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28th September 9.30pm (ish)


I've just got back from the Koya-san (Mount Koya) trip, and I'm incredibly knackered ... but I'm still going to try and write an entry about it. Naked teachers, Japan's best curry rice, and a trip to Higurashi will all feature in this journal ... if I can remember it.

So it all started yesterday at god-knows-what-o'clock (about 6:30 ... ish) when I got out of bed. Thankfully I'd packed the night before, and had also, efficiently, left a list of things to pack in the morning; toothbrush etc. Leaving the dorm just before 7 meant that I did miss out on breakfast, but this was soon substituted by a trip to McDonalds in Okamoto (Kobe). After meeting up with the group at ... some train station whose name escapes me (this will be a common feature in this entry), we then proceded to go via the JR Line to Koya-san. With the exception of a few DS games and an 8 player tournament of Mario Kart (which I'm unmodestly proud to say I was the clear winner of ^_^), we arrived at the correct train station and went via cable car up the mountain. Bar a few comments about the cable car wire snapping, the trip up was quite mellow. It did have some awesome views and I think I got some pictures.

For the record, I will be uploading the pictures eventually... not today though ^_^.

Staying at the Ho-on-in Temple, we got to experience a more humble life, eating mainly simple vegetarian meals (which were mostly awesome) and sleeping on a futon in a tatami room, something I'd wanted to do even though I don't think it's on the list. After lunch, shortly after arrival, we headed by bus(es) to a large temple ... maybe a shrine. I'm not going to lie to you guys, over the last two days I saw a lot of temples and shrines, so my descriptions and names (and memories) may not match the actual places to which they refer.

No ... wait. We didn't go to a shrine or temple (ish) but to the biggest cemetary on Koya-san. Lot's of interesting pictures were taken, and I bought 2 Koya-sanvenirs (bad pun); a small statue, and a charm supposedly to help me study. I don't think it's working at the moment, seeing as I have homework due tomorrow (everyday), a kanji test, and here I am writing this up. It did surprise me to see how many Japanese companies had memorials for members of staff who had passed away. It was very touching, but then I come to realise that if members of staff aren't living to retirement, perhaps I should avoid trying to work there.

After the cemetary we went back to the temple for dinner, a bath, and general chilling out. After dinner, and before playing various card games before going to bed it was time for a bath. For some students this was the first time using a Japanese style bath, so were quite nervous about showing their nakedness in front of their peers. I on the other hand was experienced with using the bath, so went in first. For a while I thought I was going to be the only one in there, until I was joined by one of our teachers. That's right readers in the UK, a bath session with a teacher! *SHOCK* But no before you run to your phones and call the police, authorities and Tracy your neighbour, first thing to remember is that we're University students, not 8 year old kids (and for the record there're no 'Chiyo-chans' here), and secondly things are done differently over here. Yes people do bath together, and yes it's less boring because you can have a conversation. Not that there's anything wrong with talking to yourself when bathing at all. Shortly after, we were joined by some other students ... then photographed for the yearbook ... in the bathroom ... bathing ... it's going to be an interesting yearbook this year!

The next morning called for an earlier than usual start, roughly 6am, we were required to participate in a morning Buddhist ceremony. Whilst the participation didn't physically amount to doing anything beyond meditation, it felt good to think that just a persons presence can attribute to a ceremony thusly. After breakfast (again, very tasty) we were to participate in an Ajikan, which is a sitting meditation similar to zazen. What's zazen? Let's ask wikipedia! Though my legs were tired, stiff and aching, I did try to assume the correct position. However, this lasted all of 6 minutes before I had to revert to the 'at school' cross-legged position. Although I'm not generally good at clearing the mind and focussing on my breathing, as is what I believe you're ment to be doing when meditating, I did use the time to think about the new Lotaku project with The Withered One and so on. Still not releasing any spoilers yet, except to say I'm working on the possibility of a game. However for now I'm still leaving the old Lotaku site up.

Following the meditation, we went on to Kongobuji by foot. Kongobuji Temple is home to the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. That's all I really remember, so click here for more information on it. After here we had free time for a few hours before heading home. I used this time to go off for a walk with a friend to take some pictures, and yes I took plenty of pictures! After some wandering we came upon a little place that really stuck out for me.

We found Higurashi!

