Week 15: 焼肉 Family Dinner

December 15, 2016

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After our Japanese reading class, I asked Patrik if he wanted to go to the convenience store with me to just buy some hot coffee and hang out for a bit. We both didn’t have anything after class so he agreed. Of course, we stopped in his room first so he could drop some stuff off. As we were leaving his room, he told me to put my hand out. I did as I was told and he dropped some peanuts into my hand. Surprisingly, I’ve never eaten peanuts with the shell. I’ve always eaten peanuts from jars that were already de-shelled. He had to show me a trick on how to crack them open. Apparently everyone back home eats peanuts all the time around Christmas…his mom even sent these peanuts to him all the way from Slovakia. We ate them while walking to the convenience store and they were delicious. I’m going to have to ask my mom to buy some peanuts for us to eat on Christmas!

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Isabella surprised me with box of Wasabi Kit Kats from Tokyo. I remember trying one in high school; my friend’s mom had some and had us try it. I thought it was the most interestingly delicious Kit Kat. I always talk about it around Isabella and Annabelle because they’re obsessed with finding different types of Kit Kats. Well, while they were in Tokyo they found a store with several different types of Kit Kats, one being wasabi, so Isabella bought some for me. I had her try one too and she even admitted that it was good! I gave Patrik one as well and he liked it too. I don’t know how to quite describe the taste because it takes just like wasabi but the Kit Kat is also very sweet. I love it.

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This week, I went to my last RCOS activity with Patrik, Isabella, and Annabelle. We all decided to sign up for one together. I know Patrik and I have already gone to two together but we thought it would be fun for Isabella and Annabelle to experience hanging out with Japanese elementary school students. We arrived at Nangai Elementary School pretty early so the man in charge told us that we could walk around and explore the school. At the moment, the kids were doing work and cleaning around the school. Everyday the kids have to clean the floors, bathroom, classrooms, and well, basically do housework in the school. I snapped a picture of a couple of kids wiping down the basketball court floors. There were several other kids washing the floors. They would look up at us and see that we were international students and scream “HELLO” and “NICE TO MEET YOU.”

Instead of playing games with the kids, like Patrik and I did at Omagari Elementary School and the kindergarten, the children asked us questions in English. Each student had a sheet they had to fill out after asking us what our favorite fruit, sport, subject, country, food, and animal were. They sat in groups of four so we would each sit with a group then move onto the next group after about 10-15 minutes. The kids were surprised when I answered with Okinawa Soba for my favorite food. I explained to them that I used to live in Okinawa and they were very shocked. At the end of the interview, the kids were allowed to ask us any questions they wanted to until the time ran out. One of the groups asked me what my favorite Japanese word was and I answered with 時差ぼけ (jisaboke), which means jetlag. I learned this word for one of my vocabulary quizzes in Japanese class this semester and I don’t know why, but I love the word. You wouldn’t believe this, but after saying 時差ぼけ the children immediately asked me what that word meant. I had to have the teacher explain to them the meaning of the word. I guess I didn’t know what jetlag meant when I was in elementary school either? Who knows? Anyways, we all had such a great time interacting with the children, even Isabella and Annabelle, who don’t know much Japanese. It was a fun last RCOS event!

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After Nangai Elementary School, Isabella, Annabelle, Kevin, and I wanted to go to the mall to go grocery shopping, so we decided to eat dinner at the food court there as well. Patrik stayed on campus to eat dinner so I bought him his carton of milk from the grocery store. He always drinks a carton of milk after drinking and partying since it apparently helps prevent hangovers. I should probably start doing that…well, Isabella, Annabelle, and Kevin all got dinner from Pepper Lunch. This fast food restaurant serves the steak in a sizzling plate so you have to cook the steak yourself once you sit down. I decided to get udon because they had some spicy special and I love spicy food so, of course, I had to order it. After we ate, we shopped around in different stores, went to the pet store to see the cute puppies, and went to an ice cream shop. Annabelle and Isabella are obsessed with the matcha ice cream they serve. I also bought Kevin a 6-pack of beer to thank him for letting Patrik and I sleep over in the Airbnb they rented in Tokyo. He started drinking one of the beers immediately after I bought him the back. It’s legal to drink alcohol from a can in public in Japan; Kevin loves to take advantage of that rule.


Remember the ポスター発表 (poster presentation) I mentioned before? Well, we had our presentations on Friday. An elementary school even came to watch us present some of our posters. I was very nervous but thankfully, I was able to memorize my speech! I did mess up a couple of times but my message still came across so no worries. At the end of our speech, we are supposed to ask 何か質問はありませんか, which translates to “are there any questions?” I had a couple of people ask me about 5 questions and oh man, I loved it. I love talking about Okinawa. It made me even more excited to be going back in just a couple of weeks for winter break! Don’t get me wrong though, I’m also very upset that I’ll be leaving Akita soon.

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For her flower arrangement class, Isabella was allowed to create her own flower presentation. When I first saw it, I jokingly said it looked like Easter. Unfortunately, I never took a picture of the flowers while they were alive so here is a picture of the dying flowers. I opened the curtains and let the lighting in and I don’t know about you, but I think this is a pretty cool picture despite the dying flowers.

