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I still got it

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It’s been like 4 months since I graduated college, about 2 months since I wrote a college paper, and I still haven’t lost that classic touch. I have officially waited until the last minute to write this report for my internship. At least it’ll all be over tomorrow…

Primetime in the Daytime

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It’s interesting for me to look through my counter statistics for this webpage. I can see from where and when people are visiting, and other random details like that. Aside from the random visits I get from places like Malaysia and Indonesia, a lot of friends and I think people I know but haven’t talked to in a while, years even, are visiting my site. Did you know that if someone finds my site through a Google or other search engine query, I can see exactly what they were searching for? Very interesting indeed. With that, and the location/city the visitor is from, a lot of times I have a pretty good guess of who it is. So yeah, if you’re visiting my site, even randomly, you should leave a blog comment or drop me an e-mail to say Hey.

Almost exactly one week from now, I’ll be getting off a plane in Chicago, awaiting my fight to Tokyo to start AEON life. Well technically AEON life starts with a week-long training session up in Omiya, which from what I’ve heard and read, is about the worst part of the whole AEON experience. I’m going to do my best of living through it, although if it’s that bad, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it later. I’m supposed to at least act like I’m paying attention, but since most of it will probably be stuff like “how to ride the trains” and ‘basic conversational Japanese,” I’ll likely spend the entire training session trying to sneak my DS into the training rooms and playing without being noticed. Blanchard will be there the same time as me, so I’ll at least have someone to hang out with. Hopefully we’ll be lucky and the other AEON trainees will be tolerable. There can’t be many; I’m guessing our entire training class will be less than 10. If anyone asks the trainers if the JR trains are “choo-choo trains” or if the “stations are equal distance apart from each other,” I will most likely jump on the table and start shooting bolts of lightning out of my hands. Nicknames will be given, I’m sure.

I need to finish up my baby bottle work/report by Monday, then I’m done with that completely. I have been pretty lazy, as predicted, since coming back from Bloomington. Spent longer than planned on Sunday playing Guitar Hero and hanging out with everyone in Wilkie’s basement. Stopped in Cloverdale on the way back and had dinner with Macie. Came back here to St. Louis and resumed my life, which is pretty much waking up every day before 9AM, watching a lot of TV (ER is such a great show, damn), and otherwise being pretty vegetable-like.

Jersey Blows

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I forgot to write about this before, but here’s a short little side story about the adventure I had on my way back from Japan. I had a scheduled 3-hour layover in the Armpit of America, New Jersey, in-between Tokyo and St. Louis. And luckily, thanks to bad weather or something, this was more like a 3.5 hour layover before I could even get on my plane home. Please note as soon as I sat on the plane, I fell asleep.

But anyway, what did I do in the land known as Newark Airport? First I get off the plane, and head to immigration. Not too bad actually, lines weren’t as bad as they could have been. The worst part was having to wait at the carousel to get my luggage. Because of customs and declaring stuff (even though I had nothing to declare), I had to pick up my baggage, go through customs, then re-check my luggage. I completely understand why you have to do this, but when you wait 30 or 40 minutes to pick up two suitcases, roll them over to a disgruntled immigration office, hand him a form, then go no more than 50 feet to a baggage re-check station, you can’t help but feel like you just wasted a part of your life, never to be returned again. Formalities like this are a necessary evil, I suppose.

After a 14-hour plane ride from Tokyo, which included 2 meals, a “snack” of a hamburger (in name only; I can’t believe it was actually meat I was eating), several glasses of water and Sprite, and only 1 visit to the Lavatory, I am not embarrassed to say that after re-checking my bags, the first place I headed for was the can. And oh, let me tell you, you really feel like your life has hit a low point when you have to go use a public restroom in New Jersey. I will spare you the gory details, but let’s just say that it was absolutely revolting. I honestly don’t know if an Asian-style squat toilet would have made it better or worse. Yeeeeah.

With a few hours to kill, I had absolutely nothing to do but go wait near my gate and play DS. I suppose that this wasn’t too bad, and I really can’t judge New Jersey on much more than the airport or the airport bathroom, but either way, I am pretty sure that Jersey, as an entire state, sucks. Sorry Karen.

Tadaima

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So I’m back home in St. Louis now. I left the Keio Plaza on Japan time Monday at 11:50AM, and after a 25-hour series of bus, flight, layover, flight, and car ride, I was back at home. To be honest, I’m not really sure what everyone means by “jetlag” because I think some people mean different things. If jetlag means not being adjusted to the different time zone, then yes I have a serious case of jetlag since I slept yesterday from about 5PM to midnight. Stepping into the Wayback Machine for a moment, my last weekend in Japan was spent mainly hanging out with people, buying souvenirs, packing, and sleeping. I’ll go into a bit more detail, but I’m in a kind of lazy mood right now so this won’t be as painfully long as a lot of my blogs tend to be.

