Chuo Shimin Pool Mae
Nagano House, Fukuoka

Today I visited Tamura party. This is my last scheduled party! I'll have to tally up and see how many I've done.

I made lemon pepper pasta for the Nagano family. Dad really liked it, but I went too hard on the pepper and it was a little spicy.

We walked down to the park with the dog.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

Yesterday was my last day in the office. Bye everyone!

On the way to futsal, Kabasan and I stopped at Canal City so I could get some new shoes; my old ones were in tatters, not being designed for mountain climbing. I got the most awesome pair of Merrells ever. Seriously, they are orange. Also probably the most expensive shoes I've ever owned.

We went to futsal, played without AC until midnight, then I stayed at Kaba's place. Oh yeah, a drink machine ate a thousand yen bill.

Today I came back here, and helped with yardwork. We went to costco, but they were out of lemon pepper. They had lots of meat, though. Takoyaki dinner, anime and chinese checkers.

Hotel Nakasato, Nagasaki

And I'm off! A week long jaunt around Kyushu. I've hardly prepared at all, all I know is that I want to get as close to the eclipse as I can.

I took a bus from Hakata here to Nagasaki. I went to the atomic bomb museum, the remembrance hall, the hypocenter, and the peace park. I hadn't realized it, but I've visited three labo parties not too far from where it went off. I could say a lot on this subject, but I'll save that for another day.

I came back to the Nagasaki station area around seven, and went to the ryokan I had called and reserved with this morning. I got there, and the lady said they were all full. I explained I reserved with them and asked where I was supposed to stay. The lady went downstairs for a while then came up and walked me to a business hotel who's owner she knew. Mike the dog!

This hotel wasn't mentioned in my lonely planet book, which is why I didn't come here first, but man am I glad I landed here. For what usually gets me a bunk in small eight person room, I got my own tatami room with a TV and everything. Nice. I hope I can land a few more places like this this week.

Minshoku Kajita, Kumamoto

Today I headed out of Nagasaki by train, and headed out to the Shimabara peninsula. From there, I took a ferry to Kumamoto port, and a bus to Kumamoto. It took a little bit of dancing to get here to this ryokan, but I found it eventually. I spent the rest of the day tromping through Kumamoto Castle, its grounds, and the shopping arcades of central Kumamoto.

Now I've been in all three of the "best three" castles in Japan (Osaka and Nagoya being the other two). How about that.

The weather is looking really iffy for the eclipse. Even if I had gotten a ticket reservation to one of the islands, it looks like most of them are pretty cloudy. Kagoshima at least has a "partly cloudy" going for it, so it's still up in the air. Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Kumamoto are gonna be totally under clouds (along with most of the rest of Japan), that sucks for a lot of people.

I wonder if I'll be able to get my mitts on a filter so I can actually look at the eclipse directly. It seems that a lot of the ones being handed out have been recalled, as someone apparently forgot to actually put the filter in some of them. Maybe I'll be able to hit up a hardware store for some welding goggles.

Tamaya Youth Hostel, Ibusuki

Went from Kumamoto to Yatsushiro, to Hitoyoshi, to Yoshi... uh... yoshisomething, to Hayato, to Kagoshima, to Ibusuki. Met a few similarly-minded people on the train.

Did expensive laundry.

Fujin-kaikan YH, Miyazaki

I saw an eclipse! It was really cloudy, but (what was left of) the sun managed to poke through a few times, including at maximum (about 97.7%). I went down to a place called Flower Park, with a few friends I had made, there was an event there. I got glasses there, too.

The bus was too full to return on, so we took a taxi to yamakawa station. Atsuro, a high schooler from Kansai, stayed with me until Kagoshima. I kept on to Miyakonojo and then here to Miyazaki. I met a girl, Yuri, on the train who could fold these crazy double cranes, and had a fascinating trick involving pulling apart two straws.

I spent more than an hour walking the area looking for a food market. Even in central Miyazaki, the best I could find was a couple convenience stores. Lots of nightclubs, though.

Beppu Guest House, Beppu

I met Luis and his wife Belinda today. He's an airline pilot from Mexico, working domestically in Japan. Great couple.

I hung out in Nobeoka for a few hours, because there weren't many trains. While walking through the town I came across a shrine way up on a hill, with a neat view.

On the next train I met up with Yuri again, she stayed on past the stopover in Saiki all the way to Oita. I kept on to Beppu. I'll stay here for a day or so. Meeting cool people left and right.

Beppu Guest House, Beppu

Today I went to an onsen nearby. Explored Beppu, did laundry. I went to the Sea Hell, an azure pool belching out tons of steam and sulfur. Also went to Hoyoland, a mud spring.

In the evening I hung out at the matsuri. Yay matsuri.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

Today I came back by bus. In the evening I went out with my host dad's hospital staff. Fun party, I guess. Geez it's late.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

Went shopping today. We watched Kintaro, I think my host dad liked it ok.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

I mailed a box. It was ridiculously expensive.

I got a haircut.

I went to a neighborhood bar called "fujisan" with my host dad. Tried a few more varieties of booze. Still doesn't taste that good.

Watched Laputa. It's a much better movie than I remember... I'd say that it's partially because we weren't watching the english dub.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

Holy cow, Yutsubo Camp.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

Sometimes life is just plain awesome.

Today I went out with the college mates from camp. We explored Tenjin, went bowling, and had dinner. I'm going to miss them.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

And sometimes less so. Oh well.

New City Hotel, Shinjuku

Bye, Kyushu!

Train ride went smooth. Went to shibuya.

Ishida House, Matsudo

Today we took all the kids to the airport and saw them off. Now I'm hanging with the Ishida family, and I saw the Yokoo family too.

There's supposed to be an eclipse today, but I'm not sure when and where. Also, Happy Birthday Linc, sorry, no internet with which to call.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Stopped at Akiba on the way to Nagoya. Picked up a lot of the cool stuff I'd been missing in Kyushu.

Everyone in my past host families is doing great, it's nice to see them again.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

We went to a movie! Pokemon 12, it involved time travel, greeks, and lots of inarticulate ultimate pokemon.

Played legos! Made dinner! Yay.

Yokoo House, Matsudo

Rode back from Nagoya today. The Goto family is out of town again, so I'm staying with my old host family from three years ago. This time I got to see Naoya, he's grown a lot, now he's as tall as I am.

Felt the earthquake, gotta say that's the longest one I think I've felt. It lasted at least a minute. The Japanese agencies reported 6.9, the USGS is reporting 7.1... either way, the epicenter was off the coast a bit, so I don't think anyone got hurt.

New City Hotel, Shinjuku

This is my last entry in Japan.

This morning Naoya's lacrosse practice got cancelled because of the torrential raining. I went into shinjuku, tried to cancel my cell plan, and did not succeed within the time allotted. I did close my bank account, and I had a wonderful exit interview. After that, I gave the cell another shot, and got it closed though it took a while.

Went out to dinner with Ariel and everyone. Ariel is getting relocated to a new office in Sacramento! Yay! Drank a little bit of sake. bleah.

Wandered around Shinjuku with Katie and Coral, until we ran into Janet and a couple of the Koreans. Later Emma showed up too.

Now we're at the hotel. I fixed my PSP, and am damn proud of myself. Goodnight!

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I went for a walk today. Just far enough from the house to not justify turning around, it went from not a hint of rain to pouring cats and dogs in the span of about twenty seconds. I bought a nice new umbrella at the supermarket.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Cramming my study project together... no time for anything interesting.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I met my next host mother. Man I really need to finish up my project.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I visited Tanaka party, with Mayu and Yukke. After, I went to futsal. Forgot about it ahead of time so I didn't have any of my stuff. Nakahama drove me to the station.

I got to the station a little late so I decided to go on the limited express so I could make the last bus. Problem was, the train was late, so I missed the bus anyways. Walked home.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Yesterday I went to Sasebo and stayed at Tomura tutor's house.

Today I went to a shrine in Nagasaki with Tabira tutor before going to Taniyama party. Hope the kitty does ok.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today was my host dad's birthday. I made dinner again.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I've been cramming my rear off for the last two days to get this report pounded out. That's pretty much it. Not done yet.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Man, that's twice this week I've completely forgotten to make an entry. Seriously, I've been doing nothing but working on my Go project. Although, the trains were late yesterday, I guess that's notable.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Went to Sato party. Had to go back to labo center and stay until 10.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Went to Suzuki party today. One of the kids was related to my host family, and is going to Idaho soon.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today was my last day with the Amaya family, we made it count. In the morning I went bowling with my host mom, then we went to a labo hapyoukai thing in kokura, then we went out for sushi. Packed up and put my bags in the mail. Had cake and ate it. Played ps3 golf with my host dad. Naohiro tried to explain Ultraman.

