Monday, March 28, 2011

Food and Drinks

Random pictures of food and drinks I found in my unsorted folder.
Bag of Koala's March.
Galbo Balls were so delicious! I'll really miss them.
Pizza flavored potato chips.
Pasta and corn dinner.
Can of tuna. I never did like the oil they were packed in. Though apparently this can did not have any, I might have to disagree about this claim...
Milk donuts. They weren't that good.

I don't remember the name of this drink, but the bottle was crazy looking.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I guess my posts will be a bit scattered now in terms of time as I dig through old photos that never got posted. These are the souvenirs Daniel got for me during his trip to areas in western Japan, which if I remember right he went to some time back in February:
The monkey is from Monkey Park. The Hello Kitty handkerchief and Hello Kitty dressed as a deer are from Miyajima. I do not remember where the strap of Hello Kitty dressed as a Buddhist nun came from me (and unfortunately I'm pretty sure it got shipped in one of the boxes we shipped by boat).
Daniel also won me a big Rilakkuma plushie and got me a fox tail. Unfortunately they both got put in boxes too so I won't get to see them again for a while...

He also got us some cookies! One box was the same kind as the Namahage cookies I got from Akita, which were good. I think they had deer on them. Some others had bean paste and brandy I think? I am not a fan of bean paste though.

We both already miss UFO catchers so much. I'd like to take a picture of our final collection of stuff Daniel's won, but all of them got shipped by boat!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Beginning of the End

Well, it's all over now. It's been over for quite a few days. On Sunday we left Japan and we won't be able to return to finish up the rest of our year. It's Friday morning now and I'm still suffering from jet lag. I keep waking up at 11 or 12 no matter how late I try to go to bed, only been getting 5-6 hours of sleep the past week due to waking up anxious and worried about this entire mess. Our bad luck just won't seem to stop even though I'm keeping my fingers crossed that something will turn our way soon.

I'm rather sad to have left. I got so used to my Tokyo lifestyle and I just loved living there. It is so hard for me to leave and try to re-adjust to an American one. I miss everything already. The convenience stores, the convenience of Tokyo in general, the arcades, the way people don't get into your business, the fact that food comes to you within five minutes, the signs reading in Japanese, getting to hear Japanese all of the time... There is just so much.

Plus there are so many things I regret not buying before I left. For example, another pack of my lashes and Dolly Wink liquid eyeliner. I did not realize that I had only ONE left eyelash left and three right eyelashes. Unfortunately all of the stores in Narita airport only had Dolly Wink eyelashes instead of my Diamond ones. They also only had the pencil liners for Dolly Wink rather than liquid. It would be really nice if there was a Japanese grocery store here in Boston. There used to be one but I'm pretty sure they have been closed down. Also, I really regret not buying a few more tights before I left Japan. You know, the warm ones that allows you to get away with wearing shorts and skirts in the winter. I have no idea where I could possibly get those here. At the very least I have one, my WC ones.

I guess that this means that this blog will come to a close soon. However there's still some pictures I have left to post up, so I'll still post a few more times before I close it. I also need to write about my hectic last few days. Beyond this blog though, I think I will probably re-start up my Ameba blog (though I write that in Japanese). I am not sure if I will start up another blog in English yet.

In any case, here are some pictures of the road leading to Nerima, which is about ten minutes from where I was living. I took these a few days before the earthquake.
Traffic signs. It was cool that they were in both Japanese and English.
An underpass.
A different angle of the underpass.
Crosswalk sign.
The Bamiyan Chinese restaurant, a sister of our much frequented Cafe Gusto. I wish we had had a chance to go one last time.
A nearby pet store. However, it is unique in that it also doubles as a cat and dog cafe and triples as a karaoke bar where you can have your own private karaoke box or party with the animals. Is this not a perfect way to establish a relationship with an animal you're thinking about purchasing or what? I wish we had had a chance to go just for the experience.
Momotarou sushi restaurant. I always thought the sign was cute.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sweet Potatoes and Bad News

It's over. I have received the order to go home. Our flight is on Sunday. It's been an amazing seven months and I'm incredibly sad that my adventure has to come to a halting stop.

