Sunday, February 7, 2010


Exploding Oysters!

Saturday I met with my homestay family for the first time in about a month. I've been so busy with school that I hadn't had an opportunity to see them. Now that the semester is over for the most part (just one last paper to write), I have tons of free time.

I met Sachiko-san (お母さん) and her friend Kaku-san in front of the Tenjin Post Office at noon. We ducked into the Chikagai and boarded the subway, took it a few stations up where we met Takaji-san (お父さん) who was waiting for us in the car. We drove to Kurume City (the same city where the Christmas party was) to a little seaside oyster joint. It was a beautiful area and you could see the water from the seats. The restaurant itself was very interesting: it looked almost like a run-down greenhouse that had some table strewn about and some aquariums that were filled with oysters, and fish of various kinds.

We sat down at a table that had a grill set on the middle of it. We ordered some foil-wrapped fish to be grilled, some sashimi and a ton of oysters. Before you eat them, the oysters have to grill for a while so that the shell loosens up enough to be pried open. Sometimes, though, there is too much water inside and the steam that builds up inside causes the shell to burst open. This happened to us and water shot out in all directions, getting our jackets rather wet. Luckily the water wasn't too hot so there were no injuries. There were two guys sitting at the table next to us who laughed when this happened. A few minutes later one of their oysters exploded. One of them let out a stifled 「アッツイ」 "Hot!"

Sachiko-san also brought along three containers from home: 1. Rice balls, 2. Fresh vegetables and potato salad, 3. Fresh fruit. She also brought thermoses of tea and coffee. The whole meal was delicious! It was my first time eating oysters and it's definitely something I'd be willing to try again.

On the way back to Fukuoka we stopped by a diner and had dessert. I ordered a vanilla and green tea ice cream parfait atop fresh fruit and gelatin. So delicious!


Today Marc, Coralie and I met up with Yoshito (Jack's tutor) and his friend Megumi for some delicious okonomiyaki in Tenjin's Chikagai. I ordered エビ玉子(shrimp and egg). It was way too big, but really delicious. I like hanging out with Yoshito because we speak in Japanese about 95% of the time which is such good practice for me.

After lunch we went to a special once-per-year event called Sakagura. It's basically a huge gathering of tons of different 日本酒 (Nihonshu, a type of Japanese alcohol) vendors from around the prefecture (maybe the country...I'm not sure). So, on this day only you pay 100 yen (about $1) and get to drink as much as you want. 飲み放題 to the extreme! There were all sorts of interesting and, well, drunk characters there. But I ran into my Japanese teacher, Fuse-sensei, there and she talked with us a few times over the course of the day. I ended up drinking quite a bit, but didn't get drunk. The nihonshu has fairly low alcohol content so it was really just a fun tasting experience. Takafumi ended up joining us a bit later in the day and it was fun hanging out with him as always.

The best surprise came at the end when we returned the shot glass we had payed for in the beginning. When we handed back to them they returned our 100 yen! The whole thing was free!

The Ingenious Heisig Method of Remembering Kanji Made Even Simpler Via a Jailbroken i-Pod Touch and the Electronic Flashcard Program Called "Anki"

I recently started going through the books entitled "Remembering the Kanji" by James Heisig. It's a method of remembering all of the kanji seperate from their on-reading and kun-reading. It basically gives you a keyword to associate with the character and then creates imaginative stories for you to use to help remember how to write it. I'm 234 characters in as I write this. I know well over 1,000 kanji but this method is a whole new way of thinking about the characters so you have to relearn any that you know so that you can associate the stories with them. The system builds on itself so it would be counterproductive to skip over any kanji you may already know. I'm having really good luck with it so far and it's really a fun way to learn.

I was going to wait until next month to purchase the i-Pod Touch I mentioned in the previous blog...I just didn't have the money this month. But, today I jokingly asked my friend if they had 30,000 yen I could borrow until the next scholarship came and they said yes! So, I got it! In order to fully utilize the hardware you have to "break" it, in a sense. There is software that you can download that allows certain types of applications to run on it that wouldn't work otherwise. "Jailbreaking" the i-Pod is what they call it. So, I did that and was able then to use an electronic flashcard program called "Anki" on it. I downloaded a complete flashcard set for the "Remembering the Kanji" books for it. Just as your music on your i-Tunes can sync with your i-Pod, so too can the flashcards you've made on your computer's Anki program sync with the Anki on the i-Pod. The program remembers what you've studied already, what you've gotten wrong/right, and adds new vocabulary and/or kanji steadily as you go. Having the program on my i-Pod means that I can study kanji anywhere I go!

I also downloaded a Japanese --> English dictionary application so I have a 電子辞書 (electronic dictionary) right at my fingertips. Not to mention 3,843 songs! That's compared to the 800 or so my other 4 GB i-Pod could hold...and my new one is only half full so I'll be able to fit another 3,000 to 4,000 more songs on it if I don't put any space consuming videos and such on it.

* * * *

I forgot to bring my camera with me today so I didn't get any pictures from the Sakagura, but some of my friends took a few. I'll upload those at a later date.

This week I'm meeting with both my English language partners so I'll be making a little money. I've been saving every bit of what I make from these jobs as well as putting away all of the 500 yen coins I get. This will go toward paying off the i-Pod next month.

I'm planning on starting the research and reading I need to do for my final paper in Representations of Crime and Justice in Japan. It's a fairly lengthy paper, but I'll get it done on time. I'm planning on studying a ton of Japanese over the break and having this new toy to help me do it will make it that much more fun and effective.

I got my grade back for my Japanese 4 class: I got an A!! I was actually really nervous about it...for some reason I was thinking might actually get a C so I was really happy to see that grade. If you get an A or B in the class you don't have to take a placement exam next semester to get into the next highest level. But, since I'm planning on studying so much over the break I may just take the placement exam anyway to see if I can perhaps pass out of level 5 and go right into level 6.

I haven't got my Speaking 5 grade yet, but hopefully I got a least a B in that one (hoping for an A though, of course). I'll let you guys know once it's posted.


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