Saturday, October 23, 2010

My New Apartment!

Hey Everyone!
I am now an official Tokyo apartment dweller. I managed to get the contract signed for my new digs and went to the ward office and changed the address on my Alien Registration Card. I got a book (in English) of the rules for garbage collection in my new ward (about 20 pages) and I even managed to figure out the bus routes near my new place.
I have posted some pictures, and there will be more to come. I am so excited I can't stand it.
When I showed Sanshiro San the pics (especially the ones of the blue double doors at the entrance, he said "ru-bu hoteru mitai" some of my geek brethren will be able to make that out, for the rest of you I will translate "It looks like a love hotel."
Now for those of you who do not know what love hotels are...They are hotels which specialize in short term stays (from a few hours to overnight) for couples. I did not take this as a bad thing. Love hotels are designed to be pretty (Sleazy but still pretty).
So I have been running constantly for the last week, finishing the contracts, changing my address, spending too much on furniture etc., but while I was returning home on the train I thought of some things that I have learned about Tokyo that I could share with y'all.

1. In Tokyo you are never more than 10 meters away from coffee. Any kind of coffee you want all you have to do is turn around and Bam! there it is. Buying hot coffee in bottles out of vending machines is definitely one of my top 10 things to love about Tokyo. Oh and along the same lines as the coffee, you are never more than 30 meters away from a bakery. Yes Tokyo is a precision engine that is fueled on espresso, lattes and cake.

2. Politeness is direly important in Japan...unless you are trying to go somewhere. People here are incredibly polite unless they are driving, taking public transportation or walking in a crowded area. Aggressive does not begin to describe the skills you need to acquire in order to get around.

3. You can pay your utility bills, national health bill, pension premium etc. at almost any convenience store. How cool is that. You slip your bill into your pocket in the morning and when you get to the station you run into the convenience store grab a coffee and a piece of cake pay for them and your gas bill and then jump on the train.

4. We always think of Japanese food as being healthy...and traditional Japanese food is healthy. As for the other 90% of the food in Tokyo...there is no such thing as lean meat...anything can be made more delicious by putting mayonnaise, butter or an egg on it...and by the way, did I mention the cake?

That's all for this post kiddies.
Love being here, but miss being home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Where the Hell Have I Been?

I just thought I would get that question out of the way first, because I am sure that is what most of you are thinking.

Answer: Nowhere

I have been in the ditch lately. I had a nice round of depression liberally peppered with anxiety attacks, but luckily this all went on during mid-terms so I was too busy to actually do anything about it.

I am beginning to feel more like my usual genki self again, so no worries.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Sort of. Tomorrow is my birthday here. My birthday in the U S actually doesn't happen until after bed time tomorrow night. Either way, everyone should think of me and eat cake.

I am going out with some friends from school to go shopping in Shinjuku. Shinjuku has some of my favorite shops. Places where the cuteness of the merchandise and the abundance of Hello Kitty related items give off such an aura of girliness that it creates a tangible force which is able to physically repel anyone with testicles. At least I am pretty sure that is why you can't drag guys within ten feet of these places.

Ok, I have indulged myself enough in my pre-shopping fantasies.

I may have mentioned before that I get a lot of "glance and look away" here in Japan. That means that people see me and I am a tall gaijin (foreigner)with big curly hair wearing a pink tie dye so they sort of glance at me and then look away without making eye contact. If you want to imagine why, put yourself in this position. You are on a subway train and very close to you is a guy with an iguana on his head. You don't want to look like you are staring at him, but you have to look because, dammit he's got an iguana on his head. Yes, I have been walking around Tokyo with an invisible iguana on my head.

Now, the reason I bring this up is...about 10 days ago I kept getting a lot of guys actually looking directly at me. Most of them would see me look up and they would give me a smile or a nod. It totally freaked me out. After a couple months of "glance and look away" I was flipping out trying to figure out why I was getting actual visual contact of some sort. Then these two guys in about there late twenties sat across from me on the train, and one of them looked at me and then turned and said something to his friend, and then the friend looked at me and they started talking together smiling and glancing over. I was pissed. I was sure that these guys were talking smack about me, so I started listening in on what they were saying for specific words, foreigner, strange, chubby (actually I'm not that chubby anymore) and some others that I am familiar with, but they did not seem to be saying anything negative so I just got more confused. A couple of minutes later I got bored and dropped my head forward to doze a little bit (yes, like everyone else in Tokyo, I nap on the train) when I dropped my head forward I finally figured everything out...
for men in Tokyo, seeing cleavage is sort of like seeing a shooting star. They've seen it before, but it is still rare enough to be sort of amazing. This particular day I was wearing a tank under a zip up hoodie which I had not zipped all the way up and since I sit with my arms crossed in front of me while I am on the train...I was showing off the sweater puppies to their best advantage. Needless to say it does a housewife/mom/student's heart good to know the girls have still got it.

On that happy note, I'm heading for the futon.

P.S. My memory card for my camera died a horrible death, until Dave mails me my spare I am picture deficient. Next post will hopefully be about my new apartment, I put in an offer on one and I am just waiting to hear back from the real estate agent.

Until next time

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Joys of Moving Out

First off some personal notes.

Cami babe I am glad to hear from you again. You are a study monkey right now too so I am thrilled that you take the time to write to me.

