Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Strange World of Japan


Giant Kokeshi doll Hello Kitty?

Kokeshi dolls are a traditional Japanese doll, are typically only 6 inches tall, and hand carved and painted from wood. Does this seem strange to anyone else? Hello...um...Kitty?

And next we have ENGRISH! Also known as those funny English sayings that are close but not really.


Me I feel also no so good. Yup. It's true too.


Poopular? I would hate to be whatever this means.


Smelly Smell that smells? I think maybe we need to take a deep smell and start over.

SKIRTS oh how we love thee!


skirts! How can we not love them? Thank you Japan!

Engrish is fun, because it shows the Japanese love of language, but not so much their love of grammar. Hey, everybody makes mistakes! No problem.


The philosophy of 'Engrish' perhaps? This is another standard all together. For more funny English words and phrases gone amuck, check out the hilarity over at Engrish.com

AV Idols, but more importantly, AV Idols which wear funny Enrish! How adorable!


That's woman is a virgin? Could have fooled me.

Fractions! You need to know how to do them if you plan on drinking any orange juice in japan.


Qoo Orengi! I miss my 30% orange juice. Japan is still the only country I know that serves you orange juice by the percentage. What a wonderfully weird country!

Three Things I miss About Japan


Cutie!

First and most I miss my lovely fiance.


I still don't have my own Papero... but someday I will probably get one to replace the family dog.

Second, I miss all the robots. Even though I didn't 'technically' see any robots while I was in Japan, I still miss them all the same.


They do have soft Ice Cream!!!

Third, but not lastly, I miss Japanese food. McDonalds just taste better in Japan. Anyway, I don't miss it so much as I miss the leisurely walks to get some soft ice cream on a hot and humid Japan day. But I miss all Japanese food... especiall from Hokka Hokkate (Hokkaben rules!) But I also miss cheap sushi, expensive Izakaiyas, and all the excellent places to eat! Oh where is the Ajisen Ramen when you need it?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

J-Pop and Inspiration Through Music


Jewel's new CD! (I've never been so excited for a Tuesday in my whole life!)

Now, you may wonder, what does this have to do with Japan? Not much, but there is a relevent side note which does have something to do with my experience in Japan.

You see, Jewel is my all time favorite singer/songwriter/musician. It is a combination of her emotional lyrics, her beautiful voice, and here spiritually charged music which makes me love her as an artist.

When going to Japan for the first time the one thing I regreted the most was not bringing enough music. I brought some, for sure, but I wish I would have had more with me. In the second week of being in Japan my portable CD player got rained on, and it was ruined. I went two full months without music and it about drove me insane! My tension was running high, school and learning a new language was stressful, and then one day I couldn't take it anymore. I went out and spent my weeks worth of food money on a new portable CD player. I was willing to starve for a week in order to relax my nerves with soothing music.

Although I had forgotten much of my music, one of the benefits of my forgetfulness was it forced me to start listening to Japanese music! That's when I found out that Ayumi Hamazaki (the biggest Pop-Idol in Japan -if not the world) actually had a sharp sound with a metallic atmosphere and mean techno beat. I had avoided Ayumi's music early on because I thought of her as just another "Britney Spears" but to my suprise, she was way better!


Ayumi Hamazaki

After finding out that I did enjoy Japanese music I started listening to all kinds. I listened to Japanese folk music from Okinawa, I listened to tradinional drum beat and dance music, I listened to pop music, and I started listening to the radio to find the latest chart toppers. In my search I came across a wonderful band called Ketsumeshi. They are a rap/reggae/pop group with a very cheerful and upbeat sound.

One of Sayaka's relatives teaches a type of sing-song poetry in which the Japanese sing the poetry. He showed me how it was done, but the writing was so artistic I couldn't even read it as Japanese! Other forms of music I came into contac with were the Shinto prayers, which are sung and danced, which made it fun for me to experience part of the Shinto ceremony and religion.

