May 23, 2013 by amanda
April 11, 2013 by amanda
Recently, I’ve been trying to fit in training for another half-marathon before my mom and step-dad come for a visit (and a trip to Fukuoka to see E for Golden Week after that). This is in between manically cleaning my room and getting super busy at work, etc. etc. I’m certainly doing better than last year’s Sendai Marathon, where the longest I had run was like, 12km before trying to run a half-marathon. “If I can run 12km, I can somehow…run double that distance when it comes down to it!!”
This year I can tell I’m a bit stronger of a runner. This weekend I was running on a course of my own design, planning to go up the mountain road behind my apartment and then over to a pond to the north of the city and back. 17km on hills, flat trails, and roads. Girl, yeah! You can do this! You certainly have nothing else to do today!
Incidentally, there are occasional bear sightings within Iwate, which is why you have to carry a bell with you when you go hiking, to alert them of your presence so they don’t eat you (?). I’ve run this mountain course before, which is surrounded by houses and business and a zoo (!) so there’s enough human civilization around to limit bear maulings. But I always wonder while I am wandering – dude, what if I did get eaten by a bear? People would just be like, that girl was a dang idiot.
So I’m running the first like, kilometer of my course. I’m part way up the hill, running through a forested road, and I come out by a rickety old business and a small farmfield. Nothing out of the ordinary. All of a sudden I see a grey shadow moving about 50 feet to my right, and I stopped short. CRAP what the hell is that-
It wasn’t big enough to be a bear so I thought it might be even worse – a wild boar. But no, it was just one of these guys:
It was a kamoshika, or Japanese serow. It’s kind like a deer or a goat, ie., a herbivore ie., phew. Pretty much harmless. It stopped padding along as soon as I did, and we both stared at each other for a good minute. Uh okay. I’m just going to walk slowly up the road out of sight… I stepped gingerly forward, making my way up the road, and keeping eye contact with the kamoshika. Her eyes followed mine as she watched me walk up the path and she stayed in that spot until I couldn’t see her any longer.
And that was the extent of my encounter with nature this time around. I won’t lie, it was pretty beautiful. I had a moment there, locking eyes with this majestic beast – but seriously, that is some Princess Mononoke-type shit right there.
Well, Ashitaka is from Michinoku, no?
March 4, 2013 by amanda
Adventures in Tokyo with E!
(E, as in the person, not the drug)
February 20, 2013 by amanda
I am an absolute crazy person about knitting right now. I really am on my way to being a “knitter” – hoarding balls of yarn, casting on five projects at a time, obsessing over different stitch options, making yarn out of stray dog hair, etc. Luckily, my apartment is too small to hoard yarn so I have to contain it to this adorable wicker container I bought. Yeah, I bought a wicker container, and then got really excited about containers and then thought about actually cleaning and organizing my living space in disarray. THEN I got to work and cleaned out my whole desk, with some parts that hadn’t been touched since I got here. There was a big tray of floppy discs wedged in the back, to give you an idea of the last time it was cleaned out. I’m writing down organizing systems on stray pieces of paper. WHAT’S GOING ON?
Occasional cooking and cleaning → sudden urgent need to start Pinterest → taking up knitting → obsession with organizing and cleaning → ? (Beyonce level of perfection?)
Anyway, there really isn’t much to write home about. I had a wicked temper tantrum last night when I ran to catch up with a bus, thought he was going to stop for me, and then the bus rolled off just as I got to the door. I was so angry that I dropped the f-bomb and kicked the concrete bus stop post. I had just finished a work out so steam literally was coming out of my ears. Then I proceeded to delete a long email I had been working on by accident, and got home and almost ruined my lace project when stitches started slipping off the needle. I just had to give up and go to bed early.
It’s stupid, because I have nothing to be stressed about (and to beat you to it, it’s not that time of the month either). I think it’s my annual February Freakout. A lot of things broil up and bubble up before the month of February is done.
①It’s been winter for three months now
②The lack of sunlight and the chore of trudging to the gym twice or more times a week
③Ice, ice, everywhere, so I can’t bike or run anywhere. So I have to take a bus.