We've spent the past day pretty much packing everything up. The apartment looks so empty. This place, this whole town, really felt like home to me. I'm really going to miss Tokyo. I wish everything was back to normal...

Since we're leaving, I've been thinking a lot about all of the little things I'll miss. Such as the music coming from the truck of whom we call the yakiimo (baked sweet potato) man. Just as I was thinking about it, I heard the song. Realizing this was probably the last chance I'll get to try the sweet potatoes, I decided to chase him down. Whenever I catch the ice cream truck, I'm so used to having to run really fast. However, the trucks here go at the speed of a snail. He was about right in front of my apartment by the time I made it down the four flights of stairs. I started walking over to him, wallet in hand, and he made a face like 'are you coming to me?' He rolled down his window, greeted me, put down his cigarette and got out of the truck.

He asked me how many I wanted and I told him two. He told me they were really good and I told him it was my first (and unfortunately will be my only) time eating them. He assured me again that they were really good and pulled out two for me. He weighed them on the scale hanging on the back of his truck and I paid for the two based on their weight, 500 yen.
I really wasn't sure what to expect when I took my first bite, but my first comment about them was how sweet they are. Since I had just eaten an onigiri for dinner, I ate about half of it? Hard to imagine me of all people eating a real vegetable!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Dark, Lonely Shinjuku and Ikebukuro

It's been four days now since the quake. Our town has been very quiet. There haven't been too many trucks coming by, but the earthquake hasn't stopped the baked sweet potato vendor from coming by twice since. The shelves are still empty at most of the convenience stores and supermarkets everywhere.

Since yesterday was relatively quiet and warm, I decided to head out to Shinjuku and then to Ikebukuro.
I went around 2:30 and the trains were pretty much empty.
Surprisingly, Shinjuku Station seemed even more empty. Usually there is at least three times as many people walking through this walkway over the Marunouchi train line. As it had been a day when people were instructed to stay home, the only ones out were pretty much only foreigners and couples because it was White Day, a day in which guys give girls gifts for what they received on Valentine's Day.
I stopped by Shinjuku ALTA to buy some cosmetics for a customer. There weren't that many people in there, but there usually isn't. I took this picture of the Liz Lisa display as seen from outside. So cute!
Then I headed over to Ikebukuro. Unsurprisingly, there were still plenty of people riding the JR lines. As you can see though, the lights on these buildings are not turned on. Since it had gotten cloudy, Ikebukuro seemed like a very dark place.
There were not so many people on the street heading to Sunshine City either. Normally these streets would be filled with shoppers. But no music played as you walked through the street, there were no maids handing out fliers for their maid cafes. In fact, there were hardly any people advertising their restaurants at all! Normally the street is lined with people shouting at the top of their lungs about the special deals and services their restaurant offers, but yesterday there were absolutely none. Surprisingly the arcades were still open, but only for a limited time.
When I got to Sunshine City, most of the stores were closed shut as in the picture above. It was a bit shocking to see store after store in this condition. I went over to the ALTA side and there were still up and running, luckily. I couldn't find what I was looking for though, so I backtracked and headed outside to Animate.
Pictures of Animate that I managed to take from the outside. I got inside of it just minutes before they closed at about 5pm I think it was. A lot of stores were closing up shop at 4 to 6pm. It was the strangest thing though, since they had an anime-sounding guy come on to tell us that they were closing and hoping we could meet again. Then they played this song about parting and meeting again. They played this over and over on a loop in order to drive customers out of the store. It was a bit surprising they let us all the way up to the fifth floor though as Donki had the stairs leading beyond the second floor blocked off.
A vending machine outside of Animate. Apparently the drinks taste horrible though.