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For dinner on Saturday night, Patrik told us about this all you can eat 焼肉 (yakiniku) that costs only ¥2000 per person. It was a 15-minute walk away from the mall, which we were all dreading considering the amount of snow on the ground. By the time we got to the restaurant, our hands were freezing so we used the grill in the middle of the table to warm up our hands. I was so surprised with the amount of food available to us. Not only did they have a large selection of meat, they also had regular food (spaghetti, ramen, udon, meatballs, fries, etc.) and many different types of sushi. They even had a dessert section where you could make your own crepes and cotton candy. It was a beautiful sight really.


Nils and Kevin decided to take the fish from the sushi and grill some of it. Kevin ended up liking it so much that he came back with about 20 pieces of squid sushi and grilling it. Kevin doesn’t like rice so he ended up stacking the rice from the sushi in a bowl. Don’t worry though, it didn’t go to waste; Griff ate it all with his meat. Oh, I forgot to mention that there was an ice cream section as well. They had matcha flavor and oh boy, Griff went all out. He LOVES match flavored ice cream. I’ve never seen such a happy boy. All of us got full after about 30-40 minutes of straight eating. I couldn’t sit up straight. We all sat at the table and talked while letting our stomachs digest. Patrik’s crazy self kept getting more and more food though. Every 5 minutes he was sitting back down with another dessert. He really wanted to get his money’s worth.

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Here’s a selfie Patrik took of all of us. What a great last family dinner. I’m not going to lie though the walk back to the mall was probably the best part. The guy and I all had a snowball fight. We were trying to form alliances but kept going against each other. The girls were all the way in the front trying to avoid us. One minute they were next to us…the next minute they were 100 meters ahead of us. We ended up catching up to them and hitting them with snowballs.


Isabella and I decided to do laundry at 1am just to get it out of the way. We needed to change so I broke my ¥1000 bill in the vending machine and bought hot coffee for me and hot milk tea for Isabella. The snow was beautiful so we walked outside for a bit while sipping on our hot drinks. The picture above is of Isabella concentrating on the snowflakes attaching to her eyelashes. I couldn’t stop laughing because it looked like she was staring off into the distance…we were laughing so hard. Oh brother. Sleep deprivation is a wonderful thing.

15403156_10210866845014487_103781612_n.jpgThe snow just keeps piling up. I still don’t own any boots so I’m walking around with my slip on vans. Did I mention that my vans have holes in them? There’s only two weeks left here though so I think I can manage. I should probably buy a pair of boots before I return to Richmond though considering it snows there too. Oh man. Well, last week of school starts tomorrow then I’m off to Osaka. I don’t think it’s hit me that I’m leaving Akita yet. It’s hard to believe that I’m never going to see most of these people again. 11 more days and that will all be over. I’m so used to walking around, going to class, and grabbing meals with friends. It probably won’t hit me that I’m leaving until I set foot into the airport. I’m really going to miss this place.


Week 14: 東京 and Owls

December 12, 2016


For our JPL300 class, we have to create a poster and present on any topic that interests us for 5-7 minutes in Japanese. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty nervous about this because speaking in only Japanese for that long of a period…man, I have to start practicing soon. Patrick is presenting on テレビゲーム (video games) and I’m presenting on 沖縄 (Okinawa). We worked on our posters in Isabella’s room Tuesday night. We started at around 9:30pm thinking it would only take an hour but ended up working on it till 1am. We didn’t mind though because we enjoyed working on it and listened to some music on the speakers – hip-hop/rap, hard rock, and EDM. We all have very different music tastes. In my presentation, I’m talking about Okinawan foods (goya chanpuru and Okinawa soba), the pretty beaches, and the Orion Beer Fest. I had some extra white space so I decided to draw on my poster. I was really proud of my Shisa dog that I drew (on the right of the title). I did copy it off a picture on my laptop but considering how horrible of a drawer I am, I thought I did pretty well.

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I’m not 100% sure if this is correct or not but Patrik told us that Pac-Man originated from a missing pizza slice. Apparently the man who created Pac-Man was out eating pizza, took a slice, and thought of the character’s shape right there. Patrik also said the man said to himself, “everyone likes pizza!” so everyone would then like Pac-Man. I couldn’t stop laughing when Patrik was telling us this because he sounded so animated when imitating the creator of Pac-Man. Like I said, I don’t know if this is true or not so don’t take my word on it. I still think it’s pretty cool and worth mentioning though since I didn’t know about this.


I mentioned earlier that Patrik and I went to an elementary school in Omagari to play with the kids. Well, this past Wednesday morning, Patrik and I went to a kindergarten in the same area. We each had to introduce a game to play with the kids. Patrik chose musical chairs and I chose Duck, Duck, Goose. There was one girl who was chosen as the goose who could never run fast enough to get into the new sport. After about the fifth time of her being tagged, she started crying. She cried later on as well when she couldn’t get a seat in musical chairs. Poor girl. After we played our games, the kindergartners showed us their own game. The all sat in a circle with cards sprawled out in the middle. Each card had a hiragana character in the corner. The kids would have to grab the card with the hiragana character the teacher read out loud. It got pretty intense. The kids would all just jump into the middle of the circle looking for the correct card. I was afraid some of them would bump heads. Sometimes multiple kids would jump on the correct card at the same time and because the teacher couldn’t tell who got it first, the kids did Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who would rightfully win the card. With every disagreement, Rock, Paper, Scissors was played. I thought it was adorable and smart. I think even older kids play this game to come up with a settlement.


