About Me

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Virginia Beach, VA, United States
This blog (or 日記 if you will) is intended to chronicle my experience in Japan at the Yamasa Institute in Okazaki, Japan from July to August, 2012. I have always wanted to have a journal, though, so I will try to get into a habit of writing frequently about the things important to me in my life. Besides, I plan on returning to Yamasa to participate in the AIJP after I get out of the Navy! These are the Espelancer Chronicles. Erica is also blogging about the trip, and you should totally check it out. It is The Marvelous Misadventures of Schneewittchen link over on the sidebar.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


   I really wish there was more time in the day -- with less than a week left in Japan I have been running non-stop since arriving.  I haven't forgotten about the blog, it's just that I was out having many different experiences in Japan.  As such, I will have many things to write about after I return, and I think I'll give you guys a sneak peak of all of the things that I have done here but not yet written about.

  I still have yet to finish talking about our trip to Tokyo, and we are about to go to Tokyo again for a day at Comiket.  We went to the Sumida River Fireworks Festival (after the adventure of putting on a yukata), we spent a half a day in Akihabara, and of course there is the trip out to Tama Town.  Back in Okazaki we visited Okazaki Castle and attended the Okazaki Fireworks Festival.  In Nagoya, we visited Nagoya Castle, ate at a maid cafe, and had a great time at a summer festival.  We even participated in traditional Japanese festival dance!  We took the ferry across Ise Bay from Cape Irago at the end of Chita Peninsula to the town of Toba in Mie Prefecture to visit the Grand Shrines of Ise.  This weekend we will also be experiencing the Northern Japanese Alps by riding the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway up the mountain, and then complete a short 45minute to 1 hour hike to the Nishiho Mountain Lodge, and then we will be taking the bus through the mountains to Tokyo to spend a day at Comiket.  We might even go to a Nagoya Dragons baseball game if we get back from Tokyo early enough.  Finally, the Obon Festival is next week, and I will want to talk about that as well.

Sugarwater at Nagoya Castle
   I have a lot to say about our experience at Yamasa, too.  Even though we are now finished with our studies at Yamasa (due to the Obon holiday, I shortened our study term by 1 week since we would only be able to attend a single day of class otherwise), this school was truly amazing.  I need to talk about the classes as well as the experience of living in Japan for a short stay.  We participated in a homevisit and had dinner with a Japanese family last night, and we might be going to a barbecue with them again before we leave.  Everything is different here from laundry and trash to getting around.  I also need to give my review of the SILAC program and the school, so I will be busy writing for a while after we return.  Of course, there are also the many pictures of Sugarwater in various locations that need to be posted.  So, keep posted, this blog will continue even after my return.

   Until the next time I have a moment to write, see you later!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Quick Update about No Update

   I just wanted to write a short post to say that I will not be doing a write-up tonight since tomorrow morning I will be taking a "Skip Test," which, if I pass I will be placed into the Intermediate level class.  I decided to go ahead and try after smoking today's written and spoken test, however I really need to study as the test will be on areas I was weak on on the placement exam.  What that basically means is I have one night to learn Keigo, or honorific expressions used in Japanese, and I do not understand Keigo very well since I have not yet studied it.  I'm sorry to disappoint everybody, but tomorrow I plan on writing about the Sumida River Fireworks Festival as well as a Yamasa post about things that I wish I had brought with me to Japan (i.e. if you are a prospective student don't forget these things!)  However, as you can see, I did give you a picture of some udon I had the other day (and it only cost 400円 for the entire meal!), so I left my handful of readers with something

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tokyo Tower

      Today we are skipping to Saturday afternoon to talk about our visit to Tokyo Tower.  I would love to talk about our Saturday morning adventures in Tama Town, but you will have to wait since I am preparing a different kind of post for that.  Tokyo Tower is the tall orange Eiffel Tower look-a-like structure that until recently was the tallest structure in Japan.  It was built in 1958 to support the television antenna at its center and enabled Japan to broadcast analog television signals throughout the nation.  The Tokyo Skytree, completed last year, overtook Tokyo Tower for the spot of the tallest structure in Japan and went on to take the record for the world's tallest tower and the world's 2nd-tallest structure (after Dubai's Burj Khalifa), and ironically was also built for television -- since Tokyo Tower is surrounded by many high-rise buildings it is not adequate for Japan's transition to digital broadcasting.  Tokyo Tower is still one of the most recognized landmarks in Tokyo, though,  and as expected is a huge tourist destination.

