Week 10, October 27-November 2 – Matsuri!

I didn’t do much on Sunday. I had the place to myself, with no plans, and no will to make any (due to my hungover state), so I just spent the day watching the rest of Sakamichi no Apolon, that I had started on the plane. (You may remember this from day 1 or 2’s post.) Surprisingly enough, I haven’t been watching all that much anime since I’ve been here. Nothing all that great has come out recently, other than Uchouten Kazoku, which actually was pretty fucking good.

I had a nice chat with Mayuko-san today. We talked about the comparisons between that I thought could be made between America, Canada, and Vancouver. We discussed food culture, communicative culture, and ethnic composition.

[important backstory]
Oh yeah, at this point, I have informed the family about my intentions on leaving them to go live on my own starting mid-December. Living on my own should prove to be cheaper than living with the Mitsutani family, and still cheaper than going to the Seminar Houses (which I have very little desire to do). Also, I’m able to house Sam and Mom when they come over for their respective visits for free.
[/end backstory]

Randomly in the middle of the conversation, Mayuko-san asked if I had noticed her and Sei-san fighting, and was curious as to if that was my motivation behind leaving. I assured her that that wasn’t the case, and we laughed and talked about their fighting. I don’t really mind. Parents fighting is something that I’m not a stranger to, and their form of fighting is child’s play compared to what I’m used to. Honestly believe that talking about problems is healthier than just keeping it in. It was actually kind of enlightening to know that both of them are vocal about the concerns they have about their relationship. I was totally expecting the typical Japanese marriage to be consisted of the husband doing whatever he pleases, and the wife just sucking it up. But now that I live here, I know that that isn’t always necessarily the case. She lets him have it when she feels the need. It’s pretty awesome. We surprisingly dove into that topic of discussion quite a bit, though I won’t share the contents of it here because I don’t think that would be fair to their family. It was a pretty hilarious conversation though.

I woke up this morning and talked to mom on Skype. It was good to hear that she’s keeping in touch with friends, such as Uncle Brad, and Uncle Larry and Auntie Judy. Mom was telling me that she went over to Larry and Judy’s for dinner one night, and Judy told a story of when I was one of her preschool students back when I basically lived at Popo’s and Gong-gong’s (Cantonese, they’re dad’s parents) house. She said that she remembers that I went out of my way to befriend a special needs student, and that it was then that made her think I was… I guess in some sense special. I vaaaaaaaaguely remember doing this, though I’m pretty damn sure Popo still has the picture of me and him on her fridge. She also said Gong-gong was heavily involved with helping out the school. He had offered to give Auntie Judy cash (with no expectations for anything in return, I’m assuming,) but when she couldn’t take his money, he got Popo (lol) to make food often that he’d bring over for the kids. I don’t remember a lot about my childhood, as I’m sure a lot of us can relate to the uplifting feeling you get when people talk about you as a child in a positive light. Super heartwarming.

I was feeling a bit homesick today. Not homesick enough to write a paragraph about it though, haha!

As I was watching Monogatari: Second Season, I thought this exchange was pretty interesting to me. I love Monogatari for it’s superb dialogues, but this one in particular struck a chord with me.

[backstory: Hanekawa has run away from home due to family issues (…and her house being blown apart). She’s taking refuge at her friend’s, Araragi’s, place. The conversation is between Araragi’s mother and Hanekawa, and takes place in the genkan, or entrance, of the Araragi home. Hanekawa is about to leave for the day.]

Hanekawa: That’s not true. Sorry if I made you worry. But my family circumstances aren’t as complicated as you think. There’s just a little discord, I guess? That’s all.
Mother: You know, children not getting along with their kids is almost like abuse in its own right. A family isn’t a must-have by any means, but if you do have one, it should make you happy. At least that’s what I believe as a mother.
Hanekawa: As a mother?
Mother: People are free to run away if something bad happens to them but averting your eyes from reality doesn’t count as running away. An outsider can’t interfere as long as you’re fine with your current situation. How about saying goodbye to that, first?

I got fairly sick on Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday after school I couldn’t take it anymore so I went straight home. Watery eyes, fluctuating body temperature, and a leaky faucet of a nose was preventing me from having any fun. Didn’t get better until Friday, which meant I missed out on Wednesday’s Halloween festivities. I was unbelievably choked. Everyone was posting pictures on Facebook, and it looked like everyone was having a blast. I was going to go as zombie Justin Beiber, and was pretty stoked on it. Unfortunately, it just turned out to be an $80 waste of money lol. I thought about just sucking it up and going anyway, but Japan is more germ conscious than North America is. They wear masks whenever they’re a teency bit sick, to avoid spreading germs (which is kind of cool I guess). I would have had to bring a massive roll of TP if I was going to go, I was afraid that that wouldn’t fly here.