Spend the day Friday hanging out with Sayoko; went to LaLaPort but realized that there really isn’t anything to see or do there. Defaulted to lunch at Saize, which is awesome because I haven’t been there since last year. That night, met up with Yoko, Tomomi, and Shigeru. Went around Tsudanuma and I just barely made it to the very last train back to Shinjuku. I don’t think I’ve run that hard in a while. There’s a lot more effort to running when you realize the penalty to not making it is having to sleep in the streets for a night. Next day, Bryan made the long journey from Ibaraki. We went to Akihabara where Bryan tried to find a store shady enough to sell a modded PS2, but was unsuccessful. We also tried to go to a Maid Cafe, but there were so many otaku in line that it was totally not worth it. Also, we walked past one and saw inside but it was just pretty boring looking. Like the insides of a McDonalds, but the waitresses just happened to be wearing weird costumes. Akihabara has definitely gotten weird these past few years.

We went to Makuhari that night, saw some of the old sights, then went to Hana no Mae with Sato san. Shin san was supposed to hang out that night, but he didn’t pick up his phone all day, so I’m assuming something came up. Sunday, Bryan went back on his quest in Akihabara and I went to Takashimaya Times Square to finish purchasing souvenirs for people, etc. That night met up with Bryan again in Ikebukuro Sunshine City’s NAMJA TOWN, also known as the happiest place in the world. In addition to Gyoza Stadium and Ice Cream City, the place has grown impressively since last year. Good job Mr. Mayor. Cream Puff Town has been expanded into the Tokyo Dessert Republic, there is now the completed Relax Forest, and they even added Fortune Tellers Street. What an amazing town. Here are some pics:
NamjaTown
That night, I was able to do my laundry in the apartment complex coin laundry I found the other day. It was only about a 10 minute walk, and surprisingly the machines not only had hot water, but they actually got my clothes dry! Quite amazing for Japanese laundry equipment. I was almost positive I would have to hang-dry my clothes that night. Anyways, I packed up my suitcases and a 29 kilogram box of my clothes and stuff to ship off to the AEON school. Luckily, there was a takkyuubin delivery service within the hotel, and it cost me less than 2000 yen to ship the box next day to Ichihara. What a bargain.

There weren’t any real problems with getting to the US via air, thankfully. There was of course the “no liquids or gels” rule with carry on luggage, but otherwise things weren’t any different than normal. Lines at Narita were a little long to check in and then go through security, but that might have just been because it was Narita Airport, and not necessarily because of terrorists.

Day 9: Overworld

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You know how in some video games like Final Fantasy, you spend a lot of time just walking around on a map? Well that’s not really just some creation of video game programmers; it’s because that’s what life in Japan is really like. I guess they added the random battles to make it a bit more interesting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I got attacked by a Pokemon walking around here somewhere. But anyway, I walked around what seemed like a lot today, and I never really even left the general area. This was only partially because I got lost. I even made a map, thanks to Google Maps:
Overworld map

  1. Started at the Keio Plaza Hotel after eating the huge buffet lunch.
  2. Walked to the other side of the station, having the go around the station, and went to a movie theatre to watch the Kamen Rider Kabuto movie, God Speed Love (link). Yes, it is nerdy, but it was fun, so shut up. That was my only plan for this excursion, but I decided to do more as you can see here:
  3. Went to the nearby Isetan department store to scope it out for work. It’s a pretty ritzy place.
  4. Decided I would walk to Takashimaya Times Square, partially to scope it out for work and partially because I wanted to shop for more useless crap. Unfortunately, they close at 8:30PM, so I just missed it. Walk down more of that area, but everything is already closing up (all the big stores and buildings).
  5. Began side quest to find a coin laundrymat, so I can clean my clothes without having to pay the ridiculous hotel laundry service prices (like 500 yen per shirt). Walked past the Times Square area and ended up somehow a bit lost. It also started to rain big time, so I had to buy an umbrella. I apparently walked all the way to JR Yoyogi Station. Since it was raining, I decided to just take the Yamanote Line back to Shinjuku station.
  6. Got off at Shinjuku Station; familiar territory again.
  7. Walked all over in the general direction of a laundry place I found online, and finally found one in some apartment complex. GOAL. I’ll probably head there tomorrow and do laundry. It says for residents of this huge apartment complex only, but I’m sure they won’t catch me.
  8. Walked back to the hotel; not too far away.

