Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Starting My Workout Again

Hot Damn and Hallelujah!  It has finally cooled off enough for me to start working out again.  Today is the day. I am heading to Inokashira Kouen at 9 or 10 o'clock this evening to do an hour or hour and a half of fast walking.

The last time I lived in Tokyo, I did not have to arrange to work out but this time I am a bit closer to the station and can't depend on just my commute to keep the undergraduate diet from showing up on my butt.  Plus I need some cardio to keep my head on straight (well still slightly twisted but not actually sprained).

The undergraduate diet is exactly like the rest of living in Japan compared to living in America...some parts of it are incredibly different but a lot of it is exactly the same.

Before we delve into comparisons though we need to define the undergrad diet.  First undergrads usually have no money (I am not as desperate as most undergrads, but I am under a tighter budget this time around), which means sticking to the cheapest food you can find without actually dumpster diving (not an option here as dumpsters are fewer and much farther between, as far as I can tell).  The second point that needs to be addressed with the undergrad diet is that you have no time.  I have no time because I am a compulsive study hound, most of the people I go to school with have no time due to various drinking and video game commitments (although I have to give props for my friends who are gainfully employed and my friend Yuta who is taking 8 count them 8 classes this semester, I expect him to actually die sometime before finals.) but no matter what the reason undergrads have no time to indulge in something as frivolous as the preparation of food.  These are the two conditions that define the eating habits of the student body in their native environment.  Food for students need only have two qualities: cheap and fast ( I am not talking about a quick stir fry fast either, I am talking pouring boiling water into a styrofoam cup or grabbing something wrapped in plastic fast.)

Now we can address the differences between the student diet in the US and in Japan.  If this were a competition the first point would go to Japan for having a much healthier range of fast to grab prepared foods in convenience stores and supermarkets.  This is a result of necessity, there are about 8 million people living in Tokyo (this is a lot lower than a couple decades ago, but it is still pretty impressive) and most of them live (like me) in apartments that range from closet size studios to American one bedroom size (pretty damn big by Tokyo standards) so we have most of the population in little apartments with postage stamp size kitchens.  There are a lot of people who depend on their food mostly being cooked somewhere other than their own kitchen.  America is going to get a point for having a wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables that do not require you to take out a second mortgage to buy them.  I was going to buy four apples at the grocery store a couple of days ago and realized that they came out to about a buck fifty each (US)  I don't even really like apples...I just eat them because I should...I passed.  Japan gains a health point for the fact that beef is hugely expensive here so nobody eats it very often, but they immediately lose that point because they often like to throw a random piece of pork into things and not just in Japan but a lot of Asia, pork has to have big ribbons of fat running through it (here pork is NOT the other white meat, it is in fact a lard delivery system).  Japan also loses a health point because it is an unwritten rule here that there are very few foods that cannot be improved by putting an egg on top of them.  In Tokyo we also stand fearless in the face of mayo, margarine, pastries and cream (low fat is not a concept that gains a lot of traction here.)

Ok this post has gotten out of hand and has now been designated a two parter.  In other words to be continued...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kanji Reality Check

In my Kanji class, over the course of the semester, we have four kanji review tests.  Each of these tests makes up 10% of our overall grade. Each test covers about 60-70 kanji that we have learned recently along with a couple hundred compounds, about 10-15 radicals and some stroke order questions.  The few days before these tests are kanji hell, grinding and memorizing kanji every free second for several days.

I just got my first kanji review test of the semester back today.  I got 97% (applause, applause) and needless to say, I was feeling pretty damn good about it.

As I was on my commute home, I was checking out various signs and advertisements picking out words in kanji that I have learned over the last few years.  I start thinking about the number of kanji I know.  I can recognize and read about 300 hundred kanji, and I can consistently write about 100 of them correctly.  Impressive, right?  Only for a third grader.

I have been studying kanji for about 5 years and I can recognize about 300.  There are about 3,000 kanji in common use.  What this means is that I know about 10% of the kanji necessary to read a newspaper.  Sometimes it does not pay to have a sense of perspective.