July 18-21, 2016: Shaken Awake by an Earthquake

The first week of classes came the same week as the Republican National Convention. I was kind of bummed that I was missing it because it is really exciting, but I have been trying to follow it online. And it has been an incredible disaster.

Speaking of disasters, I have now experienced a natural disaster, 2 actually. On Tuesday, I felt my first significant earthquake while at work. And on Wednesday, I was shaken awake by an earthquake. Now in my room, I feel the house shake a lot from passing trucks. But this one was definitely an earthquake. At around 7am the Earth shook for maybe 30 seconds. It’s a natural alarm clock. Immediately, everyone in our Line chat was talking about the earthquake. All us East coasters were freaking out. But Sayaka quickly calmed our fears and told us to go back to sleep. I quickly realized that I don’t have a table to hide under and I also don’t have anything to fall on me but the ceiling. So I just stayed laying on my futon and waited it out. Luckily, the ceiling did not collapse.

So on my first day of work, I had the morning off. Meg and I spent the morning in the prep room because we have too many interns and not enough students. It turned out that the program started on a week that most kids still have school. You would think that they would’ve known that, but there was obviously some major oversight. So my group of six interns had just two students. Actually, we only had one student the first day. The other student was allegedly sick. But this first day was also a national holiday: Marine Day (I got a seat on the train because it was a holiday). So I think she might have just taken a holiday. But good for her. It’s summer break.

I joined the group in the second half of the day and met Jumpei and Miki. For a little while, I thought Miki was our second student, but she actually works at Nagase Bros. She was just filling in for the missing student. I did have fun in class. It was a lot more engaging than our orientation actually having a student to do the activity. But we only had one student. So we kind of put too much pressure on him. He was speaking English all day and had a bunch of interns staring at him. Poor thing. It got a little better when our second student showed up the second day. His English is very good though. I was very impressed. We got very lucky with our group. He is from Nagoya, which is notorious for having the most dangerous drivers in Japan. And some of the common ground we found was that everyone plays recorder in junior high school. Recorder is universal. We can imagine the opening ceremony of the Olympics, featuring 100 school age children from around the world playing Hot Cross Buns. It’s a beautiful sight.

After work, I went to a Nepalese restaurant after discovering that the small hole in the wall with 10 cent yellowtail that we were looking for wasn’t open. Cause of the whole holiday thing. We spent a long time looking for it though. I had dumplings called momo that were pretty good. For lunch, I went to a restaurant that was camp themed. It’s a weird theme for a restaurant that probably wouldn’t fly in America. There were backpacks on the wall, shovel shaped spoons and metal cups. The curry I had there was pretty good though. We were going to go to an omelette place next door but they were packed. The restaurants were located on the upper floors of a department store My Love. The department stores are just incredible here. They have everything plus good food.


We have Japanese class on Mondays and Thursdays. So the Monday class (class #3) had about 10 people. And the Thursday class (class #4) had just two. The drop off was really steep. So Sean and I had basically a private Japanese lesson. I’ve never gotten that much attention in my life. We alternated saying sentences, and I quickly ran out of things to say. It really forces you to learn the material. It was great. But Japanese is so hard. The grammar is so different from English grammar, it’s really hard to wrap my head around it.

After class on Monday, I went back to Shinjuku for karaoke, because that’s just what you do in Japan. We went up to a room, that was certainly not sound proof. You could hear our room from the stairwell. Mickey is incredible at karaoke. It’s like that is what he was born to do. He is loud, he is in tune, he harmonizes and he’s got the persona of a rocker. He made it a lot of fun.

The second day of class I got to meet Yuka. She is a little quieter than Jumpei, but throughout the day she really opened up to us. I’ve found that with all the students, their English is much better than they think. I hope she is having fun. She said that she was, but I don’t know if she’s just trying to please us. Jumpei said he now wants to study in the United States. And it’d be great if that’s true, but he might just be trying to please us too. It’s hard to tell. I had lunch with them on Tuesday (cause Ella forgot it was her day) and got to know them a little bit better. Since Yuka missed the first day, I filled her in on what she missed.


