Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Sweets Festival and Other Adventures

Okay, so people have been bugging me to update my blog, so even though I'm tired as hell, here, have a blog update.

The Sweets Festival

'Kashihaku,' or sweets fest, is an event hat happens every year in which the best confectionary makers from all over Japan gather in one spot and show off their goods. This year Kashihaku just happened to be in Hiroshima, so I got to go during Golden Week (more on that later).

The place was jam-packed with people. Everyone had lined up way before they opened the gates. We got there 40 minutes beforehand, and even then the line was unbelievable. I wish I'd thought to take a picture before we entered the crowd.  Luckily once the gates were open everyone just kind of flowed inside, but manoeuvring around that many people is really tiring.

I'd eaten a massive breakfast so only managed to try out two shops - Danish Heart and this fancy chocolatier I don't remember the name of. My sisters and I each bought one thing and helped each other to finish them.

By the way, that cocoa was the single most delicious thing I've ever tasted.

Next we went to the art exhibit, with all sorts of massive sculptures made entirely from sweets. They were amazing but we weren't allowed to take pictures so sorry about that. I was allowed to take pictures of the cool cakes afterwards though!

Other Adventures

So the other day of Golden Week I had off, I spent at a family barbecue. Japanese-style barbecue, of course, not sausages and chicken legs. Strips of beef, grilled starchy veggies like sweet potato and corn, prawn, grilled rice balls, that kind of thing. There I met a third cousin once removed or something like that - my grandfather's cousin's granddaughter - who went on a 10 day exchange to Hawaii last year, and we clicked pretty well.

So today, Yukina-chan (my cousin) and I went shopping at a local mall. She thought I'd probably like it cause she'd heard there was some anime stuff there or suchlike.

Oh. My. God. It was like I'd stepped into a fantasy world. There wasn't really anything anime-related I cared about, but instead there were several floors of lolita and punk-goth fashion stores. Proper quality goods! And so much of it! I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven! It was all the better because I wasn't expecting it. My cousin was like, oh yeah let's go look at the anime stuff, and I'm like yeah cool whatever, and then the first shop I arrive at on the next floor is freaking Alice and the Pirates and I just about died. I think the shop assistant just about died too. You could totally see she was dying to dress me up like a French doll, but I just didn't feel comfortable trying on $300+ dresses when I had about $30 in my pocket. I wish I could have taken pictures of such amazingnesses, but I wasn't allowed. Luckily I found a more affordable store with some seriously awesome punk-goth stuff, so I intend to remedy the lack of photos next week when I have money ;D

Here's some more purikura, by the way!

Life and Sidenotes

So there has been no club activities all of last week and there will be none all of next week. Also, there's no school on Monday. Sound like a relaxing two weeks? Don't be fooled. Monday's a holiday because there was school yesterday instead, and the club activities have been suspended to give us time to study for the tests that start on Tuesday. Woooo. I am so screwed, by the way.

Golden Week: not what it sounds like. It's actually only four days, and if that sounds pretty good, nuh-uh, those days are Friday-Monday. I did actually have Saturday and Sunday off, but on both the Friday and Monday I had club activities in the morning, so I had to get up at 5am anyway. Some week. Also, plenty of homework was unloaded on us to do during Golden Week, so, boo.

There's definitely more but tomorrow's the only chance for me to sleep in and I'm tired so leave me alooooone

Talk to you later :)

Friday, 26 April 2013

Trip to the Aquarium and Other Adventures

Hey guys! Sorry I haven`t updated in about ten godzillion years, I literally have had no time whatsoever. Doing my best to balance school work with basketball with sleep. Doesn`t always go according to plan.

Megane Daifuku-senpai

When I skyped my parents last week, they asked me if any of the boys had been asking me out. I told them to wait until I updated my blog to hear the story. Sorry it`s a bit late, guys.

There`s a third year in the boys` basketball club who apparently really likes me, so he gave a mutual friend (one of the third years in the girls` club) a strawberry daifuku to give to me, "Because you`re cute." Kinda cute, kinda flattering. Also strawberry daifuku turns out to be the most delicious thing on the planet. That was a week ago though and there`s been no interaction since, despite the fact that we have practice on the same court virtually every day. I`m not too keen on him to be honest so I don`t mind. But he`s a friend of one of the third years on the girls` team, and she said she`d introduce me so I`m probably gonna have to get along with him eventually. I can`t remember what his name is - Sasaki or something - so I`ve just been calling him Megane-senpai or Megane Daifuku-senpai (Megane = glasses. He`s the only guy in the boys` club that wears glasses). 