I guess the moral of the story is, it's best to have music in your life, but if you can -please try as many new types of music as you can! It's one of the best experiences one can have in life.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Famous Red JR Train


Suizenji Eki

Japan is famous for its red JR (Japan Railways) train circuit. The transet system goes all over the country. Japan has several different types of trains too. There are faster trains to go to different Prefectures, and then their is Japanese famous high speed "Bullet Train" which can take you all the way to Tokyo in just three hours (or sooner) -no matter where you start from. The red JR train is a local in town and town to town commuter train. It's slow, but it's always on time and there are lots of them!


Akamizu (small train stop)

All over Japan there are distant outposts like this Akamizu train stop. Sometimes you have to get off the train in the middle of nowhere -out in the country- then switch and back track to get to the right train stop. Reading the Japanese kanji (Chinese Characters) is always confusing. So if you don't know where you are going then it's best to take a Japanese friend with you to help read the signs!


Trains cutting through town.

Out the back window of my old dormitory exists a JR train route. Every morning at 6:00 AM sharp the train would honk its horn as it went by. It had to do it twice, because there is a crossing on both sides of the block~ which made our every morning sound like a train was driving through our bedroom! I never got used to it, but luckily, my fiances family often let me spend the night at their house. I was able to get away from the noisy trains on weekends.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

No Curse Words in the Japanese Language?


Here are some culturally significant words unique to Japan. You can find these kanji symbols in print on some interesting t-shirts sold at J-List.com. J-List also offers a wider range of products from Japan, including foods, books, DVDs, clothes -including traditional Japanese clothing. So if you like Japan, please check out their website when you have time.

Mt. Fuji 富士山
Famous symbol of Japan (Volcanic Mountain in Tokyo)
Sakura 桜
Cherry Blossom
Bonsai 盆栽
Beautifully miniaturized trees
Tofu 豆腐
Delicious Japanese staple food
Futon 布団
Japanese sleeping mat
Sushi 鮨
The most famous Japanese food (raw fish)
Tempura 天麩羅
Fried shrimp and vegetables (deep fried with a batter)
Uchiwa うちわ
Hand-held Japanese fan
Torii 鳥居
Japanese arch
Yakitori 焼き鳥
Grilled chicken on sticks
Karaoke カラオケ
Japanese singing
Takoyaki 蛸焼 
Fried octopus balls from Osaka
Onsen 温泉
Japanese hot springs
Koinobori 鯉幟 
Symbolizes carp swimming upstream
Geta 下駄
Traditional Japanese shoes
Shamoji 杓文字
Japanese rice scoop
Ocha お茶
Green tea
Haka 墓
Japanese family gravestone
Hashi 箸
Chopsticks

One of the interesting things one finds out about Japanese after studying the language is that the a-typical 'curse words' do not exist in the Japanese vocabulary. There is no derogatory "f" word or multiple ways to spout off vulgar strings of derogatory language. Japanese -by its very nature- is a clean cut language where most words mean exactly what there literal definition is.

However, this isn't to say the Japanese "slang" does not have insulting connotations. Yet, when it comes to actual curse words in Japanese the most vulgar you can get is the well known BAKA (idiot) and universal KUSO (shit). However, kuso is the literal word for "shit" and so its usage isn't so much derogatory as much as it means, "Look out! You stepped in some *shit." Also its potent immediacy is not as unnerving as the American curse word equivalent. Rather, the Japanese usage of kuso is so common that it is used in even children's animation as a mild word to depict annoyance. This really puts a perspective on how we imply and infer meaning from words -and how these words affect us; since words only have meaning with their social/cultural context.

Of the above words, there are little images which show you the item or object being depicted. Below are some of the less kosher words from Japanese slang. I guess you could consider the words below profanity, but they are often associated in everyday conversation as sentence subjects, and so are often associated with either a warning or a topical relevance, but on the rare occasion, they can be defamatory.


Japanese words with negative connotations -nottice the "sexual" orientation of the words -this means that these words are accostomed to *private or personal situations, and so these words are NEVER used in public. The only time you will learn bad words like these is when you study a language EXTENSIVELY, and even then, you will never probably use these words outside of their practical contexts.

