Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Origin of the World, Super Sentai and Kobe Laughs

After Spring Break (same time as the behind the scenes drama) we dove straight into April Fools and me running around making everyone believe I had dyed my hair blonde! HAHAHA! There were a few who could tell it was obviously a wig and others who just had no idea! Mixed responses as well as to whether it suited me or not, but don’t worry I am NEVER going blonde ^^

April also brought about the sakura season, which I must say I don’t like as much as the plums. We went for a hanami (slower viewing) trip to Osaka castle with the Seminar House which was kinda meh. But at least I can say I’ve done it.

What was more interesting was our religion trip to Tenrikyou (NOT Shinto or Buddhist). A fairly unknown religion in Japan but I really like their attitudes and beliefs. We went to their central church (I don’t know what else to call it, it’s nothing like churches in England) where apparently the god Tenri created mankind, which is why when you go they say “welcome home”.

Here’s a good outline of what they believe which I stole from Wikipedia ^-^

~Tenrikyo ( Tenrikyō) is a monotheistic religion originating in alleged revelations to a 19th-century Japanese woman named Nakayama Miki, known as Oyasama by followers. Followers of Tenrikyo believe that God, known by several names including Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, expressed divine will through Nakayama's role as the Shrine of God, and to a lesser extent the roles of the Honseki Izo Iburi and other leaders. Tenrikyo's worldly aim is to teach and promote the Joyous Life, which is cultivated through acts of charity and mindfulness called hinokishin.

The most basic teaching of Tenrikyo is kashimono-karimono, officially translated as "a thing lent, a thing borrowed". The thing that is lent and borrowed in this teaching is the human body. Tenrikyo followers think of their minds as something under their own control, but their bodies as a gift on loan from God.

The Joyous Life in Tenrikyo is defined as charity and abstention from greed, selfishness, hatred, anger and arrogance. Negative tendencies are not known as sins in Tenrikyo, but rather "dust" that can be swept away from the mind through hinokishin and ritual. Hinokishin, voluntary effort, is performed not out of a desire to appear selfless, but out of gratitude for kashimono-karimono.~

So they basically live to live a happy life. They don’t force people to join their religions or dislike others for believing something different because everyone has their own path. The building itself was HUGE! The center hall was over 3000 tatami mats large, and it wasn’t the only building there. It was also the cleanest building I have EVER seen. In order to clean away the “dusts” from your soul you’re encourage to do things like clean, so the following were cleaning every inch of the temple non-stop. It was amazing.

A few days after our field trip Aunty Nicky and Cousin Isaac came to visit! I met up with them in Osaka on my trip to Denden town with Gabe and Wes and I showed them Mandarake and we ate amazing Okonomiyaki. They did some more sight seeing while I was at school but I managed to meet up with them again. We went to Kyoto and did some sightseeing including a really nice performance of a collection of Japanese traditional performances like flower arranging, dancing, puppet theatre etc. We also went to the Kyoto Film Village where they film history dramas and show displays of the filming and acting. It included a 30min performance of the new Super Sentai which, although I’m not a fan of Super Sentai or Power Rangers, I have to say was pretty impressive. I videoed it for Leo and all those other fans out there. Hahaha.

After they went back to England the gang got together to go pay Aya a visit in Kobe! It was also the same day the second Gantz film was being released so we went nice and early to get tickets. The weather was piss poor but that didn’t stop us having a great time. We had the most amazing ramen I have ever tasted; walked through the largest collection of shopping malls I have ever seen; ate the most amazing purrin (pudding) ever; went to the Ghibli store; playing tag by the sea front and played around with a water fountain; went to China Town and ate really good steamed buns; then wandered over to the cinema. The film itself had its ups and downs, and there were parts I didn’t understand but really glad I saw it. Everyone was knackard by the end of the day and I think almost all of us fell asleep on the train. It was good ^______^

The final big event of April was going to see Takarazuka for the 3rd time with Haaki, my speaking partner. I have to say it was the BEST Takarazuka I’d seen so far. I wasn’t expecting it to be any good but I really enjoyed the Brazilian themed Nova Bassa Nova, which is about 2 thieves and a young woman tourist during the carnival of Brazil. As ever the costumes and dances were amazing. I just couldn’t get over how they painted their skin to look Latino, how they actually looked Latino and how that would NEVER work in another country. The second half of the show was a hilarious fairy tale romantic comedy about a princess who’s father is trying to marry her off but she doesn’t trust men so she swaps with her servant, one of the princes also does the same for the same reasons and haijinx ensues. If I can I’d really like to get the DVD of it before I leave, but I have a feeling they won’t be releasing it anytime soon (sadface).

