Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Kendo Practice in Toyohashi!

Yay, I survived! :D
See the post on the hime blog for details ^ ^.


Waaa, sorry for the lack of posting. I finish work late and get really sleepy by the time I get home (9-10PM). I'll try blogging more though, I just need to get a daily routine and get used to my schedule. I was going to blog today but ended up going off to explore instead.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


As I just wrote, I was planning to go to the ocean last Sunday but didn't end up going. I did, however, find out how to get there by public transit, at least I have an idea. So maybe I'll go to the ocean on Saturday, as long as I wake up early and make it back before kendo practice. It looks like I won't be able to go to kendo on Wednesdays (one of the two practice days in the dojo I went to last week), so Saturday will be the only kendo day for now. I can't go during the week at all in fact, even though there are practices in other places on other weekdays. The way things are right now though, I think one day a week of kendo would be enough. Once things settle down more I'll see if I can practice more than one day (I'll need to find a dojo with a schedule that works for me), but that's later.


It's really hot here, but surprisingly it doesn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. If you bike it's really quite nice, and it's a bit windy so it doesn't get as hot as long as you are moving. I think in terms of temperature, it's around 28-30 most days, but in case you are extra curious, here's the weather forecast.

Schedule, Blogging, Etc.

I have a lot of things to write about but I've just been busy at work. During the weekend (or better to say my one and only day off) I had grand plans to write emails, blog, and go see the ocean. None of it got done though, because for one I have a cold and I decided against traveling (good thing too), and in general, I just felt like resting, so I did. So there you go, that's why I didn't email anyone :P. I did get some studying done, which was really good—I need to study Japanese, I really do, and it's a lot more fun studying here, because I can go to a grocery store or a post office and actually practice what I learned.

My schedule is, well, long... Most days I work 1 PM to 9 PM. It looks like my getting up early in the mornings would be a good idea—this way I'll have time to do lots, and then I can just go to sleep when I get home. We'll see how that goes, I haven't been getting up early for the past few days because I didn't feel like jogging with a cold. Once my cold is gone, maybe tomorrow, I'll start getting up early again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Small World

Really, it is an unbelievably small world. Sorry I am really exhausted to tell the story right now, so please stay tuned, but I still can't believe my luck yesterday at kendo practice :D.
Aiii, wish I could blog right now, but if I do, I will fall asleep on my keyboard or something... and it's only 11 PM—can you believe it? O_o. I get up at 5-6, but by 9-10 PM I am really starting to fall asleep... K, bed time!

P.S. It's nice to have my internet back. I didn't have it for a day and a half and felt so isolated :P.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kendo Dojo

After the morning visit to the bogu shop I went to check out one of the dojos. There is no practice today and I knew that but I just wanted to see where it was, etc. I talked to someone who works in the community center and he told me the name of the sensei, and what time the practices are, and a little about the rules. I don't know how much I have to pay yet, but I can find that out after. I will go to watch first, I am a little (ok a lot) nervous to just go and start practicing right away without knowing how the practice is run, etc. They said it is ok to go and watch at first. Now I need to find where the other dojo is.

Bogu Shop

Yesterday I only had to come in to work for three hours and had the rest of the day off. I spent most of it on exploring the city, and at the same time looking for a kendo equipment shop. And what do you think happened? It turns out there is a bogu shop two minutes away from my apartment! I was so happy! I really want to practice, that's why I was super happy. I got two women's 39 shinai (they are balanced so well, I like them much better than Hime), a shinai bag, and a gi. There are two dojos in my neighbourhood, one North and one South of where I live, and the bogu shop guy told me the practice schedule for both, so I can choose, depending on my schedule. I think I'll go next Saturday if I don't have to work late.

House Chores

I find it's a lot easier here to do house chores, because the motivation is so much higher. In Toronto, you leave a dirty plate or leftover food on the counter before leaving the house, and it' fine when you come back. Here, you don't clean out the sink (from the food remains, they have a special basket to catch all the small food remains), and you come home from work and, well, don't want to be in the kitchen because of the smell. Since it's so hot, food goes bad quickly, so I have to extra-bag any food garbage before throwing it into the garbage bin. The reason is that garbage days are only twice a week (I need to check my manual to make sure), so if you don't do that, your garbage will start smelling in a day in this heat. Same of course with putting food away and washing dishes. There is no garbage chute in the apartments, and there are a lot of filters on any outlets that lead to the sewer system, because apparently the Japanese sewer system is very old and can't handle stuff that Toronto sewer system can handle.

