[Staring match with the 300 fish inserted into those boxes]

HAPPY 2011!!! ♥ 明けましておめでとう!
[Before I begin, let me point down- I've will be summarizing the 3 months I missed blogging because of my broken computer into relatively short posts. If you have time feel free to read!]

Japanese New Years is a pretty big deal! Much more so than Christmas, although my second hosts are pretty chill, so we didn't do a whole lot.

Eve was a joke next to America's party style. I spent the aftenoon with Ninna, and when I returned, we all kind of stayed up and watched television. I wasn't really paying attention to the time, and started talking to host mom about the lunch I was making tomorrow and halfway through the convo, host dad remarked that while no one was paying attention, the New year had turned. WOW. Talk about anticlimax. I went to bed pretty soon after.

I'd been on break for a few days so I got up late, same as everyone. At 11 or so we had breakfast, which, if you look up, was kind of a big deal! It's a traditional New years meal !
And it was awful.
Mochi is a sort of gluey rice paste eaten at new years, it was in that yellowish soup you see above. The soup was just some of the non-aggressively awful stuff I've ever tasted, like mild but just ugh. Kinda ruined the mochi for me, and I love that stuff.
And then there was the contents of those boxes.


For those of you who don't know, I really hate seafood. How this manages to work out in Japan is a mystery to me as well, but I spent most of this meal sitting on my plastic chair in the fetal position, a half crazed grin on my face as I watched my family eat this.

Later we went to pray at a temple, another tradition. The family loaded into a car and drove a ways to a medium sized temple directly on the coast line.

There was a large line of people waiting to pray. As I said, sort of a tradition. The sequence is to first throw in some money into this slatted box, step up and ring the bell by shaking this big, heavy rope, bow, clap twice, pray, and bow again. I was sort of rushed, so I can't say it truly made the zen wash over me, but it was cool nonetheless.

After, we went and got Omikuji, new years fortunes- Mine? Well, I opened it, stared at it, thrust it towards my host mother and asked how to read the Kanji and what it meant.
Her face was not good.
I couldn't read every thing it said, but it had advice on a variety of catagories;
Travel: Dangerous.
Investing; You will lose money
Your lost items; Gone forever

ECT. HAHA you know how in America, you get fortune cookies, but they're always good? Well, not so in Japan. When I was done giggling over how unlucky 2011 will apparently be, I tied the fortune to a tree, to leave the bad luck at the temple.

The tree with bad luck fortunes tied to it- click or squint to see.

Sea outside temple

The rest of the day we just watched this New Year TV special; SPY TRAINING. 6 comedians were made to dress up in suits and undergo 24 hour spy training- no matter what, they couldn't laugh. If they did, a guy dressed up as an insurgent would come in and hit them with this bendy stick thing on the rear.

...UHHH, welcome to Japanese Television! Have I ever mentioned Japanese Television?? It's ridiculous. Seriously. Seriously. Seriously. It's not like America, I mean, in 300 channels you might be able to find something that rivals Japanese Television BUT, most Japanese Families here only get 9 channels- which means it's the regular broadcast that is filled with things that frequently blow my mind. Has anyone ever seen the American broadcast, "I survived a Japanese Gameshow," ? The existence of such a thing should attest to my point.

The next day I switched hosts. It was a day filled with frenzily packing trying to clean up my minefield of a bedroom and pack. It took probably around 4 hours. Here is why. I think I've posted this up before.

YEAHH There was not really room for my stuff in that Room anyway- my college age host sister's stuff was still all there, so there wasn't much space. Consequently, my room was usually in a state much like that.

For lunch, I made Dirty rice and cornbread- my mother sent me box mixes from America. I messed up on the rice but it was still pretty good, and the cornbread was a first for everyone. It was kinda tense though, since after eating it, we left to drop me off at my next hosts. It was an ordeal that involved some crying like last time blah blah blah my host brother gave me a kids book gift card for 6 dollars as a going away gift, LOL what. My former and new family and some Rotary people gathered for tea and way too much was said about me, darn you first host mother. They're not supposed to know that yet.