Gaidai-sai was pretty awesome. There’s nothing that I’ve seen in Vancouver that compares to this set up. Basically, each of Kansai Gaidai’s circles and clubs (there’s an astronomical number of them) each, on their own, contributed in some small fashion to the 2-day festival. Some held food stands while others provided entertainment. I ate tacos, yakiniku, and Shelly’s terrible canned soup. I watched an a capella group, watched Chisato and Haruna’s dances, cheerleading, etc. It also doubled as a means for me to learn about the existence of several circles and clubs that were unlisted to us international students. On Friday, I’m planning to go to Ayaka’s and Sachika’s billiard club, as a result of seeing them and their s’mores making booth. It was extremely awesome to see the live music that the music clubs were performing. One group did a cover on Welcome to the Jungle, and the lead guitarist was just going ham. The rooms were hella hyped despite the small amount of people supporting them. There were also other forms of entertainment that were separate from the existence of clubs or circles.

After it ended, I got some food at my favourite ramen place, and headed over to Frankie’s house in preparation for a Halloween party at Eddie’s. Sayaka and Asuka were already there, making their own dinner. After we dressed up, we headed over. Unfortunately, I didn’t have Kelsey to do my zombie makeup, so instead, I was just a plain Justin Beiber, and oh man was it lame. To save myself the shame, I’m not even going to bother posting pictures. Sayaka and Frankie were mimes, Asuka was Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, Nicole was Nana from NANA, Daisuke was an otaku (and oh man was it done well), and Eddie was an asian host (for like a Tokyo host bar or something). We did the standard chill out and get hammered at Eddie’s, then head out for all karaoke. It was pretty damn fun. I pulled my standard 3-o’clock pass out. I woke up at Frankie’s place and, with Sayaka and Asuka, watched White Chicks. Great movie.

Afterwards, I headed over (like across street) to the school for day 2. I met up with Yuri and Chii for funstuff. I caught them stumbling out of the haunted house, and was hella bummed I didn’t get the chance to try it out. There was a King and Queen competition for the international students, and the Miss Con competition that I watched 6 Japanese girls compete for. Evan got crowned King for his competition, but unfortunately I missed that. I should have headed over earlier, instead of arriving at like 2, but I needed my sleep from last night. I can’t have my cake and eat it too I guess. I also missed out on my promise to watch Shelly’s a capella performance, but I repented by buying the last of her club’s terrible soup to make up for it.


Week 9, October 20-26 – Honorific

Today I had my presentation for my Global Business Class. Our presentation was on the difference in communication paradigms between high and low context cultures, and how directness of communication is a major facet of each type.
We ran the activity I tested out last week, and it went really well. Unfortunately, we ended up being quite a bit under timed, but I think we’ll be okay. We were supposed to aim for 40 minutes, with an error of 5 minutes being okay, but we only managed to pull out 30ish. Since we were using the clock and not a stopwatch to keep track of time, the technical difficulties we had causes us to overestimate how long we had been going for. Professor Scott seemed to understand though so I think we’re okay, since we informed him that we had another activity ready to run, but we’re worried about going over time.

After class, I was chilling with Shelly, Jacob, Kris, Adam, and… Ayaka? (I can never get her name right since Jacob introduced her to me as Boobs.) Shelly educated me on how Tataemae affects relationships between the Japanese. Tataemae, if I recall correctly, is the idea that people outside to your close social circle or family unit should be blind to the unpretty realities of may be apart of your circle or unit. Tataemae is the superficial wrapping you and your unit show the world to make it look like “all is good in the hood.” in practice, this means that if someone she isn’t fond of says hi, she should show her tataemae by saying hi back. To a foreigner, it looks like they’re both being fake, but from Shelly’s perspective, it’s just the other person being fake, and her abiding to the cultural decree that is tataemae.
(again, I didn’t do any research on this, what I’ve written is just my, possibly incorrect, interpretation. If you want to educate the audience more properly, feel free to use the comment section)

My last midterm was today, and would mark the end of the huge workload that was burdening me last week. My luck however, decided to take a vacation today, and as such, the end wasn’t as smooth as I’d have hoped.
To fill you in, two backpacks. One is a computer backpack, meant to carry heavy loads, and one is a sports sack, that I use for going out. From Monday to Tuesday, I decided to switch from the bulkier backpack to the smaller one. Now, of course, when doing this, I have to ferry everything I would need for the day from one pack to the next. Pens, pencils, keys, books, and chargers are all examples of this.
An additional point of information is that my commute takes 50 by walking and by train. I walk 15 minutes to Korien station, train from Korien to Gotenyama station for 10, then walk another 15 before finally making it at school.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, when I got it the train station, guess what I forgot! My wallet! And guess what was in my wallet. My train pass! My money! I couldn’t even pay my way to school because I had no spare change on me. And so, I did the only thing I could do. I sprinted home, changed out of my sweat drenched jeans and shit into my dry fit, and sprinted back.
The train I need comes every 10 minutes, and, unlike Translink, never fails to arrive/leave on time. Since I left 10 minutes early today, I had a 20 minute window to get there in order to not be late.

I got there in 21.

