Monday, March 31


More pictures, as promised!

Osaka Jo

Picnic photos aren't working...I'll keep trying to get it to and then put them up! :)

Sunday, March 30

March 30th

I know, I know. That's about the most creative title in the history of blogging.

Yesterday = Bad Day. Today = Better Day. Stupid Elevator.

I get a visitor! My Mommy is coming to visit me, in May! Someone to talk to, giggle with, and a real hug! I haven't had any actual human contact in 2.5 months. No hugs, nothing. Not really even handshakes, because they bow, here! I never thought about it in Canada, but I've noticed it, here. Strange. Anyways - I'm excited for her to visit! It will be nice to see someone familiar again, especially my Mom, and I think, scratch that, know! we'll have a lot of fun!! :) :) Nothing makes an elevator move up faster than good news!

This morning I got up to meet my coworkers to enjoy the famous Cherry Blossoms & a BBQ. I briefly considered crawling back into my nice, warm, comfortable bed, because the sky was the color of a rat, and looked upset. But I figured that until I heard that we weren't going, I'd go! And we did go.

We picked up some food at the supermarket (random meat, seafood, snacks, drinks), and met the rest of the group in the Expo '70 Commemorative Park. There's a (massive) 'art' statue in the front...

We had a BBQ, Japanese style (grill in the middle of the table). The food was a mix of random meat and vegetables, just thrown on the grill, dipped in BBQ sauce, and eaten. It was delicious.

However, when I say random, I do mean random. I tried chicken heart, liver, and stomach. Yep, that's what I said. They thought my reaction was pretty funny, because I thought it was pretty strange. But I tried it - it tasted fine, but had a funny texture. Especially the liver. Oh, and I could see the aorta - the AORTA - coming out of the heart. That threw me.

After the BBQ, we snapped some group shots in the pouring rain, and some of us visited the Japanese garden anyways. The cherry blossoms were beautiful, the tulips were starting to bloom, and the landscape in the garden was amazing. I am definitely going back (hopefully not in the pouring rain!). Pre-Garden-walking, we watched a Bunraku (traditional Japanese puppetry) show. And participated. At least, I did. They wanted a volunteer, and the other members of my group volunteered Yamashita-San (much to his giggling and dismay). I thought it was funny - but he grabbed my hand and pulled me up with him!! Normally, I wouldn't care. But all I could think was, "Oh my goodness. I neither speak or understand Japanese. What was he thinking?!" With some translating help from him, I managed to say my line into the microphone. I think we were supposed to be acting, but I don't really know. Everyone clapped, they asked (of course), where I was from and how I liked Japan. It was funny.

Partway through the walk, we stopped for traditional Japanese tea! (Suzanne, I'm glad you warned me!) The tea was dark green, foamy, and really bitter, especially the last sip! Fortunately, I like green tea and I like it plain and strong - so it wasn't too bad for me. We also had a sweet treat that was made from beans - so yummy!

I know I always say it, but it was a lot of fun to socialize again. I may come back to Canada socially inept, since my social events here are so few and far between. But, I will be good at crocheting (yes, still obsessed. can't stop. must crochet, more, more, more.)

On another note - fortunately: I will get some more social time, kind of. unfortunately: I will lose my privacy & therefore freedom to internet surf during work hours (I know, I shouldn't be doing it in the first place.) My office room is being used for something else, so Takemori-San and I are moving upstairs to where everyone else.

That's it for today, folks. Except I finally got some pictures up...links below! More to come tomorrow.

Osaka Bay PS - This day was infinite fun with balloon creatures!!
Coop Goodbye Dinner
Kobe - Coming Soon!
Osaka Jo (Castle) - Coming Soon!
Cherry Blossom Picnic/Expo 70 Park - Coming Soon!

Friday, March 28

Winner vs Loser

I found a new mothod for getting myself to the gym... when I've planned on going, but don't feel like it, a fierce battle rages in my head between 'Go' and 'Don't'. However, I've discovered that 'Go' doesn't have to win. 'Go' just has to argue long enough. As long as 'Don't' hasn't won, I won't not keep going towards the gym. Since no decicion has been made, I can't reduce my options by heading towards home. So if 'Go' argues long enough, I find myself on the Xtrainer, 'Don't' still angrily shouting at 'Go' to let me go home. They can argue through my whole workout session, at the end of which, 'Go' finally says, "Alright - I guess you don't have to do your workout." (And that's said with a snicker of glee and a clever smile.) 'Go' gave in, but what victory was there for 'Don't'??

