Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hisashiburi!!

It's been wayyyy too long since I've written!

I've been incredibly busy, so finding time to blog is hard. And now, that I have the time, I have no idea where to start.

Lately life has been a mesh of things happening. I had a one week home stay in Murakami(a small town north of Niigata), a school trip to Okinawa, tons of AFS events, and then the trouble of being sick.

Sometimes AFS sets up home stays for us exchange students in different towns. Usually these home stays are only one or two nights. But we stayed in Murakami for a week. Although Murakami is only a little north of Niigata city, the type of food people eat already changed!

Usually when I go to a market in Niigata, I don't see this hanging down!

So then after the home stay in Murakami, there was my school trip to Okinawa!!! :D
(High schools in Japan always have a school trip for the second years).

In addition to having an amazing time (Florida-like weather in December!) I also learned (from a different point of view) the tragic events of WW2.

On the first day we went to Shuri Castle, which was almost destroyed completely during the Battle of Okinawa.

On the second day we attended a lecture and then visited the Peace Memorial, dedicated to all the soldiers who died in the Battle of Okinawa. During the lecture, I realized just how horrible the battle of Okinawa was, and after visiting the Himeyuri Memorial museum, I had had enough and broke down crying.

On third day there was no more World War places to be visited or speeches to be heard, so we all went down to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium!
The aquarium had huge whale sharks!!! I could have stared at them all day, but it was so crowded(it seemed as if ten other schools visited the aquarium at the same time) that I had to keep moving forward.

On the fourth day, we went home (or at least back to Niigata).
Okinawa was so beautiful and I enjoyed every minute I was there, but I enjoyed the school trip even more because I was able to get hang out with some classmates that I usually don't.
It was a great way to become closer friends with everyone!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fujisan Part 3 (Final, I promise)

Waking back up at 2 AM wasn't a problem. It was getting out of bed. I had woken up to the sound of hushed whispers and people rustling through their backpacks.

"Samui!!" was the most frequent whisper that reached my ear.

"Freezing"

I sighed and then with a "yoshi!" climbed out of my sleeping bag and rushed to my backpack to find my sweater and winter coat.

Now, fully donned with armor, prepared for the cold, I whispered to the lump lying next to me "Nakanosan! Ohayou gozaimasu!" Good morning!

The lump stirred, took the form of a human face, and looked at me "ohayou, horii" .

Thus, the final step up the mountain began.

Before leaving, we were told to organize our backpacks and supplies. Since we would be returning to the 8th station, it was not necessary to bring everything up the mountain. Nakanosan and I ended up leaving with only our breakfast, our walking sticks, lights, and a small backpack.



Now, it didn't come out on my camera, but seeing everyone climb up the mountain was amazing!
Everyone had their own light, either a flashlight or headlight turned on. And all of those lights were headed in one single direction. Zig-zagging their way up to the mountain, it was an incredible sight.

Unfortunately, it can get pretty crowded and half of our group got separated and took another route. But, needless to say, we all made it to the top.

Looking down bellow at the earth before and during sunrise is something spectacular. At first there are only misty clouds below, and you get the feeling that you and your companions are all alone, with only the mountain and the clouds.




On one side of the sky, it is still dark, even a few stars are still shining. Yet, in the east, where the sun will rise, the sky rapidly changes color. It melts from black to a dark blue, then fades to a light purple. Yet, the purple doesn't last because the edge of the sky bursts into a flames of reds and yellows, and the sun rises, scattering all the darkness left.

At last, the sun fully emerges, and a "Bonzai!!!" is shouted through everyone and we all cheer.

We have made it. All of us there, have seen something wonderful and experienced an awesome journey together.

Even though some of us came from totally different countries, spoke totally different languages, had totally different backgrounds, opinions, religions,and even if every single thing about us was totally different,

Everyone there, all will have that same one memory of the sun rising up over the clouds, and wiping away the darkness.

--------

I can't say much about the way back, just that Nakanosan and I were tired. The path back down, doesn't take half as long, but it is rather... well... not to pleasant. The path is almost gravel, and because of that, everyone slips a lot. Other than that, there's not much else to say :)

By the way, the pictures do NO justice...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fujisan part 2



First off, I'd like to apologize for taking so long to upload the second part.