When I got back to Hirakata I wasn’t in a rush to get home and ended up taking my time on a slow train. By co-incidence Brad was also coming back and also hadn’t eaten. So I waited at Hirakata station listening to a busker singing waiting for him and then we went for some really tasty burgers and some drinks. It was awesome ^___^

Japan-land Love Story

I fail at keeping up to date on things like diaries. That’s why most of the time no one knows what’s happened to me by the end of the year. I will now stop boring you guys with “I went here on this day and it was nice” and instead give you the more interesting stuff (It also save me telling this story again again when I get back) ^_^

So, after Spring break there was sad times as the earthquake disaster had finally calmed down the final people left. Gilli and Katie went home (sadface), Brittany didn’t come back, but a few other managed to. So I lost my girls and the friend group shifted to Me, Gabe, Arial, Wesley, Alex, Alex, Nadezhda, Brad, Lilly, Chris and Elizabeth. Plus lot of other random loverly people who say a brief high and a hug when we meet in the corridors. And be ended up beginning going to the onsen every week (instead of karaoke like we did with Gilli and Katie).

So we had the onsen episodes and haijinx ensued. The first one started off at the arcade and DDR which is got thrashed at by Wesley and Brad and ended up making a complete idiot of myself because I couldn’t read the fast foot patterns ;;_;; not fair. But that was when I began to take even more notice of Wesley. I had noticed him before Spring break but the fact that he was awesome at DDR and everything else I liked was like…well let’s just say it’s rare to find an hilarious outgoing person who likes DDR, table top RPGs, is a pokemon otaku, likes computer games, anime and manga (shojo in particular), Japanese, comics, sci-fi, novels and is basically a walking Google.

And so it was me and Lily and Nadezhda in the onsen, and what else so girls do when they’re alone together but gossip? A week go by and the girls know I’m interested in Wesley but no one else. So I decide to set up a date…without him knowing (hahaha), and we arrange to go to Denden town in Osaka. Then after one onsen session Gabe decides to come along which was hilarious because Nadezha was like “No Gabe you REALLY want to change your plans don’t you?” But he thought she was hinting that she wanted him to go with her somewhere so he was adamant on not changing his plans. It wasn’t until at the end of the Denden town trip (which was awesome fun and it was actually nice having Gabe there) that he actually realised what was going on. Hahahaha, he was so embarrassed. So to make up for it I hired him as my spy…but Gabe isn’t exactly the subtlest of people ^^;;;

The following weeks had a lot more people going and Gabe ever so not subtly dropping the conversation in the boys bath about relationships and began to gather information. And it was (apparently) obvious that he had had a crush on me too. Everyone knew by this point what was going on. Afterwards we were all hanging out in the lobby drinking milk (you have to drink milk after going to the onsen in Japan) and Lily (who is even less subtle then Gabe) whips out pocky (chocolate sticks) and begins to encourage people to eat them with each other (ie Lady and the Tramp style where a person bites each end). I won’t say exactly what happened but it evolved Wesley getting very close, me chickening out and the Arial jumping in and finishing off where I’d left it. Everyone was very annoyed at the oblivious Arial. HAHAHAHAHA! It was HILLARIOUS!

The following week Elizabeth and Gabe were even less subtle and ended up kicking Wesley and I out into the rain saying “You guys have something you need to talk about” and so he asked me out. Since then not much has changed really. We still hang out with friends, talk about random nerdy stuffs, watch films and anime and just have a laugh. It’s just that now we don’t have to feel awkward infront of each other. It’s nice.

