Friday, 25 April 2014

Bye Bye Dy Dy

The first true friend I made in Japan has now left.  He's left to cycle the entire length of America. From Northern Canada to Southern Argentina. How crazy? You can read about it here . I'm so excited for him, yet sad he's gone. I hope that when I finish in Japan I can travel to America and go visit him in Texas. I can't wait to hear all about the adventure.

We had a picnic to say goodbye. A hammock was involved:

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


I guess nothing too exciting is happening at the moment as I'm "saving". I forgot my planner diary at home today, so I really can't tell you what's been going on.

I can start with last night and work backwards.

I went for dinner with Freddy and Alistair in Oarai. We found a local restaurant where you pay 1000 yen and get a bowl of your choice of soba AND a donbori - what a bargain. For no apparent reason I couldn't sleep last night until about 4. I'm fine, just sometimes it happens. I'm drinking coffee now in preparation for a lesson I have to do in 7 minutes. That was a well chosen time to start writing a blog post. I can see in my face when I've had a sleepless night because I look like I've been crying..or am about to. The truth is its just my eyeballs reaction to light when all they want to do is safely snuggle behind the comfort of my eyelids. Sorry guys - work and all that.

Maybe I never added these things:

There was a suprise birthday for maccy mac. We waited in an all you can eat and sushi restaurant (thats right - drinking sushi) waiting for an hour starving.  Eventually he came in and we cheered. Then the massacre of a million pieces of sushi occurred. Unfortunately we ordered waaay too much food - and then had to discretely take it in turns to go to the bathroom and hide/flush food in various places. I dont know why I dont bring tupperwear to restaurants with me here - I really don't.

heres me and the birthday boy mac mac magee:

heres the group shot:

Then we went to the duck afterwards..standard. This is what having fun with your friends looks like:


I got tired and left early. This is evidence of that:

The day after this I went to hitachi seaside park with daniel, tommy and mamina:

Oh yea, Hana and Marlys showed up and demonstrated gymnastics:

Also Maccy Mac rocked up on his bike and then pretended to be a moving vehicle:

I tried to skateboard - but in the end needed a hand:

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Mito Yozakura at Gokoku shrine

Celebrating the incredibly short period of time in which sakura blooms - there was a small but great yozakura festival in Mito near to Gokoku shrine.

The yozakura was on for a whole week but I only went for one night because I'm tired, lazy and have other priorities (like attending japanese class, washing my hair and watching Ally McBeal dvds). Naturally, Daniel and others made a point of going every evening.

Luckily Robbie took loads of very nice pictues of the event which I will now steal and pass off as my own work below.

It was a beautiful night:

Khaki who runs anglers (the beer pong bar in Mito) found us:

That group of people I spend too much time with:

One of the businessmen on the table next to us at an enkai was more than happy to demonstrate a Japanese game in which you break a pair of chopsticks using your underwear and butt cheeks. I am yet to try this out.

There was karaoke:

Friday, 11 April 2014

Spanish Tapas

Following our Japanese class I went with Freddy to have tapas with some nice people. Very sophisticated.

There was a NZ dude there who had done JET 5 years ago. Was interesting to talk to an alumni I suppose.


Answers I wrote for a questionnaire to be on Japanese TV

I just filled out a questionnaire to be on Japanese TV - thought I would keep my questionnaire answers as it took me a little time.

Aspects of Japanese society you find interesting, unique, odd

My answer:

Many, many thing!

At work: Having a shoe locker for when I come in and out. The way in which gifts are given (omiyage) has also been a unique experience. Coming to work and always finding strange snacks on my desk is something I have never experienced, but certainly enjoy!

In general: One thing which I have noticed that I find so amazing here, is that when the Japanese choose a theme they go all out. This is with all things, decorations, party themes, cafe or bar themes and even personal fashion and music taste.

For example: Going to a Mexican restaurant in Japan, means that every inch of the restaurant will be covered in Mexican memorabilia. I love how Japanese cafes and restaurant’s put so much detail into the theme of their business. It really is quite fantastic! I wish that British businesses would incorporate this as it makes daily life full of wild experiences.