When Patrik and I went to the elementary school, we were given the same small lunch as the kids. We were expecting the same thing again this time but in kindergarten, instead of the school supplying the food, everyone brings a bento box from home. In Japan, making bentos is a hobby. Many people, usually mothers, get very creative when making bentos. For example, one girl had a bow shaped sausage and another girl had a crown shaped boiled egg. Patrik and I even got our own bentos and wow, they were delicious. It had a variety of vegetables and meats in addition to the rice topped with an umeboshi (dried sweet plum).

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We headed to Tokyo this past weekend and before doing so, Patrik wanted to bleach and dye his hair gray. I helped him bleach his hair Wednesday night and dye his hair Thursday night. There was some leftover bleach so Patrik and I decided to put some in my hair, only a little though. It didn’t really do anything; I guess my hair is too dark. My left hand is a bit purple from the dye. Weird, huh? The hair dye also came out purple on Patrik’s hair instead of gray. Well, some parts are gray and other parts are purple!

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So, this past weekend, Patrik and I went to Tokyo! I told my mom that Patrik, Isabella, and the CO crew were all heading there to visit for the weekend. My mom then offered to buy round trip bus tickets, just as long as I don’t miss class! I took the bus with Patrik to and from Tokyo. We both couldn’t sleep on the 10 hour bus ride both ways. I just listened to music and practiced memorizing my speech for Japanese. There was a guy on the bus who talked to us during the stops. He was visiting his grandma in Akita and going back home to Tokyo. Of course, Patrik and I talked in our broken Japanese. At our last bus stop, the guy asked us for our ages and he was surprised that I was 20 and Patrik was 22; he thought we were older. I asked him for his age expecting to hear 23. Instead, he told us that he was 19! I was shocked. Right before we got back on the bus he took off two bracelets and gave one to Patrik and I. Now we have matching bracelets! I was so happy.


Patrik and I arrived in Tokyo at around 6am. Patrik had to go to the NHK TV Station at 12pm because he was invited to participate in a shooting. So, I decided to hang out with him till he left then I would go and meet up with Isabella and everyone else. We walked all the way to the Shinju Shrine (Sandy told us to not come back to Akita unless we go to this shrine). I was very shocked when walking to it because we were just surrounded by trees and green. I didn’t expect there to be so much nature in the middle of Tokyo. It was a pretty big shrine as well. There were tourist groups walking around and people taking pictures everywhere. Patrik and I threw our coins and prayed. Then we washed our hands with the water scoop. Afterwards, we walked to Harajuku and looked around. Patrik tried Mos Burger for the first time – Japanese chain fast food restaurant. Many Americans don’t try it because the name sounds unappealing but the Mos burger is actually very delicious. Anyways, Patrik ended up leaving and I walked all the way from Harajuku to Shinjuku instead of taking a train. It was about a 45-minute walk. My feet were in so much pain.

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Isabella and Annabelle were keen on going to the Owl Café so after I met up with them at H&M, we made our way to the café. It was ¥1800 for an hour…I thought it was quite expensive but these goofballs really wanted to go. When I walked in I was surprised to see 10 owls, all different kinds. The guy working there spoke broken English so I was able to hold a conversation with him with my broken Japanese as well. He put owls on all of our heads, hands, and shoulders. One of the owls looked so animated – you can see the owl on Isabella’s shoulder in the picture above. It’s eyes were just beads…Isabella kind of looks like it in that picture! The guy working there told me that he had never been to America but was going next summer for his wedding. Vegas!


On Sunday, we all slept in a bit after a night of going out so we woke up around lunchtime. Isabella found this recommended ramen restaurant called Ichiran so we made our way there. There was a line outside but we didn’t mind waiting. When we finally made it inside we were shocked to see that each chair was closed off. You basically got your own stall to eat your ramen; if you’re anti-social this place would be perfect for you! When ordering our ramen, we were asked what spiciness level we wanted. It went up to 20 but 10 was the recommended high. Isabella LOVES spicy food so of course, she put down 10. I saw Patrik put down 10 as well so I had no choice but to put down 10. Patrik likes spicy food but he doesn’t handle it well. Patrik and I were seated next to each other but Isabella and Annabelle were seated elsewhere due to lack of seating. I’m not kidding when I say Patrik and I were breaking a sweat. We stripped our jackets and hoodies off. Patrik drank 4 cups of water within 2 minutes. It was pretty great. He couldn’t finish so I finished the rest of his ramen for him. Afterwards, we waited outside for the girls. It was freezing outside but we were still so hot from the ramen that we just stood outside in our T-shirts.

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After Ichiran, we decided to go to Asakusa. I know I’ve gone there several times but Patrik, Isabella, and Annabelle had never visited before so I insisted on taking them. I didn’t think it would be difficult to figure out the train system but it was…it took us a good 30 minutes till we could figure out where we had to go. Please, never rely on me for directions.

