June 24th

Naoya left this morning to go to Lacrosse Camp for the week.

This is where the journal from 2006 ends. I did more cool stuff, but got too burned out to keep writing entries. Thanks for reading!

June 23rd

Today was the big performance day for our Labo group. We went to the center at 11 in the morning, and they rehearsed until like 2:00. About 40 or so people showed up, There were some littler kids with their own skits, and the Prometheus skit went OK. After the skits we sang some songs, and tried to play some games. Telephone didn't really work too well, as many of the younger kids didn't really understand it, and had to have the phrase repeated multiple times. Charades didn't work that great either, as there were too many people, and the rules of the game got a little twisted through translation. Everyone had fun trying, though. I got to go up and give another album presentation and juggle a bit, too.

Then we had kind of a little celebration tea party, with little snacks and stuff. I pulled out the hacky sack, and a lot of people joined. Some of the kids were really good, too, despite a few misplaced volleys that went over the drink table.

After that, all the senior group went out to an Italian restaurant for a few hours. We had a pretty good time, lots of chatting and laughing. We went to a BaskinRobbins afterward, they were having a three-for-two matsuri sale.

The bike ride home was fun. It was pretty dark, and Hiro and Naoya were sharing the same bike. Chie and Yukiko were going kinda far ahead on a long dark stretch of bike path alongside the channel, and Hiro and Naoya were falling behind me. I blinked or something, and they were all gone. Turned out Hiro and Naoya had stopped to change places and hadn't said anything, and Chie and Yukiko had gone around a turn way ahead of me. Everything was fine, but it kinda startled me and I wont be forgetting that moment anytime soon, in the middle of I-don't-know-where with no one around in the dark.

June 22nd

Naoya had lacrosse practice for the day, so Kozue took me out to a nearby Labo party's performance. It was all younger kids, and they put on a few simple plays and skits. There was a nice rendition of "Puss in Boots", and another act that involved pulling up a huge radish. After those, I got volunteered to go up and do a presentation with my album, and I showed them some hacking tricks.

In the evening, Naoya took me out the Matsuri summer festivities. The town closed off the main street, lined it up with booth vendors, and the whole population crowded there. It was like the WEF, but with beer. A lot of people were dressed in kimonos, and there was a lot of little games to play, and stalls selling variously singed I-don't-want-to know-what, little toys like squirt guns and masks of popular anime characters, and even TCG singles. There were these cool japanese snow cone things, where they shaved the block of ice in front of you. There was a concert area, but the music playing when I stopped by there wasn't that great. Naoya and I hacked for a while, but I don't think anyone knew what the heck it was, much less joined.

On the way back, we stopped by a conbini and got some ice cream. When we got back, Hiro was miffed that we didn't get him any.

June 21st

We didn't have much going on today. We went shopping at a kind of random food store that had imported foods, plus a bunch of japanese junk food. Naoya and I both got 200円 worth of candy, and we got some fettucini and alfredo sauce, as well.

We watched the Prince of Tennis Futari no Samurai movie while I tried to figure out how to eat the candy. There were these little plastic tubes of cream that you put in your mouth and chewed on to get the cream out, and then spat out the wad of plastic. There was also what seemed to be underripe ume plums in sugar water, that you pretty much had to gnaw on to eat.

We had a nice dinner, too... a normal japanese dinner supplemented with alfredo. It was pretty good, and the Yokoos seemed to like it too.

July 20th

"What was that bright explosion over there? Fireworks?"
"No, I think it was a bird."

It wasn't raining today, so Naoya went to lacrosse practice. Kozue took me to a local park, and we went for a nice walk. They had gardens, a baseball field, a dirt soccer field, tennis courts, and like 50 totem poles made by graduating elementary school students. Apparently she's planning a Labo barbecue there, so I'll get to come back.

Naoya and I tried hacking out in front of his house after he got back. He loves the game, and he's pretty innate at it, too. The biggest hurdle for him was the not saying "I'm sorry", but he's not any worse then me now. We were out there for a good two or three hours, until it was time to go to a Labo meeting.