After I checked out a few other nearby stores, I decided to start heading home.

Cute advertisement of fat kitty on top of an arcade.

All of Ikebukuro was so dark it felt so strange. Normally the entire place is so lit up that you might not even notice that it's night time. I was glad I had gone back to the train station when I did though, since I managed to catch the very last train out before they shut down the trains for an hour. When I got to my station, I stopped by McDonalds and grabbed us dinner. Walking home I noticed there were a lot of restaurants closed. Those that had remained open were completely empty. The area I live in, which can be a bit bustling in its own right around the "Ginza area," kind of felt like a dark ghost town.

Today we're staying inside for the most part again. Pretty much all of the major shopping malls have been closed again, too. Luckily there were no blackouts yesterday because of everyone's efforts to conserve energy. I hope today is the same.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Great Earthquake

I guess around 2:30 I took off for the train station. Everything seemed normal. We got past Ochiai Minami-Nagasaki, reached Nakai just fine. Just as we left things started to seem strange. I was in my usual falling asleep daze when something seemed strange. The train started to make it's usual announcement in Japanese, "The next station is..." but then it never said Higashi-Nakano. In fact, there was a strange rumble and the train came to a complete halt. The train continued rumbling and everyone began looking at each other wondering if someone else held the answer to what was going on.

The word "earthquake" spread like wildfire throughout the train. A middle-aged woman dressing much younger than her age and even wearing a bow on her head cried out she didn't want to die and clung to the salaryman in his early 20s next to her. I think it was the first time for several us who were in that car experiencing an earthquake while riding on the train. A train attendant came through from the back of the train and announced that it was an earthquake.

The earthquake continued on for quite a bit longer than usual. This was the first time I've ever seen Tokyoites leave their personal bubbles behind and talk to the complete strangers they were riding with. Not to mention, in particular the gal sitting next to me talking to me without second thought to whether or not I actually spoke Japanese. Or perhaps she had some doubt, but since I could say "earthquake" and "this is my first time experiencing an earthquake while on a train" (granted it's a lot simpler in Japanese...) she went on chatting with me during the situation like I was a normal Japanese.

Shortly after the driver of the train told us the magnitude of the earthquake, though I didn't quite catch what he had said. We quickly started up again and reached Higashi-Nakano. We were all kicked off of the train and told to wait while they inspected the safety of the tunnels. Since we were underground and I had no access to the internet or anything of the sort, I didn't realize how bad things were and I just assumed that it wouldn't take too long before we'd be on our way again. The strange thing that I noticed though was that I wasn't getting any service at all though somehow I managed to send a few messages.
Shortly after we got off the train another big earthquake happened. It was kind of amusing the watch the train wobble back and forth. The announcements explaining there had been a big earthquake and that they were inspecting the tunnels began repeating over and over. Some people left though those who stayed found themselves a pillar and took a nap or found other things to do. I ended up taking a nap myself though about an hour later I received a bunch of messages that were originally sent an hour before. I didn't quite understand what was going on, but for the rest of the evening my cell phone wasn't really working at all.

More time passed, and they eventually took the original train away. About a half hour later, they brought another train in. We thought we would finally get going, however they did not open the train doors. More time passed, they opened the trains for us to sit in but didn't say when we would be moving. A few moments later there was an announcement about tsunamis and that JR had been shut down for the day and they do not know whether it will be up and running again tomorrow. They still were not sure when the line I was riding on would be up again.

Eventually three hours total had passed since the first quake. I was getting hungry and after the third announcement about the tsunami and JR I decided it was time to give up on going to Shinjuku and go home. I ended up following another lady out, who spoke to me on the escalator, asking me if I could understand what was going on. I told her I could, and then asked her how long it would take me to walk home. She said probably an hour and a half, but if I took the bus it might take an hour. I decided I would opt for the walking home considering I have been skipping out on exercising recently.