Chikan 痴漢
Male pervert, often touching women on a train
Chijo 痴情
Female pervert, woman who likes sex too much
Paizuri ぱいずり
Copulating with a woman's breasts
Tekoki 手酷
Hand job
Kokeshi 木形
Traditional Japanese doll, also slang for a dildo
Tamakeri 玉蹴り
The fetish of women kicking men in the balls
Manko マンコ
Female genitilia
Panchira パンチラ
Catching a glimpse of a girl's underwear
Baka 馬鹿
Stupid, popular catch-all Japanese insult
Bukkake ぶっ掛け
Spewing on your lover, facials
Zenra 全裸
Full nude
Hentai 変態
Pervert, deviant individual
Cosplay コスプレ 
Dressing up in anime costumes (Cosplay)
3P (さんぴー)は、性行為の一形態で3人プレイの意味。
Sex with three people, aka manage-a-trois
Shakuhachi 尺八
Classical musical instrument, also popular slang for fellatio (BJ)
Chinko チンコ(陰茎)
Male genitalia
Fuzoku 風俗店 Soaplands ソプランド
Where women wash men with their bodies
Rabuho ラブホ
"Love Hotel," where couples go to be alone
Kuso 糞
Shit

Now, please realize that most Japanese NEVER learn these "bad" slang words. In fact, my fiancé had to buy a dictionary to answer some of my questions when I enquired as to some of the meanings. She, like many Japanese, doesn’t ever hear or use these bad words -and it's only people like me who have a deep interest in the Japanese language that ever learn it by extensive study. In all consideration -Japanese can be considered the *cleanest and most polite language on the planet. These 'curse words' are not used regularly (if ever) and the only time you may hear them is when a gangster speaks them in old Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) films.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Japanese Sense & Sensibility


Japanese Fashion

I haven't written on Japanese manga (comics) for some time. I would just like to point out that one of the neat things about manga, especially action adventure stories like "One Piece" and "Naruto," is that they capture very specific moments akin to Japanese sensibility. Every now and again you get a very distinct "feeling" of Japanese culture, or tradition, through an image. The culmination of input, over time, leads one to have some sense of how the Japanese see the world -and how they depict it in their art. When one reads as much manga as I do, you often will find that you develop a sort of "sense" about Japan. Granted it is less than a sliver of a notion of what the real Japan is like, reading manga does give you some insight into how Japanese people think and sometimes act. Like any culture, their stories and art represents various facets of their culture.


Japanese Legend

When I first went to Japan I had certain "notions" of how things would be from the comics and animation I had seen. To my pleasure, I was more often wrong than right about my assumptions, and I found the experience quite gratifying and educational. Yet in no way did my view of Japan change too drastically as for me not to love every moment of it. It's really something which happens when you go into any culture. Most Japanese think America is extremely violent like in the movies and television -many outsiders think that about America and the U.S., but that's not an accurate picture of this country. American's live quite peacefully. I found this to be the same of Japan also. My ideas were only enlgightened to see the "bigger picture." I guess what I'm saying is, enjoying manga and other Japanese cultural elements is healthy and a good way to learn about the country, but if you really want to learn about the 'real' Japan, go experience it first hand!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Japanese Atmosphere


Boundaries

I thought a close up of one of the castle walls gave an artistic beauty to what is an ancient defense mechanism. The aged look gives us an awareness to the ancient part of Japanese history which makes Japan so fun.


Shinto walkway

A rainy way. A gateway to a Shinto temple. The atmosphere was pleasant, cool, contemplative. Attending Shinto ceremonies is interesting.


Outpost

A castle centurian look out postion. Kumamoto castle is the highest part of town and you can seen in all four directions as far as the eye can see. This ensures a gaze which spans across the maze-like city, and is another fine example of the great thought put into ever aspect of Japanese architecture. It's always beautiful, but designed with purpose and meaning. There are many great moments of "atmosphere" in Japan. Moments which we would equate with being moments of reflection. These moments are particularly necessary when learning to embrace a new culture.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Japanese Architecture


Kumamoto Castle

I absolutely love Japan's architecture. It ranges from ancient to modern, and all of it has a very traditional Japanese feel to it. From ancient Castles of Japan's rich history to the most highly advanced Hospital facilities on the face of the planet, Japan has it all. It's one of the things which makes Japan so appealing, both on a historical level and also an aesthetic level.


Temple

Japanese Buddhist temples are very aethetically pleasing. But the one thing that may be more shocking is the elaborate gates and entrances. The Kengun-Jinja has the most beautiful wood tooled gateway I have ever seen leading into the temple area.


