Hamanasu Express, between Aomori and Sapporo

Yesterday I packed, visited my host family's hapyokai (performance day), helped my host dad change the tires on his car, and at about 7:30 took off to get on a night bus to Sendai. At Nagoya Station, I inadvertently tested the myth that you can leave your wallet sitting in the middle of a busy area in Japan, walk away, and come back to find it right where you left it. Myth confirmed, thank goodness. Phew.

The bus ride was 10 hours, and I had a middle seat (there were three lines of sleeper seats down the bus). The people with window seats preferred to draw the curtains and sleep instead of watching outside, so I didn't have much choice but to follow suit. Next bus I'm booking earlier.

This morning in Sendai, I bought a Hokkaido & Higashinihon Pass, a special pass that lets me ride on any non-express JR line in the region, plus a few other lines, like the one I'm on now. I caught the local Tohoku line to Ichinoseki, a wonderful old train meandering through the countryside. Nowadays it's been shorted by the Tohoku Shinkansen, sort of a route 66 deal. I was in the second car of the train, and about halfway I looked back and saw that I was now in the last car; a few cars had been dropped at a station because there were so few passengers.

I wandered around Ichinoseki for a bit, then caught the next train for Morioka, still part of the old Tohoku line. At Morioka, I took the Aoimori (sic) line to Hachinohe. While waiting for the next train there, I wandered through a nice little public exhibit of local industry.

From Hachinohe I got back on the Tohoku line to Aomori. I wandered around Aomori for a few hours, then got onto the train I'm on now. I need to sleep, we arrive pretty early.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I hadn't done much preparation for my trip to Tohoku this week, so I've spent all day doing that. I needed to go in to the Labo Center to mail something, so I printed out a bunch of stuff while I was there. I stopped at Osu for some last minute Christmas shopping.

I leave tomorrow, if everything goes as planned.

(no entry, AU IY program)

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Yesterday I visited Osaka Castle and walked through the park. Got pooped on by a pigeon. Then I went to Itami Airport for the arrival program. The plane was delayed an hour. Then we stayed at a different "hostel" next to Shin-Osaka.

Today I escorted eight delegates to Gifu-Hashima, Nagoya, and Hanamizukidori. Now I'm back in Nagoya for the time being.

I'd love to elaborate on the IY program, it was very exciting, but I'm really wiped.

J-Hoppers Hostel, Osaka

Can't write much, I'm in a dorm and don't wanna keep the computer on too long.

I met up with Katie at lunchtime. We went to Tennoji and Osaka tower (forget what its name is), then to the famous Umeda Sky Building. Ate delicious ume spaghetti.

Met a couple from Holland and talked with them a while.

J-Hoppers Hostel, Osaka

I'm in Osaka! Much to my surprise, not everyone is staring blankly and rambling about sea slugs. They do stand on the wrong side of the escalator and cross the street without regard to the light, though.

The first thing I did (aside from getting lost in the Osaka rail system) was head to Osaka Den Den Town, the famous otaku shopping district. Even after I managed to get to the station, I wandered through at least two other districts before I got there (a gambling district and this huge fish market. They had live fugu for sale, swimming around in a little pool).

Den Den Town is a little like Akihabara, with less of an emphasis on bulk electronics. I found a Magic card shop called "Yellow Submarine," they had pretty extensive stock in both English and Japanese. I found a Tintin DVD brand new, on clearance, I got it for my host family.

Now I'm at this hostel, it's the same people I stayed with in Kyoto (they have three locations, the third is in Hiroshima). I'm sharing a dorm room with seven other people, though they're all still out as I type this (it's about eleven). I wandered down the street and found a supermarket and bought dinner. Guess I should be more careful buying dinner at a supermarket when I haven't eaten any lunch, these eyes are big. At least I'm not hungry anymore.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today was my last scheduled office day and/or Labo Party for almost a month. There were like 50 people there (Kitatani tutor). it was plenty of fun, but I didn't get home until like ten.

I messed around with videos for a bit... there were some problems, youtube would truncate the video way down, so I had to put it into a different format and I tried Google video instead. After finally successfully uploading five videos, I now see that there is no userpage to link to. Google video sucks.

(Next best thing I can do is link to one video, and you can see "more from user." I'll probably reupload them somewhere else later, too.)