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We were so relieved when we finally made it to Asakusa! Annabelle was so happy to see all of the shops. She wanted to buy all the souvenirs she could find. Isabella and Annabelle both bought some snacks while walking down the street. Patrik and I split a 6-pack of postcards. It was nice just walking around. Diane, the friend I visited the last time I went to Tokyo, met up with us at Asakusa. I was extremely happy to see her again, especially since the next time I see her will probably not be till later next year. We walked up to the temple and threw our coins and prayed. Afterwards, we stopped at a convenience store to buy some drinks. I was in desperate need for coffee and Isabella was in desperate need for a warm drink. Unfortunately, she has been sick for the past coupe of days – sore throat and runny nose. Hopefully she gets better soon, especially with finals coming up!

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After Asakusa, we headed to Shibuya to show everyone the Shibuya crossing. We weren’t hungry for dinner yet so we shopped around. Diane ended up buying some yoga pants from Bershka – she’s starting to work out more at a gym near her apartment. Isabella and Annabelle didn’t find anything. Patrik and I don’t care to shop as much so we just talked and walked for the most part. It started raining a bit so we decided to look for a restaurant. Again, we are an indecisive bunch so deciding on a restaurant took a while. Diane found a building with restaurants on three floors so it was easier for us to choose from that.

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The five of us had to squish into a four-seater booth. It was pretty tight but we all wanted to sit next to each other. I was very happy that everyone had the chance to meet Diane. It’s funny thinking that I have friends from study abroad that have met my high school friends AND my mom and brother. Sometimes I feel like study abroad is such a temporary thing and you meet people that you will never see again. But, for me, it’s more than that. I know that Patrik and I are going to be friends for a looong time. I mean, he’s coming to Okinawa with me this winter break. He’s going to see where I grew up and meet my friends from high school. It’s like my study abroad life and my actual life are coming together? I don’t know…it’s hard to explain but it’s a very nice feeling. I’ve made friends that I know I will see again and meet up with. Even Isabella and Annabelle. I’m sure I will see them again in the states. I do have an aunt living two blocks away from their school.

Well, there’s only two more weeks left of school. Time is ticking.


Naomi at Akita Week 7: 肉人参

October 24, 2016

On Thursday, Patrick and I decided to go on a walk since I was stood up for my date. Just kidding, not date. I’m an LDIC (Language Development and Intercultural Studies Center) conversation leader. The LDIC is a self-directed language-learning center that provides several resources for students trying to learn a new language. They provide several computers and you can check out movies or TV shows. For example, they offer the entire series of Friends with subtitles for any student trying to learn English (I love Friends). I volunteer through the Foreign Language Conversation Support meaning any student can sign up with me to talk about anything in order to improve their English speaking skills. I had two appointments and my first one didn’t show up so Patrick and I went for a short walk before my next appointment. It was such a beautiful day but, unfortunately, our walk lasted only 20 minutes. Patrick asked to borrow my earphones so he could listen to music and continue walking while I headed back to the LDIC for my next appointment. You wouldn’t believe this but my second appointment didn’t show up either…いいね〜

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This weekend, my high school friend from Okinawa visited me. Her name is Ami and she’s currently a senior at Osaka International School. She arrived Friday afternoon, so we both ate lunch at the school cafeteria then went on a walk to a shrine near campus. Unfortunately, it was raining but we took some umbrellas from Komachi lobby (one of the dorm buildings) and headed over. The shrine seemed randomly place and was very secluded. We had to walk up several stairs just to get to it. Ami and I bowed at the entrance, gave money to the shrine, clapped our hands twice, and prayed for a bit. Afterwards, we headed back to campus and took the bus to AEON mall. We shopped for a bit before Patrik joined us. He was very enthusiastic about going to the arcade and finding Dance Dance Revolution. I didn’t think they would have it but we ended up finding it and “dancing” for a bit. Ami played once and refused to continue so Patrik and I finished up our turns then we all headed to dinner. I forgot the name of the restaurant but wow…the food was delicious. Ami speaks Japanese fluently and knows the dialects of both Okinawa and Osaka so we talked about that for a bit, as Patrik was very interested. Ami actually thought the way people speak in Akita was very weird; apparently, understanding people with an Akita dialect is difficult for people outside of the prefecture.

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On Saturday, we headed to a beer festival in the city. We took the bus from campus to Wada Station then the train from Wada to Akita. On the train, Ami interviewed Patrik for her article. She writes for her school newspaper and wanted to write about her visit to our school. While she was doing that, everyone was staring out the window at the passing rice fields and I was playing Sudoku on my phone. We actually ended up skipping on the festival because it was very small and expensive and instead we just hung out at different spots in the city. For lunch, we went to Lawson’s (convenience store) and bought riceballs/steamed buns/ramen. It’s common for people to buy cup noodles and eat it right there. Lawson’s actually provides hot water for you, so Ami ate her noodles on the street while we were all talking and hanging out.

On our way back to campus after hanging out in the city, we had an hour at Wada station till the bus arrived. So, naturally, we had a photo shoot…meaning, I took several pictures of Ami while everyone else sat on the side and snacked on pizza flavored chips. These are some of the pictures I snapped. She looks like a monkey in the one of her hanging off the pole. We ended up playing music out loud and dancing freely since there was no one in sight.

