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Feb. 21st, 2009

One Last Harrah!

So, I stand now on the morning of my last major trip in Japan for my 6 month study abroad.  I'm packed, I'm prepared, I'm ready.  But, you may ask, where am I going?  Well, to Asuke of course!  Now, I've mentioned Asuke a couple of times in previous posts, but now that it's here, I figure it's time to tell you what I'm going to do there and why Asuke is important to this trip.

Asuke is a small rural town, approximately 10,000 people, in Aichi prefecture, the same one that I am currently staying in.  Located in a natural valley, like many rural towns in Japan are, Asuke is a throwback to the old days of Japanese rice farming and traditional ways, or so it claims.  Asuke is of anthropological note because it has survived as a small village while most all rural towns have been consolidated into larger towns to augment the workforce of the Japanese economic society.  Most rural towns have been modernized, with electronic equipment and less manpower, allowing residents to move to cities.

Asuke is interesting due to the fact that the town is very traditional, in a small town kind of way, and that there is a pseudo-ranch style place, called Asuke Yashiki, which is a living cultural museum.  This is where the people live like they did back in the Edo period, farming, working materials, without technology.  Asuke uses this and several other plans to generate tourism in their small town.  By using these methods, this small town has been able to preserve its local identity while most all other villages have been swallowed by larger cities.

At Asuke, we get to look forward to a series of three homestays, which means that I will be spending several nights with several families.  To be exact, I will be spending two nights apiece with three different familes.  On the off days, we as a group will be staying at the Asuke Community Complex.  We'll get to experience rural family life, along with rural work life in this fashion.

In matter of work, we'll be doing several things.  We'll be participating in several local trades, such as basket-weaving, textile making, and (I am hoping so much!) blacksmithing.  A festival will be going on while we are there, and we will likely get to participate.  We have been told that the custom established with our predecessors in 2007 were given the honor of helping butcher a wild boar for everyone to eat, as the wild boar is Asuke's specialty.

Along with that, everyday activities may find their way into our hands.  This could involve cutting wood, cooking, cleaning, watching children, all manner of fun things.  We will be keeping a field log, and afterward are required for class to write a reflective essay on what we learned and how we can take lessons from Asuke into the American world.

So, that's the overview.  To this date, I haven't gotten an itinerary, but I'll get through some how, some way.  You guys know me, I always fumble through, probably losing things along the way!  Well, gotta finish packing and get under way.  WIsh me luck!  While in Asuke, I will have no internet or computer, so I will be blacked out from America for the next 9 days.  Sorry!  Rural Japan does have a few setbacks.

I'll post on my activities when I get back!  Stay tuned next time for the stunning conclusion to Adam's Adventures in Japan!

Adam

Feb. 18th, 2009

Castles Galore!

Time for another recap of events in the crazy, mixed up land we call Japan.  Not too long after our graduation ceremony, we began our free time here before we take our final (sob!) trip into Asuke.  Well, what do you do when the timer on the clock runs down?  You look at what hasn't been done yet and say "LET'S DO IT!"  And do it we did.

On February 4th, a Wednesday if I'm not mistaken, I left the dorm for Jinryo station around the time of 8:30AM with my friend Stephanie Hunter.  Stephanie is the youngest of the study abroad group, though she's very smart.  Many people are put off by her wild flights of fancy, but yours truly has those too, so we make a fun duo every now and then.  Well, we got to Home Base (Jinryo Station) and met up with another of our Japanese friends, Yoshida.  Yoshida is a foreign cultures major at Chubu, so he likes to spend his time around foreigners. I guess that means us? (What!  You mean we're not Japanese! Oh, wait. . . . )

Anyway, we met up with Yoshida, waited a few to see if any others wanted to tag along, got bored, and headed out for the main destination, Nagoya.  Well, at this point you may be wondering, "What could Adam possibly have missed in Nagoya?  He's been in to that city over a dozen times, each time to a new place, and he's still got new places to go to?"  Well, yes, there's always something new in Nagoya to do.  So, on with the show!

Being the old world aficionado that I am, I love castles.  As it turns out, so does Stephanie.  She's more into the dressings of the medival world, whereas yours truly is more interested in the arms and armor, but we see common ground most of the time.  Well, we decided that going to a castle here in Japan would be fun, and the most accessible to us is Nagoya Castle.  Haven't been there yet, so why not?

Nagoya castle is one of the larger castles in Japan, being 7 stories above ground and 2 underground.  There are a few larger, such as Osaka Castle, but I was impressed with it.  The roof plates are a bright green today, though since they appear to be copper, they likely did not look that way originally.  On the uppermost roof of the castle are two "dolphins" that are said to be guardians of the family.  I say dolphins with quotations because when you look at these things, they look like a cross between a dragon and a fish.  I say if it has scales, someone is not translating the word correctly.  I've studied enough biology to know that dolphins do NOT have scales.

Nagoya castle stood as one of the central points for the Tokugawa shogunate during the isolationist period, and home to the family after it's removal from power.  Nagoya houses the largest collection of Tokugawa relics from this time, and displays them with frequency at the Tokugawa museum.  Currently, they are displaying the Doll Festival dolls in preparation for Girl's Day in March.

Anyways, we spent about 5 hours here.  We attempted to scale the walls as ninjas would have done (Stephanie's idea) and almost threw Yoshida into the moat (my fault).  All in all, we had a great time, and got a lot of beautiful and interesting pictures of the whole experience.  On the way back, we came by a Noh theater, but the group wasn't interested in going there, so we came back home.  I guess Noh is kind of like opera, it takes an acquiring to like.  That and I bet the Japanese is Way over this guys head.

Now I come full circle to yesterday, February 17th.  Wow, I'm halfway through February already, when did it get this late in the year?  Between taking care of some final preparations for Asuke and finishing up matters with the CIP at school, we managed to organize another castle visit.  This time, we were heading out to one of the twelve remaining original castles in Japan.  Allow me to explain.

Many castles in Japan existed as much as 1000 years ago.  However, since these are homes for feudal lords and emperors, they are prime targets for conquering armies over the years.  Several of the larger ones were destroyed with the Tokugawa establishment of the shogunate in Japan, but many were rebuilt and some new ones during the isolationist period.  However, the bombings in World War II destroyed most all castles, since their colors and size make them easy targets for Allied planes.  So, of all 57 castles remaining standing in Japan, there are 12 which are from their original construction.