The weather here has been beautiful - although today's a little cloudy. Sunday, I am attending an annual Japanese traditional event - social drinking under the cherry blossoms. Large gardens of cherry blossoms are booked solid for people to sit in groups and socialize and drink and enjoy the beauty of the blossoms. I'm excited to spend some time with people, and I think it will be fun! I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, March 25

I don't know what to call this one :)

Today was beautiful and sunny again! I got to sleep in because I was meeting my boss at Kyoto Station for a meeting at Kyoto University about one of my projects. The meeting was attended by a few professors (from Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo Universities) and by a couple industry professionals. There was also a Russian researcher (the main reason for the meeting). He and my boss gave presentations. Since the common language was English, it was all in English! It was great to know exactly what was going on, for once!

After the meeting (which was really interesting), some of us went out for lunch. Again - since the Russian researcher came - all in English! We went to a high-class Kyoto hotel for a delicious steak meal. I felt good in my new jacket (love it so much!), and decided that whatever career I end up in, it MUST include high-class lunches with clients! The food, the atmosphere, and the company was a lot of fun and made for a great lunch.

I got the rest of the day off (yay!), and stopped at Osaka Station on my way home for some random shopping and wandering in the sunshine. Once I got back to the dormitory, I took an hour-and-a-half bike ride for some exercise. I'm not sure if my butt hurt from the long ride, or the super uncomfortable seat - but it was probably both! I felt good after, though. Had some supper, and now I'm watching a movie and crocheting! (Found a great site to watch movies for free, online)

My crocheting is bordering on obsession. Gotta do it gotta finish more more more. If I seem to disappear or cut off all communication, look for the geyser of doilies and granny squares coming out of Osaka. Actually, I'm using thread, so they take a long time and there's not that many.

Monday, March 24


Sunday morning, Keith, Thomas, Gary, Terry and I met up for a visit to Kobe - in Hyogo prefecture, beside Osaka prefecture. The main purpose of the trip was to experience Kobe beef. Kobe beef is worldwide famous, and priced accordingly! We stopped to chat with Roland and Chris who were enjoying some ice cream after their own Kobe beef experience.
Keith forgot his bag, so he went back to get it, and I wandered into the closest clothing store to avoid the crepe stand (I cannot turn down crepes -they're just so good). I wasn't planning on shopping, because all the clothes here either aren't my style, don't fit me, or are too expensive! However - I found a cute spring jacket and shirt for a great price, so I bought them - my first clothes from Japan. Terry and I shopped for a bit before we found our way back to the other guys. We continued on to one of the many Kobe beef restaurants. Prices ranged from $80 to $120 for a set meal (beef, a few random veggies, miso soup, rice, and miniature green salad). Terry and I shared a meal, as did Keith, Thomas, and Gary. The beef was good, and we made the most of the experience with pictures and videos and exaggerated taste testing. I don't think I eat enough beef to know if it was amazing beef, but it was definitely delicous! All 3 bites that I got. :)
After Kobe beef, we wandered around the area, and stopped to watch a performance. There were several kids dance groups performing down in an amusement park. Some of the kids were really little, but amazing! There was one little girl - my new hero - who was incredible. She had so much spirit and energy - I would give anything to be able to dance like her, and she was probably 8 years old! We watched for an hour and a half and took lots of pictures.
Once we finally dragged ourselves away, we walked around the port and took pictures with all the attractions and statues. We had a lot of fun posing around the structures and taking interesting pictures.
We stopped for ice cream and at the '95 earthquake memorial. A section of the sea wall that was destroyed is preserved, along with photos and facts and displays. We were in a pretty serious mood after visiting it, and it was raining, so we decided to call it a day. Everyone but me was taking the Shinkansen home, so I took off for home at the station.
I had a quiet evening, did some laundry and did a little crocheting. Made some resolutions for the week, and climbed into bed! It was a great weekend, and an awesome pick-me-up from my elevator trip the week before!