Ok, so we didn't find the village of Hinamizawa (though some of the mountainous areas we passed through on the train did look a lot like it), nor did we find the village of Shirakawa that Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni's famous village is based upon (which by the way is on my to do list), but we found a cool little coffee restaurant that goes by the name Higurashi! Feeling hungry, we stopped off for some food. I can't remember what my friend had, but I went with my old favourite of Curry-Rice. Now I'm no connoiseur when it comes to Japanese variations is indian dishes, but I have to say for a fact that Higurashi has the best damn curry rice I have ever had! It was so good that I ended up buying two servings, and would have gone for a third had we not been limited by time. With that being the case, I am going to proclaim that Higurashi at Koya-san has the greatest curry-rice in all of Japan!

The rest of the day wasn't as eventful, except for me finally getting bitten by mosquitos (not that I wanted them) and someone getting left on a train, so that is where I will leave you. If I think of anything else to add, chances are I'd have forgotton it long before I can get back online.


26th September 11.11pm

I've just got in and I'm tired, so this is going to be a pretty half-arsed entry. This evening I had the experience of trying Kyudou, a Japanese style of archery with an incredibly long bow. It was really something to be able to see a lot of the forms in which kyudou and archery differed, but still kept some core concepts. It seemed that in kyudou however, the focus was more of the individuals actions and form rather than the score, as could be seen from examples such as bowing on entry to the shooting area. When it was my turn, a combination of two factors vastly limited my ability (as I'm somewhat's used to archery). Firstly was that in kyudou the arrow rests on the other side of the bow instead of between the bow and the shooter. Secondly is my left eye (which is almost blind). Because of these it was impossible to see the 36cm target from it's 38 foot distance, making aiming ... pretty tricky.

Tomorrow we've got an early start as we're going on a class trip to Koyasan!

Bye bye!

For more information on kyudou, click here (Wikipedia)
For more information on lazy eye, click here (NHS Direct)
For more information on Koyasan, click here (Shukubo)

21st Sep 16:51

Well ... today was somewhat's different than I expected. As I said I did have a lie in and a rest. Although my body instinctively wanted me up and out of bed at 6:55, my brain told it to shut up and relax, getting me out of bed at about 11 this morning. The sun was out again giving no indication of this storm, so I put some washing in the machine.

Taking a break from the usual routine of McDonalds for Sunday breakfast, we went to the nearby Lotteria to try their wares. For the cost of just over my usual breakfast, I bought one of their highly promoted Zeppin burgers (360 yen). When it arrived I was a bit dissapointed to see it was about the same size as a McPork, which was 120 yen. Nevertheless, I have to admit that it was one tastey burger. It did have flavour and succulence, but it lacked content. Had it been bigger then I would consider returning for a Zeppin, but for now I'll stick with my two McPork and small shake combo for 340 yen.

Still feeling hunger, and a little adventure, we went a little further into Kamishinjou to a place called Mr Donut. What's a 'donut'? We in the UK call it a doughnut, but in other places they skip out half the word I guess. Now they did have a lot of different doughnuts, but they weren't that cheap. I'm used to getting doughnuts on a carboot sale at 5 or 6 or £1, the same amount from Tesco or Asda. The cheapest one at Mr Donuts was 105 yen (about 53p). Obviously this was the one that I bought; a chocolate doughnut with strawberry cream filling. When I got it home and ate it, again I'd say that it was good, but not worth the price. The strawberry filling was nice, but it was the main body of the doughnut that let it down. It seemed to lack way too much flavour. I would say that I'll stick to McDonalds, but we now have some pots and pans (bring on the instant noodles!)

On our return we noticed a sign for a festival, the Higashiyodogawa-ku Citizens' Festival, a hundred or so meters behind the dorm. Yeah, a festival had snuck right up behind us and we hadn't even noticed. I did hear some cheering earlier this morning, but dismissed it as being a baseball game. My friends had other things to do, so I headed over in the direction that the many bicycles were heading. This festival had a lot of the similar features of the Danjiri Festival of Kishiwada, but was a lot smaller, and gave the impression that it was a lot more focussed on the local community. As I got there a lot later than most others, I obviously missed out on a lot of the festivities, but arrived in time to see a few things taking place in a central arena; including dancing, firebreathing, diabolos and fire tricks.

