Thousands of Miles from Home



I suppose this really isn't of much relevance to Japan but I did write a c++ program here. It create a .vnt file that can be sent to Docomo cell phones via IR, sort of like e-mailing a picture.

You can see the code HERE

Attempting a japanese song 

In the karaoke parlor 

Higo sensei singing a song (which was slow so I could sort of sing along with the japanese lyrics on screen) 

At karaoke with the ESS 

John Davey at karaoke 

This is the mascot for the athletic games which will be held in Okayama next year 

At the Kyudo jo (inside is wood floor and outside is grass) 

The OJ english school where I went to a party 

Something New

I'm at school, but have this class period off (english grammer, something my mother would say I need help with). Yesterday's activities were very fun, but I'm rather tired today. In foreign affairs class with John Davey we were learning about Rosa Parks (about whom I gave a cursory introduction and then felt bad because I know very little about Rosa Parks as a person). In the middle of the lesson, he played "Rosa Parks" by Outkast which I have to applaud as an excellent teaching method. Regardless of questionable lyrics (which are hard to understand even for me, let alone a japanese student) the song's chorus "Everybody move to the back of the bus" was useful in illustrating the topic.

After school I went with the ESS (English Speaking Society, reminds me of Dead Poets Society), John Davey, Andee and Higo sensei to Eleven, a popular karaoke shop to sing some japanese and english songs. I am finding karaoke very fun regardless of company, although I wouldn't do it by myself. There were about nine of us, and I sang some english songs and attempted some popular japanese songs I have been hearing lately. One good aspect of J-pop is that most songs include incomprehenible snippets of english such as "Enjoy! it's join!" or "...go back to honies house," which makes it easy to sing along to the chorus in english.

In the evening I watched Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy, which i have to say wasn't too bad. Plus i enjoy eddie murphy ever since i saw his standup so it was amusing to see him in a children's movie. Also, a boy from Australia came to stay with the Watanabes (since i have discerned that their home is a boarding house). He goes to Shun's school and will be staying in Okayama for a week. We talked about Australia, but he was very tired so went to bed early. His name is Thomas.

In japanese ghost is translated as "corpse candle."


Japan is great, even the error messages are exciting 


Mix juice, a used clothing store (surprisingly expensive, but some funny clothing items) 

Hair maker freak, and the motorbike says "freak" as well 

In the city of Okayama 

Busy streets at night 

Snack YOU 

Japanese bullet train, Shinkansen (for amanda, I'll get a better picture later) 

I always get the urge to stop in the middle of long roads to take pictures 

Eric Heien, who graduated from Berkeley, with a group of students interviewing him about America. Andee is on the left. 

The streets of Okayama city 


Picture from the train 

Looks like they're dancing their way to Okayama 

On the train to Okayama 

Tea Party

I made a major discovery last night in figuring out how to transfer pictures from my phone to cpmuter and vice versa using infrared. Not surprisingly, the company makes it difficuly because they can charge money for pictures sent via e-mail, but swapping pictures phone to phone is free (although it is limited to pictures taken with the camera, not downloaded). The whole process was simple in the end, using MIME64 encoding with a detail header (which I was not familiar with and was expained in japanese), so I would like to write a program that will convert gif/jpg files and simplify the task. Pretty geeky right? Plus my programming is rusty so this should help refresh my memory.

Yesterday I went with Shoko and Andee to a lunch party at the english language school which I helped clean after the typhoon/insuing flood. Jittan was also there and bought me something from Disneyland Toyko. The JET at my school, John Davey, as well as a few other english teachers from the area were also at the party. I learned that John Davey and Sam, a local english teacher, are both DJs, with some knowledge about clubs in the area.

At the party there was plenty of food, as well as plenty of people who were studying english so I tried to speak Japanese while the students spoke to me in English. After three hours of eating, I went home, did a little reading, and took a nap before Kyudo.

Kyudo was excitng because even though it was our second day, we got to shoot at real targets. Before the Kyudo lesson begins, everyone assembled in the main shooting area and bows three times, claps twice, and bows again. I'm not sure what this symolizes but it is interesting.

My aim wasn't that bad from a close distance, and on one shot I surprised everybody, as well as myself, when I shot an arow already in the target, splitting it in half. I got to keep the broken arrow as a souvenier. Kyudo is based as much on the routine as on the actual shot, and there are an extensive set of steps and gestures that mjust be performed before firing the arrow. But it is relaxing and fun.

Today I got a library card to the Tamano City Library. Not many english books, but an okay selection.