Sunday, March 23

Osaka Jo

Keith and I met up on Saturday morning to visit Osaka Jo (Osaka Castle). The sky was clear and bright blue, and the sun was shining full force. Once I forced myself to put in the effort neccessary to get out of the dorm, just getting out and being in the sunshine fixed the elevator cable, and it started rising again.

Osaka Jo is surrounded by a big and beautiful park, so we walked through the park in the sunshine to the castle. It was incredibly warm out - I was wearing jeans and a tank top and was too hot! It was a beautiful day, though, and I'm not complaining! The river running through the park, the breeze, the sketchy pigeons (pigeons are everywhere, here!) - all in all, a great walk. There were a couple jewelry stands (which I, of course, had to stop and look at), and a street performer with a monkey! I've always wanted a monkey. Keith got a picture of me getting a high-five from the monkey...when I get it from him, I'll post it! He was adorable, and his little hands felt like soft leather.

We got into the castle after some lunch, and did the 8 floor tour. It was amazing to see all the history and displays, and stories behind the castle! They had displays and pictures and movies and original drawings and sketches... Osaka Jo was built twice, and two great wars centered around it. There were biographies on the families and the men who had the castle built. I kept stopping to imagine what it must have looked like, way back then. I would love to be able to have just a snapshot of it's court and people, so many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the castle, and am planning on going back - both to the castle, and just to sit in the park and read a book!

On the way out (after some ice cream...yummy), we met a man selling wire bicycles. We chatted with him a bit - his name is Jaime and he's from Chile, but has been living in Japan for 10 years. He was quite interesting, and I couldn't keep my eyes off the bikes - they were so intricite and cute! I think I might go back and buy one next weekend.

Most of the coop students in Japan are leaving within the next 2 months - except for 4 or 5 of us. One of the students planned a going away party for everyone... unfortunately it was the first time I had met most of them! But it was good to meet them and hear about their experiences. We went for yakiniku to a restaurant...$30 for all you can eat and drink, for 2 hours! We ordered plate after plate of meats, cooked them on our table grill, and enjoyed! I haven't eaten that much meat since (maybe Memphis Blues?) - or never! It was delicious, though.

We've requested a list of the new coops who are coming over the next few months...I'm excited to see who is coming (one guy I know from my class is coming), and hoping that some of them are close to me!

I was glad I got up the motivation to get out of the dorm and do something...which bred more motivation for the next day. I need to stop getting in these inactive ruts, cuz they just keep going - but once I get out of them, I have a great time and lots of energy. I have a new plan for this week - No more broken elevators!

Broken Elevator

I've never been in an elevator when the cables have broken and it plunged down into the deep dark depths of the earth (although I did go on a ride that pretended to) - but if you put that into emotional terms, that pretty much describes my last week. The week started alright, but for some reason, as each day went by, my mood and motivation (or lack thereof) went down like the elevator. I had Thursday off, and I spent the day cooking, watching TV, crocheting, and being really moody. To myself, because there is no one else to be moody to.

Rabbit Trail: I've picked up crocheting again, and I'm actually really enjoying it. I learned to crochet when I was quite young, and did a fair bit before I got too busy. The only problem now is that I've found so many awesome patterns to do, I can't decide what to do, first! My crocheting is bordering on obsession. When I lose all motivation, I just want to sit on my bed and brood and be moody and crochet, crochet, crochet. I suppose there could be worse things.

Anyways - so once Friday came around, I didn't feel like doing anything, seeing anyone, or going anywhere. But, some coop students from Tokyo came down for the weekend, and there was a going away dinner for the majority of the coop students (who are returning to Canada), so I figured I should get up on Saturday and do something. So I did, and it turned out to be a good thing (not that I was surprised).

Monday, March 17

Sunny Days

I went for a walk today at lunch - it was a beautiful sunny day, and my office compound is right beside a gorgeous river leading into Osaka Bay. It was warm and wonderful to feel the sunshine. Just before I got back to the stairs that lead back to my office, I saw a fish jump. I stopped to look, and another one jumped! I watched for 2 minutes, and the fish were continually jumping! They hadn't stopped when I left, and it was hard to walk away.

