Kanpai is the Japanese equivalent for the English word "Cheers." This fall, I will be attending Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. The following accounts are the events of my journey as they unfold.

Monday, February 27, 2012


In my last post, I informed you all that I would soon have a long break. I then promised to catch up on my lack of blog posts for the first semester. Despite being on a 2 and a half month break from school, lately I feel like I have been even busier than ever.

Today, I began a 2 week sightseeing trip. I rode a high speed bullet train 400 km west and arrived in Kyoto at around 2PM. Having become accustomed to the crowds of Tokyo, I was immediately surprised to find Kyoto to be very relaxed. I was also surprised at the lack of skyscrapers. Not that I am bothered by it, but when I walk around outside I can actually look up and see mountains and hills in the distance. Although I really enjoy Tokyo, sometimes it can feel slightly claustrophobic.

From about 2:30 PM until 9 PM, I walked around. Tomorrow, one of my friends is meeting me in Kyoto, but today I was ridin' solo. All alone for nearly 7 hours, I just walked around. I never really felt lonely. For one, I am not the type of person that needs to be around people at all times. Another reason is that I am experiencing Kyoto for the first time.

Everything is new, everything is fresh.

I love having these types of experiences. Not knowing anyone or anything. Some may feel uncomfortable in this type of situation, and I can understand that. However, for some reason that uncomfortable feeling gives me a rush. It's like I'm living out an adventure.

A lot of times when people engage in activities, the reason it is fun is because they are with those they care about to share the experiences with. When you are alone, your only companions are your own thoughts. It might seem scary, but it really isn't. When you are by yourself, you are free from any other person's perspective. You do not have to agree or disagree about anything. You can just observe things in their pure, natural form. Your experience is then determind by your own judement.

Truthfully, it wasn't like I lacked human interaction the entire day. In fact, at a temple I visited I had a conversation with two girls from a nearby city who were also there sightseeing. Having lived in Japan for around 5 months now, I am no longer nervous when it comes to using my Japanese. I am nowhere near fluent, but I have come to accept that fact. I speak the best I can, and usually receive praise for trying my hardest to communicate. I have never had anyone give me the cold shoulder or say anything negative about my language skills.

So, here I am in Kyoto.

The first temple I visited is usually regarded as the most famous attraction in this city. It is known as Kiyomizu Temple. I am really tired so I am not going to going to spend much time on explanations, but this temple and the surrounding area really made me feel like i jumped back in time about 500 years. I will try to explain more about Kyoto when I have time, but for now here are some pictures.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tell your kids...sChOoL is cOoL

*Note to self. Do not attempt to write blog after consuming any amount of alcohol.

If any of you have read my last blog post, you will understand why I needed to remind myself this.

Today I am not Tequila Tuff, and that's a good thing, because I got a lot to talk about.

I want to rewind back to mid-December. At Sophia University I am enrolled in three courses; language, literature and leligions.

Haha, I know its :"religions," I just wanted to keep the alliteration.

One of the assignments of the religions course, was to get with a group, attend a Japanese shrine/temple festival and then give a presentation to the class, detailing those events.

My group went to a festival called Gishi-sai, at Sengakuji, in Minato. The festival honors the true story of 47 ronin (leaderless samurai) that avenged their master's death and then eventually were ordered to commit seppuku, which is a ritual form of suicide. Despite what you may think, this was considered an honorable death for warriors. (Has anyone seen The Last Samurai? Great movie BTW)

If you want to know more about the event, just type in "Forty-seven Ronin" in google and read the Wikipedia page, it is very interesting.

At the temple are the actual gravestones of these Ronin and so we went to pay our respects, but also to indulge in some good foods and to see the parade. There were many vendors, selling souvenirs, food, and sweets and many other things.

Here are some pictures from the event:

This picture was taken shortly after we arrived and we had just entered the main temple area, and if you look to the right, those tents set up are the just a few of the vendors I talked just about.

We still had some time to kill before the parade was scheduled to start, so we decided to go visit the gravestones of the fallen warriors.

This was the line that lead to the gravestones. Good thing we had plenty of time before the parade because it took nearly 40 minutes before we actually made it to the gravestones.

At the entrance they were selling bundles of incense to place as an offering to the gravestones. I did not buy any and almost immediately regretted it. Fortunately, an older gentleman was kind enough to offer me some.

Burning incense is a very common practice in Japan when visiting temples, family gravestones, etc.

After visiting the gravestones we went back to the main temple area to wait for the parade to arrive.

The parade had started at another temple across town, and ended at Sengakuji. The parade represents the actual path that the ronin took, way back in 1703. They brought the head of their master's enemy and offered it to his tomb.

This dude looks so cool. I want this outfit and his swords.