Ja, enjoy!!!

The bus drops us off at the fifth station on Mt.Fuji. This is about half way up the mountain. We're going to be traveling with the same group of people that were on the same bus. There's also a little time to explore the fifth station before we start on our way. Besides there being a lot of souvenir shops, there's a lot of places to buy food.

One thing, however, shocks me. There are a lot of foreigners here, more than I kind of expected. I can hear languages from all around the world, and we're all gathered here for one common goal, to climb Mt.Fuji



Our guide from the bus tells everyone in our group to have a look around and then meet back up at 11:30 to start the climb.

Looking up at Mt.Fuji, you can't see the top. There's were too many clouds in the way.

At the station, there is a shrine (in the picture you can see the torii- a gate marking that you are entering holy ground).
Shrines in Japan are for kami (gods). Throughout Mt.Fuji, there are many shrines since it was once believed Mt.Fuji held many gods. However, now-a-days shrines are "Just for fun," as Nakano-san stated. At most shrines, you can pay 100 yen for a fortune (one Mt.Fuji the fortunes come in English though usually they are only in Japanese).

After eating our onigiri (rice balls covered with seaweed) we meet back up with everyone in the group and then started out ascent.

The path is rather easy at first. In fact, some people even take a horse up to the 6the station, but after that the trail gets rather rocky. The wildlife I saw on the bus coming up to the 5th station has disappeared and there are only a few shrubs here and there and I'm surround by the sky above me and the land below.



The pace was slow, partly because going up fast isn't too wise (if you go up too fast, then your body can't adjust so fast to the air thinning and you'll be sick) and partly because of the crowd too!

During one of our break times, I got curious and went to find the bathroom and to my utter shock!!!!! Going to the bathroom costs 200 yen!!!! :O



Around 2 o'clock I'm starting to get tired. But now, I have to wait till 5, the time we'll reach the 8th station and sleep there. Nakanosan is doing well. And we've both started to eat our supply of chocolate. :)

The temperature also changes rapidly on Mt.Fuji. I felt like I was walking through seasons as I climbed up the mountain. From the hot summer weather from the 5th base to the winter cold at the 8th.

One of the great things about climbing Mt.Fuji though, is that you get to make friends on the way with your fellow companions.

When we do reach the 8th station (every in the group is rather tired) We are rewarded with curry and rice and...

As I step into the building where everyone is sleeping, the first thing I think is "concentration camp?"

If you've ever ridden a train in Japan, then you know that the Japanese people typically don't mind being close to each other when it is necessary... It was necessary on Mt. Fuji and everyone was packed close together. Really close to together. Poor Nakano-san had to sleep next to a boy she didn't know.

After we eat, we all flop into a warm bed.

Although everyone isn't getting up until 2 AM, I woke up at 9 o'clock. I wasn't sore from the climb, but I felt restless. So, being careful not to wake anyone up, I got out of bed and took a look outside.


As I stood there in the freezing cold, peering of the edge of Mt Fuji,

I beheld one of the most beautiful sights in my life.




Below me, lights glittered like tiny stars; they winded through the landscape and around the tiny mountains, creating their own milkway. To my left was a group of storm clouds and they raged without sound. Lightning sparked through their dark form though not even a whisper resounded through them. Everything was silent. My whole life, I had watched from below. I had been one of those stars looking up at the storm, looking up at the sky, looking up at the mountains. But now I was above the city's stars, above the storm, above all the mountains, and in the sky.

Monday, September 13, 2010

FUJISAN!!!! Part 1?

Hmm... this is written in a story format I guess...

Bad thing is I think I change from past to present tense a lot...

Sorry! But enjoy my story of climbing Fujisan! :D

------
I move my arm in my sleep and then jerk wide away from the pain. My whole arm is aching. Ouch. That's not the only part of my body hurting, as I slowly turn my head to look around, my stiff neck sends me another painful message.