I had to wonder why fish jump...I've heard that it's to catch bugs that are flying just above the water's surface, but while I was watching them, I had a different thought. I think they jump for the pure elation of using all their momentum to come flying out of the water, feel the sunshine on their silver skins, and then splash back into the cool water. I could have watched forever.

I hit the gym after work and was proud of myself for not skipping anything. When I went to swim, there were 6 other men in the lane. The other lanes were just as busy, but this lane was moving faster, so I stayed in it. They all swam a couple laps, then stood at the end of the lane, resting. I kept swimming, but I felt like I was in a middle school movie. The guys spread themselves around the end and beginning of the sides of the lane, so when I swam to the far end, I swam through a corridor of people before getting to the end. I felt like I was in a movie where you have to run through the corridor of people and get hit by paddles (except no one was hitting me).

Sunny Saturday

Saturday was a beautiful day with clear skies and warm sunshine...I woke up early and laid in bed for a few minutes, enjoying the fact that I didn't have to get up if I didn't want to. But I did anyways. After some breakfast and a quick ride to the grocery stores, I threw my gym bag together and went to the gym. There is a market at the end of the street that my gym is on, and I finally decided to check it out. I was pleasantly surprised! They had most of what I purchase at the grocery store, but cheaper! I have a new Saturday morning grocery shopping desination.

After a great morning at the gym, and a healthy lunch, I took my current reading and went to the park across the street from my dorm. I found a spot in the sunshine, read a bit, and took a nap (unintentionally!). Once the sun started to go down, I headed back inside. I was surprised at how warm the day was, though. In a tanktop and jeans, I wasn't cold at all!

I ended up going out for the evening with some other coops in Namba, which was a great night of fun! Saturday proved to be an awesome day.

Sunday was equally awesome and productive. I went to the gym again and attended a yoga class! It was very relaxing but Yoga is more difficult and requires more effort than I expected!

I get a week off at the end of my term, and I would like to travel; but not by myself! I found out this morning that a good friend from the Elk Valley may come visit me for the last week - and we can travel together! Something else to look forward to, in the fall!

Friday, March 14

White Day

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain outside my window. I enjoyed relaxing for a few minutes and listening before I got up for the day...I love rain. :)

On the way to work, I got a lovely little surprise! Today is White Day - similar to Valentine's Day. Quick recap - on Valentines Day, typically women give men chocolate; on White Day, it's reversed. There are two kinds of chocolate - obligatory chocolate and chocolate between couples. I gave two of my friends 'giri choco' (obligatory chocolate) because they've been so helpful to me. Today, I got some back! I think that they're expected to reciprocate (didn't know that I was forcing them to give me chocolate when I gave some to them), but it's nice to get a little present, and chocolate, too!

I do love chocolate, so I will have to carefully control my urge to sit down and eat it all at once. :)

Happy White Day!

Wednesday, March 12


Generally, I don't really mind Mondays. But for some reason, this Monday - I lacked motivation and enthusiasm for the day...I managed to survive the workday, but it was very long and dragged out, and monotonous! I also usually like work, but I spent most of the day bored.

Once work was finally over, though, the day was looking up - gym day! I don't always feel like going to the gym, but I do enjoy it when I am there, and always feel better after. Cardio can be somewhat torturous, but I find that swimming is a great chance to relax and think through things that need to be thought through.

Pre-gym, though, I was accosted by a random drunk man at the train station. Accosted isn't the right word - he wasn't aggressive at all, but it was random and awkward. He asked if I spoke English, and we had an conversation that consisted of him telling me random facts about his travelling and family. Fortunately, he had to get on the next train, and I didn't - so that ended that!


Sunday morning....the long awaited Sumo! I met Keith, Thomas, Rosa, & Rosa's cousin & cousin's friend at Namba station and we walked to Osaka Gymnasium. We were ushered to our seats - the gym was pretty empty but gradually filled up.

It was very interesting and exciting to watch the tournament. The bouts are very short - most were only 30 seconds or so! Before every bout, the sumo wrestlers prepared for the match.

