Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I gave the speech today. There were way more people than I expected, about a hundred or so. I didn't choke, so I consider it a success.

On the way back I stopped at Osu again. This time I explored the northern portion, which turned out to be full of electronics and computer stores. Everything was ridiculously cheap. And to think, just last year, I paid $40 for a four gigabyte flash drive and it was a steal. I walked away with some various flash cards, and maxed out the RAM on my laptop.

I got home to find my host mom about to finish the final puzzle in Rush Hour. In less than a day. Now she wants the super railroad edition I mentioned, although it seems that it hasn't been released in Japan yet. According to the website, they have released a couple expansions at least, so maybe I'll be able to find those.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I went back to the Labo Center to pick up some things for tomorrow. It's Saturday, though, and no one was in the office. Luckily one of the tutors was hanging out in the meeting room area, and she helped me procure a key from the guards (with a little help from Terajima over the phone). So yeah, a bit troublesome, but I got what I needed.

On the way back I stopped at Kamimaezu and explored the Osu Kannon shopping area. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but I did find a bunch of cool toys, including a set of Professor Layton gashapon and a (Thinkfun) Rush Hour set for my host family. They seem to like it.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I visited Inoshima Party today, the second time I've been through Jinryo Station in like two weeks. The party was ok, but man were those kids all over the place. I am wiped.

I went online and checked out some of the black friday deals. The sites with deals won't ship to Japan, though, so oh well.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I found a Subway in the building kitty corner from the Labo building. I don't know how I missed it for two months. It was a little more than I usually spend, but it seems to have survived the transition from the US pretty well. They even still had footlongs.

I went to see Osada Party today, way up north. The train ride was nice, I like that line. Fun party, too.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I wrote a speech today. I'm gonna give it on Sunday, to a bunch of kids getting ready for a homestay in North America next summer.

I went out to lunch with Ono and Yamazaki, we went to the udon shop.

On the way home I went back to Oasis 21. There are some neat shops there, including a Pokemon Center, a Shonen Jump shop, a Ghibli shop, and a Tomika center. (Tomika is a toy company that makes matchbox-style model cars and trains.) Most of the licensed stuff was ridiculously overpriced, but I found a couple nice Tomika toys; a shockingly yellow Hako Bus, and a truck carrying penguins. They gave me a little catalog too, which my host brother Seia has been poring over since I got home. He's even working on a letter to Santa.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I visited the Suzuki Party out in Kaguyama. I had to take a bus to get there, which meant I had to go to the Oasis 21 bus terminal in Sakae. The place is more like a shopping center with a UFO hovering over it than a bus terminal, it's really cool. I'll be visiting it again soon.

The party was great (played a traditional game called "hana ichi monme," I was pretty lost but it was still fun). The tutor dropped me off all the way back at Hoshigaoka station, so I didn't get to ride the bus again. The subway had just pulled up when I got to the platform, and I went towards the nearest car. A station attendant politely pointed me to the next car down, and I realized I had been about to board the women-only car. Oops. That would have been embarrassing.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

We went to Durga, the indian place down the street, for lunch again. Yum.

I got some photos up, that took a while. Now I remember why I put it off so long. Also found some Go salons online, should be fun to visit one later.

Check it out!

Photos taken with my camera phone are really low-res, sorry about that. The good news is that in the process of getting them off the phone I figured out how to switch the settings to use the full normal-sized 3.2 megapixels, so no more teeny pictures. I think I figured out how to record movies too, so maybe I'll even get something resembling a youtube channel online soon.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today we drove out to Inuyama and visited the Inuyama Castle. It's believed to be the oldest surviving castle in Japan, built some ~600 years ago. I didn't figure this out until just now, but Inuyama has a sister city; one Davis, California. Neat.

We spent this evening over at the neighbor's house, lemon pepper pasta and pizza. I was asked for suggestions of American pizza toppings, and I said pineapples, black olives, and artichoke hearts. We couldn't find any artichoke hearts, so they decided to use hard-boiled eggs instead. They liked the pineapples, at least.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I went to Nagoya Castle with my host family. it reminded me of the imperial palace area in Tokyo a bit. The castle itself was rebuilt after it burned down in WWII, and they went ahead and stuck in some elevators and turned it into a museum while they were at it. There was even a little theater, where we watched a short 3D movie about the history of the place.