Katey, I have always thought that you spelled your name Katie, moshiwakearimasen. However, this raises the question "What else don't I know about Katey?". So answer the two questions about you weighing most heavily on my mind. Are you a closet twilight fan? Are you a republican?

Tara, most of the rest of this post is about the question you asked about my apartment. As for the cookies, every year pre-Christmas, I make peanut butter blossoms and this year I am also making my personal fave oatmeal scotchies. You bring your mom and Shaun out to Centreville while I am home on break and you can have as many as you want. I also make peanut butter balls every year but they are classified as candy. I am thrilled to hear about the new job...kick ass, take names and make bank.

Now onto the question of housing. Real estate in Tokyo is a big deal. Schools do not usually keep much dorm space and dorms are not on campus, they are usually apartment buildings about an hours commute away.

At TUJ you have to spend your first semester living either in the dorm or in home stay but there are not enough spaces for anybody other than first semester students. In your second semester you have to strike out on your own and find a place to live. Luckily, in Japan nobody is into the whole "roommate" thing, so Tokyo is crammed full of studio and one bedroom apartments in all price ranges.

I am so psyched about the idea of having my own place again. When you live with someone else (family excluded)you never actually relax. I desperately want a place where I walk through the door and shut it and I am not answerable to anyone but myself. If I am depressed or homesick, I want to be able to cry (or eat a half gallon of strawberry cheesecake ice cream)without worrying about other people worrying about me. I want to get up and go to the bathroom in the morning without having to put clothes on. When my hillbilly is showing I want to be able to bop around the house to bluegrass without wearing my headphones.

Don't think that it hasn't been great living here with Chiemi San and Sanshiro San. They have been very kind and I would have had a much harder time adjusting without their help, Chiemi San has helped me get my alien registration card and national health card, not to mention teaching me the train system and helping me set up my bank and cellphone accounts, but I am a (those of you who need to know my age already do and those of you who don't can suffer the curiosity) ? year old woman and I need my own space.

I do not have to move out until the beginning of December, but I am going to need time to move the little bit of stuff I have (two backpacks full at a time on the train) and I need time to kit my apartment out with all the luxuries (pots and pans, a futon, a desk, a washing machine...) and I can't leave it for the first week of December because that is finals week. So I am starting my search this weekend and I am planning on starting my rental contract beginning in November. I will make sure to post pictures of the places where I am looking so you guys can give your opinions.

So something very mundane but cool happened with my host family yesterday. I offer to make dinner some of the time, usually they decline ... home stay students still have a bit of a guest feel to them and the host families don't always feel comfortable with you doing things that they feel are their responsibility, but Chiemi San and Sanshiro San have finally started to understand that I like to cook and it doesn't bother me to clean. So yesterday I made dinner. Usually when I cook here I make traditional Japanese food but yesterday I made something I have been craving for two weeks now...soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. To my amazement neither Chiemi San or Sanshiro San had every eaten a grilled cheese sandwich. They loved them! You would have thought I did magic. Sanshiro San has made me promise to teach him how to make them. You cannot imagine how fun it is to introduce somebody to something as simple and perfect as a grilled cheese.

So on that happy note I'll take off for now
Miss you guys

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I was waiting...

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't posted in almost two weeks.

I figured if I waited long enough I would get some feedback on my essay.

Katie and Tara are safe.

Some of the rest of you are not.

I think you know who you are. But just in case...

Sarah Elizabeth and Nikki, Katherine, April and Donna (who told my mother she wanted to post about me being crazy, but she wussed out before she did) there are others but this will do for now. I may be on the other side of the planet at the moment, but I will be coming home eventually. When I get home I am going to beat ya'll like you owe me money. I wait for either posts to my blog from ya'll or at least a pitiful email every once in a while, and what do I get...not a sausage. Oh yes, beatings will be forthcoming. Except for Katie and Tara, they get cookies.

As for the guys over at Skeptic Friends...I have seen you all do five thousand words arguing about the wording of one post. Somebody could have read the damn essay and at least posted "pitiful" or "pointless". Kil, Filthy and Halfmooner I am looking directly at you three.

Now that I have gotten that ugly business out of the way.

Things here in Nihon are strange but quiet. I spend so much of my time studying to keep up with my classes that I am starting to feel like a monk. I really only get out and about during my commute. Commute-class-study-commute-home-study, five hours studying hours all adds up. When I have studied so much that I begin to forget basic survival information (when to eat, how to get dressed...) I take the day off and wander around some of the different neighborhoods in Tokyo.

These excursions have an ultimate purpose (beyond the shopping that I accidentally do along the way.) At the beginning of next month, I have to start looking for an apartment. So far the only neighborhood I am interested in, is this place called Kichijouji. Its not huge like Shinjuku or Shibuya but it is full of tons of small shops and restaurants interspersed with a couple of convenient chain stores (Seiyu for one which is sort of like a Target but with a wider range of services.) I have found out to my dismay that Kichijouji is not just popular with me but with every other human being in Japan. In other words it is more expensive and it is more difficult to get an apartment there.

