Sunday, October 26, 2008
I recently noticed an interesting sentence on a container of honey that seems to promote cannibalism. The text reads "A healthy person please eat the person that thereis not confidence in health."
My host mother does not have a car; she takes a bus to work. My host brother does have a car, but he lives elsewhere and is only around on weekends. For people such as my host mother that do not have cars, groceries can come via delivery motorcycle. There is a company called Co-op, which is like a generic brand name that carries virtually everything, and they offer delivery. The Co-op brand is sold in grocery stores, and I am unsure if my host mother orders through one of the stores or Co-op directly. Regardless, once a week, a motorcycle shows up with a bunch of red and white coolers to drop off the goods, and comes by beforehand the next week to pick them up. I’m not sure how widespread the delivery system is; it would seem pretty inefficient to rely on motorcycles to transport stuff when they can only carry enough for one customer at a time. However, something like a Schwann truck would be physically incapable of travelling down many of the very narrow side roads.
The most popular grocery store chain in Nagasaki is called Lawson’s. They are everywhere. Lawson’s stores are more like a 7/11 instead of a Kroger, but you can get pretty much anything you need there. There are many, many malls and shopping centers in Nagasaki, but nothing really like a Super Wal-Mart except a place called Seiyu. The bottom floor is a big grocery store, and the upper floors have random non-food stuff. There is also a book store and a McDonald’s inside. Oh, and Seiyu is owned by Wal-Mart. They happen to carry Wal-Mart's “Great Value” brand, which is, ironically, more expensive than a lot of the name brand stuff.
Hello Kitty is still very popular here with girls that are of a younger age. Many stores have sections devoted to Hello Kitty themed stuff. Pokemon is still popular too; McDonald's currently has some kind of Pokemon promotion thing going on.
Random fact: Elevator doors in Japan can’t be opened once they start closing, except by pressing a button from the inside. Sticking one’s hand in at the last moment will result in crushed fingers, as is evidenced by stickers of a sad face and swollen fingers that are found on many elevators. Some automatic doors at grocery stores and such are the same way, and have similar stickers. Probably to prevent frequent injury, a lot of doors that look automatic actually aren’t, you just press a little box on the door to make it open. It takes a second, and a little embarrassment, to figure that out if you don’t expect it.
The Unzen trip was for the JASIN and NICS students, so a little over 100 students total. I shared my room with three other guys. There were also some faculty and student assistants present as well. The resort had a very traditional atmosphere. Each hotel room had a genkan (place to put your shoes/entrance area), as the floors were tatami (you don’t wear shoes on tatami). The tables were, of course, the kind you kneel at, and traditional tea ware was provided. We slept on futons. Actually, during the day we piled our futons together and made a couch, which was probably the most comfortable piece of makeshift furniture ever. Since it was an onsen (hot springs/bath) resort, the rooms did not have a bath/shower, only a toilet and sink.
We were provided four big meals during our stay at the resort. I’ve tried a lot of different Japanese foods since arriving here, but out of the 10-12 courses provided at each meal, I could not figure out what most of the stuff was. Some of the Japanese students there were unable to recognize the dishes. I wasn’t very adventurous at trying new food at this time; I didn’t eat much. I wasn’t particularly fond of the things I did eat, except for lunch on Sunday, which was champon and Chinese food! The Chinese dishes consisted of some kind of pork/fish ball in Sweet and Sour sauce, Chicken in a honey glaze served with pineapple and onion, and vegetable rolls. We had grapefruit jello for desert (I love grapefruit)!
The activities consisted of a scenic walk (or mountain climb, but I didn’t do that) through the forest and around the lake, a visit to the geyser basin area, some lame school thing, and karaoke. Pictures are below.
Registering for classes in Nagasaki is way different than the American system. You don’t actually register for class until a week or two until after classes have actually started. The catch is, however, that in order to be able to register for a class, you must attend it on the first day. This setup gives students the freedom to sit in on whatever classes they want and get an idea of a professor’s teaching style and requirements beforehand. Although the university states the first day attendance thing is a requirement, it’s actually quite laid back. I’ve seen people show up for the first time in the middle of the second week, and the Japanese professors seem to not mind. Or, rather, they just don’t say anything. Some of the Western professors that teach here do not like it at all because they have no idea how many students they will actually have for the semester.
College here has a lot of similarities to high school in America. For example, classes are organized into periods; there are five periods a day. There is a break after second period where there are no classes held at all (for lunch). There is a ten minute break between periods, and the end/beginning of classes is signified by a bell (actually a song). There are many clubs here, and they are run (and funded) entirely by the students, independently of the school. Clubs are really laid back. There is no membership requirement or anything; people are free to just show up as they please. Clubs make money by participating in the university festival, having a food stand, or doing a performance, or something. The festival for my school is coming up this next weekend, and it is open to the community. Hundreds of people come to the school festival each day it is held (or so I hear), and they tend to be quite profitable.
