“Are you going to today’s seminar? No, I’m not going. Will it cause problems? No, it doesn’t especially matter, but you didn’t attend the day before yesterday either, did you! That’s not right. The day before yesterday I did attend. Oh, you did, didn’t you!”

School is what’s been happening. Surprisingly, it’s taking up way more time than I expected. Mostly it’s because of my Japanese classes, especially my Kanji class. It’s funny, during our orientation back in Oregon, students who’d just returned from Japan were telling us about how easy it was to be a student at Waseda. I was hearing things like “I took the maximum amount of credits, had a part-time job, and had free time to be able to go out and do things.” Well, I’m not finding that to be the case.  Either that, or I’m just really burned-out on going to school. I am finding that you need to make choices on how life is gonna go for you here as a exchange student: either you can do homework during all of your free time  or you can make sacrifices and make time to go out and do things. And yes, that’s what I’m doing: making sure that I go out and do things rather than just sitting in my room . I figure that I could’ve stayed in America if I wanted to just do my homework.  So, I’ve still been at least going to a few new places, still eating lots of different things, checking things out,…and doing my homework. At the very least I’ve been going to find coffeeshops in different parts of the city just so that I can do my homework at a place that feels “new.”

I think my reason for frequently wanting new experiences is because I am here for a short time only. It would be different if I were here for a year. The spring break at Waseda University is two months long, so students take that opportunity to travel and travel outside of the country, whereas the winter break is not quite two weeks long. I guess I still have two weeks to go before I’ll have been here for two months. That leaves me three months. And school is gonna just get busier. But I want to at least feel like I didn’t squander my time sitting in my room only doing homework. This is Tokyo, goddammit!

The last couple of weeks have been interesting, at least in my head. I’ve been going through different moods. A few days here and there were difficult because I was tired and frustrated because of my lack of language abilities. People at restaurants were not understanding my attempts at basic communication, like ordering a cup of coffee or something, and what followed was usually an awkward silence. I was also feeling burdened by my homework load and other obligations. And some of those moments were making me feel a bit homesick. But then I’ve had these other days where I realize that my time here is so short and that it’s flying by, and that Tokyo is a really fucking crazy big, fun city to get to stay in. I still do wish that my language abilities were a lot better than they are.

Though I haven’t been writing them down, I have been thinking of what should be included in a foreign-language curriculum. Basically, there should be more of a focus on the things that students will actually experience in their first weeks. This applies not just to study-abroad students but to everyone visiting a country. Why the fuck do we learn about complimenting people on their expensive dictionaries or asking “Are you going to the conference the day after tomorrow?” Or “That’s an old typewriter, isn’t it?” Or “Do you play golf?No, I don’t like golf much. I prefer tennis. I really like tennis.” Or: “Who’s coming today? Mr. Tanaka is coming today? Oh really, how about tomorrow. Tomorrow? Tomorrow Mrs. Yamamoto is coming. Oh, that’s convenient, isn’t it?” How bout another: “Did you see Takada-san’s new car? What kind (of one) is it? It’s a German Sportscar. Wow! Really? That’s great, isn’t it?”

In just about every language class I’ve taken there’s an emphasis on first teaching the formal way of speaking. I know it’s hard to pick what to include in a first or second year language class, but anything that’s closer to what people say in everyday speech would be better. There’s been almost no relation to what I’ve learned in a classroom to what is actually spoken at home. And, the situational lessons in these language textbooks are really strange. Like, when am I going to find myself commenting on someone’s slovenly lifestyle, noting how their apartment’s a mess and that they haven’t showered or put away their dishes or that they need to take a shower. That was actually one of the weird handouts I got in my language class here at Waseda, which is an infinitely better program than the one at PSU. While the book is good it still has these situations that I never find myself in. Here’s on straight out of my current textbook:

Ogawa: I will be single from next month.

Miller: What?

Ogawa: Actually I will be transferred to the Osaka head office.

Miller: The head office? Congratulations! But why are you going to be single?

Ogawa: My wife and son will stay in Tokyo?

Miller: Won’t they go with you?

Ogawa: My son says that he wants to stay in Tokyo because he will take a university entrance exam next year. And my wife doesn’t want to quit her job, either.