They stepped into the ring and bowed to each other. Each moving to a corner, they squatted and clapped, arms outstretched. Then they stood up, opened their palms to the ceiling, and stomped their right leg, then their left let, then squatted again. Moving back to the sides of the ring, they repeated the squat (palms up and open) and clap, then moved into the center of the ring. The entire corner process was repeated - squat, clap, right stomp, left stomp, squat. If they both felt ready, the match began. If one or both of them didn't feel ready, they went back to the corner and repeated the squat-and-clap, grabbing a handful of salt. The salt is thrown into the center of the ring, then the center process is repeated. This can go on for up to 4 minutes, or until they both feel psychologically ready to begin the match. The events leading up to the match are often longer than the match itself, but it was very interesting to watch. Traditionally, each action holds purpose. The clapping is to attract the attention of the gods; the stomping is to stomp the evil out of the dohyo (ring), and the open palms is to show they carry no weapons.

To win the match, a wrestler has to either cause the other man to touch the ground outside of the ring, or any other part of his body but his feet to touch the inside of the ring. It was pretty crazy to see such large men go at it....there was a lot of slapping (hitting with a closed fist is prohibited), and sometimes they were locked in an intimate hug for a bit, before one of them lifted (yes, lifted!) the other one out of the ring. It was quite the experience, and something I'm glad I got to see in Japan! I would definitely go again!

PS - I will post picture links soon...

Saturday Adventures!

I apologize for taking so long to blog my weekend adventures, but here they are!

Saturday morning I was going to get up early to meet Keith, Thomas, and Rosabel when their train arrived from Tokyo. They didn't call though, so I slept in a bit and then went and got groceries. I have mastered the art of riding a Japanese bicycle (pretty shaky) and it takes about 10-15 minutes to bike to the grocery store, and I enjoy the ride.

Rosa went to meet up with her cousin, so I met Keith and Thomas at Bentencho station. We subway'd to Osakako (Osaka Bay Area). After some lunch at the Tempozan marketplace & a dessert crepe, we wandered around the mall in search of balloon creatures! There were balloon displays everywhere, and we had a great time posing with them. After we were ballooned out, we took a ride on the Giant Wheel (a Ferris Wheel) - it was once the largest Ferris Wheel in the world, but has since been demoted. The view was beautiful - out into Osaka and around and across the bay.

We walked along the pier around to Kaiyukan - Osaka's aquarium. The setup was really was just a big spiral that you walked around that kept getting deeper and deeper into the ground. We saw some awesome aquatic animals and the famous whale shark. I think i was most fascinated by the large Manta Rays...they were incredible!

After Kaiyukan we went to Namba. We ran into Matt & Terry (other coops) and we all wandered until JP met us for some Osaka famous Okonomiyaki & Takoyaki. After dinner, we chatted and wandered some more. I left around 11pm - I didn't want to miss the last train, and was feeling like a quiet night. It was a lot of fun, though - to get to hang out with the other students, again!

PS - Picture links soon...

Thursday, March 6

Becoming the (not so) rich and famous!

Forget meeting the rich & famous, I am now one of the not-so-rich, but famous!!

I was walking to the gym, and a guy riding by on a bicycle stopped and said, "Sumimasen?" (Excuse me?)...I was a bit confused, but I stopped. He said something in Japanese, and when I asked him to speak slower, he just said, "Televison?!"

He was half talking excitedly on the phone, and half talking to me. He had seen me on television and recognized my glasses (of all things) when he rode by. We had a mini conversation that consisted mostly of him apologizing for stopping me and telling me how grateful and happy he was to meet me!

I left the moment feeling quite thrilled - famous in Japan! Sounds good to me. The cafeteria ladies also commented that they had seen me on TV! I guess I'm having my fifteen seconds of fame...


Takoyaki (also called Pizza Balls) is a small ball of dough with octopus and other fixings in it. Yesterday, Takemori-San, Ago-San, Yoda-San, Morita-San, Shiraga-San and I went for a traditional Takoyaki night. The front of the small restaurant was appropriately decorated with a large red octopus.

True to Japanese style, we took off our shoes and climbed into the little booth. The table consisted of a tiled edge with large grill area in the middle. The grill area was made up of flat plates and plates with small half-circle molds. A piece of octopus (all parts of octopus (yes, suction-cup legs included!) are used), green onions, and other additions are put into each mold. Cheese, steak, vegetables, fruit, etc can all be added for some Takoyaki variety. A watery dough is poured on top, and it cooks! As it cooks you fold the edges over the mold and flip it around....the result? A Takoyaki ball! We also enjoyed Okonomiyaki - Japanese style pizza.

