Japan

Update: Sorry; the youtube video was previously private so no one could view it. But I just changed it so you can watch the funky Japanese show clip now here.

WARNING: Long post ahead

Some random thoughts

Politeness: I’ve been telling people that I really like the culture in Japan (at least, from all that I’ve experienced so far, which isn’t too much I guess), and possibly the greatest reason is that the people are just plain nice and amicable. At the airport, the customs people greet you with a smile and say thank you when you’re done. At hotels if you look lost, someone will come up to you and ask if you need help. At restaurants the waiters/hosts are very gentle and catering to you. At the department stores, none of the saleswomen are annoyingly aggressive in advertising whatever brand they’re working for. Heck, even in the streets, if you bump into someone or step on the back of someone’s shoes by accident (haha Julie), the person doesn’t get ticked off and give you a disgusted look; he/she says “Oh! Sumimasen!” (sorry/excuse me) in a forgiving manner, accompanied with a couple short bows. If I don’t think too deeply about it, I really think that if everyone in the world were as polite as the people in Japan, it would be an immensely happier and harmonious place to live in. It was a very jarring experience to return to the airport in the US and go through customs saying “hello” and “thanks” with absolutely no response from the customs person. The little things really do make a difference in impressions.

Engrish: I guess it’s inevitable that you will find Engrish in every Asian country, but I must say that I did not find as much in Japan as I do in Taiwan. Maybe it’s because I was in Tokyo and other touristy places most of the time, where I assume slightly more effort is put into making sure the English makes sense so American tourists don’t make fun of the place. I will add that my first encounter with Engrish was on the airplane to Japan. We flew Japan Airlines and near the end of the flight I went to pee. After I finished doin my business and washed my hands, I reached for paper towels only to realize that there were none left. I thought “That’s okay; I’ll just take one of these things labeled ‘Sanitary Napkins’.” I thought it was a container full of those individually wrapped damp napkin/towels that they hand out before meals, but I tore open the wrapping only to discover that “Sanitary Napkin” means “Tampon”. Within .02 seconds it was in the garbage receptacle and I was out the door with a shocked and disgusted look on my face. Other than that, there wasn’t TOO much weird Engrish, but I did manage to take a few pictures of some funnier ones (see my site).

Naked guys: Before this trip, the last time I saw a naked guy was during the swim test freshman year at Cornell, in the locker room. Before that, sophomore year in high school during the swimming unit in gym class, again in the locker room. At the Atami City Hotel/resort in Japan, there were “hot springs” or indoor pools with regulated hot water; basically like a big jacuzzi, except the water’s considerably warmer. Not sure how many people are familiar with these things, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t like the sound of it when the tour guide told us swimming suits were prohibited in the hot springs. I don’t know how I got convinced into going, but it was surely a…somewhat discomforting experience. I’ll elaborate later but for now, let’s just say naked old people are not a pretty sight (go ahead and call me immature; I ain’t used to seeing anybody’s junk except my own). Oh! And just in case you were wondering, the hot springs were coed. PSYCH! Just kidding, they were segregated by gender.

People who must hate their jobs: Elevator ladies and adults who participate in kids’ shows and tv programs. First, elevator ladies. There’s no doubt that they do their job extremely well, but that’s also the freaky and awkward part. It doesn’t help that they wear lots of make up and dress up in a gaudy style. All they say is “The door’s opening, does anyone want to go up/down? We have reached the _th floor, The door’s are closing.” I’m having difficulty imagining them having normal lives, laughing and just chatting with friends. It really makes me wonder what they’re thinking in their heads. Do they feel as awkward as everybody else? Or maybe they’re just thinking “WOW I really hate my job.” That’s what I would be thinking anyways. And then there’s the unfortunate adults who must entertain the kids on tv. Everybody who’s been to Asia has seen how weird, funny, and ridiculous Asian television can be, especially commercials. At one of the hotels there was a show on making mochi. It turned out to more of a kids oriented show where kids volunteer (or are volunteered by their parents) to take a hammer/club and mash up some flour and sticky rice paste, while the unfortunate host beats on a drum chanting” one, two, three, one, two, three…yay! Thank you for your help!” So after about two or three rounds of this, the show ends. I watched the host clean up after the show, rearranging all the props and what not and putting them behind the curtain, and all the while I’m shaking my head and thinking, “He has GOT to hate his job.” Then at another hotel, me, my brother, and sister were flipping through some channels and came across this (Yes, I recorded some of it). The next morning, we saw another tv show with a bunch of little kids dressed up as flowers, running around with an adult in the center of them, also dressed up as a flower, with his arms high in the air and very excitedly exclaiming something in Japanese. My sister commented “He must drink tons of caffeine in the morning everyday to do this.” I can so totally imagine him doing that and thinking “I look absolutely ridiculous…and I hate my job.”

