Throwing Down the Gauntlet

And so it begins.

Finals week is now upon us, and I’ll be about as busy as humanly possible throughout the course of this week. I don’t imagine I’ll be having many interesting blogs this week because of this, but we will see.

For now, it’s time to hit the books.

Phrase of the Day: Shizukana (Shee-zoo-kah-nah) means “Quiet”.

Cutting It Close

Anyone that has seen my hair lately has likely thought one thing: Dear God, are you a Batman villain or what?

So, when one of the Wakei students asked if I wanted to go get a haircut with them, the answer of “yes” was a relative no brainer.

Of course, on the way to the hair stylist, a thought occurred. “Hmm. I don’t speak enough Japanese to instruct them through this process.”

Here comes an interesting blog, I figured.

I approached the building and was greeted with the trademark barbershop pole that many a hair stylist seems to be all in on. We entered the building, sliding the doors open, to be greeted with…a vending machine? Was this a restaurant? The hair stylists stared at us blankly, probably wondering why some confused Americans were ruining their establishment.

My friend went to put his bill in the machine ($13 per haircut. A pretty solid deal, honestly), only to immediately jam the machine and cause it to beep at the sound of a warning siren. The staff had to come fix the machine, and instructed me how to put my bill into the machine.

My friend had a polite lady for his hair stylist. Mine was a rather large man, possibly a retired hit man, with a t-shirt that read “IT’S LUNCH TIME” in English, with the picture of a rabbit wearing a backpack. I spent the entire haircut trying to figure out what this shirt possibly meant. Was the bunny preparing for lunch time at his school? Or was the rabbit saying his final farewells to his comrades, packing his things as he prepared to become a meal? The truth will no doubt haunt my nightmares.

Anyways, Mr. Lunch Time stares at me, waiting for me to provide photo evidence of what haircut I desire. I show him a picture I took shortly before I left, of a recent haircut I received while being with my parents at a Finger Lakes Winery (Keuka Springs, Mochan Approved). The man said the equivalent of “VERY SHORT, EH?”. “Yep” I responded in my flawless Japanese American accent.

So he went to work on my head. He started twirling the scissors around in his hands like I was getting a haircut from a hibachi chef. It was a sight to behold. You could tell this man had dedicated his life to this craft since a young age. Amusing, being the place was called “SIMPLE CUTS”, not exactly highlighting their attention to detail. Darn if he didn’t nail it though. He made it look almost identical to that picture I showed him for a grand total of three seconds. Well done, Mr. Lunch Time.

Interestingly, the haircut ended with them grabbing vacuum cleaner hoses, attaching a small head to the end, and using it on your neck. I thought for a brief moment I was about to be murdered, but was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked. Heck with the people using tissue paper to wipe your neck off. The vacuum is the sign of the future, ladies and gentlemen. This is the only haircut I haven’t felt incredibly itchy afterwards.

Following this, we decided to grab some cold soba noodles, fitting for the 95 degree heat we were experiencing. A top rated restaurant was nearby that was known for their soba. We entered, a woman at the counter sprinted away from us, and the chef approached the both of us.

“No no, we are sold out of soba. Goodbye.”

Oh, surely the soba restaurant ran out of soba a full hour before closing. While a Japanese man was eating soba directly in front of us. Surely it couldn’t just be because we were Americans.

Well, joke was on that buffoon. We went two buildings over and got soba at a restaurant ran by a friendly Japanese grandmother. It was excellent. The soba came with a massive bowl of shrimp tempura, soft boiled egg, and rice. All of this was $6. It was an excellent lunch. Thank you Ma’am, for not throwing me out because I looked confused.

Our day ended as many a W&J day should end: with Domino’s Pizza. No, really. We decided, like true Americans, that we wanted some pizza, and a local Domino’s was happy to provide. We thought the best approach for our group was a normal pizza and a bizarre, Japan only pizza, just in case the bizarre one was nasty.

That was how we ordered a plain pepperoni and the “JAPANESE FIESTA” pies.

The fiesta was taco meat, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and, strangely, lots of cheese whiz. It was…strangely…very tasty. Eating that entire pizza would likely cause me to enter cardiac arrest, but in small pieces, it was solid. Every pizza was labelled “TASTES LIKE NEW YORK”. I don’t know about that, Tokyo, but the fiesta was certainly an interesting pie.

Two weekends remain here, and this was certainly a fun evening. It is beginning to hit everyone that the Fellowship of the Ring will be dividing soon. So, we simply make the best of it while we can.

Phrase of the Day: Fiesta Pizza, quite possibly the most bizarre and yet Japanese thing you can imagine. You gotta love it.

Waning Hours

I somehow forgot to write a blog last evening, so I’m writing it much later in the day here instead.

It has been hitting that I only have around two weeks left here. This is a rather startling realization. It feels simultaneously like I’ve been here forever and that I have only been here for a short amount of time that has already flown by. It’s a bit hard to describe and digest.

But, all the same, I’ll be leaving good old Tokyo in around two weeks.

After meeting with the payment office over it (and notifying them that my name was Dan Dan, of course), I was approached by Dorm Operator Mr. Watanabe with a short statement.

“It can’t be.”

