27 June 2009

Fast-forward Button

Takeshi's last day of work (for both jobs) is the day after tomorrow, Tuesday! Oh my...It's a very weird notion - Takeshi NOT working?? Hehe.

It will be very nice to have him here at home, everyday, for a while. And I think he definitely deserves a bit of a break from working 11-hour days, 6 days a week. The time will be filled once and a while with the stress of moving back to the States, and we'll definitely be tearing out our hair busy with figuring out major issues in PA. Finding an apartment, shipping our boxes to that address finally, him finding another job, getting a car, figuring out my college situation so I hopefully start in September, etc. etc.

I hope I don't have to wait until January to start classes, because of something in the process of getting a loan and such, going badly.

Good news - I found out that the restaurant Takeshi's family will be assembling at will be a yakiniku joint! Nice! :)

My FIL's brother and sister are coming. His brother (TK's uncle) has 3-4 kids, plus his wife will be coming - and then my FIL's sister has 1 daughter and perhaps her husband will be coming too? I was thinking, "Wow, they'd better have a huge-o table at the restaurant."

Takeshi's not sure if his sister or my MIL will be able to come, because they may be busy with school/work, but I hope they'll be able to come! The more the merrier, for a "going-away" dinner.

Yesterday I met again with the Satoh family (sans husband, as usual) and spent another hour's lesson trying to finish up the English mini-novel Nodoka had wanted me to help her read. We got pretty far, and I was hoping to finish it, but she's still got a ways to go. I don't know if yesterday was the last day I'd see them, but they sure treated the day like it was! They asked me if I am able to teach next month, and I told them I'd check with Takeshi about dates and text them.

After the lesson, which recently has been in the glamorous, luxurious surroundings of 'Lotteria', they took me to the mall nearby and wanted to take photobooth pictures! All four of us had to find a way to not have someone be shoved into the way back, so their face was a little speck in the photo. Hehe. Me, being the tallest one (but I'm only 5'4"...) had to crouch down most of the time!

Mrs. Satoh paid for a game of Mario Kart at the arcade, between me and the two other sisters. I chose Toad, Yu chose Yoshi, and Nodoka chose PacMan. Yoshi won...but I came in second! Huzzah.

Then we were treated to ice cream! It just made me kind of melancholy, while I ate my treat, that I'd never be able to find matcha-flavored anything back in the States with much luck. ^_^;;

And they bought me a present at my favorite store in the mall, KiddyLand! :) They bought me a cute (overpriced) plushie of Winnie the Pooh! I love it! He now joins the Rilakkuma plushies we own. Hehe.

Winnie and the gang

From left to right: Yu, Me, Mrs. Satoh, Nodoka

Goofiness. Only from me :)

New photobooth pictures of the happy odd-couple! ^__^

22 June 2009

Photo Pile!

Random photos I've taken within the last few months! They are mostly from a BBQ get-together that Takeshi's friend from work, Shiba-san, had at his apartment in town. Enjoy!

Shiba-san, Ano-san, and Takeshi

Hello Kitties

Miyashita! Really funny guy to be around

Takeshi doing what he does best - culinary art! :)

I'm Melting...

Gah! This rainy season in Japan always gets me down - with almost all days being cloudy, plus all the torrential rain of course. I don't mind the rain - I DO mind not having enough sunshine. I feel like a plant who is not getting enough sun.

Home stretch. It looks like we're pretty much catching our big flight back to the U.S. next month on the 17th. Takeshi's already called the utilities people and has decided to cut our gas and electricity and such, off early, so we don't have to worry about utility bills coming after we've moved. I don't know what the plan is with us living here without electricity and gas, and I don't know when he asked them to cut them off. Maybe we'll be staying at his parents' house for a bit, right before we fly out?

He's already given his "I'm moving" notice to his two jobs, and I hear they're planning to do the usual Japanese "going-away" get-together party for him at the end of this month. We know already that one of his jobs (the one he's been at longer and has more friends at) is going to have something for him on the 30th, next Tuesday at a restaurant in town called "Hana Hana" which I believe is an okinawan(?) joint. Everyone is grouping up after service, which is at about 10pm. This is always the case with people who work in restaurants - they usually can only hang out together at ungodly hours of the night, since they work their asses off all day long. I will be meeting Takeshi at this workplace (which is at the Bell City mall) and then someone will be giving us a ride from there.

I don't know what the other work is planning to do for him yet, but he says that people there are talking about it and perhaps making plans. We'll have to see.