The castle we visited was Inuyama Castle (Translated as Dog-Mountain-Castle.  Don't know that it means anything, names often don't in Japan).  Inuyama is a town on the northern edge of Nagoya, and takes about 45 minutes by a few different train lines to get there.  From this point, many of the mountains in what are called the Japanese Alps become visible, so we saw several snowcapped mountains along the way.

Inuyama castle itself was built in 1537 (only 45 years after Columbus first crossed the Atlantic ocean.) and stands as the oldest remaining original construction castle in Japan.  Until recently, it has been the only privately owned castle in Japan as well.  Explanation time again.  During the Tokugawa shogunate and prior to, all castles and lands were owned by feudal lords around the country.  When the Meiji restoration took place and a more bureaucratic merchantile government took form, all castles were given to the state.  However, sometime after that, Inuyama and other were bought back from privately wealthy individuals, though for the last few decades only Inuyama has remained n private hands.  According to my sensei's the castle was sold back to the government recently.

Inuyama is a pretty castle as well, and the layout seemed like that one a lord would make.  Each floor beyond the first had a particular use, and the rooms laid out so they could be easily defended.  The castle is a hilltop castle, making it equally beautiful and challenging to get to.  A significan difference between Inuyama and Nagoya castles that I notices is that with the flatland castle of Nagoya, it is easy to get to see all faces of the castle, while with Inuyama, it was only possible to get to see two faces of the building, as the rest were unmanagable cliffs.

So, I find that I like castles in Japan.  Different from the medival monoliths that are scattered around Europe, but then what isn't in Japan?  I'll probably see more the next time I come back, but I've got a list now, so I won't be forgetting any!

Well, I've got some  last minute things to take care of.  My professor, Dr. Thompson, arrives in Japan today, and tomorrow begins our training into Asuke cultural village materials.  The last trip is almost here!

Well, until next time, this is has been Adventures in Japan!

Adam

Feb. 8th, 2009

New Friends, New Places, and Fall Out Boy

Hey everyone!  I've been a busy boy for the past few days, and I've had myself a few adventures along the way, so now that I've got a few minutes to sit, rest, and write, I thought I'd relate the events since February 5th.

February 5th
On Friday, I got up early after a long night of watching scary movies with a bunch of friends here.  Since many students have rental cards for a local video store, we've been getting movies to watch; Since the majority of people who are watching these movies are guys, we get scary movies.  I mean bad ones too, such as Pet Cemetary and Nightmare on Elm Street.  These movies, since they are in Japan, have Japanese subtitles, but since they come from America, are still in English.  This makes them a nice learning tool.

Anyway, the next morning, the morning of the 5th, I got up around 8AM (early for me, not for most people, I know!) and was ready to go about 9AM with Thursday into Nagoya.  I owed Thursday a favor for her coming with me to Osaka last month, and this is what she asked me to do:  Thursday asked me to head to the site of a Fall Out Boy concert and hold her place in line while she went to the airport to get her girlfriend, Dana, who was flying in from America.  So, we rode together in the morning to Jinryo station, the Univerity's home base.  From there, we rode to Chikusa station, where we split up.  Thursday kept on the train for Nagoya, and I hopped onto the subway to go to Shin-sakae, where the concert was to be held.

Arriving about 10 minutes later, I made my way back to the surface (felt like a vampire!) and pulled out the map of the location given to me by Thursday.  Well, said map was not the most detailed, so I picked the most likely direction, counted the number of blocks and traffic lights I would have to cross, and set out.  Well, two blocks straight ahead was a place known as Coco Lulu, and appeared to be a club.  However, the club I was looking for was called the Club Diamond Hall.  To make sure it wasn't on another floor, I walked around the side of building.  This is how I made my first mistake.

This side of the building was named Coco Lulu Part II.  Yes, that was the real name of the second store there.  Coco Lulu Part II, unlike Coco Lulu, had pictures of what services it offered.  There were several pictures of scantily clad women with their faces blurred out.  Also, there were hourly rates offered, and at this point, I knew what was going on.  This was a love hotel!  At this point I said to myself, "Fall Out Boy isn't coming here. . . "  I headed back to Shin-sakae station.

Reviewing my map, I took what seemed the second most likely route, the opposing direction.  Hey, I can misinterpret a map from time to time, so I didn't want to take chances.  I walked forward two blocks.  At this point, I saw a parking lot, two tall office buildings, and a restaurant.  After looking at both buildings, I realized neither was a concert hall.  Strike two.

After returning once again to Shin-sakae, I found on my map the major road for this section of town, and saw it ran in front of Club Diamond Hall.  So, I walked around, found this street.  As I followed it, I came to what I thought must be the right spot.  And guess where I was.  Yes, Coco Lulu, Parts I and II.  I rolled my eyes, and looked at the map again.  At this point it occured to me that the map had lines through the major route, leading to what was supposed to be the club.  Then it dawned on me.  They were MAGNIFICATION LINES!!!

So, I went to the block BETWEEN Shin-sakae and Coco Lulu, and found, of all things, the Apollo Theater.  No, that's not a joke, that was it's name.  After reading the map's address, I believed that I was looking for what was called the Uflex building.  Well, just past the Apollo Theater was the Uflex building.  Hey!  I was getting there.  I looked inside, and the place was dark.  Well, it was still early, they could just be getting ready.  So I went inside.  Strike three.

Inside, there were steps downstairs, and that nagging idea that the club was underground came back to me.  As I decended the stairs, I was worried, since there was no light downstairs as well.  This club spot was getting pretty shady.  At the base of the staircase was a chain with a post saying the words "Danger, No Entry" in Japanese.  Fall Out Boy wasn't coming here.

So, by now I'm getting flustered, so I went to a convenience store just a few paces up the street.  Inside, I noticed a sign outside that said Club Diamond Hall.  Hey, I hadn't stuck out yet!  Getting my strawberry bread and my Red Bull drink, I headed over and looked at it.  Sure enough, on the 5th floor, was the Club Diamond Hall!  I rode up amidst some salarymen, and found the hall.  Success!  Fall Out Boy was playing here!

Now, we moved to phase two.  Thursday and I didn't have a meeting plan for this, and after realizing how random a place this Club was located at, they'd never find me.  Well, since I was only a block away, and no one was lined up, I decided to go, look for them at the station, and walk back to the Club and see if there was a line yet.  After 12 circuits, some 10 mintues a piece, totaling two hours, I finally found them.  By this time, I'd been insulted by salarymen, scared a stationmaster, and was sure that if I kept it up much longer they police would be called in to find an American terrorist harrassing the populace.