Well, whatever. After I got off, I tried to convince my exhausted self (that was busting my ass to school) that losing out on 5 minutes wouldn’t be too terrible considering I know the material like the back of my hand.
Unfortunately, I was a little short sighted there too. Muroi-sensei kindly informed me as I walked in that I had lost 10% upon walking in late. With that on my mind, and my physical exhaustion playing a role in my test writing, I doubt my Kanji was written all that beautifully. I’m not looking forward to seeing that mark.

When I got home, I watched a documentary called The Smash Brothers. As a documentary, in and of it self, this is a fabulous watch. This documentary is extremely well written, directed, and shot, and I would recommend it to anyone who has a hint of interest in the reality of what means to be a gamer, both on a professional and recreational level. As someone who can directly connect with the source material, this documentary threw me through an emotional rollercoaster, something even I wasn’t expecting from a documentary about a video game.

That burned about 5 hours of my time. I was planning to get ahead of the studying game with that time, but it wasn’t in the cards for it to be.

When I got home today, Mayuko-san told me some interesting stories about Sei-san. I knew that, last night, Sei-san wouldn’t be attending dinner because he was out for drinks with the company. However, I didn’t see him at all, and I went to bed at 10. Mayuko-san even texted him asking, “are you okay?” Late into the night however, Sei-san stumbled in hammered, and, comically, he answered “I’m home, and no I’m not.”

After class, I was supposed to go with Yui, Yuki, and friends for dinner. We were chilling around the CIE waiting for everyone to finish classes. During that time, I talked to Yuri, Chii, and Haruna off and on too. I was helping the first two with English, and the latter with what Canadian university i thought she should go to for exchange. It was pretty sad that I had to advise her against SFU, on the grounds that there’s no fun to be had there. I backed UBC instead, but that wasn’t on her list of affiliated universities. She’ll probably end up going to Montreal, but to be honest, I was pretty excited at the thought of being able to reciprocate showing my hometown around to her, just as the Japanese had done for me.

While I was chilling in the lounge, I was spent my time chilling with a nice assortment of people. Initially, I was with Yuki and Yui, but then Yuri and Chii said hi, and eventually Haruna did too. The first four are second year, and when 1st year Haruna entered the scene, I could see the dynamic change a bit. Haruna spoke with keigo when speaking to the second years, while the second years continued to speak casually.

If I wanted to oversimplify what keigo is, I would say that it is polite language, used to speak to people you aren’t close with, or who are higher in status than you. For example, the long form of verbs, that most beginner Japanese language learners learn firstly, is a very low level of keigo. To put things into perspective, it is impolite for me to use the short form of verbs with my professors, and I’m corrected when I accidentally do so. However, short forms are fine when speaking to my host family and my (Japanese) friends at school.

It’s a little different for Haruna and the rest of the native Japanese. I can get away with not following Japanese norms cause I’m a gaijin, but for Haruna, with people new to her that are higher in status/age than her, it’s only correct for her to speak with keigo to her senpai, or upperclassmen.

see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorific_speech_in_Japanese#Polite_language

Contrast this to how we do things at home. I think it’s safe to say that everyone takes note of context (to at least some degree) before actively communicating. By context, I mean the environment around them, the relationship they have with their communication partner, etc.The way I communicate with Nick and Thomas is different from the way I communicate with Sam, David, and Samarth, which is different than how I am with my mom, and even those paradigms would be different the way I talk to strangers, and so forth. But the changes are subtle. I might use certain words more or less frequently, my volume might be different, etc.

In Japan, it’s much more cut and dry. There is a different subsection of language you must use if you want to communicate with people of higher status or older age than you (unless you are close to them relationship-wise). It’s much more evident that you are actively speaking to someone in a respectful manner, than say, English. And so when Haruna was in such an obvious manner speaking much more politely to Yuki and Yui than the latter two were to Haruna, it struck me as odd. In my eyes, age itself doesn’t make one inferior or superior to another, yet it’s funny that the Japanese language dictates otherwise.

Afterward, I went to Shinsaibashi with Evan, Nick, Misuzu, Chinami, Mika, and Minori. My perogative for going was to look for a wig for my costume, but I didn’t end up finding one. After shopping, we went to dinner. Keeping in mind that there’s a fairly decently sized language barrier between myself and Misuzu, Chinami, Mika, and Minori, I managed to embarrass myself a bit while we were eating. I noticed when the four of them were talking, they used the phrase “yaro” after every second sentence. Now, yaru is the verb for “to do”, and “yaro” can be used to say, “let’s do [insert activity here].” Similar to English, if I say to a female, “I want to do you,” the obvious is implied. So when I asked Mika what “yaro” meant, her mind was in the gutter and said “sex.” Now, just to clarify, I’m not a complete idiot, so I knew the girls weren’t asking each inviting each other over and over again into each other’s pants. In response, did a hand motion scanning across all the girls at the table, and meant to say, “But why is everyone saying ‘yaro’ then?”, but instead all I said was, “… together?”

