University of Pennsylvania (Robert)

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    By Hasselhoff
    Aug 3, '06 9:00 AM EST


    I can't believe it's August. The clock is now ticking. Sure it's still almost a month until I come home, but I can see the end now. In June, the time was so long that it seemed to approach infinity. Now I literally have to schedule when I will see people, figure out how many times I can do X or go to Y. Not really a fun feeling. BUT, I'm still having fun.

    Last week I went to lunch with Shoko. They brought out my miso soup which contained a shrimp (I am sick of miso. Seriously, three meals a day, freakin' miso). “Mmm that sounds good,” you might say. What if I told you it wasn't a shrimp, but rather a giant cockroach? Well, it was a shrimp, but it was grayish-brown and was merely there for seasoning or atmosphere or something. It was nasty and reminded me of something out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Needless to say, I couldn't eat the stuff and it literally made my skin crawl to look at it. Shoko laughed at the stupid gaijin.

    On Friday I went to dinner with Kumi. Her birthday was on Thursday so I got her a stuffed Jiji (Angie Cat to those of your from Japan 2005). I also bought one for myself because it's totally awesome. Anyway, she named it Robato and carried it around in her bag Paris Hilton style. We acted like 14 year old school girls and did perikura. So now I have some pretty little pink photo stickers! Kumi paid for dinner, even though it was her birthday. If I've learned one thing in my two trips to Asia, it's that, they do not let the gaijin pay. In fact, last year, my friend's grandmother gave me 50,000 won (about $50). But when I go out with the freshmen, it's very common for them to pay all or part of my bill. It's actually kind of annoying because I feel really bad. So my strategy is to sneak 1000円 in someone's purse or briefcase when they aren't looking. They magically find some money, and I feel better.

    On Saturday I attempted to go to the ninja museum in Iga. It's not far at all from Osaka, but by train, you need to go to Nara, then from Nara to Iga, then a local train to get closer to the museum. I took the hour ride to Nara and asked information which train to take. The woman says “You are going to ninja museum? Next train in one hour, takes and hour. You will have less than an hour at the museum. Come back earlier.” So I didn't go. I could have wandered around Nara again, but it looked like it was going to pour and Nara isn't far from Kyoto, which has more inside stuff to do if need be. So I took the train to Kyoto and it rained. Upon reaching Kyoto the rain stopped and it turned out to beautiful. I wandered around and went to a temple I had never visited. Oh wait, yeah, I did. I went to so many places last year that I can't keep the names straight. I didn't even realize I had been to Gingakuji until Omar looked at my photos and told me I had been there. Gingakuji is one of the most famous! But it was fun.

    Sunday I went to Uji and visited Byodo-in. It's the temple on the back to the 10 yen coin with the famous Phoenix Hall. When I got off the train, I saw a woman, her daughter and son looking at me with a curious smile. Down the stairs, they continued to look at me. At the large tourist map, they kept looking and smiling. Finally, the daughter came over and said “Are you going to Byodo-in? We are too, do you want to come with us?” So I walked with them through Uji, which is a cool little town on the outskirts of Kyoto. The woman was actually the man's mother and the girl was the guy's girlfriend. We got to the temple and they asked if I wanted to walk with them. I kind of wanted to go off by myself and photograph and sketch, but I said ok because it's cooler to hang out with Japanese people when you can. So we walked around and the girl translated. Her English was pretty good. After about 45 minutes they left and went on there way. I went to the famous view and began sketching. Within moments, a really angry security guard came over, pointed violently at my sketchbook and repeatedly made an X with his fingers. Once he was satisfied that my book was secured in my bag, he stormed off. Everyone was looking at me like I was a criminal. After that I left and just wandered around for a few hours. It was a really nice day and Japan is dotted with as many shrines and temples as Philly is with trash. I sat next to a rapidly flowing river crossed by vermilion bridges for about an hour and just relaxed. It was awesome.

    I go to a lot of coffee shops after work and have noticed a few funny things. #1 Two girls will come in and spend more time sending text messages on their phones then talking to each other. [Cell phone usage in Japan is worse than the US I think. People wander and ride bikes obliviously while texting. Sure in the US you have to hear someone's inane babble about their boyfriend or something, but at least their eyes are looking ahead. Rarely do they stop in stairwells, walk into you, or like the other day, a guy on a bike ran into me from behind.] #2 Many cafes sell pasta. Now the Japanese noodle slurp or bowl holding doesn't bother me at all with ramen or rice (I do it, because that's how you eat), or what have you, but when I see someone pick up a plate and slurp up the spaghetti like a 4 year old it makes me cringe.