There's not much to see, only the slightest bit of light slipping it's way through the cracks in the curtains. I hear some one snoring, a whisiper, and then the snoring stops.

"I'm never spending a whole night on a bus again" I think to myself. It felt like I had slept up against a cold brick wall. The rest of my body doesn't hurt too much, but I'm afraid to fall back asleep.

It's not like I could help sleeping on a bus though. I was too excited the day before, so excited that it had worn me out. Besides, I had needed sleep too.

I smile to myself, remembering the reason to why I had boarded a bus at 10 pm. and would be getting off soon at 5:40. The reason, of course, was because I would be climbing Mt.Fuji. One more dream in Japan I wanted to accomplish was well... on it's way to being accomplished.

But could I make it? Could WE make it?

I look at the seat behind me to see Nakano-san. I guess you could say she looks like a rather stereotypical Japanese woman. She has the small body and frame. Though, her personality is very very crazy. Crazy in a good way of course. Without her, I wouldn't be on this trip.

As I sit there, thinking, I hear her cough in her sleep.

She has a cold... I asked her the day before if she was sick, but she had denied it. I was really worried. Climbing Mt Fuji- the highest mountain in Japan had to be difficult. And I didnt want her pushing herself too hard for my sake.

-----

Before I realize it, the loudspeaker comes on and a man's voice wakes the whole bus up, announcing we will be dropped off soon.

Yes, Tokyo, here I come!!!!

Tokyo's our first stop, from there, we`ll board another bus that will take us to Mt.Fuji.

Unfortunately, there's no time for sight seeing, but I enjoy staring up at the buildings in amazement. In the country, where I live, there are practically no high buildings at all. It seems forever since I've seen them.

In the time between catching buses, Nakano-san and I grab breakfast at a convience store and eat it inside a hotel (since it's REALLY hard to find benches in Japan).

Finally, with me practically bouncing with excitement, the bus comes and we board it. As we go towards Shizuoka Prefrecture and out of Tokyo, the setting turns from tall buildings, into huge mountains. This picture is of Mt. Fuji. Since it's summer, there's no snow on the top. (The only time to climb it is in summer, otherwise it's rather dangerous).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Around Town, part 1



So I was planning on blogging on some more daily life things (I tried to make a video so that you could experience it through that, but unfortunately I still cant upload videos.)


Well, why not start with the foods? Walk into a Japanese Supermarket and you`ll find a whole section filled with fish! Since Japan is an island, the main food is fish (and rice). I certainly never go one day without eating rice (though I think I have gone a while without fish before).

Eating things in season is always a good thing. Ive been eating these everyday lately. They're really popular in summer.

obento!! (Lunch box) oishii sou!!! :D

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer!!!

I thought tsuyu (the rainy season) was bad, always walking around dragging an umbrella along (always forgetting it too) and still getting wet. But nothing beats waking up in the morning with your face covered in sweat. Japan's summer is incredibly hot and humid. The common conversation always seems to start with "atsui" or "It's hot".

The cost of power in Japan is very high, so everyone is very conservative in using the air conditioning. In fact, it's common for a lot of Japanese households to only heat one room and air condition one room. The same goes with my family.

So what does one do to fight this heat and humidity? Well, many people carry around folding fans called sensu. Others carry small wash clothes to wipe the sweat off. Stores also hand out paper fans (of course with advertisements on them haha).

There's also what I call conbini skipping (or skipping from the air conditioned convience store to another convience store) to cool down. And of course, going to the ocean (but with lots and LOTS of sunscreen).

Summer break has also rolled in and students have about a month off (though most of them go to summer school anyway to study more). Clubs also go through the summer holiday, so the students are kept busy.      