Since Kichijouji may end up out of my reach, I have started searching other neighborhoods one-by-one. When you don't have a car there are a lot of things that you have to take into consideration. First and most important is; how far do I have to walk to get to the train station? Virtually everything in Japan revolves around what the nearest train station is and how far away it is. Second on the list is; Is there a supermarket in walking distance? I do not mind a twenty minute walk to the station or the supermarket but in some places there is no supermarket even close. Unlike most of my friends at school, I am not happy with the idea of surviving on convenience store sandwiches and onigiri combined with the occasional trip to the ramen stand. I need actually produce, meat and grains in order to remain walking upright. The lesser considerations are the actual apartment itself (amenities, size, whether it has all of it's walls...). Location first, everything else is negotiable.

I am actually looking for a studio. A studio is one room with a little kitchen nook and a bathroom. It sounds tiny, but right now I spend about 90% of my time at home in my room anyway and I have included a picture of my room now to give you an idea of the comparison.

Well kidlings, in the time it took me to write this, I have forgotten 25% of the vocab I memorized this I gotta run.

I have included a couple of my newest drawing assignments. Katie asked to see my Maneki Neko I won at the matsuri, you can tell how small it is because I have it propped up with a 50 yen piece. You can tell by my still life that I have major problems with perspective.

Missing everbody.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hi guys,

Here is the belief essay that I mentioned. Give me any feedback that you think is useful. Don't worry about grammar or spelling (I've already got an editor working on it,thank you sweetie.) I would especially like any thoughts from the crew over at Skeptic Friends. Thanks to everybody in advance.

I Believe in the Permanency of Nothing and the Possibility of Anything : By Elizabeth Weiblen

If every piece of information in the universe were a grain of sand then the human race would be like children on a vast beach examining one grain of sand at a time. Every discovery and every invention is one grain that we put in the pail of knowledge that all human beings share. We put the grains in one by one and when we have filled the pail we will still barely have touched the beach. I think the most important thing we can know, is that we know virtually nothing. I am neither a materialist nor an idealist, as those choices have been defined to me. I guess I will define myself as a possibleist. Is the world definable strictly in terms of physical reality, a collection of tangible components and chemical reactions? This option is a definite possibility. Is there a spiritual dimension to the world, an element that we cannot quantify but nevertheless has a profound effect on our existence. This option is just as possible as the first.

I was raised Southern Baptist which is a branch of Christianity that is fundamentalist in its views. By fundamentalism I mean that Southern Baptists believe in a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible. A few examples of these beliefs are: The world was created in six days by God. God is an omnipotent being who exists in the form of three manifestations Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son manifestation was given birth to by a virgin in order to live as a human being and eventually be sacrificed in order to bridge the divide between human beings and God and allow the spiritual aspects of human beings immortality. When I was a child and belief was easy to come by, I believed this fully and without question. As I grew, and my experience of the world broadened, my ability to believe without consideration narrowed. Now, I find myself standing on a philosophical tightrope suspended equidistance between rationality and spirituality. Standing there without either enough concrete information or enough personal enlightenment to have the faith to move in either direction. When you don’t have faith, what’s left are possibilities.

The road of materialism seems to require you to have faith that everything you come in contact with, and will be affected by, will be measurable on some scale that makes sense to human beings. I believe that this is entirely possible. I also believe the universe is infinite, or as close to infinite as to make no difference, and within it lies the possibility for an infinite number of manifestations. Some of these may be ones that human beings have already imagined or possibly encountered, like ghosts, angels, demons, gods and monsters, but the possibility also exists for entities so far out of our range that we would not be able to define them at all ( H.P. Lovecraft type thinking but hopefully with less insanity and world eating ). I also think that materialism as it has been defined is fluid in nature. Every new discovery expands the definition. When people first began to believe that the world was defined by the laws of science, they hadn’t even seen a germ yet. Atoms, radiation, dark matter… the list of discoveries goes on and on, and will keep going on indefinitely, who says that one day somebody in a lab won’t see a pattern in their data and turn around to say “ I know how this is going to sound but… I think I just proved the existence of gremlins.”

Now let’s have a look at idealism. This belief system seems to hinge on the idea that humans are possessed of a spirit or soul that cannot be defined in physical terms but is the most important aspect of ourselves. This is also entirely possible. I like the idea of spirituality. If there were some way to manufacture faith, I would do it immediately. I know many people with a true and abiding faith in Christianity. I am related to many of them. They are for the most part the happiest and most serene people I know. Unhappily, you can’t buy faith and you can’t make it. Either faith comes to you organically or it doesn’t. There may be a God and there may be an afterlife… and there may not be. I stand directly on the balance point of this issue. I have just enough of my spiritual upbringing left, that when I consider that there is the possibility that there may be a God, I also consider the possibility that I will go to Hell for thinking of him as a possibility and not a reality.

Since this essay is about what I believe, which also opens the door for what I don’t believe, I will give you the quick and dirty run down on my beliefs. I believe in Karma, the comic book version of it anyway, when you do good it invites good to come back to you and vice versa. If there is a God, I don’t believe he is a man who sits in the sky and micromanages the lives of human beings. I believe that we are not alone in the universe, and it is a bit arrogant of us to believe that somehow we were the only ones to hit intelligent life form jackpot. I believe that any day that goes by without something catastrophic happening, such as a meteor strike or plague, was a good day. I also believe that beliefs are like emotions, you can describe them to someone else, but you cannot make them experience them like you do.

