until lunch showed up. The flight attendants were nice enough to get me a vegetarian lunch, even though I hadn't called it in ahead.

There were three in-flight movies; Hoodwinked (somewhat of a cross between Red Riding Hood and Phoenix Wright), King Kong (theoretically a good script, but it wasn't much fun to watch), and Wimbledon (crappy movie with some really nice bullet time tennis shots).

I was going to try and take some pictures of the ocean, but I couldn't open the window shade. Whenever I tried, the super brilliant sunlight would blind everyone is the cabin... that sun is freaking bright at 32000 feet. Takeoff and landing didn't work either, as they wouldn't let me use my electric digital camera then.

Coming in to Narita, I could see nothing but clouds, until about 400 or so feet. The first thing I saw was a country highway, with all the cars driving on the left side of the road. We landed, and I went through the immigration stuff, then got my bag, then went through customs. Narita is the nicest airport I've ever been in...

After coming out into the lobby and meeting Shanti, I set for a 2 hour wait in the lobby. More Labo people were coming out to join me, and all of them are very friendly and agreeable people. Nick Saira in particular is pretty cool, and Emily seems to be obsessive-compulsive towards my hat... not unlike myself. I bought a strawberry iced tea (I think), and a "potato bun" at a snack place. The potato bun was potato bread filled with a kind of baked potato filling. I think it had some fish in it too, I didn't feel so hot after eating it.

Emily snagged my hat for the bus ride to the dorm/hotel thing. Shanti was nice enough to have a vegetarian bento for me (and apparently someone else, though I didn't catch who). The ride back was awesome... all the cars in japan seem to have run into a brick wall or something. Makes me think of bulldogs.

We arrived and had a short orientation, and then went to our dorms. We decided to do the bath thing one at a time, partly because the bath room was tiny, but mostly cause none of the guys would want to go in together. I spent some time watching Japanese TV while waiting for my turn, and... well, if the commercials were like that in the US, TV would be a lot more worthwhile.

Once I got into the tub, I understood why this method of bathing is so popular. It's like a hot tub, only... well, japanese. Japanese bathing is nice. Now it is time for bed, after the first full-length day in my life. Oyasumi!

Hello! I hope everyone can see some of what I'm up to from this journal. I'll be updating every week or so, with all my journal entries. Please keep in mind that I've been writing this just before I go to bed and I'm all tired, so that's my excuse for tpyos and stuff. From the top;

June 14th, 2006

Dublin, CA

Trying to go to sleep... I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. I'll be getting up at 6:30 in the morning, and then I'm flying out of San Francisco en route to Narita, Japan. I've never really felt like this before... I feel confident and nervous, panicked and relaxed, tired and jazzed.

I've spent the better part of the last few days putting together an album to help illustrate myself to my host family. I've finally got two copies made, one for each host family. I hope I've got everything I need and that I didn't forget anything...

Time for sleep...