Kengun Temple Entrance

Right across the street from Kumamoto castle sits a clunky building which looks like it came right out of the seventies business boom of Japan. City Hall isn't beautiful, but it's architecture is bold, and you notice it.


Kumamoto City Hall

Slightly more modern, maybe late 90's, is the culture center. As Japan is unique in its sponsorship of its country, every city has a culture center which is the main hub for foreigners in the local area. You can use the culture center to network, find work, make friends, or learn about Japan and the locals. It's a great idea which sponsors cultural growth and friendship.


Culture center

Big apartments which can hold up to over a thousand tenants are called "mansions." This particular apartment is smaller than most mansions, especially the ones seen in Tokyo, but in a smaller town like Kumamoto I heard several locals call it such.


Japanese Mansion (large apartment)

Believe it or not, this is not rush hour traffic, but rather a calm afternoon flow of buses, motorcycles, trains, trollies, cars, and every other imaginable vehicle you could put on the road. I thought the guys purple bike matched the flowers quite nicely.


Rush hour or normal traffic?

One of the more overbearing aspects of Japan's aesthetics is the visual overload of all the power lines. No matter where you are in the city, you can't escape them, and it boggles the mind why the Japanese just don't plant the powerlines underground? Yet this distinct visual flavor gives Japan that unique quality not seen anywhere esle. You may notice this in Japanese Anime (animation) which often depicts Japan extremely accurately with the elaborate background paintings of real city scapes. Any anime fan worth their salt will instantly recognize this aspect of Japan.


Japan is wired!

If you ever go to Japan you run into either a Daiei or a YouMe Town. Both these stores are huge multi-level shopping plazas. In comparisson they are like nine Super Wal*Marts all stacked on top of each other, or minirature Mall of Americas. Either way you look at it, every town has several of these massive shopping areas, and they have decent prices on food, books, clothes, and anything else you could imagine.


Daiei is the Super Walmart of Japan

One sure way to ensure business is to paint your store in bright colors. In Japan, where everything blends into one urban concrete jungle stores like Best Denki, Yamada Denki, Tsutaiya, among others advertise by being bright and colorful.


Best Denki is like Radio Shack on steroids.

In older areas of town the houses are extremely closely packed, and there is hardly no space. This street shows how close everyone is to each other, often times only being separated from their neighbors by an arms length. Living in Japan is cozy! Why aren't there any cars on this street? I have no idea --I must have been in the right place at the right time, because normally I'm dogging traffic left and right.


Narrow Japanese street with houses

Older Japanese homes have very elaborate roof lines. It's artistically beautiful, and architects may enjoy designing it, but it's every contractors nightmare. I really enjoy how Japan is a blending of mixed and matched architecture stemming from the countries rich history and enjoyment of modern as well as classical elements.


Old style Japanese home

The most modern building I've ever been in is this Hospital. It was its own self-contained city. Their were resturants, convenient stores, gift shops, along with your regular care taking facilities. The neatest thing was its automated check in. Instead of talking to a receptionist you slid your Health Insurance card through an ATM looking machine, and the machine would tell you your appointment schedule, alert the doctor, and charge you for the appoinment when you left. It was very high tech, and not only that, made the visit to the doctor effortless and expedient.


Hospital

Most Romantic Moment


Steamy kiss

I was thinking about how much I love this girl, and I was running through my mind of our many numerous fun and romantic moments. Of them all, we have shared a great deal of intimacy and closeness, and there isn't one specific moment I could say is my favorite. Rather, it is all of these little moments and memories combined which make me so moved and deeply enthralled with this woman. Yet, if I were to try and find the classic silver screen moment, that special romance seen in movies, I would pick this steamy kiss under the waterfall as our most cinematic instance of romance. But really, it's just one small part in the bigger picture of the love we have for one another.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Philosophy of Me


