Auxiliary family deploy’d

So I’ve completed my first week of classes and my first week of living with my Japanese host family, and so far everything is going just swimmingly. It was pretty relieving to get back into the classroom, as I spent the last several months sitting on my ass refreshing webpages.

My host family is pretty gawrsh-dern awesome, I think I really lucked out in that department. My host mother (hitherto referred to as Okasan) is really nice and talkative, and I can already tell that my language comprehension is increasing. It’s this particular family’s 15th time hosting exchange students, so they also know what they’re doing. Their house is about a 40 minute bus ride away from campus, so I get to play “towering figure on public transportation” on a daily basis. A definite plus.

I’ve also got a host brother and sister, who’re 23 and 26. It’s not uncommon for kids to live with their parents while working after leaving school in Japan, so it’s not like these are kids sitting in the basement playing Warcraft and shouting for hot pockets and bedpans. They’re also great people, and I can proudly say that after less than a week of living in their home, they’ve already made some gay jokes at my expense. It’s like I never even left America.

I’m doing all the Japanese-y things like sleeping on a futon and using chopsticks and all the crap, adjusting pretty quickly. The Japanese student population of my school doesn’t actually start classes until the 27th of September, but several kids hang around with hopes of meeting foreigners. The school also arranges all these little get-together type thingeroos to help foreigners explore and make friends and whatever. I’ve gone to one, a trip to Kyoto (in which I found out that Japanese schoolgirls think I look like the guy who plays Harry Potter – not sure if that’s a compliment or not) but other than that I’ve had a hard time signing up for outings. I tend to idle at anti-social, but I’m TRYIN goddammit, I’m TRYIN.

I think it’ll take me around a month of living here to start picking out things to concentrate posts on/bitch about. Until then, it’s excerpts from my oh-so-lucrative life. And photos, on the rare occasion that I take any worth showing to people. Until next time…

Lol blisters

So, there’s no real easy way to jump into the oddities of being a foreigner in Japan, so I might as well start with what happened to me the first day I was on campus. On to the meat of things, children!

So I had done the normal things, went to orientation, wandered around looking helpless and confused, avoided eye contact with strangers. The usual. Eventually I had wandered sort of close to the cafeteria when two Japanese guys ran up to me and belched out some hellos. I didn’t really know what was going on, but then they asked me to lunch, and there was no way in hell I could say no. These guys were genuinely excited just to be talking to my white ass, fuckin’ Christmas morning style. I’ll admit, it felt pretty damn good.

Afterwords it got a little weird. One of the guys, Ryousuke, asked me to come see his apartment, go to dinner with his friends, and gave me a free bike. I’d usually assume that someone inviting me back to their place after knowing me for 5 minutes would be planning to A) steal my kidney, B) kill me and practice home taxidermy in their basement, or C) make sexy time. But in this case, we played Super Smash Brothers and he watched that “We Are The World” music video from the 80s, the one with Stevie Wonder. Fucker loves Stevie Wonder.

Other than that, everything you’d think would be different is different. Traffic, food, general disposition of the population. And the weather, holy SHIT it is hot here. Humid as well. It wouldn’t be that bad, but it’s a very pedestrian place full of winding roads and back alley paths, so you can easily end up walking for several hours a day. This would explain all the bicycles around here, which are interesting in their own right. Most the people I’ve seen riding are over 50; it’s pretty fantastic. Also, tiny cars.

Forgive me if this post isn’t heavy in the content department, I’m still spending most of my time blundering around in awe. bai bai

On making bad choices

I’ve been in Japan for less than twelve hours and already roving packs of Japanese people have laughed at and photographed my ass.

It really isn’t as malicious as it sounds. For some reason, I decided to stay overnight in the airport in lieu of actually paying for overnight accommodations. So I camped out (kinda sorta) on some of the cushiony benches and plopped down for some shut eye at KIX. Little did I know, the airport has some kind of sleep-deterrent pinging noise that goes off every ten seconds, and has been for the past five hours. Whatever part of my youthful, adventurous spirit thought this campout was a good idea is dead now.

Anyhow, I sat down for some sleep anyway, and about 5 minutes later I heard some ecstatic giggles and what I assume is the Japanese equivalent of “OMG OMG OMG” coming my way. So I naturally did what any self respecting man would do: curled up into a tighter ball and feigned sleep. The kids who came up must have been around my age, and I’d assume they work in the airport, judging as it was 3 in the a.m.  I kept hearing the word “cheese,” but Japanified so it sounded like “chizu.” Now chizu (地図) is actually the Japanese word for map, but that doesn’t make any goddamned sense as to why they’d be giggling over my head chanting “map map map” so I’m going to assume that chizu is also slang for taking a picture, stolen from westerners “saying cheese” when getting their photo taken. (Why the fuck do we do that, anyway?) Either that or they really like gouda or something.