AFS Orientation

The Sunday before last was the first AFS orientation. All the exchange students in the Hiroshima prefecture got together and shared their experiences, and later the host families showed up and we all introduced our home countries. I didn`t know about the speach so I sorta had to wing it. In Japanese. It went better than expected, actually.

Everyone`s getting used to living in Japan. It was really great to see the differences in the way we interacted. The last time we saw each other, conversation was entirely in English. This time it was mostly English, but every now and then we`d use Japanese out of habit. It was also great to talk to people going through the same things as me.

School Life

Oh man, I can`t remember the last time I had a proper night`s sleep. This is my daily routine:

Wake up at 5am, practice basketball until either 5:40 or 6, depending on whether or not I need to wash my hair. Relax for ten minutes with a cup of coffee while holding an ice pack to my eyes to reduce the swelling from lack of sleep. The bus ride to school takes maybe 50 minutes. After school is basketball practice, which ends at 6pm on Tuesdays and Fridays, 6:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and about 4:30 on Thursdays, when we have a short but intense run around the school. Because of bus times, depending on the day I get home either at 6pm, 7:30 or 8pm. If I`m lucky I`ll be free enough to get to bed at 10:30, but 11 is more likely. Before bed I do pushups and situps in order to strengthen my throws in basketball.

On the weekend I have to go to school for either morning or afternoon basketball practice. Morning practice starts at 8ish, afternoon starts at 12ish. On the weekend the buses are different so it takes about an hour and a half to get to school, two and a half to get back, and four hours in between for practice, so that`s 8 hours I spend per weekend day either at school or commuting to or from school. Basically my life is basketball. Luckily everyone in the club is awesome and super nice, and I actually really enjoy basketball.

I`ve gotten used to Japanese math! I think I`ll really be able to do it, which is great. The math teacher is seriously nice and wants me to succeed as well as everyone else. He even goes out of his way to try and find the English word for things like factor theory and cancellation. Whereas the koten teacher doesn`t even give me the textbook and expects me to do the homework, which is frankly impossible for me. Koten is something the scholars call Japanese but really it`s an entirely different language. Even the Japanese don`t understand it, so the idea of me translating it is kind of ridiculous.

The earth science teacher also expects me to copy into my book everything he writes on the board, and his handwriting is really bad. It`s alright for those who can actually read kanji, but I have no idea what he`s writing most of the time and it`s impossible for me to do without help from the girl who sits next to me.

English II and Writing (That`s the English word `writing`, not the Japanese word for it) is fairly easy, I just try not to fall asleep. In Japanese and World History I also have to try not to fall asleep because of all the kanji. I`m sure it would be very interesting if I could read it.

I`m taking Home Economics here! It`s pretty interesting to read about the Japanese idea of a balanced diet. I`ve been trying to think how I could fit that into the foods that one could buy in New Zealand, and it`s kind of difficult. Hoping to actually start cooking sometime soon.

School Trip to the Aquarium

Today was the school trip to an aquarium called Aquas. This aquarium is famous for its white whales, which are the most adorable things ever. Each bus ride was two hours of non-stop snacks and sweets. Apparently in Japan a school trip means everyone brings a packet of something and passes it around the bus until nobody can eat anything anymore. But they eat a normal sized lunch despite this. I felt pretty ill afterward. `Twas fun though.

Yeah, I sorta missed the silly-face memo.
(Yuma, Akari, Mingo, Arisa, Mei/Satsuki, Rina.)

The aquarium itself was great. There were adorable whale and penguin keyrings and magnets which I would have loved to buy for you all, except I left my wallet in my bag that had my basketball stuff in it, which I`d left at school. Sorry guys.

I switched groups when I got to the aquarium `cause Akari and them were kind of racing through the aquarium. And then I became a manta ray.

Everyone wanted to get their picture taken with me, it was pretty funny. These girls always seem to move in groups; someone will get up the courage to ask if we can take a picture together, and when I say yes everyone else will be like, "She said it was okay? Then I`m gonna get one too!" So I end up with this mass of girls surrounding me and touching my hair and getting each other to take pictures. It was fun times.