Life in Motion

I am a Christian, I am A Muslim, I am a Scientist, I am a Philosopher, I am a believer, I am a non-believer. I see the world in color. I see the world in black and white. I see all the gray in-between. I am bitter, I am sweet, I am bittersweet and sweet and sour. I have a sophisticated opinion, I have no opinion, when I have an opinion I’ll let you know. I am educated, I am bold, I am humble, I am international, I am local, I am a foreigner, and I belong. The world is my community. I am a lover, I am a religious man, I am a politician, I love my faith, but I hate religious and state corruption. I am an Anarchist at the top of a universal chain of hierarchy. I seek to govern myself. I am my own guide. I am both right and wrong. I am a Democrat, I am a Republican, I am a Communist, I am a Socialist. I am decisive and assertive but I can’t make up my mind. Light and darkness are my bread, although, I only prefer white bread. The stupid, the smart, the cowardly, and the brave: I am them all. I am a priest, I am a poet, I am a Buddhist seeking satisfaction. I am rich, I am poor, I belong to the middle class. I have no class, no style but I set the trend. I believe in God. I don’t believe in any God. I am an Atheist, I am a tyrant, I am a hero, I am no one yet I am everyone, and I am me. I belong to an idea, I support an ideal, I live to find out why I am, I’m here because I live, I have ideas and I do think. I am a listener, I am a rebel without a cause, I am a follower, I am a leader. I have many beliefs but I don’t define myself by my beliefs. My actions are my words. I have a purpose, I have reason, I am a prophet and I say there is no such thing as prophecy.


Retrospect is necessary in anyone's journey toward self discovery and understanding.

I am classy, I am crude, I am cunning, I am clueless. I am the rural countryside, I am the urban city, I walk beneath the same blue sky as you. The cool smell of freshly cut grass soothes me while the smell of black asphalt on a hot day warms me. There is but one truth, and I let truth define me. I am beautiful, I am ugly, I am in-between. I like Mexican food, I like Italian cuisine, I enjoy Japanese sushi, I can’t say no to a juicy American Cheeseburger, Chinese food is great on a Saturday night, Indian curry makes my mouth water, and I’m always looking for the next delectable taste. I prefer Coke, I prefer Pepsi, I love coffee, I drink only juice. I sing, I dance, I laugh, I cry, I bleed when I get hurt and I heal. My skin is black, my skin is white, my skin is tan and pink. My eyes are blue, my eyes are brown, my eyes are green, my eyes are a rainbow. I am young, I am old, I am aged and wise, I am adolescent and juvenile, I am mature but I think like a child and am better off for it. I am a sinner, I am a saint, I have a guardian angel, I believe in righteousness and chivalry. Over zealous people bug me but sometimes I think I need to be more of a zealot. I believe in manners and etiquette, I have no manners, I am constantly working on my propriety. I vote for my President, I vote for my favorite idol, I am a celebrity, I wish to be famous, I don’t want fame or fortune. My skin is wrinkled, my skin is smooth, my breasts are firm and round, my breasts are droopy, my penis is small and sometimes large. I am outgoing, I am a recluse, an extrovert and introvert, I am sideways and under, but some days I come out on top. I am quirky, I am plain, I am tall, I am short, I like going to the theater but sometimes I prefer Broadway. I love listening to rock and roll and sweet melodies of Jazz.


Reflecting on today helps us better understand tomorrow.

I am punk rock, I am grunge, I tear down all walls of perception around me, I am a visionary, I have many visions, I have only one vision. I am a terrorist, I am a freedom fighter, I enjoy my freedom but I often think more people need to be free. I am a psychologist who doesn’t know himself yet knows everyone else intimately. I love women, I love men, I love both women and men. I am Shakespeare, I have emotion, emotion guides me, I guide my emotion, I am a fluid steady flowing river, I am an impenetrable mountain fortress. I listen to my heart, my soul feels, my mind speaks volumes. I overslept, I slept too little, I am a musician, I am a magician like Merlin and Gandalf, like them all I am a scholar. I live a fantasy, I am rooted in reality, I make the best decisions that I can. I am a soldier, I am a milk-man, I am an everyday man. I am a pervert, I am a moralist, I am a theologist, I am a theorist, but I don’t believe in any one theory. I am angry, I am at peace, I am turmoil and chaos, I am solace and rationality. I am conscious, I have a conscience, I hate evil and love goodness. I am vast and contain multitudes, I am everywhere and everything. I am an American, I am a father, I am a mother, I am a family and I am a citizen of the world. I am for the planet, I am an environmentalist, an evolutionist, I am a naturalist, I am a Taoist, I see the whole picture, I am an artist, I painted the universe. I am a nostalgic photograph, I am a memory, I am a muse. I am a bard, I am a liar, I never lie. Yes, sometimes I lie. Someday I will die, but today I live, and tomorrow will be whatever I make it to be. It all depends on my attitude or my mood.