*Note: The title of this is from the J-Drama Tokyo Love Story which is pretty famous in Japan but I didn’t think it was a very good drama*

Thursday, 5 May 2011

March Spring Break

The shock of the Earthquake was quickly covered over with the sudden arrival of Spring Break and my Dad coming for 10days for touristy Japan fun times. I’ll make this as brief as possible because I want to catch up on what’s happening now:

So Dad arrived in Osaka and unfortunately had to wait 2 hours because I didn’t leave on time and then underestimated the train ride from Hirakata to the International Airport -_- But I managed to get him and we took the loooooong trip to Kyoto and from there on a bus to the north of Kyoto, just outside the city, to our ryokan. (Yes I took advantage of the fact that dad was paying to stay in a ryokan, but I also did it so dad and I could experience more Japanese culture). I have to say though, the place was reeeeaaaally nice! The family who ran it were really nice and the food wasniiiiiiiiiiiiiice ^^ That’s the best way I can explain it ^^;; (Although the weather was chilly for the whole week).

Our first big touristy trip was to the Golden and Silver pavilion, and it started to rain in the evening! When we were at the Golden temple I got dad a goshuin, a temple signature. (Also got myself one but I’d forgotten my book so had to get it on paper). He was really please with it (I hope) because I knew he likes calligraphy (they’re painted by professionals) and the moment before he was eyeing up a 90,000yen calligraphy picture. These are more personal I think.

Later in the evening my friends were having a last minuet bowling trip for Aya before she left (I’d missed her graduation the day before getting dad :( ). So had to leave dad to recover from jet lag while I went bowling, but I had a cold and got a terrible fever half way through. It was funny though. Didn’t get back til very late and fell asleep almost straight away.

The following day was going to be a HUGE cosplay march in Nipponbashi in Osaka, but it got cancelled which was a good thing coz it made stuff less complicated and I could go with dad and people to Toji market, the giant flee market. And then we all went to Fushimi Inari. Coz it’s my favourite place and I had to show dad. Only problems were it was raining, I was sick and dad had jet lag. Hahahaha. But all in all it was good.

Then it was another early day for NARA! Home of the Daibutsu (Giant Buddha) and dear! When we arrived we found out the city offers free guides in English, as in a volunteer not a recording. We met a nice woman (whom I forgot the name of) and she showed us around the temples and took us to see the Buddha. She was really nice and bubbly, helped me with my Japanese and told us some really interesting stuff about Nara. Although I don’t think she realised that she sometimes spoke to dad in Japanese ^^;;;

The following dad we went to two really famous temples I can’t remember the name of them...oh and Nijo castle ^_^

Then we were off to Hiroshima! We went to the castle, and wandered through the city to see the memorial park and peace museum. It was really…the city is gorgeous, and the park too. The museum was really…informative. I’ve never seen anything in quite so graphic detail, and I hear the other nuclear museum in the south is even more graphic! The evening was sooo good with a really nice crab meal (the most expensive I’ve ever had in Japan!). At first I was terrified that I couldn’t read anything on the menu, but it worked out fine in the end ^_^

The following day we went to Miyajima, an island just off the coast of Hiroshima which is basically a huge mountain (which we climbed first) covered in little temples. It’s particularly famous for a tori which is on the sea that looks like it’s floating. That temple even had a traditional Shinto wedding! I was too embarrassed to take photos though. Also it wasn’t the best day for a wedding (the weather was a tad chilly and grey again). Then we got the shinkansen back.

Because we were both sooo tired we took the following day slowly with a late start and a short trip to Arashiyama. And the next day we went to Kyomizudera in the morning. (kyomizudera was the place in Kyoto I went to the first time I arrived in Japan). We walked through a really pretty and old style of Kyoto and ran into volunteer guides again at the temple! Three boys who were quite funny. Apparently people believe that if you jump off the platform of Kyomizudera you can go to heaven (survival rate is 80%). Then in the afternoon Dad went to Tokyo! Yeah, all the way up to Tokyo. He got the shinkansen up and met a friend of his who has been living in Japan teaching martial arts for goodness knows how long, and English in Waseda university! I went karaoking with friends again as a last one for Katie who were leaving the following day (waaah I’m gonna miss her and Gilli’s version of Acid Black Cherry!).

After Dad got back from Tokyo we had a really nice meal at the ryokan. The couple who run it, I said are really nice and the food is amazing. The next day they gave us presents and I had a rather awkward picture with them. Hahahaha ^^;; The spring break was good, it was a nice break although I began to stress about the work I hasn’t done as soon as it was over. It was really nice seeing dad and hanging out with him for the week. Exhausting though!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Earthquake in Japan –Osaka Point of View

A few months have passed since the Earthquake and a LOT has happened because of it. It didn’t impact us much in Osaka in terms of damage but it has had a huge impact on the whole of Japan’s society, and I suppose you could say the Uni’s society too.