Settling into Japan/Miscellaneous

The interactions between my fellow students has been pretty interesting. The first-years in the basketball club are super polite to me because I`m their senpai, which is pretty weird because everyone`s my senpai when it comes to basketball. I`m trying to get myself into the habit of using polite speech when talking to my senpais too, and saying the correct phrases at the right times, but it`s difficult. I`d much rather be everyone`s friend instead of having this hierarchy.

I`m getting a lot less attention than I was in the beginning, which I expected. I`m not something new and exciting anymore, just something different. I still stand out like a sore thumb, but people aren`t in a rush to talk to me most of the time.

Remember when I said Japanese people had no shame in staring? Apparently that rule only applies to strangers on the street. Japanese high school boys are the worst starers ever. Every now and then I`ll look up and see someone hurriedly whip their head away. I wouldn`t have even noticed if they`d remained calm and casually shifted their gaze a little. You`d think that by sixteen they`d have figured out how to stare at someone sneakily. I did manage to coax a group of boys into talking to me during the bus ride home the other day by waving when I saw them staring. That was quite cool. I`d like to make some guy friends as well as girls, but the guys are just so shy.

So, I`ve finally figured out what the deal with dating in Japan is. I`ve been getting mixed responses - manga says that high schoolers date, AFS says that high schoolers generally don`t, one man said that only the city schools have people dating, but I go to a country school and people have boyfriends and girlfriends. So here`s the sitch: They "date," with quotation marks. They get given the title of boyfriend and girlfriend, and sometimes if they`ve been dating a while they`ll actually kiss each other (OMG!!!!11one!!). One girl told me that she and her boyfriend had been dating two years and they still hadn`t kissed. That`s not the norm in Japan either, but that gives an idea of high school dating. It`s a little scary, but I guess what with schoolwork and club activities combined there isn`t really time for all that boy-girl stuff. Because of that, the girls` love talks are very young and innocent. I feel like I`ve gone back in time. It was a bit of a culture clash.

The Japanese have this annoying habit of inviting you to go places "next time." "Next time, let`s go to karaoke!" "Let`s hang out next time!" "We should go to Akihabara next time!" "Next time we`ll all get sushi." This doesn`t actually mean that you`ll do any of these things. It`s just supposed to reassure you that this person doesn`t dislike spending time with you, since they`d be willing to spend more time with you sometime. I mean nobody`s free enough to hang out very often anyway. It`s kind of annoying though `cause I have to remind myself not to get excited about [insert here]. I am finally gonna hang out with people on Sunday night though. The basketball team has a game on Sunday, and afterwards we`re all gonna get dinner together. Looking forward to that.

Well I can`t think of anything else and I`m tired as hell, so I`m gonna end it here. Until next time!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

First Week of School and Other Adventures

Hey guys! Oh man, this week has been awesome!

The Social Aspect

The first day I walked down the halls at school, I swear everyone stopped what they were doing and started screaming. Once I'd been spotted news of me spread fast, haha. When I introduced myself in front of my class, there were a group of boys standing outside the door watching me, and as I made my way to my seat one of them got up the courage to come in and say 'Hello' (in English) before heading back to his classroom. The whole week has pretty much been like that. The amount of times I've heard the phrase 'meccha kawaii!' I'm pretty much friends with every girl in the school, even if I haven't actually talked to them yet. Man, if someone actually good-looking had come to this school these people would have fainted from shock!

And just in case I couldn't make myself known to everyone by myself, on Wednesday I introduced myself in front of the entire student body. So yeah, there isn't a single student who doesn't know me. Luckily everyone's really nice. I've made friends with two different groups of girls in my class. I'm having trouble remembering everyone's names, though >.< Everybody wants to talk to me, it's a little difficult. I've had a lot of people touching my hair, and comments on my eyes. My most popular name is Izu, which the girls who are my friends or know me slightly call me. The boys call me Isabelle/Isabella (as best as they can anyway), and to my fellow club members (more on that later) I'm Beru (Belle).

The boys here are really funny. I haven't really talked to any of them except for hellos and goodbyes, cause they're a bit shy, so I dont really know their names or faces. I remember one boy in my class's name because I sat behind him in Old Japanese or whatever it is and he tried to show me his textbook, cause I didn't have mine, but I didn't understand it at all, and he went bright red and his friends teased him about it. But I remember him so I think he did pretty well. Better than his friend who teased him, who i barely remember at all. I also had an exchange with a boy who wanted me to join the baseball club, and another one for the volleyball club. The only other guy's name I remember is a third year who, according to his female friend, had been wanting to talk to me, but was apparently rendered speechless for a few moments when he finally got the opportunity, hahaha. He eventually recovered and introduced himself. I love this place, definitely recommend Japan.