There is a 22 page "Waste Guide Book" sitting on my desk, and I need to look through it today to figure out how to dispose of my garbage. I think it adds a bit of inconvenience to life, but I like that, because every time I reach for my garbage can I have to think twice whether I want to throw it out or not.

Actually, when you do grocery shopping you get plenty of containers for your food, so you really don't need to buy plastic containers for food and storage. Well, you still do, but you can make do with fewer of these things because food comes in such nice packages.


One thing that I was looking forward to a lot in Japan was kefir. Most of you don't know what it is, it's basically like plain sour yogurt only it's more liquid. I used to love it in Ukraine, and they have it in Japan too, only it's thicker (but you can just mix it with milk).

It's like this, only the one I get is plain:

Today I felt adventurous, and also was too lazy to boil water in a kettle, so I decided to combine kefir and coffee. It was great, it really works.

If I knew I was going to drink this much coffee in Japan, I would have brought some from home... sigh... It's really expensive here. Although, I guess it's expensive back home too. Well, I do like the coffee here as I wrote earlier, so I shouldn't complain.

Ah, and speaking of drinks, iいちご牛乳 (strawberry milk) was quite a disappointment. I am really happy about kefir though. I got these overripe bananas on sale the other day, so I mashed them, stuck them in the freezer, and now when I feel like eating fruit, I just mix them with kefir instead of jam, and it tastes great.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Today I had contact with some unknown life forms in my bathroom. Yeah. I am quite positive that this bathroom has not been cleaned for years, and since I wanted to take a bath and there were some problems with the water drain, I ventured to open it up and see what the problem is. I will spare you the gruesome details, but 1 litre of bleach and half a bottle of bathroom cleaner later I was able to enjoy my bath.

I am so glad the grocery store is right next to my house, I can always go and get things I need, like bleach, easily. This evening after work I got home unusually early (before 6!) so I thought it was about time to do what I wanted to do as soon as I moved in: clean the bathroom and the kitchen. So I did, and good thing too, because even without my discoveries of the drain inhabitants (and no, they were not cockroaches, thank goodness), I would wear my slippers inside on the tile floor, as it looked worse than the ones in public baths. Now it's ok though, and the kitchen is perfect too, so all I need is to figure out how to connect the washing machine to the water pipe securely, and I am more or less set, at least for now. I could make this place even nicer once I get more stuff from the dollar store (like plastic containers for paper, etc, since I don't have a proper desk with drawers), but for now it's good.

Today really was the best day in Toyohashi so far, because I had a really nice walk/jog in the morning, then work finished early and for once I said bye to my co-workers outside of the office and did not see them for the rest of the day, and finally I cleaned everything, took a really nice bath, and even got to start making lunch for tomorrow. I don't know though if I will finish cooking it or just turn off the stove and finish tomorrow, because I am falling asleep really badly, and work is at 8:30. Yes, I have to work tomorrow, because apparently we did not do enough drills and need to do it again for two hours tomorrow. I won't start on training, maybe my boss knows what she is doing, maybe she doesn't, I am not sure, I'll find out in a week, but of course I would have liked to have no work on a Saturday. Well, not much I can do though. I have from 10:30 onwards to myself, and I am planning to go explore, since my morning 40 minute explorations are a bit too short. There seem to be several interesting places, so I'll go check them out tomorrow, now that I don't need to do any house chores.

I want to write about training, but it's quite exhausting, and I am really tired right now, so maybe some other time.


Whoever said it's hard to find good coffee in Japan was quite wrong, I think. I bought some coffee at the nearby grocery store the other day, and I just had it for breakfast—it tasted so good. The brand name is really funny, it's called "Blendy". I have to remember to save the label.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


By the way, this is totally random, but the river next to my house has huge fishes in it. They are about half a meter long, well, maybe a bit smaller. There are also turtles there, and storks. The river is not very picturesque, at least not where I live, but the fish are impressive.


I haven't yet gotten in touch with my kendo contacts in Toyohashi—hell, I haven't even called Haruka yet (I tried once but that's it)—but my work involves long intervals of sitting on the floor, so I figured I need to do something to make it easier on my back. This morning I got up at 6 (yes, I can do it, people, I really can, don't shake your heads in disbelief). And guess what I did. I went jogging. I hate jogging with passion, and by 6:30 it was probably around 27 outside, but actually it was not so bad. Granted, I did not actually jog that much, I walked a lot more, but still, work went a lot better. Tomorrow I am doing the same, if I can wake up. Depends I guess how long I take tonight on preparing my lesson plan for tomorrow.