After I had a look around the stores areas to see what was going on, the central area dispersed to make room for the street parade. Similar to Kishiwada, this parade was a chance for everyone who was involved in the festival to show what they'd contributed or were working on. I won't go into details what everyone had (don't worry I got photos), but there was a really nice range of floats. Major kudos go out to the group of girls (about 8-12 years old) on unicycles. I did see one accident involving a group running aggressively (in the spirit of festival) down the road, as two of their members fell over. They got up quickly and caught up with the pack, so I think they were fine.

Unfortunately for me the long awaited storm decided to show itself by darkening the sky and letting out a downpour, followed by a few lightning bolts and thunder. It was unfortunately because this was one of the few days during this "we're gonna get drenched" period, that I left my brolly at home. Thankfully I did have my LSTV hoody packed in my bag, so I put it on and my hood went up. It was actually quite nice to be able to wear a hood without everyone looking like they're thinking you're going to knife them. After having a final look around the stalls again, and after talking to one woman explaining that my umbrella was at home, I decided to buy some handmade juggling bags. It took a bit of confusion on both of our parts (mine and the woman) to come to the conclusion that that's what they were ^_^;;

After getting home in the lovely wet weather, I realised I still hadn't hung my washing out. By now the rain was easing up, so I thought "sod it, my clothes are wet anyway". Now my clothes are hanging out on my balcony, whilst the rain's ... well, it's easing off to be honest. I'll check on them before going to bed. But for now, it's time to crack on with some homework.

Later dudes!

20th September 2008 - 11:44pm

Remember a short while back how I was talking about my feet hurting and how I should give them a rest? Well today I gave them a royal screwing over. For you see, in an effort to save money (180 yen - about 90p) I decided to walk from Okamoto train station to Sannomiya station (both in Kobe).

Let me start a little earlier. Our Uni had very kindly given all of us foreign students a ticket to see a Noh play (wikipedia link) in Sannomiya tonight. With no other tasks needing to be completed today I decided to get there early. Still, as today's saturday I managed to get a bit of a lie-in. I'm currently in a bit of a money-saving bid (I say as I finish off my third can of pop of the day) so I thought about walking from Okamoto station (where my free train-pass stops being free). After having a quick consult on a friend's (not set, not to scale, probably drawn by a primary schooler) map, I thought it'd be a nice way to get there; still early but not as early.

The walk between the two stations was complemented by some excellent weather (tropical storm my arse), so plenty of photographs were taken. In total the it took between 2 and a half to 3 hours to make the walk. It would have been done faster but I changed my route to avoid being associated with a guy ahead of me who looked like your stereotypical American tourist; shorts, sunglasses, brimmed hat, camera around his neck, hiking backpack and matching hiking cane, pulled up socks ... you know the kind. Also for the record I didn't take a map and was relying on instinct and the sun.

So after making the long walk crossing many roads, streams, rail crossings and a Pizza Hut built into a train bridge, I finally made it to Sannomiya. I was tired, hungry, thirsty, sweaty ... but successful. I had successfully saved 180 yen.

However, my thirst along the way had caused me to stop for a drink of (non-alcoholic) cider; 100 yen. Also when I arrived at Sannomiya my thirst demanded more attention, so I spent another 80 yen. So even though I didn't eat (waited until I met up with a friend before munching), in the end I didn't really save any money. Lets weigh the points.

Train - 180 yen - less than 20 minutes - can sit on your arse of you get a seat.

Walking - Free (180 spent on beverages) - 2.5 to 3 hours - you have to move your arse.

From that you'd think it was a no brainer about how I'd make the trip in the future, but to be honest I'll still probably walk it again. I got to see a lot of the area that I wouldn't normally have, including some great photo spots, and the walk will be healthier for me in the long run. All I really have to do is pack a drink with me before heading off so I don't spend the money I saved.

Whilst waiting for my friend to turn up, I decided to wander around the smaller less ventured (by me) areas of one of Sannomiya's main shopping centres. I tell you now, the outside is horrifically deceptive! I spent a good few hours happily wandering around finding lots of random shops. Someone on Sweatdrop's forum recommended I head into a shop called 'Book Off' if I found one. I did, so I did. They'd recommended it for cheap manga as it's a second hand book store. To be honest when I went in I thought I'd have a nose around the non-manga section first. As far as prices were, I was quite prepared to say "Book Off!", seeing that a lot of the prices weren't much lower than they're original selling prices. However I stuck around and looked towards the somewhats crowded (people and books) manga section. Man was I surprised! Titles were plentiful and prices were low, REAL low! My one problem was that I couldn't quite decifer their system of how it's organised (something I've yet to manage in Japanese book shops), but did look thoroughly through their 105 yen section!

