Thursday, 31 May 2012

Midterms/ ボート大会 (Boat Taikai)

Tuesday was mid-terms (Kanji Test + Grammar Test) and I got my results back today. I didn't do well, but after crying twice, I'm either feeling better or too tired to do much. Personally, I think I gave the kendo team a shock, especially Okuda-senpai, who came in to the toilet to change and found Simone and Rena comforting me. But somehow, practicing kendo and talking to senpais' lifted my spirits.

So as you can see, I freaked/am freaking over exams. And now, I only have two exams: Kanji and Grammar. I wonder what will happen in the end of the terms when I have Maths and Politics and Economics as well (Oh, my timetable changed. I shall post again when I get used to the new timetable).

But as proof that the school understands how students hate to study after exams, Wednesday was ボート大会 (bo-to taikai). So the night before, all the girls from D Class came to my room to create our mascot - a turtle! (If I remember correctly, I kinda went "turtle turtle turtle!" when we deciding. It's my version of irony since our team name is 特急D (tokkyuu D - Super Fast D) :D )Unfortunately, we got scolded by the tutor around midnight because Stella and I were singing way too loudly. -ahem, we really love Wicked-

We made personalised armbands for our class too! Even one for Kaneko Sensei(:

After about 4 hours of sleep, it's time to wake up once again! But turtles need to sleep more!

I would like to say I managed to hid away somewhere in my shell and hibernate but
that didn't happen :/
The rest of the day is really cheering our team on when it's our turn. It's very awkward to hold a camera while in a Turtle costume, so Stella helped me take the photos:

Here's my class! Despite the fact that Han-san is a girl, we were entered in the
all-boys category.
And we won third place! We got first in the first two races (we won semi-finals by a very thin margin, look!):

And for finals, we came in third! Also by a razor-thin margin, so while it could have been second, I think third is awesome! And we managed to persuade the orginal mascot into the costume for the prize presentation:

Oh yeah!

We're going for our 打ち上げ(uchiage - it's like a celebration for doing well) tomorrow. Yaki-niku away! But here's one last candid photo that Stella took of me. I really really like it:

Here I am. Waiting.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Happy Birthday Rena

Dear Rena,

I don't know if you'll read this, but anyway, I wanted to recap your birthday so that you'll never forget your first birthday in Japan. You probably have heard enough about the party Kei organised, so here's the recap for Kendo.

Basically, it all started on Sunday. I guess in a way, it was a good thing I went to the shiai alone, because that was when I got everyone to sign your card and very quickly organised your party. And while we're on the whole organisation topic, I should say that although I suggested the party, Okuda-senpai was the one who agreed to (and organised) it. I must have texted her so many times!

Monday was tough. You'd already gotten one surprise party so I didn't know if I could organise another one successfully. Which is why it's a good thing that Simone is excellent at stalling (before kendo, during kendo, after kendo).

And Audrey went to Musashi-Sakai during third period for your cake, so that was another lifesaver.

If I've forgotten to tell you, I actually reached the kendo-room while you were still there. Kinoshita senpai was the one who told me when you left so I could sneak the cake in.

The rest, you should remember. But just so you know, the one disadvantage of you being last to come in was that we had so many false starts when various senpais walked into the room.

Oh, thank Chie-chan for showing up too ya?

Happy Belated Birthday(:

I'm glad you got the nomikai you wanted. ^^

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan - Stephen Turnbull

While reading this book, I was alternating between giggling and trying not to tear my hair out (and really, this is not a suitable thing to do at a kendo taikai or any place that isn't your home). I was giggling because of sheer happiness at being able to read such a well-written book/thesis after so long, and close to tearing my hair out because this was the book I was searching for for the past two years.

You see, in IB, we have to do an Extended Essay in order to graduate (it's basically a 4000 word research paper). My paper was on the difference Eastern and Western writers treat the Judas figure, and for my "Easter Author", I chose Endo Shusaku, specifically his book Silence. Which, of all things, is about the kakure kirishitan (do you sense my fustration now?). There was an amazing lack of literature on both books, and I would have really liked to have read this book while I was searching for background information.

This book mentions not only Endo Shusaku, but Silence quite a few times. Plus, it has very useful information that I could use to reinforce my point about my analysis of certain characters. -resists the urge to tear hair out- But, honestly, I'm glad that I read this book, even if it's too late for IB.

This book looks at the historical background to the kakure kirishitan, from being an underground community due to persecution to choosing not to rejoin the Catholic Church, their organisation and an indepth look at their rituals and artifects, especially the "gozensama." I really enjoyed the comparison between the Catholicism and Kakure (and to a smaller extent, Shintoism and Buddhism), because that helped me understand their uniqueness better.