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Tomorrow is my last office day for a couple weeks. I'm going to Osaka Thursday for a little bit of vacation, until Saturday for the Australian International Youth arrival program. Sunday I return to Nagoya, and the following week I have off.

I think I want to go to Tohoku. Maybe I'll even get myself all the way up to Hokkaido. It's the middle of winter so I'll pretty much have the whole place to myself, no other tourists. Should manage a White Christmas that way, too.

Thing about a trip like that is that it would not be so cheap, even by poor bus and hostels. Maybe I should try the Kintaro method, haha.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Mostly hung around the house today... caught up on sleep and caught up with my host family. Not that interesting.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I went to some kind of senior mate meeting this morning, then did my speech again at another orientation gathering. Then I came back to Nagoya.

Sunset was pretty.

Kawamura House, Kanazawa

Got up nice and early to get the train back to Kanazawa, and visited Sugihara Party. Then I went to Kurachi tutor's house and did two parties. Now I'm staying with a member of Kurachi's party, Haruhi.

My first host father Mitsuda Tokio sent me an email today saying that he read my site and saw that I'm in Kanazawa, and that he actually grew up here. Awesome!

Matsumura House, Nanto

I visited two separate kindergartens with Kokaji tutor, and then went to Matsumura party in the evening. For lunch Kokaji tutor took me to a really nice tofu restaurant, it was really good. Don't wanna know how much it cost though. Went out to dinner with Matsumura, Kokaji, and a few of Matsumura's Labo kids. One of them was named O, he was pretty cool. Matsumura's house is way out in Nanto, so it was like an hour drive home over some mountains.

Kokaji House, Kanazawa

Lots of fun today. I did two parties of about 50 kindergartners each with Iwamoto tutor in the morning, and two more with her in the afternoon. Then I took off to Toyama and visited Matsuki Party, and now I'm back in Kanazawa with Kokaji tutor.

I was in the office of the school with Iwamoto, and I looked over and saw a little basket full of Hikaro no Go erasers. They were one of the few HnG related objects I've found so far here (guess it's out of style or something), so I pointed them out. Turns out that one of the people working there is a bit of an anime aficionado, and he gave me one of the erasers. Then he helped me explain to Iwamoto how gravity and Gs and orbits work.

There was a bit of a rainstorm going on in the evening, it made some of the trains late.

We watched a late night show where some dudes tried to break the Guiness world record of most T-shirts worn at a time. The record was 224. They got up to 169 and couldn't go any further. Still entertaining.


Iwamoto House, Toyama

Today I had two Labo Party kindergarten sessions with Kokaji tutor in Kanazawa, then two sessions with Kida tutor in Komatsu. They all went great. Now I'm with Iwamoto tutor near Isurugi.

Man I'm wiped. This journal would be really interesting this week if it weren't for me doing so much stuff and being hardly able write a comprehensible sentence. I'm seeing lots of cool stuff, I'll leave it at thatzzz

APA Hotel, Kanazawa

This was my one vacation day for the trip. I went down to Kenrokuen Gardens, I took a lot of pictures. Did a lot of walking; walked all through the gardens, and then through Kanazawajo Park. I went to the downtown area and walked over to an old samurai district, with these neat mud walls. It started raining about then. I did a lot more walking and saw some other things, too.

Kitao Apartment, Kanazawa

I'm in Hokuriku! Yay! Brrr.

Took the Hikari Shinkansen (the "slow" one that makes more stops) to Maibara, then transferred to the Shirasagi line. Lovely train ride, it had apparently snowed this weekend. Hardly any snow here in Kanazawa, but it's still plenty chilly.

The Kitao family is pretty nice, I'm staying with them for tonight. There's a four year old and a nine month old, Asuki and Yotaro. The party went ok for the kids being as young as they were.

long day, sleep...

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Ugh test. I'm so bad at standardized testing, especially super-ultra-standardized Japanese testing. I studied and studied, but it didn't occur to me to study any math. On the first portion of the test, I miscalculated/lost track of time, and all of a sudden pencils went down before I could go back and fill in the ones I didn't know (multiple choice). So, on the first test, I know I got exactly 65%, because that's the amount of questions I knew for sure and marked.

The second test, the listening test, went ok for the most part. There was this kid behind me who was practically snoring awake, and it got bad enough that I missed a question because of it. I have no idea where I landed on the third test (grammar), though I kept track of time pretty well. I think I did well, but particles are the sort of thing that are easy to get wrong at the top of your lungs. I'll find out sometime next February.

