Posts Tagged ‘JapanJournal’

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Banana milkshakes and cards

As a perfect prelude to our long weekend, Alex, John, Ben, and I made banana milkshakes and played cards. It also happened to be the perfect way to use up the bananas I had bought but would not be able to finish! ^_^ We just had to buy the milk and ice cream, which we could get from the local konbini. We played a game called, “oh shit,” and it’s very fun and very appropriately named. However, I say, next time we do the milkshake thing, we obtain some rum.

Ben was even able to obtain a covert video with his camera of the heavy card action!

NOTE: Have I mentioned how cheap alcohol is, in Japan? Unless you order a drink at a restaurant or pub, of course. The best example would have to be these awesome killer-hard sake you can get in a tiny tetra-pak – it looks like a small juice box, and it’s cute, so it makes you think this is a kids drink… but don’t let that fool you! It packs a 14.5% punch. One of these little buggers (200ml) will only set you back 100yen ($1.20 CDN). Of course, it’s most probably the worst sake you’ll ever taste – very raw.

Takoyaki party at Shirley’s

Now that we (Shirley, Ben, and myself) had takoyaki makers, we wanted to use them!

Takoyaki are fried octopus cakes that Osaka is very well known for.

Since we had so much fun doing the takoyaki party thing at Briar’s, we planned to do the same thing in the good ‘ol countryside! It ended up being at Shirley’s apartment, so we could invite more people than we had originally planned for one of our dorm rooms. Everyone that ended up coming: Shirley, Ben, John, Alex, Suzuki-san (Ben’s coworker), myself, and eventually, Chris (from Tokyo!)

We bought lots of stuff – this was gonna be awesome takoyaki! We even bought shrimp, so that we could try ebi-takoyaki, “ebiyaki?” This night was enjoyable enough that I even did my speech about it. (I had to do a speech to my department at work – so I talked about making takoyaki). We ate lots of takoyaki and snacks we could put in the toaster oven, drank, and watched movies (Austin Powers 2) all night. It was tonnes of fun, and we’ll be sure to do it again! Even if Shirley’s futon now smells like takoyaki…. 😀

Staff party at Megumi

I really, really, REALLY wish I understood Japanese!

It would have made this evening so much more enjoyable. I went to a Japanese restaurant with my department (6 coworkers and myself) and we drank and ate all night. Oh wait, THEY talked, I just stared blankly and kept eating. Okay, this is not entirely true: my supervisor was the main source of conversation, as he had just come back from a business trip to Beijing, so he would pause and translate what he just said to me, every now and then. And my advisor, whom I *know* speaks pretty good English, would ask me questions in Japanese! That’s okay, they were usually simple enough for me to get the idea. Of course, I would answer in English. ^_^

The food was really good. There were a lot of small dishes, and the menu had Korean and Chinese sections! I love Korean food, so when asked what I wanted, I ordered a kimchi dish. And it was delicious! The meal started off with everyone getting a complementary dish that consisted of a raw egg in some sort of clear liquid. I had my doubts, but I watched everyone else mix up the egg and liquid with their chopsticks and slurp it up, so I did the same. Surprisingly, it was quite good! For drinks, everyone (except my advisor, who was the designated driver) started off with a round of beer. I must have been drinking my beer a little slowly, so they started ordering sake, which they know I like. I got to try very nice sake that I’ve never had before! Kubota Sake from Niigata. It was SO smooth! Very good. Other dishes included some sushi and sashimi, tako (octopus) parts in a spicy sauce, edamame (green soybeans), skewered meat and vegetables that were deep fried (“like yakitori” was the best name I got) to dip in miso sauce (bean paste), korokke (croquettes), and lots of other stuff I can’t remember. Oh, and the coolest thing, I got to eat deep fried *fugu*! Simpsons reference: “Don’t worry, map to hospital on back of menu!” I got to eat blow fish! heheh. It was strange, and there were many bones: at first, it seemed like it tasted like chicken but had the texture of fish. Fugu-licious.