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I forgot to take a picture so I had to screenshot from Isabella’s snapchat story but later that night, Isabella invited us over for dinner. She made 肉じゃが (nikujaga) and we ate it with rice; it was her first time making it but it turned out amazing. Nikujaga literally means meat and potatoes; this is a common Japanese dish of meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, and konnyaku noodles. Isabella only had two potatoes left so she actually apologized to us because it was more of 肉人参 (nikuninjin), as in meat and carrots.

Sunday was Ami’s last day so we woke up early before she had to head to the airport at 12pm. We woke up and immediately went for a walk around the park near campus before even changing out of our PJs. She has a set pair from Uniqlo and I thought it was the cutest thing. She only brought one pair of socks with her (she forgot apparently), so she had to wear my socks. She also stole my shoes that morning so she was pulling off the typical Naomi look, as in mismatching with the striped socks and checkerboard shoes. Ami said it felt like Christmas with all of the green trees and her red PJs, so she ended up playing Christmas music; Mistletoe by Justin Bieber was played. Afterwards, we headed back to my apartment to change and went straight to the convenience store near campus to buy breakfast. Then, I gave her a tour of the campus. It took less than half an hour, as AIU’s campus is very small. She was mostly impressed with Nakajima Library, as is everyone. Our library was actually voted to be one of the nicest libraries in Japan, I believe. Whenever our school is written about in an article or posted in a handout, our library is always shown because of how beautiful it is. After the tour, my friend Toshi took us to the airport. Ami bought some お土産 (souvenirs) for her family and friends back in Osaka. I wasn’t too upset when I said bye to her because I plan on visiting her in Osaka one weekend before the end of my study abroad.

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After dropping Ami off at the airport, Patrik decided that we should go on a walk to another shrine near campus. Instead of a 20-minute walk, like the shrine I went to with Ami, this shrine was a 55-minute walk away. We had no plans for the day and it was so beautiful outside so it was no problem. We walked through villages that were completely surrounded by trees and rice fields. There were several elderly people working in the fields and in their gardens. We saw two older men stacking huge bags of something (we couldn’t figure out what it was) and Patrik went up to them and asked if he could take a picture in their tractor. He’s not shy at all! When we finally made it to the shrine we gave some money and clapped our hands twice then prayed. The name of the shrine was八幡神社 and, unlike the other shrine I went to with Ami, this shrine was right next to the road and not as secluded. After our visit to the shrine, Patrik told me there was a river near us so we walked even further. The water was so peaceful. We saw someone canoeing in the distance. Also, while walking near the river, we both looked up and saw at least…AT LEAST 100 dragonflies just swarming around; I’m not exaggerating. After the river, Patrik said there was a temple nearby as well, so we walked even further than intended. On our way back to campus, instead of walking on the sidewalk near the streets, we walked on the pathways in the fields (there was a lot of poop). Our walk ended up being four hours and we got back on campus as the sun had set. It was a good time but our weekend ended with us heading to the library to work on our 作文 – essay for Japanese class about the AIU festival last weekend.

 


Naomi at Akita Week 6: きりたんぽ and 栗駒山

October 14, 2016

This past weekend we had a four-day weekend due to the AIU Festival!! It was two long days of food, performances, games, food, and food. Many students/clubs came together and set up food stands. There was even an Okinawa Soba (my favorite food from home) stand! Some of our friends were selling food as well like cinnamon waffles, which were amazing by the way, hot dogs, curry udon, fried meat/cheese/pumpkin, and bubble tea. I was able to go on the outside of a bridge connecting two of our buildings to snap a picture of some of the stands. Unfortunately, I had to crouch down and go through some barriers that were filled with spider webs but it was worth it. The web did get on my cap but I was able to refrain from yelling. Also, halfway through the festival, Patrik decided to take a break and re-dyed his hair blue. I helped him out since he couldn’t see the back of his head. When we returned to the festival everyone pointed out how blue his hair was and of course, he responded with “I swam across the China Sea and back and the ocean rubbed off.” Oh, wait, he had another response that is my favorite: “I married a mermaid.”

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Before we headed out the first day, I went to Patrik’s room to get my daily dose of coffee, of course. Unfortunately, he ran out of cup noodle containers so I had to use an actual mug. After inhaling some coffee, we met up with some other friends and walked around. ワン (One), the school’s mascot, was walking around so of course, I told Patrick to take a picture with it. This is the pose he chose.

I took a couple of pictures of some of the events/performances that were held during the festival. Well, the first picture is of two of my friends from Colorado, Isabella and Annabelle, practicing for their dance performance. They’re both in a hip-hop club. Patrik tried practicing with them for a minute, as he was in the hip-hop club for about a week before he dropped it. He couldn’t recall any of the dance moves though so he ended up just moving in weird motions. There were about 5-8 different dance groups that performed that night. One of the groups danced to Michael Jackson, which made me super excited. I was dancing towards Patrik while we were standing in the crowd and he just laughed at me; it was a great feeling. On the second day of the festival, I woke up super early…well, 10:00am, to watch some of my friends perform. Two of my friends that attend AIU sang a couple of American songs and it was beautiful. Bea’s voice was so soothing. Afterwards, I went up to them and saw Bea holding a stuffed animal of Woody’s horse from Toy Story. I think the horses name is Bullseye? It was so random but apparently, Bullseye is their third member of their small band who couldn’t attend. I thought it was cute and worth mentioning.