There were thousands of people taking the test, I think every foreigner in Aichi was at that university today. The poor little train station was packed, but on the bright side it made it really easy to figure out where I was supposed to go for the test. Moo.

I spent the rest of the day organizing and packing for my trip tomorrow (and we went out to dinner, nom). I'm going north to the Hokuriku area for a week, staying at various tutors' houses and going to a ton of Labo Parties.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Went to a neighborhood party today down in Nagoyako. Also visited a "gashapon museum."

I need to study and sleep for my test tomorrow.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

After spending a few hours at the office calling all the tutors I'll see next week in Hokuriku, I went to visit Suzuki Party. The party itself was fine, but the interesting part came afterwards. Suzuki's father, a Go teacher, visited with some problems and little go boards for everyone. He gave everyone sets of beginner problems to work on, while Suzuki's son (6y/o) and I did some lower-kyu problems.

That didn't last too long before everyone had to go home, and we ate dinner. After dinner, Minoru (I think that was his name, I just called him "sensei") and I played a full game. He's a licensed amateur 6 dan, and he gave me nine stones. He played a good teaching game, but I didn't realize just how much control he'd had until after we counted our territory; he'd pulled an Akira and tied the game. I was sure impressed. I recorded the game, too.

At that point it was ten, I didn't get back home until after eleven. Late trains are nice, not so crowded.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Went all the way out to Toyohashi today to visit the Furui party. Yay fun! I'm tired.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Word is that the fire was started by tempura oil. No one was hurt, but the building is totaled.

I got a package in the mail from Grandpa and Grandma today, containing a nifty new backup hard drive and some tins of really nice tea. My data is all backed up now, so if anything should happen to my laptop's hard drive (like what happened to my iPod) I won't lose all my data.

When I got home I walked in on my host mom's Labo party gathering, it was winding down and all the mothers were doing their yakky mom thing around the coffee table. We all tried some of the exotic pear honey tea, it went over pretty well. My host dad came home and had some too. It was described as hot, yummy, and sweet... it didn't taste that sweet to me, although compared to the more common green or black teas here, I can see where they're coming from.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

This morning I went to a kindergarten Labo Party with Yamaguchi tutor. It was three half-hour sessions with 30 kids and 30 moms each. That's a lot of people.

I went back to Labo Center and studied a bunch, my test is coming up this weekend.

I hung out with some college mates before their meeting started, taught a few of them how to juggle.

Walking home, I looked up and saw the crescent moon next to bright planets Venus and Jupiter. It's rare that I see much in the sky at all, so that was kind of a treat.

I've been bonking my head against Terminal, trying to get a wireless upload working with my DS. I must have a unique version of netcat that refuses to actually run. It's very annoying.

Oh yeah, and a building about a hundred meters or so away went up before dinner. Smoke and flame and tons of fire trucks and sirens. We don't know anything about it yet, but it seems like the firefighters got everything under control. One of my host mom's friends lives there, I hope they're ok.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I had lunch with my host mom and a couple of her friends at the indian place. I understand I'll be seeing them again this friday, some kind of party.

After that, I trucked down to Kanayama to visit a Go salon. It wasn't too intuitive to find, but I was lucky and stumbled across it. It was exactly what I had expected, just like in Hikaru no Go. There were a lot of old dudes... well, all of them were old dudes... and it was smokey. I explained to the lady at the desk that I was 11kyu, but none of the people there were my strength (presumably they've all been playing for a lot longer than I have). I guess I was interesting, though, 'cause a dude who looked like the manager came up and volunteered to play me. He gave me nine stones, and I still lost by about 50 points. He went over the game with me afterwards and gave me some tips, that was nice. Then he hooked me up with another guy, who gave me four stones. I played two games with him, and lost both of the in the endgame by resignation. They were fun games, I managed to outplay him in one spot, even if it wasn't enough to win the game. After that he left, and I figured it was about time for me to go home too.

I had gotten an SGF editor on my DS and was all eager to try it out, but I ended up not using it; it was hard enough fitting in without playing with some fancy gadget. I even forgot to take any pictures.

On the subway platform waiting for the train, I missed my hat. I kinda panicked, thinking it was probably still back at the salon, and started walking back. Then I found it, on my head. All good.