New City Hotel, Shinjuku

Wow, what a week. Monday, I said goodbyes and then got on the wrong train. I spent the 5 hour shinkansen ride finishing my project. That evening I went out with everyone, mexican and karaoke. Got back really late, to a full dorm.

Tuesday, Emma, Stuart, Janet and I took off for Mt. Fuji. We climbed up to a ridiculously overpriced guesthouse at about station 8.4. We were gonna get up at 2 and climb the rest of the way to see the sunrise, but it was storming and there probably wouldn't have been much to see anyways, so we slept in.

We eventually got to the top, it was still storming. I should have prepared for the trip, that's an awfully high mountain. Going back down was a little faster.

We had our bus schedule wrong and missed the last bus to shinjuku, so we had to go the long way, changing over at another station.

It was late by the time I got back. Did laundry and stayed up until 1 finalizing my report and presentation.

Today, I went to the Labo center, printed everything off, and we gave our presentations. Katie did kimonos, and dressed Janet in a yukata on stage. I did my Go intro and went through a game record. Coral gave a well-organized presentation on NGOs and NPOs, mostly relating to peace organizations. Emma created a manga on the whiteboard right there in front of everyone. I enjoyed them, though we all went overtime.

There was a company party on after, we all spoke and got little presents, I got a neat fan. There was another person there, a 4H representative from the university of arizona.

Now, we're chilling at the New City Hotel. Tomorrow a bunch of kids fly in, and we'll stay at the OMYC.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

Yesterday we went off to the airport to pick up delegates. We had a few interesting hiccups, but got everyone ok. Some stories there, but I'm tired.

Today I got up really early at the OMYC, took everyone for a walk, and finished the program. Then I took the shinkansen back to Fukuoka, dropping off a bunch of delegates along the way. Met my new host at a hapyoukai in Asakasa, and now I'm all settled in.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

My host dad's favorite movie is Porco Rosso. How about that.

We went to a baseball game today. The hawks cleaned up, it was hardly a contest. They opened the dome at the end, too, that was nifty.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

Today I visited Tasaki party, my host sister Ryoko's party.

Mom's name is Junko, dad is Masahiro. Dog is Sakura. Tiredness.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

Today there was the tutor school hapyoukai. Very sad.

After work, the whole office went out to dinner. They sure like their alcohol. The food was pretty good, though; nom fondue. Back late.

Nagano House, Fukuoka

A few days ago, on the train, I turned on my PSP to find the directional pad completely non-functional. Today, I busted it open to clean it and look for some kind of loose connection or something. It isn't that simple, apparently. I think I need to replace the part. Ugh.

I walked back from the station today, and stopped by some shops on the way.

Nakanishi Apartment, Miyazaki

I got up and went on a walk with Daiki, Kentaro and Yukimi down to a nearmy creek. Lotsa fun with fishes and crabs.

Went to Sakinoo falls. Above the falls is a vast network of natural stepping stones, "potholes" as the sign put it. Apparently the biggest in the world by some metric, never figured it out. Had soumen for lunch in a spinning stream thing.

Went to Koyama party in Kushima. She seemed content to go hang out with the moms and let me run the whole thing myself, which worked out ok because they liked all of my games.

I got a ride out to Nichinen and caught a train up to Miyazaki, where I'm now staying with the Nakanishi family. Had a couple guests over and we've been partying all night. Sleep.

Nakanishi Apartment, Miyazaki

Today I went to another of Koyama's parties, in Miyazaki. Played soccer.

Went to Udo Jingu and Aoshima. Tossed "luck balls" at a rock. Rescued a misguided earthworm. Played around on the demon's washboards, nifty geological formations at the beaches here.

Nakanishi Apartment, Miyazaki

Today I went with Ms. Nakanishi and one of the other labo moms to Hyuga, a village to the north famous for making Go stones. We saw lots of nifty go stones, and one of the craftsmen was nice enough to take us behind the scenes and show us firsthand how a stone is made from start to finish. It was awesome.

There were Go stones strewn around the area in various states of completion: hundreds of years worth of rejects, I presume.

The tip I read at Sensei's Library mentioned a samurai's grave with go stones. We had to ask around a bit, eventually an old man pointed us to some graves out on a peninsula. Turned out to be the right spot, there were indeed Go stones on that samurai dude's grave.

Miyazaki really is beautiful.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

This morning I went to the Miyazaki Science Center, saw a planetarium show. Neat place.

Saw a Jackie Chan movie (First Mission) on the bus back to Fukuoka.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I visited Komatsu party. Small party, only a few kids, but we still had fun.

Shopped around Meinohama for a bit before heading home.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Routine day. Nothing too interesting.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today Gouji, the go teacher dude, came over and hung out. We played go, he played a game with Dad over the net, and after that we watched some games on KGS. We went to drop him off and I got to meet his dog, a huge and very friendly shiba puppy, shedding all over the place.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Went on some errands with everyone, met a couple of Risako's teacher's.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went to visit my... uh... host great aunt, somewhere south of Kokura, an hours drive from here. Played gardener for a bit (well, helped trim a tree for weird berry things), phailed at shoji, and got to say hi to some relatives living in Wisconsin.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

North Korea tested a nuke again, a real one this time. Not too long after I found out, a couple fighter squads flew by, I guess there's a base nearby. Hmm.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Visited Sakakibara Party today. I managed to dump some tea on a tatami mat, that was smooth. The party went well though.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I visited Yamaura tutor in Kumamoto, went to a Kindergarten and a party, both of which went great. Coming back was a little messed up, this tutor is nice but she does not seem to like planning ahead much. Had to take a taxi home from the station.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Tried to buy some new earbuds today. It took me like an hour to comb through the aisles upon aisles of various headphones, looking up product reviews online on a display mac they had nearby. Eventually walked away with something orange.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Visited another of Sakakibara tutor's parties. This one was a little hectic, I think it was too many people for that tiny room.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went to the firefly festival downtown. Not a real big festival, but fun. There was a two-story hamster.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went to Moji and Shimenoseki with my host parents. Went to a nifty spiral museum and learned about the area's history, and went to an aquarium with lots of pufferfish. There was a dolphin show with HnG music.

I got a cold or something, must have picked it up at one of the labo parties last week. Headache and runny nose and dehydration galore. No fun.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Played a few games of go with mr Nakauchi.

Tried yet again to get signed up for classes. This time I finally got through, and whaddya know they're all full. Damn. What really cheeses me off is that I know that at least half the people filling up those spots are going to drop halfway through the course anyways.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Still wrestling with college stuff. Ugh, you'd think the classes themselves are supposed to be the challenging part...

Urakami #2
Amaya House, Kurosaki

Went to Nagasaki today and visited Tabira party. It went really well. One kid figured out how to make his eyes shimmy, that was impressive.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I still can't find Yotsubato.

Meinohama #2
Amaya House, Kurosaki

I visited Mari's party today (Fukahori tutor), those kids were bouncing off the walls, a lot of energy.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Weekend camp. I won't be forgetting this anytime soon.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today we went on a walk and saw a taiko group rehearsing in a parking lot.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Gouji-san came over again today.

Migita House, Kagoshima

Today I took the train all the way from Kurosaki to Kagoshima-chuo, the latter bit on the partially completed Kyushu Shinkansen.

I met a high-school Labo kid named Yuuta at the station, and he took me to Migita party. The rainy season officially starts today, and the weather has obliged by wavering between sprinkling and pouring all day. I think I need a better umbrella. See, you can't wear a jacket because it's so humid.

The party was great, afterwards I went to an onsen with my host brother Hajime. We played cards and did some other stuff before going to bed.

Hajime is going to New Mexico this summer. They asked for some help understanding a letter they'd received from his host. They wanted to know what he meant in saying that he goes to the CAP every week. I wonder how these folks got mixed up in hosting, I don't imagine the Civil Air Patrol's values mesh very well with those of Labo. Hope he does ok.

Okamoto House, Kagoshima

This morning I went with Migita tutor and her mother to the Senganen gardens. Yuuta's dad is apparently the head honcho there, and he let us in and gave us a VIP tour of the place. Really pretty. They had a shop selling cut glass for ridiculous amounts of money, the most expensive one was a vase just over 1.5 million yen.

Went to Tanimoto party up in Sendai (the local Sendai, not the big one in Tohoku). That party went great, those kids loved flying around so much I was afraid I might let one go.

Came back and I'm now staying with Okamoto tutor and her family, Miina, Tarou, and Riko.

Migita House, Kagoshima

Today I went to the sand onsen down south. It's a beach with springs under it, so you lie down and they bury you with piping hot sand. Not so relaxing to tell the truth, more just sapping.

Attended Okamoto party, that didn't go over so well actually. The kids were ridiculously shy and they wouldn't warm up no matter what I did. The tutor wasn't helping, telling me to act like a crow and chase them around... yeah I don't think so.