The first part of the meeting was the elementary school group, they were practicing a play of Alice in Wonderland, the part with the Queen of Hearts. I brought a hacky sack, and played with them a bit during the breaks, but mostly it was just sitting and watching. I looked out the window, trying to read some of the signs on the street, and found a sign saying "igo" next door. I think it was a go parlor.

After the younger kids' practice, we went to the conbini across the street for dinner. I got an inari instant udon, an umeboshi onigiri, and some other stuff. We took it back to the center to eat, but we went to a different room for the older kid's meeting. Turned out it was a tatami room with a bunch of go and shogi boards stacked up on the wall. After we ate, the group practiced their play while I played a game of go with myself on one of the nicest boards I've touched, one of the big ones with legs like in Hikaru no Go. White won, 49 to 47 not including komi. I made some pretty dumb moves, too. I would make a move, look up for a while, look back down at the board, and go "woah... how'd that hole get there?" and proceed to kick my own ass.

One of the girls brought a package of plastic pocky, and if you took the wrong one, they'd all shoot out at you. I didn't pick the wrong one, despite her offering it to me like three times.

July 19th

"Where's the shampoo?"
"Oh, just squish the pig."

It's been raining for several days now, but it's really starting to pick up. Two of Naoya's lacrosse practices have been cancelled, so we've been sleeping in a bit.

I got dad's package! Some psychic ethereal force commended him to send me an extra pair of shorts, and I'm really glad he did. Now if Kozue-san misses a day on the laundry, I'm not screwed. (Thanks, Jeanette!) The hacky sacks are perfect, too, just what I needed... I've been somewhat deprived of sacking for the last month.

We watched the Naruto Movie 2. Naoya was pretty geeked out over my iPod AV connecter, and he's put it on his list for the next time he visits Akihabara. Both he and Hiro have the same iPod I do, they both like music a lot.

July 18th

Naoya took me shopping today... apparently it's culturally acceptable for Japanese guys to spend more time then my mom in clothes stores. We went to some obscure fashion district near his station, with tons of clothes shops.

I still don't really get the fascination buying clothes yields, but we managed to spend a good chunk of the day there. Naoya got his polo shirts for lacrosse camp, and I got to look at more engrish T-shirts than I ever cared to. You'd think it would be fun, but most of them aren't as ironic or funny as the ones you see on the web, just nonsensical. Like what the monkeys banged out before they pulled off "Hamlet".

After we got back to the station, Naoya called his mom, but she couldn't pick us up since she was just going to a labo meeting. So, we walked the nice 15 minute walk back to his house. Once we arrived, we discovered that she had locked us out of the house. So, after half an hour of climbing around the house failing to get in, we decided to take the bikes on the 20 minute ride into town to find his mom. After getting lost and finally finding our way to the community center, the community center didn't know what a "labo" was. We looked around, and found them in a closed room on the third floor.

In exchange for the key, she ushers me in in front of 10 toddlers and their parents, and has me do a self introduction speech in Japanese. After that, we get back on the bikes and go back home, dodging pedestrians. Oh yeah, it was raining the whole time, so we got to ride the bikes while holding a more or less ineffective umbrella in one hand.

We were pretty wiped after that, so we played some video games for a while before going to bed. Gitaru Man is pretty fun, but we've only got one song unlocked for multiplayer. (Gitaru man is made by the same people who did Ouendan, btw)

July 17th

Went to Akihabara with Naoya today. There's an express line that goes straight there from his station, in less then 20 minutes.

We spent most of the day there, exploring the backstreets and finding a lot of awesome stuff. If I ever want to build a PC, I would go there... tons of used dirt cheap stuff, for blocks and blocks. We visited the Apple store there, too. Tallest apple store in the world, I bet, it was like 6 floors.

I bought the rest of the Azumanga Daioh books, some gifts, a few more games, and an ice cream crepe. I swear, I could save enough money in Akihabara to counter the national debt... if only saving money wasn't so expensive. Sigh.

July 16th

This morning Naoya went to lacrosse practice at like 6 in the morning. I kinda slept in. I talked with Hiro a lot about his experience in the US (he spent a school year in Virginia), and wrapped him up in an english quiz test thing on my kanji dictionary. He's easily the most fluent in english of all the Japanese people I've met.