Miller: Well, are you going to live separately?

Ogawa: Yes, but I intend to come home at weekends a few times a month.

Miller: That’s tough.

Ogawa: But, I have free time on weekdays, so I think I will start using the Internet.

Miller: I see. That’s a good idea.

This last comment by Ogawa seems rather suggestive, doesn’t it? Are we supposed to assume that he’s really writing emails?… A good idea, indeed, Miller thinks. Hell, he’s probably got some good suggestions.

Anyways, see my point? There’s still that inescapable feeling of “Japanese-for-businessmen” going on in this book, along with every Japanese language book I’ve ever owned. Maybe I just need to write my own instructional Japanese language book: “Japanese for people who could care less about commenting on the fucking weather,” or “Japanese for businessmen who actually wander outside of the hotel that their respective company put them up in, and who find themselves in situations where they have to say more than ‘I like sushi, but I also like ramen. I like ramen more than I like sushi. But both are delicious. I like Japanese food.'”

As you can tell by what I’ve just written, I’m sort of contradicting myself: either I’m bitching about having too much to do or bitching about not doing enough. It’s strange, I know, but that’s how my brain’s been working as of late. Really, it’s working overtime because of the flood of information and stimuli. Unfortunately, this has not left me much time to be able to write on this blog. I’m usually dead-tired by the time I get onto this computer and start writing. There goes my goal of trying to maintain this thing on an every other day basis. It’s probably gonna need to be on a weekly basis.

My goal is for the next post to be a food one. There’ll be pictures.




Loud Snark

It’s been awhile. I suppose this is gonna be the trend since I’m finding school stuff to be consuming my time. Or, it will even out at some point soon once I catch up.

Last Saturday was another concert day for me. My cousin, again, paid for my ticket. After my morning class I took the train out to Saitama to go to this festival called “Loud Park.” The Saitama Super Arena was, conveniently, right next to the train station, so I had no trouble finding the place once I got off the train. But then again, all I had to do was follow the frizzy, long-hair crowds and heavy metal tee-shirts that were floating around. It felt almost like a Grateful Dead show in the sense that everywhere you went there were metal heads: you go into a food court and it’s full of black tee shirts and wristbands; go into a Ramen shop or a Yakitori shop, and seated right next to you are some groupie-looking chicks with their band tee shirts on. These are all places my cousin and I went. The Yakitori shop was even playing heavy metal over the restaurant stereo system, and had a Loud Park flyer attached to the outdoor A-frame display of their menu.

So, Loud Park. It had the strangest line-up I’ve ever seen for a festival. Though I missed the first few acts, it started with some band called Anime Metal U.S.A., then to August Burns Red, then Stryper, then Amaranthe. At that point I showed up, to catch the last part of Amaranthe’s set. There were two stages in the arena, so as one band was playing the other stage was being prepped for the next band, in order to save time. That meant that the wait time in-between sets was only about ten minutes. Then, Krokus played. They sure do sound like AC/DC, and they are pretty old dudes. They weren’t terrible, but I didn’t have much feeling either way. After them was a band called Unisonic, which features the old singer from Helloween, I think. Maybe the old guitarist, too. They played three Helloween songs, and made numerous references to the past. Singer sounded like Rob Halford a bit, and he could totally hit those high notes. Then, a band called Trivium, who were not too bad, technical sounding heavy metal stuff. They got good mosh pits to form.

But after Trivium were the bands that I was especially looking forward to. Such as The Darkness, who played next. Though I’ve never seen them before, I was expecting a show — and, of course, they put on a great show. The singer is now sporting a moustache-and-goatee in the style of, say, the singer from Gogol Bordello: sort of like a gypsy-looking moustache set up. It makes him look even sillier, but he tops it by coming out in a black unitard with pink and green neon squiggles all over it. Halfway through the set he changes into a David Lee Roth V-cut jump suit. His showmanship was reminiscent of Freddie Mercury, down to the getting the crowd to sing strange little notes and scales in between the songs (think of Queen’s performance at Live Aid). So yeah, they were great. And they were followed by a very different act, but one that I like quite a bit: Arch Enemy. Arch Enemy is melodic metal — I wouldn’t say death metal, because it’s not dissonant,…it’s more like Swedish style, Gothenburg-sounding metal — and their growling vocalist is a woman. And once they played their second song of their set, called “Ravenous,” the largest circle pit that I’ve ever seen erupted in the middle of the crowd. The difference between a circle pit in an American concert and one in a Japanese concert is that Japanese ones are not so set on moshing to fuck one another up. As the circles went round, the people on the periphery had their hands out to high-five moshers who came around. So another great set. Then came the headliners.