    Monday was the last day for the freshmen's first rotation. They work in each department for 4 months and will be assigned at the end of the first year. Shoko, Higashimura, Yamamori, Yamaguchi, lady who's name I can't remember, fuzzy beard guy, Marci Sim (she looks 100% like a cross between my old roommate and my friend's sister), and I went to lunch. As usually it was in all Japanese, and Shoko translated. They all laughed because this gaijin is way better at using hashi (chopsticks) than Yamaguchi. She dropped everything manhandling them like my dad. About once a week she comes to my desk and says something in English, then giggles and runs away not to smile or talk to me again for another week. “Marci Sim” told me I look older than 26. I have NEVER been told I look older than 26. People have said I look 26 when I don't shave for a few days, but NEVER older.

    I went to see a baseball game with Kumi at the Kyocera Osaka Dome on Tuesday. It was the Osaka Orix Buffaloes vs. the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Nippon-Ham Fighters. Nippon-Ham Fighters. God bless millionaires. At least the MLB doesn't have stupid names like the Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese Phillies, or the Boston Filene's Redsox. On a side note, I saw some drunk guys at a coffee shop eating Philly Cream Cheese like candy. I almost puked. I know nothing about baseball, so we stayed for 3 innings, passing much of the time playing Zoo Keeper on her cell phone. We did have good seats though. They were behind home plate and were air-conditioned. She got the tickets from a rich client at work. The Osaka Dome was pretty impressive, but I don't understand baseball. I don't understand hockey or soccer either, but they are pretty interesting to watch. Baseball is boring. It looks like the players aren't even having fun. After we ate dinner and we were walking home and saw some drunk guys passed out in the street. Like, literally in the street, laying there, passed out, spread eagle.

    Kaori said to me “You have eyes like ANIMAL! Like TIGER!” I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

    I have a ton of content, but as my trip is coming to an end, I don't feel like spending the time to write it all up. I'm not sure when the last major update like this will be as my schedule begins to fill up. On Saturday I am going to fireworks at Kumi's sister's house with Kumi and Chinatsu. Around August 15 I will go to Tokyo/Yokohama for a few days. We have a company vacation. I've spent almost no money on travel. I've just been hanging out in the Kansai area because once you have to get on the Shinkansen, you are paying $$ and unless you want to spend the whole day on a train and stay over night, you take the Shinkansen. But I've been having a blast and saw a ton of stuff last year. What I'm really missing is the far north and Hokkaido, and you can't do that on weekends anyway.

    Now, for an archinect exclusive! I sent out the PDF last night, and this happened today. So it's only for archinect readers.

    Today was Kaori's birthday. She was talking about it yesterday. Birthday in Japanese is "tanjoubi," to which my response was "BON JOVI!?" I know it's tanjoubi, I was just being stupid. She laughed and it was good times for all. This morning at work, I presented her with a card which gained a hearty chuckle. The kana reads "Bon Jovi Omedetou." "Tanjoubi Omedetou" is happy birthday. I had to explain it to most people, they know Bon Jovi, but they didn't understand the joke. Maybe they don't have the same type of word play we have in the US. image


    • myriam

      --The first picture on the pictures-only pages made me look twice--I swear, it could be San Franciscso in some weird Japanese alter universe...JaPan Francisco! No wonder the Japanese immigrants flocked to SF.

      --Those lanterns are beautiful. I think I'm becoming more sensitive to the way non-"building" elements enhance our perception of space. Thanks for the picture.

      --It's interesting the way the Japenese characters and method of writing impact sign sizes/ratios--I never thought before of how much impact signs have on the visual field (duh) until I started noticing how much they changed the scenery in your pictures simply because of their different proportions!

      Aug 3, 06 12:31 pm  · 

      BTW. I got your post card yesterday Liberty Bell. ありがとうございます!

      Aug 3, 06 7:51 pm  · 

      those word play jokes are totally common. there are even regular tv show segments devoted to it. my wife enjoys playing along, but it is more like a NY crossword puzzle than bon-jovi-tanjoubi. THAT sort of thing is called a ji-ji (decrepit/senile old man) joke. i get mocked constantly for making the bad puns in japanese. apparently there is a line that shouldn't be crossed, but hell if i can ever see it...;-)

      Aug 3, 06 9:50 pm  · 

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