Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This past weekend, Stephanie, Josh, and I went to the city of Fukuoka. Its about a two hour bus ride from APU. Luckily, Steph and I only had a first period class on Friday, so we left after our class and made it to the city in the early afternoon.

Where to start? One of the biggest attractions in Fukuoka is the humongous five story mall called Canal City. I'd compare it to Great Lakes Crossing Mall from back home, but Canal City is definitely bigger.

Because of its size, we ended up just shopping around for the rest of the day and exploring the gigantic mall and all of its glory. There was a ton of great shops in there, including a Pokemon Center and a Cold Stone Creamery, both of which we made sure to stop in.

Sometime during the mall madness we realized that we were starving, so we tried our luck at an Omu Rice restaurant. Omu rice is like an egg omelet with rice and other ingredients inside. I ended up getting some sort of shrimp/white sauce rice omelet and the result was this:


After that, we were very tired, so we headed back to our hotel and conked out.

Saturday, we got our butts up early and headed out for some of the sights of the city. We went to a couple shrines first. Its very interesting because the shrines are located in the middle of the bustling city area, so its somewhat strange to see the cars and tall towers and then a section of beautiful trees and traditional looking gardens and shrines. They were absolutely beautiful, and the weather was so awesome, I was so happy because the weather allowed the quality of my pictures to turn out so much better!

Then it was off the the Fukuoka Art Museum which I was personally excited for. It was a very nice museum, not very big, but very good none the less. I ended up purchasing a book there that had some of my favorite pieces from the gallery. There was modern art as well as more traditional art, although both were good in their own ways.

After the art museum, we stopped at this bakery shop because my sweet tooth was calling for my attention the entire day. It was so worth it.

When night falls, the streets near Canal City become littered with Ramen Stands, all along the canal side. We ended up eating at one of the stalls, choosing with pointing fingers and broken Japanese some kind of bowl and some beer. I have to say, it was the best ramen I've ever eaten. This stuff can't even compare to the Cup-of-Noodles that I live off of back at college. This was the real deal, and it was amazing.

It was still early because we had gotten such an early start, so we went back to Canal City and explored any areas we may have missed. And oh boy, did we miss something. We missed the huge arcade on the fourth floor along with the famous Ramen Stadium, which is a whole floor dedicated to tons and tons of different kinds of Ramen from all over Japan.

We ended up staying in the arcade a little bit longer than we planned, but we through in a couple hundred yen and played some Silent Hill and good old fashion Mario Kart. The winner, of course, was your truly.

We headed back to the hotel after we realized we had no money left, and put on our complementary yukata's (robes) and played some cards.

All in all, it was a fabulous weekend that went by way to quickly. I can't wait until the next trip, but until then, I'll have to get back to all of the Japanese homework my sensei gives me.

The weather is finally turning around here, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What, An Update??

Hey Hey Hey

Sorry about the lack of attention to the blog, school has been rather draining, as well as some other situations that I won't bore you with.

Last week was pretty much dedicated to exploring my classes and struggling to remember the first seven chapters of my Japanese textbook. My Japanese class is by far the most demanding and the most challenging of all my classes. There is at least two hours of homework assigned every day for Japanese, including studying and reviewing for the next day's quiz/lesson. We have a test everyday on vocabulary and kanji, as well as pages and handouts and essays. Its tough, but I know that my Japanese could become so much better if I stick with the intensive studying I've been doing.

Every night the Beppu Crew and I head down to the lobby where there is an old fashion tatami room with low tables and tatami floors for studying. Sometimes we get distracted and just end up hanging out together, which is still a good thing. It is also the easiest way to meet people, especially other domestic Japanese students. We are always asking for their help, and they are always willing to give it. Its a good trade between their Japanese fluency and our English fluency. Some communication can be very rocky and awkward, but its good practice, and we are getting much better and just trying to say something, rather than worrying about saying it wrong. We've been studying there every night until about 1 a.m. before heading back to our rooms.

I will try and take pictures of the room tonight.