He looked visibly sad while holding a sheet of paper in his hands.

“Is everything okay..?” I asked with mild confusion.

He looked dejected. “No. Today I get paper from the office about when you are leaving.” He holds out a form that essentially notifies the office of your departure date. “I get this form, see it is for you, and I get sad.”

“No need to be sad,” I say with a chuckle. “It’s just for me staying for a few extra days over what I initally had listed.”

“I see form, and I get sad.” He reiterates.

How this man could possibly be sad at the student who accidentally smashed his electric fly swatter is beyond me.

Heading to Japanese class this morning, I decided that, with my only remaining classes with this professor being the actual finals themselves (the rest of the week for classes we have the other Japanese professor), I thought it would be prudent to get a picture with her today.

After botching several answers (“Dan-San, you say everything like American accent!”), I approached her at the end of class and told her we need a picture. She became visibly excited by the demand, and the class got a good chuckle out of it. Particularly the giggling crew in the back who at this point are the unofficial Dan Mochan fan club.

I didn’t want to waste too much of her time, being she had a class right after ours, and getting the phone camera situated was more difficult than I am willing to admit.I set it up, took the picture (after several minutes of messing it up), and went on my way.

Only when I got to the station did I have time to look at it:

…..Remind me never to go into photography. I think someone else should take the picture next time.

Phrase of the Day: I see form, and I get sad.

The Name Game

I’ve got my last regular Japanese test tomorrow, so a short blog today.

On my way back from class earlier, I stopped by the accounting office for Wakeijuku to handle a payment. The staff there are all very friendly, particularly the one who speaks English that I can have an actual conversation with. The woman walks over and, going to ask what my name is, asks, “Name Name?”

Without any hesitation, I immediately respond “DAN DAN” in a rather triumphant tone. My brain didn’t even have time to react to the stupid comment my mouth had just made.

“Dan Dan-San?” She asks, very clearly confused.

“Uh…no, just Dan. I have no idea why I said that.” Well, that much was obvious, though I’m sure my reddened face really helped double down on that.

Dan Mochan – Keeping it socially awkward since ’97.

Phrase of the Day: Dan Dan (Dahn Dahn) means “Stupid Comment”. Also, a potential substitute for Barney Rubble’s son should Pebbles and Bam-Bam fall through. Also, the classic Dan Dan noodles. I could do this all day folks.

A Brush with Danger

Short, amusing anecdote for the day.

In my Japanese Literature class, we have progressively moved through the history of Japan by reading types of stories, poems, ecetera from each respective era. Today’s assigned reading was one from the Meiji Era (aptly named after the return of power to the Emperor, named Emperor Meiji). Whereas stories from the more ancient eras of Japan have floated around myths, imperial court gossip, and the like, the more modern stories are, well, more modern. Deeper characters, story lines, things of the sort.

In this class, we are expected to participate in order to receive participation credit (worth about 20% of our overall grade). However, this class was intended for around 20 students. To his surprise, roughly 50 people signed up instead. Because of this, the participation system had to be heavily modified. The chance of remembering who you called on throughout the semester in a class of 50 or so students is rather unlikely. Instead, he starts class off by passing out sheets of paper, writes a short question from the reading down on the board that requires a one word answer, and correct answers net you the participation points for the day.

Typically, these questions are pretty basic in order to prove you did the reading. They involve a large, overarching theme of the reading or ask about an object the story revolved around. Today, however, this was not the case.

Starting class, he writes up on the white board, “What did the character carve out of the statue near the end of the story?”

This was a one off sentence towards the end of the story that had very little bearing on the overall plot. So little, in fact, I didn’t remotely remember this even occurring.

“Alright class,” he calmly states. “There’s the question for the day. Write your answers and pass them up.”

The students around me turned towards me, hoping for salvation. “Do you know what he carved?”

Nope. I’ve got no idea what this guy was carving. Most of this story the guy was talking to himself. When did this dude have time to take up wood working?

I quickly scanned the end of the story, trying to look for anything relating to this. Where did he do the carving at? Just a random sentence at some point in this story?

And then I saw it. By complete chance, towards the end of the story I find the words “WOODEN TOOTHBRUSH” towards the very end. What a ridiculous thing for this guy to be carving. Strange though. I feel like I would’ve remembered a man carving a wooden toothbrush for absolutely no reason. But, maybe that’s why he asked the question.

I write down “toothbrush” with complete confidence.

He begins collecting the endless tide of small white sheets of paper, and notes the answers on them. “Wow…” he says, somewhat dumbfounded. “Lots of blank sheets this time guys. Guess this one was a bit harder than usual.”

I suddenly see his eyes widen.

“…well. I received possibly my most interesting answer I’ve ever received for this question.”

Oh no.

“Congratulations to toothbrush for being the most unique answer to this ever. You have certainly amused me for the day.”

Turns out the answer was a carving of his girlfriend…in stone…on a statue he made of her.

Toothbrush would’ve been a much more interesting story. Darn if I didn’t get full participation points today all the same.

Phrase of the Day: Haburashi (Hah-boo-rah-shee) means “Toothbrush”. Looks more like it would be “hairbrush”, doesn’t it? Either way, it doesn’t mean girlfriend statue.