I guess, in a way, what I believe in most is learning. What I really depend on, is the fact that I will know something tomorrow that I didn’t know today. So let my belief system be based on the importance of the accumulation of knowledge. There aren’t any actual churches devoted to it, but there are libraries and schools. There isn’t any system of morality based on the quest for knowledge, in fact many institutions devoted to morality seem to frown on too much knowledge. The quest for knowledge has never started any holy wars, although it has improved the weaponry quite a bit. It definitely has its own martyrs, the father of the Socratic Method, just to name one. The best part about having learning as your belief system is that you can practice it alone or in groups, and you never have to dress up to do it.

To sum it all up, there are no certainties in life, only possibilities. Physical laws are there to be broken, and spirituality is an invisible needle in a haystack that never ends. My beliefs about the nature of ultimate reality are that, so far as I can tell, there is no ultimate reality. Actually in all truth I don’t think there is even a proximate reality. There is only what we know now and what we will know tomorrow and what we may never know.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Even though, nerd that I am, I have been studying almost non-stop, I managed to make it out last weekend to the neighborhood matsuri (festival).

I went during the day long enough to see them carrying the mikoshi (portable shrine)and then Chiemi San, Sanshiro San and I returned in the evening to enjoy the booths. For all my anime geeks back home:
No, I did not wear a yukata. Mine is at home because I didn’t have room to pack it.
Yes, I did eat takoyaki .
Yes, they did have goldfish scooping, an air rifle booth and ring toss. The only one that I played was the ring toss game. I threw ten rings and won a little ceramic maneki neko, two bells and a pack of gum.
We watched some of the entertainers, there was this one guitarist who was amazing, I got some video of him but I think y’all will have to wait until I get home to see it.
I have put up a picture of the mikoshi and one I took from the overpass at night.
The matsuri was awesome but yesterday was even better. I finally opened my bank account (at Shinsei Ginko) and got a cell phone. I think I actually qualify as a human being again.
I am doing alright in my Japanese class. I am studying almost non-stop and I am managing to stay at about a high C average, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

This week coming up we have holidays on Monday (Respect for Seniors day)and Thursday (The Autumnal Equinox). I plan to put in all weekend studying so that on Monday and Thursday I can finally go out and explore. Well, on Thursday I will be exploring. Chiemi San, Sanshiro San and I are going to Inogawa which is an older part of Tokyo, to do some sightseeing. On Monday though, me and some of my friends from school are going shopping and maybe to see a movie. I am so excited that I will be doing something other than studying, that I can barely contain myself. I would be doing little happy dances all over the place, but I try not to do anything that might scare the neighbors.

Speaking of scaring the neighbors, being the only gaikokujin (polite term for foreigner, the neighbors more than likely term me gaijin which is less polite) in my neighborhood, has become a constant form of amusement for me. Mostly I get the “glance and look away” somebody checks me out, but when I look up at them they look away really quickly. I am getting really good at timing out the movement and I have an almost overwhelming urge to wait until they look and then lunge forward and yell “BOO”. I am managing to restrain myself only because I don’t want to end up in a police station explaining myself. Now I know you are probably thinking “would the police really pick her up for something so stupid?” and the answer is absolutely YES. Tokyo has per capita, more police officers than almost any other city in the world. Combine that little tidbit with the fact that there is almost no street crime in Japan, and you end up with a horde of policemen wandering around with absolutely nothing to do but give directions.
The brave and diligent men and women of the Tokyo PD are the Maytag repairmen of the law enforcement community. As one of our deans put it during orientation “foreign students are the only entertainment that the Tokyo PD get.” And Japan is not the US, the police do not need an actual reason to detain you, they can pick you up for having a bad hair day. So I am reigning in my natural inclination to screw with people, in order to save myself the trip to the police station. But in the morning…on the train…trapped and bored, it’s not easy.

Well, I need to get back to work. Besides my matsuri pictures, I am also posting my hand picture that I mentioned before, and it rained today so I took a picture of the wave of umbrellas crossing the intersection in Shibuya.
I will try to post again soon.
Hugs - Liz

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The move to Japan Diet

Yes, I have been studying my ass off. Yes, it has been a number of days since I posted. Yes, I have lost somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds. I haven’t been on a scale since I got here, but I am having trouble keeping my pants from sliding off my hips which usually happens between 15 and 20 pounds.

There is a good reason that I am losing weight. Everything you do in Japan is physically more difficult. Well not everything, 99% of the things you do in Japan are physically more difficult. The train station and the supermarket are about an equal distance from my apartment, about a mile and a half. I always do at least one of these walks, and about half the days of the week I do both of them. That’s 3 to 6 miles a day depending, but that is just the beginning. On my way to the train, I climb up two flights of stairs to use the overpass over the highway. I go down two flights of stairs to get off the overpass, I go down two more flights on this steep slope on my walk. When I get to the station I go up one flight to get to the entrance. I get my train, and if it is busy I strap hang for the 30 minutes it takes to get to Shibuya station. At the station I go down two flights of stairs to get to the street, and walk through two sets of JR rail buildings to get to my bus (about 2 blocks) after I get off my bus it is another two blocks to get to school and then since my class is on the 2nd floor I take the stairs. After class reverse the process which means 4 blocks, up six flights of stairs and down two, and a mile and half back. That is just my usual commute to school. It doesn’t count any day I go to the store and back (about three miles) or run errands (two to six miles depending), and I do almost all of this while wearing a backpack full of either books or groceries.

I literally walk my ass off. It is lying somewhere in the middle of Inokashira Dori right now.