Whitesnake. That’s right: Whitesnake. It’s not even, technically, a reunion tour. I think they’ve been together all this time. I could be wrong there, but they were talking about another album in the works. Well, I’m not sure I was ever much of a Whitesnake fan anyways, but at the very least it was entertaining. They of course played “Is This Love That I’m Feeling,” and “Here I Go Again On My Own.” I think those are the titles. It was totally full of everything cliched about 80’s heavy metal acts. Everyone had to have their solo moments. The drummer was constantly throwing sticks high into the air and he caught about 10% of the sticks that came down. During his solo he played his drums with his hands, then with a pair of chopsticks (a culturally-appropriate gesture, I’m sure he was thinking), then with a pair of knives. The drum solo went on for a really long time, but not as long as the guitar solos. Boy, the really took the masturbation metaphor to a whole new level, those guitarists. They were squaring off against one another, crouched in their respective corners, then slowly moving to the center to be face to face, trading lead-licks and making painful faces, moving up and down the scales so fast that it really did look like a jerk-off session. Sometimes, the guitarst who was watching would look at the crowd with that “wow” face and point to the other guitarist playing his lead like “Look at that,…this guy really can jerk it, can’t he?” The drum and guitar solos took up about a half an hour.

On to the singer. I’m gonna be a dick here. So, was the Whitesnake singer already older when they started out in the 80’s? I ask because now he looks like a geriatric with long, brownish-blonde, bushy heavy metal hair and a blousy shirt that is undone, like, three buttons or something, so that you can get the chest-hair effect. I don’t know if drugs had some part in it, but his face looks like it belongs on a seventy five year old body. He frequently treated the mic stand as if it were his dick, grabbing it and pushing it up and sliding it down and up between his fingers, over and over again, sometimes positioning it up against his crotch. In fact, he was grabbing himself quite a bit. When he was away from the mic, he looked out to the crowds and pointed at them, then rubbed his crotch while yelling something. He kept doing it. And the crowds could see him in all his glory because of the high-definition television screens. I could only think “Grandpa, please…you’re embarassing us.”

The main headliner was Limp Bizkit. But I didn’t stay for them. And from the looks of it, at least a quarter if not a half of the crowd exited after Whitesnake. From Whitesnake to Limp Bizkit. I don’t know who puts on the Loud Park shows, but even in the past they’ve had some strange line-ups. It was a pretty fun show to see, nevertheless. I was glad that I was able to catch two bands that I like and that I’ve never seen before.

There’s plenty more to talk about but I’m running out of time right now.

Crotley Mue

So, I wrote this last week at some point but never got around to posting it. It is an unfinished thought, but I still wanted to post it:


On Monday night I went to a Motley Crue concert with my cousin. They played at a place called Zepp Tokyo, which is in Odaiba. I am a Motley Crue fan, but I’d never seen them before. However, I felt like I got lucky because on this tour they were playing fan favorites. I believe that was some promotional part of the tour: have the fans pick the songs, and they came up with specific set-lists for their shows. I was wondering how my cousin aldready knew what songs they were gonna play. He’d told me the set list about a week before the show. At first, I thought that this was something peculiarly Japanese: like bands that play in Japan are required to post their set lists weeks in advance. I thought it was strange, but I wouldn’t of been surprised.

So yeah, they didn’t stray from the set list. They played Livewire from Too Fast For Love. I can’t remember, but I think they also played Ten Seconds to Love. They played Shout at the Devil, Too Young to Fall in Love, and Looks that Kill from Shout at the Devil. They played Home Sweet Home and Smoking in the Boys Room, from Theater of Pain. Girls, Girls, Girls and Wildside from Girls, Girls, Girls.  Dr. Feelgood, Don’t Go Away Mad, and Kickstart My Heart, from Dr. Feelgood. And a few others that I didn’t know, I think a few new songs.