I met Dana, who is a very nice girl, and took them to the club.  They remarked at just how hard it was to find it, and laughed at my stories of wandering this shady neighborhood.  We had lunch at a curry shop, and walked around.  I showed them Coco Lulu, and they were glad I hadn't thought to stay there looking for Fall Out Boy.  I showed them the other love hotels, and various parking lots.  This was just not a nice place of Nagoya.  Why was Fall Out Boy here, anyway?  We never found out.

So, about 4PM, Dana was getting pretty jetlagged, so Thursday asked me to bring her back to the dormitory.  She said she'd stay and watch the concert, then come and get Dana and take her to a friend's house to stay the night.  Dana and I rode back, and I signed her into the dorm.  The dorm parents, Mr. and Mrs. Goto, told me in no uncertain terms to have her out by nine.  Well, at 9PM, Kasugai is a ghost town.  By the time 9 o'clock rolled around, no word from Thursday, no where to go, I had to decide what to do.  We stayed put.  About 10PM, Thursday called a friend of mine, Morgan, who loaned me his cell phone for the occassion.  Thursday was almost back, and would be there in just a few.  I told Dana, and she got ready.  About 10:20PM, over an hour later than the Goto's would have liked, Dana and Thursday headed out.  In the words of the Japanese "Shogunai"  which translates to "Oh Well!"

Day 1 was now complete.

February 6th
Yesterday, Thursday asked me to be up and ready to go by 8AM, since the Wakabiashi family, whom Dana was staying with, had to go to work.  I was up and ready to roll in time.  Thursday told me she was wiped out from the concert, which was wild and crazy.  We walked down to the Wakabiashi house, and were invited in.  Wakabiashi is a middle-aged Japanese man, whom Thursday has been tutoring in English.  I'd met him before at New Year's Eve, so I was invited inside with Thursday for breakfast.

We had croissants and fruit, and talked with Mr. and Mrs. Wakabiashi.  About 9AM, we hopped on a bus out of the neighborhood for the train station.  However, this bus went to Kozoji station, which was further away and more costly than Jinryo.  Also, the bus was more expensive, but we were committed, so we vowed to live and learn.

Arriving at Kozoji, we stopped at the Japanese equivalent of Krispy Kream, the Mister Donut shop.  The donuts were very tasty, so I had a second breakfast. ("We had one yes, but what about second breakfast?" Pippin, Lord of the Rings)  We rode the train from Kozoji into Sakae (the real Sakae, not the dark side of town).  Here, we met up with Kaio, who is a great friend of Thursday and I.  Kaio, Thursday, and I have done Karaoke on several occassions, and she speaks almost perfect English.  I was very happy to see her again, since I'm getting ready to leave soon for the homeland.

With the group complete, we took stock and headed out towards the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art.  This is part of a continuing effort of Thursday to "culture" me, since I don't much care for museums or movies or music history, what many consider the bulk of American Culture.  So, inside I took in the sights, and learned a little bit.  The museum had two features, a traveling display of Andrew Wyeth's artwork, and a permanent display of Tokugawa era (the time of the Shogun in Japan).  I think I learned a lot from Wyeth's work, since they showed his drafts of several painting before getting to his finished work.  It showed me the process as opposed to only the finished work.  I find that much more interesting than just the paintings themselves.  Also, while in the museum, Dana and I managed to disturb some Japanese people as Dana showed me her patented Stealth Three Towed Sloth Attack.  Ask me about it when I'm home, I'll explain it more.  Use your imagination for now, but needless to say, it was funny.

So, with the museum done, we made our way to one of our favorite restaurants, Shooters, for lunch.  Thursday and I have gone weekly for almost a month now to Shooters.  There are two reasons behind this: the service is both in English and very fun (Juan and Jim are awesome guys!), and they serve American food.  So, Dana, Kaio, Thursday, and I all had a great time there, with nachos and club sandwiches and Mountain Dew.  Yummy!

From here, we felt that we had to educate Dana in one of the cultural activities of Japan: KARAOKE!  We made our way towards Fushimi, the next district of Nagoya, to find a karaoke shop.  On the way, we stopped at a manga shop, and a piano store.  The pianos were on par with most artwork I've seen in Nagoya.  We arrived at the Karoake building, and booked a room for a couple hours.  After singing, dancing, and partying, we were sore throated and tired.  But, as always, we had an amazing time.  I love to sing, though I never do it well.  The girls didn't mind!

After that, we had to let Kaio make her way home, and we were getting pretty beat up from walking and trucking around town for two days straight.  We made a couple shopping stops, and then hopped on the JR train homeward.  The girls got off at Kasugai, since they were meeting Mr. Wakabiashi for dinner, and yours truly keep on riding to home base, Jinryo Station.  A short bus ride, and I was back home.

About 2 hours later, Thursday came back to the dorm, having had dinner and gotten Dana situated at the Wakabiashi home.  She gave me a package of sushi from the Wakabiashi's when she got inside, telling me that they had expected me to come along and wanted to make sure that I didn't go hungry tonight.  Japanese people are SOOO polite!  So, with some sushi to munch on, and worn out completely, I crashed, ending Day 2.

February 8th
This morning was a later start time, about 9AM.  After getting showered and geared for another day, I met Thursday and we made our way to Wakabiashi's house.  I thanked them quickly for the sushi they gave me, and we had a second breakfast with the family.  Wakabiashi is a nice man, as I have said.  He's also very knowledgeable, having taught himself English and Ancient Greek as part of his own studies, and knowing much of his own country's culture and history as well.  So, after eating and getting ready, he took us in his car out to Jinryo station. 

From here, we took a train out to Ozone, the shopping district of Nagoya.  Here, we were bound for our second museum, this one a little different.  The museum we went to was the Tokugawa Historical Museum, established by the family that served as Shogun to Japan's Emperor for over 200 years.  The family had acquired many historical materials and kept them preserved, regardless of the Meiji Restoration and World War II and other military incidents.  After World War II, they established the museum as a part of showcasing the history of Japan and the Edo Period.

Outside the museum is a large garden, featuring several bridges, waterfalls, and many flowering plants and trees.  Since Japan has had a strangely warm and mild winter, the flowers and trees were still in bloom, making it a very beautiful walk.  The Japanese also have a way with parks, making them flow and wind gracefully, which creates a refined but natural experience.  I always love the parks in Japan, so this was a fun thing to see with the Wakabiashi family, Dana, and Thursday.