After that I went to Uejo party, that went much better. Then I took a taxi to Migita party and I'm staying here for the night.

Ritsu Seishounen Kenshuu Center, Kagoshima

Today was the first day of the second camp. This stress must be catching up with me, I'm not doing very well.

moon something guesthouse, Sakurajima

This morning at camp I looked outside the window and saw some kittens. The camp went rather poorly, for me at least.

Okamoto tutor dropped me off at Kagoshima-chuo, and by then I was feeling pretty bad. I was planning on taking a bus to the ferry terminal, but I decided to just hoof it, because I wasn't in a hurry. After taking the ferry across the bay, I started to make my way up to the Youth Hostel, but this little guesthouse place caught the corner of my eye. The owners are great conversationalists, and they have a lot of friends who stopped by throughout the evening. There's another guy, Raul, staying here from Finland, here to see the eclipse next month.

I took a walk down the shoreline on some lava trail. No molten lava, of course, but a lot of cool volcanic rock. I think this is exactly what I needed to get myself together. Saw lots more kitties.

Can't forget Ricky and Takashi.

This place epitomizes hippie. There's tiedye and various decorations hanging around, everyone is extremely friendly, they're smoking weed out front, and the only bathroom is in the next building over. Dirt cheap, of course.

Moon Garammasala, Sakurajima

Today I went to the visitor center, a cool little geological museum. Hung out and talked with Raul for a bit, then took a tour bus around Sakurajima. Wonderfully beautiful place. I wish the tour bus wasn't in such a hurry, though.

Now a dude named Sakana is staying here. Professional ukulele player.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Got a neato hippie glass necklace charm Junko made.

Walked all over downtown Kagoshima and even rode on the tram before hauling out on the Shinkansen.

Found a rare Nikoli DS game, Akari. It has demos for Nurikabe and Hitori, too. I must find Nurikabe. I also finally found an online Go game for the DS, wonder why it took me this long. And I found Yotsubato.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today one of the past Kyushu interns, Emma #1 (from New Zealand) came to visit the office.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Yesterday I visited Oie party in Oita. I stayed the night there, played go fish. Three kids, Takao, Tokio, and (maybe?) Haku.

Today I went to Sasamuta shrine. I looked around the Oita station area and shopping arcades.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went to Ouchi party in Orio, not far from here. Went great.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I went to Costco today with my host parents. It's really Costco, same standard layout and everything. Some of the food selection is a little different, of course, but from what I could tell most of the kirkland stuff was still there. Even got to eat pizza!

After that we went to a park with kangaroos and wallabies. Hundreds of them. It was around noon, so they were all laying around and sleeping. They were really cute, and really friendly, they liked scritches.

Fixed it!
Miyahira House, Urasoe

Today I flew to Okinawa! Dunno the latitude, but I think this might be the furthest south I've been so far.

Before I left, I hid a bunch of plastic easter eggs all over the living room. I was gonna call the Amaya family on Sunday, but it appears they found a few already.

The flight was really nice, not crowded at all. The airport even had free internet, so arriving at the gate an hour before they opened it wasn't so bad either. The flight itself was about an hour and a half. The stewardesses were nice, they even had an English newspaper for me. I spent most of the flight reading up on stuff to do here.

It's all cloudy, even raining now. Not quite the blue skies I was envisioning, but hey rain is nice too.

Takara tutor picked me up at the airport and took me to my temporary host, Miyahira tutor, where I'm staying for two nights. On the way, she took me out to eat. Turns out she's a vegetarian as well.

I have a host brother, Eiji, a host sister, Hikari, and another host brother who I haven't met yet. They took me to a surprise visit to another party, though we just caught the tail end of it. There, one of the labo kids, Ako, had a sanshin and she played samishen takara. A fascinating instrument.

Miyahira House, Urasoe

This morning I rolled my foot on a crack in the pavement in front of the house. It's not broken or anything, but it hurts and it's swelled up and I'm limping rather heavily. This is annoying, as I intended to use that foot quite a lot this week.

We went to the beach, they had a hot springs with a free foot bath. It was partly cloudy, alternating between big raindrops and sweltering sun. There are a lot of americans here, but that's to be expected considering how many US military personnel are stationed here.

Went to Miyahira's labo party. Did some easter stuff, played with kids as much as I could given my ankle. Afterwards, three of Hikari's friends came over and we played games until ten. I am wiped.

Moriyama Apartment, Naha

Today there was a big labo event. I got up on stage and gave my speech again, even though there were only two delegates going overseas, and only one of them to the US.

Played tennis with Mr. and Ms. Moriyama. I've got the making-the-racket-hit-the-ball part down pretty well, still working on the keep-the-ball-inbounds bit.

Went for a walk, found a half dozen kitties hanging out together in a park.

Takarabe Apartment, Urasoe

Today I went hiking through Kokusai-dori and Heiwa-dori, Naha's main tourist shopping district. It's like most of the other cities' districts of this kind, in that when you've gone through one omiyage shop you've gone through them all, but I have to admit it's probably the largest I've been to yet. It took me three hours to cover what I did, and I spent most of that time walking as opposed to browsing.

I returned to the labo center where the tutors were having a meeting with Kada, and at about three, kids started showing up for Miyazato's party. That went on until seven thirty. Fun party, there was ping-pong.

Went out to dinner with the tutor and some labo kids. Now I'm staying at yet another labo kid's house. Got here late. Dad is a psychology professor at Ryukyu Daigaku.

Base Okinawa, Naha

Today I went to Shurijo, Okinawa's most famous attraction. Miyazato tutor went too.

After that we went to the royal mausoleum, then we went to the Shikinaen royal garden.

Hung out at the Labo center until evening, then got a ride with Kanako here to Base Okinawa.

I met some cool people in the common room, including a german dude named Antoine who is heading to Iriomote-jima to work at a youth hostel there. Also a coupla dudes touring Japan, training in karate.

A bit wiped.

Base Okinawa, Naha

Bill got a professorship at DePaul! W00t!

This morning the weather was absolutely brilliant, everything you'd expect of a tropical setting. I decided to go to Zamimi, but when I got to the ferry terminal, I found that there's no 10 o'clock ferry today. Oh well. Backup plan: Churaumi Aquarium!

It's several hours away by bus, but the ride was nice. I saw all sorts of wonderful and fascinating critters, including some whale sharks behind the world's biggest single pane of acrylic glass. Breathtaking. Walked through Ocean Expo Park, a very atmospheric place, visited the beach, saw manatees and turtles and old Okinawan huts. Locked up my sunscreen and ended up a bit red.

I met a very friendly Korean couple on the way back, Mr. Kim and his wife. He could speak English and his wife could speak Japanese, which made for an interesting little triangle where we could all talk to each other, but not in a language the third person knew.

Got back at around nine, really wiped. Only got four hours of sleep last night, between my roommate's grand entrance and finding out about Bill.

Fast Boat
Base Okinawa, Naha

I went to Zamami today.

Snorkeled, saw lots of beautiful and some poisonous fishes. Also saw a manta ray.

Met some other vacationers, Gale from New Jersey and her dad and his girlfriend, and some folks from North Carolina.

Man, my day was so much more than that, but I am exhausted.

Base Okinawa, Naha

Today I went with Miyahira tutor to go "somewhere nice." Turned out to be Okiguu, a shrine, along with four of her friends. Going through a place like that with five very religious old ladies was an educational experience. Before, I had only seen the "dude, respect the spirits of our ancestors, peace man" attitude of the younger generation. The old ladies were just short of speaking in tongues.

Afterwards she took me to Okinawa World, where I got to see the caves, traditional eisa dancing, and glass blowing.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I said bye to my friends at Base Okinawa, checked out a little matsuri going on nearby, visited Kokusai-dori for some last minute souvenirs and breakfast/lunch (indian, nom). Then I took the monorail to the airport and flew back here to Fukuoka.

Long day.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Went to a local community science center/planetarium today. They had a 45 minute show, the latter half of which was an anime dramatizing the potential effect of space junk.

Also visited my host mom's mom, she lives under a temple. She gave me a box of soccer figures, yay.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went into the office. Very typical. Life is getting routine. Every time I look, I see dozens of things that I would have found cool and unusual a year ago that now I take for granted and hardly even notice. Not that it's not still interesting, but I'd like to be able to discover Japan for the first time again.

Not that I don't get that wish every day, what with all the traveling I do... I must just be tired.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today a "go sensei," an old dude that my host mom knows through her volunteer center, visited and we played a bunch of go. First a couple of 9x9 games, then a couple 19x19. I made some mistakes, but he liked my tesuji at least. He loaned me a big-ass legged goban and stones to study with.

Went shopping with my host mom, blustery day out.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I was pretty out of it today. Bleah. Didn't really do much of anything special.