After the castle, we went to a shopping center next to the Nagoya Dome stadium. I bought some puzzles, including another 3D puzzle, this one of a heart. There was an import store where we found some more lemon pepper, along with some gnocchi and alfredo fettucini.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Man, I just can't stop digging, can I.

Fukuda Party. Not gonna forget that.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I went to a Labo party today. I left early, didn't get lost, and arrived at the station early, so I poked my head into the little minishop near the wicket. The lady behind the counter asked me where I was from/what I was doing, and surprisingly enough she knew about Labo and the local Sato Party I was visiting. (Labo isn't really a publicly visible organization.)

The party was fun. The kids had a great time playing with my juggling balls, it's a miracle they didn't break any windows. The tutor wasn't like most tutors in that she didn't really ask me to provide anything to the party. I just participated in what they were doing already and played with the kids. She didn't ask me to come up with any games, or even to show my album (though I did pull that out at the end of the party anyways). Usually tutors are pretty insistent that I be center stage the whole time, but this was a nice change of pace.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I wrote a letter to the new Australian interns who'll be arriving in February. Oh yeah, and I got my next assignment: after the month in Tokyo next year, I'll spend my last six months in Kyushu, the Fukuoka office. Emma will be in Nagoya.

Instead of going straight back to the station, I wandered around the north part of Sakae for a bit, and saw the Nagoya TV Tower. I got off a stop early and walked the rest of the way, stopping at the Apita for the heck of it. I bought a DS guitar sim, M-06, it was on sale. It works by holding the buttons to make different chords and strumming the touch screen. My host dad really got into it, apparently he likes guitar a lot.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Not all that much interesting happened today. I showed my host family Go with the little set I bought in Nara. The kids seemed more interested in losing the pieces and playing othello with it, but my host mom figured out enough to play a whole game with me. She liked it ok, but she seemed way more interested in it after she won.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

This morning I checked out of the hostel and tried the breakfast buffet in the attached bar/cafe. It wasn't that good, but they had cereal... I hadn't realized just how long it's been since I've eaten that.

I walked down to Kyoto Station. Simon suggested using a locker to keep my big heavy backpack in, I don't know why I hadn't thought of trying that yesterday. Anyways, all the lockers I could find were full, until I found a huge room with banks and banks of them in the basement. After some wandering, I found the bus heading to Kinkokuji.

On the bus it was really crowded. I stepped too close to the exit door and the bus asked me, rather conspicuously, to step back, and I did. A lady sitting in a seat facing me turned to her friend and said something about that guy being such a foreigner. I turned to the lady and said, in proper Japanese, "ain't that the truth." She didn't say anything else about me after that. I was feeling kind of annoyed about that, and I was getting a bit smothered. No sooner do I distinctly tell myself that I just want the bus to get on it's merry way so we can all get off, then the driver shuts the engine off. The reduction in noise revealed the rhythm of a snare drum. I looked out the window and saw a marching band ambling its way across the street directly in front of the bus, followed by a full-blown parade. I quietly laughed at myself and just enjoyed the show.

The bus took a little longer than I had thought it would, but it was worth it. Kinkokuji is a famous temple plated in gold leaf, and it looks absolutely brilliant in the sun. Even better, the Mirror Pond was calm enough to see a really good reflection. Really, this building is something out of King Midas. I bought a little charm talisman for good health and long life, more because it was neon orange and gold than anything. Being healthy is icing.

I took the bus back to the station and waited around the meeting area for Simon. (He had taken off to do his own thing really early in the morning.) His bus was late or something, and while I waited this old Japanese dude randomly came up to me. He spoke fluent English, and proudly informed me that he had graduated from UC Berkeley in 1953. After talking for a bit, he pulled out some papers and asked me to proofread a few of the sentences on them. It was pretty well written, save for a few interesting points, including using the word "debarked" in the context of skinning a tree. Then he had a train to catch and ran off.

I kept waiting, listing to my iPod. Despite a dozen Japanese people also clearly waiting to meet someone by the conspicuous statue of Astro Boy, I must have looked suspicious. A pair of policemen came up to me and asked if I was waiting for a friend. I said yes. Right on cue, Simon walked up and joined me. The policemen asked to see our ID cards, luckily we both had them with us. They asked us some random questions and copied down our info into their notebooks. After a few strained minutes, they decided we weren't making any trouble and let us be on our way.