Thank you Nishimoto family for everything!!

Anyway, meet the TSUJI family. They are my new hosts. I have a host mother and father and 2 host sisters, age 13 and 16. They are very. Sisterly. Ayume Tsuji is in my class at school, and for the last 5 months I have spent an average of 7 hours a day in the same place as her, 5 days a week- however, we had never talked. Maybe 3 times? Partly because I'm(We're) shy, partly because when I first arrived and my Japanese was incredibly poor, all my attempts at saying things had just turned wayyyy awkward. It's my fault and hers.

The day before break started, as I was heading home, I said one thing to her, the first in a long, long time; 'So you're like, uh, hosting right?' 'Yeah.' 'Oh. Uh. Well then. I'll see you then, I guess.'
And we parted.
AHAHAHA do you want to guess how nervous I was for this family before coming?

But it went surprisingly well. Probably because for the first 2 days, Ayume wasn't there- she had a New Years job at the temple as a Miko.
She is a very pretty girl.

Anyway, the mom is really direct and nice, and the father is pretty nice too. This is the first family that talks at dinner and doesn't watch television, which is kind of nice although when conversation luls we can't default to the TV. That was conventient when my Japanese was so bad.

I share a room with my 13 year old Host sister Yuki. Theres a curtain but a huge gap on the side. I've never really had a sister relationship, so this has been taking a looot of adjusting. It's so easy to tell they think nothing of it, because they just walk all over each other and me, like, no big deal. Privacy? What privacy?

Anyway, school picked back up Thursday, and I went to school with Ayume. It goes Bike, Train, Bike and takes about an hour. I memorized the route within the first day and a half, so I could go to club by myself. I'm using Deathtrap[affectionate nickname for bike] from my 2nd family for the 30 minute ride between Seirin and the trainstation.

On Thursday, I was invited to go with my friends to Osaka Saturday. Up until now, every time I asked to go anywhere outside Wakayama, I was always told no by my rotary for various reasons- you can't ride the train alone, you can't go with only other exchange students, ect. By American standards, this is pretty reasonable, but Japan's public transport between cities is very safe, and all the teenagers my age do it, including every single other exchange student I know.
My Rotary, after saying no so many times, later told me that if I went with Japanese friends, it'd be Okay. I was all, well then, fine. But we're usually busy with club,studying, testing ect, so it's usually impossible. This invitations was just a 'yes, finally!!!' feeling.
And guess what my Rotary said when I formally asked for permission to go Friday?


I was so, so upset. I later texted my first Rotary host mom and asked to consult with her about rules and whatnot. Her response was to go ASK on my behalf if I could go. But asking without my making a case for myself obviously didn't get me anywhere, and after being told no twice I kind of flipped out for part of that day. I came to Japan to see and go everywhere, not be babysat like a 12 year old and restricted to only my own backyard. I came to Japan alone, from 5000 miles away, to experience everything and there I was, not even allowed to tag along to an outing with three of my friends. Badminton practice that day was painful, I just could not hold it together.

When I got home that day at 8:30, I called my counselor for the first time of my entire exchange. My counselor is an Old guy, probably around 65, and very kind and very strict. After a 6 minute, intense phone call of reminding him that in the past they had said Japanese friends would be Okay, making about 500 promises that I'd be responsible, keep my curfew, and I finally secured permission. So exhausted after that, but happy. Finally!

On Saturday morning, I got up early to catch an 8:18 train to Wakayama station. I then took a bus to Wakayama city station, and proceeded to wait an hour for everyone to show up because of a miscommunication error. It was cold. TwT!

