28 April 2009

Tutoring, Taiyaki, Teddies

Tomorrow I am teaching Nodoka again at 10am. I've set up tomorrow's time for another dose of grammar, and some more reading from the English book "White Star: A Dog on the Titanic", which they have asked me to help her read. I did think it was interesting though, when I asked her a while ago, "So do you like to read books?" - to which she replied with a smile, "No".

So...she doesn't necessarily care about reading the book herself, she just wants me to read it to her. Which I don't mind, in the end. I'm still getting paid, anyway. So, it won't matter when Japanese people stare at the crazy foreigner-lady is seen in the cafe, waving her arms about, trying to convey this story to a junior high girl. I can always tell when they are staring and probably thinking, "What is that foreigner doing? What are they talking about??"

Recently, a new little 'food stand' popped up not far from our apartment. This little squared-shaped building has been several things in the past, Takeshi tells me. This time around it has been bought up by a family who sells nothing but taiyaki. And it's different from the usual taiyaki. Instead of being made out of pancake-like batter, it's made out of mochi. You can get three types of "batters" - white, green, and pink (strawberry) colors. You can also get different types of fillings - strawberry, white bean paste, red bean paste, chocolate pudding, regular pudding, and chestnut. Each taiyaki is about 140 yen. I have also seen them sell little mini taiyaki, but I don't know the price! The other thing about this new food place, is that Takeshi's mum has gotten a job there! I swear that lady picks the weirdest jobs. Well not the weirdest jobs, but I think she can get better jobs than working at a takoyaki stand in the food court at the mall, to working out of a van outside making takoyaki (did I mention that the van-business was owned by yukuza members?), to this - a small family-owned food stand, making and selling yet another Japanese "treat". Oh well!

TK's grandmum gave us these the other day - all gone now :) yum

On another subject - I have found some things in Japan recently that I have really grown to like, and want to collect! One of these things is a line of collectable toys (not for playing with) called Be@rBrick. I first saw them in a local store, Rush, which is a store that sells wacky, mostly used, toys, games, and clothes. There was this huge wall of these little stylish, artistic bear figures hanging up, and I found them rather cute and unique. I have 4 bears so far, and I'm not made out of money, so maybe I'll be able to save up and buy more - each of these little dudes cost 500 yen ($5). The design of the figures is sectioned into different categories, such as "Cute", "Pattern", "Flag", etc.

Be@rBrick figures!

Do you see the boy and girl kissing? It took me a while to spot them!

Another thing I've come to collect is phone charms! Oh my gawd, I never thought I'd be someone to collect little things for my phone to hang off of them, and jingle, and such - but here I am, with my own stash already. I guess I started finding so many charms to collect, because the Japanese are crrazzzyy about them! They're everywhere! Tons of them. You can even get little cheapo ones, with soft drinks in convenience stores!

Subject switcho! Just recently, I have re-visited something that I've been putting on the back-burner for a while now. For my birthday last year, Takeshi bought me a figure/collectable toy called a 'Teddy Trooper', manufactured by the company 'adFunture'. They sell all kinds of unique, wacky, sometime creepy vinyl toys, figures, and dolls. There is a line of vinyl figures called Teddy Troopers, which are already colored and such, but they also sell a blank teddy and helmet figure, for people to customize and paint themselves! This idea is really cool and I started to paint mine when I got it. I originally painted it with acrylics, and I think I did ask the dude who sold the figure to Takeshi - are acrylics OK? What should I do, yadda, yadda. He said, "yeah sure acrylics - whatever you wanna' do, blah blah." So I thought, cool.

But I found that once I painted the whole thing in one coat of paint, it was so difficult to put the helmet on, and take it off. And it also scrapped off some paint every time I did it! Well, I didn't like this at all. But time went along, and I forgot about the teddy for a while. Now, I'm seeing what other people (granted, they are mostly professional artists) are doing with their Teddy Troopers, and I want to try to fix mine, and come up with another design for him! Huzzah. So I've been scrapped the acrylic paint off of him, lately, use some sandpaper to smooth the vinyl out again, perhaps use the vinyl part as part of a design. They keep stressing that "you can do whatever you want with the teddy", so there are no rules for designing him. We'll see how it goes!

scrape, scrape, scrape

The whole ensemble

25 April 2009

The 1 Month Wait

We completed our 'missions' in Tokyo this past week, and are now back in Suzuka. It's raining today with gusts of wind, and I hear there's more of that coming tomorrow. Bleh.