Laughing ensued. I knew I had messed up as soon as I said it, because I knew what 一緒に meant, and that I should have said, みんな.

The answer I was looking for, is that ‘yaro’ is basically their way of saying ‘eh?’ like we apparently do in Canada.

When I got home today. Taka’s friends were speaking to me formally. I found it awkward as balls. Just use short form with me! I’m not the prime minister of Japan, I don’t require that you use keigo!


Translation: On Saturday, I woke up late. As a result, I ate breakfast by myself. After eating, I went to shop for various things. For example, I bought shampoo and hair spray. The shopping district was super beautiful. After dinner, I went to karaoke with my friends. Because there was a lot of people, it was fun. Since I sung all of the songs, my friends couldn’t tolerate me.

That was my journal entry that I handed in to my professor. It’s an oversimplification, so I’ll expand a bit.

The shopping district by Korien station is really cool. It’s a bit run down, but it’s nice to peer into shops, see what they have, etc. That day, there was some go event being run. Go is known for being rich in strategy despite having an extremely simple set of rules. There was an entire audience of people watching these two guys play, while beside them, people were commentating and mirroring what was going on the board on a bigger display for the audience to see.

Karaoke was a shit show. I had planned it with Shelly. She gathered Adam and Jacob, and I was to gather the rest. Unfortunately, little did I know that literally everyone works on weekends. I invited Evan and he said he was bringing Caio and Nick, but the only girl I got was Yuki, out of the twenty I asked. Jeff, Misuzu and Mika came later so that was cool. In the end, a bunch of guys we ran into kind of invited themselves over to our booth, so that made it even more cool.

So, I hate WordPress’ photo adding platform. I’m just going to throw all of the pictures into one big block at the end from now one, and when I feel up to it (possibly never), fix it up. Pictures alone has been a big reason as to why my posting has gotten so less frequent, and my picture taken has slowed down. So hurrah!

Week 8, October 13-19 – The Ordinary

I got a decent amount of sleep, but I was still crazy exhausted. When we got off the night bus, I couldn’t stay awake in Osaka Station when we were waiting for our train back home. Even when we got on the train I fell asleep. I was with friends though so I wasn’t too worried.

When I got home at 6 in the morning, I said “goodnight” to Mayuko-san, and told her I was going to take a shower before heading to bed. After the shower though, I felt awake, so I went back down for breakfast instead.

Since I had nothing to do, I made plans for karaoke. I gathered Yuki, Yui, Frankie, Sayaka, Asuka, Evan, and James. I was pleasantly surprised when Yuki showed up later too.
Before entering, we picked up some booze from the local grocery store (lol). After speaking it past the front desk, we went pretty hard to the paint. When Yuuki was downing shot after shot of vodka, I was both impressed and worried, given the innocent persona she had been giving off before. Sure enough she semi-passed out midway through the night. I say semi because when Aladdin’s A Whole New World came on, she sprung up to sing the duet with me, one to fall back asleep afterward.

It was a mistake to leave the bottles in the room though. Even though I knew we weren’t allowed them in there, I figured if we cleaned up it and got rid of the evidence, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. Unfortunately, I lost track of that idea after the night ended, and while we were fooling around in purikura after singing, we were confronted with the bottles we had left inside.

Nothing really happened though, they just said next time they would fine us 3000 yen, and I apologized and left. I still don’t know how I feel about the morality of breaking that rule. For starters, the alcohol isn’t really that overpriced at all. It’s like $3 a beer, and I think the same for a shot. However, I can get a two-six of Canadian Club for like $10 and a beer for a buck at the grocery store, so the amount I’m saving on liquor is still significant. Am I stealing from the profits of the karaoke bar, and is it immoral to do so? Firstly: yes, but secondly: I’m not so sure. What do you guys think?

I can’t remember exactly what day it was, but Sei-san and I had a nice chat over a beer and some sake this week. I’m pretty sure it was Sunday because we used the sake set I gave him. A big reason this post is so delayed is because the noted I took on it, I lost, because my computer has been acting up. But, let me do my best to try to piece it together.

2013-10-13 19.33.49

I think the conversation began with us talking about Taka and his interest in sports. Sei-san wanted to let his son get the chance to explore as many as he could while he was younger, so that he could assess which he would enjoy for his later years.
One thing I learned was that dropping out of sports, or anything for that matter, is heavily looked down upon. For Taka to try a sport out, only to dislike it and leave, would look really bad on him. Couple that with the fact he would be leaving a team with all of his school classmates, and you’ve got an incredibly difficult decision to make. It doesn’t help that most sports require a year round time investment, with little break between seasons. There’s something like a week in winter that they get off, and a couple in spring? Currently, Taka plays tennis and baseball, which Kohei does as well with the addition of soccer (fuck yeah!).
This segued into how committal the Japanese workforce is. As far as Sei-san’s post-university life was concerned: he applied for a relatively small number of positions (when you compare to the mass application habits of Canadians when they’re job hunting) because each application would set him back around $100-200. For each place he applied to, he had to take a kind of placement test, and (I assume) have an interview if he made it through. He explained he applied for his dream job, but also had fall back plans, similar to how we apply for universities. So already he’s invested a lot of resources into whatever he got into. Fast forward to present day, and Sei-san says that because the network he’s built within this company is nontransferable, and that the same can be said about a large chunk of the skills he’s attained, it’s extremely difficult for him to quit, if he had wanted to. Luckily, (if I recall correctly) he’s mostly happy with the company he works for.