Inside, the museum has everything from period arms and armor to tea ceremony materials to traditional Noh theater.  Noh is the oldest reamaining form of theater in Japan, and is done on a single stage with masked figures.  Noh plays are typically tragedies, though an occasional short comedy is thrown in.  I find Noh beautiful, the expression being subtle compared to Kabuki, and the music more pure.  Music in Noh and Kabuki is done in vocal, drum, and flute, though both styles of theater bring different musics into use in their plays.

One thing we did not expect to be at the museum was a traveling Hinamatsuri exhibit.  Hinamatsuri is the yearly Japanese Girl's Festival, and features minature girl dolls.  The dolls are giving to female children at a young age, about 1 year old or so, to protect them as they grow into women.  Where dolls come into play, so do miniatures of almost everything, and the exhibit had some of the most amazing miniatures I have ever seen.  There was everything from dollhouses to game boards to shells to clothing.  Absolutely anything that a person could want to go with a doll, along with a massive amount of dolls themselves, were present.  I found it very impressive.

From here, the Mr. and Mrs. Wakabiashi headed back to Kasugai to do some house work, and we were left to our own devices.  So, what were our devices you ask?  Our original plan was to head to Nagoya Castle, which sounded great to me.  However, two things side tracked this plan.  The first was that we were all tired, and getting more so as we walked.  The second, and by far more important factor, was that we came across a Domino's Pizza store!  Now, Thursday and myself have not had real, American pizza in almost 5 months, and were not going to be stopped from this for any force in Japan.  If an army of undead samurai invaded the city and the hopes of salvation lied with us, the city was done for, we were getting pizza!

With our tasty treat in tow, we turned our sights onto a much closer target, the Nagoya Dome.  Nagoya Dome is where the Nagoya Dragons baseball team play during the season, and is bordered by a large, populous shopping mall of the same name.  We wandered around the shopping mall for a while, and about 3:30PM we made our way back to the station to head home.  Well, sort of.

When we got to Jinryo station, we were picked up by Mr. and Mrs. Nakabiashi again, and they took us to Valor, the food store in Kasugai.  What I was only vaguely aware of was that Dana was planning on making dinner for the family tonight, and after last night it was made clear that the family would be offended if I did not attend, so I was only too happy to come along.  After gathering ingrediants at Valor, we were chauffeured back to the Wakabiashi home.  Here, Dana and Thursday, with some occassional assistance by yours truly, made an Irish dish called Shepherd's Pie.  I found it pretty tasty, and the Wakabiashi's said it was very different but very excellent as well.

After dinner, Mr. Wakabiashi asked me to do something for him when the girls got back from Osaka.  Every February the 3rd, the Japanese home endures a particular ritual in which the father or male elder dresses as an Oni (demon) and is thrown from the house.  This is to protect the house from demons and bad luck, and keeping good luck in.  The Oni is assaulted with soybeans, for reasons unknown to me, and dramatically made to leave.  As stated, this would normally fall to Mr. Wakabiashi.  However, he asked me to do it for his home this year!  I was honored, and said I would be glad to do.  Thursday said she'd be glad to pelt me with soybeans, to which I laughed.  So, come next Saturday, I will get a cape and a demon mask and get pelted with soybeans after invading the house.  Sounds like a great time!

After this, I arrived back once again at my room, and now prepare for my trip to Asuke in the week after this next week.  I'll post soon as to what the plan is for Asuke, and give some background on the location and what will go on here.

Until then, this has been another installment of Adam's Wacky Adventures in Aichi, Japan.  Don't touch that dial, we'll be right back after thies unintelligable commercials!

Adam

Quote of the Day - "I really don't think Fall Out Boy would be coming to a love hotel without a pretty good or pretty shady reason.  I'm just saying." Adam Link.

Feb. 3rd, 2009

Accomplishments and Anticipations

Well, a lot has happened since I last put up a post for my journal.  Last week, on Tuesday, I completed my last final of my undergraduate career.  This was also my last day of classes for the undergraduate program for me.  I have only one thing left to do before my last work is in for school, and that is the Asuke trip.  I'll get to that in a minute.

On Thursday of last week, we had a closing ceremony for the 6 month Ohio University students here.  We were each given a certificate which states:

        "This is to certify that the person named above (Adam Link) has completed the requirements of the Center for Japanese Studies at Chubu University, Aichi, Japan, during the period from September, 2008 through January, 2009.

                                                                                                                                                               President of Chubu University, Yamashita Okitsugu"
I think it'll look nice alongside my diploma from school.  These certificates were given to us by the head of the study abroad program, and we got several photographs with them and our Sensei's.  After this, we went to the Center for International Programs for sushi, speeches, and a general hobnobing.  The sushi was amazing, the speeches fastly spoken in Japanese, and the hobnobing pretty normal.  All in all, a good day.

     A couple days ago, while I've been here relaxing, another bit of good news trickled in from Stateside.  Annie's sister, Mary Jane, had a baby girl as of January 29th, 2009, named Caitlyn Jane Keffer, who is eight pounds, seven ounces, and nineteen and a half inches long.  Not only that, she's a cute little baby with bright blue eyes (from what I can see in pictures) just like her sister.  My congratulations and hopes of good health go to the whole family.

    Next, everything coalesced today so I could finish the application process.  I woke up and received a pair of emails.  The first came from Becky, a great friend and awesome professor from OU saying that she had finished and mailed my letter to school, making 2 completed letters sent.  The second email was from Ueda-sensei, asking me to come into the University to give me the final letter she had written for me.  So, I finished up my statement of purpose (thanks for the editing Momma!) and headed up.  I printed that out, put it in an envelope with the letter from Ueda, and mailed it out to the USA along with some packages heading to the house.
    
      Therefore, as of today, I have completed the graduate school application process!  Now it is up to the University to decide if they want me.  I also received a letter today, telling me my GRE scores.  I achieved a 480 verbal score (55%ile range), a 650 quantitative score (60%ile range) and a 5.0 composite analytical writing score (78%ile range).  So, with that in mind, I scored better than about 60% of my fellow GRE test takers, making me a decent scorer.  And I took the test in with only 3 weeks preparation! Hah!