The bill, for 7 people, ended up being 22,870 yen. Everyone paid 3000 each. Not bad. Not really sure what happened to remaining… got an email the next day saying the manager took care of it… or something. O.o

Ninjas, Waterslides, and Meat

A weekend involving ninjas, drinking, and waterslides absolutely *must* be good…. I’m sitting in bed, hoping I can do a quick recap of the weekend, without falling asleep.

Saturday

I take turns with Ben, doubling to the Hozumi station, and pay 100yen to park my bike for a night. From there, we take the train for a few hours and head to Iga in Mie prefecture. It is evident that Iga is known as a birthplace of “the ninja” when you see manhole covers with cartoon ninjas on them. We met Patrick and Paul, and went to the Iga Ninja museum. After having been to Eiga Mura (which was absolutely horrible) we would have liked almost anything. The price: 700yen. You are welcomed by a couple pink female ninjas, and shown many of the tricks in a mock ninja house. Some of those tricks were pretty cool, like a shelf that you could swing down and then it became secret stairs up to the secret top floor! After being shown a bunch of tricks in the ninja house, we walk through the “museum” area, looking at stuff behind glass and reading descriptions. This was even really cool, cuz we all liked ninjas. Who doesn’t!? ^_^

We made sure to catch the last live demonstration that day, for only 200yen!! It was even accompanied by a cheesy soundtrack on speakers that couldn’t support the volume! I wish I had made videos of the demonstration – I will have to get what Ben took. There was the main ninja dude, who demonstrated a bunch of weapons, and there was another guy who came in for the simulation battles… using real weapons! The last battle was done really well! After the demonstration, we went up to get our picture taken with the main guy, and then Patrick asked if he had nun-chucks – to this, he runs behind a wall, and comes back holding two sickles attached to each other with a chain! Cool! Ben tried to hold them, but he quickly took them away from Ben and demonstrated that they were very sharp by shaving a piece of wood off a nearby post with little effort. Everyone else had left, at this point, and he gave us a private demonstration of this new toy! Private ninja demonstrations kick serious ass.

Leaving the ninja museum, I had spotted some shuriken that finally were not rubber! Throwing stars! Every aspiring ninja needs a good set of throwing stars, so I bought 8 – which promptly drained money I wasn’t expecting on spending. We were happy, but happiness only lasts so long on an empty stomach, so we went to an izakaya (Japanese style bar) for food and drink. After that, we were truly happy. Ice cream followed, and then some more drinking, and then looking for a hotel to stay at (that we could afford), and then even more drinking. Yes, we were very happy by the end of the night. To top it all off, we got our own Japanese style bath – so relaxing!

So much for a “quick recap!” I fell asleep after writing “Hozumi” in the first sentence… =/ Why am I so tired, recently? ….

Sunday

We pried ourselves out of bed, because we had to be out of there by 10am -unless we wanted to pay for another night. We went to another museum, and did a lot of walking: looking for waterfalls. We didn’t find any waterfalls, but we happened upon a Brazilian restaurant where we ordered PIZZA! Really good pizza! This restaurant was the first time in Japan I’ve ever encountered someone trying to push religion on people. He came up to us, after having visited the table next to us, and spoke Japanese while waving around “words of the Bible.” After realizing we were all hopeless, he wished us all luck and shook our hands. Umm.. yah. The Brahma beer was actually quite good, too – and I don’t like beer! I got papaya juice, and man was it good! We had no more time to look for waterfalls, so we said our goodbyes and parted on our seperate ways: Ben and I back to the country-side we call home.

Monday (a holiday)

As far as Ben and I were aware of, Mayu and Mami were going to take us to the local swimming pool (still a good 20 minute bikeride from our dormitory). However, after we had been driving for a long time, and with what the girls had been talking about, it appeared as if we were going to Nagashima Spaland! SUGOI! And Mami had discount tickets, so everyone only had to pay 1000yen (usually 3000yen) for tonnes of waterslide-fun! Since this was mine and Ben’s 2nd time here, we knew which slides to go on, and which not to waste our time with… but we were also with a couple girls who weren’t so eager to go on all the slides. We didn’t want to make anyone feel left out, but we wanted to have fun… taihen. When we had come before, for Patrick’s birthday, we had also gone on the rollercoasters. Recently, the Steel Dragon (the massive rollercoaster that holds 4 guiness world records), had an accident – so we were really lucky we got to go on it – it was not running, anymore. We were also very lucky the girls took us to the waterslides that day, because it was the last day of the season.