Even the family that I've been tutoring (one of the their daughters, anyway) for about 2 months even wants to have a "farewell" thing for me, as well! I keep thinking, "But....they hardly know me!" Either it's a real traditional and sort of mandatory event to have a farewell party for a fellow employee and such - OR - Japanese people just love themselves a chance to drink, eat and party!

I feel flattered that the Satoh family wants to do something for me before I move away, but, I still think that I'm not that special, and they shouldn't really bother! They are a very nice family though. I wish I could have gotten to know them better. My father in law is also planning to perhaps do something for us before we leave. Takeshi says that he is thinking of getting together Takeshi's aunt and uncle (Takeshi's mum does not have any surviving siblings, so it's just on his dad's side, it seems). I'm guessing we'd go out for a big meal somewhere. Crossing fingers for yakiniku!! Yum. I can't imagine us doing something at the family home, since we'd be squishing some 15 people in the small dining room and kitchen area. No thanks. Haha.

It is SO SO hard to sleep at night now, for me. It is hot, muggy, and humid outside - then multiplied by 10 on the inside of the apartment. I just cannot sleep, and I've been tossing and turning. Even laying down makes me overheated after a while. Bleh. My allergies have kicked themselves up a notch as of late also - I guess it's because of all the rain, swishing all the pollen around? I don't know for sure (ever). I have allergies year round! But my allergies MUST be getting worse, overall, because for the past 2-3 months, every single morning I wake up - I literally feel like a piece o' crap. I'm incredibly groggy, can't open my eyes fully for a while, I feel dizzy, and my nose is stuffed up.

Think pleasant thoughts...

11 June 2009

Back in Mie

Heyla. We're back from Tokyo. We finally arrived back at the apartment at about 8pm-ish this past Monday, and we were exhausted, to say the least.

I hate that the only 2 times I've been to Tokyo so far, has been for business purposes only, and that does not give us the luxury of meandering around and taking in the sites at a leisurely pace. We probably won't be back to Tokyo again before we leave Japan, so I'm a little bummed that the 2 times spent there were stress-filled, fast-paced treks.

The one word to summarize the two days we were there this time is, exhausting. Without a doubt.

On Sunday we left for Nagoya at about 11am. We had decided to go and visit Nagoya Castle for the first time and hopefully it would kill a lot of time, because we had to stay in the city until 11pm, when our midnight bus arrived for Shinjuku. We got to Nagoya station, and wandered for a little while inside the station, riding the army of elevators and escalators to the top floors. This was kind of a bad idea, since it was Sunday after all, which meant every citizen of Nagoya and their entire family - was out and shopping. Which made riding the escalators very very slow going.

If cattle could ride escalators - then I felt like we were cattle being herded up and down the different floors of the building that day. Takeshi and I quickly got out of there and decided to head over across the wide street and have lunch at 'Yoshinoya', one of my favorite places to eat. I love their beef bowls, with kimchi and miso soup! Yum. I've always found that whenever we go to eat at a 'Yoshinoya', or 'Sugakiya' (similar establishment), I'm the only girl in there at the time! I sit down at the usual row of bar-stool-type seating, in between salarymen, and of course get weird sideways glances. "Hey look it's a girl, and she's a foreigner too!" Haha.

So after lunch we headed over a few stores to the huge-o electronic store because Takeshi wanted to buy a special lens filter for our Nikon D60. Mission accomplished there, after 10 minutes of NO ONE being able to help us on that particular floor. Takeshi wanted to know the difference between some filters, which were the TYPE he wanted, but were different prices. He tried asking the cashier dude about it, and was told, "Well, if you buy the more expensive one, it will be much better."

What a lame answer. Takeshi said grumbly, "Obviously the guy didn't know jack about it..."

So the rest of the day was actually spent trying to figure out WHAT to do until 11pm. We found out that by the time we had eaten lunch and gotten the filter, that the Nagoya Castle was going to close at about 4pm. It was already 3:30-ish when we found out - oops, we never checked the times for the castle. Damn. Oh well. But now, we had about 6.5 hours to kill. Not an easy task.

I never knew that trying to find stuff to do would be so damn tiring! We walked all over the main area near the station, and also went down a few blocks into the city and came back. Eating food, walking, snack, drink, walking, wandering, sitting down, spacing out while trying to think of where to go...and over and over.

Fast forward to the bus finally arriving. The group for our bus met at the huge fountain outside the station. We found a lady standing next to a fold-up sign holder which had the bus company's name and such on it. We checked in, she scratched off our name, and they led us to the tour-style bus parked a few yards away on the curb. So started the fun of trying to sleep.