To Oz

Today the international course students at school took a trip to Okayama to meet with college students and other foreigners who live in the area. We left school around 11:30 without any teachers for the train station on foot, and took the 11:50 train to Okayama. It was my first time taking the train and there were a few changes but the other students looked after Andee and I(except one stop where everyone got off the train and Andee and I didn't notice so we rushed off the train only to realize we were on the right train and everybody got back on)

In Okayama we had a little time before we had to be at the Kokusai Koryuu Sentaa so Andee and I walked around to some bakeries and shops inspecting (and tasting) their wares. This day also marked my first time in Macdonaldo, japan's macdonalds, and as far as I could tell everything was the same except a little more expensive and smaller portions. Andee bought a chicken sandwich but I passed. At the Sentaa (I'm not sure if this was supposed to be center, my information sheet had the former) we went to the 8th floor and ate lunch while 14 people from various countries conversed among themselves on the other side of the large lecture hall. After lunch, and being at a slight advantage over the other students who could not speak english, I wandered over to meet the people the students would be interviewing for the day. I met Eric Heien, who graduated from Berkeley in computer science but now teaches languages in Okayama with computer consulting on the side. We ended up talking for a long time so I didn't get to meet many more people until the interview began.

After all the students had eaten lunch, they assembeled in small groups to meet with one of the guest speakers. In my group was Rosi from Indonesia, who is studying chemistry in okayama. The students asked her questions and I translated when their english failed using my poor japanese and useful electronic dictionary. I also learned a lot about Indonesia (which isn't saying much because I knew very little before today). Around 4 o' clock the day ended and the students were allowed to return home. Of course, many students stayed in Okayama to shop.

Andee and I walked from the Okayama train terminal and bus station to Tenmaya square, about 1.4 Km away, to look at some shops including a very large book and department store. I have found that english books are expensive, but there are usually sales that can be found. And considering the amount of money I save with not buying food everyday, and the allowance from Rotary, I don't feel bad dropping thousands of yen (tens of dollars).

We shopped for a few hours, ate a little bit, then dragged outselves back to the train station around dark. Shopping is quite fun because of all the surprises that can be found. From engrish to interesting clothing to cute stuffed toys, I think anyone can be entertained with a day out. Amazingly, among all the people in Okayama, I saw Yuudai and two of his friends on the same train home to Tamano. Later they were joined by some girls from school. So the eight of us went back to Tamano, where Andee and I left together to go back to the school to get our bikes. Japan by night is not only very peaceful, but I also feel very safe. On the way back to school we met one of the english teachers, so had a brief conversation about the day.

Andee and I then rode home on our bikes, where we were rather tired and hungry but satisfied with the day. I would like to say the weekend will be relaxing but I know there will be a lot to do. A lunch party tomorrow and then kyudo in the evening. On tuesday Thomas Conroy comes from Australia.

A few more:

Hey Ho, Let's Go

Wataru on guitar


come around to the back of the house... 

Another garden 

Masatoshi's parents' house 

The shrine near Masatoshi's parents' house 

Masatoshi's uncle's grave 

The Watanabe family grave site 

The grave site near Masatoshi's parents' house 

My school judo class. After school I can get a one-on-one lesson (or a one-on-one ass beating) 

Day Off

Higan is the week long period of Buddhist memorial services held twice a year, centuring on the vernal and autumnnal equinoxes. One characteristic of Japanese Buddhism is its close ties with ancestor worship. The middle day of each each Higan, Shumbun no hi (spring equinox) and Shubun no hi (autumn equinox) is a national holiday. At Higan, the whole family pays visit to the ancestors' grave.

Today Masatoshi, Shoko, Shun, and I went to Tamashima to visit Masatoshi's parents and the grave that is near their house. We brought flowers, and when we arrived the whole family went to the small graveyard between houses to light incense and place flowers and rice at the Watanabe family grave. After, I talked with Masatoshi's family for a while. Their house was small, but had a wonderful japanese garden and courtyard outside their house. They gave us some grapes and other fruit to take with us, and we left to visit Masatoshi's aunt. Her house was larger, but she also had a lovely yard which my mom would have enjoyed.

After visiting the family, we went to Shun's old english teacher's house in Kurashiki, where he lives with his wife and two children. He is origionally from Boulder, Colorado, and his wife is from a town very close to WV, so he had been to Morgantown before. I painted some dinosaur figurines with his kids (they did most of the painting) and we had some dinner. His wife made rasberry chocolates for dessert.

I forgot to mention that in calculus class no one uses calculators. Even when calculating derivatives, integrals, and rotations, everything is done by hand. I think all math classes are operated in this fashion. Also, when I went to Takamatsu by ferry, I was in a building where two of the Iron Chef's restaurants are located (Iron Chef Japanese and Iron Chef Chinese). Shoko said that she ate there with Miyu and Mai and for lunchtime it's not too expensive. I told her about the psuedo-cult following that Iron Chef had earned in America and she said that a few years ago it was very popular. I would consider it an honor to eat there :]

And since you've been good, another video:
Karaoke at the school festival


Calculus Kyudo

Today was my first calculus class in high school. To most, I'm sure the phrase "harder than chinese algebra comes to mind." However, I found the class to be easy after the intense preparation for the AP test. I like the teacher too. He has way too much energy, but is enthuiastic and the class is civilized. And being in math I relearning algebra was not my idea of a good time.