This kind of thing does happen in Japan; merely looking like a foreigner is a good enough reason for a police officer to demand your ID or passport. It apparently happens to interns pretty regularly, although Simon said it was the first time they'd done it to him. The law is one of the few places that Japanese racism really manifests itself. They don't make it any secret that being a foreigner is the problem they have with you; from the point you enter the country and they record your photo and fingerprints, it's pretty clear. This is the kind of problem Labo is working to mend, but we've clearly got a long ways to go.

Simon and I took the train to Fushimi-Inari, and met Katie there after looking around a bit. Fushimi-Inari is temple/forest, it's pretty famous too. It's got a main temple area, but then it has a series of trails over a mountain. The trails are lined with thousands of huge torii, it's really an amazing experience to walk through them. Well, it's a walk at first, but it turns into a full-fledged hike, with lots of little shrines and graveyards. It took us a couple hours to get to the top, and another to get back. I got plenty of pictures. Oh yeah, there were kitties too.

We went to an italian restaurant in Kyoto station for dinner. I ordered a tomato salad, which turned out to be a skinned tomato drizzled with dressing. It was pretty good, but calling it a salad is stretching it I think. We had a great time, but I needed to get home so I had to leave first.

I talked to the dude at the JR ticket window, apparently there weren't any more direct trains on the cheaper Tokaido line, the one I had planned on using (it was about 8). He handed me a printout with a bunch of transfers, my best bet by normal train would get me home really late, not sure if the subway at the end of the trip even ran that late. I was (am) still exhausted from all the hiking, so I just said screw it and paid a little extra for a Shinkansen ticket. I walked up to the platform, and half an hour later I was in Nagoya station. Yay fast.

K's House Hostel, Kyoto

This morning I took a shower, turned out they had shampoo and stuff after all. Before I left, one of the employees gave me a map and marked some interesting places to see.

Outside Kintetsu-Nara station there was a huge shopping bazaar, sorta like Asakusa but with a lot more variety. I found a nice place to eat breakfast and then explored the area. I found this wonderful little shop full of anime themed action figures, puzzles and card games. Everything was half off, too. I was carrying two days of clothes etc. in my backpack, so I couldn't just buy everything in sight. I did find some kind of cheap Hikaru no Go trading card game, I got a starter and a few packs. No clue how to play, but the cards are nifty. I picked up a little portable 9x9 go set at a dollar store, but it turned out to be (surprise) really cheaply made. Oh well.

I saw a mochi shop doing their thing, it was a kind of rhythmic thing with two dudes with hammers pounding away. Then they switched to one dude with a smaller hammer and another who flipped the mochi with his hands between hits, and they cranked it up to a really high speed. They really trusted each other and had really good rhythm to do that, it was amazing.

I met with Katie and her friend Kaz at 1:45 at the station, although I did some hiking trying to figure out which station we were meeting at. We went up to a restaurant on the 8th floor of the station, the tallest building in the area. We got a corner window table, it was an awesome view.

We walked through Nara park, saw lots of completely fearless deer. They would come up to you and bow, in the hopes of getting biscuits you could buy at little stands. We visited the Todaiji temple, it cost to get in, but it was really cool. Todaiji is the home of the Daibutsu, the largest buddha in Japan. The temple that houses it is the world's biggest wooden building. I bought some souvenirs, including a little fortune dispenser. I tried it twice and got 'normal' luck both times, and decided not to push it. Katie got 'terrible' luck, and Kaz got 'good' luck. It took some considerable willpower to resist getting the pink deer antlers and the plushie katana that squeaked whenever you whacked anything with it.

After we saw that, we went down to Kofukuji, another temple area. It was getting dark by the time we got there, so then we headed back to the shopping area to look around some more. Then Katie had to leave, and Kaz walked me to the JR Nara station.

The train ride to Kyoto took about an hour, although I was on the local train. Kyoto station is probably the coolest station architecturally I've seen so far. Kyoto is a lot more urban than Nara, something that was apparent as I walked to the hostel. (Turns out I was right about Nara being old; it's the oldest capital city in Japan, about to celebrate its 1300th anniversary in two years.) As you walk out the station, you're greeted with Kyoto Tower, a space-needly thing on top of a hotel. The directions were a bit less clear, but I found the hostel ok. This place is totally different from the one in Nara. It's two buildings, three and five stories, with a very modern aesthetic and card keys and stuff. There aren't any Japanese people staying here either, that I've met in the common area at least.