The enjoyable day melted into evening, as Ben and I both bought takoyaki makers, and we all went for yakiniku. Yakiniku is when you order meat and you cook it on a grill in the middle of the table. It’s awesome! However, I think Mayu was feeling a little crazy, and ordered a HEAPING CRAPLOAD OF MEAT!! We were already full by the time we still had 4 full plates of raw meat mocking us. That night, we eventually defeated the meat, but in the end, it was the meat that won. I don’t want to see another piece of meat for at least a week.

so much.. meat….

New Camera

Today, the wonderful Shirley brought my new camera to work!

YES! Finally! It got delivered to her apartment, and I gave her the cash to pay for it. I get to play with it once I get home… and I will play with it, don’t doubt that for a second. A bunch of us may be going to a Ninja-town/museum on the long weekend! What an awesome way for me to try out my new baby – pictures of Ninjas! =)

I still can’t decide if I’m willing to spend the money to go to Tokyo for the Tokyo Gameshow. I’d like to go, but… it seems so expensive *just* for that show. Hundreds of dollars in transportation (I’d be taking shinkansen, this time) and less than $20 for the tickets for one day.

And Nintendo’s not even going to be there….

Kyoto, Awesomely-Bad Eiga Mura, Kobe

I told myself that instead of wasting precious personal time writing journal entries, I’d do it at work when I needed to keep myself awake. Now, is one of those times. I’ve tried desperately to stay awake and do something, but I’m SO tired, and my head just keeps leaning forward for un-natural lengths of time… it’d be impossible for coworkers not to notice. It’s much better to appear busy, working or not, than to appear sleeping. *sigh*

This last weekend was great. So relaxing. Tanoshikatta. Shirley, Ben, and I headed over to Kyoto to visit Briar. We went to an extremely tacky movie-theme park called “Eiga Mura” (“Movie Land”). It was so bad that it was actually amusing – but I’m never in a million years going back. There was a HORRIBLE “special effects pond,” similar to the Universal Studios Jaws display, where a plastic dragon rises from the water with mist abound (you can see the nozzles) and turns its mechanical head spraying mist. Woooh… scary. Then there’s the trees that needed oil… oh man, so bad. Pictures simply won’t do it justice. We also saw a live samurai performance which was embarrassingly entertaining. But, I especially liked the robot ninja that “scrolled” between buildings, and then back again – backwards! Oh, and the crappy movie from the eighties with vibrating seats that made absollutely no sense. We could be heard laughing out loud when we were suppose to be having a “thrilling” ride of our lives.

Anyways, after that “interesting” experience, we went back to Briar’s dormitory – she was kind enough to host all of us, that night! However, as in most dormitories, visitors are not allowed to stay overnight – we had to sneak inside. Briar had bought this Takoyaki (octopus cake) maker for 1000yen, and that was our plan for dinner. We had bought the ingredients earlier that day, and we were excited to get to try homemade takoyaki. What’s even better, we added CHEESE! I haven’t had much cheese since coming to Japan, and it was very welcome. These were the best damn takoyaki I’ve ever had! Conclusion: I will search for one of these 1000yen specials. We must’ve ate nearly 20 cakes each! It’s similar to eating fondue – it takes a while, and everyone’s talking while doing it. Very social, very delicious, very fun. After indulging ourselves, we talked for a long time, and finally went to sleep.

