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Group Dinner: Shabu Shabu

12 Jun

For our first group dinner together, we ate Shabu Shabu. Four of us sat at a table with a large bowl and were given raw meat and vegetables to cook in the bowl of hot water. You were your own cook! Any complaints you had about food being undone or overcooked were all your fault. At first, I think we were all skeptical because we had to share with three people who although were our peers, we didn’t know that well. However, it was very sanitory because each person is given their own bowl and there was a pair of chopsticks that were only supposed to be used for picking up the food. Eventually, midway into eating, we all got comfortable and just stuck our own chopsticks in. We figured the heat would kill any germs anyway.

A week before I left for Japan, I went to the Melting Pot in Michigan, and it is somewhat comparable to this experience. In my opinion, the taste of Shabu Shabu was much better and you were given more things to cook; and the food was unlimited!

 

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Lucent Pictures

12 Jun

On our last week of Study Abroad, we got the chance to visit the company Futurescope. Before the CEO of Futurescope gave his presentation, we were given a presentation from their “brother” company, Lucent Pictures. This is a film production company, and it was interesting to see the new things they were working on. At first, they showed us all of the 2D films they were turning into 3D films. They explained they it was a very long and specific project because they had to go through each shot of the movie to pick out the best image to make three dimensional. That is hard work. I never imagined so much work to go into making a 3D movie, I just thought there was a machine to make the whole film 3D rather than someone actually picking each image.

After that, they showed us a new innovation they were working on, which would allow you to have unlimited zoom features of photos and movies. I thought that is was cool to have such a close look at images without compromising the quality of the image. They wanted our opinion on whether or not it would be successful when they market it, and after considering many things, this is what I think. I couldn’t imagine it to be very successful if they expect people to pay for it as an extra feature. I could see something like this being useful in the photo or film industry for editing purposes. However, as a person in neither of these fields, it was cool for the first few minutes and then I had seen all that I needed to. To add to that, this was a feature exclusive to the Playstation system, and I don’t think many people who don’t have an this game system would be willing to buy one just to experience this feature.

Regardless of my thoughts on success of their new innovation, I still found their presentation to be very interesting and was appreciative that they took the time to present to us.

Baseball!!!

12 Jun

We went to the Tokyo Dome to watch the Tokyo Giants take on the Orix Buffaloes. Dr. C got us good seats, so we were able to sit in the section right by 1st base. Of course, the Giants were the home team, so our whole section cheered for them. As the Giants would be up to bat, the cheering section would start singing songs and yelling out chants. Also, everyone in that section had on the team attire. I could not find anyone with their colors on. Wearing team paraphernalia is popular in America too, but I had never seen a whole fan section all coordinated.

I think compared to Japanese baseball, American is a lot more competitive and kind of “show-offy” (just made that word up). In American baseball there seems to be more power hits, as hitting home runs is the ideal thing. However, in Japan, it seemed they cared more to just get people on the bases and hit the ball. I think there was only one home run during the entire game. Also, as the other team were up to bat, the home crowd were silent. I was expecting to hear “boo’s” from the crowd, but I didn’t.

The last difference I noticed was on my hunt for popcorn. Out of all of the concession stands, only one of them had popcorn…and they only had caramel! I was surprised, I had never been to a baseball game (I’ve only been twice, lol) where popcorn had not been served, that is like tradition in America. I got the popcorn anyway, it was actually good.

Tattoos

12 Jun

In America, you will find that a lot of people have tattoos, whether they be big or small. That is not something you will find in Japan, although I have seen a few people, mostly men, with tattoos. Tattoos are slowly becoming more accepted in Japan, however there are still some places that do not allow them. In Japanese history, tattoos were once used to mark outlaws and criminals. Then they became popular among members of the Japanese mafia. Still today, some people associate tattoos with mafia members and that is why they are looked at so negatively. I wouldn’t say all Americans associate tattoos with positive things, but they are more accepted in the U.S. Gang members in America usually have a specific tattooed symbol, use hand gestures or have clothing to recognize which gang they are in. So maybe that is why tattoos are more accepted because there are other ways of picking out members of a gang in America than just simply having a tattoo. It is rare to find a public place such as a water park or gym that will deny your entry because you have tattoos. In Japan, we were trying to find a water park but it was hard to find a place that would allow us in with tattoos, same as hot springs places. Even when I went to a club with my sister, I had to hide my tattoo with my hair because they wouldn’t let people in with visible tattoos. But every place is not like this, I think as the years pass they will become more accepted and tattoos will stray away from its negative association.

Fast Food???

11 Jun

Living in America, I am used to seeing at least one “fast food” restaurant every where I turn. In America, this is usually an establishment where the food is somewhat made before ordering, or takes less than 10 minutes to make. Most of these establishments also usually have a drive-thru. However, you won’t find many of those here in Japan. The few that are here are American brands such as McDonald’s and Burger King. The Japanese equivalent of a “fast food” establishment consists of a small restaurant, with the ability to seat about 20 people at the most. Many of these places use the vending machine ordering system. Being that many people use public transportation here anyway, a drive-thru probably wouldn’t get much traffic anyway. The food still comes quick, but compared to America establishments, I would say the food offered in these places are more wholesome. It’s not like picking up a quick snack or finger foods. Instead you can get full dishes such as curry and rice or a meat entree with side dishes. I favor this style of “fast food” way better than America. It gives you many options, and who wouldn’t enjoy a “home cooked”-like meal in just a few minutes.