Training Week

My training turned out to be two weeks long. I probably won't write too much during that time, and I also doubt I'll email/skype/call much, because it's just so busy. Today we started at 8:30 and got out of there by almost 6, so it was a pretty long day. I can not believe this is only my third day of training, I feel like I've been working here for months.

At first training was quite boring and repetitive, and I was worried about having to drill the "Hello, how are you? I am good, thanks, and you?" for the entire year, and I was afraid I'd go insane in the first month. Today though we had a mock lesson with three kids and it was really fun. The curriculum is not actually that rigid as it seems, and tomorrow we have a junior-high class that my boss is letting me do lesson-planning for. I am really excited, I have so many ideas, I just need to organize my thoughts and prepare my materials. Well, I am a bit tired to be honest, but hey, I am so glad I get to do this tonight by myself.

Ok, off I go to continue working on the lesson plan. Again, apologies for the lack of contact, it is a bit hectic.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ice Pack

I do have AC, but it's still hot because my apartment is stuffy and I am trying to air it out, so not using the AC too much. Earlier today I went to the dollar store and bought a jelly-like ice pack (similar to the kind you can get at Shoppers for sports injuries, only this one doesn't bend much when frozen). It was the best dollar I spent in the past few days, the thing is so useful.

The parasol that Steph gave me has saved me a lot too today, it's really bright and sunny around my neighbourhood. I walked outside quite a bit today, exploring the neighbourhood so I am glad I had the parasol, otherwise I'd probably have to go home sooner (since it was so hot).

Now I understand why Japanese people carry towels with them in the summer. You really do need one.

Next time I go exploring, I'll bring the ice pack with me too.

I still say it's bearable though, the weather that is, but it's still nice to have stuff like a towel or a tenugui, or a handkerchief, and of course a parasol. Poor guys, they can't carry one around. Although some guys wear towels on their heads.

It was fun walking around today though. I picked a road that's pretty industrial, so I mostly saw car dealerships and stuff, but still, I found some useful things too, like a dollar store, a post office, etc.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tokyo and Osaka: Travel Journal

This is a preliminary version that have not been proofread properly. I probably shouldn't post it as is, but everyone was curious how my week is going, so I'll post, and apologies for the lack of proofreading. If you want to wait till I proofread, just wait till this note in italics disappears.

Anton asked me what airplane I was flying on, so to answer his question it's one of the newer 777s. You should see the executive class cabin, it's quite impressive-looking, like in science fiction movies. The economy class is very nice too. There is a power outlet for the laptop. I have to get up and dig out the power cord from my luggage, I don't feel like bothering the other passenger, and it's not like I plan to use the laptop much anyway.

Back to the description of the airplane. I don't know the technical specifications, although I will be sure to look them up once I get to my place, because I am curious. It is really comfortable though in the cabin. The washroom is huge, there are individual TVs at each seat, and there is even a USB port, I wonder what it's for. Maybe for a camera? Who knows... I am going to ask a flight attendant if I remember.
Oh, I asked, the flight attendants don't know.

We are going to fly above Alaska—I wonder if I'd be able to see anything... although I'll probably be sleeping by then.

It's now about 2 PM (on Tuesday the 29th, so we just took off half an hour ago), which means it's 3 AM in Japan. As soon as they serve food I am going to sleep. Mom suggested that I get some alcohol on the flight, because alcohol makes me sleepy, but it looks like there will be no need, at least not right now. I am already really sleepy. Maybe if I wake up in the next 9 hours and can't go back to sleep I'll ask for some, but I had a late night yesterday, so I am perfectly tired right now.

I actually slept really well. It's almost 4 PM right now, and I feel great, no different from any regular day in Toronto (except I'd really like a nice shower).

The flight stayed nice throughout, and I really don't know why people complain so much about Air Canada flights. Maybe they haven't tried Transat, if they did, they wouldn't complain.
Of course, on Friday I get to compare Air Canada to ANA, maybe it's a lot nicer, who knows, but so far I have no complaints whatsoever, well, besides the fact that they checked my carry-on luggage weight.

Japanese Test?
I got my conversation skills tested during the flight today. An old man who sat next to me spoke very little English, but we somehow managed to talk for two hours about lobsters (yes, you read correctly), fishing, skiing, farming (he is a farmer), and I don't even remember what else. It was quite fun, and with the help of my electronic dictionary and my laptop fictionary, we managed quite well, all in Japanese too, except some words. I was actually surprised I can carry on a conversation for so long, so I was thinking, I know more Japanese than I thought, and at the same time, I know less Japanese than I thought. There is so much grammar I need to learn. After that conversation I really can't wait to move in, get my schedule, and start studying regularly.