He envies how young I am. The strings I don’t have tying me down. The commitments I don’t have.


The life of a salaryman is tough though. Some companies work their employees to death. They go to work early, work overtime (which they don’t get compensation for) and during the holidays, they’re often to tired to want to do anything with it but rest.
I’m happy that Sei-san doesn’t have it like that though. He’s extremely confident in the quality of his output for the company, so if he feels like coming in late, he will. LOL. Even though his boss disapproves of it, he like doesn’t give a shit. This is especially ironic because how of how Sei-san often times embodies the “typical Japanese man” stereotype when it comes to what he deems right and wrong.

Over the course of the the week, I mainly worked on my presentation, since there wasn’t time for much else. It’s ironic how me, the one who should have cared the least about my mark since my grades don’t go back home, ended up leading the team most of the way through. That isn’t to say my group mates didn’t contribute; everyone pulled their weight. But, I guess I was the most suited to lead, so it just happened anyway.
Our group composition was pretty cool. We had me, Jeff, Emma, Yusai, Mako, and Ayaka. Jeff’s from Seattle, but, unexpectedly, Emma is from Japan. She’s half Caucasian, half Japanese, and speaks fluently in both languages. When I first met her weeks ago, I was super surprised, as I hadn’t met any native Japanese that were half before.

Also, I got to watch Sei-san interact with the family a lot more. Since Taka’s (and Kouhei’s) baseball season started, I’ve got to watch the sport really bring the family together. For instance, Sei-san will work on the technicalities of baseball movements with the kids in the TV area. Both fielding techniques and batting gets worked on. Kouhei freaks the shit out of me when he’s swinging the bat around the TV, but the rest don’t seem to mind, LOL. And, somewhat surprisingly, Mayuko-san is pretty involved in this too. At dinner, Sei-san and Mayuko-san will quiz Taka on the situtational knowledge one must have about fielding. “If there’s a runner on 1st and 3rd, what type of play should the batter make?”  Stuff like that. Sei-san will even ask Mayuko-san to look at Taka and Kouhei’s form when batting/fielding. It’s really cool to watch.

On Saturday, after a lengthy group meeting, I went Halloween shopping with Katie, Yuri, and Chii. We went to the Namba-Shinsaibashi area to look for stuff. The 4 of us had a ton of fun, and I got most of the stuff I needed for my costume, bar a wig. I was pretty stoked to show it off.

And here’s another random collage.

Week 7, October 6-12 – Hiroshima

Today I went to the kids’ sports day with Sei-san and Mayuko-san. It lasted from like 10am to 3pm. Everything was, not so surprisingly, super orderly. The day began with a speech by principal and followed by another done by (who was probably) the student council president. 3 students also recited something that was probably similar to the have fun play fair speech that we did yesterday. Afterwards, everyone did the same exercise with same soundtrack that we did yesterday too. My sports days back in my Coquitlam days could never compare to these.

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When we got home, was exhausted as all hell from being in the sun for hours without end. I had a shower, dried myself
off, and threw myself in to my desk chair. Unfortunately, said desk chair is on wheels, and furthermore, my balcony doors are made of paper.

Culture lesson! These doors are called shoji. Yay.

Afterwards, I chatted with the host fam about multiculturalism in Canada. I showed him a picture of our soccer team (for those of you who were on Brandon & Friends, you get a lot of action on the Canada Picture Sharing! end of things), and the picture I asked him to find the Japanese out of my friends. Taka and Mark being only half Japanese didn’t help his chances, but it was funny how many times he pointed at full Chinese people.

Yuri put together a surprise birthday celebration thing for Chii. I thought it was super sweet of her. Chii got a cake and some flowers and a some frame bulletin board thing with pictures.

I did my presentation on Metro Vancouver in my class today. The main theme of my presentation was how culturally diverse we have it back home. I touched on how we value our multiculturalism, and how sometimes, those of us from dissimilar cultural backgrounds mesh together become more “Canadianized.”
I used the term whitewashed though, lol.

Did you know that only 55% of us have English as our mother tongue? The other 45% is a mix of a billion other things. To be honest, identifying what cultural characteristics Canada, or at least Metro Vancouver, has has been pretty tough for me. Off the top of my head, I guess we value acceptance, being understanding, modesty, and being a person of character. We’re fairly individualistic and we communicate pretty directly, but honestly, with the diversity we all share, it’s hard to tell. It’s probably a bit of the “you can’t see the forest from within the trees” kind of thing too.