Heiwa 3-chome
Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I took the bus to Matsuda tutor's party. Great party etc. etc. Came back late, am tired.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Visited Nishijima Party. Hotel in Kumamoto.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Lotsa train riding. Went to Matsuzoe party.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Went to Kokura today. Visited a group meeting of older labo kids. Went exploring, found a festival/flea market thing.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Didn't do a whole lot today. Didn't burn okonomiyaki.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went to Akama and went shopping. Got new shoes.

Made dinner, didn't screw it up too badly.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went to a New Wave game with the whole family, and one of Naohiro's friends. Not only did we see the whole thing, we won, and I got to meet the New Wave gull mascot dude.

We went to my host mom's mom's house for dinner.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Played futsal. Did relatively well this time. Got back really late

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Woo I'm getting up really early tomorrow and going to Tokyo! Need sleep.

Olympic Memorial Youth Center, Tokyo

Today I got up at 5. My host mom and dad kindly took me to Kokura station, where I got on a shinkansen and arrived in Tokyo 5 hours later.

All day has been a blur of preparing workshops and working. We're on a Japanese style insanely overpacked schedule, so I am wiped. Having a lot of fun though. Reuniting with lots of old friends and making plenty new ones.

Olympic Memorial Youth Center, Tokyo

Workshops and dancing. Lots of workshops and dancing. Sleep.

Sakura Hotel, Ikebukuro

I'm gonna miss everyone...

Went out with interns and Lance. Happy Birthday Emma.

Ishida House, Matsudo

Today we went to Akihabara and Harajuku. Lotsa shopping and hanging out. Fun fun.

K's House Hostel, Asakusa

Today I hung out with the Ishida family. We were gonna go play baseball, but it was all rainy.

Getting from the Joban line to Kuramae is not intuitive.

Sakura Hotel, Ikebukuro

Today Janet and I explored Asakusa, took the boat down to Hamamatsucho, walked to Tokyo Tower, and hung out in Shinjuku with Coral and Katie. Now I'm staying in Ikebukuro again. For the past three hours I've been chatting with Hiroshi, a roommate. His younger brother is half of Unjash, a famous comedy duo.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Stopped in Akiba on the way to the airport. Slept on the plane, unusual for me. Something about the engine hum put me out like a light. Back in Kyushu now.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Bus was late, had to sprint for the train. Visited Yoshida party. Met shark kid. Apparently Nodame lives there in Okawa.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Went shopping with my host family today. Played badminton a little.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I watched a TV program about San Francisco with my host mom. She liked the peace symbols everywhere.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I... uh... cleaned my room. Yay.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Went to the office today. Preparing for a trip to Miyazaki. Made friends with a group of boys in the train going the other way when stopped at a station for half a minute.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I visited Kawahara party, Naohiro and Risako's party.

Toyama House, Miyakonojo

I'm in Miyazaki! After a bit of a scramble (Having to hoof it to the station with two bags so I could beat the bus and make the train, half hour walk), I stopped at the labo center to pick up my new T-shirts on the way. Need new earbuds, too.

After a three and a half hour bus ride, I arrived here and visited Ushiroda party. It was a bit of a test, there were a few unruly kids running around not wanting to participate in any games, being noisy and intrusive to those who did want to participate. On top of that, a bunch of old men had a meeting in the next room, separated only by a light curtain, and were smoking and drinking, evidently not noticing the 30 or so kindergarten and elementary kids right there. Jerks.

Despite all that, the party actually went fairly well. Yay.

I came to my host family for dinner, then a few middle school kids came over to hang out. After that (like, after ten by now), we went to a hot springs. I stepped in, tentatively because I was worried it might be a little hot. It wasn't that hot, but it was something else all right. I had jumped in, and my skin was crawling with a pulsing, inexplicable pain. I had got in the "electric therapy" zone, where they were pumping not water but volts. That was bizarre. They also had an opaque mineral pool with lots of bubbles, and a couple cold water pools with zen-style waterfalls you could stand under.

Potato Bun
Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

Today I went with Nakahama to a cave way out in Kitakyushu. It was a good hour drive away, and we didn't have much time there, but it was pretty fun. It was a limestone cave, an underground stream. There wasn't much preservation concern like the ones in California and Oregon, you could touch whatever you wanted and there wasn't any underground life save for some moss growing under the fluorescent lights. You had to wear rubber sandals, because for much of the cave you actually walk in the stream itself. Not pretty so much, but lots of fun.

We had dinner back at Murata's house, and then I came here to Kada-san's house.

Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

Ms Kada put together a little bento for me today.

In the evening there was some sort of English teaching show on TV, where the people in the show would interview famous celebrities to test their skills.

Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

I went down to Kinokuniya books again today. This time I found where they keep all the Nikoli books.

I got one of the beeper RFID cards for the subway.

Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

I went to a baseball game! Really! The Fukuoka Hawks vs the Chiba Marines. It was a good game, the score was pretty even up until the end. We won, and they dropped fireworks from the top of the dome.

As well as Japan takes to American baseball, that stadium didn't have so much as a pack of peanuts, much less soft pretzels or nachos or hot dogs. They did have a lot of beer and dried squid, though.

Seriously, the dropped fireworks from the ceiling, and it exploded on its way down. That is so freaking awesome. There were Ouendan there too, though they were a little different from the dudes on the DS.

Also, today I got a bunch of mail. Thanks, Aunt Amanda, Blair, and Julia! Thanks, Dad and Jeanette! Thanks, uh, mystery someone in Nevada.

Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

Played futsal today. Lost again, still had fun.

Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

I went out with Mr Kada today and played tennis. Well, more of a batting-cage tennis machine. I can actually sometimes hit the ball where I want it now, a good improvement from the last time I tried a few years ago.

Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

Slept today. I went for a short walk, but there were a lot of stinky cars and people in a hurry. Not so relaxing. Speech is tomorrow. I don't think I'm ready at all.

Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

Today I put on a tie and gave my speech. This was way more formal than the one in Nagoya was, though maybe it just felt that way because I was a bit more nervous about speaking in Japanese. There were about 600 people.

I met a dude, Yu, who was (I would say) better than I am at juggling. He could do Mill's Mess, at least.

Aqua Liner
Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

Mr Kada took me out to Shikanoshima, a peninsula north of the bay. We went to the beach, a little shrine, walked around for a bit. I slipped on a wet rock and punctured my hand. Tip for future reference: keep open wounds away from salt water. Ow.

Went to a lookout point, too, though today was a little bit foggy.

Went to a rental shop with Shohei. A lot of the new release movies were cleaned out.

Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

Today Japan beat Korea in a 10-inning final game of the World Baseball Classic. That was exciting.

I walked East to Fujisaki, looking to visit the Go salon there. I found a sign saying that they're closed on Tuesdays. Walked west to Meinohama, found a couple game shops.

My Head Hurts.
Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

This was my only day in the office this week. Played futsal after. Pretty sick.

My host dad, also the head of Labo Kyushu, arranged an impromptu vacation to Hiroshima. All expenses paid. Sounded like a good deal, and after I (of course) agreed, he sprung a few catches. He planned out everything, and arranged a guide from the Hiroshima office. He wants me to write three reports on the trip. Specific ones, like "how does the Peace Park make you feel?" He's been pretty aggressive with this, too... clearly trying to show me something. I have a feeling that I'm not going to enjoy this.

"I hate war." "I hate past wars, future wars, and current wars." How do I make it plainer than that?

I've spent a lot of time reading about them, especially the important ones. I know they're bad. I do not support them. I know that it brings indescribable atrocities. I know about the holocaust. I know about internment camps, I know about Nanking, I know about Vietnam, I know about Darwin, I know about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No disrespect meant to the victims of this inhumanity, but I do not feel it's necessary for me to deeply examine these gross abominations. I have little desire to visit a holocaust museum and look at graphic photos, or to stand over a mass grave of bombing victims.

Especially when I'm racially expected to identify with those who committed said bombing. I do not.

Now, if only I could articulate that in Japanese. Fuck you, Enola Gay, you and everything you symbolize.

The Biggest Rice Paddle
Hotel Unizo, Hiroshima

Hey, it wasn't as bad as all that. Well, not for the reasons I was worried about, anyways. I'm getting sicker, my throat hurts.

In the morning I got on the Shinkansen, it took about an hour from Hakata to Hiroshima. There, I met Fukuyama-san and her 6yo son Ryo. We went together to Miyajima, which was an awesome shrine, probably the best I've visited yet. There were deer, there was water, there was even a wedding going on.

Fukuyama had to go to soccer practice, so I got to visit the Peace Park on my own. I only had two hours, which turned out not to be quite enough time to see the whole place. It's difficult to go through. I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know, but all the memorials, the names, and the survivor accounts made it a little bit more personal. If more world leaders visited this place in earnest, I don't think ending the threat of nuclear war would be quite so unrealistic.