Thursday, July 15, 2010

忙しかった‼

Well, a lot of things have been happening lately and I've been really busy. Everyday I think to myself "I need to blog" but never really get around to it.
Today I am.
I guess I'll start with going to the ocean and then the hospital.
So first off the other day I was planning to hang with some AFS and Japanese friends at the beach. I hadn't been to the beach near me yet and so followed the (little) directions of a friend of mine. "Just take the train to school, get to the school, turn right, and head in that direction for five minutes."
After ten minutes of walking in a not so quite straight direction (the streets wind constantly and some are so narrow only people and bikes can get through them) I started to get worried... I wanted to ask some one for directions but no one was around and besides if I asked "where's the ocean?" I would probably get stared at. After all, it's a silly question to ask when Japan is an island.
Finally, around 20 minutes later I reached the ocean. The water was sparkling clear and the sun shone bright and warm. Truely a perfect day for the beach.
Then my friends arrived, a Japanese man stopped us and took a picture with us while all of us were screaming the different countries we were from (America, Italy, France, Canada, Hungary, Japan, and some others).
The day was a blast, swimming, exploring, burying people in the sand, but half way through the day a few of my friends commented "your face is getting red". Then I realized, I hadn't put any sunscrene on. Horror sank in, I had left my sunscrene at home and with this red hair and pale skin, I was going to be a lobster tommorrow. The day came to an end way too soon and I started heading home again (I could start to already feel the burn). And of course, got lost on the way back (since I had the bright idea to head home a different way). After actually asking directions, I arrived at the station and took the long train ride home, looked in the mirror, and wanted to screamed.
I was red. Really red. Almost as if someone had painted me the same color as the Golden Gate Bridge.
There was hardly any sleep for me during the night. In so much pain, I woke up and looked in the mirror. Blisters had started to cover my face. (I think it's best if I don't describe them). I groaned and put some ice on my skin.
The next day my parents decided to take me to the hospital. It was my first time in a Japanese hospital and all I wanted to do was hide my face.
But there were some differences.

First, the hospital (might have been more like a Clinic) I went to had traditional Japanese sliding doors. Second, you had to change your shoes and wear slippers (although I expected that) the slippers in this place came out of a machine! I wanted to take a picture but I didn't have my camera and I'm fairly certain my host mom would have been almost as embarrassed as I am when people take pictures of me. Though there was the usual check in like in America, the sheets they gave me only asked a few simple questions and then I was called into a large room that was divided by curtains. A female doctor sat on a chair (with a mask on, all of the staff wore masks). こんにちは、(Hello) I said shyly, not sure of what to say. お願いします (please- the same phrase used before a teacher teaches the class) said my mother.
Of course I thought, wanting to bang my red head, お願いします(onegaishimasu) was a MUCH more appropriate thing to say. 「座って」と先生が言いました。"Please have a seat" the doctor said. 「はい!」I answered and sat down on a chair to the side. My mother and the doctor started to talk about the burns and before I could have a good look around the doctor pulled out a magnifying glass and looked at my face and back. I wondered briefly if that's what doctors did back home to look at burns, but I couldn't remember. And besides, back home I had never forgotten my sunscrene.

The whole ordeal must have taken less then five minutes because before I knew it, we where led out through the sliding doors and into the waiting room (待合室). Once again, similar to in The States, I had my name called and I went up to the front desk to recieve a prescription.
Convinently, there was a pharmacy right across the clinic. But, my mom and I probably waited there longer than my oppentment. You see, the people in the pharmacy there actually made the medicine while you were waiting, or that's how my mom explained it. This actually might also happen in the states (I'm not entirely sure) but it seems more common in Japan to make the medicine while the customers are waiting.

Well, there's some news! :)
oh and I apologize for any grammar/spelling mistakes. I wrote this one my iPod (which doesn't have spell check)....(though I know that's not a very good excuse :p)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Culture Differences

So the other day I was talking to a few American friends back home and I kind of realized that a lot of Americans don't know a lot of culture differences so here's a few essentials if you ever plan on traveling to Japan.

First, Japanese take baths EVERY night, and it's unusual if someone doesn't.

Next, walking inside a Japanese house with your shoes on is VERY disrespectful... In fact, they'd be utterly horrified if you did something of the sort. It's a sin to do so.

Also, at school, students have to say "Konnichiwa" and a bow (only with the head, though, sometimes a few boys will stop and bow) whenever they walk by a teacher in the hallway, other wise it's also very, very disrespectful.
----Students will also bow and say "Konnichiwa" to Senpai/s (Older students then them in the same club).