The week after it happened, the week after I wrote that last blog on the 14th it wasn’t just Italians who left. Every single day more and more people were getting messages that they were being pulled out of the program. First the Italians, and then the French and then most of the Europeans before the Americans started to go too. The thing was that although we had the news all the time here covering the earthquake and as the missing and death toll rose and rose, the thing we were all afraid of was getting that email from our universities telling us we were being pulled out. After the power plant happened the number of Americans who got dragged away was stupidly high. And when I say dragged, I mean dragged. Students were getting blackmailed by their unis to go home. They’d cut their funding, cut their support, take away their insurance etc. It was stupid.

I did get an e-mail from The Uni of Kent saying that if I did want to go back the insurance company would pay etc. But I turned them down, explaining why and begging them not to cancel their program. Thank goodness they have a head on their shoulders and were actually listening to us and why we wanted to stay (unlike a lot of American unis). I get the feeling that they told us that just as a precaution so that if anything did happen they could say that they gave us the option. I think the reasons people weren’t listening to the students out here was because of pressure from insurance companies or from families. Actually one friend of mine, her family were fine with her staying but her uni called her up everyday saying “when is she coming back, it’s not safe etc” and harassing her family and making them paranoid until she did go back.

The most frustrating thing was that our area was safe. It is hundreds and hundreds of miles from the disaster, even if the power plants had gone into melt down, it wouldn’t have been enough to impact us here. But people in foreign countries were seeing just the really bad news and spinning it in a way that made it looked like it was the end of the world, just to sell the news. Even the BBC were making it out to be worse then it was. I’m not saying it was terrible, it really really was a horrible disaster, but the Japanese news was focused on keeping people calm while informing them of what was going on. The Japanese news was great, just like all Japanese news and TV, it’s a very optimistic media in comparison to America and Europe.

Then the end of the week came and I was studying in the library for something and I get a message saying Brittany was going home. She had only found out that morning after telling her parents the situation, and they were so worried her mum booked her a flight on the same day. So she got her things packed and came to uni telling me she was leaving. She said it was a temporary leave but I think in our hearts we knew that wasn’t likely, especially because she didn’t even know when she was coming back, “hopefully before midterms” she said. I tried not to be sad, at least not infront of her, but after she left…

Brittany really did grow to be my bestest, best friend out here. Spring break was after that, and then midterms. I kept messaging her and things weren’t clear until a few weeks later, 3 weeks after she’d gone she said she wasn’t coming back. The problem was the nuclear plant, if that was still in the red her family wasn’t going to let her come back.

I just think it’s frustrating how ignorant people abroad can be, and how much the news blows things out of proportion, I’m never trusting the news ever again.

Since the incident life in Japan has been pretty normal and Japan has been quickly picking itself up. The news here went from “bad” to “things are looking better”. It began to show people and their stories of what happened to them and their families, to people being evacuated to schools, to the slow implication of necessary foods and water. The news began to cover a lot more good things about people after the incident who were picking up their lives. It’s not only the news who is staying optimistic though. It’s nice to see that everywhere I go I see Japanese people in groups with boxes for collecting donations for the earthquake victims and people always give them money. I was in Toyosato the other day for the K-On school again and there was a poster of the K-On girls with “Pray for Japan” t-shirts on. Even anime is supporting the earthquake victims.

A month or so has passed since then and things have gone back to normal. News doesn’t cover what’s been going on much anymore and people aren’t being dragged home, a few even came back! People are still collecting donations, I don’t think that’ll stop for a long time. And apart from missing a lot of my friends who were unexpectedly taken away, things are pretty much just as they always have been.

Earthquake 14th March

This is what I wrote a few days after the Earthquake on the 14th March

I had intended to catch up my blog from the last month but I’ve been so distracted (as always) and now the earthquake happened. I know people are worried back home so I’ll describe what’s happened over the last few days because the best I can do is give it from my perspective.