Ok, ok, I'll explain about the kakure kirishitan. The kanji for kakure is this: 隠れand it basically means hidden, so they're the "hidden Christians." After Ieyasu expelled the foreign priests, Christianity was banned and the existing Christians were forced to go underground and adapt. In order not to be discovered, they developed their own way of worship that you could say is distinct from Christianity. And while most of the underground Christians chose to rejoin the Catholic Church when the ban was no longer enforced, a few of them chose to remain secluded, becoming the kakure kirishitan.

The book uses a combination of primary sources consisting of interviews with the remaining kakure kirishitans and original documents (I assume copies of them?) and secondary sources from other scholars. Apparently, the community is in decline so I'm glad that there are a group of people learning about them before they vanish completely.

So even this book is an academic work (it started off as a PhD thesis), it's still a very interesting book. I don't think the kakure kirishitan's a very well-known (well, English works are hard to find), so if you happen to need a secondary source for this subject, you really need to get your hands on a copy of this book.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Kendo-Bu (剣道部)

I realised that while I've mentioned kendo quite a few times (normally as a reason for why I don't post as often as I should), I've never formally, introduced the club to you. So basically, for this year at least (I plan to join kendo next year too!), I've joined the Kendo-Bu (Kendo Club)

Basically, in university, there are 部活(Bukatsu), which to everyone in Singapore is called CCA (Co-Curricula Activities). There are actually a lot of them in TUFS (although no golf, which was what I was thinking of joining at first). So after going for a bunch of introduction parties and attending the introduction/open sessions, Simone, Rena and I decided to join Kendo. And we have no regrets!

Kendo is actually a fairly very intense activity. It's four times a week (yes, I heard you gasp), which means it's every other day, except for Monday and Tuesday, which would make it consecutive. This is how I can actually have kendo-related activities for four days in a row (3 days of practice and 1 day of supporting 先輩/senpai's at  the 大会/taikai)

You'd think we'd be bored, but no, we're actually having a lot of fun. And in my opinion, if you're studying in Japan, you definitely need to join a club. Apart from being able to make more friends and practice Japanese, it's not fun to constantly study (like what I did in my first 2 weeks here).

Since we're starting as complete beginners (I did nothing similar in Singapore), we've been practicing basics a lot. And in an ironic twist, we're told to be happy when we get blisters, because it means that we've been praticing correctly. So, here's some good news, I've got blisters on my feet! Which means that I've finally got the footsteps somewhat right. I'd probably never be as good as the senpai's, but it's so fun just to learn.
Well, I could go on and on about how fun it is and how nice my senpai's are (no really, they are way nice. It's why Rena choose Kendo over _____ -name withheld-). But I'll just end of with something I learnt about the Senpai/Kohai (senior/junior) relationship:

Always listen to your senpais. Unless you have a very good reason, but still expect about 5 minutes of argument/teaching.

You see, it's normal for the senpai's to pay for their kohai's meals. So one day during Golden Week (I've mentioned this before), I had to treat everyone to lunch. After all, I don't get a brand-new cousin everyday. So even though I mentioned it only after practice, almost everyone made it, and we had a really really good curry lunch (Another of life's ironies is that I only started eating curry after I arrive in Japan). And with my years of watching/ninja-training, I manage to make it to the cash register first and pay.

And make mistake number one: Mentioning how much the meal cost.

Followed in succession with mistake number two: Not taking the money. It took about 5 minutes, sitting on my hands, and having to write the words (me not having the adequate vocabulary to explain by talking) 孝心 (filial piety) before a consensus is reached that the already collected money goes into the club funds. I felt really bad. But if I let them pay, I'd have felt worse. So, back to mistake number one: letting them know how much it cost.
So, please don't learn from me. Be good kohai's and listen to your senpais (unless of course, they ask you to do something illegal, in which case you should seriously question your choice of activities).

So to summarise this long confusing story (I'M SORRY): I paid, but at the expense of (temporarily) angering my senpai's. 

And instead of merely showing you a photo of kendo, I'd just show you a video of a failed attempt to take a group shot using my camera phone which was really my fault (although apparently, my phone can take videos and photos at the same time). If you're bored, skip to 1:00 and 1:35 for your photos. Sorry, I've tried uploading three times and it's not working (probably a bandwidth problem on my end). So instead, here's a really nice group photo:

Friday, 18 May 2012

Official Welcome Party

Yup, there was another welcome party. But this one was special cause it was the official one, as in, officials from MEXT and the respective embassy representatives. Sadly, there was no one from Singapore there. (But according to Christal, no one came for their year either, and they had 6 Singaporean students so I shouldn't be surprised)