Whenever meeting someone for the first time, make sure to bow (unless you're walking***if you bow and walk you'll probably run into something ;) and also when seeing someone who you aren't close to, but know, it's also best to bow.

VERY IMPORTANT. Hand objects to people with TWO HANDS. Although this is often forgotten between friends and informal situations, it can be considered rude if you don't (unfortunately I made this mistake). Also, with sharp objects (such as scissors) NEVER hand them with the sharp point pointing towards the person you're handing the object to, other wise this is rude too.

The toilets here are different too. They are basically porcelain holes inside the ground and you have to squat to go to the bathroom.

Most Japanese houses have at least one traditional room with a tatami floor.

There is the formal way and informal way to speak in Japanese... be careful which one you use for which situations. And for names too, there are formal and informal ways to call someone. For example, one of my friends (who is older than me) will call me Holly-chan (chan is used for people you're close to or to people**usually girls** younger than you. But one probably don't want to add this to a boy's name. It can sound degrading. Be careful when using chan). Anyway, when we're with friends or by ourselves I'm Holly-chan but in formal situations (like introductions) I'm Holly-san (Miss Holly). When in doubt, use -san for someone's last name. But for really formal situations -sama.

Another thing about names, Japanese usually call each other by last names unless they are close friends, or have requested to be called by their first name.

Before eating, say "Itadakimasu" (I humbly recieve this) and afterward eating "Gochisosama deshita".

Hmmm... so that's all I can think of at the moment!

運動会




Homecoming? Prom?

I don't think so.
Instead of having dances like in America, Japanese schools have festivals such as "運動会”(undoukai) or "体育祭" (taiikusai). In this case, sports festivals.

There are three grades in Japanese high school (First graders, second graders, and third graders). Within these grades, like American schools, they are separated into different classes. However, classes are separated depending on the courses one wishes to take. (For example- Some classes specialize in English, while other classes spend most of their time learning about computers).

Around the time of the sports festival, the school is separated into teams. Each team consists of a class of third graders, a class of second graders, and a class of first graders. The teams are not based off of which subject they major in, and so every team varies.

After each team is chosen, the third years come up with a theme, a color, a costume, and a dance for their team. (My team was 神-god, with a yellow costume).

For about a week and a half, my school only had morning classes, and in the evenings we had 運動会の練習 (undoukai no renshuu) Practice for the sports festival. Practicing took the rest of the day (and it was hard and tedious). (And, of course, practice had to be after lunch, the hottest part of the day, and in the middle of a field with no shade). By the end of the day we were all sweaty, hot, tired, and sometimes even grumpy.

The main event of the sports festival is when each class dances.

Most of the dance music came from anime (Japanese cartoons) and the dances were... well... not at all like American dances. They included chants and hand motions to make designs and to affect the audience.

But the sports festival doesn't just have these dances. There are relay races and cheering contests, and etc. Besides the dance, I only participated in the relay races (peer pressure from my classmates) because I was the fastest girl in my class.

Each event is judged and the team that wins, is rewarded with melon pan (yum!).

My team's banner

White team during one of their dances, they won.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kimono



What's a Kimono? Well, looking at the Kanji, 着物, the first character (ki) means to wear and the second (mono) means thing. So, to put it simply, it's just something to wear!

Although everyone in Japan wore Kimonos in the past. I only see a few people walking around in them here. Kimonos are very expensive. Then there is the Yukata, which is like a Kimono but with less layers of cloth and less expensive ;) and both are only worn for special occasions. Fortunately, I got to try on a kimono at an AFS tea ceremony. Unfortunately, my camera died once the ceremony started.

But to start, we first had to put on a certain undergarment. Then following, the main part, and then a thick sash across the waist (which reminded me of a corset).

At the beginning of the ceremony, all of us AFSers sat down on the tatami (traditional Japanese) mat, in the traditional style (seiza). Seiza, is a way of sitting down on a tatami mat, kneeling with your feet crossed underneath you.

I lost feeling in my feet after sitting like this for seven minutes.

And a few of us had trouble standing up after it.

