Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009-

I don't have enough time to write much today which is probably a good thing because I don't have any news to report. Luckily I'm headed over to my friend Miki's house (remember the BBQ and Bowling??) because my host-parents are going to some event out of town. I get to meet her family and we'll hang out all day tomorrow. Should be fun, apparently they own a barber shop. Who knows, maybe I'll get carried away and dye my hair black and finally blend in! Oh wait, I forgot I'm about a foot taller than most people here. (No really, one of my friends in cooking class figured it out, she's 4 foot 8 inches. I laughed when I realized that she was only a little shorter than almost everyone else:)
Thanks for the comments to keep truckin'. I'm hoping something will kick in here soon and I'll really begin to start grasping this culture and language. Won't be able to write tomorrow either, sorry.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009-

Tougher day today. Don’t need to go into all the details but the long nights and zero social life are finally starting to wear on me. Can’t say my host family is at all encouraging in this matter so I’ve been feelin’ a little lost lately.

But besides that fact school was less work than normal today. Three hours in the library, one hour of calligraphy, and two hours of my classmates filling out trout statistics that were way over my head in Japanese so I got to read my book and sleep.

In calligraphy the past two lessons I’ve been practicing the phrase of, “Hirogaru Yume” or 広がる夢. It means, ‘a growing and widening dream.’ I have a really cool image of what this means in my mind but I’ll let you make up your own for today. Enjoy the Calligraphy, it’s much tougher than it seems! I’m by no means what you’d call, “good!” = ) But it is quite fun and it’s definitely something new.

書道 しょどう Shodou Calligraphy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009-

If you’ve been keeping track you’ll know that because of midterm testing, a typhoon, a weekend, and a holiday I had not had a real class since last Tuesday.
Well add another word to that list: Fishery Trip! That’s right, my very non-Mrs. Frizzle fishery instructor, Yoshida-Sensei, ushered my awesome homeroom class onto the fish-mobile this morning around 8:30. We drove for almost two hours, making our way south and east towards the coast. I was so excited to see Ibaraki-ken again (yay Yosh) and especially to see the ocean. Today’s fieldtrip was my first time to the coast while in Japan.
We drove along the beach for a little while as we came into Miko, Ibaraki Prefecture and the salt air was dry and sharp rolling off the of the ocean. Our first stop was actually for the necessities: bathroom, 7-Eleven, and, of course, to buy bait. You see today’s trip was technically a “River Survey.”
What this meant for me is that when we unloaded it was in the only inland estuary in the Kanto region. There I spent the day fishing! Haha you read correct, my job for the river survey was to catch different fish and we kept track of the different species. The vast majority of everything we caught was under 5 inches and barely registered as a tap on the line. My friend Seiya's fish on the right can't be bigger than my little finger! More than once did we reel in only to realize we’d actually caught something without realizing it = )

The other students spent the time using little nets and pokers to collect shrimp, krill, minnows, and crabs from the water. The weather was fantastic and we definitely enjoyed the afternoon without class. I just can’t get over my luck of ending up in the fishery program. It’s really something I look forward to each day. As we drove back the weather got worse and my bike ride home provided some bizarre clouds and scenery.

Apparently it had down poured in Nakagawa while we were gone. Yoshida-Sensei once again sent me biking home with a bag of still wriggling fish so for dinner my host mom prepared fresh tempura! What a treat…

A fellow fisherman - I just found his pose pretty humorous
My friend Yuki fishing
You know a road is long when it becomes just a point in the distance
A random patch of sun poking through the solid wall of clouds overhead
My delicious tempura dinner!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009-

Perhaps my most telling self-revelation of Rotary so far has also been reached by BFF Samantha Roma Weaver (

When I signed up for Rotary I though, “This is great, I’m going to have so much free time and nothing to do all day. It will be such a change, I can’t wait!” Well guess what, I’ve verified that I am in fact someone who thrives on a crammed schedule with many organized social outlets. Wow, who would’ve thought = )

But at least now I know, so thank you Rotary

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009-

Today was national Health and Fitness Day. It meant no school once again so during the afternoon my host mom took me to a shopping center twenty minutes away where she bought rice cakes and fish before we had tea (so Asian!!) Anyway, once I got home I spent the last hour or so of sunlight biking down to the river. I’ve had lots and lots of free time here and it’s in some ways been nice. But I’ve learned that I prefer a full schedule with lots of social interactions. Nights have been a little slow…But as Rachael Stets ( said in her latest two blogs: I digress! Enjoy the pictures and the Japanese Characters for each one.


黄色い - Kiiroi - Yellow
緑 - Midori - Green
渋色 - Shibuiro - Tan
青い - Aoi - Blue
灰色 - Haiiro - Ashen
紅 - Kurenai - Crimson
銀色 - Giniro - Silver
金色 - Kiniro - Golden
影 - Kage - Silhouette
夕映え - Yuubae - Sunset Glow

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009-

In some ways this morning felt like every other Sunday morning back home. I was up around 9 because my parents were hosting all of the Sato family to Nakagawa in order to honor their ancestors. Everyone dressed in black and crowded into the cars as we made our way into the Nakagawa countryside. Graveyards here come in two varieties, 1) the ones at the temple, which I think is the most common choice, and 2) Small, random plots fenced off by stone bricks at random points throughout the rice fields and forest hills. The Sato’s plot is literally just a 10 by 10 space where the trees meet the plain looking East toward the river. They placed incense and fresh flowers on the grave and gave a blessing to those who had passed on. Meanwhile 6-year-old Riho spent most of the time poking a frog with a stick. We quickly moved onto the temple another 10 minutes away. There yet more people joined us, making a group of about 20 or so people. The priest at the temple welcomed everyone in and we ate sweets and drank tea until he ushered us into the main “worshipping room.”