Even the everyday stuff you do to run your life is more taxing. I sleep on a futon so I can’t just roll out of bed, I have to push my butt up off of the floor. About 75% of all the trash is recycled so it has to be sorted and washed and carried to the recycling bins at the supermarket. Nobody uses a dryer so everything has to be hung on the veranda and then taken down later. You spend a lot of time sitting on the floor so there is a lot of getting up and down. Living in Japan is a constant workout.

I am eating. I am eating everything in sight. There are things you will not find in Japan, like fat free potato chips, or low fat low sugar snacks. People here don’t need them. I eat onigiri (rice balls), noodles, sashimi, sushi, vegetables, candy, ice cream pops, rice crackers and drink loads of tea and diet sodas (yes the one thing they do have here that is low sugar). It’s an awesome diet, I eat whatever looks good, whenever I want it.

Well kiddies, I have to put my nose back on the grindstone. I will try to post sooner this time. For those of you who are thinking “where the hell was the hand picture she mentioned last time.” I wrote the post thinking that I had taken a picture of that drawing and I hadn’t. In class on Monday I am going to ask Daisuke Sensei to let me take a picture of it and I will post it soon. I also got an assignment in my humanities class to write a three page essay on my beliefs, I am going to post it soon and hopefully you guys can give me some feedback on it to help me polish it.
I am missing everybody soooo much!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In the weeds

Classes have begun and I am already deep in the weeds. I have taken a huge gamble on a class that I may not be ready for. We had to take another placement test on the first day of class in Japanese class and I hosed it badly. My Japanese teacher wanted me to drop back further into Intermediate 1. I said “absolutely not”. She said “You have to”. I said “not a chance”. It went on from there. If you really want to make your life more difficult, argue with a Japanese professor. The upshot is, I stayed in my Intermediate 2 class but if I fail I will lose my Visa.
I am not going to fail. I will work myself into the ground to keep up. I am not known as a tooth grinding grade hound for nothing. I have gambled a lot on this and I intend to win (although this would probably be easier if I had not already pissed off the professor.) So everybody keep your fingers crossed for me.
On to more pleasant things. Chiemi san is feeling much better and I am getting more acclimated to my new routine. I got to go to Shinjuku the other day and I am absolutely in love with the place. All the cool shops with the super cute stuff I was looking for seem to be located in Shinjuku. I will not be able to go there very often or Dave will probably call and have my credit cards cancelled. The day that I went, two of my friends from school went with me. Lee (there is a picture of him in this HUGE bookstore that we went to) and Danielle. I wanted a picture of Danielle to post but she refused, I told her I would take a picture of her ass crack while she wasn’t looking and post that, but then I forgot.
Lee is also in my drawing class. Happily, we are at about the same skill level (I also posted a picture of Lee’s sphere from the class where we were working on shapes).
Right now Chiemi san and Sanshiro san have friends that are visiting. Shinobu san and Tamano san, so for the last few days there has been a marathon of food and booze at our apartment (just food for me). I am loving Shinobu san to death, she runs a bar and speaks almost no English but she is just like me (loud, energetic and loves a good time). Tamano san is a scientist and he and Sanshiro san and Shinobu san all grew up together. I have posted a picture above (far left Tamano san, me and Chiemi san standing, Shinobu san and with the stern look on his face Sanshiro san.)
Well boys and girls, I have studying to do, I’ve posted pictures of some of my drawing assignments (check out the awesome hand with a spoon I drew, now if I could just figure out how I did it.)

Monday, August 30, 2010


For me, the last couple of days have been all about vulnerability. Yesterday due to a miscommunication between me and Sanshiro we ended up eating very late and I had a little run in with hypoglycemia. For those of you who don’t really know what hypoglycemia is; Your blood sugar drops below the level necessary for your cells to function correctly. You sweat, you shake, you get dizzy and just when you need it most… your brain stops working. So I decided to order a pizza. I have seen the dominos right down the street from my apartment, there was pizza there, I just had to get them to bring it to me. Now I am smart enough that I know to keep emergency numbers on hand. I have the number for the police (110) and an ambulance (119) but no idea what the number is for dominos. No phone book, no idea how to call information and my brain is slowly losing the ability to reason out the difficult task of ordering pizza. I was hosed. Eventually there was a solution, it involved a weeping call to Shane who works in the office of student services at school (he gives it out for emergencies, which now includes “will you please call dominos in Suginami-ku and order me a pizza”) Together we still couldn’t work out the logistics, but eventually I was saved by some chocolate in the refrigerator and a walk to keep the simple sugar from making my blood sugar swing too high in the opposite direction. My entire retelling of this interlude is to make one point. I am a competent and confident woman, and all of a sudden I couldn’t even order a pizza, It made me realize that I am more vulnerable here than I was at home.

Now my second bout with vulnerability came this evening. My drawing class lets out at 7:30, in Tokyo right now the sun sets at about 6:00 which means I have to commute home after dark. This is fine from school to the bus stop (main road plenty of lights and businesses) and from Shibuya station to Takaido station (packed train but safe enough). The problem comes when I get off the train. My walk home from the train station takes about twenty minutes and it is mostly walking paths and back streets with few or no street lights. Now, Japan has very little street crime, but every time there is a story about a stalker or an attack they plaster it on every news source in the country. It does not engender a feeling of safety when you are dragging your tired ass home from school in the dark. Luckily for me on my way home I pass plenty of people just out strolling. Elderly people, women, high school kids pretty much anybody, so I would guess I am safe enough.

