Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Time is too fast!

This week has been a blur! I'm not gonna lie, it's gone by so quick that I actually don't remember the whole week! I was still quite unsettled from the move but it wasn't so bad. I'm fitting in well here with my new family and all is well.

Whilst school was fun, I don't really remember too much of the week! The main activities like Kendo and karate I can recall but school is just blank.I'm quite disappointed in myself to be honest, this is quite odd for me. Can't be helped I guess!

Study this week has been tough. My favourite thing to study here is the grammar. This is because it allows me to have more diverse conversations. When I got here, I was confined to simple sentences and I couldn't express myself as well as I wanted to. But until maybe a few weeks ago, I only studied grammar so without blowing my own trumpet too much, my grammar is essentially over-developed in comparison to my vocabulary and other things.

I was just hoping to cruise along and pick up vocabulary here and there because being in Japan means Japanese is everywhere. And whilst I do simply pick up new words by listening to people, it's a little bit slow.

But Japanese has another component to it's language and it's the bane of any Japanese learner's existence. It's called "kanji." Japanese has three written alphabets! The first two are reasonably straightforward, those two have roughly 45 characters each. So that's like, 90 characters to learn the basic stuff.

And then kanji happens. 3000 Chinese characters, all with more than one way of reading them. I think of them like English numbers. If "1" is read as "one" then "11" should be read as "one one" but it's not. It's"eleven" also to point out is that the number for "1" doesn't actually spell out "one" so instead of "reading" it, you basically recognise it. Each kanji represents a meaning, they are all symbols for something. So when you learn them, you need to learn how to read them and what they mean.

And that's what kanji are like. Except there are thousands of them. They range from the simple ones like:

口- mouth 日本- Japan.     To things that hurt your eyes like: 会議- meeting 髭- beard.

So those get pretty tedious, but it's incredibly rewarding to be able to recognise some and be able to understand a passage. But because I focused so hard on grammar and nothing else, I'm a bit behind on kanji.

The secret method used to learn them that is applied by the Japanese school children is very simple. They literally write them all out until they are locked in their heads. It's ridiculous!

Recently I've decided to neglect the grammar for a wee while and focus on the kanji and vocabulary. I study the other student's English books in reverse. It's not too bad but sometimes it's a bit tedious.
Exciting stories!
 I get to learn new words and kanji, all whilst reading the most exhilarating literature. Couldn't be better really! (It's not actually that bad, sometimes I can use the phrases from the book in real life situations.)

I still have great lunches at school! It's always different so you can never get sick of it.
Shrimps, sausages and rice. A mean feed.
This week has been great for me and kendo. I'm getting a lot more involved which means I can get better faster and it's a lot more fun. I still get the occasional knock to the head but usually I'm headache free. It's starting to get hotter here now so I sweat quite a bit during training.

You don't know helplessness until there is sweat in your eye and your fingers are to fat to fit through the bars on your mask. It's not too pleasant but it's part and parcel of kendo I guess. 

Everyone says to me that I'm getting a lot better which makes me feel great because I get quite annoyed and disappointed when I muck up. But everyone helps me so much and makes it all bearable. The only down side it blisters. And I've got some real mean ones.
Yes, they hurt.
I probably just need to harden up but they hurt pretty bad. Especially since I normally walk on my feet.

Other than the blisters, kendo is going great! I've only been doing it for three and a half or so months now I think so there is plenty more time to get good.

Of course karate is still a huge thing for me. So I go along whenever I can. My new host family's house is literally next door to my mate, Fuyuki's house. He's that fulla who's more or less my rival. We are real good friends and now we go to and from karate together. It's quite convenient! 

Training is picking up though. I might have another tournament on the 10th of August so we are gearing up towards that.

We fight all night and push our bodies to the limit every time. It is quite draining but it's great fun. 

I'm especially looking forward to this one because it is and open karate tournament, hosted by my original style, Kyokushin. That means I will be able to wear my own gi and my own belt. Plus I will be fighting under familiar rules. It's just my style and I can't wait.

But there is potentially a double booking with a Rotary event. I may or may not have to give a speech at some event and if that's the case, the tournament is a no go. 

There's no real decision involved. It's a no brainer! Would I rather talk in front of some people or get the snot kicked out of me?

It's so obvious that I'm not even going to say.

The week wasn't all "plain" though. On Saturday, myself and the American boy from my school, Jordan were going to stay in the nearby town/city of Takayama. It's about an hour away by train.

