Certain Deviations & Yakuza News

No news is good news I suppose. I registered for my classes without incident on Tuesday morning. Since then I’ve sat through a number of orientations which usually sound promising at first and then quickly devolve into mind-numbing paperwork lectures, or end up applying primarily to undergraduates.

I received the results of my medical tests today. In typical Japanese fashion I scored within acceptable limits for an adult male on every single test, and on many tests was in the optimum area, and yet my final rating was still A2(with A1 being best). My A2 rating came with the following explanation – “Certain deviations were found, but there is no need for concern.” Ooooook…

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Chopsticks, Tuberculosis, and Sumo

Yesterday I promised Sumo, and today I shall deliver, but you’ve gotta hear about some other stuff first. So, this morning all new students had to report to a health center down in Beppu to take a battery of medical tests. In order to accommodate us all in an orderly fashion, they staggered our arrival times to the pick-up point based upon Student ID number. Last night I was under the impression that the graduate students would be headed down last, but upon checking the schedule just before bed at 1am or so, I discovered that I was completely wrong. It seems that whichever wiseguy came up with said schedule decided that us older graduate students should all be crammed onto the 8am bus to be the first load of the day. From the moment I read this on the paper I had just under 6hrs of sleep left if I was going to rise, shower, and catch that bus. Thanks, ass.

The following morning, this morning, came much much too quickly and I stumbled into the shower half-blind until the soothing hot water pried my eyes open. As promised, I busted out the hair goop for the first time. Time constraints as they were, I couldn’t get overly creative, but if you force me to wake up at 7am you’d better be prepared for my mean face.

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Odds and Ends

Lots of odds and ends to tell you about today, try and keep up. First off, yesterday I finally broke down and bought a rice cooker. Scoff if you want, but in Japan it’s not as simple as waddling down to the local Walmart and grabbing a $20 box off the shelf. Here, it’s more akin to buying a car. One must first decide what features one wants in said cooker. For me, I’m simple, all I want is something into which I can put water and dry rice, and out of which comes tasty sticky rice. As I found out, there is not a single rice cooker in Japan that *just* cooks rice. At the local Yamada Denki, which is basically a Best Buy with more home appliances, they carry over 30 different models of rice cooker. In fact, if you’re so inclined, they’ll even let you pay upwards of $550 for one. I don’t know what else a $550 rice cooker does besides cook rice, and frankly I don’t want to know, because for that price it better be something naughty or else you’re getting ripped off!

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My Second Dinner

6pm found my stomach demanding food, so I did what any self-reliant, fiercely independent young man would do – I cooked myself some dinner. For reasons of national security I cannot divulge my recipe, but I can say that there were vegetables involved, some chicken, even the odd spice or two. Ok so I completely made it up, but there was also a noticeable absence of smoke and/or fire, which have traditionally served to notify everyone in the vicinity that I’m using the kitchen. In fact, things were going so well that I inspired my dear friend Satoshi to make some gyoza.

My true friend.
My true friend.

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In my 22 years of life I have consistently managed to avoid all opportunities to learn how to cook. Now, finding myself in Japan in a culture where so many people cook that the campus Cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch, well, my body weight is in jeopardy.

However, I am not too proud to ask for help, and by now my inability to manufacture culinary items is a well-known fact among my building’s RAs. To this end they have decided to help me learn to sustain myself on groceries, to become my cooking support group if you will. At this point I recognize the handicap that is not knowing one’s way around a kitchen, and I am eager to learn.

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APU Fall Opening Ceremonies

Today APU conducted opening ceremonies in Millennium Hall for all Fall 2005 new students. Monte Kassim, APU’s top-dog, kicked things off with a short speech telling us how much we all kick ass. Of course he didn’t say it in as many words, but he did say that APU has hit 80 nationalities this fall in only its 5th year of operation, making it the most internationally diverse university in the world. On top of that, 98% of job-seeking seniors in the most recent graduating class were hired by companies in Japan or back in their home country. That ain’t too shabby. His was the first speech among a half dozen we heard from a stage full of important people I don’t think I’ll ever see again.

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West Beppu on Foot

Not having anything particularly pressing to do today, I decided to head down the mountain into town and hoof it through the west side of town. I only had two destinations in mind, Beppu Koen (park) and Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing chain.

Upon arrival at APU I was issued a semi-crappy map which was today’s key to the city. The map is useful in that it shows all the bus routes through town, and yet at the same time it is most definitely crappy in that whoever made it wholly arbitrarily decided what landmarks to notate on the map. Useful + Definitely Crappy = Semi-crappy! So, I had brought my semi-crappy map along, for as you well know by now Japan doesn’t bother with naming any small roads, and at this point I consulted it. My first primary destination west of Beppu-eki was the Koen, but I had some walking to do before I got there so I looked on the map for some interesting places to check out on the way. After all, any traveler can tell you that often the journey is more interesting than the destination and today was no exception.

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Bass Fishing in Japan

Today was my first bass fishing trip in Japan, and a memorable one at that. Kazu, one of the RAs in my building, is a fishing addict. Once he found out I also share the vice, it wasn’t a question of if, but only of when. Well, for better or for worse, “when” turned out to be 5am this morning. As I waited for Kazu to bring his car from the lot, it was obvious that only four hours of sleep takes its toll on a man.

This is my "not really happy to be here" face.
This is my “not really happy to be here” face.

After 45min of winding roads, hair pin turns, and the gas pedal firmly mashed to the floorboards of his Honda Civic, Kazu pulled onto a small side road that fizzled out in front of a creek and pronounced us there. In the predawn twilight we bushwhacked through 30min of weeds and giant spider webs before finally arriving at the rocky shores of a large impoundment.

There are worse things in life than watching a sunrise with a fishing rod in your hand next to a glassy lake!
There are worse things in life than watching a sunrise with a fishing rod in your hand next to a glassy lake!

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APU Graduation

Today APU had its graduation ceremony for students who finished their studies last spring. Replete with red caps and gowns, students and parents milled about outside Millennium Hall until 1 pm when the ceremony began.

It rained the day I graduated...
It rained the day I graduated…

The scene was pretty much the same as what you would see at any American college or university, save for one particular trait – everywhere you looked the strong international flavor of APU was on display. At one point to my left was a New Zealand Maori wearing traditional ceremonial clothing and taking pictures with his proud family, and to my right was this dashing (and engaged) couple strolling towards Millennium hall and turning nary a head.

International school is awesome.
International school is awesome.

Traveling to Japan

From the moment my flight left Tampa at 7am Saturday morning the 10th, to the moment I stepped off the bus and into the blinding mountaintop sunlight at the entrance to APU, I logged exactly 44hrs of travel. Mind you, it needn’t have taken that long. My travel agent got a little carried away with the flight scheduling and took me on a minor jaunt to Osaka when I could have flown directly to Oita from Tokyo. However, spending the night in Osaka was a mini adventure in itself.

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