In the evening, I attended my first kyudo class (japanese archery) with shoko, her friend, and andee. The first thing that struck me was the beauty of the kyudo jo. It's wonderful. A fusion of traditional japanese archatecture with modern conveniences (this fusion can be seen everywhere in japan). The kyudo instructors are also very nice, and even though all the instruction is in japanese, i could still understand what was going on through some one on one instruction. We didn't shoot any arrows today, but i did get to see some very advanced students practicing.

As for right now, I'm very tired. But I have uploaded one more video for the masses.

The winning group demonstration at the sports day (only a piece of the action but still stunning)


That's right you guessed it

You get a special surprise, my pretties. I finally found a decent AVI converter so I posted some videos.

Singing "The Rock Show" at the school festival
Rock Show part II

The AC/DC jazz song at Shun's school festival

Video of the typhoon's effect on a flooded street (featuring Yuudai)

The opening ceremony of the school festival

You can have some more once I am in the mood. Today I had my first judo class, where we learned to fall correctly. Then after school there was no kendo so I had my first judo match against an opponent. It was as if I moved from baby steps (the morning judo lesson) to high speed running (a judo match against trained opponent). Luckilly, no one was injured and I even won the match. Judo is a lot of fun but makes you very very hot/sweaty. There was a cool rain on the ride home so that was enjoyable. Shoko made steaks for dinner, my favorite.

So desu ne?


City Days

Yesterday I took a trip to Okayama by bus to meet the other rotary exchange students (inbound and last year's outbound) for the day. Shoko had left for Kobe to help Miyu shop for an apartment, Masatoshi went to takamatsu for a rotary meeting and lecture on internal medecine, and shun left for school earlier that morning. So I was home alone, but I had a pretty good idea of how to get where I needed to go. To get to Okayama I was to take the 9:39 bus that stops near our house, but at about 9:25 a heavy rain started so although later in the day it cleared up and got quite hot i was left carrying an umbrella.

I had a bus pass so riding to the city was easy, taking about an hour. While waiting for the bus I had a short conversation with a man about the rain and other weather related conditions, and felt confident in my small-talk abilities. When I arrived in Okayama I met Keiko at the nearby fountain, our designated meeting place. Keiko went to Dallas, Texas last year and said she had a great time. In a few minutes we were joined by Janna, the inbound from Virginia, Cari, from Canada, Asuka, who went to Ohio, and Kayo, who went to Canada.

We started by shopping in the nearby massive underground complex under the bus station. It was the same place I had come with Shun before, so I sort of knew my way around. I wanted to buy a light jacket and got a great deal on one and found a patch that says "too fast to be a turtle" at a store called StarVations (i thought it was a funny name). I also went to the gap and bought a pair of pants. Janna bought some cds at Tower records and I listened to some japanese Ska. The cds here are very expensive, however, around $20-30 a pop. Some you can find for a little cheaper.

For lunch we stopped in a restaurant that had many omlets on display. There wasn't a table big enough for the six of us, so we split us and I sat with Kayo and Asuka. As soon as we sat down they said that the guy at the next table was looking at them weird and I was surprised to see my friend from school and his girlfriend at the table next to us. Pretty crazy considering the few kids that I know at school. I also saw two girls later in the day who I didn't know but they apparently knew my name. At the restaurant I ordered a type of rice with meat sauce, sort of spaghetti with rice and no noodles. The restaurant was famous for it's parfaits, and at the table behind us some girls ordered a huge parfait with banannas and kiwi and ice cream and sparklers. I was content with a corn flake and ice cream parfait with Janna. I talked with Kayo and Asuka about their exchanged and they tought me some colloquial japanese.

After lunch we went to a pikura (japanese picture booths), which are very popular in japan. For a few hundred yen you get a page of sticker photos of yourself that you decorate at a nearby computer with crazy hearts and stars and random japanese. It's way more fun than a regular picture booth. So we took about a billion crazy photos and had an awesome time.
After the picture booth we went back to shopping. I bought some art supplies for art class and a pencil case, as well as a snazzy cd case. Around 6 i rode the bus back to tamano, feeling a little sleepy but happy. Shun and I were home alone so he ordered some chinese food (yep, just like america except better tasting) and we watched Hero on DVD.

This morning Masatoshi came home and took me to a few electronics stores to buy small speakers and some cd-r's. We also went to a book shop where i bought moby dick because it was pretty inexpensive. Tamano has a library and I'd like to check that out soon. I'm doing a lot of reading and maybe I can get through those classics I've never read but should have in high school. Masatoshi ordered some ramen for dinner and japanese pizza, which is still nothing like american pizza but i like it.