This was about 9:00, so I went out to find something to eat. There were some restaurants, but it's not that interesting to eat out alone. I found a convenience store and got some soba and natto. The soba turned out to be on some sort of jellied broth that was supposed to liquify in the microwave, it wasn't all that good. The natto roll was good though. I'm finally starting to get a taste for the stuff.

I ate and hung out in the common room until about 10, when Simon showed up. We've been figuring out plans for tomorrow and chatting, now he's reading a book while I type this. It's pretty late, I should go to bed.

EDIT 11/24/08: blogger ate the luck. Fixed now.

UGAYA Guest House, Nara

I got off to a rocky start this morning. First I forgot my jacket, then my toiletries. I made it just in time to the interviews.

Yumi (the coordinator of the program from Tokyo), Terajima (the director of the Nagoya office), and I interviewed six applicants for the North America year-long high school exchange. It was remarkably similar to the interviews I did for this internship, only I was on the other side of the table. All six of the applicants were pretty good, luckily I don't have to be the one make any final decisions.

After the interviews finished at about six, I hurried over to the train station to begin my weekend journey. I went to Nagoya station and took took the Kintetsu Urban Liner Limited Express, transferring at Yagi and Sandaiji. The express was really nice, and although it was dark out, what I could make out was really pretty. The moon was just past full and was peering through wispy clouds, in the way you would see in nice paintings.

I arrived in Kintetsu-Nara at about 9:30...

whup, my roommate is going to sleep, I'm gonna be nice and finish tomorrow


Let's see... after I arrived at the station, I followed the directions to the hostel. I checked in and the dude showed me around. It's a pretty quaint place, with a great atmosphere. All the bunks are full, so I get to sleep in the tatami room for bunk price. Yay.

It occurred to me that I might need my own little soap and shampoo for the shower, so I asked if there was a place nearby I could get some. They pointed me to a convenience store nearby. I walked through the neighborhood, it was after ten by now. Nara isn't exactly rural, but it feels pretty antique. There are the low buildings you see in museums, with the stylized roofs, and the streets are really narrow. From what I can tell, this place must have avoided the WWII firebombings that "reset" most other cities, architecturally.

I picked up some dinner at the store as well, and headed back. There's a community area in the lobby of the hostel, and I hung out with a few cool Japanese dudes while I ate. One of them had walked around the island of Shikoku dressed as a monk, another had biked around the largest lake in Japan (took him 26 hours). We talked about a whole bunch of stuff, me practicing my Japanese and them practicing their English. There was a big poster board map of the world on the wall, they had me stick a pin where I was from. There were pins all over the place, but only two in the SF area and one in Sacramento (none in KC). I stuck mine in Davis.

I went to bed, I'm sharing the room with a girl from France, Amy. She's doing the rush tour of Japan, she's got a big backpack and a tight schedule.

Anyway, yeah met some cool people here. I like this hostel thing.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Spent the day preparing this weekend. Tomorrow I'm going to be involved in some sort of interview process for the year-long high school exchange program. Then I'm going to Nara to visit Katie, and then I'll go to Kyoto with Simon. Gonna be fun!

My host father's parents were just diagnosed with cancer, and he drove out to be with them for the surgery. From what I hear it went ok, they still need to do some follow-up scans and stuff though. Hope they pull through alright. I'm not exactly sure where the town is, all I could get was that it's an 8 hour drive away.

We watched a program on TV this evening. It was a documentary about a dude and his pet goat. It ended with the goat getting some kind of bacterial infection and needing to be euthanized. They had a drawn-out shot of the goat dying in the dude's arms, it was pretty sad. They were talking about how when the dude was a boy, they took his dog away to become lion food after the dog bit another kid. I don't think this kind of thing would be too popular on American TV.

Also, something has been bugging me about TV here. If you thought laugh tracks were bad, that's nothing; it's common here to have a picture-in-picture video of the reactions and emotions of a studio audience.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I visited the Usami Party 40th anniversary bonanza. It was at a kindergarten; two sessions of ~60 kids each, followed by a normal Labo party. We went out to an italian restaurant afterwards, joined by two of her older Labo students.

We talked a lot about temples and shinto and interns and homestays and haiku and traditional comedy theater and all sorts of stuff. She gave me a few presents, as well. Usami tutor is one of the longest standing and most respected tutors in the district, if not the whole organization. I'm pretty wiped, this entry should be way longer. Sorry.