And when tomorrow comes, I will be all these things, beyond this, I am always changing. For better or for worse I am forever shifting, awakening, and realizing what I can be and what I can’t. I am thankful, I am lucky; I sometimes tend to feel unlucky. I’m a cat person, I’m a dog person, I own a pet bird, pig, and fish. I am a friend, I am a relative, and I have many friends and relatives. I sometimes question who I am, but I know; deep down inside I truly know that I am who I am. I just want you to know that you can be whatever you want to be! There’s nothing to worry about, because all you have to do is believe.



By Pika!
April 10, 2006

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cupid's Pluck: My Favorite Top Three

These are my three favorite photos of Sayaka and I together. They were hard to choose, because all of the photos were so good. But these have a very nice romantic charm to them which captures our passion, energy, and love for each other.


My favorite


My favorite #2


My favorite #3

Japanese cherry blossoms and Hanami


More Hanami in Japan

In Japan this time of year is the Hanami season (typically around late March to mid April), otherwise known as the flower festival when all the sakura (cherry blossoms) bloom and quickly fade away. All the people in Japan celebrate by having out door picnics and entire companies will have after work luncheons in the park. It's a wonderful time to celebrate the coming of spring.

I especially like these pictures because they show how many cherry blossoms the Japanese plant. The trees line both sides of the road from beginning to end! Just picture the full country instantly in bloom. It makes the air smell sweet and fresh, and the scenery is beautiful too.


Follow the yello brick road!

The yellow strip is to help people see the walking area and helps bycicles pass pedestrians. I love to ride up and down the streets on my bike when the cherry blossoms bloom. This is one of the things you must do if you ever come to Japan.


Flowers everywhere!

The neatest thing I saw was people who would just park their car off to the side, and sit and have a family picnic. During Hanami, I guess it doesn't matter where you eat, as long as you are near sakura (cherry blossoms).

Sayaka's Montana Adventure!


Sayaka eats American Taco Pizza!

In February (2006) Sayaka came to visit my family! Since my Birthday was just around the corner, we went all out and ordered three large pizzas from my favorite pizza place. We also ate cake and ice cream! (You can't find pizza like this in Japan. This 20 inch (50cm) pizza cost $12 dollar (1,200 yen). In Japan, pizza is really expensive, so when Sayaka comes to America we eat lots of pizza!


Red velvet cake & ice cream! Delicious!

My favorite cake is Red Velvet cake. It's a very soft chocolate cake with a buttery cream frosting. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!


Sayaka eats ice cream and plays with Rome (small stupid dog)

Whenever my family gets together, it seems more like a pet reunion than a family renunion. All the animals like to play with each other, and Sayaka and I both like dogs.


Sayaka plays with Hani (small stupid dog number 2)

Sayaka had to say hello to Hani too. There are three dogs, Snoopy, Hani, and Rome. Also one cat named China. Sayaka had lots of fun playing with all the pets. That's the nice thing about living in Montana, there is lots of room, and you can have as many pets as you want!


Sayaka drives my car

Sayaka loves to drive, and so I let her practice driving in my car. Don't worry, we weren't on any city roads. We took the safe farm-land private dirt roads to go practice driving on. It was a lot of fun!


Sayaka and my cousin Gordon

Sayaka thinks my cousin is tall. Sayaka is tall for a Japanese woman, as she is 172 centimeters (5'8") tall. So can you guess how tall Gordon is? Real tall!


Everyone says "Goodbye" to Sayaka (My mom is in the black shirt on the right.)

My uncle, aunt, cousins, brother, father, mother, and grandma all said goodbye to Sayaka. She was only able to stay a week with us, but even so, it was a very special week. We all love Sayaka! I especially love her, after all, that's why I am marrying her!