I think its great that I was able to attend this festival for a school project. I never thought that school could be this much fun. Also, our presentation went well enough so all in all everything was worthwhile.

This happened over a month ago, so you can see that I am running behind on my blog posts. There is still more I want to talk about regarding my trip to Osaka, and some other things I have done over the last couple of months that I have not shared yet.

However, I am in the middle of exam week so I am going to wrap things up here. After this upcoming Monday, I will have almost 2 and a half months off before the start of the second semester, so I will have plenty of time to catch up on posts.

I am going to leave you now with a picture of what I was snacking on while I was writing this post.

These are called onigiri. Simply put, onigiri are clumps of rice that can contain a variety of inner contents and then are typically wrapped in seaweed.

Before you say, "ewww gross seaweed" I got to tell you I would probably be dead with out these things. To be completely honest, for the first week or two that I was in Japan, I didn't even know people were supposed to eat the seaweed. I thought it was just some sort of thing that kept the rice balls fresh. Anyway, after I tried it a couple of times, I really came to like them.

Onigiri are sold everywhere, and when I don't have time to cook, oh wait I never cook.... When I don't have time to go somewhere to eat, I usually grab one or two of these to hold me over.

The one that is partially eaten has salmon in the inside, and then the unopened one has cod.

I am really going to make an effort to put up a couple more posts next week after the semester ends, but for today, this is all I have time for....

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tokyo ===> Osaka


It's been one week since ya looked at me.... wait, that's the begining of a song by Barenaked Ladies, but let's be honest, you weren't looking at my blog every week....

So my song should start out with.... It's been one month since ya looked at me......yada yada yada..

Well, my last post was on Dec. 1st and truthfully, a LOT has happened since then.

Frankly, I just do not have the time to write about it all.

I WAS going to write about when I climbed Mt. Takao with my friends from the university.

Also, you SHOULD be hearing about how AWESOME the Xmas party was. (Actually, I mean how awesome the PARTIES* were*)

BUT, I have decided to SKIP over all of that.


Well, the fact is right now, (In my time zone it is December 29 @ 11:40PM) I am in Osaka.

On Monday (the 26th of December) I thought to myself, "I am sooooo bored." Most people, when they say that to themselves, do NOTHING. I am not "most people." The next morning, I woke up and said "Screw this, I'm going to Osaka!"

So, I hopped on to a Shinkansen (High Speed Bullet train), and traveled 530 kilometers West to Osaka. (For the American readers, I have decided to no longer translate kilometers into miles... DO IT YOURSELF bwahahah.)

On the train I was really cocky, I thought to myself, "Hell yeah, I'm to Osaka." In my head, I visualized bumping chests and pounding the rock with my best friends.

When I arrived it was a different story.

Japan was completely foreign again. I may have gotten "used to" Tokyo but I did not get "used to" Japan.

Tokyo, as massive as it is, is pretty organized. The train system and street layouts, are meticulously drawn out like a map. Osaka might be similar, the difference is that I have only been here for 3 days. It took me 3 months to feel comfortable about my location in Tokyo, so it's not like 3 days would make me an expert of Osaka.

For those of you that do not know anything about Osaka, it's pretty much the center of the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. (I like the comparison of New York = Tokyo to Los Angeles = Osaka.)

Enough with the lecture........... Everyone reading this wants to read something EXCITING, and see some pictures, sheeeeesh what am I doing?

Alright, let's start this over mmmmkay.

I could bore you with the facts of economics, population, and land size, but I won't.

What I will tell you is that the food here is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO good.

"Takoyaki" "Okonomiyaki" Yummmmmmmmmm ==> GOOGLE them.

On top of that, the people here are so friendly. Over that last three days, I have had several, completely random people come up to me and spark up conversations. Now, I was used to that in America, but I had not experienced that yet in Japan.

I have to say, it was very relieving. After a few of these random conversations, I thought, "Damn, people all across the world are the same, they just speak different languages."

Okay well, I still have a lot to say about Osaka, but I am getting ready to go to a club to party.

So, the story ends here. (For now at least)

Bye bye.

P.S. Oh yeah, for you picture lovers..... this is a picture of the headquarters of a television station in Osaka. When I saw this building I couldn't believe my eyes. It looked like it was made out of PLAY-DOH.

Keywords: Japanese===>Have===>Crazy===>Game Shows===>HAAAAAAAA

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Study Time Skyline

I have been very busy the last two weeks with midterms, and club activities, but I figured I better throw in a few lines for y'all to read.

Despite being on the other side of the globe, lately I have felt like I am experiencing normal life with just a slight twist. I had a Thanksgiving dinner. ( In Japan? No way!?!). Earlier today, during lunch, I was in a little ramen shop, and I heard the song, "Santa Baby" playing on the radio. I couldn't help but smile as I looked at my phone and realized it was December 1st.