Anyway I am about to wrap up the entire vulnerability theme by exposing one more weakness to you. My first drawing class assignment. It is the last picture. We had to draw our hand. The one on the left we had to draw first without looking at our hand and the one on the right was second and we drew it while looking at our hands so we could add more detail. I am quite pleased with myself that although they both look slightly deformed, they are easily recognizable as hands (as opposed to some random amorphous appendage). They both have four fingers and a thumb and everything.

My other pictures are from my further explorations of Shibuya (yes I have finally worked up the nerve to leave the station and actually look around outside). I have included one picture I took tonight after I got off the bus on my way home from school. Oh, I also seem to have found converse nirvana I did not actually have time to shop there today but I will be going back (Oh, yes…. I will).


Friday, August 27, 2010

Japan feels like...

I have been wandering around for days with a sense of de ja vu, trying to figure out what is so familiar about being in Japan. Yesterday I finally got it. Being in Japan is like camping. Everything is smaller and there is never enough ice.

Right now I could write an ode to ice, my declaration of eternal love for frozen water. There are roughly 8 billion convenience stores in Japan and not one of them serves fountain drinks. I don’t know if it is energy conservation or a cultural bias but Japan is a pitifully ice poor country (really, someone should have a telethon). We do have two ice trays in the freezer in our apartment, each one makes eight 1cm cubes, just enough to tease you but it never really puts out.

The kitchen is also reminiscent of camping. It consists of two stove burners and an easy-bake oven. Luckily on the upside, you can buy delicious, beautiful and healthy food anywhere in Japan. You can get good restaurant quality food at any convenience store, grocery store or little hole in the wall food stand you see, and trust me you see a lot of them.

Well, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me tell you about Akihabara. I bravely struck out on my own to buy a printer in Akihabara. For those of you who don’t know, Akihabara is the center of the universe for electronics. Three times a day gadget geeks drop to their knees and bow to Akihabara. I had to change trains twice, once in Meidaimae and once in Shinjuku. I have mentioned the size of Shibuya station twice now, Shinjuku station could eat Shibuya station and still have room for one or two one line stations for dessert. I have no Idea how many separate train lines meet at Shinjuku, but if you get on the wrong train there you could possibly end up in Europe. I am also pretty sure I caught sight of a Minotaur while I was switching trains.

I made it to Akihabara and it scared the hell out of me. First of all electronics are not my strong suit, luckily I married an Uber geek. The problem was that my Uber geek is currently on the other side of the planet. Going to Akihabara by myself is like someone on a learner’s permit being dropped directly into formula one racing. So I left the train station crossed the street with about a thousand salary men (a sea of guys in dark pants and white shirts and dark ties, It’s fun you get to pretend you’re in the matrix) and practically ran into the nearest department store that had a Duty Free sign outside. Duty Free means tourists and tourists means sales guys that know English. My survival Japanese is good enough for everyday, it is not good enough, however, to explain the compatibility problems I am afraid of having if I buy the wrong printer. It was touch and go there for awhile though, his English was about as good as my Japanese, between the two of us we were able to hook me up with a Canon ip100. It is awesome. It does photo printing and regular printing, and it only weighs about 4lbs, and I bought it all by myself (I’m so proud of it).

I will post again soon.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So I wrote a few days ago about how I got lost in Shibuya station. So I thought I would give you guys a little visual confirmation that yes Shibuya Station is a monster. The first three pictures are different parts of the station, the next two pictures are outside the station and the last picture I took while I was strap hanging on my way home from school.(oops, I reversed them. Work from the bottom up.)

I cannot take any pictures on the way to school because I have been riding the train to school during rush hour and my train is pretty packed. If I lower my hands enough to dig through my purse for my camera, I am afraid I will either end up engaged or arrested. Speaking of engaged or arrested I have an air conditioner in my room now. I know you’re thinking “What the hell is she talking about” but if I had been here when the guy came to install it, I would have kissed him right on the mouth (I’m pretty sure that would have ended badly).

So, topic shift. One of my new friends at school has begun a geometric diet. Yesterday during lunch I asked him what he was eating and he stared intently first at the outside of the pouch in his hand and then into the pouch at the food and his response was “cubes”. Yes, it is difficult to choose food when you can’t read the packages (there was a picture of a mango on the bag, so I’m pretty sure he was safe). Soon, after Marc feels more confident, he intends to round out his diet with spheres (arghh! Bad Liz). He has stated, however, that he will avoid trapezoids (possible dietary restrictions?)

I finally got to actually register for this semester’s classes today. I had to take a step backward in my Japanese class (I am retaking Intermediate 2) since my last Japanese class ended, 8 months ago, I managed to forget transitive and intransitive verbs and humble forms. I also had to go into a basic kanji class because I got lazy and stopped writing kanji out by hand. Lately I have only been writing Japanese on the computer, where you get a nice pull down menu that lets you choose the correct kanji from a list (yes writing Japanese on the computer is like one big multiple choice test.) The big shocker, though, is that I decided to take a beginner’s drawing class. For all of you that have had Biology with me and are now laughing your asses off, don’t be mean. Just because everything I sketched in lab, from cells to angiosperms, ended up looking like amoebas, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.