The food was delicious, and the conversation was hilarious. Topics ranged from eye glasses, to Morita-San's crush on Ago-San, to Shiraga-San's marriage (the next day!), and a number of other things. There was a lot of laughter, and even I got to participate in the conversation, despite my poor (but improving!!) Japanese. Morita-San decided that Ago-San could have two husbands, and he should be the other one. We determined that Yoda-San was 'ikiman' - good looking, but no personality; whereas Morita-San was 'itiman' - bad looking, but great personality! I also discovered that Yoda-San is secretly a narcist guitar player, and many of my friends and acquaintences are members of the Japanese mafia!

The trip home afterwards was equally fun as I attempted more Japanese conversation. I told them that every time I speak Japanese, everyone laughs - but I don't mind, because I would laugh at me, too! They said it was because I was cute and funny when I tried to sound Japanese. I do feel like my Japanese is improving, and I can actually participate in the conversations a bit more!

It was a wonderful and fun evening, and I made them promise to take me out to karaoke sometime....which will definitely prove to be another evening full of fun & laughs!

Tuesday, March 4

Meeting the (rich?) and the famous!

Saturday morning, I slept in a bit, had a lazy morning, and took a little extra time to get ready, just for me! There was no particular reason to, just because I decided to feel great for the day. Turned out it was a good thing I put a little extra time in...

My mission for the day was to get Sumo Tickets (which, in and of itself, turned out to be a mess!) I had a vague map, but once I walked out of Namba station, I had no idea where to go! I was in the middle of asking a lady for help, which wasn't going to well, when someone behind me said, "Can I help you?" - in English! When I turned around, there were two 20-something guys, with their entourage of a lady, a cameraman, and a mic-man. I was a little thrown off, but showed them my map. When they realized where I was going, they said they would take me there! We started walking.

They spoke decent English, and asked where I was from, etc. I found out that they were comedians, and when I asked what all the equipment was for, they said it was their TV show! I noticed that as we walked (with their entourage running backwards in front of us), people stopped and pointed and were pretty enthusiastic about seeing them. One of them said, "Oh...we're famous." in an offhand way...

When they asked what I did and I told them I was interning as an Engineering Student, they reacted the same way everyone else seems to - a "eugghh??!!" and a little jump backwards. They asked about my favorite Japanese foods, and if I liked Japan. We talked a bit about Sumo and why I wanted to go. One of them told me that I had a beautiful face - I had been thinking to myself, "well, its a good thing I put a little extra effort into getting ready this morning, especially if this actually does end up on TV!" They also wanted to know if I had a boyfriend, and when I said that I didn't, one of them said, "Me - I will be your boyfriend!" I laughed, and then they said, "Which one?" - and both struck a pose. I struck a thinking pose, and then told them I would like to have two boyfriends...they figured that would work just fine. :)

When we got to the gymnasium and the box office, the ticket girl seemed pretty flattered that they were talking to me, confirming their fame. Unfortunately, the tickets I wanted were sold out, so I told them I wouldn't buy any until I talked to my friends. They thanked me for letting them help me, asked where I was going next, and gave me directions. I asked for a picture with them - I figured I couldn't walk away from my 15 seconds of fame or my chance encounter with the rich & famous without something to prove it happened!

The rest of the day was consumed with figuring out what tickets to get, etc, and a bit of thrift store shopping. The thrift store shopping was very disappointing. For the most part, the malls in Japan are very expensive - mostly high end stores. I went to America Mura to find some thrift's known for being a thrift store area, and more Americanized. I'm not sure if I found the right area, but I did find thrift stores! Unfortunately, everything was still $90-$485!! Needless to say, I didn't buy anything.

I showed my friends from work the picture I had with the comedians, and they were duly impressed by my experience, and the fact that I got to hang out with them. I found out that their name is 'Rozan'. It made for a fun day, and something I can throw into my Japan memories!

I'm having trouble getting photos off my phone, but when I do, I'll post the picture!