Getting Around
Getting around the airport was easy. Narita has the fastest border crossing and customs that I've seen. They didn't even ask any questions, I was so surprised, since in Canada, Ukraine, and GB they ask so much.

I found the luggage shipping services easily, and for $37 I shipped my two monstrous 32 kg each suitcases to my school. Amazing service, I'd say, they will be there tomorrow morning.

In general, I think I worried a lot more than I should have about getting around, at least at the airport. I barely used English (except when filling out the customs forms and the addresses for my luggage), and yet it was fine. Such a good feeling when I know I can survive and get around, and I wasn't scared of asking questions at all. I must send a special card to Kondo sensei for being such a wonderful teacher, and I must also thank Haruka for teaching me, and Kaori and Bill for making me practice speaking with them. Ah, Rie too, for making me use Japanese when I talk to her on Skype ^ ^, I think it helped.

*I am in Toyohashi now and it's Saturday evening, and I'd still say that I didn't have much trouble getting around so far. People are so nice and helpful.

View from the Plane
Rice fields look so interesting from the plane: they look like ordinary green fields, but when you fly above them they look translucent, and sun reflects off them. I am going to see if I can find some aerial shots when I get home.

I can't see too much from the train right now (I am riding from Narita to Steph's place), but what I do see looks really nice and green. I hope it's like this in Toyohashi as well.

Food in Tokyo
Well, food is good. Not much I can say :P, it's just so much better than Toronto, but I am sure everyone knows that already.
Steph and Tatsushi took me to an Okinawan izakaya the first night, and to an Italian restauraunt the second night, and I loved both. We also had lunch outside of ToDai (Tokyo University) in a small family soba restauraunt, and Steph got me to try natto for breakfast. I expected natto to be a lot worse, but it's not so bad at all. It is probably not something I'd eat too much, but it's good once in a while. Yesterday I just ate it with rice, nori, and mustard, but today I ate it with a raw egg, in addition to the other stuff. I would fry the egg next time, and maybe use a bit less natto and a bit more mustard, but otherwise it was quite good.
I just ate two onigiri at the airport, while waiting for my flight to Osaka, and they were super tasty. I love Korean Town onigiri too, but these ones were really warm, and they had really interesting things inside: one was with fried shrimp, and the other—with cod roe (that's what it's called, I think...) I need to practice making onigiri, and putting different stuff inside, it's so fun.
I bought some omiyage for Rie and Anton, it's famous "Tokyo Banana" pastries that taste like banana cream cakes, and look and smell like real bananas.

Osaka Food
I am too lazy to write about food in Osaka. It was good.

Interesting Observation
I noticed I sometimes forget I am in Japan. It doesn't feel alien or anything, or maybe it's because I've already been through an experience of moving to a foreign country (Canada). Sure, I have to use Japanese and I have difficulties expressing myself, and sure my English was a lot better when I came to Canada than my Japanese is now, but then, I am not really too afraid to use Japanese, and people are so helpful. At the airport in Osaka when I didn't know how to buy train tickets a really nice CA (flight attendant), probably on her way home from work, offered help. On the train a really nice ojiisan also helped me to find my stop on the map.
Rie's friend was visiting and hanging out with us, and while her English is really good we mostly used Japanese, and it wasn't so bad. Everyone was really helpful and patient with me and I just keep getting surprised at how much I can actually understand.
I was worried before I came about being treated as an outsider and a foreigner, but the truth is, I think it doesn't matter where you are, if you expect a certain treatment, you are more likely to get it, so being open-minded can do o much. Well, I've only been in Japan for a few days so of course I can't say too much, but none the less, I am sure I'll be fine as long a I am nice to people and always try hard to be open-minded. Well, more on that later, once I have actually lived here lng enough.

I was lucky, Tokyo's weather was pretty much the same as in Toronto when I left. Steph says that that it was worse before I got there though.
As for Osaka, let's just say, Steph gave me the best present ever, a parasol—I really put it good use. Oh, no, actually, I didn't get a chance to use it as much in Osaka because I was out mostly in the evening, but in Tokyo I used it a lot, and I will use it a lot again in Toyohashi.
Apparently I was also "lucky" in Osaka with the weather, and apparently it was "only 33C", while a few days ago it was 36C. That place would take time to get used to during the summer, I guss. It's uncomfortably hot, and sleeping without the AC is not so pleasant. We went to bed around 7 AM (more on why later), and I woke up and 11 and couldn't sleep anymore, even though I didn't have to get up until 1 PM. The thing is though, with enough sunscreen, parasols, water, a fan, and some patience it isn't that bad. I'd pick Osaka or Tokyo over Toronto any day (in terms of location).