Since I was hungry, I first stopped by a nearby 7-Eleven, pulled out some money, grabbed some food. I asked them if they had a map that could lead me to my home station and they were sure. However a lady was able to point me in the proper direction but said I would have to turn left at some point. She was right. After studying a map at a nearby station, I figured I could get there by following the big roads, and so began my journey together with several other people also making their ways home.
It took me two hours, but I finally made it home by going straight for a long while, took a left, and then kept going straight until I got home, just as the lady said. It was especially helpful that the signs for cars also helped to let me know I was going in the proper direction and where to properly turn. The above is the mess that greeted me. That toaster oven normally rests on top of the microwave! Luckily that was the worst of it for us, though the stuff in the bathroom got jostled around a bit.

I came home to several emails asking about my safety, caught up on Twitter, and then proceeded to worry about my boyfriend. He didn't end up getting home until a few hours after me. It turns out that he had actually been stuck inside of the train for over five hours. Ouch!! Considering I did not have my DS or a book on me, I am really glad I was not in the same situation.

When I got home I was also tuned into the other disasters that were occurring throughout Japan. My friend Sabrena tried to inform me of it earlier through emailing my phone, but I didn't actually receive them until after I got home due to the limited phone service in Tokyo.

There has been ten aftershocks since I have gotten home. They are predicting there will be another big one, and I am afraid of when it will hit...but for now, all is fine with us. I hope it will remain this way.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reunited in Shibuya!

It's been a long time coming, but a few of us who participated in Nogyaru rice harvesting decided to meet up for a girl's day out in Shibuya! Naturally the entire event turned into a huge photo session for everyone, so I managed to take quite a few photos. It was all brought together by Maki, so I'm so grateful to her that I got to see everyone again.
Maki managed to reserve us our own snug little corner in a restaurant called PUBLIC HOUSE. Once everyone who could come was assembled, we started off with brunch!
Mayu and I got this hamburg dish. Unfortunately I wasn't able to finish it. There was just way too much food!
Everyone else got this spaghetti dish. I kinda wish I had gotten it too considering it looks delicious even now!
The desert. I was a bit too full to get one myself though.
A picture I managed to snap of Mei and Nami during our conversing. We talked about a lot of things, from differences between America and Japan, to job searching, to dieting and exercise, and naturally a lot more topics came up. I managed to learn a few new words too!
All of us assembled. From left to right: Me, Mayu, Maki, Nami, and Mei.
On our way out of the restaurant.

Some of the graffiti that can be found around Shibuya.
An advertisement for EXILE's new album. I tripped on the sidewalk and twisted my ankle shortly after this shot. Unfortunately it still hurts a bit now.
 View of Shibuya as we crossed an overhead walkway.
Advertisement for the new Dissidia game that came out. 

Art meets Mode advertisement.

Naturally, the next place we went was an arcade so we could take purikura!
A couple of the purikura machines. There were so many that it was hard to choose which machine to use!
A sign advertising their stamp card services.
After we chose a random one, the purikura machine gave us this pack of eyelashes as a gift. No one really wanted them, so I ended up taking them.
 Deciding how to divide up the purikura...
Which turns into an opportunity for a silly photo!
The purikura we took together.

After purikura, we decided to head into the next building over for some karaoke.
We got the party room! Which was a bit unfortunate for me since we sat all the way in the back. I had some trouble reading some the lyrics because they were blurry for me without my glasses.
Everyone wanted to hear me sing in English, so I kicked our karaoke session off with Bad Romance.
Other songs we sung were AKB48's Heavy Rotation and the classic Stay Away by L'Arc~en~Ciel. Surprisingly, Shoujo Jidai and KARA songs were also sung (in their Japanese versions, of course).

After our hour and a half of fun we all headed our separate ways. However we did leave with plans to meet up again next day to do cherry blossom viewing. I'm really looking forward to it!