Category: Travel Page 2 of 3

Vend it to Me #5–Tiny Yakult

In which I review a short bottle of probiotic beverage in short sentences.

Vend it to Me #4–Original Bionic Drink Lifeguard

Whoooa, got backlogged on posting these here. Here’s some catching up.

Vend it to Me #4, in which I sample a drink that tastes suspiciously like Halloween candy.

On state-sponsored messages

A month or so ago, as part of a joint field trip with my Lenses of Culture and Waste and Pollution classes, we went to Osaka to visit the Osaka Human Rights Museum. Organizing thirty American students and getting to Osaka, about an hour away on the train, was an interesting (read: hair-tuggingly frustrating) experience, but when we actually got there, the museum was quite the sight.

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Vend it to Me #3–Skal

In which I sample a “proprietary milk-based pop”, and then do things with it that I never should have even considered.

I will write a real blog post soon, honest. Things have just been remarkably busy. Excuses, excuses.

Vend it to Me #2–Fanta Honey Lemon

In which I discuss bees, cough drops, and unusual flavors of soda.

Vend it to Me #1–Boss Rainbow Mountain Blend

This is the first episode of a series of videos I hope to continue while I’m over here. If you’re an American who’s never been to Japan, you cannot understand how many vending machines there are over here. It’s ridiculous. Not only do I pass 13 beverage vending machines (along with three tobacco and two newspaper) on the way to the train station every morning, I can see countless others when I look out the windows on the train, both in front of shops and near train stations, but also tucked away in residential neighborhoods. They’re freaking everywhere. And they have a huge variety of offerings, both hot and cold. It’s convenience in a way that you’ve never experienced it before.

It fascinates me, and also makes me want to sample pretty much everything they have. So, inspired by my friend Ed, who’s been trying for a while now to eat or drink something every day that he’s never eaten or drunk before, I thought I’d make a video project somewhat similar. I don’t have the time to do one every day, but I’ll try to fit it in when I get the chance. If there’s anything this first one has shown me, it’s that they’re a lot of fun to produce, if a little time consuming. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to try a ton of unfamiliar beverages! How cool is that?

So, here’s the first episode. More will come later.

A Bitter Reflection

I failed to do the right thing today.

I was walking home. I live near a middle school and an elementary school, so depending on when I get off the train, I occasionally run into a ton of students on my way home. Tonight, that was the case, so I was wading upstream against a flow of uniformed school students for most of the walk.

Not too far from the station, I pass by a little parking lot. Tonight, as I approached, I saw a bit of a scuffle. It looked like a boy—about middle school age–had another boy in a headlock, and as I got closer, I realized that was exactly the case. As I watched momentarily, another boy came by and pushed the victim down and sat on him.

People were all around, yet nobody did anything. And I knew it was wrong and that the kid was getting tormented, yet after watching for a minute and trying to weigh my options, I chickened out and walked away.

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Catchin’ Up

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks. My bad. It hasn’t been for a lack of content–there are always tons of stories to tell–but rather a lack of time. Last week was especially stressful, and I’ll try to get to that in another post. For now, though, with the little free time I have, I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve done since my last post.

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Rain on a window in Uji

Typhooooon!

Rain on my window

There was a storm today!

Coming from Portland, where the merest suggestion of a potential snowfall sends the emergency storm crews out snowflake-spotting and shuts down every school in the Portland-Metro area, I’m no stranger to weather-related school closures; however, to hear that class was entirely canceled today because of a bit of rain and wind caught me entirely by surprise. Apparently, there was a typhoon blowing through Japan, bringing with it a bunch of rain and some gusty wind. As a safety precaution, at least one of the local railways was shut down for the day, which is probably why class was canceled.

Although I didn’t think it was that nasty of a storm, I wasn’t going to pass up a free day off, so I spent the day lounging around and getting a head start on homework so that I have more time to play this weekend. Due to the holidays on Monday and Friday this week, I was already going to have a short week–today just pushed that into absurd levels.

Ah well. At least this storm seems to have ushered in some cooler, more autumnal weather, which I’m A-OK with.

A rainy manhole cover in Kyoto

Rainy days in Kyoto

A wet manhole cover

 

Today, it rained.

We’ve had a couple days of rain before, but mostly of the drizzle and sprinkle varieties. Today, it was rain all day; big, heavy drops dripping down from a uniformly gray sky. It was still quite humid, but the weather dropped to about 22 or 24ºC (71-75ºF), a welcome relief from the oppressive 33ºC (~91ºF) weather we had last week. I was thrilled to be able to throw on long sleeves and jeans for the first time in about a week. Apparently, a small typhoon is blowing toward Japan, hence the weather. My host family and I agreed–we–d be very happy if this storm signaled the end of the heat and the beginning of fall. We’ll see how that pans out.

After a stressful week of review and tests last week, my Japanese class was finally finalized on Friday, and classes began today. I was worried because I wasn’t in a class with people I expected to be with, but I think I can let those worries dissipate a little. My class will be challenging, since it’s conducted entirely in Japanese and we’re working at a pretty fast pace, but I’m hoping it will work out well. The goal is to improve all of our proficiencies in a number of key areas, including 漢字 (kanji) recognition and speaking, which are my two highest priorities. Now that all my courses have begun in earnest, however, the workload has begun. My host mom was teasing me tonight at dinner, saying, “You’re a student who came here to study–who would have thought you’d have homework?” So it goes.

In another of my classes, Lenses of Culture, we’ve started the semester by investigating culture shock. Scholars like Pederson and Adler have suggested that culture shock is a multi-stage phenomenon. In this model, cultural transitional experiences begin with a period of honeymoon-like glee, as the traveler is wowed by all of the novelties of the new culture. Following that, however, is often a period of rejection of the host culture. It ultimately progresses to a harmonious acceptance, making the culture shock experience a learning opportunity, but there are about two steps of rejection involved in these models.

I mention it because, although I thought I would have little trouble transitioning, I’ve started to feel elements of the rejection phase. Other AKP students I’ve talked to have felt the same. We’re not bitter or angry, by any means–we’re in freaking Japan, after all, and it’s still an amazing place filled with opportunity–but the glossy veneer of novelty is wearing away, and our perspectives are broadening, for both good and bad. One thing my friends and I talked about in particular today at lunch was the outsider phenomenon. When riding the train, we’ve all had the experience of looking up and catching people staring at us because we, as obvious American 外人 (gaijin — “foreigners”), stick out. After two weeks here, we’re at least starting to feel like residents instead of tourists, but in the eyes of commuters on the train or people walking down the street, we will always look like we don’t belong. Coming from America, where the broad range of ethnic diversity makes it easier for visitors to blend in (at least in large cosmopolitan areas), this is quite a different feeling, and may prove a challenge as the year progresses.

Rain on a vending machine

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