Monday, June 28, 2010

Kikkoman Factory Tour

It's Tuesday morning, a few hours before an organized field-trip to the coastal town of Otaru. Yesterday after Japanese class we went to the Kikkoman factory where we learned a bit about soy sauce, which I think I can share with you. 3 ingredients, Soy beans, Wheat, and Salt.. plus a microbe, which might be called Kikkoman Aspergillis, but I should get Emily to help me with that microbiology stuff. 6 months later, Soy Sauce! Apparently not a lot has changed over 350 years of constant manufacture, just more computers to help control temperature and oxygen. The manufacturing process wasn't terribly enthralling, but the employees were awesome. Super attentive and friendly and excited, I think they were all really proud of what they were doing, and that was more impressive than the bottling machinery or whatnot.

Afterwards, back in Sapporo, we wandered down to a local bar and had a drink, which is still a little bit of a problem.. we can't seem to find local dive bar-type establishments, and always end up in more expensive restaurant things, which are starting to get a little predictable, and aren't entirely comfortable. oh well.. we are a giant gaijin parade, i suppose. We'd probably ruin whatever comfortable bar atmosphere we found. Saaa..

Yesterday I couldn't get the camera, website, and computer to all work together in harmony at the same time, so no pictures yet.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Just got back from an awesome adventure in the mountains outside of Sapporo, where my host family took me to a famous mineral spring (near the base of the moutain in the picture). Pretty amazing stuff, no doubt. Thats my host mother and I in front of the mountain on the drive up there.

At the spring we wandered around and drank the water, which some people collected by the kiloliter, using big plastic bottles and carts on wheels (we collected a single bottle). On the way back down to Sapporo, we stopped at another spring (a hot one) and dipped our feet for a bit (that's my host mother's daughter and husband). Near this hot spring was another Shinto shrine [edit: not Shinto, actually Buddhist], with an awesome cave full of statues of Buddhas and such.. pretty cool place, and I got a little fortune thing (O Mikubi) which was apparently the best one you could get, although I could only read a tiny bit of it.

Last night we went out to a buffet sort of restaurant, only with a grill built into the center of the table, so we cooked our own meat and vegetables. They also had all sorts of other stuff of course, sushi and ice cream and fruit and on and on and on.. fun stuff, and it was cool that we all had to kinda help each other cook while we ate, to keep stuff moving around. The picture is of me eating sushi, which my host family is still impressed by.. I tried to explain to them that I really like some sushi, but I don't think they believed me.

Before that, Emily and I went to the flower festival in the middle of Sapporo (Odori park, if you have a map) and wandered around the crazy shopping mall city nearby, where we ate some ramen for lunch before going to Emily's host mother's house for an informal tea ceremony lesson, which was pretty interesting.. including rare and expensive treats from the southern end of Honshu and family heirloom tea cups worth something like 20,000 dollars! wow.

We'll have time tomorrow (Monday) to post another blog entry and upload some more pictures, so I'll stop here.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Taro-chan wa kawaii inu desu!

I think the dog, Taro, has been a great ice-breaker. I love dogs and Taro is very sweet. He can do some simple tricks like high-five and sit up tall and balance on his hind legs. During meals, he sits next to the table and begs with a funny-sounding voice. Okaasan is pretty strict about not feeding him from the table, but Otoosan is a softie!

When we go for a walk, Taro-chan can be left outside of a shop without being tied up -- Okaasan just tells him "matte" and he waits until we come back and doesn`t run away. When we get back from a walk, Okaasan carries him into the house, straight to the washroom, and washes his feet (because he doesn`t have shoes to take off.) She is pretty diligent about keeping outside ground/inside ground separate.

PS - Local time is 1:25 pm on Tuesday.
PSS - Happy Father`s Day, Dad! (Sorry no card)


This is yesterday`s breakfast and the smallest meal my host mother has served so far!


My host parent`s house and the park across the street.


emily & amanda woods on the streets of Sapporo, after successfully buying a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

my room (2nd floor corner room) with a nice breeze and awesome windows. it has a little desk for my school work and closet for my clothes, so i'm practically back home.

this is just a quick one, before the day starts -

yesterday was the language placement test, which was a little bit nerve-wracking. i think i did alright on the written stuff (kanji is still a problem) but i feel like i really messed up in the interview, so that was disappointing.

on the other hand, some of the students on campus here have been really friendly and have allowed me to practice a lot of Japanese (some of them are English majors!), and we had a little welcome party last night with more conversation practice. at the end of the day (after biking home in the dark) i was pretty tired, so i pretty much went to bed right away.

we also went on a little adventure in the late afternoon, wandering around Sapporo where we found a little bar and had a few drinks, which is really great.. much appreciated break from the hectic worrying..


today is an easy day, no classes, just touring and sight-seeing, so we'll be able to post some pictures soon.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day, I think..

It is Sunday night here in Sapporo, the evening before our first day at school, and it has already been a whirlwind experience. I've spent the past 36 hours or so in a near constant low-level confusion, but my Japanese has gotten a lot better!

I've got an awesome homestay family, the Saito family, and they've been amazingly supportive and energetic (and understanding) towards my clumsy attempts to get situated and such. ..and I've eaten more food in a day in a half than I would in a week back home, I think.