I think it was about 3:00 on Friday and Brittany and I were in our room. Brittany had just got up to leave the room when I began feeling dizzy, which was strange, I thought, because I thought I’d drunk enough water. I noticed then that Brittany was hovering at the door and that the room was shaking as people in the hallway shouted it was an earthquake. I got up and stayed in the doorway. It was strange coz some people could feel everything swaying and others couldn’t. It went on for about a minuet (Brittany had to sit down she was getting so motion sick) and I couldn’t tell it had stopped until I saw the cupboard doors had stopped swinging. We went to the kitchen shortly after and the earthquake was all over the news. I don’t think anyone knew just how bad it was at first. In fact most people were excited they’d experienced their first earthquake (it was my second but I admit I was excited too). So I stuck a message on facebook saying that we’d just had one but all was good. Then I went back to the kitchen and…it wasn’t just us who had had an earthquake.

The news (which was based in Tokyo) at first was only of the news room and the cameras showing the lights in the studio swinging above the camera crew. I admit they looked really scared and the only footage available was of the camera crew in the news room and the security camera in their offices. I couldn’t tell if it was live or just repeats of the initial earthquake. It didn’t take long before more information began coming in and a tiny map of Japan on the corner of the screen outlined the tsunami warnings. Along with descriptions of the earthquake, where it was and how big it was came instructions for people to stay calm and to be careful of tsunamis, where the tsunamis would hit at what times and how big they would likely big. In about an hour and a half the Japanese news had all this information on every channel warning and advising the population to stay calm and what to do. They didn’t have any information on how bad it was but still it was pretty impressive at how organised they were, especially at keeping people calm. I certainly felt calm.

So calm infact that I felt like it wasn’t that bad, so that night I went to karaoke, and the following day to the cinema. Karaoke was awesome fun with about 15 of us singing until 3am; was tired with a soar throat that tasted like cigarettes because the karaoke air conditioners were full of left over cigarette smoke XP. Although I saw the news in the morning and it outlined the missing/dead people to be only at 300. Our conversation on the train to the cinema mainly consisted of how strange it was that this disaster had happened but the sun was shining and people in Osaka were living their lives like normal. The film, which was the second Macross Frontier film (which we’d tried to see on opening day the week before but it was sold out), was packed. And I can see why it was so busy, the film was soooo good! I wouldn’t mind going back again to see it again ^^. Conversation went back to the earthquake on the way home and my Japanese friend was worried though because she had a job internship just south of Tokyo and she was really worried that Monday might be her last day seeing us all. I honestly didn’t understand why she was so worried.

That evening and the next day, Sunday, we got more information and I was watching the news in the evening and again in the morning before going to see Takarazuka as they showed footage taken by Japanese people as the tsunami came in taking out fields, houses, cars. One was of these people on a roof as they watched the river bank break and the wave head into the town and crash against the building they were one and you could see it head towards a few cars driving on the road and then the camera panned away. All the images were…unbelievable. My mind couldn’t absorb how bad it was it was so bad. And it all gets forgotten when you’re away from the TV in the world were people are just acting like normal, although most of our conversation was once again on the earthquake and the seriousness of it all.

But once again being away from it all in the world where it’s not been hit makes you forget and I strongly enjoyed Takarazuka. We went and saw バラの国の王子 “The Prince of the Rose Country” aka Beauty and the Beast. It was so good touching back to the original fairy tale, while creating it’s own story which made the Beast rather then Belle the leading character.

Monday, today and I think how bad the situation is has finally sunk in. At uni today I found out that a few Italian kids are flying back tomorrow because their universities have pulled them out of the program. People are thinking about going home because their families are so worried, and there are rumours of something happening in Osaka in the next few days. But if anything happens there’s nothing we can do. We never even thought about the possibility of flying home due to the disaster, but I think even if there was the option I wouldn’t leave Japan. In my head that’s just not a possibility. It’s just something we have to push through. But just to be on the safe side Brittany and I went shopping and bought food provisions and put them in bags next to the door along with water, jumper, towel and spare shoes. Better safe then sorry.

This evening we were watching the news and they had an English translation of NHK news so we could understand what was going on. The news for the last day had been about how the nuclear power plant works and what’s been going on in the power plants but mainly more footage of the aftermath and interviews of survivors. It was really heartbreaking.

*Tuesday morning* So I’m looking at the BBC website again but no new updates. Brittany tells of some stupid American girl who put a youtube video saying she was glad the earthquake happened because it was god punishing the Japanese for being atheist. Apparently people have also been saying that it’s karma for Pearl Harbor and for the Nanking massacre. Which is just…so…STUPID! People who say such horrible things like that are just ignorant