The next day…

…Briar made pancakes for us! Thanks!! After sneaking back out of Briar’s dorm – we were very lucky – we went to Kobe and met Patrick. We all couldn’t help but think of Vancouver when in Kobe: it is situated between the mountains and the ocean; a very beautiful city. Kobe is known for some of the best beef in the world. The fat and the meat are very evenly distributed, creating a marble-like effect. We did not have any Kobe beef, we did not have time, or money (very expensive). But, we did go to the water-front where there was a flea-market, of sorts. Most of that stuff had probably fallen off a truck, but we bought some anyways. It was also the largest collection of cool Japanese hippies I had ever seen. =) Each setup consisted of the proprietor (hippie) sitting on the grass in front of his/her odd collection (whatever they could “get a hold of”), awaiting foreigners like us to spot a bargain. I bought a beanie baby (reaper) for 100yen, and a Sublime shirt for 300 yen. I was tempted by the “Smokemon” shirt, but Pat grabbed that so quickly.

We continued to walk along the waterfront (where I purchased a small bag for 980yen), passing a small amusement park, a couple restaurants, and a massive cathedral. Next, we strolled to Chinatown for dinner – the cleanest Chinatown I have ever seen! It was difficult to find a a place to eat that wasn’t packed. Eventually, we gave up and just asked one of the guys who was handing out pamphlets for a restaurant where that place was. He led us to a small place where we were led upstairs to a circular table. A circular table!! Not a Japanese thing. Dinner was… nothing to write about (so why am I?), but it was very cheap.

By that time, the Gifu people had to head back – we still had to double Shirley back to her apartment from Ogaki and then ride back to our dormitory. We headed for the train, which took a few hours before arriving in Ogaki, and that was that. A very nice weekend. Thank you, Briar, for hosting!

Buddy down the River… and Beer

It’s 12:30pm, I just got back from lunch. Soon, the bell will sound, the lights will turn back on, and the “Sanyo song” will play…. *sigh*

Last weekend was really cool. Ben and I took our newly purchased inflatable dingy down the Nagara gawa from Gifu city… well… half way, anyways. The plan was to take the train to Gifu, carrying our raft, walk to the river, inflate our boat, get in the river, and ride it all the way back to Anpachi in time to catch the Beer Matsuri (a festival for the Sanyo Dormitory residents)! Well, after a couple hours in the river, we realized that there was no way we were going to make it back in time for the festival. Unacceptable! So, we got out *maybe* half way, after 3 hours, and looked for the nearest train station – we were very far away from any train station! =( The ride itself was very fun, though.

When we first got in was the most exciting, there were actual rapids, and we were genuinely frightened! Well, okay, Ben was – I had to hold his hand. There was fast and slow parts… some parts were just SO slow, though.. about the speed of walking. When approaching rapids, you only noticed if you looked at the ground passing beneath you: very fast! And then you panic as you realize you have to paddle accross the river to avoid a dangerous part that is approaching fast! Oh man, all the rapids were so fun! Adding to the fear-factor was when we realized there was a hole in the boat! 😮 It was under the water, and the boat is translucent, so you can actually watch the bubbles slipping across the underside of the boat. After we noticed this, the person in the front (Ben, from then on), was on hole duty. The poor little boat (which we later called, “Buddy” – due to the Budweiser logos plastered everywhere) could barely hold us. When we were setting off, we put our bags in, and our bags alone pretty much filled up the boat. It was definitely a cozy ride. We saw at least 20 jet skiis on our way – apparently a popular pass-time among Japanese! I guess the size is convenient. I’d love to get a chance to try one!

We ended up being escorted by 2 girls, (who Ben had invited to the Beer Matsuri) from one of the train stations back to the dormitory. They even gave us a bag of Doritos! For foreign food like that, you have to go to Nagoya. Actually, the car ride back to the dormitory had a few peaks of excitement that rivaled those from the rapids, earlier that day. At one point, we stopped in the middle of a crazy intersection, because it was unknown if we were allowed to go.. o.O Anyways, we got back safe enough to drink free beer, have a good time, play bingo (MANY prizes), eat (a little – there was hardly anything left), and even win “door prizes”! Because we were late, John (the good kid that he is) filled out our names for the resident lottery. There was maybe 15 prizes to be won, and the crazy thing is: every name John filled out WON! What are the friggin odds?! Ben got a blender, I got a rice cooker, and John got a foot massager! If I make any bets or anything like that, I’m getting John to have a lucky hand in it! Lance, another intern here, said he saw similar rice cookers for over 10000yen! That’s like, a $120 rice cooker! It’s really nice… I just need some rice (and maybe some other stuff) to test it out.

