Thursday, May 28, 2009


NHK is the national television station for Japan. Anyway, a couple weeks ago they had a day in dedication to themselves. I'm not really sure what the purpose behind the event was, whether anniversary or whatever. Regardless, I went with a group of people set on watching some fireworks. There was a stage occupied by various Jpop performers, and a tent full of NHK related stuff including news desks for people to sit at and get their picture taken, etc.

It's difficult to take good pictures of fireworks.

Anyway, my key fell out of my pocket while there (thus barring me from my apartment...), so I returned the next morning to look for it and ask the koban (police box) if they had it. They didn't. Regardless, I took some pictures of the port since I still had my camera on me.

A week or so later, I returned to the port-side park for a picnic. This date coincided with the seeing off of a Japanese Navy vessel:


Well the beginning of May was Golden Week, a time for vacation in Japan when a bunch of holidays occur concurrently or within a short period of each other. I got the 4-6th of May off, so it wasn't exactly a week for me. Anyway, during this time I went on a short day trip to Sasebo with a friend and his host family. Sasebo is a city about an hour and a half away from Nagasaki, but traffic was backed up on the way, so it took a little longer than that. The population is about 1/2 the size of Nagasaki. We went through the excessively long shopping strip, a park, and ate Sasebo burgers (which are burgers with all the toppings plus an egg). Delicious. Sasebo holds one of the U.S. Navy bases which, as I'm told, sells American food and has a Taco Bell. Despite the military base, it was still quite surprising to see so many foreigners there.

Some pictures taken from the inside of a moving vehicle:

En route:

The shipyard:

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The end of April (23-27) was marked by the Nagasaki Tall Ships festival, which was the 10th anniversary of the festival. The purpose of this festival is to celebrate when Nagasaki's port was re-opened for international trade. Most of the sailboats were from Japan, but there were ones that travelled from Korea and Russia as well. The festival was accompanied by food stands, rides on the ships, and an extensive fireworks show. After dark, the ships were all lit up like giant Christmas trees. Below is the 海王丸 (Kaiwomaru), which is used for sea training.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A short post

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. The new students arrived on March 31st, and shortly thereafter we had the entrance ceremony. It was basically the same as I had reported last semester. Unlike last semester, we had 2 weeks of orientation, which essentially means that my between semester break was 2.5 months long. I studied a lot of kanji during that time, and I managed to test into a higher level Japanese class this semester. I want to point out that the semester schedules are structured a little bit different here. Instead of having one large break between spring and fall semesters, the breaks between winter-spring and spring-fall are roughly the same length.

The classes I’m taking this semester are as follows: Japanese history (contemporary), seminar on Japanese film, Japanese fine arts, aikido/kendo, intermediate Japanese, independent study (doing another paper on metal), and I may be taking a class on Jpop that is taught in Japanese.
The fine arts class consists of calligraphy, flower arranging, kimono wearing/dance, and tea ceremony.

This weekend is the sailboat festival, which I intend to go to and take lots of pictures of. However, there is a decent chance of rain for this weekend as well. Hopefully it doesn't put a damper on the festivities.

My friend lives out at the far end of Togitsu, and it's quicker to walk through the countryside rather than go through town to get there. It's also more scenic:
The sakura in Nagasaki are gone at this point. I did take some more pictures, though:

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Well, it's currently flower viewing season in Nagasaki. Around every spring, the sakura flowers blossom over the course of a week or two, then fall. The blossoming begins in the South of Japan, and it moves progressively North. Therefore, it will be awhile before the sakura in Hokkaido begin to blossom. The dates for the start of and estimated end of the viewing season are given mainstream news coverage. People often have parties under the sakura, reserving the good spots rather early by laying out their blue tarp to mark their territory. There is a saying (花より団子) which implies "sweets over flowers" and alludes to the fact that sakura viewing parties are more about socialization (or getting royally smashed off sake and shochu) rather than enjoying the aesthetic qualities of the flowers.