I miss you guys. Drop me a response and let me know that you’re still there.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


So… I would like to write a post about all of the interesting things I am learning about living in Japan…but I can’t. The reason that I can’t is because it is so fucking hot right now that the only thing my brain is capable of processing is, how fucking hot it is. The air conditioner in the apartment that I am staying in broke down shortly before I arrived. It will be fixed in a few more days but by then I will have turned into a large pot roast.

My room faces the (oh shit, I have no sense of direction) let’s just say whichever direction it faces the sun is directly outside of my window for about 20 hours a day. My room is an oven … with a fan … which makes my room a convection oven. I want to leave and go somewhere with air conditioning but then I would have to take the 20 minute walk to the train station in the direct sunlight and I am pretty sure that I would spontaneously combust as soon as I stepped out of the lobby.
So I am laying here in my undies, sweat gluing me to my futon, trying to drink enough water to stave off the d-words (dehydration, delirium, death and damnation) managing to survive by clinging desperately to the knowledge that in about 3 more hours the sun will set and I will be free to wander out in search of an air conditioned haven, preferably one that serves frozen treats in the shape of cute little animals. One of my favorite things about Japan so far is the staggering number of things that come in the shape of cute little animals.

Soon children I will regale you with stories full of excitement and adventure but for now can anyone give me directions on doing a rain dance (can I do it alone, do I need a tribe, how big of a space needs to be sanctified, etc…)

Sweatily yours,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jet Lag, Emotional Instability and Getting Lost

Yesterday Chiemi and I went to the Ward Office and filled out the paperwork for my Alien Registration Card and National Health Insurance. I was so happy to be out and about in Tokyo that it did not occur to me that I had gotten almost no sleep for about 2 days and walking around in the middle of the day in the heat and humidity might not be wise. No surprise that I started to feel dizzy and disoriented. I really wanted to go shopping after we left the Ward Office so I tried to muscle through. Bad move, really bad move. About 20 minutes into shopping, I started to get nauseous. I asked Chiemi if we could go back to the apartment and we walked back to the bus stop and took the bus back to our neighborhood and walked from the bus stop back to our apartment. In other words I needed to be off my feet as soon as possible and as soon as possible was about a mile of walking and twenty minutes on a hot bus.
The exhaustion had hit me like a ton of bricks and I completely lost control of my emotions. I bit my lip and tried not to cry on the way back to the apartment but as soon as I got through the lobby door, I started to sob. I scared poor Chiemi to death. Sobbing and gasping for breath I keep saying "I'm fine" in broken, barely coherent Japanese. We came upstairs and I immediately collapsed in my room and slept for about three hours. After I woke up I apologized to Chiemi and told her it was just the jet lag but I am pretty sure she did not take her eyes off of me for the rest of the evening (I think she thought I would take the first chance I got to throw myself off the balcony.)
I managed to get another 5 hours of sleep last night and woke up as a coherent human being again. It is a good thing too because today I took the train by myself for the first time. The good news is I only got lost once. The bad news is I got lost Inside the Shibuya train station and it still took me an hour to figure out where I needed to go. Shibuya is the neighborhood in Tokyo that most people picture when they think of Japan. Huge buildings, huge video billboards and as I found out the hard way a Huge train station.
It happened when I was coming back from the first day of school orientation. The scary part about orientation was that even after all the hoops I had to jump through to get here, the five hours of bad power point presentations made me think I should have stayed home and gotten and real estate license instead. The only good thing about orientation is that I made some new friends (check out the picture).
The other pictures are of my favorite part of my commute. I cut through the grounds of a Shinto shrine to get to my train station. How cool is that!

I think I am going to like it here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting There is Half the Fun

It is almost 2 am Tokyo time. I have been attempting to sleep for the last 4 hours and having very little luck. When I drug my sorry self of the plane at Narita airport, I had only managed to cat nap once or twice during the entire flight and I felt that I could have laid down on the baggage carrousel and slept for about 20 hours strait. Now I wish that I had.

My last 27 hours went something like this. Dave gets me to the security cut off point at Dulles airport and stares longingly into my velvet eyes and crushes me to his manly chest and kisses me deeply and pushes me toward security at 10:30 am VA time (we may have been wearing trench coats and hats, I can’t quite remember). I enter the Dulles airport dimensional warp and travel the 122 miles to my gate where I stare at the various perfume stores and saturated fat stands that are the only source of hygiene and sustenance for the poor lost souls who are currently trapped in this travel dystopia. After what I assumed was most of a decade, but was in fact about 2 hours, my plane boarded on time and took off at 1:00 pm VA time on the 17th.

I have to side track here for a moment and tell you about a misconception I had about my flight to Tokyo. I assumed that most of the people on the plane would be Japanese and would be going to Tokyo. I was dead wrong. It turns out that no matter where you want to go in Asia, you will at some point in your trip have to stop at Narita airport. So in a plane that held roughly 300 people, only about 20 of us were actually staying in Japan.

Ok, back to the time line. The flight took 13 and ½ hours , during which we were fed one small meal that came in 5 parts and I watched “Ratatouille” once in English with Chinese subtitles and twice in Japanese also with Chinese subtitles. I slept for about an hour in ten minute increments and spent the rest of my time staring out the window amazed that it never started to get dark (yes, I am an idiot) we landed at Narita at 3:30 pm Japan time on the 18th.