But, during the ceremony, we were served green tea in bowls. (Which, was served facing us. Therefore, when we received the tea we had to turn the bowl twice clockwise so the front was facing away from us while we were drinking). Also, whenever we had to bow during the ceremony, it literally was on hands and knees.

Well, guess that's all for now! :)
元気です!

Avonworth Website

It was a normal day in computer class (me struggling to follow along, and Mari-chan trying her best to help me) When all the sudden, the teacher puts a sheet of paper in front of me. Lucky for me, it was written in some form of English "I think classmates hint need for high school website".
A hint? To get to Avonworth's website? Was that what he was trying to say?
Okay, I thought, and started to write some hints down in really poor Japanese.
First hint, it's a high school.
Second hint, "In the alphabet" I wrote "1, 22, 15, 14, 23, 15, 18, 20, 8" The letter of the alphabet corresponds to the number written.
Finally, the third hint, it's in PA.

They did find the website, and enjoyed looking at it. Although, I have to add, they were sorely disappointed we didn't have a Japanese version of our website. Some of them even wanted to try to "email" to it too.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Omoshiroi bamen (Funny Situations)

So a few of my friends suggested I should write some funny tales down.

Enjoy!!! :)

During the first week or two I got the words "kirei" (beautiful) and "kirai" (hate) mixed up and ended up saying something like "I think I hate Japanese" instead of "I think Japanese is beautiful"

One day, after school, I went into a store and was looking at the bobby pins "That's stupid" I thought to myself, while looking at them in dismay "Why would a shop sell only black bobby pins??"

Another day, at school, one of my friends asked me what type of boys I liked. Did I like "The tall, the handsome, the sexy, or the Johnny Depp?" ...I think I`ll leave you wondering what I answered.

And today, for the first time, my grandma spoke English. What did she say? "Hott body"

And of course there has been a whole lot more, but that`s all I can think of right now!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

From the Rice Fields, to the Mountains, to the Sea


I was going to an AFS meeting with my LP and as we were driving by the country, I pointed out the rice fields, and how cool it would be to see how people planted the rice. And then, before I realized it, I found myself suddenly in them. Rice planting, in Japanese, is called 田植え/たうえ/ taue.

Before I got there, I had a lot of questions. What time would we start planting rice? What should we wear? Should we wear boots? How would we know where to plant the rice?
All of these questions were soon answered. We started planting in the morning (but not too early, otherwise the water in the field would have been freezing!!).

As you can see in the picture, I wore shorts and a long sleeved shirt so I wouldn`t get burnt. (Apparently most Japanese people usually don`t wear sunscreen, which isn`t good for a fair skinned redhead).

And we went in the field bare foot (much to one of my friends complaints). There`s a thin layer of water (it varies depending on where you are in the rice field) sometimes 2-4 inches. But the mud is soft and no one was hurt by rocks.

In the picture, before planting, my friends and I are pushing a wooden crate across the field. The crate, using a pattern on it, marks the places of where we would plant the rice.

After this, we were given a clump of a grass like plant. (Each of our clumps was probably about 4 inches by 4 inches). They called these clumps nae. Which, I guess, is a rice shoot. From the clump, we would take two or three of these rice shoots and plant them where the four corners of the pattern on the crate had marked in the mud. Whenever we ran out of a clump, a person from the side of the rice field would throw us another one (Luckily, everyone caught them).

Unfortunately, the crate pattern was hard to see when everyone was stepping in the mud. The water became so clouded, that sometimes we couldn`t see where to plant the rice. Needless to say, our rows ended up crooked.

After planting (and after our backs were sore) we went back and washed our feet in a small stream (that had also supplied the water for the rice field). After eating lunch, our work was done.


Although unable to climb Mt. Fuji (yet ;) )I had the opportunity to go with some AFS staff to hike Yahikoyama in Niigata. The hike was rather easy and the views were amazing :)


And also during Golden Week, after a long drive to visit some friends of my parents, we briefly went to the ocean (YAY!!!).