We got up early and hopped on the train. We were going to stay with a family who planned to host Jordan but it didn't work out due to distances so they said they would still like to hang out sometime. I was invited too!

Started off with a just your regular coke with a name.
But this is the name of the Japanese prime minister. I took it as a sign of good luck!

Found a cool shirt. 
The weather was pretty damn hot, something like in the 30's. We wandered around Takayama for a while because it is quite a cool town. It's got a ton of old buildings from waaay back.
Cool statues are everywhere in Japan

Fed up with this heat!
I'm not really, it's a lot better than the freezing cold.

Low five!

Got the photo and was out of there faster than God knows what.

Koi going nowhere fast.
Lots and lots of Koi.

Temples and shrines never cease to look so cool!
After our walk about town we went to this museum with a bunch of stuff from the annual Takayama festival. It was awesome, they have these big towers that they literally roll around the streets.
A big drum that made a massive sound!
We got to hit it a few times and it made my ears ring.

That tower behind the glass is over two stories tall!

That ones pretty huge too!

There are a couple of golden birds at the top

Selfies with puppets

Damn tourists.
Lunch was great. We had "Hida-gyu" which is beef from the Hida area. We live in the Hida area so it was good that I got to try it. It's pretty expensive though. A top of the line, 120 gram sirloin steak was a hefty $120 dollars. Wow. 

We settled for some of the cheaper stuff.
This stuff was "slightly" cooked. It was also on rice so it was beef sushi!

We got some of the cooked stuff later though and it was just the best.
That night we were going to stay in this big fancy hotel. And man, it was big and fancy. Jordan and I got a room to ourselves whilst our hosts had their own. It turns out that we were on he premium floor! You had to have a special card to even make the elevator go there!

Our room had this big glass wall and behind it was a really nice bath and relaxing things that we didn't actually use.
Feel like royalty!

I only put my feet in. 
We sat there, feeling like Kings as we did nothing. We took the opportunity to snap some pretty majestic photos.
What do I even say about this photo

It seemed like the right thing to do
That night we went out to another restaurant that was either French or Italian themed. I don't know which but it was pretty nice. We had a whole heap of course ranging from light pasta salads and octopus salads to hearty, Hida-gyu steaks. I was stuffed!
I decided to go for peach juice as opposed to flesh juice.

I'm not normally a fan of steak but I think that is changing.
When we got back to the hotel we had free time until the next morning. So we got dressed up in Japanese 'yukata' and wandered the hotel.
Feel's good

Ready to take on Japan!
We basically wandered for a wee bit, hung out in the onsen and then abused the free wifi. It was a good night and the hotel was spectacular!

We had a semi early get up the next day at 7:30 am. We had a big buffet breakfast and I decided to try "Nato" Japanese fermented soy beans. They smell terrible and are really good for your health. And they look like you've sneezed on them.

They're not actually as bad as they look.
 So today we were off to a place called "Shirakawago." It is a world heritage site because it's got a bunch of cool old buildings. There are these houses that have steep, grass thatched roofs. These houses are nestled in a valley that is surrounded by a whole heap of mountains and it is truly beautiful!
I wish I could read!

A little version of the cool houses

Spot the foreigner

We like to think we are sponsored by this drink company.
Also, someone said do a weird face and it seems only I heard it.

The thatched roofs are pretty thick

There is a pretty choice view from inside
The village from above.

Our group
It was such a tough day! We walked miles in the heat! It was awesome fun to see all the buildings and learn a bit about the history but my feet were quite sore! We all packed in the car for the drive home. But on our way we came across this big dam.

So we stopped to take photos of it, as you do.

It was pretty neat

I love these views!
If you look really closely, there is a couple near the end of the walkway to the left.
As we all know, people are nosey. I was pretty keen to see how far my camera could zoom in so I got all creepy and zoomed in on this couple.

What a mistake. I felt creepy for peeking in on their private life but then I felt creeped out because of what I saw. Shit we had a good laugh.
Is it a doll? What?
Camera's got good zoom. Wont be using it again for a wee while.
 That was very weird. It had us in hysterics though. We drove back to Takayama and had ramen for dinner. I love these noodles. And they are so fun! It's rude if you don't slurp them.

Can't go wrong with noodles

This week's entry is a bit all over the place and I'm sorry for that. I will try and get it right next week! But thanks for reading, that's all I've got now. It's 2:45 am on Wednesday morning as I'm writing and I really need to sleep.

That's all for now! Until next time!
always giving the peace sign here

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