   At the base of Tokyo Tower is a place called Foot Town.  We did not spend too much time here, though, since we needed to return to the hotel by a certain time to change into our yukata for the fireworks festival.  Foot Town is a pretty cool place, though, although the attractions are pretty expensive.  Obviously the main attraction is the observation tower, as well as the second observation tower that you can pay more to go up into.  The first floor features a Detective Conan museum (sorry, I forgot to snap a picture), although tickets were 2200円 so we didn't do that.  There is also a small aquarium on the first floor.  The second floor has a gift shop that surprisingly sells novelties at an acceptable price.  I managed to score a Tokyo mug for 300円 to give to my grandmother and a wall scroll featuring a map of Japan for 550円 to hang at my house, which is really bad at all.  There is also a food court with various Japanese and American (i.e. McDonald's, KFC, and Krispy Kreme) fast food restaurants.  The 3rd floor houses the Tokyo Guiness Museum, on the fourth floor there is a wax museum, and the roof of Foot Town features a small amusement park.  All we did was the main observatory and the gift shop, though.

  At 1100円 a ticket, we decided to only go to the main observatory, however even though we only went halfway up he tower, the view was still spectacular.  If we wanted to go to the special observatory at the top of the tower, we would have had to pay another 900円.  It is actually possible to climb the outside staircase rather than using the elevator on weekends and holidays (weather permitting), and you get a certificate for accomplishing that feat, but I don't think Erica would have been terrible happy about climbing 660 steps after scaling the hills of Tama Town all morning in the scorching Japanese summer heat.  There are also a few lookdown glasses at the top of the tower, and that picture above was taken through one of the lookdown glasses.  Tokyo Tower was an enjoyable experience, although next time I think I will go to the Tokyo Skytree in Sumida (which was ironically where we went for the fireworks festival...).  Anyways, that is all for today, but I will leave you with more pictures from Tokyo Tower.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Simplest Explainations are the Most Useful

The pond at Okazaki Minami Park
   Last Friday, on the half day, as well as today, we covered transitive and intransitive verb pairs.  While I had studied transitive and intransitive verb pairs in the past, it was a subject of much confusion as the verbs take different forms in each case, and it can be difficult remembering which verb to use.  Ironically, a subject that has plagued me for several months was cleared up in about 5 minutes with a simple explanation and a picture.  It's funny how that works.

   Transitive and intransitive verbs function the same way in both English and in Japanese.  A transitive verb requires a direct object -- it is a verb describing an action directed on or towards something else.  "I opened the window to let the breeze in." is an example of "opened" being used as a transitive verb.  An intransitive verb, on the other hand, cannot have a direct object -- it is basically a self-fulfilling verb.  "The door opened automatically, allowing entry into the store."  shows the same word, "opened", being used intransitively as the action is not placed upon any direct object, but rather the subject.

  In Japanese, it is pretty much the exact same way, except it is not so simple as using the same word in different context as it is in English.  Japanese has what is called "verb pairs", in which the exact same word, written using the exact same kanji, have two different readings, each of which are used differently.  Using  開けます, which is the transitive verb for "open", here is an example:

 雪子さん は ドア を 開けました。 (Yukiko-san は(subject marker) door を (direct object marker) 開けました (akemashita - opened).
If I wanted to talk about the train doors automatically opening, though, I cannot use 開けます.  I have to use 開きます, which is the intransitve verb for to open.  Also, the sentence is structured differently:
電車のドアが開きました。 Train Doors が (A different subject marker) 開きました (akimashita - opened).

  To further add to the confusion, you also use intransitive verbs to describe the states of objects, for example "The door is open."  In Japanese, that would be ドアが開いています。  Door が 開いて います (Open, conjugated to て form, using います to make it present tense.)