Friday, April 30, 2010


Well, a lot of things have been happening lately (Sakura, sightseeing, joining a club, and a whole bunch of little adventures)

But to start, now that the Sakura (cherry blossoms) have come, it's undoubtedly spring time here in Niigata. Its no longer freezing, people are working in their gardens, and the rice fields are beginning to fill up with water.

Luckily, while the Sakura was blooming, I was able to go with both my friends and family to see the Sakura (The Japanese word for this is Hanami, or basically, flower veiwing).


Just a warning, Sakura is so incredibly beautiful, that no picture could do justice :) There are so many Sakura trees, that in just a few days, Japan has turned pink. And everyone goes to see the Sakura, (which is great for the vendors).

Although incredibly amazing, I felt sad looking at the Sakura. The whole time, I couldn't help thinking "What if this was the last time I would see it?"

Following the cherry blossom, is golden week. What is golden week? Well, it's a whole bunch of holidays put into one week (such as the emperor's birthday and children's day). This also means a week of no school :p

Yesterday, my family and I went to visit Tsurugajo Castle (that's it in the first picture with Sakura surrounding it, the castle is located in the Fukushima Prefecture).

People are able to go into the castle, which has been turned into a museum. Unfortunately, Cameras weren't allowed. But the museum had a collection of swords, saddles, Samurai clothing, and a whole bunch of other treasures. (Unfortunately, only a few of the displays had descriptions that were in English, and of those few that did, a lot had spelling errors.)



We also visited an old marketplace where you can buy mountain stream cold soda for a 100 yen!


The bridge leads to a shrine where once again, no cameras were allowed. And on the bridge, Otoosan had this bright idea of jumping on it so that it swayed; freaked. me. out.



At the top of the castle. Kirei? I think so :)




The drive back home was a few hours. On the way back from visiting the shiro (castle), while I was sleeping comfortably, a window shattered.
Fortunately, no one was sitting next to the window, but let me tell you, that is not something you want to wake up to everyday. But, after taping cardboard to the space where the glass use to be, everything returned to normal and today the car was fixed.

Speaking of today, it was my second day of track and field. Since a lot of people on the team haven't talked to me yet, I was once again surrounded and they started to touch my hair. And today, I taught them "Rock, Paper, Scissors" Not many of them knew what they were saying, but one of my friends speaks a little English and I had trouble trying to explain what "shoot" was.

(Just a quick note, there is a Japanese version of rock, paper, scissors, but it's called Janken Pon and it's slightly different.)

I want to thank everyone for being so encouraging! I'll try to update more often! Arigato gozaimasu!
-Holly

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sakura

Last time I wrote, I forgot to mention another thing about the school that completely shocked me.
The girls and boys change together in the classroom for PE.

For my first day of PE, I went and changed in the bathroom because I was afraid the boys would see me. However, (after getting stared at in the bathroom for being the odd one changing there) I found out a way to change my shirt and skirt without showing anything.
Still, I think it's odd how the school, being so strict on having long skirts, lets boys and girls change together.

Just the other day, I went to my first Japanese soccer game. (This picture is before the professional soccer game. In it, two high school girl teams are playing against each other). I had a couple videos of the soccer game but most of the videos were of the crowd, which were extremely devoted to their team. Their cheering included chanting endlessly (trying to be louder than the opposing side's fans) and jumping up and down constantly in rhythm to their chants. They also waved huge flags to encourage their team.

Unfortunately, I was unable to upload these videos.

In addition of my first soccer game, I also went to a Japanese restaurant with my Okaasan, Otoosan, Obaachan, Ojiichan. Arriving at the restaurant we took our shoes off and put them into lockers. Although a Japanese restaurant, the meat there was from America (Otoosan excitedly pointed this out to me.) In the middle of the table there was a grill. And we cooked our own food with chopsticks.


On Saturday I am going to see the Sakura with some friends, I have been really looking forward to this.

Ja ne!
Holly

Friday, April 9, 2010

School Life

I wake up at 6 in the morning everyday, which isn`t much of a difference than my normal time back in the US. However, the way of getting to school is totally different. At 6:55 (after eating breakfast with the family) I walk for about 10 minutes to get to the train station. On the train I meet up with one of my schoolmates and we travel for maybe 30 or 35 minutes on this incredibly crowded train.