Last week, a group of my Korean friends were kind enough to cook Steph and I a Korean dinner! They are all very good cooks, and made it look really easy. They even tried teaching me a little Korean, but they laughed and told me that my pronunciation is really bad. Oh well. I should try to master Japanese first, then Korean. We had miso soup, okonomiyaki (thin pancake with various ingredients), some vegetable concoction, some chicken concoction, and rice. It was very flavorful and very delicious. They are so talented and nice, I can't decide how I should repay them!

From left to right is Soohyun, Me, Ahra, Stephanie, Seung-Woo, and Sebitna.

Other than the work and study and more work, nothing much has been happening. I think the group is trying to figure out if we want to go anywhere this weekend. There's been some planning to go to Kyoto, but I think that's a trip that should be for a longer period of time considering the time and money for transportation. Another plan is to head to Hiroshima for the weekend which is a little closer, and probably cheaper. I would honestly be content with heading to Fukuoka (two hours away) which is the closest.

I know I have to be careful when planning my trips because I need to make sure I have enough money for the nine days when Steph and I get out of school and head over to Tokyo, but its hard to be money conscious when all I want to do is travel! Plus, APU is not quite being immersed into the true Japanese culture. Everyone speaks a decent amount of English, and I know that we all want to really be culture-shocked.

Staying in the AP House kind of makes one go crazy, only because we are stuck on top of a huge mountain with only one pool table and one foosball table. Trust me, it gets old really, really fast. Studying makes me go crazy as well, so we have all agreed that the best way to avoid going insane and getting homesick is to travel. I guess I will try to be conscious of my money, but I will also try not to be stingy. This is my opportunity to travel Japan, and I should just suck it up and do it!

As for the weather, well, I've been rather annoyed with it. I hear that its gorgeous and sunny back at home, while here on the island, its a measly 50 degrees with tons of rain and mist and creepy fog. I know it will be hotter than hell in a few weeks, but I can't wait! Then its off to the beach!

Well, I should get back to studying. More pictures will come soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Well the first week of classes is almost over, and I've been to all my classes at least once this week.

They weren't too bad, and I expect that once we actually get into the material, they should be more interesting. My first class of the week, Eco-tourism, is probably going to be one of the harder classes for me and my attention span. APU divides the classes into periods 1-6, with each period lasting 1.5 hours. My Eco-tourism class is once a week, for three hours. Back at Grand Valley, I have studio classes that are 3 hours long, but those go by quite quickly because I'm actually doing something. Three hours of pure lecture from a man that has a harsh Japanese accent and uses the same words almost every sentence is rather tough to pull through. He tends to have a strange, high pitched dialect while talking, and he uses the words, "however" and "as I mentioned before" almost every chance he can. Oh well. Hopefully I'll be able to get through it without any trouble.

My Japanese language class is going to be good. We have some interesting people in the class, its a mix of people that seem to be either a little to confident in their verbal skills, and quiet, strange ones that are very afraid of participation. My teacher is very funny, but she's also very tough. If we are so much as thirty seconds late in the class, we are considered absent. Punctuality speaks louder than words here, and Japanese people take it incredibly seriously.

For example, there was a gymnasium guidance session today at 1:30. The Beppu Crew and I arrived literally at 1:31, with our hands ready to touch the door handle, when the lady shut it and said that the next session was in an hour. We tried to weasel our way in, but there was no way around it, so we had to wait for an hour.

Anyway, the Tea Ceremony class I'm in is going to be the most interesting of my classes. My teacher is very funny and an overall nice lady. There is a sense of humbleness and tranquility in the special room were are in. It was built specifically for Tea Ceremony ritual, with tatami mats and paper doors. Right off the bat, our teacher explained how we were going to learn the art of tea making, and the ritual of ancient Japanese culture. But then she smiled and said that we would do that later, and gave us sweets and tea first. It was a good start.

My Multiculturalism and Society class is another 2 period class and its going to also be tough to pull through. Three hour lectures just are not good for me. Steph is in that class too, so we are going to try and wake each other up whenever we are nudging off the cliff of consciousness.

Apart from classes, its been pretty interesting. I've made some more Japanese friends, which is good since they are helping us with homework, and we are helping with their English. Its been really cold here for the past few days, and rainy too. I'm trying not to complain too much because I know that I'll be doing plenty of complaining when its so hot that I just want to douse myself with ice.