They didn’t linger, and I waited until their footsteps had passed to sit upright and cry a little. So yeah, I’ve made a partial ass of myself already, go me. Though in all honesty I’d probably do the same thing to foreigners staying the night in an American airport if I worked at one.

On a side note, this is the nicest airport I’ve ever set foot in. It knocks the cock off of anything I’ve seen in America, though the main airport I use is Fort Lauderdale International, not exactly setting the bar high. You could make a better one with paper mache.

I’ll soon actually be at the school, more updates when I see fit. YOU CAN’T RUSH MEDIOCRITY, PEOPLE.

Way down in the hole

I’m glad to say this will be the last post from the western hemisphere. I’m heading out roughly 53 hours from now, and I’m pretty sure the time leading up to then will be filled with… not much. I think I’ll watch Wishmaster 1-4 again and give my buddy a walkthrough of Pokemon: Yellow Version via Facebook chat. (The idiot had leveled a Butterfree to 40. He is lost without my guidance.)

Packing wise, I haven’t done a damn thing, and don’t intend to until the night before leaving. I have a general idea of the crap I want to take, but haven’t read into it that much. It’ll work itself out.

I mentioned in my last post the speaking partner thing my school does that allows us foreign kids to talk to native Japanese students before we arrive in Japan. I found out who my partner was about 10 days ago, and we’ve been emailing each other ever since. Her name’s Miwa, lived in Osaka all her life. I’d never written back and forth with another person in Japanese at length before, but so far everything has been working out pretty well. For the most part. I screwed up some honorific title things and some other minor grammar problems, but I’m glad to know that I’m not completely unintelligible.

Also, speaking partner?  Painfully, incredibly cute.  Before ya know it…


Another ball-droppingly awesome thing? I found out via some other students on Facebook that the Tokyo Game Show is happening three weeks after I arrive. For those who don’t know, TGS is *the* premiere video game convention for Japan. America has the Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3), Europe has Gamescom, and Japan has the TGS. Developers all come out to show their new crap for the upcoming year. It’s also got a huge cosplay contest, where people don mind-numbingly elaborate getups fashioned after their favorite video game characters and have embarrassing photos taken which are then immortalized on the internet. Last year the attendance was something like 183,000 people, and this year, my ass is weaseling it’s way in. Expect many a picture when the time comes.

That’s about it for pre-departure nonsense. Only thing I really have left to do is think about some badass karaoke songs to belt out after drinking too heavily. Feel free to suggest some if you feel like it; all I’ve got so far are a couple of Irish drinking tunes and “You Can Call Me Al.” But please, no Journey. Everyone is going be singing Journey.

From one mouth breather to another, cya later

Two weeks notice

O lordy lordy, only two weeks remain until I depart for the mystical far east! The excitement is hanging in the air like a stale fart.  I got a shiny new camera to for the trip so I can post some pretty pictures on this here blog during my trip, and some spiffy new kicks at my mothers urging. Apparently I looked “one step above homeless” before her intervention, but that’s sort of what I was aiming for.

I’ve had to get a helluva lot of vaccinations for my trip abroad. Hepatitis, typhoid, diphtheria, some disease that I’m pretty sure was made up on the spot called “Japanese encephalitis.” I got stuck for em all. I think I’m invulnerable to all poisons natural and synthetic for the next 18 months. Perfect time to rastle me some danger snakes.

I also got an AIDS test. Not really sure why, but doctor thought it was a good idea. Probably went along with the whole “looking homeless” theme. The thing about an AIDS test is, from the second you take the test to the time when you get the results back, you’re convinced you have AIDS. Actually, it’s more like you’re going to start having AIDS when the test comes back. Like that piece of paper is the catalyst. When I did get the results back it was like “Oh hey, I don’t have AIDS. And my cholesterol is low! Hot damn, I should treat myself to some unprotected sex and heroin.”

The college I’m going to has a speaking partner program where you can sign up to have a Japanese student do… something? I’m not exactly sure what it entails beyond speaking with each other. Anyway, I got my partner assignment and sent her a pretty bare-bones “hi howya doin” email, but haven’t heard back yet. Hopefully that turns out fine and dandy.

That’s all for now. bye

Bottom of the world

Haven’t posted in a while, but I’m still alive, for some reason or another. Go me for beating the odds!

I’ve spent the last two weeks or so living in South Florida, visiting my parents before heading off to Japan. In some ways I think the change from Colorado to Florida is a bigger culture shock than America to Japan will be. This country really is a whole lot bigger than anyone living here can realize until they shuffle about it for a while.

Anyway, Japan news! I got my certificate of eligibility from my university, which is essentially a permit for me to obtain a student visa so I can actually get into the country. Handy little thing, that is. Now the real challenge begins: getting off my ass to visit the Japanese consulate in Miami to actually get the damn thing

Not much else to say on the whole reason-for-creating-this-blog front. I did, however, see Inception last week, and have a newly developed man-crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt. So much so that I watched 500 Days of Summer right after leaving the theater. Dreeeeeamy.