And you know, they were really good. Vince Neil was still able to hit the notes. I was surprised. Usually these heavy metal bands need to play their songs in different keys in order for the singer to be able to sing them. During Tommy Lee’s solo part of the show, his drumset was hooked up to this ferris-wheel looking thing. Like a circular roller-coaster that keeps building up momentum, like a swinging pendelum. He played drums while strapped in to his drumset that went from side to side until he was suspended upside down, all the while still playing them. He then asked an audience member to get strapped into the drumset with him, and then they went round and round.


I was gonna continue the thread, but you know — it happened more than a week ago. A girl that was dressed like a young Motley Crue groupie noticed my tattoos and asked me if I wanted some drugs. I had to have my cousin translate that one, which was pretty funny. He told her we didn’t need any and she walked away.  Afterwards, he said, “Did you…did you want some drugs?” just because he didn’t want to make decisions on my behalf. He was being polite.

Anyhow, maybe another day I will talk more about that concert experience. This saturday though, I’m going to yet another concert with my cousin. It’s called “Loud Park” and has the strangest set of acts I’ve seen on a bill. It’s a heavy metal festival, with Whitesnake and Limp Bizkit as the headliners. There’s also some heavy metal supergroup from America that is playing, called “Anime Metal,” who basically dress up like their favorite Anime characters or something and play movie-themed metal songs. The band that I’m actually looking forward to seeing is The Darkness. Another band called Arch Enemy is also really good; they have a female vocalist, but you’d probably never know by just listening since she’s a death metal vocalist.

I was planning on writing more, but I everytime I get on the computer I end up getting distracted by chat and Skype, so this will have to do. I actually was gonna mention how exhausted I am. In some ways, I haven’t been able to really fully relax. It’s starting to catch up with me a bit now. I haven’t had any time to write in the last week, really. Anyhow, can’t think of much else to say. It’s kind of strange that I’m even posting such an incoherent jumble, but I just wanted to be consistent about posting. I’ll try to at least do one a week. When I get my mind back, I’ll surely have a bit more to talk about. Now, sleep.



Get away from me you freak!

The proprietor of this store, Mr. Freak, invites you to come and look at his freaky shit, such as:

Goose-Down jackets. Fucking freaky. Or worse yet:

knick-knacky shit on a table.

I didn’t actually go into the Freak’s store, but I love what he’s done with the place. No really, just another obsession with Japanese weirdness. This store was close to an area called Harajuku. Harajuku may be known to Americans nowadays because of the Gwen Stefani song “Harajuku Girls.” Harajuku is known for a trend called “Cosplay”: where teenagers to adults dress up in, basically, Halloween costumes and walk around near Yoyogi Park and on the strip called Takeshita Dori. Here’s a picture of the “entrance” to Takeshita Dori:

And here it is with the people (I was told this was a slow day):

Most people have heard of Harajuku, where you can find teenagers dressed up like undead brides or giant onigiri. It’s kind of the district where you can let loose, probably because of the rigidity of normal Japanese life. There seems to be so much tradition and ritual and obligation, all based on old hierarchical standards, that there needs to be an outlet for society. There needs to be ways to be expressive and creative or to just not give a fuck. From what i’ve been told, salarymen let loose by getting absolutely shitfaced drunk by, like, six or seven o clock in the evening. I did witness this a few times. Actually, last night there was a group of salarymen who were holding up their buddy because he could hardly walk straight.

I’ve also been told that quite a few of them also regularly visit gay clubs and are totally on the down-low. Wives, children and everything. Not that different than America, say. So, not especially surprising.

I guess the other type are the people who feel like outcasts, maybe. This is, of course, just what I’ve been told. That this is a place where people who feel like freaks can actually get together and look like freaks and parade around the streets and try to woo tourists to take pictures of them. Is that how you spell “woo”?