I chose a seat at the back next to Riho and Saki. It was a very different type of service from what I’m used to. Again Riho spent most of the time making hand puppets. The priest chanted almost the entire time and each family member went up to the front in order to pray again. They offered for me to go up but I explained that it was against Christianity to worship other idols. Afterwards they started asking me about church and what a usual Sunday morning is like for me. They knew next to nothing about the topic, but then again before today I knew almost nothing about theirs either. So while some may worry that I went against my faith today, I consider it more of a cultural experience than I spiritual one. I in no ways now believe what my host family does, but at least now I understand where they’re coming from.

Afterwards we spent the afternoon eating a delicious sushi lunch. I was introduced to the family and nearly everyone wanted to shake my hand or start up a conversation of some kind. I wish I could carry on more elaborate conversations than such simple topics as my school schedule and my favorite foods…oh well, it will come right? PS Riho spent this time collecting all of the bottle caps from the tables.

Saki and Riho and I played for most of the afternoon. Some highlights include smashing a chestnut with a hammer, learning each of our blood pressures using Papa Sato’s machine (mine’s 127/67 by the way, is that good or bad??) and peeling a whole bowl of tangerines.

But really, how do kids have that much energy?? I could use a little more right now. I think I need to crash, full weekend and to make things better tomorrow is a national holiday. No school! PS. For those who are counting, I just entered my 50th page on my Word document. Size 14 Bradley Hand ITC TT-Bold, SINGLE SPACED…I can’t imagine how long this is going to be once the year is up = )

At Right: 1st grader, Ri-chan is drawing me a picture of flowers while her mom, Yuki, looks on

PS Yes, they did have matching dresses!

Saturday, October 10, 2009-

This weekend feels as though it has lasted for far more than just 48 hours. Luckily I don’t mean that in the sense that is has dragged on and one, instead I feel as if I have crammed a week’s worth of activities into the past two days.

When I last wrote to you on Friday night I was not expecting to (only an hour after posting those pictures) be invited across the street to a dinner with our neighbors. This weekend was the Nakagawa International Rice Harvesting Festival and international students from around Tochigi are hosted by families in Nakagawa in order to take part in the festivities. The event has been organized by Kevin Blackburn for the past several years and our neighbors across the street had offered to host both Simon Sigier (the Rotary boy from France who lives about 20 mins North of me) and a girl named Min from Seoul, South Korea. I spent nearly four hours sitting and chatting with the Japanese Inazawa Family, a boy from France, and a girl from Korea. I love feeling international! I was only able to use Japanese and that was definitely a good thing. I have been somewhat lacking on the whole “young and lively host family” aspect that all of my friends are experiencing so to meet the Inazawa’s was a real treat.

Min tuned out to be a very outgoing, happy-go-lucky 21-year-old Korean who is studying at the University of Utsunomiya. She is fluent in spoken Japanese, having learned nearly all of it from watching Japanese TV programs back in Korea. So she can carry on full and elaborate conversations but knows hardly any of the written language. She’s the first person I’ve ever met who knows a language like that.

The next day I also took part in the rice harvesting and let me tell you, it’s much more work than you might think. After we’d each introduce ourselves to the group they handed us little hand-sickles and we got to work clearing one small rice paddy. I am thankful that I didn’t have to clear it by myself because it there hadn’t been 30 plus hands helping out I think it could have taken me all day! Nonetheless it was my first time harvesting rice (that’s my very first cut on the right), and I now have a much greater respect for all of the work that goes into growing and collecting even a tiny patch.

The rest of the afternoon included:

Pounding rice into a sticky paste used to make Japanese Mochi Rice Cakes (that mallet weighed a ton!)


Min and I helping to create the NINE-METER long sushi roll. Cucumber, flavored gourd, and fish row…a little odd, I’ll admit

My fellow Rotary Exchange student, Max, and I

And several performances, including this girl from China playing us a Pipa piece she wrote (I think that’s what they said) about the emotions of being an international student in a new country. It made me think of you Gao, I have no idea how good this girl is compared to others, but sitting in a crowded tent after harvesting rice we were all pretty darn impressed! This is my first video via Blogger, I hope it works okay = \

After the rice harvesting we each drove home with our host families and I joined Min and Simon for the afternoon. We visited Bato’s famous Japanese art museum. Sad to say nearly two months here and yesterday was my first time. After the museum we went bowling. Lots of laughs as none of us were very good. In fact it was only Min’s second time, but we had fun. We also visited the public Onsen, which is only 3 minutes down the street from my house. I had no idea there was one that close, I will definitely be headed back soon! Dinner was the interesting おでん Oden soup made of such things as whole boiled eggs, slices of daikon, fish paste cakes, potatoes, and octopus tubes…It was actually okay once I learned to stay away from the octopus tubes. We ended the night watching a Japanese anime movie called “Laputa: Castle In The Sky.” It had English subtitles so I could fallow along…again, very interesting…