Yes, after mapping this all out, I see that I should have just walked from point 5 to point 7, but it was raining and I didn’t know exactly how far away I was, so it was worth the 210 yen and the extra walking. I suppose. I have no idea how far I walked this afternoon/evening, but as you can see it was a lot. I blame this on not having a cell phone. If I had one, I could have used NaviWalk and it would have been much easier.

If my life really were a video game, it would be horribly boring.

Days 6-7: Stomping grounds

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Over Sunday and Monday, I didn’t do too much of note, although I did make some progress on my business work. On Sunday, I spent most of my day out at LaLaPort, the super huge mall in Chiba. There’s a Toys R Us and an Akachan Honpo there, so I was able to do some work while going back to a somewhat familiar place. There is a Shakey’s pizza buffet there, but it was a Sunday lunchtime, so it was packed. I didn’t feel like spending 2 hours to wait to gorge myself on pizza alone, so I ate elsewhere. LaLa Port is such a huge mall, even bigger than some in the US, I think, but it is mostly clothes shops where you can buy t-shirts that cost 6000 yen. That’s right, $60.

Monday, I headed out to Makuhari. Things really don’t seem too different there from last summer, except for 1 new building or complex that you can see right after exiting Kaihim station. It was kind of weird, since I walked past the bus queue and didn’t even notice it, then looked to my right and thought to myself “did that just pop out of no where?” Chances are it didn’t, but it is Japan, so maybe it appeared out of the ground to launch a robot or something. I was planning on going to Carrefour and Plena to investigate their baby product selections, but instead went to the IES Center around 4. I ended up staying there until almost 6:30, so there wasn’t much investigation done for that part of the afternoon. Got to catch up with the now-assistant director Shin-san, who is awesome as ever but he now has some fashionable glasses. He also moved from his little office in the front of the center to the “main” office area in the back, so at least he has a window now. Although it is a view of an alley, it’s still natural sunlight I guess. He introduced me to the new Director, Marik-san, and was like “he was here over a year ago, but it doesn’t seem like it.” I didn’t think about it much before, but it has been an entire year and I feel like I was only gone for a few weeks. I guess I’m just that well adapted/desensitized to being in Japan. Oh ya, and the new director is a pretty cool guy. He apparently was one of the guys who started United Nations University, and has been in Japan for over 30 years, so you could say that he’s more than qualified to run IES Tokyo.

Went to Y’s afterwards, Shin came to hang out for a bit then had to go for a meeting. Yoko and Tomomi came, and we stayed until close. I missed Y’s so much. Pretty much the same as usual, although I think the food selection actually improved a bit, since they had sashimi, rice (not fancy, but they were missing it before), and those BBQ riiiiiiiiibs. Also a snow-cone machine for the summer. Was given a Nikka and chocolate snow cone, which actually isn’t as bad as you would think. Matsushita-san was awesome as always, and gave us the usual counter even though we didn’t have that many people. I really think Y’s might be the greatest place in the whole country; we have to get a complete A-Team reunion there sometime soon.

I’ll likely come back to Makuhari once or twice more this trip. I’m kind of glad now that my AEON placement is out in Ichihara, because while it’s an hour/an hour and a half away from Tokyo, it’s only 30 minutes from Makuhari. Honestly, I think I might like Makuhari more than Tokyo on the whole. It’s not as big and doesn’t have as much variety or weird stuff, but just for hanging out and everyday things, the place is perfect. Carrefour has everything you need, you can hang out at Y’s and Hana no Mae, and if you want to work out, eat Indian food, and study 1000 kanji a day, then the World Business Garden is right there. Haha.

Two points that don’t really fit with the rest of this entry. Instead of writing a transition to make the flow of ideas smooth, I will just bust into them straight forward:

By 2011, all Japanese TVs will be digital. They will have to be, or it won’t work with broadcast TV. Since all broadcast signals will be digital, everyone has to have a digital or high-vision (HD) TV by then if they want to watch TV and stuff. Although it sounds like a sweet idea, I guess it kind of sucks for old people who just want to watch the news, or people who don’t really want to buy a fancy new TV. But hey it’s Japan.

Shin-san said that there is a popular TV drama show (the most popular one at the moment) called Supli (サプリ) starring Misaki Ito that tapes all of the office scenes in the IES building (Sumitomo Chemical Engineering Bldg) in Makuhari, on the 16th floor or something. Every Thursday through Sunday they’re up there taping. If I happen to be in the area, I’ll see if I can sneak a peak at anything. Shin-san says he saw Misaki Ito at the Sunkus downstairs, which is awesome because she is absolutely super mega hot. He also saw them taping the Kamen Rider Kabuto stuff around there, which is awesome also.

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