Oh yeah, I finalized my switch to my fallback Independent Study Project of Igo. Virtual Labo is cool and all, but I am not going to keep spending this year indoors programming it.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I'm sitting in the office, and Ono says something about influenza.

"What?" I reply.

He says something about camp, with hundreds of kids on a mountain in the middle of winter.


He says something about medicine. Prevention.

"Ooooh no..."

He says we need to get shots.

"We? Like, me as well?"

He says we leave at 3:30.

"You aren't kidding, are you." I look down at my watch. It's 2:30. I spend the next hour trying, and failing, not to think about needles. Needles with holes on the ends... needles with huge cylinders full of gimpy viruses... needles injecting said viruses... under... my... skin. I find my hand unconsciously grasping my shoulder. The clock's needles--I mean, hands--move slower than usual. Eventually I am summoned away from my desk, nothing more grasp onto then a feeble "halp" IMed to people cities away.

I morbidly follow Ono and Ponde as they make their way through Sakae, farther away from the station than I've yet wandered. One building is surrounded by the scent of an immolating Cuban cabana. Another building plays a cheerful synthesized melody at me. Outside yet another building are hot dogs made of catfish hanging out to dry. My captors--sorry, coworkers--slow down and look around as if they'd lost their way. Just as I start to hope we can turn around and go back, "oh, there's the clinic." Darn.

There's no one inside. Despite my astute observations that no one was present and that, hey, we tried our best, we waited. After a while, a nurse emerged and gave us some forms to fill out. Forms in Japanese. Medical terms, it turns out, are not the first things people learn in a new language, English or Japanese. After an entertaining game of charades, we determined that I am not athsmatic, that I do not have seizures, and that I have never developed skin pocks from something I ate, among other things.

We return the forms, and proceed to the level 2 waiting room. We wait, but too soon our names are called out. We're summoned into a room that (if I remember right) is labelled "Disposal," with a menacing diagram of a syringe. They sit us down and... have us wait some more. Then they bring one last form, some sort of disclosure paragraph, they ask Ono to translate it for me. He says it's fine, that it just says I might get really sick because of the shot. Apparently mistaking my double take as a gesture of acknowledgement, he circles the OK and hands it back.

They do him first. The doctor offers to let me watch the procedure closely. I politely decline and turn around. I'm next, and before I know it I've been pierced. Like a wasp stinger or a snake fang, it injects the neutralizing agent into my bloodstream. No sooner then the band-aid is applied, we're whisked back into the waiting room. Ponde follows shortly, and once more we're waiting. Waiting, because that's what you do in a waiting room.

I ask what we're waiting for, and it's explained that we need to pay. Curious, usually that the first thing hospitals back in the US take care of. We wait a good ten or fifteen minutes to pay for the privilege of being so brutally violated. At least Labo'll reimburse me.

Today, after I got home, I did a grocery run and made dinner for my host family. Lemon Pepper Pasta, they loved it. My host mom liked it so much, as soon as she tasted it, she put a little into a tupperware and ran next door to enlighten the neighbors. She said she'd never tasted anything like it before in her life. I made a light caesar salad to go with it, too.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

After I left the office today I went over to the Apple store to see if I could get my mitts on a working iPod. A bunch of people have helped me out in this ordeal, big appreciation due there. Thanks!

I walked into the store and took a look at all the options. I was pretty underwhelmed with the classic. The new firmware is terrible. Half the screen is taken up by random album art, which is not only visually distracting, it keeping holding up the rest of the system while it spins up to load more random images. It took twice as long to even select anything, and from what I understand the only way to disable it is to not have any album art whatsoever. Also, it's not compatible with more than half my games.

The Nano looked a bit nicer, but it had its own problems in lieu of the hard drive. For starters, the accelerometer is kind of annoying, particularly it and cover flow. The nano has the option to switch off the menu art, but no option to turn off the accelerometer. I would have to put my music library on a diet to work with 16gb, not to mention podcasts or videos. It's also not compatible with some of my games.

I figured I might as well give the genius bar a shot, so I gave the guy the iPod, showed him what was going on, and he gave me some options. They had a new iPod of the same model that they would replace it with for the ¥15800, or they could give me ten percent off a new model in exchange for it. Now I had three options.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not too good with decisions, especially expensive ones that I know I'll regret. I spent over an hour in that store, looking between the three models and making comparisons online. All three had things about them I really liked: The classic was humungous, I'd never have to worry about storage. The nano was light, and more robust. The 5g had plain vanilla firmware that didn't suck, and it worked with everything my old ipod worked with. In the end, however, I realized that only the old model didn't have anything about it I intensely disliked.