All of our paperwork checked out fine, while we were at the embassy, so now we wait for one month to either have our application accepted or refused. We also completed Takeshi's mandatory visit to the 'Tokyo Medical Clinic' in Tokyo, where he spent the time being a human pin cushion. Blood taken from one arm, and four other vaccine shots. Ouchies.

Going to Tokyo was fun, though it was incredibly fast-paced, because of our schedule. I tried taking as many photos as I could with my Nikon, and even though I'd get grumpy about not having the chance to slow down some, I'd have to remind myself that we were not there for leisure, really. So, as we ran about the city, from appointment to appointment, I took as many 'documentary' photos as I could. Just a few seconds to stop and snap a photo before trying to figure out where the hell Takeshi was in front of me now, in the crowd of people!

It was my first time riding the shinkansen (bullet train)! I have to say that it was the smoothest train ride I've ever had. Which meant almost no motion sickness for me! Huzzah! And all the leg room in front of you seat, that you could ever hope to get! Awesome.

Our plan was to arrive in Tokyo at about 10am-ish the day before our day of errands. We would first seek out and find the exact location of the clinic, since it was the first place we needed to be at the next morning. When we finally got there, we decided to take a taxi to the address that Takeshi had written down. Long story short, we end up wandering around a little residential section of the city for about 1.5 hours, searching for this clinic. There was nothing in this area, but houses, and a few tiny stores. To make the wandering-hunt even more frustrating and tired, this area was located on top of a steep hill. I was so out of breath and hungry by the time we turned to climb up this SAME street for the 3rd time. Woo! Exercise. And so early in the morning, without any meals yet. Takeshi fairs better than I do, in the morning, without having any food. I waste away pretty fast if I don't have breakfast or a snack or SOMETHING. ^_^;; We actually found a clinic in the neighborhood but it was another clinic. Soooooo actually, Takeshi had written down the wrong address. We took a taxi to the actual clinic a little later, after we had figured out the mistake. But before we left the area, we ate at a small restaurant. What a morning...

The (right) clinic ended up being right across the street from the Tokyo Tower! Alright. :) So after we took notice of the clinic's location, we decided to set up camp for the night at the 'Prince Hotel' which was right down the street from the clinic, across an intersection. So when we woke up the next morning, we had no hassle in getting to our appointment. So we went to the clinic - lots of waiting for both of us for Takeshi to be called, and then more waiting for me, while he was gone. The clinic was mostly (if not all meant) for foreigners. The waiting room was a long narrow room. On both ends of the waiting room were rooms for multiple types of doctors. I guess they decided to squish many different types of medical practices together in this one clinic, for convenience. On one end there were gynecologist, pediatric, and maternity offices. On the other end were offices for x-rays, and probably some other practices. There were a lot of pregnant ladies, and ladies with babies in that waiting room! It was weird being in a public places with foreigners again! Pretty much no Japanese patients waiting. There were Americans, for sure, and I also saw a good amount of French people and one Australian family. Being in that waiting room really made me feel like I was back in the States all of a sudden!

The 2 days we spent in Tokyo (not in appointments) went by in a flash. We got a small taste of some of the well-known areas of the city. We went to Akihabara and Roppongi. We walked across the Shibuya Crossing! That was cool, but it's so hard to not get lost in the wall of people who are walking towards you from the other side of the street. Like I said, I was only able to take photos to document our travels throughout the city. Here are a bunch!

Standing at the Shibuya Crossing

I really liked the concept of these posters, advertising 'Soy Joy' bars

Tokyo Tower!

The main street in Akihabara

Inside one of the many local train stations

The Tower off in the distance!

A close-up

The view from our room! 8th Floor

All in all, a busy two days :)

16 April 2009

Gearing Up

We're three days away from our 'business' trip to Tokyo. We will arrive there on the 19th (Sunday), the day before our scheduled Embassy interview at 2pm, on the 20th. Takeshi also recently found a hospital in the same area as the Embassy, which is qualified to perform his mandatory 'check-up' and possible vaccinations, in the green-card process. He scheduled his hospital appointment at 9:30am, and the information said to "please allow up to 2 hours for the appointment", so that means getting out by about noon. Then we trudge off to the Embassy.

Takeshi plans to wear his very dashing suit, which he has been wearing so far, for job interviews. I have no such 'business' outfit to wear to the interview, so I will probably pick a nice long-sleeved top, and a skirt to wear. I have debated whether I should bring along my Nikon, but in the end, I'll probably want to bring it, since I'm not sure we'll ever get to go to Tokyo again (for reasons other than working on the green-card!). I know that we need to go back at least once more, for the second/final interview. They say that it will not be mandatory for me (the petitioner) to come to the second interview, but there's a good chance that we'll just go together again.