     Well, that means that the vast majority of things I've been working on up to this point have been completed!  Classes are done, I'm all applied to graduate school, and now begs the question: "What do I do now?"  Well, never fear, there's never a dull moment, and I've already got plans to take care of my remaining time in Japan.  On Wednesday (that is to say tomorrow) I'm going with some friends in to see the Nagoya Castle, which will be my 4th(?) castle I've seen in Japan.  The day after, I'm going in to Nagoya to return a favor to Thursday.  Thursday's best buddy Dana is coming in from America on the same day that Thursday has tickets to see a Green Day concert, so I'm going to hold her place in line while she gets Dana from the airport and gets her safely to a hotel to sleep.  Yes, that transcontinental Jetlag is terrible!

      Friday, I'm planning to head in to Nagoya with Thursday and Dana to visit some museums and hit a few restaurants, most notably of which is the Nagoya Hard Rock Cafe.  Also, somewhere in the midst of all that, we're planning on going out to Karaoke, since both Thursday and Dana are great singers and yours truly enjoys slaughtering a few songs himself!  I digress, I'm tonedeaf, but I love Karaoke, and the girs don't seem to mind, so why not!

      Saturday, I think there's a plan, again with Thursday and Dana, to head in to Nagoya Castle (hey, haven't I been there?) and to go out shopping and to a few nice restaurants as well.  After that, the girls head out to Osaka (massive city!) and I'm back here alone for the most part.

     For the next week, I'll be practicing my Japanese and preparing for the Asuke Homestay.  On February 18th, Dr. Thompson will be flying in from America to take us through the pre-departure orientation for Asuke.  For those not in the know, Asuke is a small rural village, approximately 9000 people in size, in the western segment of Aichi prefecture.  I'll be staying in a home for 9 days with two friends, James and John, and taking part in some traditional Japanese cultural activites and exploring the life of the anthropologist.  As for the daily details of Asuke, I'm not sure yet, once I know, I'll turn it into a riveting story and put it up online.  Hopefully there will be some dragonslaying going on, but hey, you can't have everything!

    Other than that, there's not much left.  Some last minute shopping and pondering how to fit everything I have into my suitcases and still have enough room to pack my clothes.  Pretty standard.  We get back from Asuke on the 2nd of March, leaving a few days prior to the departure for America for a post of my adventures there.  Since Asuke has no internet connections, my fans will just have to wait til I can get back to civilization to write about my adventures.

     So, that's the current news.  If I have some more adventures I'll let you all know!  I hope everything is well stateside, and that everyone is enjoying the wonderful winter weather.  Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Adam

Jan. 16th, 2009

Around Town

Hey everyone.  I've been avoiding the grand adventures for the most part since my trip to Osaka.  Needless to say, those trips take a lot of energy out of you, and it takes a while before you're ready to tackle another one.  I suppose it was easier when we first got here, what with the massive preparations and escorts and all, we were practically guided like children through all these wonderful places.  But when you do it on your own by the skin of your teeth and the wherewithall of yourself and a good friend, you get wiped out.

That isn't to say I haven't been up to things since the trip.  With the GRE finished, I finished my online application and have moved into the final phase of the application process.  All that is remaining for me to do to complete my application and begin praying to get into the school is get my professors to send in their letters of recommendations to the university for me.  I've talk to all three I'm asking letters from, and they are all on the job to get them done for me in time.  I love my professors, without a doubt.  They all deserve medals, or at the very least, fruti baskets.

So, with the major task of completing the grad school application, I must now turn my attention to finals.  I have six finals remaining, with one completed already.  Each day of class remaining has a final in it, and seem to be progressively more difficult each day.  Next Monday I have a Japanese affairs final, Tuesday has the Composition final, Wednesday is the Reading final, and Thursday the Listening final.  So, my ability to understand Japanese culture along with my Japanese writing, reading, and listening comprehension will all be brought to a final point this coming week.  The next week, on Monday I have the Grammar final, probably my hardest one, followed by my Speaking final on Tuesday.  I took my Vocabulary final yesterday, which went well.

And with that, I've been plunging into the studies and won't likely arise for much more than a weekend jaunt here or there, as I did today.  A group of girls here in the program went to see the Japanese rendering the ABBA musical "Momma Mia!", one of whom was my travel buddy and lifeline Thursday.  When I got back from some optional classes this morning, I had an invitation to join them in Nagoya after the play for bumming around the city, and I figured I won't have much chance over the next few days to do much, so it seemed a good idea.  I made the approximatel 45 minute trek into the city, and ended at the Fushimi station, where she said to meet me, right about the time she said, 4PM.

Well, I got there and covered most all of Fushimi station in about 5 minutes, and there was no sign of here.  After a second circuit, I still had no sign of her.  With no cell phone, I have no way of contacting her, so I found a bench and sat down.  After about 40 minutes, Thursday came around behind me and said that the play went longer than she thought.  Oh well, at least we met up, I've had the unfortunate event of getting stuck in Nagoya without someone to meet before.  Not fun, see my prior posts for that adventure.

So, we set off to see a history museum nearby.  Thursday and I have a history buff component built into our programming, so it sounded like a fun thing to do.  However, since we took so long in getting there (i.e. - a 40 minute wait in Fushimi) the museum was closed.  Well, what does any pair of self respecting college students residing in a foreign country do when the museum is closed?  Um, I'm not sure, we decided to grab some food.  We made a trip to Shooters, which is a bar and grill place similar to that of Hard Rock Cafe.  Since the restaurant is operated in a major city in a very multinational district, we had a pair of non-Japanese waiters to take care of us.

Juan was the first we met, and he took care of our meals for the night.  Juan is from Spain, and speaks Spanish, English, and Japanese as far as we know.  He had a rather thick accent, and was a very humorous individual.  Thurday had a club sandwich, and I had a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.  And let me say, any food after 5 months of Japanese cuisine daily tastes gourmet, and this was no exception.  We were very satisfied with the food and the service, so it is definitely a place to check out in Japan.

After we met Juan, we met Jim.  Jim is a fellow American, though I didn't catch what state he was from.  He came over here to live with his wife, who is Japanese.  Jim took care of our bill, and he and Juan were very funny together.  Thurday, having sampled the mixed drinks and such, was having a great time and fueling the humor herself.  At one point, as we were sorting out the tabs between Thursday and myself, Jim said "I have no clue what this Spaniard is saying, this obviously isn't the bill we need."  We broke out laughing, and all around had a good time.

After that we did some small shopping and headed home.  I'll probably be glued to my books and papers for the next few days, but if any random adventures crop their way into my days here over the next few weeks, I'll be sure to put in another installment of Adam's Adventures in the Land of the RIsing Sun.  Hope all is well stateside,  miss you all, time is drawing closer for me to come home, things are starting to wrap up!  Take care everyone!