And according to Rena, we came for the food. And the fact that it was compulsory (I know cause I checked). But, the food was excellent (didn't take any pictures though). So here's what happened:

There was a bunch of speeches (in English and Japanese) and some student performances and we all had to introduce ourselves. (O_O)

Considering that Rena and I were dressed in our SIA uniforms (it's based on the Sarong Kebaya so it counts as a traditional costume) it looked as though Nicholas was a SIA employee. On the bright side, we didn't flank him as though we were at a SIA press conference. And it was fun to wear it (although walking was a bit hard). And remember everyone, no matter what people say, it's always fun to wear your country's traditional costume when you get the chance(:

Best part? Possibly the taking of the class photo (it took a surprisingly long time):

After many near misses (we have very bad timing...), we have an almost complete photo. ハンさん(Han-san) is unfortunately sick (please pray for her!) and ミラさん(Mira-san) was being interviewed. I will post her interview video here later. And Simone was also interviewed, so you should definitely watch it when I can find it :D

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cooking Time #4

I meant to post! I really did, but I had 4 days of kendo in a row (practice, 大会 taikai - who can guess the meaning wins a round of virtual applause, practice, practice) and I spent the rest of the time just trying to keep up with school. It's not a very good excuse, but it is what it is.

So, what I made last week was fried rice.

Let me show you attempt one:

This was actually made the week before, when I had too much rice in my fridge and decided to just add eggs and see what happened. It's actually quite nice, and I ended adding whatever I have (like 枝豆 edamame) to it.

But I wanted to try it properly (or my version anyway). So I consulted the Cooking: A Commonsense Guide (after owning it for a few years I'm finally using it!) and tried to follow the instructions. Approximately.

What happens is this:

You buy whatever you want in the rice. For me, I wanted sausages, crabmeat and minimal vegetables (the actual recipe has a bunch listed). But I'm used to eating the frozen kind - peas, carrots and corn mixed together, so I added that instead.

First, cook all that needs to be cooked (basically just boil all non-rice ingredients).

Next, you fry an egg, making sure that it's broken into small little pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients and fry it.

In an ideal kitchen, you'd add your rice to a fragrant smelling ingredients and voila fried rice. So, please remember to make sure that:

a. Your frying pan is actually big enough to fry rice. As in, when you fry it, you should be able to mix the rice and ingredients without anything falling out.

b. If you decide to transfer the rice to a pot to fry because your pan is too small, add oil to the pot first. Otherwise, all the rice on the bottom layer gets burnt.

The end product. So which do you prefer, version 1 or 2?

Personally, I can forsee myself making fried rice a lot. It's like comfort food, healthy, and only needs a minute in the microwave to heat up completely.

Friday, 11 May 2012

バズチョコ (BaZuChoco)

While we were practicing listening in class, we came upon a very ...strange (yup, strange) exercise. It was an attempt to make a food called バマズ (BaMaZu) which consists of cheese on banana on tomatoes. When asked about whether our respective countries had such a dish, I immediately thought of the prata store in AC and Stella thought of home. So the both of us were the only ones who said "yeah, something like that exists - only instead of tomatoes -yuck- we use chocolate)". So, in an attempt to re-create the dish (the Indonesian version, since I have no idea or skill to make Roti Prata, we made what I now dub バズチョコ (BaZuChoco - BAnana, CheeZU, CHOCOlate).

 Here I am trying to fry the bananas. The cooking process was the funniest because of the conversation/commentary we had. So many memorable quotes(:

Stella on trying to flatten the bananas: "I feel like I'm giving them a massage."

Me trying to flatten the bananas: "Are you sure this is street food? And they take time to massage the bananas?"

Stella, flattening the bananas again: "Ok, time to massage them. I'll give them lots of TLC"

This um, rojak looking concoction is our final dish. It actually tastes very good (as judged by Bomu and Hang), although the cheese flavour was way too mild. We're gonna try again on Tuesday (to make for sensei), this time with Cheddar cheese(:

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Because I'm Swimming in the Rain

Hello! I meant to post sooner but I've been very tired lately, and it took a few days of sleeping 9/10 hours to get back to -relative- normalcy(: So, since I don't have much going on (I'm living in boring-ish life in an exciting country), I want to share some really cute/useful things that I've learnt in class (if you're not interested in Japanese, please skip this post).


Ok, the first is actually useful. It's the difference between ので(no de) and から(kara). ので is used when you're talking about the consequence of something, so it's like a statement. It's essentially 客観的;きゃっかんてき(kyakkanteki - objective). On the other hand, から is when you're providing a reason to do something and can be followed with a suggestion. So it's 主観的;しゅかんてき(shukanteki - subjective).

Plus, ので is generally used for personal reasons, while から is used for a more general reason.