Sannomiya has a shop called Gamerz, I've been i here a few times but today was the first day I'd actually bought anything, after finding the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei manga. This is quite easilly a shop many people from Shrotaku could easilly spend hours. It's not as cheap as the 2nd hand shops (to be fair it's all new stuff), but the prices are really competitive ... especially compared to back home. The store above Gamerz, I forgot the name, but is another haven for model makers and gundam enthusiasts. Not being much into figures myself, I just had a good look around admiring all the hard work that obviously goes into making such things.

After more wandering around I found a section of the shopping centre that could only be described as a Manga-Mall. It seemed like every store and it's big brother was aimed at otakus. Be you a fan of anime, manga, gaming, new stuff, second hand ... the list goes on. Yes there were stores that specialised in the 'adult stuff' and yes I did (accidentally of course) venture into two of those, but swiftly came out without any purchases ... HONEST! I just want to point out that I wasn't looking for anime/manga stores when I started browsing the shopping centre, I just happened to come accross them!

So my friend and I met up and heading to the nearest ... you guessed it. I can't help it, the 100 yen menu kicks ass and face of the UK's poundsaver menu. Whilst tucking into our food and after failing at decifering the 100% kanji written ticket to find the Noh play (seriously, not 1 hiragana symbol), we reluctantly decided not to pursue the Noh play, but continue exploring the area.

Sometime after 8 o'clock fatigue was starting to get the better of us, especially my legs which we're now throbbing, so we parted ways and headed home. I'd forgotton about one little thing though; it was Saturday, trains were different. This meant that I could only get the local trains, that stop at every single station, to get home ... this was going to take a while. Eventually I got off at Juso and changed trains. From there my train to Kamishinjou would be pretty simple ... I thought.

The station before mine, Awaji, has another trainline that is deceptively similar to mine. So similar in fact that it had tricked us before making us late for university. So similar in fact that it had got me again! So similar in fact that I didn't notice until I was half an hour off route and passing stations I'd never heard of! Blast you Awaji! After jumping off the train in the middle of nowhere, I waited for another chunk of time for a train to take me back to Awaji. After reaching there I made bloody well certain to get on the right train home.

I'm a little bummed about not being able to see the Noh play, but on the whole I have had a memorable day. I'm planning a lie-in tomorrow (one of the perks about not getting food on a Sunday), so unless you want me to blog about that or doing my washing, it might be a day or two until my next entry.

Oh, one of the shops had 'tit pillows'. I think they were 700 yen (a pair), but I can't remember fully.


19th September 11pm

Today I managed to conquer two Japanese bathroom feats, and made a discovery about one of the differences between personal hygene products between Japan and the UK. Oh, and by conquer ... I just mean 'completed a task without injury'.

The traditional Japanese toilet is possible the most difficult thing I've encountered in this last couple of weeks. Even more so than trying to learn kanji. Since I'm not going to go into too much detail about the workings of my digestive system, I'll simply put it the following way. After previous failed attempts including quite harsh leg muscle ache, I finally succeeded in using the hole in the floor. There're many sites out there that explain how to use one, so I'll let you google the ins and outs (not literally) of how to do it. All I'll say is if you mess it up then two possible things can happen; you could fall into the toilet or you could crap into your trousers.

Those of you who know me in the 3D world (and I'm not talking World of Warcraft) will know I much prefer showers to baths. Yes it's true a bath has the relaxing ability to lie down, but I'd much rather get myself clean that fester in a large pot of 'Darlo Soup'. However the Japanese bathing system differs from the pot of human goo in the fact that you do have to clean yourself before going anywhere near the bath.

After (almost) scrubbing yourself to the bone to make sure you're clean, you head on over to the bath for a relax and a soak. Now if like my dorm the bathroom is pretty big, don't be surprised if other people walk in and join you. Unlike the UK where bathing is a very private and solitary activity, in Japan it can be quite social. In fact in the bath tonight I was having a good chat with a guy from China discussing the differences between customs and language of the UK, Japan and China.