More Fun…Japan at Night!!!

11 Jun

So of course, we couldn’t say we have experienced Japan without taking a tour of the nightlife. The first night everyone went out in Tokyo, I had to wait on my sister to come from Osaka, so I didn’t go with the group. However, me and my sister met up with some of her friends and went to a club called Camelot. The clubs here don’t close until 5am, so we didn’t leave from the hotel until about 1am. There is a cool website that shows you all of the upcoming club events in different areas. It isn’t hard to find a club that you will enjoy because many of them have multiple floors for dancing and each floor has a different style. I thought this was cool, because you have the opportunity to meet so many different people in one place. All in one night, you could dance to techno on one floor, then hip hop on the next floor, and then house music on the floor after that. Of the places I have been to in America, the style of music and atmosphere depends on the venue on that day, and they just change their theme for each day of the week.

Japanese people know how to party. You definitely won’t find too many people sitting down here. They also are very friendly. Maybe it was because we were foreign, but almost every place I had been to there would be either boys or girls coming up to me just to say “hi”. The only downside to partying in Japan is the price. Most clubs charge between 2000-3500 yen for entry, but that usually includes a drink ticket. That’s like paying $25-$40 every time you go out! In America, I usually pay $0-$5 for bars and $20 at the most to get into a nightclub on a regular night.


 


Fun, Fun, Fun!!!

10 Jun

Karaoke is very popular in Japan. When we were conversing with students at the universities, many of them mentioned karaoke being one of their hobbies. While we were in Osaka, we all decided to go as a group, including Dr. C. I had been to karaoke bars in Michigan and I expected the experience to be pretty much the same, but it differed somewhat. When we got there, we were taken to our room. I was bummed because I was already prepared to embarrass myself in front of a large group of Japanese people, lol. However, it made since that each party would have their own rooms because of the typical “shy” nature of a lot of people in Japan. I got over it soon, and enjoyed the time with our group. I also didn’t mind the unlimited drinks! After our second round, we all got comfortable and put on our best vocal performances. I’m convinced that Andy and Ben are apart of some boy band! I think I can speak for everyone when I say, we had a great time!!!

Breakfast of Champions???

10 Jun

So…now that I have been staying with my sister, she has been making efforts to cook for me. Being that she lives on her own, I was hoping her cooking would be better than when I last remembered. Here’s a pic…I’ll let to let you guess how that is going. This is what she calls and “egg sandwich”…

…she asked me if I liked it, my response: “Oh, I’m just not really an egg person”, lol

Tokyo Gymnasium

10 Jun

During the whole trip, I really wanted to go to a water park. The guys found out about the Tokyo Gymnasium, a place that had a pool, pretty good priced, and allowed people with tattoos. A bunch of us got together and took the subway there on a free day. After we had all changed into our swimsuits and were walking out to the pool, we noticed they were all lap pools. Everyone there was using the pool for exercise and we were just trying to have fun. Then a lifeguard stopped us and told us we had to buy swim caps if we wanted to get in the water. So much for us just splashing around in the water.

We all stood there and debated what we should do, and Tiffany mentioned seeing a hot tub in the locker room. So the girls and guys separated and went back into the locker rooms. I felt awkward being back there because we were the only ones clothed. I never knew Japanese women were so comfortable with nudity. I understand it was the locker room, but none of them made any attempts to cover anything. I was so not used to this. My experience in the locker rooms at the gym or water park in America are much different. I think that maybe in America, because we feel less comfortable around strangers, we don’t allow ourselves to be as “free” in this setting.

The “hot tub” Tiffany found, was actually a bath but we didn’t know this before we got in. We kept on our swimsuits and were enjoying the hot water and steam, and noticed a lot of women looking at us. They didn’t speak much English, so we couldn’t understand what they were saying, but we knew from their body language…we had to remove our clothes. We were all in agreement that we just did not feel comfortable doing so, so we decided to leave. Luckily, the staff knew how much of a hard time we were having, so they gave us all a full refund because we weren’t able to do anything. On the way home we all agreed, we were scarred for life, lol!

 

 

Tea Ceremony

10 Jun

As one of our last activities, we got to experience a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. There are many types of tea ceremonies done for many occasions, including celebrations for weddings, a new year, new seasons, and other things. I think it was cool that we got to experience this tradition as a closing for our program.

To be a host of a ceremony you must have a lot of patience and concentration because your every movement counts. Every move she made was thought through, including grabbing the utensils, wiping the spoon and bowl, pouring the water, and whisking the tea. Even as she placed the utensils, she made sure to use steady movements and place all the items a certain way. When she was done making the tea for each person she placed the tea in front of us and explained the way that we had to drink it. If I can remember correctly, you first bow to the host as they place the tea. You then pick up the bowl with your left hand and then place it in your right hand. Then you have to turn the bowl clockwise so that the symbol is facing the front. After that, you can drink…but it must take a few sips. My allergies were ridiculous on this day, so I was hoping the tea would help with that.¬† The tea she made was much different than any other green tea I had tasted. It was a pure green color and almost foam like. This is not tea that could be bought at a regular supermarket, it is exclusive for tea ceremonies and the leaves are picked and treated with the most care. That pretty much summed up the taste for me.

This was a great experience and very interesting to see all of the effort put into making and presenting the tea. After we were all done, she told us how nervous she had been during the whole process, but I could not tell. She was very poised through the whole time.

 

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