Also, it might have taken a little bit longer than in Wisconsin, but the leaves have turned red and orange. The leaves turning red and orange, are just a normal part of Autumn, right? Well here people make an event out of it. "Let's go see the 紅葉!” is what they say...

What? Can't read Japanese?

haha just playin'... 紅葉 (kouyou) is a noun that literally describes the colors of Autumn. Anyway, next weekend I am climbing Mount Takao, to see this very phenomena.

Yes, I said phenomena. It is something that is cherished here every year. That is the feeling I get. Just yesterday, I saw two girls walking by a tree that had colored leaves and one of them shouted, "きれい!" (which means beautiful), and then the other girl whipped out her phone to take a picture. I like how the people here take joys in some of the small things I usually consider normal.

After I visit Mount Takao, I will post a couple pictures and talk more about it.

As you can see none of this so far has related to the title of the blog post. Now I will explain.

I have started to get into a solid routine of studying. I still have a long way to go when it comes to my language skills here, so I hope I can keep up the current trend.

The place I can usually get the most work done is at the library on campus. I go up to the 8th floor and crank out as much Kanji as I can. (Kanji are these things===> 月火水木金)

Albeit, sometimes I find it hard to study on the 8th floor because when I look out the window to my left I see this....

...and boy do I love Skylines....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

大学生活 - Part 3

I meant to write Part 3 a lot sooner, but the past week has been a blur. This is the third and final "大学生活" post. To be honest, creating the title of a blog post (or of any article of writing) seems to be the hardest part. You do not want it to be boring, but at the same time you also do not want it to be cheesy. Clever and relevant is the key. Yikes, now I am just rambling on and on and you guys are probably wondering when the heck I am actually going to be talking about something interesting.

Okay, so if any of you have forgotten, 大学生活 translates to university life. In a previous post, I talked about the importance of student organizations. Before I came to Japan, I was really interested in joining the basketball team here at Sophia. By the time I arrived, the season was almost over and if I decided to join, then I would have to leave before the end of the next season. Plus they practice 5, sometimes 6, days a week. I just do not have the time for that type of commitment. However, there are also several basketball clubs. I was finally able to participate in one of the events, and I have to say I had a fun time. There were some pretty skilled players and some that were just there for fun. I liked the overall atmosphere of the group so I am considering joining.

<=== Mt. Fuji!

This is the view of Mt. Fuji from the roof of my dormitory. The picture was taken just after sunset. I did not actually take this photograph, but mine did not turn out as good as this one did. Although the view of Mt. Fuji is awesome, I actually prefer going up on the roof after dark. I love seeing the night skyline and the lights all around and the trains going by.

Last week, I also had the opportunity to play Futsal for the first time. Futsal is a type of indoor soccer that uses a smaller ball and a smaller playing field. There was about 20 people from the SISEC group that showed up, some played and some just watched. The coolest part about this was that the field was on the roof of a 10 story building. We could see the skyline for miles, it was so incredible. By now you must have figured out that I love city skylines. I was too busy playing Futsal to remember to take any pictures, and I know people love pictures so I will throw in a random photo.


This is SISEC. We had just finished drinking at an Izakaya. If you look very carefully you can see me just to the left of the tree in the middle. (If you click on the picture, it should open up another window to get a larger version of the image) I am actually looking away from the camera to my left. If I remember correctly, one person had a little to much to drink and fell to the ground.

Anyway, I have a few midterms this week so I am going to abruptly end my post.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

大学生活 - Part 2

Ever since joining the student organization SISEC, I have made a lot of new friends, and have been able to participate in some pretty remarkable events.

This past weekend, I decided to participate in an event hosted by a different student organization known as GL-Net (Global Network.) It is another organization aimed towards communication between Japanese and international students. The event was a day trip to Kamakura, which is roughly 50 km from Tokyo.

Oh yeah, for all the American readers, that is about 30 miles. I have become accustomed to using liters, kilometers, and even the Celsius scale. Living in a country that uses these forms, I have since become dumbfounded as to why the U.S. still uses such bizarre units of measurement.

Anywaaaay, back to the day trip===> Kamakura is famous for its numerous temples and a popular beach. One of the most recognizable places in Kamakura is the temple that hosts a giant buddha statue, known as Daibutsu.
This is me standing about 15 meters (I MEAN 50 FT!!) in front of the Buddha statue.

Oh and before you say anything, I have already had several people ask me if I am getting skinnier, and the answer is yes, I am. Despite eating about 4 times a day, I have lost 10 kilograms (22 pounds) since I have arrived. Although, I think I have finally leveled off and will maintain my current weight.