I'm starting to miss odd things from home, like the comfort of my bed and the taste of good macaroni and cheese. I miss my dog and watching movies in the basement. I'm trying to keep myself occupied so that I won't get sucked into thinking about it especially since its only been a couple weeks.

By the way, if anyone wants to skype with me, just let me know. I will try my hardest to set something up, but the 13 hour difference is rather difficult to make arrangements. That and my classes/homework. But let me know!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Karaoke Night!

Well, I have to admit, Karaoke Night went exceptionally well and was way better than I had thought it was going to be.

We paid for two hours for ten people with the cheapest alcohol package. It wasn't that cheap, but when divided between the ten of us, it was reasonably priced. We were then showed into a nice sized room with a big screen tv, a couple tables, and a line of comfortable couches. Right off the bat, people started selecting songs and singing their hearts out. It was very entertaining and so much more fun than American Karaoke at the bars. There is a huge difference singing in front of a group of people you know rather than in front of a group of people you don't know.

I even got up and sang a few songs, mainly English pop songs, and after a couple mugs of beer, the need to let out all emotion through song became the only important thing in the world. We even paid for another hour. It was fun, and we all had a blast. We definitely plan on doing it again.

Here is some evidence to my words.

Yesterday, a couple of us went into Oita, which is the city north of Beppu, and walked around for a little bit. There are a ton of shops that are kind of indoors, and then we found a nice authentic place to eat. Well, it was a little too authentic because the menu wasn't in English, and there were absolutely no pictures. It was a very interesting situation to be in. It was the first time that Carlos, Stephanie and I had to really pull our Japanese skills together and form coherent sentences with the tiny, old, waitress that had no idea how to speak in English.

With rumbling stomachs and a large boost of courage we relied on fate to decide our meal as we randomly opened the menu and pointed to the first thing we saw. In the end, it was the best thing we could have done.

It was delicious, the way Japanese food is supposed to taste, and everything was good.

Anyway, this morning Steph and I cooked breakfast, the good old way we are used to. She made her fried potatoes, and I cooked the eggs. We didn't have butter, but we made do with what we had. The bread here is sliced super thick, and the eggs are kind of small, but it was still very good. I haven't had eggs in awhile and I think I was going through withdrawal from it.

As of now, I'm trying to get my head out of vacation mode and into school-time mode. The switch isn't coming easy, and I'm a little concerned about how sharp my focus will be once classes start on Monday. I think it will all be okay, but it doesn't help that I haven't been doing any type of school work since December. I know its like riding a bike, and I'll get into the groove within a week or two, but apart of me still doesn't want to let go of the carefree vacation mindset.

At least I have the quarter break to look forward to. Since coming here, I've made several Korean friends who are planning on going back home for the quarter break since its only about a one hour flight. I think the Beppu Crew and I are planning on tagging along with some of these friends and heading over to Korea for the break. That would be so awesome.

I miss pizza right now. And American coke. The coke here is less syrupy and quite watery. Steph said I was crazy, but I know my Coca Cola, and others tell me that I'm right. And most of all, I miss my coffee maker. :(

Well, I'll let you know how my first days of class go. I still have to sort out some things with GVSU, but I'm not going to get stressed about that now. I still have to purchase books, but its raining out so I will do that tomorrow.

Ja! (See you).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Just a Quick Note

( At the first hot spring, one of the better pictures of me)

Alright, well I signed up for my classes and I'm trying not to stress about it. I think it will all work itself out in the end, but if it doesn't, I'm going to be a Grand Valley for the rest of my life anyway, so I can make up for the stuff that doesn't transfer here.

I'm signed up for 20 credits, which sounds like a lot, and it is, but it really translates as 12 credits back at Grand Valley. Don't ask me how, it just does. I was able to test into the second Foundation course for Japanese, which I was planning on, and I'm taking several courses that I'm interested in.

Other then the language course, I'm taking:

-Tea Ceremony (which is more than just making tea and eating snacks.)
- Transnational Sociology
- Societies in South Asia
- Geography of the Asia Pacific
- Migration Studies
- Peoples and Religions of the Asia Pacific
- Multiculturalism and Society

I'm thinking about joining the Volleyball Circle (Club) or maybe the Judo or Karate Club. I'm not sure. I really have to see which one fits my schedule better since they may interfere with my late classes.