I'll hang on to this for another couple iPod generations, at least until the nanos surpass 32gb and Apple fixes its firmware. I'm happy with it.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today was another study day.

My ipod has officially snuffed it. I called the apple support line, they said it would cost ¥15800 (about $150) to replace the hard drive and battery.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

We went on a road trip to Seto city today. My host mom and siblings had some sort of performance to attend, a children's musician from what I understand. There weren't enough tickets for me and my host dad, so we wandered around the area finding ways to kill two hours. First we went to a ramen shop for lunch, although we made some family circus style dotted lines around the area trying to find one. Really, the GPS thingy had a dotted line trace our path, it looked like a bunch of drunken ants.

After eating, we spent twenty minutes trying to find a golf shop my host dad had seen earlier, but all we found were more ants. We gave up and headed back to a bookstore we saw, but it turned out to be a comic and game store. Interesting enough for me, but not something my host dad was into. There was a big supermarket he'd seen on the map (Apita) and he knew they'd have a book section. We spiraled in on that, then out away from it, then back in, and finally found an entrance to the parking area.

By the time we actually got there, we didn't have that much time left to kill. I did find a puyo puyo gashapon, which turned out to be a puyo superball. It is awesome, and I consider myself lucky that I haven't broken anything with it yet.

On the way home we stopped at a McDonalds (the rest of the family wasn't with us for ramen), and crashed their little play structure. Seia swiped my puyo ball, took it in the structure, and promptly dropped it through some canvas netting or something. The area underneath the structure was locked off, so they had to bring a dude with a keychain to climb in there and retrieve it.

There happened to be a golf shop next door, so we visited that too. My host dad had the grips replaced on some of his clubs, and while I was waiting I got a chance to look at some of the things on display. Two points about those big drivers: they're expensive, and they're light. I'm surprised I've gotten along this far without ever picking one up, but for some reason I had assumed the big heads on the things were there for weight. They're not.

After we got home, I gave them some of the gifts that my mom sent out. They are appreciated!

Oh yeah, and we watched the final game of the Nippon Series baseball championship. The Giants lost, but only barely.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I walked down to the local grocery store to see if they had the remaining ingredients for the lemon pepper pasta I've been wanting to make. They pretty much did, but the pasta came in teeny little 100g packets, pretty expensive. There's an import store that sells real pasta for a reasonable price back in Sakae, so I guess I'll hold out until next week.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I went to a Labo Party today. It was the biggest one I've been to yet (as an intern), there were about fifty kids, plus some parents. Had a great time, but man do those kids wear you out. It went pretty late, so I didn't get back home until about ten.

Imoto tutor dropped me off at the station. The next direct train wasn't coming for half an hour, so I got to wait out on that platform. My iPod is still busted, so it was just a quiet evening... nice and relaxing. The silence was punctured at one point by some random happy music coming from some loudspeaker off in the distance. I'm no poet, I can't properly convey what it was like out there. I'll just say that waiting alone on a rural train platform on a tranquil night is one of those underrated experiences that I wouldn't give back for a million bucks.

Well, maybe a million... heck, maybe for the price of the train ticket, just so I could do it again.

Yeah, definitely not a poet.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

...is all I need, apparently. While everyone else is wearing long sleeves, all I've got is a T-shirt and shorts and I still feel warm. Today was... not so interesting. A full day at the office.

When I got home my host mom's Labo Party was wrapping up, so I played Legos with them for a while. One of the folks from the Labo office was visiting too... Yama... Yamaz... still working on the names. One kid requested I build a bunny, so I did, but by the time I'd finished she had left. I built a tablet bearing the word ラボ (Labo), and a set of balloons (referencing a balloon themed Labo songbird). They were duly impressed, so polite.

Election wrap-up... I watched the most recent South Park. Kudos to those guys for getting it out so fast, that was what, 24 hours? Not even. Of all the movies to parody, it was nice of them to choose one I'd seen so recently.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I spent the whole morning in the office following the election today. I never had any doubt that Obama would win, but I did doubt whether the machines would let it through. The numbers (for the popular vote) were a lot closer than I thought they would be, Americans never fail to amaze me. Missouri is really close, it's been called for McCain, but there are some reports of shady business (voter intimidation) in St. Louis.