So far, as a quick rundown since Emily's post -
After breakfast we met at the school (Hokkaido Univ) and milled about waiting for our hosts to arrive, which was surprisingly nerve-wracking. Needlessly, as the hosts and school administration has gone to great lengths to prepare everyone over here for us, and Emily's host family and mine took us to lunch together before we seperated. Since then, I've been around Sapporo on bike (they've got a bike for my school commute!) and been to the supermarket (disorienting), gone to Sato-land (a sort to cross between a park and amusement park, and another park with giant fountains and bike racing and little mountains. I had written in my introduction letter that I like hiking and biking, and they've been concerned that I wouldn't get a chance.. so I get quite a bit today.

..and so much food! I don't think I could detail/catalogue it all, but it's amazing. They really appreciate food around here, I think.. French, Chinese, Korean, and of course Japanese in abundance, as well as interesting versions of American food.. and lots of sweets. I think I've gained weight.

Tomorrow morning (Monday) is the first day of school, with a placement test first thing in the morning, and it'll be the first time I've seen Emily since yesterday morning.. which doesn't sound like a long time but it feels like a very very long time. So tomorrow is another big day, looking forward to it, blah blah..

Oh! It's also Father's Day in Japan, too. I watched some crazy show that seemed similar to 'kids say the darnedest things' or whatever, but it was all cute little kids saying things about their fathers (i think... umm..) anyhow, it's 3am or so where my dad is, so I'm gonna skip the phone call.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Christian Center

This is the sort of hostel-type place we stayed at the first night, before meeting our host families.

Breakfast spread.


Poor big Mike . . . everything is so small for him, including the door frames

. . .and Arrival!

Clearly we were all a little less fresh-faced and bright-eyed after a day of traveling and crossing the date line, arriving *finally* at New Chitose airport in Sapporo on Friday night.

Wow! A cigarette machine. Neat.


Bright and early Thursday morning at PDX airport. . . Marina and Amanda were on our flight. The transit was long, but relatively smooth. I ate fast-food poutine at the Vancouver airport *shout out, Helen Hedberg!*

Everything about the Japanese flights was pretty adorable -- I tried to get a little video clip of the safety video, which was emceed and enacted by these little cartoon avatars who would make animaeish facial expressions when, say, the person in front of them put their seat back abruptly, or tripped over bags left in the aisle. Totemo kawaii desu nee! Also, the stewardesses were all very cute, with these puffy silken neck scarves and JAL aprons of cotton fabric enprinted with fantastical old-fashioned hot air balloon flight machines.

Aaron and I sat next to a sweet 6-year-old and her mother on the 10+ hour flight from Vancouver to Tokyo. The girl, whose name was Erika, goes to a French-immersion school in Vancouver, but is Japanese (she and her mom were flying to visit family) and also speaks English. Smart girl! She shared her Japanese snacks with us on the plane, and we played some video games on the in-flight entertainment screen.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

day after tomorrow!

no photo for today, but wanted to keep up with maintaining the blog habit.
we just got home from our last camaro island practice before we leave. it was a pretty decent practice, i must say-- we just wrote a 2-hour set list and went for it. ed recorded the session, so maybe he can get rich some day in case we don't come back from japan (HA! and ~knockonwood~)

we got a lot of little errands done today. tomorrow: final load of laundry and cleaning, pay bills, and PACK! ohmygoshimasu!

Monday, June 14, 2010


whew! i finished this crosstitch just in time -- it is for Yoshida-sensei at Richmond to thank her for allowing me to infiltrate her classroom for the last half a year. i know haiku is sort of a complicated art, and i'm sure mine is naively elementary, but i think she'll appreciate the sentiment:

i hope this means something like:
"in this classroom, beautiful songs resound."

i discovered that the crosstitch medium is sort of difficult to work with for writing hiragana, but it's probably because i'm not even THAT comfortable writing it pencil-to-paper yet.

now to decide which yarn and knitting supplies to bring with me. . . .

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Spring Festival

at Richmond Elementary.

Yoshida-sensei passionately directed the kindergarteners in the singing of several Japanese songs with gestures. She is a musical genius with the kids.

I was so tickled to meet Poncho from the Moshi Moshi program!

Richmond Elementary

Me with my kindergarten class at Richmond Japanese Immersion School. Totemo suki desu!

Atarashi zishyoo desu yo!

I can't believe I'm blogging! I'm attempting to prepare myself for the advent of a photo chroniclation of our impending trip to Japan. You know, because I lack the tech savvy.

This is a picture of me with my new dictionary. Nakanaka ii zishyoo desu nee. . .

study buddy

Last week, Indiana kept me company while I studied for the ACS Organic Chemistry exam. This week, I recycled about 30 pounds of O-chem related papers from the past year. I will miss that class, really.

Hangover Brunch

So we can feel human again.

Gifts for our host families!

Moonstruck chocolates and Stumptown coffee -- YUMM! The wrapped, rolled up things are beautiful peacock tapestries that my mom crocheted for the host families (I wish I had thought to take pictures of them before packaging). We haven't been told much, but here's what we know: Aaron's is the Saito family, a 91-year-old grandmother, 60-year-old mom, and two sons, ages 27 & 28. Mine is a mom and dad, ages 60 & 63, and a shihtzu, family name Koyama.