It’s been a crazy couple of days around here, I hope you’re ready for a massive journal! Thursday’s talk by Amartya Sen was interesting if you’re the sort of person who gets excited when Alan Greenspan comes on CNN, otherwise, it was pretty dry. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the inherent importance of economics, and also the indisputable credentials of a Nobel Prize winner who also teaches at Harvard. Even with that in mind though, it was a struggle to maintain focus in light of the early hour. APU provided simultaneous translation via radio-headset for the Japanese students — I thought that was pretty cool. Moving on…
It’s hard to believe it’s already October 26th. Has it really been three days since I last updated? Today was my inaugural shamisen lesson with Ishikawa-sensei. Lately I have gotten some requests that I take more pictures of my activities. You must understand that I’m walking a fine line between “adequate documentation” and “obnoxious foreigner with a camera.” To this end, I darest not disrespect Ishikawa-sensei by bring a camera today. To do so on the first lesson would be idiotic, perhaps after a few months and some steady gains, but initially, no way. However, rather than leave you out in the cold, my trusty sidekick Doctor-in-Training Walter was able to come up with a picture of my teacher.
As I was sitting in Beppu’s Concert Hall not too many nights ago, I decided it was time to take my life in a new direction. Previously, sport and the pursuit of athletic glory had been central themes in my life, driving forces if you will. While I would not trade a second of the previous 22 years of my life on the field for anything, such pursuits have left my body, knees especially, in shall we say ‘less than optimum‘ condition. In short, while the competitive fire will forever smolder inside me, I can no longer sustain the physical requirements. Thusly, whilst blissfully reclining in an inundation of aural euphoria, I decided it was time to pursue more cultivated ventures. Conveniently enough, one might suggest that I am currently residing in the land of ‘more cultivated ventures.‘
What to do? “Well, why not try my hand in a traditional Japanese art at the foot of a master?” I flippantly proposed to no one in particular. After some contemplation I decided my new-found paradigm shift would best be served by securing an apprenticeship in a classical Japanese instrument. After some background research, I chose the shamisen. For most people, such musings would have never matured any further than that, ‘yes, it would be neat to study the shamisen, wouldn’t it?’ — and then we all have a good laugh and forget it. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, I am not most people.
After Kazu and I returned from our most triumphant bass fishing trip, I had but a scant 30 minutes to defrost, shower up, and get ready for our inaugural floor party. Naturally, everyone was invited with the stipulation that you must bring one dish, as I was busy fishing all day(and because I didn’t want to subject anyone to my cooking just yet), I brought some delicious dessert snacks from the supermarket.
Today was, to sum up in one single word, brutal. The plan was to wake at 5am and set off for a morning fishing trip. At 5am, after only 3 hours of sleep, I awoke to find a driving rain, temps in the low 40s, and 20mph winds outside my window. Seriously disappointed, I staggered down to Kazu’s room and left him a note on his white board (I was supposed to wake him…), then went upstairs and collapsed back into bed. The reason for our early departure was that we both had to be back for a dorm-wide dodgeball tournament at 1.
Six hours later I rolled out of bed and settled into my computer chair to go through the usual morning routine of email and checking the news. Not five minutes later Kazu shows up at my door, telling me that dodgeball was canceled because of the rain, and suggesting we go now. I hadn’t even bothered to look out my window when I got up–it had become a beautiful day! So after some hastily-made plans we agreed to book it and hit the road in 15 minutes.
My first research presentation went off without a hitch, and the day ended up far more exciting than I ever could have predicted. Solely for matters of record, I submit to you the powerpoint file itself. As zipping it only reduced its size by a paltry 5%, I’ve left it as is.
How much content you can derive without my riveting running commentary I do not know, but I’m sure some of you are curious. I should also note that when judged as a document outlining my focus of research and by extension my thesis, it is already sorely out of date. Treat it instead as an explanation of the themes I am chasing, the actual work waiting for me has since changed dramatically – see below!
Last night, as promised, Satoshi, Ting, and I hit the streets of Beppu to visit one of the greatest inventions known to man: a sushi conveyer belt restaurant! Now before we begin, I should clarify that there are two types of SCBR’s in Japan, differentiated by price. At the first type, plates whirrrrrr about in a variety of different colors, which signify different prices. These restaurants typically serve more upscale sushi and sashimi delicacies, but the bill can add up pretty quick. Furthermore, after several mugs of beer, you may no longer be able to distinguish between red, pink, and reddish pink plates, leading you to select the $8 ’emperor’s plate’ when you really wanted the $2 ‘lil fishie’ plate! This was not the type of restaurant we visited.
We went to the other kind, the everyman’s SCBR, where every single plate can be had for the flat fee of 105Y – tax included(~$0.92). Therefore, one can snatch any damn plate he feels like and still be able to immediately calculate his current tab. After having eagerly anticipated this event for an entire week, we arrived a little after 5:30pm Saturday evening. Early yes, but these places are ridiculously popular, and not 15 minutes after we got there every single seat was taken and people were queuing along the walls.
Hey there, hope all is well from wherever it is you’re reading this! This entry is gonna be all over the place, so hold on tight. First off, I bought groceries at a new supermarket the other day and was able to snag a most tasty new Pringles flavor, Fresh Tomato and Garlic. Maybe they have this flavor for sale in the US now too, I wouldn’t know, but it tastes exactly like you’d expect it to taste — which is to say like a Pizza Hut breadstick dipped in marinara sauce.
Tuesday night Satoshi and I went to the symphony. Ok, so it wasn’t a real full on orchestral performance, but it still rocked. The event in question was the Japan Russia Goodwill Concert series, which as it traveled around Japan was stopping over in Beppu and playing the convention center for one night only. Tickets were free, via the university, and having little better to do, we went.
Sometimes in a man’s life, when things are going ok, nothing explicitly exciting is happening, and he has nothing to complain about… well, he has to get creative with his journal postings…
So without further introduction, I present to you the first part of a one part series on the most critical of all culture lessons:
How to Poop in Japan!