In the evening I visited the Hiroshima Labo center, and went out to dinner with some of the staff.

Stayed at a hotel. I'm actually writing this tomorrow, I didn't have my computer with me...

Snow Redux
Camp Daisen

This morning I woke up with my throat feeling a bit worse. I went to the Hiroshima Labo center, where (after a vain bit of messing around with one of those arrange-irregular-blocks-into-a-cube puzzles) I met up with Mr. and Ms. Kada. We took off on a trip here to Daisen, one of the Labo Camps. On the way, we stopped at the place where Kada was born, his childhood home. Also, we stopped at a nursing home and visited his mother, now 86 years old. I got trotted out to juggle for everyone, I think they enjoyed it. One dude was 98, and he was still walking, with the help of a walker.

After that, we visited Izumo shrine. I understand it's one of the oldest shrines in Japan, and also used to be one of the tallest. They had this cool humungous thatch thing twisted and hanging from the ceiling, and you had to throw a coin and get it to stick inside. It took me two tries, and it took Kada five. By this point my throat was hurting so my I couldn't talk, but I did my best to enjoy the place while I could.

Now we're at Mt. Daisen, a ski camp. We're the only ones here, and Kada knows the owners personally, so it's quite homely despite being so big. I get my own room, even, a huge 8-mat tatami room. Now I'm going to sleep. I can talk, albeit faintly, so hopefully I'm getting a little bit better.

Six Hours of Pop
Kada Apartment, Fukuoka

I woke up this morning in Daisen, with a decidedly not better throat. I tried to go on a walk through the ski park, but the cold air and bright sun with all the snow exacerbated my headache and swollen eyes. I had to go back in and sleep.

Then we drove all the way back here to Fukuoka. Tomorrow I go to my new host family. All I really need is to sleep in and let my immune system do its thing, but it looks like that's not going to happen.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I moved to my new, actual host family. They're pretty far from Hakata, so commuting is gonna be fun, but other than that they're pretty cool. They took me out to a soccer game; our team lost, but it was still exciting.

I'm still sick... I sound funny, my nose is constantly filling up, and I'm coughing. Still, I think I haven't come off too poorly.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went to the office. I came back, too, all without getting lost. I got a month-long pass, so now I can stop at any station on the hour-long route and check stuff out.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I slept.

We went on a walk to my host sister Risako's, and host brother Naohiro's former, junior high school. It's spring break right now, so it was empty and we got to walk through.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Visited Furuya party today, my first party visit in Kyushu. I think I probably could have done better; I'm still a little sick, and I'm a bit out of practice.

Didn't get home until nine, my hosts picked me up at the station because it was storming out.

Hikari no Mori
Amaya House, Kurosaki

I visited Toyonaga party way down in Kumamoto. Great party. Got home really late.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

After the office today I went to Yodobashi Camera and bought a mouse. They had, and I am not exaggerating, four entire aisles of mice, lined with demo models. I just needed a cheap one to replace the sentient ball-mouse at the Labo Center. I also stopped at the book-off near the bus stop here in Kurosaki.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I thought about going out to a star party for the 100 hours of astronomy thing, but my host sister and brother had some lessons and were booked over it, not to mention it was cloudy anyways. Oh well.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I went to my host brother and sister's hapyoukai. Spent a good five hours running around with a bunch of labo kids. A bit tired.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I walked around the shopping arcades near Kurosaki station on the way home. I was clearly there at the wrong time. Most of the shops were closed, and there weren't many people. I did find a little shop with peanuts.

Crosswalk Hopping
Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today we went to the Kitakyushu Museum of Natural History. This area is known for its robotics industry, which explains the animatronic section of the museum.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

Today I visited the Daibutsu in Gion, a couple blocks from Labo center. Drank sickly-sweet holy water stuff.

Amaya House, Kurosaki

I visited Kawamata party today. Many kindergarteners. Preparing for okinawa trip tomorrow.

Nakahama Apartment, Fukuoka

Today I went with Nakahamasan to Itoshima town, just west of Fukuoka. We visited a little peninsula called Keya, with some really neat igneous rock formations, the hexagonal pillars. It was windy and cold, but still really nice. After that we visited a place called Futamigaura, one of those beach shrines.

We went to Marinoa city and did some shopping (lego store is promoting a new pirate line), and then went out to dinner with Kabasan, to an all-you-can-eat buffet. I think I overdid myself.

Now I'm staying the night in Nakahama's teeny little one-room apartment. Tomorrow I move in with Kadasan.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

There's a college mate meeting every (other?) friday here, in the evenings. I hung out with a few of them before the meeting, playing with legos and juggling.

We played futsal again. This time a lot more people came, and we split up into three teams and rotated seven minute games, playing each other. Our slot went from ten to midnight, so now it's really late. Had loads of fun, even if I'm a bit tired.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

I walked down to Tenjin today. On the way I saw a little shop selling go boards and related equipment. I poked my head in and looked around, but the shopkeeper didn't seem too happy to see me, so I didn't stay long.

They released a new picross game, this one is three dimensional. I rarely buy new release games, but I might need to look into this one.

I gave Mari a set of Legos, after dinner we spent a few hours tooling around with them.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Today I helped babysit at a tutor class.

My host dad got us out of the office early, and we went to the Marinoa City shopping center. There, I found another LEGO outlet store. Those things are awesome. They've got all the aesthetics of an Apple store, construction tables, play areas, and best of all tons of Lego sets way below MSRP. Got some Legos.

Also got this elegant little cast-iron puzzle. It took me a couple minutes to figure out, but my poor host dad has been tooling with it all evening.

On the way back, we stopped at the Toyota dealership. My host family has some sort of trial system going, where they can swap out their model of car each year for a different one until they find one they like. It doesn't make sense to me, either, but they sure treat you well at that dealership. Free orange juice and butterscotch candy.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

I went on another walk this evening, not so far out this time. I somehow cricked my neck, and I'm trying to walk it off, so I just sorta meandered around the neighborhood. Japanese street planning is something of an oxymoron; you don't get any of that fancy grid stuff we have back at home, just narrow lanes weaving away in every direction except the one you ought to be going in. The fact that it was well after dark didn't make things any more intuitive, but despite all that it was really nice out.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

I made lemon pepper pasta for dinner tonight. Or, I should say, I helped my host mom make it... she had already done most of it by the time I got home. My host sister helped, too. It came out a bit strong, a little heavy on the pepper I think.

Korea played Japan again, and this time they won.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Today my host dad and I drove down to Nagasaki for a Labo Songbird program. They were all in languages other than English, so they were new to me. We took a scenic route back, through a mountainous region with a few quaint little villages.

In the evening, we all went to a public bath. It really wasn't very relaxing, for me at least, there were too many people.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Today I went on a walk. A nice, long walk. Turns out that the beach is less then ten minutes north of here.

As I was approaching the beach, I was thinking about how I'd seen way less foreigners in Kyushu than I tended to in Tokyo or Nagoya. A moment later, I found myself standing next to one. He introduced himself and his wife, and we actually had a conversation in English. He's even a Californian as well. They pointed me on a good trail, and I kept walking for a good two hours. There were 800 year old stone walls built to fend off the mongol invasions, bridges, parks, shrines, and a very friendly kitty cat.

I've made up my mind; I like this city.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Today the office threw me a little welcome pizza party at lunchtime. That was cool of them.

I wandered around Hakata for a bit after five, and then went out to dinner with Murata, Kada, and Nakahama. Came home pretty late. Sleep time now.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Kadasan, the head boss, is really pushing me to answer the phone at the office. I'm really not very good at it, and tend to end up just confusing whoever is on the other end, but he keeps telling me to do it. Y'know, I'm flattered that he has such high confidence in my Japanese ability that he thinks that I can do this, but this is starting to get ridiculous.

Today I played in my first futsal game. We got our butts handed to us, but we're just playing for fun.

A tutor gave us a lift to Hawks Town (the place with the futsal court), she had two sons, Tomoya and Shota. On the way back, she said that she had been considering hosting me, but decided not to because she was afraid she wouldn't have enough room for my bags. I think I'm traveling pretty light, at least compared to the other interns... it's one wheelie bag and a duffel bag. The only way she would have considered my bags is if Mr. Murata had mentioned them at the tutor meeting the other day. That means that all the tutors in the area have now heard that I have tons of scary luggage. Murata must like me, because this means that I may be staying at his place for a fair bit longer than the week or so that the original plan was.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Today my host dad took me out to a little town called (I think) Kuko, to see the ume blossoms. It was really neat, I took a ton of pictures.

On the way back, we got pulled over in a speed trap.