Nagasaki GaiDai (as it is called, for short) has tennis courts, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, music rooms, an auditorium, and some grounds to play soccer on. In Nagasaki it rains a lot, so sand is used to prevent the school grounds from getting all muddy, particularly for sports.
The school I am attending is actually a Christian college, although maybe not in the sense that American universities are. There is no requirement to take religious studies or attend chapels, and I’m not sure what classes are offered to Japanese students. However, the entrance ceremony began with a hymn and prayer, entirely in Japanese, of course. Nagasaki is still the most Christian area in Japan; there are churches here and there, and I see nuns riding the busses every once in awhile. The entrance ceremony is an important tradition for Japanese education. Students dress up in black and white and get a congratulatory message from the university president. Our entrance ceremony was followed by an hour long presentation from the Nagasaki police department on safety and law. It was translated into English and Chinese by a couple of the university professors. I am a JASIN student, of which there are 20 some total. It is for Western students only; most are from America, but there are some French and British as well. There is another study abroad program here for non-Japanese Asian students (called the NICS program), of which there are over 80.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I've eaten at McDonald's twice. The first time I got a teriyaki burger. I was expecting a hamburger covered in teriyaki sauce, but it was actually a sausage patty (with mayonnaise and lettuce too). The second time I got a double cheeseburger, picture of the receipt is below. If you can't read the katakana, double cheeseburger in Japanese is romanized as daburu chizubaga. A double cheeseburger in Nagasaki costs about $3.00. I got a water with it (free), and the cup it came in was marginally larger than those little paper cups you get to put ketchup in. Another interesting thing about this receipt is that mizu (water) is printed in katakana, which is, according to my Japanese professors, a horrible sin.
Below are some random pictures I took within Toys R Us with my cell phone. They have a sizeable Halloween section and multiple aisles of Gundam toys and models.
I shouldn't poke fun at the poor examples of English that are, well, everywhere, especially considering my Japanese is rather poor. Although, I just can't help myself. This is a picture of the outside of the Sega World game center. Yes, it has a pachinko parlor on the second floor. In fact, the description above applies exactly to the place below. It's kind of hard to think of Sonic as a child's icon after being in there. They do not have Sega games only. Anyway, the description on the top left of the building says:
Oh, and here's a random shot of some Japanese currency. I don't have a 5000 yen bill at this time. One yen coins are like cheap Monopoly money.
On a more positive note, I did go check out some of the historical spots here. The first place I went to was the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. It has a bunch of artifacts acquired from trading with Dutch, Portuguese, and Chinese merchants. It also houses a replica of the samurai offices where Nagasaki magistrates dealt directly with foreign traders. There was also a bunch of really pretty scrolls, some swords, the first ever Japanese-English dictionary, and too much to list, really. About half of the museum is carpeted or tatami, and shoes are not allowed. I was not allowed to take pictures inside, so here is a picture of the outside:
About 3 inches to the right outside of the photo is a Japanese police officer. It is illegal to take pictures of Japanese police officers.
The next place I saw was Spectacles bridge. It is the first arched bridge in Japan, constructed in 1634, and it gets its name from the shadows cast over the water. My picture did not come out that well, but I decided to post it anyway.
Finally, I went to Dejima. The actual Dejima no longer exists, and it was originally an island. All the land around it has been reclaimed over time, and it sits inside the city. The island that was the original Dejima can be pointed out because it sits slightly higher than the reclaimed land around it. It was rather late when I went, and I did not get to see much. It is quite pretty in the evening, though.
The main shows are very lavish and very expensive. My history professor here was the first non-Japanese ever to perform in his town's performance. The kimonos worn by the performers are worn for only one day, and then they are burned. His kimono cost around $3000, so that's $9000 for the three days for one person. He says the kimonos for the dancers can cost upwards of $40,000 each. The O-kunchi festival is a multinational festival, with performances relative to a variety of cultures. There is a Chinese dragon dance, for example. One specific perfomance involves a Dutch trading ship, and the event parodies the Dutch style (clothes, etc.). The event my professor was in last year involves a giant whale constructed of wood. It weighed about 2 tons + all the water inside + the weight of the guy inside pumping the water out of the top. This giant wooden whale is spun around by a crew of men who also carry it up and down steep hills and hundreds of stairs all day, for three days. The level of endurance required for that seems staggering.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I head out of my house and walk down the road a little ways, then I go up this ramp which is sometimes traversed by scooters and small vehicles. Then I go up that set of stairs with the white railing.
After going up that set of stairs I walk across this path. I turn, walk up another little path, and then reach more stairs...
I eventually reach this set of decaying stairs. This set is then followed by two more before I reach the road.
I have a relatively decent view of the area from the road, although the view from the upper floor of campus is much grander.
Once I get to the road, I walk uphill for awhile before I reach campus. The blue signs state the school's name in kanji. This road only leads up to campus.
It is a relatively uncomfortable walk on hot days.