My new cd case, reminded me of Michael Galie 

Okayama city from the bus terminal, reminds me of New York with all the billboards 

My bento dinner at the jazz festival (from top left to bottom right, tofu with gravy, chicken with vegetables, chicken tempura, pork wrapped with french fries, fish, egg with mushroom, a chinese fruit, shrimp with mayonaise, and rice with small fish) 

The Jazz setup 

A view from the park where the Jazz Concert was held 

Keiko, who went to Texas (she also goes to my school) 

Asuka, back from Ohio 

Kayo, an outbound students to Canada last year 


Haunted house jazz festival

Today andee and I went to the Konan High School Festival, Shun's school, to view the festivities. The first thing I noticed was the size of the school, it's huge!. Much larger than Tamako, but also farther away. We met Shun at the front gate and he introduced us to his friend who goes to Tomako. She took us around for most of the day.

First we went to some rooms to see the club's presentations. The english club had some photos of an english camp, including some hunorous captions. The art club had pictures and sculpture, and Shun's club, science club, had a bunch of interesting science experiments (and one of those machines that shows the waveform of your voice). Perhaps the most exciting display was the "haunted house" that had been constructed in a large conference room. Cardboard was over the windows to keep it dark, and groups went in a few people at a time with a small flashlight to be scared by people jumping out from around corners. It was pretty thrilling, actually. At one point the girl next to me fell down a stair because I had the flashlight pointed at a kid in a funny horse mask.

We ate some lunch that was prepared by a club, then went to see a concert. I wasn't sure of the name of the band, but as I approached the room i heard guitars, drums, base, and an organ. Sort of reminded me of the doors. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in and found that the whole band was girls singing some japanese rock song. Andee and i rocked out there for a while, then went outside to see the brass band perform. They played "tequilla" and some 80s rock song that i can't remember but should. It's the one that everyone learns on the guitar. In the middle of the brass band performace, the male baritone sax player put on a long blond wig and started to sing. I have no idea why but it was funny to watch.

Shoko took andee and I home, then in the evening Shoko, her mother (who lives next to us), Masatoshi, and I went to a swing jazz concert. Most of the people in attendance were old, but I recognized some songs like "The Pink Panther," "All of Me," and a louie armstrong song.

Mysterious wig-wearing saxaphone-playing singing student 

The brass band at Konan High School 

All girl rock band performance 

I enjoyed the "Newspaper," we all tore it up! 

The cryptic message on the exit door the haunted house 

The Go/Shogi club 

At the gate of the Konan High School festival 

Kendo club, with the Tamano High School flag in the background 



In science class yesterday we watched a video, and as with most science videos the woman performing experiments was practically in roit gear to protect her from the chemicals. It was a stark contrast to the school festival, where kids were handed huge logs, shovels, sledgehammers, and pick axes to dig holes in the hard-packed dirt field for their murals. With little supervision, no less. I don't know if Morgantown High would distribute pickaxes to it's students without an armed guard at the ready.

Today's computer class was cancelled because the teacher was not in school, but in it's place the students were given a lesson about SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption. It was very similar to a college-level lecture I had attended. Right up my alley, but I was a little upset about missing computer class this week.

But today was my second day of kendo (martial art with the sword), which I am very much enjoying. I have quite a few blisters and my arms hurt, but I can keep up with the kids and swinging a sword is a ton of fun. The kendo room is above the judo room, and after school it's like an oven. However, I don't really mind and all the club members are friendly. Especially the teacher in charge, Sakaguchi sensei. His english is excellent, probably the best of the teachers in the school, and since there are only 4 students in the kendo club I get plenty of one-on-one training.

So far I've learned some techniques for swinging the sword, and have seen some kendo matches between the students, so I have a general idea of how the sport works. You score a point, or ippon, my striking the head (men) or the stomach (do), and simultaneously calling out your attack and lunging. So if you luge, call your attack, and strike on either the head or stomach, you score a point. Easy enough, right? There is also another attack called kote which is a strike to the wrist. Kote does not make ippon, but kote usually draws opponents off guard so that a kote-men or kote-do can be executed, which makes ippon. There are both lunging attacks and retreating attacks, but I'm just working on the lunge right now. There is also a pretty extensive set of armor that is worn that protects most of the front part of the body. The sword is made of bamboo, so bends rather easily but still hurts if you get hit in the right place. There are also practice swords that are not used for fighting which are quite solid and heavy.

Tomorrow I'll go to Shun's school festival, sunday i'll go to okayama alone to see the other two exchange students from canada and virginia, as well as the outbound exchange students from last year and hang out for the day. Then on monday there is no school so masatoshi will take us to okayama for some shopping.

Jittan getting fitted 

In a gofukuten (kimono store) 

A men's kimono in kurashiki 

Jittan with her matching clothes and phone 

Miyu with her cell phone after dinner 

A picture taken with my phone, apparantly of some schoolroom brawl 


The Race

No school, so today I went with Jittan, Shoko, and her friend to the movies in kurashiki to see Van Helsing. I also noticed that Resident Evil 2 was out, perhaps I'll try to catch that. We shopped a little in Kurashiki, and I tried on a kimono with jittan. Quite expensive to buy, but nice to try on. I did buy the new Prodigy cd, however.