This is also with people’s personal style. For example in the city I live (Mito) I have met a local man who runs a punk record store. On the surface, it seems as though every aspect of his life is based on the British punk scene, which reminds me of being back in Camden in London. He dresses like a punk, runs a punk record store and his home is full of vinyl. I find that when a Japanese person is passionate about something – they make it their thing in a way that British people never would. I find this so interesting, and it makes living in Japan so much more fun!

One thing which most people comment on when coming to Japan, which is definitely worth mentioning is the toilets. I have become totally addicted to Japanese spray toilets. They are certainly very cool. Also, a lot of foreigners find the use of face masks very odd! Everyone wears them. But why?

I personally love going to Japanese festivals. I went to the yoyogi park hanami last weekend and thought it was great! I love Japanese festivals, they are very unique and so much fun. I also love matsuri food, so delicious! I have also been to the snow festival in Sapporo which was incredible. I also went to the Kanagawa fertility festival (the penis festival) it was absolutely hilarious. Japanese festivals are certainly an experience.

I love Japanese combini’s – they are the best things in the world. I don’t know how I managed to cope without them. Japanese alcohol is also great. Beer, whisky, Japanese sake, you name it, I will drink it! I have also been enjoying “strong zeros”. Also karaoke culture is one of my favourite things. I have now had quite a few crazy karaoke parties. I love how you can have all you can drink at karaoke as well, certainly makes for a wild night out!

Yoyogi Park is one of my favorite places in Japan. It is the hub of so many weird and interesting sub-cultures. I have booked to go down to Tokyo during golden week just so I can spend 4 days hanging out in Yoyogi Park, what a great place for people watching. 
And of course, gaming in Japan is something that cannot be topped anywhere else in the world. Japanese arcade centers are one of the most fun place to spend an afternoon, especially pirikura.

Of course one thing in Japan that is very different to my home country, is how clean everything is. Especially on the trains! If you take the metro in London you will find rubbish everywhere (as well as much wear and tear and general filth). Things in Japan are so clean, I never see litter. I think this is largely due to the fact that people here tend to be so incredibly respectful of their surroundings. How refreshing. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


A great weekend down in Tokyo is enough to restore my faith that the decision to live here was the right one.

When you live in an Ibaraki-bubble (Iba-bubble? bubble-raki?) there is nothing more refreshing than venturing down to Tokyo and talking to strangers. Tokyo is an amazing place to meet people - so many different types of interesting people. Its just getting down there and experiencing the city with an open mind, which is something that I have not been doing enough.

Anyway, heres the weekend run-down.

Friday night: Daniel and I took a train down to Fujishiro - we stayed over at Chris Murray's. We also went to his favourite local bar and had a HEEElarious time might I add.
Saturday: Yoyogi park hanami. It was ridiculous. If I could go every weekend to such an event I would. The cherry blossom was just the icing on the cake. What a beautiful situation. Blake's parklife party occured. I moved between the base camp (which I had set up with Murray and Daniel early in the day) and Blakes gathering. So many humans, so many wonderful wonderful humans. I don't know what to say - I'm still trying to piece it all together really.

Some highlights: my own private toilet which I found and used - avoiding the hour long portaloo queues like a festival-going veteran. oh yes. The Italian meal following off that main little street in Harajuku. The most amount of tarpoolin I have ever seen in my life. Giving Daniel a piggy-back and pretending that I was a gun-robot using his legs as weapons. The Withnail and I hippy look-nd-act-alike and his delightful lady-friend I chatted to. I also met an enchanting Spanish woman called Marina who reminded me of another Spanish girl I knew from back at Kent. Teaching Hana pringle-lid frisbee. The existence of John Dicks.

We ended up at the hostel in Yokohama. I fell asleep on the train on the way there and so almost got left behind. We went for a drink in a tiny bar near the hostel. I misinterpreted a natural biological  process for a poetic metaphor. There was heavy rain and grapefruit juice.

Sunday:  The usual suspects shot-gunned beers outside a combini. Snapchats of this event were later recieved. We went to the Kanamara festival. It was way too busy. I ate some yakisoba. It rained - we got separated. I was stuck under a small shrine for rain protection. I tried to convince a group of foreigners that they should umbrella escort me to where my friends were - this of course got ignored. When the heavy rain passed we all gathered outside the station.