I did not see but maybe one or two girls dressed up today. I met up today with Bee’s friend, Expatty, whose been a Tokyoite for the last ten or so years, and she showed me around town a bit. We started around the entrance shown above, going into a few stores, like the sock store: a store that had just about every variation on a sock you could think of. There were socks just for your toes, meaning they were a quarter of the size of an entire sock. There were socks just to keep your ankles warm. Or there were socks that looked like thongs: like butt floss that wedged in between your big toe and the “this little piggy stayed home” toe.

We had plans to go to Yoyogi Park, which is a giant park near Harajuku, and where the Cosplay types are rumoured to hang out in. However, we ended up going a different route which bypassed the park and took us over to a main drag called Omote Sando. Omote Sando is, I guess, the rich area near Harajuku; a fashionable place, but not for Cosplay, more for salons and expensive cafes. Expatty claimed that Omote Sando was a place where bored, wealthy housewives came to eat expensive-ass lunches. The United Nations University is on Omote Sando:

Close by the UN University was a art piece by a well-known architect. This is what Expatty mentioned; that this particular designer’s pieces are not just in Tokyo, but Osaka and, maybe, Hiroshima. Here it is:

Here’s another picture of it:

I couldn’t tell you what it is or what it means or why he was contracted to build this piece, but it is kinda cool.

We walked around, ending up in Shibuya, going to some small upstairs restaurant that had an amazing lunch set. Crab-flavored Miso soup, pickled vegetables, a bowl of rice, and various sashimi. This was my meal. Sashimi in Japan is never frozen and is served at room temperature and is just fresh-as-fuck. So delicious. Maybe thirteen or fourteen dollars for the lunch, but well worth it. I say that but, you know, Expatty treated. So yeah, of course it was well worth it. But seriously folks…

Expatty; my treat next time.

Expatty showed me a do-it-yourself store, which sort of means Japanese hardware store, but really is like a bizarre mini mall that has seven levels with three areas per level: Travel and Season Select; Personal Style; and Stationery is one level. Another is Game, Party and Variety; Knitting and Sewing; and Accessory and Pet.  The place is called Tokyu Hands, and is one of the coolest stores I’ve ever seen. There really is a “chances are they have it,” thing going on there. If you want a do-it-yourself cut-out set that creates a miniature scene of a full orchestra playing in a park, complete with conductor, musicians, instruments, park bench, and tree — they have it.  If you want an ultra-modern toilet bowl brush, they have it. Want milk-candy flavored chap-stick? no problem. Want slippers that clean the floor as you walk? Want Harry Potter chopsticks? How about Star-Wars chopsticks, or bullet-train chopsticks? How about talking toys that let you know that the refrigerator door has been open too long (they’re polar bears, and it has a global-warming theme).Want excercise gear, weight gain protein powders, gift cards, beds and mattresses, light bulbs, lanterns, or outfits for your pets? Shit, they have it.

Afterwards, coffee and large ice cream sundaes in an upstairs cafe that was close to the infamous Shibuya crossing. Very good, very expensive. Maybe a fifteen dollar ice cream sundae. Thanks again, Expatty. I ate like a king today.

Damn, Tokyo really has a lot to see.

Sorry, no pictures of Harajuku Cosplay girls. Didn’t find them. Maybe next time.


Another one-class day. Only an hour and a half. A History of Modern Japan. But this professor’s monotonous voice combined with his english speaking skills made it hard to concentrate. There was a lot of head-bobbing and eyelash fluttering going on in the class today. I found myself staring at the walls and the doors and the lights and the desks.

His class is straight lecture. This point was brought up by the program director a couple of weeks ago when we were having a small orientation on a Japanese-style curriculum. She wanted to point out that Japanese classes were less interactive than an American style class (or maybe she said “Western” style class?). I felt like I might’ve been the only one who was looking forward to this style.

I understand the benefits of dialogue in a classroom, but it’s usually excruciating. Maybe I’m making excuses here, but it seems like any sort of real argument needs to be brought up to a certain level before debate about it can be meaningful. What’s the point if you don’t actually have a point yet? I kind of like it when someone just gives me the information so that I can decipher it and process it and come up with my own opinions about it. In my history classes I’ve always had a hard time with certain excercises, like getting people together in groups and trying to explain primary sources. We’d read a source without any context and then the professor would want our honest opinions of it. Sometimes, this takes place at the beginning of a term, when we have no knowledge of the subject. We’d have about fifteen minutes to look at some words and come up with a hypothesis. Quick, quick, quick, hurry up, read it, what’s your opinion. Basically, they wanted to see how we “felt” about it. I am still not quite sure what this exercise is getting at, unless it’s aim is to make us feel inadequate or stupid, or to show us that our gut-reactions and impulse judgements are simplistic. 