The second day of the festival also started with me going to Patrik’s room to drink more coffee. Well, I went to his room after watching my friends perform earlier in the morning. I told him that I was going to buy a bowl of きりたんぽ (Kiritanpo) for breakfast because it was cheap and also something I needed to try while living in Akita. Patrik still ate breakfast though: a container of yogurt with his milk coffee and bread chunks mixed in. That right there is the definition of poor college life. He still ended up buying a bowl of Kiritanpo though, as did another friend that joined us. Kiritanpo is a famous dish in the Akita prefecture. Freshly cooked rice is mashed and wrapped around bamboo sticks, forming a cylinder shape, then toasted. That’s the main part of the dish but there are also mushrooms, chicken carcass, green onion, ginger, shirataki noodles, and burdock root. Two ladies working behind the stand tried talking to us about the chewy smashed rice. They wanted to teach us that it was made of rice. Patrik and I understand some Japanese so we were able to respond; they were so 元気 (lively) and their smiles made our day. Griff, Patrik, and I took our bowls and went to the side to eat our bowls of Kiritanpo. It wasn’t too cold out but the hot soup was perfect. The three of us finished our bowls so quickly then headed over to buy some cinnamon waffles.

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My friend, Isabella, invited me to join the Wandervogel Club. I ended up joining along with a couple of other friends and man, what a great decision. Emil, the leader of the club, sets up monthly trips and this past week we went hiking on 栗駒山 (Mountain Kurikoma). It was the perfect time to go because of all the fall colors. We still had an hour left to drive before we made it to the mountain but made a pit stop for a bathroom break and the view was already so beautiful. Takao (right of the picture above) took my camera and snapped pictures of everyone. Every time I’m around him with my camera he asks to take pictures. He’s even thinking of buying his own now!

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Emil told us that it would be -3 degrees Celusius at the top of the mountain so everyone obviously dressed in thick layers. I was wearing pants under a pair of sweatpants, two pairs of socks, a t-shirt, long sleeve, sweater, rain jacket, and jean jacket. I need to buy a winter jacket…but yes, the point is we were all wearing a lot of layers of clothing. Probably 13 seconds after we started hiking, everyone started stripping off their clothes. Halfway up, some of us were sweating. I even sweated through my shirt and onto my backpack. I’m not going to lie, I’m very much out of shape so hiking up the steeps parts of the path was slightly difficult. I was messing around and jokingly yelling while making the trek. Okka started singing “Marry Me” by Bruno Mars and some people started joining in. Isabella practically free-styled for some of the trek. I think the pain from hiking was getting to us. The pain was definitely worth the view climbing up though. The vibrant colors of the trees were beautiful. The way the trees were set up made it look pixelated in some areas of the mountains. We started getting higher than the clouds. We even saw a helicopter in the distance surrounded by clouds and it was the coolest thing; I wish I took a picture of it but my camera wouldn’t be able to zoom in that close.

Look at the clouds! It was such a beautiful sight. We were all so relieved when we finally made it to the top. The last minute of the hike was the hardest because of the steepness but we all forced our way up. As soon as we got to the top we took a quick group picture with the flags that Emil made. A minute later, we immediately started getting cold and put back on the clothes we initially stripped off. Emil brought some pots to boil hot water for everyone so we could all eat cup noodles. We stopped at Family Mart (convenience store) before driving over to the mountain so we could buy some breakfast and cup noodles. Oh man, it was delicious. Takao was sharing his snacks with us while we waited for the water to boil. My mouth was watering for the noodles though. The hot spicy soup was delicious. It warmed up my fingers momentarily so I was able to use my chopsticks correctly. For the next five minutes, everyone was slurping away at their noodles.

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After we made it back down the mountain, we realized that we were two hours behind the schedule Emil set up for the day. Fortunately, no one was in a hurry to get back on campus so we all agreed that we would go to the onsen (hot springs) and get dinner together. We drove about an hour to the onsen. It was a life changing experience. I recommend everyone go. It may be uncomfortable for you to undress completely in front of other people but here no one cares so it gives you ease. The girls and boys are obviously separate so it’s not bad at all. Isabella and I practically ran into the locker room after paying our 600-yen. We were both so cold and I know Isabella had been waiting all week to go to the onsen. She was practically yelling “ONSEN!” with every step she took up that mountain as motivation. It was my first time so I didn’t know how hot the water would be; my skin was on fire! It was so refreshing though; I felt like a new person. We had an hour in the onsen and I knew I wasn’t able to take the heat for that long. I was hanging off the ledge with my arms hanging on the side. Isabella ended up just laying on the ledge so I decided to join. The cool wind felt wonderful. I still can’t believe I was comfortable laying out completely naked like that in the freezing cold. Afterwards, we all took a shower and headed to a restaurant. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but it served set Japanese meals. I sat with Takao, Adiya, Bea, and Isabella. Takao, Adiya, and I all got カツ丼 with a side of Miso soup. カツ丼 is a popular Japanese food with a bowl of rice topped with deep-fried pork cutlet, egg, and sautéed onions. The egg is cooked in a sweet and salty broth as well and it’s so delicious. I wanted to eat another bowl. After dinner, we drove another hour and a half back on campus. We didn’t get back till 12am…we left campus at 6am the day before! All of us were so tired but it was worth it. I can’t wait till next month’s trip!