(This post doesn't have enough photos, so here's something yummy my grandma brought over.)

Actual School Life

Okay yeah, don't understand Japanese math at all. Pretty sure New Zealand's about a year behind Japan on that front. But I'm doing my best. That whole Japanese 'do your best' spirit's seriously infectious. I actually feel like I really want to get that homework done, so I can feel like I really worked hard. Which, what with after school club activities, means getting to bed rather late. But getting up in the morning's never been easier! Maybe it's because Japan's already fully bright by 6am, I don't know. But in Japan, if you're not completely burned out by the end of the day you're not doing it right.

Speaking of which, I joined a club! Please don't laugh too hard. You can laugh a little. I'll understand.

I joined the girl's basketball club.

Shuddup Japanese girls are shorter! (Which is really odd by the way, cause the boys are just as tall, if not taller on average like srsly wtf). The club's really happy to have me, since I'm famous and white and all that, but they haven't seen me play yet so yeah. I hope they still love me after they realise how much I suck. They're all such lovely people. But I'm determined to be a passable player by the time I come back! Practice is two hours a day (I'll be getting home between 7:45 and 8:20 everyday), plus four hour practice matches some Saturdays, so that should be doable. Did I mention some days there's an extra period added onto the school timetable?

Other Adventures

So, there was an earthquake about 5:40 this morning! Exciting stuff! Except I slept through it. My host mom woke me up to tell me there had been an earthquake and to be careful, but I was too tired to understand the Japanese word for earthquake so I just went back to sleep.

I went to see the Hiroshima Castle. I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside the building cause everything in it is an ancient relic which would crumble into dust if I did, so I'm sorry but you don't get to see all the cool katanas. But have a picture of the outside.

Yeah, that's about it for now.

Catch you all later!

Friday, 5 April 2013

The A-Bomb Memorial Museum and Other Adventures

Hey guys, sorry I haven't updated in a million years, but what can I say, I'm lazy and Mari's hardly ever home to get me access to the wifi.

School starts in two days! Ahh! I have to make a short speech, which I've written but not memorised. I guess I should do that tonight.

The A-bomb Memorial Museum

This was fully the most powerful and worst experience of my life. Coming up to the museum I saw the ruins that had been preserved and a bunch of different memorials. I almost cried when I saw the children's memorial, inspired by Sadako Sasaki, who you all should know, and if you don't, look her up.

They showed all sorts of things in that museum, including before and after models of Hiroshima in 1945. I only bothered to take a picture of the after one. Aya pointed out to me where her grandpa was when the bomb hit.

I actually did cry when I got to the second part of the museum though. This was the part where they did their best to move you, with pictures and stories of real people. And wax sculptures of children burned to a crisp by the radiation, entitled something like 'Barely Living.'

I could go on, but I think I'll stop there. Basically it was powerful and tragic.


On a much lighter note, the family went out flower-viewing last weekend! Yaay!

We all had a picnic in the park and looked at the flowers and stuff!


Grandpa's in the hospital getting something done, but I went to see him and he's fine, so not to worry.

I did that purikura thing with Aya! That purikura machine automatically makes your eyes bigger though, which I guess is flattering on the Japanese but it looks kinda odd on me! It was fun though.

Well, I can't remember anything else I was gonna say. This is a pretty long post anyway. So I'll see you next time!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Just waiting for school to start

Hey guys! So, first of all, I'm officially a prep school student! At a knee-length-skirt, shirt-tucked-in, all-buttons-done-up, blazer-and-tie, the-uniform-actually-looks-good kind of school. Feeling a little spooked. Despite all that though, we're allowed to have our hair down! Stoked!

Thanks for linking me that app, dad!

Second of all, oh man, I have so much to say.


I've been getting stared at a lot recently, which is understandable. I've never been so conscious of my hair! I expected it. But what's odd is the way they stare. It's not like how people stare in New Zealand. In NZ you can usually read why they're staring on their face; "I think I've seen her somewhere before." "What the hell is she wearing?" "I like those earrings." But when Japanese people stare, they have zero expression on their faces. It's the strangest thing! And usually, in New Zealand, if you want them to stop staring you just have to stare back and they get embarrassed and look away. But the Japanese are completely undeterred. I usually end up having a really weird moment of eye contact before they pass by.