④The fact that I ALWAYS have to wait a half hour for a bus that’s completely crowded, and there’s always a woman who elbows me, and the old people who rush to get in front yet take the most time to get anywhere, and it always takes me twice or even three times as long to get home
= a lot less solitude.
I know it’s all very much First-World Problems, but for however much I enjoy being around people, I’m an introvert in that I need time alone to recharge. I just get irritable and hateful without it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will change, but I do understand that I have limits and I have to have those days where I do nothing and I don’t talk to people and I ignore my phone. I get less of that time in the winter, and that’s how the February Freakout happens. Last year I started crying after I slipped for the 1000th time on the incredibly icy path home. I think I spent all of February 2011 being mad at T-san. It’s just not a good month.
And that’s why I over-scheduled every weekend this month!! …sigh. BUT I am going to Tokyo this weekend so I’ll get to knit on the shinkansen :)
February 7, 2013 by amanda
I’m done knitting my first project! There’s a couple of uneven places and bumpy stitches, but I figure the thick, masculine yarn makes up for that :)
Now that I’m finally done, I can get back to working on this thing…(?)
January 16, 2013 by amanda
I started knitting. Yeah, I know – I have my own blog, think I’m the first person to ever take up running, enjoy craft beers, and now I’m taking up knitting? Is there some sort of scale on which hipsters are determined? because I think I’m at about level 4 here. Anyway, there’s no real reason except I wanted to take up a new hobby/learn a new skill, preferably one that is actually useful. I really like chunky knit scarfs and sweaters, and crocheted afghan blankets and clothing for tiny people that are still a long many years off for me.
I had tried a few months ago and it wasn’t really going well for me, but my mom got me a starter kit for Christmas (and taught me to crochet as well) which has been working out pretty okay. I feel like skillful knitting might require a more meticulous personality than my own, but I think I can learn to make some reasonably attractive things while busying my hands. And well, gosh. Twirling and wrapping knots around a few sticks is really addictive once you get into a rhythm of it. It’s kind of like Tetris or Dr. Mario or something. I’ve started to see crochet hooks looping around and around in my head during the day, and today on the bus home I was obsessing about knitting some more of my first scarf project (I usually obsess about what I’m going to eat for dessert). If you had told me knitting was like a video game I might have started years ago.
To be honest, I think I’m at critical mass here with my hobbies though. I run, I read, I blog, I play my 3DS and now I’ve started knitting (I guess “Japanese language” could count, in a way??). I don’t really think I have any more space, unless I want to like, stop seeing friends. I already do prioritize my running over going out for drinks after work (which most people will tell you is best thing to do for your health, but still, what am I running for if not to be able to enjoy drinks with friends?), and I don’t like how I neglect this blog sometimes. Then again, let’s face facts – I write best when I’m angsting about something, and I just don’t have much to bitch about lately! Life’s good. But I just don’t want to get TOO settled. I’m guaranteed a fifth year here when I originally thought I’d be hard at work moving towards the next step. No matter what opportunities I get to work on during a fifth year as the Iwate CIR, I’m not going to be learning as much as I would have the first few years here. I want to be learning something. Even if it’s how to crochet an afghan. (Does anyone even like afghans? I just remember friends in high school saying, “how would you keep warm? it’s full of holes!” )
I will be honest, sometimes I feel a very faint twinge to break out the pencil and paper – to draw something. I do miss it, and someday I may just go back to drawing like I did in high school. We’ll see. I think I just burnt myself out back then because drawing – the only thing I had any sort of talent at – was the only hobby I felt comfortable exploring. If I had known I could be a shit runner and still have a ton of fun, I might have gotten out of that shell of mine a little sooner!
December 3, 2012 by amanda
I’ve been remiss in my blogging duties in the past month or so – and before you blame my newly acquired 3DS, know that that’s only about half the reason! The rest is just that I’ve been monstrously busy, and the free time that I have has been dedicated to jogging or like hanging out with my boyfriend. But this time of year is always busy for me, and it’s nice to feel like I really am accomplishing things at this job and in my life! But I guess it doesn’t feel real if I don’t livejournal it, you know.