That’s all for now, buh-bai

I’m still here

I’ve started this blog way to damn early. I don’t leave for another two months, and I ain’t got shit to write about. Nothing Japanese related, anyhow. Sooo I got to thinking about why I’m in this situation, about to live in another country for a year. What made me decide to go down this path? Why Japan? Why not somewhere in Europe, or Southeast Asian or something? What do I expect to gain from this experience? Various other questions ran through my head too, but they tripped along the way and I lost track of ’em.

So why live in Japan for a year? I think this question can be relayed back to the fact that I was an intense nerd in high school. I’m still a nerd now, but in a slightly less socially inept way. Not unlike most of the people you will find in any university’s freshman level Japanese language class, I had adopted a weird, sort of fetishist vision of Japan. No doubt brought upon by watching way too many animes and Takashi Miike movies. I looked at Japan with a sense of escapism that wasn’t centered in the real world. It was flashy, filled with bright colors and stories of soft spoken male protagonists who inexplicably had like seven girls all up in their shit.

Eventually I realized I was stereotyping an entire country based on the cartoons it had produced.  I took a step back, looked at myself and people like me, and kinda just gave it up. I still continued to take classes on Japanese language and culture, but the idea of Japan as a personal nerd mecca had gone away. Looking ahead at this trip I’m going to be taking, it was undoubtedly for the best. I want to look firsthand at the Japanese culture and see what it has to offer, but I’m going to exist very much as an American, with my home somewhere else. I don’t want to be a tourist, but there’s no way I’m going to try and be a native either. The clash between the two cultures is undoubtedly going to be more interesting than either of the cultures standing alone anyway. No point in trying to dilute it by pretending to understand what’s going on around me.

As for the ‘why not a different country’ question – the Japanese university I’m attending offers a damn near intravenous injection of all the courses I need to complete one of my majors. Were this not the case, I think I would’ve tried to go to India. Both India and Japan are endless sources of fascination for me, but I’m a lot less acquainted with India, so I’m more drawn to it. Hopefully that trip will happen in the future.

So what do I hope to gain from this experience? I haven’t a damn clue. Flying blind is much more fun than using a map. I do, however, want to use it as a stepping stone for spending more time abroad. The main goal I’ve got for myself after I leave college is to join the Peace Corps as an English teacher, so I’m going to try to help out Japanese students as an English tutor/language partner while abroad. Not sure if my university offers something like that officially through the school, but I’ll manage somehow.

That’s really all I’ve got for now. I’m going to try and get a few more posts in before I take my leave of America, but I can’t guarantee they’ll be anything worth reading.

A brief yet triumphant introduction

Somehow, you’ve found yourself at my digital doorstep. There you are, on the Internet, the knowledge of the world at your fingertips, and you’ve instead chosen to forgo anything remotely productive and ended up here. With me.

Awesome. We’re gonna be friends, I can tell.

But enough about your poor life choices, on into the meat of things! The delicious, juicy meat of things. My name’s Sam, and I’m going to be spending my next year of college in Japan. I started this blog to try and chronicle my experiences there, as well as attempt to impart some of the cultural oddities and knowledge I stumble upon while abroad back to the uncouth savages I know in America.

I’ve always been pretty interested in the culture and people of Japan and other Asian nations, so I’d like to mainly focus on aspects different from those of my home country. That said, I’ve been reading several other blogs about westerners in Japan in the months leading up to my trip, and too many of them touch on the same topics. Don’t get me wrong,  I’m the first bastard in line to read about how weird Japanese toilets and vending machines are, but those topics have already been covered by other people on other blogs, so I see no point in touching on them in depth. People will always be the most interesting thing in the world to me, so they’re what I’m going to try and predominantly focus on. Luckily, my university offers a homestay option where I get to live with a Japanese family during my trip, so I should be able to at least get a glimpse of what the fuck goes on in the everyday life of some people of a different walk of life than I.

What other reasons do I have for going abroad? Mainly to learn a foreign language. I’ve studied Japanese for a couple semesters in college, and though I thoroughly suck shit at it, it’s pretty fun. Every sentence is like a puzzle I can’t hope to solve, but I’m slowly inching my way toward comprehension. I’m also really looking forward to the knee-you-in-the-crotch shock of being away from everything and everyone I know for a long period of time. I get the chance to trade in my whole world for another, and I’m not thinking twice. I can’t wait.

I’ve already bought plane tickets and sorted out most of the logistical crap with my school, so now all I really have to do is wait for my visa application to get processed and shove off in late August. Until then, I plan on continuing to grow the most gut wrenchingly disgusting facial hair the galaxy has ever seen.