Saturday, July 30, 2011

Theoretically, ends always turn into beginnings

So, we're only three weeks into this term, and I already feel like somehow an entire LIFETIME has passed. I've barely had a second to breathe, but I can't really figure out what I've been doing. Other than going to school all morning and then working all evening and afternoon everyday Monday to Friday. I've managed to keep myself busy the weekends, too!

First of all, it was Martin's birthday on July 14, and I'd been telling him I would go to this all night gay dance party with him, so we finally did the Saturday after Cathryn left. And it was SO MUCH FUN!!!! Even though it required staying out till 5 in the morning. I was worried, because, well, I don't stay out that late. And, contrary to when I was in Montreal, when in France, I really hated going out dancing.

a picture a new friend took of us walking to the station at 5ish. We look (and are) tired!

Then the next Friday, we celebrated with the class, and we all bowling!

Me with Cesar, and Martin and Rin in the background!

I love bowling!!!! This was only my second time going since being in Japan, though. As usual, I won the first game and then BADLY lost all of the following games. It's as if, while everyone else is getting into the groove of things, my arm is deciding that, no, it's done.

Of course I forgot my camera, so I had to steal that picture from Cesar. We also got a purikura, which I was SUPER excited about, as it was my first one EVER!

Then that Saturday, I headed to Gifu to hang out with Abbie and Matt, friends of Kristen's from Colorado that are living in Gifu now. They came to see me in Okazaki, and I finally found time to return the visit.

Abbie made vegan gluten-free banana pancakes, and they were DELICIOUS! We also decided to buy matching-ish hats, and I sort of love mine! They brought me to this place called Donkey Hodai (I really can't remember what this place was called, and I know it wasn't Hodai, but it was definitely Donkey something), which had to be the craziest store I'd ever seen. Everything was EVERYWHERE! And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING, as this store really did sell any possible product I could ever think of.

Good times were had. I left on Sunday eveningish and headed to Nagoya, where I saw my FAVORITE Japanese (well, really they're pretty high up there on the general list as well) punk band, Special Thanks.

I've definitely written about them before, and I was SO excited to FINALLY get to see them live! It was AMAZING! Unfortunately, I think that it could have been MORE amazing. It was the last show of their tour, and you could tell that they were super tired. And I got the feeling that there was some major tension going on between the bandmates. I can't imagine how AMAZING it would have been, had they been on. I'll obviously just have to stay in Japan long enough to find out.

A band called Stompin' Bird opened up for them, and they were also TOTALLY amazing! How did it take me so long to realize that punk in Japan is where it was in the late 90s in the states? How am I ever going to leave?

The the next weekend, I went to Sakae Oktoberfest on Friday.

It was cool, and it was HILARIOUS seeing all of these cute little Japanese girls dressed up in what I assume was supposed to be German costumes but which looked far more like Swedish milk maid costumes.

Then I went out dancing at Club ID, and I had a fabulous time! Two times going out dancing in three weeks, and two times having a great time! Obviously there was something wrong with me when I was in France. Or, rather, there was something wrong with France.

Then Saturday, I went yukata shopping with Naruse and Miyoko, as Miyoko seemed to DESPERATELY want to see me in yukata. She even bought me some geta and made me some yukata undergarments. So anyhow, now I have a new yukata, and if things go as planned (and I can find someone to teach me how to put it on), I'll wear it to the Okazaki fireworks fest next week. And then you'll see pictures!

Then last Sunday I went to Nagoya Freedom. And it was so awesome that it deserves its own entry.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The end of, yeah, stuff. . .

So, on the morning Cathryn left, we started classes for the new term. I was SO sad to see her go - if only she could have gotten an apartment here and stayed forever! Hopefully I'll get to see her, though.

Before I get ahead of myself, though, I just found some pictures of when we went to the izakaya at the end of last term to say goodbye to some of the people leaving, and I thought I'd post them!

Me with Kaorin and random woman on the left whose name I have forgotten.

Me with Marc and Kim, who both went back to England. :-(

Me with Thama, who is now back in Australia (and Nathaniel's fingers).

Also, while Cathryn was here, I had to take a day away from her to go take the JLPT. It was awful, and I totally without a doubt failed (especially since I knew 100% for sure only, like, one of the kanji from the kanji section). I was expecting that, though, so I'm not too worried. I'll take it again in December, and then theoretically, I'll be okay. So, despite the failing, it was actually a quite lovely day.

I headed over with Alexis and Martin, and despite the fact that we were headed towards imminent failure, we were in relatively good humour.

Met up with Stephen there, and he also seemed in relatively good humour!

We'll get our results at the end of September, and you probably won't be reading about it on here.