I went for lunch with Bettina today. My conversation with her marked one of the few non-small-talk conversations I’ve had in awhile. I showed her the ramen shop that Frankie showed me awhile back. Man that place is awesome.

Today Yuta did his presentation today on gender roles in Japan. I learned that females didn’t have voting rights until 1999. Holy crap. That’s in my lifetime. It’s sad to know that Japan is going backwards in terms of gender equality.

After class, Allie, Sarah, Kelsey, and I made our way to Hiroshima! Professor Scott’s class was going on a field trip to listen to a presentation by an atomic bomb survivor, but all of Gaidai’s international students had the opportunity to go. It was to take place in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The trip was to take around 7 to 8 hours: 1 hour for the train to Osaka, and 6 to 7 for the night bus. Getting there was a little bit more complicated than expected. We were making good time, but on our last transfer, we rushed on to a train loops that took us in the opposite direction we intended. We didn’t realize it until midway through the loop, so we were forced to go the entire way through. It didn’t help that I was on the women’s section of the train. Once I realized we were going the wrong direction, I switched sections. Awk.

When we got off the train, I gazelled it through the station, but failed to make use of my speed because I couldn’t navigate through it. I’d sprint ahead, only to be caught up by Kelsey telling me which way to go. This repeated like 3 times before we finally got to our destination. Thankfully, we made it.

I was pretty stoked for the night bus. Oddly enough, I kind of like long bus/car/train rides that you can fall asleep on. I enjoy the me time I get, and sleeping to the rocking of the vehicle is nice.

Unfortunately, this was not to be the heavenly night bus I had so pictured.

Don’t get me wrong, some things were cool. The night bus had power sockets so I could plug my devices in it, and while we were driving, the driver turned all the lights off so you could sleep. However, the leg room I was given was minuscule, and finding someway to prop your head up (which is something I’m pretty experienced in doing with my Translink training and all), was impossible.

Nevertheless, I whipped out my “Zzz…” playlist, and went to sleep. I randomly reminisced about the time I was in Wuhan, China, trying to find food with Dad while the rest of the family was settling into our temporary sleeping arrangements. In my memories, it was just him and I, but I’m not convinced that was actually the case in reality. 

As I said before, the night bus was far from paradise. From 4am on, the bus kept turning on all of the lights and playing loud music in order to wake everyone up so that people could be let off at their proper stops. For those of us who were on the bus until the last stop, this meant we were woken up like 10 times (probably an exaggeration) within the last 3 hours of our commute.

We arrived at 6 am. Since we had a ton of time to kill until the presentation. Jacob, Katie, Zack and I explored Hiroshima together. In the beginning, we were all bitching about our terrible sleeps, though Katie and I actually managed to get some shut eye. We lightened our poor moods by making inappropriate Hiroshima jokes as we walked around the city. “This place is the bomb, I’m having a blast, they did a bang up job fixing the place.” To be honest, it was pretty astounding to see how beautiful it was, and all of the work that was put into refurbishing the city.

We were with Justin before, but we parted ways with him fairly early into the day.

After exploring, we settled down closer to the museum. We checked out the Atomic Bomb Dome or Genbaku Dōmu. The dome was the only structure left standing near the bomb’s hypocentre. It was pretty sick.

We attempted to find the hypocenter afterward, but failed. I took some random pictures while we were looking though. We eventually veered randomly toward the museum (by accident). There were these glass containers filled with like a billion cranes symbolizing something awe-inspiring. They even had a place for people to donate the cranes they’ve made on their own time so that they could be added to the collection later.

Afterward, we checked out the museum.
Fun fact: Jacob said Kyoto was an initial target, but one head guy had visited many times so he kept vetoing the option.

After checking out the museum, we made our way to the auditorium to hear 82 year old Kajimoto-san’s account of her experience the days of and after August 6, 1945.

At the time of her middle school education, she was working in a factory, as was ordered by the government. When the bomb hit, that’s where she happened to be as well. I can’t remember if she was warned, but she took cover under her factory desk, and then shit hit the fan.

In one instant, with the atomic bomb, 140,000 people died. At least 5000 to 8000 children became orphans.

At this point, I fell asleep.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel terrible about it too. Unfortunately, but when it takes a full minute and a half for Professor Scott to translate a 10 second long sentence every time Kajimoto-san says anything, it’s hard to keep your eyes open. Thankfully, Katie peered over at me, woke me up, and offered me a piece of gum to keep me awake. The note taking I thought of doing afterward probably helped a lot too.