The bus was nice though. The seats were very interesting, and cool, and would totally help me (more) to sleep on the ride there, or so I thought at the beginning. The seats came with your own personal red blanket, and the seats had this part on the back, behind your head that you could bring up and pull over your head - think of them like the dome-shaped things people use in hair salons, while reading a magazine. It helped to block out some of the light coming from anywhere. You could prop your legs up, put the seat back a fair amount, etc.

When we got onto the bus we were both fairly tired already, so I thought I'd have more of a chance to settle into the drifting-into-sleep mode, once we got comfy in our seats. Oh! And - dumb Laura forgot to bring her motion sickness medicine with her that day. :) This was gonna' be good....

The problem I have, usually, is sleeping on my back with my head facing upwards, like a mummy. I can't sleep like that without feeling dizzy. I can't get comfy like that. I sleep on my sides, all the time at home. I've seen Takeshi sleep in every type of position before, even on his stomach and such.

So long story short, Laura's plan to try to get some shut-eye was a failure. Big surprise, huh? And I desperately wanted to fall asleep. I was so tired. Takeshi turned on his iPod, and quickly fell asleep sitting up-right and everything - and here I was, as usual, wide awake. I was sitting in the row seat which was not a good idea as well, since there's nothing for me to rest my head on to either side of me, so I was really forced to lay facing up. I was so motion-sick, and was exhausted. We left the station at 11pm, and I tried to get to sleep immediately but to no success.

I tossed and turned with my eyes closed - couldn't sleep - looked the clock - it was 1am.

I toss and turn some more - looked again - it was close to 2am.

The bus made a stop at a highway rest-stop area, and I tapped Takeshi to wake him up for a minute. I saw the other people still sleeping around us, all comfy and SLEEPING...I was beyond frustrated and needing sleep, so I couldn't help but have myself a small "Why Can't I Fall Asleep" cry, while we were sitting there. I was not a happy camper. Takeshi saw me in tears and shrugged and said, "It's ok...I can't sleep either."

....Huh? I just saw him being clunked-out for the past 2-3 hours so far, and he says he's having trouble sleeping? I could have reached over right then and there, and messed up his handsomely-done waxed, hairdo....Ugh. Maybe he just said that to make me fell better. Haha. I don't know.

But we did do something that helped me out a little bit - switch seats, and let me be at the window, so I could half-collapse onto it.

All in all, I think I managed to get about 2 hours sleep. I am convinced Takeshi got more sleep than I did. I hate my body sometimes, or my mental ability - WHATEVER is keeping my from being able to fall asleep on public transportation.

At one point during my exhausted, desperate state of mind during the ride - I wished someone could have knocked me over the head with a brick or something. Hehe...ugh.

So we arrive in Shinjuku a little bit before 6:30am. The weather for the rest of the day was cloudy, and humid. It looked like it had rained there over night. We stumbled out of our bus, and croaked out a quick, "ありがとうございました" to the bus drivers.

To summarize the whole embassy trip - I'm happy to say that we have Takeshi's visa now to go to the States, and we can give an address to the people at immigration when we arrive in the U.S., to mail his green-card to! よかった!

We did make it to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, and we had an awesome time there. The place was PACKED, with mostly adults who brought their small children. Oh boy...

You could not, indeed, take photos inside the museum but I did take a quick photo of the outside before we left. Evidence of us actually being there. I bought a Studio Ghibli Museum T-shirt and a little pin. The museum was like stepping into a Miyazaki movie! I almost felt like a could be in one of the houses by the sea, in the "Kiki's Delivery Service" movie. The museum has three floors, with cool staircases and walkways everywhere, almost like a maze. The interior was made of hardwood, and huge plushy armchairs were scattered throughout the hallways. Stained glass windows depicted scenes from several of his movies, with dozens of characters. One room was filled with different hand-on examples of different types of animation and film processes throughout history.

The room we loved the best was a set of three small, connected rooms which were modeled after a sort of art studio and study rooms, where Miyazaki may even have created some of his films in. All of the rooms where an homage to the great amount of work and creative thought-process it takes to create a finished film, and it was great to see the different stages. The first room was lined with actual sketches that Miyazaki and drawn. And I mean - LINED. Thousands of sketches, watercolor sketches plastered the walls, where you couldn't see the wall at all - the mass of paper climbed up to the ceiling almost. Even a few pieces of paper had been attached to the wooden ceiling beams. Sketches of Kiki, Haku, Chihiro, Totoro, and so many others were everywhere, and you could see exactly how Miyazaki had started to bring them to life, to develop them into the characters we know now.