I'm Swimming

This is about particles, but there's a picture!

So if you look at the picture, you'll see that for swimming, you can use を(wo) andで (de). And there's a big difference. If you look at the arrows, you'll see that を connotes direction. So to say 海を泳ぐ(umi wo oyogu - (I'm) swimming in the ocean), you kind of imply that you're swimming to somewhere (another country?). On the other hand で is used to indicate a place, so the same sentence with this particle means that you're swimming in the ocean.

In the Rain

This is so very basic, but it's a cute illustration! If you can't remember the te-form of 降る;ふる(furu), just think of this picture:

If you look at the raindrops, you can see that I've drawn tiny little つ's on them. So that should be your visual reminder: it's with a tiny つ. So, it's 雨が降っています(ame ga futte imasu - it's raining).

Does all this make sense? I hope it does!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cooking Time #3

Since I bought a rice cooker last Saturday, I decided to eat lots of rice this week (I can't help it, I'm Chinese after all). So, to accompany rice, I wanted to make Ketchup Chicken (It was going to be potatoes but things happen and they became unusable). It's actually a pretty big step for me because it isn't from a recipe book, although I did have it lots of times when I was in Primary School, and later, when Josie-Jie-Jie and Mom made it.

And it worked!

And apparently, I really am like my family. So far, I can't be bothered to measure. What I did was something along the lines of:

"hmm... I know that ketchup and soy sauce is used. I shall just dump the amounts that seem right in. And lets see, it's kinda sweet so I think sugar should be added. And I think I need to make more sauce, so more water. Oops, ok, more ketchup, soy sauce and this time I think I'll use honey."


(And if you're wondering, I still don't trust myself to cook meat properly so I just bought cooked chicken from the supermarket).

And here's the rice:

I really love my rice cooker (although being about 7000 it's kinda expensive). It plays a little song when it starts cooking and a little song when it ends. And apparently, you can make all sorts of things inside, like bread and stuff. But until I can read the instruction manual, I'm going to stick to plain rice :D

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Golden Week 2012

And here ends an uneventful but fun Golden Week.

This year, I actually Tuesday and Wednesday (unlike the lucky Osaka GaiDai people). Plus, I'm lazy (and couldn't book Studio Ghibli tickets in time). So, here's a quick rundown on what happened.

Monday: It's a holiday (yay!) but the trip organised is to FujiQ. And due to health reasons (:/) I decided not to go (some of the rides have a 120 degree drop...). So, I went to kendo. Alone, since Simone was a FujiQ and Rena was with her parents. It was quite fun, since another uni was training together. But it also means that me (being the noob I am) train outside in the corridor.

Tuesday and Wednesday: School. Sigh, and since the canteen is closed (everyone else is having a holiday), we don't have time to eat lunch (everyone goes to the same few spots). The result is Rena and I starving through 3rd period. At least on Wednesday we have a school trip - to Suntory Beer Factory. But, in Japan, the legal age to drink is 20 (the irony).

People with the "special" tags like me get apple juice at the end of the tour.
Thursday: Holiday again! And there's kendo practice (kendo is so fun!). But, I was very 失礼(shitsurei - rude). You see, my aunt gave birth (to a handsome baby boy called Ezekiel) and I wanted to treat everyone to lunch to celebrate. But due to miscomunications, the senpai's wanted to pay for their share (it's a good thing that I ran to pay). Since my family has so much experience in this, I managed not to take the money, but still - shitsurei!

Afterwards, Simone and I head to Shinjuku to just walk about. It's fun and we ended up buying really oishii (and expensive) cake from Takashimaya foodhall.

Friday: Lazy day! I studied in the morning and spend the afternoon at Marcus and Christal's house. It was so fun and someone please remind me to buy Genji Pie as soon as I see it.

Saturday: Kendo! And then, to the Ramen Museum. Seeing as Simone and I have such small appetites, we only tried the Sapporo Ramen (but it was so good!). And um, ice-cream and mizu-ame (literally, water-candy, but is the clear sort of sweet that you eat of the stick. I believe you can buy it from Chinatown during Chinese New Year).
Awesomely, I've been seeing this English lesson on the train. It's set in

Shio-Char Siew Ramen

Miso-Based Ramen

It's awesome!!

Altogether, not a very exciting week, but certainly very fun and restful. Now, I have to figure out how to increase my study time >.<

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Sakura 2012

I know this is very very late (sakura season has been over for one or two weeks), but here are some of the photos that I took this year(:

I think the cloud looks a bit like a heart(: And the sunset makes it
very pretty.

This is the road from school to Tobitakyu Train Station
Yup, so these are my favourite photos, and they honestly don't do justice to this season.