Day(s) after the bombing, maggots were eating the bodies. Hiroshima became a giant crematorium. Her father had walked into the city and looked through the piles of bodies to find her. He went to the place where she worked and began to uncover bodies. Her father and her two friends found her eventually. When her father embraced her, he was crying saying, you’re alive, you’re alive, and she’ll never ever forget the strength of her father at that time, and tenderness he showed. On the third day, the river was full of horses, military horses, dead horses and people. The horses’ manes were singed off. She went back home and she was bedridden for all of August. She began to bleed from her gums. The wound in her arm became infected with Maggots and her grandmother would take the maggots out with chopsticks. She went to the doctor in October and he took seven pieces of broken glass out of her. Her foot was completely swollen. Her father was 2.5 km and had no injuries whatsoever, but two years later he began to vomit blood and died soon there after. Since he walked through Hiroshima looking through piles of corpses, he died of residual radioactivity. No one knew anything about radiation and how it affected the body at that time. In 1989 she was diagnosed with stomach Cancer, her friends died of the same thing.

She thinks with great regret of the people that died. She talked about the current state of nuclear power. She talked about the possibly of it it being in the hands of terrorists in the future. She said said that we have to make sure that something like Hiroshima doesn’t happen again. She reiterated that even as individuals, we can have a strong effect on the future. She thanked us for listening. 

After her story finished, people asked questions that Professor Scott selectively entire chose or chose not to relay. She’s thankful that she’s alive and that she is well. After the explosion, the radiation doesn’t stay for long, since it gets burned up, so she stayed afterwards anyway.

At the beginning there were a lot of grudges toward the United States immediately, and that created more hope. During the war the feeling toward the United States was that they were going to win and going to fight. After the bomb, it took some time for people to want peace instead.

She’s totally against nuclear power as an energy source.

At that time, her education taught to worship the emperors, and that their war was just. Their world was a world of war and not peace.

She had 3 or 4 friends from that time, but all of the ones that were close to her have already died form Cancer.

They had nothing from the government as far as relief goes. Used cooking oil instead of medical ointment. The first medicine she got was September 4th with 15 tons of medicine. It took Japanese government 12 years to provide treatment to atomic bomb survivors. The people that were really desperate for water were those that were burned. They was an order that people shouldn’t drink water because the shock of dehydration fixing would kill them.

She began to think talking publicly about it 13 years ago, because her grandchild talked among his or her class about her being the only atomic bomb survivor among those students. She wanted to talk about it before she passed away.

They only had small potatoes and pumpkin and soy beans and eatable grasses and weeds to eat. There wasn’t much to eat at all.

It took a little more than 10 years for life to become somewhat normal for her. Scott said this is the typical of those that endure post traumatic stress.

At the beginning life was extremely difficult because they were discriminated against for being atomic bomb survivors. No one would marry them.

She’s scared of America, but understands that she needs to be protected.

Americans occupied Japan after the bombing, and information was highly censored during that time.

She doesn’t suffer from any depression. She still doesn’t like the sound of sirens. She finds it up setting.


On the way out, I got a picture with Kajimoto-san. To be honest, I felt kind of bad. I didn’t want her to feel like we were treating her like a tourist attraction, and taking a picture with her and leaving felt a bit like doing that. If I could have communicated with her, I could. I did my best to share that I was thankful that she was sharing her story. When she found out I was Canadian, she said that Canada is strong and unafraid.

Since Allie, Sarah, Kelsey and I were planning on leaving Hiroshima the same night, we were in kind of a rush to get through everything. We met up again after the presentation and made our way to Miyagima. Miyagima, or Shrine Island, is the commonly used name for Itsukushima Island, which houses the Itsukushima Shrine. We played with deer, ate octopus, took pictures, and spent money. I got a sake set for the host family.

I was pretty exhausted by the time we finished. But I had it all planned out. I would have my music running and I would have my hood over my eyes to shield myself from the sound and light of the nightmare bus. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. The night bus we got was older, more cramped, and not equipped with power sockets. Lucky for me, my phone was on 1% battery left. Furthermore, the guy behind me was playing music loud enough for the entire bus to hear, despite using his earphones. And of course, the light pierced my hood.


Week 6, September 29-October 5 – Child’s Play

I also watched the finale of Shingeki no Kyojin on the LCD screen today.

I watched the dance team perform again. Then I got free food at some Indian restaurant. It was the owner’s son’s birthday so he wanted to exploit the occasion in order to advertise. I appreciated the thought.

Here’s some random pictures of my walk to school. I took a different route today.


Today I had lunch with Mai. Last week, when we had lunch, it kind of got interrupted because I stupidly invited other people to eat with us out of courtesy. However, this time, Mai and I just got to bullshit on our own, and it was way more fun. Mai showed me this okinomiyaki place that is on the way to Hirakatashi-eki (station), but somewhat off the beaten path. Holy god was it good.

Even though Mai’s English is retardedly good, I still gave my Japanese a good workout. At the time, I felt like I was doing a lot better. On Sunday, at Nipponbashi, I was beating myself up about my lack of Japanese, but today Mai was praising it. It probably had more to do with the fact that I’m better at talking about myself and my overall daily life in Japanese than I am asking other people about their interests. I know the vocab I need to talk about myself, but the vocab I would need to access the countless possibilities of what other’s interests might be, is exponentially more large. And yeah, I know that sentence was poorly constructed. Yolo.

I got to try out my new (old) bike today. Here are some pics.