After that, we went to a LABO meeting at a community center. It's just the senior group, but there were like 10 people there. They're finalizing a play they've been working on, "Prometheus and the Gift of Fire". It's pretty impressive, how they're able to do plays without props or costumes.

I got to show off some more juggling, and one of the girls even knew how already. Naoya managed to pull off three catches pretty fast, within five minutes of picking up the balls. He hasn't gotten much further than that, though.

July 15th

Yokoo house

Happy Birthday, Julia, but I think the gift I got today kinda pwns all yours' put together. I got a new host family, they're awesome!

I woke up a little later than I planned to, and almost missed breakfast. At our orientation, Victoria and a whole bunch of people had to leave during it, because they were being picked up or going to other parts of Japan. Our induction ceremony ended up having like 15 people out of maybe 80. I was a lot more confident this time, and didn't choke up on the podium.

The Yokoo family is awesome! Naoya is 16 years old, and already on summer vacation. He's been taking English for four years, and he's more or less fluent. Everyone else in the family is more or less fluent, too, especially Hirokazu.

After the ceremony, they took me to the Tocho government building, and this time we went in the south tower. The view from up there is amazing, and I got some photos this time. After that we visited Kouki's work, that curvy skyscraper I always walked by on the way to school. They had an art museum in there, and the collection was pretty impressive, it included Van Gogh's "Still Life with Twelve Sunflowers".

After a stop at an udon shop, we took the train home to Matsudo, in the Chiba prefecture. I met Kazuki and Hirokazu too, they're both pretty cool. Hiro lives in a dorm at his university and has to study a lot, but he comes back to the house for the weekends.

Before we went to bed, Naoya pulled out his Gamecube and proceeded to school me in the art of Daigasso Smash Brothers DX. I wasn't really in form, but I don't think the results would've been any different had I been.

July 14th

New City Hotel, Nishi-Shinjuku

Today was my last day with the Mitsuda family. They all came down to the hotel for a goodbye ceremony, where anyone who wanted to went up and related their best experiences. There was a lot of crying and goodbyes, but everyone is gonna stay in touch, I think. I went up and talked about my experience with Take's school. I got plenty of pictures, too.

After that, everyone got some time off to explore shinjuku and find dinner. That is, almost everyone... the people who were transferring to LEX for their second homestay had to leave pretty soon after that, including Kage, Ben, and Becky. I'll miss Kage, I liked her.

We walked all around the freaking block looking for a place to eat, and short of a McDonalds and a couple conbinis, we couldn't find one. We had given up and were trying to find a shortcut back to the hotel through some back alleys, when this japanese speaking chinese dude popped out of some random door, and irasshaimasenned us into a little chinese restaurant shack hidden in the shadows. We decided to eat there (I don't think the guy was really giving us a choice), and navigated the menu to find something appetizing. I found what turned out to be tofu in a spicy sauce, with bits of something else that the waiter assured me wasn't meat. I didn't get upset in the stomach (aside from the spiciness), so he must have been right.

Ryan tried to order a plate of four potstickers, and ended up ordering four orders of potstickers. They weren't so expensive, so we survived, but then it turned out that they charged extra for the bowls of rice that they gave us with our food. My bill was reasonable enough, but some of the others' was kinda higher then they were expecting.

After that, we went back to our rooms. Danielle, Victoria, Bryce, and I went back to Danielle's room. Bryce pulled out a little ear piercer and pierced his ear on the spot, with a little help from Danielle and Victoria. He missed the right spot on the ear, and got it too close in. So, he yanks it out and whips out another piercer, and does it again, getting it right. By that time, I was pretty close to barfing, so Danielle gave me some chocolate and I went and bought some Haagen Daz out of the vending machine, and went back to my own room.

I'm sharing a room with Ryan... he's an ok kid, but sharing a 10' by 8' japanese hotel room with a 14 year old homo is not an experience I'd repeat in a hurry. The toilets in this hotel are terrible, too. When you sit down on them, the little asshole cleaner sprays downward for a minute or two, kind of a cleaning cycle or something. I wasn't really expecting it, see, and it kind of took me off guard... there's a good reason America hasn't adopted toilets capable of becoming freaking overlords.