Adam
 

Jan. 12th, 2009

Osaka and the GRE

As was indicated in my graduate school post a few weeks ago, I'd planned to take the GRE here in Japan in order to give myself a shot at getting into graduate school.  When I went online to register for the test, there were about 3 locations I could choose to take the test in.  Osaka, Tokyo, and Tokyo (2 test locations in Tokyo).  Wanting to avoid the capital city, I chose the closer destination of Osaka.  After that, I began preparing.

For those who don't know, the GRE (Graduate Record Exam)  is designed to rate a student's current capability to sufficiently understand the English language, perform high school level mathematics, and cogently analyze arguements and create persuasive statements.  The math and language are handled in a multiple choice format, composed of analogies, antonyms, sentence completion, and math problems.  The argument and persuasion components are handled in the form of essays, one for each style of question.  I personally find this a rather lackluster way of rating someone's ability for graduate school, and think the test should be reformed or removed.  But, since I don't make the rules and only follow them, I happily paid the fee and took my test.

So, step one in getting to take this test is getting from my city, Kasugai, to Osaka.  Shouldn't be too hard, hop on a train, hit the right station, walk to the site, take the test.  Simple?  Heh, wishful thinking.  As I looked for directions and asked my sensei about this trip, I found that there would be a lot more to it in the process of getting there than meets the eye.  So,  I continued to research, found the street names and such, and asked my friend, Thursday, to come along.  She agreed, since we don't have classes today, and I was willing to pay for her trip to join me.  (Thanks for the idea Mom!) We met at 8AM yesterday, and headed down to the bus station here on campus.  The bus is a cheap and quick way to get to Jinryo station, our base of operations for the JR train lines.

Once at Jinryo, we went to the opposing side of the station.  According to our sensei, there was to be a box that sold discount tickets for trips to different locations, including Osaka.  Well, as it turned out, this thing wasn't as easy to find as he made it out to be.  We walked to the post office, right near by, and past, and saw no box.  Thursday asked a passing couple if they knew where the ticket machine was.  I'm a little more hesitant of asking random people where things are than she is, but she gets the job done faster.  They told us we had passed it, and pointed it out to us.  We had passed it, mistaking it for a cigarette machine.  We got there, and looked at it, and saw the Nagoya to Osaka train.

"We should get the ticket to Nanba, I think.  King-sensei said it was cheaper and the better way to go." Thursday said.

"Nanba?  Is that in Osaka?  Are you sure?" Doubting Thomas that I am askes.

As we stumbled about this question, the same couple we had asked a few moments before drove up and showed us the difference between the two tickets.  The Osaka tickets were for the Shinkansen (bullet train) and about twice as much.  The Nanba tickets did go to Osaka, and were the limited express train.  Thank you Japan for your polite people!  We grabbed the tickets, which came out in a little brown envelope suitable for a detective mystery story, and headed back toward Jinryo.

"You were going to do this by yourself?  You'd be halfway to Gifu by now, wondering where the stupid machine was!"  Thursday says to me.

"That's probably true, but who would have thought buying tickets for a train would feel so shady."  I replied.  We laughed.

After that, we had to hop on a train to Nagoya.  Nagoya was in the opposite direction, but it was the place we had to get our connecting train at.  Once we were there, we had to plumb the depths of Nagoya station, finding a second basement level that housed these express trains.  We got our tickets, grabbed some lunch, and headed down to the train.  We boarded about 10AM, and rode the train out into the west.  Let me say that the scenery between Nagoya and Osaka is very beautiful, with wide plains, snow-capped mountains and valleys.  So, after a couple hours on this nice train, in airplane style seats, we arrived at Nanba station.

Now, Nanba station is in Osaka, but is in a different district that that of Osaka station.  So, we hopped off, looked around and found a map of the subway system for the city.  As we were looking a Japanese woman asked us in English if we needed help.   She was a train clerk and was there to help passengers get to their proper destinations.  Her English was better than most I've encountered, and she pointed us to the right track we needed.  However, she said we had to get off at the Umeda stop.  Why Umeda?

Thursday and I debated if we should be getting off at Umeda, or ride to Shin-Osaka, which connects quickly to Osaka station.

"Let's trust the Japanese people who do this for a living Adam."  I've learned that arguing with some women is equivalent to asking a bee not to sting you as you swat at it.  Best not to, especially when they have a track record of being right.  Makes it more fun, too, when they're wrong!

So, we get off at Umeda, and walk up to the street level.  Looking behind me, we see the station is named Osaka Station.  Point to Thursday and the Japanese woman.  Umeda, as it turns out, is the name of the street which is in front of the station.  Odd.  I'd heard the name before, I thought.  Regardless, I was running low on time, 12:30, and pulled out my directions for walking to the test site.

"Thursday, you're gonna hit me for this one.  Check out my directions for getting to the test site."  I handed her my paper.  My 2nd direction states as thus, "The street in front of Osaka station is Umeda.  Turn left onto this street and follow forward."  Yep, that's what I'm capable of.

"You jerk!  Why didn't you show me this about an hour ago on the train?"

"Didn't think about it.  They're walking directions after all." She rolled her eyes and swatted my shoulder, and we moved on.

We headed out, and arrived with 15 minutes to spare for my exam.  Thursday headed out into the city, finding places to go.  I headed to the 7th floor, and took my test without a problem.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I had one little glitch.  The first thing they asked me as I entered the door was if I had my passport.  Mmmm, no.  My sensei's and advisors said that once we had our alien registration card we shouldn't use our passport, since it is a more sensitive document.

"Do you have anything else?" I have a face I've learned from my mother which came out there for a second, where my eyebrows furrow and I drop my head forward a little and frown.  I luckily carry all my ID's in my card case, and placed my OU student ID, my Chubu ID, and my Ohio Driver's license on the table.  They looked at the four cards, and took my Alien card and my Driver's License.  Right, the Driver's License.  Why not?  So, that went off without a hitch after that point.  From the preliminary scores, I did about 70 percentile range, with my strongest component not yet graded, my writing.  I think that's good enough to get me to grad school, so mission accomplished.

About 4PM (2AM in America) , I met up with Thursday, who was sporting a new MP3 player (her last broke a few weeks back).  We walked around for a few minutes, and headed towards a building next to the station.  This building was actually a very odd thing.  It was a multistory mall with a Ferris Wheel on the top of the building.  Right, only in Japan would you think to build a Ferris Wheel, not on the ground, but ontop of a building.  So, we rode the elevator up and hopped on.