I've uploaded a video of a race from yesterday's sports day. You can get it at

Although not full fledged, I had a dream in japanese last night. It was strange, as usual. I was in a small town with an old man who looked very young. The old man had shelves of video games and movies which were all in japanese, most of which I could read. There was some sense of urgency, but I have no idea why. Sort of a lame dream, but hey.


Block G dancing 

Block D (Hokusai) Posted by Hello

Block A, I helped paint the blue background (very little I might add) 

Tug of war 

Start of a race 

Block D (Kenshin) 

Block G 

My block's mural 

Kiyoto and I at sports day 

Sports Day

I'm both tired and sunburned, but still had a pretty amazing day on the scorching dirt field of Tamano High School. I went to school around the usual time, and quickly changed into my gym clothes. All the kids assembled on the field for the opening ceremony. The principal said a few words and the games began.

The whole school was divided into 7 blocks, or teams. And each team was assigned a color. The teams create cheers, giant billboards, dance routines, and pick atheletes to compete in a variety of events. And everyone can dance, not just simple steps. Intricate moves that are memorized and performed (i have many videos which will be added soon).

In the morning there were various relay races and cheers. I was involved in some race where kids run to a table which has signs that tell them what they need before they run a lap around the field, such as "run with an english teacher" or "balance a tennis ball on a racket and run a lap." I suppose there was a sign that said "skip a lap with an exchange student."

After lunch was when the real fun began. Every block prepared a performance that was cheroegraphed with music. There were really amazing and fun to watch. The winning team's performance involved about 40 kids all dancing in sync. After the performances I was in a 30 kid jumprope competition and a race where 20 kid's ankles are tied together.

I have to pause because this is funny. My host mom and Jittan just asked me if I knew "mark." After a little discussion i realized they were talking about karl marx. then they asked about his friend whose name sounds like angus or august. that was Friedrich Engels. I am laughing pretty hard.

The whole day was very fun, but very hot and sweaty. I forgot to mention that yesterday, after the purchase of my phone, i received two disney towels. My e-mail address on the phone is So send me an e-mail (with pictures or sounds if you want) and I can feel technological.
UPDATE: If sending pictures use the e-mail address :D


Yuudai in a chinese costume, me in Ben costume 

Large mural at school 

Very sauceful! 


My favorite bourbon, CUBYROP 

Today with Wataru and Kiyoto 

On stage at the school festival  

Andee performing 

Nanchaku at the school festival 

The Day I Bought a Phone

Today I realized how in-the-dark america is as far as cell phones. Granted, my phone was pretty bad back home, with about 30 minutes of battery life and a black and white display, but these phones are CRAZY.

But more about the phones later. First, a bit of good news. Luckily, Andee took some pictures of me at the school festival yesterday, so I have some proof that it really happened. Also, I sang again today and got a video of the whole performance (including a ben folds five song). Once I can find the time, I'll upload some video. For now, enjoy the pictures. Today's festival involved some performances on stage and some music in the judo dojo. There was also a comedy show and karaoke performance on the plaza. Andee did some tae-kwan-do which was quite impressive. After school Andee came home with me so I could procure his pictures. Then we went to get my phone.

First of all, my phone was cheap. And the service is about the same cost as it is in America. But this phone is not only tiny, but is also a two megapixel camera, can send e-mail, has a huge screen on the inside and outside of the phone, plays Super Mario, and controlls the TV. As well as tons of other features I have not discovered yet. And it's pretty.

Tomorrow is sports day, so I'm looking forward to a hot and sweaty day. The weather here is wonderful, but sometimes I miss winter :D


So You Want To Be A Rockstar?

Today may have been my best in Japan. Amazing.

It started early. My host family was going to Kobe for the day to visit a temple, and I had a rotary meeting and the school festival. I went to school around 8:30 and gave the ESS (English Speaking Society) my poster about myself and West Virginia. There were many displays set up in classrooms and around the school for different clubs. At 9:00 was the opening ceremony for the school festival. It was really neat, with dancers and drums, and was very exciting to watch. The principal spoke as well as some students, then everyone dispersed for the day's activities. I left school, however, to drive with my second host mom to the rotary meeting.

My second host mom is very nice. She picked me up in a Volkswagon wearing a kimono, which looked very japanese/amusing. The rotary meeting was in Okayama city so it was about a 30 minute drive. We talked about her husband and son (the husband is a petrochemical engineer, she is a pharmacist, and her son plays base guitar). Her son is thirteen so is going through puberty and she said that he is very hard to deal with. I know how that can feel. She also told me that we may go jetskiing in a few weeks if I want to (of course!)

At the rotary meeting I met the two other inbound students. One is from Canada and the other from Ohio, around Newport News. The were both very nice and we got along just fine. I gave a small speech at lunch, and then the district governor spoke. He is very old and said that 40 years ago his son went on the first exchange to America, and then something about Woodrow Wilson that I couldn't understand. And then, after he spoke, we played, of all things, BINGO. It was so much fun. I ended up winning a picture frame that was slightly feminine and a pen that smells like "soft cream" when you use it (i have not used it yet, results on a later post).