We explored the wider area. I bought some trousers. Me and Tommychan did pachinko for what I suspect to be the first and last time. Bucket list Japan experience tick off. We had some Krispy Kreme dougnuts. We all spent the rest of the afternoon at a massive arcade centre. I got piri-kura with Yukishmoo, tommychan & Laurence.

We befriended an abnormally genki couple. We travelled with them to Roppongi to go to the same Mexican restaurant we go to every time we spend a Sunday in Tokyo. Its always worth it. Robbie always returns to the same bar where he is known for his cosplay halloween costume and love for obscure American breweries. We befriended two musicians outside the mexican place. They invited us to a "party" round the corner. we went. It was at a "Brew Dogs", a brewery chain that I've seen back home. There was a band playing called "The Watanabes" ....not really my cup of tea, but it was pleasent and they seemed like very friendly blokes. We've been invited to watch everyone play at a battle of the bands type thing next saturday night.. not sure if I'm gonna go - theres other stuff going on that weekend back here. hmm.

I spoke to Robbie on the train home. It was emotional. I guess I'd never really spoken to that guy properly on a one-to-one basis. But I think it was a bonding experience, and I'm glad. I'm looking forward to my next Tokyo trip.

According to John Dicks, "make a face like you are eating spaghetti":

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A new direction

I have recieved great advice in the last week.

The Japanese school year has come to an end, and many teachers have left. I have been in a negative place, feeling the loss of many of my friends leaving. I have already written about how sad this has made me feel.

However, with lows comes highs. Two friends in particular, both at the end of their term here in Japan have given me great advice upon their departure. Holly and Cage. I am so grateful to both of them. Holly has given me great advice without realising it - just through talking to her about her experiences here, and the highs and lows she's been through, has shed much light on what to expect. Cage has given me more direct advice. As I helped him pack up his apartment, he was in a particularly nostalgic and emotional frame of mind, and was able to impart tips and advice to me about living here. Through speaking with him, I realised that I have not been as open as I would like to be.

As much as I love my group of friends here, I have not been branching out in the way I would like to. When I look back to my year in Bristol, I know I made the most of my time there. I worked hard (well, hard enough) on my degree and learnt a lot. But it wasn't just that. I branched out, I made many different types of friends. Of course I made friends with the people on my course, and I loved the group of students on my programme, but I made many friends outside of the university, I befriended many locals, followed the city's music scene and worked at a really fantastic local pub. This gave me a different type of insight into life in Bristol. I wasn't just involved with student life, I was a member of the local community.

In Japan, I feel that I have been doing myself a disservice. I made a group of amazing friends within the first 3 months - and then I settled. I do everything with the same group, I have become too attached and comfortable with this social circle. I have become complacant with my situation and feel that I have stopped discovering and feeling inspired by what is new.

Now that the long and painful winter is over - Spring time is here. Cherry blossom is in full bloom and a new school year is about to begin. I want to, no, need to seize this opportunity. I am young,  I am living in Japan and I need to make the most of this time.

New found love

It is spring vacation. For the students. I of course have to come in everyday and sit here. I often complain about the holidays. God knows the summer was a drag. But I have found something to occupy myself with this holiday.

I ordered a book to learn kanji with a few weeks ago. Since the start of the holiday (last week) I have been slowly making my way through it. Ok, maybe I am only on page 43 of 200. But, I am really getting into this. Kanji is so interesting. Despite my bitching about it - getting angry that I have not been able to read anything because theres so much complicated kanji written everywhere - I think it is slowly becoming one of my favourite things to study in Japanese. As my spoken Japanese is horrendous - I barely practice, being so shy to speak Japanese (espeically at work) I rarely get to actually test it out - and when I do try to speak to people in Japanese I hit a wall almost immediately as my vocabulary (and particularly my understanding of the Japanese grammer system) is so limited. But I really feel that reading Japanese might become a true passion. I feel that it is something I will be able to continue to do after leaving Japan. I have always had a love for comic books - I would love to start reading real manga. Of course I am not yet ready to do this yet - I am just getting my head around some of the most basic kanji, and becoming acquainted with the system of radicals as I slowly learn how to use the infinitely useful denshi jisho website.

You would think that when learning a language, speaking and reading would go hand in hand, but Japanese completely turns this preconception on its head. This paradox of Japanese linguistics, is in part what makes Japanese so difficult, yet so interesting.