This was actually the second Ferris Wheel that Thursday and I decided to tackle.  The first was in Sakae (suburb of Nagoya) on Christmas Eve.  This one rose about 150ft (I think, not sure) off the building, giving a view of all of Nagoya around you.  The Ferris Wheel we rode yesterday dwarfed this one, and rose us about 320 feet above the 7th floor of this building.  Wow!  Now, on to Osaka.  From the top of the Ferris Wheel, we could see the entire city.  This requires a bit of perspective, though.  In the distance, probably between 7 and 10 miles distant, were mountains from west to north to east.  In EACH direction, at the base of these mounains, were buildings.  The buildings ran from there to where we were, everything from beginning to end was part of this city.  It was just immense, awe-inspiring that this city was a big as it was.  I've never seen a city of the size from that height, and it impressed me substantially.

So, after our ride we hit up a few stores, an arcade, got some pictures at a photo booth to commemorate our insane trip, and made our way to the station.  The trip back was uneventful, leading us to get back to Nagoya around 10PM, and Kasugai about a quarter til 11PM.  By this point, the bus we rode in the morning had quit running, so we walked the mile or so home to the dormitory, getting in about 11:30 PM. 

And that catalogs our massive day of traveling, adventure, and oddity.  We came out a little wiser for the experience, and I'll be putting pictures up soon to show you all what I mean of this city.  Hope all is well at home, I've got to finish up this whole graduate school application process while preparing for finals over the next few weeks.

What will happen next time in the adventures of Adam in Japan?  Stay tuned to find out!

Adam

Jan. 11th, 2009

And a Happy (If Belated) New Year!

Hi Everyone!  I know, I know, I've not posted in a while, and I've been meaning to post about New Year in Japan.  Needless to say, I'm a little busy with graduate school applications and school work, and trying to avoid my annual winter depression bout.  I love snow, but grey skies and constant bone piercing cold isn't necessarily on my highlight reel for a time of the year.  But enough complaining about what is far beyond my control, at least until I invent that doomsday device that controls the weather and brings the world to its knees (Mwahahaha!)

So, New Year's Eve in Japan.  Well, in lieu of the standard party and drinking bonanza that my friends think necessary, being OU students and all, Thursday and I decided to follow a more worldly approach and did New Year's the Japanese way.  After all, we're in Japan, why not?  Thursday and I went to a friend of her's for the beginning of New Year's Eve, whose name is Waka.  Waka and his wife were willing to let us come into their home, and gave us the traditional Japanese meal of Soba noodles.  You can get soba noodles around the year in Japan, but they are specifically called for only on New Year's Eve.  The long noodles are supposed to represent long life and good health.  The dish is eaten with lots of soy sauce and served cold, which was very delicious.

After that, we bundled up and headed out again.  The second thing that the Japanese do on New Year's Eve, almost as soon as it hits midnight, is go to a shrine.  Depending on which is either more important to the family, or simply the closest one, the Japanese always go to a shrine.  As a whole, Japanese are consumed with the concept of purity of spirit and the expulsion of bad luck and evil spirit.  Many customs built into holidays around the year and throughout the Japanese life are concerned with purifying the body and soul.  Whenever you enter a shrine, you must first purify your hands and mouth with water. Needless to say, it's very important here.

So, off to the shrine.  We arrived just before the crowd hit, and were able to reach the shrine fairly quickly.  About 10 minutes after arriving, there were about 200 people in line to reach the shrine, so we were glad to get there when we did.  Just next to the shrine was a bonfire, being tended, as is typical, by a large (relatively) Japanese man with a big stick.  Why is it that whenever there's a fire, there's a big guy with a stick to poke at it in arbitrary and often inconsequential ways?  Oh, wait, because it's fun!

After giving a New Year's prayer at the shrine, we recieved some free sake, again to purify the body.  Sake is seen as holy water in Shinto, and has a powerful internal purifying effect when giving by priests.  It is used in Shinto wedding ceremonies, and most other ceremonies relating to new beginnings.  So, our shot of sake in hand, we gathered around the fire.  Thusfar, I can't complain.  What chemist doesn't enjoy seeing rapid oxidation of carbon based polymer systems?  (Yes, I'm a nerd, but it's what I do. . . )

Now, what could make this night better?  That's right, throwing things in the fire!  Hey, not me though, I was the safe one this time around.  The Japanese buy talismans each year, and keep them at home to protect from bad luck.  After a year has passed, the items are then burned, to release the bad luck stored in them and purify them, so the next batch can do the same.  So, there were dozens of people tossing items in bags and things into the fire, which brought no end in delight to us.  Kids burned bad tests to pray for a better year of studies, adults burn talismans protecting homes, old men burned shriveled trees for absolutely no reason that I know of, what's not to love!

Let's recap then night then.  We ate a delicious meal, went to a shrine and prayed for a happy New Year, drank some free sake, and watched a large group of Japanese intentionally burning things.  Sounds like a party to me!  After that, Thursday and I headed back to the dorm, called home (from the Future!) and watched a movie before hitting the hay.  I think the Japanese have found a good way of doing New Year's, though next year I look forward to the good old fashioned American way (You owe me a party Ryan Hodges!)

So, until my next adventure (which is soon!) I bid you all farewell!

Dec. 25th, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I've been out and about in the big city of Nagoya this Christmas, an interesting way to spend the holiday.  I'm a little sad to say that Christmas in Japan isn't quite the holiday that it is in America, which is a bit of a shame.  But, as the great storyteller Mr. Seuss said, "Christmas doesn't come from a store.  Christmas, perhaps, means something more." 

I've found Christmas all around, hidden about in little places and in some ways that I hadn't thought I'd see in this country.  I went out with my friend Thursday on Christmas Eve into Sakae (a suburb of Nagoya) and the first thing we stumbled across was a children's orchestra.  The director had a Santa suit on, and the kids were playing Christmas carols!  There was a choir doing the songs in Japanese, but we graced them in our own way with some English lyrics.  I was just glad to hear the sounds of Christmas, as one of my favorite things is the Christmas songs at Church each year.  This is the first time without them, and I sincerely missed them, but hearing the children singing some of my favorites brought a little bit of the spirit back home to me.