In the past month or so I’ve:
+Ran a 17k up an extreme mountain course covered in gorgeous autumn leaves
+Went to Kuzumaki, a small hamlet in the far north of the prefecture, to hold a Halloween party at a tiny elementary school. I’m talking, only thirty students in the entire school – first through sixth grade. The building was old and rickety, but they had a live sheep outside as the school pet. They named him Sui, and he chased me because he thought I had food.
+Went to Ichinoseki, the city farthest to the south of the prefecture, to hold another Halloween party in cooperation with an elementary school and the local seniors club (who were quite confused as to what a “powerpoint presentation” was).
+Went to Sendai for a wedding of a friend of my boyfriend’s, stayed in a fancy hotel, and met his best friend
+Went to tiny Numakunai to go to my first ever pre-school visit
+Went to Tokyo for the twice-a-year JET Prefectural Advisors conference
+Went shopping in Shinjuku on a Friday night…
+Ran in the Miyako Salmon Marathon, my last race of the year, and the first time I ever beat 60 minutes in a 10k!!
+Did three school visits in one week, talking about the U.S. to elementary students
+One of those school visits was a return to Kuzumaki, where the students gave us a surprise Yosakoi performance. Probably my best school visit ever
+Interpreted for a bunch of young people from Indonesia, one of which lost everything in the 2004 tsunami but wanted to share his experience with kids here who suffered in 2011
+Participated in my third One World Festa, which is the huge international festival the International Association runs every year. I spent a whole day with other American friends talking about our country and interpreting announcements
+Went on a local morning entertainment show with some other foreign girls where we spread the word about One World Festa (ie, I finally did make it on Japanese television…and was awkward as heck)
+Went back to Tokyo for the annual CIR conference, and got to spend some time with R
+Wandered around the new Tokyo Sky Tree and checked out all the shopping (unfortunately, actually going up the tower would require selling my first-born)
+Had an amazing 26th birthday with the boy, eating fancy sushi (Maesawa beef!!) and feeling so amazed that we share the same birthday
+Celebrated my birthday another two times with two different sets of friends (somehow, my birthday is always kinda like that)
And there was much more where that came from. I need like a few weeks off, to be honest. While there were times where I wanted to just crawl into a hole from the stress of it all, I really am grateful that I have this opportunity and this job. Not sure where life is bringing me next, but for now I’m content to just enjoy the ride.
Next up: Christmas shopping and going home for the holidays…!
November 27, 2012 by amanda
You know how Japan has a mascot for everything? Food products, makeup, fire safety, etc. I’m pretty desensitized to it now, but I remember being really amused at how cute everything is here. Heck, even the Iwate Mountain trail had a little Mountain-kun thing. But because everything has a mascot, it’s really rare to find a mascot that stays with you. Sure, Hello Kitty is an exercise in simplicity and everyone knows who Helly Kitty is, but there’s only so much you can do to make a simple mascot memorable – which is quite unfortunate to all the weird, half-baked mascots that have been designed to represent every single city, town, and village in the whole of Japan.
“Just draw a blob with a smiley face and call it a day, boys!” Heck, even Nintendo’s done that once or twice. When it works, it really works. When it doesn’t, you left with something like these unfortunate monstrosities:
But the good news for all the forgotten and left-behind little buggers is that there’s now a competition for Best YuruKyara - or in my loose translation, “BEST LAME MASCOT”. Yes, just like there’s a competition for “BEST B-CLASS GOURMET FOOD (as in, street stall food)” and “BEST LOOKING DARK HAIRED ASIAN GIRLS IN SIMILAR SCHOOLGIRL OUTFITS“, Japan recognizes that sometimes you’ve gotta recognize the little guy who doesn’t always stand out. (No offense AKB fans, I love ‘em too but jus’ sayin’)
So this past weekend was the Third Annual YuruKyara Competition in Saitama, announcing the results of an online vote held over the last few months. According to Wikipedia, there are three requirements to be a YuruKyara:
Okay, so basically it’s a “so-bad-it’s-good” competition. I like the idea!
But I swear I’ve seen something like the first-place winner before:
Aren’t you…aren’t you a Sanrio character??
The runner-ups are kind of non-descript too…
The Wanko Brothers (Iwate’s mascots) did pretty well for a bunch of cups:
I remember spending an afternoon tittering away at the designs with my supervisor, so here’s MY PICKS for BEST LAME MASCOT 2012!