Prop 8... ugh. I hope that last 5% of precincts pulls things together. I blame it on the spectacularly poor No on 8 campaign, but I really would have thought of Californians more highly than this. For the next amendment, let's make the state constitutionally recognize that it's pronounced "toMAto." If you still feel like your blood pressure is too low, check out what Alabama did.

Had another party today, had a great time. It was made up primarily of elementary schoolers, they picked up on the games I had pretty fast. They defeated the matching game, for example, in less than one rotation, the first time any party has managed that.

Funabashi tutor was pretty nice. One of her daughters stayed in Kansas and visited St. Louis this last summer, so she helped me elaborate on the pictures of the Arch and Zoo in my album. It seems she remembers the Zoo for the cockroaches, I didn't gather whether she meant cockroaches on display or in the zoo cafe.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today was just another day at the Labo Center office, until about lunchtime when all of a sudden I got summoned into another room. It was a bilingual performance of Stone Soup, by some Labo tutors that I gather were graduating from some sorta tutor training program. After the ceremony we all got fed, but it was only a plain old stone-less bento box.

I went to a Labo Party, not so far away today. It was at a kindergarten, but the kids in the party were as old as 7. There was one kid who ran around like a maniac for the first half of the party, attacking me and running off with my juggling balls. In a quieter part of the party, I looked down and found that he had fallen asleep on my lap. He must have been one of the oldest kids there, but he was out for the rest of the party.

Sakakura was a good tutor, she picked up my juggling balls and pulled off a 3 ball shower (!) for at least five catches or so. The nearest traditional Japanese equivalent of juggling is Otedama, a kids game involving three small bean bags thrown in a shower pattern. According to the mother I was talking to, a lot of people Sakakura's age are good at it, so that would mean it was popular back in the 50s or 60s.

Sakakura emailed me some photos after I got home, the first tutor to do so so far. Sweet.

Oh yeah, it's Election day, polls are open now. Hope there's some good news waiting for me when I wake up.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today was another holiday. We went to this big playground/park area the next town over, and had a picnic. The place was really cool, there were tons of interesting play structures, most of which probably wouldn't survive litigation in the US. Wavy ones, bendy ones, wooden ones... many of them were not like any I'd seen before. There was a "bridge" of suspended logs across a river, but the logs weren't connected to each other so they'd swing all over the place when you stepped on them. You could very easily slip between them and take a bath if you weren't careful. There were ziplines, mazes, huge roller-slides, and crazy jungle gyms. There was a pool and some kind of pedal-powered go-kart track, but the pool was closed and the track cost money. The place was big, too; we spent all day there and I didn't get a chance to see everything. I think there were some old fire engines there too.

There were tons of people there, we were lucky to get a table. Aside from playing on all the cool structures, we played with a soccer ball for a bit. Out of the crowd the kids managed to befriend an older girl who hung out with us for the rest of the day (I think her name was Kita? Keita?). Anyway, we had a great time.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I spent most of the day messing around with my website. There's now a map you can use to see some of the different places I've been to, and I put my album online after figuring out how to get it down to a realistic filesize.

We watched Spiderman 2 in Japanese, but the kids all fell asleep halfway through.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today my host mom had a big Halloween Labo Party. We went down to a nursing home and performed some songbirds for some grandpas and grandmas. They seemed to enjoy it, especially the part where they got to hand out candy to trick-or-treating little kids.

It never comes up other than in my own head, but one of the interesting things about this country is the fact that circumstances were very different about 65 years ago. WWII is nothing to me but a few grainy photographs and some important lessons of things not to repeat, but a significant amount of people still remember it first-hand. All the time it happens, I'll see a more venerable gentleman or lady on the subway, and imagine: what would I think of me if I were them?

You see it all the time in America, people saying Asians all look the same. It's not something to be surprised at; our perceptiveness is tuned to the kinds of people we grow up and live with. This goes the other way, too. I've had people tell me that westerners all look the same, without any hint of prejudice. I do my best to stand out, but there aren't a whole lot of other foreigners for me to stand out against.

I wonder, then, what kind of stereotypes am I falling into? This is entirely moot, because people here are very good at not expressing their thoughts (out of politeness, the whole "wa" culture etc.). Still, that makes me all the more curious.