Some Firsts Experiences

Hot Springs experience elaborated: My sister assured me that it’s really steamy and you can’t see anything, so it doesn’t really matter that you’re naked and so is everyone else. Still uncomfortable about it, I decided to go, just for the experience and for the sake of saying that I had done it. We went down in robes and into the guys locker room where there is a clear sliding door separating the locker room and the hot springs. The first thing I see through the clear doors is several bare butts. At this point I’m like “GEEZ I thought it was supposed to be STEAMY for crying out loud.” So I look away and try to tell myself I’ll stare at the ground while I’m in that room and in the water. Next thing I know, there’s a “supervisor” of some sort telling my, my brother, and my dad what to do (put our towels in designated baskets and our watches/keys in the locker). And then he tells us to take everything off because we can’t bring anything into the other room except a small face towel. I’m like…I have to strip down to nothing in front of some guy?? Gee this isn’t uncomfortable at all. So I turn around and take everything off, and then hold the small face towel to cover my vitals, but still feeling extremely exposed. There was one thing that made me crack up though. So we walk through the sliding doors into the room with the water. Around the edge of the wall are a bunch of showers with stools to sit on, each stool with a bucket on top upside down. Everyone had to shower and clean themselves really well before going into the water, since, everyone’s pretty much in the same water. So I was the first to sit down and like an idiot I didn’t notice the bucket on top of the stool until I sat on it and almost slipped off it. Looking around instinctively to see if anyone saw me, I watched my dad do exactly the same thing, except his reflexes were a little slower and the bucket slid around a little until it slid off the stool, causing my dad to fall on his butt on the ground. I laughed so loud it echoed. Anyways, once I got in the water I saw all the other guys that were also in our tour group, but of course I didn’t say anything to them or make eye contact, especially since I had never talked to them beforehand in the first place. I noticed that all the younger guys were more concerned with covering their vitals while the older people walked around naked quite casually. Anyways, it was an awkward experience, even if I got “used to the nakedness” after about 20 minutes. We had time to go to the hot springs 2-3 times if we wanted to, but that was the only time I went. Ok, enough about naked people.

Drinking in a Bar: One of the younger guys in the tour group suggested to all the other younger people to get together in the bar at Hilton Narita during the last night of the tour in Japan. Everyone pretty much thought it was a good idea, since we wanted to at least meet each other and get to know each other a little bit before the whole thing was over. My brother and I were the only ones who had never really drank alcohol before, and so we were completely clueless as to what drinks were what. The drinking age in Japan is 20 so I decided to drink a little as a social activity. My sister suggested orange juice with vodka, since I had absolutely no idea what to get. It turns out that all the drinks were very weakly alcoholic; I’m not even sure if I could taste any alcohol. Basically, I had two very expensive cups of orange juice. Anyways, it was nice to just talk with all the younger people. It made me kinda wish we had gotten to know each other before the last night. On second thought, maybe it’s better we introduced ourselves and got to know each other after seeing each other naked.

Claw games: Ok, so this isn’t a first time experience thing, but it’s been a long time since I vigorously played them. I used to be really good at them, but they definitely made the claws like 20 times weaker now. My sister and I spent 500 yen before she got ridiculously lucky and got a stuffed mochi. Encouraged by our winnings and dumb luck, we played more. Let’s just say that the stuffed mochi cost effectively like..2500 yen. Stupid claw games. They look so easy until you play and observe that the claws might as well be made out of tissue paper.