Finally at 10:10, ten minutes after the proposed meet time [I got distracted reading a book..] we met up with Sakura, Rinako, and Aiko, and proceeded to jump on a train headed for Namba, a section of Osaka, around a 55 minute ride. From there, we headed to various shops, included what I will dub pervert lane; a collection of sketchy manga[comics] / anime[cartoons] themed shops of various intentions. All those seedy stereotypes of Japanese lurking in the back of your mind? You could find it there! Probably. We didn't really investigate much except for Sakura who went into one Manga shop. The contents of said shop could probably singe your eyebrows off if you went into it ...!

After wandering for a while, we headed towards my request as of a month ago. MAID CAFE.
For those not in the loop with this rather typical example of Japanese weirdness: cafes where all the serving staff are relatively attractive women done up in full maid gear, who perform special doting services [NOT THAT KIND, don't be dirty] such as stirring your curry for you, assembling food items, and drawing in ketchup on your omelette. Famous for it's loyal attendance of seedymen. The first thing that popped to mind, a month ago, when a friend asked if there was someplace I wanted to go was this. Just because. When I said it, they were all OH GASP EMILY why! Despite this, I felt like they too secretly wanted to go, because they agreed way to fast. I was merely an excuse.

Anyway, we marched in and ordered from our frilly server friend three rice omelettes and a shrimp rice- mostly we chose the omelette for aforementioned ketchup drawing. That's right, upon yon tender omelette, the maid would draw or write to your to your choosing in good old ketchup.
Being, as my friends exclaimed, an 'S' type, I obviously chose to ask Maid-san to draw me the Mona Lisa.

Caption above; モナリサ?! Monarisa?!
[I find it has the same ghastly stare as the real thing

As I was asking, I was hit several times and told to stop being mean to the Maid, that no meant no, but she then cutely exclaimed in her best maid voice 'mistakes ok??' and upon my answer, fulfilled my request.
Next was Sakura, who ask her to write; '私は神様!' Watashi wa Kami-sama! [I am God!] Maid-san did, then said that the 'Omelette looked rather lonely with just that' so I told her to write ' 私も変態!'watashi mo hentai!' [I am also a pervert.]
She did.
Needless to say, it was an interesting lunch. Shame we weren't allowed pictures of the maids.

Pervert God Sakura

After that, we met up with another of Rinako's friends and visited a lot of clothes shops / malls and things, and a Japanese .. punk / goth rock metal shop?? I never had a real clear idea of where we were going. The new years sales are still in effect, and I snagged some really cheap quality clothes, which is rare for Japan.
Some pictures!

It's a little dark, but here we are..

Sakura and I

We ended up on a train headed home at 6:15, about 40 minutes after I started my curfew freakout.
Remember how I said I made about 500 promises, and that I just barely got permission to go? Well, I had to be in the train to Koshi at Wakayama station at 7:40- the train took about 60 minutes- that means I had about 25 minutes to get from Wakayama city station to Wakayama station. Bus takes about 15 minutes, which means there was only a about a 8 minute window for a bus to come about. And guess what. It didn't. I ended up on a train, which arrived in W!Station at 7:39. 1 minute before 7:40. It should also be mentioned that I didn't know which gate I had to get on for my ride home and neither Host mom or Host sis was picking up.
Kyaaaah. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Mainly, if I missed that train that I would never be allowed out of Wakayama again? Well. Badminton paid off. Aiko and I ran out of the train, she looked up and the board and was all KOSHI-EMILY NUMBER 9 GO
and off I went. I made it with about 10 seconds to spare. I do not kid. The train man ushered me in, the 'go!' whistle in his mouth.

DOKI DOKI DOKI [ドキドキする!] [Heart beating fast!]

A-anyway, that's been my first 8 days of new years! If you read this, thank you for your continued interest! I look forward to seeing you all this coming year!

「Kyonen iroirona osewa ni narimashita! : Thank you for caring for me this past year!
「Honnen yoroshikuonegaishimasu! Please treat me well this coming year as well!



Insert December here
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