July 13th

Today I visited Take and Hide's school. Got to stand up in front of a classroom for an hour, explaining my experiences and answering questions. We also got to play some games... duck duck goose is a lot more interesting on a hardwood floor with socks, and hot potato was a hit to. It turns out that simon says doesn't work too well through an interpreter, though. After I thought I was done, I got to go through the whole thing again with Hide's class.

The kids were great, though... both classes made me a big bag of oragami souvenirs, and Hide's class even made me a book of thank you notes after I left.

After that, I went out to lunch with Mayumi and the Labo tutor. The food was good, but the restaurant was busy and had wailing kids, and I was kinda tired, not to mention I've got something of a cold going on. Oh well.

After I got home, Hide and I went through the oragami thank you notes, with him reading them and me trying to keep up. There was a lot of cool stuff in there.

Before dinner, one of the neighbors, Asami-san, came by and gave me a present, some manga I didn't have yet. She was nice, I'm sorry that I didn't get a chance to meet her sooner. She came by not two hours after I had shipped off my suitcase with my extra presents in it, too. Oh well... I wrote her a thank you note on a post card, at least.

July 12th

Today was the last day of school. We split up into groups and preformed skits that we wrote about our experiences in Japan. Some of the people had their host families come and watch, after the skits we had a little "graduation" ceremony. We got our report cards and a cool completion certificate in japanese. I got 100%, w00t.

I spent the rest of the day packing my suitcase. Damn, all this stuff adds up. It all fits, though. Now, for great sleepageness.

I would describe Japan as a pretty polite culture. I would probably give them precedence if one of their mannerisms directly contradicted one from where I grew up. Where I grew up, it's not polite to make noise while eating. In Japan, it's pretty much rude not to. Here, you pick up the dishes off the table and shovel stuff into your mouth. You're encouraged to eat things with your hands. You can pick stuff off of plates in the middle of the table using the same chopsticks you eat with. Its like the local Miss Manners turned her conscience the right way up.

And then, there's Rice. I swear, the Shinto religeon must worship a rice demon for a god or something. Rice is served with everything. The words for "dinner" and "rice" are the same, "Gohan". You can stick your chopsticks into anything else on the table like a fork, but a pair of chopsticks stuck in rice is a symbol for death. You don't put stuff on your rice, except for a few specific things (Nori, Sesame, and Umeboshi).

Japan would probably have a collective heart attack if they saw what I usually do to my rice in the US.

July 11th

Had a verbal interview test today. I'm not sure how well I did, the teacher kept using words I didn't know. Oh well.

During lunch, poor Danielle got herself into a conversation with Alex about religion. I managed to stay out of it for the most part, but some of the evolution stuff going across was too absurd to avoid. Catholic vs Philosopher vs Atheist, with some Hindu and Mormon thrown in for good measure. Everyone is still friends, I think.

Went to Labo party tonight. Nana wasn't there but there was this other really cool guy named Takeru. He didn't know a whole lot of english, but for some reason his pronunciation of the english he did know was really good. Usually I get to make do with people swapping Ls and Rs or Vs and Bs, but... yeah. He showed me how to make an origami peacock, but I think I already forgot.

July 10th

I got up this morning at 3 am to watch the Final. Stupid tie made the game run an hour longer, so I didn't get to take a nap until 6, and slept til 8. I didn't get to sleep until after midnight, so I've been running more or less on autopilot for the day.

At school, we split up into groups for a kind of field trip hunt. Our group was given a picture of a shrine gate, and was told to find it and get people to take pictures of us with it. Turns out it was in Harajuku, all of a 4 minute train ride away. We each asked some bystanders to take a picture for us, in japanese. The people I picked to ask turned out to be Korean tourists, so I don't think they understood anything I said, japanese or english. They were plenty happy to take the picture, though. After we finished, we stopped by a concession shack and bought some slushie type thingies, mine was a sourish strawberry.