Now before trying a Japanese bath I was curious about perspiration. Yes, that's an odd sentance, but wait a minute I do make sense. Baths in Japan are known for being very hot to help relax, thus this temperature would obviously make you sweat. Now remember how I started the last paragraph about being clean so you don't muck up the bath water (it's used by more than yourself remember). Now if you're sweating in the tub, and presumably other people would have done the same, then when you get out the bath how can you possibly be clean? The answer is quite simple; you wash after a bath too! Yep it's a scrub-soak-scrub system that means you leave the bath clean and refreshed.

Truth be told I still prefer a shower.

And the discovery that was made? In Japan anti-perspirant does not exist! The very expensive deodorant can cover up the smell of sweaty body (unless you go for the odourless spray from Family Mart), but there's nothing to stop it at the source. I guess I'll have to ask someone to send me over a can of Arid from poundland (thanks Regi).

PS - Happy Birthday Mike.

Thursday 18th Sep 08 - 9:44pm

Ok, first to let you know that yes I have quit Facebook. It's new design is awful (I know I'm not one to talk when it comes to site designs), there're way too many pointless applications, it's slow and the site is now horrendously tricky to navigate. From the moment the new layout was announced and made available I'd said that I would quit if and when it was made obligatory. It has, so I have. I've just left a note on my profile saying if you want me, just come here (Darlo's World, not Japan). Now that all of the major social networking sites are pretty much the same, I say "Sod it" to them all, and be on my way.

Now back to Japan, I've put my list of things I want to do/see whilst I'm here on the site. Either click here or click on the When In Japan link on the left bar. If there's anything on there that you want to know why, or want more details about, when please email me and I'll put more information up. Likewise if you think of anything you think I might like to do, then get in touch.

So far I've been told by two Japanese people that I look like Thierry Henry and Lewis Hamilton. It should also be noted that they were wearing glasses.

Monday 15th September 2008 - 9:40pm

Good evening all.

Just got back from McDonalds about 10 mins walk away and am here to give you an update. Why eat dinner at Macky D's (or as one of my friends calls it, McDick's) you ask? Well today is a national holiday in Japan you see. It's Respect For The Aged Day, and no it isn't celebrated by everyone buying burgers, we just don't get fed at the dorm on holidays. More information on the holiday itself can be found at Planet Tokyo by reading Amy Chavez's article.

Now over the last couple of days I've not really ventured out much. As you could tell from my last entry my feet were starting to complain that I've been using them more than an extreme environmentalist uses the same piece of toilet paper, so I decided to stay close to home. This gave me a good opportunity to catch up on some homework, tidying (yes, tidying) and of course a little bit of local exploring. Ha! Screw you feet! You can rest when I tell you to rest ... like now, I'm not using you to type so bog off and grab a scone.

To be honest the exploring wasn't too extreme and didn't really go further than a slightly detoured walk home. That being said two very important discoveries were made on this course. Firstly being a massive up-yours to the 100 yen shop chain. Just down the road from me is ... a 99 yen shop! O_O Hoorah, the day of saving is at hand and I can sleep easier at night knowing I saved half a penny on a giant bottle of water. However for those of you who don't know, the 100 yen shop (and in turn it's 99 yen enemy) don't actually sell anything at those respective prices. Confused? Don't worry it was confusing to me also. In the UK, VAT is set at 17.5% (or some bollocks like that), but in Japan sales tax is 5% (from what I can gather) and this is normally added straight into the price so the customer doesn't have to think too much about it (in the UK and Japan). However at the 100 yen shop (& 99 yen) it's added after, making everything a minimum of 105 yen (104 yen). Why a minimum? This is where these shops differ from the likes of poundland in the UK where "you'll like what you see because everythings a pound at Poundland", to quote the annoying radio jingle. Whereas these shops do sell the cheap (and sometimes tacky) items that carry their shops price names, they also have more lucrative items which are more expensive. That being said the more costly goods carry extra price labels and the staff members will helpfully point it out on every item you take to the till.