After the festival was over, Ben, Alex, and I went to the konbini to get some food – we hardly ate anything. We got some instant noodles, a couple fireworks, and some ice cream. We went back to my room, ate the instant noddles and then went to the roof to light off a few fireworks. Good times.

That was last Saturday. On Sunday, I ended up spending a lot of money without even leaving the dormitory – now that’s talent! John helped me make a couple large online purchases: the Canon IXY 400 digital camera, an extra battery, and an SD->CF adapter that allows me to use SD memory in the CF memory camera. All together, with shipping and such, that was 55000yen. I still haven’t received it yet. It is being shipped to Shirley’s apartment, and I gave her money to pay for it upon arrival. I also got Lance to pick up a 256MB SD flash memory card (10000yen), that I can use in both my phone and my new camera (via the adapter); and I even have an SD drive on my laptop! Standards are great, when they’re adhered to… *cough* Sony *cough* Microsoft *cough* And, finally, a PS2 controller (2700yen) that Alex may eventually buy off me. Now we can play 2player Soul-Calibur 2! And it’s pretty fun, I assure you. =) I’m still so tempted to get a Gamecube and SmashBros… Jesse, you still got that extra copy laying around? ^_^ If only I could read Japanese….

Well, back to work, I suppose.

Mt Fuji

Dormitory Food tastes SO GOOD after starving and freezing on top of Mt.Fuji…

Mt. Fuji: the largest mountain in Japan, and sleeping volcano (last erruption in 1707-1708). Climbing Fuji-san is something you *have* to do if you come to Japan and like hiking. There is a saying: “You are a fool if you do not climb Fuji-san, and you are a fool if you do it more than once.” I’d have to agree with this.

Saturday morning, 9am – Ben, Alex, and I left on our bikes to ride to Ogaki station, a 40 minute bike ride. We ended up missing a turn off on our way, so we missed the train we were originally going to catch, but that was ok. From Ogaki we took a few trains (maybe 4-5 hours) and ended up in Fujinomiya. From there, we took a bus (3000yen round trip) to the half-way point on Fuji-san. 2 hours. It was 5:30pm, and we hadn’t even started hiking yet. The weather, however, was perfect!

Even though we knew we did not have to leave until maybe 9pm (we didn’t want to have to wait too long at the peak in freezing weather), we started our casual ascent seeing as the weather was so perfect. It was really beautiful, and we could not have hoped for better weather. We were lucky. The bus had dropped us off at station 5, and by the time we reached station 7, it was very cold. I had brought a full change of clothes, and I ended up tying my spare shirt on my head to keep warm. Ben, the “experienced hiker,” didn’t even have pants! (Or a camera!) I believe it was also at this station that we ran out of food. Yes, to say we were prepared for the night ahead would be the lie of the century. So… we were prepared, because we’re professionals. ^_^

To keep warm, we had to snuggle. Three guys cuddling together… maybe “huddling” would be more appropriate. What a bonding experience! I suppose most near-death experiences are…. =) We tried to sleep in many places. We were exhausted! But, the wind was not allowing it. I don’t know what the wind chill factor was, but it was VERY cold, and it was so difficult to hide from. We were at the wind’s mercy. The best place we found was nestled in some crevace of the volcanic rock… I may have slept for 15 minutes there… If I was lucky. Poor Ben had to try and make a cocoon out of his cheap **parka**, and Alex.. well, no matter how much stuff that guy wore he was never gonna be warm. We were all starving. Ben had thought that we could buy ramen (instant noodles) at one of the mountain huts, so that kept our spirits high: “Yeah, we get to eat hot noodles when we get to the top!”