Take twisted his ankle at his table tennis club, and had to go into a clinic. He seems fine now... despite a limp, he's decidedly proud about the bandage.

By the way, I love seeing comments, it's a lot more fun to update when I know people are actually seeing it. Sorry I can't spend too much time chatting and stuff, but I do read them at least. :)

July 9th

Today was a nice lazy Japanese sunday. We were planning on going bowling with Atsuki, but it got cancelled for some reason or another. Instead, Atsuki and his sister came over and we played games and stuff. We played a bunch of PS2 games that he brought over, including winning eleven and some sports car game. We played Othello for a while, too.

One of Mayumi's friends came by and dropped of some sushi, and this odd homemade soy stuff. Apparently it's what you get when you boil soy milk, and then skim the top. It's like a mix between yogurt and tofu, it's supposed to be really good for you. Bill would hate it.

Now I need to get a couple hours of sleep in before the final.

July 8th

This morning I went down to play soccer with Atsuki's team for a couple hours. The kids here are all fairly good, so I had a lot of fun being able to put my all into it. The field we played on had some gravel near the goal, and I scraped my knee on a particularly poorly executed dive. Oh well, I'll survive.

Kage and Victoria came over for lunch, and then we all went to Mandai Shoten for another reckless expenditure of money. I managed to stay within budget, but I did spend a lot. I got presents for Tommy, Denis, and Jesse, a DAQ game, a HxH game, a HnG game, and a Lupin III game.

Victoria bought enough stuff to stagger a donkey, mostly manga and figures. She also managed to buy the exact Orange Range CD I was planning to buy (and upon finding the shelf empty had assumed they were sold out.) I'll rip it before she leaves, though.

After that, we went to a LABO reception for exchange students. There were a bunch of kids who are going to be going on a homestay in North America in a couple weeks, including Mae and Kanade.

All the nihongo homestay students in the region got to introduce themselves. I introduced myself saying I liked my hat, Eric introduced himself saying he loved his host family, and Alex introduced himself saying he liked pina coladas and long walks on the beach.

July 7th

Today was Tanabata, a local holiday. I didn't see any parades or anything, but I got to write up a wish (in japanese) and hang it on some bamboo. I used neon yellow paper, but I couldn't reach the higher part of the bamboo like some other people had managed. So, I'm not sure what priority my wish will get from Vega and Altair.

Brooke is drawing a group picture of her friends, and I get to be a panda bear wearing my hat. And in Emily's drawing of me, I'm a blushing ice cream cone with my hat.

There are a million different random drinks you can buy out of vending machines. Even though there are vending machines everywhere, it can be difficult to find your preference. Out of all the stuff I've had, there's this one drink... in one of the huge steel cans, and a blue label. It's called *something* サイダー . It's kind of a soda, without the extra stuff like coloring or flavoring, but as far as I can taste still has plenty of sugar. Just wanted to remember the name.

July 6th

Today, we made up a simple question and surveyed some hapless bypassers. My question was "anime or manga?", but apparently there isn't really a difference between the two in most peoples' minds. So I asked "terebi or comikku?" instead. Everyone preferred television.

I'm starting to get used to school, finally. Of course, there's only a few more days of it left, go figure.

July 5th

Learning more ways to use adjectives today... We got to go fill out a description sheet while buying something from the store. Bryce and I bought a snack called "Collon" (pronounced "colon") shaped like little short cylindrical wafers filled with a green cream. It tasted good.

On the train home, I managed to snag a seat at Ikebukuro. Unheard of in the trains this packed, but the person sitting in front of me got off, so yay! Just as well, I was feeling pretty sad. Class ran late, Victoria and Kage ditched me, it was raining really hard, and the wind blew out my cool yellow umbrella. I'm feeling better now, though.

July 4th

Mitsuda House

In class today, we started learning about adjectives and how to use them. So we went on a field trip to the Tocho Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices. It's one of the tallest buildings in Shinjuku, and we went to the top tourist floor (45th floor). I hadn't realized just how freaking huge Tokyo really is. It dwarfs SF and Chicago, and even LA or NY don't have anything on it. From the top of that building, there was nothing but Tokyo as far as the eye could see, and the eye could see pretty far. Go figure I didn't bring my camera. Oops.