So, now all I have to do is talk to my teachers back at GVSU and make sure that some of the things can transfer smoothly. I'm really frustrated that my school isn't very forgiving with the program at APU, especially with Stephanie and I being the first people to go. Its complicated because APU is on a quarter basis rather than a regular semester, so I have to make sure that two classes here can transfer back as one class at GVSU. Otherwise, they are only worth 1.5 credits instead of 3.

On another note, I'm being forced into going to the Karaoke bar in a few hours. :(

I'm not one to sing in front of others, and I'm hoping I can find a way out of this one. I think in Beppu, they have a cover fee to use the rooms, which is around 2,000 yen, but it includes unlimited drinks, including alcohol.

Oh well, maybe it will take the stress of the morning registration off my mind and I'll have a better time than I think.

Here's a picture of the green tea ice cream I had a couple days ago. It became extremely delicious after the initial strangeness.

Oh, and some friends.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Missed a Few Days

Ah! So much has happened in the past few days and I've been too exhausted to blog by the time I got back to APU!

Gomen-ne! I'm sorry!

Happy belated Easter to everyone!

Anyway, I think I left off on Sunday. Sunday night we ran into town and ate okonomiyaki, which is basically like a pancake mixed with a variety of different ingredients. It was pretty good, especially with the sauces and combination of foods. It is a do-it-yourself type of meal, so the ingredients were placed in a bowl and given to us, while the grill was on the table. None of us were sure how to cook it, so we all kind of winged it together. The result was delicious.

Monday morning was a mandatory health examination at the local clinic/hospital in Beppu. Boy did this make everybody's morning. Girls had to change into the night gown tops, boys could keep their shirts. We had a chest x-ray, weight/height measurements, eye-sight testing, urine sample, blood test, and T.B. test. That's how I like to start off my week. All was well until I had to give blood. I tried to tell them it would be difficult, but they still took my left arm and poked around until they realized that they weren't going to get any blood from me. She then tested out my right arm, and with no luck, moved down to my wrist. All the while she was telling me in Japanese how strong and brave I was. I told her this was nothing new. At least I took it better than some of the wimpy boys that were there. Some were refusing to give blood, while others were freaking out about the T.B. test. I told them it was a piece of cake, as long as they could find your vein.

The trauma of the morning was spent recovering in Beppu again where the group continued exploring the city and shopping around a little bit. Most of us wanted to buy a normal sized pillow without the bean-bag filling, so that was on the top of the priority list. Luckily for us, there was a festival going on in celebration of the Onsen (hot springs). It was quite an interesting sight to see and there were many people lining the streets waiting for the parade to start. I'm not quite sure what exactly took place, or the symbolism behind everything, but I got some really cool pictures!

It was also the first time I've had sushi since I've been here! We went to one of the huge malls called You-Me. There are restaurants on all of the floors, so we headed into the sushi bar. This one is another self-serving type place where the plates are served on a conveyer belt running around a bunch of tables. If you see a plate of sushi you would like to eat, you take it off of the belt and enjoy it. Afterwards, the waitress adds up the number of plates for the tab, each one costing differently according to the colored plate. By the end of my meal, I had about six or seven plates stacked up. It was really fun!

Today we went to visit the Jigoku Onsen, or The Hells, which are famous hot springs that are actually too hot for people to use, and are instead more like visitor attractions. They were gorgeous! There were eight hells in total, and we made sure to hit them all. It was so exhausting, but really worth it. The first one had to be my favorite because it had the prettiest scenery and a beautiful landscape. Here are some pictures of The Hells, I took so many pictures!

Sorry that I'm not being more descriptive about the past few days. I'll try to catch up with the details later, right now I'm struggling to figure out how to do my laundry. It feels as if I've been up every morning before 8 a.m. and back inside my room by midnight. I'm dead tired and haven't felt this exhausted since I went to Disney World. But its a good exhaustion.

This is the curry that I had today for dinner. I don't normally like curry, but by the end of our Jigoku trip, I was so hungry that it was a lot better than I expected. Much better than the cafeteria!