Tonight, Christmas Day, we gathered, what to an outsider would be strange, amalgam of individuals.  We had our friends from Ohio, a friend from Malaysia, a friend from Australia, and a friend from Korea all sat around and watched the film Love Actually.  I personally love this movie, though it is more tailored for the current generation.  I has it's cheesey moments, sure, but the stories bring a little more of that Christmas feel home to me.

With that and getting a nice package of cookies from my niece and nephew (unbroken from the trans-Pacific flight!) made my time spending Christmas in Japan a little more like home.

So, from the Eastern Hemisphere, 14 hours ahead of you all, I wish you a Merry, Happy, Unique Christmas, and an even more pleasant and wonderful New Year.

Adam

Dec. 15th, 2008

New Craziness

So, just when I thought I had things well in hand and was ready to relax and enjoy the remaining time I have traveling and seeing Japan, another problem decides to come up and bite me from behind.  This time, it is something about as crucial as the JLPT, but possibly more so.

As many of you know, I'm planning on attending graduate school come August this year.  I've looked around, and pretty much decided upon the University of Cincinnati as my school of choice for their graduate program in Chemistry.  I want to do the straight to Ph.D route, which will give me a Ph.D in four years time, while letting me live at school on a stipend without paying tuition (Chemistry is good to me!),  So, I've been trying to put together plans for what I need to do once I get home.  While doing so, I found the biggest snag I could possibly have managed for myself.

The graduate school at UC accepts applications year round, and I figured as long as my application was in by May that I would get into school alright.  Well, upon further study of the UC Chemistry program, I learned that the Chemistry board reviews applications once a YEAR, and guess when that is?  You got it, February 15th is the deadline for reviews!  So, what does this mean for Yours Truly?  Right, I have to complete the graduation application for the university and college by the middle of February.

Now, that sounds bad enough right?  Coordinating letters of recommendation, transcripts, and the like from overseas, might be a bit challenging, but it is able to be done.  What would make things EVEN harder?  Hey, let's try to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) while in Japan!  Oh Joy to the World!

SO, I've got a fun process to go into.  I've registered to take the GRE here in Japan, and yes, I can do that.  I've got a study book coming, and I'll have about 3 1/2 weeks to prepare for this test.  On January 11th, at 1PM, I take the test.  Oh, one last detail.  I have to travel to Osaka, which is about 4 hours by standard train, 1.5 hours by Shinkansen, in order to take this test.  Lovely, no?

Well, that's what's before me now, and after THAT, I can relax for a bit (maybe).

Other than that, I've got a few sad things to report to the general populace.  Firstly, two of my friends have returned to America.  We went out on Saturday night, and had a nice party at a local restaurant, and had a lot of fun.  Sunday morning, we said a tearful goodbye and told each other that we would find everyone once we made it back to America.  I'm sad to see them go, Jessie and Ike are good friends and wonderful people, and in many ways were essential to this group here studying in Japan.  I'll be glad to see them once I get home.

The other piece of sad news is that our family dog, Dakota, passed away this last week.  Dakota had reached 10, about the end of the lifespan for Siberian Huskies, and lived a long full life as part of our family.  Her downturn was sudden and, unfortunately, unstoppable.  I'll miss her always, especially when I come home.  Every time I've come home from school, the first one I see, always, has been Dakota waiting for me in the garage.  This will be the first time in a decade that I won't have her waiting to see me when I get home, and it's going to be hard on me most then.  I'll miss her, as much as I'd miss any old friend gone away.

So, that's the news.  Some hectic, some sad, but such is the way of things.  Hopefully, my next post will have happier news, or at least, something less panicked!

Hope everyone is well,  I miss everyone, see you soon enough!

Adam

Dec. 13th, 2008

Craziness Comes to an End

Yes, it's true.  The manic, four week barrage of maddness has finally ended.  The preparations for the JLPT, the Shogako Homon, the Seto trip, we've had so much going on.  Well, we're coming up to the final culmination of the 3 month program.  The Japanese standardized language proficiency test (JLPT) took place last Sunday.  A little background on the JLPT.  There are four levels to said test.  Level 4 is the lowest, simplest test.  This test most anyone who has studied Japanese at the college level can pass.  The third level, which yours truly took, is more intensive, and certification for passing means the student is at about the equivalent of high school Japanese language profieciency.  Level 2 is vastly more difficult, and passing means the student is at about a college level native proficiency of the language.  Level 1 is drastically difficult, and shows that the student is a fluent reader, speaker, and listener.  As I said, I've hit the 3rd level, and may have passed the test.  I won't know for a while still, but I'll let everyone know once I do know.

But, everything we've been doing so far has been in preparation for either the JLPT or the Shogako Homon.  With these now complete, the 3 month program is nearing its end.  However, this brings about a little sadness to our study abroad group, as the 3 month students have to begin packing and getting ready to head home.  Two of our group, two friends I've gotten to know, are heading home on Sunday.  Jessie, a small and very bubbly friend, and Ike, who is nicknamed the Lumberjack, are both kind and fun people.  After 3 months together, they are friends, and I'll be sad to see them go.  But such is the nature of these trips, and we'll be sure to get together once we get back stateside.

So, what awaits us now that we've finished these two milestones?  Well, needless to say, not too much.  We have a week before the university begins its winter vacation.  We have from Dec. 23 - Jan 4th off, and I'm currently working on plans to travel for that time.  From January 5th through January 28th consist of our final weeks at Chubu as students.  January 28th is the graduation ceremony for the 6
month students, though our six months are far from over.  This is mainly due to the closing of the winter semester for Chubu, so yours truly has finished his first, and possibly only semester at school.  Somewhere in there is a whole series of exams, some seven odd exams I believe, but that's the way of it.

So, after that we have another break.  From January 29th to February 16th holds another break for us.  What I'm doing, I don't know.  I may just take time off and study, I may travel, I may go walkabout in the hills of Japan, who knows?  We have a few days of preparation once break ends, and then we have 11 days, from Feb. 20th to March 3rd is the Asuke Homestay program.  11 days in a culturally rich small Japanese town under the roof of a Japanese family.  I'm vastly intimidated, but after my last homestay program, I'll be alright.  There's a lot to do for that, and it'll go fast.  After that, we pack up, and come home on the 5th!  So, things are starting to wind down, but there's still a lot to do before yours truly comes back stateside.  I hope this helps everyone get more of an idea on my itinerary for the rest of my time here.  I'll be sure to keep taking pictures and putting up posts.  Hope all is well at home!

Adam

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