Eventually, we reached the top. Of course, it the windiest and coldest place on the mountain. I think we reached the top at 3:00am, and we still had maybe an hour and half before the sun would rise. And guess what? No ramen. It was as if the mountain just spat in our face. That was one of the longest “hour-and-a-half”s I have ever experienced. I was extremely uncomfortable, wedged in between a big rock and a narrow wooden bench, and the icy cold ground. I couldn’t get any sleep, and I couldn’ even stay still because I was so uncomfortable. But, at last, the sun started to show its colours. The sky gradually lightened. The clouds (we were above some and below others) began to turn a fiery orange. This was it. The moment we’d been waiting for. We quickly headed over to a better viewpoint. I was extremely happy to move – it generated some badly needed body-heat for me. I found a really good location behind a big rock that shielded me a bit from the wind, and took many, many pictures. There must have been hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing. The sunrise was magnificant.

It was morning, and we had our priorities straight: 1) food 2) get the hell out of there. The mountain hut at the peak was open after the sunrise, and it was packed like a Tokyo train in rush-hour! And for what? Over-priced instant noodles. Oh, I know you’re wondering… just how over-priced were these instant noodles? For a cup of noodles that maybe costs 150yen at a konbini (convenience store), we gladly paid 800yen (almost $10 CDN). It wasn’t even a question, we would probably have paid 2500yen – we were starving. And it was a pretty damn good cup of noodles, let me tell you!

Fuji-san has many different routes. We took the Fujinomiya route (starting at 2400m) up the beast because it was most convenient for us to get to. This is the shortest and steepest route. We took the Gotemba route down. As soon as you start heading down the mountain on the Gotemba route, you can see your destination: a some shiny cars way-the-f**k off in the distance in some huge parking lot. For the whole way down, maybe five hours, you can see this same destination. It seems never to grow in size or appear any closer. The trail, itself, is very easy. It’s not too steep, and it’s very sandy. This is why it is a good trail to go down. The last half of the route is a HUGE sandy/gravel hill gradually ending up at the parking lot. I had lots of fun running and jumping down this, because the sand was very deep, and would absorb impact very effectively. It was like running down sand dunes, only this hill took hours to descend. Ben trodded on and Alex kept saying, “I can’t believe they expect people to walk this far! It’s so unreasonable!” He wasn’t very happy. =)

At last, we were at the bottom dumping piles of rocks and gravel out of our shoes and looking at our black feet in disgust. Soon after that, we were on our bus returning to Fujinomiya city, where we would begin our train trip back home. The trains were crowded, and we weren’t lucky enough to get a seat a lot of the time. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded that much, but I was SO tired… (no sleep) + (hiking Fuji-san) + (no food) = Steve, tired like the dead. I managed to get a little bit of precious sleep, but it seemed to do me no good… or make my situation worse. I think it was around 4pm Sunday when we got back to Ogaki, and we still had to bike back. We had all agreed that stopping at the first place we came across to get some ice-cream was a good idea. And that’s exactly what we did. Alex nearly had an accident on a bridge on the way back (a girl tried to pass him and they ended up grazing each other and coming to a stop), but other than that, it was pretty uneventful. It was good to be home.

The best things about Sunday were the sunrise, the 800yen instant noodles, the massive sandy hill, the ice cream, and finally, the shower… the shower was badly needed.

NOTE: I may have started this journal entry at work, but I barely got to do anything on it before I became super busy… I wrote the rest of it over the next few days in my spare time at home (mah cozy dorm room). ^_^

1:20am

We took Vasileios, the crazy Greek intern that we all know and love, to the local izakaya for his going away party, tonight. The bill came to 20000Yen for 7 of us. That’s $240CDN! Oh, what it means to have a job/income. We’ll miss that guy, he’s always fun to hang out with.

Right now, I mainly wanted to write the following: Tomorrow, Ben, Alex, and I are going to bike to Ogaki, get on the train for 4 hours, get on a bus for 2 hours, and arrive at Mt.Fuji. Here, we will commence a 7hr (avg) hike up to the top of the mountain during the night. Once we reach the top, we will wait (with everyone else who will inevitably be doing the same) for the sunrise. Oh, that will be good. It’s a shame I don’t have a better camera, yet – cuz this is going to be a prime picture oportunity!