Anyhow, even though it's only the third week of term, I feel like I've been crazy busy since it all started, and I'm sure you'll be reading about it soon, as I seem to have been on a crazy blog updating spree lately. Let it continue. . .

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cathryn Visits: 長島スパーランド (Nagashima Spa Land)

Despite our waterfall exhaustion, we decided to wake up early the next day and head to the theme park in Nagashima with Martin and Zack!

We got there a few minutes before it opened at 9:30, and we were a bit nervous, as no one else seemed to be there. We were assured, though, that the park would be opening as per usual. Relief.

Because of the lack of people, there were practically NO lines to get on the roller coasters, which on the one hand was AWESOME, but on the other meant that we didn't really have any breathing time between roller coasters. I get motion sick.

First, we went on the Steel Dragon!

As you can see, Zack is totally Steel Dragon ready!

Then we went on the water ride (whatever it was called, I don't remember), and after much hesitation, we finally decided to go with wearing the ponchos.

Turns out this was a smart plan as

the splash looked something like this before it was even at its' largest.

The ponchos, though, of course didn't stop Zack and Martin from getting soaked.

After several more rides, I was feeling extraordinarily motion sick, so Cathryn and Zack decided to go on a spinny ride while Martin and I tried not to die. Turns out the ride was awesome, though, so Martin and I had to check it out. Super fun, indeed! It might have ended up being my favorite there.

We checked out most of the rides in the park, and, aside from Cathryn who was feeling totally fine, we were needing a break.

I was dying of motion sickness, Martin's knees were killing him because the rides aren't made for people with long legs like his, and Zack was having neck issues!

So, after a brief lunch, with one of the more adorable caterpillars I'd ever seen, we decided to hit up the ferris wheel.

Great view of the whole park from the top!

Then Zack and I decided to go for a little boat ride.

Then a little cable car ride around the park, which Cathryn and I seemed to enjoy way more than Martin and Zack.

After that, we did a couple more rides, and we'd pretty much finished with the park. Earlier, though, we'd seen this pink monkey stuffed animal, and everyone was all "Audrey, that's SO you! You have to try to win it!," and I was all "eh. . ." But then everyone was walking around with them, and it turns out they had these HUGE heads and ridiculously long skinny arms, and I fell in love. So we had to go back and get me one.

Luckily, the game involved throwing a ball into a jar, and I had a Martin with me. His arms were practically long enough to touch the top of the jar, so very little throwing was involved. After three tries, I had a new pink monkey!

Me and Cathryn and きらっづちゃん(Kiraddzu-chan)!

Isn't she cool?

And with that, our day at Nagashima Spa Land came to an end. It was super fun and once again super exhausting! This didn't stop Cathryn and I from getting up early the next morning and walking through the pouring rain to eat Martin-made delicious vegan Belgian waffles with maple syrup! Yummy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cathryn Visits: 阿寺七滝 aka Aterenana Taki

While Cathryn was here, we went with Rin and Martin to see this waterfall that was supposed to be AMAZING! Even though it was super close to Okazaki, because of the lack of trains to get there and then the lack of buses once arriving, it somehow took us, like, 3 hours. In a car it might have taken half an hour.

It was a lovely train ride, though, and we were given lots of random souvenirs by random Japanese people in the train and at the bus stop.

These bracelets were made by a man waiting for the bus with us. Martin's was for traffic protection, and ours were to drive away demons.

We were originally going to walk to the temple once arriving at the station, but some every sign we saw kept saying it was longer than we originally thought, and then finally some dude told us it was around 6 km with a treacherous, insect filled path. So we decided to wait for the bus, and in the meantime, we did some exploring!

And we did some sand writing! Mine says "rad," as you can see, which is a super rad word, right? Cathryn's SAPD is for the San Antonio Police Department. And then I made Martin draw a heart. :-P

We also found some tori gates, which as I've mentioned several times, I illogicaly love!

Us exploring!

We did eventually make to to the waterfall, though, and it turned out I'd already been there.

The lovely waterfall.

The time before, though, it was super rainy, and it was after a long day of hiking in the rain, so it was hard to appreciate. This time, I found it quite lovely, and in any case, the getting there was way more fun!

Good fun was had, and by the time we got back to Okazaki, I think we were all so exhausted we were just about ready to die.

Cathryn Visits: Okazaki-jou

So, when I got back to Okazaki, CATHRYN WAS WAITING FOR ME!!!!

It was SO good to see her. I really can't think of anything that could have possibly been more wonderful. I had sort of reached a point in which I more than needed my best friend.

For several reasons, we decided not to leave Okazaki while she was here, so we just had a GREAT time chillin' in the area! We played lots at Wing Town!

And we watched TONS of Jane Austen! It's amazing how healing watching Jane Austen with your best friend can be!

We also went up and explored around the castle area!

We got to be samurais!