 I guess I’m not good at thinking on my feet; I tend to be meticulous. And yes, sometimes that’s a problem. I’m definitely not good in situations where I have to think quickly, and not good under pressure. It’s probably why being a cook tormented me so much. Sometimes I wish I were better at being quick, but for history classes I’m glad that I favored reading entire books rather than skimming them.

The short answer to what I’m talking about is: “Hey, why don’t you give us the information, let us digest it, and then when you see our term papers you can see who the simple-ass motherfuckers are for yourself.”

But no, my classes are usually conducted like a therapy session, where we talk about how we feel, and when we disagree we begin sentences with “I understand where you’re coming from, but I…”

With all of that said, I did find today’s lecture-style class a bit boring. Only because the professor’s voice is hard to follow. But I’ll take that any day over the professor who sets up a conversation forum because they don’t want to bother with a lesson plan, or with teaching a class for that matter, and they have a million other things on their mind, like getting their book published in academia. The material is of interest though, and I have the textbook, so he won’t be getting in my way. He can be as boring as he wants and I’ll be fucking daijobu.

Another school day. That’s all. On Sunday I am meeting a friend and we’re going to walk around Harajuku. If I remember correctly, Sundays are the big day in Harajuku, where teenagers and adults dress up in wild outfits (what’s known as Cosplay) and the streets are for pedestrians only. If that’s the case, expect pictures.


Bungaku: I think that translates as “Literature.”

Notice how often I have to insert “I think” into my sentences? That’s probably gonna continue for this entire trip.

Nothing special today. Just the second day of school. Today’s class: Japanese Literature After 1945. We mostly watched scenes from documentaries about the occupation period of Japan. They were American-made documentaries, showing things like General MacArthur’s arrival in Japan, where he surveys the landscape for a good long moment, looking side to side, puffing on a long corn-cob pipe and wearing his big aviator sunglasses. There were scenes from places like the Ginza district, which became a mostly Americanized shopping district after the war, as well as a few scenes showing the destruction of some areas of Tokyo, or other cities. One of the documentaries showed American soldiers giving out chocolate after chocolate to the swarms of children that surrounded the foreigners and stuck their hands out and practically trampled one another for another piece of candy. Even an older woman was trying to get in on the action. Many in the class laughed at these images, as the documentary intended for them to be light-hearted images. The music also guided you to this kind of emotional reaction.

The first author that my professor brought up right after showing the documentaries was a man named Nosaka Akiyuki, and his book “Grave of the Fireflies.” He was one of the first to write about the problem of post-war street children. In Japan, many were orphaned due to the bomb-raids over all of the major cities, as well as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Consequently, there was an explosion of young kids living on the street. Japan was in turmoil, the entire infastructure of Japan (both physical and societal) was being re-constructed.  These kids were forced into being beggars. Japan also had an extreme shortage of food.

So yeah, the chocolate wasn’t just a treat — it was food.

I had read somewhere that during the post-war period there were many people digging in restaurant trashes for scraps, like raw fish and meats, and creating their own makeshift grills in order to cook these scraps. Apparently, this was a time when there was quite a lot of fugu poisoning. People were dumpster diving and finding fugu organs, then grilling and eating them. And that was it.  Apparently, even when you eat the safely prepared sashimi, it starts to numb your lips and tongue, which is just a hint of the poisonous effects — which is supposed to be the reason why people enjoy it.

Fugu is the Japanese pufferfish. I’m sure everyone’s heard of it: the organs are highly poisonous, and if the fish is not prepared correctly it can shut down your respiratory system. The training required to prepare fugu is supposed to be quite lengthy and expensive, and the final test of the trainee is that they have to prepare the fish as sashimi and then eat it. I wonder if there were any burnouts in fugu-preparatory school who skipped classes because they were too busy partying, and then failed. Hungover at their final exam?: Extreme Fail.