Today (I'm actually relatively quick with making a post again!) I went to a mountain-top park with about 15 people for hanami (flower viewing). It was a beautiful, but relatively chilly and windy day. I took a few pictures:

As can be seen below, there were food stands setup in rows throughout the park. I can't say it wasn't excessivly overpriced. There was takoyaki, crepes, okonomiyaki on a stick (can't remember the actual name), fried meat, and some other stuff. I bought something that my eyes assured me was an icecream cone. It wasn't. It was like tasteless shaved ice in a cone. My Japanese friend said it's a Nagasaki thing. It's made from lemon juice and somehow manages to have no sugar in it.
Since we were on top of a mountain, we had a beautiful view of the city. Somewhat ironically, I wasn't able to evade the flowers in order to get a clear view of it.

I would like to go back sometime and get pictures at night time. Those pink thingies are lanterns. That combined with the backdrop of the Nagasaki nightscape would be pretty, I think.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Today was the graduation ceremony for the students at the school I'm studying at. The ceremony was held at Canary Hall in Togitsu, not at the school. There are two schools within the institution, a four year one and a two year one. The guys were all dressed up in suits or traditional Japanese garb (don't know the name of the outfit), and the girls wore kimonos. The ceremony opened with the school song and a hymn, proceeded by a prayer. Following that, the graduating students were called by name, based on their school and major, and were then asked to stand. Students did not go up one by one to receive their degrees. From each major there was a representative, nominated by a teacher, who went up to the front and received congratulations from the president. After all the students were recognized, the president proceeded to give a lengthy speech. This was then followed by speeches from junior students to their seniors (senpai). The songs were sang again, and the ceremony was concluded.

Here's a picture:

Friday, March 13, 2009


I haven’t posted in awhile. There’s not much going on here, really. I’m still on break through the end of the month. I basically just go to the library and study everyday, and then I go home…and study some more.

In the absence of real content, I’ll throw out some random observations.

First, it’s accepted and polite for people who are sick to wear surgical masks to prevent spreading their germs to others. This is entirely normal. You can buy ones in stores with designs on them too, although I’ve never seen anyone actually wear one like that.

Second, it’s amazing to me that stores actually manage to sell magazines, books, and manga. Go into any of the aforementioned shops, even a 24hr grocery store at 3am, and you can find people standing at the magazine section reading to their heart’s content. It’s not unusual to find a wall of high schoolers jammed into the manga isles at used book stores during the day; they just stand there and read.

Third, you can pay your bills at these little 24hr grocery stores that are everywhere. It’s extremely convenient. I pay my electric bill in this fashion, and I will with my internet bill, whenever they decide to send it to me. I just bring the bill with the cash, they rip off a stub, stamp it, and the end. These stores are essentially the equivalent of the stores that are attached to gas stations in the states, and gas stations here just act as gas stations. They also sell cheeseburgers and hot dogs, which don’t taste that great (but are cheap). The major chains are: Lawson’s, Family Mart, 7-11, am/pm, and I think I’m missing one.

Fourth, one of the popular ways to advertise in Japan is through disposable tissues. Print off some sheets of paper with your business info, shove it into little plastic bags with some tissues, and hire people to stand on the street and hand them out. Instant success.

Fifth, umbrellas. The masses here all own the same umbrella. It’s clear with a white pole. I very much doubt that most people who put their umbrella in the rack before entering a building leave with the same one. Big places, like shopping malls, don’t have umbrella racks. There’s a little trashcan/plastic bag dispenser unit at the entrance. You’re supposed to take one of the bags, put your umbrella in it, and then trash it on the way out. It’s often so windy here when it rains that umbrellas are pretty much useless. I managed to have 2 distort into pretzels on the same day. That was a fun day.

Sixth, the word “Togitsu” is spelled wrong on all the manhole covers in Togitsu. It’s spelled Togitu. Whoops.