I still haven't figured out why there's this random anchor there, but I figure there must be a story, and I'm interested.

The cute little turtle face looked angry, so we decided he needed some love!

So yeah, the castle area is super nice, and it was great for Cathryn to get to see a bit of the older, more cultural side of Japan. This creepy dude told her she was pretty, though, and offered her like 1000 yen (or 10,000 yen, I can't remember), to touch her. So that was creepy.

And now it is my bedtime! More Cathryn's visit to come soon!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

金沢 (Kanazawa)

So, Sunday morning after the Girls Rock Magazine Tour, we woke up early to head to Kanazawa! It was the end of the term, and after, well, everything, I was really feeling like I just needed to get away (unfortunately, it seems that as opposed to needing to get away from home, I really just needed to get away from people and not Okazaki, but, well, that's another story for another not blog time).

So, to Kanazawa with Alexis, Martin, Zack, Thama, Sandra, Vickie, and Yui!
First up, we visited the castle area.

Then we headed to the museum, which was super cool with all this optical illusiony like stuff!

We got to stand under the water of a pool. It was cool.

Then we walked around the old town area.

The next morning, Alexis and I slept in while the boys went to breakfast, and we met up with them at NinjaDera, this old temple with all sorts of traps and cool things throughout it that made it seem all ninjaish, thus the name!

Us hanging out in front of the temple - no photos allowed inside :-(

Then Martin and I separated and went off to eat lunch at Takano, a vegan restaurant that ended up being utterly scrumptious! We got to eat Daikon flavored-soy ice cream, which, shockingly and unexpectedly, ended up being absolutely delish! I also had some delicious tempeh and seitan, and I got some vegan mac and fauxmage to go for dinner (SO YUMMY!)

Then we headed back over to the castle area to meet up with the others to go to the supposedly super nice neighboring park.

While waiting, we must have taken at least a bagazillion pictures of ourselves making ridiculous faces (for some reason, we love doing this)!

I think in this one we were trying to emulate the face we would be making if there were a woman beating a dog with suckling puppies over yonder.

We found this small but absolutely STUNNING little pond, as well, and I felt like I could have just sat there all day.

Then the park was absolutley LOVELY!

There were these fish that I found absolutely BEYOND adorable when they opened their mouths!

Me trying to open my mouth like one of the little fishy faces - do I succeed?

There were literally TONS of cool trees in the park!

There was also this big statue of this apparently mythical hero. I wish I could remember his name. He seemed super cool.
If you look closely, apparently there are tons of animals carved into the stones!

There was a little temple thing outside the park, so Martin and I played there for a bit while the others headed back to the museum.

There was this totally rad statue of a cow - so cute, right?

And if you've ever read my blog before, you know that I have a somewhat illogical obsession with tori gates. There's really no reason for it, but I get all giddy and excited every time I see them (in the same way that I get giddy and excited for the dragon fountains that are at just about every temple). There were tori gates, so I was satisfied. :-)

These ones were a little small, though. Martin didn't fit.

The next day, we headed to Kagano Onsen for a night in an onsen ryoukan.

On train over, things were quite typical and just as they should be: Thama slept and Zack talked to strangers. . .

After arriving, we decided to take a walk around the little village before heading to the baths. We found some oversized geta that we of course had to try on!

The view from our room was AMAZING(we all had to share the same room - Vickie and Yui had left us by then, but still - 6 people, one room, a bit claustrophobic feeling - thank heavens for the amazing view)!

Getting settled in the room finished, we went down to enjoy the nice baths, which were absolutely PERFECT! Seriously, the view was the most amazing onsen view I had ever seen, and the water temperature was PERFECT! And when I got to hot, there were little benches to go sit on in this area that somehow managed to be cool. I felt like I could have just sat out there alternating between bench and bath for days.

Then, the ryoukan had made me special vegan food for dinner. It was SUPER nice of them, and I had no idea how to say thank you. I got to eat delicious vegan tempura and miso soup and other weird things that I didn't recognize but that were delicious (except the weird slimy, foamy seaweed thing, which was not delicious). It was just wonderful!

The next morning, after leisurely eating breakfast and enjoying the baths, we went out on the walking path behind the ryoukan.

We stumbled across this super cool bridge, and Sandra totally matched it in her pink tank. :-)

There were these HUGE, super cool looking leaves that made me think of cloud giant hands.

Because it's me, I of course wanted to keep one forever, and so despite Alexis and Martin saying how dirty and covered with bugs it must be, I couldn't stop myself from carrying it around all day.

Then it was over, and we hopped on the train back to Kanazawa where we caught the bus back to Okazaki. Good times were had, and when it was over, I was ready for a break! :-)
(Apologies for the not so great quality of the pictures - I didn't really take many, so got to make do with what I had)