I heard in the US that the trains in Japan were crowded, but I didn`t even fathom that they would be THIS crowded. We`re pressed together so tightly that we can barely move. And if you lose your balance, don`t worry about falling, because there`s no room to fall.

After a long ride we arrive at Niigata Station and have to switch trains there before we finally arrive near the school and walk the rest of the way.

(Oh, and school here starts at 8:35, though I don`t get home until 5:35)

Arriving at school, we have to take off our shoes and put on indoor ones.
We then go to our classrooms and when the teacher enters we all bow.

The first day of school was a half day (just a welcome ceremony)and I had to make an introduction speech which ended up being in half Japanese and half English.

Each class at school is an hour long, and to be honest, I only understand math and English (on the English tests it has a lot of Japanese, so I can`t complete all of it).

Surprisingly, the students here take a small test each morning...

the test has answers on the back
the students check the answers by themselves
and there is no teacher in the room.
Yet I haven`t seen one of them cheating.

(oh, and another surprising thing, the boys and girls barely talk to each other because they`re shy)

Lunch time is at 12 30 (I eat an obento okaasan makes, although you can buy lunch).

After school we clean the building ourselves(though luckily, most days I get out of that because of my long train ride).

I don`t really know how to say this, but yesterday I had a random kid scream at me "Do you like sushi?" and a lot of people stare at me. Today a random guy ran up to me and said "HEY, HELLO!" and walked away.

Well, I guess that`s it for now :)
-Holly
p.s. Japanese keyboards are hard to type on

Pictures



This was in my house, it`s from the Hinamatsuri Festival. The Koinobori is for the boys, and the Hinamatsuri is for the girls; both are children`s events.



Fish for an upcoming festival (Koinobori) on May 5.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tadaima!!!

こんにちは!!!
Sorry I haven't written in forever. It's just that everything happened so fast (and I didn't have Internet access but that's a different story).

On March 22nd I met the other AFSers from the U.S. going to Japan. And on the 23rd we flew to Japan. The flight was about 14 hours and it was horrible. I couldn't sleep because the seats were so uncomfortable. Haha, I'm still tired.

March 25, AFS orientation, I took a Japanese public bath. It's not as bad as everyone thought it would be. Awkward, yes, if you make it awkward.

Anyhow, the ramen here is fantastic!!! Yesterday my family went out to eat and it was incredible! At home, おかあさん (okaasan) cooks. And it's true, the Japanese do eat rice with every meal. Interestingly enough, we usually don't drink anything during our meals, instead there is みそ汁 (misoshiru) or miso soup and we drink the broth.

Right now, my Japanese is horrible and I'm having a hard time communicating with my family, I hope it gets easier as the year goes by.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

2 weeks

I have my Visa, pretty much the last necessity and I'm good to go! And SUPER excited. Today was my okaasan no tanjoubi (my host mother's birthday). I sent her an E-card.

Sad news (for me). Shiori left for Argentina in February and won't be back till January 2011 :( so I won't have a sister until the end of my trip. I mailed Shiori a necklace (Made in PA, https://www.wendellaugust.com/page/welcome) the other day.


To be honest, I'm not really nervous. But sometimes I get these moments where all I can think is "Wow, I'm really going to miss my friends and family".

Leaving soon,
Holly

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Packing much?

One month before I leave. I recieved my host family a few weeks ago. I was so excited, I got a huge adrenaline rush haha :)

I've emailed my host family a few times in Japanese (using Hiragana- one of the writing systems) and they're REALLY nice.

My sister, (Shiori) sent me an amazing card about Hina-matsuri (Japanese Doll festival). They speak a little English but not much (which is fine by me, I want to learn Japanese and I'm afraid if I end up speaking English I'll never learn it).

Hopefully I'll be in Japan to see the Cherry Blossoms, I think I will but I'm worried I won't.

Packing is a real hassle, it's incredibly frustrating trying to decide what and what not to bring and how to pack it all. It's probably my least favorite thing right now.

Insanely excited,
Holly