  However, I think it is all cleared up, now.  I had thought at one point that I would never grasp the concept of verb pairs in Japanese, and that there was no rhyme or reason to how the verbs were distributed -- it is not as simple as conjugating the verb from its dictionary form. After having it explained to me (entirely in Japanese and pictures), though, it actually makes sense now.  Thank you very much, Suga-Sensei -- mastering this concept alone in such a short amount of time really has made this school worthwhile for me.

Birds found in Okazaki Minami Park
  I know the pictures have nothing to do with the topic, but I figure most people reading this will have absolutely no idea what I am talking about here, anyways, so I put some random pictures taken around Okazaki Minami Park to give you guys something not-so-dry to look at.

東京旅行について・・・ (The Trip to Tokyo)

東京へ来た (From Outside Tokyo Station)
  Well, it has been a few days since I last posted, and I do apologize for that.  We had spent the weekend in Tokyo, and we were so busy throughout each day that when we returned to the hotel, I honestly just did not have the urge to write.  However, this also means that I have a great deal of things to catch up on, as we truly did have a lot of experiences in the world's largest metropolis, so it is too much to write in one single entry.  This week I will be posting twice each day -- once about something we did in Tokyo, and once more concerning the day to day life at Yamasa.

   The first Tokyo post does not have very many pictures, unfortunately, because photographs were not permitted to be taken at the JDK Band Super Live concert in Nihonbashi Matsui Hall, so I will have to post various Nihon Falcom pictures from around the web.  We arrived in Tokyo on Friday evening at around 5:15.  I had the hotel address memorized so that I would be able to tell the taxi driver how to get there, but I made a mistake in the address and it was difficult to get there.  Our hotel was in the Chuo ward of Tokyo in the Nihonbashi area, and I thought the name of the Chome (neighborhood) was Horidome, so the taxi driver could not find the address and he dropped us off in Nihonbashi Honcho (the main Nihonbashi area).  The name of the chome is actually Nihonbashi Horidome, and that is how it has to be found.  Because of this difficulty, it took 2 hours to locate the hotel, even though it was very close to the station.  Luckily, though, this was our only travel difficulty during the entire Tokyo trip.

An old stage shot of JDK Band
   Anyways, even though we were a little bit late in checking in (and consequently a little bit late to the concert), we made it to Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall to see Falcom's JDK Band live.  For those of you not familiar with JDK Band, they are a critically acclaimed band that produces the music used in games developed by Nihon Falcom, such as Ys and Trails in the Sky.  This is the first concert I have ever been to, so it is hard to compare to American concerts, but the feeling was absolutely surreal.  JDK Band has some extremely energetic fans, and the place was completely sold out, as we were treated to 3 hours of Nihon Falcom's music.  Since the music is composed for video games (and especially RPG's), it encompasses a wide variety of styles, however JDK Band is predominantly known for playing mostly rock-style music.  Unlike most rock bands, though, many of JDK Band's pieces center around the violin as well as the electric guitar, giving their music a unique flavor.

Mizuki Mizutani, JDK Band's Violinist
   Speaking of violins, Mizuku Mizutani, JDK Band's resident violinist, plays a mean violin.  Watching her play her violin on that stage is truly inspiring.  Usually when I think of a violinist, my first instinct is to imagine a person playing as part of an orchestra, with the most talented violinists playing the difficult solo pieces in said orchestra, but is usually cued by the composer.  Mizutani, however, is a violinist in a rock band and is a central figure in said band -- a very different environment from an orchestra, and in my opinion this really sets her apart from other violinists.

   The JDK Band experience was highly enjoyable and I would love to be able to attend another JDK Band concert.  I picked up my 那由多の軌跡 (Nayuta no Kiseki -- the latest entry of the Legend of Heroes franchise which was just released last Thursday) shirt at the concert, and the game shortly after.  That was all we did Friday night, as it was pretty late by the time we returned and we were tired from the Shinkansen ride, the hotel-search, and the concert.

   The next entry chronologically would be our adventures in Tama Town, but I am preparing something special for that, so keep posted for Tokyo Tower tomorrow!