Back to the Buddha.... Since I had known about this statue/city for years, I am glad I took the time to go on this trip.

The next temple had a traditional Japanese garden in it. This is one of my favorite photos so far. You have to recognize how much time and effort goes into every little detail of these temple designs and gardens, in order to fully appreciate them. If any of you find this interesting, take a look into visiting Anderson Gardens, in Rockford, Illinois. I have been there and it really gives you the feeling of actually being in Japan. Wait, I just realized it is now November. Andersen Gardens is closed and will re-open, late April 2012.

Being in a place like this really makes you feel like you are traveling back in time. I really enjoy learning about world history, and ever since coming to Japan, my interests in history have risen. One of the classes that I am currently enrolled in at Sophia University, is called Japanese Literature. For the past month we have focused our class around The Tale of Genji. It is often described by many scholars as the world's first novel. Of course, I am reading the English translation (although even Japanese people have difficulty reading the original text.)

However, the highlight of my day was something many of you may find pretty boring. I saw the Pacific Ocean. Up until then, I had never seen any ocean with my own eyes (Aside from the window of a plane, 3 seats to the left.)

It is slightly hard to see, but the coastline is behind me.

I have plenty of other pictures and stories about this day trip, so if anyone is interested in hearing more, let me know and we can talk more about it.

Actually, there is more that happened in the past month that I would like to talk about, so I am going to make, my 大学生活 posts into a trilogy.

I will write Part 3 tomorrow....

Monday, November 14, 2011

大学生活 - Part 1

Almost a month since my last post?

I apologize to all of the diehard followers of my blog (bwahaha yeah right.) My excuse is that I am having to much fun to give a hoot about my blog.

Regardless, my life here in Japan is steadily progressing. The words that I used for the title for this post translate to college life. What I have come to realize, is that the most important aspect of college life in Japan revolves around the student organizations that you belong to. To some extent, this is similar in the United States, but I really feel like the students here put their heart and soul into the groups that they are involved in.

Two weeks ago, Sophia University had a three day long school festival. At this festival, many of the students organizations hosted food and beverage booths in order to raise money. There was also a main stage that displayed the talents from various groups like hip-hop dancing, acapella, and many others.

While it was nice that I had 3 days off from school, helping with the festival was hard work. Ever since joining SISEC, I have been involved in weekly meetings and events. For the school festival we hosted a booth selling tapioca. I help all three days with setting up the tent, decorations, and selling the tapioca. We were very successful, selling roughly 3000 units in 3 days. We completely sold out before the end of each day.

Aside from helping out selling tapioca, I also had the chance to try many of the foods and beverages that other groups were selling. At the end of the third day we all went to an izakaya to celebrate a job well done.

Izakaya is the most common type of drinking establishment here in Japan. The one we went to, had about a $25 entrance fee. Sounds pricey, but actually it was a great deal. For 3 hours it was all you can drink, and they constantly bring you food to snack on. Actually, it was more like a feast. The tables were really low to the ground but the floor is recessed so I could still put my legs under the tables.

Wow, sorry to suddenly change the subject, but I forgot to talk about Halloween. I felt like a kid all over again this year during Halloween. For my costume I combined the mask from the immortals in the movie "300" and the outfit of the grim reaper. The readers who already have me added on Facebook have probably already seen a hundred photos of me in this costume, but for those of you who don't....

Yes, this is me, and yes I am at a convenience store reading a manga (comic book).

To start out the night, my dorm hosted a Halloween party. We all had food and drinks and then some of us did a tour of the neighborhood. I had a fun time scaring people, and just casually decided to read some manga, while the store attendants watched in horror.

At around 11 PM, I hopped on the train, still wearing my costume, and headed towards Shibuya to meet up with some people and then go to a club for a night of dancing. Halloween in Japan does not have as many participants as back in the States, so as I walked through the train stations I received the stares of petrified pedestrians. Not everyone was freaked out, because every few minutes or so, some random people wanted to take a picture with me. Most of the time, people would ask me to take off my mask to see my face, and when I did they were almost more shocked to see that I was a foreigner than actually seeing me in a mask.....ha.ha.haaa...

A little after midnight, I arrived in Shibuya and met up with my friends and then we headed to Club Asia. The headlining event at the club was a performance by Yasutaka Nakata, who is a member of the electronic duo Capsule, and the producer of one of the biggest pop groups in Japan called Perfume. There was also a female hip-hop/pop duo, called HaliCali, that performed and I managed to get front row. The club was packed and the music was great.

There is still a lot that has happened over the past month that I want to talk about, but I got homework to do, so I am going to write a part 2 tomorrow....

To be continued....