Around 1:20 I left the rotary meeting so I could get back to school in time for my stage performance. My host mom drove me to the school, and then the fun began. I dashed out of the car and into the back of the gym because I heard some guitars already playing. When I arrived I saw Wataru and he informed me that it was only a sound check. He had brought me an outfit to wear, some punk looking clothes, but I already had some threads picked out. I did use his belt, however, because it looked hardcore.

At 2:00 the first band played, whose name I do not know. They played the Ramones and some original stuff, so that was cool. Then Wataru's band HOOP played four songs, before announcing they had a "special guest." I was very nervous, but I knew the lyrics and probably more english than anyone in the gym so didn't think I could go wrong. I came out from backstage wearing a shirt that said "samurai" in kanji and all the kids went crazy. About 50 kids formed a pit in front of the stage, and a bunch of kids who had been sitting in seats got up to move to the front. I was still nervous, but shouted a "hello tamano!" into the microphone, in true rockstar style. Wataru and Yasu started playing "First Date" by Blink 182, the Kiyoto came in on the base. I don't know if my singing was okay, but between the crowd screaming and the loud guitars/drums/base it didn't matter. I was in a euphoric state when the song ended. I ran offstage to a huge standing ovation and Wataru started the next song. Around 3:00, HOOP finished their last song, and the crowd started to chant "samurai, samurai!" So I came back out and sang "The Rock Show," with a face melting guitar solo and Wataru and I sang back to back with Kiyoto jumping off amps in the background. Seriously, I couldn' belive it was happening. It was like a dream. I didn't even forget any of the lyrics.

After the show I was sweating like crazy, but went out to the plaza the see what was going on. I realized that there were a lot of people there from other local schools to see the festival. A lot of people wanted to take pictures with me, so I felt pretty famous. Sadly, I did not get any pictures of me on stage, but I did get a ton of videos of the band before HOOP and HOOP's earlier songs. I'll try to get some video tomorrow because we play again in the judo dojo.

I came home and told Shoko all about it. There is a new girl staying with us for a few days, one of Miyu's friends. Jittan comes back tomorrow so there will be 7 people in our house. And tomorrow, I'm buying a cell phone! There are really really awesome, much better than anything I had seen in america. At first I thought I wouldn't need a phone, but sometimes I stay late at school and need to call Shoko and all of my friends have phones so it will be useful.

So I still can't believe today happened. I finally got to live my rockstar fantasy.

Dance team 

Tech crew (I like the hat) 

Getting ready for the festival 

My samurai shirt 

Kickin it hardcore 

Wataru and band on stage for the school festival 

The Rotary District Governor 


The other school band, whose name I do not know 


Wataru on guitar 

Yasu (of HOOP) playing drums 

Your favorite ion supply drink, tastes like milky gatorade 

A japanese-type outfit, for lack of a better description 

A girl in the baton club and me in a funny hat which you can't quite see because of my hair 

Some kids making t-shirts 

Some kids painting a mural for the school festival 


Let's join our hoop

I saw an Aflac commercial on TV today, with the duck and everything.

With the school festival and sports day right around the corner, today's classes were suspended so kids could prepare their dances, posters, and cheers. I'm not assigned to a specific group, so I could browse the groups and meet people. Recently, I've been hanging out with Wataru and Yasu, who are in a "melodic punk rock" band called HOOP (with the catch line "Let's join our hoop"). Their old band was named S-calgo (I suppose a relative of escargot). They also sing in English which makes for funny lyrics but I like them. Wataru gave me their cd and in the cover are the lyrics. But, for the school festival, I am going to sing with their band to two Blink 182 songs, First Date and Rock Show. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to sing, but after I went to one of HOOP's practices I was convinced their musical skill could make up for my lack of talent. I have the lyrics memorized and there will be hardcore loud guitars/base/drums in the background so I can jump around and act crazy and that should do.

Also in the school festival I'm going to have a poster that shows West Virginia and some information about me. This is through the English Speaking Society, or ESS. I've found that the girl next to me in homeroom speaks excellent English, and is also learning Portuegese (I can't even spell it), and some French. So she makes an excellent translator and is fun to talk to.

Sunday is a rotary meeting in Okayama with all the rotary kids in the area. I don't know how many there are, but I assume at least four or five. I think we'll meet the district governor of rotary and have a little party.

I'm sure there is a ton that I'm not thinking of at the moment. Like school lunch. Wow, the cafeteria is much better than america high school. It's like having Yama at school everyday. Usually, my host mom packs a bento, and I get some Udon or Curry-Rice at the school. Plus, throughout the day you can buy food like teriyaki chicken or cream puffs during the ten minute breaks betwen classes.

After school today I went to "Happy Town" to buy a folder and some markers to make my poster. Shoko and Miyu went to Kobe to find an apartment for Miyu at college.