I went through immigration and customs, where they took digital finger prints, mug shot, retinal scan and a DNA sample. I exchanged my dollars for Yen, arranged to ship my suitcases to my Tokyo address and bought a bus ticket to the hotel where Temple was having their meet and greet. All of this took about an hour and the bus ride itself took 2 hours.

So at 6:30 Tokyo time I arrived at the hotel. Sticky, greasy, disgusting and so exhausted that I had forgotten most of my first language, let alone my second one (oh and I hadn’t had a cigarette in about 17 hours). I met Sanshirou Yamanaka san who is in my host family and we proceeded to the Tokyo subway to finish my journey to my new home. Tokyo is awesome, it is just what I expected but right now it is also hot and incredibly humid (rush hour, train, Tokyo, hot, humid you do the math). We made it to the apartment in about an hour and a half, where we met Chiemi Yamanaka San, Sanshirou’s wife (They are both very nice and a lot of fun to hang out with, I am optimistic about our time together) The apartment is very small (normal size for Tokyo) and the air conditioner is not working. So we walked out a couple of blocks and had dinner out. We made it back here at about 9:30 and I got ready for bed. I have been wide awake ever since.

Well hopefully this interlude has worn me out. I am going to take another shot at the futon and post this tomorrow with some pictures of my new digs.

Kisses - Liz

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Have Learned I Can't Pack and Write at the Same Time

I have started my second post more than once and I keep getting pulled away to do things like pack, collect legal documents and soak in the last bits of love and physical affection I will get with my family for awhile.
Fear not. Fourteen hours on a plane should allow me plenty of time for my next post.
Until then keep your fingers crossed for good weather and an excellent pilot.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Almost Time to Drop My Pudgie Ass Down the Rabbit Hole!


1. An unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal.
2. One who is playfully mischievous; a scamp.
3. A wandering beggar; a vagrant.
4. A vicious and solitary animal, especially an elephant that has separated itself from its herd.
5. An organism, especially a plant, that shows an undesirable variation from a standard.


1. Vicious and solitary. Used of an animal, especially an elephant.
2. Large, destructive, and anomalous or unpredictable: a rogue wave; a rogue tornado.
3. Operating outside normal or desirable controls

I included the entire definition but the first person who makes a large mammal joke goes on my list.

First I need to give you some truth in advertising. If you went searching for the words: coed, Japanese or housewife, with porn in mind you got sent to the wrong place. I am in a sickeningly happy marriage and in three days I will be flying to Tokyo to pursue my Japanese degree, alone (thus I will not be throwing you or anyone else a bone). The good news is, the other billion sites summoned up by those keywords will almost certainly have enough naked Japanese coeds or housewives to satisfy any lonely geek with a hand free to work the mouse (it only takes one).

Now a quick rundown on me and this blog. My name is Liz. I am a wife, a mother, a college student, a source of constant confusion to most of my relatives, and a source of amusement to most of my friends... I'm pretty sure I just irritate strangers. I would like to tell you my age but my strict religious beliefs don't allow it. My strict religious beliefs also require me to nap liberally and read copious amounts of smutty fanfiction. If you have a problem with any of my religious beliefs, I suggest you start your own religion and challenge me to a holy war.

My husband Dave and I have been married for 15 years (I was a child bride, he lured me down the aisle with stuffed animals and candy), and 9 years ago we somehow managed to make our amazing son Morgan out of some spare gametes we had lying around. Dave's job title is "His Lord Highness King of all Computer Geeks" and Morgan has no title as of yet but I am leaning toward "Head of the Chaos and Mayhem Administration".

My title is a bit trickier. First it was "Housewife", then it became "Stay at Home Mom", later it evolved into "Stay at Home Mom / Student". Now if I were capable of doing things the easy way, my next title should have been "Career Mom with a Marketable Degree". I am incapable of doing things the easy way. Given two paths, one well paved and lined with flowers and one a barely visible dirt track through the underbrush, I will ignore them both jump the 8 foot fence next to me, tear myself up on the razor-wire and try to book across the landscape before the velociraptors get me. So my new title is "Stay in Tokyo Mom Who Decided Japanese was the Only Interesting Major".

I spent the last 3 years or so grinding out my Associates Degree and trying to get accepted to a college in Japan where I could perfect my speaking and finish my degree (sometime during that 3 years I also had to convince Dave that being a single parent for two years would be fun, and convince my Mom that becoming semi-retired so she could be "Stay at Home Gramma" would be fun, Dave and my Mom either love me more than I deserve or they are incredibly gullible). After all the sacrifices (health, sex, sleep, small animals...the small animal sacrifice may be a hallucination brought on by poor health and lack of sex and sleep)I was accepted to Temple University Japan. My problems were over. All I had to do then was convince the Japanese Government that I was independently wealthy and had never done anything in my entire life that could be considered vaguely interesting (I will not comment on the possible gullibility of the Japanese Government as they can pull my hard won visa at will).

Now the only thing between me and penultimate goal (getting there was hard enough, but I still actually have to go to classes and get the damn degree.) is 3 days and a fourteen-hour plane ride. I have tried to condense my journey to this point into one post. My continuing journey will be posted here for my family and friends and anyone who happens to stumble in and get stuck.

My next post will be partially based on a suggestion from my friend Tara. It will be titled "How I fit my life into two suitcases and a carry-on bag"