*When I arrived at Toyohashi it was +29 or so, and very bearable. I can't really tell though how bad it gets because I got here after dark, and it seems a lot cooler in the evenings here. We'll see tomorrow.

We went to watch fireworks close to Anton and Rie's house, and they were so beautiful. They also lasted for an hour. I think next weekend we are supposed to have fireworks in Toyohashi, so I will definitely look up the information about it and go if I don't have anything else to do that day.

I want to get good at regular Japanese soon, so that I can ask Rie to teach me some Kansai-ben. It sounds so fun, I enjoyed listening to her talk with her friend yesterday.

The karaoke place had all the songs I always want to sing in Toronto, but can never find. Well, guess that's because I usually can't find the Japanese songs that I want to find.
We took turns, the four of us, and we stayed at the karaoke place from a bit after midnight and until 6, so you can imagine how much I got to sing. It was so strange to be ok with singing by myself for so lon. Well, I didn't entirely sing by myself, the others helped me with many songs, but still.
Now I am riding on the train from Osaka to Nagoya, and I am getting so sleepy, it's sad. I am so worried about sleeping on this train though, I will be arriving at Nagoya in an hour but what if I don't wake up when I need to? It's so tempting though..

Jet Lag
I did not have any. Well, right now I am sleepy in the middle of the day, but then it's understandable, we've been up until 7 AM and I only got 4 hours of sleep. Tomorrow I am sleeping in if I can. Anyways, in case anyone is wondering, I think I figured out a good way of preventing a jet lag. Basically what you do is either have bad night's sleep the day before so that you can sleep well on the plane and arrive well-rested (that's what I did this time), or you sleep normally at home, and then don't sleep on the plain at all, so that when you arrive you are so dead-tired that all you want is a shower and a bed, and this ensures that you sleep through the entire night. The latter will only work well if you arrive in the evening, because if you arrive to your destination in the morning or early afternoon, your whole day is wasted. I arrived in Tokyo at 3 PM, so that's why I did't sleep properly the night before. I am very glad I made sure I don't have jet lag, because I could spend all the time I had with Steph and Tatsushi in Tokyo, and then with Rie and Anton in Osaka, instead of wanting to sleep all the time.

It's so cool, the trains here have a camera in the front, and show the view from that camera in every car on a screen.
Some of the train systems (for example JR, which isn't always the cheapest/most convenient option but still) have money cards that are kind of like the oyster card in London. It's very convenient for lazy people, busy people, and people who don't know any Japanese.

Speaking of not knowing Japanese: most of the train stations, if not all, that I've seen have their names written in English and it's very convenient. In general, finding where to go is probably a lot easier because of that.

Flying ANA was nothing special, except they gave you really tasty candy before take-off, I suppose to help with the ear problem.
The view from the plane when we were landing in Osaka was quite something. Next time if I have to travel lik this though, I'd rather use the trains, it's a lot more fun, and you can see so much.

Sorry but I have been keeping my camera in my suitcase throughout the trip. Most of the time it's either really hot, or I am not in the mood to take pictures, or I have luggage with me, so I did not take any pictures at all.

There are mountains here, a lot of forests, and so many rice fields everywhere. The cities that I saw so far are really neat too, the streets are tiny, and a lot of the time you just walk along the road. Everyone bikes everywhere, so wearing headphones is a bad bad idea. Carrying luggage around is also not the best thing, you have to be very careful.

Rie was really sweet to let me use her bogu. It's so nice! I am so used to my old bogu from the club that is falling apart and has been fixed so many times, that seeing Rie's new bogu made me so so happy. Everything fits really well, except for the men, it's a little small. I will get a new one some time, maybe when I go to get shinai and a gi, but I can still use hers for now though. It fits a bit funny, but if I use padding on the sides, it's fine. Now that I am sitting in an air-conditioned train, I actually feel like practicing, but I am sure this resolve will dissapear quickly once I get off the train into the 30+ degree heat.

To Be Continued?
Of course I will be writing more, but I feel I need a break from writing a travel journal, so it might be some time until I post. Tomorrow I have to go food shopping etc, and settle in (although most of my luggage is at work, so I can't do too much yet). Training week is going to be pretty intense it seems so I might not write as much next week, but we'll see.

Overall, I just wanted to stay to those who are wondering, I am doing well, I am really enjoying myself, and that Japan seems like a really nice place (duh).

Ok, bed time for me.