I think I recoiled in horror after seeing “Chicchai Ossan,” or “Little Ol’ Man” as I like to call him, but he’s really grown on me. I mean, I certainly remember him, which I think is better than most of these characters. I don’t know what the heck he’s supposed to represent, but by gosh – dilated pupils, flushed cheeks, a missing tooth, and a five-o-clock shadow have got to be the cutest bender I’ve ever seen!
And then, last but not least:
YUBARI MELON BEAR OF HOKKAIDO
“【SHOCK!】Monster will devour your children,” as the Youtube title goes. I don’t know who thought melons and wild evil bears would go together, but I’m going to dream of this guy. Incidentally, one of the presents I got for Rory once was a cell-phone charm with a potato with this bear face on it (cuz he’s Irish and all that). So either I got a misshapen Melon Bear or there’s just a lot of these evil scary bears lurking about up there.
Uh, I’m probably not going to go to Hokkaido again any time soon.
November 19, 2012 by amanda
Even though I recently got my 3DS, I haven’t really had time to play with it yet, so I’ve just been fiddling around with Tomodachi Collection (Friend Collection) since it seemed like a quick, pop-it-in, play a few minutes, type of mobile game. (and also, it was super cheap used) You basically take Miis, the Nintendo avatar from the Wii, and put them on an island where they go about their daily lives, and you can check on them and feed them. Kind of like a Tomogatchi. I’ve never really gotten into Animal Crossing, and even though Majora’s Mask is my favorite game, whenever games concentrate completely on “daily life and chores” I sort of get bored. I just didn’t realize that making the little avatars look like my friends would make this so addictive!
Since you don’t control anything, it’s just kind of funny to watch them interact with each other since they’re based on my real friends. I-san is the most popular guy on the island, and friends with all the girls, which is of course true in real life! O-san’s avatar has only interacted with X and GJ (the Chinese CIRs) so far. R and I-san became best friends and now “hang out” in I-san’s room all the time. And, I sit in my room playing on a laptop all the time (and am one of the least popular on the island). But then again, I’ve made my avatar about 300% cuter than I actually am, so there’s a trade-off. Hah.
The only thing is, I’m pretty sure that all of my friends in actual real life are a little bit weirded out that I’ve created a fish bowl with all their likenesses in it. What can I say? At least I have plenty of Miis to import onto my 3DS now.
November 15, 2012 by amanda
My early birthday gift to myself! Haha.
I think the consensus on my facebook was to get the special edition Animal Crossing 3DS if I was going to take the plunge, but I dunno. I’ve never played Animal Crossing, and I really don’t have any inclination to either. I don’t really care for the “NEW!” Super Mario Bros either, but this design is just so classy. Reminds me of younger days…I was eating lunch at a daycare where I had an event, and the kids were talking about Mario. I told them I first started playing Mario when I was their age, which made me feel kind of old, but also made me realize that my occasional forays back into the world of video games are just a simple yearning to feel five years old again. That’s what all that 8-bit hipster merchandise is about, anyway. Nintendo’s got us real good.
Although, Nintendo’s already got a way to play Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and Star Fox 64 on the 3DS. I basically would like a way to (legally) replay my childhood on one portable machine. When I first received my pretty pink DS Lite, I was deep in the throes of my RPG addiction, it shows – more than half of my gamepaks (do they still call them that?) are RPGs. But they’re all horrible. I mean, scratch that, they’re not bad – RPGs just don’t grab my attention anymore. They’re all the same, and I’m too old for them. The only games that “affect” me anymore (barf) are simple adventure/action games that hipsters make with flash. Oh, and the Clop game. I like that game. But basically what I’m trying to say is that I’m going to try to buy actual games for my 3DS instead of 3D anime. I’ve heard good things about Super Mario 3D Land. I just kind of want something that I don’t have to think about when I play. I don’t have the time to put into much more these days.
Though, what sucks is the region coding. I bet you I would be able to buy games CHEAP in the U.S. but now I’ve gone and bought a dedicated Japanese system. I have like a billion rewards points on my American credit card and their DS section rocks. What the heck!