The other 'Amazing Discovery' (anyone remember that cheezy American shopping show?) was a bookshop who's name translates to 'Old Books'. It somewhats reminded me of a Japanese version of the shop in 'Black Books' only without Bill Bailey and co. Now even though the shop was tiny, there were thousands of books waiting to be bought. Before you ask, yes I did check out the manga section and yes it was bloody huge. But the best thing about the shop was the prices. For the cost of two standard TokyoPop mangas in the UK I managed to buy four 'Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai' mangas and a 'Lucky Star' one also. SCORE! If I had £15 worth of yen I could have picked up the entire Ranma 1/2 series. That's right, they sell entire series at a discount. It should be worth noting though that these books are second hand, so won't have that unique 'fresh from Borders' scent. That being said when you're a student you can easily block off your sense of smell. One last thing before I become inundated with emails asking for me to buy you a certain book and ship it over, they're all in Japanese. ^_^

One final thing before I head off for the night. After the Danjiri festical I wanted to think more about the kinds of things I'd like to see or experience while I'm here. Let's face it, 9 months is going to go by so fast. I've started a list which I'll be putting on here soon (sooner than the pictures no doubt), but if you think of anything you think I might want to do then please do send me an email (darlo@darlosworld.co.uk). Current items on the list include visiting 2 shrines, a village, a museum, a department store and 2 sports events. If you think you can guess more specifically what they are, then bully for you.


13th Sep 08 - 8:07pm

I've just got back, literally, from my first Japanese festival, The Danjiri Matsuri. Taking place in the relatively far Kishiwada area on the other side of Osaka, me and two friends made our way across the somewhats complex route of Japanese trains. Upon arrival at Kishiwada area we were met with a vast amount of people; well, they didn't 'meet' us per se, but it was definately the biggest crowd of people I have ever seen, let alone become a part of.

The origins, history, meanings of the festival etc I have no clue about. No shame in admitting you don't know something ... right? Gah! Anywho here's the lowdown of what happens (or at least what I think happens ... please don't email me saying I got it wrong, you have to appreciate I've been in Japan less than two weeks). Members of different communities of Osaka pull very well constructed and decorated floats along the streets of Kishiwada. How do I know they're well constructed? Well aside from the hundred or so people pulling and pushing it, there're a dozen or so people on it. On the very top is an extremely excited fellow jumping from side to side over the peak in the roof. Now here's the fun part. At street corners they try to get these floats around the corner as fast as they can, and from the looks of it as close to the crowd as they can get, whilst the guy on top tries not to fall off and be trampled by the crowd following behind it. Though I didn't see anyone fall (there were more than a few close calls), I did see a few paramedics going from place to place.

After my friends headed off, I thought I'd do a bit of exploring. Besides the pulling of the giant fruit stall, the festival itself was everything I imagined a Japanese festival to be, though I didn't imagine this many people! There were so many kinds of food, stalls, and generally pleasant atmosphere. I was incredibly tempted to try the goldfish scooper, but my dorm doesn't allow pets. That being the case, I did still bring home some souvenirs and a wad of photographs! I did find out that there're card readers at Uni, so I'll hopefully get the photos online next week, but monday is a holiday so not then ^_~.

Oh, the results of the placement tests didn't go so great. There're five groups based on current ability. Group A are fairly basic (from what I hear) and Group E are almost fluent. Just to fill in the gaps for you, the other three groups are B, C and D. Which is which you ask? Never mind Cyril, just take a nap. That more than likely isn't your name, but if you are called Cyril I just wanted to screw with your mind a little (thanks to Yahtzee, aka Ben Croshaw, for that bit of inspiration). I wanted to get into C class, which I think Leeds Uni wanted us to get into as a minimum, but was placed in B. It does feel like I'm doing more revision than learning, but I guess that's partially down to the fact that we're using Minna No Nihongo, the book that we used in Leeds. Not that I mind working with our beloved Biji-san again, but it does mean I'm not really learning anything new in classes. However, what I have noticed is that I've managed to retain a lot of things that we've covered that I struggled with when at Leeds (or back in Telford) due to my 'dead goldfish in a sieve' memory, so perhaps it could be that I'm in the right group after all. I guess also looking at some of the people in other classes, there're people in class C who have been studying Japanese for years, compared to my ... *checks watch* ... few days under a year of study. This week we might be able to swap groups around a little to see how we'd get on in the other levels, so I guess I'll let you know how that goes.

My feet hurt. Off topic I know, but I realised a night or two ago that my feet hardly get any rest and relaxation and haven't for a good few years! Even now they're being crushed under my body weight (I sit on my feet in a chair as it's a comfortable sitting position). I might invest in one of those middle-aged persons foot massager ... you know, the one with bubbles. ^_^

Ok, I'm off. *abrupt ending starts and ends here*

9.9.08 21:09

I know my last update was about 10 mins ago so this is going to be quick. I've updated the header picture (look up a bit) so it says "Live from Japan". That's all ^_^.