Naomi at Akita Week 5: Cup Noodle Coffee

October 7, 2016

Saturday night, about 20 bands auditioned in the Student Hall for the main stage for the AIU Festival we’re having this upcoming weekend. I don’t know how this school has so many musically talented individuals; they were all very fun to watch. The pictures above are of Saeki, singer, and Isshin, bassist. They’re in a band called チョゲ (Choge). There are 5 guys in the band and they’re all freshmen, meaning they just formed this band only a couple of weeks ago and they blew the crowd away. Hopefully they get the part!

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Here’s a picture of Patrick bringing me coffee. We have Japanese 300 together everyday. On Tuesday, after our reading class I have a two-hour break before our Kanji class. Lucky for Patrick, he doesn’t have to take the Kanji class since he knows more than what we’re supposed to know. I don’t know how he does it. Anyways, because he’s free, he offers to make me coffee all the time. The thing is he puts the coffee in his finished ramen cups. I think it’s the greatest thing. I just wanted to show you all how genius this idea is.

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On Sunday, some of the Colorado crew (Tristan, Kevin, and Chris) and I decided to explore in Akita City. We took a free bus from the AEON mall to Akita Station and then walked to Senshu Park. This park is the site of the Kubota Castle that was built in 1603. There was a bronze statue of Yoshitaka Satake in the middle of the park as well as the white castle called osumi-yagura, which served as the lookout and weapons depot. There was supposed to be a waterfall next to this castle so we were expecting something big and exciting. Instead, it was the smallest waterfall we had ever seen; it was quite funny actually.

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After walking around for 2-3 hours, we stopped by at Lawson (convenience store) to get some snacks and drinks. Kevin was hungry and couldn’t wait till dinner; we had an hour till Toshi picked us up anyways. We ended up going to Kaitenzushi to ensure Tristan could eat (he’s a vegetarian so going to ramen would’ve been a poor choice). It was super cheap, only 98yen for one plate of sushi! Some of us tried the horsemeat sushi because why not? It was very hard to chew and tasted like…well, nothing. All I could taste was the ginger. It was still nice to try because now I can admit that I’ve tried raw horsemeat! I had 11 plates, by the way. That’s 22 pieces of sushi. Well, 21 pieces. I split a plate with Toshi. We both decided to try something new so we had these thin small transparent fish. I can’t remember the name of it, unfortunately, but you just need to know that it tasted very fishy. I ended up covering the fishy taste with lots of ginger. It was a great time. We all had food babies afterwards though and couldn’t move.


Naomi at Akita: Week 3: Raw Egg

September 19, 2016

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On Monday, my History of Pre-Modern Japan class took a field trip to the Yayoikko Village in Goshono – about a 15-minute drive away from the school. The Akita City Board of Education excavated this Jizouden Site, from Jomon and Yayoi Periods, in 1985. Four pit dwelling houses were found but only three were restored. The style of the houses is called “Kabe Tachi Shiki” which stands for Wall-Stand Type, as you can see in the two pictures above. Professor O’Reilly (pictured above – yes, he has blue hair) actually told us about 50 people lived in each house, which I found to be unbelievable. Our class consisted of about 30 students and when we all went into one house, it was already too stuffed. There was a small museum near this site that exhibited pottery, stone tools, and clay figurines. Some of the pieces of pottery we saw were used as children coffins and several clay figurines found were used as good luck.

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After a long day of classes and napping, our friend Isabella invited us over for dinner. She lives in the University Villages so her kitchen and bedroom are very spacious even though it’s only two people to an apartment. Isabella is actually half Japanese, a quarter Brazilian, and a quarter Italian so she made us Brazilian Strogonof with a side salad. とても美味しかった!We all ended up lying on the ground, listening to music, and teaching each other different words in different languages – Japanese, English, Portuguese, Slovak, etc. I’m telling you guys, you meet people from around the world when you study abroad. People from various countries meeting up in a small, close-knit community in Akita International University talking about things ranging from differing prices of beer to conflicting habits among cultures.

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On Saturday, the school organized a day trip for all of the new students, including international and first-year students. The day consisted of going to a historical Japanese town full of samurai houses in Kakunodate. This historical town was first located in Mt. Furushiro. However, due to floods and fires, the town relocated to Kakunodate, an area with natural terrain, surrounded by mountains. The town is actually split into two parts between Hiyoke (fire shield): the samurai district and merchant district. Before we walked around to look at samurai houses, shrines, and temples, we decided to get something to eat, as none of us had eaten breakfast yet (we had to check in for the buses at 8am). We found a tiny restaurant that served soba, udon, and ramen. I practically inhaled my soba (pictured above); I’m sure you can guess what the best part of the soba was. We ran into a couple of souvenir shops as well and as you can see above, Okkasan had a grand time with a traditional Japanese straw hat.