I went to the Labo meeting again today. Nana and everyone was there, and we had a good time looking at photo albums and talking about differences in our cultures. Apparently Nana won't be able to make it next week, so that was the last time I could see her. I hope I'll find a way to see her again someday, I liked her.

July 3rd

Mitsuda house

I went to Asakusa today with the class. They've got big-ass lanterns there... too bad I couldn't see it at night. I got a little fortune stick... "regular" luck. I got a little umbrella, about eight or so inches in diameter, and it's got a picture of boats getting pwned by waves on it.

I've been a little slow recently, I don't think I'm getting enough sleep. Sorry for the skimpy entry.

July 2nd

Mitsuda house

I went to Akihabara with Tokio and Victoria today. That place is incredible. Blocks upon blocks crammed full of shops selling anime, manga, games, and electronics. Most of the shops span more than 6 floors, even though their footprint isn't any bigger than a couple hundred square feet. I could easily pick any store and spend hours looking at a small section. The entirety of Akihabara would take a freaking eternity to explore.

While each individual thing there is usually cheap compared to list price, there's a damn lot of individual things there. I found a pretty good deal on a cool silver slim PStwo... I kinda couldn't resist buying it... don't kill me, mom. I got Narutimate Hero 3, Katamari Damashii, and a Prince of Tennis game. I also bought another pile of manga... it's actually reasonably priced here, especially used. Clayton is going to freak when he sees this collection I've piled up, and then he's going to be really pissed that it's all in a language he doesn't know. I'm starting to be able to read a little bit, but I've got a long way to go.

After that, we went through some other stores before we had to go home. Victoria bought a bunch of little anime figures, the kind usually targeted to lonely otaku. I have to wonder if she felt out of place at all there... the only other girls there were the ones who had jobs involving cosplay. She sure as hell didn't look like she felt that, though, cause she seemed to have just a good a time as I did.

There was a ton of stuff I wanted to just grab, but I couldn't really spend much more money... I'm a little close to budget point already. We went to an arcade for a while, there were a lot of those crane game things. One of them had Phoenix Wright figures, so I couldn't resist trying it... now I know that I suck at those crane game thing. Victoria tried it a couple times too, and she almost got it, but the stupid claw slipped before it could get over the dispenser.

After we got home, we went to a LABO party at a local park. That was a lot of fun, we played soccer and vollyball, and when it got dark, we pulled out a ton of fireworks (花火). I managed to juggle a single lit sparkler before I was told that it was dangerous, so I never got around to doing three. I had a lot of fun with the various kinds of sparklers, and they had roman candles and little tanks that shot fireworks out their barrels. I had a nice surprise lighting what I thought was just a big sparkler, and it started launching rockets. No one got hit, at least.

Tokio burned the DAQ special onto a DVD for me, so Clay and Dad can look forward to that. Also, there were a couple of upsets in the world cup this morning... England lost to Portugal, and Brazil lost to France. What is it with Brazil and France, anyways? France has been totally sucking, except when they play Brazil. This is like the third time in the last few decades that they've upset them like this.

July 1st

Mistuda house

Germany won, and they didn't even play Kahn.

The Mitsudas took me to the Future Science Museum today. There was a lot of cool stuff, I took pictures too. They had a huge spherical display setup, using almost a million LEDs... they were using it mostly to depict the Earth in various focuses (foci?). There was a bunch of environmental energy efficient technologies on the first floor. I got to see a fuel cell powering a little fan, and they had some housing structures showing what we all should be living in.

They had an exhibit on mammoths, and a mammoth head in a freezer. Like, with tissue intact... they wouldn't let me take pictures, though. They also had the shipping container it had come in.

Another highlight was watching Asimo do a demonstration. They've gotten pretty far with walking automation now, he could walk around and climb stairs almost as fast a normal human (relative size, that is).

In the evening we watched a Detective Academy Q live action special. It was pretty good, it melded plots from a few different arcs, and was two hours long with commercials. We recorded it on the nqtivo device, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to get it on my computer to take home. I'll see...