My host mom actually asked me to wash the dishes while she went out to some dance program with Mari. Kind of comforting, actually, as if it's something that reminds me of home. I've hardly washed anything since coming here, most of my host moms have gotten pretty cheesed off if I invaded their kitchens.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Went to the office again today, although there weren't many people there. There was a tutor meeting, so I got to introduce myself to all the Fukuoka tutors with a little juggling routine. I don't have any parties lined up for this month, but I understand it's gonna get a little bit busier down the road.

I've been working on my speech... they want me to give it in Japanese as well, so yay reverse translation. It's not so easy.

Tonight we had a little Hinamatsuri party, the old couple from next door visited and we had temakizushi. Mari had this nifty korean style dress, pretty cute.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Today was my first day in the Kyushu office. It's got a different atmosphere than the Chubu one in Nagoya, but I think I like it anyways. The hours are forward-shifted a bit, and although the computer is about five years newer, they don't want me using it for anything personal.

I went out to lunch with Kaba and Nakahama, to a little place under Hakata station.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

Today my host mom and I made a tissue box size basket, Mari helped too. Went out to the park and kicked a soccer ball around with my host dad. Went shopping with my host dad and got some indoor soccer shoes, though I'm not allowed to wear them outside. He's a big futsal nut, and so is most of the Labo office here as I understand it. Looking forward to playing with them.

Murata Apartment, Fukuoka

The Goto family helped me ship my bags and took me to the bus station. It does not feel like it's been a whole month.

I got on a plane for Kyushu. This was the first time I've been through an air transit system without the company of the TSA. I understand it's a recent law, but apparently anything capable of producing wireless signals is verboten, even if the signals aren't being used. This includes laptops, DSs, and anything with an "airplane mode." The lady sitting next to me didn't seem to care, though, texting on her cell in the middle of the flight.

I got a window seat, but for some reason I didn't get a window. Row 15 on that plane has no windows. The plane did have, however, the little personal display with flight info on it. It even had a camera feed from under the plane you could watch. It was pretty cloudy most of the way, but it was still fun to watch.

I was met at the airport by Mr. Kaba, a Labo staffer who took me through the subway to my host family. My host dad also happens to be Labo staff, although he had some sort of appointment so he couldn't meet me at the airport. My host mom is Korean, although she's lived in Japan for ten years and speaks Japanese quite fluently. I've got a seven-year-old bilingual host sister, Mari.

Only the dad was home, and I had hardly come into the house before he pulled out a DVD copy of "Saving Private Ryan" and set it playing.

In the evening, another Labo staff, Mr. Nakahama, came over and we went out to dinner. After we returned home, we played some card games and had lots of fun. This isn't like any other host family I've had before, but I think we'll get along.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today was my last day here in Tokyo, tomorrow I get on a plane for Fukuoka. Janet and I went out for lunch with a bunch of the Koreans in our class.

Said a lot of goodbyes. Big day tomorrow!

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today I took the Aussies to the Edo Tokyo Museum. I had to get up an hour earlier than usual to get ready, because I forgot to grab the materials on the way out of the office yesterday. They blew through the museum really fast, and made it seem a lot smaller than it was.

Last kanji class, I'll miss Nakayama sensei.

After class we went to the italian place for dinner.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

After school, Emma and I went to Akihabara and shopped around a while. I was looking for a charger for Janet's electronic dictionary, but apparently the term "universal charger" is about as geographically challenged as "world series." The closest I got was one dude offered to build me one for about forty bucks. I kept looking, but most of the stores were closed up by around 8:00. Oh yeah, and I managed to score the guitar hero DS game for under ten bucks new.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today... I got a haircut? What else... we met with Yumi to prepare for the orientation in May.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today we had the Calligraphy workshop with Amanuma Sensei. I went with "snow" (yuki, 雪), and sucked at it. Oh well.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today I went with Yuima and Dai to Yokohama. We checked out Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan, but it was too expensive to actually go up. We went to a LEGO store. Went to a museum about Japan's emigration history. We went to the big terminal where the Cruise ships come. Went to Chinatown. Had bubble tea and bought a wallet from peru.

Lotta walking, I'm tired now.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today I went to Matsudo and hung out with the Ishida family. After dinner, they pulled out a cake as sort of a late birthday party. My host families are awesome.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today we did the "introduction to the train system" workshop.

In the evening I went to Maaya's Labo party again. Daiki came too. There were a couple kids who were visiting home from a three year stint in London.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today we had the album workshop. I showed my album to my class, too.

We went out for dinner and karaoke again.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

On the way back from Shinjuku, I stopped off at one of the larger stations (forget what its name was exactly) and shopped around a bit. I found a few of the games I've been looking for for a while, pretty cheaply at that.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today I studied, attended class, and took a short walk through east Shinjuku on the way home.

Oh yeah, and I passed the JLPT! Woot.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Another big test today. I don't feel so good.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today Daiki and I went to Akihabara. It was his first time there.

Played the new Winning Eleven with him a bunch. I rather suck at it.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

This morning my alarm clock decided to let me sleep in, because it was Saturday I presume. I rushed and still made it to the Go Institute on time, despite some clown on the Rapid Chuo line pulling the emergency brakes.

I met, played, ate with, and interviewed Mr Kudo Hisha 8d, a nine time prefectural champion. I look forward to including that in with my project.

My family threw another "everyone come hang out with Cordell" party, I did my best although I think I was a bit out of it. I really should get some sleep.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

This morning we did the songbird workshop.

I got a package from the Nakatani family in Nagoya with a birthday present and some valentine chocolate. Chocolate penguins.

I went to Maaya's Labo Party after school. Saw Yuima there.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Went out to Denny's today. It's still Japanese, but since it wasn't so much of a shock this time it wasn't all that bad.

Stopped by the AU booth at Shinjuku to figure out how to block a mailing list Stuart managed to (accidentally) get me on. The lady just chose a bunch of really confusing options and said that I would never receive mail from that site again.

Emma lent me TWEWY. It's entertaining, if nothing else, and it contains Hachiko.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today was a public holiday, so I didn't need to go into Shinjuku. My host mom took me to Risukoen, sort of a squirrel petting zoo. I got to feed squirrels out of my hand, that was pretty fun. We went for a walk through a local park and visited a tea house, too.

AA and Dad called to wish me a happy birthday.

Later, another family came over for the evening. We had lots of fun. They even shut off the lights, said "surprise!", and brought out a cake with candles!

It's late now.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Today's my birthday! Yay!

In the morning my host family gave me a card they all signed. It was even yellow!

My Japanese class sang happy birthday to me, that was nice.

I got some emails from my family wishing me a happy birthday, those made me happy.

After school, Emma had to go to a Labo Party, but the rest of us went to the Taito arcade in Shinjuku. We played the taiko game and Mario Kart GP, took some purikuri, and dumped some coins futilely into some UFO catchers. I wanted to give Pachinko and Slot machines a shot, just to say I'd done it, but it turned out the place had some kind of special coin system I didn't feel like wading through.

We met with Lance (the Australian Labo staffer), and went to Shakey's, a pizza restaurant. I had some garlic mushroom pizza, a couple onion rings, and what was on the menu as "focaccia." It was more like matzo bread, with cheese, sour cream, and maple syrup. Interesting, to say the least.

Lance made me try some budweiser. It was nasty. Coral had me try some of her lemon booze drink (lemon sour? I forget). It tasted like someone had spoiled some perfectly good lemonade by putting goldenseal in it or something.

Coral and Janet had to go home, but the rest of us visited a standing bar. It was packed, so we ended up with a table outside. I tried some Kirin Lager, which was even nastier than the american beer. Also some sake, which was like drinking vinegar. I guess I don't have to worry about becoming an alcoholic.

Oh yeah, and I got in touch with that go master dude that Ariel referenced me to. I'll meet him at the Nihon Kiin on Saturday. Yay!

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

Had a workshop with Lance today.

So, yesterday my host family asked me what kind of cell phone I had. I didn't think much of it, but today I figured out why. My host dad works at Docomo, one of the largest cell companies in Japan. I have a phone from AU, their biggest competitor. Awkward.

They helped me with some of my homework, it's a bit easier now because I was more or less able to keep up with the material in class today.

Goto Apartment, Machida, Tokyo

This morning I helped my dad set up a go match with Mr. Watanabe. Dad won the first and Mr Watanabe won the second.

Then I moved to my new host family! There are two kids, Daiki (13), and Maaya (10). Daiki is letting me use his room while I'm here, which is awfully nice of him. I think I'll like it here.

There's a lunar eclipse just before midnight, but it's only penumbral and I'm tired.

Watanabe House, Machida, Tokyo

Today my host dad took me out to Kamakura. We saw the Daibutsu, went to Enoshima, and visited the big shrine. There were cats at Enoshima.

Watanabe House, Machida, Tokyo

Went out for dinner and karaoke with the other interns, Ariel, and Idie. Managed to screw up the buses yet again. I am not getting enough sleep or something.