Along with dealing with the process of the visa, we are also at the same time working on research about locations to possibly move to, back in the States. Takeshi has given me the task of researching possible art colleges (online OR campus-based), which I would want to attend; he stated that he knows he doesn't have enough knowledge to help me do this anyway. It is my business, of course! I have found an equal amount of online and campus-based colleges which I am interested in pursuing, so far. Last night we decided to have each of us write down a list of 10 cities which we were interested in moving to, compare our lists, and whatever cities we both said we were interested in, we would do some (extra) research on them. Takeshi is away almost all of the time, for work, so I have been the chief researcher so far - putting together tables of info on certain cities. The four cities we both were interested in are: Seattle, WA. Atlanta, GA. San Francisco, CA. and Boston, MA.

There's a good chance that we may be moving back to the States within this year. Even now, I've begun to think about how weird it will be to be back in the States. Even though we've been here for only a year so far, I feel like I've begun to 'settle down' here a bit. It feels like we've been living here forever, to me! I've already begun to think about what I'll miss about Japan, and what I've been missing about the States. I do regret that we'll no longer be near Takeshi's parents, again. And at the same time, after moving to another state in the U.S. (which is probably nowhere near my home-base, MD), we will not be near any family or friends as well. This will be an interesting, fun, painful, frustrating, and significant change in our lives. Truthfully, I'd want to keep living in Japan instead - if it weren't for the fact that I have a significant disadvantage job-wise, here. Takeshi would be bringing in most of the income, if not all of it. I would love to find a graphic design job in a bigger city here, but that is looking less likely to happen within a short amount of time, or even at all. There are many other reasons why I'd have a harder time with finding a good paying job here, just like him. So I do believe that moving back to the States is a good choice for us, mainly because we would both be able to be employed full-time, in both of our fields.

I think sometimes, that I wonder to far into the near future, and make myself frustrated and paranoid! So I'll stop for now, with the wondering about ten million different possibilities, and go make dinner instead. :)

While in the state of mind pertaining to family, here are some photos from when my parents visited!

Me and my parents in Nara

Me and おとうさん

Takeshi and his dad! They look so much alike, in my opinion :)

I would love to show a photography of my mother-in-law, but I ended not taking any direct photos of her! Just a few photos of her, off in the distance. Haha. Darn. I'm sure my dad, Takeshi, my mom, or my father-in-law probably has a photo or two of her!

12 April 2009



The weather is so much warmer! It's so nice, but it makes me fearful of summer weather pushing through. I don't want any humidity! None! I'm sure we'll be having summer temperatures soon enough. Ugh.

Yes, sorry I was away for about 9 days. My parents finally were able to fly from Belize to visit us here in Japan. Even though those 9 days went by in a flash, we still had a great time and went to many places. The only bad thing that happened because of them visiting, is that I gained back about 1 pound! Noooooo. くそ!

I've gotten back to the walking and exercising with a passion. I'm determined to get down to at LEAST 140lbs. (63.5kgs.)

As I said, we took my parents to many places while they were here: Kyoto, Ise, Toba, Inuyama, Nara, and Nagoya. They ended up being in Nagoya the day before they left, since they were flying out of Nagoya anyway! Duhr.

I had hoped for good weather and was not let down! It only rained one day while we were out, but thanks to some helpful planning by my father-in-law, we spent that time inside, at the Toba Aquarium.

And!!! My dad and I experienced something brand new in the Nara Park - getting bit on the bum by deer! Oh - my - god. My dad had a bunch of cookies, and a group of deer were pestering him to death, to feed them. (Anyone who had been to Nara Park to feed the deer, has probably been through this.) He got bit twice! On each bum cheek! He was amused and surprised, but the second time they bit him he got a little annoyed. He turned to the deer who did it and gave it a light tap on it's nose. Haha. But then I got bit! And I didn't even have any cookies on me! I guess it happened because I was standing close to my dad, so they thought I had something. Or it might just be because they're gluttons and pushy! The deer didn't bite us hard or anything, but it was enough to make my eyes bug out in surprise when they did. O__O


I had a blast using my Nikon D60 everywhere we went, and I ended taking over 600 photos in total during their stay, but I'm only going to post a few of my favorites. Enjoy!

Prayers on paper, on the banister in front of the Tōdai-ji Temple.

A deer in the Nara Park, begging Takeshi and I for a deer cookie!

Children marveling at one of the aquatic environments at the Toba Aquarium.

Traditional Japanese box measure for bulk tea leaves. Genmaicha. In Ise.

A sunbeam hitting some sakura flowers. Kyoto City.