Anyways, I’m tired and have to pack in the morning.

Catching up; Dinner with “Mayu” & Friends :)

I’m at work right now, tired after having only a few hours of sleep last night – on the floor, not on the bed.

Yes, I was suppose to get lots of things done (that *really* need to be done), last night. Little did I know, that when Alex entered my room around 9:30pm, that I would be talking for the rest of the night. Initially, Ben, Alex, and I had to talk about our plans to hike Fuji-san on the weekend (no rest for the wicked). We looked at a Hiking-in-Japan book that Ben has (he has lots of really cool books) and a train tome that Alex has trying to figure out where we were going to go, and which route to hike. Unfortunately, I couldn’t provide much to the conversation: I don’t know maps like Ben does, and I don’t know Kanji like Alex. So I mainly listened and attempted some extremely slow searches on an online train planner.

We had something sorta figured out, so Ben left to do his laundry. Alex and I continued talking, but not about the hike. Topics ranged so wildly, and largely consisted of rants. In person, rants are much different. Nearly everything you read on the net will be a “rant,” but a rant on the net is well composed. The author has had time to organize their thoughts, and it’s usually fairly coherent. But having done a few myself last night, I realized I couldn’t just say what was on my mind – I had so many things on my mind that I couldn’t concentrate on one and convey a clear thought. I had to really stop talking, and take time to organize my thoughts. This is okay, because I saw Alex doing the same thing, later. We talked about anything from video games, to religion, to relationships. It’s really funny, and I would not have expected it, but Alex and I have a lot in common.

Eventually, we said good-night a little after 4am. I was afraid to go to sleep, fearing I might not wake for work. I went to the bathroom, and saw at least one person also walking in the hallway on my way – this is Japan, after all. I came back to my room and read my email, and then I must have laid down on the floor….

Had it not been for my life-saving cell-phone which was nestled in its charger, I may not have waken up. But I had cleverly set the alarm on that awesome cell phone of mine to go off every day at 7:45am. Usually, I wake up by the Wal-Mart alarm clock I brought from Canada, but I must set that every night. Maybe I won’t bother, anymore – my ketai works great! I can wake up to melodies of sorts rather than that irritating beep. Much better. Amazingly, I managed to have a shower and still be on time for work. God, did I need a shower!

So, I just finished reading Ben’s monolithic journal entry about his crazy adventure around Japan during Obon the holiday. Yes, I’m at work, but I was alternating between technical documentation. I actually relied on Ben’s writing to keep me awake, so I can justify it. After reading it, I’ve decided I may go back and try to add a few details from my Obon holiday – which I completely glazed over.

I have to wait for a computer to arrive before I can “work on my project,” but I can always read… it’s just so boring. So my day today is not so interesting. Can’t wait for lunch.

10:20pm – Just got back from dinner with Ben and 3 Japanese Girls: Yukko, Mami, Mayu

And a good time was had by all…

The girls took us to an Okonomiyaki restaurant in South Ogaki. They even picked us up! 😮 Ben knows an uncanny amount of information about food! And maps. But, I guess he enjoys both of those things, so that’s ok. I love food, too… but Ben is not satisfied til he knows all the details of how a certain dish was prepared and exactly where the ingredients came from! However, this kind of info is great for ice-breaking, because it’s really quite interesting. As such, during dinner, we talked mostly of food. We also talked about Vancouver and Canada because all of the girls had been there.

I have been wondering where the closest swimming pool was almost since I got here, and Ben remembered I wanted to know that, so he asked the girls. After dinner, they looked at map books in their car (I could see Ben was getting excited – maps!) and they made a couple calls, and they decided to drive us there. It didn’t take long for us to appear completely lost in the deep dark inaka (countryside). That’s okay, we soon found it, and it turns out it’s really easy to bike to. It’s about twice the distance as the Hashima train station we usually bike to, however, so it’s a little far.

That was a nice casual night. Didn’t cost much (1200yen), and it was refreshing. Thanks to the three ladies for taking us out!

I’m tired… and must do things BEFORE I sleep. *sigh*