View of the ocean after typhoon 

A flooded street near the sea 

The Japanese equal of ROTC cleaning up after the typhoon 

The local climbing wall 

One of the tunnels I pass through to get to school 

Me standing in a road flooded from the typhoon 

Typhoon Day

I've had my share of snow days, but never a typhoon day. Yes, school was called off today because a large typhoon was in the area. I woke up at around 7:30 because I didn't know school was called off, went to get something to eat, and then came back to me room. As a lay on bed, the house began to shake a little. Another small earthquake, or aftershock, just to make sure I was paying attention. Nothing like waking up to an earthquake.
So in the morning I watched "Ringu" with Jittan. She and I were both a little scared, even though it was about 9 in the morning. I also got to finish the book I had been reading, which had quite a thriller ending.
Around lunchtime my third host mom came over and gave me a packet about a rock climbing gym about 30 minutes from our house. There is a bus stop very close, so I can take the bus anytime I want to. And to climb it's only 300 Yen, so a little under three dollars.
Something interesting about japan is everyone askes you your blood type. Apparently your blood type partially determines your personality. A people are very neat. B people are crazy. O is very brave, and AB is perfect. At least ten people have asked me my blood type (which is O, my host dad is B, Shoko is A, making all the kids AB). Another interesting tidbit is the local bakery is called the little mermaid. Not quite sure what the name references, mermaids making bread in the ocean?
In the afternoon Yuudai came over with two friends, and along with Shun the five of us played Goldeneye on the N64 . Then we took a bikeride around the town to check out the flooding from the typhoon. Again, there was no damage to our house, but a lot of flooding near the sea.
Yeah three earthquakes in two days. And two typhoons in a week. Not too shabby. I'm loving it.


A Little Surprise

Earlier today, a little before dinner time, all seemed quiet. I was showing Jittan some videos from the internet, and looking at some pictures that she had saved on her hard drive. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the table started to shake a bit. I stood up and felt the ground sway underneith me. Shoko seemed very excited, and Jittan looked a little scared. I grabbed my camera and took a video. In about 10 seconds the whole episode was over, but I had just been through my first earthquake. We quickly turned on the TV, as my mind tried to recall all the information about P and S waves I never thought I'd have to know from science class. The TV confirmed that indeed there had been an earthquake (apparently a semi-common occurance in japan) and issued a tsunami warning for some prefectures (not okayama). The tsunami warning said there could be waves reaching .5 meters (not very tall in my opinion), and I believe the earthquake was a 5 on the richter scale.

After all the excitement, many people came over and we had a tempura party. Jittan and I cleaned some shrimp and shreaded horseraddish. The evening was wonderful and I recognized some of the guests from Shoko's chinese lessons, such as the guy who teaches computer lessons. We played shogi and he won then we played othello and i won. I'm also learning, slowly, how to play Go. There are two versions, Go() and Igo. Igo is the traditional game, and go( i use the () because there is some japanese word after it that i can't remember) is sort of like connect four. They're both very fun, but Igo is difficult. On TV there is a show devoted to shogi and Igo, where they teach you how to play (in japanese).

The funny part is later that evening, after the tempura party, I sat down in my room to write about the day's excitement. I turned on the air conditioner and the door to my room shook a little bit. I thought it a bit odd but it's a sliding door and sometimes makes sounds when people come in and out of the house. As a turned on the computer, the ground started to shake again. I quickly grabbed my camera and took another video of the second earthquake. Again people seemed more excited than alarmed. After about 5 seconds it was over, and everyone went back to getting ready for bed.

So my first earthquake, first typhoon, and first tsunami. What a welcoming party.


Radio Edit

I forgot to mention that yesterday was the first time I saw the correct lyrics to "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Also, the artist in the Japanese rap video is called RIP SLYME. Awesome name, eh?
The other night we ate Shabu-Shabu, which involves boiling meat, mushrooms, and tofu in a pot of water at the dinner table. Tonight I went to eat japanese pizza, which did not resemble a pizza in many ways except shape but tasted okay. Also ice cream is called soft cream. A little more pleasant.
However, today I got to go rock climbing at a local gym! It was a small wall and we didn't have a rope but I still enjoyed myself. Andee also went, who had never tried climbing before, and seemed to enjoy it. To get into the rock wall we needed someone who was a member of the outdoor club at the gym, so Shoko called a woman who ended up being my third host mom. There are just two people in the family but she seems very nice, and having a membership to a climbing wall can't be bad.
At school I've received a lot of challenges to arm wrestling. So far I'm undefeated with my left arm. I also think I will try kendo as a club activity. But I'll do a little shopping before I choose.
Today I got to see the military remove trash from Tamano in large military vehicles after the Typhoon. And the weather is wonderful.