After work, we went to a restaurant that was recommended to us by Yuki and Miki. They supposedly have really good gyoza. And it’s super cheap. The gyoza was good, but to be honest, I don’t think gyoza is as good as Chinese dumplings. I’ve found that most of the restaurants in Tokyo are tiny. The restaurant wouldn’t seat 8 of us. There is a lot of counter space, but not many tables. Most restaurants have a hard time seating big parties (any more than 4). It’s kind of annoying and it’s really kind of ridiculous. I also took a look in the 100 yen shop aka the dollar store. It has a wide assortment of things like our dollar stores. Dad would have loved it. And then I went home early. It was around 8 o’clock when I got home and that was by far the earliest I’ve ever gotten home. And while I was home, I binge watched Master of None, which was surprisingly poignant, and thoughtful,  and observant and all-around excellent.

On Wednesday morning, I had the morning off again. And when I opened the front door of my house, I saw our neighbor was throwing away a tower fan and a carry-on suitcase. And I contemplated taking them. The suitcase had four wheels and seemed to be in good condition. But I didn’t really need it. The fan could be useful, but I tested it out in my house and it didn’t work. And while I was testing it, I ran into the first floor housemate that I have yet to meet. We said hello, and he must have been wondering what the hell I was doing. I say THE first floor housemate because I discovered that the American girl that lives here is apparently at home for the summer. So I probably won’t be seeing her.

Wednesday was the day that Pokemon Go was supposed to finally launch in Japan. So I had my phone out ready to catch some Pokemon. Little did I know that the launch was postponed. I must’ve looked silly. They keep postponing because they’re afraid of all the Japanese fans overwhelming their servers. But we’re sick of waiting. We want to play this game that has taken over America already. I feel left out.

Since I had the morning off, I went sight seeing. I went to the Sengaku-ji Temple. It is located on my way to work. It is where the 47 Ronin are buried, but to be honest I wasn’t really familiar with the story of the 47 Ronin before I went and I couldn’t read the Japanese text at the temple. It was totally empty. There was no one else there. And it was kind of underwhelming. It’s really like visiting a cemetery. I was just looking at a grave site. But nonetheless it is a site to check off my list.

I’ve been eating breakfast most days, which I don’t even do in the United States. But I found a great bakery in Shinjuku station that has lots of cream filled pastries. They’ve all been really good so far. So I usually stop in an get one on my way to work. Or sometimes I get an onigiri at the convenience store, but I prefer my pastries.

Sean gave his presentation on his major which is neuroscience. And he includes a bunch of optical illusions in his presentation. There is one of a picture ostensibly of two naked figures. It is kind of erotic and we all saw the same thing. But apparently, pre-pubescent children see a different image. They cannot process this image and instead, they see nine dolphins, which are kind of hidden in the picture. It was pretty cool. Leave it to Sean to make an interactive presentation.

Wednesday evening I was planning on going to cooking class for floating soba noodles. And I did, but Yasuko was running late so I didn’t get to eat any of the noodles. I had to leave by 8 to catch a movie and dinner was supposed to start at 7 but it didn’t actually. The movie was such an unbelievable experience that it got its own blog post which you can find here.

But anyways, I followed Paige to her house where the cooking class was being held. The hoes is really far away from the train station. I thought I had it bad but she has it so much worse. The streets here are much wider and it seems less suburban than my neighborhood. And her house is so much better. For one, their rooms have some furniture, whether a cabinet or a dresser. They have a deck on the second floor. Her kitchen is more open and the best part is that she lives with two other interns and another American girl. They actually hang out in their living room which has a Playstation. But enough being jealous of her house. When Yasuko finally arrived, we then had to go to another house to literally cut down a stalk of bamboo for the noodles. She brought the machete and everything. And we sawed away at the bamboo so it would fit in the car. Then it had to be split down the middle for the flowing noodles part. I’m not really sure what it does, I think it’s kind of gimmicky. But also I missed it. I discreetly awkwardly slipped out to catch the movie. But not before grabbing a drink to go. There was just too much to do on Wednesday but I’m really glad I went to the movie and had that experience.

On Thursday, Yuka was extremely late. I suspect that she didn’t want to come to class. And I can’t really blame her. She’s on summer break, and today’s class was particularly slow. With only two students, we finished our activities really quickly. They were really dragged out. Today was one of our slower days. And we had six interns for two students which I’m sure is overwhelming.


For lunch, Chika and Sayaka took us to a restaurant for pork katsu, Dad’s go-to dish. The portions were enormous. They serve a big slab of pork and a hunk of cabbage and a bowl of rice and miso soup. The dressing for the cabbage was actually really good. And believe it or not, I ate all my cabbage. I haven’t really been eating much vegetables here, but I also haven’t seen many vegetables. So it’s not my fault.


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