Watanabe House, Machida, Tokyo

Screwed up the bus again.

Starting to feel a little burned out.

Watanabe House, Machida, Tokyo

Today I visited one of Watanabe Tutor's parties near Nagahara station. Had fun.

Went shopping with her and Taizo, and found alfredo. Nom.

Geez I'm tired.

Watanabe House, Machida, Tokyo

Today we started Japanese class. I'm jumping in in the middle, and it's pretty confusing.

Watanabe House, Tokyo

Today I met with all the other interns, including the two new ones from Australia, Stuart and Janet.

Got a big box kite in the mail. It's a wonderful kite, though the middle of Tokyo is not particularly the best place for kite flying. That didn't stop Stuart, Emma, and I from running around with it on a big patio in front of the Tocho. Kites like this are quite rare in Japan, as I understand it, and crazy foreigners sporting one in the middle of Shinjuku is an even rarer sight. The patio was sorta sunken and surrounded by trees, so it wasn't windy enough to really get up. Oh well, we still had fun.

Watanabe House, Tokyo

Today I walked through Yoyogi park, Meiji Jingu, and visited the Tocho and saw Fuji. After a long trip plagued by rocky communication, Nishiyama dropped me off with Mr. Watanabe. I'm staying at this house either temporarily for a week, or for the whole month. Not sure yet. This family is older, both kids are quite grown up.

Olympic Memorial Youth Center, Tokyo

Today the Nakatani family drove me down to Nagoya station to see me off on the Shinkansen. I'm gonna miss them a lot.

Nishiyama picked me up at Tokyo station and took me here to the OMYC, where they're holding an overnight training event for a bunch of college mates. I had some time in the evening, so I walked past Meiji Jingu to Harajuku and looked around for a bit. On the way, I all but stumbled into the Cirque du Soleis Corteo tent set up in the park. Not every day that randomly happens to me.

After ten, everyone was done with their meetings and they invited me to hang out with them for a bit. They're still partying, I hope they get some sleep eventually.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I said a lot of goodbyes. The office threw a tea party for me, and they got me a wonderful little traveler's almanac. Chocolate covered potato chips aren't nearly as disgusting as they might sound, although they probably are just as unhealthy.

My host mom held a farewell party as well, all her labo kids came. It was a very crowded house, and now everyone is very tired. Packing too, I think I'm going to need to ship a box back home pretty soon. Leaving tomorrow for Tokyo!

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Visited Uchida party today, my last Labo party in Chubu.

I just found out about the eclipse this summer. Longest totality of the century? Just south of Kyushu? This is gonna rock. I REALLY hope the weather agrees. Current predictions of mean cloudiness are just above 50%.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I visited Nakano party. We had a grand old time, more setsubun. Pretty wiped though.

OK, I'm tired of putting this off. I'll just post the raw journal for now instead of trying to sort everything out. Maybe I'll fix it up later when I have more time.

Maple Sendai Hostel, Sendai

From where I last left off...

A old couple on the train gave me an apple, it was yummy. Aomori is famous for apples, but they were rather expensive there.

The train arrived in Sapporo (the capital of and largest city in Hokkaido) at about six in the morning. You'd think they'd turn off the lights in a night train, but no. They even stopped every now and then and made sure everyone knew it through the blaring PA system. Needless to say, I was kinda tired.

There was one other American on the train, and as we got off the train I wished him a Merry Christmas. He looked surprised, laughed, and said, "that's right, I'd forgotten." Maybe he was Jewish.

The visitors information center and the hostel weren't open until eight. There I was, Christmas morning in the middle of Sapporo station, with no map, no internet, and two nice hefty bags. I wandered around the (big) station area in search of at least a coffee shop or something, but everything was closed at least until seven. After an hour of wandering, I spent the next hour in a Doutors Coffee, examining the few brochures I had and ingesting caffeine. Then I went over to the hostel (awfully nice of them to let me check in that early) and dropped off my bags.

I had an all-you-can-ride train pass, and I like trains, so I figured I could get a little tour of Hokkaido that way. I only had a simplified English rail map, and plotted out a crude loop. It looked small enough on the map, I figured I could do it in one day even on the local train.

I met a dude on the train who had lived in California for four years, one of them in Davis. Small world.

This necessitated a few transfers. The first was at Tomakomai, there was a department store connected to the station. I had twenty minutes before the next train, so I stuck my head in. They had an array of Gashapon and UFO catchers. They had two set up with game systems in the prize boxes, DSes, Wiis, even a PS3. I don't usually try these things, the math doesn't work out. But even at insanely low odds, the payoff here was good enough to take the chance. I resigned myself to losing, knowing that the machine had some way to negate skill and keep the odds low, but I was too curious as to how. I tried a machine where instead of a grabber, you just have to drop a peg into a hole.

(everyone else is going to sleep, I'll catch up on this later)

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I didn't win the prize, but I did figure out how the machine worked. Money well spent when you consider it was driving me nuts wondering.

The train took its sweet time, meandering down the coast. I could see the mountain with Lake Toya on top, and the volcano coming up out of the center (sorta like Crater Lake). It started to rain a bit before we arrived at Higashi-Muroran. When I did get there, I found that there weren't any more local trains to continue my planned loop. Oh well. I had some time before the return train, so I went for a walk around this unexpectedly final Christmas destination.

Higashi-Muroran isn't a big city, just a little local community. Certainly not a busy tourist destination like Sapporo or Hakodate. It was raining, it was just above freezing, I had left my umbrella with all my other stuff back at the hostel, but I didn't really mind (yet). I walked a few blocks away and found a little buddhist temple. The gates were closed, but I still got a photo or two. I stopped by a local convenience store and bought a snack for the return trip. On the way back to the train, I took a minute to admire the meager christmas tree the municipality had seen fit to erect in front of the station. It wasn't much, but under the bleak clouds and empty streets its blue lights looked as pretty as any other tree I'd ever seen.

When I got on the, thankfully, covered platform, the rain got heavier. I was alone, so I went ahead and recorded myself a video. The train ride back was a bit less fun, I was sorta disappointed about being turned back. I had half expected this to happen, though, and after some beatport and car talk I was back in my happy place. At Chitose, it was sort of half-raining half-snowing, and by the time I got back to Sapporo it was snowing full-blast.

It was well past dark, about six, but I walked down to Odori park and Sapporo TV Tower anyways. To my surprise, they'd been doing some kind of high-profile Christmas celebration all day, and I was just there to catch the tail end of it. They had a lady playing christmas songs on a synthesizer in some sort of glass pod, and there was a kid bundled up in snow gear, dancing his little heart out. It was really cute, reminded me of the penguin from Happy Feet. I took a video, but the sound came out terrible for some reason. Bought some potatoes on a skewer cooked like corn dogs, that was something new.

I went to the top of the TV Tower (itself covered in green lights so as to look like a tree). On the elevator, the lady said It was insanely crowded and the snow made it so you could hardly see anything, but it was still fun. Odori park was covered in christmas lights, and the tree at the base of the tower had lights set up so that if you looked at it from above you saw hearts. I took a picture, and my phone died. It saved the picture, though.

Back at the hostel, mom and dad figured out how to call me. Thanks mom and dad!


The next morning I returned to the station to discover that my pass was not valid for the train I had planned to return on. It was only valid for the night train, so I had to cancel my reservation for my next hostel in Hirosaki and find things to do for the rest of the day. It was snowing even harder, and they were talking about some trains possibly being delayed by the snow, so I figure

I went on a walk through Sapporo, though I was all but the only one out there in all the snow. I visited the former capital building (now a public museum) and the governor's residence, both built by western architects about a century and a half ago. Also visited Tanuki-dori, a shopping arcade.

I took the Hamanasu back that night. I met a dude about my age named Shotaro, who was pretty friendly and a seasoned traveler. He does this same train pass vacation thing all the time, with little more than a camera and a backpack (that looked just like Kintaro's).

The next morning (27th), Shotaro and I went our separate ways at Aomori. I went to Hirosaki (my scheduler Ono's hometown) and visited the castle grounds there. Throughout the rest of the day, I traveled down the Ou line, transferring at Akita, Shinjo, and Uzenchitose (Yamagata) finally landing in Sendai. Just after Akita, where I bought a wooden balsa puzzle of a cute little demon, I sat next to a kid and his mom on the train. He was visibly bored, so I shared the puzzle with him. He had a good time with it, especially after I showed him how to put the pieces in backwards to make it more interesting, and his laughing seemed to cheer up the whole car; people don't usually smile on the train for some reason.

In Sendai I stayed at the Maple Sendai, sharing a room with a bunch of chinese dudes heading the same way I'd come. Maple Sendai is nice, by the way, so if you're ever in the area and need a hostel...