I don't usually get the feeling that they're judging me, so I don't really mind.

Some Things I Forgot to Mention etc.

 My grandfather and grandmother live next door. They're interesting people and very nice. Grandma'salways bringing over food. Grandpa's adorable, always trying to improve his English. He showed me a track about 2 minutes away from the house which I've now been running.

Packing for warm weather was a huge mistake. I thought since the cherry blossoms were blooming it would be spring. Nope. It's the warmer end of winter, which means the whole house is freezing except for the living room, which is heated and is still slightly chilly most of the time anyway. I'm no longer laughing at heated toilet seats.

The Japanese seem to eat a strange mixture of extremely healthy food and sweet stuff. At the end of the day though, despite all the cakes and cookies grandma keeps bringing over, my diet still appears to be healthier than in New Zealand.

The vending machines sell hot drinks like coffee, and I saw one that only sold ice cream! Will have to try that sometime, though I doubt It's very good.

Everything is super super cute, especially the clothes! I want everything!!

Manga is soooo cheap. The not particularly popular ones are about ¥350 ($4.50), the midway ones are about ¥400-¥480 ($5-$6), and the Kuroshitsuji I bought, being a big name, was ¥571 ($7.20). Which is apparently expensive in Japan. I just about died from happiness. I will buy soooo much manga!

I thought I'd watch a ton of anime here, but I haven't watched a single one yet! A little sad about that.

I have so much more I could say but this post is getting a little too long, so maybe another time! See you all later!

Friday, 22 March 2013

I'm in Japan!

Hi everybody!

You guys have no idea how hard it was to get access to wifi at my new home. Be grateful!

Man, I can't believe it's finally happening. Everything is so massively different, it's just incredible. I've been here five days and there's already so much to share!

First, we arrived in Tokyo Narita airport and got a bus to this really fancy hotel and stayed the night there. (Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to upload pictures to my blog from my iPad yet, and it's kind of hard to when the website's buttons and messages have all changed to Japanese. For now they'll just go on Facebook.)

The next day we got a bus to Oosaka, which took about nine hours. You know how you hear that Japanese food is really healthy? Well, most of it is, but their sweet things are super super sweet! Our entire lunch was bread filled with sugary creams, it was crazy. On the toilet breaks I learned that Japanese toilet seats are heated! It felt so weird at first!

For the next two days we stayed at a more Japanese-y hotel, which had a public bath, which really wasn't as embarrassing as I'd thought it would be and was actually really relaxing. The food was really filling and healthy and I thought hey, maybe I'll lose weight after all! But then on the bus ride to the train station yesterday they fed us that sugary bread again, yick.

I rode a Shinkansen to Hiroshima!! It was incredible! Pictures on facebook!

So now I'm at my host family's house. They're really nice, and my mother cooks really well. They do laundry every day and let me wash my hair in the morning. I was really tired that first night when my parents and I had a really long talk, laying down the ground rules. My head was buzzing afterwards from trying to understand that much Japanese!

Today we went shopping for school stuff. Man, absolutely everything in Japan is cute. I'll upload a picture of the school bag, Bento box and bags that I bought. They're totally girly. I'm having problems with my card for some reason so I haven't got any cash yet, so my host parents had to pay for my stuff, but as soon as I have money I'm gonna try and pay them back.

Tonight, I'm trying natto for the first time! Can't wait! Hope I like it!

Monday, 21 January 2013

This post is a little pointless

I just thought I'd let the world know that my new iPad mini has arrived. Yayy!

How is this relevant to my blog?

Well, starting March, this iPad is going to be both my personal computer and my electronic dictionary, with the help of a few Japanese-English dictionary apps. While I'm in Japan, most of my blog updates will probably be done on this iPad. I'll probably be doing my school work on here too. And if I can convince my school to let me, I'll be looking up every second word I read on this thing throughout the day. >_>

Really this update is just an excuse to be excited all over you guys.

My host family hasn't replied to my e-mail yet, so I'm probably going to have to send them another one.

Just over eight weeks to departure.

Be safe!
xx Isabelle

P.S. Totally updating from my iPad right now.