9/9/08 20:53 (12:53pm back in the UK)

Right, lets start out with the things I ended with yesterday. The Japanese language placement tests. We had the first one yesterday, and although it did seem incredibly easy (especially when compared with what I'm used to at Leeds) I know I did make some mistakes through lack of revision. This was upholded even moreso today when the test was made harder. Although, I still think the structure was a lot more basic than the Leeds exams, especially as there were no dialogue compositions, translations, or genkoyooshi to complete. I think we find out what language group we're in tomorrow, so I'll keep you up to date with that one.

If you happen to come accross the news reports about the weather in the UK, you'll discover that it's looking pretty grim at the moment. Yeah lets face it, England isn't famous for it's great weather (unless you're speaking sarcastically of course), but it has been quite bad. Osaka and Kobe are currently incredibly warm, and have been from the moment we touched down. Don't get me wrong it was probably warm before I got here. I'm not inferring that my presence has blessed Japan with awesome weather, otherwise we'd never be moaning about the weather back home, but the weather here is nice and hot. The main problem was that at first it was too hot, and not to mention incredibly humid. Since we've been here the humidity has been between 80% and 100%. I don't know about the others but I wasn't expecting to be breathing water when I got off the plane and out of the airconditioned airport. However, a week on and my body has started to become accustomed to the new climate. I'm getting used to the humidity and don't notice it that often, and I'm slowly getting used to the heat (although today I did drink 2 litres of water in a relatively short space of time ... and for the record, yes I did make jokes about large jugs and so on). My one main problem with the weather that I won't be able to rectify until it gets colder is my innability to store Chocolate in my room. I lose. Case Closed.

What next, ah yes. In the area of Osaka that we're living in, foreigners just might be something of a rare occurence (especially four guys from England, France, Germany and Canada). Our first taste of "Oooh look" syndrome happened a few days ago. On the way back home a few kids were playing down an alley. When they spotted us they started to wave. Me being the kind of guy who likes to respond did so in kind, and as we passed the corner they started calling "Bye-bye" to us. I decided to call something back but because my brain decided not to work, like a cart-horse giving a proverbial "screw-you" to the carrot hanging in front og it's face, the only thing I could muster was to shout that I was sorry ... in the past tense.


The second time was a night or two ago when a friend and I were walking home (same route, different road) when we had to stop at some traffic lights. Across the road from us were a small group of school girls who then proceded to giggle as they crossed the road on the red light.

Just a side note here to say that I had heard about people from Osaka crossing lights when they're on red before, but only from Azumanga Daioh's Ayumu 'Osaka' Kasuga.

Anyway, we had a hunch it was us they were giggling about it and that was confirmed when they passed us saying "hello". When me and my friend both simultaneously replied "hello" the group giggled louder as they continued on their way. I then thought I'd take another step on my "talk to as many Japanese people who I don't know as I can" ladder, and then called "we understand Japanese". This was then met with even louder laughter and giggles, despite the fact that the group had moved much further away. Moments later I then realised what they were potentially laughing it. For those of you who do not and have not tried learning Japanese, the Japanese language have these things called particles that can make you look like a complete and utter thicky if you use the wrong one at the wrong time. Guess what I did. Good guess.


Today after the placement tests we had a short presentation from a large Japanese phone company to tell us about their product, a mobile phone network. After hearing what they had to say and asking some questions of my own, I wasn't entirely convinced that what they were offering was for me (or for many of the other students for that matter). So I'm going to have a look at the other two major networks before I sign up to anything, but I guess some folk really needed to get mobile. I've heard great good things about one company whom I shall just call 'Cuddly Building Society' as most of the Japanese people (and some non-Japanese) use them too.

After that we had our first Japan Studies lesson, linguistics. It was quite interesting and from what I've read of the book we're using I think it's definately going to be a taste-grabbing session. Tomorrow is my first session on Business, so I'm quite looking forward to that.

We returned to our local Alien Registration centre ... wait, I can actually find the right term ... one moment ... ward office, to get our copies of our Alien Registration form ... or something. Yes it's confusing, and yes it's complex, but Japanese bureaucracy is indeed infamous.