Today was Gaidai’s International Sports Festival, which was basically the Japanese spin on Canada’s elementary school sports day. Back on Wednesday we had orientation, and since no one else volunteered, I ended up being one half of Red team’s leadership. At orientation, our team seemed to be the biggest, but the day of, the opposite was true. A lot of our team members bailed on us, and to add, Allie was sick. I still had Kelsey with me though. With a few exceptions, most of my team consisted of socially awkward international students, and super quiet Japanese first years. For a team that desperately a hype building leader, I was probably the least qualified. Since a bunch of my team had bailed, we had a lot of open spots for the events (that people had signed up for before), so as the events were occuring, I was scrambling to fix the vacancies in our lineup, instead of exerting my awesomeness like the other leaders were doing. Blue Team would be huddling and shouting some inspirational speech, while getting their game plan down. Green was huddling around their massive plushie mascot. Pink was winning all their games. And through all of this, my team was just scoffing at everyone else. LOL, while I failed to bring any sort of unity to my team. Go me! 😀

To be fair to myself though, it was reeeeeeally hard with some of the shit the international students were saying. It was super awkward, and I was trying to keep a straight face the entire time.

Through lunch though, I got to know the Japanese girls on my team a bit better. Specifically, I got to know Tomoka and Ran, and they kept me sane during the later half of the day. We’d give each other knowing looks during the awkwardness, to reassure our own sanity.

Anyway, we came last. This was somewhat ironic since at the beginning, our team cheer huddle consisted of us yelling, “let’s not come last!”

But don’t get me wrong, I still had a blast.


Week 5, September 22-28 – Ambiguity

My sleep was alright. I really wish I had a shower. I look so greasy in all of these pictures. Holy fuck.
Daisuke and Nicole made me breakfast. We had yakisoba and onigiri. It was cool watching them cook. I appreciated getting a glimpse into what it’s like to live as a couple in Japan. We met Yuri, Aoba, and Nahian at Hirakata station. Our destination was Kyoto, The Golden Temple.

The train ride was fun. I talked with Yuri for the most part. Like Yui, she’s great for me to work on my Japanese with. Yuri puts in a lot of effort when texting me, giving me a Kanji, Hiragana, and English version to all of her texts. She’s super sweet. I showed her what my place looks like on Google Street, and she was amazed at Google Street’s functionality. When she was showing it off to Aoba and Yuya, she realized she was the only one out of the loop.

After the already lengthy train ride, we road a bus that felt like forever to the Temple. I got to know Nahian more. He’s chill. He has Bangladeshi roots, but he’s from New York, NY.

Here are some pictures that I took once I finally arrived.

I didn’t go with them to dinner cause I felt that I was spending too much time away from home.

Today, I went with the host fam to Kouhei’s soccer event. The Osaka Gamba, the local professional soccer team here, ran an event for the kids. In all honesty, it was pretty boring, and the sun was beating down on me at 31 degrees, so that didn’t help much. But I got some Skyping done and I worked on my blog, so all was not lost.

After it was over, Kouhei reported that he was ticked because one of the professional players kicked him in the leg. He said, “pros shouldn’t kick kids!” pretty funny. Mayuko-san would later inform me that it was a fundraiser for a new stadium that they wanted to build.

So, my friend Nicole has been going through a bit of a health scare as of late. I’m unsure as to how much I am allowed to indulge into this, so I won’t, but it’s fairly serious. So much so that she’s considered the possibility of having to go back home. For the past 2 months she’s been dealing with this, and the doctors here in Japan have been turning her away. She’s been suffering aching, discomfort, among her other symptoms, and nothing she’s tried is helping. She’s been pretty stressed out. It’s really rough. The morale of the story is that general health care here isn’t on the same level that it is in North America.

Today Yuri gave me a small bento. She made food for both myself and her speaking partner. I was unbelievably stoked to receive it. My reaction was akin to receiving the gifts I had specifically asked for on Christmas as a child.

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I don’t care what you think. I was stoked when I saw this. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the tasty goodness inside, because before I could do anything, I ate it all.

In class today, Professor Lind ran us through another thought experiment where he silently gave individual people in the class a contradictory goal to complete. Everyone got one of three instructions: move the chairs to the front entrance, move the chars to the window, and move the chairs to the centre of the room. For the first 5 minutes or so, it was havoc. Everyone was silently, and surprisingly courteously stealing each other’s chairs in order to complete their own task. At one point, everyone stood, protecting their stash of approximately 33% of the chairs. Since Professor Lind still seemed unsatisfied, I took control of the class. I proposed that we play Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide which goals we will complete first, second, and third. That seemed to do the trick.

After class, I ran into Nahian. He mentioned that he was gonna go watch the people from the dance club, Body, perform. Basically, Body is a group for people who want to perform various types of dance. I don’t know anything about dance, so I’m weary about telling you the styles I recognize, but I think I’ve seen hiphop, rocking, breaking…

I’ll shut up, these pictures can probably say volumes more than I.