The next day (28th), I took the Chiyoda line to Chiba to stay with the Ishida family. All the trains in the Sendai area were off the clock for some reason, which resulted in me missing one of my connections, in Iwaki. I had half an hour to kill, so I wandered into a mall near the station, where some place was having a fire sale of old VHS tapes. Nothing was in order, but, spread out among four big tables, I pieced together the first season (~25 episodes) of Hikaru no Go, on eight volumes. Such a deal.

I transferred to the local train at Kashiwa, and found myself surrounded by a high school girls basketball team. All of whom were apparently interested in practicing their English. Not quite used to being chatted up by a dozen girls all at once, I missed my station (I hadn't realized it was only two stations away), and at the next station I got swept out with everyone, leaving behind one of my bags. I noticed it in time to bang on the window and indicate the bag to another passenger, who dropped it off at the next station, but it still added a good ten minutes to my already delayed schedule.

At the Ishida house, I gave them a few christmas presents, along with the pile of Hikaru tapes. We had a nommy dinner, and they helped me figure out how to get back to Nagoya the next day without springing for a Shinkansen ticket. All the buses were filled (it being right before New Years), so I just decided to take the old school Tokaido like, through Shizuoka.

The next morning (29th), I played hacky sack with them for a while, and then I had to leave. The trip back to Nagoya was crowded, seeing as it was one of the busiest travel days of the year, but at least I got a nice view of mount Fuji.

On New Years Eve, my host family took off to spend new years with the grandparents in Wakayama. I had to stay because of Labo Camp. I bought some ginger ale (it looked similar to sparkling cider, at least) and toasted in the new year with mom, over video chat. Not exactly the way I had intended to celebrate the biggest holiday of the year here.

Akemashita Omedetou!
Kaminari Building, Kurohime Laboland

Happy New Year! On the way to Nagoya Station, just about everything I saw was closed. Even the ATMs were switched off.

I passed about two stations away from the new years celebrations at one of the biggest shrines in the country, but I didn't have time to detour. I took the Wide-View Shinano to Nagano, then a local train for half an hour to Kurohime.

Since I arrived, I've sat through maybe six hours of meetings with staff, college mates, and senior mates. This is gonna be a long camp, it doesn't even start for two days. Meeting a lot of new friends though.


Kaminari Building, Kurohime Laboland

Geez, these people LOVE meetings. Actually, I get the feeling that even they're not so hot about them, but breaking tradition is bad I guess. The schedule has been something like 3-1 meeting-sleep. Yeah, about 6 hours of sleep per night on paper, and I get the feeling some of them must be actually getting half that.

And no coffee.

Kaminari Building, Kurohime Laboland

The campers arrived today. I've got nine Aussies to take care of, they're doing great so far. Shoveled snow, lots of it. Ate delicious spaghetti. Having fun, but really tired and not much sleep.

Kaminari Building, Kurohime Laboland

Played in the snow, had a great time.

Threw my back out throwing a snowball, still feeling a little funky.

Washed clothes, yay.

Delt with IY stuff, things are holding together pretty well.

Camp is a lot of work, but it's totally worth it.
Sleep is good.


Kaminari Building, Kurohime Laboland

Winter Camp! Workshop today with the IYs, about 70 kids came.

Built the huge bonfire.


Party, late.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I said goodbye to everyone at camp today, all sad and stuff. Took the train back to Nagoya, really wiped now.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Just sorta hung around the house today. Feeling kinda crummy with a bit of a headache.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I joined my host mom's Labo party today, didn't really do much of anything else interesting.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

This poor journal.

Tomorrow I go to Osaka again, and then I dash back to Nagoya and we take off for northern Gifu. Looking forward to it.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Yesterday I dashed off to osaka to see off the Australian delegates, then dashed back and went up to Shokawa, Gifu with my host family. We stayed at a ski/golf resort in a hotel owned by my host dad's company (Fujitrans), food included.

In the morning we played in the snow a bunch, then drove out to Shirakawago (the world heritage site) and saw some neat thatch buildings. They had those cone-shaped wicker hats for sale, I bought a miniature one.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Went out to dinner today, sushi. We looked at some shoes, too... didn't buy any, though.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

First day back at the office in almost a month. It was snowing when I got off the subway, but by noon it was sunny again.

I screwed up on a deadline, kinda stressing about that.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I spent all morning finishing the assignment I screwed up, and got it finished up and sent in. Then I took off for a Labo Party, Honda Party, had a good time but it ran kinda late.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I visited Tokunaga Party, had a great time like always.

On the short walk from the subway station home, I saw someone with a little dog like the one in Ghost in the Shell 2. I forget what the breed is called. Anyway, the dog wasn't on a leash and he was smart enough to not run out in front of any cars when the light was red.

I miss Wiley.

Daimon 大門
Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today I made some calls to prepare for my trip to Shizuhama next week, and went to Miura party out near Okazaki.

As I came up the stairs in the subway station, I met that dude from the Nissan college, Eddik. I gave him my card.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Didn't really do much today.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

This morning I went to a community party down at the Minato Ward Office building. Turned out my host mom was running the thing, there were plenty of kids there. The theme was "the Hungry Caterpillar," and we got to craft little caterpillars out of gashapon capsules.

After the party, there was a little wrap-up at a bakery/resteraunt with a smoking section. Nom nom cough.

Toyooka House, Shizuoka

Today I took the Shinkansen down to Shizuoka, then the Tokaido line to Shimizu and met up with Yamashita tutor. Shimizu is a neat little town (technically a ward), famous for strawberries, tangerines, sashimi, and soccer. There's a professional soccer team, the S-Pulse. You can see Mt. Fuji from it, too.

The party went great. Yamashita's houses were right near the Shinkansen tracks, so every ten minutes or so you could hear it go by. We ate dinner there, one of the laboko gave me a hard boiled egg. This wasn't a normal egg, though; it had been boiled in some hot springs in the mountains, and was jet-black from the sulfur. It's supposed to extend the life of whoever eats it. Not dead yet, so it must have worked.

Then I got dropped off here at Toyooka tutor's house. This is the family of Masahiro, one of the applicants for the year-long high school exchange I interviewed last year. I spent some time with him and his brother, he taught me some shogi, and I taught them checkers. (It was the most I could do with what we had on hand.) Turns out he likes Final Fantasy music a lot, he gave me some, and I showed him some of my stuff from ocremix.

Miyama House, Shizuoka

Today I had a little party at Toyooka tutor's place, three two-year-olds. It went pretty well, all things considered.

Then I got dropped off with Miyama tutor, who took me out to Kuno-zan Toshogu (I think?) a famous shrine honoring the Tokugawa shogunate. There was this neat cable car going into the hills where the shrine was located, we got to ride that. I even got to visit the grave of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

We came back home and I met her kids, twin boys who are really into soccer, and one of the girls I interviewed last year (Misako). Misako and I went to a different party, Yamamoto party, because Miyama's party was cancelled due to flu. Yamamoto party was full of extremely energetic boys, all over the place. Had fun there.

When we got back it was pretty late. Obama gets inaugurated at like one in the morning, but I'm not staying up quite that late. I played the new smash brothers for the first time, like a year after it's been released. Seems just as good as the old one, although I can't say I care much for the nunchuck control scheme.

Nakamura House, Hamamatsu

Today I visited Sakai tutor's party, lots of shy two-year-olds.

After the party we had lunch, and I went shopping around Abekawa with Sakai's daughter Ryoko.

Took a train to Hamamatsu and briefly met with Kokubun tutor before taking another train to Saginomiya station, where I am now.

Nakamura tutor has two college-age kids living here, Shoku and Hitomi. We went out to a game store with Hitomi's boyfriend Kosuke.

Nakamura House, Hamamatsu

Today was supposed to be a break, but it didn't feel much like it.

After a rushed morning, Nakamura tutor dropped me off with Kokubun tutor. Then we went to the studio for FM Haro, a local station. Then we went on the air for twenty minutes.

I went to the local science museum, that was fun.

In the evening we had a party back at the house, consisting mostly of older labo members. I played go with mr nakamura and with one of the labo members, they said they were ~3 dan, but either they went easy on me or the japan amateur/AGA scales are really out of whack.

Kokubun Apartment, Hamamatsu

labo labo labo...

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Two more labo parties today, Kikukawa and Suzuki. Back in Nagoya now.

Usually labo tutors are nice to be around, but sometimes... sometimes they really tap you out.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Today we went to Nagoyako Aquarium! Got to see dolphins, penguins, all sorts of fish, and a visiting TV personality known as "Sakana-kun." Hung out with Seia for a bit, too.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

Cleaned up my room today.

Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

I visited Sugiyama party today. We did a little setsubun ceremony, which involved making a big mess with a bunch of perfectly good soybeans.