So yes, not much else to report. Just feeling the need to write something down. I’ll leave with another picture. This was in a mall near Takadanobaba Station.

At this mall the staff have a strict passive-aggressive policy towards the customer.

Horse Sashimi

Yup, I totally tried it. I went to an Izakaya with my cousins last Saturday, and had strips of horse meat served raw. A little garlic, ginger, and soy sauce, and that was it. If they hadn’t told me, I would’ve thought it was venison or something. Very lean, hardly any fat. No distinct flavor to the meat. It was nice. Then again, I haven’t turned down anything offered to me. Fuck it, can’t get raw horse in America, so why not? I’d eat human baby tartare if someone said “try it, it’s fucking oishii!”

Okay, maybe not.

Today was my first day of school. There are no exceptions in Tokyo: even the campus’s are crowded. Waseda’s curriculum is divided into seven periods throughout the day. So, everybody gets out of class at roughly the same time, and they start at the same time. I’m pretty sure of this. After the second period there is a forty or so minute break for lunch. What that means is that every convenience store in Waseda gets flooded with people. The convenience stores in Japan are just like ones in America, but they usually have extras like Japanese onigiri, ramen bowls, french pastries, slices of pizza, yogurts and puddings; and a wider selection of drinks, like Calpis milk sodas, iced coffee, iced green tea, electrolyte drinks like Pocari Sweat and Dakara. they are pretty awesome, but at lunch time you can’t really get into them. Or, you’ll get in, but you’ll have to wait in line for a really long fucking time.

Japanese language class. Was difficult. Hope it gets better…

The other two classes I’ve signed up for seem pretty cool. A Modern History of Japan. I like the way the professor thinks. He started out the class with a discussion about controversies in History, and about historiography, and the flaws with the narrative that is “the” History. His only drawback was that he has an incredible monotone: it lulls you to sleep. I had to fight back falling asleep at certain moments.

The other class, Japanese Literature After 1945, is the one I’m really looking forward to. The class is divided into two eras: the immediate aftermath of the war, when there was a proliferation of writers whose work dealt with the psychological effects of war, and defeat, and the utter destruction of Japan, and occupation — and whose works were sometimes censored by the American authorities; and the era of collective memory about the war. Oe Kenzaburo, Dazai Osamu, Ooka Shohei; these are a few of the authors we will be reading throughout the course.

Odd, there’s no Mishima in the list of authors. Maybe he’s someone that the Universities don’t want to even touch. It is strange, though, because he’s one of the most well-known post-war authors, and from what I understand his themes are definitely along the same lines as the other authors mentioned above. Is it really because he was a semi-closeted homosexual who formed his own right-wing militia in order to stage a coup to restore the power and symbolism of the Emperor, and when that failed ritualistically committed seppuku?

Those are my classes. And thus begins the semester.

Unfortunately, I get around to writing on this blog rather late, and because of my schedule and my long walks exploring the city, I end up being pretty tired by the end of the night. I wanted to write a bit about certain cultural things I’ve been noticing, but I feel that exploring this territory requires a little more concentration than what I have right now. Just little things. Mostly about trying to avoid the wide-eyed idealism that many foreigners coming to this country possess. The pre-conceived notions of Japanese-ness, about Japanese culture (as usually represented by Manga and Anime first, and then by the initial cultural immersion of being here) — I try to avoid these things, but I, too, find myself thinking in those ways, at times. I’m finding that the best way to go about it is to not take every bit of information that people give you and then running with it, making strange generalizations, i.e: the people are all nice, everyone loves green tea, their politics are like this, they do things like this and not like that, etc… It’s that weird trap that I think everyone falls into at some point. Where you start to form a large generalization about cultural behavior as a whole, and end up applying it to everyone, as if that were how people worked. Then you even become shocked when you find out that the culture is not some monolithic, objective thing, but rather like your own culture: it can’t be pinned down so easily. God knows it’s annoying when people try to do the same with your own culture.

Well, sleep is beckoning. The philosophy forum will continue soon.

I gotta at least give you one picture:

That’s an Italian Restaurant, by the way.