The second room held more art, but a little more refined pictures, and now joined by examples and studies of landscapes, plants, animals, and architecture. Bookshelves were stuffed with reference books of every kind, and toys and trinkets were piled up on the large wooden desk in the corner. In the last room, the process of cell-coloring was presented, and you could observe how the artists at Ghibli finished off the art for a film. Glass bottles filled with paint, jars filled with paintbrushes of every size, and color swatches were crowding a wooden work table. More, now finished and fully developed character art and profiles of characters were posted up on one side of the room.

I loved those three rooms. As an artist myself, I loved to see a master artist and filmmaker work out his personal process of creating his characters and worlds they inhabited. I could the love and time it took to really bring them to life.

It was sad to leave, but we had to head home before it got too late. We still needed to ride the shinkansen back to Nagoya and then the regular train from there, back to Suzuka.

We started our journey back home, in Tokyo at about 4pm-ish, and got home at about 8pm-ish.

Here are some photos of our trip this time:

01 June 2009


Takeshi reminded me that June officially starts off the rainy season in Japan. Damn. Here comes some lovely weather, our way.

Well...here I am again sitting and brooding about the same old things. I don't like doing it, but I do, do it so much, because that's the person I am I guess. I also am always looking at someone else's life, whether it's reading their blog, or looking at their photos, and getting jealous for whatever reason. I'm always comparing my life to someone else's life. I do unconsciously sometimes. I don't like doing it. I hate worrying about other people and getting jealous. And yet I find myself slipping back into that gloomy frame of mind every so often. Maybe it's because I spend the whole week alone during the day. I think I have too much time on my hands right now = looking at other people's lives because, to me, my life seems uneventful right now.

I'm still, deep down, really resentful of the fact that we never had a wedding and a honeymoon. SAME OLD BROODING. But I can't help it. Damnit. I want to be happy with my life. I want to. But for some reason, I can't. Even when I should be grateful for the things I have - I still brood and get jealous and second-guess everything I've done in the past couple of years. It's very tiring sometimes, to have my brain.

Takeshi and I were laying in bed the other night before going to sleep and he all of a sudden mentions to me that he's glad he came back to Japan. And that he feels he's grown as a person/improved himself etc. and that he is grateful to have talked to his variety of friends and fellow employees, because they have evidently given him some advice/philosophy about - who knows what - life? Anyway, he's obviously feelin' the love for himself and his self-improvement - and then he asks me if I feel that I've grown or improved as a person over the past year of being in Japan. My answer was depressing - but realistic. I said something like, "Well, I don't think I've grown up at all, really. I'm the same person with the same tendencies, and quirks that I was a year ago. I think maybe I've become more introverted and reserved (since I'm in a non-English speaking, xenophobic country). I've made no new friends for about 2+ years." Blah blah blah.....depressing. I almost cringed at the end of my answer. Ugh. But I didn't want to lie about it...Takeshi said, "Huh..."

Don't get me wrong, there are SOME positive things I've experienced as a person, since coming here. I have taken on more responsibility....HOUSEWORK. AWESOME. Yeah, I'm awesome. Such a difference. Such a contribution.

I can't even get a job here, as I am right now with my language skill. So I can't even make money. That bums me out a lot. Bleh. Right now I feel like a huge moocher or something, while Takeshi goes out and makes an income for us both.

Fun, uplifting times, here! At least for Takeshi, anyway.

I'm ranting on this blog, and I hope it will make me feel better. Sorry about that...

Anyway, steering my mind away to other subjects...what to talk about....

Well, there's one positive thing that has come about from moving to Japan - I've had the time to lose weight! Huzzah. Last October I weighed about 154 lbs. (about 70kgs.). As of right now, about 7.5 months later, I weigh about 144 lbs. (about 65kgs.) I am determined to keep up the weight loss after we venture back into the country where they fry everything, live off of soda, and have morbidly obese 4-year-olds lumbering around. Yay USA. I'm definitely going to keep up my changed daily diet.

Some other progress. As a favor, I've been helping a friend of Takeshi's to create a logo for a cafe he plans to open and manage in the future. Recently he took the logo he picked and got a company online to make little square buttons. I'm guessing the future employees at his cafe will be wearing these buttons. I like how it came out and it's neat to see my work in 3D form, sort of speak.

Actually I do get some sort of payment from Mayumi-san, and it's usually food items, treats, and such.

yummy thing one

yummy thing two

Some random photos from the past month.

TK being cute. Me being fat and ugly. :) Our usual roles.