Karaoke party 

Yuudai, player of volleyball, slayer of dragons 

My judo outfit, with Jittan, Shoko, and Park 

My homeroom 

Aftermath of the typhoon 

Some baseball players 

Outside of school 

Everyone rides their bike 

The gym 

My school (empty) 

Jittan and I at karaoke 

Going to school 

Park-san and I 

Karaoke and Kiwi

Japanese school is quite fun. Even if I can't understand what is being said most of the time, it's still a blast to be a part of it. And if things get too deep for me to understand, I can pull out a book or study some hiragana. Today's schedule was English, Math, two hours of International Social and Human Being (a sort of world cultures class), Classic Japanese, and Health. The math was very easy, the classic japanese was impossible to comprehend.
In between classes there is a ten minute break, so I talk with the kids in my class and the nearby classes. In Japan the teachers, rather than the students, go from class to class. Yesterday I had computer class, which was hard to understand but I eventually figured it out. We started with some typing practice, the we each received a handout made in Word and had to replicate it. It was easy for me to format the page, but most of the text was japanese, especially kanji. The interesting part is how kanji is entered to the computer. There is a box on the screen and with the mouse you draw the kanji, then the computer recognizes the strokes and suggests some kanji you may have wanted to type. It was hard at first but then I got the hang of it.
But the most exciting adventure this week was today's karaoke. So much fun. Shoko, Jittan, Park-san, Park-san's friend, and I went into a small room with some couches, two microphones, and a bunch of music. And when I say a bunch, I mean thousands of songs. In korean, chinese, japanese, and english. And not only old songs, there was a ton of very new music. We spent about three hours there, taking turns singing songs. Park-san and his friend sang in korean, Jittan in chinese, Shoko in Japanese, and me in English (not at the same time). I ended up signing 17 songs, but here are some of the juicy choices :
I Get Around by The Beach Boys
1, 2, 3, 4 by Coolio
Smells like Teen Spirit (Park-san and his friend also knew this so we screamed all the lyrics)
Rappers Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang
All the Small Things by Blink 182
Bohemian Rhapsody (which everyone joined in on)
This Thing Called Love by Queen
Wonderwall by Oasis (Jittan though the English accent was really funny)
1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins (my favorite to sing)
I can't explain how fun it was. I didn't think being in a room singing songs could be that exciting, but it really was. Jittan and Shoko were very good singers, I uploaded a video of Park-san and his friend signing Japanese Rap
By the time we got home we were all starving. Dinner was delicious, and afterward Masatoshi brought out a cake. It ended up being a quiche, egg and ham, but the box was labeled sugar cake. We ate it anyway, because it looked good. After dinner Kiwi for dessert.
I'll get to sleep in because it's the weekend. I forgot how hard it is to wake up early in the morning for school. But the bike ride is refreshing.


Back to School

Thought high school was over, didn't you? However, this school year is going to be much better than "required" high school. Lets see where to begin:
In the morning I rode with a pack of green pants to school along the bike path. In the opposite direction went the blue pants, apparently to a different school in town. It was strangely reminiscent of West Side Story, and I half expected the Sharks and Jets to throw down their bikes and break into a highly choreographed brawl.
Arriving at school I got quite a few stares, but everyone was very eager to say hello (or giggle behind my back, in the case of most girls). I parked my bike, changed into the school sandals, and went to the teacher's lounge. After a quick teacher's meeting I was introduced to the staff. There is an english teacher named John Davey from Toronto who knows a little japanese. After the meeting I went to my home room. I introduced myself to the class, and noticed that the two guys who visited my house are in my homeroom. So I already have a few friends. The class broke into groups which cleaned the school, then filed into the gym for the opening ceremony. Most students sat on the floor, but I had a seat with the canadian teacher and principal on the side. The principal gave an introductory speech, and so did the teacher from toronto (in japanese and slow english). I said a small speech that seemed well received. After a few teachers spoke, I was escorted back to the principals office who introduced himself and asked a few questions about me. Most classes had testing so I rode my bike home for lunch.
As I arrived home I found the front door locked. Zhang Shu (the girl from china who is also staying with the watanabes) and Shoko had gone out for a while, and I had forgotten my key in the house. The watanabes have two dogs. One is very friendly but smells bad, the other does not like me and bites. So I crept, ever so carefully, into the back yard to the porch door, hoping it would be open and I would not wake the dogs. Luckilly, the door was open and only the smelly dog was disturbed. I'll remember to take my key tomorrow.
Around 2 o clock I went back to school because the students were traveling to Uno Station to help with some typhoon cleanup. Andee and I walked together and talked a little bit, then spent the next two hours packing wet magazines and cardboard boxes into garbage bags in a local shop. Andee and I then walked back with some other students from the school and he showed me around and told me about the different clubs. I am thinking of joining Kendo, ping pong, or shogi, but I'm sure I will have time to visit most of the clubs.
Andee and I rode our bikes back home. Shoko had to pick Shun up at school, so Zhang Shu (her japanese name is Jitan) and I made dinner. She is 20, a japanese major in college, and understands english very well but cannot speak much. She also knows chinese. So we had a very multi-lingual time making chicken, mashed potatoes, rice, broccoli, and a salad.
So much fun.