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention yesterday was that I managed to pick up two Phoenix Wright games (man how I love that series). I bought games three and four; game three never made it to the UK, and game four is the UK's game three. Confused? Ney mind.

Right, that just about wraps up today and catches me up on what I've been up to. This weekend there's a Danjiri Matsuri festival which I really want to see and get some pictures of. More info on that can be found HERE. I know you guys are still waiting to see my photos, but just a little more patience, ne? I might buy a multi-card reader soon rather than just struggle with finding another SD/USB converter. Can't believe I left it in Shropshire T_T.

Ok, bostin for t' bog.


Mon 8th Sep 08 - 9.33pm

Ok, so this is a little later than I guess it probably should be, but oh well. Lets begin.

Yes folks, I'm now in Japan. No not on holiday, I'm living and studying here for 9 months. Living in Osaka, I get to enjoy a daily commute to Kobe to study at Konan University. To begin with though during our orientation, we were staying at the fabulous (darling, lol) Sheraton Hotel on Rokko Island. It was nice, but it wasn't until I randomly walked into a bar (alone) and spent 45 minutes talking to the barman, who couldn't speak a word of English, that I really felt like I was in Japan.

Now that I've moved into my dorm near the Kamishinjyou station, I feel even more like I'm experiencing a more Japanese lifestyle. Everyday (except for Sundays) there's a range of Japanese meals, and of course there're things in the dorm itself I'd never experience back in Telford. Such as a traditional Japanese toilet ... yeah, the squatter! That being said I still haven't tried it yet as there's also a western style one. However at the hotel I did get to try a 'butt-wash' feature on the highly technological toilet seat. But also the area that I have to walk through on my way to Uni, the way my train pass is swiped through the terminal, the way that the station has people to push and squeeze people onto the train, all of these and more have really helped me realise that I've actually managed to come into an area of Japan that real Japanese people live in, and I love it here.

On the subject of meals, going out for a meal is awesomely cheap in comparision to the UK. For the price of what I'd normally get at a McDonalds, here you can get an absolutely huge meal at a very nice restaurant. And what about McDonalds you say? Well not only is it cheaper here, but the staff are generally much more welcoming and friendly (sorry to the few members at UK McDonalds who are friendly). But that friendliness can generally extend beyond restaurants to pretty much all staff members that I've met, and also the majority of people in general.

I'm going to just take this moment to break away and say that Melon Bread is the snack of the gods!

One thing I'm still not used to (and may not be for quite some time) is the road crossing etiquette that I've seen. For marked areas you cross when the pedestrian light is green, much like the UK. However, cars are still allowed to go if there's no one on the crossing, like in Canada. Sometimes people cross when the light's red but no traffic seems to be coming, which is fine with them, but my pessimistic nature reminds me that a very quiet car would likely be coming and I wouldn't notice it until it's too late. So when asked why I wait on a clear road, I normally say "a true Englishman always waits". The zebra crossings also confuse me. In England it is the pedestrian who had the right of way, but here I'm still yet to discover who has the priority.

Right, so today we had to sit the first of our placement tests to determine which Japanese language group we'd be studying in. It seemed to go pretty well ... too well ... which means tomorrow (yeah, I'm used to tests on Monday and Tuesday) could be incredibly difficult. We (the guys from my dorm) also went with our dorm supporters to fill in the paperwork for our Alien Registration Cards. We have to go back tomorrow to ... um ... do something ... I can't even remember any more T_T.

Then we went to downtown Kobe again (we went during the orientation) and it was really cool (again). This could well be my favourite place so far in Japan. There're lots of people, shops, and awesome photographic hotspots. I was going to take some pics, but we spent a lot of time trying to find a place to eat. I'll more than likely head back soon for some pictures.

On that note you'll notice that there aren't any pictures up yet. That's not because I've not taken any, it's because the SD-USB converter I have got left at home somehow and I haven't any means to upload them. It sucks I know, but they'll be up eventually.

Ok, I'm off to bed. Remember folks there's an 8 hour time difference here from the UK, so when it's 6pm there it's 2am here! Please remember that before you call me at dumb-o'clock to tell me that you've lost the game (Simon).

Tomorrow, I'll try to write about how the tests went, how the weather is, buying two Phoenix Wright games (including the one England missed), and the first 2 times as being pointed out as 'The Foreigner' ^_^.