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After eating, we headed towards the samurai houses that didn’t require an admission fee. We walked along a narrow street called Bukeyashiki-street – designated as a preservation district for nationally important historic buildings. Bukeyashiki translates to warrior mansions. The first picture is of a well from the Iwahashi Samurai House, which was a typical middle-class samurai house. We ended up walking to the front of a shrine, pictured above. Unfortunately, we were unable to go in, as a monk made an X with his arms. We kept walking and passed the Boshin War Graves as well. Of course, I did not take any pictures, as that is seen as disrespectful. As we had to head back towards the buses for our next destination, we walked across the Uchikawa and Yokomachi Bridges, passing several fishermen. The picture above of the fisherman was taken almost two seconds before he caught the fish. Takao, the guy with the grey shorts and glasses, saw the fish flying around. Naturally, we all clapped and the fisherman started smiling.

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One of our last destinations was Lake Tazawa, the deepest lake in Japan – 423.4m deep! The statue pictured above is the Statue of Tatsuko. There’s actually a legend behind her and it’s quite confusing. Apparently, Tatsuko, a very beautiful girl living by the lake, wished to retain her beauty forever. So, the god told her to drink the water from a spring in a nearby mountain. She did what she was told but instead, became a dragon. She then lived in Lake Tazawa regretfully. That’s it. It’s very interesting and short. Anyways, the lake was very beautiful and calm. Some of the students started skipping rocks. There were a few fish jumping out of the lake. Unfortunately, a lot of fish have become extinct due to agricultural promotion but there were still a few swimming around. After the lake, we headed to Ando Jozo, a store specializing in miso and soy sauce. They even had soy sauce soft cream – it tasted like caramel. By the way, look closely at the first picture…do you see Patrick? I yelled at him to jump and this is what happened.

 


Naomi at Akita: Horsemeat with Soy Sauce

September 8, 2016

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Successfully moved into my apartment (Global Village) for the next four months. I have been here for almost a week now and all of my roommate’s stuff is piled up but she has yet to be seen. I’m very excited to meet her though! There are two people to an apartment and we both share a bathroom and kitchen. A couple of cats, especially a grey cat, tend to walk around my apartment. We aren’t supposed to feed them but they’re so かわいい (cute).

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Our Welcome Dinner was full of study abroad/exchange students and first-year students at AIU. After a day of information sessions, we were finally able to grub. Kiritanpo Nabe, a famous Akita dish, was also served. Unfortunately I couldn’t take a picture but I’ll make sure to post one later. SUPRISINGLY, during this dinner, I spotted someone wearing my high school T-shirt. I ended up talking to him and he just graduated from Kubasaki High School and is now attending AIU. What a small world. After dinner, I joined him and his friends to play basketball!

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We ended up missing the train to the Omagari Fireworks Festival, Tohuku region’s biggest fireworks festival that was expecting about 760,000 people. Firework teams from around the country attend and compete to see who can put on the best show. It’s alright we missed it though because we ended up finding another festival at Akita Station. A man was walking a bunny on a leash. Yakitori (basically meat on a stick) and chocolate covered bananas were at every food stand. A professor was at the festival as well telling us about all the stores only walking distance away from campus. It was upsetting when we discovered he was actually a professor from Akita National University, not Akita International University. The six of us ended up hanging out at a gazebo till we had to catch the train to Wada Station and the bus back to campus. A very chill night filled with laughter over stories back from home – Slovenia, Belgium, Washington, Colorado, and Virginia.

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Our Kanto Club performed for all of the parents, faculty, and students after our matriculation Ceremony. Apparently there’s a famous Kanto Matsuri (Kanto Festival) held in Akita every year where performers balance kanto (long bamboo poles) with paper lanterns attached to the end. These students would take turns balancing the kanto on their heads, shoulders, and even backs, while adding more pieces of bamboo poles at the end of the stick. There were also other students to the side banging on taiko (Japanese drum). Unfortunately, one of the students was unable to balance the kanto and ended up running it into a tree!

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There was a break during orientation so I decided to take a walk and explore more around the school…we really are in the middle of nowhere. It’s so nice and peaceful. While walking, I followed an uphill, narrow path on the side of the road and almost ran into about three spider webs. Go Spiders, right? My school mascot back home is the Spiders, by the way. I walked until I hit a gate that led to the airfield – the Akita airport is only a 10-minute drive away. I ended up walking back to campus, but I must admit, the plethora of trees and beaming sun with Chance The Rapper playing in my ears made for a very nice walk.

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Three of my friends and I decided to go on a walk in a nearby park and ended up running into some very nice people. We attempted to hold a conversation with our broken Japanese and actually ended up talking for almost an hour while constantly being bitten by mosquitos. Guess how old Suzuki-san, the man wearing the red shirt, is…he even asked us to guess. We all guessed 70 years old. Turns out he’s 90 years old! He looks much younger than that – it’s probably the miso soup. Before we left, Suzuki-san forced us to take a can of horsemeat with soy sauce. We plan on seeing them again and getting ice cream together.


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