Whew! That was a lot of typing. And now everyone’s favorite part: some pictures! I took close to 400 pictures; obviously I’m not posting them all here. For some of the more interesting ones, visit my site. If you’re really bored and have the time, you can look at all the pictures here.


Cute chairs at the harbor/wharf.

Really big buddha.

Odawara Castle.

Um..fooling around with the robes.

View from hotel room at Atami City Resort.

It was really nice scenery.

Mt Fuji!

Super-cool rainbow ring around the sun! Took tons of pics of this, but it was too big to fit in one shot.

Breakfast is happy to see me.

The young people that tagged along with their parents on the tour.

Beginning of Summer Vacation

Just to give my (few) devoted readers a heads up, my summer vacation literally started right after I left Cornell. After packing and stuffing my car and storing some stuff (thanks Julie and Moonjoo!), my parents and I drove back to Jersey to try to catch Ryan’s farewell dinner. We were running late so we drove directly to the restaurant.

Got home around 12:30 in the morning and had to semi unpack and pack for Japan/Taiwan. Our flight was in about 9 hours so basically I didn’t sleep because I had to wait for laundry and all that junk.

Then poof! we were in Japan. I had no idea what we were gonna do there until basically, we got there. Turns out our family joined a Taiwanese tour group so we got picked up by our tour guide and took a shuttle to the hotel. I promise I’ll write more about what we did and some of my thoughts on Japan but for now, I’ll just say we did lots of stuff in 4-5 days.

Then poof! we were in Taiwan (minus my sister who flew back to Vegas). Of course we decided to come in the middle of a heat wave so it’s disgustingly hot and humid. We’re goin back to the states on Tuesday and I sorta can’t wait because I just want to plop down somewhere (with AC) and just do nothing.

After I return to the states, I have 4-5 days to chillax at home and see people and pack for my extended stay in California. And I promise that when I get there I’ll write a post or two on 1. the end of sophomore year/spring semester, and 2. thoughts on Japan.

Packing and Stuff, Literally

This finals week has been unprecedented in terms of my lack of ability to focus. The three previous semesters I was able to write out a study schedule, abide by it, and compile comprehensive and concise study guides for most of my courses I had finals for. This semester, however, I was only able to write up a study schedule; I haven’t looked at it since I printed it out, and as a result I’ve only written a study guide for one of my finals, which happens to be my very last final during the very last time slot of the very last day (which, btw sucks). Anyways, I haven’t been doing nearly as much studying as I did previous semesters. Instead, I’ve been doing other things like fooling around with Ubuntu, playing tennis, going to the gorges, and ahh….packing early.

I think it’s really interesting how when we’re packing to move somewhere, like our college dorm, it’s so easy to persuade ourselves to bring more than we need and use. We think to ourselves “this might come in handy one day” or “I’ll bring it just in case.” And then at the end of the year when we’re packing to move out, we dig up all the excess crud that we never used and think to ourselves “Gee…I didn’t end up using this at all; I won’t bring it next year.” And then next year, we still bring all our junk anyways. On a similar note, we’re so quick to accept free stuff, even though most of the free stuff we get is tantamount to garbage when we realize we have to actually pack all the stuff we accumulated and move it out. So since I got a headstart on packing, here’s a list of things that I brought to Cornell and never used:

- Extra pens and pencils from home and from career fairs. Yeah, there’s some cool free stuff at career fairs, but seriously, most of it becomes junk really fast (a yo-yo that lights up but can’t sleep, a Rubik’s cube that I don’t know how to solve, key chains, pens, squishy stress balls, and more). In my opinion, a company can’t go wrong with free t-shirts.
– Books. These include old textbooks from previous courses and just reading books. I always say that I’ll review some old concepts because they’re gonna help me learn the new stuff, and in my free time, I’ll do some leisurely reading or learn C#. Haha, yeah right.
– Bowls, spoons, knives, forks, cups. I can’t cook and I live in a dorm that has a dining hall downstairs where I get unlimited meals. The only thing that has been in my bowl this semester is dust.
– Clothes. I feel like such a girl because I have too much clothes (or too many clothes?) and end up not wearing all of them. I have a lot of t-shirts (a good number of which were free), several fleeces/hoodies/sweaters, and athletic clothes. I have running shoes which I wore maybe 5 times this semester, long spandex which I NEVER wore this year because I was too lazy to go running in the cold, and some shirts that I rarely wore just because I never felt like wearing them. I think I have just the right amount of pants and shorts and socks. In fact, the only type of clothing that I always “run out of” is boxers. That’s why I only shower when I really need to (which is ahem, everyday of course…*coughsorta*cough).
– Miscellaneous things like my tuner, chinese-english electronic dictionary (because I was also gonna brush up on my chinese in my free time too..NOT), USB light, flashlight, lighters (I don’t smoke!), binder clips, index cards (UGH I’ve lugged around the same stack of index cards since middle school probably), extra shampoo, suntan lotion, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember off the top of my head.

So in view of all this crap that I have, I’m determined to make wiser and more practical choices. I’m going to throw away all my homeworks, notes, and tests and lab reports from this semester (most of the stuff is on my laptop anyways) because I’m simply never going to look at them again, even if I think I might review them again. I’m going to bring less clothes to my dorm next year and less pens and pencils and less shampoo. I’m going to take fewer things from career fairs because I end up giving away/throwing out most of the stuff anyways. I’m going to leave home books that I’m not currently reading.

On the other hand, there have also been some things that really have come in handy on a regular or close to regular basis, but this post is long enough so I’ll save those things for a later entry (if I can remember).

So, how much junk have you accrued in your dorm?

And what the heck am I doing typing in my blog at 2 am, the night/morning before my last final?

Being Open About Going to the Bathroom

I’ll probably have more posts about this topic in the future, but here’s one benefit about telling others “too much information.” When talking with people online, it’s always considerate to give them an informative heads-up of when you’ll be out of the room so they won’t expect immediate replies and get ticked off. The following portrays the difference between giving a quick heads up and not (click for large/readable size):

click to enlarge click to enlarge

Anyways, I should be studying.

On Drinking and Partying…and Why I Don't Participate

I liked parties before I came to college, especially before high school. There didn’t need to be a lot of people over, and it wasn’t exclusive to just the kids; parents were always welcome too because it’s a social event for them as well. We would all get together and actually do something interactive; play hide and seek, manhunt, board games, soccer, catch with a ball or frisbee, video games, and of course, FOOD. We would have so much fun and the house would be full of laughter and good cheer.

It’s quite different now. Now that we’re more “grown up,” we hardly play games at parties anymore (those childish activities are reserved for icebreakers or bonding events). Rather, it’s “lets watch a movie” (like I couldn’t do that myself), or lets play video games until it gets boring. And that’s clearly not satisfying for the college student at all, but since we’re older we don’t go back to the simple and clean ways of having fun. Instead, we wear scanty clothing in 40 degree weather, drink copious amounts of beer, dance to music so loud we can’t even talk to each other, get drunk, yell and scream, hook up with random people, vomit, pee over the balcony (I actually almost got peed on last night while walking under some apartments in collegetown), a bunch of other stupid and disgusting things, and then pass out. Ok fine I’ll give you the fact that not everyone goes to a party and does all that, but that kind of environment doesn’t quite strike my fancy.

Plus, alcohol doesn’t even taste good.

Plus, drunk whites are jerks to asians, unless it’s a pretty girl.

Plus, drunk people are loud and obnoxious.

So to sum up this entry, I choose not to drink and party because 1 I can’t dance, 2 It’s not fun, and 3 I despise drunkards because they’re gross and repulsive.

Not to mention that it’s illegal for me to drink anyways, and all the other moral (or should I say immoral) issues related to parties.

This concludes my ranting.